Last week, Andrew Wilt and I were working side-by-side. During a break in the daily grind, we decided to discuss time management. Time management seems to be one of those things we all have to deal with, and I had recently swapped tips and tricks with my peers. Since both of us have previously written blog posts about time management, we felt like the ideas were a step in the right direct, but they could benefit from some revision. So, Andrew and I had that discussion.
This year, I have been working towards making my workspace a place that promotes creativity and productivity. Little did I know, my environment was having a huge effect on my output. This week, I am going to share some strategies I have implemented in my life that has boosted my focus and creativity, increasing both the quality and quantity of my work. Feel free to adapt these strategies to fit your working preferences, habits, and routines.
No, not THAT f-bomb, the other one. Fear. Twice in two days I have heard or read something that refers to fear and the description has varied from fear being an effective tool for achieving an outcome, to fear being an oppressive feeling that fuels self-doubt. Indeed, fear is a key driver in many of our actions. I have a fear of heights (or at least of falling from heights), have been fearful of losing my job, and have been afraid to ask someone out on a date. I have used fear (not proud, more an admission) to try and get my way or drive things the way I wanted them to go. The list is pretty endless on both sides and some fears will always be there. However, the fears around my abilities, my value, my competence, and especially about a job are gone. That loss of fear is enabling me to achieve what I didn’t think was possible. Here’s what has changed for me.
Near the beginning of 2016, I blogged about this year being a Leap Year. I suggested that with planning, I would be able to leverage that extra day to review the trajectory of my year and do any course correction needed to meet my yearly goals. To do this, I need to know what my goals for the year are and what my plan to get there looks like. The key areas I mentioned in the blog post were day-to-day time management, work back schedule, goal construction, and milestones. I’m reporting back on how I did with those areas and how I did with my extra day.
Far too often, I sit down to write an email, finish a project, or write up an idea I had earlier in the day only to be met with the blinking cursor of a “trapped” thought. Within seconds, I am hypnotized by the steady rhythm of the flashing caret. Seconds and then minutes pass. And, for some reason, the room always feels darker. I can literally feel time passing. But here’s the worst part: I know the idea is in there, I have it in there somewhere, but I don’t know how to access it.
A couple days ago, I received a book in the mail from Amazon, but it wasn’t the book I ordered. This mistake could be the product of many factors, but this event got me thinking about communication. Specifically, how valuable is communication? According to an article by Mark W. Sheffert of Manchester Companies, “it is estimated that miscommunication can cost an organization between 25 percent and 40 percent of its annual budget.” That’s how big communication is to you and your company.
Nearly 150 years after the death of Napoleon the Third, remembering names remains an important skill to grow and maintain. This leaves us with a few questions: First, why is it so important to remember names? Second, why do I (or people I work with) have such a hard time committing names to memory if it is a basic skill everyone should have? And finally, what are some exercises or tools I can use to grow my skill of name learning?
Be daring and just do it! Leap off of that cliff or jump that chasm.
Most of us see change as a scary cliff. It uncomfortable and we shy away from it--especially big change. The most traumatic things you can do in your life are change relationships, move households, and change jobs. But at times, you really do need to make adjustments. How do you know?
Writing a weekly blog is a worthwhile process--one that is both challenging and rewarding. Despite our best efforts, Andy Ruth and I don't always get around to it every week. The hardest part is finding time. Through the successes and failures, I have come to realize the key is discovering the gaps of downtime between daily tasks and then learning how to utilize those breaks. For example, look for time between meetings and during breaks for coffee or lunch. You can also mentally prepare in the car (or public transit) and when you are getting ready in the morning (in the shower). About 10-15 minutes a day is all you really need, but remember: don’t limit yourself to 15 minutes if you are on a roll.
Time is funny. We all have 24 hours in a day and 365 days in a year. Yet most of us complain about how little time we have and how there are too few hours in a day. This year is a Leap Year so we all have an extra day. This is also the start of a new year and many make resolutions, so this year I will make a resolution about time, and my extra day. I resolve to remember I have an extra day and use it to reflect on (and correct) the trajectory of my year. In fact, I will officially declare it as Extra Day - a day to limit work, take a breath and reflect on the direction the year is taking. I’ll do it on February 29th since that is where the calendar places our extra day. But, to do that, I’ll need a plan.
Whether you realize it or not, you are in the middle of performing a habit. Somehow, you made your way onto a computer or smartphone and are now browsing the internet. This is to say, we are all performing some activity we do regularly, and these repetitive behaviors are habits. So when we say we are going to make a new habit, what we are really saying is that we are going to replace one habit with a more desirable one. The point of this blog post is to help you become more aware of your habits and offer some pointers as you set your sights on a new goal. Whether you are looking to make a life change or tweak an existing routine, these five steps will help you achieve your workflow goals.
One of my favorite things I get to do at SEI is write weekly blog posts to engage with the public and our community. This was my first year writing in this format and I have learned a lot along the way. One year and 37 posts later (plus 32 posts by SEI mentor, Andy Ruth), 2015 has taught me 11 mandatory lessons every blogger should consider:
For about five years, I played hardcore/metal music in Grand Rapids, MI. One of the popular music venues that catered to local bands in the mid-to-late 2000’s was the adolescent-friendly safe haven: Skelletones. Before I played on their stage, I grew up spending as much time as I could mingling with aspiring bands and the off-beat, we’re-so-counter-culture-we-hate-counter-culture crowd. At 15, the only dream I had was to play on that stage. At 19, I got my chance.
"There are two types of people in the world: those who push and those who and enjoy the ride. Who do you want to be?"
I grew up with a lot of these types of sayings separating those who "do" and those who "do not do enough". We have a culture of elitism, which is great for some—but what about those who don't want to change the world? Those who want to enjoy work and be good at it, but also have a family and a life outside of work? Those who are looking to fill a role? Those people are belittled in our culture. Business books ask, “If you aren't reinventing yourself; your image; your brand, then what are you doing?”
When did being "good" become "not enough"?
If you are educated and have above average IQ, you are statistically more likely to join a cult.
Before you start standing in front of microwaves and consume hours and hours of Netflix brain rot in an attempt to dim down your smart brain from tricking you into joining a cult, let me say this: you may already be part of a “cult” and be completely fine with it. For the purpose of this post, I am not going to talk about the traditional way we view cults (eg. religious cults), but rather, the types of behavioral patterns that get organizations and individuals alike into trouble.
When everyone is trying to stand out, it’s hard to be unique without looking like everyone else. The slang use of the word “peacocking” entered popular culture as a way to describe someone who dresses in a way to intentionally stand out. Over the past decade, this term has made its way into the business world and is now commonly applied to someone who intentionally goes out of their way to make themselves look bigger or more impressive than they really are. “Peacocking” in the business world shouldn’t surprise us: this kind of thinking is part of the millennial cultural DNA, reinforced by teachers, coaches, and parents. Some popular lines include: “You have to sell yourself;” “Make sure you spend time talking about your accomplishments;” “Bulk up your resume;” and “When you talk about a weakness, make sure it is a strength in disguise”.
William Porter lost his job at the First National Bank of Austin in 1894 for accusations of embezzlement. In 1896, when a federal case opened against him, he changed trains on his way to the courthouse and fled the country. Porter returned to Austin a year later when his wife was too sick to meet him in Honduras. Upon his return, he surrendered to the court and started serving his five-year sentence shortly after his wife’s death. As a licensed pharmacist, Porter took on the duty as a night druggist at the prison hospital where he also continued pursuing his life’s passion: writing. During his time in prison, he began publishing short stories under a pen name—the household name we all know him by today: O. Henry.
Twice a year, Bill Gates disconnects from reality in order to reconnect with (and redefine) his goals. During each one-week break, Gates travels into the woods of the Pacific Northwest where he dives into papers written by the Microsoft community. He scribbles notes, maps out ideas, and writes summaries for executives. There are no interruptions (besides a caretaker who provides two meals per day and a steady stream of Diet Orange Crush), no employees, friends, or family to accompany Bill; even his wife stays at home. This is a time of deep thought, reflection, and goal creation, and has been responsible for many Microsoft innovations.