Tag Archives: productivity

Are you living a life of distraction?

Does this sound familiar? You are working on a project, music is playing. You make it a few minutes but social media chimes that a “friend” has posted something. You check it out. More than a few minutes later you get back to work. Before you accomplish too much, someone texts or IMs you. Your day continues with this constant interruption and it is finally to come home. On the drive home, you listen to an audible book, which is interrupted several times as you are texting to firm up your dinner plans….using appropriate hands free technology, of course. Eventually you get to exercise, popping in another audible book or watching TV the whole time.

I’m not criticizing. I understand completely. I counted my interruptions the other day. Just in my regular job, I averaged 150 incoming email a day. I also had 80 outgoing emails, thirty IM conversations, 15 texts and ten phone calls. This didn’t count the meetings I was in, the hallway conversations or anything related to my personal life. I was distracted.

Distractions can be a addictive. Every little ding, beep or post releases a little dopamine. Sitting quietly alone with your thought can becomes an odd feeling, like accidentally meeting a childhood friend you’ve lost contact with.

Turn off some of your notices. Cancel some of your email subscriptions. Let some texts sit unanswered. Turn off all electronics for a few minutes a day and just be alone with your thoughts. There are great things happening in your head. Be quiet and present once in a while to hear what your mind has to say.

Can I ask a bigger question

Too frequently, we get stuck in a small thinking just because that is where our idea started. An entrepreneur may review is P&L and realize he’s spending too much on hotels when he travels, so asks the question, “how can I pay less for my hotel stays?” That is a fair question but is it big enough. Instead the entrepreneur could ask, “how can I reduce my travel expenses?” The difference in the two questions may not seem like much but they can lead to very different answers. In the first case, then entrepreneur may try to negotiate better pricing or travel on cheaper days. In the larger question, the entrepreneur may question is some trips could be replaced with Skype calls or trips could be combined.

On a personal level, someone trying to get into shape may ask, “how can I make my workouts more intense?” A bigger question might be, “how can I adopt an active lifestyle?”

When you discover an obstacle or opportunity, pause for a few minutes and ask yourself, “can I ask a bigger question?”

New plan

How I work with my clients has evolved over the last couple of years. Originally, I only offered weekly hour long sessions with a mix of live and virtual interactions. However, we covered too much in an hour so that many of my clients felt overwhelmed with the homework they had to do.

I started offering a biweekly hour long call, only via phone. That gave my clients more time to do their homework. Unfortunately, that also meant a loss of accountability. To help with that, I added text and email support between calls. Some clients go for the weekly offering, especially in the beginning but most prefer biweekly.

Now, by client request, I’m adding another option. I’m offering a weekly 30 minute call supported by text and emails in between. The thirty minute format will require that we really stay on task and will help prevent my clients from taking on too much in between sessions. The text/email also adds accountability. I’m really excited about this new option.

Reach out if you are stuck and need someone to help push and drive you out of your slump.

Please share this post. You never know who in your life is floundering and needs a hand or a boot on their behind.

Reinvent your life in four steps

Some times it takes the world slapping us in the back of the head (hopefully figuratively speaking) to realize what we are doing isn’t working anymore.  Who we’ve become isn’t who we want to be.  Losing a job, having spouse leave or just watching something amazing you’ve worked for fall apart can be scary.  It can also be an amazing period of self-realization.

So what do you do when you, the real you down deep in your psyche and not the “you” everyone else in your life sees, has become the square peg being shoved into the round hole of your life?  Realize it is less about reinventing yourself and more about reinventing your life.

1.) Do no harm – The first thing you need to do is to stop the damage, if there is any.  Sometimes we’ve been shoved so far into that round hole, damage is being done.  This could be over spending or pushing away loved ones or even just copious amounts of self-medication.  If you are doing anything that could cause lasting harm to yourself, your life or anyone else, work on that first.

2.) Make a little space – Life and habit conspire to keep us doing the same thing we’ve always done.  Change takes effort and effort takes time.  Odds are pretty good that your life is full.  Now it may not be full of what we want it to be full of but nature abhors a vacuum.  Decouple yourself from something.  Say no to a commitment and walk away.  Carve out a little time where you can work on you.

3.) Understand what you want/what you value – It is very difficult to find or create your own square hole if you don’t know what it looks like.  This can be a major step.  Talk to different people.  Read different books.  Keep a journal of things that excited you today.  Do the 20 in 20 exercise.  Make a list of things that you value and keep it handy when you are making decisions.

4.) Take action – Start small but start making changes today.  You don’t necessarily need to change cities or quit your job to start having a new life that fits you.  Remember, it is as important to stop doing things that aren’t right for you as it is to start doing things that bring meaning to your life. Progress not perfection.

What is your story about reinventing yourself?

20 in 20

I’m sure I’ve written about this tool, trick, hack before but it definitely is worth repeating. It is probably the most useful bit of homework that my clients enjoy. Well “enjoy” might not be the right word. Maybe “productive”.

Basically it is a free writing exercise with a few bounds. It can be used to push for creativity or for honesty. It can bring world peace. Ok, that might be a little hyperbole but it is a great tool that can help you push back limitations.

Go to a quiet place with few distractions. Put your cellphone on silent. Set a timer for twenty minutes. On a piece of paper (yes I recommend paper for this task) write across the top the problem you are trying to solve. Well it could be a problem or a challenge or an exploratory question. Then for the next twenty minutes write out as many responses as you can. Aim for twenty responses. To get twenty, you don’t have time to judge, edit or criticize your responses. Don’t put a lot of thought into any response because the clock is ticking. Remember you are not looking for quality responses, just a lot of them.

After the alarm rings, put the paper away without reading it. Let a day pass. Do things that allow your thoughts to flow. Really how many great ideas come to you in the shower or waking from a dream. Then go back to the paper. Read over your responses without editing or judging them. Set the timer for another twenty minutes. Try to add more responses or flesh out the responses you’ve already wrote down. At this point, you are adding, not editing. No criticism.

Let one more day pass. Go for a walk. Now reread all of your ideas. Circle anything that speaks to you. Pick the three best responses. Also pick the wildest response and the most “out there” response. Set your timer on last time. Now take those final five responses and add as much to them as you can. Include things you circled on responses that didn’t make the cut.

This is a great tool for “questions” like:

1.) What do I want to accomplish this year?

2.). Why do I hate my job?

3,) How could I get more customers?

4.) Why is my boss acting like a jerk?

5.) Why should I take this job?

6.) What would make me happy?

As you can see, it has a wide range of uses. It helps you tap into your subconscious and trap your underlying thoughts in writing.

Are you really asking for help?

This came up again recently with a client.  He is looking to find new connections (networking) on the road to landing contract work.  He’s having a bit of a blockage making those phone calls.  I’ve had other clients who had similar blockages asking for introductions for a new job.  There is something about making those calls that is blocking these professionals because it feels like they are asking for help.  These otherwise talented and skilled professionals have a weakness.  They are used to being the ones to offer help.

A simple shift of perspective can help.  My client is a confident, talented professional.  He is not asking for help.  He is offering to help.  The greatest need of businesses and organizations is talent.  Finding that talent can be very difficult.  My client has done the hard work of finding a skilled professional for the person he is calling…….himself.  He has already saved them a lot of effort.  He is now offering to bring his skills and talents into their organization.

Are you having a hard time reaching out to someone?  Are you really asking that person for help or are you offering your services?  Share this link if you know someone who’s having a hard time networking.  Comment below if you want to share your stories or get another point of view.

Pleasure with Pain

If you break motivation down into it’s simplest form, we are motivated to either seek pleasure or avoid pain.  Now I know many of you are rejecting that, saying that you are much more complex than that but stick with me for a minute.  Pleasure can include everything from a taste of a delicious juicy hamburger with tempura fried bacon on it (yes, tempura fried bacon exists, I’ve had it and I’m obsessed) to love.  Pleasure includes security and peace.  Pleasure can also include spirituality.  Pain on the other hand isn’t just limited to physical pain.  It can include fear, embarrassment, social rejection, insecurity, hungry, loneliness, etc.  The list can go on quite a while.

Unfortunately, the world isn’t so simple as that.  How do you stack up pleasure that will happen six months from now vs. pain happening today, for example dieting and exercising for six months so that you can look good for the upcoming high school reunion?  How do trade off one pain vs. another, for example my back hurts right now and I know 30 minutes of stretching will help…..but I don’t really like the stretching either?  How do you exchange one pleasure for one pain, for example spending on a big celebration when money is tight?

It is ok to allow our subconsciousness to handle these decisions of which pleasure to seek and which pain to avoid as long as we are ok with the outcomes.  Really, your subconscious is making hundreds of decisions a day and you don’t want to get stuck in trying to analyze each and everyone.  When you are not happy with your situation, whether it be financial, relationship, health, etc., stop and consider which decisions are leading you in the wrong direction and why you are making that decision.  It might be helpful to try to frame those decisions in a trade off between pleasures and pain.  You might have to ask yourself “why” a few times because most people are slow to admit what is really going on in their decision making.  Once you understand the tradeoffs, then work to enhance different pleasures, minimize different pains and (frequently) work to pull future pleasure into the moment.

Examples help.  I was telling the truth, my back is killing me right now.  It is a chronic issue that comes back a few times a year.  This one is as bad as it has gotten in probably the last five years.  Nothing to do but stretches.  My wife has a yoga video that does wonders for my back…….but I really don’t enjoy it.  So I have a literal pain, my back.  Seems like I should be able to jump up and fire up that video.  Why aren’t I?  Well, I know from experience the yoga tape won’t make my back feel better right away.  So the pain avoidance isn’t really an immediate pay off.  I find yoga to be pretty boring.  I know my yoga loving friends tell me I’m not doing it right if I’m not loving it but I don’t love it.  There is a certain level of mental pain that comes along with doing yoga for me.

So how do I motivate myself to go do those stretches, well in this case I brought in another pain, social embarrassment.  By writing and posting this, I sort of have to go do the yoga.  If I don’t, I’ll be a bit embarrassed that I let my laziness and procrastination let me sit here in pain.  Alright.  I’m going to go do some downward dogs.

Comment if you need some help affecting change.  Please share.  Imagine the pleasure you’ll get if this helps someone you know.

“That’s what I was doing!”

We were at a pool over the weekend and a child was getting a private swimming lesson from one of the lifeguards.  The kid was working to pass the deep end test but couldn’t quite get his backstroke right.  The lifeguard told the boy, “Point your toes, when you kick.”  The boy yelled, “That’s what I was doing!”  That is the point when the boy stopped learning and improving.  He was insistent that he was doing everything right, despite not getting the results he wanted.

How many times do we do that as adults?  Whether it is from a boss, spouse, friend or co-worker, how many times has someone given us a positive critic but we took it as criticism.  Sometimes it hurts to say that we aren’t doing something right.  Sometimes it is hard to admit that we need to do better.  Growth is hard but we can do it.  Sometimes all we have to do is listen.

Achieving goals is like building a bridge

Achieving goals being like building a bridge is a metaphor that works on a couple of levels.  First, on one side of the chasm is where you are.  On the other, where you want to be.  Building the bridge is the planning and hard work necessary to allow you to cross from your current life to the life you choose.

On another level this metaphor works because of the process of building a bridge.  Think through the steps.  First, someone figures out a need for a bridge.  There wasn’t a bridge there before after all.  So why is a bridge necessary and why necessarily here.  Making these decisions, need for a bridge and where that bridge is needed, helps clarify and solidify the goal and motivation in a person.

Second, they plan out what type of bridge is needed and the resources required.  Engineering studies are done and blueprints are chosen.  Is it a quick rope bridge or an 8 lane highway?  Does it need to be a temporary bridge or a permanent structure?  Will it take days or years to build?  How much will it cost?  This step helps a person start building their plan and marshaling their resources.

Third, materials are purchased, employees are hired and work begins.  This is were the first actions of reaching a goal can be seen.  Most of what has happened to this point is simply talking, researching and planning.  Even though the first two steps are probably more important, now others can start to see work getting done.

Fourth, while the bridge is being made the work is continually inspected and modified.  There are supervisors who are constantly on the job making sure the work is being done according to the blue prints.  Frequently, inspectors come out to assess the work.  Inspectors are also looking to ensure that reality – the depth of the river, the quality of the soil, etc. – are what were expected.  If not, the plans will change to accommodate reality.  On a less frequent basis, higher level employees and engineers will also monitor rate of production to completion, cost, material consumption, etc.  When a person is trying to reach a goal, they should frequently monitory their progress.  Are they making the progress at a rate they are happy with?  Have they correctly identified all obstacles and opportunities in the first two stages or do adjustments need to be made?

 

Starting habits

I had a great habit a couple years ago of walking in the mornings.  When I say walk, it was a fast paced 60 to 90 minutes all over town.  I’d come back covered in sweat and out of breath.  I also came back with determination and clarity about my goals for the day.  I was healthier and happier after the walks.  Things happened and I got away from that habit.  Here’s how I’m restarting it.

First, I’m starting small.  I leave the house with the intention of a 20 minute mosey instead of a 60 minute power walk.  As this becomes a habit, I’ll lengthen the duration and up the intensity.

Second, I make it as easy as possible.  My sweats and sneakers are all set so I can grab them and go without walking up anyone in the house.

Third, I have a secondary goal in mind.  For today, I wanted to take the above picture.  On other days, I went to see how a neighbor’s new landscaping was coming in.  On another, I walked by a house for sale my wife mentioned.

Fourth, I combined walking with another morning task.  One of the things that got in the way of me walking is that I also started writing in the morning.  By walking to get the above picture and plotting out in my head what I was going to write, I was able to accomplish both goals.  By combining a couple of tasks, usually one that you want to do with one that you should do, you are much more likely to get both done.  Another example is when my wife and I used to go out for Indian buffets for Sunday brunch.  That was before kids by the way.  We really enjoyed it be a buffet is heavy on the calories.  Therefore, we combined walking with the brunch by walking to the restaurants.