Gearing up for the Sunday sessions of #ASTD2013 and making first choices of what to follow. Here are the sessions I’m thinking of following and the questions that come to mind…
Session SU111 on MOOCs with Julia Wilkowski and Phil Wagner from Google
- To which business performance and learning objectives does a MOOC best correspond?
- Which businesses or learning audiences can best profit from a MOOC? Are MOOCS only suitable for large, multi-site organisations?
- What are the most important principles to consider when setting up a MOOC? What steps must be taken to succeed?
- What specific competences does a MOOC creator or facilitator need? (eg: Are Community Management skills required?)
- Why is curation such an important concept today?
- What are the competences that must be developed to curate well?
- How does a good curator filter and contextualise well for his people?
- What kinds of tools and platforms can help with curation
Session SU301 with Shari Yocum on analysing informal networks in order to identify and develop essential business assets
- What do you mean by “holistic analysis” and how is it conducted?
- How can a good analysis helps to make better development choices??
- Which tools are available and in what areas has success already been proven?
Tune back in soon to find out what I heard!
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As part of my preparation for the ASTD ICE 2013 conference in Dallas this month, I’ve been interviewing people like Tony Bingham, Juana Llorens and Frederic Williquet (coming soon). Today, its David Kelly, better known to his 3000+ Twitter followers as @LnDDave and to others as the King of the backchannel… David is speaking at the ASTD2013 International Conference and Exhibition during session SU210 “Curation: Beyond the Buzzword”. In this interview, he outlines his approach to conference success and the learning and development topics he is currently most interested in.
Q1: In the previous conferences you have attended what have been the most interesting sessions you followed?
I usually break conference sessions into two categories: Sessions that will provide me with knowledge and skills that I can use today and sessions that will expand my skill sets and prepare me for skills I will need tomorrow.
I’m at a point in my career where I probably allocate my sessions to 25% “today” and 75% “tomorrow”. However, I’m lucky enough to have been in this field for about 15 years and have been to more conferences and professional development opportunities than most in the field. The average practitioner has less experience and does not regularly attend conferences, so I would expect their allocation to skew more towards skills they can use today.
Specifically for me though, I usually try to find one or two sessions that break the mould from what you might expect from a learning professional conference. For example, some of the sessions I’ve been interested in at recent events include topics like sketch-noting, looking at design in places outside of instructional design and gaming.
Q2: I know you’ve spoken at and attended a number of conferences in the past few years. What topics do you think still merit more work and attention in 2013?
I recall reading a statistic recently that said the average experience of people in our field is five years. If that’s true, then most of the people in our field are likely novices. As I mentioned a moment ago, a sizable percentage of any conference audience will be new to the field and may actually be attending a conference for the first time. As such, there’s always going to be a need for entry-level programs that help those novices develop skills they can use immediately. And I think that’s very important.
What interests me more though are the sessions that go beyond the basics and stretch the novice skills set. I think conferences need more sessions that make attendees rethink the traditional “training” paradigm; sessions that help refocus our field away from “training” and “learning” as the default and start shifting our focus towards “performance” and “contextual connections”. With that in mind, I’m hoping to see more conferences including sessions focused on topics such as telling better stories with our data, performance support instead of training, experience design over instructional design, and breaking away from the course model.
Q3: What are according to you the 3 biggest challenges that learning and development managers will face over the next 5 years?
Just three? I’m kidding. Here are three that immediately come to mind:
- Redefining data: There’s a lot of buzz around data right now. If you look at most conference programs you’ll likely see sessions including terms like “Big Data”, “Tin Can” and “The Experience API”. Learning professionals need to pay attention to this. The way we define data, in terms of metrics like completions or pass/fail, is going to be replaced with data that tells a much more meaningful story around performance. The question is: Will learning professionals be ready?
- Learning as part of the work: Traditionally, workers needed to stop work in order to learn or be trained. You needed to either leave the workplace to attend training or stop working to sit in front of a computer to complete an elearning course. That’s changing. Technology now enables learning and skill development to be built right into the existing workflow without the need to have an employee stop working to attend ‘training’. It’s less intrusive and fits better into the model of how workers really learn how to do their jobs. The problem is: The traditional training skill set does not support playing in that space.
- Shifting from “knowing” to “connecting”: The shelf life of information is decreasing rapidly while the speed in which performance support interventions are required is increasing even faster. In today’s world of exponentially increasing data it is impossible to know everything. What is therefore far more important is to be able to find the answer to anything in a timely manner. With that in mind the role of the learning professional shifts away from building and delivering solutions towards building connections between those with needs and those with the resources that satisfy the need. This involves competencies that are new to the learning profession such as curation and community management.
Q4: People not attending a conference can follow content via your backchannel “hub page”. Do you have ideas on how they can get more actively involved during conference week?
Without question the best way to be more involved in a conference backchannel is to prepare yourself for it ahead of time. Many people want to participate, but don’t regularly use Twitter, where most backchannels today take place. That’s a recipe for failure. The value of a backchannel comes from the sharing and from the connections and interactions you have with other like-minded professionals. You can’t concentrate on “what to tweet” to participate in a backchannel if you’re still struggling with “how to tweet”.
Q5: What are your own personal objectives for conferences this year?
My objectives for conferences are actually pretty consistent when examined at a high level. They include:
- Learning about the trends that will impact our industry in the future.
- Looking for sessions that might provide answers to problems I am actively trying to solve.
- Connecting with attendees and continue to expand my personal learning network.
You can find him on Twitter and keep in touch with his opinion on the ever changing world of learning and development.
Or you can leave a comment here.
Thanks for reading!
David Kelly is the Program Director for The eLearning Guild based out of New York, USA. He has over over 15 years of experience in the learning field, serving capacities of training director, internal learning and performance consultant, social media trainer and community manager. Regularly referenced as king of the conference backchannel, David is also a Twitter chat curator. Learn more about David at his website: http://davidkelly.me.
It seems that “not doing so well” is fashionable. Everyone is doing it ..even the superheroes!
Last year, it was James Bond in Skyfall: Wallowing in misery and booze and disillusioned with it all, it took a literal blast-from-the-past to eventually force him to face up to his demons and deal with his stress. And while we still have to wait a month or so to see the Man of Steel retreat from the world and deny his responsibilities, this week’s opening of Iron Man 3 has shown us another hero on the verge of breakdown: Tony Stark.
But if genius billionaire playboy philanthropists inside Iron Man suits are suffering from sleepless nights and bouts of anxiety, what hope is there for the rest of us? Have no fear! Read on… Fresh from the film (and without spoilers!) here’s 8 top tips for from the world of Iron to help you deal with stress and anxiety:
- Slow down and breathe. Even superheroes have “funny turns” from time-to-time. If stress is making you feel anxious or out of breath, focus on what is happening with your body for a moment. Check out these “6 mindfulness exercises that each take less than 1 minute”.
- Take some time out of the city. Tony had a reason to go to “nowhere Tennessee” but you don’t need an excuse to take a walkabout. If you need to get away, do it.
- Sleep more. Even if Tony says “Einstein only slept 3 hours a year”, he’s still tired. Turn off your work and go to bed! Need help sleeping? Check out the “faculty lounge” pages of the US National Sleep Foundation site.
- Spend more time with your loved ones. Tony has been neglecting Pepper. Who have you been neglecting? According to Kory Floyd, Associate Professor of the Hugh Down’s School of Human Communication at the Arizona State University, “being affectionate is good for you.. a cheap way to reduce stress.”
- Get a coach. You would think that if “subjective thinking retards intellectual potential” then ego-centric Tony Stark would more like Rain Man than a genius. Fortunately, he’s got his new little friend Harley to help him out. And if you’re stressed and anxious, you may not be able to fogure things out by yourself. Some external input can work wonders. Who do you have to help you think a little differently?
- Share the workload. Fighting the bad guys to save the President, you need a “War Machine” buddy (or whatever you call him!) to help you out. Whatever your job, find someone to share the work with. Here’s “6 Tips for Delegating Success” from @Forbes.
- Listen to some good old rock and roll. In my own humble opinion, the distinct lack of AC/DC in Iron Man 3 may be the single biggest reason for Tony Stark being so highly strung Did someone turn off all the rock and roll? And even if the Marvel studios think they know “what the kids want to hear”, everyone else knows that life sometimes can get tough and life sometimes can be a drag … and God gave rock and roll to you.
- Go for a swim Of course, it’s better when you choose it for yourself, but still: “Health-care professionals recommend physical activity as a key ingredient to any stress-management initiative” and sport has many other benefits.
So that’s it. Feeling stressed? Slow down and share!
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Prezi offers a great function to simply import PowerPoint presentations. But if you want to do it with style, follow these 10 steps…
(Note: In this post, I have used my Cefora HRM Day PPT presentation on new ways of learning as the working example. Have a look at that first, then check out my finished Prezi presentation here – its simple, but nice.)
First of all, when you make your PowerPoint document to begin with, don’t forget to follow the basic rules:
- Build your presentation in 5 steps
- Follow these 9 PowerPoint essentials for real business people
- Turn horrible text driven PowerPoint slides into awesome big bold visual messages
You need to have a clear message, structure and content in your PowerPoint before you import to Prezi. If you have that, let’s get started!
Step 1: Start from a blank canvas
The purpose of this post is to show you how to easily create good visual style and good structure in your Prezi. So don’t pick a Prezi template when you start. Ignore all the templates and click on “blank”.
Step 2: Delete that first default Prezi frame
I mean the big circle frame. You don’t need it…
Step 3: Import your PowerPoint with “grid layout” template
The whole point of this post is that too many people are using the same Prezi standard layouts when they import their PowerPoints. Its not that they are bad, but chances are you are using Prezi instead of PowerPoint because you want to be original. And too many people have already used all those layouts.
With some small effort and the tips in this post, its easy to do SO MUCH BETTER. So ignore all the choices it offers:
- Using the “insert” button, choose “PowerPoint” and locate your file.
- Be patient with the upload, it takes a while…
- When the slides are shown on the right of the canvas, choose “insert all” at the top
- When presented with the different layouts possible, choose “grid layout” – this will give you the best overview of all your slides
- Keep the path between your slide for now
- Click the green arrow
Step 4: Move individual slides to bring a first structure to your presentation
Now you can see all your slides, you can apply some simple structure.
- Move your slides around on the canvas so that slide that go together are together – do this by dragging the frame around. Be careful not to change the size yet!
- If like me you have generic first slides (title slide, company template slide, agenda) get those out of the way for now…
- Use the canvas space freely at this point – we can fix that later
Step 5: Put some nice colourful frames around those groups of slides and name the sections/categories
Again, if you prepared your PowerPoint well, you probably know what these presentation sections/categories are all about. But your audience doesn’t, so you can name them now…
- Use the “add frame” function to put a frame around several of your slides – make it a solid frame
- Double click above the canvas near one of your sections/categories and add some text to name that section/category
- ..then drag the text into the new solid coloured frame
- Repeat per section until you have something like this – starting to look good !
Step 6: Add your new section/category frames to the pathway and put them in the “right” place.
- Click on “edit path”
- Click on each of your new frames so they are added to the path (navigation bar)
- Move the new frames to their correct position in the pathway. For example, if your first section/category is called “A” and consists of slides 1, 2, 3 put your “A” frame in front of 1, 2, 3. And if section/category “B” consists of slides 4, 5, 6, put your “B” frame after “3″ and before 4, 5, 6….
Step 7: Add a presentation title to your canvas
I am going to put all my content IN my core message. Its cool – you’ll see what I mean later, but first:
- Be sure you know what your message is. If you didn’t do that before you made your PowerPoint, you probably need some “Presentation Skills” training with me.
- Zoom out a little bit on your canvas and move to somewhere blank
- Double click somewhere on the canvas to add some big text
- Write the message title of your presentation
Step 8: Choose a nice template for your Prezi – one with good “hole-y” font styles
To achieve true style when you import your PowerPoint to Prezi, it would be good to have a font style that nicely lends itself to putting frames inside it. You are looking for something with holes in it, like I found in my example with the “pastel theme” subtitle font…
- Click on “template” and choose your template
- You can customise fonts if you want to
- Find a font that has some holes in it – in a minute, we are going to place our “slides” inside those holes….
- You will see that your “presentation title” (step 7) has now been updated to the new font
- ..and your section/category frames may have a different colour
Step 9: Place your section/category frames inside the text, rotating a little as necessary
As I said in my previous post on Prezi structure, it is important to use the different dimensions and rotation possibilities in the right way. I think that navigation within sub-parts of a Prezi presentation should be done gently and big structural changes can be more dramatic. To achieve what I did in my Prezi here, start by rotating some of those big solid section/category frames you made earlier to fit them into your text
- Have a look in your “presentation title” text for a nice place to put one of your big section/category frames
- Click on a frame
- Rotate it to align with a gap in the font
- Drag it to where you want in the text
Step 10: Nurse your individual frames to perfection and finalise your pathway
You will see that Prezi does some odd things to your original PowerPoint slides when it imports them onto the canvas and you will need to spend some time finishing up now. If you had an extremely simple PowerPoint (no objects, just text always the same size) then things will probably be OK. But if not, you may like me find that some objects are now in the background, text may have moved, shapes may be screwed-up… You will need to fix that now before you finalise your pathway. Here is a list of things I had to do:
- Put some text back in the foreground (right-click and “bring to front”)
- Delete some things that looked good in PowerPoint, but are terrible in Prezi – eg: my Excel-generated graph, which is now a completely different image
- Replace some PowerPoint objects with Prezi’s own objects – eg: the arrows on my graph
There is a lot more you COULD do to improve this Prezi – I added some fade-in effects and a little more pathway movement. And because my Prezi is for a long conference, I put the “presentation title” text in-between each section/category as a transition to remind us of the general point from time-to-time.
But I promised 10 steps and 20 minutes, so that’s it for now.
If you followed my steps, your Prezi will be far more original and stylish than all the other standard PowerPoint imported Prezis out there…
To close, here are 2 links for more information on some of the things I did above:
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In the new world of work, we are (supposedly) all free, all mobile, all connected. But is it really true?
In his book “Drive”, the author Dan Pink tells us “the surprising truth about motivation”: What really gets us up in the morning is not capitalistic benefits packages, but a search for purpose, mastery and autonomy. Gone are the days of my grandmother dragging herself to a factory to scrape a penny together to survive. Now that we have everything we need we can work on what is important to us, to develop ourselves and because we want to. This is motivation 3.0.
But is it truly so awesome that IT professionals working for a ROWE company can punctuate their programming work with surf sessions on a beach in Thailand? Or is it rather absolutely bloody terrible that when they take a holiday the other side of the world, they can’t stop thinking about their jobs and never switch off? Addicted to their iPhone (laptop, iPad) and mobile internet-based you-can-work-anywhere-anytime work ethic, they work in their “free time” to avoid Information Deprivation Disorder.
And many “engaged” American white collar (no collar?) workers today work far more than they ever did before: The amount of work required to survive a week in medieval times has not at all been replaced in the 21st century by Tim Ferris’ best-selling notion of the “4-Hour Work Week”. And despite office conditions being more ergonomic, open-spaced, ping-pong-table friendly, more and more workers suffer from burnout, depression and stress.
Fashionable HR gurus like Nigel Marsh continue to talk about work-life balance, the need for “engagement” and the joy of working from home. I train new leaders on the same topics. But has our quality of life actually improved or is it just work propaganda that has everyone has “sold” (including the people in HR closing the sale)?
In her book “Get Real: How to see through the hype, spin and lies of modern life”, author Eliane Glaser tells us that much of what we are asked to believe about our wonderful life today is actually some form of covert ideology. This “soft power” is designed to get us to believe that we, the people, are doing better. But in reality, the invisible hand pushing many of these modern models of freedom of choice and people-power simply aims to reinforce the same kinds of class-control that have always existed: Politicians who are supposed to “listen to the people” outsource market-research sessions with their “customers” in order to find better ways to tell them whatever they want to hear, whilst they continue to eat 5-course meals in Harvard and Eton; the Britain’s Got Talent “everyone can succeed” dream of Susan Boyle hitting the big-time conceals the fact that the majority of people are watching this dream at home on a credit-paid oversized TV, no better off than they ever were before. Regardless of what policies may or may not actually be implemented by our politicians and regardless of the inability of the majority to rise above the mundane, we continue to believe that we actually have a say and can all become famous.
When it comes to new forms of motivation for work, Eliane Glaser suggests that whilst we are encouraged to want it more-and-more, work actually gives us less-and-less. Work seems more purposeful (yet relaxed) but its concealed demands are greater than ever.
I interviewed Eliane Glaser recently to get an in-depth look at this idea and find out if it’s true that I work 60 hours a week because I’ve been sold a lie, or if we really can find purpose and enjoyment at work…
DAN: What made you start thinking that this new motivation story was not all it seemed to be?
ELIANE: According to ‘Motivation 3.0′ as I believe it’s called, we are no longer wage slaves oppressed by authoritarian bosses, but we now work because we want to, because it fulfills us. We don’t just work to live, we live to work. The new language of management – and, incidentally, of marketing – is all about ‘engagement’, ‘two-way conversations’, and authenticity. Workplaces offer free food and drink and install ‘break-out’ or ‘chill-out’ areas with bean-bags and table football. But, as I argue in my book, I believe that this funky, pseudo-spiritual language of empowerment really masks a new power-grab by employers and financial elites more generally. In an age where people are working longer hours than ever before, where union rights are being eroded, where job security is diminishing and wags are stagnating, this rhetoric about fulfillment and ownership functions as a kind of fig-leaf or window-dressing for what’s really going on. And in many work sectors, for example creative and journalistic work, there’s a new notion that you don’t just work for money, you work ‘for the love of it’, as if working for money is some narrow, materialistic endeavour. The internet is awash with utopian promises of freedom, democratisation and empowerment for ordinary people, but if you are not paid for your work, you simply cannot afford to do it, unless you are lucky enough to be independently wealthy. Which is not very egalitarian after all.
DAN: You say that we now “live to work”. I remember when it used to be fashionable to say exactly the opposite: Work was ONLY about what it could give you outside – more partying, more holidays, more “stuff”… Surely if we’ve all been “sold” something else, we must have been ready to buy it? What is it in the working population that made us ready to switch to “the engagement ideal”?
ELIANE: I think that we all have a desire and a need for community, camaraderie, and meaningful individual and shared goals. Employers have realised that if these desires and needs can be situated in the workplace, this will result in greater investment by employees. By offering on-site free food, social events, social spaces, and away-days etc, corporations and other employers encourage workers to find what they need at work. Furthermore, opportunities for social and community participation and idealism outside of the workplace have declined: there are fewer opportunities for civic and community engagement, or contact with networks of neighbours or extended family. The rise of new technologies, commuting, consumer culture, and long working hours themselves – all these developments are eroding the opportunities for finding satisfaction and meaning outside work.
DAN: In your book, you talk about politicians who no longer talk honestly and openly about their own ideals, oil giants who position themselves as “green” and mass-produced brands who pretend to be artisanal and ethical. What would you say to the readers who brush off your ideas as cynical and simply “anti-establishment”?
ELIANE: I think there is an assumption that cynicism and optimism are opposed; that to be cynical is not to be constructive. But I think that questioning belief-systems and being critical is an underrated activity. By critiquing the deceptions and illusions in our politics and culture we can start to see things as they really are and start to influence things in a real way. So actually I am pretty optimistic, because I believe that by pushing concealed agendas out in the open, we can start to have a proper explicit debate about the kind of world we want to live in. I’m not sure that I’m anti-establishment, but I am critical of the elites in our society that unfairly monopolise power and resources. The gap between rich and poor, powerful and powerless in our societies is getting ever wider. It’s also ironic that those elites regularly adopt anti-establishment language themselves – for example that ‘radical’ Yahoo slogan: ‘The internet is under new management: Yours’ and the funky T-Mobile ‘flash-mob dance-athon’ ad campaign. Big corporations and political leaders are exploiting anti-establishment imagery in order to claim that they are not themselves the establishment.
DAN: Back to motivation: The evolution of motivation/work seems to have gone from “get up and do what you need to do to live” (caveman) to “do it for someone else, provided they give you enough pay” (basic “carrot” work model) to “do what gives you a sense of purpose, autonomy and freedom, whilst getting paid for it” (“motivation 3.0”, the subject of this interview). What do you see as the next trend in motivation/work? How will things change in the future?
ELIANE: I’m quite pessimistic about work in the future, in the sense that I think there are big changes ahead and that existing ways of doing things are going to break down. In the age of austerity and economic contraction, unemployment is high and job prospects are poor. Those management values of motivation 3.0 are increasingly being applied in the low-pay, low-status sector: in call-centres and vast dehumanised Amazon warehouses. Our pay is stagnating and our job security is being eroded, but the management language is getting more and more focused on “fulfillment”. This is creating a kind of tragic irony. The other big change that’s happening is that a great deal of professional and creative work, like journalism and writing, is going online, and those workers are not being paid for their work. They are supposed to produce their creative or journalistic work for the love of it. This I regard as a really corrosive trend, because fulfillment is increasingly regarded not as a counterpart to pay, but as a replacement for it.
Eliane Glaser is a writer for the Guardian and others, BBC producer, associate research fellow at Birkbeck and the author of “Get Real: How to see through the hype, spin and lies of modern life” which is published by Fourth Estate. She is based in London, UK and you can read see her press cuttings here: http://elianeglaser.blogspot.co.uk/p/press-cuttings.html
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Burnout is the name given for the “breakdown” associated with the experience of long-term exhaustion and diminished interest. It can be considered as the opposite of “flow” and can include a number of different symptoms, although all are related to the temporal inability to manage life properly and a state of extreme exhaustion and dissatisfaction with the status-quo. This post is the result of my own research on and experience with the topic. It gives further information about the meaning of burnout, how to recognise it in yourself and others and what to do about it. There are 4 sections:
- “Burnout can happen to anyone, for different reasons”
- “Burnout symptoms differ for everyone”
- “Immediate action is required”
- “Burnout is an investment in a brighter future”
BURNOUT CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE, FOR DIFFERENT REASONS
The most obvious assumption about burnout is that you have to work really hard to get it. Although it may be true that too much hard work (A) leads to burnout (B) this does not imply that (B) must be caused by (A) or that (A) necessarily leads to (B). Like other forms of stress (and potentially depression) the causes of burnout are different for each person, but there are some common factors:
- Over-focussing on one area of life (work, a specific project, building a house, making babies…) at the expense of others (and at the expense of “balance”) may lead to burnout
- People who push themselves too much for their own resources, competences and/or preferences (in whatever domain) are more likely to suffer burnout
- Perfectionism and “other-oriented” people may be particularly prone to burnout as they feel they “must” achieve everything perfectly in order to be “acceptable”
- Extreme engagement and passion for a project, subject or job at the expense of other things can end in burnout
- Non-consideration of the connection between specific goals you are working on and their link to personal values, vision and belief may lead to burnout. Being extremely productive does not mean you are working in-line with the “real you”.
- Read here for other causes of burnout or have a look at this burnout risk self-test and some ideas from mindtools.com on avoiding burnout.
Re-reading this list, the “thin-red-line” that holds it all together seems to me to be the idea of “getting lost” in something, losing work-life balance or the feeling of “wholeness” and general life-satisfaction.
BURNOUT SYMPTOMS DIFFER FOR EVERYONE
Not everyone reacts to burnout in the same way, but there is of course a standard definition of burnout and a known set of symptoms (read “How to recognise when you are on the road to burnout“). You shouldn’t superficially compare burnout symptoms between different people because each person is individual. But if you suffer from a few of the following symptoms, that should be enough to get you thinking about the possibility of burnout. Hypochondriacs aside, if you’re asking if you’re having a burnout, you probably are or will do soon. Symptoms include:
- Constant sadness that doesn’t seem linked to any one particular cause
- Lack of inspiration or sudden disillusionment for the work you had previously been doing with lots of motivation and effort. You can read more about this in the introduction to burnout from mindtools.com.
- Inability to “get started” on things. This could range from a kind of apathy for “life in general” to one specific moment of literally not being able to get out of your car to go and visit the client you just arrived at.
- Feeling that things will never get better or that the work will never be done
- Crying regularly, for “no reason”
- Finding no pleasure in everyday activities, from spending time with family, to sport or hobbies
- Anger, sarcasm and other obtuse behaviours
- Sleeping or eating differently, whether it be 14 hours of sleep a day or 4, loss of appetite or binging
- Other physical symptoms like headache, anxious heart palpitations, fatigue or dizziness
IMMEDIATE ACTION IS REQUIRED
It would be wrong of me to post this piece without underlining the importance of medical attention or the fact that I am not a doctor. If you think you yourself are suffering from burnout, get help. In addition to medical support, here is my list of things to do to help deal with (and accept!) burnout:
- Stop working. Turn it all off. This is probably the hardest first step for people suffering from burnout. Daring to stop is tough. Many people suffer from “Information Deprivation Disorder“. Believing the world will carry on without you and you’ll be OK is even tougher. If you work for yourself, add to that the false idea that no-one will ever hire you again and you are set to keep on working even when all the signs say stop. You need a leap of faith to make this first step, or an intervention from someone else, or a complete breakdown or putting your back out or…. But it has to happen. Stop.
- Try and keep things in perspective. This is tough, because prior to burnout you didn’t keep things in perspective and at the start of burnout you just may be crying, miserable and lost. Good “perspective strategies” include speaking with different people you trust and love, writing down any little realisations you might have and a whole lot of trust. If you can remember that human beings tend to live to nearly 100 these days, you might be able to realise that this is only one point in time and things will change, one way or another. As George Harrisson sang: “All things must pass.“
- Do things that please you. This is a tough one. If you are feeling depressed and someone says “Do things that please you” it is likely you won’t have any idea what to do. Nothing pleases you! But if you can think of just one little thing you wanted to do at some point, but didn’t (because you we’re doing too much or working too hard) now is the time to do it. Go surfing. Play your guitar. Read that novel. Get a massage. Watch a movie at 1pm while the kids are out. Lie on the grass and walk in the snow. Not everything needs to have a reason and these previously seemingly irrelevant things that don’t advance your project or career need to have their space too. Start now.
- …but don’t throw the baby out with the bath-water. If you are burnt-out, you might get to thinking its a good idea to quit your wife, your job, your kids or sell the house. Don’t. Those are big decisions that need to be made with good mental health. Although you might get the idea that the causes of your burnout are all interlinked and therefore one major change will affect everything else, this doesn’t mean that the results will be positive and you are certainly in no state (yet) to implement massive life changes. Slow down!
- Sleep if you need to. Although at some point you will have to “get up and get on with your life” don’t be too tough on yourself. If you feel you need to sleep, do it. You are exhausted from the rhythm of your life to-date. Take the time to get your breath back.
- Move a little. Get out for a walk or do sport. Before burnout you were probably doing the same things in the same way all the time. Now you are taking a break from that. Although you may well spend a fair bit of time sleeping or doing nothing, just getting outside for a little fresh air and gentle movement can make a massive difference to your physical state and your mood.
- Focus on little wins. Going for one little walk or cooking a nice dinner or cleaning a cupboard or whatever you might fancy, success in doing something small is a wonderful thing. But keep it small! Then relax again. One thing at a time. This advice is the same for getting back to work, which we’ll get to in a minute…
- Find a way to express yourself on the subject. In a certain way, burnout can be seen as the previous non-expression of some part of you that now forces itself to be heard. (If you don’t understand what I mean, read “I think therefore I am. Not.“) This could be any facet of your ego/personality, but whatever it is, it refuses to lay down and let the intense workaholic one-track mind takeover anymore. You need to give that part of you some space. In the film “The Beaver” with Mel Gibson, the main character Walter Black (who is suffering from depression) manages to express another previously-silent “brighter” side of himself by wearing and speaking through a puppet. Although this film is not a lesson in how to deal effectively with burnout and depression, Gibson’s character at first finds a way to say what is on his mind and share with his family and friends. There is no shame in burnout and no reason not to share.
- Don’t think people are judging you. Mostly, they are not. People understand. And if you are an engaged, highly motivated passionate worker like many burn-out sufferers are, chances are that some of the people you hang around with will have had their own experience with burnout. As for everyone who judges you and thinks bad of you for your burnout: It will be hard to do, but you have to let these people go. They are not helping you and they don’t love you.
- Get advice, even from non-experts. Don’t try and do everything alone. Many other people have already lived what you arriving during burnout and there are plenty of experts out there, from medical professionals to life-coaches. But there are also friends and family, business acquaintances and random strangers. They might have something useful to say, something that enlightens you a little to your situation, style or options. If you trust these people, why not listen to what they have to say? And let’s face it: If you burnt out already all by yourself, you could probably use a little help from someone else.
For more ideas and resources, check out this very complete page from mindtools.com about recovering from burnout. It includes ideas about changing jobs and other things i have also written on like doing a SWOT analysis and creating strategic action.
BURNOUT IS AN INVESTMENT IN A BRIGHTER FUTURE
When you buy a nice new car, you tend to look after it. You get it serviced and you keep it clean, topped up on all the right fuels and oils and filters. It runs for years and you continue to love it. If you don’t service it and follow the maintenance instructions, one day you find yourself stuck on the side of the motorway, loaded down with bags and screaming children, no longer able to go on holiday and wishing you had done it differently.
It is easy to go through life at 120km/hour. When you are new to a job, young, fit or successful and healthy it’s easy to give 150%. When you can see the results that that gives and you want to grow even more, it’s easy to just keep going. But if you don’t sharpen the saw and maintain yourself, you will eventually breakdown. With a little luck you will have a burnout. If you’re unlucky, you’ll have a heart attack. Even a Ferrari needs to stop moving from time-to-time.
When you have a burnout, it might feel like the end of the world. its difficult to imagine that things will get better, but actually burnout is the start of something new and better. When you are done with the “immediate actions” noted above, you will start to reflect on what needs to change and how you can get better and stay sharp in the future. The following list of ideas may help you get back to “work” in a healthy and sustainable way:
- Realise that life is an opportunity to express different sides of yourself, not just one. Even if you are the CEO of the biggest company in the world and you made it all yourself, you are still a father, musician, husband, lover, runner, writer, fun person etc etc as well. Those sides of you need to have room to breathe and flourish. When you are feeling a little better from your burnout, sit down and list the different things you like to do and be and how you will help them to have more space.
- Make a schedule for a balanced life. At work, you plan time for the activities and projects that have the most importance. That is what they teach you in leadership courses and management classes. The same must be true for “post-burnout you”. If you think it is important for your physical and mental health to do some sport, plan it. If you wish you spent more time eating dinner with the family, plan it. And on the work front, if you hate admin and can only stand to do it one day a week, plan for it one day a week.
- Focus on little wins at the start. If you go back to work at 150% trying to “fix all the mess you made” you are going about things in the wrong way. Focus on small actions that show small successes and move you in the right direction. If, for example, you find yourself faced with an overflowing inbox, focus for 1 hour on just seeing what is in there. Don’t try and answer or deal with everything, just assess the contents. When that is done, stop. Do something else. Relax again. Even the biggest mountains in the world can be climbed in little steps. Don’t fall back into the old obsessive behaviours from the start…
- Get a post-burnout buddy. This could be a formal coach or just a good friend. But you need someone to help keep you stay on track. Burnout happens a lot to people who think they are indestructible entrepreneurial self-starters who can do and be anything they want. If you already burnt-out you know that this is not the case. To avoid the risk of just doing it again, find someone with whom you can discuss your plans and promises and who can call you up from time-to-time to see how you are doing.
What is important to remember with everything here is that without some realisation and tools, left to your own devices, you burnt out. Now you had the realisation, it is important to implement some new tools, until they turn into new habits…
I hope this post helped. Maybe you will realise that you need to take action now for the future, maybe you know someone who is having a burnout and this will help you help them, or maybe you can think about preventative actions for your own organisation.
If you have an experience to share or a reply to any of these ideas, please comment.
Thanks for reading!
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In the beginning , man got up with the sun and went to sleep with the sun. The passage of time was measured in days or seasons. Time was spent slowly by hunting, farming and sleeping.
Sometime after, with the invention of clocks I suspect, new measures of time took over: hours, minutes and seconds. The passage of time immediately sped up. The longer time between days and seasons was replaced by the shorter time it takes to download an email, to microwave a potato or to clean the house..
Today, our obsession with time and the way we use it may well be killing us. Many people never stop moving and never stop doing, as if the time they have on Earth must be filled to the very last second. Our relationship with time has gone from non-conscious slow natural living in time to an obsessive fast-paced processed life, dominated by time.
But there are many ways to look at time and no-one way is right. Although our upbringing, culture and evolution may have pushed us in one direction, it is still possible to change our vision of and relationship with time… In this post, I propose 4 visions of time-spending.
Imagine a couple preparing for a big dinner party. At 5pm, Jennifer starts to peel potatoes. She stops at 6pm. John, her husband, plays guitar from 5 to 5.30, then peels potatoes for 30 minutes. In terms of potato peeling, Jennifer has been twice as productive.
Productivity is one of the preferred measures of time used in many factory environments, including, in the past, call centres. People judge their time-usage in terms of how much time they spend doing “stuff”. Their “performance” is clocked in and out. The most productive person is the one who “performs” the longest.
In my last full-time employment, I knew a very productive girl. She would arrive at 7am and “do stuff” until at least 7pm. She rarely took the time to stop and chat, eat (or breathe) – she just worked, worked, worked. Unfortunately she wasn’t very good at her work, which was in itself not of the greatest importance to the company. But she was productive.
Between 5 and 6pm, Jennifer peeled 40 potatoes. Starting 30 minutes later, but finishing at the same time, John also peeled 40 potatoes. John was twice as efficient as Jennifer.
Many (poor) time-managers focus on being efficient. Its all about getting the most amount of stuff done in the smallest amount of time. Systems and processes are created to better multi-task. We text while we drive (!) and swallow the last mouth-fulls of dinner whilst already clearing away the dishes.
In the fitness world, much time has been spent maintaining the body through efficiency (or speed) based programs (in 30 minutes, do as many bicycle kilometres as you can…) but in recent years this has changed considerably to the concept of minimum effective dose: do the minimum required of the right stuff to get the desired result.
Create quality, in time
John proudly announced to Jennifer that he had peeled as many potatoes in half the time. At dinner time, all the guests sat down to eat the results. Those on Jennifer’s side of the table said nothing about the potatoes, simply enjoying their meal. On John’s side of the table, there was much discussion about the potatoes, from the fact that there were none left to the fact that each potato was so small. In his “efficiency rush”, John had completely ignored any sense of peeling potatoes well. The potato skins were chopped off in 4 exaggerated slices, leaving a small chip-like result.
Although quality output may seem to go hand-in-hand with time and despite the temptation to associate Jennifer’s potato-peeling time with the good results, quality output is in fact entirely nothing to do with time. When we approach every activity as either a “time-filler” or a race to get things done quickly, quality output is sometimes left aside.
But what is the point of the work anyway, if not about creating good results?
Create quality time
While Jennifer and John were concentrating on the evening’s potato requirements, their son William was playing in the garden. As he went up and down the slide, he created nothing. Going in and out of the wood cabin, each time opening and closing the door in a methodical yet meaningless way, he was lost in time and again created nothing.
In some Eastern cultures, the “single-minded” focus on the quality of some activities has a meditation-like focus. The Japanese tea ceremony is certainly not about the amount of time spent drinking tea, the number of cups drunk or the tea itself. When we sit down to read a novel, we tend not to notice the time fly and most adults don’t proudly count the number of pages they have read.
In Pirsig’s book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, the author notes the difference between making quality time on a road-trip (getting there fast) and making quality time (having a good trip). Creating quality time is about being in “flow“, mastering and loving a task, or doing it for its own sake. * The output is in some respects irrelevant.
* …according to the Yerkes-Dodson law, it also happens to produce the best output.
I am writing this post because I have issues with time. For many years, I have been rushing to get “everything” done. After a long working day, I would proudly announce the number of hours worked to anyone who would listen. I would add that I had done “a thousand things” and go to bed satisfied that my time had been well and efficiently spent. And if I should be bothered by any non-quality-output detail, I might even get out of bed to fix it. “Everything” could never be done and certainly not perfectly, but it was my mission to at least give it a shot.
But in reality, I have been wearing myself out. For the last few months (years?), I have lacked focus and lost flow; only thinking about the next objective and a future that never arrives, less in contact with the present moment. Look at my “2012 annual report” and you may realise that I have spent all my time working. And a LOT has been done. Good output too. I have been both productive, efficient and successful.
Now it is time to focus on creating quality time. On time well spent: flow and passion inducing, McLovin’ it. Because I’m worth it.
If you feel the need to do the same, I would encourage you (to):
- Don’t be afraid to go “all-in”
- Delete as much as possible that doesn’t bring joy to your life
- Make sure your goals are PERSONAL
- ..and don’t be afraid to just do nothing!
(Time for a walk…)
Thanks for reading.
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Tomorrow the Belgian media and learning world will say goodbye to Bob De Groof, deceased earlier this week. Much has been shared and said about Bob this week via Twitter and at the end of this post, I will direct you to those “in memoriams”. If you knew Bob, I invite you to think of him tomorrow morning and if you want to know how I knew him, read on…
Read the 2005 article “Wie is Bob De Groof?” from De Standaard and you will see that by the time I was watching Star Wars for the first time, Bob had already done so much as a media-man in Belgium. I can’t add anything to his career notes, as I simply don’t know enough. I just wanted to share 4 of my own Bob stories, to share what Bob means to me. These stories remind me of an inspiration, an industry standard and one of the world’s last true gentlemen.
Bob is an early morning chat about what’s important in life, about following your dreams.
I first met Bob in 2006 at Logica, when I hired his “Presentation Skills” training services with Kluwer. As “Training and Development Manager” of that company, I was looking for the highest standard of trainer to help the top managers in the company to improve their ability to pitch, tell a story and sell a solution. Enter Bob. At 7.30am.
Aside from me and Bob, no-one was generally around at that time in the office, so we got to chatting. (Don’t tell my ex-boss!). In fact, every time Bob would come to Logica, we would spend about an hour before the working day waxing lyrical about everything from the day’s news to my kids or his, travel or everyday stuff. One day, I told him I wanted to be a “Presentation Skills” trainer myself and he encouraged me to follow my professional dreams. If I wasn’t satisfied with what I was doing, I should change it. Simple as that. Extremely polite and “correct” in his speech, I found in Bob a certain “direct authority” combined with the kind of objective but caring friendliness you might expect from a favourite uncle.
Bob is one of 3 or 4 people that really inspired me to make the decision to go it alone and do my thing. I’m very grateful.
Bob will always be THE standard. The point of reference for excellence in his domain.
At the end of the very first training Bob delivered at Logica, 2 of the manager/participants came to see me. I was worried. Had I made a mistake? Did Barbara Verscheuren sell me a dud? Far from it! They came to tell me that it was amazing to have such a trainer. “How could one man have SO MUCH experience to share?” Despite their years of pitching business, Bob was able to bring real value and improve their presentations. He was a master in “Presentation Skills”.
Jump forward to 2010: Kluwer asked me to pick up some of Bob’s training. What a compliment! I remember telling my wife that I (yes, little me!) had been asked to take over for Bob. (Yes, for Bob!!). I never pretended to be able to fill his shoes, but I was damn-well going to do my best to fly his flag high! I still am.
Bob makes you feel good about being whatever you are.
That’s a rare talent, I think. I do know one other person who comes close, but its still rare. When I was with Bob, I felt like I was the most important person in the world. Not because I was, but because he made me feel like I was. I don’t know if he consciously made an effort to find and tap-into the things that made people tick, if he knew he did it and did it on purpose, or if that’s just Bob. But it was the same everytime.
In particular, I remember one evening where all the Kluwer trainers got together on a barge in Leuven for a cooking party. As I left the boat, I bumped into Bob and Helena Van Caekenberge from Kluwer. Seeing me, Bob announced: “Ah, the rising star of Kluwer”. Again, I went home and told my wife. What a compliment!
Bob makes you raise your own standards. Or wear different shoes
As I already said, Bob De Groof was an excellent trainer. You follow his course, you improve. Simple. But it doesn’t stop there..
Last year, I was invited by Kluwer to speak at their evening Trainer’s Lounge on the usage of “Social Media for Training”. I saw Bob just before, dressed (as ever) in his suit and tie. Having myself had the day off, I was dressed in what I call my “Zuckerberg plus-1″ conference look of jeans, trainers and a shirt (the shirt being the “plus-1″). Having always been troubled by how one should dress for a presentation, I shared my thoughts on the topic and asked Bob what he thought. His reply was simple: “Always dress a little bit better than the audience. And at least wear a nice pair of shoes.”
I can’t say do the first part, but I definitively swapped the trainers for a good pair of shoes the very next day.
So that’s “my” Bob: An inspiration, THE standard, a motivator and all round smart gentleman.
If you want to share your own ideas, please comment below.
Thanks for reading.
If you want to read more, here’s a selection of this week’s “in memoriams’:
- Lukas De Vos, DeWereldMorgen.be: “De gladde generatie: in memoriam Bob De Groof (1945-2013)”
- Wim Chielens, Brieven uit de Westhoek: “Bob De Groof, I.M”
- Kluwer’s IM
- DeRedactie.be and VRT.be
The 1107 words here lead to and underline some questions you can ask yourself about how you bring value to your customers and what you are going to do to survive market changes… It is a long rant and potentially a little naive. I’m not a financial expert and maybe not the best strategist. But still…
It strikes me that we live more-and-more in a world obsessed by price. Or rather: “Cheap”. Given “the current economic situation”, credit-crunch, budget cuts, unemployment and austerity measures, I suppose this is natural. People want to get the best for their money. But that doesn’t make it good. Since when did “the best” equal “the most for the cheapest”?
In my recent visit to the UK, I was shocked by the apparent extent of this obsession. Everywhere I went, everyone was competing on price. Supermarkets that used to offer the best quality food ingredients now focus on “3 for 2″ offers and “any 2 deserts for £2″. The motorway diners that used to boast “authentic fully-cooked English breakfasts all day” now have posters several miles before noting that “the whole family eats for £5″. And for some reason, my father has taken to supplementing a benefits-driven overview of his latest purchase with “…and it only cost me …”
But competing on price is not sustainable and doesn’t create a real value image in the long-term. Sometimes it can even destroy hope of having a long-term future, as is famously the case with HMV right now or, less in the public eye, the little DVD-hire-shop down the road from me.
Take the first example: HMV. The first HMV branded store was opened on Oxford Street, London, in 1921. Facing competition, it won the game by offering newer, bigger stores with the best most complete collection of music and film. When I was growing up in the 90s, if I wanted the latest number-1 CD I would pop into my local “Our Price”. But if I really wanted to shop for CDs, to find something a bit more obscure or to listen before I bought, I would happily wait for a trip to London to visit HMV.
In the example of my local DVD shop, it was all about getting the latest films first and the unprecedented offer of keeping them for 48 hours instead of the standard 24 rental hours. People who wanted to see something before anyone else would go there. And maybe even lend it to a friend before they took it back.
But markets change and in both cases these value-offerings came under attack from the competition. Facing the online offer of Amazon, iTunes, Napster and MegaUpload, HMV was no longer the only one to have everything in music and film. And the others were cheaper too. Instead of fighting back with any real innovation or added quality, prices were reduced. And as the bottom-line profits slipped away, gone as well were the listening-posts to “try before you buy”. The more expensive-to-run focus on specialist or obscure music was replaced by more of the latest number-1s at a cheaper price then anywhere else. My local DVD shop started to offer 3 films for the price of 2.
When competing on price alone, the cheapest wins and everyone else dies. Drug dealers know this and you don’t have to watch many mafia films to understand that the middle man always gets cut out. For HMV, consumers who could no longer see the added-value of a trip out to the shop (in the cold, using expensive petrol) would buy exclusively online. Everything being equal, price wins.
But everything doesn’t have to be equal and there are other ways to compete. In marketing terms, “price” is only one of the 6 “P”s and consumers might buy for any mix of reasons. HMV used to be about “products” and “people”. Another high-street shop in the UK claims to have the best KnowHow™ to help you install, maintain and use your product. * This is all about the “people” and “processes” they offer – a good reason to buy. In my own case, I currently focus on creating the minimum effective dose of training, along with authentic learning processes and improving formal learning with practical use of social media. Others focus on being the first to market, or the most deluxe product.
* Ironically, in my last trip to the UK, the window-sized poster- promoting this “people/process” offering was now obscured by 20 smaller shamefully off-brand posters shouting out the cheapest prices for X, Y and Z.
For the seasoned marketeer, I have said nothing new here. Its always been the same: Companies profit by offering value for money. Unfortunately, many companies seem to have forgotten all about the value, choosing instead to focus only on the money. They argue that its because of the tough economic situation and because no-one has any cash to spend. But even if the “boomerang generation” can’t afford to do live away from its parents, one look at the evolution of Apple’s share prices over the past 5 years will tell you that many people still have a lot of spare cash. Starbucks still makes £400 million in revenue selling coffee in the UK and Amazon has announced that its fourth-quarter revenues rose by 22 percent to reach US$21.3 billion. And despite training being the first thing to go when corporations aren’t making enough profit, many of my trainer colleagues are still fully-booked doing great business until the end of 2013.
People pay for quality. This doesn’t mean “top quality” or “deluxe” but simply “value” (or perceived value). And if you want them to pay you, then you need to offer value, whatever your price. The more value (and the more unique your value) the more likely people will buy from you. Despite the focus of so many on “price”, I believe that if you want to do well in bad economic times, you need to focus even more on the other side of the price/value equation.
So to close my little rant (“price competition” is after all one of my current pet-hates) I would like to ask you to take some time over the coming days to think about the following 5 questions:
- Everything being equal, price wins. But everything is not equal. What makes you special?
- What do you want your customers to say about your products, services and staff?
- What do you, your company, people, products and services stand for? What’s your “thing”?
- Assume money was not an issue for any of your customers. Why do they buy from you?
- Why do people come back for more of your stuff?
Thanks for reading.
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