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6 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Work Too Hard For Your Job

6 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Work Too Hard For Your Job
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Many people have the preconception that Millennials are lazy. They think that the concept of “work” for Millennials is different: Millennials don’t see 10-12 hour days at the office productive. They want to work from the coffee shop down the street, because they “feel” better there. They want to be judged only by results, not by the amount of time and effort they appear to have put into a project. This is a huge paradigm shift which members of older generations have difficulty making.

No matter if this stereotype is true or not, research is beginning to support this style of working – working hard does not automatically translate to productivity. Here are 6 reasons to explain why less may actually be more.

1. Working Long Hours Decreases Productivity

Working from “dawn to dusk” has been a norm for thousands of years. Yet it was until Henry Ford’s study in 1926 that people’s conception of work began to change.

Henry Ford discovered that by reducing the working hours to 8 and the working days to 5, workers would become more productive. His studies did not fall on deaf ears. His study contributed to laws regulating the number of working days and working hours. Employers were hence required to to pay for overtime work.

More recent studies by the U.S. military show that losing sleep and working longer hours will adversely affect cognition – the ability to learn, think, and reason – over time. So, if you are one of those people who are used to working long after everyone else has left the office, you should be aware that your productivity and your ability to think and reason will be reduced accordingly as well. (along with your joie de vivre).

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2. Promotion is not Based on the Number of Hours You Have Worked

The traditional thinking goes: “If I really work hard; if I stay late at the office every night; if I keep busy all day and don’t “chat around the water cooler” like the others, my boss will notice that. Then, when an opening for a promotion comes, I’ll be selected.” If you think in this way, unfortunately, you may be misguided.

This is what your boss may be thinking: “Bob is a hard worker. I really appreciate his dedication to getting that project finished by the deadline. On the other hand, why is it taking him so many more hours? Jane seems to get the same types of projects completed during normal working hours, and hers are just as complete and of the same quality level.”

When it is time for promotion, your boss may also think: “Bob is such a hard worker. I know that he will work even harder with this promotion, but how many more hours can he work? Jane seems to manage time better and get more done in a shorter period of time. She can handle more responsibilities. Jane is the best pick.”

The message is sad, but true – the number of hours you work is not important to your bosses.

3.  It is More Important to Prioritise than to Execute

It seems that the more we work, the more chances we have to perform, and the more we will receive gratitudes and thanks. Again, this is not necessarily true.

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What happens may actually be this: People may just find you for all the unimportant tasks because you never refuse.

It is important to set priorities and say “no” to those requests that are just time-wasters. Turn people down assertively but appropriately. Say, “I’m sorry. I don’t have the time to do that.” As Warren Buffet once said: “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.”

4. Refusing to Succumb to “Down-Time” at Work Doesn’t Make You More Admirable

We call these people “workaholics.” They refuse to participate in “down-time” activities at work because they are either obsessively driven or they believe that it wastes the company’s time. Besides, staying at one’s desk “looks” better to bosses.

You may “brown bag” your lunch and eat at your desk. You may refuse invitations to take a break with others in the staff lounge. All of this does not make you admired. You are seen by co-workers as unfriendly and perhaps a “brown-noser”.

Refusing to allow yourself some down time meaning you become less productive as the day wears on, and if there is really critical work for your afternoon, you will lack the energy to attack it well. Then you stay late or go home with work. It’s a vicious cycle.

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You will not be any less thought of if you take down time. Even the most successful minds of this world need to relax. For instance:

  • Winston Churchill took a nap every afternoon and no one was allowed to disturb that. He insisted that he had a much more productive work day because of it.
  • Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Reagan all took afternoon naps. Kennedy had lunch in bed and slept afterward.
  • John D. Rockefeller took a nap every day in his office.

A number of smart people take down time to engage in personal activities that are totally unrelated to work at all, just to put their brains on something else and because they have other interests. One executive had quite a portfolio with SEIS Investment, and used his downtime to study market trends and contemplate any new investments he might want to make. This was “fun” for him. Identify what is “fun” or relaxing for you and schedule some time in the middle of your workday for that.

Bottom line – having down-time isn’t unproductive or makes you look “worse”. It’s the necessary activity (or lack of such) that your brain needs!

5. Doing Everything Yourself, and Putting in Long Hours to do that, Doesn’t Breed Admiration

Every organization has these types of people. Their basic approach to tasks and projects is this:

  • To get something done right, they will need to do it all themselves.
  • They need to control every detail of a project from start to finish
  • They cannot trust others to complete their parts well and on time
  • Asking for help makes them look weak and less capable
  • If they do it all themselves, they will have more admiration and respect

If this sounds like you, understand that inability to delegate or micro-managing every detail of a project is two things: – exhausting and a real “negative” to subordinates, co-workers and to bosses.

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Subordinates believe that you do not trust them. Co-workers believe that you are a “glory-seeker” and bosses believe that you are not executive material. If you are trying to impress everyone with your dedication to every detail of a project, understand that you are really getting the opposite!

6. Being a Perfectionist Means Long Hours without Reward

We all want our work to be right. And we want it to be approved of by our superiors. When we carry this to an extreme, however, this is what happens:

  • We continue to second-guess ourselves, creating our own stress
  • We continue to re-work, re-write, re-do because our attitude is that it can always be better
  • We believe that perfection is actually attainable, if we just put in more hours, work a bit longer and harder
  • A perfect work product means that we will have admiration and respect that will move us forward on our career ladder

The truth is this:

  • The more time we spend seeking perfection, the less productive we are
  • Superiors wonder what is taking so long and begin to wonder if the “job” is just too much for you
  • Perfection is a nice goal but is never really achieved. The goal is to complete a project that meets the goals of the project and the organization. Spending hours of time re-writing every sentence of a proposal or report; continuing to seek additional research to back up the great research you already have; these things are just unproductive and time-wasters.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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