11 Ways to ‘Work Smarter Not Harder’

There are a few idioms that have only ever made about 5-10% sense in my head since day dot of hearing them, but I’ve never really thought long or hard enough about what they actually mean.

For example:

No use crying over spilt milk.

Feeling under the weather.

Wouldn’t be caught dead.

And that ever-so-puzzling adage,

Work smarter not harder.

I’ve spent the last 29 years of my life, not only nodding my head graciously when people use these phrases and pretending like I know what they mean, but heck, sometimes these words have even escaped my own mouth with no freaking clue what the hell I’m talking about.

In particular, I struggle with the last one, ‘Work smarter not harder’. Okay sure, sounds great in theory but how exactly do I work smarter, not harder? It has had me baffled for years. I get the theory behind it and absolutely do my best to put it into practice, but today I’m on a mission to break it down once and for all.

What I’ve come to learn is the phrase ‘work smarter’ means something different for everyone depending on their definition of success and progress – but, one thing we all agree on is that working smarter means getting more value out of the hours that you put in. Kinda like going to an all you can eat buffet. You pay the same price regardless of how much you eat, so you may as well stuff your face ‘til you’re moderately to excruciatingly uncomfortable in your own clothes.

This means leveraging our own time, effort and money, prioritising our own needs, outsourcing help, cutting our losses, and building upon strengths in an intentional manner to advance ourselves in the direction we choose. In other words, working smart essentially means figuring out how to reach your goals in the quickest and most economical way possible. Think a combination of Tony Robbins, Tim Ferriss and your mum’s house cleaning abilities on a Saturday morning.

Here are some ways I’ve recently been applying this well-worn motto to my life and business, and getting back some sanity and extra hours in my days.

 

  1. Patch up the holes in your bucket, dear Liza.

So, you’ve got a great business, but you’re leaking money faster than a drunk teen on the pokies? You’ve got too many holes in your bucket, dear Liza. Working smarter not harder, means conducting regular audits of the business to look for holes or gaps where you might be leaking time, energy or money. My general manager and I have a massive spreadsheet that lists literally every aspect our business on it – yes, it’s bigger than Ben Hur (another idiom I have no idea about). I make it my mission to look at one or two of those aspects every few weeks and critically analyse how we are currently approaching it from an operational perspective. Could we be more efficient at how we tackle it? If so, how? It’s generally a matter of looking at the process objectively and asking if the right people are on the job, if software could handle it for us, if we’ve been hitting roadblocks at certain points or if there is a solution we can implement to ensure a faster, smoother process. It requires strategic thought, an objective point of view and asking many, many, often stupid questions of ourselves.

 

  1. I always have a ‘Tess to stop doing list’.

Delegation is a powerful force. Particularly when it’s done well. I have a post-it note sitting on my computer that reads “Is this for me?” No, it’s not the beginnings of an existential crisis, it’s a reminder to critically analyse every task, email or request that comes my way. I do my best to ask myself at each situation, am I the best person to be answering this question or performing this task, or am I better to delegate it? To be more effective, you’ve got to ask for help and enlist people who are better at certain tasks and functions than you are to free you up to do the tasks more suited to you.

But remember, this is only effective if you have the right people in the right positions who know exactly what their job descriptions are.

 

  1. Batching is the bee’s knees.

As our world gets busier and our phones get beepier, it’s important we become more be intentional with the hours in our day and strive for velocity over volume. This means increased focus with decreased distractions, aka no multitasking. As far as I can tell, we’re the only species that goes a little Cray Cray for multi-tasking. I mean, I’ve never seen my dog try to eat, drink, bark and defecate simultaneously. Oh, actually, only that one time after she ate a rotting deer leg at the beach and got incredibly sick.

Anyways, I have an obsession with batching tasks. Each week I list out the days ahead of me and batch tasks under each of those days according to similarities and focus required. The days I’m in the studio, I start at 6am (which means a 4:30am wake up call – yikes), and from the get-go it’s ON – I tackle all the small tasks like emails and 10 minute tasks. The days I’m at home are more bigger picture , strategy days. Which leads me to my next point….

 

  1. Have ‘untouchable’ days.

I recently wrote about why I’m having ‘Untouchable Thursdays’, you can read more about that here, but essentially, I have one day a week where I’m uncontactable. I spend the day at home working on big, fat juicy tasks that will actually propel the business forward. Without any meetings, emails or G-chats from my team I’m able to truly focus and zone in for the entire day. It’s blissfully productive and the business is so much better off for it.

 

  1. Strap in for the long game.

Have a gazillion and one items on your to-do list and double the amount of emails in your inbox? That’s perfectly okay. Stop thinking you need to finish all of them right this second – instead focus on the things that are crucial to your business’ bottom line and your personal gratification. My advice is to slow down and focus on the things that are actually going to propel you towards your goals – those that bring the greatest long-term impact. Often these tasks require greater psychological bandwidth and deeper focus, but trust me, they are so worth scratching your head over when you see the results they bring you.

 

  1. Play to your strengths

I’m sure you’ve heard about the 80/20 rule? It’s a principle often applied to business that argues that if you have a list of 10 items to accomplish, 2 of those items will turn out to be worth more than the other 8 items put together. It sounds unrealistic, but once you put it into practice, it’s veracity becomes undeniably apparent.

When we are busy, stressed and overwhelmed, we tend to procrastinate on the 20% of tasks that are the most valuable to our business, and instead gravitate towards the less important 80% of our tasks that are easy wins, or time-fillers.

In order to have impact and velocity in our days, we should instead, focus on the 20% vital tasks that will bring us most success and satisfaction. The way that I do this is write down a list of 10 goals for the day, and then circle the 2 that will bring most impact to the business – the key here is to think about the long term benefits these tasks will bring you. Then, I get cracking on those tasks first. Once I complete those top 2 tasks, I know that I’ve skewed my day to ensure the 80/20 rule works in my favour. The remaining 8 tasks on the list are simply cherries on the icing.

 

  1. Put some things on auto-pilot.

I’m not suggesting you do as Zuckerberg does and wear the same thing every day for the sake of productivity, but I do agree that reducing the amount of decisions we need to make each day allows us to focus on the more important things. Think about the everyday tasks that you do that you could perhaps automate. By eliminating things like going to the store to buy toilet paper every two weeks (Hello Who Gives a Crap!), you can focus that time and energy on more important tasks instead.

 

  1. Break up with your inbox.

Stop checking your email every two seconds. It turns out we each have one reservoir of will and discipline, and when we start to spiral into exhaustion or burnout, our reservoir gets depleted and we are less inclined to stick to the things we know are good for us. I know for myself, that when I’m feeling tired it’s far easier to spend the day eating Mars Bars over salad, and dawdling my day inside my inbox doing menial tasks, than it is to work on the bigger ticket items that will actually have long last effects on my business.

 

  1. ‘Sleep when you’re dead’ is for suckers.

In the past when I was feeling behind, I’d stay up late trying to catch up. This works if you do it very occasionally, but I did it all the time. That made me tired, meaning more mistakes, less foresight, and less energy focused on the work. Now when I’m feeling behind and tired, I take the day off and come back in the next day refreshed and raring to go. As tempting as it is to handcuff yourself to your desk and force your tired self to smash out all of that work, it’s really just setting you up for burnout in the long run.

 

  1. Research how the big doggies do it.

There’s no denying I’m a sucker for a self-help book. My house is drowning in them and I buy them faster than I can read them. Why? Because I want to know successful people’s’ secrets. I think, surely if they’ve figured out how to maximise their time and reap the rewards, I can learn from them? This is why I devour book, podcasts, blogs and eavesdrop at every chance I can. Tools of Titans is a great starting place for anyone looking for ways to work smarter, not harder.

 

  1. Look back to look forward.

It might seem counterintuitive, but sitting still is actually one of my favourite methods to move forward. I find that when I’m still, be it in meditation or simply enjoying a day at the beach, by creating a sense of spaciousness and looking back, I’m able to look forward.

Reflection allows your brain to better access new strategies and ways of working with greater clarity and focus. To give you an example, the other day I was reflecting on the key things that have allowed me to build SBD to what it is today. Without a doubt, the big glaring thing that sprung to my mind on a flashing neon sign was ‘People’. The people who’ve been on my team over the years, the clients, the friends, the mentors, the ‘network’. So, looking forward I’m placing more focus on relationships and genuine interaction.

Image credit: Joost Termeer

How to communicate a rebrand with grace and gusto

Do you ever have those thoughts of ‘Thank GOD I don’t have that haircut anymore?’ Like when I look back at photos from the early 2000s and realise that I had a peroxide blonde mullet? #nojoke

Or looking back at that dreadful 90s outfit you donned as a kid and thank your lucky stars that you’re actually somewhat fashionable now? (Thanks for the polka dot leotard with matching scrunchie mum!)

Or realising that you once drove a 1991 rusty Nissan Pulsar that was rustier than a tin shed and feeling ever so grateful for your sleek new Volkswagen Tiguan.

I love discovering little life hacks like that that fill you with newfound self-confidence.

I get this feeling when I look back at the Smack Bang logo circa 2011.

At the time I had a sickly obsession with bright turquoise green – like the kind of green you need sunnies on to look at. Our logo had a bright green circle behind it that felt like the nightclub lights turning on when it was time to head home and, in retrospect, fills me with the same kind of anxiety.

(Let it also be known that I even painted one of our studio walls this colour. I’m not sure what I thinking, but the creative juices were obviously really starting to fire up.)

When I compare that ‘brand’ to our now slick, sexy and sophisticated brand, I am elated with confidence, clarity and a massive sense of relief.

The power of a rebrand, no matter how big, can be truly business-transforming. 

I recently fell down the rabbit hole that is our rather juicy archive of projects. I got all the way from A to M (and only aged a few years in the process), and stumbled across our designs for one of our most treasured clients, Mukti. Sifting through the files in that folder sure was a trip down memory lane. When Mukti first came to us, her beautiful formulations were trapped inside outdated little bottles that no longer reflected the quality and greatness of where she wanted her brand to be. We’ve worked with Mukti over the last 5 years to reposition and alchemise her brand from bland to grand and have since rebranded almost every aspect of her business. It has been one of the most satisfying projects to date because we’ve seen first-hand what an impact a refresh and repositioning can have on a business’ bottomline.

In Mukti’s case, a rebrand was necessary to encourage growth and clarify their services,

“I wanted our brand to be cleaner and less pigeon-holed as a
hippy-boho-natural-organic brand. I want to be taken seriously
as a global contender – an organic skincare brand that delivers real results.”

The Mukti rebrand and repositioning is just one of many projects where we’ve had the pleasure of playing make-over magic and helping our clients reap the rewards of a refresh.

I’ve written about why to rebrand and how to rebrand before, but I haven’t shared how to communicate a rebrand to your audience. A rebrand, when done for the right reasons, is a surefire way to get positive alignment for your brand, both externally and internally.

Here are my six golden rules to revealing a rebrand to an existing audience without losing your street cred.

  1. BE TRANSPARENT.
    When a company rebrands, there’s always the fear that your existing audience will feel alienated or confused by the change. The biggest fear Mukti had when it came to rebranding was exactly that:

    “I was scared that if it was radically different our customers may not
    recognise the brand. But I believe my approach to business has evolved
    and matured. I do my best not to be attached and to be open to others
    input and advice. Sometimes letting go is hard especially if decisions are taken
    out of your hands but in order to grow you have to take the leap of faith,
    experience a little discomfort and jump into the void.”

    We often find that when our clients are more vocal and transparent about the reasons for their rebrand, their customers aren’t alienated at all, and in many cases step up to offer their encouragement and support. If you’re transparent with your audience about why you’re rebranding, then there’s more potential for them to get behind your mission and support you on your voyage.

  2. PLAY THE LONG GAME.
    The quickest way to lose customers through a rebrand is to implement your changes overnight, without a word of warning. This is particularly the case if your rebrand is a dramatic change from your old get-up.

    Back in 2010 GAP (or more officially, The Gap) did exactly this. One day they were the familiar old, preppy, GAP, and the next? Customers went to the company’s website expecting to see the familiar dark blue box and white name were met with a logo that left them confused. It was impossible to tell if this was even the same clothing store? It’s safe to say the rebrand was a complete flop, and within a matter of weeks they reverted back to their old branding *Command Z* and see-ya-later $100 million (that was an expensive mistake).

    Ensure you communicate your rebrand to your followers far in advance. Sit down with your team and come up with the a well-thought-out timing strategy to execute the evolution. If it happens too slowly, you’ll lose the impact and rewards of a rebrand. If it happens too fast, your customers will be confused and, most likely, resentful.

  3. GET ON THE SOAPBOX (ALL OF THEM).
    It’s essential to make use of every tool in the communications toolbox to let people know about your new positioning and new brand. Your blog, social media accounts, email and even mailing lists should all be included as you roll out your rebrand.

    Remember, that all of your followers connect with your brand in different ways, some people will learn of your refresh via social, but others will be more inclined to read a newsletter. Check that you cover all bases by getting up on all your different soapboxes to ensure all your party people are kept in the loop and reassured they’re going to get the same great products, services or dedication to mission that they’ve come to expect.

  4. DOUBLE WHAMMIES ARE WAY MORE FUN.
    When we launched our latest brand refresh and spankin’ new website at Smack Bang last year, we also launched an entire new portfolio collection. This was a great plan of action because it gave us a reason to talk to our audience about the rebrand and also gave people a reason to care. Using a double whammy is a great approach – for us, we saw an increase in traffic to our website and greater interest in our studio, because there was a better understanding of what we offered, and our audience weren’t only interested in the new look, but also had an opportunity to view all of our most recent work. Have a think about what kind of double-pronged approach you can use with a rebrand? It might be the release of a new collection, the addition of a new service, a brand spankin’ promo? Whatever it is, remember to articulate it clearly and give your people something to care about.
  5. DON’T DROP YOUR STANDARDS.
    Strategies, like being transparent and timely about your rebrand, go a long way toward retaining customers. But the best way to avoid a drop in business is to focus on maintaining excellent service, particularly during this transition time. During and after a rebrand is the best time to really assert your brand values, ensuring that your customer service is next level top-notch! By going the extra mile when you have all these extra eyeballs on you, your customers will feel like the rebrand was the best darn thing you ever did.

  6. TALE POLE POSITION.
    Assert your new brand positioning with confidence and clarity. Your approach should be reliable and genuine, not hand-deliver-a-thousand-cupcakes-level eager to explain every single design decision you made to get there. Ensure you and your team are onboard with the reasons why you’ve rebranded and get super-duper crystal clear on your brand values, mission and vision. By having a strong positioning on the DNA of your brand, you’ll be able to better communicate what the rebrand means for your customer. The more articulate, confident and succinct you are, the better your customers will be able to understand what the rebrand means for them.

Image credit: Joost Termeer

Long distance relationships… Who says they don’t work? (In fact, they happen to be our speciality!)

The single greatest thing about being an adult in the 21st Century would surely have to be the internet. I mean, who wouldn’t agree?

We can now learn how to calculate Pi by throwing frozen hot dogs, buy a life size wall decal of an asian businessman or take a moment to watch someone eat ice cream off their scalp. What a time to be alive.

The internet has fundamentally changed our world. For better or worse, I’m yet to decide. But there’s certainly no denying that it has simultaneously made our lives so much more efficient, and yet so much more convoluted.

Frankly, it’s a love/loathe relationship for most people. But when you get it right, technology can truly be your best friend. Smack Bang would not be the business it is today without technology, in particular our love-to-loathe friend, Zoom.

As it currently stands, we work with over 500 clients worldwide and have birthed 2,000+ projects in over 20 different countries.

Yesterday alone I went to four different countries (through my trusty phone). At 8am I had a meeting in Toronto about a new retail store opening up, at 10am it was a bakery in New Zealand, at 5pm it was a marketing agency in Copenhagen and then, early evening, it was a random 70 year old’s landline in Double Bay because I dialled the wrong number.

There really has never been easier to connect with our fellow globetrotters, so for anyone thinking about embarking on some cross-continental business relations, let us assure you how easy it is:

  1. Remote teams can be even more productive
    These days, the term ‘digital nomad’ gets thrown around like a trolley in a grocery store. As a founder, I actually steer the Smack Bang ship from 90 mins drive away from the majority of the Sydney team since moving to the tranquil South Coast. Meanwhile our Creative Strategist, Holly, plays her part from Bangalow NSW (a 9 hour drive or 1 hour flight away from our Surry Hills HQ). But we are all only ever a G-chat apart and now really think about agendas and outcomes before scheduling meetings, which has made them so much more effective.
  2. Online communities totally transcend borders
    So many of our – and no doubt your – favourite modern brands break down any concept of borders in their customer experience. A great meme, a great product or service, and a great heart can be a common denominator no matter where they come from. We now have direct access to fashion labels in LA, art galleries in Amsterdam, tech in Tel Aviv and pretty much anything/everything you desire through Ali Baba – all from the comfort from our own home, where they arrive on our doorsteps a few days later!
    Australian label, Spell, was born from the (then) small town of Byron Bay. Now its co-founder, Elizabeth, attests 70-80% of their business is purely via online store from every corner of the planet. Swapping local market stalls for blogging their earliest photoshoots catapulted their exposure from just the immediate geographic community to a whole wide web of global eyeballs – and wallets. Big thanks Kevin Systrom – we too owe you a beer!
  3. The creative landscape is well and truly ‘globalised’
    Less than 50% of the SBD audience are in fact based in Australia, the other 50% is made up of a colourful array of other countries around the world. US in second place and old Blightly is number three, followed by NZ, Canada and Germany. Danke schön!
    We recently learnt quite how wide-spread our people are while getting acquainted with the new GDPR changes in the EU. (Shout out to our buddies in Latvia and the lovely Anna who bought Baskk from the tiny island of Symi in Greece.)
  4. Distance makes the heart grow fonder
    There are a number of resources and tools we use to make interstate and international business work like a dream. Zoom aside, our top three must be Calendly, Dropbox and Google docs. All hail the cloud! So much so, many of our all-time favourite projects have been for international brands whose HQs are thousands of kilometres from our own. Namely, Ranavat Botanics (California), Evereden (NYC), One Fine Day (NZ), Mukti (Queensland), One Seed (SA), Fella Villas (Bali) and many more.

It’s safe to say that we are now living in the future, a time when chatting to someone on the other side of the world no longer requires a town crier, a pen and paper, a horse or a freight ship. Technology has advanced the pace of our communications and the sooner our business relationships can use it to our advantage, the better we’ll all be for it.

Chances are you may be reading this from another time zone – and even hemisphere. If so, please let us know where in the comments below. We love to hear from you, and even more, love to work together. You know where to find us!

Image credit: Kelsey McClellan