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New Year’s Resolutions

31 December 2011 Leave a comment

What is the big deal with New Year’s resolutions? We all make them. Yes, even me. I’m going to spend a moment here beating up on resolutions, but I do make them, too.

I have a number of resolutions for 2012, three that I’ll share.

1)I need to shed a few pounds. Don’t we all these days? Last spring I lost 30 pounds by being meticulous about my food. Not necessarily what I ate, but how much I ate. Portion control. Oh, and 90 days of a pretty intense exercise program. As of Christmas I’ve gained 25 of those pounds back. Gotta get rid of them.

2) I also want to write a novel. I started research and planning several years ago. I even wrote the first chapter. In 2011, I put in a decent effort and made some satisfactory progress. But it’s time to finish it.

3) The most realistic of my goals is to read one book a month. I love reading. I haven’t decided on the list yet. I’ll put together a draft and post it. I’ll call it a draft because if something new comes around later, I want the right to adjust my list to include the new find. If any of you have some suggestions that are not on my recommended reading list, I would love to see them.

So, resolutions. I (we) have all these things we want to begin on January 1. My question: Why are we waiting? Why are we procrastinating? If these things are going to make us so much more excellent, why put them off? “Never put off tomorrow what you can do today.” (Thomas Jefferson) I decided not to. I started losing the weight the day after Christmas. (Down four pounds already!) I haven’t started reading yet, nor have I spent any time writing the novel. But, hey, I have to start somewhere.

There are probably a lot of things we could or even should put off, but not the things that make us more excellent. Quit smoking. Eat healthier. Spend more time with your family. Read Todd’s “Repeat Excellence” blog more regularly.

Bottom line: If you have resolutions, start them today. Don’t wait until tomorrow.

See you next year. Cheers.
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Categories: General

The $5 Lawn

29 December 2011 5 comments

Many many years ago I heard the story of the $5 lawn. I found this reference as told by Vaughn J. Featherstone and this one. Both cite Richard Thurman as the original author (Reader’s Digest, June 1958).

The story is told of a young teenage boy hired by a countess to care for her lawn. Each day the lad works in the yard and then reports to the countess the value of his work. “A $5 lawn is impossible” and “A $4 lawn is rare,” she would say. With things in perspective he repeatedly finished a $3 or $3.50 lawn each day, continually falling short of the $4 mark. Until one day he realized it was not the $4 he really wanted, but the $5 was truly his goal. He set about thinking what he needed to do to be worthy of the $5. On the appointed day, he arrived early and labored late into the evening. He worked for short bursts and napped periodically in the shade of the tree. His work was meticulous and each completed task spurred him on to his $5 goal. The countess was shocked when he asked for the $5. But after a careful inspection, she agreed that he had done the impossible.

I found some interesting parallels with modern day excellence, particularly my recent post, Seven Things Highly Productive People Do. There seems to be some credibility in working for 60-90 minutes and then resting.

Also, this idea of “impossible” . . . The word was invented by someone who never tried. I really like this quote by Audrey Hepburn:  “Nothing is impossible. The word itself says ‘I’m Possible!'”  We can accomplish what we set our mind to.

Write it down. Break it down. Finish it up.

 

What “I’m possible” things have you accomplished?

Categories: General, Time Management

Pozin’s Seven Things Highly Productive People Do

28 December 2011 1 comment

Ilya Pozin recently posted “7Things Highly Productive People Do“. I don’t think there is any rocket science here; I’ve seen similar lists in Dave Ramsey’s EntreLeadership and in that [insert lazy guy’s book].

1. Work backwards from goals to milestones.

You cannot write “Rebuild the company website” at the top of your ToDo list and expect it to happen. You’ve got to break it down into smaller and smaller steps. How do you eat an elephant? One bit at a time. Rebuild your website (or whatever) the same way. Break the goal into 5-10 smaller milestones with a deadline date. Then break the milestones into 5-10 smaller tasks. Depending on the goal, you should now have a much more manageable list of items to add to your ToDo list.

2. Stop multi-tasking

In 2005, the British conducted a survey and concluded that switching tasks frequently lowers your IQ by 10 points. Actually, 10 is the average. It was -15 points for men and -5 for women. Women’s brains are wired differently than men’s (duh!). They are far better at multi-tasking.

3. Eliminate distractions

Close your office door and post a sign: “Single-Tasking: Please do not disturb!” People will get the message and a little chuckle. And you’ll get the 60 minutes you need to focus. See below.

4. Schedule your email

This is not a new concept. I was taught this principle at a productivity seminar at Educause 2009. Make email the second or third thing on your daily task list. Generally, people are more productive first thing in the morning. But what is the first thing you did this morning when you arrived at the office (or even before breakfast)? You got “caught up” on your email. If you read your email first, you are allowing other people to manage your time. Email was designed to be non-invasive, but we’ve turned it into our own personal bull whip. I was taught to read and respond to email 2.5 times a day: at 10:00 am and 2:00 pm. Then do a quick scan at about 4:30 to ensure there are no truly urgent matters that need attention today.

5. Use the phone

Email is also not a good medium for long conversations. If you’re getting ready to respond for the third time in a thread, STOP. Pick up the phone and finish the conversation verbally. According to Six Sigma, waiting is one of the biggest harms to productivity. If you’re only responding to email twice a day, the person on the other end has waited at least 24 hours to get to the end of the conversation. Pick up the phone and finish it.

6. Work on your own agenda

This is the culmination of everything above. Create a prioritized task list and stick to it.

7. Work in 60-90 minute intervals

Your mind is one of the largest consumers of glucose. It needs periodic breaks to recharge. Focus on one task for an hour and then take a break. In an eight  hour day you end up actually working about 6.5 to 7 hours, but they will be far more productive and rewarding hours than if you continue to flit around like a butterfly from task to task every 5 minutes.

I tried working for 90 minutes straight on a single task. Couldn’t do it! My mind wondered pitifully. I’m working up to it. I’m currently at 60 minute intervals and it seems to be the right time frame for me. It was kind of like starting a new exercise program: You don’t drop on day 1 and pump out 100 push-ups. You have to condition the body to do that. I started with 15 minutes. I set the timer on my iPad and did one thing for 15 minutes. I was amazed at how long 15 minutes really is. I was also amazed at how much of the task I completed. When the timer went off, I walked down the hall, got a drink, read a Dilbert hanging outside a co-workers office, and then began another interval. I did 15 minute intervals for a few days and then bumped it to 30 minutes and then to 60.

Our mind and bodies have been trained by the television networks to focus for 15 minute intervals. 15 minutes of program and 3 minutes of commercial. And repeat over and over again. I’ve been doing that for 44 years. I would expect it to take a little time to overcome that conditioning!

Categories: Time Management

Recommended Reading

27 December 2011 Leave a comment

EntreLeadership

EntreLeadership by Dave Ramsey

Quite Possibly the BEST book about leadership I have ever read! I found ways to incorporate Dave’s ideas into all dimensions of my life–work, church, family, and organizations–even if I am not the leader in those dimensions.

Getting Things Done

Getting Things Done by David Allen

David’s method of getting organized and staying organized seemed revolutionary. It changed the way I look at paper, what I keep and what I don’t, and it changed the way I manage my time.

Making It All Work

Making It All Work by David Allen

The sequel to Getting Things Done. This book put everything I do into perspective. It definitely refined the processes I learned in the former book.

How to Talk to Anyone

How to Talk to Anyone by Leil Lowndes

I bought this on a whim while perusing the bookstore one day. The subtitle is “92 little tricks for big success in relationships.” It is just that. Trying to apply all 92 into my life proved to be overwhelming. I now review the table of contents a couple times a month and attempt to incorporate a new concept periodically.

From Good to Great

From Good to Great by Jim Collins

A classic read for all business oriented people. Example after example of good and bad business ventures and management.

Pursuit of Excellence

Pursuit of Excellence by

Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

 

Please share other titles of excellence that you’ve found inspiring.

Categories: Books

Repeating Excellence – Inception

26 December 2011 Leave a comment

I ran across Jeremy and Jill Salvador’s blog, Zero Passive Income,  and was inspired to write about my pursuit of self-improvement. “Repeat Excellence” is the product of that inspiration.

The title Repeat Excellence comes from a quote by Aristotle:

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.”

I am a firm believer that all things good and wholesome, including excellence, do not happen by chance and they do not happen without effort. For years I have been reading and studying ways to better manage my time, ways to be a better employer and a better employee, ways to improve my familial relationships, and techniques get the most out of life. My goal is to share my findings (and those yet to be found) with you.

Categories: General