The rice paddies of Southern China are synonymous with hard work. The sentiment was to wake up daily while it is still dark and try to get more rice out of that small piece of ground that is yours to work on. I think of these terraces filled with rice paddies that are all clustered with the homes of the people who work them. And I imagine that there are probably a lot of things in common with all those people. Like, for instance…

The Deal

There is probably one owner of that land that all those rice farmers live on. And they are all probably working under some rental agreement with that owner. This rental deal most likely does not vary much amongst the tenants of this village.

The Project

And the pastoral homogenous images of terraced rice paddies show us that only one thing is being cultivated here – rice. Everyone’s working on the same project – growing rice.

The Team

Now, these rental agreements provide homes for families, and it is the families that work each in their own field. The team that is doing the work in the rice paddy, under the stipulations of the rental agreement, is most likely a family. Husbands, wives, and children all working together.

It looks here like everyone’s doing the same thing. But there is one final area in which things indeed may differ from paddy to paddy in one of those beautiful terraced rice fields:

The Workflow

Here is where the emphasis is placed. How do we work in a way that will maximize the yield of our rice paddy? There are decisions to be made regarding things like seeds and quantities of water. You need to be sure just how much you should lift the little bamboo dam to regulate irrigation. You must decide when in the season to plant, etc. This is where the bulk of the work happens – the workflow. In terms of where a rice farmer’s main concern should be, it is in waking up before sunrise and getting to work.

How many of us can say that we have a similar experience in our own work life? Wouldn’t it be great just to do the work? But so often we get hung up on the deal. We get distracted because we feel we may be underpaid. We feel that we might have exceeded project scope. We think that maybe we’re not doing the job we were hired to do.

Or maybe we get hung up on the project. Are we sure about what we’re doing? Is building a new website really what we need right now, or can we just launch a campaign through the social media networks? Or do we need to create a product when this can be packaged as a service?

And maybe there’s a team problem, maybe work is being hindered by interpersonal issues. How can I trust this person as a team member when he violated my trust in a personal matter?

It seems so often that we rarely get to do the real work. To implement and refine a workflow that will optimize results. If one of those things is off – everything is off. If the deal isn’t right, how can you start a project? And if the project isn’t right, how can you develop an effective workflow? And if there’s something wrong with the team, how can any workflow get implemented?

Be mindful of your deals, your projects, and your team. Because you want the joy of putting in a good day’s work and seeing results, of creating a workflow that works.