Winter gardening… for your career

Some weekend gardening prompted a few thoughts on how important a little bit of light care and attention is for our working lives too. Take a few gardening-related career tips to help keep your career on track though the winter months.

While I was cutting back the brambles and ivy which seem to enjoy my lazy approach to gardening, I started to think about how much our professional lives could also reap the benefits of some winter gardening.

a person using pruning shears
Career Maintenance

I spent a couple of hours in the garden over the weekend, giving it some much needed attention. I’m not a particularly diligent or knowledgeable gardener, it’s very much a case of survival of the fittest for my plants! While I was cutting back the brambles and ivy which seem to enjoy my lazy approach to gardening, I started to think about how much our professional lives could also reap the benefits of some winter gardening.

Clearing away ‘easy to grow’, auto-pilot activities that take over.

During winter, with the small amount of light, sunshine and personal energy that affect us all, it’s easy to slide into routines at work, which are easy, require little effort and are repetitive.  Just like brambles and ivy in my garden, these routines serve their purpose.  

They fill the gaps, keep things going and give us an easy ride… and while it’s really positive to have points in our careers or even in our days when autopilot is useful, it’s easy for them to creep and grow to a point where they are covering 90% of your time and there’s no space for anything else.  

Clear away, make space, revisit past ideas and focus on the small things…

When I cleared back much of this undergrowth, what I found underneath was a joyful surprise, little spring flowers starting to push through and new growth on seemingly dead plants.  If I hadn’t moved the undergrowth, these new shoots would have found it much harder to thrive and may even have wilted entirely.

This is just the same as our careers. The easy, coasting has its place to allow us to keep a healthy balance in our stress and activity levels, but if we allow it to dominate our time, we risk missing the little opportunities and squashing germs of new ideas and skills. 

Question for you:

If this feels familiar, then spend a couple of days really noticing how much of your time at work is spent on auto-pilot. What could you clear away within some of those activities to make space for new things to grow?

Long-forgotten ‘bulbs’ of skills and ideas aren’t dead, just waiting for their moment.

Every now and again I have a moment of gardening enthusiasm where I buy some new bulbs and try to make an effort to create a space that I know I will enjoy in the coming months. Some of them live up to their photocard promise on the packet, some of them are underwhelming and some never seem to do anything.

The interesting part is that while I was clearing away the leaves and making some space over the weekend, I came across signs of life from bulbs which I had completely forgotten about.  Things which I thought were a waste of time were actually just lying in wait, choosing their moment.

So I’ve given these shoots some space, some food and I’ll keep an eye on their progress now.  How often do we try new things at work or put our hands up for something in a moment of enthusiasm, only for it not to work out quite as we had intended? Instead of assuming that the new skill or project isn’t for you and never returning to it, perhaps the timing was just wrong.  

Question for you:

Think back over the last 12 months, what things could benefit from a second look? What skill or activity could be tried again now that the situation looks different? Where could you enlist some help to give yourself the best chance of making progress this time around?

A little effort over a wide area makes a huge difference.

It’s easy when I’m staring at an overgrown, largely-dead garden to imagine going all-out on a big project to completely re-invent the space. Something which is costly, time consuming and all-absorbing.  While this can bring amazing results, it’s just not always an option, so feeling deflated, I could walk away and ignore it.   

I realized this weekend, that it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing approach to produce results. Just by doing little bits of weeding, clearing and chopping back over the whole space I quickly had a huge pile of garden waste in front me and a much clearer, revitalized looking space.  It may not be the ‘big project’ style of change, but I had made a huge difference in the time, energy and resources I had.

Perhaps there is a smaller, lower key version of your big plans which could also bring about a big change but in slow increments or when joined together.  

When it comes to our careers, how often do we put off doing something small because we’re more interested in waiting for the ‘big change’? But realistically how often do those big changes come around? They require a lot of time, energy and resources from us so it’s normal that they are infrequent.  

Particularly at this point in the year, we’ve all worked out now which of our ‘big change’ resolutions is actually going to stick.  Instead of giving up on the ones that didn’t make it through January, perhaps there is a smaller, lower key version of these which could also bring about a big change but in slow increments or when joined together.  

There’s a good deal of evidence which suggests that making change in this way is actually more sustainable, more effective and gives us a result which is more suited to us in any case, so it’s worth a thought!

Question for you:

What small things do you want to change about your job? Is it a process that you follow, or a system that you use or where you sit at home or in an office? Make a list of 5 really small, achievable actions that you could do in the next few days which would either over time or cumulatively make a difference to your job. Then go and do them!

I learnt this weekend that winter gardening isn’t about making an impressive, beautiful space, it’s about clearing away the winter debris, making space for the new shoots and remembering that lots of little pockets of work all join up to create a bigger, more impactful picture.  I’ll be doing the same ‘gardening’ of my work-life in the coming days and hoping that the results are just as fruitful.

Next up…

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Published by Kelly Whalley

Co-Founder of Find Your Wings. Mentor, digital marketing expert, H.E.A.L.T.H.Y career creator and consultant, on the side of being a mum of two.

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