Posts Tagged ‘personal development’

Secrets of Being Productive

October 7, 2016

Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, is back with another book Smarter, Faster, Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business. This is another well researched book full of scientific research but told in compelling stories.

Duhigg is a talented writer, but I’m not 100% sure that he always hits his point. However, we can learn about motivation, decision-making, power of teams, focus, goal setting (something I’ve learned to shun, but that’s another topic for another day), and more.

I’m only half-way through the book, but I’ve gleaned some insights for personal development.

He leads with motivation. We think of motivation as either something people are born with or something an authority figure forces people into.

Motivation is more like a skill, akin to reading or writing, that can be learned and honed. Scientists have found that people can get better at self-motivation if they practice the right way. The trick, researchers say, is realizing that a prerequisite to motivation is believing we have authority over our actions and surroundings. To motivate ourselves, we must feel like we are in control.

Duhigg tells stories as examples such as residents in a “nursing home” who thrive by rebelling against the immense set of rules and restrictions. They rearranged their rooms out of the standard configuration. And when cabinets were fastened to the wall, they found crowbars and tore them loose.

One way to prove to ourselves that we are in control is by making decisions.

Duhigg describes how the Marine Corp. changed its training to force recruits to make decisions. As they made decisions, they gained confidence.

I read this and thought about how in just about my entire life I’ve been just slightly rebellious. I could talk about one of my brothers being more rebellious, but he reads this blog, so I can’t tell stories 😉

But I almost never went over a line into open rebellion. And you could play Freudian psychologist and probe my relationships with my father or mother. Good luck with that. But I have always been determined to go my own way.

I lost motivation at university when I discovered that I’d never be actually designing and building electronic circuits. That is what I did on my own as a high school kid (instead of studying Latin like I should have been). So, I just said I’ll go elsewhere. Eventually I got deeply involved with computers and a whole career opened.

That was mild. I basically formed my own curriculum at the university–philosophy, literature, politics, math, languages, accounting (huh?), writing. And it was all to my later benefit. But my professor who approved all this kept asking my what my major was. “Getting out of school with a degree,” I’d reply

We should applaud a child who shows defiant, self-righteous stubbornness and reward a student who finds a way to get things done by working around the rules.

It served me well. And I was introverted in my rebelliousness. Even today. But something to think about even as an adult. Motivation is a learned skill that we hone by making our own decisions.

Getting Things Done Takes Focus

August 26, 2016

I woke up Wednesday morning with many things on my mind. There was a 7 am international conference call followed by a 10 am international conference call. Then a 1 pm conference. Finally a 2:30 pm very important client call for which I needed to prepare.

There was enough focus enough for my daily marketing Facebook post for the local coffee shop. And then it was gone. No morning reading and meditation. How was I going to fit in the morning run? How was I going to continue working on a research project? Not to mention time for soccer referee assigning and straightening out the revised assigning Website that has so thoroughly cost me and my athletic director clients a ton of time this summer.

So, no Faith Venture post. And a day that began frazzled and uncertain.

There was my Getting Things Done app, Nozbe. The art of getting things done (by the way, the title of a book and a methodology of David Allen) begins with putting all the things you may have to do and relevant information or links into a trusted location. I use Nozbe linked to Evernote.

The method is to take a deep breath–or more. Clear the head. Then review the list and look at my calendar.

No way I could stay on the first call two hours. So, I listened for a while, got the gist of the conversation. There was nothing for me to contribute, so I dropped off and headed for the park. The next steps are just to review what needs to be done and focus on one at a time. By the evening reflection on the day, it had been pretty productive.

Part of the reason for the personal story is that all around me are things not getting done. There is the room where we have Yoga. We were moved a little over a year ago. They were converting a racquetball court into a Yoga studio. They began painting in January. Did a quick and temporary sound deadening, with the promise of more. And nothing has happened since. Getting Things Done.

There are other places around where there are things to get done, but the person just cannot focus. There is no weekly review and controlling the calendar (hour by hour) to assure that important things get done and that to the best of ability the person is controlling the calendar.

The very first personal development seminar I attended began with the challenge to avoid the dreaded “Tyranny of the Urgent” and work on the Essential things. Forty years later, we still need to work on that.

Wasting Your Time Through Indecisiveness

May 13, 2016

Failure to make timely decisions kills motivation, productivity, effectiveness.

Life can get caught in mesh of not knowing what to do next. Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple computers, took it to an almost insane level. Ever get up in the morning and wonder what to wear? You can waste considerable time. Jobs visited Japan and saw how company employees wore uniforms. He picked black pullover shirt and jeans. Never had to make that daily decision.

Of course he lived in California. As for me here in west Ohio, I’m looking at the weather forecast and mentally going through my closet and dresser trying to decide what to wear. What a  waste of time.

But it gets worse. You’re in a business. You have to decide on the next product, or whether to add a product. You lead a committee at a church or volunteer agency. You need to decide how to deal with someone or what the next project will be.

You’ve committed to “Getting Things Done” and made a fabulous list of all the next actions to move your projects forward. Which one to do?

Each little decision moves your day forward.

Train yourself to look in the mirror. Realistically. Catch yourself when you’ve lost momentum or motivation because you are sitting on a decision. You’ve studied it. And studied it. And worried about it. Your energy spirals downward. You can’t focus.

Decide. Now. Yes. No. Modify it.

Decide now and move on. You’ll feel better.

Leadership By Delegation

April 15, 2016

What is the hardest leadership lesson to learn? Actually, more than learn (we all can memorize words and regurgitate them), what is the hardest leadership task to do?

Pause, while you think…

I’m betting on delegation.

It is for me.

I’m a get things done sort of person. Give me a task and I dive in and do it.

Even as a leader. Often I would just do the task. Until I found myself just totally swamped. Then I’d take a breather–no, literally, with Yoga breath–and gain perspective. Then say to myself, self, you could have asked someone else to to this. They’d have loved the task. You’d have been able to work on something more important to your own goals.

So, you have your trusted place where you write every idea, task, next action, request. And you process those into lists of next actions (to-do list). Oh, yes, and then you have to actually do the items, one by one.

What if you added one more thought consideration to your process? What if on every item you thought, “Can someone do this better, faster, easier than I can?”

What’s the trouble with delegating?

  • You think it’s too much trouble to explain to someone else how to do it or just exactly what you want.
  • You don’t trust someone else with the task.
  • You’re a control freak–you know who you are.
  • You think they are already too busy.

Why should you delegate?

  • You only work on items that you do best.
  • You work on items that further your goals, and by extension, your organization’s goals.
  • You will be developing the skills and value of someone else.
  • You will strengthen the team by including more people on it.
  • You will prepare for future leadership transitions.

This is hard. I know it. Been there, done that, have a T shirt. But you and your organization will become so much more effective if you do it.

Lacking A Core Equals Leadership Weakness

May 22, 2015

“It’s all about the core.”

That is the foundation saying about the exercise regimen called Pilates. In Yoga, we also work on the core–your abdominal, lower back, and glutes. We do Plank, Boat, Bridge, Crocodile, and several other poses designed to strengthen the student’s core muscles.

It takes a strong core to sit straighter, stand straighter, project strength, and build good health.

You work on your core in every session. It degenerates quickly. Oh, and for you men–the famous “beer belly” is less due to beer than to weak ab muscles.

What happens when a leader has no core?

A good leader is a joy. A toxic leader–abusive, manipulative–you can run from. But a leader without a core breeds frustration.

Maybe they are just so entirely self-absorbed that they don’t really care about others. Or maybe there is no belief, goal, direction, or passion.

They sit in meetings without contributing. They let staff go where they wish. If a staff person decides to do something that is detrimental to the whole, they don’t take them aside and lead them into an understanding of the whole and how their actions affect that.

How did this person in the leadership role who has no core of leadership get there? Maybe a fluke of the organization where corporate appoints a district manager. Maybe money. Maybe the other leaders bailed and this person was the last one standing.

If you find yourself in this position, when you’re just not sure where you stand. When the organization you’re supposed to lead is floundering unsure of direction or purpose–that is when you had best make like Jesus. Before he became a leader and assembled a team, he spent 40 days in the wilderness. 

Just so, you had best take a personal retreat. This can be alone or with a mentor/coach. It is time to search for your purpose, your goals, your core values. Define these. Write them. Print in large font, frame them, put them on your office wall.

Set a direction and start sailing.

If, on the other hand, you work under such a leader, then you have a situation. If you are the one on the team who recognizes the situation, perhaps in meetings you subtly guide direction through questions and proposals in such a way as to convince others as to the direction the organization should be going.

You can be a leader without being The Leader.

The danger lies in the situation when the team all recognize the weakness. If the team all have differing agendas, then heaven help the organization. It will be split in a dozen directions with no core and wind up like the middle-aged guy with the beer belly.

Go work on your core.