Working Long or Working Hard

Do you want to work hard or long?

Seth Godin has some very interesting things to say and often makes me think with his short posts on the world. I saw him speak a few years ago, enjoyed it, and while I don’t always agree with the way he views the world, his comments and thoughts often cause me to rethink my position. Recently he had a blog on Hard Work vs. Long Workthat made me stop and think about my career.

Seth talks about the difference between those two types of effort, with most people dreading hard work more than long work. I think most people would say that they’d rather work hard for 8 hours a day then work for12 at a lesser pace. Most people in IT seem to not want to work long hours, especially as they age, and would prefer to work hard for a shorter period of time. However,  my guess is most workers tend to shy away from hard work more than long hours.

Why is that? Seth nails the reason when he mentions risk. Doing hard work involves risk, it involves taking chances and trying to fundamentally do something that is hard. If it wasn’t a challenge, we wouldn’t call it “hard” work, and everyone would tackle it. However the risk introduced by taking on a difficult task is daunting to most people, especially if failure might involve consequences. Most people avoid increasing their risk, even at the expense of spending more time coasting along.

We see this every day in our jobs, and I know I’m not immune. I implement change slowly, and tend to shy away from risk. I do take some changes, but they are calculated efforts, without too much downside.  Both at work and in the rest of my life, I am definitely risk-averse.

Should you be doing hard work instead of long work? I can’t answer that for you, but I would urge you to think about the differences, and understand what you are more comfortable doing. It pays to leave your comfort zone as you often grow, but being uncomfortable with the way you work is also a large source of stress in your life. And stress is best dealt with in short doses, not long periods of time.

Steve Jones


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