• Phyllis Harbinger

Work Smarter, Not Longer

When I started my design firm, I was hooked on the American mindset of working 24/7 and doing all I could to amp up my business. I thought about DCI Studio 24/7, dreaming about new projects, calls and meetings with clients, to-do lists….I never shut it off.


For the past five years, I have reversed this mindset, realizing that you do not need to be “ON” 24/7 to have a successful business. Quality of life is more important than the perpetual drive. I have learned to work smarter, not harder and longer! This took a great deal of strategy, planning and organization but I promise you it can be done. Case in point – I spent six weeks in Florida, working and playing! I could never have done this five years ago but with careful planning and an office culture that supports this vision, what was once impossible is now easy!




Americans are working themselves into stress, depression and work/life imbalance. We spend an average of six hours a day on our devices and the average person touches their phone over 2,000 times a day. I recently found a profound Dscout study, which shared findings stating that Americans are some of the most overworked people in the developed world.


When you query your colleagues – the perennial response is “I am so busy I cannot breathe” but what are they busy with? Are they taking time to see the forest through the trees? Are they making money or just being busy? Being busy does not always translate to being profitable! Let’s shift the paradigm to working smarter, not harder!


Human beings are are not wired to multitask, and our power to make positive decisions drops our bodies and minds are taxed as do our cognitive processes (that is, the ability to reason and think critically and creatively).


Are you staring at your screen, glazing over during an important client or team call or meeting, in need of a cocktail after work? All of these are signs that you are running on overdrive.


I want to draw your attention to a 2012 report 150 years of research which I wish I had found years ago. It clearly states that overworked employees hurts profits, productivity, and employee morale and well-being. I honestly believe that productivity taps at 40 hours and we can accomplish our goals more than if we log in 60-80 hours per week.


So, what happens when we keep running on this treadmill? We tend to opt for safe vs. innovative ideas and choices, we go into analysis paralysis, our employees and our families and friends see our stress and discontent and it permeates all areas of our lives.

Getting an extra hour of sleep, not multi-tasking during your workout, leaving the office behind and enjoying an evening with family or friends, unplugging on vacation are all ways in which you can take back your life and steer your business to the next level.


You all know I am the Queen of Checklists. If you create checklists outlining tasks and workflow for repetitive tasks and administrative duties, you will take so much off of your plate. Take a look at my book or take time to document all the things you do on a daily or per-project/client basis, and see if there are ways you can automate or create templates to reduce the workflow.





I have always loved letting technology drive our business workflow. Software tools and virtual staff can make your life easier and do not break the bank! Find an app to track your time (Timely, Hour Tracker…), use Dropbox, One Drive or Google Drive to share files and have easy online access to the cloud, use design software that is cloud based to track your project and purchase management.


Take a moment to analyze when you are most productive. I used to be a night owl but now I am most productive from 6 AM – 1PM. Find your most productive time of day and schedule your work accordingly.


Get Support! Hiring support staff, building your team and having a cadre of experts to guide you will take a great deal of worry and weight off your shoulders. At the very least, hire an accountant, a lawyer and a social media expert to work on their unique brilliance so you can focus on yours!


You went out on your own because you wanted to be your own boss. Being a boss is not just about getting the job done, but it’s also about knowing when you need to kick back and relax.


Get Away!! Vacation and even staycations empower and revitalize your mind, body and spirit. They also allow your creative juices to flow more effortlessly.


So many of us drink the Kool-aid and see being busy is a good thing, but it is not always the case. Being strategic and having plans in place will help you grow your business and allow you to take your life back.




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