Imagine you’re hard at work and things are going well. Someone comes by and asks you the best way to spend the next 15 minutes of your day. How would you answer?
You’d probably say, “stay focused on the job”. After all, there’s a lot to do, you’re an achiever, and you’re in the flow. It’s all about producing quality results quickly and reliably. Oh, and being creative and collaborative at the same time.
Most of the time, that’s exactly the right answer.
But, if that’s your choice every time, it can become the wrong one.
How seemingly right choices can lead you astray
Let’s put this in the context of a decision tree. The right branch is “stay focused on the job” and the left branch is “do something different”. At each point in time, “stay focused” seems like the right thing to do.
But always making the short-term right decision will land you all the way on the right side of the tree when your objective is to get to the top.
So, just as your strengths taken to extremes become your weaknesses, making the same choice time after time can also lead you astray.
Why focusing solely on your job can derail your career
In my experience, there are seven reasons why staying focused solely on your job can derail your career. Here they are along with suggestions of what to do differently.
We tend to be more productive when we take breaks. Since productivity is an important part of delivering results, you’re better off doing something different on a regular basis to refresh your thinking power and energy banks.
Here’s where my mother’s concept of a “mini vacation” comes in handy – take a 2-5 minute break where you get up and walk around, or close your eyes and imagine you’re in your happy place.
Or it could be scheduling time to think about something not related to work, even if it’s just for 15 minutes. I always feel more refreshed when I come back to the job after a break.
We all have setbacks when it comes to our careers. If your sole focus is on your job, then career setbacks will be more of a struggle to bounce back from. That’s why it’s essential to have more going on in your life than just work.
What other outlets do you have in your life? Whether it’s family, friends, hobbies, physical activities, or other interests, make sure you carve out time for the rest of life beyond work.
Creativity and Innovation
Technology is driving the pace of change ever faster. So, there are big rewards for people who can come up with creative ideas and innovative approaches for finding solutions, serving customers and staying ahead of the competition.
When you focus solely on your job, you give up the chance to learn from what’s going on in other arenas and think broadly about how this could apply to your part of the world.
Giving yourself a change of scenery and the space to think and imagine can spur creativity, rather than being busy all the time with the tasks of your job.
You could couple this with another activity like having coffee with someone you haven’t seen in a while to talk about what they’re seeing in their business. Or taking a walk and letting your mind wander and make new connections.
Do you make time to think, to be in new environments, or to gain different experiences?
There’s nothing more boring than someone who only knows and thinks about one thing. And that applies to their work, no matter how interesting that work may be. Sooner or later, people get bored by the “one trick pony” and want to move onto something (or someone) new.
Just as with spurring your creativity, being interesting starts with having a variety of interests, experiences and outlets from which others can get ideas and inspiration.
When you have more on your mind than just your job, you’re also likely to be more interested in the work you do. Just as listening to your favorite song on replay all day, every day, would become boring, focusing solely on your work can quickly become too much of a good thing.
What activities could you add that would take your mind off of work so you come back refreshed and with interest?
Having worked in a job that takes 110% of your concentration just to stay on the horse, I can tell you that unless you make a conscious effort to focus on something beyond the job, you will lose touch with people.
Those relationships and connections are an important part of being successful in your career. On the home front, this applies doubly. One colleague ruined his marriage by focusing solely on his job, and in the aftermath, he ultimately lost that too.
If you’re strapped for time, you’ll need to be more discerning about who you want to stay connected with. But do stay connected. It will be a source of support, inspiration, creative ideas and future opportunity.
Being a Role Model
Several former colleagues were self-professed workaholics who dedicated their entire lives to the job. No family, no known hobbies, no distractions.
While that commitment helped them advance initially, they were the ones who tended to plateau in mid-career for all the reasons above.
They also were not seen as great role models by the next generations. Younger team members couldn’t relate to these one-dimensional colleagues, and certainly didn’t want to be like them. This made the juniors less positive about staying in the business and also less interested in working for those people.
What will you do?
Whether it’s for your personal benefit or the good of the team, don’t make the mistake of focusing solely on your job.
Instead, make the conscious choice to live a rich life, filled with multiple interests, opportunities and joy.
What adjustments do you need to make to live a full and rich life, and improve your career prospects at the same time?
Leave a comment to let me know.