Are You Going the Extra Mile?

I have a love/hate relationship with one particular phrase. That phrase is “Going the extra mile”. I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but have you ever thought about what it actually means? It refers to doing more than is expected or required. Now do you see why I have a love/hate relationship with it?

I used to believe in this phrase whole heartedly. When I was in college, I thought studying would be more important than spending time with friends. I thought if I went the extra mile in all aspects of my life, I would achieve more and ultimately do something greater in my life. But after years (14 of them!) in corporate, I started to realize just how this phrase wasn’t going to hold up its end of the bargain. Think about it! Yearly reviews where hardly anyone ever achieves the highest rank no matter how much effort they put in… In my corporate experience, employees were encouraged to go the extra mile to show their commitment to the company and their own personal value. For what?! I hate to toot my own horn, but my work ethic is top notch, but it wasn’t necessarily rewarded.

Going the Extra Mile No Longer Sticks

I find that today, people are shifting away from the mentality of going the extra mile because they’re finding it’s not working anymore. Instead, they’re being strategic with their choices and being selective about where they focus their efforts. My parents’ generation will say that my generation “no longer wants to work” but I challenge that mentality. It’s not that we don’t want to work, it’s that going the extra mile is no longer the best way to stand out, earn respect or achieve advancement. I know I’m not alone when I say this too. People now have a job, not necessarily a career anymore.

Let’s Shift the Focus

Instead of focusing on going the extra mile all the time, shift your focus to doing what’s right for you and your health. Especially your mental health! We all want to avoid overworking and burnout, right? Well, going the extra mile all the time doesn’t allow you to do that. Instead, focus on what’s important. Prioritizing your health over your job is not an indication that you don’t want to work. Instead, it’s you doing what you need to to avoid burnout and allow yourself to keep going.

I’m not saying you should never go the extra mile. What I am saying is that you should set healthy boundaries that allow you to identify when it makes sense to do so. How do you decide? Keep reading.

Strategies to Decide When to Go the Extra Mile

Strategy 1 – Prioritization

Only you can determine if the effort you put in has a possibility of being reciprocated. When you are presented with a task, have a conversation with yourself to find out.

  • If I do X, Y and Z, will that put me in a better position for career advancement?
  • Will this task give me personal satisfaction and make me happy?
  • If I don’t do part of this task, will it affect my team?

These are just a few question that might come to mind. Go to work, do your job, but you don’t have to go the extra mile on every single task.

Strategy 2 – Set Boundaries

I mentioned creating healthy boundaries before you have to know your limits. I consider it a super power when someone knows when to call it quits. I’ve been working full times for over 20 years now and only running a business in addition to that over the past year. In that time, I’ve learned when it call it quits. Not even because of the medical eye issues I’m experiencing but for my only sanity.

Setting clear boundaries helps you avoid overworking, overcommitment and allows you to have a potential for a better, more fulfilling life. Remember you are only one person and can only do so much in a given day. No one wants to feel burnt out so having boundaries that tell you when to start, stop and continue and hugely important.

Strategy 3 – Communicate

I cannot stress this enough. Communication is key! It is one of the hardest things for many people to do, including myself. If you practice enough, though, it becomes easier. Tell the people in your life, both in work and in your personal life, what your boundaries are. Share your priorities so everyone can be on the same page. And when you put in some extra effort, make it known. I’m not talking about bragging, I’m talking about ensuring that those that need to know, know.

Strategy 4 – Ask for Feedback

This goes along with Strategy 3. Asking for feedback is the way you learn what to do next. You can ask yourself with a self check-in and ask those around you. Understanding how and where your efforts are being seen and valued is important because it’s how you become aware of what to change. Doing this allows you to make adjustments but do not allow this to back you into a corner. Feedback is just information and only you can decide what to do with it.

Bottom Line on the Extra Mile

When all is said and done, it’s about finding balance in when to go the extra mile and when not to. Go all in when it makes sense for you and only you. If a situation requires a bit more effort, and is important to you, then go the extra mile. Give your best effort 90% of the time and then when it calls for it, add in that extra 10%.

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