Performance Improvement & Professional Development

The Dangers of Dabbling

Dabbling is one of those words we don’t use very often, but maybe we should. The definition of dabbling is having superficial or intermittent interest or, to work at anything in an irregular or superficial manner. Either way, dabbling is not a good thing for an Outperformer.

Two of the Primary Causes of Dabbling

  1. Disinterest. One of the reasons we dabble is disinterest. We simply lack interest in whatever it is we’re doing. The disinterest could be the result of several things; not liking a particular task or project, not having the skills needed for doing a particular job or being afraid to fail.
  1. Inertia: The tendency to do nothing. We know that inertia is one of the primary reasons people resist change but, it’s also the primary cause for procrastination. I call procrastination simply “choosing not to choose.” It’s easier to do nothing and… dabble.

Dabbling Around the House

There is a type of dabbling that is fairly harmless – but can be costly. It’s associated with trying to do something you’ve not done before or an engaging activity you aren’t particularly skilled at. In my case it would be dabbling in automobile repair or just about any other repair for that matter. My mechanical skills are somewhere between zilch and nada. That’s why the only thing in my toolbox is a cell phone. I’ve found that getting something fixed – by a skilled repairman – is a lot less costly than dabbling in auto or home repair.

Dabbling At Work

This type of dabbling is more serious. If we allow dabbling to become a habit, we set ourselves up for failure. Remember, a habit, by definition is: a regular tendency or practice – especially one that is hard to give up. Here are a couple of insidious dabbling habits I see a lot of folks struggling with: obsessively checking email and obsessively monitoring social media. Both are productivity killers and either will sabotage a career.

Positive Ways to Deal With Dabbling

I often argue that one of the primary causes for underperforming at work is lack of focus. We can conquer lack of focus (dabbling) by taking one or more of the following actions:

  1. Control technology – instead of letting technology control you. Set a schedule for checking email and social media sites. Control the controllable.
  1. Get an adequate amount of sleep. Fatigue contributes to dabbling. The Mayo Clinic and other respected medical authorities recommend six to eight hours of sleep each night.
  1. Lack of job satisfaction. This is a tough one but, if you find yourself disinterested in your current job or your company, it’s probably time look for another line of work or a different career.
  1. Manage stress. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that relaxation techniques can increase your ability to block out distractions. Another study, from researchers at UCLA, suggests that in adults with A.D.D., meditation improves attention and eases symptoms of anxiety and depression. Either way, stress can be managed.
  1. Exercise. Mounting evidence suggests that regular exercise can keep your mind sharp and increase learning and memory capacity. The Mayo Clinic recommends exercising 150 minutes a week. If you do the math you’ll see 150 hours a week is really quite doable.

The bad news – dabbling kills performance and productivity. The good news – dabbling can be controlled and/or eliminated.

About the Author

Les Taylor is the founder and managing partner of Outperformers International. He is an award-winning author, professional speaker and recognized expert in the field of performance improvement and professional development. Les is a former law enforcement executive, served as the executive director of the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police, is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and is a past president of the Arizona Chapter of the National Speakers Association.

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