Educate yourself. As I recommended in my previous column on personal IT value, you need to learn how the work you are doing directly contributes to the business outcomes most valued by your employer. Put another way, if your organization's key performance indicators could be displayed like gauges on an executive dashboard (and perhaps they are), what do you personally do that makes the dials move?
Become process-aware. Once you know the answer to the above question, examine your daily work routine. What percentage of your day is spent creating business value? What percentage is spent on stuff that may look or feel like work but has negligible business impact? Perhaps you need to initiate a personal "process improvement" project designed to shift those percentages in a better direction.
Get creative. You don't need to be super smart to work super smart. Maybe you simply need to engage your brain's other hemisphere on a daily basis. Spend a few minutes each day thinking and jotting down ideas. Generate some new kinds of business contributions that nobody else has come up with. This could turn into some of your most fruitful work.
Be your own PR agent. If you have indeed been creating business value with your work, be sure the right people are aware of your contributions. Sometimes we sit around and keep quiet about our best work, hoping that someone will recognize us; then we get mad when they don't. That's just plain dumb.
The facts are in: Long hours and hard work are the latest commodity, and their value is declining. If they're all you rely on to survive in your job, you might end up in the hospital -- or worse. So take a leap of faith and transform yourself into a value worker. Let someone else explain to the coffee plantation owner why you'll no longer be single-handedly bankrolling his children's college education.
Joe Gentry is chief technology officer for Software AG's Enterprise Transaction Systems business line and has more than 20 years of experience in strategic marketing, product management and software development. He can be reached at Joseph.Gentry@softwareagusa.com.