I know it’s only Wednesday, but wow, what an amazing week so far! I’m out in sunny California to observe a training program that all our senior associates go through shortly after promotion, and preparing to potentially take on a part-time role helping to deliver the program in the future. Fingers crossed that I get the role, as it’s one I’m really passionate about!
The “Discover Program” is all about exploring yourself and your values to be able to make more effective choices about your life and your career. It’s a lot of self-discovery, leadership development exercises, and tips on time management and productivity to help you achieve optimal work-life balance. (Now do you see why I’m obsessed with it? All my favorite topics!) And as cheesy as it sounds, when I went through the program myself a few years ago, it was life-changing. To illustrate that, here’s an “energy audit” that all the senior associates take on the first day of the program to help assess their current energy levels with the work that they’re doing:
When I took the energy audit three years ago, I scored a 19 – which wasn’t good at all. The grading scale indicates that 17-20 is burned out; 13-16 is fading; 9-12 is somewhat energized; 5-8 is moderately energized; and below 5 is fully energized. But reading the descriptions on that list, I honestly didn’t see how it was possible to score less than a 17 (let alone a 5) and still be employed in this type of professional services career. Fortunately, the Discover program really changed my mindset and approach to work, so now I’m working smarter rather than harder. Where I thought that fixing my work-life balance would mean not delivering the quantity or quality of work that was expected of me, I actually feel like my career has really taken off since I started implementing some of the things I learned in Discover… and I’m also a lot happier as a result. Win-win!
When I took the energy audit this week, I was really intrigued to see how I would do, because I remembered how poorly I did the first time and how skeptical I was about there actually being a way to get a low score on this test. So I was really pleasantly surprised when I scored just a 12 this time around! That still only puts me in the “mildly energized” zone, but it’s a heck of a lot better than I did before… and I know there is definitely room for me to improve some of the behaviors on that list. (I’m currently debating the merits of some new email and to-do list systems that will help me address my poor performance in the “mental” category of that list.)
Speaking of potential areas for improvement: during one of the sessions on managing energy, participants do an exercise where everyone stands up, and on the count of three, holds their breath. When you can’t stand it anymore, you sit down and breathe normally. You would think this would result in just a few people with excellent breath control still standing… but actually, it led to an entire roomful of us still standing determinedly, even though we were dying on the inside.
As the facilitator said, our collective thought process went something like, “well, everyone else seems to be managing okay, so it must be me that’s the weird one who can’t keep up.” Wrong! Yet I have totally recognized that self-doubting attitude in myself in the workplace, and now in hindsight, am not surprised that during the exercise I didn’t have the guts to just sit down and breathe. This exercise reminded me that my job isn’t a contest to see who can work the longest/hardest, and if I try to do that and metaphorically “hold my breath” too long, I’m not really much use to anyone. Although I’ve been doing a reasonably good job with my work-life balance lately, that whole “don’t be afraid to raise your hand for help” thing is clearly a lesson that I still haven’t 100% learned, and it would really behoove me to figure that out before I start heading down the burnout path again.
Have you ever done an energy audit, or otherwise mentally tried to take stock of what’s working and what’s not in your life? I’m realizing how valuable of a tool it can be for self-reflection, and thinking I might have to start using it on a monthly basis, both for check-in and also for inspiration.
PS: If you’re interested in learning more, the energy audit I shared above was developed by Tony Schwartz of The Energy Project, and there are a lot of valuable resources and videos on their website.