Laziness, Efficiency & Goals

Lewis Cowles

Throughout my work helping people use and understand software there are some fundamental things that always come up with clients. One of the biggest problems for some, is that they feel “hard work” is a good thing all the time.

“Hard-workers” can reflect their internal feelings through their business, applying it like a plaster to a wound that may not exist.

I want to try to explore three things to challenge this for the good of these people, and the other people they work with.

Laziness

I use open-source software. I use it because I’m lazy! This might seem controversial to admit, but what I mean by this is that I use it because it’s generally easier to get things done in. It also has some benefits like generally not needing to sit in multiple meetings just to get a price for changes.

Rather than constrain me to a UI that I might need to read a book on, or watch a video, or sit and play with to learn; I can scan through an electronic manual-page or online documentation, find how to do just that one thing I want to do, and generally because there is less “hype” I’ll get a good idea of what it does, maybe how.

Once I’m done, I can make my computer repeat the task for me in-future. I like to think that makes me like a wizard collecting spells.

The other benefit of this type of software is that I can (in-theory) learn how to modify it, extend it, reason about it, and integrate it to some extent into what I do.

It might sound weird that I haven’t mentioned the “Free as in free-beer” that a lot of people associate with Open Source. Not paying is lazy right? Well maybe, but it’s not the good kind of lazy. Explain? Here goes:

If you pay for Adobe, or Office you’re forced to learn a UI, learn marketing babble and pay them! So why not pay for Open Source?

I wouldn’t dream of saying all open-source can solve all problems paid software can solve. It’s not true, and it’s not lazy enough for my liking. Part of being lazy is enabling me to not hold a flag and simply pursue the pragmatic.

I’d like you to attempt to if not be lazy, then be lazier and if part of that is Open Source work, that’d be awesome.


Efficiency

Ever remember that day when you woke up in a forest, poorly clothed, snapped off a branch, sharpened it, went walking for hours, hunted something to live, or picked flowers you had to identify as safe or unsafe without prior work? Me neither and it’s not a concept I find particularly enticing!

We all get the benefits of efficiency of our ancestors and relatives, people in far-off lands we’ve never heard of, or known.

People will always tell you about how hard some things are. Approached head on, it might seem like there is an imposing large sheer face we must ascend to get things done.

What really helps me, is to make baby-steps towards the summit, keeping in mind that once we’re through the clouds, there might be another summit to scale.

If you check-out anyone’s GitHub, you may see they have tiny things that help a little, but don’t do much. Perhaps it’s just making an e-mail a little more personal, an informal backup of customer-data you can take with you in-case the office burns or you’re hacked. Maybe it’s a place to keep marketing copy so you can move it, copy it, share it without too much fuss. That one step makes you better than yesterday; it saves you time you can choose to spend later.

I’d like everyone reading this to start to build up their own little time-based bank account. Start saving a little and watch your balance grow!

Earlier when I was extolling the benefits of Open Source, I mentioned laziness, but there is another benefit to that movement. By allowing people to access the set of instructions you use, you enable them to alter your assumptions, and behaviour. “But what has that got to do with efficiency?”

Waiting for someone else to fix a problem is never efficient.

Sometimes change is not a choice, but is thrust upon us. The more people you have experiencing a pain, the more minds will be dedicated to solving it.

Occasionally I’ll come across a problem that I solve slightly more efficiently. When I can stack that efficiency into hundreds, thousands or millions of actions, that one little thing can have a big impact. That is where the progress is most visible, where the most efficiency is possible.

Using Laziness to fight “hard-work” will fill the coffers of your time-based bank account, allowing you the freedom to make choices.

If we don’t share our work, then who can know what progress we’ve made? Who are we hurting (albeit unintentionally) with our actions?

The most efficient thing to do, might be to share our work, let down our guard and allow others to help us help them. Maybe it’ll draw a crowd?


Goals

In life it’s important to set goals. All too often I see people set goals that are needlessly difficult to achieve, long-winded or rely too much on blind-faith or assumptions about a better future.

I prefer to set smaller, easily achievable, verifiable and measurable goals that I can fulfil with the minimum effort. Going back always might have to happen, we’re not always right, and large goals take large time, money and effort. This also means the lazy part of me has no excuse not to stick with things, and can drive toward a better future.

If you’ve heard about a thing called AGILE, you might recognise that if you strip away all the geek-speak, what I’ve spoken about with these “small goals” is exactly what project managers in IT today are demanding, and using as a tool of change.

People learning to code now, like the amazing Beau Carnes, will learn different things, solve different problems than when I started coding in the 90’s. One of the reasons for this is because they have efficiency gained just from being involved in an area of existing work. Changes that some might not have noticed have permeated the very fabric of our work, and allowed us to set new goals building on the work of others.

One thing I can assure of, is that new coders will need guidance and inspiration. If your code is part of that, they might save you time.

I’m going to try to share more in future (I’ve already started). I’m going to keep sharing tiny things that allow me to change a little. It’s efficient, I’ll admit it lets me be lazy. Most importantly it will help me to achieve my goals.

Re-cap

  • Pick what you work hard-at. Being Lazy is a requirement for doing your best work.
  • Try to build a time-based bank account. Start saving a few keystrokes, cpu-seconds or minutes. You can’t spend savings you don’t have!
  • Set smaller goals. It’s a long-climb to get to where we are going. We might as well give ourselves the best chance of reading.

I Hope you’ll be lazy, efficient and set sensible goals in the future too!

Lewis Cowles

Written by

Digital Architect & Owner - http://www.codesign2.co.uk UK-based I.T. Consultancy.I make things happen and could probably help you deliver software & experiences

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