The Hard Worker’s Trap

I can be an impatient person. When I start something often I’m eager to see it finished. Sometimes when I go to a  concert I’m already excited about having the event as a memory. When I encounter an emergency I want to divert all my attention to it right away and get it solved as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately projects, emergencies, and concerts can’t be rushed. Most things have a minimum amount of time in which they can be done. Whether they’re limited by the speed of dollars, communication, or simply time itself. If we don’t work within this limitation there is a danger of creating excessive motion. This means at its best wasted energy and resources at its worst it means creating more problems in a space that is already challenged.

Being a hard worker I’m familiar with what this can look like. When faced with a difficult situation, the hard worker wants to do what they’re best at; get in there, roll up their sleeves and start working on something — anything. The hard-working supervisor tries to solve their supply problem by inserting herself into the workforce. The hard-working controller tries to solve a financial crises by analyzing every line of the budget. This type of behaviour can easily become the busy-work version of wringing your hands. It feels good to be ‘doing’ something. Driving 3 times the distance to avoid a 20 minute traffic jam – even if it takes twice as long as the delay – is preferred by many motorists.

Sometimes us doers need to take a breath. The truth is that slow, thoughtful, and effective moves of the right size in the right moment beat over-active ‘doing’ every time. A supervisor needs to keep their eyes open and supervise. The accountant needs to examine the big picture and find thousands of dollars not tens. Twenty minutes of traffic jam might be a great time to catch up on your audio books.

Be mindful when the emergency comes. A calm mind is better able to see the big picture and respond to it strategically. Don’t fall into the hard-worker’s trap.