Doing your best work and doing your work are different. In the first case, there is an intention to work to your capacity. In the second case, you are merely engaged in an activity. Your best work is transformational, while simply going through the motions eliminates the possibility of meaningful, purposeful work.
Your best work takes greater time, greater energy, and greater focus. When you don’t believe you have time, or when you don’t want to invest your time in some outcome, you work is less than it should be.
Your energy and your focus are also variables to the quality of your work, with more of each improving your work. This is true whether your work is a client meeting, writing an email, or developing a new product.
It’s easy to punch the clock and go through the motions.
You can, for example, have your physical body in what should be an important meeting while your mind is somewhere else. You could believe you had a meeting, but the outcome was surely far less than it should have been. Maybe you just spent time in some place.
You can cut and paste the text from an email you have already written and send it to hundreds of people, lessening the impact because there was nothing personal or relevant to the recipients. You might believe that this prospecting, but without the effort, it wasn’t really prospecting.
When you do the same work over and over, it’s easy to lower your standard. Just like you no longer need to concentrate on driving to your office because your cerebellum knows the pattern and takes over, things that become rote tend to be put on autopilot.
What Matters Most
Not everything you do requires your best work. There are some investments that are more important than others. When interacting with other humans, the investment to do your best work and give them your time, energy, and focus is a worthwhile investment. You can even shut your laptop lid and turn off your phone to ensure you do your best work. But there are other tasks on your to do list that don’t require that level of attention and focus.
The key here is to know the difference between where your best work is necessary, where the impact and outcomes are most important, and strive to do transformational work. When some work is necessary but doesn’t make an impact, it isn’t likely to need to the same time, energy, or focus. Be vigilant with your time.
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