When to Put the Brakes on Extra Work

By | September 16, 2014

Kool Derby

Most successful people are high-charging individuals craving even more work. When their plates are full, they add more servings. The fact is that they find it difficult to turn down additional work, even when in a salaried position.

Of course, managers must be cognizant of workload, but given the pressing deadlines faced in today’s companies, nearly everyone must assume additional duties. Generally speaking, this means working evenings and weekends.

I’m the type of person that loves to work, even if it means going beyond the normal workday. At home, I might review my Inbox a couple times before calling it a day, or even make a few phone calls that need to get done. Once this culture of accountability takes hold, it’s tough to let go of it.

However, too much work is a detriment to both you and the organization, and it’s important to know your limits. To do great work, you must stay focused on specific projects and activities. In other words, multitasking can decrease productivity. It’s the concept of starting-and-stopping, which causes inefficiencies.

#1: Know what you can do.

In all likelihood, I’m not going to wire the electricity for a home. For me, changing a light bulb is a stretch, so doing any type of electrical work is the wrong type of work. At your office, you might be assigned to participate on a project involving advanced programming skills. While you have basic coding knowledge, you are not prepared to handle this type of work activity. You must make it clear to your manager that you might not be a good fit, and you can try these comments:

  • “Ron, it appears this project calls for JavaScript, and I only know basic HTML. While I can learn some of the coding, it’s probably best to find someone who has direct skills with JavaScript.”
  • “Linda, part of this work initiative is to make presentations to government officials. I have limited knowledge of the product, and this might present an issue during the presentations. I recommend we look for someone who has the direct product knowledge, especially since there are regulatory hoops to overcome before this product goes to market.”

#2: Suggest a participant role.

I’m by no means stating that you should avoid accepting challenges. There are times when you must tackle a big project, and even manage an overload. However, the work hours are limited, and pushing yourself too much disrupts the work/personal life balance.

When you’re not able to take the lead on a project or other work initiative, offer to play a participatory role. You can help knockdown budget-related barriers, or you can provide your subject matter expertise when necessary. If you offer to take on this role, it’s imperative that you follow through.

Some think that looking busy means they are getting work done, but a frantic pace fails to guarantee success. You need to have a purpose, and be clear with the requirements. If you have three major projects this year, prioritize them, and pick one to launch.

Keep it simple … measure it … and good things will happen.

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