I love sports, and when I was growing up it was one of my favourite things to do. When summer came around and it was athletics season I relished getting onto the field, and I particularly loved sprint racing.
I wasn't the fastest in the year, but up there in the top few. I liked the thrill, the adrenaline, the pure speed and power.
It was exhilarating going at full pelt down the track.
Cross-country running however was something I never could quite get the hang of doing. I would see my classmates pace off into the distance...
.....and I just seemed to not have the ability to go at a sustained speed throughout the entire run. I tried a gentle jog from the start line but then would feel lack lustre in my approach and didn't want to keep going. So I came up with my own style - sprint 100 metres, walk 100 metres, sprint 100 metres, walk 100 metres, and would keep doing that until I reached the finish line.
This was a risky strategy, as if I didnt manage my energy levels I could run out of steam completely and there was a chance I could end up last!
(But its also important to remember that this was a class of 14 year olds being forced to run in P.E, so there was always a few small groups of girls who had 'Cross Country' on their timetable and interpretted it as 'A Chance To Walk Slowly Around The Field And Have A Chat, And If No Teacher Was Looking Take A Short Cut And Sneak Off School Premises To The Local Shop To Get Some Snacks'.
Basically, as long as those girls didn't overtake me I knew I was doing okay.
These school memories have come back into my mind quite alot over recent months since I've been working for myself. I've started to see this similar pattern has emerged in how I go about my day and how I tackle my 'to do' list of work.
Most of my plans are long-term goals and visions, which require a continuous sustained effort and drive from myself. It will be no surprise then that, just like long distance running, I've noticed my sprint-walk-sprint-walk style coming into play constantly when I've been working;
- I fly out at tremendous pace with an idea and get things started...
- Then I start to lag once I am a good way into it....
- I then get angry and frustrated with myself as I know I can do what I have set out to achieve. But then why am I not getting it done and faffing about instead?
- My slumps have sometimes taken the shape of saying 'I'm going to do nothing for a bit, I'm just going to watch a couple of episodes of F.R.I.E.N.D.S to get my energy back' and then half a day later I've somehow ended up watching an entire series and am more angry at myself for wasting my day. I go on to console myself with more TV and Game Of Thrones, whilst saying 'I'll start fresh on everything tomorrow'.... ohhhhh that old chestnut! (If you haven't already done so, also have a read of my earlier blog post I’ll stop saying I will do it tomorrow, tomorrow. to see what dangers lie behind that saying).
- A couple of days later I have a returned surge of drive and energy and do the whole process again, building and working on my idea at full pace and then hitting what feels like another slump.
I realised this was definitely not sustainable in the long term, and sat back and dissected my entire style and realised quite a few things about myself:
- I'm highly competitive, particularly with myself, and that's where a good chunk of my 'surge energy' comes from regarding my work style.
- I respond well to short term goals with my sprinter style.
- I like overall structure but not too much that makes me feel stifled. It seems as soon as I put up what feels like a massive and endless self-made timetable of how I want to plan my month of work there is something in me that always wants to try to rebel against it.
This last point reflects the problems I had with me trying to do long distance running! The goal seems too far away and I'm not naturally long-term paced person, I like the buzz of the sprint. But I know both have their merits, and to be as effective as possible I had to start to practise both styles.
- So now I only timetable myself a week at a time rather than a month - this way the daily goals are more manageable, achievable (so I get that continuous 'sprinter high' when I reach them).
- The timetable is key for my lull periods as my self-enforced long distance pace approach helps to keep me on track with my tasks.
- I can then allow myself proper breaks and days off to rest.
- Once I keep a sustained pace for a few days and see my efforts paying off through doing my smaller daily goals target (rather than looking at the sometimes overwhelming bigger picture and the final finish line), the results of progress I then see gives me the natural high and surge to want to sprint again.
Why Am I Telling You This?
We need to know and understand our own individual working styles in order to excel and to also learn and grow. We can then look within it to identify the strengths and gaps of that way of working.
In relation to myself, I'm clearly a sprinter at heart and I gladly accept that's who I am. Through this acceptance I can now see my strengths in this style (high level energy), and can also clearly see my gaps (can run out of steam frequently). Due to this I've worked hard to develop the long-distance runner in me so I can have the best of both worlds as much as possible, in terms of high productivity levels and also being consistent in my work output.
Furthermore, it's also important to think of the work style of those around you. This could potentially be the source of lots of disagreements or resentment when you're all approaching the same task but each having different styles, priorities, and timelines of how you are going to get it completed.
Questions To Ask Yourself...
- Are you a sprinter or long distance runner? Or another type of runner altogether? Or are you a completely different type of metaphorical athlete when it comes to your work style?
- What are the strengths of the different approaches?
- What are the gaps?
- If you're a sprinter, what can you learn from a long distance runner and the others?
- If you're a long distance runner, what can you learn from a sprinter and the others?
- What techniques can each use to either keep a sustained pace or find that surge of drive and energy?
- What one simple technique could you try and implement to start with to try and fuse these work styles together?
- Those who you are around everyday - either work colleagues, friends or family - what are their workstyles?
- What do you need to take into account if you are both very similar or complete opposites?
- How can you use these differences and similarities to your benefit to get a task done?
Above all else, the most important thing to remember is......to cross the finish line. No matter if you run at a steady pace, alternate between sprinting and jogging, or sprinting and walking your way around it, if you decide to roll (because the world seems more fun when you make yourself dizzy), or do cartwheels most of the way. Alternatively, do you cheekily hop on a bus that takes you to the other end of the field? Because lets face it, we all have days where we're feeling that lazy.
Half the fun is working out how to do it as you go along.
Just don't forget to keep moving forward!
*If you would like information on the Business & Personal Coaching services that I offer and pricings, please do go to my Coaching Services page or email me via my Contact page.