Have you ever blown off a task at work because it just seemed too small or menial to bother with? Perhaps you figure it won't matter if a few little details slip - a couple of unanswered emails, maybe, or some rushed forms that are supposed to be filled in with painstaking care. Instead of filing papers according to your office guidelines, you just keep them in a heap in your in-tray - you don't think anyone's ever going to need them.
But getting the little things right - and doing an excellent job on small tasks - can really make a difference. After all, if your boss thinks you can't be trusted to get the little things right, are you likely to be given responsibility on anything else?
Here are four reasons why you want to take pride in getting small tasks right:
1. Your Task Could Be Mission-Critical
Even if something seems unimportant or insignificant to you, it might be a crucial cog in the machinery of your company - and getting that little task right can stop things from fouling up.
This isn't a new idea; it's been around for centuries. Here's an old nursery rhyme illustrating the same point:
For want of the nail the shoe was lost;
For want of the shoe the horse was lost;
For want of the horse the rider was lost;
For want of the rider the battle was lost;
For want of the battle the kingdom was lost;
And all for the want of a horse shoe nail.
Are you the person in your company losing the nail?
2. The Way You Carry Out The Task Matters
If the procedure you're supposed to use seems like a ridiculous amount of effort, ask your manager for the reasons behind it. There may be a perfectly good rationale about why you have to fill out a form in triplicate - perhaps it'll cause a lot of hassle for the QA team or the auditors if you don't.
Alternatively, if there really does seem to be no point to the procedure, part of doing small tasks well is to get it changed! It'll make things easier both for you and your colleagues.
Don't just assume that a complex procedure means your boss or manager is trying to be a pain. They don't want to waste your time on trivia - after all, they pay you!
3. You're Showing Diligence and Reliability
Taking care over little tasks really can impress a boss or manager. If you're the one in your team who always fills in forms right, always cheerfully volunteers to do the mailouts, and never has a stack of unfiled papers heaped around the desk - you'll be sending out great signals.
Assuming that you want your boss to see you as organized, diligent and reliable, taking care with small jobs can only create a great impression.
And even if you're not in a traditional employed job, the same applies. If you're a freelancer, then customers will be more likely to re-hire you if you deal with the little things as well as the big ones - for example, getting back to their emails promptly and professionally. To you, this might seem far less important than getting on with the logo design they've asked for, but to customers, it says they're being taken good care of.
If you're a student, doing a good job on the minor aspects of your course - showing up to lectures, preparing for seminars, getting essays turned in on time and with any appropriate paperwork completed - can really help you shine in your tutor's mind when they come to write a reference for you!
4. You Get Personal Satisfaction From a Job Done Well
The final reason, and the most important to me, doesn't have anything to do with impressing your boss, colleagues or customers.
It's simply this: you can take pride in knowing that you've taken care over a job and that you've done it to the best of your abilities.
How do you feel about yourself when you know you've slacked off, ignored your responsibilities, and put in a half-assed effort? And how do you feel when you know you've done your utmost, even though the task was tedious or boring?
Be proud that you're the sort of person who does things well - even when no-one else will ever know.
Do you think the small stuff matters? Or do you think we should let little things slide to focus on bigger projects at work?
Written on 3/26/2009 by Ali Hale.
Ali is a professional writer and blogger, and a part-time postgraduate
student of creative writing. If you need a hand with any sort of
written project, drop her a line (email@example.com) or check out her