Archives For Productivity

3 wordsI started a practice back in 2012 called “pick three words.”

The practice is not unique to me. I learned it from a fellow blogger. The idea is to pick three words to build your focus around during the new year. Most people make “resolutions” which fail on average within eleven days. Others set goals, create a plan or make a wish.

Those don’t work for me because they feel like a map, and anytime I travel I think, “How far?” and “How fast?” If at some point I’m not going far or fast enough, then I get discouraged.

A three-words approach feels like a compass and that helps me think more about orientation, not far and fast. What I’m after is a mindset to frame my intentions, guide my choices and remind me of my direction.

My three words in 2014 were “responsibility, journey, and consistency.” Responsibility reminded me to take ownership of decisions I had been putting off or waiting on others to make. Journey meant I would journey “along side” not “ahead of” my family. I have a tendency to pre-decide family decisions, and then try to convince my family of those decisions. Not this year. We’ve been on a journey together, and I am learning to include them. Consistency helped me write my thoughts weekly and send them in my Sunday Best email (thanks to the many who read those thoughts).

How did I do in 2014? Better in some areas than others, and that’s the key: direction NOT perfection.

The words serve to focus your intentions on three important areas for improvement during the new year. You make the first word about yourself, the second word about your loved ones and the third word about your work.

Here are my three words for 2015:

Chart – There’s a lot of ocean out there, I can’t sail it all, I have to CHART my course. I often chase too many “hey, what if’s” and as a result I cover a lot of ocean without reaching a destination. I’m going to chart 2 or 3 landmarks (efforts) and put my “back” into reaching them.

Now – I am passing a few life-markers this year including 20 years of marriage. I want to be present in the NOW for my wife and kids. I need to practice mindfulness during conversations and during those monologues in which one of my kids just wants me to pay attention.

Box – I want to contribute the kind of value that really helps a church or company move forward. To do that, I need to narrow my services and clarify how those services add value. People talk about getting out-of-the box. I need to get back-in-the BOX, stay in it and create value.

So that’s my three. I’m sharing them with you and others in my community to help me move towards alignment with what’s important.

What about you? Do you have three words for 2105? Would you tweet them to me? I’d love to read them.

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Odd CoupleIt’s funny how strengths can foster weaknesses.

I had a roommate in college who was off the charts on intelligence. He could grasp an engineering concept in one lecture and do every practice problem without cracking a book. The down side to his gift was it enabled him to wait until the last minute to complete an assignment.

Meanwhile the below average student in our room, that’s me, had to work nightly to even hope of completing an assignment on time.

Since college I’ve continued to notice when it comes to handling time there are two kinds of people: managers and planners.

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Messy bedI had a boss one time who felt that his desk should be cleaned off at the end of each day. The only problem was “cleaned off” for him meant shoving everything into a catch-all drawer. He often forgot where he had “filed” things.

Most days either my wife or I will make the bed, but some days the bed goes unmade. Is that a sign of laziness?

Do productive people end each day with a clean desk? Do they always make the bed?

I tend to work with Type “A” leaders who treat productivity as a daily box to be checked. The truth is when it comes to being productive there are no boxes just different personalities and schedules.

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babies happy cryingThis week is the 1 year anniversary of the Second Chair Leadership blog. I recently saw the statistic that 80% of blogs go silent within the first year, so I am happy SCL is in the surviving 20%. Thank you to the 1,000 unique visitors who stop-by to read, share and comment each month.

At a pace of more than two posts per week, I have written 60,000 words in the form of 120 blog posts over the past year. During that time I have ridden the roller coaster of writer’s emotions. Here are the emotional stages I have experienced as a first year blogger plus a little take-away I’ve learned from each one.

Stage 1: I have something to say…

For two years, before I published my first blog post, I used a system of note taking that allowed me to capture fleeting thoughts for potential posts. Because of this “note taking incubator” I felt I had something to say beyond momentary thoughts of inspiration.

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Cooking showMy kids love Food Network shows like Chopped, Iron Chef and Good Eats. Several times my wife and I have been roped into being judges for an at-home episode of Chopped. We have four kids (ages 16 to 9) and Chopped starts with four chefs, so it works.

It gets quite comical since we don’t have four kitchens. The flour is flying, wisks are turning and I usually narrate like Alton Brown on the side. A bit of warning, do not try this at home unless you are ready to do some serious clean-up.

If you’re thinking how hard it would be to “chop” one of your own kids, well it’s not after eating some of their culinary creations. Plus you get to compliment them before putting them on the “chopping block” with phrases like, “Your peanut butter pickles were robust in flavor, but I just felt they needed more cayenne pepper.”

From judging my kids “Good Eats” I’ve discovered 5 ways blogging is like a cooking show:

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Elevator ButtonsMy grandfather’s occupation was servicing elevators for a national elevator company. As a teenager I remember going with him on a few “trouble calls”, as he referred to them. He was usually responding to an elevator stuck between floors or a door that wouldn’t open.

During my grandfather’s career, elevators were analog creations of switches, relays and breakers. He could visualize each of those mechanical parts in operation, not just physically but schematically.

When the new computerized elevator models came out my grandfather knew it was time to retire. He was lost in the world of binary language, if_then statements and CPU programming. It was all too abstract for his mechanical mind.

Here are a few emerging ways of leading with technology that may seem abstract to traditional leaders. Today’s leaders will have to embrace these new technologies or be prepared to go into retirement like my grandfather.

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Using EvernoteEvernote is a “productivity workbench.” For over a year the FREE version of Evernote has been my number one productivity tool. When it comes to collecting, managing and sharing content Evernote works seamlessly.

Here are 3 ways I currently use Evernote:

1. Blog Post Incubator

I mostly write about social media, productivity and leadership on my blog. I rarely get ideas for blogging while reading books on these subjects even though I read them. I usually get blogging ideas while I am engaged in everyday activities.

I keep a file in Evernote called “2nd Chair Blog Thoughts.” Whenever I get a thought that I think could develop into a future blog post, I start a new note in this file. I give the note a potential title and then jot down a few sentences about the blog idea. I try to capture enough of my thoughts so that later when I read the note I will remember what I was thinking. In this way Evernote serves as a blog post incubator to hold my thoughts until I can cultivate them into full blown posts.

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sello tapePeople are like mechanical pencils, if you push them too hard they’re gonna break…they need the tape of love.

Watching this never gets old, it says so much about people, love, life and tape!

My fav line is (3:27) “Oh sorry, Bret. Were you talking to me? I was humming. What did you say?”

Have a great weekend!

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