Monthly Archives: October 2013

Forward, Yes, Looking Over a Shoulder

Life moves us ever forward.  We have one day after another – some are good and some not so much.  There are people who are good at looking forward, planning and making sure that this progression of days add up to a larger something; and on the other side of the spectrum there are people for whom every day is a surprise.  Then there are all of the rest of us in between.

forwardBut which way are we looking most often?  Forward, back, all around?  Like driving, we know that we should shift our focus between all of these views, but depending on our personality and experience we tend to settle into one habitual viewpoint.  We lose range of motion after some time of this single default viewpoint.

The best mix of forward, back and all around gives us the richest context.  We need that backward historical viewpoint to provide some recognition to new things.  (This is similar to that old thing in certain ways.)  Adding in the forward helps the new thing to reveal previously unexperienced, and possibly beneficial, perspectives and knowledge.  All around provides balance and depth – we can better decide what weight to apply to everything.

But we need something to push us off our preferred viewpoint, most likely.  Do you regularly use the past to decide what to do today?  Do you look forward to new experiences?  How often do you switch it up?  I liken it to changing lanes when driving – even though I know that I should turn my head as well as using my mirrors I find that I can slip into a bad habit of just using my mirrors and perhaps a quick sideways glance.  Not good.

I have had a Physical Therapist remind me that many of our motions are forward focused, so even though we start out with great range of motion we lose a lot if we don’t deliberately stretch out and back too.  We need to do this with our minds too – our default viewpoints.

Have you put much thought into how your viewpoint affects your ability to move forward?

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Celebrations, Work Style

We need to have reasons to celebrate – a birthday, a marriage, a new baby, a retirement, an anniversary.  Giving homage to our milestone moments makes the slog through the mundane day-to-day and those darker moments more possible.  Things are better with a smile, camaraderie and a bit of cake.

We are at work to work, but we spend a goodly chunk of time with our workmates and therefore it is important to bond.  We bond when we share the weight of difficult tasks and we bond when we share the light of a celebratory moment.  We just have to figure out what the right amount of time and effort to apply to sharing these moments – both good and bad – and this right amount is different at each office or work place.

Memory of birthday decor past... (not telling how long past)

Memory of birthday decor past… (not telling how long past)

What outward evidence is permissible?  Decorations set the mood and can bring a smile to everyone even as people work away.  But where is the line for over the top?  I think we have all seen cubicles that wind up looking like a whole party store was crammed in.  Tasteful would be a good line, but it means wildly different things to different people.  Most cube walls could do with a bit of holiday or personal celebration type décor now and again.

Joyfulness creates energy, which can power a team to be productive with a smile.  At least until the sugar high from the cake wears off.  Then it’s time to get more goodies.

Oh, by the way, this topic was on my mind because today is my birthday.  If you are looking for me, I’ll be the one with the tiara – while I have decided to stop aging, I do like to celebrate the anniversary of my birth.

What level of gaiety is allowed at your work place?

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

And Repeat Until Retirement

Sometimes a post idea comes to me and I struggle for a title.  Sometimes I manage to come up with an idea and a title together.  And sometimes I just get a title.  Today, I was thinking along the lines of repetitive tasks – there is a world of lather, rinse, repeat beyond shampoo – and this title popped in.

It seems as though we think, as children, that we will put thought into what we want to be; get the appropriate training in our early adult years; get the appropriate job for that training at a good company; achieve regular gains in pay and work load based on experience; and retire at the right time.  Ding, work life recipe complete.  And perhaps that did work for a chunk of the population for a space of time.  (I hear tell that the Millennials have different ideas of a career – do share.)

We do need to have a balance of the expected – certainty – to go along with all of the variables – marry or not, and who?  Where to live?  Children?  And somehow our working segment seems a reasonable portion to place our hopes for regular, certain, blissful sameness.  We can handle life’s changes when we know there will be familiar expectations here and there.

While I have been aware of this sort of assembly line progression of career, I have taken a different tack.  I understand why this notion can appeal.  Just for fun, I make lists of all the bits and pieces of life that we are supposed to keep up on and it is eye-popping.  Also, not feasible – something must go on auto-process.  Something has to be chosen to fend for itself.  Benign neglect.

Capture

I am not suggesting that people don’t take pride in their work, don’t want to be valued.  Not at all, just that there isn’t a necessarily a conscious review of current status versus a planned trajectory.  The focus is on the set of regular tasks.  It is expected that completion of tasks will carry up to keep on that trajectory until retirement.

Does this work out?  Yes, for some.  Certainly it has led to a rude awakening for others.  So the question comes down to deciding whether it is working for you – is your current activity meeting your expectations?  If so, repeat until retirement, with occasional re-verification.

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

What am I Supposed to Do with All this Information?

We are bombarded with information wherever we go, look away for just a moment and another ton or so has been added to the pile.  All of it vying for our attention.  Whew, how to figure out what is important, what is useful, what is filler?

Coping methods abound, but should they really be broadly applied?  And most of them seem to deal with the mechanics of organization as opposed to the how-to of information processing.  Weighting, sifting, categorizing, pattern recognition – information triage.

mental-springcleaning

I remember along about when my boys hit middle school realizing that they didn’t seem to know how to study properly – what to put into notes, how to organize those notes, how to weight importance of the lessons provided.  I looked around for additional assistance, a tutor or program, but all were focused on improvement in the direct skills – math, reading, etc. – that my boys were quite capable of learning on their own.  I could not find anything that would help with the soft skills of study habits or information organization.  The people that I contacted seemed to be confused about my request.

At work, I have encountered people who need assistance deciding how to prioritize the pile of work in front of them.  Sometimes this is because there is simply too much of it, but sometimes it is the same issue as for my boys – how to process information effectively was not part of any curriculum they had encountered.  There seems to be an assumption that people will naturally know what to do with the information provided and therefore the focus of teaching has been on providing the information.

I wish that I could say I remember how I was taught to process information – because I am certain that I had lessons on this skill along the way.  Perhaps it was in such small increments, here and there, that I can’t pinpoint any moments.  My ‘aha’ moment has been that this is something that I can share with others, not how I acquired the knowledge.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that I don’t have places in my house where piles of information await my attention.  (Good thing my dining room table has a sturdy pedestal.)  And I wish that it meant I had a magic method of whisking away extraneous information without having to take time to look at it!  Plus there is always the brand new information that takes longer to sort because I don’t know the identifying factors yet.

How have you decided to process all the information that comes your way?

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Change of Season

In my early twenties I lived in a couple different places in California for a few years – they have cool summer and warm summer and not much else.  Rainy season and drier season.  I thought that I would enjoy the no winter part, but found instead that I dearly missed spring and fall.

DSC03532

I have spent the majority of my life in the Midwest where we have all four seasons – though to varying degrees.  (I liked living in the mild winter parts the best, but then the summers are a bit more intense – no such thing as perfect.)  I’m not a winter person, though there is something to be said for being out on a cold crisp winter night.  I can get my winter fix from photographs and movies.  Summer has its benefits, but a bit too hot for my taste.

And it wasn’t until my California experience that I realized the importance of spring and autumn for me.  That is where it is at – the world wakes up and comes back to showy noisy life in spring, and offers a final burst of color and crunch before slumbering in the fall.  I can put up with the inconvenience of winter to enjoy these seasons.  (Of course, if I could find a means to migrate like the birds every year I wouldn’t turn that down.)

I get a bit wistful in the fall, don’t you?  Each season seems to have a predominant sentiment associated with it which gives us the opportunity to change our thinking with the change in season.  I’m sure there are contrarians out there who have a very different response.  I start out with my usual thoughts on all of the summer activities that once again I did not partake.  The days were long and invited the thought that I had plenty of time, take it easy.

Suddenly the days are getting shorter and there is a hint of crisp in the air.  The geese are honking in formation over my house, but the windows are still open to let in the warm breeze.  Ah – woulda, shoulda, coulda got me again.  But, not in all ways – I have learned a little something – I do have a short list of summer activities I did accomplish.

I’m going to make a point not to get too wistful in my posts in the coming weeks – help keep me honest, will you, let me know if you think that I do.  Plaintive is good – in rotation with other viewpoints.

What is your favorite season, and why?

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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