Most things worth doing are hard

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.

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Communicate communicate communicate

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.

Are you speaking or are you making noise?
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Boundaries are necessary if you are to get anything done

“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.

No to distractions and interruptions
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An early Start

“Early to bed, Early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”

Benjamin Franklin

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.

Read it slowly
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How to stop working outside office hours

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.

Work-life balance
Is not just a concept
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21/90 rule

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.

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Choose your task in advance

“There is never enough time to do everything, but there is always enough time to do the most important thing.”

Brian Tracy

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.

Have you read it?
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Deadlines hit fast

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.

Clip
Complex tasks seem easier at the beginning
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Bring the right technology to meetings

The basic etiquette for meetings is simple:

  1. Pay attention to the speaker.
  2. Don’t talk while others have the floor.
  3. Don’t try to catch up on work.
  4. Have a notebook for writing important information.
  5. Keep your devices out of sight.

How many of those have you broken recently? The last one is particularly difficult to enforce. We have had a lot more virtual meetings since the pandemic began. This has made it easier for people to carry on a whatsapp chat when they should be listening. Even before more meetings went online, people had the annoying habit of using their phones under the table.

Bored meeting
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Is it really impossible?

I am not a motivational speaker. Therefore, I am not about to tell you impossible is a word that only exists in the dictionary. There are times when you will have to accept things did not work out as planned. Times when you worked really hard on a product launch only for the product to flop. You gave it your best but factors beyond your control stopped it from happening. Those times should be learning opportunities. Study why you failed, extract useful lessons, accept you have failed and move on. You know what not to do next time.

However, there are times when we label tasks as impossible simply because we do not wish to try. At times such as these the word “impossible” is coming not from facts but from a place of fear. We fear to fail so much that we’d rather not try at all.

Sticky note with the word "impossible" written on it
Is it really?
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