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How Top Performers Do Less and Achieve More

Many people believe that working hard is the key to success. But is it really? 

When Morten T. Hansen started his first job at twenty four, he worked crazy hours to make up for the lack of experience he possessed. Years later, he discovered something astonishing that made him rethink this initial position in work success. A colleague of his, was able to work a 8 - 6 day and produce work that was far superior to his. No nights. No weekends. 

Through various research, he came up with a theory.

To work smarter means to maximize the value of your work by selecting a few activities and applying intense targeted efforts.

Morten T. Hansen outlines seven key principles that yield extraordinary individual performance. By improving on these seven practices you can boost your performances beyond what it would be if you relied on talent, luck or the sheer number of hours worked. 

Start small and build up these routines bit by bit, until you master them. Great at Work tells stories of people from all walks of life who have adopted one or more of these practices and achieved outstanding results. From a senior manager who found a way to carve out a new business in the software company SAP, to a hotel concierge who infused her work with passion and purpose. 

Morten T. Hansen advocates that people in the study who worked smarter expected better work-life balance, higher job satisfaction, and less burnout. Out of the seven practices outlined in the book, four are about mastery of your own work, while three are about helping you master working with other people. 

A distinction Morten T. Hansen emphasizes is that writers like Stephen Covey and Daniel Covey have argued the importance of selecting a a few items to work on and saying no to others. Morten T. Hansen argues that their position only tells half of the story. What you also require to excel is the obsession over your chosen area of focus.


We often disparage obsessiveness in our daily lives, viewing them as dangerous or debilitating. But obsession can be a productive force.

Remember James Dyson? He created over 5000 prototypes for his famous vacuum cleaner. It took him 15 years. 

Most people love to keep their options open. But according to Morten T. Hansen, that's spreading yourself too thin. 

But there are exceptions to this rule. Morten T. Hansen outlines two circumstances when you should not focus. 

The first is when you need to generate many new ideas. Coming from an ideation background, I understand this completely. If you limit your options at the start of ideation, then you often don't know what the best option will be. So, when brainstorming, it is best to generate as many ideas as possible. 

The second exception is when you know your options, but are uncertain which to choose. Ergo, it could be detrimental if a solution is chosen prematurely. 

Great at Work is based on extensive research and unprecedented analysis. About 4964 people were assigned in this study, and asked to record their work habits. The book is designed for everyone and an accessible read -- one that can be referenced many times rather than shelved after one reading. As Hansen has stated himself, "when it comes to passion vs purpose, I say figure out a set of activities that gives you purpose and then try to find one of those activities that you're most passionate about." These are wise words to heed as we all embark on a new year with new challenges. Will one of your challenges be to become "Great at work"