Top 3 Books for Inspiration on How To Work Smarter, Not Harder

I love working smarter. And I know this because I started my professional life working HARD. And yes, I got burned out. I “managed” to develop the chronic fatigue syndrome before turning 30. This is why I love working smarter, not harder. And by smarter, I also mean being honest, legal and with respect and dedication for what you do.

So how is that even possible? Where to start?

I was studying for my BA in business in economics, when I was thinking what to do with my life. Pursuing good grades, so I can keep my scholarship. I wanted to be a good student, so I can have good recommendations. Those would help me get a good job, and once I had my own income and not be supported by parents, my life could actually begin. Sounds familiar?

At age 19, I was searching for information on a project I had to finish in the university library. As I was wandering around the isles, I stumbled upon a title that sounded not at all academic. It said “Rich dad, poor dad” by Robert Kiyosaki. Hm! That made me curious. I picked it up and read the back cover. I took it with me and read it in the following days.

Wow! That was the turning point! I was so grateful to have found it so early in life! And a bit sad I hadn’t read it at about 12! I dare to say it was life changing! It showed me what else out there would be possible, how to do something else in life, to earn a good living, and not be an employee for the rest of my life! In an honest way, again! After that, I started looking for alternatives. Wondering what else is out there that I haven’t heard of. And now of course, simply reading that book didn’t mean I read it, snapped my fingers and turned into a millionaire. But I know I am making considerably better life decisions than not having those information.

I will put below a summary of the books that I found so far and have a tremendous effect on me. Specifically those books that teach and show something else than being a good employee.

1. Robert Kiyosaki: Rich Dad, Poor Dad: A book which is worth its weight in gold, for each copy that is being read by someone who has had no financial education. How can I summarize it so you can understand you need to read this word by word, by yourself? Let’s see if I can succeed.

Chances are, you were born in a family where one or both income providers (parents, grandparents, older brothers) were employees. We too, have learnt, by imitation, the same thinking habits: get a job, work for others, be there on time, leave on time, get a paycheck (and live paycheck to paycheck). Also think about how wonderful would be if you had another job, with a bigger salary and more perks. This is what the author calls the rat race. Robert Kiyosaki explains very well how people who become wealthy think differently. They educate themselves (financially), take educated, calculated risks, learn what is necessary, not mandatory. Also, they develop a habit of saving, then LEARN to invest. And LEARN how to make money work for them. And all those concepts are very well explained.

On the other side, if I am to notice something that I dislike about this resource, is the fact that it tends to be a bit outdated in offering real-life examples; the business world and entrepreneurial opportunities have multiplied massively with the Internet and his work doesn’t cover that area. Of course, the mindset and principles are still applicable, but the examples are of the old economy, primarily regarding physical products and real estate.

2. Choose Yourself by James Altucher. James Altucher is the kind of author that writes a lot about his personal experiences, very bluntly. And very openly, especially about his failures. He writes in blog style; unusual for a book but you’ll appreciate his openness. Also, his personal blog is the main source of information and inspiration, because it’s always keeping up with developments in the real business world (which is online-integrated).

Specifically in the mentioned book, James Altucher explains that the economy (and society) have already changed. We are now in an idea economy.That is, what is most valuable, unable to copy, unable to outsource to China and always in demand is your own creativity. Working smarter is necessary, working harder is no longer a winning formula. And the ability to reinvent what you do, what you have to offer to the world and the skills you mostly use in your daily life. James Altucher has a radical approach in his views. But we need to hear this, rather sooner than later.

At the time I’m writing this, I just came back with my feet on Earth after being in the cloud listening to an amazing audiobook that made me every 9 to 10 minutes or so ask myself: “Why didn’t I think about this earlier?” or “Wow! I believed common folks didn’t have access to such things” or “Why didn’t I try this earlier?” and especially “I HAVE HAD THIS EBOOK ON MY COMPUTER FOR MORE THAN 3 YEARS! Why didn’t I read it by now?”. I believe this is the best resource I’ve found so far on the topic of working smarter. So here it is:

3. The 4 Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. This is full of incredible tools for a freedom-loving lifestyle. This is full of exact, step by step indications on how to use some tools that you believed are reserved only to the lucky few, born rich. Tim Ferriss is talking about: personal assistants and how to find incredibly educated, dedicated and effective people for a very affordable price (yes, such things do exist!). Also, he is talking about how to make money with you business in the developed markets (like the US) and spend it where they have much more value – like in Thailand, while living on a beach.

Ways To Effectively Work From Home

A Constant Office Space

Setting up one room (or a portion of a room) as your office can go a long way in creating a sense of mood and motivation that might otherwise be lacking when you are not in office. Fix a table, an ergonomic chair (yes, it is an investment you will not regret if you work from home regularly), and other essentials you might need for work, for example, a charging station for your computer or mobile phone around that area. Stick to that place the best you can while working and move away when you are not. You can still visit that area when you are not working, but make sure it is not close to the bed that you sleep in. In smaller houses this might be difficult to arrange but try to set up your workplace in a different room than your bedroom. This is not because you might accidentally climb onto your bed, and sleep during working hours, but because your quality of sleep at night might be affected by the presence of your work things.

Air Quality

While you are indoors through the major portion of the day, it is important to ensure you get sufficient ventilation, and good quality air to breathe. If you live in an area where the pollution level is low, keep your windows open at all times for the fresh air to stimulate your brain, and improve your efficiency. If, unfortunately, you live in an area where the outside air is horrid, an air purifier is recommended. Remember, your health is of utmost importance no matter from where you work.

Exercise

Although exercising is a mandate for everybody, it is even more crucial for people who work from home. When you are in office, you might take frequent breaks down to the cafeteria or a roadside tea/coffee shop, but when you are home, these breaks are eliminated from your routine. Hence, it is of utmost importance to exercise regularly. Choose whatever works for you – yoga, aerobics, weights, cardio, but be regular and diligent about it.

Venture Out

Make it a point to get out of the house at least for ten or fifteen minutes every working day. You could either run a quick errand such as going to the ATM, picking up dry-cleaning, buying dinner, and so on, or you could take a simple walk in your neighbourhood at the very least. Going outside once in a day and seeing other people on the road helps your brain relax, because, after all, we are all social beings.

Do Not Overwork

Many people, especially in the beginning, tend to feel guilty about not working from the office. They feel that they are not working enough, or something is missing. Some people have it even worse because others who go to office regularly have a tendency to point fingers and condemn those who work from home. Snide remarks such as “Oh, what do you know about the hectic traffic we go through”, or “You work from home, that must mean you have plenty of time”, to “I don’t think people who work from home actually get any work done”, are very commonly heard. Do not get bogged down by such things. Just because you work from home does not mean you should work longer hours. Fix your work hours as you would if you were in office, and stick to it.