Harvard-trained neuroscientist:  This counterintuitive strategy can help you succeed at work — here is how

The real measure of success is not working longer hours or getting a big raise.  Instead, it is about how well you can prioritize your commitments, deadlines, projects, and work, says Juliette Han, a Harvard-trained Neuroscientist and Adjunct Professor at Columbia Business School.  To be happier and more successful in your career, Han’s recommendation is to identify and focus on excelling in a few key strengths and priorities within your role.  It is a “counterintuitive” approach to the one high achievers often take when pursuing their professional aspirations, says Han, who is also an Academic Advisor at Harvard Medical School.  “People mistakenly think you have to be excellent at everything you do to be successful, but if you go that route, everything will suffer:  your quality of work, your focus, your health,” she explains.  “That mentality puts you on the fast track to burnout.”

You can determine the specific strengths and priorities to focus on by splitting your job responsibilities into three (3) categories:

  • Tasks you need to be excellent at;
  • Tasks you need to be good at; and
  • Tasks you can put low effort into or delegate to someone else.

Then, make a list of which skills you need to accomplish the tasks outlined in the first and second categories, so you have a clear roadmap of where you might need to upskill to be more effective at your job, says Han.  If you want a second opinion on your job audit, Han suggests consulting either a colleague or your manager.  “Tell them you’re evaluating your current workload to maximize your productivity and focus on some bigger goals,” she says.  “Ask them which areas they think you’re doing well in, where you might be falling short, and if the priorities you outlined are helping the company’s mission or bottom line.”

Ultimately, the tasks you decide you need to be excellent at should feed into your long-term career goals, whether it is positioning yourself for a promotion, gaining leadership experience, or developing a new skill.  Even if you are stuck in a job you do not like, scaling back the number of tasks you are putting 100% effort into should free up time in your schedule to network, update your resume, and research new opportunities, Han points out.

Learning to manager your energy — and time — at work will require some trade-offs.  However, Han says the long-term benefits will outweigh any short-term inconveniences.  For example, you might be less responsive to e-mails; however, if you are using that free time on deep-focus work, then you are probably turning in better-quality work.  “Thinking through all the components of your workload and how these help — or hurt — your career development is super important,” Han stresses.  “It helps you avoid being on autopilot and puts you in the driver’s seat of your career.”

REFERENCE:  CNBC; 02 APR 2024; Morgan Smith