Last week I spoke with several groups and an emerging theme regarding personal capacity arose. This is not new. The idea that we, as working professionals, spend a significant portion of our day in meetings, responding to emails, on conference calls, and putting out fires leaves very little time to be proactive, strategic, innovative, and to feel like we’re growing.
A common exercise to overcome this is to conduct an Activity Analysis. Write down for a week or two, all the activities you perform and the amount of time you spend doing them. If you have not done this, I highly recommend it. It quite similar to a dietician or nutritionist asking you to write down for a week or so all the things you eat and the time that you eat them. Nutritionists have told me that this process often is the most revealing and educational part of becoming a healthy eater.
The same is true for the activities we perform at work-–you will find this exercise quite insightful. But like I said, this is not new-–we’ve been doing this in the workplace for at least two decades. However, what neither this analysis nor the nutrition analysis can capture is the all the “white noise” that we live with that can either make us eat unhealthily or add an extra hour or two to what normally would be fairly easy to accomplish. The white noise is the chatter in our minds–-and mostly negative chatter–-that distracts us from performing at our best. It might be an argument you’re having with your spouse, child, boss, co-worker, or an experience that is troubling to you that is not resolved from the earlier in the day, yesterday, last week, or many years ago.
I argue that eliminating this white noise, or worst case, having a place to temporarily park it, can be one of the more efficient ways to increase personal capacity. A simple example: I have an argument with my spouse the night before and we go to bed mad, wake up mad, and I am off to work. It is quite likely that I will have a good and productive day, but much more likely that I will perform far below what I am capable of. What if made it a point to resolved the issue before I got to work-–what if this white noise were eliminated entirely before I got to work the next day? Would my chances of performing higher be increased? Of course.
But let’s say, that emotions and ego got the better of me and I showed up to work anyway without resolving it with my spouse. What if I had a best friend or confidant at work that I trusted explicitly and proactively decided to meet with him/her first thing in the morning; not to resolve the issue with my spouse, but to be able to “get it off my chest” or as I say, “park it” – so that I could get some constructive and objective feedback or simply have a sounding board. Could I then have a more productive day? Of course.
This week take inventory of your white noise. When you have a negative experience this week, proactively either resolve it ASAP or find a place to park it and see how much of your personal capacity is increased. I’d love to hear from you.