Tuesday, January 24, 2012

For A Particular Navy Buddy - Once Retired; Now Rehired

The Navy culture celebrates the idea of the workaholic. We hear about people burning the midnight oil. They pull all-nighters and sleep at the office. It's considered a badge of honor to kill yourself over a project. No amount of work is too much work.

Not only is this workaholism unnecessary, it's stupid. Working more doesn't mean you care more or get more done. It just means you work more.

Workaholics wind up creating more problems than they solve. First off, working like that just isn't sustainable over time. When the burnout crash comes--and it will--it'll hit that much harder.  Workaholics miss the point, too. They try to fix problems by throwing sheer hours at them. They try to make up for intellectual laziness with brute force. This results in inelegant solutions. They even create crises. They don't look for ways to be more efficient because they actually like working overtime. They enjoy feeling like heroes. They create problems (often unwittingly) just so they can get off on working more.

Workaholics make the people who don't stay late feel inadequate for "merely" working reasonable hours. That leads to guilt and poor morale all around. Plus, it leads to an ass-in-seat mentality--people stay late out of obligation, even if they aren't really being productive.

If all you do is work, you're unlikely to have sound judgments. Your values and decision making wind up skewed. You stop being able to decide what's worth extra effort and what's not. And you wind up just plain tired. No one makes sharp decisions when tired.

In the end, workaholics don't actually accomplish more than non workaholics. They may claim to be perfectionists, but that just means they're wasting time fixating on inconsequential details instead of moving on to the next task.

Workaholics aren't heroes. They don't save the day, they just use it up. The real hero is already home because she figured out a faster way to get things done.

From Jason Fried's excellent e-book REWORK.

I acknowledge my own guilt here.  If you see yourself in this post, there is still time to change.  Someone you love is waiting for you at home.  Leave now.


CWO4 Brian Ashpole, USN- Retired said...

It's amazing how one's perspective changes after life in service. Having a surface warfare background, I've watched SWOs literally work themselves into a state of confusion where "nose to the grindstone" has actually resulted in missed deadlines. Priorities get out of whack.
I remember standing in line outside the XO's stateroom door just to get a routine message released. He would get downright mad at me when I showed up with multiple messages for release - I told him that my goal was effective time management.
To this day, I have a hard time with people who feel that it's okay to waste my time and then I'm late getting out the door.
As I've gotten older, my priorities have become more focused towards God, Family, and then everything else. I'm not even sure where work is on the priority list. I just know that I enjoy what I do and want to do it as efficiently and as timely as I can so that I can get home to the family. I really do "work for the weekend."
I will also add that I like to get in early so that I can leave early. Some managers don't notice when you get in but sure notice when you leave.

Mark said...

You're talking about our friend Steve aren't you?

LCDR Woodruff said...

The other sad fact of the matter is that when people are workaholics they leave nothing in reserve for the few times a year when extra effort is needed on a short-fused project that was due yesterday. When you have nothing in reserve you have no way to surge to meet truly prioritized and well thought out deadlines.

Eric said...

I am happy to say that this has never been a problem here on the COMPACFLT staff where we have "aloha Wednesdays and Fridays".

Rocky said...

I spat out my coffee when I saw this this morning.

Anonymous said...

You'd better not be talking about me !!

Anonymous said...

I'd respond to this but I am too busy.

Anonymous said...

In his book, The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferris says, “Slow down and remember this: Most things make no difference. Being busy is often a form of mental laziness – lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.” This is Ferris’ way of saying “work smarter, not harder,” which happens to be one of the most prevalent modern day personal development clichés. But like most clichés, there’s a great deal of truth to it, and few people actually adhere to it.

Just take a quick look around. The busy outnumber the productive by a wide margin.

Busy people are rushing all over the place, and running late half of the time. They’re heading to work, conferences, meetings, social engagements, etc. They barely have enough free time for family get-togethers and they rarely get enough sleep. Yet, business emails are shooting out of their smart phones like machine gun bullets, and their daily planner is jammed to the brim with obligations.

Their busy schedule gives them an elevated sense of importance. But it’s all an illusion. They’re like hamsters running on a wheel.

The solution: Slow down. Breathe. Review your commitments and goals. Put first things first. Do one thing at a time. Start now. Take a short break in two hours. Repeat.

And always remember, results are more important than the time it takes to achieve them.

Anonymous said...

Mister Anonymous, January 26, 2012 10:20 AM

Your words:

“Slow down and remember this: Most things make no difference. Being busy is often a form of mental laziness – lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.”
“work smarter, not harder,”

By the same token being busy and productive makes a world of difference to the people around you as it will produce a smaller work load on them. I happen to be a person that has a relative as a large grocery chain manager, and this lady says “work smarter, not harder” nearly every time I have an occasion to converse with her. But then she turns right around and says such things as customer complaints are something that she pays no attention to. I disagree with this philosophy, the customer is the only reason she exists in that job.

You were never on a farm, mister, otherwise you would understand most of your work required that you work rapidly and efficiently, you milked the cows when it was required and at the proper time, as well as feeding the stock and harvesting the grain when it was time. I was raised in the mountains of Colorado and this was a very unforgiving territory as it was winter weather for more than 6 months of the year. Did you ever hear the saying “Make hay while the sun shines” a farmer or rancher had to live by those words or he may not have the hay to feed his cattle in the winter. Do you have any idea what happens to hay that has been rained on? Do you think this level of folks did not have to make all possible haste when it was necessary?

I was lucky, I left the farm and “Make hay when the sun shines” philosophy, but that feeling was engrained with that work ethic before I became a Sailor, and I found as I advanced in rate as an enlisted man in the Navy, and that a superior work ethic was a standard unachieved by few and recognized by most. I worked harder than most of my contemporaries and achieved more over the years due to that attitude and work ethic, I find nothing wrong with what I accomplished in my 24 years of Navy service. You may try to diminish that effort with your words of distain for hard working individuals, with your particular wrong thinking ideas, but in my Navy career I or any other person that I worked for, or with, will attest to hard work and perseverance, as a key to maintaining proper efforts, in performing one’s duty to their Shipmates and to their Country.


Anonymous said...

No one can burn the candle at both ends for more than a handful of years without burning out. I have witnessed some of the best and brightest minds in my industry crash and burn from overwork. More often than not, working more hours does not result in increased output—it results in reduced quality! People who are overworked tend to produce shoddy work products that require rework; therefore, causing deadlines to be missed on critical paths, which, in turn, wreak havoc on a project’s schedule.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, Feb. 1 2012 3:01 PM

No one should be required to burn the candle at both ends, but everyone should be required to put in an honest effort to do what they can to uphold their responsibilities of position. All of you folks that are satisfied to do the minimum are taking over the world and that is not what our society or background taught us years ago. I have no idea who you are Anonymous but when you make such statements as;

“More often than not, working more hours does not result in increased output—it results in reduced quality! People who are overworked tend to produce shoddy work products that require rework; therefore, causing deadlines to be missed on critical paths, which, in turn, wreak havoc on a project’s schedule.

You are out in left field as the old saying goes, what do you think made America the greatest country in the world? It certainly was not the attitude that one should not extend every effort at their disposal to make a decent living, provide for their family, and advance in whatever occupation they choose by working hard to achieve their goals. These attributes at one time in our country were honored and respected, but today when one of six folks are on welfare and many have been subsiding on those benefits for years it seems an easy way for people to exist. That is not the way we were raised years ago, sir, it was understood that everyone must pull their fair share. If your position at work allows that you to only coast through the day’s work, then that is ok, but if you accept a position that requires much more work you should live up to those responsibilities. If one is unable to live up to the responsibilities of this life, then I expect they just drop out.