“Work smarter, not harder.”

People say it all the time and in a variety of situations, but have you ever wondered how you could actually take the old adage and make it practical?

It seems like scientists had the same question—and came across an easy solution. Researchers at the University of North Carolina, HEC Paris, and Harvard Business School recently found that when participants in a study attempted a brain teaser and then wrote about their strategy and how they could better improve it in the future, they did 18% better on the test the second time around than the control group participants, who did no reflection at all.

Additionally, these researchers found that reflecting on the lessons you’ve learned from a situation is just as effective as teaching someone else what you’ve learned. (Yes, it really is that simple!)

So, how can you apply these findings to your career?

Try this: After you finish a project or at the end of every day, dedicate 10 minutes to writing down what you did well—and what could use improvement the next time. Start a journal or Word document, and just write how you feel. (Here are a few other benefits writing can have on your career.)

For example, pretend you just gave your first big presentation in front of an audience. After you get over the initial adrenaline rush following your exit from the stage, take a couple minutes to write down how you think the presentation went, what you did well, and what you could improve upon for the future. Before your next public speaking gig, go over your notes, take your own advice into consideration, and presto—you’ve worked smarter and not harder.


Photo of clean desk courtesy of Shutterstock.