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Do You Need a Don't-Care-o-Meter?


A client recently shared that her boss told her she needed to care less, and it was causing her work to suffer. She calls it her Don't Care-o-Meter, and the idea blew me away. (I treasure being floored by new ideas. It's one of many reasons I love my job - a stream of stop-and-think ideas from insightful people :-)

How do you interpret this? Here are a few off-the-cuff thoughts:

  • Being less serious about the outcome helps loosen up thinking. Tense people often focus too much on the immediate, and self-filter the bigger picture. It gives perspective.

  • It defuses perfectionism. Everyone who brings me into their workplace is ambitious and motivated, and they pretty uniformly shoot for "A+ papers." Try this crazy experiment: Say the following when you feel 80% done with a task: "It is now Good Enough."

  • It makes you think about how much effort you need to put into something. Try asking "What response is appropriate?"

  • It gives you an excuse to check in on your emotions. Is it time for invoking a healthy sense of detachment?

I'll finish with how my client put it:

Now whenever things are not working out, or I feel stressed we check in on my "I don't care-o-meter". If I'm caring too much about things I know I have to back off. I've never had a case where I wasn't caring enough about something. But many cases where I just had to let go and say I can't worry about this anymore.

I'm curious: Have you done anything like this this yourself? Is there something in your work or life you could turn up the Don't-Care-o-Meter on?

Image: barometer, Originally uploaded by AndyB

Reader Comments (9)

Since it was the boss him/herself asking your client to care less, it must have been clearly helpful. And it is a great idea to watch the "meter" and take actions when it goes in the danger zone! Also the freedom from perfectionism is a wonderful gift one can give oneself.

But otherwise, I think "Don't care"/"Don't worry" is not really computable in itself, as you said in your other post! Two of the several things that can achieve this are:

"My work": Defining my work clearly. There are several things landing as stuff in our vicinity, and people who care would like to work on everything. Finally one has to look at their job description and personal limitations and clearly decide what are their commitments, and more importantly, what are not.

"Actionable": Even where we are committed, if the care/worry can be translated into action, that is the best. Have we planned for things which are likely to upset our progress? And if this worry is not actionable, then it must be accepted as a part of the unchangeable background. Not as something negative, but as the fixed landscape through which we find our path. A sheer worry is impractical.


October 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAbhay Parvate

There are many of things that I care less about because they are not worth to care more about them.

October 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTesTeq

Hey TesTeq - great to hear from you. How do you make yourself care less? Do you analyze, or is it more the type of personality you have?

October 16, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermatthewcornell

Esp. the Anne Lamott quote: "a critic is someone who comes into the battlefield after the battle is over and shoots the wounded". :-)

An English translation of your blog is here: http://www.translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=pl&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fbiz.blox.pl%2Fhtml

October 16, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermatthewcornell

Hi Abhay.

> "Don't care"/"Don't worry" is not really computable

Well played, sir. :-) Exactly the point: *How* do you not care. For me, with my analytical bent, I want some dimensions upon which to make this decision. E.g., how do you decide Good Enough? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

> "My work": Defining my work clearly...

Actually, this conversation came up in the context of job satisfaction and duties. Good insight, there. The client found that caring less led to more satisfaction. I'd like to hear how you connected this to the meter..

Thanks for your comments, Abhay.

October 16, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermatthewcornell

Great post Matt. I made a revelation a while back about lowering the standard of work in order to increase productivity. There is a line for diminishing returns.

This post lead me to write about "Good Enough" on my blog (http://http://goetzeverything.blogspot.com), this will lead to a handful of posts about how "Good Enough" has impacted my productivity.

Keep up the good work Matt, Thanks for your thoughts on productivity

October 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDarren G

entered link incorrectly, let me try it again http://goetzeverything.blogspot.com

October 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDarren G

Nice post on perfectionism, Darren. I've found that, at least with the people I work with, almost no one goes below Good Enough. It's a stretch to get them down to even "Very Good." BTW, I love your quote "quality is in the eye of the beholder". Exactly.

Thanks for reading.

October 18, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermatthewcornell

Great post, Matt. I continually struggle with my perfectionism - see, even here! I think I need to let go of perfectionism and then I get on myself because I'm not letting go enough or fast enough. I'm not "perfect" at letting go of my perfectionism - ha ha ha!

November 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRainier

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