For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: 'If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?' And whenever the answer has been 'No' for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. ~ Steve Jobs
We tend to think of employee engagement as something spreading over years. We frequently measure and examine it with a bi-annual survey of attitudes and opinions. This long stretch of time blinds us to our real-time engagement waxing and waning not only day to day but hour to hour. In today’s post I’m going to talk about how to work with one day of engagement.
Shutting the door on yesterday and old disappointments
Dale Carnegie, the quintessential personal development writer, suggested we live in “day tight compartments.” He borrowed this phrase from Dr. William Osler. Osler, the Canadian physician born in 1849 and one of the four founding professors of Johns Hopkins Hospital, believed we should shut the door to yesterdays and old disappointments.
He also believed the best possible way to prepare for tomorrow is to concentrate with all our intelligence and enthusiasm on doing today's work well. He might not have used the phrase employee engagement but I imagine if he was alive today he would be comfortable with the term.
How to focus on employee engagement six times a day
Let’s look at six key times of the day to see what you can do to trigger or strengthen engagement during each:
At home. What we do at home before going to work can play a major role in our engagement with the day. Get enough sleep and follow a strong morning routine that gets you centered, balanced, and ready for the day. If you are a parent, don’t get thrown by a tantrum or a missing lunch and learn to manage or master the inevitable setbacks that will occur as you mobilize your family to get out the door. Don’t let the button that pops off just as you are about to leave for work throw you for the day.
Commuting to work. This is your personal transition zone. Use the first half of the commute or journey to end your focus on what went on at home. Everything will be there for you when you return at the end of the day so there is no sense in lugging it physically or psychologically to work with you.
Use the second half of the commute to ready yourself for the day with anticipation for what lies ahead. If it is helpful, grab a cup of coffee to get yourself physically primed for engagement. If your commute is an hour to work, you have lots of time to leave home behind and get ready for the day; if you work out of your home this needs to be done in seconds.
Hour one at work. Use this first hour to focus on the most important work for the day. This could be results, relationships or both. As the old saying goes, “well begun is half done.” If you have high energy in the morning, carve out and guard time and space to maximize the peak time that triggers maximum engagement.
Don’t let the urgent, less important tasks get in the way of engaging with the less urgent but very important work. Although it can be engaging to check your emails or visit with coworkers when you first get to work, this may not be the activity that is best suited for your maximum physical and brain energy time.
During the day. Monitor your engagement every hour or so. Be mindful of what engages you the most and what you most have to engage with. Seek out engaging people and projects to give your engagement a boost during the day. Re-engage yourself with one- or two-minute mini breaks every half hour or so. Stretch, breathe or mentally gather a fresh perspective on work.
Leaving work. Take the last 10 minutes to review your engagement through the day and imagine an engaging day tomorrow, and what you will need to do to make it engaging. Develop a routine or ritual to end work so that you don’t carry it home with you (remember both the laundry and children are waiting for you).
Returning home. Our full connection with work also requires disconnection. With smartphones and tablets it is easy to have work with you all the time so if you need to attend to work outside of scheduled working hours ensure it doesn’t become pervasive and interfere with your engagement with family, relaxation, friends, or community.
If you talk about work with your family during dinner and you have children listening, pay attention to the messages that you are giving your children about work and your relationship to work. Your words may be planting the seeds of their engagement or lack thereof when they enter adulthood.
Transform the bi-annual employee engagement survey
Transform the bi-annual engagement survey that takes twenty minutes to complete and reduces your engagement levels to a few statistics. Instead turn the process into an energized and fulfilling experience by focusing on engagement six key times every day.
Your turn: I’d love to know what you do to stay engaged throughout the day. Share your tips below.