3 Uncommon Ways to Work Smarter, Not Harder

Self-awareness, not effort, determines our productivity

Niklas Göke
8 min readNov 16, 2020


Photo by Windows on Unsplash

Self-awareness rules productivity.

How much you can work is not determined by how hard you try, it is determined by how well you know yourself.

Hardworking people constantly fight their limitations. Smart people work with those limitations instead of against them.

The only way to maximize your output and creativity across your entire life is to do the most you can on the most number of days. This makes it sound like our daily recipe should be “go as hard as you can for as long as you can,” but that’s not the case — days on which you do nothing at all are very much factored into the above equation.

You must consistently deliver at a rate you can sustain forever. That’s the trick. How much you can overclock for a short period of time does not matter, especially if at the end of your overdrive, you burst into flames.

In that sense, working smarter is the only way to work harder. If you can’t find your maximum sustainable pace, you’ll go through an endless cycle of working too hard and then burning out — and that definitely won’t help you do the most you can possibly do.

It’s easy to go through your entire career without ever understanding yourself well enough to know how you work best, and many people do. Looking for productivity hacks is a good start, but really, what you should be looking for is self-awareness.

Here are three simple things you can do to know yourself better in ways that support your productivity.

1. Take quizzes and personality tests

I know they’re cliché and often scientifically questionable, but when you do a broad variety of them, the results of personality tests will tell you a lot about how you function.

The point here is not to find the one scheme you can latch onto forever (“INFJs for life!”), it is to use the insights of many different analyses to slowly piece together the puzzle of who you are. A lot of the time, the tests will speak in absolutes whereas you should think in tendencies.



Niklas Göke

I write for dreamers, doers, and unbroken optimists. Read my daily blog here: https://nik.art/