How to Flourish During this Season

In the business of golf, the PGA professional faces “periods when we must work long hours, sometimes they have intense pressure and give very little time for rest.” In each of the three “career paths,” there are unavoidable situations in which it becomes a necessity or makes sense. In this era of (or near the end of) “The Great Resignation” it is important to note that a career in golf is not the only one that seems to require long hours and thus struggles for work/life balance.

In fact, Alice Boyes, PhD, (a former clinical psychologist turned writer and the author of The Healthy Mind Toolkit, The Anxiety Toolkit, and Stress-Free Productivity) wrote about “getting through an extremely busy time at work.” She wrote: “While this kind of overwork is not ideal, there are undoubtedly situations in which it becomes a necessity or makes personal sense. I’ve certainly done it for periods of my life, for instance, in the lead-up to exams or to put final polishes on my books. At times like this, when having full weekend off seems like a distant dream, advice on the importance of maintaining work-life balance, reducing the stress, and getting enough sleep can feel like a slap in the face. You don’t need to be scolded to work less. You need practical tips for surviving and thriving when you have to be fully committed.” 

Boyes provided some tips we just may be able to apply to a golf career including: 

Use Premack’s principle.

Boyes wrote, “Premack’s principle (as it applies here) is to use an easier behavior as a reward for a harder behavior. For instance, you can reward yourself for finishing a cognitively demanding task (like writing a complex report) by completing a low-key but necessary task, like running an errand that helps you stay organized.” For a golf professional in any of the three career paths, this could mean:

  • Intentional pacing during your longest work day(s)
  • Build in “social engagement shifts”: design when you are going to “out front” interacting with staff, customers, guests, etc. investing in the relationships and “immersing yourself/them in laughter, fun and joy” (after all, your customers are escaping their work to come to where you are…be an entertainer); timing these for when the customer values it most is wise
  • Build in “admin shifts” that allow you to “close the door to distractions” so you can get a lot done in a shorter time period. If you’re a supervisor, train your team to screen out distractions for these 60-90 minute windows. As a fellow team member, why not work with your peers to create these shifts so one of you is on an admin shift and the other is on a social engagement shift? Then, after the set time ends, switch it up. 

Boyes concludes with, “This approach can help you pace yourself during your work day, ensuring that you get regular breaks during which your mind can shift into a more relaxed gear, while still being productive.” 

Compartmentalize.

Boyes states that, “Tasks you actually enjoy can become tense, unpleasant experiences if, while you’re doing them, you’re mentally elsewhere, feeling stressed and anxious about the other hundred things on your list.”

  • This should be an eye-opener for all of us, as a leading cause of “burnout” is a lack of recharging. Paraphrased, “seeing and feeling something we love become a drag on our energy versus an energy-driver can really bring down our batteries.”
  • This is more support for intentionality in building “admin shifts” and “social engagement shifts” in our work days, especially the longest ones.
  • Further, shouldn’t we build in other compartmentalized shifts like:
    • “Professional development shifts”: find ways to get inspired, get motivated listening to a podcast (like Fore The Best: Learning from PNWPGA Legends), reading an article or watching a video on a leadership skill/discipline you want to add to your toolbox.
      Fore The Best: Learning from PNWPGA Legends
    • “Golf skill development shifts”: find ways to invest in your game at your facility, perhaps in a way that isn’t “out front” because then it’s not for your benefit so you don’t feel the value of it.
    • “Mind-clearing shifts”: schedule a chat with your mentor, go for a “pace of play loop” that gives you time to think, a chance to get fresh air and sprinkle in some social engagement interactions as well.
  • Allow yourself to enjoy what you love as a golf professional. As we “go up the ladder,” we tend to take on more tasks that we don’t love or even enjoy and we are told or feel compelled to give up work activities that we love. I’m not suggesting that we hoard these “favorite tasks” and keep others from gaining experience in them at all, but I am suggesting that you don’t have to give it up entirely.
  • Discipline yourself to find the joyful parts of the activities you don’t love. Use those “bites of fun” to help you “eat the whole elephant”. Who knows, a change in mindset could help you find more of the joyful parts in the activity than what you first thought.

Boyes’ comments on this included: “By articulating distinct, enjoyable aspects of tasks, you can be more mindful and savor them.”

Save small scraps of time for mental rest.

We all probably do this when we’re exhausted because our body basically gives us no other choice. However, when we’re feeling good physically, but under tremendous pressure, Boyes says, “When you’re very busy, it’s tempting to try to cram productive activity, like responding to email or thinking through decisions, into any small crack of time…When you’re slammed, it can seem essential to work during these moments. However, you don’t have to. Instead, consider using brief waiting times for true mental breaks. Take some slow breaths, drop your shoulders, and just chill.”

  • This isn’t an “all-or-nothing” concept either. No one of us can always avoid using these “scraps of time” to keep our work moving, but we are in dangerous territory when we use them every day, all day to get through it.
  • The important concepts here would seem to be:
    • Practice recognizing when you’re “overusing these scraps of time” and wearing yourself out
    • Practice being intentional to give yourself these “mental recoup moments” to steal back the energy you need to get the most out of your effort periods
    • Find the balance that works for you and don’t be afraid to talk about it with your teammates 

Add physical decompression rituals to your day.

Boyes hit on a huge part of the job in a golf career. She wrote, “When we’re overloaded, we can hold a lot of physical tension. This is partly due to our in-built fight/flight/freeze response to fear or stress…Some people breathe faster when they’re stressed. Some adopt an aggressive, dominant tone of voice or body language. Since these reactions are often unconscious, you’ll need prompts to correct them.” Boyes suggest building and leveraging “Context Triggers.” It could be leaving your office or the golf shop and going to the restroom or locker room. When you pass that threshold, take some time to:

  • Breathe more deeply, stretch a little (especially if you’ve been sitting)
  • Use a simple hand accupressure technique (like this video by Lu Strength & Therapy) on your hands to relieve tension, stress and even a backache. I’ve used them during a round of tournament golf even to help release tension. 
    Lu Strength & Therapy
  • Use some quick “golf warmup” exercises that can open up your hips, shoulders and more. 
  • Use a “percussive therapy gun” (e.g. Theragun) to release some tightness in one of your “scraps of time”

Emotions can also be triggers. Boyes suggests scanning your body for tension and then working proactively to release any spots you find. Besides the examples above, the simplest “momentary release movements”  include opening/closing your fists a few times, clenching/unclenching your jaw, or scrunching/dropping your shoulders. 

Boyes stated this important fact on how to “read ourselves.” She wrote, “Our thoughts, emotions, and bodily reactions are a feedback loop. When you mimic the physiology of someone who is relaxed, you’ll find that your thinking becomes less closed, and psychologically challenging activities in which you need to think openly, like taking in feedback, will seem easier.” 

Pair pleasure experiences with other activities.

In Boyes book, The Healthy Mind Toolkit, she states that “people often put off pleasure, especially when they feel too busy or undeserving because they haven’t gotten enough done.” She suggests more intentionality to buffer ourselves “against the stress of feeling rushed and overloaded (by) recurrently pairing simple sources of pleasure with particular activities you’re not as excited to do.” 

Boyes wrote that, “I pack peanut butter sandwiches whenever I fly, which is about the only time I ever eat them, and now the two experiences are mentally linked. No matter how stressed I am about my trip or all the work I need to do before, during and after it, I feel just a little bit more relaxed because I’ve packed that treat for myself.” 

Talk about simple pleasures. What is something you can do that brings you joy, makes you feel calm or similar. For me, it’s dark chocolate almonds when I’m stressed or writing. I also really like a wintergreen lifesaver when I’m stressed or have “first tee jitters.” What works for you? 

With all this said, I’m not remotely suggesting that you should be a work-aholic or that you have to be one to succeed. This is a simple case of working smarter especially when we have to work harder. Focus on:

  • Being driven by the “noble cause” or why that got you here in this role you have (vs the obligations or fear of failure)
  • Being a difference maker who impacts the lives of golfers, customers and fellow team members (and would be missed if you didn’t get out of bed today)
  • Keeping score on your wins, taking time to “imprint” the wins and the birdies

Do you have any Work/Life Balance solutions that you might share? Or concepts specific to professional development that will truly add value to the opportunity you have for your staff? What other ideas or solutions have you seen or would like to see that might apply in the narrative above? I would love to hear from you.

Monte Koch, PGA Certified Professional, CEIP
PGA Career Consultant | PGA of America Career Services
mkoch@pgahq.com
206.335.5260

PGA of America
Business, Operations & Career Coach in the Pacific NW and Rocky Mountain PGA Sections
Lea Hill, WA

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