REFLECTION: An experienced artist recently shared a few thoughts about overworking in response to a question from a novice painter. Although, the conversation centered on the negative impact of overworking a piece of art, as the discussion unfolded, I couldn’t help but notice the parallels between art and life.
The mentoring artist noted five causes of overwork:
- Repeatedly going back over old ground rather than leaving well enough alone and moving on
- Striving for perfection – spending time and energy on final finishing touches that don’t add appreciable value
- Forcing the work – letting impatience over-ride the flow of the paint, the brush or the pen
- Overusing a well developed skill when it’s not even called for in the work of the moment
- Getting caught up in the fine detail without stopping to step back for the long view and gaining perspective
ACTION: It seems to me that we might take a page or two from the Old Masters and put them to work in our everyday work-lives.
When you find yourself challenged by overwork, take stock of these questions and see if they shift your behavior:
- Does the extra effort advance something important – or just cover old ground in another way?
- Is the task already done well enough to meet the basic needs? Would the extra 10% of effort be warranted in terms of the result?
- Might you be pushing people and progress in ways that create unnecessary resistance?
- Could you be engaging in tasks just because you have polished the skill to do them – not because they’re the best use of your time at the moment, or required by the enterprise at hand?
- Have you stepped back to take a look at the big picture, or are you trapped by the minutiae of the moment?
It could be that in pausing for reflection you just might find that the extra effort isn’t necessary, or that you just hadn’t realized you were already there. Give it a whirl and see how it works.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Art is the elimination of the unnecessary.” – Pablo Picasso.
RESOURCE OF THE WEEK: For a few additional thoughts on Overwork and Overwhelm, see this article on CanadaJobs.com.
READERS WRITE: In response to last week’s message, Game Changing Questions, Pause reader B writes: “Another Pause meant just for me at this time! I have just returned from celebrating the life of my sister – a life cut short in her prime by cancer. She also was someone who engaged and challenged people. The 700+ who attended the celebration of her life were a testament to that. She was so different from me and had many characteristics that I admire and am trying to keep present and emulate, including engaging others with meaningful questions! Thanks – Pause is an integral part of my week.”