At a recent Drive, Chip & Putt local qualifier here in the Section, I was talking with a fellow PGA friend of mine about the workload of a typical golf professional.  He said (paraphrased), “I’m tired of seeing our fellow professionals put in these 60-70 hour work weeks and then almost brag about it when they get together, like there is some badge of honor for putting in more hours than the next guy.”

My loyal and loving wife of 20+ years can attest to the fact that I was, and still can be, a proud wearer of the “Work Harder” Badge.  In the beginning of my career it likely helped me succeed and move up, but there have been significant stretches where I look back and have to admit I was not “working smarter, just harder…and longer.”

I recently read how Jimmy Spithill, skipper of Team Oracle USA (prominent boat in the most recent America’s Cup) says, “Rarely have I seen a situation where doing less than the other guy is a good strategy.”  At first glance, this simple statement seems to make perfect sense.  If I could expand on his statement, could we say “The best strategy isn’t doing more.  It’s doing more of the difference-making activities first, plus having the discernment and discipline to stop doing the activities that don’t actually make a difference.”

So, what might “Work Smarter” actually mean for a golf professional?  In looking back at my own career, especially at those long periods of “working harder” only, I can see areas where my mistakes (and those I witnessed others make) could be valuable.

  1. Rework your to-do list. When I worked for Gus Jones, PGA at a private club in the Carson-Tahoe area, I marveled at his work with such a list.  At the time, I thought it made his life easier, and in some sense it did.  What I didn’t know then was that he would come in, after hours, to catch up on the list.

I did learn from Gus that he would work on the MITs, or Most Important Tasks, during the normal work day.  When he came in after 8 pm or later on a weekday evening, he would focus on the least important tasks and get them done much more efficiently because no one, including me, was bothering him.

Our members and guests are very necessary for our success, but they can be the number one source for “unwanted to-do list” or urgent, emergency items.  These opportunities are tests for us.  They ask us: Can you stay focused on your “ruthlessly prioritized to-do list” AND delegate the urgent task to a staff member you trust?  (If not, maybe it’s my fault as a managing professional that I haven’t trained my staff to “step up.”)

Finally, I love what David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done said, “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” Send your ideas to a written “parking lot” list, where they can wait safely until the time is right.  Look at it often, but save your valuable energy for the prioritized tasks of today.

  1. Measure your results, not your time.  Remember, we’re talking about working smarter, not harder.  As golf professionals, this is a plague we battle every day.  We have seen our budgets, staffs and resources decrease (generally,) and we’ve seen our responsibilities go in the other direction.  We put in more and more hours only to find we don’t get more done.  In fact, I often felt like I am more behind.  I stepped back at one point in 2011 and saw myself “skimming” in so many areas, it made me mad.  Then I was disappointed.  I was working on so many projects, and I was working very hard.  But I wasn’t doing them well, or at least as well as I wanted to, or needed to.  Does that sound familiar?

Adjust the way you measure productivity.  Instead of evaluating the time it takes to complete a task or small project, why not focus on what you are completing?  For example, if you have a big project to complete, break it down into “doable” tasks (and see which of those tasks you can delegate to trusted, trained staff.)  When I sit down to write articles for Marlena Cannon, the Dir of Communications for the PNWPGA, who does such a nice job with the Foreword Press, I try to write them in small sections.  I start with the inspiration, then I work on the message, then I try to rough it out.  Instead of punching it out in 2 hours, I find it works best in these little chunks and I get a little rush of satisfaction each time I complete one of these chunks.  In the end, the entire piece is usually much stronger as well.

  1. Start making a “Done List.” A “Done List” is a running log of everything you complete in a day. I’ve scoffed at the concept myself, but when I had to report my activities to my supervisor, a Done List became a necessity.  What surprised me was how reviewing it, so I could complete my report, ended up helping me stay motivated to do work that matters and stay focused on being a valuable benefit to the PGA members and apprentices I serve.

Celebrate, a little, too!  I recently learned that, on average our brains are only able to remain focused for 90 minutes; then we need at least 15 minutes rest. (The phenomenon is based on ultradian rhythms.)  I see this on days when I have several meetings with pros at different facilities in the same regional area.  Driving from one facility to the next, I have time to rest my mind, get a coffee or lunch, and celebrate what the golf professional is doing at their facility and feel good about the small part I had in helping them get there.  Whenever possible, take a celebratory break (and allow your staff to do the same,) so you can recharge, re-invigorate and “git ‘er done.”

Now that our golf season is upon you in earnest, let me remind you that I’m here to support you in whatever way I can.  I hope these ideas will be of value as you battle the “work harder time vacuum” in your work everyday.  Don’t hesitate to call, email or text me at your convenience.

How to Write a Great To-Do List (from Belle Beth Cooper)

  • Break Projects into Tasks (Smaller tasks are easier to delegate properly, or easier for us to complete than a large project.) Eat the elephant, “one bite at a time!”
  • Prioritize Ruthlessly (Make your list of priorities or to-do’s, then number them in order of value…cross out or at least minimize everything after #3.) If it’s not a priority for today, it should go on the “Master List” (and wait there until it is a priority.)
  • Focus ONLY on today, and allow it to be separate (and prioritized) from the “master list” of what you need to do in the week, month, etc. Some people call this the “Parking Lot.”
  • Plan Ahead (Work on your list the night before, as it can reduce work anxiety. I often end up in bed not only thinking about what I need to do the next day but also planning the day. Writing my to-do list before I go to bed helps me relax and sleep better.)
  • Be Realistic in Your Planning (See Item 1, our guests and members often interrupt our workflow, but we need them, don’t we? Having a start-up point or a next task in project can really help get back on track.)