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Recently I attended two separate meetings where the topic of Job 1 and Job 2 was discussed. This topic was new to several of my coworkers and it was something I had not heard discussed in probably 20 years. For those of you not familiar with Job 1 and Job 2, allow me to explain:

Job 1 is our everyday job; it is what we were hired for. It is that whirlwind of activity that we face each day. Job 1 is spent addressing the urgent things that one needs to accomplish to meet commitments, deadlines, demands, etc. At the end of the day one goes home tired from accomplishing some of the things on that never-ending to-do list; only having to repeat the activity again the following day.

Job 2 is what we do - when we have or make the time - to improve Job 1. Job 2 focuses on making improvements to the relevant processes or enhancing our knowledge so that Job 1 becomes easier.

How much time do you spend on Job 1 vs. Job 2? Are you caught up in a daily whirlwind of urgent activities only wishing you had time to focus on the important things that would make your job easier? Obviously, we should dedicate significant time for Job 2 so our work gets simplified, which in turn allows us time to address the important things rather than the urgent things. However, in reality, when faced with the choice between urgent or important, urgent wins nearly every time.

“Are you caught up in a daily whirlwind only wishing you had the time to focus on the important things ?”

So how does one get out of the rut? While there is no argument that Job 1 needs to get done, we also know that we need to invest time and effort into ways to improve how we accomplish the work we were hired to do. Other than forcing yourself to attend a training course or attend a conference, here are some suggestions on how you can improve yourself without impacting the hours you dedicate to work:

1. Practice skill development in a safe environment. ASQ offers leadership positions within their local geographic sections (aka chapters) and technical divisions where you can hone your business skills, project management skills, soft skills, and more. Toastmasters International offers a safe and positive environment to develop your public speaking skills.

2. Spend the first hour of every day on self-improvement. Before doing anything else:

  • Read, read & read. Grab a book or Quality Magazine, go to a conference room, and read.
  • Watch prerecorded webinars and/or take courses on LinkedIn Learning (or something equivalent).
  • Do something; but whatever you do, accomplish it before starting your work day, otherwise you’ll struggle to find time later in the day. Doing this will soon become a habit.

3. Make a commitment to attend your local ASQ meetings or something similar. Surely you can dedicate one evening each month to listen to a quality-related presentation and network with like-minded professionals with similar experiences and needs.

4. Earn a professional certification. Dedicate a few months refreshing yourself on a professional certification’s body of knowledge. This can be done through live or online training courses, self-paced courses, or reading certification handbooks and/or primers. Then, most importantly, take the certification exam whether or not you feel ready; you might surprise yourself.

Do these suggestions work? Emphatically: Yes! I personally can attest, based on my own experience, that each of these methods is effective.

Will it be easy to do? A resounding: No! Change is seldom easy so changing your routine or making the commitment to do something new will be challenging but ultimately worthwhile.

Attending a conference, such as ASQ’s Quality 4.0 Summit happening this month in San Antonio, is an excellent opportunity for you to begin investing in yourself. Not only do conferences offer keynote speakers and a multitude of industry related speakers during the breakout sessions but they provide an excellent opportunity to build one’s network. In addition, many conferences have exhibitors showcasing their products and services. The end result of attending a conference is newfound knowledge, an enhanced network, and the possible discovery of products and services, all of which will benefit you when you return to Job 1.

Don’t allow yourself to get stuck in the grind of working feverishly each and every day without taking the time to periodically evaluate how you go about accomplishing your tasks. You are the subject matter expert on what it is you do (Job 1), it is your process, so identify waste, redundancy, complexity and then assess where and how improvement can be made (Job 2). Doing so will not only allow you to work more efficiently but will also provide you peace of mind.

Good luck with your Job 1 and your Job 2.