I’ve been at my job for about two and half months now. Though I’ve learned many things so far, both technical and general, one thing really sticks out.
The little things are what really matter.
Coming into this job I had it in my head that I needed to hit a grand slam. That I needed to have big ideas that and create whole new systems that revolutionized the way my company did business. I was stressed–I felt like I needed to have all these ground-breaking ideas even when I really had no idea what I was doing.
I wasn’t overly naive. I knew that I knew little. I knew that, realistically, any improvements I could think of were already thought of. Nevertheless, part of me still was egging myself on to try and find or think of something big. And that was exactly the problem.
I was thinking way too big.
Big ideas can be great. And I am not trying to discourage the idea of trying to improve things in a profound way. If something is being done one way at your company, and you know you can do it better, you should definitely bring it up.
But be careful. Focusing too much on the big can make you lose sight of the small.
For example, I am finishing up a pretty long and tedious project that I have been working on for about a month and a half. The aim of the project is to help the company, and the legal team in particular, be able to access and process all of our contracts, agreements, purchase orders, bills of sale, etc. with greater ease and efficiency.
My task was to learn how to use a program named FileBound, transfer all of the agreements and contracts from our company shared drive to FileBound, and develop a system so they could be easily accessed. I’m not quite done, but I will have gone through something like 1,800 contracts and agreements.
Needless to say, it wasn’t the most fun thing I have ever done in my life. At first I didn’t realize the scope of the project, then I hated it, then I looked at it as something drudge through so I could really start producing value, then I hated it again, and then I finally realized that I was, in fact, producing tons of value for my company.
Apart from the size, the reason the project was such a long and arduous undertaking was exactly the reason why I needed to do it. Once executed, agreements were difficult to find, had non-uniform naming conventions, and were all lumped in different folders within our shared drive. There was no real way to search, and when a document was needed to look at again, or to re-enter a workflow process, everything had to be done manually and with difficulty.
Now people can easily find all types of documents, they are uniform in their naming convention, and can easily be added to ques or put through workflow processes within FileBound. Sure, a lot of the project was boring drudgery. But in the process of doing it, I learned how to use a new program, learned how to use it and manipulate it so as to make the lives of my coworkers much easier, and–most importantly–learned that lawyers should be prohibited from writing anything. Ever. Skim almost 2,000 legal documents and you’ll understand.
Jokes aside though, most of my discomfort didn’t stem from sifting through loads of contracts. It stemmed from me thinking that this was just busy work and that because I was working on it, I was being blocked from actually producing value. I was thinking too big.
You don’t need to develop a whole new marketing strategy, or ground-breaking new angle to create value for your company (although that’s great if you do). You just need to find little areas where little improvements can be made. Little things that can be made a little better. Because all those add up. Something as mundane as making contracts easier to find can save people time and make them more efficient.