The SEI Dock Model: Introduction

Sunnyside dock by Grant MacDonald  is licensed under CC by 2.0

I think we’ve cured boredom.

You wake up with an app that tracks your sleep. You respond to all the text messages you received during the night. You get an email notification while texting. You pour some juice and do a web search for “reconstituted concentrate” to see if your juice is really 100%. You track your breakfast in a nutrition app. You get a Twitter notification (swipe it aside, you’ll look at it later). You read the news using an app that selects stories based on your interests. A Facebook notification interrupts you. Before you leave for work you check your step count so far this morning, and look to see how you compare to your friends. You check the weather app and decide to bring an umbrella. You listen to that new song on your streaming music app and tweet about it. You Instagram the sunrise. You get another notification but ignore it. Your boss sends you a text asking you to pick something up from the printer/copy center. In line, you buy tickets to a concert this weekend. On your way to the office, a local coffee shop sends you a message using a location-based restaurant app promoting their seasonal drink that happens to be on special. You buy a coffee and pay for it by scanning your phone. In the elevator you Yelp a review. Good morning.

We are, for better or worse, connected (and distracted). And as our lives become more fluid, the line between work and personal life becomes more gray. The 9-5 job is becoming a thing of the past; most people I know are expected to be available “on call” 24/7, meaning they are able to answer an email after work and reply to a work related text message when they wake up.

More and more companies are working in environments like the Results Only Work Environment (ROWE), using strategies like Hot Desking to save money, increase mobility, and give employees the freedom to choose when, where, and how they want to work. We are more connected at the cost (or benefit) of having the freedom to manage our own schedules. With this, the most important skill for new entrance to the workforce becomes learning how to manage oneself.


It’s a blessing (until it’s a burden)

I moved through the days like a severed head that finishes a sentence. I waited for the moment that would snap me out of my seeming life. – Amy Hemple, from her short story, The Harvest


On a daily basis, I see my millennial friends suffering from poor self-management. These are the types of people who:

  • have been living under a cloud of stress for so long they think being stressed is “normal”;
  • underestimate how long a project will take so they are always scrambling to tie up lose ends while the next project’s deadline looms in the background like a thundercloud approaching shore; and
  • say “yes”, or more likely, do not say “no”, to a project when they are already double booked for meetings because they think saying “no” will hurt their reputation in the company.

The goal of any company is to have happy, healthy, and productive employees—and I think my millennial friends would agree. Too often our schedules and to-do lists get the best of us; managing ourselves in a world of constant distractions, notifications, and social media obligations leave most of us scrambling, tying up loose ends and finishing the ends of sentences.

Over the last few weeks, I have been thinking about this problem. I started observing my own behavior and then branched out to my peers to see what they have found to work for them; I then moved on to what has been tried and tested by my mentors; and, finally, I looked at what my heroes (alive and dead) have written about and lectured on. With all of this considered, I formed what I am calling the SEI Dock Model for Self-Management.

This model rests on the theory that sustainable change comes from a lifestyle change, not a one-time cycle. Just as a diet can help you slim down in the short-term, if you want to maintain your results, you have to keep making healthy choices.

Each week, for the next five weeks, I will be sharing a new installment to this self-management model. My hope is that it will encourage you to think differently about how you structure your day.

Let’s begin!


The Structure

Art by Kittie Wilt

Art by Kittie Wilt

The idea is that we all have a dock to maintain, and if we keep it in good shape, opportunities will come in and drop anchor. Here are the basics.


The dock rests on four pillars. The two closest to the shore are “Health” (sleep, nutrition, and exercise) and “Practice” (the act of performing your skilled task). These are the pillars you should make sure you have in check before you extend your dock and reach the other pillars.

Once you are ready to diversify your skill set, you need to venture away from the shore by taking healthy risks, and exploring what’s in the open ocean. The two pillars supporting the dock out in open water are “Reflection” (time alone in the form of meditation, journaling, and hobbies) and “Play” (active discovery).

We often only think of one or two of these pillars, but according to the model, we need all four to keep our dock level. When one of the pillars is built up too much, it creates an uneven environment where it’s easy to fall in the water. Similarly, if you neglect one of the pillars, your dock will start to sink and flood.



Art by Kittie Wilt

Art by Kittie Wilt

The wood connecting the foundation pillars and forming the dock are the planks. The planks symbolize routines, habits, and rituals one has to perform on a regular basis to keep the dock stable and free from cracks and rot. Daily rituals and routines provide your dock with regular and structured maintenance.

In a previous blog post I wrote about how to incorporate good routines and rituals into your schedule. I will be using this post as a starting platform to frame my ideas for this new installment.


Water, Waves, and Weather

The water, waves, and unpredictable weather represent the stress and tasks life throws at us. The only way to not sink into the unpredictable storms of deadline and self-doubt is to have a sturdy dock with a solid foundation and well-maintained planks. If you can keep a solid dock, there’s no telling the opportunities that will anchor there.


The next installment, SEI Dock Model Part 2: Pillar 1, will be released October 2, 2015. See you then!

More here: 

Week 1: SEI Dock Model: Introduction

Week 2: SEI Dock Model: Pillar I, Health

Week 3: SEI Dock Model: Pillar II, Practice

Week 4: SEI Dock Model, Pillar III: Play 

Week 5: SEI Dock Model Pillar IV: Reflection

Week 6: Part VI: The SEI Dock Model, Building Your Dock

Andrew J. Wilt
SEI Junior Consultant
Apprenticeship Program