I’ve always thought that you should invest where you can. Make a little effort now that will pay back later, in life and in your job.
I read a blog recently from Mike Walsh that talks about making that investment. If you do something that can save time later, that can be of great benefit in your job. I’ve heard this same argument for people when developing software. If you take more time to architect and test, you’ll save time later on.
I agree with that, but it’s not always that simple. Should you automate a report that your boss wants once a week? If you take 5 minutes in Excel to build it from a query and you think it would require about 4 hours to build the report, set up the email automation, test it, etc, is it worth doing? That’s a years worth of time to do the report at once as opposed to your 5 minutes a day. Plus there’s the chance that things will fail and you’ll lose a couple more hours during the year maintaining it. Not such a simple choice now.
In that example, I’d probably continue to do it manually until it became a pain point. 5 minutes a week is annoying at times, but my boss might change things, he might get tired of it, or he might require it to happen when I’m on vacation. In those cases I think it would then make sense to build a report.
If I do things repeatedly, it does make some sense to automate them, or make an investment that saves me time later. However you can’t invest in everything and you have to make choices. That means taking a few minutes to think about how big an investment this is, to what degree does it help, and how important is it to making your job easier. If it seems worthwhile, do it. If not, deal with it as it comes up.
Eventually you start to build a level of experience that helps you judge what’s worth investing in and what’s not. You’ll never get that 100% right, but don’t be afraid to let some things go and deal with them as one-offs, even regularly, if the investment doesn’t make sense to you.