To Conquer Your Workload, Find Your Rock

You might not know this, but I have been working with a professional coach for several years now. I have found working with her to be extremely helpful – I might even say transformative.

Not only has my coach helped me figure out ways to manage people better, to lead teams of 25 people effectively, to deal with the challenges of moving halfway across the country – she has also helped me find ways to find and optimize who I am and how I work best.

I think one of the greatest gifts she’s given me is the concept of finding my rock. The process of finding – and using – my rock has helped me to perform efficiently, at a consistently high level, in a dynamic and challenging industry. As professionals, we may face seemingly insurmountable hurdles, all while also trying to maintain calm and order. I bet you can relate.

One thing I’ve learned is that being smart doesn’t seem to be enough to succeed in this environment. In order for us to be operating at our peak, we need to be strategic.

Savanna strategy

My coach uses the analogy of being a cheetah.

Cheetahs are the fastest land animals on the planet. Think about the National Geographic videos we’ve all seen – superfast cheetahs running through the tall grasses of the savanna, deftly hunting their prey. They symbolize, speed, agility, and operational excellence. Cheetahs get it done. I think we’d all like to be the professional version of a cheetah.

But what many don't know is that before the actual hunt – the high-speed takedown we see on TV – cheetahs do an amazing thing. They find the highest vantage point that looks out over the entire savanna. From this position, they survey the landscape, see their prey, and determine where all the obstacles are. All before beginning their hunt. And on this high rock, they also seem to soak in the warm and comforting rays of the sun, fueling their internal energy. Readying themselves for the upcoming chase.

In other words, they have found their rock, and they use it to drive their excellence.

How to find your rock

This subheading is a little misleading, because I can’t tell you exactly how you can find the right strategic vantage point for planning and reflection. Everyone works a bit differently. But what I can do is share some steps that I have found to be extremely effective.

1.     Take time to “see the Savanna” each week

First, every Sunday night, I spent an hour or so looking ahead to my week. I know I am expected to hit the ground running first thing on Monday morning, so I use this time to map out the entire week: who I am meeting with, where those meetings are, what people are expecting of me, what milestones I need to hit. I do it in front of a computer, and I type up notes and a brief outline.

2.     Get tactical

Second, I make a to-do list. I admit, people who know me know that I'm notoriously stubborn about making to-do lists. They always seemed to be daunting to me – and I never was able to cross off everything, which only made matters worse.

That’s why it’s important to be realistic and write down achievable things on your list. Don’t expect to read the whole book that week (for example) – instead, maybe just tackle the first chapter. And find a software or app that can help you organize and track your list – making sure it syncs with your email, phone, and any other piece of technology you use to do your work. Trust me – it’s a life-saver.

3.     Reflect and revise

Next, grab 30 minutes in the middle of the week to re-orient yourself with your list. Let’s face it: things happen, and often the unplanned things through you way off and get you off your game – even early in the week. This is the time to find flexibility in your to-do list. Re-adjust, re-optimize and make realistic changes. This mid-week re-alignment has given me new energy to tackle the end of the week strong.

4.  Get Out of the Gemba.

There is a term in Lean Six Sigma called “Getting in the Gemba” (gemba is a Japanese term for “the real place” or “the work place"). The thought is by getting into the place where the real work is done, you can figure out ways to improve your work. But I have found that sometimes the exact opposite is true.

To find my rock, I have found tremendous value getting away from work. Take a walk. Go to a coffee shop. By distancing yourself from the situation, you have time to think and reorient, and see new vantage points and obstacles. (Plus, coffee shops have caffeine – added bonus!).

These are the ways I have found to get back on my rock and be more strategic. My ways may not work for everyone – what are some ways you have found for finding your rock?

PS – I cannot recommend my professional coach enough. Her name is Camille Preston, and she is she is a great person and good friend. You can find more about her – and learn how she can help you – at her website: Create More Flow (