One thing at a Time

This is a natural follow up to my post last week, Focus on FocusTony Schwartz‘s post on the Harvard Business Review blog challenges the common practice of multitasking and claims that we are more effective and efficient when we focus. Schwartz estimates we a task takes an average of 25% more time when we divide our attention and the drain on our energy levels are even more costly.  Schwartz offers suggestions for both managers and individual contributors:

For managers:

  1. Maintain meeting discipline.
  2. Stop demanding or expecting instant responsiveness at every moment of the day.
  3. Encourage renewal.

For individual contributors:

  1. Do the most important thing first in the morning.
  2. Establish regular, scheduled times to think more long term, creatively, or strategically.
  3. Take real and regular vacations.

Focus on Focus

Harvard Business Review wordmark

Harvard Business Review wordmark (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Peter Bregman, author of 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done, has written two outstanding articles for Harvard Business Review | HBR.org which focus on, well. . . focus.  New professionals and CEOs will benefit alike.  After implementing these habits, you will gain laser-like focus in as little as 10 minutes per day.

In Two Lists You Should Look At Every Morning, Bregman recommends creating two lists: 1) Your Focus List; and 2) Your Ignore List and reviewing them every morning.  These are not to do lists, but rather major areas of focus for your life and serve as a guide when deciding how you spend your time each day– “because time is your one limited resource and no matter how hard you try you can’t work 25/8” as Bregman notes.

In The Best Way to Use the Last Five Minutes of Your Day, Bregman recommends reserving Read more

Four Destructive Myths Most Companies Still Live By

Tony Schwartz, the president and CEO of The Energy Project and the author of Be Excellent at Anything, identifies four myths found in many organizations:

  • Myth #1: Multitasking is critical in a world of infinite demand.
  • Myth #2: A little bit of anxiety helps us perform better.
  • Myth #3: Creativity is genetically inherited, and it’s impossible to teach.
  • Myth #4: The best way to get more work done is to work longer hours.

Are these myths present in your organization?  It is easy to adopt the practices and habits of the organization in which you work– is this how you want to work?

Read the full post.

Discovering Your Organization’s Culture

Last week, we discussed the importance of understanding your organization’s culture.  In this post, we are going to provide some specific tactics for discovering the culture of an organization:

  1. What is the history of the organization?  Is it at start-up or a long-established company?  Learn how the organization began and the path it followed to get to where it is today.
  2. What significant events impacted the organization such as a merger, bankruptcy or initial public offering?  Was there a scandal involving a leader of the organization?  What about a major world event such as 9/11?  These significant events may shape or even change the culture of an organization. Read more

A Muddy (Corporate) Culture

A few weeks ago, I participated in my third Tough Mudder event.  I enjoy these events for the physical and mental challenge and the camaraderie of competing as part of a team.

Post-race photo with my team. I am 2nd from left.

For those who don’t know, Tough Mudder events are hardcore 10-12 mile obstacle courses designed by British Special Forces to test your all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie.

One of the most impressive aspects of the Tough Mudder organization is the culture that they have built into their events.  While it is difficult to describe in words, the Tough Mudder culture is palpable.  It is truly something that must be Read more

Lessons from the Olympics

The Summer Olympics are over and already I miss watching these amazing athletes.  While watching the post-event interviews with the athletes, there were several themes that you can apply to your career:

  • Practice is Everything – The athletes had practiced 8+ hours per day for many years in order to prepare for their event. How much time do you dedicate to practice for important meetings, presentations, speeches related to your career?  Do you practice the skills that are necessary for professional success such as writing, public speaking and networking?
  • Individual Responsibility – Most of the athletes acknowledged the invaluable contribution and support of their coaches and teammates.  None of the athletes blamed anyone else for their own poor performance.   Do you take responsibility for your own career or do you blame your boss, colleagues or the organization when things don’t go your way?
  • Focus and Excellence – Many of the athletes described a level of intense focus and standard of personal excellence that is often overlooked in today’s organizations.  Do you focus on your work like an athlete focuses on their game, event, competition?  What if you did?  What is the standard you set for yourself when it comes to you career?  Do you strive for excellence in your career?

These lessons from the Olympics are at the core of Career-ology.

Go Team USA!  See you in Buenos Aires in 2016.

Don’t Miss the Moment

Last week while on vacation at a beautiful Florida beach, I went “offline.”  I didn’t check email or voice mail and only went online to find a local restaurant.  It was great!

Being without my iPhone, made me hyper-aware how other people were using their smart-devices.  The most striking example was the teenager at the beach who was texting for hours at a time.  While I swam in the surf, listened to the sound of the birds and watched a pod of dolphins swim along the coast, this teenager was so focused on his smartphone that he missed it all.  He was at the beach, but not really at the beach– he was missing the moment.

While this blog is not a commentary on teenager’s behavior, this vivid example, made me think about how professionals divide their attention especially during a meeting.  Humans cannot effectively divide their attention between two similar, complex tasks such as reading and listening.  No one can read an email on their smartphone while simultaneously listening to someone speak during a meeting.

Get in to the office early or stay late, but don’t text, send or read email while participating in a meeting with other people– don’t miss the moment to hear what is being said or weigh in with your own opinion on the subject.  You’ll miss the moment like the teenager on the beach.

In-person conversations need to happen

Last week, while discussing an earlier blog post, Downsides of Digital Conflict Resolution, with a young professional, I used the following example which really seemed to bring Tjan’s point to life and wanted to share it here.

Imagine sitting in the same room with a good friend.  You and your friend sit  back-to-back and you may only communicate by passing written notes back and forth. No verbal communication or sounds are allowed and of course, you cannot see each others face.

Think of how much communication would be missing from that interaction.  That is what happens during an email exchange.