Hard work

The pinned tweet on my Twitter account at the moment says “Productivity tip: work hard.” It’s gotten a lot of positive feedback, so I assume it has resonated with a few people.

I don’t know how people take it, but here’s what I meant by it. Sometimes you can find a smarter way to work, and if you can, I assume you’re doing that. Don’t drive nails with your shoe if you can find a hammer. But ultimately the way to get things done is hard work. You might see some marginal increase in productivity from using some app or another, but there’s nothing that’s going to magically make you 10x more productive without extra effort.

Many people have replied on Twitter “I think you mean ‘work smart.'” At some point “work smarter” wasn’t a cliché, but now it is. The problem of our time isn’t people brute-forcing their way with hard, thoughtless work. We’re more likely to wish for a silver bullet. We’re gnostics.

Smart work is a kind of hard work. It may take less physical work but more mental work. Or less mental work and more emotional work. It’s hard work to try to find a new perspective and take risks.

One last thought: hard work is not necessarily long work. Sometimes it is, but often not. Hard creative work requires bursts of mental or emotional effort that cannot be sustained for long.

7 thoughts on “Hard work

  1. A quote from Dr. Martin Luther King I ran across this morning seems appropriate:

    “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’

    “No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”

  2. I think hard and even creative work can be sustained, John. Not always, but if you are desperate and/or driven enough to desire to succeed, then you CAN sustain superlative effort. I’ve seen one of my students do it. My wife sure does it! Wow! I’ve seen myself do it, at work, only to collapse into a lazy, selfish blob at home.

    In case she’s reading this, on second thought, you were right. It cannot be sustained, sweetie. (Could you bring me a beer, please? I’ll rub your feet…)

  3. It’s hard not to work hard. One has to ride the motivation wave while there is one to ride on…

  4. Probably not a coincidence that a value espoused by Martin Luther would also be espoused by a family that named children after him for multiple generations.

  5. John, what is hard work for you? I think it is impossible to talk about “hard work” without making sure everyone is on the same page what it means. For some ppl working hard is doing 60 hour weeks. For others it is just not to slack off.

    To me, hard work is going beyond your own personal 100%. That is ok for some time, but by definition not sustainable. You might getting a productivity boost out of it for some time, but at some point you will have to pay the bill.

    That being said, everyone’s time is limited. If your standard way of increasing productivity is to “work harder”, you will hit a limit soon enough.

    IMHO, the best way to get more productive is to make your work more efficient. Increase your output by working with the same effort. A constant operation to increase your future rate without increasing effort.

  6. My version is “Productivity tip: get started, then keep going.”

    In the musical _You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown_, there’s a number in which several kids are singing about the book report they have to write. Most of the kids are singing their reports as they write them. Charlie Brown is singing:

    “If I start writing now, when I’m not really rested, it will upset my thinking — which is not good at all. I’ll get a fresh start tomorrow…”

    I have to consciously avoid being Charlie Brown.

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