Your own proficiency is hindering you. By definition, it’s inevitable.
Proficiency is about gaining skill through repetition. The more skillful you become, the less energy it takes to sustain your level of competence. When it comes to how you work, you’ve created a system of proficiency too. At first, it took conscious thought to do the work. Remember those first days ramping up on the new job?
After a while, though, as you gained proficiency, the work got easier. The problem is, if you’re like most people, you’re growing faster than your system of work. Usually it’s because you haven’t taken the time to intentionally evaluate how you work. The system you’ve relied upon, that’s evolved over the years, has silently served you so well. Why fix what’s not broken?
Here’s why: until you do so, your own work proficiency will remain your biggest hinderance to breakthrough. Professional athletes know this all too well. They know that real athletic performance requires varying their routine to keep themselves from complacency—the natural byproduct of proficiency. They trick their bodies to get the most from them by intelligently and intentionally experimenting with new systems of work. Nothing remains static without a reason.
You can move beyond your current level of productivity but you’ll have to surrender proficiency to do it. There are five ways proficiency can hinder you:
- It keeps you from doing your best next. Proficiency has us working automatically on the next thing. But the best thing might be non-linear—not necessarily the next thing. When was the last time you evaluated the why behind all the work you do?
- It keeps you from working smarter. Proficiency has us making incremental improvements on our system of work. Most of them without much forethought. When was the last time you evaluated the way in which you worked?
- It keeps you from your peak. The mark of proficiency is when things become easier. While of tremendous benefit, it may also blind us to our own natural rhythms for energy throughout the day and cause us to work at off-peak times. When was the last time you evaluated when you had the most energy for certain types of work?
- It keeps you from enlisting others. The more proficient we become, the less inclined we may be to enlist the help of others. “I can do it better (faster) myself.” Sound familiar? When was the last time you rethought who might help you best?
- It keeps you from using new tools. We gain proficiency in our work in large part because of the tools we use. But our familiarity with them may breed contempt for new tools that can take us so much farther. Can you teach an old dog new tricks? When was the last time you adopted a new tool in your system of work?
You’re growing. Is your system of work keeping pace? Pick one of the five areas above and conduct an experiment to find out.
What other ways might proficiency be hindering you?