What are you best at, that others can’t do as well as you?
What do you spend time on that others could do instead, maybe even better?
I’ve been contemplating the idea of Core Competencies ever since I read Laura Vanderkam talk about it years ago in her book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think. She says that while focusing on rounding out your weaknesses can be a good idea for some reasons, that people don’t spend enough time focusing on their strengths. She argues that successful people are the ones who find ways to spend as much of their 168 hours each week as possible doing the things that they do best. For her this means sending her school age kids to school without guilt and loving them when they are home; she also pays someone to watch her little ones while she works and hires a house cleaner to clean their house. She has made a solid career as an independent writer, while having more children than the average family, and without her husband staying home with the kids. She spends as much of her time as she can at the few things she has decided that she is best at, such as writing, taking care of herself, and nurturing her family. Laura has been focusing her career on helping mothers to believe that this reasoning works for them too.
I recently read Crystal Paine’s book, Money Making Mom, and I loved her chapter ‘What Makes You You’.
As part of a self-discovery process to help moms pick a business idea, she has readers think about their skills and talents, and their passions and knowledge.
Skills are things like speaking, writing, graphic design, accounting, sales, cooking, photography. Examples of passions include health, decorating, education, travel, fashion, business management, and web technology.
#1 You are Unique
You are uniquely you, with your own personality and temperament, skills and talents, strengths and weaknesses. What are you really good at? What is important for you to do? Your core competencies are things you are good at, as well as things only you can do like take care of yourself and love on your children. Until you consider the best ways for you to spend your time, it’s easy to spend it doing what you see others do or what they tell you that you should do. This always ends in frustration. As every seasoned mom knows, no two children are alike. It’s also true that no two families or even marriages are alike. You need to know who you are and accept that while you can learn a lot from others, your path is your own.
#2 You’ll Find Energy Through Your Strengths
An important step in moving from a place of exhaustion and stress, to feeling fulfilled and energized is identifying your core competencies, strengths and passions.
If you can narrow this down to a handful of activities that really matter to you, then you can begin to watch for ways to increase the time you spend on those activities, and minimize time spent elsewhere.
This will have incredible benefits for:
#3 Your personal sanity – spending time on activities you love and are passionate about is energizing. As a mom it can be incredibly easy and tempting to let your hobbies and interests fall off from our schedules as we do so much to take care of our young families. Taking time to work these activities back into life will help make your daily schedule more enjoyable and sustainable for the long run.
#4 Your family’s well-being – your family will benefit from your improved state of mind. And since nurturing our families is typically a core competency, we can view quality time with family with a different mindset. No one can love and nurture each member of your family like you can. That is part of your mission, part of who you are. Embrace it as one of your passions. At the same time, don’t be afraid to nuance it or divide tasks with your husband based on each of your strengths, interests and core competencies. Instead of assuming that you’ll do certain activities, stop and consider whether your husband should instead, or vice versa.
#5 Your productivity – we’re more efficient, creative, effective and successful when we are doing tasks that we are good at and passionate about. The more time you spend on your core competencies, the more you will get done.
#6 Your finances – successful people focus on their strengths, use their time and energy wisely, value quality time with their family, enjoy great productivity, and see all of these factors affect their finances in a positive way. When you identify your strengths and cultivate your passions, you will increase your energy and likely find more room in your life for activities that save you more money, make you more money, or both.
Identifying your own core competencies is usually pretty quick once you’ve embraced the idea. Do a short brainstorm, and then leave it for awhile and come back to it a few times and you should be able to nail down the big ones. Here is a process to get you started.
First, make a list of every activity you do on a daily or weekly basis. Then next to each one write if you enjoy it, if you are good at it, and if someone else could do it. Also ask yourself what your friends and family often consult with you about. What are you the local expert on?
Finally, consider your personal core values, your biggest personal care activities, and the most meaningful activities you do to invest in your marriage and to nurture your family. These will probably all end up on your core competencies list.
Now compare your list to your first list of everything that you do a regular basis and figure out which activities take up time that someone else could do, and what activities represent your core competencies that you don’t spend enough time on. Discuss the results with your husband, friends, family, and consider carefully what changes you should make in your life to shift your time toward that which you are best at, that you enjoy and that only you can do.