Under the spotlight: two people, same job
Suppose two friends, Helen and Christina, both work 10 hours a day as marketing executives for the same firm. Helen gets a big kick out of her job, while Christina merely tolerates it.
On arriving at the office on a Monday morning, they both check their email. Unsurprisingly, they already have dozens of emails to wade through.
Christina doesn’t hate her work but she could definitely think of things she’d rather be doing. That lack of enjoyment and value means that she isn’t exactly focused and efficient. So she takes 25 minutes to empty her inbox.
On the other hand, Helen is quite entertained by reading her colleagues’ and clients’ thoughts and queries and – because her interest allows her to work more efficiently – takes maybe 20 minutes to sort through the same number of emails. So Helen is already up five minutes.
Being slightly less engaged on the first task may also affect Christina’s performance on her next task. Having completed one unrewarding task drained some of her mental strength. With less willpower to spare, Christina may find herself becoming grouchier, too. When faced with even relatively innocuous requests from colleagues, she may find herself answering back rather more sharply than she would prefer.
Having had an emotionally draining day, she will have far less willpower at home. She may have so little strength of will left that she can only open a bottle of wine, drink more than is good for her and head to bed in exhaustion.
The point of all of this? Engaging in activities we find interesting and valuable not only improves our performance. It also preserves our willpower so that we can pursue whatever other goals we have later in the day – whether they are to do with our work or not. Enjoyment isn’t just a nice‐to‐have – it’s a must‐have for performance in work and life.