A few months back I read an excellent book called the Personal MBA. One concept covered in the book is how our brains autopilot through most of our days without requiring conscious decision making. This is a result of the over abundance of information in the world around us. If we made conscious decisions about everything we see, hear, taste, smell, or touch, we would overload and probably never make it out the door. To deal with all the information, our brain autopilots through all the situations it is comfortable with and asks the conscious brain to intercede only when there is a scenario it doesn’t know how to handle. Typically this is great as it allows us to interact in the world and live our lives. In the workplace this is not a characteristic that helps us.
In the workplace you are being paid to perform a job. Unless the work is repetitive in nature your active engagement is required to accomplish the goal. What I often see with new hires is one of two behaviors.
- They assume the work required is exactly the same as something else they have done and crank through the same steps they have done in the past. No thought is paid to the unique qualities or requirements of this task which results in shoddy work. This is a classic example of just trying to get something done as opposed to thinking through what needs to be done and then doing it.
- They realize the work is new and they freeze, looking at someone around them to tell them exactly what to do. This comes from a lack of self confidence and also does you no good. It is OK to not know what to do regarding a task, it is not OK to freeze up and start looking around hoping someone else is going to do something.
Every time you start something, spend some time thinking through what it is you are trying to accomplish. Go over the request. How is this similar to work you have done in the past? How is it different? Do you have all the information you need to proceed? If not, how can you obtain enough information to get started. Lay out a quick plan of what you plan to do, then get started.
By following these steps, you are actively engaging your conscious brain to think through a problem. It takes a few moments up front but it can prevent minutes or hours of rework down the line.