“The best preparation for good work tomorrow is to do good work today.” – Elbert Hubbard
Is What You Are Doing Getting You What You Want?
I’ve been curious about this question since I began coaching 14 years ago. Often, the conversations start with what was going on at work. Some of those responses were about relational issues. A number of people were concerned with their ‘organization’ or ‘productivity’. Of those, many were ‘whelmed over’ by their e-mails, or other details of their job. Some of it is how they think about their work; for others it is that they have changed jobs, responsibilities, but they are ‘working’ as they always have. What allows some people to change how they work/live and others don’t?
Knowing the different ways that people approach their work, I have always been curious about what determines how a person thinks? The variety of the ways people think may not be endless, but they are numerous. Some people think in a very logical, sequential way; others think in an intuitive way; others will allow their emotions to guide them. Some are structured. Some are not. Some people plan their work and their play. Some people ‘react’ to their work and their play (i.e., think…the person who’s day is determined by what is in the inbox of their email; think of those people that work the urgent all the time). As parents you might find yourself saying to your child, “What were you thinking?!” You have your own examples of what this looks like.
I once coached a person who complained about all the work he had to get done. He felt constantly behind. As we talked, I asked him to think about how he went about his work from the time he got out of college to his current job. How had his methods changed? We dug a little deeper to help clarify what I was after – what shifts had he made in how he worked to account for the changes in responsibilities over time. He discovered that he really hadn’t changed his ‘pattern’ of how he organized his work. He was smart enough that for years he could ‘work the same way’ without a lot of consequence. This job was different. He had more responsibility for people, and greater responsibilities for clients. He hadn’t really accounted for how he needed to work differently with these changes.
A second dynamic at work is that he rarely planned his work. He figured out what he needed to do on any given day, but in terms of a disciplined approach to his work over days, weeks, months, and potentially years, he did not do that.
I suggested that Al start there to determine how he needed to work differently. He first looked at his job responsibilities and what percentage of time would his major responsibility require. During that review he also looked for opportunities to delegate to help his people grow.
Al also created ‘rules’ for his emails based on the people and clients that were most important to insure he was aware of their requests. He created email folders that would allow him to review his email more efficiently.
Then Al began to spend a portion (normally early in the day) to review what was most important to get done that day. At the end of the day he would review what was coming up tomorrow, later in the week, or month. He also tracked his and the firm’s yearly goals to insure he was getting to his responsibilities for the outcomes.
What we were doing was helping Al become more efficient with the ‘blocking and tackling’ of his work. Many techniques that we apply at ‘work’ also apply at ‘home.’ They can significantly help our productivity and allow us to get more ‘control’ in our lives.
Sometimes we seek answers to our organization and productivity because we believe that is where the greatest opportunity resides. That may be the case. Or, it may be cosmetic to something that is a bigger issue for us, as this next story will illustrate.
Another of my client’s employed me to help him get to the ‘next level.’ In this case that was a CEO role. As he worked to identify those areas, traits, and behaviors that he wanted to sharpen, I noted that much of our discussion surrounded the ‘work environment’ (emails, deadlines, meetings upon meetings, impossible goals). We spent a couple of meetings looking for solutions to the most pressing needs around his 300 emails/day and how he could be more productive.
He and I realized that much of his work drew him to the urgent. This problem was creating some slippage in working areas of importance. He was ‘whelmed over.’ Near the end of one of our conversations I asked him, “Do you really want to take your next step in this organization?” In other words, is this really what you want? He said, “I don’t know.” I appreciated the honesty. This story is still ongoing. I’m not sure where our conversations will end up. I do know that if he is able to travel to the land of what he really wants, that will be a good place.
Sometimes, the pace of our work and our lives is such that we become ‘insulated’ to our true ‘wants.’ How our life is working in relation to what we want. Sometimes, we lose sight of what we want, or perhaps, we never answered the question of what we want; sometimes, we have trapped ourselves by saying, “I have (these issues), I just need a job!” and we never do answer the question of what I want. What is your experience with not answering the question of what you want?
My experience is that when we don’t know, don’t ask, or ignore the question of what we want we tend to hold ‘jobs’ rather than having a career. Our passion for those jobs can vary, but we tend to walk around with a nagging question, “Is this all there is?” We may become convinced that this IS all there is because (we didn’t finish high school, weren’t good enough for ___). We settle for. Is this really what you want?
Next time I will explore a related topic – ‘do I like who I am choosing to become?’ My encouragement for now is that you reflect on the question, “Is how I am living my life working?” While this time of reflection can be disturbing it can also be very helpful in guiding you to make some different choices so you can get more of what you want from your life and work.
To a better you…