My mom tells me the story about when I first learned to write. I generally was an ambidextrous child, and decided to write with both of my hands, instead of just one.
Well apparently while in kindergarten I would write one line of text from left to right with my right hand, followed by a line of text from right to left with my left hand. So every other line I wrote was backward (as we all know, we read from left to right).
So my teacher told my mom that I have to pick a hand. I don't remember this conversation, but I guess I chose my right.
I told this story to someone not too long ago, and she replied with an interesting comment. She said, "wow, your creativity as a child was completely suppressed!"
She made an interesting point. My untrained, non-jaded brain as a 4 year old chose to do something in a different way. Not just stick with one, dominant hand but rather exercise both. However, I was forced by my superiors to do things the "right" way.
Ok, well I grew up getting mostly A's in school and getting into and graduating from an affordable college that I wanted to attend and following that up with a graduate degree. Rule following can be good and often necessary.
But this story made me think. Thinking outside of the box has always been in me but over time I became just another constant rule follower. It took almost 25 years to pass before I realized that in doing this I may have lost the instinctive, creative ability with which I was born.
Abilities to do things like create a business, do something I'm passionate about and be happy and successful by my standards and not just everyone else's who are just following the herd.
So was it a good thing that i was forced to write with one hand? I'm not sure. Maybe if my teacher and parents didn't introduce to me this structure I would be struggling today to keep order in my life, find jobs and deal with challenges deliberately and practically. Maybe not.
What i do know is that it never hurts to flex our creative muscles as adults. Maybe every once and a while we should pretend to be 4 years old again.
My sister has been drawing up resolutions like this for a while now. At the end of every year she always sends me a picture of them written down. We'll usually laugh together about them - she fully admits that they are often silly and don't amount to much.
But my sister has it on everyone. Really, she does.
I can honestly say that I've never met anyone else who sticks to their resolutions better than my sister. She keeps her piece of paper handy all year long. And she'll update me with how she's doing with each item. Sometimes she does really well with one but hasn't been paying much attention to another. So she adjusts and works on it. And by time December rolls around again she usually makes great progress and feels really good about her accomplishments.
Call them silly, but here's why my sister absolutely kicks ass at resolution-making.
1. She keeps goals small and manageable.
How many people do you know make goals like "I will lose 50 pounds?" So they pay for a gym membership in full on January 1st and try doing crazy workouts every day at 5am. I know there's no shortage of these people because of how packed the gym is during the first 2 weeks in January. Then what happens? Gym traffic dies down by mid January. So much for losing 50 pounds.
My sister's resolutions are the exact opposite. They are manageable. She can picture herself completing them on a daily basis.
2. Her resolutions are action focused.
Call my sister's resolutions meaningless, but I'd disagree. Whether she knows she's doing it or not, she's creating small, actionable ways to alter or create habits. She's taking baby steps instead of trying to lose 50 pounds. Why lose 50 when you can lose 5 first?
These small action items that can actually be accomplished on a daily basis add up to something much more meaningful than they may seem. These small things create and encourage discipline and focus, the building blocks for success and truly doing amazing things.
3. She writes her resolutions down.
Not only does this create some accountability but it helps her remember her goals. She makes sure to keep that sheet of paper handy. Notice she's not making a fancy diagram or using some overpriced app to input these resolutions. Just old fashioned pen-to-paper. And it works.
4. She shares her resolutions.
I may not be calling her every week reminding her of her resolutions, but by sharing them with me each year she's making herself more accountable. She doesn't like when winter rolls around and she has to tell me that she hasn't emptied her dishwasher on time once. So she works harder.
So here's a challenge for you. Try creating a few resolutions like the above. You might surprise yourself with what you can accomplish in a year.
Ok, I’ve lured you in.
So what’ the #1 thing that can be done at work to get ahead you ask?
Is it focus on one thing at a time and don’t multi-task?
Important, yes. But no.
Is it to not allow yourself to peruse Facebook at your desk?
Is it to check email 3-4 times per day instead of 37?
Don’t get me started on this, but that’s not it.
Listen. That’s the thing. Listen first, speak second.
I honestly believe that listening is the most important thing you can do at work in order to be successful.
It sounds simple. You might think you are a good listener. And maybe you are.
But there is always room for improvement when it comes to listening.
Because listening isn’t just the act of listening. It’s also the act of not speaking! This can be very challenging.
I always find that I want to speak immediately if I know an answer, or I have input on something due to past experience. Yet time and time again I am always in a better position when I listen first before speaking my mind. This helps me fully understand what someone is telling me, fully understand how much they know and how much they don’t, and be able to read the situation well enough to know if I even have the right to speak up!
In listening – and waiting to speak – I am actually more respected and viewed as a better thought leader when I do speak. Here’s why:
Now of course, when you do speak, make it smart sounding. Know what you’re talking about. Formulate a response based on what you heard. And if you don’t have a smart response, just ask a few questions and listen some more!
Successful sales people understand how important it is to be a good listener. I think more business people outside of the world of sales can work on this trait in order to be a successful, well-rounded and well-respected professional in the workplace.
I encounter people on a weekly basis who say the following:
“I don’t have time.”
“I’m so stressed out.”
“I have a million things to do.”
“If only there were more than 24 hours in a day.”
You get the idea. I'm sure you hear the same thing as well, and likely are also saying it on a weekly basis.
These things may be true, but my approach is to not make this a day to day mantra. Instead, create a trusted system that helps you take action on the million things in your head.
I think people can learn a lot from David Allen’s book Getting Things Done. A lot of people aren't jumping to read the book as it does go into a lot of depth and encourages a pretty big life transformation in order to truly master the art of getting things done.
I love the book, and I think there are a some important ideas that can help people feel like they are getting more things done and feel less stressed. Skip the book if you're not into reading it and take note of these tips:
Has anyone read Getting Things Done? Do you implement this system into your work/personal life?
Something I'm noticing in offices is that people spend their entire day reacting instead of acting in a thought out manner throughout the day.
An email comes through, causes some sort if emotion and it just has to be responded to right away. So the worker rushes through a reply that barely makes sense and hits send. Why? It can't wait 10 minutes?
Or instead of listing three priority items for the day and ensuring they get done, the day is spent (and wasted) constantly reacting to emails, calls and what others shout to them over the cubicle.
Can this be avoided in an office setting? Well, it is very difficult, but it can be done.
I'm guilty myself of playing the react game during the work day. It's a constant struggle to take a step back and actually think about what is going on and what is truly important that day.
I even find most managers and supervisors don't do much to help their workers be properly active throughout the day. This has been my experience and it is pretty astonishing.
Managers should be the guiding light of how the day should be approached. Instead of throwing out a bunch of random tasks to workers, why not organize them into a project plan? Then there's no need to do spur of the moment delegating.
Does anyone else face similar situations in the work place? Please share!
Email is a great work tool. But when did email become Instant Messenger? I thought email was a way to communicate and exchange documents and ideas, with the intent that the recipient can view and respond when they are able to check their inbox.
Email is the electronic form of mail. You have a mailbox, and mail is put in the box for a receiver. Once the receiver checks their mailbox, they can decide when/how to answer and/or discard the mail.
So why in an office setting are people sending emails, most of the time without full complete sentences or a subject line that explains what the email is about, then almost instantaneously asking that person (verbally) if they got their email?
Doesn’t this defeat the purpose of email?
Would you mail a letter to someone and call them up an hour later and ask if they got it and why they haven’t read it yet?
No, you wouldn’t.
I have read many articles about email organization and productivity, many advising to set aside specific times to check email during the day, and making a decision after each email. This means taking a specific action at the time the email is read, whether it be deleting it, responding to it, or moving it to a “later” task list and marked with a specific follow up date/action, etc.
Of course in a customer service type of setting, email is treated a bit differently, but generally doing the above helps to add more time to the workday to do productive things with complete focus.
Most people are less productive when they are constantly checking their inbox. Email alerts and notifications act as a constant distraction throughout the day. How can the brain focus on completing one task when it is constantly being forced to multitask and give attention to a completely different thing?
Eventually time gets diluted and nothing actually gets done.
In an office setting, if something needs direct attention, I urge people to walk over to the recipient’s desk and discuss it face to face. Don’t set up a meeting (meetings usually are a waste of time), just handle it face to face. Then a real discussion about priorities for the recipient can happen, a timeline can be made if necessary and both parties can agree on when the item should be tended to.
Now, if you approach it this way, I think you’ll find that most things people think are urgent and worth bothering and interrupting the receiver aren’t actually so when they think about taking a few seconds to physically get up from their desk and talk about it face to face.
So let email be email. And take some actual time to make emails make some sense. This means being precise but clear in the body of the email regarding its intent and any action items. It also means writing a proper subject line so the recipient has a good idea if they need to make that email a priority.
My belief is that no one should be writing an initial email communication (in a work setting) in less than 30 seconds. I guarantee that if this is done, something will be left out, and in the end more time is wasted communicating back and forth like Instant Messenger. Save the prolonged effort and put time in up front.
Oh, and get some sort of messaging system for the office. Then people can actually message when they need to and use email the way it should be used.
Do you agree? Disagree? Please comment!
Behance is a company I learned of through a book I read called Making Ideas Happen. The company started in 2006 with a mission to put control back into the hands of creative professionals.
One of the company's main philosophies is the use of the Action Method, a method designed to help push projects forward by organizing ideas and focusing on action steps. By incorporating the Action Method into your lifestyle, you work to constantly create action items as a result of meetings, brainstorm sessions, phone calls, etc. so there is a focus toward getting things done. No more leaving meetings without clear vision or direction. Each action item must start with a verb so it tells you to actually DO something when you read it. Once you complete an action item, you check it off your list.
I bought Behance's Action Journal and have really enjoyed using it as my go-to notebook for work items. It helps keep me focused. You can easily create your own action journal with a regular old notebook, but buying new organizational items makes me happy, so I spent the $17.50 on the hard covered journal. I think it's important for everyone to determine their own system to making things happen, and a good place to start is by learning the Action Method.
Learn more about the Action Method.
I'm Kim. I like to work hard but not enough to stop having fun and enjoying life. I hope I never stop learning and exploring. Other people inspire me to be and do better every day. Read on for reflections on work and play.