The SEI Dock Model
Building Your Dock
No manager would say: Today is bring your personal life to work day.
Then why do you do the opposite? Why do you bring your work to the dinner table; to your kid’s soccer game; to your bathroom while you are brushing your teeth?
I started this blog series trying to answer one simple question: how can I work towards mastery in my career while balancing the rest of my busy life? After talking with my peers, mentors, and researching my heroes, I recognized four common areas to focus on: health, practice, play, and reflection. You know each of these as pillars that I have described individually in the SEI Dock Model. Now, as I wrap up this blog series, I want to put the pillars in context for you: to show how they can be used in everyday routines.
A modern approach to work/life balance needs to be addressed because the line that separates career time and personal life is often blurred. This new model for work/life balance must consider the technology we use and the new communication patterns that allow work to follow us home, and our personal life to follow us to work.
While writing this framework, I wanted to give direction with enough flexibility for individuals to make it
- Real change occurs when results last longer than a few months. Just as a crash diet is not sustainable or waking up at 5 a.m. for two weeks won’t get you a promotion, a lifestyle change provides long-lasting results.
- Each person should have the freedom to craft their schedule as they see fit. Some people are productive at times when others are not. Since routines and habits differ, each person should have the freedom to mold their own life around the guidelines and suggestions provided in this model.
- By modeling our behavior after success, we will become successful and find a way for those habits to naturally work their way into our routines.
The pillars are the raw material. What comes next is making those pillars into a foundation. This is done by creating a routine on top of the four tenets. As a metaphor, this routine becomes the planks holding the dock together and making it useful for our harbor.
The dock rests on four pillars. Each pillar represents a pivotal part of every day. Although each of the four pillars is important in their own right, I separated them into two groups: the shore pillars and the open water pillars.
The shore pillars are the more concrete skills and routines that make up a healthy body and career skillset. These are the building blocks of the future pillars. The first pillar, “Health”, focuses on having a healthy body--making sure that you're getting enough sleep; fueling your body with healthy food so you are running on a clean system; and exercising to get your blood circulating. The second pillar, “Practice”, is similar in that it provides a healthy foundation for your skills. In practice, you are sharpening your tools in your toolbox so you are prepared to use them in the next project to come your way. This provides a strong foundation for your skillset, and a workbench for when you diversify your skillset in the future.
The open water pillars represent the abstract side of your skills, routines, and goals, where you are free to experiment on top of a foundation you have already established. The third pillar, “Play”, is where you can experiment with what you already know in a new way. This pillar is not only important as a diversion, but also as a critical support of your docking structure. The last pillar, “Reflection”, is where you are looking at your dock as a completed range, taking it into consideration as you craft your goals for the future and develop a strategy to best approach these goals.
Being busy isn’t a synonym for productivity. It’s better to have the right parts in place than a lot of moving parts. A routine will help you schedule your time and energy in the places where you will be the most productive. Keep these tips in mind as routines are symbolic of the planks on your dock:
- The best way to begin scheduling your routine is to first observe which parts of the day are productive: schedule tasks based on when you have the most energy, when you are most susceptible to creativity, and when you need time to relax.
- Allow yourself to check email and social media only at certain times during the day. Allowing time for this will give you time to relax and check in with the outside world, but it also gives you a time limit so you don’t find yourself zoning out and mindlessly scrolling through your newsfeed.
- Listen to your body and be sure to acknowledge when something is hard. It is likely because you are changing for the better, but you should know how to tell. Consider and distinguish the differences between growing pains or detox pains, and pain due to injuring your body.
- Agility is important. If a meeting comes up, you need to be able to adjust your schedule accordingly. Learn how those adjustments fit into your life so that you can implement them when you need to.
- Stay consistent. Sleeping in, changing your diet, and irregular exercise throws off your body from building and repairing like it should. Instead of recovering from the day before, your body tries to stabilize and find homeostasis.
For more tips like this, read my blog on routines, rituals, and habits here.
If you don’t like to plan your day, and having an open schedule is how you work best, a hands-off approach is to write a “to-do” list at the end or beginning of each day. This way, you won’t be micromanaging your time, but you will still know what you want to accomplish that day.
If you are looking for time management examples, check out my blog post Not Another Time Management System.
It is impossible to predict and prevent a natural disaster from hitting your dock; the only thing you can do is prepare for when they will happen, and know how (and why) to rebuild. Being a realist, I think it's best to prepare in advance and know that it's not if something will happen, but when something will happen and how to react. When something in your life goes awry—when something happens in your career that is unexpected—a strong dock will weather the storm. A fortified yet agile routine will keep you levelheaded, and you will be able to focus on all the key areas to keep you moving forward; each of the pillars will help you work through any rough waters you may encounter, so long as your pillars and planks are at their strongest.
If you find that your dock is sinking, it's not the end of the world: it just means that you need to spend some time doing repairs.
If you keep these pillars in mind and are diligent in your routines, opportunities will drop anchor at your dock. When they do, you will have the framework in place to grow your skill set and gain experience while maintaining a healthy balance in your life. You will be well on your way to mastery. If you have any suggestions or comments, feel free to share them below. And as always, feel free to email me with your questions, impressions, or to just say hello.
More than luck, friends.
Andrew J. Wilt
If you missed any of the previous weeks, follow the links below:
Week 1: SEI Dock Model: Introduction
Week 2: SEI Dock Model: Pillar I, Health
Week 4: SEI Dock Model, Pillar III: Play