Slow down and remember this: Most things make no difference. Being busy is a form of mental laziness—lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.
– Timothy Ferriss
“Work smarter, not harder” is one of the ultimate clichés. Like most clichés, few people actually do it. The busy outnumber the productive by a wide margin. Whether you’re a boss, an employee, or working for yourself, we’ve all had our treadmilling moments. Here’s the difference, from a geek perspective:
|Rolls their own
||Uses someone else’s
|Makes it “elegant” and “extensible”
||Makes it work
|Responds to your email within a few minutes
||Responds to your email within a few days
|Ready. Aim. Aim. Aim.
||Ready. Fire. Aim.
|Makes the boss happy
||Makes the client happy
||Encourages creative self-expression
|Writes a detailed specification
||Implements a prototype
|Looks like they’re busy
||Looks like they’re slacking off
|Finishes it this evening
||Finishes it tomorrow
|What else can we add?
||What else can we remove?
|How should we fix this?
||Do we need to fix this?
|Sees the toolchain as a competitive advantage
||Sees the user-kickassness as a competitive advantage
|Let’s get everyone’s feedback on this
Busy-ness is impressive. It puts you in the heat of the action. It gives you an elevated sense of importance. You’re always late for social engagements, barely have enough time for family get-togethers, and hardly get a moment’s sleep. Emails get exchanged, meetings fill up your schedule, worldwide teleconferences become the norm–there’s even the occasional hope of revenue exceeding expenses. You’re like a rock star without the music.
Of course, it’s all just an illusion. A commitment to anything more than your standard workday is a commitment to work harder, not smarter. There are only so many hours per day that you can produce world-class, creative output. Building something that changes people’s lives is extremely hard, but looking like you’re part of something big is much easier.
Want a challenge? Remove a feature. Cut your deadline in half. Deliver rather than debate. Instead of being the devil’s advocate, be the user’s advocate. Eliminate half your RSS feeds. Stop making it pluggable and start making it work.
If you had to come up with one action you could take to put less time and effort into something and still get the same, or better results, what would it be?
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