Tag Archives: Planning

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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Forget About Fix It and Forget It

I wonder if the copywriter who came up with ‘fix it and forget about it’ thinks about how that phrase has permeated our modern over-booked lives.  I don’t even remember the product that prompted the creation of the phrase, do you?  (I Googled it and got a series of cook books, didn’t keep searching.  So join in and make this a conversation if you know.)

 

Well, the phrase is apt for cooking, but not a good fit for most other parts of life and certainly not a good career strategy.  I have seen it applied too many times as a career strategy though.  Yikes.  It often goes something like this:

  • Get some schooling – degree, certificate, what have you
  • Get a job somewhere
  • Get regular promotions
  • Retire

By the way, this isn’t a plan – it resides somewhere closer to the wishes, hopes and dreams department but sometimes people have trouble telling the difference.

 

No, fix it and forget it jobs are those ones that leave you in a series of tiny cubicles until you aren’t in the workforce anymore.  (And just a note for you foodies out there, I know that you don’t think this is apt for cooking either, that it only applies to one pot meals for busy families, not carefully planned experiences.)  It means doing the bare minimum, marking time until the end of each work day, never raising your hand for special projects, not taking the initiative to learn new things.

 

Abraham Lincoln, known to be a strategic thinker, public domain-Matthew Brady, 1862

Abraham Lincoln, known to be a strategic thinker, public domain-Matthew Brady, 1862

Since this blog is all about thinking, I’m not sure why a fix it and forget it type might even be reading this, but you never know.  Plus the phrase got stuck in a groove of my head and this is a way to exercise it out.  (I have no idea why it popped in and stuck around, perhaps I heard it on the radio like those songs that loop in your head sometimes after you get out of the car.)

 

Maybe I have been thinking about copywriters since I read a review of a new book coming out that is based on the ‘a diamond is forever’ DeBeers campaign from 1947 (written by a woman, Yes!) that lives on.  Anyway, the United Negro College Fund had a point; a mind is a terrible thing to waste.  So don’t fix it and forget about it, use it.

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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What is My Intent?

It must be about a decade now since I gave myself the mantra, maybe tenet is better, in the title.  It has been highly useful and I have shared both the tenet and my thoughts behind it with many along the way.  The question, posed to myself, helps to formulate my communication methods in a way that should diffuse any P.C. traps.

 

Most of us live and work in communities that are no longer composed largely of like-background and like-thinking individuals, hence the birth of political correctness.  Because when there are too many sensitivities, and they are often in conflict with each other and potential objectives, they can easily get trampled on the way to something else.  And the idea of political correctness is honorable, meaning to offer equal respect for the make-up of all the individuals in any particular group at any particular time.  But, whew, P.C. can act as a wall which prevents that group or community from ever actually resolving the real issue.  (Talks between countries that never happen because the preliminary how-the-meeting-will-go-down discussions break down over the shape and size of the table and the placement of the attendees.)

public domain drawing

public domain drawing

 

Back to my question.  If we each look into ourselves and determine the answer to our intent – resolve an issue, say how best to configure new office space – then we can better craft our method of resolution, down to approach, consideration of any objections or risks and how we will address them before we even gather.  Deciding that our intent is to work together to create a pleasant and productive office space, thinking about what we know about potential pit falls and how we can handle them reasonably would go a long way toward mutual benefit – a place that doesn’t need P.C. to be effective.

 

Now this question works best when all involved are asking the same question of themselves, but it is still effective when used by one individual, me.  Because I also turn the question and ask myself what the intent of the other individuals might be, how it might differ from mine, how it might affect the encounter or project.  Then I can be prepared with persuasions to keep things on track toward plan, and away from anything that could lead to non-P.C. territory.

 

I won’t claim that this is easy, or that I am always successful; but I have gotten a lot of mileage from this one simple question.  I invite you to try it out.  Let me know how it works.

 

(This post is written in response to Daily Prompt: P.C.)

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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When Should a Person Know What They Want to be When They Grow Up?

It seemed so easy to answer this question when we were 10 – as the Daily Prompt post title suggests, there was a very short list of possibilities for our future career and the choices mostly had some charm or glamour to them.  We would do something interesting, perhaps noble.  Our choices were infinite, within that small realm of known careers – not affected by aptitude, finances, training, or all the little practicalities that popped up in the intervening years.

 

public domain, dancers at the Calla Travis School of Dance, 1936

public domain, dancers at the Calla Travis School of Dance, 1936

I was going to be an actress and a writer when I was 10.  But there was also this series of books about young women who were recruited in college to be operatives for the CIA or FBI – that was exciting.  I had several really awesome teachers and professors who opened my mind to new ideas, and to the thought that I might want to be that kind of educator.

 

My generation was incessantly told that we could be anything that we wanted, no limitations brought on by socio-economic standing, race, gender that previous generations had encountered; we were almost paralyzed by the breadth and depth of our choices and most of us ended up doing something quite ordinary and pedestrian (yet worthy, as regular readers know, I strongly believe that any vocation is honorable).  Finding work that allows us to participate, to contribute within our family and community brings life into a very different focus than answering the question at 10.

 

If we each asked all of the people that we know how they wound up doing what they do to earn money, I imagine that few will provide a deliberate path to their current work.  So is it any wonder that in job loss one of the stumbling points is this renewed grappling with the question of ‘what do I really want to be?’ now that the path forward is wide open again.

 

We each want to be valued in all facets of our life, and in the work portion we would like to earn enough money to be comfortable plus just a bit more.  Some people would like to do something simple and others love to be challenged.  Luckily there are a wide variety of tasks that we could do, we just need to figure out how to decide which is best for us and how to connect to the place(s) that would offer us opportunities.

 

So it seems that the answer to my opening question is, it depends.  What is your answer?

 

This post was written in response to Daily Prompt: Ballerina Fireman Astronaut Movie Star

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Structure – Limiting or Freeing?

What is your relationship to structure?  Late last year I posted a piece about personal styles of organization, Chaos is a Style, but I’ve been thinking lately that we don’t go deep enough when we talk about organization.  Organization is an overlay concept of structure; if you aren’t aware of the structure, how can you effectively organize?

framing_house

public domain, house frame

Structure is first imposed upon all of us because we get a finite amount of time per day – nature is egalitarian in that we each get the same total minutes and hours.  After that, the forms our personal structure might take are endless.  So what do I mean by structure?

 

You move from waking through your ‘day’ (I put this in quotes because some people are awake during night hours, living opposite of most of the rest of us) until you decide to end your ‘day’ by going to sleep.  Some people don’t bracket their day with sleep, for whatever reason so we are back to the imposed structure of a 24 hour period for a day, one bleeding into the next without the break of sleep.

 

Then we get to the myriad activities, thoughts, events, tasks that fill these waking hours and the method that we use to move from one to another.  Some of these activities formulate patterns – the number of times that we eat in a given day, a work schedule, planned appointments – all of which start to fill in the details of our daily structure.  Organization is the method, or methods, that we choose to use to manage the structure that our days take on.

 

Personally, I have this mix of the creative – which requires unplanned mental and physical space to fully evolve – and logic – which prefers discipline and detailed planning for greatest efficiency and comfort.  Some days this is a tedious mix, but mostly I see this as a tremendous benefit since I can then relate to the style and structure of so many other people.

 

The structure of your day can be imposed externally by nature, by obligation (work, school, etc.), by your personality type.  It is interesting to me, and perhaps one germinating factor in this post, that the word and concepts of fluidity have come up over and again in my various experiences in the last few days.  Types of structure can go from fluid to rigid; again affected greatly by the broad points that I made in the start of this paragraph.

 

What you do with the structure of your days, your life, and about controlling the structure your life has taken on, to the extent that you can deeply affects your feelings of contentment, happiness.  Your awareness level of the structure in your life; decisions that you make as to the effectiveness of your current structure, is where the title today comes in.  If you don’t put some thought into the sort of structure that you operate best in, then you can build a life that feels all wrong.

 

Creativity and fluidity usually appear hand in hand.  Water is the best representative of fluidity, but it still requires some external structure – pitch or grade to allow flow, gravity, varying solid surfaces – what would the Grand Canyon be without these additional factors, as one example we are all given for the amazing effects that water can impose.

structure

On the opposite side is rigidity; complete inability to adapt, change, or even bend to conditions.  All people have some need for structure, but rigid folks have such a strong desire for days upon days that follow a precise pattern ad nauseam.

 

Most people fall somewhere in between complete fluidity and complete rigidity; usually exhibiting a combination of these characteristics based on the activity.  More detailed structure is welcome in one situation, but intrusive in another – limiting or freeing.  Lack of clear structure can be frightening when in a crowd, but welcome on a Sunday afternoon.

 

Have you given any thought to how structure affects you?  To the types of imposed structures that give you the best opportunity to shine?

 

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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