Work sprints

I found myself with another short article-writing project on Wednesday, due on Friday. I am getting used to these quick-turnaround pieces, and rather enjoy them. Though the pay is not large, they are good practice for my “journalistic” style and for working with an editor.

It reminded me of a strategy I used to use when I used to procrastinate on a project, and I think I learned it from Martha Beck back in the day when I was in grad school. It involves taking a huge project and breaking it into short chunks of only 15-30 minutes at a time, especially if we are avoiding just getting started. Often, just starting and gaining  momentum is the hardest part.

Nowadays, I can usually set a timer for 60-90 minutes of uninterrupted work at a time because I have worked up to that. The idea is that you set everything else aside and just focus on that one thing. It is harder to do that in an era when we often feel tied to our inboxes and phones.

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Photo credit link

But really: email is not urgent. If someone cannot wait a day or two for a response, they should call you on the phone. We need to de-condition people to getting automatic responses from email, social media and all the other distractions.

After my 60-90 minute sprint, I typically take a break of 20-30 minutes. Research shows that few humans can focus behind 90 minutes anyway, due to our ultradian cycles. These are basic rest-activity cycles discovered in the 1950’s. When we respect these rhythms of focus and rest, we can better manage the ebbs and flows of our energy and be much more productive.

I think that is one problem with corporate work environments. Typically they are built around an 8+ hour workday, and are not sensitive to human rhythms or people’s individual chronotypes, which also influence their productivity. When I complete 3 of these focused 60-90 segments in a day I typically get a mountain of work produced, more than I ever did in a corporate day that was highly interrupted. I am so very grateful for being able to manage that and design these “work sprints” for myself.

What is your cycle for accomplishing your best work? How can you plan to incorporate that cycle into more of your days?

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

High net growth v. high net worth

I want to riff a bit on a chapter of Jenny Blake’s book Pivot on “High Net Growth” individuals. It is a concept that resonates so deeply with me. We all know that there are “high net worth” people who measure their success by the amount of assets they accumulate. They value material measures of success.

In contrast, high net growth individuals are driven by purpose, fulfillment, impact and learning. When we become too comfortable in a role, we get bored. Rather than settling in, we aim for projects and roles that will stretch our skills and capabilities and allow us to grow.

high net growth
From the Pivot website by Jenny Blake

It is not that financial resources do not matter. Indeed they do, and they allow us flexibility and choice.  But beyond taking care of our needs and earning a comfortable living, the real reward is knowing you have made an impact in a significant way. This perspective reflects some privilege. But it is one in which we use our privilege to expand possibilities for more people.

While I was at a prospective student interview for my alma mater this evening, I got inspired by the openness and curiosity of a young man in an exciting phase of his life, just before choosing his college path. When we are young, this orientation toward growth and learning is easy to cultivate. But it is a lifelong journey. We never stop growing, and though it can be uncomfortable at times, I find it is the only activity that truly satisfies me.

Are you a high net growth individual? How do you cultivate and support other high net growth team members? 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Making it up as we go

I have been experimenting with different titles on my Linked In page lately and the results are fascinating.

Recently it occurred to me that “researcher” describes a lot of what I do best and still love to do – constantly learning and taking in new “data” while evaluating and coming up with theories about how to apply knowledge in new ways. It made me giggle when I described myself in a new way on my page. I also added my company name (which is a little generic right now, a place-holder for the freelance LLC). I suddenly I had a lot of congratulatory messages on the new job. Ha, I thought. I am just making this up, people! 

No titles can ever encompass the totality of what makes you YOU in a professional or a personal sense. When you seek employment with a company, typically titles mean something specific, and have a particular job description that accompanies them.

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Photo credit link

When you are a freelancer, or are starting a company of your own, nobody tells you what title you can have. A lot of folks like the “grand” titles: CEO, President, Creator, Founder… I like those too. But they imply a lot of things that I just don’t care to embody in my new venture. I don’t plan to have a slew of employees, so they do not apply.

I landed on “Principal Researcher” (for the moment) because it reflects a large part of what I truly enjoy, and I like it better than the generic “consultant.” But there are so many other phrases that could describe what I like to do – Creative Director, Facilitator, translator of cultural norms, etc. The “glue that holds a team together…” But since I am Minnesotan and we are taught not to brag, I’ll move right along. 😉

What’s great is that I get to make this up as I go along, and I can change it when I wish. There are NO rules! That’s liberating. I like to defy definition.  Of course, I am more comfortable with ambiguity than most, so that works for me.

What about you? What title would you give yourself, if you could just make one up? 

 

 

Doing the exercises

I am a sucker for a good self-development book, especially one that is meant to help you “find your purpose” and live the life you truly want.

Sounds like a cliche, eh?

I agree.

But that is probably because the “life I want” seems to change from decade to decade. When I was in my teens, I wanted to grow up and get away from my small town where I felt confined. When I was in my 20’s after college I just wanted to earn my own money and not have to live with my parents.

When I was 30 I got divorced because what I wanted was very different from want my ex wanted. (I tried to explain I’d never wanted children when we married. He was pretty sure I would change my mind. At age 44, I am still grateful I was not “talked into that.”) I finished my graduate degree with a Master of Liberal studies focusing on Nonprofit Management, but I still did not really know what I wanted to do.

I kept reading self development books to try to figure it out. But while I read a lot, I did not often do the exercises recommended in the books. 

pivot, concise coaching, dare to lead
my desk on Sunday afternoon, while taking a break from coaching homework

In my 30’s I disintegrated some networks, I jettisoned a great job and burned bridges without a plan or a safety net. Probably not the best move. But I am resilient, and I knew I’d find *something* to earn a living Fortunately found a job I enjoyed at a very large medical device company. This path allowed me to travel to Latin America regularly, which got me to reconnect with my roots in important ways, and re-discover my enjoyment of travel.

One of my mentors told me a year ago that I needed to figure out what my definition of success is. But I told him I have already succeeded. I was making more than twice the money I thought I could earn at my age. Materially, even though we still do not own our home, I have everything I need every day. That is more wealth than most people on the planet. He said “then you have to give back.” I agree.

A nagging voice inside me says I am not working “up to my potential.” I used to hate it when my middle school teachers told me that. I graduated salutatorian of my high school class. What more did they want from me?

In retrospect, I can can see that my ability to focus on many things at once is not a detriment. Lack of focus means I had a LOT of interests. Choosing just one, or even just two, has always felt like Sophie’s Choice to me.

Emilie Wapnick
Clip of 12 min Ted Talk on multipotentialites

I am working with a coach right now who is helping me whittle this down. But I may just have to accept that I am a multi-potentialite (a term coined by Emilie Wapnick). Please watch her Ted Talk if you can relate.

For now, I am doing the exercises that my coach (and most of the self-help books I have read) have recommended. The habit of devouring books is not something I will get over any time soon. Now, I have to stop using that as a diversion and do the work, finish the exercises, and see what they reveal. Scary, no? 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

 

Saturday Share – Brooke Castillo

Hello Peeps!

This version of the Saturday Share will be a bit different than the usual blog share. I want to give a shout-out to a podcast I have been listening to for 2 years now (though it has been around for ~4.5 years). It is called the Life Coach School podcast, hosted by Brooke Castillo.

Life coach school podcast
cribbed from the Life Coach School podcast page

Back in 2016 when I was getting a handle on my eating issues, and also cutting back on drinking, a friend recommended this show to me. Brooke has coached many women on weight loss for over 10 years, but she expanded to include many other topics over time.

Brooke gave up drinking a couple of years ago herself and had series of 3 podcasts called “stop over-drinking” which were awesome and well worth the listen.

Brooke explains how our thoughts drive our emotions, our emotions drive our actions and our actions create our results. Understanding how this works has led to many “ah ha” moments for me.  She presents a model for thought management (adapted from positive psychology and cognitive behavioral therapy) so clearly and effectively that I look forward to hearing to this weekly bit of wisdom.

Podcasts tend to come and go in my App. There are some I like (see my audio philes page) and others where I find the hosts to be annoying. Brooke Castillo can be a little much for some people. But I love the way she breaks down complex psychology topics and makes them easy to apply to daily life.

If you love podcasts and want a “life coach in your pocket” check this one out. She promotes only her coaching programs, so there’s not any unrelated annoying ad content in her shows. While I have never attended her programs live (a little out of my price range) I purchased an e-book from her a couple years ago that I enjoyed as well.

Cheers & happy weekend,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

On not taking things personally

Yesterday I got “stood up” by a company that set a phone interview with me for 10:20-10:40 in the morning. The company shall remain unnamed for now.

It was an interview for a part-time position that I was excited to do, a role where I would be teaching and coaching people on new technology, helping them get started. I was disappointed that nobody called at the appointed time. We had set it up 9 days before that, and I had received a reminder of the appointment 2 days before.

So here is the action I took after 15 minutes of waiting. I did not have the phone number of an actual person to call, so I emailed the contact that had “scheduled” the call. I explained that nobody had called me, and I would love to reschedule the call for another time if something else came up and they were unable to attend the appointment.

do not take it personallyThen I went to my 10:45 Zumba dance class as scheduled rather than getting too frustrated or worrying about it. I had a blast, and I am glad I had driven there in advance instead of skipping it in favor of the no-show interview.

I heard no word back from them as of 5 hours later. I am disappointed, yet I am giving them the benefit of the doubt. Shit happens. Maybe they were unable to get to all the people they schedule or they were running behind (20 minutes is not a long time for a call). I sent a note to the original recruiter from LinkedIn who contacted me as well.

If they do not get back to me, I will move on. Unfortunately the gate-keeping function that a lot of companies set up is a mechanism to stop bombardment of people who randomly send out a lot of resumes. That is not me.

I do not take it personally. Sometimes things are meant to happen. Other things take more time.While I was disappointed, it does no good to dwell on that feeling. I continue to push forward on my other initiatives, realizing that not all “leads” come to fruition.

The right projects will emerge as I continue to make my “pitches” and hone my offer. I will sublimate my excitement for teaching and coaching for now and direct them elsewhere.

Cheers,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com