“Life is too short not to do something that matters.” – Hugh Macleod
Until we stop, pause and review our work we’ll remain distracted and drift through life having spent our precious time and energy on the mundane and routine. It’s time to take a step back and examine our lives and re-engaging with our great work, that is work which has meaning, impact and significance.
How to Identify Great Work
What we need is a way of thinking about the kind of work we do and identify work that matters – our great work. To do this I suggest we explore the two main elements of work – value and energy that I define as follows:
- Value is the personal meaning we get from our work and the impact that our work makes in the life of others. It’s not about the quality of our work, rather its about the personal meaning and impact of our work.
- Energy is the physical, mental and emotional commitment that required from us to do the work we do. Energy is the commitment of our life, our spiritual, emotional and mental resources towards our work. It’s price we pay to get the our work done.
The impact of these two element on the various kinds of work we find ourselves doing is illustrated below.
The labels and ideas behind the kinds of work in the above matrix were inspired by the work of Michael Bungay Stanier from his book “Do More Great Work: Stop the Busywork” which talks about how we can find and do more of our great work. Let’s examine the four types of work as illustrated by the matrix in more detail.
Wasted work is the work that takes very little energy from you and has little meaning or impact. While this work is easy to do and does not require much energy it makes very little impact. This work is the time we spend working as the result of inefficient process and systems. It’s work that should be stopped, but that’s they way we’ve always don it!
Bad work is work that has little personal meaning and makes little impact and yet consumes a lot your personal resources of time and energy. It sucks the life out of you. This works requires your to exert conscious effort to get it done. This kind of work drains your emotional, mental and physical resources. Usually this work takes the form of pointless meetings, ridged procedures and heaps of paperwork. This work literally sucks the life out of you.
Good work** is your work that provides you a lot of personal meaning and impacts the organisation and people around you. Good work is not about the quality of your work, rather it’s about the meaning the work has for you and others. This work does not require large amounts of spiritual, emotional and mental commitment from you. As it’s work that you enjoy and that you’re skilled at doing. Good work is important work, it keeps things moving and gets the right things done. Good work it the work you do that keeps you in business and that you know how to do well.
Great work is the work that has great personal meaning and makes a significant impact on the enterprise. It’s work that is both meaningful and challenging. Great work challenging as it demands huge amount personal and organisational commitment. Great work requires personal and organisation transformation as it’s work that you’re not skilled at, it’s work that requires you to take risk and stretch. Great work involves risk, it demands you step outside of your comfort zone, to develop new skills and capabilities. Great work is an investment in making a significant impact and sets you and the enterprise up for long term success.
Where Are You Investing Your Time?
Reflecting on the above four kinds of work, take our a piece of paper or fire up your word processor and place your current work tasks and activities in each of the four categories. Now ask yourself:
- Where are you investing the majority of your time and effort?
- What is your great work?
- Will your Great Work stretch and challenge you?
- Are you spending enough time on your great work?
- What work activities do you need to stop?
- What work activities do you need to refocus?
- What work activities do you need to delegate?
If you’re like a lot of others – as illustrated by the matrix below – you’re probably spending too much time and energy on your good work and not sufficient time and energy on your great work.
Whilst there is nothing wrong with good work, it’s comfortable and does not stretch or challenge you to grow and change. The problem with good work is that it’s safe and comfortable.
Choose to Strive for Your Great Work
Adapted from a Photo by make
As we are reminded by Steve Jobs we all have a limited amount of time on this planet in which to make an impact. You can invest your time doing more good work or you can invest your time to accomplish great work.
So how do we ensure that we don’t die with our great work still inside? Well it comes down to the choices we make. It starts with a simple choice. A choice to live our lives continuously striving towards doing more and more great work and not to settle.
How we invest our life is the result of the choices we make. Choose today to invest your life in striving for your great work. Lastly, encourage others to strive for their great work. We all need one another to choose to do the great work they’re called to do.
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” – Steve Jobs