The greatest disservice our love for quick soundbites has done is create the illusion that people who reach the top of their game did so within a very short period of time. We get to see pictures of Olympic athletes as they cross the finish line. What we don’t see is the years prior to that where they trained their body to peak performance. If an athlete has their golden moment when all the cameras go off. It’s because they had the patience to do what many will not.
When did you last feel angry at work? Perhaps it was at a colleague who wasn’t doing their share of the team project. Or your boss for being unfair to you? Did you miss out on an expected emotion? Or a vendor who wouldn’t accept responsibility for a poorly delivered service riled you up? It might have been a subordinate who should know better but never does?
Anger is a necessary human emotion. One that should not be repressed. Yet, you can’t allow your anger to define how you react to situations. If you throw a mug of hot tea at a co-worker or throw the vendor out the window, you could get in plenty of trouble that could damage your career. It’s even more important to control how you direct anger towards subordinates. No one likes to work for a boss who publicly humiliates them and disrespects them at the slightest opportunity.
I recently had a conversation with a friend who had tried to turn their passion into a business and had become quite miserable as a result. Instead of finding financial freedom and happiness, they found themselves working every day of the week. It took only a short time for their “passion” to become a chore.
One of the most important skills we need in a world of information overload is good communication. The average person is bombarded with so much information that crucial bits can go ignored. How often have you sent an email with important information only for it to go unhindered because it was hidden beneath so many paragraphs of noise.
“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”
John Lydgate (Quote famously adapted by Abraham Lincoln)
One of the most powerful words in the vocabulary of personal productivity is saying “No.” The simple act of knowing when and how to say “No” can save you from committing yourself to doing tasks you should not be doing in the first place.
“Early to bed, Early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”
As a child, you probably sulked when your mother told you to go to bed at an early hour so she’d have an easier time waking you up for school the next day. Ironically, as an adult after a tiring day, you relished nothing more than the chance to go to bed early. Beyond avoiding temper tantrums and dealing with a sleep-deprived child first thing in the morning, it turns out our mothers were on to something by making us start the day early.
The most productive people often tend to wake up early. Jack Dorsey, Cofounder of Twitter wakes up at 5:30am every morning and starts his day with a morning jog. Richard Branson, the Founder of Virgin airlines wakes up at 5:45am every morning and leaves the curtains open so he can rise with the sun. Mary Borra, the Chief Executive of GM may have taken it one step further. She arrives at the office every morning by 6am.
In one of the Sam Sheepdog and Ralph Wolf cartoons, the two main characters come in to work in the morning, punch in their time cards and begin cartoon antics. At the end of the day, they punch out their cards (and are humorously replaced by an identical looking Night shift pair).
In those days, it was easy. Everyone knew how many hours they were paid to work. They came to work and left by the clock. At the end of the day, work could be left in the office and picked up the next day. There was no need to discuss work-life balance because work and life were two different spheres that almost never intersected.
I recently read about the 21/90 rule. If you are not familiar with it already, it says it takes 21 days to build a new habit and 90 days to build a lifestyle. I’m a bit wary about assigning hard and fast numbers to habit formation. People are different. Every one might require a different number of days to form a new habit.
“There is never enough time to do everything, but there is always enough time to do the most important thing.”
The most productive people are not effective because they do every thing. Instead, highly productive people have become effective because they acknowledge there are things they should not be doing in the first place.
We all have a few hours each day to get things done. The good news is not all tasks have the same priority. The bad news is a lot of people don’t stop to figure out what is important and what is trivial.
A humorous anecdote goes that a project team once finished a Government project on time only to find out that no one from the Government was ready to accept the finished product because the Civil Service had assumed based on wealth of experience that the project will not be finished on time. The Story may or may not be true but it serves as a useful reminder of a tendency among many people to underestimate the amount of work required to get a task done. This is especially true at the beginning of a complex task when you may only have a vague idea of the requirements.