For Your Contemplation
Are you often the person who raises his or her hand when someone asks for help? Do you also volunteer to help when no one has asked? (I know, ouch. It’s OK. Just stay with me.) Sure, stepping up to help sounds like a good – even noble – idea, but if you find yourself “complaining” about how exhausted and busy you are, and spend a lot of time working on things that are not YOUR priorities, it might be time to investigate your motivations.
Some of the words we use to describe our relationship to time and productivity carry a pretty heavy judgment, often not favorable. They are concept words, in that they point to mental assessments that may or may not be true. Furthermore, their repeated use often puts an end to inquiry, other than to figure out how we should be different, or the other person should be different.
I’ve been thinking – as I often do – about this whole thing we’ve invented called Productivity. It seems to be one of those areas of life I’m here to question. It might be an outgrowth of the years when I was so ill I couldn’t be a consistently “productive” human being, or a predilection for laziness! I don’t think so (on the latter) but I do enjoy large doses of “time-luxury.”
Many people rate the quality of their day based on how “productive they are, where productive is equated to results or the tasks completed.
"Why" is a question that has to be answered when you start a business and again – and again - as your business grows and lifestyle needs change. Healthy or not, complicated circumstances or not, if you’re feeling any level of stress regarding your business – or your job – it may be time to reexamine your motivations in order to assess potential conflicts.
Your working conditions can have a greater impact on your sense of well-being and on your productivity than you might realize. When you're not in the right environment for you, it doesn't matter what you do, things won't be quite right. Even the people you love will not be as lovely to you if you're not in an environment that nourishes you.
Good self (or body) care is not an after-hours event, but a regular practice of mindfulness that starts with careful consideration of the projects, clients and work you pursue or accept and ends with awareness of your body’s need to move, eat and rest.
Is anyone really only working 8-5 any more? If not, why do most company owners and CEO's still insist on a traditional start and stop times to the work day?
Control? Habit? Democracy? Compliance?
Well, then, what is a midday guy to do? What if you're going to be much more effective - and happier - if you were able to start your workday at noon, let's say?
The strengths-based approach to assigning business tasks has been in vogue for a good 20 years. Still, as healthy - fun - and effective as this approach is, it’s an elusive little bugger (watched Notting Hill yesterday, so I might be channeling Hugh Grant-speak today.) Neglecting or postponing use of your favored talents for what you “have to do first” depletes your business efforts, as you will often do things that are best left alone or to others. You suffer, too, but that is not always enough to inspire a change in direction.
You can't be all things to all people and win. You can try, but you're likely to burn up in the process. Even if you have the skills to perform many of the operations in your business it is not necessarily wise, especially time or energy are limited. I just started working with an owner to develop her business model and revenue plans for the year. Right now her business model is fairly simple …
Myth: If you want to be successful in business you must be immediately responsive to client requests, no matter how inconvenient or unreasonable. If you don’t you’ll lose business. Truth: If you want to build a sustainable business, you have the right to establish guidelines that enable you to respond to reasonable requests in a reasonable time frame. The best clients for your business will understand and respect reasonable guidelines.
Last week was an interesting week in coaching. Three of my clients are starting to make changes that put them face-to-face with some well-worn fears or beliefs. Without their commitment to create something new in their business lives, these familiar "friends" have been able to lie low enough to be bothersome, but otherwise remain unchallenged. Even though the cruddy old beliefs and nerve-wracking fears are different for each person, the method for dismantling them is the same.
Picture a rubber band for a moment. With very little tension it sits there “doing nothing,” lying on your desk somewhat formless and lifeless. At first glance, you might think it's not very useful in this state. However, I'd like to think that the rubber band at rest could be equated to the moments in our lives when we are quiet and calm, either in a meditative state or enjoying a good night's sleep.
"People often fail in their careers because they have been trying to live out someone else’s idea of what a life’s work should be." ~ Marcia Menter I resembled that! The battle within showed up through a lot of job-hopping in my 20's and 30's, toggling between "acceptable" job choices and those more aligned with my inner drive to do work that matters and helps others do the same.
Many of the people I talk to have a limited amount of time and/or energy to allocate to their business activities, as few as 3-5 hours a day. Some are limited because they are still on the mend after a significant health setback … Others have children at home. Regardless of their specific circumstance, they feel the pressure of having far fewer hours for business activities than they have ideas and work projects.
When life throws you for a loop, and your circumstances today look bleaker than time before a precipitating event or situation, you may find yourself stuck in a circular comparison trap. Whether I'm talking to a business owner who is suddenly having difficulty attracting new clients, or an entrepreneur who has been significantly impacted by a health set back, their ability to rebuild and restore is affected by the degree to which they continue to compare their present circumstances with a preferred past.
You might think that this is about your singular ability to affect change, but today it is not. It’s about how you approach planning your day. Years ago I was trained in a program called Work Less, Make More®, developed by the late Jennifer White. Jennifer used the “Power of Three” as an organizing principle for establishing priorities around the unending list of tasks most of us work from. I have begun to think that the Power of One is a more realistic model for establishing priorities on any given day.
Most people think of limitations as problematic. The word is most commonly – and mistakenly - associated with lack of freedom, pending failure and inadequacy. To the ambitious, highly motivated entrepreneur, the idea that there may be limitations in what they can accomplish is somewhat terrifying and most certainly frustrating. Specifically, they have difficulties dealing with:
- Limitations in time
- Limitation in energy
- Limitation in capacity
Some respond with rebellion, as if limitations are a personal affront to their freedom. They are not. In fact, the opposite is true.
Compared to the allure of, let's say, doubling your income in 90 days, improved self-care practices are not usually as interesting or compelling to business owners. However, deliberate, routine self-care practices ultimately translate into focus. Focus makes a real difference in achieving sustainable business growth. There’s an old story in the coaching world, or perhaps it’s an urban legend; I am not sure. It’s a story about an executive who was lamenting his lack of time for golf. He hired a coach to help him become better organized and more productive so that he could take time off for golf one afternoon a week. Much to his surprise, the coach told him tostart scheduling his weekly golf date first. Low and behold, upon taking this one action, the executive found it easier to organize his priorities and improve his focus during the hours remaining for work.
What’s at work here? Happiness, perspective and rejuvenation. The less time you give to work, the less time it will take. The happier you are, the greater your interest and motivation to work when it's time to work. The more refreshed you are, the easier it is to make decisions about what's really important to success. And so on and so on.
Question: "Can you help me with X?" Reply: "No, that won't work for me."
It's such a simple, straight forward reply, yet most people experience extreme anxiety even when it's really the best response. To the logical mind, such a statement is a no-brainer. But the emotional mind, the one that often calls the shots, seems to say that it's better to sublimate your personal interests than to risk disappointing someone else.
Just a few days ago, a colleague told me that he had decided to stop engaging with a professional mastermind group that he'd been participating with for about 5 months. When he informed the group leader of his plans to discontinue, the leader asked him to attend one last time so he could tell people that he was leaving and why.
Are your shoulders become hunched? Is your breathing shallow? Have your legs all but disappeared from your awareness? When your job requires more sitting than standing - and more brain power than strength - it’s easy to override or miss “request signals” your body sends your way, such as:
• Please get up and stretch • Take me for a walk • I really do need a trip to the bathroom • I’m thirsty • Ahem. I’m hungry. Could you get up out of your chair and feed me? • No! Don’t sit down in front of the computer again. We’re eating and I’d like to enjoy the food. • The sun is shining and it’s beautiful outside. A little vitamin D would be nice. • My muscles are atrophying. Could we use them a bit? • Hello! I’ve got nothing more to give today! Please stop working.