For some people working from home means working 24/7. I work from home but choose to ignore that temptation. I want time with my family, time with friends and community, and time to be a whole person, not just a business person. So, I make sure my day ends at 5pm sharp to leave time for the things that are important.**
I believe that if something can’t be done by 5pm that means either:
- I am trying to do too much or
- I haven’t prioritized my time well
I keep a notebook with notes from each day, and I love to write at the top of the page, “Day ends at 5pm!” Seeing that note at the top of the page all day forces me to prioritize my time and make tough choices to meet my deadline.
** – I’m not perfect at this every week, but this is my goal, and I hit it 90% of the time. I also start my day early to make sure I can be very productive but still clock off at 5pm.
You know that hard phone call you need to have? Do it now. You know that chore you have been dreading? Do it now. You know that line you have neglected to stand in? Do it now.
Doing something now is so much better than doing it later. Every once in a while I will have a client say they, “want to speak to an owner” a statement that fills me with unrealistic dread. In the past I have tried to schedule out those calls, often putting them off for days. During that time, in the back of my mind, I’m dreading the conversation, assuming the client is angry and unreasonable. Then, I get on the call, and the client is great and totally reasonable. The call is a win all around, and my dread was completely misplaced. If I had done that call immediately, I would have saved myself a lot of pain.
I think the same is true (though to a lesser scale) of the chores I don’t want to do and the lines I don’t want to stand in. My goal is always to have a “do it now” attitude. I think it will save me a lot of grief.
This morning on the elliptical was different. I go most work mornings and work out on the elliptical for about 30 minutes, and it has become a little easy and a little routine, but not this morning. Why not this morning? Well, last night I finished a podcast from Freakonomics Radio about how to become good at just about anything. The core strategy discussed was the idea popularized by Anders Ericsson called Deliberate Practice.
Deliberate Practice, among other things, is practice that makes you uncomfortable. It pushes you past the limit of your current ability. Deliberate practice is knowing that you can run a 10-minute mile and pushing for a faster time. Deliberate practice is the only way to truly improve on skill, pushing yourself outside of the zone where your skill resides and into new areas where you will develop more skill.
I think we all have a propensity to coast, to do what we know we can accomplish and stop there. I have been doing that for months on the elliptical. But, doing that won’t get me to where I want to go, it won’t make me better, it only maintains where I am currently. If I want to get better, I have to do what’s hard, be uncomfortable and push myself further each time. It will be tough, but it will be worth it.
You might not have guessed it, but yes, I was in show choir in high school. Sometimes when I tell people that they don’t know what to think, so I just tell them to imagine the show Glee, but with more Disney tunes, bow ties and sequins.
I’ll always remember a moment in one of our shows that was perfect. It was during the song “The Circle of Life, ” and our group was in a circle singing. There is a moment in the song when the beat hits, and our group turned inward putting our hands together inside the circle at the same time a spotlight shown down from above, highlighting the circle’s center point. It was a moment that I still remember vividly as perfect. It was that moment in the show where it feels like everything has gone perfectly and like the show could continue all day and be the best performance of your life. It was a moment of flow.
Flow is that moment when everything aligns and takes what you are doing to another plane of existence. It’s a moment of extasy when you feel as though you are almost outside of yourself, like you are superhuman, like you are flowing with more talent than ever before. Flow is the moment when your full attention is on what you are doing, and your own existence seems to be temporarily suspended. All that exists is the skill you are performing. Flow comes when performing a task that requires a high level of skill and has a high degree of challenge.
Moments of flow in my life have been few and far between. But, I’m realizing that it might be possible to more intentionally foster these moments, to seek to find flow. There are books on this; perhaps I’ll pick one up.
I guess all I’m saying at this point, is that I recognize that I have experienced flow, and now I want to work to find more moments of flow in my life. If you have suggestions, please comment and let me know.
Check out this Ted Talk on Flow if you want some more on this topic.
One of the best things I came across in Pete Carroll’s book is how he described the value of “be early” and the impact it has had on his team. At first, glance having a value of “be early” may seem silly, it did to me. But, as Pete described it I realized the immense power of having that as a core value for an organization, or for an individual. Consider the following:
- To be early, you have to plan ahead and think through your day. This forces you to be proactive and to truly plan out your day rather than just reacting to what happens and rolling with it. A commitment to always be early is a commitment to owning your time, rather than it owning you.
- When you are early, you show respect. By being early, you are valuing another person’s time over your own. You are showing them physically that you are glad to be there and to wait for them if needed. Being early is a position of humility, which is exactly what I love about it. I’m not always immediately prone to humility, but the value of being early helps me toward that goal.
- When you are early, you are better prepared. When I’m early to a meeting, it allows me to mentally prepare for that meeting, allowing me to be more engaged and on the ball during the meeting.
- Being early reduces stress. When I’m 20 minutes early to a meeting and traffic is a little worse than usual, I don’t mind. When I can’t find a parking space, or the suite number, no big deal.
As my son recently reminded me, “early is on time, and on time is late.” That’s what I try to follow. I’m not perfect about it, but that is my goal.
I’m reminded again today that we are always either behind or ahead. We are reacting to our situations, or we are proactive with them. If someone asked you, “Would you rather be behind or ahead?” What would you say? Ahead right? We all say that, but then we do things that aren’t in line with that, like procrastinate.
Every day you must choose. Will you be behind today, reacting, or will you be ahead of the day, dominating? Today I chose to be ahead, and I’m loving it. Now I have to make the same choice tomorrow.