Beyond checking your calendar and task list, what are you doing daily to maximize your performance as an engineer? Timothy Gallwey came up with The Inner Game of Tennis in 1974. Since then, he has shown that all human performance — including engineering — has an “inner game” and an “outer game.” We mostly focus on our “outer game” — the visible, verbally describable part. But we commonly ignore our “inner game” and, thus, limit our performance.
Here’s how to improve your inner game:
1. Be curious about your inner state. How are you feeling right now? Describe your inner state, without judging. Calm? Eager? Nervous? Just notice. Jot down a few words that characterize your state. Now, take a breath and let it out slowly. Do this a few times. How are you feeling now? Does the list of words you wrote down still apply? What has changed? This isn’t about “fixing” anything; it’s about experiencing yourself as a whole person, in your body, with feelings as well as thoughts. When you are “present,” you have access to all your resources. Do this exercise upon arising, upon arriving at work, whenever you are about to start another activity.
2. Choose your going-to-bed and waking-up thoughts. Your subconscious will serve you more effectively if you consciously give it things to “chew on.” As you are falling asleep each night, review your day’s accomplishments. Then go over what you want to do, or do better, the next day.
Your first thoughts upon awakening can set your inner tone for the whole day. Start with gratitude for all that is good in your life.
3. Honor your inner critic — and turn away to do engineering. The critical self is part of you, and deserves to be heard. If it is clamoring for attention, or issuing a stream of warnings or criticism, take a minute to listen. Then take a deep breath and return to doing. It is hard to perform at your peak while listening to a stream of negativity.
4. Do it now. Incomplete commitments weigh on us. One way to minimize this effect is to notice if something can be done or delegated immediately and then do it.
5. Done beats perfect. There are occasions when perfectionism is an asset and others when it is a liability. “Doing it right” is always important. Sometimes “right” means “perfectly and sometimes “good enough and quickly.”
6. Communicate. Managers, customers, and colleagues all want to know what is going on. Make it a habit to keep them informed. Keep your communications brief and succinct. Whether it’s good news or bad news, everyone prefers to know as early as possible. And when you know that everyone knows how things are going, it makes it easier to stay focused on your tasks.
7. Make time for the important. Make weekly appointments with yourself to attend to important and not-urgent tasks.
— Joel Orr
Joel Orr is an NLP Master Practitioner and CTO of EZOSA, a software startup.
Edited by Leslie Gordon Twitter @LeslieGordon, firstname.lastname@example.org