I like to think that I have a good work ethic. I take pride in the quality of work that I do, and even if I do procrastinate more than I feel I should, when I get around to doing something (that’s a different topic, however) I generally do a good job. But is “doing good work” enough? Or could I be doing more?
Take my current job, for example. Most days, I get up early and go stock shelves and move product around for a retail store. It can be hard work, and one has to have a very good idea of what can be accomplished before the store opens. I’ve gotten into a routine: clock in, make a drop list, stock product, take out trash, sweep, clock out. It’s nice to have some sort of visible progress as a result of your work, even if that’s a well-stocked shelf or pallet that lasts only as long as it takes for customers to get their grubby little hands all over everything.
But of course, my overachieving and perfectionistic aspects won’t leave well enough alone. What do I mean? Well, I tend to be fairly methodical in my work. I work hard, but not too hard. In fact, I know I could probably get more accomplished if I was willing to run around like a chicken with it’s head cut off. If I gave 110% all the time, I’d have no issue stocking an entire third of the store by myself and moving multiple aisles and getting displays built and whatever else my employers need done.
And I’d be a quivering wreck.
You see, the funny thing about “giving 110%” is that it actually is possible to do so, whatever that pesky thing called math may say. But in order to do so, you need to borrow some of that effort and energy from the future. So if you give 110% on Monday, you’ll only have 90% on Tuesday. If you need to give 110% on Tuesday, you’ll be left with 80% on Wednesday. And so on, until you only have 50% left for Friday. Oh, and keep in mind that whatever personal projects you may want to work on also get debited to the same account. Need I continue?
So I find myself in the interesting place of not giving my job all I can give. This completely contradicts what I was taught to do, both growing up and in martial arts, but it’s the only way I can see to keep any semblance of sanity while working retail. Heck, while working any kind of job! Does that make me a slacker? Maybe. But it also means that I can try and spare some energy to be happy, to find fulfillment in my friends and hobbies.
Of course, being who I am, I still feel guilty about not “giving my all.” But as far as I can tell, I’m the only one that is able to tell. Maybe it’s the general level of caring and investment you find in retail employees, but my supervisors and managers don’t seem to notice. Could I probably “wreck the curve,” as it were, if I threw myself fully into my temporary retail job? Probably. But see the aforementioned comment re: quivering wreck.
And I don’t want to give this job my all, not really. It’s just a small fragment of my psyche that insists it wants to. And like so many other things in this head of mine, it’s really hard to ignore a voice when it sounds like your own. Talking about it helps, as does writing. It’s a way of cataloging, of picking up that fragment with a set of tweezers and putting it under the microscope. And maybe by better understanding why, or at least saying I’m okay with being a slacker, it will become as true as I want it to be.