What Makes You Effective At Work?
Recently, I was reflecting on my work career. I retired over ten years ago, but I have had various odd jobs since then. Now, I realize that working part-time is not the same as full-time. And, I also realize that having been out of the job market for as long as I have, I can’t speak from personal experience about what it’s like to be working full-time in 2010.
OK, so I have tried to qualify and quantify my more recent background regarding my experience in the workplace. During my career as a full-time teacher, I think most would say that I was more effective than ineffective. When I was effective, what made me so? This is what I have been mulling over in my mind. What makes a person effective while at work?
In order to be more effective at work, first and foremost, I think you need to feel that you CAN be more effective. Related to effectiveness is productivity. Do you feel you are productive and/or effective at work? If not, then perhaps, you are having trouble with self-esteem and/or self-worth. That can lead to being less effective and productive which can, in turn, make you feel even worse about your work and self. It becomes a vicious cycle of less effectiveness leads to lower self-worth to less productivity to even lower self-esteem and self-worth and to even less effectiveness and … Obviously, this is not good for you or your work.
This cycle of less effectiveness and productivity to lower self-esteem and self-worth needs to be reversed. I can remember, when I first started teaching full-time, of being in such a cycle of ineffectiveness and low productivity. In my case, I was having a difficult time of managing time. I remember thinking in a “linear-fashion” regarding the completion of tasks. For example, in the beginning of my career, when I was preparing for teaching one of my three different subject matter classes, I would start and finish one class preparation before starting another. What often happened was that I would use up too much time on the first preparation and not have enough time to effectively prepare for the other classes. Basically, I was over-preparing for the first class at the expense of the remaining two. When I taught the first subject matter class, I felt I was effective and productive, but then the other two under-prepared classes made me feel ineffective and generally, non-productive. Why? Because I was ineffective and non-productive. Ouch!
So, what did I do to solve the problem? I solved the problem by preparing for all three classes, “piece-by-piece.” I would do a quick overview of all classes, then work on each class for just a few minutes, before moving to another one. This, in a sense, allowed me to work on all classes at the same time. I no longer viewed my work as individual tasks, but instead, as a holistic endeavor. Using a “spin-off” of a well known idiom, I would look at the forest and then the trees, AND I would look at the trees and then the forest, over and over and over… I now view this method as a form of time-sharing or multitasking. So, you might ask: “How and when did you create this solution to your problem?”
Well, one day as I was preparing for one of my classes (Computer Programming), I had an aha experience. This was during the early 70’s, and the computer I was using for the class was a mainframe computer that was located off-campus. My students would use a modem and enter their data over the telephone in order to send it to the computer. Often times, there would be five or more students using the computer at the same time. Though, from the students’ point of view, it seemed like the computer was running all of the students’ programs at the same time, it was in reality, time-sharing. It would do a little of one student’s set of programmed instructions and then a little of another’s and so on. The computer was doing this at such a fast speed that it appeared to be doing all of the students’ programs at once.
The aha experience was that I could do the same thing the computer was doing to manage my time. So, I time-shared by first, completing a “little piece of preparation” for one class, and then moving to another and so on. It worked! I discovered that when I time-shared, routine aspects of the preparation went a lot faster. It was a little like working on an assembly line.
Well, this was a long explanation for an example of how I was able to become more effective and therefore, more productive at work. Of course, if you are feeling less effective at work, your situation will most likely be different from mine. And, as you can imagine, I had other problems relating to effectiveness and productivity. Having stated that, I did find it much easier to deal with ineffectiveness after solving the time-management problem.
I realized that getting control of my time and managing it as well as possible, was essential to being effective. Besides time-management, I also found that accepting, as part of my job, the responsibility of life-long learning and actively developing working relationships with my co-workers, were most helpful in being effective and productive at work.
So, what makes us effective at work? I don’t know about you, but for me, nurturing a good sense of self-worth was powerful. I was able to improve my self-worth by focusing on time management, good relationships and life-long learning. Though these aren’t necessarily easy, I found the effort to make them a part of my work-life, very worthwhile. Worthwhile because I experienced an increase in my self-worth and effectiveness at work. There seemed to be a balancing act between self-worth and effectiveness. Perhaps, “balancing act” isn’t the correct phrase. Another possible way of phrasing this, is to say that there is a good, but vicious cycle of working toward increasing self-worth and effectiveness, where as you work on one, the other increases and vice-versa.
What are your worthy and/or effective thoughts?