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Every first and third Wednesday, our Head of Community Anna Dearmon Kornick hosts a LIVE deep dive into a different time management topic. Then, she opens up the floor for your questions and coaching.
This week we zeroed in on the work that you love doing, and the work you’re great at doing – your Genius Zone work.
What is a Genius Zone?
The concept of each individual having a unique Genius Zone or Zone of Genius was first introduced by psychologist Gay Hendricks in this book The Genius Zone. In The Genius Zone, originally published as The Joy of Genius, Hendricks introduced finding your “Genius Zone” as a way to thrive and reduce negative thinking.
The concept of discovering your Genius Zone has also been adapted and popularized by leadership and career coaches, including Michael Hyatt, who wrote about a similar exercise he calls the Freedom Compass in his book Free to Focus.
Your Genius Zone
Your Genius Zone consists of the activities that you love and that you’re good at doing. You’re highly passionate about these activities and you enjoy doing them. Additionally, you’re highly proficient at these tasks. Whether you’re innately talented or you’ve cultivated skills over time with study or practice, you’re effective and efficient at these activities.
When you’re working in your Genius Zone, it’s much easier for you to get into a state of flow. Hopefully, your Genius Zone is at the core of your current job responsibilities.
In addition to your Genius Zone, there are four other zones into which you can categorize your work.
Your Drudgery Zone activities are low-passion and low-proficiency. These are the tasks on your to-do list that you hate doing more than anything. You don’t enjoy them and you’re not good at them. Because you dislike them so much, you often procrastinate and once you do get started you’re easily distracted and they take you much longer to complete. Drudgery Zone activities are energy killers and if you have too many of them in your current job description, it might be time to look for new opportunities.
Your Disinterest Zone activities are low-passion and high-proficiency. Activities in this zone typically present a conundrum because you find them to be incredibly boring, but you happen to be highly skilled at them. Often, we’re reluctant to outsource or delegate these tasks because of our skill level, but the disdain we hold for them makes us more likely to procrastinate and waste time.
Your Distraction Zone is filled with activities that are high-passion, but low-proficiency. That means you enjoy doing them, but you’re not very good at them. Even though you’re having fun, spending time in your distraction zone is another time waster because someone else could likely perform this task more efficiently and effectively.
Your Development Zone is for activities that are also high-passion, but low- to medium-proficiency. The biggest difference between the Distraction Zone and the Development Zone is that the activities in your Development Zone have potential. With study or practice, you could develop your skills and move Development Zone activities into your Genius Zone. While it can be tempting to assume that all Distraction Zone activities are candidates for your Development Zone, you’ll need to be realistic about what has potential and what is truly a distraction.
How to spend more time in your Genius Zone
Once you’ve identified which of your activities fall into your Genius Zone, you’ll want to spend as much time performing those activities as possible. Three methods for spending more time on your Genius Zone work include elimination, automation and delegation.
After making a full list of your day-to-day responsibilities and categorizing them into each of the five zones, challenge yourself to slash 10%. Although you may not realistically be able to take things off your plate, especially without speaking with your manager, the exercise alone can reveal the nonessential activities that are taking your time.
After you’ve found activities from your Drudgery, Disinterest, and Distraction Zones that you can eliminate, your next step is to automate. What of the remaining tasks can you automate using tools or templates? By automating processes using tools like Zapier or creating rules in Asana, you can cut out unnecessary steps and save yourself time spent doing manual tasks. Don’t forget about templates, too. Creating email templates, task templates, or lists of FAQs can keep you from reinventing the wheel day after day.
If you can’t eliminate or automate it, can you delegate it? Review the remaining items in your Drudgery, Distraction, and Disinterest Zones and look for opportunities to delegate. Can you empower someone on your team to take on some of these responsibilities? Is there an opportunity to hire a new team member or outsource to a contractor or agency?
Yes, it is possible to spend more time doing the work you love. It begins with clearly understanding what falls into your unique Genius Zone and then eliminating, automating, and delegating your way to time well spent.
How can we layer the different zones with our energy levels?
At Office Hours a few weeks ago, we discussed how to harness your energy to plan a sustainable work week. When you know approximately when you experience your peak energy during the day, you can time your Genius Zone work with your peak energy. This practice can increase your productivity because you are doing your best work during your highest, most alert energy point.
Aim to do your Genius Zone work during your peak energy time. The afternoon, when many people’s energy is at its lowest point, is a great time to do more mundane tasks that don’t require a great deal of focus.