This post was featured at The Dividend Guy, Savvy Frugality, The Gonzo Papers, and The Skilled Investor.
While attending a university commencement, I received some sage advice that I will always remember. Ira A. Fulton, a self-made millionaire and active philanthropist, gave the commencement address. In it, he advised the graduates to 'work hard, and to work smart.' I have often reflected on these words, realizing that in today's world, just working hard won't always get you to where you want to be.
When at work, give your employer your full attention. Working hard also means working honestly. If you are getting paid for working 40 hours a week, you need to be wholly 'present' for those 40 hours. While on the job, do you spend an unreasonable amount of time away from where people can reach you, on the internet, taking coffee breaks, etc? If so, can you really expect to become truly successful at your job? Working honestly also creates good karma, which I'll touch on again.
If you aren't employed, work hard at keeping what comes into the house. I stay at home, and don't earn a paycheck, but that doesn't mean that I don't work hard. I do work hard, and my work has value. Besides raising children to be contibuting members of society, I save money aggressively by constantly learning to be economical, invest that saved money in diverse ways, and am steadily increasing our family's net worth. Despite not being the family breadwinner, I work hard at being successful, and at gaining wealth.
Increase your efficiency and productivity. Entire books have been written about this subject, so I'll just add this: do whatever works for you to increase your productivity--prioritize, once-a-week planning, use a timer, take breaks, create routines--but don't get so caught up in figuring out what to do that you waste a lot of time.
Get educated. Constantly learning is one of the best and most literal ways to 'work smart.' A high school degree won't get you much these days, with average earnings at $28,645. Those with a bachelor’s degree earned an average of $51,554, and those with advanced degrees earned an average of $78,093. Taking the time to get a degree can prove very beneficial. In addition to formal education, self-led education can be invaluable. Learning about running the small business you've always wanted to start, or figuring out the best investment strategy for yourself are great ways to start 'working smart.'
Keep your eyes open for new opportunities. On the job and in life, opportunities will come and go, and you've got to keep an eye out in order to catch them. Working hard and honestly at your job is one way to align yourself with these opportunities; you'll stand out above others around you. Having a long-term plan with goals is also a smart way to achieve success and wealth.
Get your money working for you. One of the best ways to 'work smart' is to get more work done during the 24 hours we are all alotted each day. There is a limit to human capacity, but money can work on your behalf 24/7 without fatigue, and it doesn't even charge you anything. Find ways to invest your money so it can grow while you work, and accelerate your path to wealth. On the flip side, avoid debt, because that money is working tirelessly against you.