This isn't really a post about new shoes, I promise. Remember, I live in the world of pattern matching and analogies. But I did go running yesterday morning — my first run in a new pair of running shoes. I usually get new running shoes every 3-6 months, depending on how much mileage I'm logging. And I find the same thing every time: I may not realize I'm uncomfortable running in the old shoes, but the minute I put the new ones on, I realize just how far the old ones had deteriorated and just how much better life is in the new ones. Same model shoe – just a fresh pair. And I run faster, stronger, and happier.
How much of your professional life works the same way? I often find that small tweaks to renew and refresh existing processes, relationships, thought patterns, and work product make an enormous difference in the energy I bring to work, and in the quality of the work I do. Last week, for example, I had two such events.
First, I went through and overhauled what I call my "operating system," which is really my fancy, David Allen-style to-do list. I changed some categories and formatting, cleaned out some dead items, rethought some items, added some new ones. And voila – I went from semi-ignoring the system to running my priorities by it once again. And I've had my most productive week in a long time.
Second, I completely re-thought the dynamics of my relationship with someone on the team. They had grown stale. Check-in meetings weren't interesting or productive any more, just perfunctory. Together we sat down and crafted a new way of working together, a new list of topics we were going to tackle together that added more value to the organization. It was like a breath of fresh air.
We can't completely reinvent ourselves every time we need a career pick-me-up. But we can remember that every few months, it's time to put on a fresh pair of running shoes and put some spring back in our steps.