An amazing thing about Americans: the more we try to lose weight the more weight we find we need to lose. As the size of the weight loss industry increases, so do our waistlines. We all know why, but we don’t want to admit it. The simple fact is that it requires hard work and discipline to lose weight while it is incredibly easy and satisfying to gain more of it.
Being effective at our jobs is similar. Filling each workday is easy, and often satisfying in the short run. However, days filled with the unimportant or unnecessary soon begin to create a bulge around our desks. Important work starts to pile up. People start calling to check on things we promised long ago. At some point guilt creeps in and we start to practice the best avoidance techniques we know. “Give me a break”, we scream. “I’m working as hard as I can.”
The problem is the same as dieting. It doesn’t help to order the diet Coke if it is accompanying the super-sized value meal. Staying busy with tasks that don’t impact the success of your organization is like ordering that diet Coke. It’s nothing more than a gesture that you will use later as an excuse. Stop trying to trick yourself because it won’t work.
If you want to succeed at work, abandon the diet mentality and make the permanent changes that are required to be successful. Start with basic stuff like keeping a list of things you must get done with due dates. Look at that list first thing every day and last thing every day. This is the dieter’s equivalent of getting on the scales daily. The act of getting on won’t lead to weight loss, but the awareness of how you’re doing will force you to think about the commitment you’ve made. Oftentimes, that is all that is necessary for miraculous change.