Tag Archives: productivity

Head games: moving forward even when you don’t want to.

Who cares about one more post from an ever-happy, always-productive blogger?  Not me.  Who needs to know that sometimes, even the best of us has a bad day?  Now that’s what I’m talking about!  Well, right now, that describes my situation.  So today, boys and girls, I am going to share a little about what I am doing instead of being super-motivated, hyper-productive, and, in the sage words of Clark Griswold, “hap, hap, happy.”

If you only have a minute to read this, I will give you the executive summary version: get over it because its all mental.  I control my mind, therefore I control how I handle, and respond to, every situation.  But the bottom line is that no matter how great you are, you are going to have tough days.  The secret to moving past these moments is simple.  Apply some mental energy.  As gospel recording artist, Donnie McClurkin sings, you can fall down.  You just have to get back up.  And as much as I am writing this knowing others will read it, I am really saying it to myself, because I need to get back up.  See, what you are witnessing, is me.  Giving myself The Talk.  Getting myself in gear to do more, do better, and not fall into a counterproductive pit of excuses and pity.

  1. Do Something!  Often, we are so overwhelmed by the growing mountain of tasks we have to wrestle, we lose our focus and motivation before we even have a chance to be awesome.  As a friend and I were discussing this morning, you need to know whether you will respond better to doing the most odious task first, or the simplest.  Either way, when you look back on it, you will feel some satisfaction at having done it.  And more importantly, you will have done Something that moves you closer to completion on a project, pushed an idea forward into implementation phase, or simply set the agenda – and tone – for the rest of your day, the rest of your team or staff, the rest of your family.
  2. Congratulate yourself on accomplishing Something.   Pat yourself on the back.  Come on, you can do it. if you need more encouragement than this, you should sincerely take a vacation, re-center yourself, and enjoy yourself a little more.  I am not qualified to address that issue, but please see someone about it soon.
  3. Build a list of several Somethings you need, or want, to get done.  There, you tricked yourself intro building a road-map that will help you navigate through the forest of useless, time-wasting busy work you could be doing instead.  You are already being productive.  Don’t take your hands off the handlebars now, but “look Ma, I’m doing it by myself!”
  4. Take a break.  You have earned it.  If it lasts more than 10 or 15 minutes, you’re not taking a break, you are chilling.  That is counter-productive.  Stop it.
  5. Do Something Else.  Remember that list you built, way back in the halcyon days of Task 3?  Now you get to use it!
  6. Repeat!  Finish with self-congratulatory, but quiet golf clap, and go do something fun!

Mentoring: Avoiding Task List Target Practice. Part 2 of 2

This is part two of a two-part article.  The first installation was published on June 6, 2010.

This post  is for leaders — from students to mid-level managers like me — dealing with workaday problems.  It is about the importance of seeking mentoring to inspire you to in times of frustration.  It is for people who have been frustrated for so long, they may have forgotten how to reset the Attitude button and release themselves from suffocating frustration at work.

My favorite gems from AL, with my own perspective woven in, included:

  1. A manager, even a great leader, has only a small role in an employee’s career success.  Ultimately, the employee is responsible for using the opportunities given her or him.  And it is that individual’s responsibility for having the “fire” in her or his belly. Continue reading

Get unstuck: Avoiding Task List Target Practice. Part 1 of 2

This is part one of a two-part article.  The second installation will be published on June 7, 2010.

This post  is for leaders — from students to mid-level managers like me — dealing with workaday problems.  It is about the importance of seeking mentoring to inspire you.  It is for people who have been frustrated for so long, they may have forgotten how to reset the Attitude button and release themselves from suffocating intellectually.

For weeks, I wrestled with some turbulent leadership learning opportunities.  It seemed at every turn, the reality of our progress was subdued by a few key colleagues’ ability to make it seem like failure.  As a result, I was, by definition, “stuck.”  Folks in my Accountability Group worried openly about me, and my usual laid-back demeanor was wound tight.

I faced more than a reasonable number of issues in which I felt compromised, undermined, or simply overruled, even though I was responsible for setting and leading a team in accomplishing objectives.

I started last week with the belief that none of the grinding, intense work I — and numerous other staff — were putting in was netting us enough productivity or, to be frank, appreciation.  In the last year or two, our business unit has undergone extraordinary change, from who sits in each proverbial seat on the bus, to how we manage our business processes and track productivity, to how we assess what success looks like.  We went from a larger staff to a smaller one as we launched major new initiatives.  We went from young guns anxious to correct the boss to young guns being bosses.  My self-congratulatory takeaway is that progress and change, and both measuring and sharing productivity,  are fearsome threats to the ineffective and unfocused among us.

At any rate, a couple days ago, my outlook changed.  Why?  I had  lunch with a person I admire and respect deeply, and who is one of the most intelligent leaders I know.  I shall query him and question him, and call him AL.  This meeting was like getting an iPad for Father’s Day when all you rightly and happily expected was a card; it was a huge treat. Continue reading

About 90 days . . .

Has it really been that long since I wrote a blog post?  That is appalling and precisely the sort of absentee blogerism that leads to declining readership.  I am ashamed and embarrassed.  But mostly, it shows I have been too busy applying all the lessons and best practices I typically try to share.

So in one respect, the application of knowledge is worthwhile.  On the other hand, it will not make me look like such a thought leader tomorrow when I present on how readily a person can manage social media for personal, professional and business growth.

Within an hour of waking up tomorrow, I will attempt to string together enough cogent statements to convince several social media fence-sitters that they can own this domain — pun intended — without having to sequester themselves in a Nerd Bunker for hours at a time.  I will further try to impress upon them that the relationship side of their respective businesses can be well-served by using tools such as blogs, social networks and other technological options.  Whether existing employees, potential workers, clients or potential buyers of their services, the Return on their Investment would have to be relatively high, since most of the acquisition costs are approaching zero ($0).

So here are a few points I plan to make:

1.  If you can’t commit the time to building deep, intimate relationships (Facebook), you surely can build some basic ones (Twitter) and invest where it might be most profitable (LinkedIn).

2.  You don’t have to be Ashton Kutcher to build a successful social network.  Use it to engage and reward your most loyal customers.  When all else fails, FOCUS your content on the most important customers/potentials.

3.  Leverage staff strengths and let leaders emerge.

4.  Efficient management can make you appear more consumed than you are with creating content.

5. Being a content distributor can be a better entry strategy than being a content creator (Copy and Share Everything).

Using these strategies should allow you to establish a social media presence, and learn how your organization and staffing can best manage this powerful tool.

One man’s race toward a conquered e-mail inbox

E-mail has ruined my life. Well, it nearly ruined my ability to be effective at my real job. An inbox that always hovered near 300 unchecked emails had become a real obstacle to effectiveness. All those missives felt like a few hundred gnats flitting about, each waiting for either a swat, a blast of creative problem solving, or an observant eye followed by studied response. While I may never control all of the factors contributing to my inbox infestation, I did strike back today.

I feel like I earned my first merit badge for mastering a particularly distasteful task. After many fits and starts in which I would create modest goals — “today, I get my inbox down to below 200 unchecked email,” or “this week, I want to dip below 100 before I leave for the weekend” — today, I got up the brass to make the only meaningful strike in the e-mail wars: ZERO to go. Yep, I chose to conquer instead of divide.

I owe the inspiration to my wife, a regular witness to my anxiety attacks. Her good counsel over the weekend helped finally make me commit to eliminate the stench of outdated text, rotted requests, stale suggestions, and Cover-Your-Ass “Reply-to-Alls.” And the final push came from a trusted colleague who suggested I had to set my mental picture firmly: ZERO survivors! Every email must be dealt with today.

First, it bears noting that I have repeatedly documented my frustration with my email inbox. Organizational mavens I trust and seek out for counsel have provided websites, blog entries, DIY tactics, professional gurus, and more to kick me into high gear. None got me where I needed to be. But today, it all came together and I conquered my massive mail maelstrom.

There are two ingredients I used to beat back the fatal funk of forlorn documentation: the time to focus, and the willingness to take immediate action on every untended email..

The success of the plan was keyed by the fact that today is a holiday, which rendered many vacationing Time Bandits (colleagues) powerless to interfere with my self-centered project. No impromptu meetings, no hallway deliberations, no email tidal waves or Carbon Copy-fests that create inbox litter. The relative solitude of Labor Day turned into the perfect opportunity to focus on the beast beast.

1. Seniority Rules. I inverted my inbox and sorted it by date, oldest on top. I normally deal with email based on recency, so the newest issues get my attention first . I do this because in reading the most recent emails first, I can follow the preceding thread in sequence in one email, thereby eliminating both the propensity to respond to an early post without the benefit of the latter submission; and reducing the number of posts I have to read to get a complete situation report. Looking at the oldest stuff meant I could quickly assess which had already been concluded by face-to-face chats or the “recency” solution above.

2. Dump the dead weight. I set my sights on the target and promised to take no prisoners. I took advantage of Outlook’s nifty preview panel to quick-scan each email. I . . . and its still hard to say . . . I decided a nominal amount of social and professional dialogue and educational tips would be sacrificed for the greater good. I may miss a blood drive or movie night, but its a risk I can accept.

I isolated and quickly deleted list-serve discussions, sales mail, Outlook Updates, group distributions, and old event invites. I used the CTRL + DELETE buttons to kill single posts and the SHIFT + DELETE combo for mass email destruction. Few of these were from real individuals whose work depended on my response. So I didn’t bother to give them one!

This lightened my load from a staggering 360 emails to a manageable 200. And it gets better. I realized many of the untended communiques were progress updates on staff projects; things I had spot-checked along the way, then ignored because they didn’t require my response. Why I didn’t just delete them I will never know. But there went another 50 or so.

3. SPEED ROUND. Finally, I gathered the remaining 150 emails and began a triage exercise. I would either delete, file or respond to each. About 20 percent of these were CYA responses from others. These got deleted with glee. Another 50 percent simply needed to be filed; and the remaining 30 percent required some action or engagement on my part.

With the inbox count hovering in the low-100s after deleting and filing, I was quite motivated to power through and provide quick, but careful responses to the remaining posts. Most of these were less than one week old, suggesting my system of stockpiling dead mail in my inbox was frustrating but not negligent.

By 5:30 this evening, I had the list down to one unread email. As the street light came on, and the crickets started to chirp outside, I got the sign to get my butt home for dinner as I hit the OPEN button on that final unchecked email. I responded sweetly, mildly, succinctly, and with pleasant salutations. Just like in the old days.

Today, I won. For however briefly, I tasted the sweet nectar of control.

Thanks to Teri, first and foremost, for instilling in me the vision over the weekend to attack this challenge. Thanks to a trusted friend and colleague for helping drive home the need for me to quit stalling and take immediate action. And thanks for those who were part of the journey to get to this point. You each made a difference, and I finally did it.

If you have to manage mountains of data, content and news daily; then distribute, delegate, or delete it all to keep the balls balanced, you will appreciate the feat. “Nothing” never felt so good! And I left ZERO survivors.

Here’s one article to live by

An amazing number of people think being AT work doing stuff equals being productive. No, I say!

Here’s a superb article on what productivity really looks like: http://calnewport.com/blog/?p=275.