Some activities pay huge dividends and insane gains, but don't feel satisfying. The flipside is that some activities feel incredibly satisfying, but pay no gains at all.
Take cleaning the house. If you clean the hell out of your house, you're going to likely feel great. You work up a little sweat, use your muscles, and you can get into the zone for four or five hours. Afterwards, you feel you really accomplished something.
But… even in the very most expensive countries, a solid cleaning can be purchased for $50. If you've got any skills and hustle at all, you could make more than that in four or five hours, and probably build up some long-term asset value or connections in the process.
Yet, after a good thorough clean, you'll typically feel great.
Whereas "sitting there frustrated and confused trying to figure something out" is typically not enjoyable at all. Yet, frequently six hours of sitting there frustrating and going over the same problem over and over again will lead to major breakthroughs.
Last week, Stepan and I were sitting around trying to figure out a better way to invoice and write service contracts. It took hours to get a simple two page document made. Most of the time was frustrating… we drew up some criteria on the whiteboard, and just sat there frustrated that we weren't getting it quite right.
Eventually, we settled a minimalist frontpage of an invoice, with this towards the bottom:
Please see our included “Flawless Service Promise” for terms – our terms are extremely client-‐ friendly, and we always value and work hard to win and deserve your business. Thank you.
Replacing a contract, we have terms that are tough on us, a complete and incredibly liberal guarantee, and emphasizing how hard we're going to work -- and emphasizing how we're going to keep working to earn long-term business from our client, make them look like a hero to anyone they refer to us, etc.
The end result between getting this invoice/contract best-in-class and not is a few percentage points of more sales, sales coming together faster, and more referrals -- quite a big deal. But in the end, we had a simple two-page document that took a few hours to put together. The end result is worth thousands of dollars over a lower level baseline, but it doesn't feel as satisfying as a few hours of cleaning.
Our bodies and minds grew up in a different environment, and oftentimes the highly profitable activities don't feel as good as just being busy. Sitting there confused followed by doing a highly leveraged small bit of work to a really high standard pays much larger dividends than mopping the floor, but the brain doesn't seem to recognize this naturally very well.
For those who like four quadrant models:
Q1: Satisfies and has gains. It's "what you're good at" and "what you enjoy" from another model.
Q2: Does not satisfy and has gains. This is the work you do to make Q1 possible on an ongoing basis. Q2 work turns into Q1 work the more often it's done.
Q3: Satisfies and has no gains. This is the place for rejuvenating/recreational indulgences like running an errand to get out of the office, cleaning, and drinking with friends.
Q4: Does not satisfy and has no gains. This is worthless activity that pretends to be both work (meetings, filling out to-do apps, contacting softie prospects with no budget) and play (flash games, refreshing hacker news, watching tv idly.) Acquiring a taste for this can destroy the ability to choose to do things in the other quadrants.
A fascinating experience - within a few days of each other, I was given some info brochures on Muslim customs, culture, and theology and on Jehova's Witness customs, culture, theology. It's interesting to compare them - they take completely opposite approaches to educating people about their faiths.
I snapped a couple of pictures of each. I think these are pretty representative pictures -
Hard work produces near magical results, but we all have an absolute ceiling on how hard we work.
People usually start thinking about working smarter once they're near that limit and getting burned out. Once the realization sets in that you can't work any harder, you've got to get smarter.
To work smart, the first thing you need to do is figure out what you're already doing.