Your effort is a finite resource

by Bernadette Healy

Super employee

You really can be whatever you want to be in terms of the best employee you can be, or the best partner you can be, or the best friend you can be, or the best community member you can be.  But you can’t be the best that you can possibly be at all of these.

Imagine that all the effort you can potentially expend at any point in time is broken up into 10 even pieces.  You can choose to put them all into one domain or you can choose to spread them around.  You can change this emphasis and shift the effort from one area to another.  However, your effort is a finite resource, the allocation of which is your responsibility.  If you decide for example to put your 10 pieces of effort into being the best employee that you can be, you may well turn out to be one of those phenomenal people in the workplace that we have all observed.  But this of course will come at a price because the lack of effort put into other areas will mean that you cannot become your best in those.  (This outcome may of course be a perfectly satisfactory one for you.)

Look around you and instead of limiting yourself to noticing the ‘wow’ factor of those super-performing employees or that perfect parent / partner that you know, consider the optimizing formula that they are likely to be using to achieve that result and ask yourself if that is the way that you would like to be.

Are you prepared to make the same kinds of trade-offs that they would have made to achieve that level of ascendency at work or to be that parent or partner?  Will you be happy to experience yourself as you will be in your other life domains if you choose to focus primarily on one?  It is entirely appropriate to make your own choices but the reality is that you cannot be the best you can possibly be, in all areas.

Take the opportunity to reflect on how others might be approaching these decisions as a way of increasing understanding of colleagues and others.  This reflection will also help your own decision-making process regarding your allocation of effort.  In terms of relationship building, it is always a good idea to discuss these kinds of issues, and this kind of reflection process will help to prepare you for such a conversation with your loved ones about your preferred direction.

Perhaps you consider yourself to be one of those lucky few who start with 12 rather than the 10 pieces of effort to expend – the same principle still applies – you only have X amount of time and energy to allocate at any particular time and whatever you allocate in one area will necessarily deplete another.  Also, over time, you, like all of us, will have less effort available to expend, and this reality needs to be factored in to any plan you might be making regarding addressing currently neglected areas at some far-away future point.

It is your choice and it will continue to be your choice.  You can choose to put all the pieces into one area now and shift them later or you can choose to mix it up or you can choose to put effort into maintaining balance… etc. etc. but whatever you choose try and remain aware that you are actually making choices all the time.

And with regard to comparing, it might help to try limiting your comparisons to those that you make about yourself – relative to other experiences that you have had – rather than agonizing over what is inevitably a faulty comparison with another.