Thursday, February 06, 2014

Why You Should Take It Easy*

From Time Magazine online comes this interesting and timely article - 10 Reasons to Stop Working So Hard.

As I slowly approach the retirement that is glistening on a distant hilltop, I find myself wishing I could just ratchet things back a bit and take my working life a bit easier. Now, don't get me wrong - I don't have a physically demanding job (unless you count the labor involved in moving great stacks of paper from place to place), but I do have a mentally demanding one that involves a great deal of research, frustrating negotiation, and routine setbacks that challenge my usually self-motivating attitude. Retirement is looking pretty good. And working less hard is looking good, too.

And now comes Time Magazine's article by Minda Zetlin that offers me a list of perfectly good reasons for not working so hard. Here they are ... perhaps you can use them, too ...

1. Quantity kills quality. When you do more work in less time, you have less time and energy to devote to each thing you do. Clearly, quality is going to suffer. This leads to the phenomenon we refer to as pencil-whipping ... just arbitrarily signing off on something without doing a careful job.

2. Sleep matters. I find this to be truer each year. I never used to need or want an afternoon nap; now, it looks really good.

3. You suck when it counts. When you work hard all the time, you don't have the energy and the mental acuity to focus on the really important things when they pop up.

4. Your mood is a buzzkill. I see this in some of our senior leaders who are overtasked, overscheduled, and overburdened with meetings and busywork. They become grouchy and irritable, which makes their subordinates miserable and affects their attitudes and productivity.

5. Your judgment is impaired. When you're tired and have too much on your mind, it affects your ability to focus and exercise the judgment you need to bring to your most important tasks.

6. You're setting a bad example. If you work too hard, your subordinates will often feel that they have to do the same in order to look good in your eyes. This means that your problems propagate through your subordinates, creating a miserable and toxic work environment.

7. There will always be more work. And ain't THAT the truth! As we say in my office, your reward for doing a good job is the opportunity to do a lot more good jobs ... usually to compensate for those who don't do as good a job as you do.

8. You're hurting your relationships. More time spent at work = less time spent with your spouse, children, and grandchildren. They need you, too.

9. You're screwing up your health. High blood pressure and stress are killers, and those fast-food lunches eaten at your desk aren't very healthy either.

And finally,

10. Most of the work is less important than you think. This is absolutely true. I have had to spend more time reviewing and commenting on useless documents than I like to remember. I've done some really important and really interesting things**, but they are far outnumbered by the ones that were chimp-level busywork.

I'm going to try to stop working so hard. Unfortunately, because of my bad habits like eating and living indoors, I probably won't be able to cut back all that much. I'll just keep my eyes on that distant hilltop.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Not applicable to Mike, who is retired, has elevated taking-it-easy to an art form, and doesn't mind reminding me about it.

** I can tell you some good war stories over a few drinks if you're ever in the area.


Amanda said...

Hmm..I just spent the car ride home from school telling Aaron about hard work. Different stage in life...we probably need to experience hard work before we quality to cut back on it.

Mike said...

The quality/quantity thing was a constant back and forth at the phone company.

Deena said...

Overwork can kill, or possibly make life less worth living.

Big Sky Heidi said...

The point is that you don't have to try equally hard on all things you do. Sometimes it's okay to bag it a little.

Welcome to the Millenial Generation!

eViL pOp TaRt said...

A concern is how much monitoring goes with each thing that you do, as well as its relative importance in the scheme of things. It's hard to know sometimes what might or might not be seen as important.

Does not working at a job for a lengthy period of time grant some latitude in what you can do, or is that a pipe dream? (pot, maybe)

Best wishes as you're seeing the end of work in sight.