As paradoxical as it may seem, more can sometimes be less, and faster may actually prove inferior.
We all like to believe we know ourselves better than others possibly could, but often it takes the keen observation of a bystander to teach us what we may instinctively know – yet have somehow failed to realize. I had just such an epiphany in middle school. Somewhere in the midst of school plays, band practices, choir rehearsals, classes, oral interp, and even the occasional track meet, my mom said something that has stuck with me ever since: "You're at your best when you're busy."
She was right. When my to-do list took on epic proportions, I seemed more engaged, more efficient, and even happier. With this newfound knowledge, I entered high school by diving head first into any and every activity. I got to school early, and I stayed until the janitors kicked me out at night. My debate coach even nicknamed me the Energizer Bunny, and it was a well-earned moniker.
But soon after my transition into the "real world," I realized corporate America has a way of identifying your potential and expecting 10 percent more every few months. Like a sprinter on a treadmill, I had hit my max speed.
When an employer who tracked my time like a Fitbit counts steps suggested I amp up my efficiency by taking fewer bathroom breaks, I started to wonder if increased productivity was a pot of gold worth chasing. Say I complied and increased my output by 5 percent. Then what? How would I continue on an upward trajectory? Should I stop eating lunch, too?
As an exhibit manager, you're no stranger to having too much on your plate. While we seem to be past the "do more with less" era, a new requirement to do even more with the same resources has emerged. So it's no surprise that many face-to-face marketers are seeking ways to increase efficiency and avoid death by deadline. But in your attempts to increase productivity, be careful of inadvertently becoming a doer instead of a thinker. Because doers are a dime a dozen, while thinkers are an infinitely more valuable species.
Granted, you may excel at being a worker bee in an atmosphere where urgency trumps accuracy and quotas are more important than caliber. But if you're reading EXHIBITOR, that's a good indication that "good enough" is not your measure of success, and merely crossing a task off your to-do list isn't likely to result in any form of self-actualization.
See, back in my glory days, I was definitely busy. But what I've realized throughout my journey toward – and then away from – perceived efficiency is that what made me successful was
not my desire to do things the fastest (which is probably why my track-and-field career was short lived). Rather, I was focused on doing it best. In other words, the environment in which I thrive (and always will) is one that fosters a quality-over-quantity approach to execution. And I suspect most of you fall into the same category.
Bosses like employees who appear busy, and running around like chickens with our heads cut off has become a form of corporate currency. But an artist will never reach her potential if her primary goal is just to complete more paintings. And a chef isn't going to earn a Michelin star if he operates his kitchen like a short-order cook. As paradoxical as it may seem, more can sometimes be less, and faster may actually prove inferior.
Whether your strength is doing something fast or doing it well is a question you probably already know the answer to, even if you haven't realized it yet. But if you're like me and pride yourself on the quality of your work, you can't allow efficiency to eclipse effectiveness, or you'll never really shine. However, when you embrace that strength, which is likely what made you successful in the first place, and focus on doing the job as only you can, that is when you're truly at your best.E