How to find your zone of genius

The zone of what?

If you don’t know about the concept of “zone of genius”, here is a 1-minute summary. Every single activity you perform during the day falls within one of four zones:

  1. Zone of Incompetence: Activities that other people probably do better than you (e.g. fixing your car).
  2. Zone of Competence: Activities that you do just fine, but others are as good as you at them (e.g. cleaning your bathroom).
  3. Zone of Excellence: Activities that you are excellent at — better than most, in fact — but don’t love doing.
  4. Zone of Genius: Activities that you are uniquely good at in the world, and that you love to do, so much so, that time and space likely disappear to you when you do them.

Finding your zone

There’s a very practical exercise you can do to figure out what activities fall within your zone of genius: the Energy Audit. You can do it on your own, but it’s best to have someone to hold you accountable — preferably your manager since they’re most likely to help you “outsource” the tasks you don’t want to be doing. If you found someone to help you with this exercise, schedule a dedicated meeting with them in the near future; if you’re doing it alone, schedule that meeting with yourself. Prior to the meeting, make sure you’ve done the following:

  1. Track on your calendar everything you’re doing that is work-related, for 2 weeks in a row. I mean everything: meetings, working on 1:1s, responding to emails, etc. Make sure to have 2 weeks representative of what you normally experience, so if you were on an unusual 3-day business trip last week, pick 2 other weeks.
  2. Get two highlighters, pens, or pencils of different colors (red and green are ideal, but any will do), and go through each workday hour-by-hour and ask yourself “Did that activity give me energy or drain my energy?” Highlight in green those that gave you energy, and in red those that did not give you energy. There are no neutrals: every hour must be marked one color or the other. If an hour did not give you energy, it is red.
  3. When you’re done with the 2 weeks, write out a list of each of the reds, and group those activities into similar buckets, like 1:1 meetings, hiring meetings, travel, planning, etc.
  4. For each type of activity that does not raise your energy, write down ways to:
  • Eliminate it,
  • Outsource it, or
  • Make it awesome.

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