Monthly Archives: August 2013

What Do You Do that is Counterproductive?

Don’t tell me nothing because I don’t believe that for a minute.  We all do things that we know perfectly well might put us into some hole or other, a deficit that will be difficult to overcome, and yet we cannot help ourselves.  I save up personal business phone calls.  Note that I said personal – I would like to say that I spend so much effort on work related calls that I just don’t have the energy for the personal business related calls.

 

Psychologists just love to study this sort of thing and then tell us all about our foolish ways of undermining ourselves.  The really honest ones let us know that they got into this area of study because they know they are the worst offenders of counterproductive actions.  The others are just too holier-than-thou for words.

Pushme-Pullyou from the original Dr Doolittle movie.  (my appreciation has lasted a lifetime)

Pushme-Pullyou from the original Dr Doolittle movie. (my appreciation has lasted a lifetime)

 

Back to you and the shovel that you are right at this moment using to pierce the ground at your feet in the form of a doughnut that belies your diet or a bit of office gossip that can be traced back to you.  Ask yourself why?  What do you hope to accomplish with this counterproductive act?  Well, you don’t know, you are just in the moment and it is too delicious to pass up.  Pay for it later?  Hmph, future self can deal with it.  S/he will have the energy, skills, will power, stamina necessary that you just can’t seem to muster at the moment.  Right?

 

What do you have to say for yourself?  Me, I’m going to get right on that list of calls.  Right after I do this other thing.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

 

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Hassle Anticipation

We’ve all heard the advice not to buy trouble.  But we should also be prepared for certain eventualities.  Some days, certain activities are just like… doing your taxes or going to the dentist.  A hassle, an aggravation, frustrating – and so on.  But sometimes we expect something to go wrong and so we start to work ourselves up, just ready.  Going to get your license renewed, for instance.  Encountering certain people at work, perhaps.  Waiting in line just about anywhere for anything.  (I’m not an early adopter so I really don’t get the folks that stand in line, sometimes for days for the latest release of any technical item – don’t ever tell me you hate to wait in line.)

Construction is always a hassle.

Construction is always a hassle.

 

Back to hassle anticipation – could we possibly experience the hassle just because we became so certain that we would have one that we somehow brought it on?  I’ve certainly watched it happen to others – someone ahead of you in line is giving off that vibe by fidgeting, sighing, or other cues gets up to the counter and their voice has that edge right off the bat.  I imagine that I have probably done it too, though no example comes to mind as I type.

 

We are bound by rules almost everywhere we go – the employee handbook at work, bank rules, insurance rules, school rules – piling up in front of us and blocking us from just getting the simplest thing on our to-do list done.  (Well such-and-such isn’t going to happen today because I forgot to bring that stupid form with me.)  It is such a hassle, why are there so many rules?

 

We know on one level that we need the rules to create structure and protection for certain rights, but do we need so many?  (The answer to that is probably not, a lot of rules are around just for the sake of rules or to benefit the institution over the individual…)

 

Back to anticipating the hassle, logically we are just in knowing that these established steps and rules can make things go slowly so why do we not allot enough time to accommodate this awareness?  I’ll just be a minute at the bank at noon on a Friday – sure.  Why is the doctor running late at 4pm, I have to get my daughter to dance class you know?

 

We are mad at the system, the institution for making our quick task or errand drag on and put us farther behind for the next one.  On top of it, we knew this would be a hassle, so we waited to the last possible minute to do this thing so it isn’t like we can come back later – how dare they?

 

How dare they indeed.  Do you have any stories about hassle anticipation?

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

 

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Cultivating Your Professional Garden

Periodically you have read reference here in this blog to sowing seeds, cultivating ideas, fallow and fertile ground for thought so how fitting that we talk about a full-fledged garden of your professional being.  (A nod to contact Bob Podgorski for this phrase.)

 

Gardens, vegetable or flower, must be tended regularly or their character will change entirely.  Some plants will run rampant and strangle out others, some are too delicate to survive in a wild environment and will die, weeds will take advantage and push out more valuable plants by depriving them of nutrients.  So to must you tend to your professional life in an intentional manner.

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I like to take walks around my neighborhood and check out how the plantings in various yards change with the seasons and the years.  There are so many different styles and predilections starting with absolutely no plant adornment, through no time to spend on the previous owner’s efforts, all the way to showy designer planned installations.   And of course in these days there are the houses that fell victim to the crash and are awaiting loving care.  Some of these had beautiful yards and I watch with interest to see if new owners will coax the garden back to glory or will rip it all out and start fresh.

 

My point is that it is easier to find a means to maintain than to bring something back or to give up on it and start fresh.  I know that you don’t have enough hours in a day for all your tasks – work, family, etc.  How could you possibly squeeze in a to-do or two to plot out the state of your professional garden?  You don’t know the first thing about what is growing there these days.  Well, finding yourself suddenly in job search is not the time to start taking inventory except that this seems to be the standard prompt.

 

What is in your professional garden?  First there is you – do your skills stack up against others in your position and industry?  How aware are you of the trends within your industry?  Then there are your contacts – who are they, where are they, and when was the last time that you were in touch?  It is a whole lot easier to get a recommendation from someone right after a successful mutual project than months or years later.  What have you done for them lately?

 

I know that it just sounds exhausting, and it is work to maintain any garden.  But judicious effort on a regular basis is warranted and prudent.  And a whole lot less work than bringing a tangle back to order or replanting an empty lot.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations, All rights reserved

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Challenges of a Mom Working Outside the Home: Work Life Balance

Mothers have this awesome, profound impact on their offspring.  We are all quick to think about the effect our own mother had on us, but it is a little harder to ponder the impact we may be having on our own children.  Being all things to all people doesn’t seem to be an affliction that men suffer from, although I do know more and more who are involved in their children’s lives to a deeper level than past generations would have ever believed.  Being all things to all people is an affliction that keeps many a woman up at night.

 

When my younger son hit the right age for Pop Warner football, he really wanted to join.  I believe in giving my kids the opportunity to try out a variety of activities, but I was already aware that this particular activity considered itself more of a vocation than a passing interest and had a large time and effort expectation of parents and players.  I was also working about 14 miles from home, full time at this stage.  I had to say no, please pick a different sport.

DSC03459

I thought of this again recently because I just read an article that more and more students are opting for sports through exclusive clubs at a fairly early age.  These clubs do offer the children a great opportunity to excel, but at what overall cost?  First there is usually a sizable financial commitment, then there is the time involved, etc.

 

Work-life balance is a phrase that hasn’t come up much in the past couple of years while businesses find ways to cut costs that often mean more strain on their staff.  Oddly, in times of stress work-life balance is a more worthy discussion because the actual balance is sorely lacking.  Add in the family needs aspect and it really gets intense.

 

Back to my example, my son still feels slighted because his older brother played a season of Pee Wee football in our old town and he couldn’t play until high school.  I feel sad that he has not found a way to reconcile this disappointment, but otherwise my feelings are a throw-back to prior generations.  I have a short list of activities that I didn’t get to do as a child because participation would have required too much general family sacrifice.  Parents wanted their children to be happy and to have broader and better experiences than the parents themselves, but not to the point of disrupting family life.  Now we seem to think that we should move heaven and earth to give our child these experiences.

 

But sometimes life will put blocks in the way of your hopes and dreams, so perhaps it is better to learn about compromise when the stakes are about a sport and not a livelihood.

 

We have to work so hard and so regularly for balance because it is elusive and takes concentration.  Children can learn that part of balance is making choices.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

 

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Order from Chaos, or Getting it to Make some Sense

You are just back from vacation.  It was lovely and fun and restful and all of the things that vacation is supposed to be.  But now your thoughts turn to going back to the office and what you will most likely find.  Some level of chaos.  This post would apply equally well to being a late-comer to an existing project, or being brand new to the office.  Unfamiliarity, of any kind, looks just like chaos.

what you felt like on vacation - you want to retain that...

what you felt like on vacation – you want to retain that…

 

I used to work with someone who had very rigid ideas about how something, anything really, should be done.  It boiled down to her way or wrong.  That is pretty common, but additionally she was the type to complain bitterly about what you had done ‘wrong’ to anyone and everyone – but you.  She was also a person who was frequently absent from the office for a variety of reasons.  The unspoken rule got to be to do the bare minimum on her work in an attempt to avoid the bitter recriminations.  We only did that much because we couldn’t leave her customers just hanging.  And this only applied when she was out of the office; if you got a stray call that belonged to her and she was in the office then you apologized and forwarded the caller.  I hated to do it, but I had to talk to her most every day and rarely to any of her customers.  Office survival.

 

Anyway, I wrote about preparations for vacation here – Vacation, Ahhh.  Even still, and despite having very competent co-workers as back up people, coming back in is an adjustment and has some element of chaos.  Just start slowly.  Look for the familiar so things start to make sense again.  Are there emails that you can group together and knock off all at once?  Can you trade a little vacation trinket for intel on the happenings around the office in the past week?

 

The same holds true for the newbie to a project or an office; keep your ears and eyes open and some little thing will start to look familiar.  Little victories of understanding start to expand your comfort zone.  Particularly look for the person or persons who seem open to interaction and also are pretty knowledgeable about the process.

 

Getting back into a groove, or getting into a new groove is tiring because your brain is so busy making associations of new to known.  Celebrate the little gains, build on them, and it will feel a lot less like chaos fairly quickly.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Some Random Thoughts on Networking… Please Add Yours

I went to a networking event recently, held quarterly by a LinkedIn contact.  It was my first time in attendance because I am putting pressure on myself to network more, and farther outside of my comfort zone.  I will benefit, but it does take energy.

understanding

My thoughts:

  • It doesn’t matter if you are an introvert or an extrovert, you don’t live in a box so you need to figure out how to keep your contacts fresh.
  • Most people have as many and possibly the same reservations that you have about going.
  • Follow up matters – but is also dependent upon your intent for starting the contact in the first place.
    • How many people do you know that just go through motions because they have been told that they must?
    • One person I know went to coffee with a new contact and was frustrated when the new contact didn’t seem to understand the point of the coffee meeting follow up.  (Hint: it isn’t a coffee klatch.)
  • You need to spend a couple of moments before the event getting your thoughts together about your own expectations for the event.
    • If it is your first event, your objective can be as simple as getting through the event.  Be yourself – your most vivacious self that you can muster.
  • Some people will be there just to collect cards – these are probably the folks who had the most yearbook signatures in high school and a lot of trophies.  Don’t spend too much time with them.
  • This is social, so have some fun.  But remember appropriate behavior for the occasion.

 

Ultimately, networking should help each of us to find people to expand our community.  What do you have to say?

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations, All rights reserved

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Productivity, Progress & Purpose

Besides all starting with the letter p and thereby providing me with a lovely alliterative title, these words all have work in common.  We should all keep these words in mind as we toil away because they will help us to stay away from busy work – the kind that looks good from a distance, but really has little substance.

 

These words do have much in common, but are not entirely synonyms of each other.  A task can be purposeful, but not always directly productive.  Productivity and purpose may not always lead to progress.

 

I believe that I have previously mentioned my sticky note on my desk that reminds me to act with purpose.  Which doesn’t mean that I don’t occasionally do something just because – sometimes down time is just the right thing to be more productive.  Too, purposeful acts can be small and give a person a nice energy boost needed to tackle larger activities which will improve progress.

 

public domain, 1895 Mountain Climb

public domain, 1895 Mountain Climb

Progress is only possible when there is an identified larger goal.  Something to work towards like a degree or a promotion.  Then acting with purpose, in a productive manner will move a person or a company closer to the goal progressively.  Progress isn’t always as linear as we would like it to be so then it is beneficial to have productive and purposeful activities to help us to feel effective.

 

Progress in certain situations, like job search, is particularly sticky.  In job search so much activity can seem to be fragmented and give the job seeker a feeling quite the opposite of progress, purpose or productivity.   Learning new things, even disparate things is progress in this situation.  Just not necessarily linear progress rather being one facet of the purpose to gain new employment.

 

Similarly, there are days at work when progress might not be achievable, but purposeful acts can still be completed.  Phone calls returned, plans started for later and so on.

 

What phrases help you to prevent busy work?

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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