Productivity

There seems to be a bit of a cultural divide when it comes to the phone, and I’m prepared to be called out as a “young person” writing this. My philosophy is you see, that you don’t always have to answer.

There is something fundamentally off about calling people. We always (if we are polite) start off asking if you reached someone at a good time. The presumption is that we are disturbing them. And you know what, we probably often are.

Most people would argue that they are busy only when they are in a meeting, or doing something in the company of others (and sometimes not even then). I take a broader approach, and I think you should too.

For example, if I am sitting in my office deep in thoughts and working on a project and someone calls, I don’t always answer. That’s not rude. That’s just me being busy.

If you really want to be sure to reach me, you should go ahead and schedule a time to talk. That way I can give you my full, undivided and prepared attention. But don’t expect me to always answer when you call and haven’t. I have to protect my time to be effective.

So what should you do when you call and I don’t answer. Send a text or email and let me know what you want to talk about and I will definitely get back to you. The key there is letting me know what you want to talk about. That way I can prepare and talk informed. That makes for a great call.

Given my line of work, I am in a lot of meetings. It might just be that meetings are the thing of the century to hate and want to dispense with. I disagree.

At least I partly disagree. I love meetings! I like meeting people, because talking to talented and smart people always makes me gain insights that I couldn’t do by myself.

But then there are the really bad meetings. You know those who drag out on end, where you just rehash a topic, never move on and never conclude anything useful. There is one, very simple, technique which will solve that for you forever. An agenda.

If you have an agenda for your meetings all attendees know in advance what will be covered and most crucially, what is expected of them. Attendees can make suitable preparation to discuss something, resulting in proper and informed discussions.

Better yet, an agenda should come with timing notes. How long you are allowed to spend on each subject. Keep to them religiously. If you need more time, schedule something new for it. Keeping to them respects people’s time and forces you to be brief, informed and effective, while still not rushing. The goal is to be effective, not careless and rushed.

I’m on a mission this year to make sure that no meeting I attend by the end of the year doesn’t have an agenda. There is no reason why I don’t know up front before a meeting exactly what is expected of me. If I can’t prepare and make an informed contribution, you are wasting everyone’s time.

Let’s make 2016 the year where all meetings have agendas. Finally.

On Improving Life

I ended a post a couple of weeks ago saying that me and you are both flawed, because we are humans. I closed off by saying that you can always strive to constantly improve.

Improving your own life, while simple in theory, may be one of the hardest things we do. Forming new habits are incredibly difficult. Breaking up old ones is both scary and even more difficult.

Yet, I think, this is something we need to challenge ourselves with despite how hopeless it sometimes may seem.

Personally, I have many things I want to change about myself. Some of them are traits that I just don’t like in myself, and some are things that while I can accept them as part of me and be happy anyway, I just would like to improve on.

One of the things I have always tried to do is get motivated to go to the gym and work out more. I never had that as part of my life growing up with parents who didn’t either, and so, it is no surprise that it is not part of my life.

I’m one of those people who have a hard time getting started on that working out habit but still realize how important it is, and still love how good it feels afterwards. Interesting, isn’t it?

I bring up this mini-story because I am now reaching the 10 week in a row mark with two weekly workout sessions. For some of you, this might not seem like a big ordeal. But it is for me. All it took was the help of a friend to get started a few times.

Change is scary. If we do it together with other people who support us, and show that while you yourself care about your faults, they don’t, change is much easier.

There is nothing that I admire more in a human being than being able to embrace her faults, be happy in herself regardless, and also successfully manage to work towards changing something she wants to change.

That is the utmost reflection of mental strength.

Writing is actually harder than I think we often give it credit. It is my firm belief that the more stressed we are, the lower are the chances of good writing getting done. Why? Because of stress.

Personally, I do my best writing when I am relaxed and have read or watched something interesting and related. The reason for this is that I am then inspired and my head has enough energy to process, think through and analyze. In this process my own ideas develop, causing me to feel a slight urgency to write about them.

Such peace and quiet sadly rarely enter my daily routine. As I am writing this very post, I am sitting in a hotel room in London (thanks Hilton for the upgrade to a junior suite) after attending an event yesterday. For the specific reason to get some writing done, I chose to stay on an extra couple of days.

In this way, I am trying to create a space that is disconnected from everything else and thus fake a little bit of extra peace and quiet in my mind. It works surprisingly well. Most writers I know do the same. They go away to write. Away to be with their minds.

So take the tip from myself, and many more successful writers than I throughout the history. Construct yourself some peace and quiet, whether by going to that nice café or traveling to some nice place where you are able to feel relaxed enough to release your thoughts on the world.

On Trying To Forget Time

Is there anything more stressful than time? It may be cliché to say that time is the only thing we can’t get back, but the saying has merits.

My days are usually eventful and filled with many different type of things to do. Most of them are time sensitive. Meetings with clients, releasing projects on deadline, responding timely to prospects, taking care of emergencies and problems for clients. The list goes on and on.

I find myself feeling that stress quite often and have lately begun to wonder what I can do to mitigate it. One of the things I have found is the more I focus on time, the more stressed I get.

Our society evolves around time and being on time. And there is something about time that creates a natural stress reaction. To mitigate this, I am on a crusade to try and think a little less about time. Trying to go about my daily life without constantly being focused on what time it is.

Instead of focusing routines around specific times, such as get up at exactly 6am, be at the gym by 6:45am and be sitting in the office at 8am, I want to try something more flexible. I believe these kind of (excessively) self-imposed schedules can do more harm than good, especially if you have a stressful work environment (which I clearly do).

So try it with me. Reduce the important of time in routines, while still of course continuing to value your own and other’s time highly. Just go with the flow as much as you can, create meaningful routines without constantly needing to be minding that clock too much.