Work-life balance is tricky for every professional, but 2020’s work from home environment and the added stresses of a global health scare made the past 14 months a truly unique time for all of us. I constantly drive myself to get more done each day, but year after year, “life” seems to have plans for me that directly conflict with my productivity goals. Then it turns into a downward spiral of negative self-talk that ironically leads to even less productivity, because I’m then filled with feelings of doubt and fear that “maybe I’m not good enough, maybe it’s stupid for me to even try,” On a recent episode of The COO Roundtable podcast, Gina Bradley of The Colony Group and Susan Korin of Balasa Dinverno Foltz (“BDF”) gave a master class on tackling your To Do List and setting yourself up, both physically and mentally, for success.
I often joke on the podcast that the COO’s job description is usually, “Just do everything around here that isn’t getting done” – and that is typically a never-ending list of HR, technology, and various business administrations tasks. As such, I enjoy asking our guests for productivity tips and hacks they use to “Get it done” each day. I wasn’t expecting the emotionally intelligent answers provided by both Gina and Susan…they left me quite literally speechless!
Gina flatly exclaimed, “I don’t get everything done each day, not even close!” when I posed the question to her. She continued, “It is a rare day when I lay my head down and rest easy thinking I’ve done enough for the day. I tell you this, not because I think I am unique or special, or that I work harder than anybody else, but it’s because I don’t think it’s much different than what others experience in my role (as COO). I figured I might as well be honest with you and offer a shared sense of comradery in the challenge, instead of pretending that I get to check off all things, every day.”
Susan echoed Gina’s sentiment when she said, “If I have a day that I’ve been working a ton, but feel like I just didn’t get accomplished what I wanted to, I have to fall back and say, ‘Did I do my best?’ Sometimes, that has to be good enough because you do have your family; you do have things you have to stop working for, at some point.”
Citing the book, 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership, Gina stated, “One of the choices of conscious leadership is to choose the experience of ‘I have enough of everything, including time.’ For me, just my own application (of these principles), the commitment also includes the choice to believe that I am enough for Colony Group, for our team, for our clients, and for my family.” She continued, “If I move into my day really believing and choosing to believe that ‘I’m enough,’ if I put in my best effort, then whatever I get done that day is also enough.”
Susan described the constant struggle of declaring “victory” over her To Do List this way, “As soon as I get to a point where I think, ‘Wow, my To Do List is getting close (to completion),’ five things that immediately need my attention pop up. Frankly, I don’t get it all done as well, and the way that I think about it is, it’s really just a constant juggling of reprioritization.”
Gina explained her day-to-day responsibilities as, “Some days, ‘getting everything done’ looks like your typical packed calendar, where you have back-to-back calls and meetings (Zooms for now), with a whole lot of unread e-mails to tackle after my kids go to bed. Other days, I do get to have that satisfying feeling of checking off To Do’s that are on my list. And still other days, I have to think ‘enough’ just looks like having that one hard conversation with a colleague that maybe I had been dreading but being thankful that it went well. I’ve had to shift my mentality so that it’s not about getting everything done, but it’s about redefining daily for myself what ‘enough is enough’ means for me, and then being supported in that by my partners and my team. And they are supportive!”
She ended her comments on the topic with an honest and extremely important point, “When I’m in stressor moments and I think I haven’t done enough, I ask myself, ‘Well, who is telling you that you haven’t done enough?’ and basically ten times out of ten, it’s just me. It’s the voices in my own head. I’m super thankful that my partners and the team around me have encouraged me that I am enough, and so despite not getting everything done, it still seems to work.”
Susan then shared what BDF, as an organization, has implemented to help employees be more productive. “We created what we call PWT, which is Private Work Time. People put PWT on their calendar – maybe it’s an hour, maybe it’s two hours, at least two to three times per week. Unless something really urgent comes up or some sort of emergency, then that’s supposed to be time that people do not disturb you. Before calling someone, you should look at their calendar to see if they’re in PWT.”
As for her own personal productivity, Susan explained, “I’ll look a week or two in advance. I take a broader view on what those two weeks might look like, then ask, ‘What do I need to accomplish this next week?’ That list can be pretty long. Every day it’s, ‘What are the three to five things I need to accomplish today or tomorrow?’ It really is, at the end of every day, looking at that list. Sure, I get the satisfaction of crossing a few of those things out, but more than likely, I’m reworking that list because new things have come up, different things, more important things.”
Susan concluded her thoughts on the topic by saying, “In order for me to be the best that I can for BDF, I have to do things for me. I have to exercise regularly. Deep breathing, meditation. It’s like I need time to let the stress go away. I have to make sure I schedule those things – I often joke, if it’s on my calendar, it will happen; if it’s not, no guarantees! I have to commit to it, and it really has made a difference.”
Our soon-to-be eight-year-old son, Luke, is entering that age of, “I wish I was an adult, because then I can do whatever I want!” I don’t have the heart to tell him that being an adult is no walk in the park! The feeling of being overwhelmed can be debilitating sometimes, but as Gina and Susan pointed out, we are all dealing with these stressors and these doubts. Gina mentioned the conscious choice to believe, “I have enough of everything, including time.” Susan pointed out that doing your best, in any situation, has to be “enough.” The best thing we can do for our mindset and our productivity is to realize, “It can always get done tomorrow!”