The last few weeks we have discussed the continual challenge we all face of balancing our relationships, work, and finding time to recharge the batteries and rest. We've been building up to this week. I want to look at our work and how we can become more effective in the time that we invest in our work.
If you've missed the last few weeks, check these blogs out to get some context:
Crazy Busy (Intro to the 5 Gears)
Recharging the Batteries (1st Gear)
Downshifting: How to Move from Tasks to Connection (2nd & 3rd Gear)
In Jeremie Kubicek’s book, 5 Gears: How to Be Present and Productive When There is Never Enough Time, he talks about engagement in our work as being in 4th and 5th Gear. 4th Gear being Task Mode, where 5th Gear is Focus Mode or being “In the Zone,” if you will. We spend the majority of our waking hours in 4th Gear - and it’s often the gear that we get stuck in. We sometimes struggle to downshift to connect with people or to find time to rest and recharge, and we find it challenging to shift up into 5th Gear and cut out distractions and to focus on the work at hand. So let’s deal with 4th Gear first and then we will look at what it might look like to experience 5th Gear and why that should be important to you and your team.
4th Gear: Task Mode
As I mentioned, we spend alot of our day in 4th Gear. It’s the “Git ‘R Done”, check things off the list, take care of business gear. We move from task to task...OK let's be realistic...we pile task upon task, call it “multi-tasking” but really we find ourselves going from fire to fire. Right? 4th Gear is important, but it’s overused and misused pretty often. Our culture is results oriented, and most successful people we know get things done. But my experience that people who are stuck in Task Mode eventually end up on the side of the rode broken down or burned out.
There is a tendency and a real tension in our work to end up in one of two ditches: Idolatry and Idleness. In idolatry, we seek to find some significance from work that only God can give (or we simply work like everything depends on me). In idleness, we can often work out of this assumption that work is to be avoided or minimized.
What/Who are you looking to for significance or happiness?
Are you placing your hope in anything/anyone other than God?
We were created by God to work. It’s clear from the very beginning in Genesis. What’s one of the first things God gives to Adam and Eve? A job. God gives them the responsibility of being stewards over His creation through their work. Here’s what God says to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Gen. 1:28) And also, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (Gen 2:15)
It was a call to work. But not only to maintain - it was a command to cultivate. To take what God has created, and to care for it. We often think of work as a punishment for the Fall and for sin. But this mandate was given by God before sin entered the world. Work was part of God’s perfect plan.
The problem is sin. Adam and Eve's work changed as a consequence of sin. Suddenly there was stress and conflict, where it had not existed before. He took his eyes off God and onto his own desires and suddenly his work was different.
We live in that world now too. And yet, Christ came to redeem all things. That includes our work. At Simmons, we have the unique opportunity, in that, our work involves caring for animals and providing food for people and pets all over the world. Not everyone can come to work every day knowing that their work in one way or another is helping to feed the world. That is a calling that I hope you recognize and take very seriously. It is no small calling. What if God wanted to use what we do every day as an act of redemption? Coming into work takes on a whole new meaning.
So how could I think about my work differently? First question I would ask is, “Who do you work for?” Colossians 3:23-24 encourages us with this:
"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."
At the end of the day, if I am aiming to please Christ and do my work in such a way that might bring honor to Him, the fruit of that is work is done with integrity and excellence. What leader wouldn’t want that from a team member?
Another thing that is important is how you start your day. Some of you are like me and try to go from rest or idle to 4th Gear. Do you check your email first thing when you wake up? Do you know what that does to your brain?
I’ve really tried hard to live this out the last month. At first, I failed miserablely for the first two weeks. It was like I had to check email and Facebook to see what I missed while I was sleeping. As I thought about it though, what it was producing in me was stress. My brain had barely turned on and the sleep was still in my eyes, and I was choosing to do something that I knew would initiate stress.
So, I thought about what would happen if I started out in 1st or 2nd Gear. I began to find my time eating breakfast, connecting with my wife and kids as they wake up, and feeding my cows to be much more refreshing ways to start the day. Those emails were still there and I dealt with them first thing when I get to the office. But I can’t tell you how it has changed my ability to deal with the issues and stress after having eased into the day instead of ramping right into Task Mode.
Kubicek gives some warning signs: You know you have an unhealthy 4th gear if…
You consistently start your day with email.
People notice you are obsessed by tasks.
Achievement becomes the chief goal of your life.
There are no boundaries on your time.
Anxiety separation occurs when you are away from email or your phone.
You are consistently drained and never fully charged.
It takes a lot of effort to consistently get into a 2nd or 3rd gear context.
Struggling for consistent sleep is the norm and the mind is always racing.
Your spouse, kids and friends know that tasks come first.
You are physically present, but intellectually and emotionally absent.
There is a lot of activity but no real sign of progress.
So how do you get healthy?
Replace email in the morning with something more inspirational - whatever helps you come alive. Trade up to something that charges you for the day.
Be proactive, not reactive - don't let someone else define your day in an email or phone call.
Discipline yourself by turning your phone off, or leaving it behind!
Teach your family the 5 gears so that they can help you.
Use boundaries, scheduling, trigger points and markers to help you.
5th Gear: In the Zone
So what about 5th Gear. What is it and why does it seem so elusive?
5th Gear is the strategy zone. It includes vision casting, dreaming, exploring ideas or thinking about major changes or transitions in life, work or business. It is those moments where you are singular focused and it can be exhilarating. I’ve experienced it at times and it is an absolute rush. We often experience 5th Gear when we are dealing with something that we are passionate about.
But just like engines, people are not meant or built to stay in 5th Gear or Overdrive all day long. We have to make time for 5th Gear to happen, but also realize that there are 4th Gear tasks and 3rd Gear connections with people that are just as important.
Warning Signs: You know you have an unhealthy 5th gear if you…
Allow personal health issues, exhaustion, or burnout to affect your life.
Have long-term relational issues due to your work or hobby.
Overuse 5th gear and tend to crash into an unhealthy 1st gear.
Miss out on true life and the things that matter long term.
Notice people around you hinting that you are working too much.
Make it a pattern of eating meals in front of the computer or working instead of connecting.
Stob being asked by people to be involved in social activities or casual connections.
Have connections only with people you work with.
Here are some practical ideas for helping you and the teams you lead or belong to get into this 5th Gear and a high level of productivity:
Set expectations: Before you meet, let them know you are going to set aside a period of time when you want everyone to be in 5th gear together. This will help them prepare mentally to operate in a different gear.
Hold the gathering off-site, completely away from their normal task world.
Ask the managers to delegate 4th gear tasks to others back at the office for the duration of your off-site session.
Ask your managers to set up auto-responder out-of-office emails to ensure that tasks don’t disrupt the strategic time.
Begin the off-site 5th gear time with an exercise that gets your managers thinking about the future, such as having them list five things they would love to see happen in the organization in three years.
Ask them to give you real thoughts, objections, and insights into the future. Listen to their real issues and give them real time to discuss them.
Make sure you share your expectations for the kind of feedback you want, and discuss what 5th gear looks like to you.
Ask them what they need from you during the same period of time.
I hope you act on this. I think at a time where there are changes and transitions happening all around us, what better time to refocus and have a common language to speak to as we seek to build a great company while we lead our families and live our personal lives.
There will never be enough time.
There will always be 1440 minutes in every day. How will you choose to invest them? There are many different ways and thoughts on how to balance work, relationships, and personal time. I have found that the 5 Gears is incredibly effective in helping me be present and productive. If you’re interested in talking more about this, I’d love to grab lunch with you one day and be an encouragement to you.
We say in our leadership development class, that whether you work at Simmons for one year or your career, we want you to have experienced growth as a result. Maybe this is our opportunity to invest in you as we close out 2017 and look forward to a new year. Thanks for reading and let's connect soon.