Do Lunch or Be Lunch

We’ve all heard coach or TV commentator say that an athlete in trouble on the field is “trying too hard”. When the usual approach isn’t working, it’s only natural for competitive people to try harder. The harder you exert yourself the more likely you’ll vanquish someone who isn’t expending equal energy and effort. That seems to make sense. But trying too hard is legitimate fault, and when applied to an athlete is invariably criticism not compliment.
It’s the same in business. We’re all aware of the pushy salesperson who’s trying too hard to win our business. The overexertion works sometimes (it’s called the Annoying Sale). But more often than not it’s turnoff.

The lazy person’s secret to success
Here are five moments when turning down the effort rather than kicking it up notch pays off.

1. Don’t lunch at your desk
I worry about people who think they’re working harder and smarter because they don’t have lunch break. They work at their desk while they wolf down salad or sandwich. The gods of business invented lunch for reason – and it wasn’t because people get hungry in the middle of the day. Lunch is time to relax, reward oneself with wonderful food, maybe glass of wine, but most important, sit down with people I know or want to know better. It’s the easiest form of work I can think of. As much as I believe in the therapeutic powers of lunch, I’m bigger believer in the power of making connections. And lunch is the perfect time for that. If you’re having lunch at your desk every day under the misguided assumption you’ll earn extra credits, you’re in for big surprise. While you’re communing with food and paper, you’re not communing with people, and someone will soon be eating your lunch.

2. Always make an early exit
A famous college basketball coach once told me that he had strict post-game rule for his players. When the game was over, if they won or lost, leave the court as quickly as possible.
Entertainers stick to the same rule. The best ones always get off the stage before they’ve worn out their welcome. They know it’s better to always leave the audience begging for more. The early exit rule applies in business as well. Just as you never want to be the last person to leave the office Christmas party, you also never want to overstay your welcome on sales call.
Another CEO I know credits his success to his ability to make an early exit from situations that aren’t working out. He’s willing to cut his losses. “So many people think that everything will turn out fine if they only work harder. Not true. Some ideas are simply bad, and no amount of effort will improve them. There’s no dishonour in admitting mistake and getting out fast. It’s the smart thing to do.”

3. Get hobby
All of us can benefit from some activity that has seemingly nothing to do with our regular job. It could be anything from fishing to stamp collecting to playing bridge. If it provides change of scenery from your job, chances are it’s improving your performance on the job, whether you realise it or not.

4. Never write down more than two action points
A lot of people think that the more ideas they come up with to solve problem the harder they’re working towards the right answer. You don’t need dozen action points for every problem. Usually, one or two ideas will do because a) they’re usually the best, and b) one or two ideas aren’t distracting. Unlike dozen ideas which force you to confront dozen choices about where to start. This forces you to start working quickly. It’s not lazy (although it may seem that way). It’s the surer road to success.

5. When in doubt, take nap
I’ve taken nap in the middle of almost every working day for the last 25 years. Part of it may be that I wake up around 5am, so I’ve already put in full day by lunchtime. But another part of me appreciates that nap is welcome restraint in the middle of busy day. As your day progresses, it’s easy to get caught up in tidal wave of action and decisiveness. nap in the middle of the day is the perfect antidote to this kind of feverish activity. It allows you to do nothing at the moment when the world is screaming for you to do something.
As Leonardo da Vinci said, “Men of genius do most when they work least.” He probably said that after nap.

Mark McCormack is the founder of International Management

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