There’s an old Guideposts* devotion from a number of years ago entitled “Sharpening the Saw.” The whole point of the devotion is for each of us to take time to continue to learn and develop our skills. You can’t effectively cut a tree with a dull saw or axe. Nor can my doctor effectively diagnose and treat my problems without keeping up with new medical discoveries. The devotion also follows the principle of the book Now Discover Your Strengths * which supports the philosophy of building on what you’re already good at. It’s an opposite philosophy of what we’ve been taught (to improve what we don’t do well). Focusing on your strengths and finding sources to help you with your weaknesses (or lack of skills) is a huge cultural shift. I recommend it highly. Check out http://gmj.gallup.com/content/1147/Now-Discover-Your-Strengths-Book-Center.aspx
Think about what gives you energy – make two lists –
Tasks or activities that make me tired:
Tasks/activities where I get pumped up, energized:
Now ask yourself the question: “Why does one tire me out and the other give me energy?” Many times “mental work” tires me out. It takes a lot of mental work to prepare for a presentation or class to teach. While you are in the act of presenting or teaching, you must constantly be monitoring your audience, checking to see how they are or are not receiving the information, and then adjusting your words and actions to assure your audience receives the information you intended. Whew! That’s a lot of mental work!
Presentations or teaching don’t tire me. I get excited and energized by the interactions.
What tires me are conversations or detail work on topics of which I don’t have much expertise or where I feel overwhelmed. I’m not a good mathematician. Any conversation or book that has lots of mathematical statements is going to send me straight to sleep or to boredom, which leads to drowsiness, which leads to sleep! It’s just not the language I speak, so it doesn’t energize me.
Look back at your list. I suspect some of the things that tire you are those you must do. We all have to deal with that. So how will you?
Breaking those ‘must-do’ tasks down into smaller parts helps me. It also helps to have a colleague or partner who can help you with the task. I feel like I’ve struck gold when I find someone who can explain mathematical and financial matters to me in a way I can understand – in ‘my’ language.
Try to find ways to free up your time to do more of the things that energize you. That might happen in the current career you are in, or it may be a signal you need to change careers.
Think about the cultural shift of building on your strengths and getting someone to help you with those tasks that you must do, but aren’t easy for you…then make a promise to yourself this year – to ‘sharpen your saw’ and ‘build your strengths’ at least once every month. You just might discover what gives you energy.
Then share that energy with others!