There is an idea that “time flies when you are having fun”.
* (see below post for disclaimer)
But time flies for other reasons too: When you are stressed or under time-pressure, when you are doing addictive chores, when you are asleep…
So don’t think that just because time flies, you are having fun.
I have spent a lot of time flying through time not having enough fun, so my first New Year’s resolution for 2014 is to regularly re-do an exercise proposed by Marcus Buckingham in his book “Go Put Your Strengths To Work”. It’s simple and you can do it too…
Step 1: Note what gives you energy
As you go through your working day, any time you are having fun or feeling energetic, make a note of what you are doing. Use seperate post-it notes of bits of paper for each idea – this will help when you get to step 3 later.
I have already noted the following in the last few days:
- Chasing new ideas, researching things that get my attention
- Blogging and writing ideas in order to try and communicate them well to other people
- Hospitality and welcoming people
..and the last time I did this exercise, I had also noted:
- Developing a presentation for a large audience
- Speaking to a group of people about a topic on which I am an expert
- Editing an article to ensure the minimum effective dose of content
- Consulting with new potential clients, by phone or face-to-face, asking questions in order to understand their situation, values and needs
Step 2: Note what drains your energy or makes you unhappy
As with step 1, any time you feel drained or unhappy in what you are doing, note it down. Again, use separate notes.
My own ideas:
- Working with particular people … I noted their names, but won’t share here 🙂
- Raising invoices
- Writing administrative emails to tick-off silly little tasks in preparation for a training or conference
- Booking hotels, flights and travel
Step 3: Categorise wherever possible in order to see the thin-red-line
If I remember well, Buckingham proposes to do the exercises (steps 1+2) for about a week. At the end of the week, see if you can find common points between the different notes. Spread them all out on a table and re-arrange them in order to see how they fit together.
This should give you an idea of what really turns you on … and off.
Step 4: The hardest part = Create strategies to maximise the energisers and minimise the drainers
Although I won’t get into this here and now, if you have an idea of when turns you on and what turns you off AND if you are truly willing to invest in your own happiness (so that time flies) then you must work on this step.
Bear in mind that there is always a way to improve your working experience, even if you don’t work for yourself. If you are not sure how to actually make it happen, consider the following ideas to get you started:
- Share your ideas with your manager. If this person is worth their job, they should be interested in your working happiness.
- Do a SWOT analysis, using “be happy” as your mission in order to create strategic action.
- Read “The 4 Hour Work Week” by Tim Ferriss or “Getting Things Done” by David Allen
- Kill your sacred cows (as Tim Ferriss would say)
- Look for a new job!
I know very well that this last step may seem a bit dreamy and some people will read and think “It’s not that easy” but that doesn’t mean the exercise is worthless in itself. Think about what gives you strength, what drains your energy and then make the choice to have a Happy New Year!
Thanks for reading,
* The idea that “time flies when you having fun” is almost true, but in fact there is a mistake in this phrase which is both philosophically interesting and also, I believe, quite dangerous for the fast-moving, entrepreneurial, recognition-seeking type of folk (like me) that are rather desperately on the road to dissatisfaction and burn-out.
In fact, time doesn’t fly when you are having fun. It stops. It disappears. This is important because our obsession with time as an entity or currency leads to lots of attempts to save it, redistribute it or make it move faster or slower than it actually does.
But even my previous paragraph is faulty, because there is no such thing as time. At least not as it is intended in the phrase “time flies when you are having fun”. In that phrase, the time referred to is “clock time” and in reality, we just stop thinking about “clock time” when we are really having fun. We live in the moment, without regard for what will come later or what came earlier. That is indeed why it is fun. Because we are truly alive in the “now” instead of “thinking” and getting caught up in other ego-led desires. And when we do start thinking about it (“clock time”) again, we see that it has flown by. We are much “later” than we thought.
If this little philosophical suffix interests you even in the slightest, read “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle.
I went to the doctor the other month with a headache and he hit over the head with a plank of wood. Wrong solution. Made things worse.
I went to another and he gave me 500mg of Ibuprofen. Right solution, but not enough to calm the symptoms.
I went to third doctor and he prescribed 1kilogram of Ibuprofen. I spent 1 month in hospital getting over it.
A final doctor told me that what I needed was the minimum effective dose: The right amount of the right stuff to get the desired results. Not less, not more and not something else.
In all things effectiveness, leadership and communication, its the same story. I’ll take a presentation as an example:
- Don’t use a table when a graph would be better. Don’t give technical facts when a story would be easier to understand.
- Make sure you give enough content to make your point
- ..but not so much as to send them to sleep (or the hospital if it’s really bad!)
Minimum Effective Dose, introduced to me by Tim Ferriss in his great book “The Four Hour Body”, is THE guiding principle for personal effectiveness, leadership and communication.
Ask yourself (always):
- What MUST I have/say/do/be to get what I want?
- What is “just a bit more” with no real impact, or worse still: negative impact?
- What is the RIGHT WAY to get what I want?
- What approach would not be appropriate?
Are you doing the MED right now?
How can you apply the MED principle to your own work?
Thanks for reading!
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In poker the concept of going “all-in” means you put everything you have into one bet. Its high risk because you might lose it all.. …but maybe you win!
Thinking about “life” and personal effectiveness, I’ve recently got it into my head that I should start going all in… What does this mean?
We’ve only got one life, right? Everyday we do what we do, hoping it will make us happy. But many of us don’t do what we REALLY WANT TO DO. We don’t do what brings us flow or what is truly in-line with our most awesome vision of who we are and what we want out of life. At the end of the day, week, month, holiday, year (life, whatever) we find ourselves saying “Oh, I wish I’d done that” or “I should have spent more time doing that”.
To counter this problem, you can do 3 very specific things that I do to help me go “all-in” :
Write your own personal vision/mission statement
My own mission statement is called “my most awesome vision of who I am, what I believe and what I want”. I tend to revise it most when I’m not happy, but always take a moment each summer (during holidays) to think it through again. I’m not going to share it here, its personal. What I can say is that when I read it I get a sensation of “Yes I can”, filled with the joy of wanting more out of life and motivated, ready to get to action.
To be successful with your own vision/mission statement, include the following elements:
- What you think is a good life
- What you believe is most important in order to be happy
- How you want to be spending your time, in terms of the different roles you have
- One or 2 wildly important life goals
Create a dream-list *
“Begin with the end in mind”, “You get more of what you concentrate on”, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there”, “SMART objectives” etc… We’ve all heard it before time and time again .. and its true: You have to set objectives in personal life, just as you do at work.
Today, my dreamlist has 47 items on it, ranging from spending 3 months in India with my wife (not kids) to skydiving and creating a Beatles rock band. It doesn’t matter what’s on your list as long as it inspires you and doesn’t go again your personal vision/mission statement.
To create a good dream-list:
- Start by noting anything you want to do, have or be
- Add to it any time you get an idea of something you want to do, have or be
- Don’t “filter” your dreams or say “this is silly” – just add it
…then take action. Any action! For example, I want to do a motorcycle road-trip in the mountains with my father. I’ve no idea when, how, how long etc but I don’t worry about that. I just focus on taking the next concrete action (something I learnt from David Allen and blogged about here ) and move forward. So we set a date. When I’m ready for the next concrete action, I’ll do that… eventually I will have done it. Don’t forget: Even a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step 🙂
..or as Justin Bieber might say “Never say never” 🙂
If you are going to be happy, live your dreams and go “all-in” you have to believe that things are possible. Sometimes this is difficult. We think of something we want to be, have or do and then all the doubt comes flooding in: What if it all goes wrong? Do I really want this? Will it work?
I like to remember a simple phrase from Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” (which is all about going “all-in”):
“When there was doubt I ate it up and spat it out”.
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