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Three Star Leadership | Wally Bock | How to Work Smarter

Three Star Leadership | Wally Bock | How to Work Smarter
The other night, we had the first celebration of the month for our "March Birthday Group." Here's part of the conversation. Speaker 1: "What exactly does it mean to 'work smart?' How do you do it?" Speaker 2: "Ask Wally. He writes about that stuff." Yes, I do.


Key Ideas

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Choose your priorities

  • You can have too many important things. If a thing is important, start the day with it.
  • Pick measurable behaviors that drive important results. Then, keep records so you have a full picture of your progress.




Block uninterrupted time to work for the important things, remove distractions and don't multitask.


Unimportant stuff

Get used to saying no to good ideas and possibilities that distract you from the most important things and that don't serve your purpose.


Reduce cognitive load

... and save your brainpower for your most important things.
Use checklists, reminders, and automation to get things done without conscious effort.


Leverage your strengths

And do that for other people too.
This will bring greater benefits in the long term than spending time concentrating on your weaknesses.



  • Take care of yourself. Your productivity levels depend on it:
  • Get enough sleep. Don't sacrifice sleep for work.
  • Eat right. Stop eating junk. Exercise.
  • Take recovery time.
  • Pay attention to your relationships.



Warning signs of groupthink

  • We’ve always done it that way.”
  • “That’s the right way.”
  • “Everybody does it this way.”
  • “That’s standard practice.”

Not examining standard practices

A subtle form of groupthinking: When we don’t question a norm or standard practice, that’s lazy thinking. 

You can challenge everything you do, you just can’t challenge everything all at once. The whole idea of continuous improvement is based on always looking for ways to do things better. Continuously.

Stopping with the first workable solution

Another subtle form of groupthinking: When there’s a problem to solve and you call a meeting for example, the group wrestles with the problem and comes up with a workable solution. At that point most groups declare victory and adjourn. 

That’s a mistake and an opportunity missed.

Tough conversations

If leadership is your job, you can’t walk away from them. Because they're part of your job.
These are conversations about performance and behavior. Most bosses dread them.

Make tough conversations easier

  • Touch base often, to catch problems when they're small.
  • Build relationships through conversations. Your employees will learn about you and whether they can trust you.
  • Have regular one-on-ones with your team members.
  • Solve problems as they appear. The smaller, the easier to handle.
  • Keep tough conversations private, away from distractions.
  • Tailor what you say and do to the person you’re meeting with.
  • Treat people with dignity.

Measure Output, Not Input

Systems are the best way to progress since they reward effort and we control all the variables. However, we need to have a sense of direction in those efforts, to know what we are trying to...

Use the 80/20 Rule

... to constantly question yourself if your focus, time or money is on the things that generate the majority of the results.

The 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle states: 80% of the output or results will come from 20% of the input or action. The little things are the ones that account for the majority of the results.

Reserve Mornings for Deep Work

Our working memory, alertness, and concentration gradually improve a couple of hours after waking up, peaking at about mid-morning - our brain’s natural peak productivity period.

Take advantage of this state, by scheduling your most important work for this period. Focus on performing Deep Work, meaning you get to work free of distraction for a long period of time.