All superintendents have to-do lists. It doesn’t matter how one manages them — smartphone, tablet, app or even manually on a piece of paper — they guide our days and can shape us as much as they shape our courses.
Many of us live and die by these lists. The blueprint they provide us is essential to what we accomplish on any given day, week, month, or over the course of the season. But what is your relationship to that list? Is it a positive source of clarity and organization? Do you pause and look back on all that your team has accomplished as you check off the boxes? Or is it a source of never-ending anxiety and angst; an endless reminder of all the things still left to do?
If you answer yes to the second part of that query you might be experiencing what is called productivity shame. Jocelyn K. Glei, author and host of the podcast Hurry Slowly, coined that term and explored it on her show. It’s basically the notion that we create endless lists and set goals which are completely unrealistic, and then berate ourselves when we don’t live up the expectations the lists demand of us or fall short of our goals.
...we create endless lists and set goals which are completely unrealistic, and then berate ourselves when we don’t live up the expectations the lists demand of us or fall short of our goals.
This particular podcast touches on themes that many greenkeepers can relate to. The first of these is how we view productivity and success. Are you the type of super who only measures success by how many things you have checked off your list? Is the success of your team based only on the measurable, actionable things you’ve accomplished? Or instead, can you pause and step back from the list to see the bigger picture. It’s vital that we as superintendents and human beings create space for reflection and creativity. These aren’t things that are easily measured in a quantitative manner but when incorporated into our lives are critical to our overall well-being.
Another key theme related to the idea of productivity shame is that of perfectionism. As turf managers, being slave to a perfectionist mindset can be lethal. There is nothing wrong with striving for excellence and attention to detail; it’s our job to look after details. But when those lists and details are never ending, and even worse, when they come to define how you view yourself, then they become toxic.
As turf managers, being slave to a perfectionist mindset can be lethal.
Glei also refers to the idea of socially-oriented perfectionism. This is particularly dangerous, as it stems from our perception of how others view our work and how productive we are. Sound familiar? Do your relationships with golfers, board members or owners have you convinced that you are not measuring up — that your best efforts are somehow not good enough? The dangerous part of this notion is that most times these stories are simply not true. We tell ourselves these lies and they insidiously become part of our self identity.
Our social media feeds can also play a sinister role in how we view our success and productivity. We can scroll through twitter and Instagram to see an endless stream of high quality pictures and stories of superintendents getting stuff done — especially so at this time of year when the renovation work starts to ramp up. If we are not careful, we can look at these amazing pictures and behind the scenes vignettes and think that everyone else is getting so much wonderful work done… and then leap quickly into the story of what’s wrong with us that we aren’t getting as much done at our place? We can’t see the imperfect truth behind the scenes of these images, and we often do not consider the budgets, the planning, and the fails they don’t take pictures of. If we are not careful this too becomes fuel for the storyline of how we/our course simply don’t measure up.
We can’t see the imperfect truth behind the scenes of these images, and we often do not consider the budgets, the planning, and the fails they don’t take pictures of...
If you find that any of this rings true, you can begin to release yourself from the grip of this perpetual shame by pausing and simply becoming aware that it’s affecting you negatively. Then, take out your list and instead of focusing on the stuff at the bottom without check marks, take some time to reflect on all of the items that are checked off. Let all that your team has accomplished settle in somewhere and just be with it. Take a moment to remind yourself that you are not this list. You are not measured in checkmarks and actionable items. You are more than both your perceived greatest successes and most devastating failures. You are a person who at this point in time happens to be a golf course superintendent, and what you do or do not get done in the run of a season doesn’t have to shape your inner landscape.
Thanks so much for reading.