Dumb things smart people do

Okay, it’s not something that we like to admit, but the truth is we all do dumb things at times … even the smartest people we know are not immune.

I still laugh about going to a friend’s house for dinner a few years back (she just happens to be one of the smartest people I know). After watching her chop the spaghetti into tiny pieces and then place it methodically into the boiling pot, I finally gave in and asked, “What are you doing?” She responded, “Cutting the spaghetti down so it fits into the pot.” I thought she was winding me up so I said, “But of course you know that it gets soggy and bends, right?” Her response? Sheer mortification with a face the colour of beetroot.

Smart people. Dumb mistakes. But the rest of us don’t do anything like that, do we?

Well, actually, we do. Here are six dumb things that even the smartest of us do.

1.  Allowing email to rule your life

When asked “who is your manager or supervisor?” a lot of people (if they were being honest) should really say “my boss is a guy called email”. Your direct manager isn’t the person who hired you or the person who conducts your performance reviews. Your real boss is email. Let’s face it; more times than not, email is the reason that we work late, work at home and over weekends, as well as experience information overload.

But is email what we are actually paid to do? Is email in your job description? No. So why are really smart people allowing email to destroy their productivity?

Prevent email from controlling your life and put some simple measures in place to stop its impact. Check your emails twice a day, rather than every time an email comes in. Turn off your email pop-up alert. And change the way you personally treat emails.

2.  Wasting time in pointless meetings


I know you’ve heard me talk about this one before, but really smart people find themselves zoning out in unproductive meetings on a daily basis. Nearly every one of my coaching clients wishes they had more time in their week. Yet they spend hours each day stuck in crowded meetings with unclear agendas, that start late, run overtime and more often than not waste their time.

Take a stand. Change the internal meetings you manage from 1-hour to 45-minutes and ask yourself: “Is this meeting really necessary for me? Is this meeting really adding value?” And if you’re not the person running the meeting, well don’t be shy. Ask them what value you will add by being there. Ask them the purpose of the meeting is, and to stick to the agenda and time limit.

3.  Letting excuses interfere with your exercise schedule

Big surprise right, the ex-athlete giving you a hard time for not exercising enough. But seriously people, what are you thinking? You’re a smart, intelligent, witty person. And yet we still allow ‘crazy work pressure’ to interfere with our exercise schedule.

Putting aside enough time to develop and maintain a healthy fitness level takes around 3 hours, or less than 2 per cent of your time each week. You read correctly: 2 per cent. Now can you really say that the rain/weather/traffic/product launch/meeting/phone call/urgent matter/blah, blah, blah that kept you from exercising can continue to do so?

4. Eating crap when you feel like crap

We all have bad days. It’s only natural. What’s not natural is for you to use the excuse of a bad day/week/month/year/life to put crap food into your body day after day. As Edward Stanley said, “Those who think they have no time for healthy eating will sooner or later have to find lots of time for future illness.” It’s an unfortunate truth but one that we all have to come to terms with.

Sure, have some of the ‘sometimes’ foods and enjoy life in moderation, but look after your body and eat breakfast every day, cut back on saturated fats, choose low-fat proteins and medium to low glycaemic index. Oh, and eat more vegetables and drink lots of H2O.

You’re smart. You know what you should be eating. Just do it more often.

5.  Thinking you’re a machine

How many times have you gone to work while you were sick? How often do you press pause during the day to have a quick 10 to 15-minute break? When was the last time you took annual leave? We all know that humans can’t be like the energiser bunny and go-go-go all the time yet few of us take the time to properly recover and reenergise.

You can use simple strategies on a daily, weekly, quarterly and annual basis to ensure that you are rested and recovered.

Want something easy? This coming long weekend, take some time out for you. Get a massage, float in the ocean or spend some time meditating. You’ll thank me for it later, and so will you body and brain.

6.  Giving up

There’s been a cartoon circulating around social media lately showing two men underground in a tunnel, digging their way to an abundance of diamonds and jewels. In the bottom tunnel, the man turns around and gives up, hauling his pick behind him. He is only an inch away from reaching the pit of jewels. In the top tunnel, the man wears an exuberant grin and digs away happily. He is further away from the jewels, but more determined to get there.

How often do really smart people do this in their daily lives?

You never know how close you really are to reaching your goal, achieving your dreams and discovering your own pit of diamonds. So believe in yourself and keep going when it is really tough. Be smart and cash in when it is time.

What are the dumb things that you’ve noticed really smart people doing?