When the Obstacle becomes the Opportunity

When the Obstacle becomes the Opportunity

A Sunday afternoon in early Spring.  Heads hung low.  One kid is crying…then another.  Like Dominoes.  Blaming each other.  Blaming the ref.  10-1.  Final Score.

I have the privilege of coaching my son’s soccer team.  They are 7 and 8 yr olds.  Young…very impressionable.  We walked off the field a few weeks ago as 10-1 losers.  Down early 2-0, we decided to pack it in.  Lots of pouting, lots of negativity.  2-0 quickly become 5-0 at halftime and I knew during the halftime talk that I lost them.

I don’t usually do this but I called a meeting after the game with both our players and parents. Look, I get that these kids are young, but this was about more than some sport.  This was life stuff.  This was an opportunity masked in adversity.  We wear a slogan on our shirts – “Become Better”.  We talked that day about responding to adversity.  We talked about stepping up when things don’t go our way.  We talked about not pouting and being resilient.  I wasn’t sure how it would resonate.

Fast forward two weeks.  We played the same team, different result.  4-3 loss.  We were in it. There were signs of resilience being born.  The seed was planted….or so I hoped.  One week later, playing the best team in our age group in Columbus – down 4-1….we decided to fight back…we ended up losing 5-3.  Progress…

Over the course of the next few weeks, more of the pouts and sulking turned into grit and focus.  Every game, every practice, it was a constant melody line.  Step up.  Respond.  Control what you can control.  I know – just 7 and 8 – you may be thinking I’m crazy….but, the opportunity to teach was staring me in the face.  These boys are like potter’s clay right now.  We continued to beat the drum.

Three weeks ago.  A sunny Sunday afternoon.  Our third Final in the last two seasons.  We were ready.  We just stepped up in our early morning semi-final and played our best game ever.  We were ready.  The game turned south quickly.  Parents were yelling, refs were yelling – it was, frankly, too much pressure on these young kids.  We were the better team that day in the first half but couldn’t put the ball in the net.  That frustration added on to the intensity of the game turned into a debacle in the second half.  We started to complain again.  We stopped controlling what we could.  The emotion of the game took over.  Result – 3-0 Loss.  The good news – we didn’t totally give up like we did a few weeks back.  Another teaching opportunity…

So, we continued to talk about stepping up….being resilient…our melody line.

Our final tournament was this past weekend.  This would be our last time together as soccer in the US is changing the way the age groups are laid out.  The team, these boys, will be splitting up this Fall.  So, the test was upon us.  How would we perform?

In our two early games, we found ourselves behind.  As I said earlier, our MO had been to pack it in when things weren’t going our way just a few weeks ago.  We found a way to win both of those.  I started to hear some of my players pick each other up.  I could see it in their faces.  Focus, resilience – a beautiful thing to watch.

So, we were on to our Final….and an opportunity to redeem our game from two weeks earlier – we were playing the same team.  Let’s just say the last game didn’t end well.  There were hard fouls and words between coaches and parents.  It wasn’t pretty.  It was actually everything that’s wrong with youth sports.  Thankfully, we were able to work with this team, the refs and the parents, to ensure the atmosphere would be a positive one for both teams.  It was intense, but much more palatable for these kids to have fun and compete.

Five minutes in….my boys our down 0-2.  Familiar territory.  This time, though….no quit.  I even heard one of my players yelling on the field to “keep fighting”.  I felt good about this one.  We indeed battled back…made it 2-1 by halftime.  Tied it up in the second half, then took the lead 3-2.  After conceding a late goal, we went to a Penalty Kick Shoot Out.  It’s a crap shoot in those things and I feel bad for anyone who’s on the losing end.  Our first player missed his, they made.  Not a good start.  Second player (my son, Gabe), makes, their kid misses, so we’re back in it.  Our third and final shooter has to make to send it to Sudden Death Penalty Kicks, where you go one for one. He makes.  Talk about pressure on these kids.  Our 4th and 5th players both scored….so did they. So, it came down player 6…our Goalie makes a save.  Now, it’s down to one of my little guys – I wasn’t even sure if he could get the ball to the goal.  He steps up and buries it.  We win.  The joy on these kids faces…

But…the result didn’t matter.  It really didn’t.  These kids already showed what they were made of.  2-0 down no longer became the cause for panic…the catalyst for blaming each other….for sulking.  2-0 down now becomes the rallying cry.  The opportunity.  The melody line.

I learned a lot of lessons coaching these kids.  It reaffirmed a lot for me on how to handle situations in life and in business.  We all have a choice.  Every day.  The cards may be stacked against us in many ways.  In fact, you should expect from time to time that the cards are indeed stacked against you.  The question though….what are you going to do about it?  Will you see it as an opportunity?

My hope is that these seeds are firmly planted inside these kids.  They see the fruits of their labor. They tasted what it was like to be resilient.  I pray that they will look back on this experience many years from now as they push through whatever it is they’re facing in life.

Success Habits

Success Habits

I had the opportunity recently to dive into the minds of over 35 business executives, entrepreneurs, business developers, key project leads, etc.  My findings were pretty fascinating and I thought I’d share some of this with you.

What started as a small project back in November as I reached out to a few colleagues around what makes them successful, turned into a full-blown research project, where I had the opportunity to spend many hours with very successful people in many lines of business (over 75 hours of research and deep conversation!).

First, for some background.  I work for a tech company, CCC Information Services, out of Chicago in a sales role.  I’m half way through my sixteenth year (I know, who works for anyone for sixteen years anymore??).  It’s a great company.  Very forward thinking, very high performance culture. We’ve averaged approximately 24% yr over yr Return on Equity during this time.  I tell you that not to brag, but to point out that many of the people I talked to work for CCC….and it’s definitely a high performance culture.  The results are there – but I can assure you that everyone goes about their work in a different way.  Some better than others….most have the good and the bad – things they do really well and things they can improve.  One of the objectives was to uncover both and help everyone get a little bit better.

I started the project because I knew I’d be able to learn something from some of my colleagues about what they do on a day to day basis that sets them apart.  I really believe no matter how much success you have or how “good” you are today, if you’re not looking to get better it’s a recipe for disaster.  I say that from experience.  Nine years ago I got a big promotion.  I was 30 yrs old and if I’m being honest – got a little complacent.  I stopped pushing the envelope and thought I had “made it”.  Thankfully, I got a wake up call a few years ago and my mindset is all about continuous growth. Hard lesson, but a great lesson.

Back to my research and some key findings.  I say it was fascinating because I was blown away by the candor and how different people approach things.  I liken the conversations to that picture of the iceberg where all you see is what’s above the water.  You know the one I’m talking about – where you can only see a small piece above and there’s this huge piece below the surface we never see.  This was such a big theme – everyone had so much they did on a day to day basis that they really never thought about.  I found that many never thought about their daily habits and what made them “successful”.  I put that in italics because success is certainly different for everyone.  I can definitely tell you that although important, financial success was rarely the primary factor. In fact, the idea of serving and adding value was a big theme for most.  The best of the best definitely had a contribution mindset that set them apart.  That was cool to see.

I thought I’d list out a few key learnings and the cool part is this has opened up a much larger conversation about how we can all learn from each other.

Three core themes stuck out and they are as follows:

  1. Theme #1 – Mindset – Everyone has challenges in their daily lives.  It was a pervasive theme.  The best of the best have a resiliency to them.  A grit factor, I’ll call it.  They know that things won’t always go their way but they’re focused on moving forward.  Carol Dweck, who wrote the book “Mindset – The New Psychology of Success” refers to two different types of approaches.  One is a Fixed Mindset and the other is a Growth Mindset.  Here’s what Dweck says about Fixed Mindsets – “In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.”  Here’s what she says about Growth Mindsets – “People with a growth mindset, on the other hand, see their qualities as things that can be developed through their dedication and effort. Sure they’re happy if they’re brainy or talented, but that’s just the starting point. They understand that no one has ever accomplished great things—not Mozart, Darwin, or Michael Jordan—without years of passionate practice and learning.”  Make sense?  We can all get better.  Whatever cards you’re dealt today are simply the hand you are dealt.  You have a choice with how you play that hand.  This is crucial – without this foundation, I’m not sure anything else matters.
  2. Theme #2 – Planning – The best plan their work everyday.  They don’t let the urgency of others own what they do.  They utilize their calendars to schedule important tasks and meetings.  As Stephen Covey said in “7 Habits of Highly Successful People”, the best definitely “Begin with the end in mind”.  Abraham Lincoln has a great quote, “Give me six hours to cut down a tree and I’ll spend the first four sharpening the axe.”  Think about that…we often times want to dive into our email or daily grind….but are you really thinking about your work the right way.  The best focus on high impact work and plan their day around that.  Quick tip – Pick your top one-three most important projects for the day.  Write down 1-3 definitive outcomes you aim to achieve today for each….then set a timer for 90 minutes and get to work on those and those only.  Don’t check your phone, don’t go on social media, don’t get lost in email. Focus for 90 minutes on your top three projects.  I promise you that if you can do this on a continuous basis, you will build great momentum and will start to really get some high impact results.
  3. Theme #3 – Fuel – The best fuel for optimal performance.  This means they think like an athlete when they work.  Whether it’s what you put into your body (food/liquid) or how much you sleep, I can assure the best of the best are thinking about this.  In fact, I talked to a very successful CEO who chuckled about the notion of CEO’s pulling all nighters and working 80 hour weeks.  He counted sleep as one of the primary components to his success.  The average amount of sleep per night was about seven hours for these top performers.  There were some that operated on less but I can tell you that their stress level was a lot higher.  When it comes to what you put in your body, if you ever played a sport, did you perform well if you just at a Big Mac and Vanilla Shake before your game?  I think we both know the answer – so, why would you eat a bunch of junk during your work day?  To perform at an optimal level, you MUST think about what you’re fueling your body and mind with.

These are definitely the top three themes that came to the surface but there were a lot more that are important to the daily success.  I can tell you that most woke up early but not all.  I talked to some very successful folks who aren’t early risers…they still do high impact work.  The fun part is that the conversation continues to evolve.  I haven’t written much lately as my focus has been on other projects, but I plan on diving deeper on this topic.

Especially now, with so much coming at us on a moment to moment basis, the habits we build and focus we put into place is essential to achieving any type of result.

I’d love to hear from you.  What’s the one habit/ritual/thing that helps you achieve what you set out to on a daily basis?

Thanks for reading.

Jon

What are we chasing?

What are we chasing?

I read this parable many years ago and once again saw recently in a Jimmy John’s as I was with my son, Gabe.  I think it’s a really great lesson for anyone chasing success and wondering what really matters.  It’s a question all of us should ponder consistently as it’s easy to get caught in the trap of chasing down things that may seem to matter on the surface, but ultimately, don’t provide you with real happiness.

The Mexican Fisherman and the Investment Banker (Author Unknown)

An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, “only a little while.”

The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish?

The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.

The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, and stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life.”

The American scoffed. “I have an MBA from Harvard, and can help you,” he said. “You should spend more time fishing, and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, and eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middle-man, you could sell directly to the processor, eventually opening up your own cannery. You could control the product, processing, and distribution,” he said. “Of course, you would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then Los Angeles, and eventually to New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “Oh, 15 to 20 years or so.”

“But what then?” asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time was right, you would announce an IPO, and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions!”

“Millions – then what?”

The American said, “Then you could retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you could sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, and stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play guitar with your amigos.”

If this resonates with you, I strongly suggest you save it somewhere and read it from time to time.  It brings to mind a great bible verse that brings a similar message –  For what good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul – Mathew 16:26.

Have a great week.

Jon

The-Parable-of-the-Mexican-Fisherman-and-Investment-Banker2-1024x760

Filling Buckets…

  
“Let’s fill other people’s buckets full so you can have friends.” – Gabriel Giganti (7 yrs old)
Wow. I can’t tell how happy this makes me. Michelle has a quote board up in our kitchen. It’s usually a quote or bible verse from another source. This quote is from my son, Gabe.  And, I love the 1st grade misspellings : ). That makes it extra special!

We always talk about filling people’s buckets. Build people up – don’t tear them down. It’s not always easy but if you’re intentional about it, it can change the world! 

So, how about you?  Do you focus on building people up?  How about your bucket?  Are you surrounded by people and influences that add to it or deplete it?  If it’s the latter, think about how you can associate yourself with bucket fillers. 

Author Tom Rath wrote a great buck called “How Full is Your Bucket” where I learned this metaphor a few years ago. The kids version is even better. 

So, go fill some buckets!

Embrace the Struggle (TJ’s Lesson 1)

Embrace the Struggle (TJ’s Lesson 1)

TJ Lesson 1

Without failure, there’s no understanding of success.

Without pain, there’s no hope for a better place.

Without the knowledge of death, there’s no embracing life to the fullest.

I recently had a very close friend of mine die. His name is TJ. He was 39. Just 39 – he died unexpectedly of a massive brain hemorrhage. He was playing music and playing with his kids on a Friday night, kissed his wife good night, I’m sure…then, by noon the next day he was unconscious and struggling to live. He died later that night.

39 years….leaves behind 3 beautiful children and a wife, as well as many other friends, family, co-workers & acquaintances. He went to bed that night and had no idea it would be his last time going through the daily rituals of life on earth. The good news is that his legacy will live on.

The truth is, we never know when our last breath will come. Life is short. It hurts a lot sometimes, but it’s important to embrace it as best you can.

Just last year, TJ completed his first Marathon. He struggled to finish. I remember talking to him during his training and I know it was a grind, especially with a growing family. For anyone that’s run a marathon, you know the time commitment of the long runs and the mental commitment to prepare. I ran three in my younger days and didn’t have a family yet so it was a lot easier to train. He talked about the grind and the challenge of race day. It’s a metaphor for life. You can read the entire post on his experience training and running here.

Life will knock you upside the head. It will. Some of you are probably going through some very challenging times.

Know that you’re not alone. Life is many times about struggle. I’m learning that life is often times about EMBRACING…THE…STRUGGLE.

In a marathon where your legs are burning up and cramping and you still have six miles to go, or in life where it feels like there’s no hope…and, you tell yourself that maybe it’s better to just quit – know that sometimes it’s the next step that gets you headed in the right direction.

There’s a great scene in Finding Nemo (I’ve seen it many times with my kiddos!) – Dori is a fish, voiced by Ellen Degeneres, that goes on a journey with Marlin (Nemo’s dad) to find Nemo. Dori drops a scuba mask that Marlin thinks is the only chance to help him find his son. He’s frustrated and ready to give up and Dori tells him “When life gets you down, you know what you gotta do?” – then goes on to say “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming.”

So, as life gets you down and you find yourself questioning what’s next. You find yourself in a hole wondering how you’ll ever get out. No matter your circumstance, no matter the situation, there is hope. Sometimes it’s one day, one step, one breath away.

Sometimes, you just have to keep swimming!

TJ lived a great life. He was a great friend to many and was a man of deep faith. I believe fully that his legacy will live on. He wrote a post on his blog last year that outlined 39 life lessons. I’ve had the privilege of putting his daily lessons into an image each day so that others may benefit from his wisdom and life experience. This picture at the start of the post was taken in recent years of him standing on a beach at sun rise.

 

TJ Turner – Director at Vertex, Inc.

TJ Turner – Director at Vertex, Inc.

I had the great opportunity to participate in a Catalyst Igniter Cohort under Jon Giganti’s leadership. In my corporate career of over 15 years I’ve attended all types of training and personal development courses and had the opportunity to work with some great mentors and coaches, but there is something special and different about Jon’s approach. He worked with a few of us who were all in different places with our careers and in life in general to create an energy and dialogue that promoted unique growth among each of us.

This experience helped me to take inventory of what’s important, think about how I am managing my time, and draw upon others’ experiences to look ahead and set worthwhile and well thought out goals for myself. Jon’s genuine care for each person, his great listening ability, and knack for sharing what he has learned from others and facilitating us towards action was nothing short of extraordinary! Thank you Jon!

5 Fool-proof Keys to Using Checklists (So You WILL Dominate Your Day!)

5 Fool-proof Keys to Using Checklists (So You WILL Dominate Your Day!)

Do you utilize checklists to manage your day?  Especially for consistent tasks that you need to perform each and every day.  If you’re not, you need to.

Checklists can literally be a life saver.  Just ask Atul Gawande, who wrote a fantastic book called “The Checklist Manifesto”.  Gawande is a general and endocrine surgeon and also a professor at Harvard.

Another fantastic writer, Malcom Gladwell, wrote the following about Gawande in his review of the book:

Over the past decade, through his writing in The New Yorker magazine and his books Complications and Better, Atul Gawande has made a name for himself as a writer of exquisitely crafted meditations on the problems and challenges of modern medicine. His latest book, The Checklist Manifesto, begins on familiar ground, with his experiences as a surgeon. But before long it becomes clear that he is really interested in a problem that afflicts virtually every aspect of the modern world–and that is how professionals deal with the increasing complexity of their responsibilities. It has been years since I read a book so powerful and so thought-provoking.

Gawande begins by making a distinction between errors of ignorance (mistakes we make because we don’t know enough), and errors of ineptitude (mistakes we made because we don’t make proper use of what we know). Failure in the modern world, he writes, is really about the second of these errors, and he walks us through a series of examples from medicine showing how the routine tasks of surgeons have now become so incredibly complicated that mistakes of one kind or another are virtually inevitable: it’s just too easy for an otherwise competent doctor to miss a step, or forget to ask a key question or, in the stress and pressure of the moment, to fail to plan properly for every eventuality. Gawande then visits with pilots and the people who build skyscrapers and comes back with a solution. Experts need checklists–literally–written guides that walk them through the key steps in any complex procedure. In the last section of the book, Gawande shows how his research team has taken this idea, developed a safe surgery checklist, and applied it around the world, with staggering success.

I think Gladwell ties this up nicely.  I love how he mentions the distinction between errors of ignorance and errors of ineptitude.  Ineptitude is what Gawande has focused his research on.   We’re simply not making proper use of what we know.  Who’s to blame us though?  With everything coming at us, who has time to make a checklist and to refer to it?  That’s precisely the reason we must step back and evaluate this.  And, develop tools and resources that take out the human error element.  As I wrote about in my last post on Decision Fatigue (9 Sure-fire ways to overcome decision fatigue), we have a finite number of decisions that we can make in a day w/out losing steam.  Our brains are simply not wired to go at full speed all day long.  So, why not cheat a little – and create smart checklists that help you drive decision-making the right way.

I speak from experience here in that I used to go through many frustrating days of non-productivity.  It wasn’t until I found the folks at GTD (Getting Things Done) back in 2006 that my approach began to change.  I’ve had many other influences throughout the years, but I can tell you that implementing a systematic approach to your work is imperative in this day and age.  This includes setting up specific checklists for activities that you  have to do consistently.  It’s not a one-size fits all approach, but I’d like to share with you a checklist I use that keeps me on track daily in a few key components of my work and life.  Keep in mind – this is a living/breathing document and it changes often (things are added and things are taken away depending on what’s working, etc.).

I utilize a productivity tool called Toodledo which is a combo of web-based and app-based for my iphone.  I’ve tried MANY other productivity apps and I always go back to this.  Part of what Toodledo does is enable you to setup lists and outlines.  These are perfect for a checklist you want to put together that can be kept in an automated fashion and utilized daily.

I wanted to give you a real-world example I use to make it more applicable.  I have a couple screen shots and explanations below.

But first, let’s get to the 5 keys to creating and maintaining checklists that help you get great results:

1 – Make it easy to update – I used to do this on pen/paper but it was just too hard to keep creating everyday.  I found that I would get lax on this and my productivity ultimately started to regress.  Using an automated tool changes the game for this.

2 – Create areas of focus – All checklists aren’t created equal and it’s easy to get things mixed up if you have a whole bunch of stuff intertwined.  This is why I keep things like fuel separate from work.  Although both are important, they need to be kept in there own spot.  This enables you to focus on one core area and crank out whatever actions you want to take.

3 – Be consistent – Make it a habit to do this daily.  Just like anything, it may take some time to make this an engrained habit (like brushing your teeth).  Why don’t you test yourself – or, how about I test you now : )  – How about a challenge for the next 7 days to keep a checklist and use it daily?  If you miss a day, so what….get back on the wagon and do it again.

4 – Be flexible – This needs to be a living document….meaning it’s ok to change things.  Figure out what works for you.  The important thing is that you’re utilizing a checklist to enhance your productivity.

5 – Perfect isn’t the goal – It’s easy to make a checklist and get all bent out of shape if you don’t check everything off.  Let’s face it – we’re not always going to be on our A game.  Don’t fret if you don’t check every box.  Maybe it’s time to adjust and take something off the list.  Either way, get back on it and get after it again tomorrow.

And, now for a more in-depth look at how I use my checklist:

Screen Shot 1:  This highlights the key areas of focus for checklists I keep and refer to daily.  The beauty of an automated checklist is that it starts anew everyday.  No thinking, no re-doing.  You’ll see here I have 7 core areas.

toodledo daily list high level

Fuel – This is my most important checklist and includes things like water consumption, supplements, food, reading, etc.  All the stuff that primes me for the day and gets my mindset right.

Home Chores – These are just a couple of simple things I try to do to help my wife before my workday starts

Work Prep – Behind fuel, this is my #2 priority to make sure I’m aligned and in the right frame of mind for the day.  It’s the old adage – You plan your work…and then work your plan.

Work – Of course, the big chunk of my day…I try to make it  a priority to get at least 3 as un-interrupted 90 minute focused sessions as I can. That’s where real work gets accomplished.

TCP – This is my stuff for The Catalyst Project – everything from writing to reading to connecting

Personal – This is my down time and I try to be intentional about the time I spend with family and friends

Rest/Recover – An often over-looked component of productivity, I’m intentional about taking breaks throughout the day and, of course, getting enough sleep at night.  You should be too!  This could be a game changer.

Screen Shot 2:  This shows the Fuel section of my checklist broken down into specific tasks.

toodledo example - fuel

You’ll see here specific things, some only taking a minute that provide the fuel I need to start my day off right and maintain my energy and performance throughout the day.  Having a checklist to refer to helps immensely to keep me on task.

Remember, it’s not about being perfect.  This may seem overwhelming to you but I promise that utilizing a checklist will help you more than it will hurt you.  Imagine waking up and knowing exactly what you want to do.  Instead of waking up with a little stress resting on your chest, you’ll wake up confident and ready to tackle the day with your checklist.

Keep in mind, there are many other lists you can keep (like Project Lists, Action Lists, etc.), however, a standard checklist for things you want to do daily is imperative to consistent high level achievement.

As always, thanks for reading!

COMING SOONProductivity University – I’m excited to announce that on January 4th, 2015, I’ll be starting a 10-week training class based on key productivity and performance principles.  I know time management and getting the right things done is a struggle for a lot of people (believe me, I’ve had my share of challenges with this).  My goal is to help you move the needle and get more productive and effective – and I figured what better time to do this then to start the year off right!  It will be a virtual course with video lessons and a weekly collaborative call.  Stay tuned for an opportunity to sign up for the pre-launch team and more details.

Be well!

Jon

9 Sure-fire ways to Overcome Decision Fatigue

9 Sure-fire ways to Overcome Decision Fatigue

 “There’s no greater waste of energy or resources than doing well that which should not be done at all.” – Peter Drucker

Do you feel distracted as you go through your day and your life in general?  I know I do at times.  There’s hope for you and me but you’ll have to be aware of this first.

I was listening to a great podcast the other day – The Tim Ferriss Show.  I’m sure a lot of you have read Tim’s stuff (Four Hour Work Week, Four Hour Body, Four Hour Chef) or have at least heard of him.  I highly recommend his podcast….very enlightening stuff.  Mostly he has some pretty cool guests (Tony Robbins, Peter Thiel, etc.) and he occasionally does mini episodes to talk about various things.  The guy is a complete lab rat when it comes to optimizing productivity and performance.  You can check out his podcast here.  They’re great for listening to when you’re working out by the way.  Good stuff.

In this particular one, he talks about the law of diminishing returns we go through when we have to make too many decisions.  He calls it decision fatigue.  It got me thinking…

It breaks down like this – imagine you have 100 points each day and every decision you make causes these points to diminish.  Everything you do has an effect on this account.  If you wake up everyday and have to make decisions on what clothes you’re going to wear and what you’re going to eat, that’s going to take away from your capability to make a good decision.  If you don’t have your work day planned out in advance, at least how you start your day, you’ll be more apt to check email first thing (and get sucked into someone else’s agenda!!).  Or, it will be much easier to get distracted and jump on social media when you should be getting higher impact work done.  As the day progresses, the account is diminished and you’re much more likely to be distracted and, ultimately, make bad decisions.

I’m such a big proponent of getting your highest impact work done early in the day.  I know some of you may be night owls and that’s okay – the good news is that I believe you can replenish this account throughout the day.  I think being productive at night probably has more to do with the small number of distractions coming in, however (not much email at midnight, at least compared to 2 in the afternoon).  The bottom line – get your big stuff done when your energy is the highest and your mind is the clearest.

Here are some keys to minimizing the effect of decision fatigue and maximizing your output for the day:

1.  Start your day with a plan that you set the day before – This should be the last thing you do before your workday ends.  Plan tomorrow.  Keep it simple but at least set a plan.  This leads to number 2.

2.  Create a checklist for the first 60 minutes of your day – make it foolproof. I’ve tinkered with this quite a bit and I’m a believer.  If 60 minutes is too long, try 30.  Clearly list out what you’re going to do and just get to that list right when you wake up (even put “make coffee”, “make bed”, etc. on there.  Remember, dumb it down so  you don’t have to think about it when you wake up.

3.  Use checklists for routine tasks – For things like packing for a trip or a weekly review of your work, keep a standard checklist you can go back to.  I travel almost weekly so having a list of everything I need to pack helps immensely.  I use a combination of Evernote and Toodledo to keep these lists.  Either works great.

4.  Plan your meals, especially your first one – A crucial, crucial component to productivity optimization.  If you can do this the night before, even better.  Lately, I’ve been hard boiling eggs in advance – it’s quick, easy – just add a little sea salt and some hot sauce and you’ve got a tasty meal.  I’m a fan of smoothies first thing in the morning too.  Again, the better you plan these basic things the more decision capacity you’ll have for bigger ticket items throughout your day.

5.  Limit the number of choices you have to make – Automate wherever you can.  Delegate the things that others can do better than you.  Focus on what your strengths are and find others that can fill in the gaps.  I know plenty of people that hire out virtual assistants and swear by it.  Remember the 80/20 rule – 80% of your results comes from 20% of your work – if you can be an assassin when it comes to that approach, you’ll do very well, I promise.

6.  Learn to say no – This one is hard.  I struggle with it.  Many people are pleasers, me included.  It’s a recipe for disaster – I’m telling you. Build your muscles slowly with this….try saying now in a respectful way.  I promise it won’t be as bad as you think.  From there you’ll gain confidence and will realize the value of this.

7.  Pay attention to when you get distracted – When your decision fatigue is up what distracts you?  Is it social media?  ESPN?  TMZ?  Your dog?  There are plenty of things.  Become aware of what you do when your points are down.  Simply being aware will help you make better decisions.

8.  Use timers – I think this may be the biggest productivity hack I know.  All smart phones have timer apps now.  If you’re struggling and need to push through (and don’t want to take a break), set a time for 10 minutes and just get after whatever it is you’re doing.  When the buzzer goes off, see how you feel.  I know a lot of times, I pass through the resistance and get into a flow state and can get a lot done in 30 minutes or so.

9.  Take breaks – An often looked-down upon thing, taking breaks is essential.  Just like an elite athlete, you must take a step back to recharge yourself.  This goes for small breaks during the day as well as longer breaks throughout the year (i.e. multi-day disconnected vacations, etc.).

Definitely check out Tim Ferris’s podcast – it’s really good.  I think it ties nicely into The Catalyst Day producitvity document I created as well.  It’s all about being intentional and having a plan is crucial.  Remember, the better you plan you work the better you’ll be at executing…and adjusting when your decision fatigue ratchets up and the game is on the line.

Good luck.

Jon

P.S.  If you think someone can benefit from this, I’d love for you to share it via the buttons at the top.  Thanks!

 

 

 

flow=mojo (thoughts on accelerated productivity)

flow=mojo (thoughts on accelerated productivity)

The flow…the mojo.  Do you have it?  Have you ever felt it?  The flow is something you get when you’re working on a task and time stands still.  It’s effortless almost.  You’re so immersed in what you’re doing that you forget about time – by the time you come back up you’ve usually have a pretty cool output…it can be magical.  And, it can be cultivated.  A lot of people wait for a muse or for the perfect moment.  Here’s the thing – there are too many distractions these days to not be intentional about getting your mojo going.  You following me?  You MUST be intentional about getting your game face on.  I don’t care if it’s at work or spending time with your loved ones – being intentional is key (yes, that means putting your phone away when you’re having a conversation with someone).  I love watching my kids or any kid for that matter – watch a kid play and get immersed in whatever it is their doing.  My daughter Reese will spend hours at the craft table coloring or drawing.  I  love it.  It’s the most pure form of focus.  I’m afraid we lose that as we get older.  
 
I live for the Flow…I don’t always attain it but I know it when it’s there.  I know that there are a couple things that get me there (and I bet you have a couple key things as well).  Limiting distractions is number one.  Using a timer is number two.  And, number three is planning my work and working my plan (this should probably be number one actually).  I’ll give credit to the folks at GTD (Getting Things Done) for that one.  In a nutshell, we can only do a Next Action (i.e. If the Outcome you want is fixing your bike there are probably a couple steps you need to take to get there….so, a Next Action might be “Research fixing flat tires online”).  I tell you this b/c the more comprehensive your lists of actions are (and in contexts – i.e. At Phone, At Computer, Errands), the better you’ll feel about what you’re not doing.  
 
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wrote a book called “Flow – The Psychology of Optimal Experience”.  Fantastic read.  Boiled down, true flow is the intersection of doing something that’s challenging enough to you and something you have a high level of skill with.  
 
So, I ask you – when was the last time you experienced your mojo, your flow?  Furthermore, when are you at your best?  When is your mind most clear?  What are you doing when time stands still?  Understanding the answers to these questions may unlock the door for you to up your game considerably.  
 
Good luck.
 
Be well,
Jon

Awareness

Awareness

Hi and greetings from St. Louis.  I’m at the airport, just returning from a funeral service for a friend/colleague’s dad.  Second funeral in the last month….although the last one was much younger – a good friend’s wife passed away at the early age of 40.  For this one, Mr. B. was close to 80 – not that it’s any better.

I’m reminded of the fragility of life.  As I see Emerson (my 10 month old) take her first steps (and she’s walking a ton already!), I reflect on how important it is to embrace life.  It’s so easy to say….very hard to actually live.

My dad was recently diagnosed with Lewi Body Disease, which is form of Dementia.  It’s been a pretty good dose of perspective.  I’m damn proud of him.  He’s been courageous throughout and has a good sense of humor about it.  I’m scared too for him….his health is declining fairly quickly.

We are all busy….all busy.  I get it.  Work, family, friends, social life….we are going, going…and going.  I get it.  It’s time we smell the roses a little bit isn’t it?  We strive for the nice house and new car and the epic vacation….but are we really living the day to day the way it’s meant to be?  Are we enjoying and embracing the journey?  I say this as a mea culpa b/c I know that I need some help with this.  How about you?

I marvel at Emerson’s first steps….my son Gabe’s work ethic on the soccer field and his sweet smile off it….and Reese’s charming and eccentric personality.  But, I’m afraid that sometimes I’m not in the moment.  My wife and I were watching some videos of the kids from about five years ago last night….kind of random as they popped up in my Dropbox folder.  Wow – time is flying!  Gabe was just a little tike with a cute little voice…..and now he’s growing up so fast.

That’s okay.  It starts with awareness.

I’m challenging myself to be more aware….to be more present.  I throw that challenge out to you as well…are you embracing the moment?….the struggle?….the joy?….

How about we do it together?

All the best,

Jon

**Here’s my dad with baby Emerson….and Gabe and Reese enjoying a fun day at a Pumpkin Patch recently!

Blog Post_Dad and kids