I’ll often say “I’d rather be busy than bored.” But lately as I talk to my clients and audiences, it seems we could all use a little less “busy” and a little more boredom! As our economy and the seasons emerge from their own deep-freeze, we’re juggling more than ever in our work and lives.
Some of it is welcome – people long underutilized are getting back to work and back to business. But much of it is overwhelming! So what do you do when there’s too much to do? Here are three strategies you can try today!
1. Drop the Ball
Imagine playing catch with your daughter, getting a nice rhythm of toss and catch going. Then your son pitches a ball your way, your spouse throws another, your neighbor another, your mailman one more. They keep coming faster, and faster, and – OUCH!
You can’t catch all those balls. You also can’t throw them back quick enough. And when you’re trying to catch them all, the valuable experience with your daughter disappears.
We wouldn’t think about catching all of those balls in the backyard. So why do we try to catch them all at work? My challenge to you is to start dropping one – or many – right now.
Yes, I see you quiver. If that thought makes you uncomfortable, well, you’re not alone. It’s counter-cultural today to think about not doing something– we’ve been taught that the key to success is to do, do, do. But that, my friends, is a lie.
People are not computers. We cannot just add a new memory chip, or upgrade to higher bandwidth. If you are constantly expanding your capacity to catch and handle all the balls coming your way – especially balls that aren’t making the most of your talents and your superpowers – you’re kidding yourself. You’re actually diminishing your own resources, not expanding them – and that’s not helping your company or your career.
In fact, it’s a myth to think that your work speaks for itself, and that more work equals more good buzz about you. Taking more on to the degree it starts to wear you down isn’t a career growth strategy – it’s a recipe for failure. You are letting your own system absorb the shock rather than sharing it with the system that is the organization.
Catch the balls that make sense for you – the ones where you can wear your red cape and bring your superpowers to work. Let the others bounce off your chest confidently and roll onto the ground.
Can’t imagine letting a ball sit on the floor, untouched? Remember that you’re doing your company a favor. When there’s no pain – when there are no balls rolling on the ground, with no one to handle them– it’s harder to notice which problems need to be solved. When you’re catching all the balls, it’s not as obvious to your organization that it’s time to hire, eliminate outdated processes or systems, change or create a role, or even reward your or other people’s contributions. You can always point out a ball that’s on the floor – just don’t pick it up.
Try dropping some balls – and holding tight to the few that matter most.
2. Drop the Waste.
In most companies, the “people part” of the business is still called “human resources.” You (the human) are a vital, important resource to the organization – a resource to be invested and “spent” just like money, energy and time.
When you’re doing too much – especially work that is not in your superpower space – you’re actually wasting the company’s resources, whether you work for a large Fortune 500 business or it’s just you in your own firm. And who doesn’t hate waste?
As you look at all the things you’re doing, ask yourself:
Is this the most important thing I can contribute to our business right now? If not, does it even need to be done? If it needs to be done, does it need to be done now?
Given my superpowers and ways I can contribute best, is doing this the best use of my time and talents?
If I were paid an hourly rate for this work, would it be worth it? (Not sure of your hourly rate? Divide your weekly pay by the number of hours you typically work each week. Psst. . want to give yourself a raise? Reduce your hours worked without reducing your impact – but that’s a discussion for another time!)
Try having a very real and business-centered conversation: “I’m concerned we’re wasting company resources to have this action on my list when I could be investing more time in [higher value work that makes the most of your superpowers and a greater difference to the organization]. Can we brainstorm how to get this done by a lower-cost resource?”
Eliminating hidden waste is one of the biggest business improvement opportunities for organizations today. By dropping the waste, both you and the company win.
3. Drop the Guilt.
Those who’ve worked with me know I’ll often say that human beings are messy. And I mean that with love – messy is good, messy is interesting, messy is creative!
Because we’re so creative (yes, even you actuaries who say you’re not), we constantly think of new actions and ideas that can move ourselves and our work forward. Ideas are good. Too many ideas start to pile up and make “good” feel “overwhelming”. And we have the very real and human emotion of guilt when we can’t do it all.
Consider this your permission to drop the guilt. You are highly capable of many things – and just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. I can reorganize my kitchen, but hiring the professional organizer to do it let me spend that time in my superpower space – and she in hers. If it’s not something making the best use of your superpowers, find another solution. They’re out there.
Because we’re creative and ever-changing, there will always be things to do – more than we can ever get done. When you’re working in your superpowers and doing your best work that matters, there’s nothing to be guilty about.
As the founder of Red Cape Revolution: Bring Your Superpowers to Work (www.redcaperevolution.com), leadership & workplace coach and speaker Darcy Eikenberg helps committed, energetic professionals discover new ways to improve their experience at work, in ways that work for their organizations and for themselves. When you join the Red Cape Revolution, you can access valuable tools such as our “How to Thrive in the New World of Work” ebook and other Tips & Scripts for real-life workplace challenges. Contact Darcy at email@example.com or 404.313.0278.