What’s Wrong With the Bare Minimum?

What's Wrong With the Bare Minimum?Now that my fiancee is on her way to becoming a doctor I’m seeing first hand just how much work it is to become a physician.  Considering how hard it was to get in to medical school, I should have known that it would be even tougher once she was actually in school.  But the one thing I never thought about was what it’s like to study and compete with so many over-achievers.

You remember in high school when teachers would assign summer reading?  I may have read a book or two but I’m pretty sure reading was at the bottom of my priority list when I was growing up.  There were probably a few kids who did all of the assigned reading and started reviewing class textbooks before school started but I definitely wasn’t one of them.  I was too busy out playing with my friends or more likely getting into trouble to care about reading a book like The Scarlet Letter.

Going above and beyond the call of duty has never been one of my strong suits.  In fact, there aren’t many things that come to mind that I’ve ever really over-achieved at.  But I think I’ve done pretty well for myself with this attitude of not wanting to be the best, but also not wanting to be just average.  I like being a little bit ahead of the curve but never too far out of sight.

Always Striving for Slightly Above Average

I’m not trying to make myself sound lazy or dumb since I was actually a very good student in high school.  I did my homework, studied a decent amount and had some natural ability in math and science.  But I’ve always strived to do the best I could while also exerting the least effort.  My goal in nearly ever class was to get an A, but in reality, all I really cared about was getting 89.5% or whatever would round up to an A-(which was worth the same as a regular A in high school).  I never saw the point of exerting all that extra effort to get the highest grade in the class since at the end of the day it was all worth the same.

I’m very logical by nature so when you tell me that a 90% is an A and 100% is also an A, I’m going to go for the 90% grade since I know it will take less work to get there.  I also believe in the law of diminishing returns which states that in order to get from 90% to 100% you have to put in a lot more work than the amount of work required to get from 80% to 90%.  And that’s kind of approach I take at my job today.  I don’t mind putting in 8 hours a day since that’s what’s required of me but I don’t think I’m nearly as effective at my job during the 9th and 10th hours of the day as I am during the first couple hours.

Does it Pay Off to Go Above the Bare Minimum?

One of the main reasons why I dislike working in the corporate environment is that there is very little correlation between your job performance and your pay.  Let’s be honest, at the end of the day, 99% of us are working because we want and need the money.  So if you hire on to a salaried job that pays you X amount of dollars for working 40 hours a week, why would you ever do more?

I think there’s a misconception that you can’t be a good employee working only 40 hours a week.  If you’re able to maximize your efficiency and work harder, faster and just plain better than your co-workers why would you need to go above the minimum?  In the corporate environment, 40 hours is the bare minimum and there are lots of people who choose to work more than that.  Not me though.

In my experience(albeit limited), I have found that it does not pay to go above the bare minimum.  Even though most salaried employees don’t get paid for overtime, my company actually pays us for working overtime and I still don’t want to do it!  I value my time too much and it doesn’t hurt that my online streams of income can bring in just as much, if not more on a per hour basis.

Going Above the Bare Minimum

I’m sure there are a lot of people who think my cavalier attitude towards work and school is a sign of laziness but I think I’ve done pretty well for myself with this way of thinking.  I like having lots of free time outside of work and when I go home I don’t think about my job until the next day when I sit down at my desk at 7:30 am.  I’m sure I could make more money or get a promotion faster if I busted my ass for 60 hours a week but I make plenty of money considering all I have to do is sit in a cubicle for 8 hours.  If you start saving and investing early on in life, it’s pretty amazing what you can achieve financially without ever making more than six figures.

If I wanted to just skate by doing the bare minimum at my job I could have a pretty good life.  But I’ve also found another source of income working online that lets me work less and ultimately could equal the pay at my day job.  Building my online businesses is a lot of work and it’s even tougher to do it after I work 8 hours a day but in the end it will be worth it.  My ‘other career’ lets me work for myself, set my own hours and make my own money.  Right now, I’m going above and beyond the bare minimum but eventually it should lead to more freedom and less stress which sound pretty nice in my book.

One of the biggest reasons why I don’t mind going above the bare minimum for my online businesses is that I see a direct correlation between how much effort I put into them and how much success I’m having.  That correlation is what motivates me and keeps me working hard in order to achieve my goals.  I’m finally going above the bare minimum and it’s totally paying off.  But if things go well, I’ll be back to my ‘slacker ways’ in a few years.

Readers, what do you think about just doing the ‘bare minimum’ to get by?  Can you live a pretty good life with these values or do you have to always be motivated and inspired to get to the top?  I’m probably somewhere in the middle but I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.  

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I'm Mr. 4HWD, I started this site because I think everyone should be able to work at a job they enjoy and still have time to do all the fun stuff. I don't want to retire early, I want to work four hours a day on the things I love for the rest of my life.

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  1. says

    I agree with you 100% about working the bare minimum vs. not working the bare minimum. In a corporate environment there is no guarantee of getting higher compensation if you work longer hours. Small businesses, though, usually have a correlation between how much time and effort you put in, as well as how ‘smart’ you work. I think you and I have similar goals as I like working my side hustles on top of my 9-5 corporate job because I like the correlation between effort and compensation.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted…4 Tips for Becoming a Full Time BloggerMy Profile

    • says

      Yea it’s definitely more important IMO to focus on going above the bare minimum when there’s a reward at the end of the tunnel. We’re all motivated by incentives and that’s why communism doesn’t work too well :)

    • says

      Yea definitely, I honestly believe I can get a lot more work done in 4-5 hours than most people can in 7-8 hours. In college, I stopped going to class my last few years because I wasn’t learning anything. But instead of sleeping in or watching tv during that time, I would study on my own.

      I’m always curious why people stay late or work 40+ hours a week? Are you paid for OT? or is this more a temporary workload issue and you’ll return to 40 hrs/week in a few weeks?

    • says

      Yea that makes sense but I think in most aspects of life you’re not rewarded accordingly for going above and beyond the bare minimum. When you are though, I’m totally with you and I’m down to go way above too!

  2. says

    I’m definitely one of those that does the bare minimum if it’s something I can get away with. Schoolwork, yes, because like you said, both a 90 and 100 are an A. As for work, I do try to go above and beyond, but only because I’m currently wanting to move up in my career. If there isn’t much of a difference, or any difference, between doing the bare minimum or going over the top, I will do as little as I have to so that I can achieve the same and desired result.
    Ryan @ Impersonal Finance recently posted…I’m not the CFO of my householdMy Profile

    • says

      I’m exactly the same way. I don’t mind going over the top to get something done as long there’s some benefit at the end of the road. One of the reasons why I don’t go above and beyond at my job is because I don’t think they do a very good job of promoting/recognizing talent. I’m sure other industries are different. Are there people who have really over-achieved at your company and been promoted or are you just hoping for the best?

  3. Renee Solomon says

    So, I think we are the same person, haha. A teacher in high school told us that we should do the least amount of work for the A or the B–or whatever grade you want. I have always taken that to heart. I was a slightly above average student in high school and college and it has paid off for me.

    I put more effort into my side hustles and getting multiple streams of income. I would love to have a four hour work day. It is a very millennial (I am the same age as you) idea that we should not have to work 40 hours if we can get our work done in 16. It is a millennial idea that we should get paid for our *work* not our *time*. This is the reason why I want to get out of my cube and have FIRE so that I can focus my time on other things.

    Great blog :)

    • says

      Hi Renee, thanks for reading and commenting. It does sound like we’re very similar in the way we think :) Not sure most people would admit it but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with doing the bare minimum like you mention.

      With my day job, I just don’t see the benefit for going above and beyond but with my side hustles I totally do! A lot of millennials want that work-life balance but it’s a lot tougher than they might expect. You have to really be smart and calculating in your approach to career/income sources if you want it all to pay off.


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