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Lessons from an Ice Cave

As I've shared in previous blogs, I enjoy visiting new places, learning about different cultures, and challenging myself. On my recent trip to Iceland, I was reminded of an old adage, "work smarter, not harder."

As you can see by the video, that was NOT what happened. I was with a small group in an ice cave and there was an ice pick just waiting to be used. I asked the six foot something guide if I could use the pick to help. He smiled and agreed. Being five foot tall (in heels which I left behind for this trip!), the pick was a bit challenging to get out of the ice. I pulled and pulled until, as you can see, the guide simply lifted the pick in just the right place to provide the leverage I needed to remove it. Everyone got a good laugh!

As I look back on the experience, I realize that there was a better way. In the moment, I immediately reverted to muscle over brain and it didn't work. Hey, why use your brain when it's harder to pull, tug, and use your muscles? Later, I wondered why I did that and does that happen in the work world?

Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Just like me, we get caught up in the moment and sometimes forget to step back and think things through.

The phrase "work smarter, not harder" is a proverbial expression that emphasizes the importance of efficiency and effectiveness in one's approach to work. It suggests that rather than simply putting in more effort or working longer hours, individuals should focus on optimizing their strategies, prioritizing tasks, and leveraging resources (like my tall friend in the cave) to achieve better results with less time and energy expended.

Here's what this phrase means in practical terms:

Efficiency over effort: Instead of solely relying on sheer effort or working harder, individuals should strive to work efficiently by identifying the most effective methods and approaches to accomplish tasks. Here are a few tips to help you work smarter:

Strategic prioritization: Rather than attempting to tackle all tasks indiscriminately, it's important to prioritize tasks based on their importance and impact. This involves focusing on high-value activities that contribute the most to one's goals or objectives.

Effective time management: Working smarter involves managing time effectively by allocating it to tasks that yield the greatest return on investment. This may involve eliminating time-wasting activities, delegating tasks when possible, and using tools and techniques to streamline workflows.

Continuous improvement: Working smarter requires a commitment to ongoing learning and improvement. It involves regularly evaluating one's methods, seeking feedback, and adapting strategies to optimize performance and results.

Leveraging resources: Rather than attempting to do everything independently, individuals should leverage available resources, such as technology, tools, and support networks, to enhance productivity and effectiveness.

Overall, "work smarter, not harder" encourages individuals to adopt a more strategic and thoughtful approach to their work, focusing on achieving maximum results with minimum effort and resources expended. By prioritizing efficiency, effectiveness, and continuous improvement, individuals can enhance their productivity, achieve better outcomes, and maintain a healthier work-life balance.

If you get the opportunity, I highly recommend visiting an ice cave, just remember if there is any work to be done, think smart! Now that I'm reminded of the importance of working smart, I'm happy to work with you to help you look at ways you can as well.

Check out our upcoming leadership series Leading with Purpose and Impact starting April 10, 2024 or contact me at if I can help you work smarter!

"Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe." Abraham Lincoln


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