TCG 411: Work Hard But Work Smart

Are You an On-the-Job ‘Self-Saboteur’?

By Donna Farrugia, Executive Director of The Creative Group

Business conditions may be improving, but a lot of in-house creative teams are still stretched thin. Many have taken on more responsibility, struggle to secure the resources and support they need, and continue to work long hours. If you are among this group, your job is already challenging enough. But did you know you may be making it even harder on yourself?

Here are four ways you could be sabotaging yourself on the job and tips for avoiding these mistakes:

1. Confusing urgent with important. If you find yourself with a lot on your plate, shifting some assignments to the back burner can help you better manage the workload. But be strategic about what gets pushed. A common mistake is to prioritize projects based solely on their urgency – the tasks with the most pressing deadlines are tackled first, while those with later due dates get set aside.

But urgency does not always accurately indicate a project’s importance. Before deciding which projects to focus on or skip, put together a list of your assignments and determine the priority of each. Consult the list daily so you remain on top of your most important tasks and can adjust the rankings as projects are added, deadlines shift and deliverables change.

2. Keeping to yourself. In today’s environment, it’s easy to simply put your head down and get your work done. But keeping to yourself can prove harmful in the long run. For one, you miss out on the chance to make friends with coworkers. Second, you never know when you might need to turn to a teammate for assistance or advice. So stop to chat in the hallway on occasion, join a coworker for lunch and participate in offsite events to get to know those you work with.

3. Not wanting to bother your manager. Keeping in close contact with your boss is critical to ensuring you focus on the highest-priority projects and meet performance expectations. It also helps guarantee you have the information and resources you need to complete your work. Try to schedule regular meetings with your supervisor so you can keep him or her apprised of your current workload, request resources when needed and discuss strategies for overcoming potential roadblocks.

4. Being satisfied with the status quo. When workloads and stress levels are high, employees often move career development down the list of priorities. But ignoring your professional education could put you at a disadvantage. Changes in technology mean that you could quickly fall behind if you don’t continually add to your repertoire of skills. And no one other than yourself will ensure you receive the training you need – so be proactive. Approach your manager with a list of training opportunities you are interested in and explain how pursuing them would benefit you and the company. Your supervisor may be able to support your efforts by subsidizing the cost, providing you with the necessary time off or recommending other avenues for development.


Donna Farrugia is executive director of The Creative Group, a specialized staffing service placing interactive, design and marketing professionals with a variety of firms. More information, including online job-hunting services, candidate portfolios and The Creative Group’s award-winning career magazine, can be found at

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