Tech has perverted the meaning of hustle

This is a hustle play.

Dennis Rodman captured by Sam Forencich

It’s intense, it’s focused. It only happens occasionally during a basketball game, but it can change the course of the game.

The tech scene seems to have put a twist on the definition of hustle to equate it to endless hours of work, giving up on your personal life and cutting as many hours as you can from your sleep. The promise made is that you’ll outwork your competitors and it will make you win.

This is both dangerous and harmful. It shifts the attention on the amount of hours put in instead of focusing on the outcome itself. It encourages throwing time at problems rather than re-thinking the solution. But more importantly it’s just not a sustainable working habit.

Your energy has a limited supply and needs to be recharged regularly.

Unlike computers we can’t repeat the same task over and over without being affected. You most likely have a preferred time of the day where you can do your best work and it’s best to capitalize on that rather than filling the rest of the day with garbage time. First of all you’re at the risk of making mistakes due to being tired. But you’re also going to eat on your energy supply for the next day, thus making you less likely to perform at your best again.

This is quite often hard to do and I’ve found myself many times stuck working on an issue more than I should, thinking that if I just do one more thing then the problem would be solved. But that one thing didn’t work so I’m trying another one, and another one, and so on until I finally decide to stop and call it a day. More often than not I’m able to figure it out the next morning within 20 minutes.

So take a break, have some good rest and do something else. Replenish your energy levels so that you can do great work again the next day. Athletes put a great emphasis on rest and so should you.

You’re more likely to make hard calls by restricting your time.

The one great thing about knowing that your daily hours are limited is that it forces you to make tough decisions early. You need to look back at your strategy, your processes, your backlog to figure out upfront how you can make each hour of work matter the most.

On the contrary, if you have a habit of throwing hours at problems to solve them then you’re not evaluating whether there’s a different option available. This can be especially true in software development where unforeseen complexity can increase the amount of work required for a change all of a sudden. It’s tempting to try to still meet deadlines by working extra hours, but the priority should be to re-evaluate the value of the change and see if there isn’t another way to get to similar results.

Stay healthy for your customers.

Creating value is not a sprint, it’s a marathon that you need to sustain for years and you can’t rush through it. Once you’ve engaged your first customers you will need to be able to support them for as long as you can and if you’ve burned out to make your MVP or release a new feature than how are you going to keep on providing a great experience?

If you want to make other people happy you have a duty to stay happy yourself.

So please don’t go for the bad hustle, don’t burn out thinking that it will all pay off. Of course, there’s always a minimum investment required but the answer to scaling an idea should not be “more hours from people”. Instead focus on defining the opportunities that could change your trajectory.

And please, please, take care of yourself and take care of your team.


Squadlytics keeps the pulse of your team by providing insights on your productivity tools. Act on issues early, make hard decisions and see the impact.