simplicity

Flat Mojo? Do A ‘Hell Yeah’ Audit

Got a flat mojo? Do a ‘Hell Yeah’  audit.

Hell Yeah With Text.001
Derek Sivers talks about getting to the point where you only say ‘Yes’ to stuff if it’s a ‘Hell Yeah!’ Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed that some of the stuff I’ve been delivering hasn’t been feeling as much of a Hell Yeah as I’d like. So I decided to do a Hell Yeah audit.

I printed a list of my invoices over the last 6 months and rated each piece of work on a scale of 1-5, 1 being ‘crap’ to 5 being ‘Hell Yeah!’  75% was over 3, 50% was over 4, and 30% was a ‘Hell Yeah!’.

Maybe you don’t do invoices. But you probably have a way of tracking your time. Some sort of calendar perhaps. Or a diary, or a notebook. In whatever way works for you, I recommend checking how you’ve spent your time recently, and what activities are giving you the most energy.

Doing this exercise has helped me to take stock of what sort of work I’m saying ‘Yes’ to that I could maybe change. Now I’ve got a choice: I can stop saying ‘Yes’ to it, or I can reframe to be more of a ‘Hell Yeah’.

Just knowing that makes my mojo rise.

Hell Yeah!

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Your Year By Design

beach-1867285_960_720.jpg

Photo: Pixabay

People often say to me “you’re so lucky, you’re always on holidays!” Well, it’s probably true that I do take more time out than most people. But it has nothing to do with luck. It’s by design.

If you’re like a lot of people, you can get to the end of the year and wonder, “where did the time go?” Perhaps with some regret for the things you’d intended to do but didn’t quite get around to. Perhaps you suffer from ‘one-day’ syndrome. You know: “one day, I’ll [fill in the blank]. Robert Fritz, in his book The Path of Least Resistance, says that the hardest thing in the world for many people is to honestly answer “what do I really want?” and then stay true to that.

The way I see it, it’s smart to take charge and design your life in a way that works for you. Otherwise, everything can be just a jumble of things that happen to you in between being born and dying.

Here’s how I design my year so I can have the greatest chance of making sure I am living ‘on purpose’. Every January, I sit down and do the following:

First, I do a ‘year in review’. I go through the things I did from the previous year, reviewing my calendar, journals and also my Facebook page. Any place where I’ve recorded my events and activities. I’m looking for two things:

  • The most positive experiences I’ve had during the year
  • The most negative experiences I’ve had during the year

These might be things I’ve done, places I’ve been, things I’ve bought, or people I’ve spent time with.

I’ll have two columns (one for positive, one for negative), and as I review, I’ll write things down.

Next, I look for patterns. What seems to be the common theme? For example, one theme I noticed for my 2016 was that the ‘positive’ people seem to all be very generous with their time and ideas, while the people I had more ‘negative’ experiences with tended to be time-poor and/or somewhat selfish. Interesting. I find that the most positive experiences speak to and reflect my deepest values, and it’s worth you reflecting on this too. The Schwartz Values Model is a useful tool here.

Then I ask myself: “What do I want to have happen this year?” I’ll take the themes and values, and build from them. Useful sub-questions for me include “who do I want to hang out with?” “What work will be really interesting and engaging for me?” “What adventures do I want to have?” “What do I want to achieve?” “What could I do that would cause me to grow?” and, crucially, “what do I want to drop, or dial down?” Ya gotta make room for the good stuff. Tim Ferris also suggests asking people close to you “what should I do more of this year?” and “what should I do less of?”

Next, I schedule the good stuff. Steven Covey calls this putting the ‘big rocks in the jar first’. I’m a big picture kind of guy, so I’ll make a big calendar and put it up on my whiteboard in my office. Here’s what that looks like:

my-year-by-design-pic

It’s colour-coded as follows:

Blue = creative pursuits, adventures and time out. These are based on my values of adventure, learning and creativity. These are all really important to me, so they go in first. The ‘blue time’ includes adventures like my annual surfing and windsurfing trip, family snowboarding trips etc. as well as less intense activities where I’ll take some time out to read, write and think.

Green = ‘delivery’ work. This is the time where I’m earning money, but more importantly, it’s also time spent where I have a chance to make a difference using my talents. Scheduling the green time serves two purposes: it shows me my cash flow (am I earning enough?) and it also gives me a sense that I’m spending enough of my time doing worthwhile work.

Orange = professional development. This is structured time for me to reflect on my work and practice, and plan ahead. I happen to be doing a programme that forces me to build in these days, which really helps.

The three categories reflect the types of activities that are both a) important to me and b) able to be scheduled in advance.

When I step back, I can see that I’ve got ‘enough’ happening in the blue space, I’ll need some more green going on in the latter half of the year, and there’s lots of ‘white space’ that I can use how I want (which might include spending time with good people, booking in quality work, or finishing my book!)

I’ll book all of these activities into my Google Calendar, which my Business Manager and family can see, and I can access easily from anywhere.

Finally, I’ll make a list of the people I enjoyed hanging out with last year, as well as new people I would love to connect with. I’ll make the list visible. It’s currently posted up on my wall next to my computer. Every week or so, I’ll have a look at it and make contact with someone on it. That ensures I’m getting the people connection that is important to me.

A few important things to note about this process:

  • My year by design is just that: mine. It’s based on what’s important to me. You don’t need to replicate the colour-coded categories that I have. Go do your own 🙂
  • This process applies to anyone, not just those who are self-employed like me. The fundamental idea is about deciding on, and committing to, the stuff that you want to have happen.
  • When you book in the ‘good stuff’ first, you make less room for the crappy stuff. If your time is spent doing good stuff with good people, it’s hard for the other stuff to find a way in.
  • 90% of the value of scheduling something in is in the anticipation of it happening.

That’s it. As you can see, it’s not really about luck. There’s quite a bit of work in it. Although I wouldn’t call it ‘work’ – it’s a fun, energising process that helps to ensure I am making the most of my time on the planet. Go do it.

(Here’s my-year-by-design-template for you to use).

 

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Evolution of A Blog Post

Here’s how I take an idea and turn it into a useful post.

Let’s take my recent post Opportunity and Agency

This one started as a random idea in a lecture I was giving for my Auckland MBA cohort. During the class discussion, the idea came to me, so I drew it up on the whiteboard, and explained it to the class:

opportunity-and-agency-whiteboard-1

The next day, I transferred it to my little black book that I capture all of my ‘interesting’ ideas in. Some of those ideas might sit there for a day or two,before I act on them. Some for a year or more. Some, never. But they’re all there, in one place:

opportunity-and-agency-journal

I’ll flick through my little black book once a week or so. When one of those ideas jumps off the page at me (sometimes it’s when I write it in there), I know it’s time to flesh it out. The question I always ask is “what will help make this idea more useful to people (including me)?” I’ll often scribble more notes on my whiteboard at home for this:

opportunity-and-agency-ideas

Once I feel I’ve got enough to work with, I’ll start writing. By the way, in my home office, I have separate spaces to create, and to produce. Create = couch + coffee table, or whiteboard. No computer. Produce = standing desk with computer:

opportunity-and-agency-writing

My structure varies, however it usually includes a lead-in story to set the context, then the key point, then a model (usually schmicked up in a simple PowerPoint, converted to a jpeg), then some tips to make it useful, followed by a leading question or a call to action. Just like in the finished post.

Hope that’s useful!

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How To Tip The System

Recently I was working with a group of about 20 people at a residential workshop. It was morning tea time and we were all gathered in a room relishing our caffeine top-ups.

As facilitator, it was my job to keep people on time. I considered how I’d let them all know when it was time for us to move back to the main room. I had a few options:

  1. Quietly walk through the group and tell each and every person individually that it was time to move.
  2. Stand up on a chair and holler to the whole group “it’s time to head back in!”
  3. Find an easier, simpler way to do it with minimal effort.

I experimented with the third way. This is what I did:

I walked to the back of the room, the furthest spot from the door. A couple of people were loitering there. I quietly let them know it was time to move back in to the workshop room. They started moving towards the door, through the crowd.

And what do you know? The rest of the people picked up on this slight shift, and within 30 seconds, everyone was moving back to the room. Job done. No sweat.

This is an example of what I call ‘tipping the system’. Seeing the group as a self-organising system, finding the points in the system that look like they will give you the most leverage for the least effort, and levering those to ‘tip it’.

Let’s look at the other options and their pros and cons.

Option 1: Tell everybody individually. Mechanical management. Inefficient. I would have ensured that everybody got the message, but it would have taken a long time. Meh.

Tip The System 1

Option 2: Stand on the chair. Hero leadership. Disempowering. It would have achieved the outcome, but it makes me the focal point. It sets up a subtle leader / follower dynamic where people can become reliant on me for telling them what to do. Double meh.

Tip The System 2

 

Option 3: Find the tipping points. The way I did it was through a systems lens. My role as ‘leader’ was to tip the system to effect the change I wanted to see. With as little effort as possible.

Tip The System 3

 

This is a micro-example from which the lessons can be applied to more macro situations. Large-scale change initiatives come to mind. Evolving team culture. Getting an idea to go viral.

It’s about seeing and working with the patterns. Similar to how the best surfers learn to read the patterns of the waves and currents, as I’ve written about before.

It’s also about not trying too hard. Here’s a great example of how to get a group of people to organise themselves in a certain way by providing just the merest of instructions:

 

Here are some guidelines for tipping your own system with more grace and less effort:

  1. Define the outcome you’d like to see.
  2. Notice the system that’s at play.
  3. Look for the leverage points.
  4. Lever those points.
  5. Get out of the way.
  6. Notice what happens.
  7. Repeat steps as required.

 

It’s worth noting that the points of leverage will often be a few key influential people. In my example above, the leverage points were the couple of ‘key influential people’ that were standing at the back of the room. Not because of any authority they carried, but simply because of where they were situated in the room.

The key is to adopt an experimental mindset. Be like a scientist. Treat it lightly and don’t force it. Be curious. You can learn more about this approach in my post ‘How To See’.

So, what outcomes are you trying to achieve? What is the nature of the system that’s at play? Where are the leverage points? Get experimenting, then get out of the way and notice what happens.

 

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Networking For When It’s All Too Hard

A lot of people say that networking is hard, and they’re not good at it. And, we know (or at least, we hear) that a healthy network is good for us. So there’s this tension that we live with. If you’re one of those people feeling that tension, let me help you ease the pain.

If you want to know how to build and sustain a useful network, and you read nothing else, just act on these two ideas:

  1. Keep a few key people close.
  2. Find simple ways to add value to everyone else.

(more…)

Five Questions To Guide You

Here are five simple questions to keep you on track over the next twelve months:

  1. How do I want to spend my time?
  2. What do I want to learn?
  3. What do I want to achieve?
  4. How do I want to be?
  5. What’s my theme for the year?

This last one is powerful. In many ways it is a compression of your answers to the previous four questions. By giving yourself a theme for the year, you have an anchor, a focal point, to help you choose and make wiser decisions while staying true to yourself. For example, a couple of years ago, my theme was ‘follow my nose and do what excites me’. I didn’t do any work that didn’t excite me. What a difference that made!

Instructions:

Write your answers down. Don’t rush, come back to them frequently during the course of a couple of weeks.

Keep a journal of what you’re doing, thinking and feeling.

Every month, revisit the journal and questions. Update your answers if you need to.

Notice what happens over time.

 

journal

 

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Simplicity Helps You Thrive

Lessons from the Bush* #1

I’ve recently returned from an amazing three-month trip with my family in the wilds of the Kimberley region in Western Australia. After being back into the ‘real’ world (as some would say) for a few weeks, some interesting and useful insights about leadership and life have bubbled to the surface. Over the next few weeks, I’ll share these with you, and hopefully they’ll be useful.

First, some context. The idea behind the trip was to spend some good quality family time together while experiencing a completely different way of living. We set ourselves up to be fully self sufficient, having bought a vehicle and camper trailer that would handle whatever terrain we threw at it. For the vast majority of our time, we were remote. Often, the closest town was over 300km away, and we didn’t need to restock our supplies for two or three weeks.

We knew the places we were going didn’t have any phone or internet connectivity, and we deliberately didn’t allow our kids any screens (Kindles were OK for reading, but no iPads for games or movies). In fact, the vehicle we had had screens in the headrests of the seats, but I put seat covers over them as soon as I bought it, and the kids never knew until the end of the trip!

We covered almost 12,000km in three months, didn’t see a cloud or a raindrop, and had the time of our lives.

So, what did I learn? Here’s the first insight:

Simplicity Helps You Thrive.

One of the things my wife and I noticed when we returned was how crowded, busy and complex our normal lives are. Suffocating, in fact. In particular, we found that we were spending a huge amount of time and energy managing obligations, commitments and deadlines, co-ordinating meetings and appointments, and reading and processing emails.

When we were in the bush, the only obligations we had were to ourselves. On a day-to-day basis, we didn’t have promises to fulfil to others, or things to make happen, or timetables to stick to. We didn’t have weekends. We had none of the distractions of the seemingly indispensible ‘tools’ that we all use to run our daily lives to – no email, no voicemails, no text messages, no reminders. We were operating on a different, simpler rhythm. I felt like a modern-day Henry David Thoreau.

That simplicity helped us thrive. We were more in the present. It freed us up so we could enjoy what each day brought. We were able to linger in conversation. We were able to spend time on things that took our interest. We were able to follow our noses, and be spontaneous and crazy.

We were living what was most important to us. Our simpler life strengthened our ties as a family, and each of us shone just that bit brighter.

Photo of the simple lift

Really, what more do you need? Winderabandi Point, Ningaloo Station.

Most of us live in a world that competes for our attention, and, if we let it, we can easily lose touch with the activities and people that help us to thrive. How do we hold onto that? That’s something I’ve been pondering since I’ve been back.

Here are some deliberate practices that I’m experimenting with to help me answer that question:

  • I own my mornings. At the start of the day, I take a 20-30 min walk, and then write down what’s most important for me to do that day. I decide my priorities first, and only then do I check my emails to see what other people might need from me.
  • I build in ‘breathing space’ during each day. That essentially means chunks of free time before and after commitments in my diary. Not for checking emails, but just to think and be.
  • I’ve hired myself an assistant. I’m starting to outsource a lot of the co-ordinating activities to someone who’s a lot better at them than me, and, more importantly, will allow me to free my time up to do what I do best.
  • We make time for each other. Each Sunday night, I’ll plan with my wife and kids the one special thing we each want to do with each other in the coming week. e.g. my wife and I might go out for a drink around to the local bar one night, and I’ll plan a surf with my eldest son, a movie with my daughter or a bike ride with my youngest. That keeps us connected beyond the ‘operational’ day to day.

None of this is rocket science. The trick is (funnily enough) to keep it simple and do-able. So far it’s working.

So I’m wondering – what works for you? How do you stay connected to what’s most important? What helps you to thrive?

* For non-antipodeans, ‘the Bush’ is a term meaning pretty much anywhere outside of a city or town.

 

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