Work smarter rather than work harder

Work smarter rather than work harder

For most people, the concept of “working smarter, not harder,” coined by Allan Mogensen, the creator of work simplification, has developed from a simple, inspirational imperative, to an overused, ambiguous business cliché, that more often than not means absolutely nothing at all.

Ask most people who work in an office if they have the choice between working smart or hard and they’ll laugh a clenched, bitter laugh. To get ahead in the modern world you’d better be prepared to work both smart and hard.

In an office, smart is using all the available technology, information and methodologies to find better ways to do your work. And actually that holds true for cabinetmakers too.

In an office, hard means just putting in the hours. It means taking no breaks, doing overtime, working weekends. Endless, relentless work, work, work. For many people out there that is just the reality of their profession. Ask any nurse, entrepreneur, finance analyst, miner. 

So, for all Mr Mogensen’s insightfulness, smarter vs harder isn’t an option. If you want to get ahead in a corporate environment you have to, but have to work smart and hard!

And that is where we, as cabinetmakers (and all craftsmen), diverge strongly from the modern, corporate environment. You simply cannot work endless hours, or at double speed, or through the weekends. You cannot rush. It’s pointless to avoid breaks. A 120 hour week is just a bad way to go. 

Bold statement, right!

Truth is, we’ve all worked through the night to hit a deadline. We’ve all worked through the weekend when the order book has got a bit heavy.  But I’ll say it is a huge mistake to try and do that continuously for three fundamental reasons:

  1. Errors are comparatively very expensive. Make a typo in a document and it’s fixed in  5 minutes. Cut a piece of wood to the wrong dimension and the making of a new component can take an hour (or three).
  2. Tiredness leads to taking short cuts. Work is separated into different duties where each person has a small part of the overall process. A slip here or there is usually picked up through supervision and peer review. No harm done. The mistake of a tired maker might not be picked up for days or weeks, or when the client receives it. Small error, massive cost.
  3. According to one analysis, workers with less than 5 hours sleep are three times more likely to have an accident than those with over 5 hours sleep. In an office that might be a spilt coffee. In a workshop, that’s your little finger whipped off and sucked up through the extraction system. 

The best makers understand that working smart is absolutely the best way to efficient, productive and profitable making. Ease off the hours, ramp up the planning, that’s all you gotta do.

Until next time,



David established Rowden Atelier in 1995, a now world renowned fine woodworking school. Discover Rowden, the woodworking courses, and the work that students go on to do.

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