What drives you?
Whitney and I met the other afternoon to go over our to-do lists and we commented that the morning had flown by for both us. It hadn’t even felt like we were doing work, but somehow we had each accomplished a number of priorities.
It’s not that we just really love working, either. You do not found a business on the entire premise of avoiding burnout because you’re just one of those people who lives to be productive. In fact, we were both bemoaning the things that were left on our respective to-do lists that we just couldn’t quite motivate to do.
Why does some work feel like fun and some work feels like…work?
As a self-employed person, I should have the power to design my work around those kinds of tasks that make time fly. But even those of us in more structured jobs in knowledge-based sectors should have more of that flexibility. As a coach in the Clifton Strengths approach, I’ve also seen research that points to how this benefits everyone you work with. If people love what they do, they are more productive and are happier at their jobs. Managers benefit from less turnover and better results. And that thing you hate doing? It’s very likely that there’s some else who actually loves doing it.
So while there may be a gap related to your control over your workload, that’s only the final part of the equation:
Understanding what work energizes you
Shaping those aspects of your profession you can control around what energizes you
Advocating for change to those parts that are not within your control.
Understanding what energizes you
What fills up your energy tank? What kind of work are you doing when time flies by?
I find we often know the answers to these questions, but I don’t always stop and think about it. Then I just get into habits and I stop questioning them.
Assign yourself this simple reflection task. In a notebook (writing with physical pen and paper might seem old school, but it will boost your mental processing). Divide the paper into two columns: Energy + and Energy -. Then, leave this paper next to you while you work over the course of a week. As you switch between tasks, pause to take notes about your work. Which activities passed the time quickly and left you feeling energized to work more? Which were the things that kept sinking to the bottom of your to do list and feel like a real drag to get through?
Taking a formal assessment like the StrengthsFinder can be a complement to this exercise, to help spark your thinking about types of work that you might find especially energizing or draining.
Re-Shape Your Work & Advocate for Change
Take stock of your list. How much of your day is spent in the left column versus the right? If you’re spending more time in the right column than you’d like, consider some of these strategies:
Perform this exercise with your entire team and identify if there are activities that one person loathes and another loves. Sometimes there’s just an unlovable task, but often your least favorite thing is someone else’s jam.
Consider if you establish and clearly communicate boundaries in the workplace. If this is something you perennially struggle with, you’re not alone! I’ve recently been reading Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself by Nedra Glover Tawwab and find her activities extremely actionable and helpful (there’s even a workbook).
Build your credentials and skill sets in areas that energize you, so you become a go-to person for these tasks and other tasks naturally begin to pass to others.
If there’s a real misalignment, consider if it’s time to think of a bigger change. Talk to a career coach or a trusted friend to help you consider and plan what kind of change might put you back in a place where you have the opportunity to choose among work you enjoy.
For all the month of June, we are talking in the Clubhouse about advocating for yourself, especially for professional development to get the skills and credentials that may help you move into that role that will be your best fit.
Working with a certified Strengths coach can help you with this step if you are looking for an ally and thought partner to help keep you accountable to this work.