Taking responsibility for your work is empowering–it’s also the best way to set yourself up for successes that you’re truly proud of.
I recently watched an interview on Marie TV featuring Todd Henry on the topic of finding your voice and sharing your best work. Henry, the author of Louder than Words, explains that in this era of technology and social media, it’s easier than it’s ever been before to have a platform for yourself, your product, and your voice. This presents an interesting problem, however. With such widespread access to our own public platforms, it seems that we’re intent on just putting ourselves out there—without giving much thought to what exactly we’re sharing.
Henry suggests that we give our message or work some thought before we dive right in—we need to let our work marinate a bit before we share it. It’s an idea that makes sense, but it’s not always easy to put it into practice—especially when everything else seems to be speeding up. Indeed, the concept of quality over quantity sounds agreeable, but many of us are in work environments that require quality and quantity.
Between Peaceful Dumpling, other online employers, and my personal blog, I write between 8 and 10 blog posts a week, and I want all of them to be the best quality possible within their given contexts. As one of my clients says, I don’t want to just add “noise” to the already cacophonous world of websites and social media.
Even if you’re not a blogger, you may feel a similar pressure. Perhaps you must answer the phone multiple times a day and field customer questions with accuracy and a smile, or you’re designing lesson plans five days a week that must meet the approval of the school board while also engage a classroom full of students.
I try to remind myself of the following on a regular basis. Some days it’s hard to stick my head above water and think about the long-term, but I know that I want to create a body of work that I’m proud of, even if it takes a while to build.
Consider how your message may be received. You may have something great to share with the world, but sometimes your medium or your tone can work against you. When I’m about to share something, my first thought is, How would I like to share this? I should also consider: How can I share in such a way that brings the most value to the audience? I am certainly a creature of routine, and I can get into a habit of sharing thing the same way, again and again until even I’m annoyed my own voice! This is not to say that your should write/speak/share in a way that will annoy no one ever—it’s impossible—but you do want to keep your audience in mind.
Seek your authentic voice. This one can be challenging if you’re constantly producing. You may even ask yourself, Is this really me, or am I just cranking something out? Even just a little reflection can help with this, however. Take a few moments to imagine your ideal work/creative situation five or ten years down the road. Does your current work align with the values embraced by your ultimate goal? Keep a little reminder with you, so you never lose sight of you long-term goals for very long.
Consider the cumulative effect of your work. The average “lifespan” of a Tweet is about 18 minutes, meaning that there’s a pretty small window during which a tweet may be seen. This is doesn’t mean that tweets, or any other micro contribution to your field, should be thoughtless, however. You are gradually building a body of work, and you want each part (however small) to be generally consistent with the message you want to share. Tweets upon tweets (or e-mails upon e-mails) create a picture of your character as well as what you have to offer professionally.
Do make room for downtime. Having something in your life that relaxes or inspires you outside the boundaries of work will actually improve your work product. Jonah Lehrer notes that our best ideas come to us when we’re not searching for them (you know that “eureka!” moment you occasionally get mid-shower?). For me, cooking and hanging out with my husband help dissolve work-related anxiety and clear my mind, oddly enough making it fertile ground for fresh ideas. Even though I’m pretty good at giving myself downtime, I still experience guilt about it from time to time (shouldn’t I be typing something instead of doing my toenails?!), but taking responsibility for your mental and emotional health is one way to take responsibility for your work. It helps me to remind myself to look at my life holistically. In order to take care of the writer/blogger, I have to take care of the whole woman.
How do you manage the short-term and long-term impact of your work?
Also in career advice: How to Create Daily Rituals for Productivity
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Photo: sektorfuenf via Flickr