Working on the Weekend

Do you know what it truly important and impactful in your work?

When I die, I want my epitaph to read, “I wish I worked more weekends instead of spending time with my loved ones.”

Of course, I am joking.

This reminds me of the scene from the movie Office Space. The boss, Bill Lumbergh, finds our protagonist, Peter, trying to sneak out the office unseen. Bill then asks Peter to come in on Saturday, and probably Sunday as well. The quiver of Peter’s lips betrays his gut wrenching, soul sucking despair.

I saw an interesting tweet last week about working on the weekend. The author was sharing her experiences in a thread that started with this opinion:

“Unpopular opinion: the best thing young people can do early in their careers is to work on the weekends.”

This kicked off a storm of protests from the Twitterverse. Some accused the author of promoting workaholism, some decried the evils of capitalism, and some thought that this was yet more VC’s pushing founders to the limits of their mental health. If she was right about anything, it was definitely an unpopular opinion.

As I shared the week before, there is a difference between pressing ahead and being pressed. The former is based on your internal drive to succeed, learn, build, and grow for yourself. That is a healthy expression of a growth mindset and provides the foundation for a successful life and career. The latter is a potentially toxic environment that induces stress, fear, and anxiety.

Sometimes however, our being pressed, pushed, and pressured can be a situation of our own making. I was reading a book recently called Essentialism. It made the point that in a world that tells us to do more with less, that maybe we should just be doing less.

Of all the things you are working on right now, what is truly important and necessary? For example, of those emails in your inbox, do all of them require a response? Or how about the items on your tasklist? Are those really the most impactful things you need to do?

A lot of our work is spent attaching importance to things, not because we deem them important, but because others want us to think they are important. This quote comes to mind when I think about the nature of work:

“If everything is important, then nothing is important. If everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority.”

  • Garr Reynolds

We have a dangerously imbalanced sense of priorities in our workplace. A lot of work is simply low impact busyness to maintain the theater of productivity, without being productive. This is why over 60% of a seller’s time is spent not with customers or engaged in revenue generating activities. Folks, what we have here is a failure to prioritize.

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One of the icons of the business publishing world, Jim Collins, who authored Good to Great and Built to Last, said this about the idea of priorities:

“If you have more than 3 priorities, then you don’t have any.”

  • Jim Collins, Author

This usually happens because we say yes to everything. To say no feels socially awkward or rude. However the only way to get out of our cycle of haphazard doing of stuff, we need to be clear on what we will and will not do:

“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.”

  • Steve Jobs

Here is the first step in gaining more control of your work and time. You need to understand what is truly important versus what is urgent. There is a concept called the Eisenhower Method attributed to former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who said:

“I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”

The grid below is an example of this concept. You draw a square with four quadrants and along one axis you indicate level of importance and a second axis shows urgency:

The things in the upper left hand quadrant have to be done. These are the proverbial all hands on deck issues like emergencies. However, where you want to spend more of your time are on the activities in the upper right hand that have a huge amount of influence in your ability to handle the urgent and important things. This is where you want to give yourself plenty of time to strategize, automate processes, and identify ways to eliminate excess work.

Conversely, you want to avoid spending time in the “Not Important” squares. Even the urgent things, because this is where other people try to impose work upon you with the type of activities that have limited outcomes and generate little value for you or your customers.

When you look at this grid, how are you allocating your time? Ask yourself this question this week, are you just doing work, or are you creating impact? If you find yourself doing the former, give yourself some time to reorganize your priorities.

Mark Birch, Founder of Enterprise Sales Forum

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