Lessons on Work From Goldilocks- Five Tips on Getting Work "Just Right"
I love work!
I embrace it and view work as an part of rich, dynamic and joyful life.
But here is the thing, work tends to be a bit like tequila, melted cheese and family road trips. There is the perfect amount makes life better. Too much, watch out; too little and we miss the goodness all together.
Like Goldilocks and the three bowls of porridge, I’ve been noodling about the concept of a set-point when comes to work.The idea that there is a way of working that is just right.
I learned the concept of Set-Point Theory in a Nutrition class at University. Admittedly that was a while ago, but the idea is that for optimal health your body has a weight range where it functions best, and it will fight to stay in that range.
In applying this idea to work, my hypothesis is that for each of us there a certain amount of work that best serves us.
A sweet spot that allows our work to be something that enriches vs. depletes us. And that going over, or under that set-point compromises overall performance, mental and physical health.
I am sure it easy for you to come up with a memory of a time when you were working too much. What were the symptoms?
For me I immediately think returning to work after having my first child. After three months of leave, I was back on the road with an immense travel schedule. Wine-ing and dining clients. Trying to keep up in the boardroom, the golf course and the bar while juggling the dewy newness of motherhood.
My memories of this period are hazy, like looking through sunglasses smudged with sunscreen. What does seep in is the residue of a feeling of always being spent. Bankrupt emotionally, mentally, physically and full of self-doubt.
Terrified I was missing the mark both at home and work, I kept running not just bumping up against the jagged edge of my set-point but hurdling myself balls-out over the edge. Never reaching the finish line.
More recently I can recall working too little.
Yea that’s right, I said it, working too little. Moving from Seattle to Cape Town has been an amazing opportunity, but it came at a price.
Unlike my kids who had school and my husband who brought his business with him, I’d left my growing business behind in Seattle. Continuing to cultivate it stateside was not a great option based on time zones, and internet quality. After my first quarter contracts ended, I decided not to book more work.
That second quarter in South Africa was the blackest time for me.
As someone who enjoys work, and has navigated most of my life by how I was doing against outside metrics of success, having too much open spaciousness was not good for me.
I was out of my range, not in my set point. In both cases I was fighting against myself. I could feel that my energy was off and that I needed to make a change. Continuing at this pace (too fast, or too slow) was breaking me down.
In nutrition Set-Point Theory the prescription would to makes changes to diet, or exercise. In Work Set-Point Theory I’ve found five practices that bring awareness to where I am vs. my ideal range, they include:
1) Awareness of Energy
Become aware of your energy each day. Are you depleted and running on empty? Buzzing with Excitement? Or somewhere in between? If burnt out is a 1 and manic is a 10 where are you on that scale each day?
Just notice it, be curious, take a non-emotional non-judgement approach, “hum…that is interesting.” I’ve started to keep an old school paper diary on my night stand, and I simply take a few notes in it at the start of end of each day on the calendar page. It’s been super insightful to see patterns emerging.
2)Declare a Major
Part of my personal history includes building a work centered life. Sadly, one where I stunted the other areas. Like a College Student declaring a Major to study, in my life, my major was Work.
While this served me in many ways, this singular focus didn’t support me well in the long term. I am still a fan of declaring a Major. The difference now is, I shift my major each quarter with intention.
This quarter my major is graceful transition. The two before were writing, and the quarter before those two was yoga. It doesn’t mean it is the only thing I do, but it is an anchor and area of focus in addition to work. Your major could also be a state of being you want to cultivate, say peacefulness, fun. What could your major be this month?