One of the classic maxims of business, which also applies to so much of life, is work smarter not harder. Rephrased: find a better way of achieving the end results you want, without causing any side-effects. I’m not sure if this applies to everything, sometime you do have to put some elbow grease into polishing something, or have to sweat to build a few muscles; but if you can be the person who builds the automatic polisher or the better exercise equipment you are going to be better off than the person who just grew tired from overexertion. Building a better way might require more time and effort at first, but it ends up easier if it works, and frees you up for other things. Civilization may have started when people thought that hunting and gathering animals and plants was too bothersome, so took to farming instead. It’s an old principle, we just need to keep applying it.
Another principle, expressed in many ways, is to stay in shape. A famous self-help book said we should take time to sharpen the saw. If you are cutting a lot of wood you can either keep cutting till the job is done, or you can sharpen the saw periodically and probably get the job done faster. This principle needs to be flexible in application, however; not all jobs are like cutting wood. Sometimes doing the job makes us sharper; sometime doing a job too much makes us dull. But is we find the best way to achieve optimum performance we are probably getting it right. Athletes have to spend a lot of time training, but they also have to rest with a solid night’s sleep, otherwise the training is wasted. Find a way to achieve optimum performance from yourself and you will not only achieve more in less time, you will feel more satisfied with the results.