Are You Too Busy?

It seems as though everyone is busy at work these days.  We have more challenges to face, more complexities of the job to learn, we have to do more with fewer resources, and there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to get done what needs to get done.

Does this sound like you?  Have I just described your typical day?  I’d wager that this scenario reverberates with many managers and individual contributors out there.  As a result,  we’re always looking for ways to be more efficient, more effective, more focused on the task in front of us, and all without having to spend time and effort that are luxuries today.

Play It Again, Sam

Which is why I suspect that it’s so tempting to hit the “replay” button to administer our reward programs, policies, and procedures.  Let’s just do the same thing again next time (work processes, project plans, program designs, time lines, etc.)  because what we did worked (mainly) last time.  Because we have other issues to worry about, other pressures coming to bear, so let’s stick here and now with what we’re familiar with.

The argument is compelling.  You have only two hands, you have (maybe) limited help available and the ever-present tight time lines are constantly leaning over your shoulder.  Likely your project book is full as well.

So a common tactic we often see is to repeat what you can, wherever you can so that there is more time left to concentrate on the new stuff.  Those programs and projects that you’ve worked on before can safely become a repetitive effort.  You can delegate it, you can push it to the side as you let someone else follow the path you laid out last year, and perhaps the year before. Some workflow can be placed on automatic pilot.

Perhaps that new stuff you want to/have to become engaged with is exciting, so your interests are in spending your limited time and effort there.  Learning new things, perhaps gaining greater exposure with higher management, being challenged a bit more, taking in the breath of fresh air that comes with blazing new paths and gaining new experiences.  New is almost always more invigorating to you as a professional, while the old stuff is just that – old.  And boring.

But there lies the trap.  Letting yourself ignore opportunities to improve on past practices ensures you remain captured and caged by that past.  Because you feel that you don’t have the time to investigate possible improvements to something that has admittedly worked before.   The mantra of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” came from this attitude.

The Risk Of The New Idea

However, when you don’t want to spend the time and effort to try an improved methodology – you keep on doing what you’ve always done – this causes you to miss out on opportunities to explore, invent, experiment.  To grow as a professional.  Taking such risks (avoiding administration and embracing creative tweaking) can pay big dividends – but you have to make the effort, even when that effort is more work than what you have on your plate now.

Perhaps you think, “What if these improvements don’t work?”  You’d have spent all that time and effort, and for nothingAnd now there may not be time to start again with the tried and true method.  Woe is us.

That worry is another reason the pressure remains with us on to automatically repeat, to administer where you could instead innovate.

You should never be too busy to learn new skills, to push the edge of the envelope by trying out new ideas.  You should never be too busy to do the right thing. 

Otherwise, you’re doing little more than sitting on your hands, waiting for the clock to say 5:00.

One final thought: what was once effective and efficient eventually starts to lose that positive edge once repetition replaces innovation.  So change the oil in your car before the engine fails.

Chuck Csizmar CCP is founder and Principal of CMC Compensation Group, providing global compensation consulting services to a wide variety of industries and non-profit organizations.  He is also associated with several HR Consulting firms as a contributing consultant.  Chuck is a broad based subject matter expert with a specialty in international and expatriate compensation.  He lives in Central Florida (near The Mouse) and enjoys growing fruit and managing (?) a clowder of cats.

Creative Commons image, “Stress,” by Mike Kline

This post originally appeared on Compensation Cafe
Author: Chuck Csizmar