Why don't we make the best use of our time? Why is it so easy to procrastinate? To stay in bed for that little bit longer. Even the emperor of Rome struggled with this:
"I have to go to work - as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I'm going to do what I was born for - the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?" - Marcus Aurelius
It is funny how nothing much has changed over the years. Even in Ancient Rome, they were worries about excesses. Today, all of us have access to more than the Emperor of Rome.
He did not have electricity, a phone, a TV, a car. He had slaves, but so do we. We just call it capitalism. We have outsourced our lives to technology or cheaper labour - building our phones, preparing our food, connecting across the ether.
Perspective is a needed jolt sometimes. With all the luxuries at your fingertips today, what is really stopping you.
âGet out of bed and do something.
This is often quoted by the software industry where being slow and waiting for perfection to launch can be an excuse just to stop yourself putting something out there. A more nimble competitor will likely beat you to market with an "inferior" product. This can be true with any industry, obviously.
But the opposite can also be an excuse. "We are not waiting for perfection" can be used as an excuse for crappy, not well thought out product, terrible processes and poor customer service. An excuse to not strive for continuous improvement. And to argue about whether you are aiming for perfection or not is completely futile as you have to define what perfect is.
If you have to define anything, then better to just define what "good enough" is. What features can we live without? What has to be there? When something is good enough, using your previous criteria, then it is good enough. Ship it.
âThe thing that a lot of companies trying to copy silicon valley's way of doing things miss is that minimum viable product actually needs to be viable. You cannot launch with a shell that does not actually do anything. You cannot launch an X management system that does not calculate, report or analyse X correctly. You cannot use MVP like a snake oil salesman and expect that not to impact your reputation and your customers.
Once you launch, you need to keep getting better. Should you then strive for perfection? Or at least excellence? I would say yes. Through a ladder of "good enough" steps, each getting you closer and closer to an end vision.
You cannot ship a new car if the wheels fall off. Arguing that the customer wants a perfect car because he wants the wheels to stay would be quite arrogant. In a world where even the big software companies (looking at you Apple) release updates that break core workflows of their users, this is simply not sustainable.
I think at some point Silicon Valley will take some lessons from the history of manufacturing processes and two companies who should be at the forefront of this are Tesla and Apple. Who will bring stability to innovation first?
Having time. Is it strange that some people get stressed and others do not?
Sometimes this may be the same person under different circumstances. Sometimes in our lives, we feel stress and sometimes we do not.
Quite often, we attribute this to external factors.
Too much to do. My boss is an asshole. Not enough time in the day.
All seem reasonable and, in my experience, it does not matter how good the company is, it only matters what your boss is like.
But why do we give external factors such power over us? We have an abundance of choice.
We could work for someone else. Wo could focus on only the important tasks. We could realise that we all have the same amount of time. Or do we?
It is amazing to see that people get resigned to having to do things. I have seen employees about to go off with stress, aching to just finish what they need to do before they go home and yet they are accepting meetings where they do not know what outcome is expected; they do not know why they need to be there and they never even try to not go to it.
Even worse, is that when they do go to it and realise both that nothing productive is going to happen and even if it was, they do not need to be there, they resign themselves again to having to stay rather than just excusing themselves and walking out.
It is important to remember that you do not have to do anything, there are just consequences if you do and if you do not.
The consequence of giving too much control over your day to other peoples meetings is that you will not have time to do the things you already know you need to do: workout, be present with loved ones, eat right, or just doing the important things and being prepared to take shit for not doing someone elses "urgent."
Why do humans argue?
Because we have it too good? Because there are so many options and interpretations? Because we think people should see the world the way that we see the world? Because we are rational and they are not? Because our way is right and their way is wrong?
I gave up quite a lot in January. Alcohol, caffeine, sugar, fast carbs, meat, fish, gluten and all grains (I tried to Aldo go vegan but cracked on cheese!).
I didn't shout about it, but it came up in conversation and the person I was talking to asked, "is there any evidence that giving up all these things is actually healthy?"
The real question is, will this make a difference if I answer you?
For any similar questions: What evidence do you have that this thing is the right thing? What actual proof do you have that giving up x is good for you?
Well, rather than arguing. Ask, "what could I say that would persuade you?"
Again, this question assumes we are rational.
A better question, "if there were irrefutable evidence, would you try it today, right now? Would you give up that steak that is sitting in front of you, what about that toasted bacon bagel?"
What evidence would you need to be convinced?
If it is that an expert has some data then you can probably find it if you needed to and looked. But what is an expert?
More likely, the threshold for most people is that it is accepted into popular opinion, although they would not like to admit it.
Getting something into popular opinion is very slow. Changing the masses behaviour is very slow.
Not that we should throw out science, but to understand that to consider science separately from politics and persuasion could be considered by some as quite naive.
You are taught in school that science is reason. However, when you grow up you realise that humans have biases. Biases in results, in statistics, in storytelling, in politics, in what gets funded and in who listens to whom.
A better marker, like Nassim Taleb says, is where should the burden of proof be? Why wait to see if fucking with food until it is not food anymore hurts humans over three generations? This study will never get funded, and even if it finds results will need political influence to get past the trillions of dollars in interests counter to these results.
If it is not natural, it is probably bad. A much simpler way to navigate life.
Written by Brad Egeland
Meetings are a way of life in project management. Weekly project team meetings, daily stand-ups on agile projects, weekly customer status calls and meetings, quarterly reviews on large government programs and projects and kickoff meetings on just about every project I've ever led or been involved with. How meetings are conducted can either make your job as a project manager easier or harder... sticking to some good meeting management techniques is always going to be your best plan for success.
From my experience, there are five things to consider when preparing for just about any meeting needed for your project. As I present these, please consider your own meeting prep processes and comment with any additional tips you might have...
Plan well. The initial key to great meetings is up front planning. Never just call a meeting based on a need or want or decision. Always do at least some up-front planning no matter how small the issue may be. You never want to be labeled as that meeting facilitator who just "wings it." You'll find out rather quickly that people don't want to give up valuable work time to attend one of your meetings that doesn't have a well-defined purpose or goal.
If it's a meeting to gather information providers together for a critical decision that needs to be made on a project, then make sure you document well what information you are seeking, what decision needs to be made, and what the next steps will be. If it's a regular project meeting, make sure you have a detailed agenda that includes current project status and what's happening next as well as any other agreed upon regular information. Usually a project status report is a good piece of input for this process. In other words - no matter what the meeting purpose is, have materials for the potential and planned attendees that will help you get the most relevant information out of them during the meeting session.
Send out information in advance. Always send information - including a detailed agenda - out to your planned meeting participants in advance. Twenty-four hours in advance is a good rule of thumb if that's possible. The more time you give attendees, the more likely they can come prepared to participate and provide you with the information you need. The goal is to get this done in one session - those who always need multiple meetings to accomplish one thing are quickly labeled disorganized time wasters and their meeting attendance will dwindle.
Adhere to a plan and timeframe. Stick to the planned timeframe for the meeting. Start on time and finish on time. Your stakeholders' and various attendees' time is valuable and your ongoing meeting attendance and participation will be high if you have a reputation as the facilitator who gets going and runs efficient and effective meetings. Don't be the one who stops the meeting to bring the late comers up to speed (unless it's your CEO and even then...) because that will frustrate those who do show up on time ready to participate. Better to teach the 10% late comers that it's not tolerated rather than to accommodate them and frustrate the other 90% who always show up on time. And end on time... these individuals have work to do and if they know you always run long, they'll be doing their other work on their laptops while your meeting is going on. You don't want that - in fact you may want to ban laptops during your meetings. I do that if it's a critical meeting and I need 110% of their attention. If laptops are present, I guarantee that you don't have all of their attention.
One more thing... never cancel your regularly scheduled meetings. Even if a project seems to be coasting between phases for a couple of weeks and nothing is really happening, continue to conduct weekly meetings. Even if you all you do is spend 10 minutes going around the room or phones to all the attendees for a quick update or status of what they are working on or any questions they may have - it will still be helpful and it will keep them coming. You never know when a key piece of information is going to come up during a call or meeting like this that would otherwise fall through the cracks. If you start to cancel meetings, it will only make it more difficult to get them back in those seats when the project starts up full force again. Plus, the goal is for everyone to stay on the same page at all times and these quick meetings will only serve to help ensure it stays that way.
Document well. Make sure you take good notes on all of the information provided and for any decisions and task assignments being made. You'll need this for yourself, the project schedule updates, the status reporting and for the next step as you'll see shortly. Communication is Job One for the project manager and information gathering and dissemination is part of that. What you understand from a meeting like this may not be the same as what everyone else - or at least some percentage of the attendees - understood, so take good notes for you and for everyone.
Follow-up afterwards. Following every project meeting, be prepared to send out notes from the session. Again, the key is to keep everyone on the same page at all times during the project engagement. When you send out notes from the meeting to all attendees and key stakeholders request that they send back any feedback, questions or alternate understandings of what was discussed and decided upon during the session. Not everyone catches everything or hears things the same. You don't want to wait a week or two to find out that an attendee missed an assignment that you gave them... a critical project deadline may be missed as a result. Ask for responses by noon the next day, revise your notes if needed, and resend the meeting information out to everyone one more time.
Summary / call for input
The bottom line is always to keep everyone moving forward on the project, get decisions made, get information from key participants and keep everyone on the same page. The project manager who can do that through effective and efficient meeting leadership will win more projects than they lose... and that's always good.
Readers - what are your thoughts? What do you do to ensure your project meetings are as effective as possible? Do you agree with this list? What would you add or change?
Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Creative Design, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad's site at http://www.bradegeland.com/.
I use the 5-minute journal daily, morning and night. In the nighttime entry, it makes you ask yourself, "how could I have made today even better?" I seem to interpret this as "what did I regret doing or not doing today?" In these micro regrets, as all other regrets, I find that it is always something I did not do rather than something I did do
Rather than waiting until the end of your life to find out what you wished you had done, you can do this in advance or at least react quicker than waiting until your deathbed.
If you think about what you would have done differently each day, using the 5-minute journal or otherwise, after a year you have 365 micro regrets. If you analyse them I bet there is a pattern. Use this to not have the same regrets the next year.
Of course, you can do this even faster. Review the last month. The last week. Make sure you put something into action today from yesterday's micro regret.
Why wait until the end of your life, when you cannot change anything? Use micro regrets to ensure you don't have any later. Live in the present.
When you are out of inspiration to write the best solution is to just write. With no hang ups or expectations over whether it is good or not. Tim Ferriss said of one of his mentors when writing a book the goal should be to write one crappy page per day. Similarly, morning pages is just a practice of writing three pages each and every morning. No agenda, no purpose, just write.
This gets you into the habit of doing. And it is amazing what you can achieve when you make a habit of doing something small every single day.
James Altucher has a list of things that he needs to do in order to avoid himself falling off the precipice (as he has been bankrupt a number of times). One of them is to write ten ideas per day. They can be random ideas or ideas about a theme. For example, ten businesses I could start today or ten products for cats. The goal is to do the doing, not to come up with a great idea to run with. Of course, this is likely a side benefit. In having no expectations your mind will be free and will likely hit a great idea after doing this practice for a while. When you can let your mind be free, great things can happen.
How much of your current situation is a result of your current thinking and actions? All of it.
You are what you consistently do. And you do what you consistently think about becoming.
Get into daily practices that open your mind and the rest will follow.
I recently tried a flotation tank and the owner said that you rarely get out of a float what you want but you always get what you need. Some people have experiences like being on psychedelics. But if you are burned out and do not have the time to be creative then this is what you need - time and space. Or maybe just a sleep.
Do the biggest. Do the hardest. Do the one that will make the most progress.
Even if you can only get part of it done. Just start.
Do it first thing in the morning, with no distractions for 90 minutes and see how much you can get done.
Do the top priority then move onto the second for 45 minutes. The move onto the third for 45 mins. Do all these things before checking email. Turn off your phone and Skype. Obviously turn off your email, but it already will be turned off, won't it?
Shortcut to productivity: Proactive in the morning. Reactive in the afternoon. I have not read makers schedule managers schedule but the principal sounds similar.
You cannot get much actual work done in tiny chunks. Do not let other peoples meetings whittle your time down into bite-sized bits. And don't let them go over your most productive time - usually the morning.
In the morning you can usually go for 90 minutes without a break. In the afternoon only 45. Schedule accordingly.
Once you have done work on your top 3 priorities (or it may just be the top 1 depending on the day) then forget the rest. You are done for the day.
Most people never get this much done in a whole day. Congratulate yourself that you have just done in 3 hours more than anyone else because you took the time to carve out some uninterrupted block of time big enough to actually do something meaningful. Most people scatter this time throughout the day - checking email. Making tea. Chatting. Getting overwhelmed with other peoples agendas.
Remember, just because it is important and urgent to them, does not mean it is automatically the same for you.
What if you were on holiday? What if you were off sick? What if it was the middle of the night because they are in a different time zone?
They will cope for 90 minutes. Look after yourself first.
If you want any perspective on life, you have to listen to this podcast immediately. All of it is great, but I am talking about the part from 41:39 to 48:22.
If you don't have time to listen then my summary is below, that surely will not do it justice, but here goes:
Remember that your time on this Earth is fleeting. Thinking about the history of human beings, if it was a 700-page book, you would only be alive for a sentence at most. This is the most exciting time to be alive and most people will not do anything that would make it into that book. There have been so many amazing shifts in technology and communication that it is very unlikely that you will make an impact big enough to hit the 700-page highlight reel of human history.
But you can still make an impact.
To your friends. To your parents. To your children. To your teachers. To your mentees. To your co-workers.
You do not have much time to be alive. Why must we waste any of it?. Each day is fleeting and we must make it our own.
We have a access to more information than any other human before us. Why is not everyone on the same page of working productively, of running that meeting properly, of avoiding interruptions? It has been covered in texts time and time again.
As Derek Sivers says, "if more information was the answer, then we would all be billionaires with perfect abs." Is the fact that we have more information mean that there is a proliferation of choice so it is hard to find the best advice to improve yourself? To make you better at whatever you choose to do?
Or is it actually that the majority of people do not choose to even try to make themselves better? To try to be more noble, more virtuous, more productive?
If you are even trying, then you are at least in the top 20%. If you are trying consistently, then you are in the top 20% of that.