Why This Common Prioritization Method Kills Employee Engagement

We all at some point find ourselves prioritizing only the work required to “keep the lights on.” Once we’re comfortable, we want to stay that way. We want to hold the line. We focus entirely on tasks that prevent discomfort. We think if we can just prevent all badness, things will hum right along.

It’s logical, but it’s got a flaw. It’s designed to maintain status quo, which is perfectly fine… for machines. But for people, simply maintaining status quo is not enough. Never-ending, repetitive work turns us into apathetic sleepwalkers. It’s a recipe for stagnation and burn-out. One would think a life of predicability and comfort would make us happy, but instead it leaves us numb and yearning for something more. To be happy, we need to grow.

Lasting engagement and happiness can only be found in new experiences—by stepping outside of our comfort zone. This is why the flow zone angles upward. As we gain skill, more challenge is necessary to stay in the flow zone.

Where there is flow, there is engagement.

To foster our own engagement, we must repeatedly nudge ourselves out of the comfort zone by taking on increasingly challenging work. New challenges keep us grounded while making our life feel purposeful and balanced. It prevents burn-out.

As a business owner, we must foster engagement by continually cultivating a work environment that encourages learning, improvement, and personal growth. It must embrace mistakes as part of the process. We must also use delegation to rebalance workloads.

Since professional growth goals are important, but never urgent, we need a method for prioritizing growth work. We need a system that ensures both progress toward growth goals and routine operational goals.

To accomplish this for myself, I block out the early morning hours on my calendar. No email. No phone. No news. No surfing. Just learning and development. I found that blocking and tackling growth work first thing was the only way to make consistent progress. I also frequently experience a state of flow during this time, which is awesome. In fact, because I often lose track of time, I have to use an alarm to tell me when it’s time to switch gears. To make this system work I had to trade evening TV time for better morning time. As a result, I’m in bed before 9:30 on most nights, up before everyone else, and wrapping up the day around 4pm. It’s totally worth it!

We’re not machines. We’re living beings and we feel most alive in a state of flow. To experience flow is to feel happy and focused—ALIVE. Flow requires more than maintaining status quo. It requires a degree of challenge—growth. To grow, we must set meaningful goals and develop a system (habits) that drives us to do more than status quo.

Feature photo by Adeolu Eletu on Unsplash

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