In a classic clip from an old I Love Lucy episode, Lucy gets a job in a chocolate factory and she and her friend Ethel are placed on the assembly line.
The draconian supervisor tells them: “Girls, this is your last chance. If one piece of candy gets past you unwrapped, you are fired!” The production line starts slowly and they carefully wrap candy, remarking how easy it is. Then the assembly line starts to speed up, and they can barely keep up.
They start stuffing their mouths with candy and Lucy calls out to her friend in despair: “I think this is a losing game.” They hear the supervisor returning and hide the remaining candy in their mouths, under their hats and even down the front of their dresses. Their mouths are bulging. The supervisor returns. Seeing the empty conveyor belt, in a moment of perfectly-timed comedy, the supervisor shouts to the conveyor belt operator “Speed it up!”
This famous scene has been parodied by many other TV shows. What makes it funny even now is the relevance of this message to our modern lives. So often we keep up the pretence of being on top of stuff, and the pretence can work for some time, but exacts a heavy toll.
Somewhere along the line, for a lot of us in business, work became synonymous with worth and ‘busy’ became the currency to measure this worth.
Author Julia Cameron says there is a difference between purposeful, zestful work and work for work’s sake; not in the hours we put in but in their emotional quality.
Three things we can all do to improve the emotional quality of our work lives is to ask for help, stop being a hero/martyr (only I can do this) and draw a line in the sand (I don’t look at emails on Sunday or take business calls after 6pm).
Just as an alcoholic gets sober by abstaining from alcohol, we need to abstain from the idea that we’re only at our most productive when we’re putting in frantic 12-hour work days. There’s far more merit – and reward – in purposeful, contemplative work.
How do you improve the emotional quality of your work? Please share, as always I love hearing from you.