Everything we admire in the world, champion sports teams, spectacular entertainment, amazing business successes, and individual accomplishments are all because someone wanted to get better at something. And the question for everyone else has always been, “How did they do that?”
Jason Womack knows how to accomplish stuff. And as a renowned workplace performance expert and executive coach, he knows how to help others act in ways that allow them to accomplish their own stuff. In his seminal work, Your Best Just Got Better: Work Smarter, Think Bigger, Make More, Jason shares his overarching principles along with many specific tactics and exercises that get you started towards getting better, in whatever way you choose. If you want to take action, this book is definitely actionable, because he gives you some kind of exercise or task to do in every chapter, in the hopes that you’ll pick something that resonates with you to help you get started. And if you want to be an executive coach or workplace expert yourself, you might just be able to use this book as your secret weapon.
Focus to Finish
"Do as much as you can, with as much of your focus as you can, toward completion, in the next few minutes."
Womack states that out of all the aspects of productivity and workplace performance he teaches in this book, “focus is the single most critical component to address when it comes to success.” And he does teach a lot of different concepts, including how to manage your time, your energy, improving your network, gathering feedback, and clarifying your purpose, among others. But when he gets to the chapter on focus, you get the feeling that this is his secret sauce, his baby.
He calls it, Directed Thinking, when you are focused on thinking toward what you want to be true. This is beyond positive thinking, it’s more about “directing your focus forward, taking action, and making things happen.” And that’s exactly what you’ll be able to do after acting on the concepts in this book.
In a world of constant multi-tasking and increased demands on our time that we either place on ourselves, or is placed on us by others, we crave some kind of magical time and space where the rest of the world just stops, so we can focus on getting things done and catch up. Well, we’re not going to find that magical place where we stop the world, but we can, in essence, block out the rest of the world mentally, as we focus on our most important tasks. Our job is to create our own time and space, and not wait for the world to give us permission, because frankly, it doesn’t care.
Staying focused on not only your everyday tasks, but on the direction of your life is the key to getting better.
Practice on the small things, so you can perform on the big ones
"Think about what you have to do, and do something you’re thinking about."
Sure, we’ve heard ‘practice makes perfect’ all our lives, but Jason is going deeper. He says that ‘practice makes comfortable.’ So think about all the things you’re comfortable doing, that means you’ve practiced them. For instance, someone who has perfected the art of always being late to meetings has ‘practiced’ that behavior over and over until it has become a standard habit. We can practice something whether it’s right or wrong.
He says “the easiest way I know to get started doing things differently is to begin slowly, and practice with incredible intention and deliberate focus.” This equates practice to being more like an experiment. In an experiment, you are just trying something and seeing how it works. But you are focused on observing exactly what happens. Regardless of whether it does or doesn’t work, you’ve still learned something just by conducting the experiment and observing intently. So by practicing a new way to act, you’re just seeing how it works for you. And if you do it a few days in a row (usually 5) you’ll have a better idea whether you should keep practicing or try something else.
Here are a few examples of what Womack’s clients have decided to practice:
- Saying no
- Maximizing interruptions
- Managing meetings
- Following through on every commitment
He goes into more detail about each of these items and also shares 3 keys to effective practice: (1) visualization, (2) rehearsal, and (3) the five-day experiment.
We know deep down that if we want to get better, we need to practice. So why don’t we just do it?
If you can track it, you can change it
"Until you notice what you do, you don’t notice what you do."
Tracking creates awareness. Jason says that this is the secret ingredient to making positive, iterative, and sustainable change. The best way to change habits is to first identify those that are already in place. There are all kinds of things you can track, but the difficult part is turning a true mirror on yourself. Try tracking some of the following items:
- How many times were you interrupted?
- What time did you arrive?
- When did you take a morning break?
- How many minutes (or hours) did you spend away from your desk in meetings?
- What time did you leave for home?
- What time did you go to bed?
If you don’t know the answers for sure, then you have all the more reason to start tracking. Understanding your current reality is key to any kind of change management effort.
If you’re up for making improvements in your life and want a bunch of tips and tools that you can act on right away, then read Jason Womack’s Your Best Just Got Better slowly and follow his instructions.
No matter how good you think you are, you can always make your best better.