We all have an equal number of hours (and minutes, and seconds) in the day. I’ve noticed there are many people who go through each day on the brink of exhaustion—getting overwhelmed by the sheer volume of tasks that must be accomplished, and others who are exhilarated—who delight in each day’s challenges and are full of energy. I’m lucky to be in the second category, exhilarated and energized by the work that I do.
The key for me has been to embrace learning—I know that there is plenty that I don’t know, and seeking out answers keeps me interested and excited in the work I do.
March was an increasingly productive month. I prefer to use the word ‘productive,’ because to me, the word ‘busy’ doesn’t mean anything—everyone is busy, but not everyone is productive. When I am asked how I manage the volume of work on my plate (editor’s note: Lora gets a superhuman amount of great work done in any given day), I can easily say I am energized, not exhausted. As a coach and consultant plus business owner, it is easy to get overwhelmed.
Here’s how I approach my work, and what you can do today to shift from exhausted to exhilarated:
Learn What Works
As a business owner and now a full-time Coach with Actionable.co, I have learned from my past about the elements I need each day to be productive. I have also learned my sweet spot, how to be ‘in the zone’ everyday without getting to exhaustion, and instead stay in the space where I am adding value to others—even where there is so much more to learn.
Reflect on the last week and month, using your calendar. Look at where you had great days, good days, and bad days (thanks to Shannon from Box of Crayons for helping me articulate this strategy). Count them. Then, take them apart, and figure out what were you doing that made the great days great and the bad days bad. Most likely the bad days had you focused on things you don’t like to do or are not good at. If so, find ways to offload this work as much as possible. At the very least, schedule it to be done first thing in the morning: as Brian Tracy would say, eat that frog.
Learn New Things
I love learning new things in a variety of forms. Whether books, online articles and blogs, or even on TV, I am often looking for new ideas and inspiration. Reading (and yes, the occasional Netflix binge) helps me to learn about how other people experience the world. Reading is linked to developing empathy, a crucial skill for engaging with others. As I’m learning, I’m also looking for ways to apply my learning and share it with clients, colleagues, friends, and family, in places where I feel it can provide value.
When was the last time you went down a reading “rabbit hole” and discovered cool new tools, apps, people (to follow), and shared those new finds with friends? Taking time each day to be curious and explore is important. Your brain needs the break from the day-to-day. And as a trusted advisor, how will your clients understand the importance of learning in their organizations if you don’t model the way for them?
Learn By Listening
I love to meet people and learn about them. Whether meeting with our consultants, entertaining friends in our home, or going out on dates with my husband and our boys. I make time each day to connect with people, to learn about their interests, what’s new, what’s bugging them, what they’re dreaming about the future. I argue, I listen (I’m learning to be a better listener all the time), I work to understand perspectives and experiences, eat great meals with amazing wine—the stuff of life. Making time for this connection every day helps me to move my small part of the world forward.
When was the last time you unplugged and focused on a conversation with someone else? And I mean really listen. No distractions, no shiny objects, no ongoing internal dialogue. Whether with a client, a prospect, or a friend, this time is invaluable. Taking the moments it takes to build a relationship and help it thrive is about giving of yourself to others. As coaches and consultants, we got into this space to do exactly that—help others be their best, one relationship and one conversation at a time.
Learn To Connect To Values
It may seem corny to some, but our family values are written on the wall in the main room of our home. We all see this everyday, and so do any guests. Seeing them in writing helps me to reflect each day on the actions I take (or am planning to take), and if they fit the values of my family. If I am doing work that does not fit these values, I stop that work and move on. Sometimes I have to be tough with myself and with others. I’ve had to drop clients, end relationships, and let go of several large projects that were very close to my heart. These weren’t easy decisions, but they were the right decisions.
Finding a way to measure what you do, and why and how you do it is critical. Interacting with your clients, you are asking the same questions. In their organizational cultures, I am sure you are measuring what they do and how they do it based on their values as well as business goals. Isn’t this what you should do for yourself and your business?
Building in new learning rhythms and routines has been the anchor of making my work productive, not overwhelming. I finish each day exhilarated, not exhausted, because:
- I am doing the work I love, everyday, with really cool people.
- I protect my downtime, disconnect, and have face time with real live people.
- I take time each day to learn something because I know I don’t know everything.
- I stick to our family values: heart, hope and happiness.
Think about the 86400 seconds in a day. How would you like to spend the majority of them? Energized? Exhausted? I know what I choose.