Growing up, my dad used to tell me that a strong work ethic is one of the most valuable skills a person could develop. Work hard. Keep going. Don’t give up. Stay on task. Earn the respect of your peers, your bosses, your employers. He wasn’t wrong, exactly; those are all good things to work on. And for many, that sort of mindset is how we were (and still are) raised.

But it’s not the whole picture, and it certainly is not everything. And that is okay.

Truth bomb: I have spent the vast majority of my adult life re-learning how I work. And I’m not done yet—not by a long shot. But I’m getting there! And if you feel lost, or stuck spinning your wheels, here are three things to keep in mind while you figure it out.

#1: Slow the #$%@ down.

We are, by and large, our own biggest critics. It’s incredibly easy for most of us to see what we did wrong with X, how we could have been better at Y, and how in the world did we forget about Z?!

Drive slow, friend. Beating yourself up before, during, and after you complete a task is a bad habit we all fall into from time to time. And it can lead to one feeling less confident or capable than they actually are. We’re human! We make mistakes! It’s okay! And it’s important for us all to remember that, especially at work. Sure, not everyone is lucky enough to have a stellar boss. But we can all be a bit more gentle on ourselves.

#2: There is no “right way.”

“No doi, Noah,” you say. Hear me out. We are all wired differently! Our brains do anything BUT behave most of the time. It’s kind of obvious when we stop to think about it. So why do we keep subscribing to the notion that there are only a handful of “correct ways” to work effectively?

Spend some solid time with yourself. Keep a short log of how work went that day: how you felt going into work, how much sleep you got, if there’s unrelated stressors at play, etc. It all contributes. Lots of us don’t have the luxury to experiment changing things up (working from home vs. the office, working at night instead of the day, etc). But if you can start to see which things end up having a negative impact on your work day, try to address some of those pressure points.


Okay. I don’t care where you work, how you work, or what you do. Sleep is necessary, healthy, and keeps us going each day. Without it, good luck with that to-do list. Sure, shi—I mean, stuff happens. Kids are up all the waking hours. We fall ill. We worry about [that big thing] happening next week. But if you can make it a priority to get at least seven hours of sleep per night, it’s going to do wonders for your mood, your well-being, and—wouldn’t you know it?—your productivity at work.

Now, I know you wouldn’t dream of seeking bedtime revenge; I certainly don’t do that (almost every night). As we get older, there’s just more things we have to do with our time! Family, life, relationships, obligations. It all takes time, and often, time away from things we wish we COULD be doing; which can make it SO tempting to swap some of that boring sleep with some well-deserved fun. But let’s try flipping that on its head. What if you slept well, routinely? Can we be more effective during work, and thus leave the office with some energy to spare?

There it is—three things you can remind yourself of as you try to work smarter. The list doesn’t stop there, no way. But it’s a start. Just remember that you’re not alone. We’re all figuring it out as we go. So slow it down. Remember there’s many ways to work effectively. And get some damn sleep, okay?

-Noah Henscheid