Mopping while the water is running

In Dutch, we have a saying for addressing symptoms when you should be addressing causes.

If you do this, we say that you are mopping while the water is running.

(The Dutch phrase is “dweilen met de kraan open”, or DWI-LUN MAT DUH CRAAN OPEN. 😉)

Clearly, this is inefficient. We shouldn’t do it.

But in our work lives, we may be doing exactly this:

  • We work harder to complete our tasks—so our boss assigns us more work. (This is because we get paid for our time, not for our output.)
  • We try to make time for sleep, exercise, and family and friends—but we work 40 hours a week and commute 12 hours a week. (So there is hardly any time left to begin with.)
  • We feel overwhelmed with work, but we don’t have a system in place to organize and prioritize. (So we don’t work on the most important tasks, but on the ones about which our coworkers shout the loudest.)

It is very difficult to improve how you work while the water is running. Spend your energy addressing causes, not symptoms.

Yours,

— Peter

P.S. Want to work in a healthier way? I can help you one-on-one. Just reply to this email and we’ll get on the phone to figure out whether it’s a good fit.

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