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Making Space

Most people who come to me for advice are either working too hard or not hard enough. The latter group knows that there's a problem and want to fix it, but the former group always come under the guise of wanting to work on something else. No one, except maybe your family, will criticize you for working too hard, so it's not obvious that it's a problem.

I've gone through both phases in my life. Most of my twenties was spent working not nearly hard enough, and about half of my thirties was spent working too hard, so I've seen the pros and cons of each. Those pros and cons interact with different times in our lives in different ways, so there are times when it's appropriate to work "too hard", and other times when it's appropriate to barely work at all.

Hard workers are often driven by the metric of "what percentage of my time is being spent working?" and strive for 100%. This often leads to burnout, a very narrow area of expertise and experience, and poor results relative to time invested. I noticed some of this when I was working on Sett. I eventually got burnt out, but the biggest thing I noticed was that my prodigious output of work didn't always result in better results. Sometimes I spent a month or two working feverishly on a feature that ended up being useless.

If I had really stopped to think about what I was doing and why I was doing it, I may have realized that what I was working on didn't matter and could have saved weeks of time. I had no time to stop and think, though, as all I thought about were my tasks. Once I finished a task my goal was to start another one as soon as possible.

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