The Mad Myth of the 150% Give

All rights reserved  © Melanie Harvard – the uncommon coach TM

Recently I quit a job of over 20 years . . .

There were various reasons – mostly it was just way past time for a change. But one of the things which pushed me over the edge – was sitting in a corporate meeting and being asked to give 150%.

Now – I am both a realist and a bit selfish – of my time, self and energy. I am also 46, an entirely solo mother of 2, working in one job or another since the age of 12 (yes 12 – in those days it was allowed), I am rather tired, and sick of people’s bullshit.

Also – and correct me if I’m wrong, because honestly as my grade 3 teacher said “Harvard, your addition leaves a LOT to be desired!” isn’t 100% the MOST you can have?

So, must I work myself to death for people who can’t even add?

I have come far since grade 3 and can certainly count and calculate simple percentages. So, doesn’t that put me in a prime position to do better, perhaps, than those who can’t?

Giving 150% reminds me of Henry Ford churning cars out on a production line. But we are not robots! And there is more to life than simply increasing some production figure.

HUMANS need to find a healthy work-life balance. Humans are maybe not as reliable and consistent as machines – but we have the creativity and the pizazz to conceptualise and then create these machines. It is our minds, our creativity, our ingenuity and curiosity which set us apart.

We can’t all quit our jobs today, and sail out into the blue yonder – as tempting as that may be.

But we CAN start making small and significant changes to our thinking and our doing that makes our lives better:

  1. Explode the ‘harder/more is better’ mindset. This thinking comes from previous generations and a VERY different work/life context. We now have technology and a way of life that our parents and their parents could barely have dreamt of. To help you unpack your limiting beliefs here, look at areas of your life where you have had to put maximum effort and ask these questions?
    1. Was this something I LOVED to do or had a passion for?
    1. Was the effort worth it?
    1. Did the effort result in measurable and linear rewards (ie for every extra hour you achieved an extra reward)?
    1. If not, was there perhaps a DIFFERENT way of doing things which might have resulted in more success?
    1. Why did this thing take so much effort?
    1. Would it have been better for me to put effort into something else instead?
  • When something feels hard and it takes all your effort – maybe that thing is not your thing. Instead of putting tons of effort into a ‘weak’ area – consider how much more you could achieve if you put this effort into a strength you have.

The harder you push or force a thing (including yourself), often the less progress you make. Where you feel excitement, ease, flow and joy – THAT is where you invest your energy.

It’s like asking a fish to climb a tree – if you force yourself or another to behave against their true nature and abilities – you are just creating a bunch of extra work for everyone.

I am big on task redistribution. If I see a person can maybe do a thing, but it is not their strength – I will quickly re-allocate as much as possible. That way I keep my staff happy, motivated, productive AND save time, frustration and money on all the fixups and extra management required when a person is forced into a task where they don’t have skill, ability or interest. I do this at home too, and apply it to myself and my family and home team.

  • Ask yourself where you can create more EASE and simplicity in your life.
    • Where can you ask for help? What can you delegate, get rid of or automate?
    • What is taking a lot of your time for minimal results? (see a)
    • Do you even know why you do a thing a certain way? Have things changed and the system not caught up yet? Question where your process needs to catch up or is outdated.
  • Examine your work biorhythms
    • Are you taking time to stop, breathe, think? Looking busy is SO yesterday’s news. If you are in, or manage, an environment where looking busy is rewarded you are rewarding presenteeism and working STUPID. People need time and space to think, process and create. ALLOW it!
    • Look at how you manage your productive time – we are not machines and do not produce 100% 24/7. We are also all different. Some people are night owls, some are not etc.

What time of day do you do your best work? Don’t try force your best during periods you know will take way more effort. Schedule more mindless tasks for your non-productive cycles – or better yet, do something completely different or REST. For me, early morning between 6 and about 10 is my best time for thinking, whereas 2 – 6pm is better for talking and interacting with people. It takes a different kind of energy and I have gotten to know myself enough to now pace and schedule my days accordingly to be usefully productive.

  • Break your day up with regular quick meditations (literally sitting at your desk, counting and breathing works for this, or a quick walk around the block, focussing on your feet and steps). You can also watch a quick TED talk/youtube, read, or anything else which breaks the main activity and gives you a chance to recharge and remotivate if needed.
  • Get your basics right
    • Are you looking after your body so it can look after you? Eating breakfast, lunch, snacks; resting when needed, drinking water (not coffee or tea all the time) and so on.
    • Look after your heart and soul – do something for YOU, that you like to do, as often as possible. Self-care is not about taking a bubble bath! It is more to do with feeding your mind, heart and soul. The things I like to do for this are writing, creating, playing music, dancing and getting outdoors. For others it could be playing a computer game, gymming or socialising etc. Again – go with what feels good for YOU not what everybody says you SHOULD be doing. You will know what your self-care things are because these things re-energise you! Self care is making sure you allow for these things as often as possible, if not every day, so that you don’t start feeling drained.
    • Look at where you are allocating your 100% – between work, family, friends and social, health, spiritual, play, rest, and so on. There are plenty lovely work/life balance tools on the web. Find a balance that works for YOU and communicate this to everyone in your life so that their expectations don’t rule (and ruin) your happiness.
  • Question the way things are. Just because we’ve ALWAYS done it this way doesn’t mean it’s the best way now.
    • Consider an altered workday – many workplaces are open to flexi-hours or virtual teams. Living Monday to Friday, 9-5pm is very limiting and limited. Most things can be done via the cloud, phone, skype etc.  TRUST is key – but I have yet to be let down by a person allowed to operate in this space. In fact, I often get a lot more from them.
    • Consider a virtual team – Why waste resources on office space, petrol, travel time etc if not necessary?  What is the reason you need everyone at a fixed address every day?
    • Consider the nature of work – many people are no longer ‘employed full-time’ by one employer but contract and do many gigs at a time.
    • Work as play – if you can find ‘work’ that feels more like play – for goodness sake DO IT! That is your THING! You are the fish who is giving up on trees and jumping into a nice, cool river . . . if you can’t do that right now (because BILLS, right) then plan how you could start moving towards this. Can you restructure your existing job, ask your company to move you into the department or job focus where your true strengths lie, or start shifting your daily tasks by adding more river and less tree?

Because we are all so different – there will still be enough accountants, lawyers, plumbers and secretaries . . .  we won’t all be giving up our day jobs to become massage therapists or zen navel gazers. But if navel gazing is your thing, and you can work out how to make a living out of it, for goodness sake do it.

We are able to work SMARTER not harder. So why don’t we?

Who does this 150%-thinking benefit? (really sit with this question)

Yes – I can see you die-hard, hockey-sticks workaholics gravely shaking your beards in the back. “What’s wrong with a bit of Karoshi (Japanese for dying at your desk),” you say as you rub the coins in your pocket together. Well – in my book that’s either mercenary or masochistic depending on your vantage point.

The reality though is that I am not prepared to give more than about 12%, on a good day . . . perhaps 15% if someone is on fire and I need to put them out.  And being fairly lazy (or is that tired) – I will find the best, most efficient way to maximise that 12% and get the job done. I believe lazy people are the new black in the employment market.

In my coaching business – it being a passion, skill and interest – I can summon up as much energy as I want. Possibly even a firm 60-70%, leaving some for life and my kids. I am free to choose this percentage though and not ra-ra’d into it by some clueless dollar-chaser for their own benefit.

Give someone else my precious – and impossible – 150%?

I . . . don’t . . . want to. That is NOT the world I want to live in.

I want to be a person – not a robot!

I want to smell some flowers – or at least some fresh (ish) air, feel the sun on my face occasionally, and LIVE a life I choose . . . And if anyone had bothered to find out, money, fame and a company award after 50 years of economic slavery does NOT motivate me.

For me, money is a tool to get me the lifestyle I want. I value people, relationships, quality of life and freedom.

Things which I am hearing more and more from others too.

If I can live closer to my values – and build these into my working life, I will – and I have.

A different way of being is possible . . .


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