Saving energy to build learning teams and do better work

By Marius on 2018-01-30 — 3 mins read

Long routes from home to work take energy, physical and mental, and after weeks and months (or years) leave you without enough energy for a productive day. That means quality work is a low priority. As you slog along all day long, with just enough strength to do the high priority tasks, you take less times to discuss important topic. You don’t try to be creative and pick the first possible solution. Quality is becomes a luxury and customer satisfaction a fata morgana, impossible to reach.

Noise in the office is another culprit. It takes energy and makes concentration difficult, leaving you with less for what you’re working on. Open spaces are usually more noisy, but small and crowded offices can also be difficult to work on.

Unfinished projects, lots of issues to handle, unreasonable clients consume your energy even if you don’t handle the problems. Actually because you don’t handle the problems you have even less energy for the ones you do handle.

There are three things you can do to start saving energy for your team:

1) Build momentum
2) Plan for breaks
3) Reduce high energy tasks

How to build momentum?

You’re not in a sprint. You’re not alone. You’re in a group marathon. Handle your group’s energy if you want the team to go the whole distance.

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

African proverb

Planning for breaks. Now that’s a strange and unproductive idea, right? Why would you do that, aren’t people supposed to work all the time they’re payed for?

But ask yourself this question: If they do that, working continuously from 9 to 5, when will they recharge? When will they learn something about your product, maybe from another team or from the customers? When will they take feedback on what they’re doing?

This need highly depends on the nature of the job, but creative people, product people, strategic people need breaks to think. To take different perspectives. To learn.

You could recharge your batteries by playing a sport with team mates or friends after your lunch break or in the evening. You could start a reading group at work, planning to read a chapter individually over the week and discussing it on Friday at a coffee. It could be technical, marketing, business strategy or cooking. As long as the group is engaged with the subject a good way to build a momentum and improve communication is to have these discussions. The subject can be made to fit a work problem, if needed, but even the existence of the group is very important for your team.

The breaks  can recharge your team’s batteries and build momentum. Coming back to work next week you can use inside jokes and funny things you’ve learned with the group. This helps going over tough moments, diffusing tension and improving relations between team members.

Another productive break can be participating in the marketing team for the product being developed and understanding how the marketing team works, what do they need and maybe even help them. Coming back to your team, you’ll have new perspectives and better understanding for other business aspects.

Take the time to listen, no matter who you’re talking with. Feedback can come from management, colleagues, or customers. Try to see things from someone else’s perspective. It will change how you see things yourself and allow you do better work.

High energy tasks are like huge deserts, you want to eat them but can’t. Or you feel tired and maybe sick afterwards. What you really need to do is split the cake in smaller bites, eat just one small bite after lunch and leaving the rest for the next day. The same way you need to split huge tasks in smaller ones.

One system is to estimate a task’s difficulty by using t-shirt sizes: XS is very easy, S is easy, M is a bit difficult, L is quite a piece. Stop there. Take all the XL and XXL and bigger tasks and split them in tasks of smaller sizes. It doesn’t matter which length they’ll have, as long as the biggest task is less than a week, ideally less than 2 days of work.

So remember, in order to save energy for your team, you can start here:
– build and sustain momentum
– plan for regular breaks for learning and getting feedback
– save energy by splitting work in smaller tasks


Posted in: english, work/life

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