How To Have a Strong Week

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HaveAStrongWeek

This post is an experiment on multiple levels.  First, I’m testing how well I can get feedback on content for my book, by sharing content on my blog.  Second, I’m testing how well I can share a techniques that’s easy for me to do live, but tough to write down.  This is the same exercise I go through with my mentees at Microsoft to have more energy, have more fun, and get more done.  It’s about spending more time in your strengths, and less time in your weaknesses.

The first time I did this exercise for myself, it was eye-opening.  I was spending way too much time  in my weaknesses and not enough time doing what I do best.  A little awareness can go a long way.  Once I knew the problem, I refocused, reprioritized, and reorganized my weekly schedule to spend way more time in my strengths, and a lot less time in my weaknesses.  It’s not an easy battle, but it’s a worthwhile one, and if you don’t fight the good fight, nobody will fight this one for you.  It’s all you.  Even if you have the best manager in the world, you first need to do your homework.  You need to know which activities make you strong, and which ones makes you weak.

Why a Strong Week?
A strong week is one where you spend more time in your strengths, and less time in your weaknesses.  This will boost your energy and results.  When you don’t spend enough time on your strengths, you gradually get drained.  It’s a slow emotional drain.  By spending more time in your strengths, you renew yourself, rebuild your energy, and unleash your results.  The big deal is that by consolidating activities that make you weak and adding activities that make you strong to your day, you have more energy throughout the day, and throughout the week.  Rather than end your day or weak drained, you are continuously recharged.

Summary of Steps

  • · Step 1 – Map Out Your Weaknesses.
  • · Step 2 – Map Out Your Strengths.
  • · Step 3 – Design a Strong Week.

Note – In the following steps, we’ll focus on just Monday through Friday. You can include Saturday and Sunday too if you want, but I suggest first getting a handle on the core week days, before worrying about the weekend. The exception is if your work week starts on a Sunday, then I would start there.

Step 1 – Map Out Your Weaknesses
In this step, think of the activities you do during the week and identify the ones that make you weak.  Trust your gut.  You can use a whiteboard or a sheet of paper.  Think of it like a heat map and scan your week quickly, along with key activities, and identify whether they drain you.  If that doesn’t work for you, then walk each day and determine which activities make you weak.  Chance are, when you first do this, it will look like a scatter chart.  Your weak activities will be all over the board.

Example of Mapping Out Your Weaknesses
Here is an example of a map of activities that are weaknesses throughout the week:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
7:00
8:00
9:00 W W
10:00 W W
11:00 W
12:00 W W
1:00 W W
2:00
3:00 W W W
4:00 W W
5:00
6:00
7:00
8:00
9:00
10:00

 

Note that “W” in the table above represents “weakness”.

Checkpoint

  • Can you identify the top 3 activities that make you the weakest?
  • Can you identify the types of work that make you weak?
  • Can you identify the patterns of people that drain you?

Step 2 – Map Out Your Strengths
In this step, think of the activities you do during the week and identify the ones that make you strong.   These are the activities that come easy for you and you enjoy doing.  When you first do this, chances are, your strong activities are like a scatter chart, just like your weaknesses.  Awareness is the first step.

Example of Mapping Out Your Strengths
Here is an example of activities that are strengths throughout the week:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
7:00
8:00
9:00 S S S
10:00 S
11:00
12:00 S S
1:00
2:00 S
3:00
4:00
5:00
6:00
7:00
8:00
9:00
10:00

 

Note that “S” in the table above represents “strengths.”

Checkpoint

  • Can you identify the top 3 activities that make you strong?
  • Can you identify the types of work that make you strong?
  • Can you identify the patterns of people that catalyze you?

Step 3 – Design a Strong Week
In this step, you design a strong week.  You do this by eliminating weaknesses, adding strengths, and consolidating your weaknesses that remain.

Eliminate Your Weaknesses
If there are activities that make you weak that you can get rid of, do so.  You need to make room for your strengths.  For a lot of people, this means eliminating some meetings.  This also means re-negotiating some of the tasks they do.

Consolidate Your Weaknesses
For the weaknesses you can’t get rid of, try to consolidate them.  If you adopt a “worst things first” practice, you can try to get your weaknesses out of the way, first thing in the morning.  This creates a glide path for the rest of the day, especially if you can add more strengths.

Add Strengths
Add activities that make you strong.  This may require negotiation with your team, your manager, or your family, but this will be one of your best moves for renewing your life and getting more from your day to day.  You might find that it’s tough to add activities that make you strong.  Start simple.  For example, you might schedule a weekly lunch with a mentor or a friend that lifts you up.  You also might find some simple ways to adjust the work you are already doing to play to your strengths.  Get creative.  The more focus and energy you put on playing to your strengths, the more you’ll amplify your results.  While you might get some quick wins under your belt, it’s really a winning strategy for the long run.  You can continuously improve your weekly schedule by adding more strengths, and eliminating more weaknesses.

Example of a Strong Week
Here is an example of a strong week by design:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
7:00
8:00
9:00 W W W W W
10:00 S S S S S
11:00
12:00 S S
1:00 S
2:00 S
3:00 S S
4:00 S S S
5:00
6:00
7:00
8:00
9:00
10:00

 

Notice that weaknesses are consolidated and there are strengths throughout the week, and throughout the day.  In fact, one key way to improve your energy later in the day, is to add activities that make you strong.

Guidelines

  • Consolidate your weaknesses as best as you can.  For example, you might use the first hour of each of your days as a timebox for activities that make you weak.
  • Add more activities that make you strong.
  • Start with something simple.  You don’t need to make it all or nothing.  Simple wins add up.  Just by eliminating a few of your weaknesses, can really lift a weight from your shoulders.  Similarly, adding a few strengths can really help you renew your energy and make things happen.
  • Pair up with people.  You might find that pairing up on things that make you weak, helps you enjoy them more.  You might also find that you get more from your strengths when you pair up or team up with others.
  • Test your results.  Rather than try to predict every possibility, test combinations and evaluate your results.  Pay attention to how you feel.  Simply making a few shifts in your weekly schedule can dramatically impact your energy.

Checkpoint

  • Have you eliminated as many of the activities that make you weak as you can?
  • Have you found a way to add a few activities that make you stronger?
  • How you consolidated your weaknesses as best as you can?

My Related Posts

Photo by Incase Designs.

18 COMMENTS

  1. Great post! I love how you’re writing so much about strengths lately. I think it’s so important to focus on them and I think it’s something most people don’t really do. It’s so easy to focus on the weaknesses (and want to make them better), but it’s really important to focus on our strengths too. I’m going to work on making this a strong week!

  2. Very useful idea, JD. We usually map activities or priorities into our week (if we do that at all) and it’s a new approach to map strengths and weaknesses.

    Great that you’re writing a book and testing out the ideas here – this is one of the great uses of a blog, I find. Have fun writing! I’m assuming researching and writing are your strengths. If they’re not, well, keep at it, pal! 🙂

  3. Hey just had a thought. Your post title could easily be heard as ‘How to have a Strong Weak’. That might be an interesting topic for another day – how to turn a weakness into a strength!

    Sorry, couldn’t help noticing the pun and wondering if it was deliberate 🙂

  4. Interesting. Very interesting. Although I wouldn’t want to start my day with something weak … my day wouldn’t start 🙂 I prefer to start my day with something strong and then move on to the weak part – so that I can ride the wave of productivity and joy of doing that my strength sets me in.

  5. Hi J.D., At first I was thinking this post wasn’t for me. My weeks tend to be very unpredictable and therefore the idea that I could apply a strength to a time of day seemed counter-intuitive. However, giving it some thought, I’m wondering if applying time of day markers rather than percentage of time guesses wouldn’t focus me in ways that are more productive. I like the concept that focusing larger portions of the week on strengths (and for me also things I enjoy) would be more effective at squeezing weaknesses out of the schedule. I’ve always found time limits to be a very effective way of forcing unpleasant work to be completed with a minimum of procrastination. May force me to improve, at least speed up, my weaker side a bit.

  6. Hey JD,

    Using your blog to test material from your book is an awesome idea. You did a great job with the post. Awareness is key to making the most out of life and so often people are unaware of what are their strong and not so strong points. This exercise is a great way to help people to take a real look at how they spend their time. Each day is full of opportunities and yet so many waste it without realizing that they are losing precious time. 🙂

  7. This is tres cool, J.D. and follows so great of course, on the heels of your last post which helped us identify our strengths. In fact, I’m going to revisit that post and go much deeper into it so I can come back to this one and really make it work for me. Pretty-much an ah-ha series for me.

    Thank you!

    And that’s so exciting about your book! Is it your first? You have a title yet? When are you expecting to release it? Will you be coming to Austin so I can get your autograph?? I imagine you being in the hi-tech biz have been to Austin before? No more questions now. Have a great day!

  8. Hey JD,
    I love the picture on the post with the road being chalked on with the riders of the Tour de France!!! Being a cyclist I have learned one thing that is a key difference between those that are successful and those that struggle. A rider can be successful to a certain point, but at some time they will hit a barrier on how much they can improve. Those that take the time to plan out the activities they are going to do and focusing on those that will bring the most benefit will bring out the best in them. I have found it to be the same in the professional world as well. With myself, I have often used skills to focus and organize my days, weeks and months around key projects and letting those take the priority over the less important projects. I do not use a heat map, but rather look at work in terms of bigger projects. I then do the work of the bigger projects and let the other work take a lower priority. Sometimes the tradeoffs are not easy, but focusing on how you can use your strengths to move particular work forward will keep you from hitting the barriers that prevent success.
    -Jeremy

    P.S. I cant wait to see the book!!!

  9. Hey, J.D., long time no see.

    I think the post would be a lot, uh, stronger with some concrete examples. Fill out the charts with actual weaknesses and strengths, not W and S.

  10. @ Positively Present

    Thank you! I think the key for me was realizing that when you spend more time in your strengths, you have an endless supply of energy.

    @ Daphne

    Thank you. Reshuffling what we already do, dropping weaknesses, and adding strengths goes a long way. Even just consolidating weaknesses helps.

    It would actually be good to show some examples of turning weaknesses into strengths, and I like the pun.

    @ Avani

    That’s actually the surprise. When you push your weakness to later in the day, it looms over you, and you get drained at the end of the day.

    By nailing it first thing, you build momentum throughout your day, and you end your day fresh instead of tired.

    If you do push your weakness up front, use a time limit, such as a max of an hour.

    @ Fred

    Time of day markers sounds like an effective approach and I like your point how timeboxes help with unpleasant work.

    Some of the key patterns to hit are …
    – nailing weaknesses first thing
    – consolidating weaknesses with time limits
    – trade up to more time in strengths
    – don’t let weaknesses rob your energy late in the day
    – don’t waste perfectly good power hours on weaknesses

    It’s possible to gradually shift to more of these patterns.

    @ Nadia

    Thank you. I agree – awareness is your friend. I like the way you frame it that each day is full of opportunities. How we spend our time is one of our most powerful choices we make, moment to moment.

    @ Jannie

    Sweet! One thing that helps me is on Fridays, I do a brief reflection of the week. It’s where I take a fresh look at whether I can readjust my schedule for more strengths and less weaknesses. It’s a continuous process, but it pays off with more energy and better results.

    It will be my first non-technical book (I listed a couple of my tech books in my About if you’re curious), I have a working title, and I’ll have more to say on it in the not too distant future. I haven’t hung out in Austin much, but I hear great things about it, and I’m itching for some road trips.

    So the book doesn’t seem like a black box, it’s essentially my attempt to boil down and share my results system I use for myself, my mentees, and leading teams at Microsoft. It’s how I help people ge their game on and unleash their best. There are some secrets I’ve learned in software that help with everyday living.

    @ Jeremy

    I didn’t realize it was Tour de France and now it makes perfect sense – it’s words of wisdom from good ol’Lance.

    Your example is great and really highlights a key point. It’s tough to make your best decisions in the thick of things. If you plan them out before hand, you can make more thoughtful choices, that lead to your best results.

    If you’re up for early review, little r me and you’re in.

    @ Karl

    It will rock your world … seriously. I think the very first thing I did was consolidate my weaknesses. This helped me get my arms around them and find better ways to deal with them, like team up with people or make it a game, or find a mentor. Pushing them up front meant instead of draining myself throughout the day, I created a glide path. Adding things that make me strong, keep me inpsired. For example, just adding some lunches with my favorite mentors keeps me learning and growing and catalyzes my ideas.

    @ George

    It’s been too long. You were one of my early inpsirations down the writing path. You set a great example of depth and insight.

    Great point on adding examples to light up the ideas.

  11. Hi JD

    Just wondering what the weakness are that you tackle first thing in the morning?

    I definitely procrastinate when it comes to tasks that involve my weaknesses. I think that one excuse I use is that I have other more important things to do and morning is my best time of day so I should work on them then and, and, and…
    It’s usually the admin stuff I struggle with, so my other excuse is that that is easy to do when I’m tired…
    I have my procrastination pretty much nicely sorted out.

    Juliet

  12. Love the idea of focusing on strengths…but I’ve also found that weaknesses were signposts on the road towards developing strength as well.

    So….I tend to heed my weaknesses and ask myself, what am I meant to learn?

    I’ll have to try a strength week with my kids. It sounds very appealing.

  13. @ Juliet

    For me, it’s mostly project administration (budget, contracts, … etc.)

    The beauty is you can always overlay activities that give you energy on top.

    @ Barbara

    Strengths are fun. At the simplest level, I think of it as “what do I want to spend more time doing?”, and I try to center and organize from there.

  14. What an interesting idea! I doubt I will be able to implement it, though. I just don’t work well with getting organized and doing all that planning…a weakness perhaps? Still, I welcome the idea of spending more time on my strengths than weaknesses.

  15. @ Evelyn

    It’s possible to start small.

    What worked for me was taking a few recurring activities scattered on my schedule and first consolidating them. Then I added some energizing activities, such as lunch or brainstorms with some mentors. That alone was a game changer. Gradually from there, I started shifting more time to strengths, and less time to weaknesses.

    To keep it simple, I focused on the recurring activities. Once I adjusted my main weekly schedule, the big rocks were in place, and the main work was done. This took probably about 15 minutes of analysis and shuffling.

  16. Perfect!
    The funniest thing is that I apply somehow similar approach designing my week, each week throughout the year.

    You put a great focus on weakness/strengths and that is refreshing to me.
    When i design my workweek i block times in the calendar giving priorities to projects/customers i love work for. That way i finish my work week fulfilling. Funny i was doing it unconsciously and you perfectly put a pattern for me here.

  17. @ Alik

    I like the fact you said refreshing. I also think of it as renewal. Spending time in my strengths is a way to renew and recharge.

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