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How to become productive at work and get rid of harmful perfectionism?

Often we believe that spending more time on work means doing it better. However, it is not so.

Many of us adhere to principles that prevent us from leading a more productive lifestyle. For example, it is considered that increasing productivity or making the most efficient use of time contributes to a decrease in the quality of work or the ability to perfectly cope with the tasks set.


However, the greater amount of time spent on the task is not always equivalent to a higher quality of work. In fact, this time can harm our work, reducing its quality. Research results show that if the time spent at work exceeds 50-55 hours a week, the level of cognitive abilities (that is, emotional intelligence and the ability to rationally think and solve problems), as well as involvement, begin to decline.

Inverse proportionality between the quality of work and the amount of time spent on it has long been known. For example, Henry Ford reduced the work week from 48 to 40 hours, trying to reduce the number of mistakes that his employees committed. Employers in some manufacturing industries also found that they can maintain output and product quality while reducing employee time.

More arguments and facts

If this did not convince you, then here’s another argument: according to research conducted by leading strategic consulting companies, managers hardly distinguish those who work 80 hours a week from those who work 50-60 hours. In other words, additional work generally goes unnoticed.

Additional time does not always lead to improved results. We know that long and complex emails are less likely to read to the end, and the time spent developing more strategies or options usually ends with making less effective decisions.

If the conviction that more time on a task helps to improve the quality of its solution becomes an unwritten rule, you will always be busy with something. Work will take all the time allotted to it. And in private life it will be possible to put a cross. One of the participants of our program asked the question: «Why do I need to work faster, because in this case I will be more burdened to fill my working time?». To break this vicious circle, you need to stop associating time with high-quality work.

Instead, it should be recognized that the quality is actually influenced by productive behavior. Outside of the work environment, we instinctively understand that speed as a component of productivity is associated with quality.

Is quality a top priority?

The misconception about the negative impact of productivity on quality also makes us believe that quality is a top priority when it comes to work. Undoubtedly, it plays an important role. However, should it be a top priority? In some cases, excessive concentration on quality may interfere with development. The real goal of any job is the result, whether it is impacting sales figures, profits, or the community. Giving priority to productivity, we guarantee that the work will be done with the best quality.

In our work with companies, we faced the consequences of a «quality culture». People spend a lot of time to bring to perfection the work that could have the same effect without additional hours spent for the revision.

Pareto principle

The reason why additional investments in quality do not always lead to an increase in efficiency is the cost of working time. If we had an unlimited amount of time, perhaps this problem would not have arisen. But we know that having spent time on one task, we refuse one million others. And if you believe the Pareto principle (20% of efforts yield 80% of the result, and the remaining 80% of efforts only 20% of the result), then attempts to bring the work to perfection in most cases will lead to a negligible result with significant investments. This does not mean that you can not strive for excellence. We should do this only when the efforts made can significantly affect the significance of the work.

Increasing productivity will not harm the quality of our work, but will enhance it. It is possible that we will not be able to immediately change the principles of the working culture and make the priority for the organization efficiency, not quality. But we are all able to invest in our own productivity and can stop thinking that focus on it will negatively affect the quality of work.

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