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Max Ong Zong Bao
Max Ong Zong Bao

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Don't Work Hard Instead Work Smart & Harder in Building Systems

The original post was on Don't Work Hard Instead Work Smart & Harder in Building Systems - Reading Time: 4 Mins and cover image by Annie Spratt on Unsplash


Are you a hard worker? Are you a person who wants work-life balance for their job? Over the past few months, I encountered multiple discussions from local news articles like Why Are Young People Quitting Their Jobs In This Economy? or virial stories like Singapore SME Employer describes 7 interviews Not Hungry for Jobs. There was even discussion on values or virtues of hard work or just 996. I usually wonder how they view their world in the words they use and their inner voice of themselves.

Words Becomes Flesh

The power of words can play an important part in life. Words do become flesh. If we do not govern it properly in our own thinking and the words we use when talking to people.

Have you ever come across these sentences when you are listening to friends. family, superior or co-workers talking about their work, life or the things they are doing?

  • "I will be working hard on my job."
  • "I want work-life balance for my job".
  • "I am a victim"
  • "I am stupid"
  • "I am useless"
  • "I'm not smart"
  • "I'm not paid enough for this"
  • "I'm poor"
  • "I can't afford it"
  • "How much hours should I work on it?"
  • "I'm not smart so I should work harder" - a personal favourite of mine
  • "I hate my job"
  • "Your not hungry"
  • "I can't do it"
  • "It's impossible"
  • "That's crazy"

Yes, it might sound woo woo to you but it's an important lens on our value systems, belief and perspective on how we view the world. As with the right words can make a major difference in our lives. It can be as simple as replace those words as "Let's do it", "Never give up", "I'm broke", "I'm a victor of my own life", "Tough times don't last but tough men do" (I completed my military chanting this internally. While enduring my tough training that makes me feel like dying).

As a person, I don't really like to use the word "impossible" instead my usual answer is "let's figure out a way to do it'. Which lead to me doing a hail mary recently. That I was amazed by myself to succeed at it, despite the odds of success.

What is Your Hourly Rate?

This plays to the discussion on working hard and long hours on your current job or start a side hustle.

I usually will ask the person can you calculate your hourly rate. By dividing your annual salary including benefits. Divided by the number of months, the number of days your working per month and the number of the hours you spend per day at work. What does it lead to?

I will follow it by a question, "are you increasing your hourly rate or decreasing your hourly rate if you are staying at work longer?". Most of the time, I will hit a nerve and they will scoff at me.

Along with a rebuttal in similar sentences like the following. You can't calculate it that way, it doesn't make sense, I'm looking at the future opportunities and in what I will get.

Which I just continue to let them know that I am not against hard work as I am a hard worker myself and change topic to avoid heated discussion.

Well to be honest, without looking at it that way. You won't ask the question on "how can i increase my hourly rate?" or "how can I double or triple my hourly rates?".

Which comes in either working lesser by being productive or finding a way to leverage with a team or system to tackle harder, higher value & complex project that pays you well.

Leveraging on Your System or Team for Higher Value Work

Systems are not a new concept, in fact, in our modern lives. We depend on it greatly to work so to help us survive, thrive and prosper from it.

Some great examples of system are like Mcdonalds or Starbucks outlet. Which is run by a diverse range of workers from your teenager to an elderly who might be as old as your grandparents. Generating uniform products at scale. Due to the efforts placed in continuous or refinement of system & processes to create a Big Mac.

As developers, we are taught to think in abstraction, system-level thinking, breaking problems down, agile software development, DevOps.

Which you have all the ingredients needed to assemble a system and leverage on it to do more with less. By following the 80/20 Principle, leadership books like Extreme Ownership or system books like E-myth or Team of Teams.

I personally had suffered on it as well. The last thing I want to do is to be overworked to death for what I do. Which I had a problem in assembling, leading, delegating task to a team. Due to my lack of focus in building systems or leading or assembling a team.

While learning to build a system. Which is similar to MacDonalds to allow me to scale it up further for Project DUST. By automation & delegation of tasks. Which frees me up to do work that is of higher value work. Which I am good at like teaching or curriculum development.


So I talk about the words becomes flesh in what you say to people around us or in our inner voice. So learn to pick your words wisely like removing It's impossible to It is possible and I will find a way, I am poor to I am broke, I can't to I can.

You understand the importance of calculating your hourly rate and with it. It opens up with questions on how to increase it 2x or 3x your current hourly rates. Instead of scoffing at it without a plan of attack to not decrease or awareness that you must not devalue or degrade it further.

As a developer, your taught to learn to build highly complex software systems. So use what you had learnt to build one for yourself to help you to work lesser while increasing your hourly rate. Through learning leadership and building systems that allow you to leverage on what you can do.

Lastly, are you looking to specialise yourself as a developer? If it's a Yes. I'm giving away my free ebook called "Picking Your Specialisation as a Developer" for anyone interested to command a higher salary or do the work that you like.

This post includes affiliate links, I may receive compensation if you purchase products or services from the different links provided in this article.


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