Ten Ways to Survive Working Really Hard
[802 words, approx 4 mins to read]
Just because you’ve got a lot to do doesn’t mean it’s the right stuff to do. Stay rigorous in your choices, say “no” when you need to, and continue to refresh your assessment of your ‘top three’ priorities. If you could only do three things before you were forced to take a break, what would they be?
2. Stay Connected
Don’t out-distance your colleagues, friends and family, to the point where you’re so far out in front you’re really on your own. This is not sustainable. Instead, make sure you have the balance of your effort right: senior people need to work hard at connecting with other people as much (if not more) as driving the task-achievement. Who do you need to connect with today?
3. Keep Part Of Your Pain Monitor Switched On
Like an athlete who knows how to get through the pain barrier, you can switch off a lot of the signals about how much it’s hurting. But you need to keep part of your mind monitoring this. What’s showing up on your pain monitor that you need to deal with?
4. Make Coming Down Routine
Working hard can be such a rush. I love feeling really alive with the pressure and buzz of it all. I don’t like the come-down so much, especially when I let it crash into me all at once. Music, movement, letting your eyes focus on the distance and anything which healthily engages your senses of touch and smell will really help. What might be in your come-down routine?
5. Keep It Light
Isn’t it a bit funny really, putting all this effort into stuff which probably won’t even exist 200 years from now? You’ve probably already seen something funny in it anyway? And I often feel like I’m Charlie Chaplin in that scene from Modern Times where he’s desperately trying to keep up with the ever-accelerating cogs and gears of the machine. Maybe I should grow a comic moustache – how about you?
6. Keep The End In Mind
There is some point to all this effort right? Even if it’s just to keep the wolf from the door? I only ask, because sometimes people have got the act of working really hard confused with the reason for working really hard. And that can lead to sub-optimal choices about the strategies you can use. Find your reason for working so hard, don’t be embarrassed by it, champion it, and keep it close by.
7. Use The 80:20 Rule
The first 20% of effort you put in gets 80% of the result. And conversely, the last 20% of the result takes the remaining 80% of your effort. Learn when 80%+ is a good enough result. Sony used this to devastating effect when first grabbing their huge share of the personal electronics market, and Apple may now be doing the same. Getting many 80% right results out there gives you more feedback, more time in the limelight and more opportunities to improve than getting out just a few 99% right results.
8. Go With The Flow Sometimes
Do I take the rough overgrown path every time, or the smooth downhill one? Should I push at the open door or try to knock down that closed one instead? I probably am strong enough to paddle my canoe upstream (for a while) but might it more sensible to go with the current downstream and save my strength for paddling round those dangerous rocks and pulling out of the water at that nice sandy bank? Hmm – what do you think?
9. Get A Life
This is often a difficult one for me, because there isn’t much that comes close to the personal reward I get from my work. But I’m better at my work (and probably a better person all round) when that isn’t the only thing in my life. Also, don’t try too hard to choose the ‘right’ other stuff to have in your life; best to just pick-up what’s (metaphorically) right in front of you and go with that. Got boots and hills? – go for a hike. Got kids? – go to the zoo. Got pots, basil and tomatoes? – cook Italian. Get it?
10. Don’t Take The Bait
People working really hard sometimes mistakenly bite at two different kinds of bait out of unconscious emotional reactions. The two types of bait to avoid are: (1) tempting possibilities that look at first like they will get you closer to your goal, but really end up wasting your time; & (2) painful prods connected to some flaw in yourself or your work and which lead to unproductive outbursts or withdrawals. To avoid both of these, be an observant fish and swim around the bait a few times before deciding if it’s a genuine juicy morsel or a hook waiting to catch you.