Don’t Let the Big Picture Stop You

Recently, on two separate occasions and for two different reasons, I was asked to thoroughly explain how the tasks different people were being asked to do were connected to a bigger picture or master plan. On many occasions this makes total sense, but I believe in these two situations the people were using this as a way to escape from doing the work.

Sometimes you just have to start the task or project and get work done. Finding new and more creative ways to try and stop yourself from getting work done (like making it seem you’re trying to be strategic) is only hurting your progress.

In certain cases, you have to do one of the following:

  1. Remember that the person asking for the work understands the higher purpose
  2. Recall the discussion about the higher purpose at the beginning of the journey, or key it in to the organization’s mission
  3. Call bulls&^t on yourself and discover if it’s a hiding tactic

Climbing the tree and ensuring you know you’re headed in the right direction is important, but being on the ground and chopping through the woods efficiently and effectively is also important.

Know which role you play on the team and when you just want a break from chopping, that’s when the real magic happens if you can push through.

Power of the 3rd Party

A surefire method to break myself out of a productivity rut is by finding some way to get third party pressure or reinforcement. Having someone or something help prod me along or complete a portion of the work is sometimes exactly what I need.

Using a third party has also been incredibly impactful in areas where I need to get something done that might not be exactly what I love doing or am best at. Here are some examples of third party pressure or reinforcement I’ve used:

  • Announcing public deadlines
  • Working directly with someone else
  • Hiring someone else to work with me on a project
  • Working in a more open environment where people see what I’m working on
  • Telling people I respect about what I’m doing.
  • And, I love this example of hiring someone to watch how the person was working.

I’ve used sites like upwork and fiverr to find people who love doing the part of the work I might not. Sure, I do plenty of things that I’d love to source smarter, but having the knowledge of how to and following through on getting some things done in alternate ways really helps maximize my productivity.

 What’s the thing you’re working on right now that could use the help of someone else?

Being Fulfilled One Task At A Time

For more than 10 years, I have been a crew member at Tony Robbins events around the US, as a volunteer in various positions and helping out with whatever was needed. But my favorite part is being a member of the fire team in charge of the logistics of the fire walk experience for participants.

Creating the physical part of a fire walk involves an enormous amount of hard labor that takes place over two days–outside in whatever weather is happening at the moment. I  put together wheelbarrows in the snow, carried water-soaked mats of grass in the rain, and swept parking lots for hours in the sun.

No matter where or when I’ve been a part of fire team over the last decade, I’ve never heard anyone complain or criticize about the amount of work. In fact, there are always more people wanting to do that work as a team member than there are spots available.

Why?

As a fire team member, why are we so fulfilled, so happy, and so energized by whatever is being asked of us? During one particularly great reflection session with the team after cleanup, we started to uncover why.

Yes, there is a sense of mission that happens being a part of such a great overall experience for thousands of participants, but it’s much simpler than that.

People feel immersed and elated in their work because they’re singularly focused, and not multi-tasking.

When you’re putting together a wheelbarrow, that’s all you’re thinking about in that moment.  When you’re unrolling mats of grass to form a part of a fire walk line, you’re immersed in that grass on that lane. When you’re in charge of ensuring there’s no debris that can stab someone’s foot in a parking lot, you’re sweeping and not worried about doing anything else.

Single-tasking is not only more efficient, more effective and more productive, it’s also more fun and fulfilling.

Allow yourself to become happily lost in the sensation of being focused. 

Sliding Ideas Into Action

Here’s a reminder:

  • if you want something to exist in the world, it’s even better to take action on it vs. just throwing the idea out there.
  • sometimes the actions or next steps don’t have to be huge undertakings – like trying to make something all yourself.
  • utilizing the right platform and community can make all the difference in turning an idea into reality at a faster pace.
  • no matter what your idea is, someone else probably already has it too.

Read more on Idea Generation here.

 

Start The Work And Everything You Need Will Appear

A few years ago, I was offered the honor to speak at an event but I almost missed out. I kept putting off the process of sitting down and figuring out what I wanted to say. I felt like I had a great opening, but didn’t have the full story of what I wanted to get across.

I procrastinated for far too long, then things I never expected started to happen.

The more I thought about it, the more potential content I gathered. The more I talked to people about it, the more they provided insights that took me on amazing new paths.  One day I was walking around outside and there were new signs in our parking lot that completely related to my topic. After a quick mention to a colleague, he sent me something that he saw months earlier in Canada that became critical to the story.

Once I started working, everything I needed started to appear. All I had to do was start.

How To Generate More Ideas

Coming up with more ideas is the same as achieving many other things. In fact, many of the underlying techniques of how to come up with more ideas same the same principles of of other popular self-improvement topics:

  • how to build bigger muscles
  • how to find your perfect mate
  • how to make one million dollars
  • how to lose weight
  • how to get a raise

It all boils down to doing the “thing” more.

In building biceps, it’s doing more barbell curls. In finding your perfect mate, it’s going on more dates. For coming up with more ideas, it’s only about trying to come up with more ideas, more often. Just like your biceps, idea generation is a muscle.

No one that is “great at generating ideas” was born that way, they usually just tried coming up with ideas more often. The more you flex your idea generation muscle, the better you get.

And the fact is, the more ideas you take in, the more you’ll put out.

Every idea you see, hear, feel, taste, do, and touch all have impressions in your mind that can influence your ability to generate new ideas.  That being said, everything that exists was at one time an idea, so a simpler way to say it is, “experience more”.

Someone who has only ever eaten white rice will have a harder time coming up with a new flavor of ice cream than someone who has experienced every fruit in the world.

See, hear, feel, taste, do and touch more and you will be able to generate more.

The Hard Question Finder

One of the best ways to improve anything is to find the right and hard questions to work on addressing. The toughest part of that strategy is identifying what those hard questions are. Too many times the person that needs to address that question is so bogged down in the actual thing that wants/needs to be improved that they are blind to what the hardest questions are.

Instead of a suggestion box, we need hard question boxes.

What if the group/person/organization had a way to specifically ask for insight into what those hard questions could be from reputable sources?

Suggestions mean that the person submitting thinks they know the answer, a hard question box gives the actual owner(s) of the thing being addressed the chance to see the areas that could be addressed then decide what/how to address them. Of course, they could always open up for suggestions, too.

How else could you identify the hardest things to work on, because chances are those are the most important as well.

**This is related to the The Question Recorder

The Sunday to Thursday Workweek

If you have to work five days a week, work a better five days.

Work on Sunday and you’ll be less distracted and focus better because to most other people it will be a day off. Being able to focus means you’ll also get your work done faster and usually with better quality.

Take off Friday and you’ll enjoy all the things you’d want to do during a weekend without the weekend traffic and crowd.  Again, this will make the overall experience more enjoyable.

There are innumerable benefits to moving your schedule to be slightly opposite the majority.  Test it and see how it works for you.

What else could you do to your schedule to improve your effectiveness?

 

Finding the Payoff in Your Work

When I was a little kid I was always on the search for odd jobs. A couple times my Uncle Mike brought me to a warehouse he managed where they distributed VHS training videos in all sorts of subjects. One of the jobs I did there was to take huge boxes of VHS video tapes and stick stickers on the front of them before putting into other huge boxes. It was one of the greatest jobs I ever had.

The reason why: there was an immediate payoff (and maybe it’s related to singular focus).

I could see hour by hour, minute by minute the exact output of my work and set up little games to challenge myself to get better. If I did 2 boxes of video tapes the first hour, I would challenge myself to get 2.5 boxes done the next hour.

How many times do you get to the end of your day and think “what the hell did I do today?” Sure, you know you went through hundreds of emails and sat in hours of meetings and did SOMETHING today – you just have no idea what it was and there was no payoff at the end that lets you realize your impact. It usually after months and months of a large project to realize any payoff when it launches.

What would happen if you or the people on your team were absolutely clear, every day, about what the payoff was that you were working towards? How can you tie your daily actions to overall longer term goals?

Whatever you do, just please don’t set up some little system where you make the number of emails you send in a day or the total number of minutes you spend in a meeting any criteria for success.

Dealing With Random Senior Leader Requests

Have you ever received a request or task from someone higher up the leadership chain that, at first glance, seems to make absolutely no sense to you? Have no fear, everyone above you is much smarter than you and you should just shut up and get it done.

OK, hopefully you’re reading on to know that I’m joking. Let’s face it, those requests come every now and again and it’s important to think through how to deal with them. Here are a couple ways:

  • If it’s something with an incredibly short implementation time and has no impact on anything else long or short term, just do it. Much like the rules of GTD.
  • Ask probing questions. Try the ‘5 Whys’ trick to get an understanding of what you’re really being asked to do. Maybe you’ll develop an entirely different solution than the one being requested, or be able to better understand it and recommend something already in place. The other benefit is that with all of your questioning maybe the requestor will just get tired of answering the questions and cancel the request.
  • Hurry up and wait. Lots of time these requests are merely reactions to something urgent. Giving lots of attention immediately and outlining a plan lets the requestor know that you’ve heard him/her and respect the request. That being said, when you understand it, wait a little while before you actually do it. Sometimes (you’ll get better at understanding which ones are which) the request will actually go away and you’ll get a note that it’s not needed anymore.
  • Inform others up the chain of command. The more people you tell, the more people that will either back up the request or agree that it’s not necessary. If they agree it’s not necessary, without you telling them that of course, usually they’ll be the ones to go back to Senior Management. If enough people agree with the request it’s probably worthwhile.

Take a minute to think through these types of requests, just please don’t be a robot and do it because some senior leader asked. If they’re any good they’ll usually appreciate the fact that you thought it through first.