The hustle hoax: how to work smarter not harder

There is a word circulating the Internet these days that makes me feel a bit uneasy. A fairly innocuous word, it has wriggled its way into our daily vocab, especially in the entrepreneurial or work from home worlds.

This word is hustle.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I know that to get the results I want I have to put in the effort. Where I feel we land ourselves into hot water is the assumed burnout that comes with running your own business.

When I talk to friends about my experience of working late into the evenings I am met with the reply, “well, you do work for yourself”. It’s as if I’m expected to work doubly as hard for the privilege of calling myself a business owner.

Yes, us self-employed folk do tackle an awful lot of behind the scenes, but does that mean we are supposed to consign ourselves to a life of 18 hour days at the desk?

It’s time to challenge the hustle hoax and work smarter, not harder.

Why aren’t you taking action in your business?

Like many of us, I often find myself wondering how I can be more productive. The hours can slip away without much to show for it, which can feel especially frustrating if you’re tight on time and need to make every day count. 

Recently I listened to Amy Porterfield’s Online Marketing Made Easy podcast and heard something that really resonated. The episode featured Life Coach, Brooke Castillo, who was the guest speaker on Amy’s show talking about all things productivity.

In the episode, Amy and her guest discussed the entrepreneurial road blocks that stop you from taking action and moving forward.

work harder neon sign

The 3 hustle hoaxes that stop you from making business progress

The top takeaways from this conversation were:

Hustle Hoax #1: You’re stuck in the busy hustle

It’s very easy to exist in the busy hustle. As client requests, deadlines and emails require attention, we react by flinging ourselves into work mode to get as much done as we can.

Instead of falling into a busy hustle where you work hard but don’t feel like you make progress, try to shift your thinking in terms of production. Instead of saying “I’m working on my blog” say “I’m producing a blog post”. This affirmative language helps you to proactively reframe your actions.

Hustle Hoax #2: You’re giving yourself too much time to get things done

Although most of us would say we don’t have enough time on our hands, Brooke Castillo argued that most business owners – especially new ones – give themselves too much time to complete tasks. The downside of this is that our productivity takes a nosedive as we only complete half of our to-do list.

Instead of saying “I will get this blog post written by Wednesday”, Brooke challenges you to declare “I will get this blog drafted and published within two hours.”

Pushing yourself to meet shorter deadlines may mean that you produce B-minus work instead of an A+, and Brooke’s argument for producing B-minus work is this: “B-minus work can change people’s lives. Work that you don’t produce at all, does nothing in the world.”  

Hustle Hoax #3: You’re avoiding failure and discomfort

We’ve all had those moments where we put off doing something because it pushes us outside our comfort zone. Many of us are risk-averse and we end up taking no action at all because we don’t want to fail.

Procrastination means that we avoid challenging situations that enable us to grow, learn and develop new skills. By pushing past our fears, we end up improving our abilities and developing our business.   


How can you work smarter and not harder?

The idea of ‘producing an outcome’ instead of ‘working on’ something really struck me. Many of us are comfortable now with the idea of organising our time and writing out our to-do list, but I do feel we can be more focused on exactly what we want to get done each time we sit at our desk.

Ask yourself what the outcome of each piece of work will be. This is a great trick to sharpen the mind and ensure that it actually gets done. This gentle scrutiny also helps us to review the tasks we set ourselves more scrupulously, so we don’t just ‘work’ on things for the sake of it, wasting hours of our time with nothing to show for it.

I’m definitely reviewing my own workload to make sure that what I spend my time and energy on is profitable, not only from a business perspective but from a personal one too.  Working for yourself should be about doing the things you love and bring you joy. The moment you begin to force things, you know something has gone horribly wrong.

So here are a few things that I am going to adopt as I continue to work for myself:

  • Be clear on my outcome for every piece of work
  • Match the outcome with my priorities
  • Complete tasks in a shorter timescale
  • See difficult experiences as a learning opportunity.

By focusing on working smarter, I want to redefine the word hustle so that it only has positive connotations for me and my business.

What are you going to do to work smarter and not harder? Have you managed to break the cycle of perpetual hustle, or do you find yourself stuck in it?


This blog post was inspired by an episode of Amy Porterfield’s Online Marketing Made Easy podcast. If you’re interested in listening to the full podcast and reading the show notes, you can find all of this information on Amy’s website.

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How to work smarter not harder and avoid the hustle hoax

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