The Overhead of Overwork

Jim BensonExpert, PrimersLeave a Comment

In her post yesterday, Tonianne talked about Limiting Work-in-Progress to help achieve focus. We have to limit our WIP on purpose because we do not limit it naturally. We naturally assume too much work. We naturally overload ourselves.

This means we naturally overload others as well.

When we visualize our work, we quickly see that there is too much. Strangely enough, this is an issue of volume. It’s like pouring a glass of milk in the dark … you actually need to see your work to control it.

Fibber McGee KanbanThis is Fibber McGee. He had a closet. It was filled with stuff. When he opened it, he was buried in stuff.

I am Jim Benson, I have a small dead-end hallway in my house that has taken me literally six months to clean.  It was filled with stuff. Why? Because whenever I had stuff that I couldn’t put somewhere, I put it there.

Gray Hill Solutions files, receipts, my 14,500 conference tote bags, letters from the 80s, photographs, books, etc. all piled into that closet.

It was a bottomless pit, a convenient sinkhole until I needed something. Then it was six months of cleaning.

That’s what we do to ourselves and the people who work for us. Because we can’t see our work, it’s like Fibber’s closet or my hallway. We just keep throwing stuff in there and not paying attention to it.

In our work, we take on more and more because the task seems small and we don’t understand our actual capacity. We take on more and more because we can’t see we are already overloaded. One day, we burn out, we break down, we snap.

What we don’t do is take a vacation.  Why would we … we’re “too busy.”

Once we assume too much work, we are stuck in debt hole. We have to pay off the new work, plus the old work we haven’t yet completed … with interest. Interest comes in the form of finding time to work on things, missed sleep, making excuses, writing emails with new estimated completion times, spending HOURS scheduling a one hour meeting (because everyone else is overloaded as well).

Much simpler to visualize our work, limit our work-in-progress, and have some sanity.

To learn more about how visualizing your work and limiting your work in progress can help you gain focus and achieve more, register for Modus Institute’s latest online course: Personal Kanban.

For more on hacking your brain to increase productivity and satisfaction at work, at home, and everywhere in between, sign up for the Modus Institute Newsletter. Brought to you by the creators of Personal Kanban.

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Jim BensonThe Overhead of Overwork

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