Don’t Cut Switchbacks

Avoid Taking Shortcuts

Switch Backs on the Burr trail.

When looking for success in business, too many believe that shortcuts are one of the keys of rising and succeeding more efficiently. Taking the quick and easy route may have a variety of negative consequences, especially when it comes to productivity.

Having spent much of my career either working in an outdoor environment or striving to find financial success so that I could spend more time playing there, I will use a favorite outdoor analogy to work through this issue.

Don’t Cut Switchbacks.

Switchbacks are built into a trail on a steep hillside to make the climb easier and to protect the landscape. Another other option for a hiker is to just go straight up the hill. Though both routes get you to the destination, one does it deliberately on a solid path and the other, though shorter, tears up the hillside, is physically more demanding and causes damage that will have to be dealt with down the line.

Just as cutting switchbacks harms the environment improper shortcuts will harm your business and might not be a path that you really want to pursue.

If you have read my blog on the 80/20 rule you will know I am a fan of strong work ethic and efficiency. I embrace the quote attributed to David Dunham: “Efficiency is intelligent laziness.” There are a few ways to get your job done more efficiently without having its overall quality reduced. One of the more prominent of these is to have a strong work ethic to ensure that you’re committed to quality.

It is worth looking at how taking shortcuts can negatively affect your performance and productivity. 

Sweaty Hiker

How Short Cuts Affect Work Productivity

There are a few areas where taking shortcuts can have a negative impact on your productivity. One of the most notable of these is that the quality of your work may suffer considerably.

This is primarily because you will end up making many more mistakes as a result of less attention being paid to your work. Naturally, this could mean that you’ll end up having to spend more time fixing these mistakes before a product can be sold, or service offered.  This lower quality work will also bring negative attention from managers or customers, which is something we all want to avoid.

When starting my online business my goal was to create a space where I could earn a proper living and, more importantly, carve out additional time to play in the outdoors.

The potential possibilities were promising but I had little expertise. Being one who really works best by watching, then applying, lessons I chose affiliate marketing with companies who offered detailed training programs.

It ends up that I chose my options well but still failed at first. I was frustrated until it was pointed out to me that maybe I had broken a cardinal rule of my hiking experience. I was cutting switchbacks.

The best way to the top isn’t always a straight line. If I start up a trail and see that eventually it goes to the peak shouldn’t I just plot an azimuth and go straight there? That technique is wrong in the wilderness and wrong in business.

On the trail, cutting switchbacks on the way up just makes the climb harder. Following the pre-built trail will add more steps to my hike, but those steps will be easier to manage.

In my business I would start up the educational path, get a bit impatient, assume where I should be headed and then carve out my own path towards the goal. Using this technique, I could never find the top and I blamed the educational material.

After all I skimmed the material and saw where we were headed. But, as it turns out, I missed vital steps and information when taking those shortcuts.

I wanted to see the view from the top so badly that I took shortcuts that never allowed me to get there and I never reached the anticipated goal.

Lost in the wilderness I had to sit down with my map and find out where I got off the trail. Going back slowly over the material showed me where I went wrong and how to fix my mistakes.

Running a business this way will naturally have a negative impact on your productivity. If we take shortcuts we will spend too much time correcting mistakes we could have avoided causing the quality of our other work to suffer. This may lead to a cycle of mistakes that could shut things down.

Taking shortcuts may also hinder customer service, which means that your overall sales and brand reputation can take quite a hit.

Taking shortcuts can also affect creativity, which will play a large role in your overall productivity. This is primarily because making creative choices about business strategies and work processes can be one of the more significant ways that you can develop, and implement, ways to reposition yourself and your company to increase efficiency.

Hiker at the peak.

Alternatives To Taking Shortcuts

There are a variety of keys to success that apply to everyone who works, no matter what their position or responsibilities are.

Here are two:

Strong Work Ethic.

Have an efficient and strong work ethic. I love efficiency but while taking advantage of that, we still need to be working diligently at the task in front of us.

Proper Preparation.

Spending a little time setting up you program goes a long way toward efficient implementation. To follow my outdoor analogy, maps were made for a purpose. Create the map you want to follow, follow your map and avoid cutting switchbacks.

The time spent in planning will help avoid costly mistakes and will help you avoid taking shortcuts. This will ensure quality.

There is a peak near where I live that has two intersecting routes to the top. One is 11 miles and one is 16. Which is best? That depends on the day. When I train on this mountain I decide the night before which route I want to follow then I head out in that direction.

I start with a definitive plan, but I am not afraid to alter that plan as more information is presented. I can mix and match these routes as my day progresses and my physical needs dictate.

I suggest that you do the same as you make your way through your work day. Have a plan, stay on the trail but be willing to make alterations as things change. I will write soon about the benefits of improvisation, but until then, follow your path and avoid cutting the switchbacks.

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