I have been traveling as an integral part of my career as a business consultant over the last 30 years, working in 15 countries as well as all 50 of the United States. In 2019, I decided it was time to slow down the amount of travel I did for business, largely because of my advancing age and in deference to my wife of 44 years. Now, as I engage the fourth week of “shelter in place,” I am experiencing a sustained period at home unlike anything ever before. And I suspect you are experiencing something unique as well.
After observing my responses to these weeks of working from home, I have concluded my greatest opportunity for becoming a better version of myself is to focus on three principles: self-management, self-care and emotional self-control.
My simple definition of self-management comes from Stephen M. Covey’s “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”: to organize and execute around priorities. To do this consistently, I am reinforcing the following habits:
Understand what superior performance looks like for my work. I ask myself the following questions:
1. What are the key relationships for me to keep active and meaningful during this time?
2. What are the activities that will help me perform at a high level during this time?
3. What are the personality or character traits that will serve me well during this time?
4. What are the key skills that I should develop further during this time?
5. What are the three to five key results that will reflect superior performance during this time?
Sharpen my focus around the key results that will reflect superior performance by developing a 90-day plan. Once I have identified the three to five key results (outcomes) I should focus on to achieve superior performance, I develop goals under each of the key results statements. These are milestones of what I will strive to accomplish over the next 90 days. I put these goals in a spreadsheet with the columns representing the key results and the rows listing the goals under each key result. I put an appointment in my calendar at the end of each week to review my progress and to highlight the spreadsheet cells green (completed), yellow (started but not complete) and red (not yet started).
My 90-day plan helps guide me as I create a plan for the next week that includes my meetings and tasks. Before starting a new week, I spend time identifying the most important meetings and tasks and making sure these take precedence in my calendar.
Having created a weekly plan, my next step is to create a daily plan. This is a combination of my schedule and my task list. I want to have both of these with me at all times, so I use apps that sync across all of my devices (computer, tablet, phone).
Working from home does have advantages, but there are also drawbacks. It becomes more difficult to separate work from family. My favorite book about self-care is “The Power of Full Engagement” by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz. There are three principles in this book that impact the way I think about self-care.
1) We don’t manage time, we manage energy. Upon reflection, it is obvious that none of us can change time itself. However, we can manage how we make use of our time by managing our energy.
2) The four kinds of energy we bring to work are physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual.
3) The key to managing our energy is establishing a rhythm of stress, then recovery and repeating this pattern with increasing challenges to increase our overall capacities. Much the same way a bodybuilder increases her strength by stressing the muscles, then allowing a period of recovery for the building of new tissue, we can increase our energy in each of the four kinds of energy by creating challenges, then periods of rest or renewal.
Emotional self-control, or self-regulation as it is referred to in the literature about emotional intelligence, is the ability to manage or redirect negative impulses, emotions or moods. There are three primary ways I have been working to increase my emotional self-control:
Become a third-party observer. This means that we pause and ask ourselves, “What am I feeling right now?”
Develop your power to choose. We can’t always choose what happens to us, but we can develop the inner strength to choose how we respond to what is happening to and around us.
Choose motivation over discouragement. In our book, “Growing influence: A Story of How to Lead With Character, Expertise and Impact,” Stacy Ennis and I wrote about three circles of influence. These include:
1. Circle of Control – these are things we can take 100% responsibility for in our lives. It may be setting aside time each day to invest in personal growth, choosing what to eat or drink or when to go to bed.
2. Circle of Collaboration – these are things we can’t accomplish by ourselves, but by finding others with similar interests and values, we can build what we refer to as “virtuous conspiracies” where we have increased influence by working together.
3. Circle of Concern – this is the space where we have anxieties that steal our emotional self-control. These concerns appear to be beyond our ability to influence, yet they are still important to our emotional well-being. I don’t recommend ignoring those things outside of our control. However, if we limit our exposure much the same way we would turn the volume down (or sometimes off) with our music, we can minimize the emotional draining that will otherwise take place.
As I have been focusing on these three opportunities for personal growth, the time of “sheltering in place” has become more tolerable. I am now viewing it as a unique opportunity to further develop my self-management, self-care and emotional self-control. I hope reading my reflections will help you do the same.
Ron Price is the CEO of Price Associates, a global business advisory firm headquartered in Boise. As an internationally recognized business advisor, executive coach, speaker and author known for his creative and systematic thinking, business versatility and practical optimism, Price has worked in 15 countries and served in almost every level of executive management over the past 40 years.