Do You Have a Task- or Process-Oriented Mindset?

TAGS: task, Don Day, process, building, jobs, professional development, mindset, strength and conditioning, relationships, success, athlete, strength training, strength coach

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Sometimes it’s easy to forget the vast landscape that is college athletics, especially when you’re involved in it. You get so wrapped up in the fast-pace hustle and bustle that you forget to stop every once in a while to smell the roses, or even realize there are roses to be smelled. The problems lie in being driven by tasks rather than processes. The job is so time-consuming and so demanding that the only thing you focus on is the next task that needs to be done versus enjoying every step of the process.

I know this because, for a long time, I had a very task-orientated mindset. The mindset was “accomplish this, so I can get to that,” or “I’ve now accomplished this, so what do I need to do to get to that?” I never really took a moment to enjoy the entire process. On very rare occasions, I would stop and smell the roses, but that was on rare occasions. I was slowly but surely becoming a caveman, never leaving the Stone Age.


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Like most things in life, you want to be somewhere in the middle zone: not too far right or too far left. I have found a way to push myself from the far left to closer to the middle, but I am still by no means as organized or as free-flowing as I would like to be. This is the hard part of not being a caveman.

Usually what happens in our world is someone is a certain way, realizes the need for change, and then they slingshot to the opposite extreme. Unfortunately for me, my nature is process-oriented. I fought against my nature for many years to accomplish the goals I thought I needed to accomplish. So now that I’m at a spot in my career where I realize I need to:

  1. Dig into the process, and;
  2. Enjoy the process.

I’m almost lost in finding a rhythm because I’ve been hiding in tasks. I’ll give you a dive into my task-oriented versus process-oriented mind to better explain what I mean by this.

Task-Oriented Mind:

  1. Get a graduate assistantship
  2. Win a championship
  3. Win a bowl game
  4. Become a head guy
  5. Figure out what I did wrong as a head guy
  6. Become a head guy again

Process-Oriented Mind:

  1. Learn and grow as much as I can
  2. Build relationships with everyone I meet
  3. Enjoy the process
  4. Live in the moment

Now at different times in my life, I have bounced back from one mindset to the other. I would say my nature is process-based, but one day I started focusing more on tasks than I did processes. The problem is I found a lot of success in following the tasks. It was like a trail of breadcrumbs, but unfortunately, that was leading down a path of personal destruction. I ignored the processes to accomplish the tasks. Though I achieved all my tasks, I didn’t take time to build as deep of relationships or memories as I could have. I’m very hard on myself but also very realistic.

Pink roses in the Garden of Eden

 julietphotography © 123rf.com

I think I started to come to perfect harmony when I stopped trying to do everything and put my faith in God. It was a clarifying moment sometime last January, when I was getting interviews for different jobs, that I took a second to reflect on the fact that I may never coach my guys again and needed to start to enjoy the moment. It was one of the most sobering moments of my life, to be honest with you. I didn’t know where I was going to wind up, but I knew it would not be in the same role I was in. By May, I knew I would be somewhere else, so enjoying the time I had was very important to me.


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Now, flash-forward, and I’m a part of a building process. I’ve built before, but I’ve built and left. This time, I’m building for the long haul, which is awesome because instead of being a casual observer for the blood, sweat, and tears I’ve put into a project, I’ll be able to see it to completion and beyond. I’ve never been somewhere long enough to watch an entire recruiting class come and go, and this time (Lord willing), I will finally be able to do that.

Now the hard part of building is that it is a very long and grueling process. There are very nonnegotiable tasks that must be executed at a high level during the process, but it is still a process. It’s also a very organic, ever-changing process. So, you can’t get so caught up in the details that you can’t see the forest through the trees. If you do, you will be very upset because progression toward greatness is never linear.

I have a whiteboard on the wall to the right of me where I write out my top five daily tasks to help me with the process of my day. This helps me make sure that I am taking the necessary steps toward improvement on a daily basis. Although I have tasks that need to be accomplished, I must make sure I am keeping the big picture of the process.

In that big picture, I must remember to grow and build relationships. Building relationships and doing the extra won’t only just help this department in the long run, but will help connect different departments with sports performance. We’re all riding the same ship toward the same direction with the same goal in mind. That goal is bringing daily greatness to our athletes. And like everything in life, communication makes that process easier for everyone.

I find that other departments all have something I can take away during a conversation. I’ve learned a ton about budgeting, marketing, leadership, staff building, and professional development from every other department around me — and not just the other athletic departments, but from the academic departments as well. The more I can foster these relationships, the better my staff and I will be because of it. The process is organic, so our own personal growth must be as well.

And just like our personal growth, we can’t let failure at a task stop us from moving forward. I’ve often felt that when I’m so task-oriented, there is no other decision but to accomplish that task, so anything outside of that is a failure. This is great for accomplishing tasks but a terrible perspective on life.

For example, five years ago, I would’ve seen my current self as a failure because I’m not a power-five football-only head strength coach. But one of my process goals was to impact as many people as possible.

Currently, I am making a bigger impact and being impacted far more than I had ever dreamt of. I wouldn’t trade my current job for any other job in the world, and I learned that through processes, not through tasks. My tasks told me I was headed to being a power-five football guy. My process told me I was preparing to be an impactful strength coach no matter where that was.


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I guess the title of this article should really be “Be A Life-long Learner” or something like that, but it was originally going to be called “How Not to Be a Caveman,” which, looking back on, confuses even me. The point is don’t get so caught up in the details that you can’t see the forest through the trees. Enjoy life, let it be organic, go where God calls you, and whatever you do, execute at a savage level. That is all.

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