The reward for working hard is more work

Takeaway: Have a good reason for investing in becoming more productive. Otherwise, you’ll fall into a common trap: that your reward for becoming more productive will be having more work to do.

Estimated Reading Time: 1 minute, 29s.

The other day, I was reading Haemin Sunim’s delightful1 book, The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down. In it, Haemin, a renowned Buddhist meditation teacher, explores some simple ways that we think differently about work, relationships, and other areas of our lives.

While reading the book, one quote struck me like a ton of bricks: 

“A cruel irony: The reward for someone who works hard is more work.” 

The main reason this little snippet of the book struck me so hard was that, while it goes against the grain of much of what I write about, it’s also true. When we invest in our productivity, and start to accomplish more, we’re rewarded with bigger and more important projects. Our responsibilities pile up. And the cycle continues.

Unless, of course, we don’t let it.

The quote made me think of another idea as it relates to our productivity. While the quote rings true, it underscores why we should have a strong reason for investing in our productivity in the first place. Everyone’s motivation for becoming more productive will be different. That’s the way it should be.

A few random reasons you may want to invest in your productivity (that perhaps led you to subscribe to this blog in the first place):

  • To have more free time to spend with family and on meaningful things;
  • To make more money;
  • To gain status and recognition;
  • To feel less stressed, and like you have things under control;
  • To gain respect from colleagues.

The list goes on, but you probably get the idea. If you’re not careful, the reward for investing in your productivity will be more work. 

Before you invest in your productivity, have a good reason for doing so.


  1. This really is the best word I can think of to describe the book—it’s a joy to read. 

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