Don't give it your best shotWed, 18th Jun '08, 7:35 am::

I like to give everything my good 95%. I used to try to be a perfectionist and give my best 100% and it never worked out well for me or others in the end. When you try to give your absolute 100%, you feel like you deserve twice, thrice, or even more than others who only put in their 50% or 75% effort. In reality, even if you do twice the work others do, the net increase in revenue or savings in expenses to your company is marginal. The way businesses work, if you increase the company's total sales revenue by 10%, the best you can possibly get is a 10% raise. If you manage to increase the sales by a million dollars, you will not get a million dollars, even if it was all due to you.

If your slacker coworker handles only 50 calls a day while you easily handle 100, that doesn't mean you will get twice the salary. It may seem like you are doing the work of two people easily however, in the larger scheme of things, your dedication and hard work only increased your company's customer service ability by 2%. Here's a nine dollar a week raise after taxes. Go celebrate! Unless you are contractually paid commission, wages and salary seldom have anything to do with measurable performance and everything to do with negotiation and social-networking skills. If you can get a better raise, go for it! Buy me lunch when you do.

However, chances are you will not be satisfied with the raise. So what is a wage-slave to do? Slack off? No. Just slow down. Stop being a perfectionist. Realize that you are working to pay the bills and that's it. It's wonderful if you love your job, I sure do. However, do not try to give your 100% thinking your company is going to return the favor. It does not make business sense for them. If you are a star-employee with unique skills, it makes sense for any business to hold on to you but only up to a certain price point and only in certain industries. So what's a good target to hit? I prefer 95% because it's pretty comfortable for me to give anything my 90% and just a little more effort and I'm at 95%. The magic 95% doesn't give me stress, lets me sleep at night, and in general, allows me to be much more productive. For you, that number might be just 80% or 90%. Put in as much effort as you can as long as you don't start to stress out with "but I work so hard."

If you work so hard and people don't care, stop working so hard. This rule doesn't apply just to office work. Take cleaning your home for instance. Maybe you are one of those people who keeps the house psychotically clean and starts yelling at everyone the moment a speck of dust lands on the floor because nobody other than you cleans the house... You work so hard! Yeah, stop. Clean enough to be comfortable, hygienic, and neat. Don't be a clean-freak and stress yourself and everyone else with it. I've lived with people who were clean-freaks and I've lived with people who were complete slobs. Somewhere in between, closer to the clean-freaks, is a spot where it's stress-free and comfortable.

In addition to office work and house chores, most charity and volunteer workers also get this "but I do so much" syndrome. I am certain you put in 30 hours per week towards your favorite volunteer organization for no pay and will get extremely sad when they don't mention your name in the monthly newsletter with the prominence you had expected. Well, think about it. Do you want to give your 100% and feel depressed when things don't turn out exactly like you want OR do you want to give your 90% and be ecstatic that they wrote a whole paragraph describing your charity project on the 3rd page?

On a different stream, a few years ago, my boss Eric gave me a wonderful book to read to help deal with office clashes and while it was not immediately obvious, I learnt a great deal from it and have pretty much incorporated the lessons into my daily life, well beyond the work environment. I highly recommend it: The Four Agreements.

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