To clarify: this is about how we do work. Life is full of terrible and boring nonsense we dislike but need to do – the most resounding victory of "love to have done" vs. "love to do" – but taxes aren't interesting, and most other responsibilities are the same. We do them. And the opposite, our guilty pleasures, are also a different thing. Just because "what we love" wins over things "we love to have done", doesn't mean it answers the question in a more interesting way.

The reason the tools of our work interest me is, perhaps, a bit odd: because both sides trade against our love of the craft. We want to enjoy doing good work and enjoy having done good work. Perhaps this is an optimization problem – and we should only ask ourselves "do you have more trouble returning to work done that you can't change, or doing work for the first time?" – but I suspect not.

In fact, I've had some of the best experiences trying to modify work that, nonetheless, is done in such a way that requires quite a bit of my future self. A broad toolbelt gets the job done quickly and with precision – but it means we can't just do it in passing. We have to tool up first. Always.

And that's probably not the best way to interact with our craft, if we want to stick with our work for a long time. Most of the effort will be put into maintenance, done a bit at a time. Unless we're lucky enough to be pure specialists, precisely what we do will change a lot. As we maintain the things we need to, all subtly different, it splits our focus more and more. The set-up/tear-down time for dealing with our previous work matters more and more, and I find myself relieved I did things with a simple set of tools, as much as more sophisticated tools would have made my life easier.

Perhaps this is a lesson for when we make our own tools – our checklists, our spreadsheets, procedures and systems. We should make them so they can be done without much context, without much preparation, and even by different people. It's not the type of work to get a lot of thanks, particularly if it doesn't allow people to get into the flow of doing things well, but it might be worth it.

It's also worth noting that I've been in professional environments where it is borderline impossible to do otherwise-standard quality checks. Will this get the job done? Well, nobody at the company knows how to check without just using it for client-facing work. This is... extremely far below ideal, as much as they enjoyed working that way. Unfortunately, I don't think that was a particularly uncommon experience.

Of course, I could be over-correcting for small moments of regret. That's easy enough to do, when regret burns so brightly in our minds. But if we can save other people the trouble of spending an hour on five minutes of work, it might be worth it.