Back in school, many well-meaning teachers told us to study hard and follow all rules. Although there is wisdom in this, I find that people who blindly follow this to the letter tend to work hard and lead a complicated work life because they have not learned how to simplify their work life.
“By the book” people carry that habit into their adult life. Having worked with a handful of them, I have observed that they usually do a very good job, but it takes them a very long time to finish their work. Some of them have become perfectionists to a fault. They spend all their time, effort and energy to do the task perfectly, whether it is important or not. Often busy and overwhelmed with work, they tend to lead very complicated work-lives.
Interestingly, I have found that certain habits that were frowned upon in school can help us function better in adult life. Controversial as it may sound, wisdom can also be found from people who slacked off a bit or got the teacher’s ire.
Here’s a fresh look at some of the bad habits that can be transformed into something good to simplify your work life.
Tickle Your Lazy Bones
Sometimes, laziness is good—particularly if you use it as a catalyst for creativity and resourcefulness. Let’s face it, there are really times when you don’t feel like working so hard on a particular project. You still have to accomplish what you are supposed to do no matter what, but you don’t want to put in too much physical effort. So what can you do? Take the lazy but creative route to accomplishing the project. For instance, I once had to do a photographic essay on music. Most of my peers went all around the Metro to find different musical instruments to shoot with their models. Since, I didn’t have the time and resources to look for instruments, I simply asked my model to pose “artistically” using imaginary instruments. This Lazy-Creative approach garnered for me the top award among my peers with little effort on my part.
Don’t be a Busy Bee
As little children, our mothers would scold us for staying in front of the television all day long and doing nothing. So to escape the sermon, we would get up and act busy. Unfortunately, this habit is sometimes carried over to our adult work life. There are many who try to impress their boss by being busy. But the question is, are we being busy for the sake of being busy? When my husband was starting out in the corporate world, he worked until the wee hours of the morning. His boss saw him doing this and asked, “Is that a sign of dedication or incompetence?” This question made my husband realize at a young age that success is not about how much harder you work, it’s the results that count.
Learn as You Go
There are some people who would not get into something because they have not mapped out an extensive detailed plan or they have not mastered a particular field. So they read tons of books about the subject, gather as much information as they can find and even hire a bunch of consultants for advice. They get so overwhelmed with the information and task at hand that they end up getting stuck in the process. This is called Analysis Paralysis. People who experience this usually end up doing nothing. On the other hand, I believe experience is the best teacher of all and sometimes, you just have to take the plunge and learn as you go. See, your mind and creativity heightens when there’s something at stake. Your learning curve speeds up when you are actually in the game. Sometimes, you need to tell yourself, “Just do it!”
Don’t Reinvent the Wheel if you do not need to
Have you ever noticed that when a new management or department head replaces the old, currently running projects would get discontinued in place of new programs? When this happens, the time and resources spent on the previous projects get wasted and more time, resources and energy is used up to start new projects. I believe in the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. So when I started as a new marketing manager for a company, the first thing I did was review the existing programs and marketing projects of the previous administration. I continued and used all the marketing materials that the one before me created and just improved it. That way, company funds are not wasted and at the same time, I don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
Speed it Up with Short Cuts
Our company once hired an IT specialist to teach non-IT people how to create websites. Because of his background, he proposed a curriculum that included extensive lessons on HTML coding and logical flowchart exercises. Since there were already free software programs available in the market that simplified the task with thousands of existing templates to choose from, we rejected the curriculum he proposed. See, in this day and age, you don’t have to do your task from scratch or be what I call a “Purist”. You don’t have to go the long way to get things done. Most of the time, shortcuts are better as long as you do not sacrifice the quality of your product or service. So, it’s okay to take shortcuts.
Simplifying Your Work Life is about doing what works. Instead of working hard, what we should be striving to do is to WORK SMART.
Note: This article was originally published at Manila Bulletin Newspaper.
Jhoanna O. Gan-So is president of Businessmaker Academy and HR Club Philippines. Her organization offers public seminars and in-house training on Human Resource Management and Business Skills Development. You may email your comments and questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org