post written by: Marc Chernoff

How To Work Less and Still Impress


Work Less and Still Impress 

Is it possible to work less and still impress your boss, wife, husband and friends?  In other words, is it possible to do less and accomplish more?  Everyone seeks the answer to this question.  We all want to generate the greatest noticeable impact with the least amount of effort, as quick as possible.  It’s the way of the modern knowledge worker.  We strive to work smarter, not harder.

The answer to the question is: YES!  With the right combination of skills, tactics and tools, you can work less and still impress.  It requires thinking outside of the box… and then implementing strategies that directly increase the visibility, impact and “wow-factor” of your labors.

The list below is not comprehensive, but leads in the right direction, providing six basic strategies geared for increasing your impressiveness without increasing your workload.

  1. Learn Skills Few People Know – Find a niche function (or two) that’s currently in high demand and master it.  If very few people can perform this needed function, your effective value to others will skyrocket into the stratosphere.  You will become the “go to guy”.  Even if it’s only a temporary gig, you will be able to make a significant impact in a short timeframe.  And if you play your cards right, you will find yourself doing less actual work and getting 10 times more credit for your efforts.
  2. Provide Value from Within a Black Box – Mystery is a huge proponent of impressiveness.  In order to achieve the ultimate level of impressiveness your efforts must make someone think, “Wow! How does he/she do that?”  They can easily see your inputs and your results, but aren’t 100% sure how you got from point A to point B.  In other words, you have to provide (or innovate) tangible value without disclosing the specifics of the mastery.  This is similar to my point on learning a rare skill, but instead relies more on emotional curiosity and less on the end result.  Human beings are curious creatures.  If you can give them something they want while simultaneously stimulating their curiosity, you will always be more impressive than the guy who cranks out the most widgets.
  3. Focus More on Less – A jack of all trades may do very well in life, but supreme impressiveness is achieved via specialization.  Elite expertise attracts attention much faster than a run of the mill juggling act.  This is because gradual increases in skill level have an exponential effect on the public opinion of overall impressiveness.  Think in terms of Karate: A black belt seems far more impressive than a brown belt.  But does a brown belt really seem any more impressive than a red belt?  The bottom line: Society elevates experts high onto a pedestal.  Hard work matters, but not if scattered in diverse directions.  Focus on mastering your trade.
  4. Only Use Quality Tools – Trying to cut through a thick piece of fresh lumber with an old, dull handsaw would be a pretty foolish endeavor.  You would have to work extremely hard to make the even the slightest impact.  This principle applies to everything in life.  Don’t let inefficiency defeat you.  If the tools in your toolbox don’t fit the requirements of the job, find someone who has the right tools and barter with them, hire them, invite them  into the process.  Possessing the right tools (and skills) can easily shrink a mountainous task into a molehill.
  5. Always Under-Sell to Over-Deliver – The crooked salesman constantly over-sells the capabilities of his product.  He sets the bar so high that the product ends up falling short of his client’s expectations.  If you want to boost your impressiveness, do the exact opposite.  Slightly under-sell your capabilities (or product, service, deadline, etc.) so that you’re always able to over-deliver.  It will seem to others like you’re habitually going above and beyond the call of duty.
  6. Follow the 80/20 Rule – The 80/20 rule states that 80% of your results come from just 20% of your efforts.  If you can identify and focus on the 20% that matters most, you can be more productive (and impressive) without increasing your workload.  Try to automate or delegate the less productive 80% whenever possible.  When random emails and phone calls start pushing you off course, remind yourself of the 80/20 rule and make an immediate course correction.  If an emergency arises and you absolutely need to eliminate something from your schedule, make sure it’s not part of the vital 20%.

Photo by: Parker

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30 Comments

  • I prefer the George Costanza method.

    Whenever anyone walks by your office, look agitated and angry. Everyone will think you are so overwhelmed with work and they won’t bother you!

  • Dave, I love it! George Costanza had that one down to a science… one of the greatest work related TV episodes of all time. ;-)

  • Yes, this is very important for me. Because I have a family I want to get out of the office as close to 5pm as possible. Ultimately I think it comes down to results. If you can show management you are getting the results normally there is no issue. If they don’t understand this, could be time to look for a new job….

  • Great post. The thing about the 80/20 rule is that if you do focus your time on the “20″ eventually 80% of even that becomes unproductive. A truly productive person is constantly asking, “What’s the BEST use of my time RIGHT NOW?” But in a job situation, you might ask your boss, “What’s the best use of my time right now…boss?”

  • Nice post! Re: “Provide Value from Within a Black Box .” Many people today are so impressed by collaboration and teamwork that many times they pull these “black box” secrets out into the open. Knowledge is power, and even though I’m all for being a team player, holding back just enough info to give you some leverage is a smart move.

  • @Peter:
    Agreed. Results are all that really matters. At the end of the day, nobody cares how it gets done, so long as it gets done.

    @Ron:

    “What’s the BEST use of my time RIGHT NOW?”

    Well stated. That’s exactly how you stay on course with the 80/20 rule.

    But in a job situation, you might ask your boss, “What’s the best use of my time right now…boss?”

    You have to be careful not to ask your boss that question too often. It might give him/her the wrong impression that you don’t know how to make decisions on your own.

    @Frugal Dad:
    I love the open source mindset, but there is a time and a place for everything. For example, magicians are really impressive… because they’re secrets are not open to the public.

  • I love Dave’s comment… I’m 100 percent with you on focusing more on less. Being “okay” at something rarely gets you anywhere. It may get you more assignments and responsibilities, but probably not more credit or recognition. While those things shouldn’t always be the end game, they’re usually where growth opportunities come from.

    Working in an actual black box (ie, away from the rest of a team) can have its drawbacks. More than once, coworkers have assumed that if they can’t physically see me working, I must not be working. (So not the case.) The idea of strategic open source in the comments above really nails it.

  • The first one is so true. :D

  • My CEO loves the IT guys because they have a skill that almost everyone is impressed with. Because of this they have a more flexible schedule. They work less because they dictate the projects that they do. No one knows how long each job really takes, so whatever they get done the CEO thinks they are wonderful.

  • […] and Angel hack life once again and give us a list of ways to work less but still impress my boss. This is the essence of working SMARTER not […]

  • […] Is it possible to work less and still impress your boss, wife, husband and friends? According to Marc the answer is “yes”. He shares his suggestions for doing so in How To Work Less and Still Impress. […]

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  • Marc ~ I enjoyed your perspective on this subject. I love the mantra - Less is more.. Simplification is the key. I also agree with Peter that if your boss thinks differently than it’s time to look for another job. I’ve written an article on this subject that may interest you -
    http://www.successsoul.com/2008/05/22/how-to-work-less-for-a-happy-balanced-life/

    Shilpan

  • very wise. nice skills.

  • […] time with the family and earning more than before. Even if you still take the corporate sovereign, you can still work less and impress […]

  • […] and Angel clue us into How to Work Less and Still Impress. I tend to be a naturally hard worker, regardless of circumstances, but this piece offers some […]

  • Excellent analysis of work situations. Could be applied anywhere.

  • I think #2 is a particularly good point. I’m usually all about sharing knowledge, but there’s something to be said for keeping mystery. For example, I used to be so impressed by certain photos, until I figured out the Photoshop techniques. Then with the mystery gone, I started to prefer the real, unedited photos more.
    The 80/20 rule is something I find difficult to implement, even though I know it is key.

  • […] How To Work Less and Still Impress […]

  • […] Work smarter, not harder! – “With the right combination of skills, tactics and tools, you can work less and still impress. It requires thinking outside of the box… and then implementing strategies that directly increase the visibility, impact and “wow-factor” of your labors. Here’s how…” – via Marc and Angel Hack Life Read this author’s blog. […]

  • This really inspires - reminds a lot of the 80/20 principle though - focus more on less and all that.

    I showed this to my boss the other day, and he couldn’t agree more. Great way to get some productivity. I’ve heard there’s a writer, Rune Jensen, who’s actually writing a book on the subject. It’s called - Eliminating uselessness.

    Thanks!

  • […] Taking on too much at work can be a cause of burnout. By taking on too many tasks, you’re almost guaranteed to feel like you’re overwhelmed, stressed, and out of control. After a while, you’ll feel like giving up. It is important to compromise with people who are asking for your time on tasks, and limit how much work you put on your to-do list. […]

  • […] 10. Follow the 80/20 Rule. “The 80/20 rule states that 80% of your results come from just 20% of your efforts. If you can identify and focus on the 20% that matters most, you can be more productive (and impressive) without increasing your workload. Try to automate or delegate the less productive 80% whenever possible. When random emails and phone calls start pushing you off course, remind yourself of the 80/20 rule and make an immediate course correction. If an emergency arises and you absolutely need to eliminate something from your schedule, make sure it’s not part of the vital 20%.” Marc, “Marc and Angel Hack Life” […]

  • Excellent, wow…. man, I love it! Great advice!

  • People nowadays are inundated by lots and lots of choices that could lead one astray of what really matters in work.

    Perhaps, when one is still starting out, he/she has to learn the details of the world of work and that of his/her job. That goes with skills, know-how and the right attitude. But later on, he/she must find out for him/herself what among the “stuff” that he/she has that really matters in life, one that pushes him/her to the direction of what his/her vision-mission in life.

    Now, this last, I mentioned about having a direction. In my opinion, it’s the one that will simplify the “clutter” of the “stuff” one has. And, not just simplifying, but really laying out the road.

    So, it’s really all about sitting down and getting into thinking what really defines one as a person. And, part of that is one’s vision-mission. Knowing it is, I believe, will help one a lot to work less.

    Very beautiful thoughts you have! Yours have set the tools on what I was mentioning above.

  • Great ideas. #6 is the most important I found. Learn how to Delegate!

  • I loved this list! It is so true…everyone wants big results with little effort. Thanks for the tips!

  • very interesting topic, it would be great if a person managed to work little and enjoy his life

  • Thanks for the tips above. I’ve wanting to impress my boss. Well I know I do, however, it takes so much overtime to be able to do so.

  • I love the 80/20 rule, especially because it’s so true. As an example I can say that as regards my articles on the net the 20% works well while the other 80% just make number, so to speak. The difficult part is being able to identify that 20%. As usual liked and tweeted. Happy holidays!

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