A quick recap
In my previous post I outlined how I came to the realization that I was ‘majoring in the minors’, spreading myself thin and in need of some help. Once I had identified my problem I set about finding the solution. Interestingly, the keys to my solution were found in my email inbox and the pages of the Harvard Business Review.
Frequently I get emails and requests for ‘work experience’ from aspiring undergraduates, high schools kids and others. Earlier in my career I felt this type of thing would actually be more of burden on me than help. Since in taking someone I was taking on more responsibility, another person to look out for.
My outlook changed however on a professional development trip to the US to meet and learn from some of the worlds top coaches within the strength and conditioning field. Michael Boyle is man whose work and philosophies I have the utmost respect for. Upon meeting him at his own elite performance facility I immediately noticed how active and involved his ‘interns’ were in the day to day running’s of the facility and coaching of athletes.
In fact I noticed this trend among all of the coaches I met with on the trip. All of the facilities were filled with eager young coaches thriving at any opportunity they got to learn and apply their learning. The other thing I noticed is that these facilities more often than not seemed to run like a well oiled machine regardless of who was present. Sometimes the master coaches were there, sometimes younger coaches who were employed, however all of the time interns were right alongside the coaches coaching.
The best way to learn is to teach
I decided to put on two interns who would help me at my busiest times, times where I felt spread too thin. This meant that I could spend more time coaching and communicating with athletes and less time on tasks that could be delegated to the interns. In exchange for their help I began teaching them and fielding their questions.
An interesting by product of my educating and mentoring the interns was that I was forced to organise the intellectual property scattered throughout my mind. In doing so I became more aware of patterns and trends in my methods. As a result of this I gradually developed a system for my daily tasks and decisions. This system has ultimately worked to make improve my output, effectiveness and efficiency in three ways:
1. Improved Transparency:
Having a clear system in place meant that both athletes and interns I was managing within my day to day role had more clear understanding of what was required of them at all times. This worked to improve athlete independence and intern confidence.
2. Improved Decision Making:
Systems create a consistent framework on which sound decisions can be made. After taking the time to develop my system I spent less time planning sessions and improved my ability to adapt to rapidly changing situations.
3. Improved Ability to Delegate & Prioritize:
Developing my system meant that I ran the microscope over all of my daily actions, as I did this I uncovered the ‘minors’ I had been majoring in and developed ways to teach and coach my interns on managing these lower priority tasks. Allowing me to conserve my energy for matters of the highest importance and priority.
Now I had the task of, ensuring that those I worked with always got exactly what they needed from me, and then some. Putting on interns was the first step, but I wanted to ensure I always have plenty to give to those I am working with. I began researching productivity and management strategies and came across an article in the pages of Harvard Business review by Tony Schwartz.
The article titled ‘manage your energy, not your time’ summarized some interesting research on productivity and workplace efficacy. The crux of the article stated that there was an inherent problem with time management when it comes to productivity in the workplace. Since time is a finite resource it cannot be renewed. i.e. you cannot ‘get back’ time wasted at work.
Energy however, is an infinite resource, which can be renewed and manipulated in order to increase output. Schwartz believed that time was less important than energy, since his findings demonstrated an energetic and inspired worker can get more done in much less time than a tired, worn out worker who had the luxury of more time to complete a given task. I had to agree with this point since my 10 hour days were not producing the results I would have hoped for.
This article and its findings were very interesting to me and I began to ask myself some even more interesting questions. I realized that if energy is the key to my performing well, then my poor performance at work must be the result of inefficient use and poor regulation of my energy. I asked myself a couple of key questions:
1. How and where do I personally gain energy in my life?
2. What are the aspects of my job, which unnecessarily sap me of energy?
In this way I began to think of my output and efficiency as much the same as a jug of water. I reasoned that In order to do my best at work I must be able to pour the water (my energy) into my work whenever I am present. Of course before you can pour from a jug you must fill it up. Understanding where and how I filled my jug (or gained energy) in life helped me to create rituals that ensured I would always have a steady flow of energy and enthusiasm.
I took time to answer these questions and ranked my responses for each one. Following this I isolated the top three activities that I felt gave me the most energy, and the top three which sapped my energy. I began to include those activities into my daily and weekly planning to ensure that before I came to work I had a full jug with which to work with and therefore an abundance of energy and focus.
Alternatively I made an active attempt to avoid those tasks that I had identified as sapping my energy unnecessarily. A kind of ‘not to do’ list. These were the tasks I looked to delegate or completely erase where possible. As I started implementing my energy rituals and began delegating or avoiding lower priority task I found an immediate improvement which was soon to validated by someone who took the time to notice.
Coming full circle
A few months ago I was talking with some athletes, joking about how I was moving to a rival team post season. The same player who had made the ‘you don’t even care do you?’ comment (in part one) responded by saying ‘if you leave I am going to hunt you down mate’. I laughed and said ‘mate if I left, someone else would come in and do just as good a job and the wheel would keep rolling, no dramas’. ‘Yes but I doubt he would care as much as you do?’ he questioned. At that moment I realized I had come full circle.