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Work less, do more?

Today, i decided to screw it and just head home to have dinner with my family.

It was a strange feeling, leaving the office as the remnants of the day’s sunlight creeps below the horizon and the sky is still visibly blue. Hello evening sky, it has certainly been awhile.

How many nights had i walked out to the cab stand, long after the pitter patter of pedestrian footfalls faded from the streets.

Today, it felt different. It was surreal- actually squeezing in with the evening rush on the bus on a weekday night. At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, i started seeing things i usually ignored. Like Boon’s Pottery at Tanglin Place, and the newspaper article tacked to its window.

Introducing Chua Siang Boon
Owner, and the ‘Boon’ in ‘Boon’s Pottery’, Mr Chua always held a fascination with ceramics (go figure). At 35, Boon decided to finally be who he is and quit his family business to take up pottery. 10 years later, he is the proud owner of a gallery, and has done art pieces for Ministers and Dignitaries.

Moral of the story?
i) you can still give it all up and pursue your passion at 35
ii) you can make a living and derive happiness from your interest
iii) even if your interest includes pottery (no judgment here)

You see, i wouldnt have come across Mr Boon and his pottiness had i not decided to leave early and take the bus instead of slumping into the back of the cab, exhausted from another 12 hour work day.

Which brings me back, after much meandering, to the point of this post.

Is it possible to work less and yet do more?
It would seem so. I know of at least one person who has accomplished superb results and peak performance without being subjugated to the hamster wheel. They’re happy, deliver results, and yet find time for themselves.

In the meantime, iv got the majority of last year’s leave unclaimed. And for the times i do take leave (never more than 2 days for the past 6 months-i even worked on my birthday)

i) the week before going on vacation is spent working late nights to clear backlog
ii) the vacation is spent worrying about something exploding while im gone
iii) returning to the office involved clearing through tonnes of unread email and catching up on stuff that might/might not have exploded

This is not sustainable. There must be a better way.

There never seems to enough time
And there always seems to be more stuff coming. Projects just keep sprouting legs (nay, they keep sprouting TENTACLES), growing like hideous hydras, overflowing the confines of the original brief.

Imagine agreeing to rear a puppy, and then having to see it grow daily into a freakin Chimera (go look it up) that just consumes all of your time and energy. Ya, that’s what it feels like for me.

Working longer
So if there isnt enough office time to get stuff done, then the solution would be to work longer hours right?

Since the start of 2011 i set a new rule: Every Monday is work late Monday. I.e i do not leave the office before 9pm (i usually stay til 10). Then Work Late Monday became Work Late Tuesdays as well. Eventually, i stopped telling my Dad if im working late.

That was the default arrangement. Heading home for dinner was the exception

There must be a better, smarter way
Doesnt seem to be the long term solution. Im burning the candle at both ends and im running out of wax. Obviously digging in every night aint working coz im still falling behind. So increased duration is not working.

Introducing Parkinson’s Law
“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”
—–Cyril Northcote Parkinson—-

How so often have we delivered our best work under tight deadlines. Experiences like this serve as one of the greatest justification for procrastination:

i need the stress in order to perform”

So we sit on our asses until the 11th hour and then panic.

What’s the point here
The point is not to get stressed, the idea is to budget small amounts of time and be highly focused in your delivery, zooming in at the essentials rather than wasting time on superfluous fluff.

Last week i was tasked with preparing Powerpoint to present to the Chief. A process like this typically requires a week of drafting, fine tuning, refinement and QC.

This time i was given 2 days. and over my birthday to boot. FML

I churned out slides in record time, they were on topic, focused, and didnt meet with much resistance.

This week’s workplace experiment
The idea is to be highly focused on high value areas, areas that are critical to the success of my project. and then assign short (but reasonable) timelines for their completion.

1) Resist the urge to deal with a large issue/ problem with an equally large amount of time

2) Leave office at 7pm each day, no matter what, and force yourself to finish all your critical tasks in the time given. Skip lunch if you have to. This way, you wont have the excuse of “il be working late” to artificially bloat the amount of time you spend on getting stuff done.

I got home today in time to see my 2 yr old nephew. he didnt expect to see me, and was audibly delighted to. I got to eat a warm meal at home, play with the kids, and watch the older one do his Ben 10 dance.

Life is good. And it really doesnt have to be that hard.


About lionelsnotes

I started ranting in Facebook notes, now il just rant here instead. Seems...neater


One thought on “Work less, do more?

  1. I’m happy for you, Lionel. Keep working smart and try to lay off the chemical stuff.

    Posted by Laremy | June 28, 2011, 3:26 pm

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