Doing a Good Job: It’s the Little Things


I am a big fan of quotes. I think there is almost always a perfect quote for any occasion. Often the perfect quote at the perfect time can really inspire and challenge me. For example, yesterday I was feeling down and a little whiny. I tried to focus on the positive, but I wasn’t doing too well. I decided to go to bed early (extra rest ALWAYS helps me!). And then this morning, I remembered a great quote that I had heard at a lecture on resilience among Holocaust survivors. Victor Frankl, Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist, is credited with this quote: “Between stimulus and response lies a space. In that space lie our freedom and power to choose a response. In our response lies our growth and our happiness.” So I decided right then and there to stop the pity party and move on. That quote really helped me!

My husband Eric shared a quote with me recently that I can’t seem to get off my mind. So I finally decided to spend a little more time reflecting on what I might be able to learn from it and how I might be able to inspire others by sharing it. The quote is from Kyle Richter, CEO of a software company called MartianCraft,  and it was shared during his presentation at the 360iDev Conference in Denver this past August.

“There’s a big difference between being good at your job and being good at doing your job.”

I think this principle is true regardless of the field of work. Every field of work has a primary task or set of tasks that takes up most of the time and focus. But there are also a myriad of other responsibilities inherent in any job. You can be the absolute best at that primary task, but if you neglect the others, your overall performance (and sometimes the entire company) suffers.

For example, if you’re a residential painter, obviously your primary job is to paint the interior and exterior of houses. Excellence in the skill of painting itself is crucial. However, there are so many other skills and responsibilities involved in being successful as a residential painter. You need to be able to get clients, schedule jobs, choose and purchase the appropriate equipment and painting supplies, estimate the amount of supplies are needed for a project, communicate well with clients, meet deadlines, keep track of financial information, and so on. So if you’re a top notch painter (“good at your job”) but are lousy at some or all of the other responsibilities (NOT “good at doing your job”), you won’t be successful.

If you work in a company alongside others, this adds even more elements. You need to be a team player, communicate well with co-workers, take direction from a superior well, work together well with peers, keep the company’s goals in mind, etc. All of these qualities are important.

I am convinced that some of those responsibilities that might not seem as important are critical to keeping customers happy. You may not enjoy them, but your success depends upon doing them well. Happy customers are long-term customers. Happy customers talk to their family and friends and generate more customers.

One particular facet of “being good at doing your job” that I consider particularly important is good communication with clients. When Eric and I are looking for someone to help us with a home repair or improvement, we usually call 2 or 3 different companies. We might have stellar recommendations from Company A and are leaning toward using their services. However, if Company B calls us back quickly, gives us a clear idea of what kind of service and prices to expect, and is eager to get the job but Company A waits a week to call us back, we will go with Company B every time. When a company prioritizes customer service, we are much more likely to choose them. And this means not only do we choose Company B, but we also refer our family and friends, give a positive review on social media, and will likely hire them again in the future.

You may wonder what this has to do with organizing. There is far more to being organized than just having all of your stuff arranged well. Organization on the job involves keeping up with your calendar, prioritizing your To Do lists, making time for customer follow-up, keeping accurate records. In short, all of those extras involve organizing. And those “extras” can make or break your business. I assure you that time spent organizing will reap great dividends.





“I Wish I Hadn’t Gotten Rid of That!”

garment hanger

Early in August, as area schools were starting back, I was preparing for a news interview on WJHL’s Daytime Tri-Cities. The topic I chose to present was organizing for the school year. I was thinking back to how hectic those school mornings could be, and trying to remember anything I had done when my girls were young that alleviated some of the stress. As I gathered items for the interview, I remembered one in particular that was a favorite organizing tool. We used this particular item to help plan ahead for choosing an outfit for school. It was a hanging garment bag with five pockets. It was pink and purple (perfect for a family with two girls), and the five sections were labeled with the days of the school week Monday through Friday. On Sunday evenings (if I had kept up with the laundry to make this possible), we would pick out a school outfit for every day of the week. This prevented that last-minute scramble and potential argument about what to wear. On a stressful school morning, anything that can save just a bit of time and hassle is invaluable. I loved that garment hanger!

When the girls were older and were more independent in the school morning routine, we no longer needed that garment hanger. I held onto it for a little while, but I eventually decided to donate it. I didn’t think about it again until that day in early August of this year. I did a cursory glance in the attic but was pretty sure I no longer had it. I remember saying, “I sure wish I hadn’t gotten rid of that thing. It would have been perfect for this interview!” I decided to try to find one like it, but of course I wasn’t able to find one quickly. I suppose I might have been able to find an equivalent one, and with Amazon Prime quick shipping, I still might have gotten it in time. But I decided that using a generic one (not labeled with the days of the week or pink and purple) would be just fine. So I purchased one from Target, and sure enough, it was sufficient to make the point. I hated that I didn’t still have that particular item, but in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t really that important. It was one of about 10-15 items that I used for the interview, and I don’t think it mattered that much.

Do I wish I had kept the garment hanger so that I could have used it? Yes, but not really. Let me explain. Eric and I are both always eager to get rid of things we don’t need. We love the freedom that comes from decluttering. We consider the number of times when we say, “I sure wish I hadn’t gotten rid of that” a very small price to pay. Isn’t it interesting that we tend to only remember the times when we need something we got rid of, but not the times when we don’t need it? Every other August, I could have said, “Well, another beginning of the school year is here, and once again, we don’t need that garment hanger.” The same could be said of the hundreds of other items that we have gotten rid of over the years. Day after day, year after year, we still don’t need them. And the decluttered spaces are still there to remind us that we made the right choice.

Eric was recently listening to the Michael Lewis book The Undoing Project . It tells the story of Nobel-prize-winning psychologist Danny Kahneman and his groundbreaking work with Amos Tversky. In one of the memorable quotes from the book, Tversky said, “Unless you are kicking yourself once in a month for throwing something away, you aren’t throwing enough away.” When I consider how infrequently that happens to me, it only confirms my opinion even more.

Here’s another factor to consider: If we choose to keep something that we haven’t used in a while on the off chance that we might need it in the future, when that time comes, we might not even remember that we have it! Or more likely, we won’t be able to find it because of all the clutter. Additionally, we might be able to find it, but it may have been damaged over the years because it wasn’t stored correctly.

I hope this example is helpful in your decluttering attempts. And I hope you find that like me, the regret of not keeping something you eventually need is more than offset by the innumerable benefits of owning less.