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Thinking Out Loud

Procrastination

“Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today”

Its an adage that I grew up with – but how often, once you are an adult and can make these decisions, do we justify putting off tasks or just “forget” to do them in a timely manner?

I’m a great list maker. I will write a list every morning that covers my tasks and goals for the day. Do I ever finish the list? No. Do I ever add tasks I complete that weren’t there to begin with? Most definitely yes!! I have even tried making the list a weekly one in the hope that I will be disciplined about doing everything and not put off the tasks I either don’t want to start or don’t know how to start. And there’s a hint about mastering procrastination.

I put off the tasks I don’t want to start or don’t know how to start. Let’s deal with the second one. If a listed task is too big or broad, it makes me feel that I can’t complete it in a day or week, then I am less inclined to make a start on it because I wont have the satisfaction of crossing it off the list. Easy solution. Break it down into component tasks that can be completed in the timeframe. This approach also allows for better management of the task, so you can review the components and efficient ways of completing them as you go.

With the tasks I don’t want to start, I need to really explore why they are on the list and what each task actually entails. For example – I put down a broad task such as “change theme on Blah Blah website”. I don’t enjoy wading through themes trying to find one that works, mostly because I don’t have any real idea of what I want before I start. What I should do is determine what I want in the theme, list those features, search for one that matches and then do the installation. Again it is breaking down the task to manageable chunks, also providing structure to the process.

So tomorrow when I do my daily task list, I am going to make each one very specific, small and identifiable. In 24 hours time I am going to have them all ticked off or at least at a stage where I have attempted them all!!

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Thinking Out Loud

The Giving and Receiving Equation

Do you sometimes wonder ‘what’s in it for me?” When you are asked to assist or take over a task, fit something extra into your day, take on added responsibility for a short time, is part of your reaction to wonder when you will get something in return?

I have certainly been guilty of this reaction…I’ve even said the words!!

Lately, though, I have begun to think differently. When I can do a task for someone else that eases their workload or makes them feel better, why would I want recognition for this? I’m no longer a child that needs to be patted on the head for good manners and behaving well. Being able to give with no thought of a return favour is the ultimate in having a generous spirit. It certainly makes me feel great to do acts, sometimes as simple as carrying a bag whilst the other person sorts out bus passes, holding a door open, thanking the driver who stops at the pedestrian crossing……..

I do it at work as well. Making the coffee and doing the washing up (not every day, just when I have the time and others don’t); clearing a backlog of filing for a colleague; putting together a first draft of a document – whatever I see that I can assist with, I will offer.

We don’t need to have our interaction with others be an equation. True kindness and generosity can be found in the simple pleasure of giving to others in any way you can.

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Thinking Out Loud

How Do You Determine Priorities?

Over the weekend, I have been in meetings for an organisation that relies on volunteers to manage it, carry out events and education activities and move it forward technologically to encourage new membership. They were good meetings, with productive results, lively discussion and a range of actions determined.

But….

Not everyone was prepared for the meetings. The paperwork had gone out electronically a week before the meetings, plenty of time you would think, for those attending to have read them and thought about what should be part of the discussion. Not the case. Most had read some of the documents, some were busy reading the relevant one as the discussion commenced, only the chairman and the newest member had read everything. Why?

Obviously the chairman knew she would be leading the meeting and would be expected to start each discussion. The newest member, wanting to show how eager he is to be a part of the committee, had prepared well before the meeting so he could have some relevant input to the discussions. Two ends of the committee membership spectrum. What had happened with the other members? I feel it is complacency – they know they will get a chance to air their views and they don’t believe the issues are important enough (in their schedules) to consider before the meeting.

For many years, I used to conduct training sessions on determining priorities. They was based on looking at tasks and deciding if they were one of four things – Urgent and Important, Not Urgent But Important, Not Important But Urgent, Not Urgent and Not Important. I still use this system today although I know it is out of favour at present. Using this thinking the priority for many members of this committee to read their paperwork beforehand went to the “Not Urgent, Not Important” priority meaning that it did not get done before the meeting. Those that read the paperwork beforehand would have prioritised it to the “important but Not Urgent” group, giving themselves a goal to read it¬†before the meeting but not in the immediate timeframe.

How do you determine priorities?

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Thinking Out Loud

Being Kind To Your Soul

A colleague recently advised me to be “kind to my soul” during a period of grief. I had not heard this expression before and was surprised that it came from someone I did not expect to share that sort of sentiment. This made me all the more appreciative of the words and the thoughtfulness of them in my time of need.

Too often in our communication we offer banalities and platitudes when we should be thinking about the purpose and intent of our communication. Rather than say “time will heal you” which may or may not be true, the words she offered gave me a purpose, a direction, a reason to do something even if I couldn’t immediately see what that would be. The words served a dual purpose. They made me reflect on her thoughfulness and they also provided me with some forward direction. They allowed me to give myself permission to feel sad but reassured me that I could perhaps do something to ease the feelings I was experiencing.

Another angle of this is “accurate speaking”. It encourages us to be more specific in our verbal communication when we might generalise or be vague for the sake of getting our opinion known. For example, how often have you heard “Generation X and Y just expect the world to be placed at their feet”. Is this truly accurate? Or is it a variation of what every generation has faced from an earlier one? When I first joined the workforce I was told more than once that we (as in my generation) had it easy because so much more was automated than previously. I have heard my grandparents say to my parents that they (my parents) were lucky not to have to work a 50 hour week! If each of these generations had been more accurate in their speech, the message would still be there about changed working conditions but the negative generality would not mar the exchange. Just for the record, I believe every generation has had both bonuses and challenges. The only difference I have seen over the generations is an increase in self belief and confidence but no less of a work ethic at any point. The attitude you give out is the one that gets reflected back to you.

Being accurate in our speech makes for better, clearer communication. Being gentle in our expression can help heal.

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Thinking Out Loud

Working Patterns

Do you have a “prime” time for working? A time when you can get things done, one after another?

For me it has always been early in the day – I am much more productive between 4am and midday. Lately I have changed my working hours to accommodate some other activities (the gym, in fact) meaning that my productive time around work has not been starting till 11.30am. I do work later into the day and night but I don’t get the same sense of satisfaction as I did from my early hours working. It’s not that the work is not getting done, I just don’t get the same feeling of satisfaction.

What to do? I enjoy the gym (strange as that may be to some) with the morning visit the time that suits me best because it is not as busy as later in the day/night. But it is important for me to feel satisfaction with my work efforts – it gives me momentum to get more tasks done and this in turn gives me more drive and energy for life in general.

We all have patterns of doing tasks or working through the day. We wake up/get to work and have a coffee, we do the grocery shopping at the same time/place each day/week, we eat at the same time each day, our daily work routine is set by an order of tasks………you get the picture. What happens when the pattern is interrupted?

Pattern interrupt can be an empowering move. It can break you out of a rut and open up opportunities to explore new ways, new thoughts, new processes. My pattern interrupt has allowed me to recognise that I like early morning work and that I can accommodate my need to get things done early by getting up and doing things before I go to the gym. Yes it means a much earlier start to the day than I have been having but the benefits to my mental wellbeing far outweigh the initial inconvenience of the early start. I actually don’t think I will notice the earlier start – I am excited by the idea of getting things done more than I am concerned about losing an hours sleep.

I’ll let you know how it goes!

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Thinking Out Loud

Success and Failure

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill

Musing this morning on why we seek the mark of success as something given by others. Why do we seek approval externally rather than recognise and relish achievement from within ourselves? If we rely on others (and their standards) for approval we never know the satisfied feeling of a task complete, a goal achieved, a pleasure given for no reward.

We set ourselves up for failure by not recognising our achievements in every facet of life. Then when the road gets a bit rocky, we relive all the failures and make them the mark of what we are, discounting or ignoring all the successes regardless of how big or small.¬†Whether we set tasks, draw a life map or have a list, if we don’t celebrate achievement we don’t remember the good moments. It is not self gratification, it is recognition of achievement which should always be a part of our day.

Yes it can be hard but it is not impossible, our minds can be trained for success…… or left to be lazy which leads to an average existence. Do you want to be average?

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Thinking Out Loud

Exchanging Pleasantries

I was reminded this morning, whilst doing some grocery shopping, of our different styles of speech for any given situation. We all change the way we speak (and communicate) depending on the environment we are in and the response we might be getting from other parties.

Idle conversation (such as in the supermarket with the staff) is often referred to as “exchanging pleasantries”. Is that still an accurate description of the interaction? Not in my observation this morning.

I listened in on a few interactions this morning. “Hope it doesn’t rain all day”; “I’m glad I don’t have to come shopping every day”; “I hate having to wait for service here”; “Did you see the mess those vandals left outside?”……..none of them particularly pleasant or really worthy of instigating an exchange.

How different a response you get if you instigate the exchange (with a staff member) by something more pleasant such as “I just can’t decide which olives to get – they all look tasty. Do you have a suggestion?” or “You must get very tired standing on your feet here all day”……you get the picture I’m sure.

So my mission today is to make my exchanging of pleasantries more focused on being pleasant.

Food for thought – so to speak!

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If there is anything you would like more information about, drop me a line at kim@kimbaillie.com