You can work hard and get nowhere. You can work less and accomplish a lot. This is a lesson we learn from worship in Islam. You could spend hours on an act of worship, but get to nowhere if it’s not found in the sunnah. You can spend a few seconds reciting Surah al-Ikhlas and get the reward of reciting one-third of the Quran. The difference between the two is that the latter has the means leading to the goal.
“I work so hard at my job and management just doesn’t see it.” Do you find yourself saying that at your workplace? It could be that the management is inept, but more often it’s a failure to connect the means and the goals by the employee. Throughout this failure, the employee thinks he is doing well in work and is working hard.
Ask yourself, how and why are you working hard? Do you feel that you are working hard because you stay up late at night and still get to work on time? Are you working hard because you spend time solving matters for your co-workers? Are you working hard designing a document instead of analyzing the data? Are you working hard because you spend long hours at work because you do what you want? Working hard is only working hard if it’s using the proper means to achieve the goals set by the organization. That’s what matters.
Tawhid makes us conscious of our efforts, goals, and their acceptability. It trains us to avoid pursuing means and goals that are mirages. The believer benefits from this behavior in all aspects of his life and does not end up with his efforts wasted. “Say, ‘Shall we inform you of the greatest losers in regards to their deeds? They are those whose efforts are lost in the worldly life, while they think that they are doing well in work.” [18:103,104]