Work smart, then hard

October 4, 2020 @ 10:12 am Posted to .Net by Antony Koch

Often, I hear friends and colleagues discuss their daily efforts in one of two ways. Either they say hard work gets you to where you want to be, gets the job done, or they tell me to work smart, not hard.

While reflecting on my career and approach, I realised it’s a mix of the two that gets the job done.

Every project I’ve worked on serves as an example of this, eventually. Early hubris, caused by overconfidence in how smart we’re working, typically results in hard work at the project’s end. We didn’t reflect enough during the process to ascertain whether we were still working smart, or if, in fact, we had been working dumb the entire time.

To work smart means to spend as much time as possible planning the shortest route to our short term goal, without compromising our long term goal. In software terms, it means how can we write as little code at possible that both achieves our goal and provides the greatest value towards the codebase and its users while accruing as little technical debt as possible.

To work hard means that once we’ve brainstormed and agreed on how to work smart, we set an ambitious goal requiring hard work from the entire team in order to achieve it.

We then agree regular checkpoints to switch back into smart mode, introspectively validating whether we had worked smart, are still working smart, or need to down tools and completely re-evaluate.

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