Hard Work vs. Smart Work: Is One Better Than the Other? 🧠

  • Remote Working & Freelancing
Contra Tips
· 6 min read

Learn the difference between hard work and smart work, and check out examples of each to further understand them. Also, discover strategies to be more efficient.

Freelancing sometimes comes with a set of never-ending client demands, leaving you overwhelmed and stressed. With looming deadlines and the constant pressure to consistently deliver quality, you end up pushing yourself instead of adopting a more strategic approach. Enter the perennial debate: hard work versus smart work.

In this guide, we’ll explore hard work and smart work, their differences, and examples of each to understand them better. We’ll also cover practical tips to help you learn how to work smartly, avoiding the chances of burning out.

What does hard work mean? 💪

Hard work’s definition varies from person to person. While many think it’s about pouring hours into a task or craft, others believe it’s doing something passionately and regularly over an extended period. It’s more like a quality people admire, seeing it as a path to success.

Here are a few key elements of hard work:

  • Dedication: Committing wholeheartedly to the task or goal at hand
  • Persistence: Continuously pushing yourself despite constant setbacks
  • Endurance: Sustaining efforts and remaining focused over extended periods
  • Sacrifice: Giving up personal time or pleasures to dedicate more time to work
  • Resilience: Bouncing back from failures without getting demotivated

Examples of hard work 💯

Hard work takes many forms. To better understand its essence, let's explore a few real-world examples:

  • Pulling all-nighters: Whether to meet a project deadline or prepare for an important presentation
  • Taking on multiple jobs: Working multiple jobs simultaneously to make ends meet or gain diverse experience
  • Learning continuously: Spending evenings or weekends taking courses or attending workshops to improve skills
  • Overcoming obstacles: Persistently working on a challenging project, even when initial solutions fail
  • Working relentlessly: Construction workers or farmers slogging under the sun for hours, ensuring meticulous work

What does smart work mean? 🤔

Smart work is defined as maximizing efficiency and achieving results with the least amount of effort and time. Instead of putting in long hours without breaks, it emphasizes working strategically. It's about understanding the best approach to a task, using resources wisely, and recognizing when to delegate or use tools to make tasks easier. The underlying philosophy is that it's not always how hard you work, but how smart!

Smart work typically involves the following elements:

  • Prioritization: Understanding which tasks are most critical and tackling them first
  • Delegation: Identifying tasks that others can do and assigning them appropriately
  • Automation: Using technology or systems to perform repetitive tasks without manual intervention
  • Productivity: Recognizing the importance of taking breaks to refresh and increase productivity
  • Goal-setting: Having a clear direction and knowing what is the ulterior objective

Examples of smart work 🔥

To truly grasp the essence of smart work, it's helpful to see it applied in tangible scenarios. Here are a few smart work examples that help meet goals efficiently:

  • Automating invoicing: Instead of manually creating invoices every month, using software that automatically generates and sends them to clients
  • Blocking time: Setting specific times in the day for certain tasks, ensuring focus and reducing multitasking
  • Using templates: Rather than starting from scratch every time, leveraging templates for reports, emails, or proposals to save time
  • Hiring a virtual assistant: Employing an individual to handle administrative tasks, leaving more time for core business functions
  • Attending online courses: Enrolling in online courses to learn new tools or skills in a shorter time frame rather than figuring things out through trial and error

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Hard work vs. smart work: What’s the difference? ⚖️

Now that you better understand smart work and hard work, let’s take a look at four fundamental differences between the two:


  • Hard work: You’ll follow an established process, trying to complete tasks in the set amount of time.
  • Smart work: You’ll plan an efficient strategy to quickly complete tasks. You’ll likely delegate tasks and prioritize work to streamline the process.


  • Hard work: You’ll follow a less adaptable approach, often finding yourself working feverishly to complete tasks right before the deadline –– increasing stress.
  • Smart work: You’ll find ways to get the job done efficiently, completing most work before or within the deadline with minimal stress.

Goal accomplishments

  • Hard work: You’ll use determination and persistence to tick off projects, sometimes missing a task or two to meet the deadline. 
  • Smart work: You’ll prioritize more important tasks, leading to quicker progress. You’ll also use resources, like time, more effectively.

Resource management

  • Hard work: You’ll follow a set routine or approach to complete tasks and usually end up using more time or resources due to a lack of simplifying a process –– decreasing economical value in the long run.
  • Smart work: You’ll strategize and set goals with clear steps to follow before starting a task. This way, you’ll manage resources more effectively, making the process increasingly efficient.

How to develop smart work skills 🔧

To transition from being a hard worker to a smart worker, you need to implement certain strategies. Here are a few tips to set yourself up for success:

  • Don’t multitask: Multitasking is just the name for shifting focus from one thing to another. You actually reduce your efficiency when multitasking, as it can take 15 minutes to gain focus after switching your attention.
  • Take breaks: You’re only as productive as you feel, and pushing on when exhausted is a surefire way to make mistakes, increase feelings of stress, and eventually feel burned out.
  • Group small tasks together: Merge small tasks like checking and replying to emails or making phone calls to save time and stay focused. 
  • Prioritize the most tedious tasks: Larger tasks often take the most effort and produce the most significant result. This way, you’ll complete the majority of the work, and delays aren’t that big of a deal if they happen.
  • Learn from each project: The key to workflow optimization is knowing as much as you can about the various processes or tasks. Actively pay attention to each project and learn what you can so that the next time you do something similar, you can make the process more efficient. 
  • Work with your energy levels: Some people feel most productive in the morning, and some in the afternoon. Schedule the most extensive and most difficult tasks around the height of your energy levels for better results. 
  • Avoid the grindset: There’s nothing heroic about the grind mindset. You don’t need to work yourself to the bone to improve professionally or earn more. You’re more likely to increase your income by working more efficiently and living a more well-rounded lifestyle.

Work smart and hard with Contra 💸

Embracing smart work is essential to thrive and maintain balance in freelancing. While putting in the hours is commendable, leveraging strategies for efficiency can lead to a more fulfilling and productive career. If you’re ready to begin optimizing your workflow and complete projects efficiently, join Contra. With Contra, you can find remote working job posts commission-free. And if you’re already an expert at strategically planning your day and taking on multiple projects, upgrade to Contra Pro to increase the discoverability of your profile and land more freelance work. 

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