How ‘Traction’ is changing my life and work

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Cover Image: Traction by Gino Wickman

Earlier this winter, I finally checked out the business book “Traction” (by Gino Wickman) from Brown Library.

I heard about the book in December at the VCCS Hire Education conference, where Jeanian Clark and Bill Pence explained how they used “Traction” to transform their Workforce division at Lord Fairfax Community College. It was my favorite session of the conference, as it was both inspiring and useful. This is going to sound extremely nerdy, but I just loved the idea of aligning bite-sized daily goals with a long-term vision. That’s how you get things done … how you gain traction.

One of the most memorable takeaways was the concept of “Rocks,” which the author actually credits to an analogy in Stephen Covey’s book “First Things First.” Wickman writes:

Picture a glass cylinder set on a table. Next to the cylinder are rocks, gravel, sand, and a glass of water. Imagine the glass cylinder as all of the time you have in a day. The rocks are your main priorities, the gravel represents your day-to-day responsibilities, the sand represents interruptions, and the water is everything else that you get hit with during your workday. If you, as most people do, pour the water in first, the sand in second, the gravel in third, and the rocks last, what happens? Those big priorities won’t fit inside the glass cylinder. That’s your typical day.

What happens if you do the reverse? Work on the big stuff first: Put the rocks in. Next come the day-to-day responsibilities: Add the gravel. Now dump in the sand, all those interruptions. Finally, pour the water in. Everything fits in the glass cylinder perfectly; everything fits into your day perfectly. The bottom line is that you need to work on the biggest priorities — your Rocks — first. Everything else will fall into place.

While the book is aimed at businesses, I used its trademarked Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) to create my own personal plan. It forced me to think through my core values and personal “Rocks.” After chewing on the ideas for weeks, I chose 12 areas to focus on, including “health,” “wealth,” and “adventures.” What do I want to see happen in each category in 10 years? In three years? In one? And then … how can I get closer to that vision in the next 90 days? I don’t want to organize my life in corporate terms (quarters), so instead, I organize by the natural seasons. My first 90-day plan began on the first day of spring. I track my goals and progress using a template provided in the book.

lime cream pie
Grandma’s lime cream pie.

In the time between reading “Traction” and officially kicking off my plan, some amazing progress began to happen, including a daily at-home yoga practice (65 days and counting!). One of my “Rocks” is to make more home-cooked meals, so I started what my family now calls “Sunday feasts.” Each Sunday, my husband, our 5-year-old daughter, and myself decide on a menu and cook lots of food — enough for dinner, leftovers to pack for lunches, and even some to freeze for future meals. In just over a month, these feasts have become sacred, as my mom (Grandma) also joins us around the table in the dining room — which was not used as a true dining room until now. Grandma brings decades of cooking knowledge and family lore to share. Also: she makes amazing pies. So far, we’ve hand-breaded chicken cutlets, roasted many Brussels sprouts (inspired by the hot bar at Earth Fare), and experimented with a few Instant Pot recipes. My favorite menu to date celebrated St. Patrick’s Day: Loaded baked potatoes; homemade soda bread with Irish butter; and Grandma’s lime cream pie.

So what does “Traction” and lime cream pie have to do with grants? Because successful grant projects function like successful enterprises. We try to align our vision with the funder’s mission; set measurable project goals; and gather data to show need and impact. Or to boil it down further with real talk: What are we doing? Why are we doing it? Does it make a difference?

Perhaps a grant project could help you fulfill some of your visionary career goals. What are your most cherished “Rocks”? Check out the book … or come chat with me about making them happen.

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About Stephanie

Stephanie SeagleStephanie Ogilvie Seagle has served as Grant Specialist at Virginia Western since 2016, but she prefers her honorary title: “Chief Joy Officer.” Stephanie spent most of her career at The Roanoke Times, a daily newspaper, where she served in various news and features roles including “Shoptimist” shopping columnist. She earned a bachelor’s degree in integrative studies at George Mason University and a master’s of arts in liberal studies at Hollins University. Stephanie is a mom to one human daughter and multiple chihuahuas … and is obsessed with reading nonfiction, Halloween, and crafting glow necklaces inspired by the Mill Mountain Star. Glow Roanoke!