Keep Things in Perspective

It’s not uncommon in the working world to have a ‘To-Do’ list which is difficult to manage.

It’s not uncommon for your organization (or boss) to keep piling extra work on you without really understanding that you’re already up to your ears in work and can’t really manage any more.

Perhaps you don’t do yourself any favors either because when you’re asked if you have room for a new task or a little more work you accept it. Perhaps you don’t fully know your own to-do list, or in the moment you forgot some of your commitments which would make completing the new task on time difficult.

Maybe your boss is a bit of a bully or puts too much pressure on you. Maybe your colleagues do. Perhaps you don’t get on with some of your colleagues. Maybe problems in your personal life are affecting your work and making things difficult.

All of the above things and many many more can result in making working life uncomfortable from time to time. It’s up to you to judge if it’s too much and there’s something you need to do about it. This section is all about improving your working life, mainly around being more efficient but as a result, also having a lot less stress in the workplace.

This particular lesson is something you can easily do as a first step: Keep things in perspective.

Because work is such a huge part of most of our lives it is natural that it becomes important to us. There is nothing wrong with this. However, letting it become TOO important can be dangerous. It’s easily done. Most people, especially those in a position of authority, end up placing far too much importance on any given task in the workplace. This, in turn, can be fuelled by others in the workplace doing the same.

It’s a tricky balance.

A Real World Example

Perhaps an example would help:

I once worked with a relatively senior manager in a large corporate company.

One of this senior manager’s key tasks was to produce a monthly report which some internal clients used. Because the senior manager was already in a position of some authority, it was without question to him and to everyone that worked for him or closely to him (like myself) that this was a very important monthly report.

The report was prepared at the end of each month. The amount of stress caused at the end of each month around the production of this report was unbelievable. People had to work extremely long hours, often into the early hours of the morning, preparing this one-page report.

Now, I’m not saying this wasn’t an important report.

Perhaps it was.

In the senior manager’s world (i.e. he who was responsible for the report) it was everything. One of his main reasons for being in the working environment. He made his sub-ordinates life hell to ensure that the report was perfect each month. Because the report took on such mammoth importance, a large number of his employees would end up getting very stressed as the end of the month approached and they knew the end of month reporting cycle would start all over again. The bizarre thing was that they always ended up working very long hours every month without fail despite how prepared they thought they were each time.

In the clients world, this was one of many reports they received. They didn’t look at all of them, but had access to the information in many different reports should they need it. What would the impact be if one month that one report in question from our senior manager was missing? Negligible. The world would continue to turn and and it certainly wouldn’t adversely affect their activity because in the absence of the report, should they really need the information that was needed in the report they could probably ring up the senior manager and get the same information on the phone (not as convenient as the report being there on their desk when they need it but in an exceptional situation if the report was missing, they could still get the information).

In the world of the staff that work for the senior manager, they probably would think that it was the end of the world if that report didn’t go out on time, and in a perfect state every month – because they had all been conditioned to believe this.

In this example, in my opinion, the amount of stress and over-work caused for which should really be a simple job (the report is produced the same way by the same people every month) is disproportionate.

Final Thoughts – Why This Is Important

The above example is not unusual. It’s pretty common in fact.

It describes a huge waste of time and of resources.

… and some mis-guided perspectives.

I know of a couple of more extreme examples which I could cite where whole organizations of people had to work every month to produce much bigger monthly reports which weren’t even looked at by the people they were sent to!! The reason I use the above example is because it’s the example that just tips the balance, not extreme by any means, and quite common, but an example where a lot of people could save themselves a lot of time and effort, and stress, by keeping things in perspective just a little more.

The work still needs to be done. You need to maintain your integrity and do a good job. You need to spend the appropriate amount of time on things – BUT – don’t get yourself into a state of panic un-necessarily.

Focus on spending the right amount of time on things and giving them the priority they need.

Ask for help if you need it.

Act in a mature manner and ask those around you to do the same.

If something can’t be finished today, do you really need to work through the night to finish it? Can someone else help?

Past a certain point and things will start to work against you. The task will seem harder and harder. If you work long hours on something your rate of productivity will drop. Often it is easier to leave a problem and return to it the next morning with a fresh pair of eyes – and this is probably more acceptable than you imagined.

Keep things in perspective and you will make room to spend the time you need on the things that really are important, whilst not over-working the things that aren’t.


Keep Things in Perspective — 3 Comments

  1. Alan,
    what a great example. I’m sure everyone who reads this can relate to your real world example. both in work and in their home life. I have a bunch of busy work i do which prevents me from doing the real work that helps my bottom line. (whatever that bottom line is).
    One simple thing i do that really helps me keep things in perspective is to write down three things everyday that I want to do. (the power of three) that are important to some goals.
    It helps keep me in check and often keeps me from straying off to do that busy work that can be good but really isn’t always necessary. It works most of the time. It took me about a month or two to get used to this process but now it’s just like brushing my teeth. I always do it.

  2. Yes! Perspective is a life changer. Oh my gosh, I just realized how out of perspective that sentence could be. šŸ™‚
    Funny thing is, I see what you are talking about all the time. Isn’t it wild that we laugh about babies thinking the universe revolves around them and then proceed as if the universe actually revolves around me or my job or my family or my team or whatever.

    • Hey Yvonne,

      thanks! yes, it’s easy to get caught up in our own problems, and we’re also influenced by our own ‘filters’ when we form opinions or impressions of others too – i.e. we usually react to a given moment but of course don’t know what else is happening in their lives.

      there’s a lot to be gained by slowing down, knowing that our view of the world is just our view of the world and not necessarily everybody’s, forgiving others & trying to see their positive intentions, living in the moment and focusing on what we can change and, well, keeping things in perspective šŸ˜‰

      thanks again for the kind words!!

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