Tag Archives: Energy

Time to Shine

What time does your alarm tell you to ‘rise and shine’ every day?  (I’m assuming here that you do not get to sleep until you naturally wake up on any given work day.  A safe assumption on my part, yes?)  I’m also going to guess that you are quite likely one of the altogether too many folks that are sleep deprived much of the time.  Do you even know if you are a morning person or not anymore?

 

Sleep deprived or well-rested, we all have an optimal time of day when we are clear-headed and ready for pretty much any challenge.  When our brains are primed to calculate and estimate, analyze and realize, plow through that to-do list at a record pace with stellar results.  Even if it might be caffeine fueled, just a little bit.

time

Do you get to pick your own starting hour?  So that you can arrange it based on what you consider a decent wake up time, barring any familial responsibilities.  Or do you march to the requirements of your workplace, even if it is in sleep-walking mode?

 

Personally, I am not an early morning type, though I have found that I can get my mind moving earlier in the day if I am allowed by circumstance to do it slowly with a mug of tea to nudge my brain into gear.  When required by outside forces, I get up and get moving grumpily and my brain has several false starts before the gears start to act in concert, about midmorning.

 

Chipper early risers get a blank stare from me at best on these days.  Though as I have mentioned before, I will rouse my meager energy store to offer ‘good mornings’ to all I encounter because I know it is important.  Just don’t ask for much more, please.

 

But back to your optimal clear-headed state.  I hope that, sleep deprived or not, self-selected start time or not, you do at least know your best hours of the day.  That you can manipulate and arrange to work on the really important stuff during these golden minutes of mental whirring.

 

If not, give it some thought.  Knowing when your mind is sharp will give you a better shot at success, when it is your time to shine.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations, All rights reserved

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Incubating the Next Thing

Someone who appears on the collective public radar seems to be an ‘overnight success’ because we weren’t aware of any of the preparation this person had gone through.  Somehow this becomes part of our ideal of success then, that it just happens to you.  But that newly minted person of renown will most likely tell us that there was plenty of trial and error, effort and planning that went before this heightened awareness.  There was an incubation period.

 

Subject matter expert, thought leader, influencer – these are the words that we use to describe the people who know their stuff in whatever part of the professional world we inhabit.  They have experienced localized, or possibly broader success that may or may not have seemed to come out of nowhere.  But again, there was deliberate and consistent effort and planning on their part during some sort of incubation period.

 

Incubation will include some sort of training – formal or informal – and practical experience.  At the start, it might not be exactly clear what is being cultivated, perhaps a generalized affinity for certain activities that could support a career; say communication or math skills.  And I think that is key, many of us hearing someone else’s success story will hear about deliberate, decisive action and think of this as a potential deterrent for our own success because we don’t have clarity on our own direction yet.

A different kind of incubation.  (public domain image)

A different kind of incubation. (public domain image)

 

That successful person might have had clarity from their early days, but more than likely their intent developed slowly through an incubation period that, at the time, looked nothing like the fomentation of a successful business person.  (How many people do you suppose who knew Thomas Edison during most of his early years thought that he was all over the place?)

 

So if most subject matter experts and thought leaders today had their own messy incubation periods, that means that we all still have time to look over our careers to date – at what worked and what didn’t seem to – and see it all as trial and error, steps to nurture our next thing.  To encourage the incubation of our own success.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations, All rights reserved

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All the Little Life-keeping Tasks

I am amused or perhaps bemused by the occasional articles in various sources about people who have successfully simplified their lives and are happier for it.  I like to be aware of where all my edges are, so I have never been one for creating complexity in my life.  And yet, I cannot imagine how people are able to really pare down these days with all the bits and pieces that worm their way into your needs.  (For instance just consider all the types of insurance…)

 

Anyway, I have been taking stock of the status for many of the little things that help us to keep a life.  Particularly because quite a few can be out of sight, out of mind.  I just realized that I cancelled my teeth cleaning in January, meaning to reschedule and haven’t gotten back to it, oops.  This is why I take stock periodically.  I keep a list of all these bits and pieces, again so I know where the edges are – because these are all things that can trip you up when you don’t have them in order when you need them, but things that tend to work their way out to the edges of your awareness.

 

Many people let the condition of their skills and career work out to the edges, and often even fall over the edge.  And then when they need to take stock, say in the midst of some change at the office, they don’t even know where to start.  Doing the work every day somehow felt just like keeping that skill current.  But it turns out that it wasn’t, at all, and now it’s a problem.

public domain image - French predictions for the future

public domain image – French predictions for the future

 

We can fill each day with plenty of tasks, we get bombarded with reminders of this or that bit of life-keeping thing from the dentist or the insurance company or HR; and we can relax and let the busyness of the tasks or the external reminders take the lead.  It can all just be too much.

 

Or we can set aside an hour or two as often as we feel the need and go through some of this life-keeping that gets out to the edges, check up on it.  I’m going to go hunt up the dentist’s phone number now.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations, All rights reserved

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Putting your Mark, Laying Claim

Mom used to practically chortle when telling my brother, sister and I how she and her brothers would lick something to lay claim to it.  Now a couple of thoughts come to mind.  This only worked because everyone in her house was a bit squeamish.  It is interesting that she told us these stories with such glee because we could exhaust her with our bickering.

 

My dad, as an only child, never understood the ruckus we would create in an effort to get our fair share of everything, all of the time.  Mom was careful in many ways to dole out even numbers of everything that she could, but this was next to impossible with her time or attention.  And that is what we really wanted.

 

I thought of this post while walking around my neighborhood and noticing all the cars parked on driveways.  You can usually tell the car that is just visiting from the car that belongs at the house based on positioning on the driveway.  When we are visiting we are hesitant to pull our car up in a spot that feels proprietary, right toward the top of the drive.  (And then often block the neighborhood walker’s progress…)  Which got me to think about our sense of ownership, how we put our mark on things.  And brought me back to those childhood events.

Everyone knows John Hancock signed the Declaration because his signature shows confidence.  (photo credit Wikipedia)

Everyone knows John Hancock signed the Declaration because his signature shows confidence. (photo credit Wikipedia)

 

We have varying comfort levels when we think about ownership of our things.  Some people are automatically comfortable taking ownership of any thing at any time.  And on the other end of the spectrum some people don’t feel certain of what they really own.  What they may have a right to claim.

 

The people who are naturally comfortable taking ownership might monopolize the shared office space, equipment and even the boss’s time.  There may be rules to even out these sensibilities, and a wise boss will make an effort to keep things fair.  But if you are more hesitant, you need to fight that urge and get in the fray to lay your claim.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations, All rights reserved

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Reforming Perfectionism

I’ve told anyone who is interested that I have been a reforming perfectionist for the last decade or so.  I say reforming because there is no end, no reformed and never a concern again.  Perfectionism is a mindset that is powerful and pervasive.  And not in my best interest.

 

Perfectionism is constantly on the lookout for all of the things that you did wrong or said wrong, not necessarily to improve upon them but often just to highlight your imperfection.  Reforming perfectionism is constantly on the lookout for ways to improve what you have said or done and therefore helpful.  As in ‘yep, I forgot that breathe and take one more look step before I sent out that email so I missed the attachment’.   I will work harder to make this a step every time in the future.

 

We are human and therefore have flaws; but also capable of learning and improving.  Perhaps perfectionism has been more of a friend to you than it has been for me.  I am happy for you, but have found more perfectionists that have been hampered by this trait, similarly to what it has done to me in the past (and currently when I am not vigilant).  What parts of perfection are worthy, and which should be discarded or ignored?  Where does a quest to be better turn into self-imposed disappointment?  We each must find these answers in our own time and way.

Nature makes beautiful things, without worrying about perfection.

Nature makes beautiful things, without worrying about perfection.

 

I have found reforming perfectionism to be more open, perfection is terribly rigid.  Rigid doesn’t allow one opportunity in a fast changing environment.  Rigid perfection creates a lot of negative energy, and there is already too much of that out and about; improvement is fluid and adjustable and positive.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations, All rights reserved

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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.

DSC03395

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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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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