Water Journal : Water Journal November 2012-1
young water professionals 30 NOVEMBER 2012 water regular features Mike Dixon - AWA YWP National Committee President Mike Dixon – AWA YWP National Committee President The Challenge Of Managing Our Personal Energy Ask yourself the last time you heard this conversation: “Hi, how’ve you been?” “Great! Just great, thanks! I feel energetic about my work and have everything in my life under control.” If you’re anything like me you’ve never heard someone say anything remotely like that. So how do we manage our energy to be effective in our careers and life in general? Recently a move from Adelaide to Los Angeles to take up a new role required me to analyse many aspects of my work and how I went about my day-to-day life. Beyond the process of securing the job, the myriad of paperwork and long lists for relocating, I knew I needed to maintain my energy levels and continue to be effective in my career throughout the transition. Changing jobs or starting a new job, even internally, can be an intense, intimidating experience and requires a lot of personal energy. For the purpose of this article I use the word ‘energy’ to describe good motivation, mental stamina and the ability to consistently deliver high-quality work. We All Have 24 Hours in a Day I’m a fan of the saying that we all have the same 24 hours in every day. During the move overseas it was a real challenge for me to maintain momentum across activities I had outside of work. It’s safe to say I would have burnt out continuing to do everything I had on my plate. It can be easy to spread yourself thin across too many commitments and the risk is losing the quality of your input, which can damage your reputation. I believe quality is critical and if you’re uncertain about what you can deliver it’s time to re-prioritise your commitments. We all source energy from different places and spending time with family, friends and doing physical exercise are positive contributors to a well-rounded and energetic professional. I have also learned to use my networks to maintain energy by sharing project tasks, asking for assistance and feedback early and sharing ideas. It’s impossible to do it all on your own. Technology – Friend and Foe Technology presents opportunities to manage our time through 24/7 access to our careers and colleagues via smart phones, tablets and laptops. We can be flexible at what times during the day we complete lower priority tasks, although it also presents a challenge in how we unplug or switch off. Looking back at when I finished my first university degree in 2002 and comparing it to today, technology in our world is extremely different and will only continue to change at a pace so rapid it may feel we can’t keep up. Last year I heard Triple J radio talkback on how technology is detracting from our ability, as humans, to focus on one specific thing at a time. We’re constantly clicking here, reading there, liking that, uploading, sharing and downloading information. I encourage you to read more about this as it’s interesting and can highlight some popular traits developed in the past decade. A Few Tips and Tricks These are some of the habits I practice to help manage my energy day to day: • Switch off the email notification every time you receive an email; if it’s urgent, face to face or a phone call can get the job done; • Set aside some “no social media” time each night (even better, switch off the internet and television altogether); • For important tasks and sudden deadlines go into a room without distractions (including the internet or colleagues) and focus specifically on that task; • Commit to spending time outdoors with the opportunity to clear your mind of work. Strangely, sometimes this is when my best ideas or solutions have popped to mind! • Constantly prioritise your workload and manage it so you spend time being effective, not just busy. There are plenty of great tools online to track how you spend your time during the day, learn the art of delegating (including upward delegation) and become more productive. It’s surprising how small changes can make a big difference to your quality of life and, as I believe, quality of work. Even if you think you’re doing a good job it’s handy to revisit these tools now and then to refresh. I did exactly that recently when I read a Harvard Business Journal paper titled: ‘Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time’ (2007) by Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy – also my inspiration for this Water Journal article. As you make decisions about the kind of career you want to build, habits may have to change and you will find yourself continually adapting to maintain an energised approach. Lastly, this will be one of my last articles as the YWP President, as I believe the role is best suited to someone based in Australia. However, I look forward to seeing out the next few months as we hand over to a new President at the end of 2012, and to continuing my support of AWA and the Australian water industry.
Water Journal December 2012
Water Journal September 2012-1