Last weekend I sat on a panel of business school alumni. We fielded questions from prospective MBA students. They all wanted to know…how do you manage your time when you’re studying part time and managing a full time job?
Clients don’t care that your studying and your lecturers and syndicate group members don’t care what your clients want. And what about your family and friends.
Somehow you’ve got to find a way to fit it all in. You sleep less, go out less and with a bit of practice you learn to produce much more, with a lot less effort. You simply have to.
You work out when to spend time reading thoroughly and when to skim. You come to understand the Law of Diminishing Returns and you stop re-reading and obsessing. You find the sweet spot of least input for maximum outcome.
Then you take that idea to work everyday and you start getting better results when you’re under pressure. You get great at fast and good work. And that is one of the best things about having no time, for years on end.
Last summer, in less than a mouse-click, I snapped my fibula and tibia and dislocated my ankle at roughly 45 degrees to my shin. Now, I’m a big fan of experiential learning but I have to admit, as a I lay screaming, the idea of reviewing David Kolb’s axiomatic model of reflection, the Cycle of Learning, wasn’t on my to-do list. I did come to learn, not long after, that there is indeed a website for everything. http://www.mybrokenleg.com does exist.
When Christopher Hitchens invoked the Nietzschean phrase, that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, he professed serious doubt about cancer and it’s treatment making him stronger. Ha, but a broken leg…nothing really, in the scheme of things.
Did it actually make me stronger. Doubtful. Though it did give me a lot of time to think. Mostly, I lay calmly and thought about the calming effecting of laying calmly. Nice feeling, if you can get it.
I try to recall that restfulness now that I’m upright and mobile and occassionally stressed to the eyeballs. I have to admit it is difficult to remember. I’m not sure I have any lasting lessons from the orthopaedic zone. Or maybe there is this…sometimes unexpected things happen and then you get up, get moving and get on with it.
Zero Follow Ups…is a really powerful guide to your ability to manage yourself.
It’s simple, practical, fast and measurable. Your own little self-assessment tool.
Just score yourself a point every time some one follows you up on something…client, colleague, report or boss.
If you aim for zero every week and come close, you’re doing well. Better still, the measure itself will really focus you on delivering for the people that matter to you.
I have absolutely no empirical evidence of this but I think, if you walk fast, you get more done. Not because you move from one place to another quicker but, as you speed up your body, you promote urgency and action.
Dawdling along is nice. It’s comfortable and requires no deliberate effort. Whereas fast-walking requires purposeful action, energy and mindfulness. It’s harder work.
If you make fast-walking your default, it becomes a proxy for energetic work and you are guaranteed to feel more active and get more done. You’ll think better while you’re walking and, once you get to where you’re going, you’ll fast-work your way to super-productivity.
Ditch dawdling at work and try fast-walking today.
A friend of mine has cancer. In fact, he’s coming out the other side of some pretty nasty, visceral treatment. And so far, he’s on top. But he said something recently that made me stop, and think.
“I used to be pretty shy,” he said, “but I’m learning to tell people what I want…when I want it. I mean, what am I waiting for.”
How does one become a leader? I see and hear this question a lot. People want to know how they can become leaders, or better leaders. More influential, more successful.
Leadership is like anything else. You’ve got to practice…and practice and practice…
Lead is a verb. So you can practice leadership by leading.
Do leadership everyday. The results might not be obvious each day. But like piano, public speaking, tennis or writing, over weeks and months and years you will improve and may even become pretty good. You may even attain greatness – you will certainly become your best.
Practice by showing people what can be. Lead people to new understandings. Lead people by getting it wrong and trying again. Ask people what they think. Examine your style. Experiment. Understand your defaults and try switching them. Do the difficult and be honest with yourself and others. Be courageous and keep at it.
Do one act of leading today.
Intuitively, we know that first impressions count. But not only do they count, they are very difficult to change.
The work of Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman demonstrates some startling biases that we humans exhibit.
One, that he calls Confirmation Bias, describes a tendency towards confirmatory evidence. Once we form an impression of someone / something (psychologists call them schemas) we will favour evidence that confirms our “theory” and disregard contradictory evidence. It has been shown that disconfirming evidence can in fact strengthen a pre-existing belief.
For further reading try Thinking…Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman or for an intersting and extreme example click here
Watch your biases and don’t forget to work hard to make your first impressions count.
I’ve been thinking a little about hard work.
We all work hard right? The usual definition of long hours usually comes to mind. Fine…but you can’t build a competitive advantage by putting in more time. Anyone can decide to work longer hours and do it – low barriers to entry – no particular skill required (other than say, maintaining effectiveness as hours on the job build).
So how can you work harder in unusual ways to get a true advantage which is hard to copy?
Try working difficult.
It’s a subtle but important variation on working hard. Working difficult goes to the heart of what it means to create value. You choose to do the work that others avoid, you choose to do the work that requires thinking but you do not choose the path of least resistance.
I recently attended a function at my son’s school. The Head of Junior primary presented for an hour to a group of about 150 parents about curriculum and child developmental milestones. Pretty dry stuff – but she transformed it into a totally captivating presentation by telling stories throughout…sad, funny & endearing, all the stories were about kids and their experiences…each one a metaphorical “every-child”.
Got me thinking about the power of stories in the business environment and how a ppt pres can be changed by introducing a concept and then sharing a story about its practical application. Around the same time a colleague coincidentally sent me this link…
Opinion is often derided (”well that’s just your opinion”) as inferior to fact.
I happen to value opinions a great deal. Next time someone asks you for a fact or some data, think about how you can provide them with value by offering your opinion. This might require some thinking and a little extra time but I guarantee that you’ll enrich yourself, learn more and win points with the recipient.
I have a broken leg is a fact…my opinion is that having a broken leg has made me more sanguine and tolerant and has enabled me to see life through a different lens.
Give and ask for opinions. See what you get back – you might be delighted (that’s just my opinion)