I love the materials from Marcus Buckingham, author of several books on finding and using your strengths. One of my favorite “go to” resources that I recommend to clients is his book, Go Put Your Strengths to Work (Amazon affiliate link to support this site). If you want to find the intersection of your first two circles of career satisfaction, look no further than his Love It or Loathe It exercise.
First, get a pile of index cards, a blue pen and a red pen and take them to work on Monday.
That’s right, cheap index cards and two pens are all the investment you need to make for this exercise. Easy peasy.
Now, use them this week to jot down what you are doing when you have either of these feelings at work:
I love this!
When you are doing an activity you love (or have just finished one), jot down what you were doing in blue pen on one of the index cards. Maybe you were so involved in doing that research that lunchtime flew right and now it’s 2pm and you’re starving. Maybe you left that meeting today feeling like a rock star (“Yes! I nailed that! I rock”). Maybe you leave the building after a long day feeling more energized than when you came in. Any of those types of feelings – lost in your work, triumphant, bursting with energy – are worthy of being on a card with blue ink.
Try to be specific. Write down “Researched market interest in reading social media on mobile devices.” Or “Persuaded customer x to go with our solution for problem y.” Or “Analyzed data and finished the day with a solution to x problem.”
I loathe this!
When you are doing an activity you loathe, make note of that in red pen on an index card. What’s the thing that’s hanging over your head that you know you need to do but can’t seem to find the time to work on? What activity do you finish and say, “Phew, that’s over. Good riddance!” What are you doing when time goes at a crawl and your checking your watch every 2 minutes, frustrated that the damn clock isn’t moving?
Again, be specific to the activity when you’re writing it out. “Writing status report on xyz project.” Or “Giving sales presentation to a group of 5 new customers.” Or “Develop project plan for abc effort.”
At the end of the week when you have your Love it and Loathe it activities, do the “Love it” part of the exercise. Take the cards in blue pen – your “loved it” cards – and pick your top 5.
Now, answer a few simple questions about your “loved it” activities.
- What were you actually doing? (presenting, researching, analyzing)
- How were you doing it? (in front of a group of 20, at a computer when my cube mates were away, at my home office)
- Did it matter why you were doing it or who you were doing it with/to/for? (with brand new customers, to solve x problem, at home in peace)
What did you find? What energizes you?