Norton: Work smarter, take the pressure off (column)
We all probably know the saying, and more than likely we have heard it hundreds of times too: “Work smarter, not harder.” Doesn’t it seem like another one of those principles that sounds so good in theory but one that is really difficult to pull off?
A recurring theme to conversations that I am having recently is that people are working harder than ever, and with that hard work and extra hours, the stress and pressure are mounting at work and at home. It is literally boiling over into all aspects of their lives and impacting their eating habits, workouts when they can fit them in, their socializing and definitely their relationships.
Now we try and balance this and think we can spin as many plates as possible or we have convinced ourselves that we can multitask effectively and efficiently, and we may even believe that we are as productive or even more productive than we ever have been before. At what cost? How much pressure is building up? Where are those pressure points impacting us the most?
In a recent conversation with Jamie, a single mother who works three jobs to keep her family in the neighborhood that is best for them where she feels safe, easy access to schools and to her jobs, she shared her story with me. In addition to her workload, Jamie volunteers in the community and is a “Team Mom” for one of her daughter’s activities. She places so much pressure on herself, and what she shared is that maybe she isn’t working as smart as she could be. So, I asked her what she thought about changing the saying from, “Work smarter, not harder” to “Work smarter, take the pressure off.” Her first and immediate response was, “I have never given myself permission to take the pressure off.”
I am not saying that we don’t have to work hard or that we shouldn’t work hard. As a matter of fact, the compromise in work ethic in some areas is becoming a different problem and a topic for a future column. What I am advocating is that for those of us who work hard, maybe having multiple responsibilities within our existing job or holding down two or three jobs and volunteering, we need to take the pressure off of ourselves.
Here is what I have found. For many of us who try and work at this pace and spread ourselves too thin, we begin to second guess our work and our accomplishments. We start to put even more unnecessary pressure on ourselves to make sure what we do is accurate, excellent and maybe even strive for perfection. I have also found that many of us are performing far above anyone else’s expectations, so we become our own worst enemy with our self-imposed expectations. We have to take the pressure off.
Finding balance is the key. I know, maybe easy to say and hard to do, I get it. If this is a problem area for you, send me an email and we can talk about it.
Setting boundaries around time, family, activities in life that bring joy and happiness, taking care of ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually, these are all things that we must maintain. If we don’t, then there is no way to keep up with the rush and crush of our current schedules. Sooner or later we will lose the battle if all we are doing is trying to keep up the pace of someone else’s race. We need to give ourselves permission to take the pressure off.
So how about you? Is it time to take the pressure off for yourself a little? Maybe a lot? Or have you figured out your “Work smarter, and take the pressure off” strategy? Either way, I would love to hear your story at firstname.lastname@example.org and when we set our own boundaries, run our own race and take the pressure off, it really will be a better-than-good week.
Michael Norton is the president of the Zig Ziglar Corporate Training Solutions Team, a strategic consultant, business and personal coach and motivational speaker. He writes a weekly motivational column for the Vail Daily.