I am now officially living in my empty nest with my son nearly a month into university in Stellenbosch. It has been a massive adjustment – although adjustment sounds like it has already happened. To be honest, it is still present tense, in terms of adjusting!
Without going into my personal challenges, what I did want to share was the RErealization of the massive affect our emotional state has on our productivity and effectiveness. This is something I have taught about and been aware of for many years and yet I am still falling victim to it. It comes back to the 6 Seconds saying by Josh Freedman that …
Emotions drive people and people drive performance; therefore, emotions drive performance.
In this article I’d like to explore the feeling log which is a way to record our emotions throughout the day and then plot them on a graph based on the pleasantness or unpleasantness of the emotion against the Intensity. It helps us ascertain which quadrant we are spending most of our time in.
Relevance of the Feeling Log
The quadrant or quadrants we’re spending most of our time in has a profound effect on our output or performance. This became crystal clear to me again recently when I’ve found myself in a low energy state or intensity and predominantly in quadrant 2 (the low intensity, low pleasantness quadrant of sadness, irritability and discomfort)
Despite this time being a quieter period for me, work wise, which should have meant that I had uninterrupted and stress-free time to prepare for upcoming workshops, I have managed only to do the bare minimum amount of work, mostly focused on redoing a filing system, a basic office clean-up and some other more rudimentary tasks. I delayed writing my monthly newsletter for a week because I was lacking energy and creativity.
This prompted me to share my experience and again reiterate the danger of not recognizing or navigating our emotions to a different emotional state of mind to get to a required level of productivity. Spending a few hours of a day in this state or even a day or two in the week in quadrant 2 can be productive in that we do basic tasks that are critical but don’t require high energy or creativity. But the risk is that if we don’t shift out of this state, we could find ourselves running into some serious productivity issues.
The feeling log gives us a good indication of what we are capable of focusing on and doing when we are in the various emotional states.
During times that I’m experiencing mild, unpleasant feelings of doubt, irritation, sadness and emptiness, I am only capable of focusing on minor problems and issues. It has also led to huge indecisiveness and procrastination, which has also had a huge impact on my effectiveness. Where do I ideally need to be to write my newsletters or design new workshops? In quadrant 4 where I will be at my most creative and innovative. And when I am coaching and working with my clients? In quadrant 3, where I will be able to foster openness and acceptance. Quadrants 3 and 4 also signal safety and approachability whilst quadrants 1 and 2 lead us to ‘avoid’.
Why I love working with the Feeling Log
I love working with the feeling log, which was adapted from the Russell Circumplex Model as it enables us to categorize our emotions and has so many benefits:
- It encourages us to build a bigger emotional vocabulary as it makes us more aware of recognizing and understanding our emotions.
- In so doing, it improves our emotional literacy, essential to greater self-awareness.
- It brings greater awareness to the impact that our emotional state has on our focus and behavior.
Each quadrant serves a purpose, so saying that we never want to be in one of the quadrants, or only want to be in one quadrant, isn’t healthy either. When we learn to move between the quadrants, we have started to better navigate our emotions.
Where do you fit in the Feeling Log?
The impact of understanding where you are as an individual in the feeling log, is critical. It’s also important to understand where your teams are in the log.
We need to start with identifying our own emotions and the impact they are having on us. Then look at the emotional climate of our teams. When you go into a meeting, think about what it is you are hoping to achieve and then consider which emotions will support that outcome most effectively.
Remember, emotions are contagious, so your emotional state, particularly if you have positional power, will have a profound effect on your team. This increased self-awareness will benefit you and your team. To quote Audre’ Lorde “Our feelings are our most genuine paths to knowledge.”
Feeling Log Challenge
I challenge you to do regular emotional checks-ins every week and then plot those emotions onto a feeling log – you may be surprised at the results. You could also do this with your teams and combine the results on a large flip chart. This can lead to a healthy discussion on how the team is feeling and where they may need to or want to be to be at their most productive, effective, and satisfied. (Tip: Write one emotion per Post-it, and then transfer to the Feeling Log.)
Try it and please share your feedback with me!
Understanding emotions, yours and others, is not a ‘nice to have’, it is an essential tool to create self-awareness and improved self-regulation. I will leave you with this thought from Claude Steiner …
To be emotionally literate is to be able to handle emotions in a way that improves your personal power and improves the quality of your life around you.