Mindfulness and Taking Stock

Mindfulness

Mindfulness

This past week was a good and difficult one.
One of the hard bits was working to get five + days of work done in three, as I had scheduled Thursday and Friday off to celebrate my anniversary and birthday. I work to do this every year and have been pretty successful to date, although banishing work from my mind is always a challenge as an entrepreneur. Still, it was good to get away from the screens and focus on each day and the moments each held, along with the commemoration activities.
I focus on this set of events for a couple of reasons.
First, I wish to celebrate life and relationships, and this is another way to mark them as memorable and life-giving.
Second, this particular birthday gives me pause. I am now the age my father was when he was consumed by cancer and died. That, along with the near approaching anniversary of the death of my younger brother in two weeks, I am particularly aware of being present in each moment and how this manifests itself in my “normal activities”…..”normal activities” being the usual, rather mundane things of every day.
You may be thinking (if you’ve read this far..), “Why is he writing about this on a business blog?” A fair question…

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Focus and Productivity: Get Some Help!

Work Focus & Productivity

Work Focus & Productivity

The battle for productivity and getting stuff done is never-ending.

So many of us spend a LOT of time in front of computer monitors and accomplish a lot of things. However, the temptation to give yourself just a TEENSY break and take a quick glance at Facebook, or your favorite news site, or a live feed / video….or a quick game of Solitaire…that’s a constant thing.

I have this problem as much as anyone. My business revolves around the Internet, digital media and marketing, and a lot of my deliverables for clients require my heavy use of tools and sites that are Just One Click Away from making a comment on someone’s post on Facebook, starting a conversation on Twitter, following link after link from an interesting article, my Inbox, and so on. Suddenly, the day has evaporated…

Don’t tell me this never happens to you (unless, of course, your role is such that you rarely are in front of a screen….).

I have done a lot of study and research on focus (cognitive science and “discipline-building” science / studies), building habits, priority management, personal productivity and so on. There are a number of systems out there that can help you if you adhere to the discipline and utilize the tools and workflows  However, many times they can seem cumbersome, or costly (in set-up time and, if there are tools involved, cash…and sometimes they just don’t feel natural, so they don’t get used…). I have launched a number of personal programs to better my use of time and attention over the years. Especially in the past few years, it has become even more critical to my success in getting things done that NEED to get done. My real-world success with these has been spotty.

I’ve mentioned in other articles about the affect that the book Deep Work by Cal Newport has had on my understanding of the problem and the options for creating a solution that works for me. I have incorporated a few things, and of those things a couple have worked for me. Nonetheless, my self-discipline has lagged in really making headway. I even tried working with a coach, which had some success, but, being human, generally made me annoyed at the coach.

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What Are You Really All About?

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blind men and elephant

The blind men and the elephant

Remember the old fable about the blind men and the elephant? Each one of them touched a different part of the animal and conjured up a description of it that was wildly different from the others’, based on their personal experience.

Stay with me….

I have had an experience like this with my business recently. Instead of being blind, though, it’s more like I was up-close-and-personal with my section of the elephant. All I could see clearly was the bit right in front of me. In my desire to really get a good look at where I am and where I’m going, I tried stepping back a bit, but really only got a wider view of the broadside of the elephant, though. I needed to back WAAAAAAAY up to really see it as an elephant….er, as my business.

I am fortunate. I just got back from almost two weeks’ worth of vacation on a lovely tropical island. Lots of beach time, lots of “spare room” for my mind to unwind, and little to no “screen time” to distract me (THAT was nice!). It took most of the vacation for my mind, at all levels, to unwind and back-off enough to not only see the elephant, but discern if this was the elephant I wanted and have been working for / toward for years.

This is humbling, and an eye-opener…

One consideration I confronted was “What do I consider success?” This is a tougher-than-you’d-think question. It is beyond revenue, recognition, client-lists, board and committee memberships, or mission statements. It is “What am I about?” and “Why do I do this…..really?

This requires me to go deeper into my reason for being. If I truly believe the importance of mindfulness and the present moment, this must be reflected by my business. As a consultant (which holds for any small business owner…), I really AM my business. So, again, what am I about?

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How Important is Unsurpassed Genuine Tenacious Persistence?

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Tenacious Persistence

Tenacious Persistence!

I am reminded of the role of tenacity this week.

Many kinds of dogged persistence crossed my path. In my business, I worked with several clients working through tough business problems. Despite the distraction of the holiday season, each is determined to make headway on each particular challenge. There have been some “stall points” along the way, thanks to old processes colliding with newer, better informed efforts. Nonetheless, each is steadfast in their desire to get the older processes and mindsets either altered to the newer ones, or discard them. This is not easy (particularly when older process are personified and actuated by existing team members who have “always done it that way, and it works kinda OK…”), but the little successes along the way are proving the value of the work, and provide the fuel for the tenacious spirit they display.

How Do You Focus To Listen?

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Listen-To-Understand

Listen-To-Understand

There is a budding resurgence taking place concerning the importance of Conversation in life and business. Not that a lot of the words aren’t just hanging out there, dissipating in the wind. A lot of businesses grab the “shiny thing” when it comes to the latest discussions and thinking around whatever can keep us growing, or at least “safe.” I still experience an enormous amount of Telling and Broadcasting instead of Conversation and Engagement, both online and off-line. Even conversation has numerous forks in the concept, the largest two seem to be “listening-to-reply” and “listening-to-understand.”
A few years ago I wrote an article about the abundance of LIKING-type behavior online in comparison to the actual conversation taking place. Businesses were still trying to figure out this new paradigm where the customers actually controlled the brand perceptions, and NOT the BRAND controlling them. Along with the immature capabilities for measuring real engagement and the misunderstanding surrounding the actual meaning and value of a LIKE or a FOLLOW or a “+1” meant that the definitions of success were too fuzzy, and likely incorrect.
Things are different now.

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Are You Interested in Working Through the Fear?

Fear, Performance and Your Business

What are you afraid of?

Holidays make many entrepreneurs and small business owners nervous.
On one hand, HURRAH! A holiday!
Depending on your business, you may be looking at numerous merry-makers coming to your shop and celebrating by indulging in a bit of “retail therapy.” A different kind of business is looking at turning a “regular” weekend into a three-day weekend, and one where a LOT of people (their employees included…) take some time, gas up the motor vehicle of choice, and head out for a vacation of some length. Sometimes these two collide and the owner can have a staffing problem, but, hey, just put in a few more hours yourself and you’ve got it covered right? But what happens if, on this more dangerous holiday weekend, somebody gets hurt or something? In between all the travelers, the uncertainty of fireworks (as one of my colleagues said, “Normal people with a few drinks in them setting off explosive devices….what could go wrong?“…) and the randomness of other accidents…well, there’s plenty to get wound up about.

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FOCUS: Can You Measure the Hard Things?

English: Red button.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We all want things to be easy. And it’s not just business, American or Western Society that defaults to easy. While I still worked at Microsoft, one of my managers got our entire team “Easy Buttons.” You pressed the Big Red Button and a voice said, “That Was Easy!”
If only….
We have a few things working against us:

  • The problems and challenges we face today (business, societal and personal) are complex with no simple answers. The kind of effort required to tackle them can’t be splintered into micro-moments of attention (better known as “multi-tasking”…). We need big blocks of time, and lots of them, to work through these things.
  • Our culture prizes Fast, Immediate, Responsive, 24/7/365 over taking the time to gain the ability to learn hard things more quickly and produce at an elite level (so we move past “good enough” to “WOW!”).
  • The difficulty of measuring the complex over the simple (an example – “audience engagement” versus a Facebook page “Like”).
  • The tendency to answer a simpler question when confronted with a difficult one (more on that shortly…).
 As business owners and entrepreneurs, what does this mean?

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