Five Ways To Move Past Hustle Culture And Work Smarter, Not Harder – From 9-Figure CEO, Suneera Madhani

Growing up, my grandmother used to say, “Good, better, best; never stop to rest until the good gets better and the better gets best.”

She was a hardworking woman who would have seamlessly integrated into the pervasive hustle culture of today. She repeated her mantra to me countless times, and with it, a drive to continually succeed and chase my next goal.

Not surprisingly, I leaned into the grind as an entrepreneur to found my company and scale my business. I agree with hustle culture’s mandate of dreaming big and working hard to achieve those dreams. But the problem is knowing where and when to stop. The downside of hustle culture is that it demands you work 24/7, and it teaches people that overworking is the only way to earn respect or find success. For me, it meant smashing a $100 million valuation for my company, only to barely acknowledge it because now I had to hit $1 billion. The bar keeps getting higher and higher, and you feel unfulfilled and unhappy while you’re in the gap. It’s a vicious cycle.

But canceling hustle culture isn’t the solution; being more efficient and productive with your time is. 

Here are five ways to work smarter, not harder to reap the rewards of your efforts and find balance:

1️⃣ Conduct a time audit.

Knowing where, how and with whom you spend your time is crucial. Auditing your time will show you if you’re spending too much time on something you shouldn’t and whether or not you’re spending enough time on those things that can move the needle for you. The other thing it will tell you is if you’re spreading yourself too thin across too many projects and if you have carved out dedicated time for yourself. You can’t always be running; you need some downtime to think, strategize and plan. Remember, doing more isn’t always smarter.

2️⃣ Combine self-acceptance with self-growth.

A lot of driven business people mistakenly believe that they have to choose between self-acceptance and self-growth. They fall into the trap of thinking that when they get to X, then they’ll be happy, never stopping to feel pride in their accomplishments. Instead of chasing the next big thing and delaying your joy, learn to appreciate your progress to date and celebrate each milestone in your journey.

3️⃣ Learn to say no.

High-achievers are used to tackling challenges. If you’re like me and come from a yes culture where you actively pursue new projects, learning to say no can be your secret weapon. A no might sound like a “not right now” for something important but not urgent. Or, if something isn’t helping you achieve your goals, it could be “never” because it won’t maximize your time. When you remove it from your plate, it opens up more time to focus on what matters most.

4️⃣ Adopt time-saving measures.

I love a good productivity hack that saves me time. For me, this means never scheduling an hour-long meeting when 40 minutes will do. Another is using voice texts to record my thoughts, communicate to my team, provide feedback with greater context after a meeting (thereby avoiding another meeting) or simply check in. But perhaps most importantly, it’s understanding what my friend calls the difference between a $10 task and a $10,000 task. If you’re about to do the former, stop and delegate that to someone else while you tackle the latter.

5️⃣ Become more self-aware.

One of the best ways to break free from the hamster wheel of hustle culture is to stop being part of the problem. Take a beat to reflect and ask yourself if your words and behaviors contribute to a chaotic, hyper-fast environment, focused on endlessly chasing achievement at all costs. If you’re a demanding leader who insists on insane turnaround times and has unrealistic expectations of others, it might be time to look inward and reevaluate your strategy. You set the tone for your company, so be sure to be intentional about the culture you’re modeling.

Remember, not everything about hustle culture is bad. Being driven and goal-oriented can give you the momentum needed to achieve your dreams. Just don’t forget in your quest to be the best to intentionally take measures to protect and maximize your time for what matters most and pause every once in a while to celebrate how far you’ve come.

Said another way, “Good, better, best; be sure to stop and rest, so the good gets better and the better gets best.”

Even the early releases of snippets of the film parodying Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” were strategically placed and intended to be thought-provoking and to boldly state that this movie was going to be more than just another children’s film.

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