It’s OK to do a little less. Really. Here’s why your company won’t care.
Confession: I’m a recovering perfectionist who used to give every project 110 percent. But sometimes giving work your all doesn’t make sense. Your company might be perfectly happy with 90 percent. Your boss might like to revise everyone else’s work beyond recognition, rendering your extra effort moot. Or you might be dealing with a family crisis or another personal challenge that’s taxing your concentration this month.
There’s no shame in pulling back on the throttle at work, as long as you’ve already proven yourself and continue meeting your employer’s expectations. Eliminating self-defeating behavior is a fine place to start. Here are a few other shortcuts you can take that won’t compromise your career.
Embrace “good enough.” Don’t get hung up on good vs. great, especially if you’re not vying for a top leadership role. If management reacts identically to the “good enough” work you do, why waste time and energy striving for great?
This might mean giving your boss three ideas to choose from instead of five the next time she asks. It might mean turning in a rougher first draft of a document you know management will edit by committee (and not necessarily for the better). It might mean not volunteering to do the research the boss tells your team he’d “love to have” when you know from experience he’ll never get around to reading the report.
In many workplaces, as long as you follow directions, meet deadlines and deliver well-organized, error-free work, you’ve already won the 5K. So why go for the marathon?
Look for best practices. Taking a few minutes to watch a tutorial or talk to a co-worker experienced with the task at hand can yield tips on the easiest way to do it. Even if you’ve been restocking inventory or creating PowerPoint presentations for years, it can’t hurt to ask a colleague for suggestions. Perhaps they have a shortcut you never considered.
I’ve been writing professionally for 1,000 years and am still fascinated by how others organize research, outline and write articles. If a tool or technique can save me time and headaches, sign me up. You’re never too seasoned to learn a more efficient way to perform your job.
Delegate more. Do you really need to do the item in question yourself? Perhaps you can give it to a wholly competent admin, intern, temp or vendor who’s been hired to support your team. Or perhaps your organization has an entire research department, communications team or other group designed to tackle such tasks.
Do not deprive these people of the role your employer hired them to do. Think of all the time you’ll gain by off-loading a chore that’s not your area of expertise or below your pay grade.
Focus on your boss’s priorities — then go home. If all your boss cares about is increasing your organization’s media coverage or growing your donor list, make that your primary mission at work. If you’re not sure what tasks and goals your boss values most, ask.
Pay attention to her stressors and pet peeves, too. Does she lose her cool whenever your web traffic dips below a certain threshold or the queue of unanswered customer service requests creeps above a specific number? Does she harangue your team anytime the store’s dressing rooms are looking a little messy?
Focus your professional efforts on remedying those problems. Everything else can take a back seat, or better yet, fall off your to-do list altogether.