6 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Work Too Hard For Your Job

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Many people have the preconception that Millennials are lazy. They think that the concept of “work” for Millennials is different: Millennials don’t see 10-12 hour days at the office productive. They want to work from the coffee shop down the street, because they “feel” better there. They want to be judged only by results, not by the amount of time and effort they appear to have put into a project. This is a huge paradigm shift which members of older generations have difficulty making.

No matter if this stereotype is true or not, research is beginning to support this style of working – working hard does not automatically translate to productivity. Here are 6 reasons to explain why less may actually be more.

1. Working Long Hours Decreases Productivity

Working from “dawn to dusk” has been a norm for thousands of years. Yet it was until Henry Ford’s study in 1926 that people’s conception of work began to change.

Henry Ford discovered that by reducing the working hours to 8 and the working days to 5, workers would become more productive. His studies did not fall on deaf ears. His study contributed to laws regulating the number of working days and working hours. Employers were hence required to to pay for overtime work.

More recent studies by the U.S. military show that losing sleep and working longer hours will adversely affect cognition – the ability to learn, think, and reason – over time. So, if you are one of those people who are used to working long after everyone else has left the office, you should be aware that your productivity and your ability to think and reason will be reduced accordingly as well. (along with your joie de vivre).

2. Promotion is not Based on the Number of Hours You Have Worked

The traditional thinking goes: “If I really work hard; if I stay late at the office every night; if I keep busy all day and don’t “chat around the water cooler” like the others, my boss will notice that. Then, when an opening for a promotion comes, I’ll be selected.” If you think in this way, unfortunately, you may be misguided.

This is what your boss may be thinking: “Bob is a hard worker. I really appreciate his dedication to getting that project finished by the deadline. On the other hand, why is it taking him so many more hours? Jane seems to get the same types of projects completed during normal working hours, and hers are just as complete and of the same quality level.”

When it is time for promotion, your boss may also think: “Bob is such a hard worker. I know that he will work even harder with this promotion, but how many more hours can he work? Jane seems to manage time better and get more done in a shorter period of time. She can handle more responsibilities. Jane is the best pick.”

The message is sad, but true – the number of hours you work is not important to your bosses.

3.  It is More Important to Prioritise than to Execute

It seems that the more we work, the more chances we have to perform, and the more we will receive gratitudes and thanks. Again, this is not necessarily true.

What happens may actually be this: People may just find you for all the unimportant tasks because you never refuse.

It is important to set priorities and say “no” to those requests that are just time-wasters. Turn people down assertively but appropriately. Say, “I’m sorry. I don’t have the time to do that.” As Warren Buffet once said: “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.”

4. Refusing to Succumb to “Down-Time” at Work Doesn’t Make You More Admirable

We call these people “workaholics.” They refuse to participate in “down-time” activities at work because they are either obsessively driven or they believe that it wastes the company’s time. Besides, staying at one’s desk “looks” better to bosses.

You may “brown bag” your lunch and eat at your desk. You may refuse invitations to take a break with others in the staff lounge. All of this does not make you admired. You are seen by co-workers as unfriendly and perhaps a “brown-noser”.

Refusing to allow yourself some down time meaning you become less productive as the day wears on, and if there is really critical work for your afternoon, you will lack the energy to attack it well. Then you stay late or go home with work. It’s a vicious cycle.

You will not be any less thought of if you take down time. Even the most successful minds of this world need to relax. For instance:

  • Winston Churchill took a nap every afternoon and no one was allowed to disturb that. He insisted that he had a much more productive work day because of it.
  • Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Reagan all took afternoon naps. Kennedy had lunch in bed and slept afterward.
  • John D. Rockefeller took a nap every day in his office.

A number of smart people take down time to engage in personal activities that are totally unrelated to work at all, just to put their brains on something else and because they have other interests. One executive had quite a portfolio with SEIS Investment, and used his downtime to study market trends and contemplate any new investments he might want to make. This was “fun” for him. Identify what is “fun” or relaxing for you and schedule some time in the middle of your workday for that.

Bottom line – having down-time isn’t unproductive or makes you look “worse”. It’s the necessary activity (or lack of such) that your brain needs!

5. Doing Everything Yourself, and Putting in Long Hours to do that, Doesn’t Breed Admiration

Every organization has these types of people. Their basic approach to tasks and projects is this:

  • To get something done right, they will need to do it all themselves.
  • They need to control every detail of a project from start to finish
  • They cannot trust others to complete their parts well and on time
  • Asking for help makes them look weak and less capable
  • If they do it all themselves, they will have more admiration and respect

If this sounds like you, understand that inability to delegate or micro-managing every detail of a project is two things: – exhausting and a real “negative” to subordinates, co-workers and to bosses.

Subordinates believe that you do not trust them. Co-workers believe that you are a “glory-seeker” and bosses believe that you are not executive material. If you are trying to impress everyone with your dedication to every detail of a project, understand that you are really getting the opposite!

6. Being a Perfectionist Means Long Hours without Reward

We all want our work to be right. And we want it to be approved of by our superiors. When we carry this to an extreme, however, this is what happens:

  • We continue to second-guess ourselves, creating our own stress
  • We continue to re-work, re-write, re-do because our attitude is that it can always be better
  • We believe that perfection is actually attainable, if we just put in more hours, work a bit longer and harder
  • A perfect work product means that we will have admiration and respect that will move us forward on our career ladder

The truth is this:

  • The more time we spend seeking perfection, the less productive we are
  • Superiors wonder what is taking so long and begin to wonder if the “job” is just too much for you
  • Perfection is a nice goal but is never really achieved. The goal is to complete a project that meets the goals of the project and the organization. Spending hours of time re-writing every sentence of a proposal or report; continuing to seek additional research to back up the great research you already have; these things are just unproductive and time-wasters.