Monthly Archives: February 2014

The Unintended Time Commitment

Do you know how long it takes you to do all the little things that you do through the course of a regular day?  I think that most of us would probably be surprised at the time that can accumulate when we do incidental tasks.  And the time that we spend on nothing activities while busy feeling harried and like we have no time to ourselves.

time

Back in my childhood my mom would have a habit of asking my dad to stop at the store – just for a minute – when we would be on our way home from a family activity.  Groan.  Mom would ‘run in’ and we would be trapped in the car waiting.  If she ever really did come out with just the one thing that she originally went in for, I can’t recall.  What I do remember would be the agonizing moment when she would come out with 2 or 3 bags of other things she realized we could use.  She saw it as time saving, while we lost ages from our lives that we could never recover.

 

The TV is an old standby for unintended time commitments, and it has been joined by the internet.  We never have to be alone with our own thoughts now, thanks to smart phones – but this also means that we might not ever be present in the moment with the person across from us at the table.  But I digress.

 

I got the idea for this post when I had a run of mornings recently that the time on the car’s clock surprised me.  I have a set time that I want to leave the bedroom, I thought I had hit that time but then somehow lost minutes between the bedroom and pulling the car out of the garage.  What the??  In my thinking I left the bedroom, picked up my purse, put on my coat and went to the garage – about a minute of time.  But, no, I was picking up and putting away things, looking for other things – eating bits of time here and there that I didn’t mean to do.

 

Famous words, “I’m just going to… before I do…”; suddenly that unintended time commitment, which was going to be a momentary distraction or a little filler, is something much larger.  And dangerous.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

An Acceptable Level of Chaos

The known and the unknown.  Order and its opposite – disorder, mess, chaos.  The traditional dramatic struggle is between good and evil, but every day life’s struggle is in the intersection between order and control or varying levels of chaos.  Even people who aren’t drawn to structure, who are comfortable in ambiguity, need some touch points of order – normalcy.

 

Whether we actively and consciously understand our own needs for order, or we lash out in unease caused by too much chaos too close, every one of us has an acceptable level of chaos.  When we can still mostly function, beyond which we get bogged down.

The Course of Empire Thomas Cole, 1836 - public domain image

The Course of Empire Thomas Cole, 1836 – public domain image

 

Somehow I learned fairly early on that I could create some of the structure that I need to feel comfortable in my environment.  I am thankful for this since it has greatly helped me to navigate my life.  I know immediately that when anxiety starts to build that I should take a breather, mentally take stock in all that is going on around me and identify a few simple things that I can straighten out.  I know that to press on will be foolish – and yet sometimes I press on.

 

Even knowing the level of order that I prefer, having such an interest in problem solving as I do, I am finding that the level of complexity in our modern life – the amount of oversight and active monitoring that is necessary on my part to get an acceptable level of service from the companies and people that I interact with – is exhausting.  I can’t begin to imagine how people who have a much stronger need for order, or people who find standing up for themselves a challenge, manage these interactions.

 

I didn’t mean to sound stilted in this post, but I am trying to wrap my head around a solution to this encroaching chaos.  It feels too close lately, in too many areas of my life.  Naming it is the first step to a solution.  Finding joy, or having a laugh will reduce the anxiety while I continue to sort through.  Finding some easy wins will give me a little boost of energy to press on.

 

How are you managing your chaos?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

That Little Push

The sun rises, and even on a cloudy day, the world around us starts to wake up – circadian rhythm kicks in.  External and internal prompts work together to give us a little push to start our day.  Routine, or the schedule for that particular day take over to encourage our next moves.  Is the pull of that day’s activities enough for me to push myself forward into it?

Probably very few of us found our internal drive worked consistently in our growing years.  Little and big pushes to do this or that had to come from external sources – mom, dad, teacher, coach.  The object was to teach us to develop our own internal drive, to push ourselves to do the things we needed to do so that we could achieve the things that we wanted to achieve.  Oh, we needed no push on certain days, for something exciting – up, fed, dressed and maybe even got a few things ready for mom and dad.

DSC03753

Once we launch into our ‘real’ lives, our adult post-school experiences, that’s when we find out how well we internalized the push – our ability to create and implement a daily schedule.  Some people do it so well, they can plow through even the most onerous chores without having to cajole themselves in any way.  Some of us become leaders and push ourselves and our team through the good, bad, and the tedious.  Many of us become parents and suddenly want to apologize to our own parents on a regular basis if it will help our children to find that internal push sooner and more strongly.

I don’t like to leave things hanging, but there are tasks that I dread or dislike doing.  And then there are the ones that I’m not entirely certain how to move forward.  I can usually figure out some means to push myself to do these things.  Although sometimes I have to give myself a bye, and sometimes I just channel my younger self and wonder why I have to do this stuff at all.  And sometimes I dream that I can hire an assistant who will take care of all these things.

Imagine what we can each do today, with a little push.

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

The Importance of Persistence

We admire someone with stick-to-itiveness, a person who single-mindedly pursues a goal.  Persistence does not mean adhering to a specific path, but keeping eyes on the intended goal.  Methods can change, as well as participants; even some aspects of the goal may be altered to achieve the essence successfully.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons - Builders of the past had amazing persistence, minus modern tools

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons – Builders of the past had amazing persistence, minus modern tools

 

Let’s say that you and your co-workers were sitting one day discussing a particular issue that affects your ability to get tasks done and a new person says that they know about software that will make the task much more efficient.  Excellent!  You share this information with your boss as soon as possible, but she lets you know that there just isn’t money in the budget.  Blast, now what?

 

Well, you and your team mates could just continue to discuss the problem periodically and lament the stupid budget limitations.  But you are persistent.  You and your buddies split up some tasks to convince your boss that the software is the best answer.  Some people do research on the software itself – how it works, some alternative software platforms, reviews from people who have used the software.

 

Another part of your group starts to track the time lost on the task using the current process, not only time within your team but within the organization as a whole, perhaps on the part of your customers as well.

 

Now you can go back to your boss with a great deal more information that includes information to calculate the cost of keeping things the same.  You don’t necessarily have to compute these numbers (you probably don’t have enough of the data to do so anyway) but now the company can take a clear look and make an informed comparison.

 

Hopefully your persistence will pay off with a new solution to the methods in your task.  If not, regroup and start to plot plan C.

 

“Plenty of men can do good work for a spurt and with immediate promotion in mind, but for promotion you want a man in whom good work has become a habit.”

~Henry L. Doherty

[We’ll purport for the sake of the modern age that Henry was not excluding woman in his thought on purpose, merely making assumptions of his era.]

(I must admit to rerunning this post from last year at this time, from my old blog.  This wind seems to be blowing all thoughts from my head.)

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Breaking the Escalation Pattern

How many times do we see the news or hear about a situation when we think how did it get to that point?  Why didn’t someone intervene, somehow put a stop to it?

 

When to step in?  How to step in?  Who should step in?

 

I don’t remember how old my boys were when I started to talk to them about the part they could play in keeping things from escalating to a point where there is a loss of control and something unfortunate results.  Somewhere in their grade school years, long before their brains would mature enough to develop impulse control.  (Of course, age doesn’t always correlate to impulse control.)

public domain image

public domain image

 

The calmest among us still has a trigger or two – perhaps one or both of the universal triggers, hunger and lack of sleep.  The calmest people are less likely to be set off by their very calm nature, do they also better understand how to take action to keep their surroundings more serene?  Or how best to respond to chaotic surroundings to keep themselves serene?

 

We are under constant bombardment from outside forces – bills, relationship pressures, the world around us – which can keep us at a low simmer.  Add in one more aggravation and it might make a volatile mix.  What do we each do to understand our own simmer, our own triggers; what do we each do to counteract or prevent our triggers from being tripped?

 

Diffusing a volatile situation takes some skill, but helping ourselves, a friend or a family member to ease down their simmer is a much simpler and more pleasant task.  Breaking the escalation pattern early, before it even has a chance to start, is sometimes as simple as getting a meal with a friend, sharing a laugh or offering a hug.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Different isn’t Deficient

When I was learning to drive, no one said that your foot had to always be on a pedal – either the gas or the brake.  Maybe my dad actually said coasting bought me some time to think about the right way to handle an oncoming situation and maybe I figured it out as I gained experience.  I don’t exactly recall.  But I did teach my boys that you can coast sometimes.

 

Similarly, somewhere along the line I realized that there are more categories than right and wrong.  I don’t have to put something or someone into a ‘right’ or a ‘wrong’ category when they are different from my own understanding of the world and I need time to think about how I think about them.  So things and people that I don’t readily understand go into the different area for further evaluation.

 

Different isn’t a good or a bad thing, it isn’t more than or lesser than what I do feel confident that I understand.  It isn’t deficient.  It is just different – different than what is familiar to me, sometimes just slightly so and sometimes radically so.

they all hold liquid to quench thirst...

they all hold liquid to quench thirst…

 

I can grow to understand different.  I can learn from it.  If I decided that it was wrong because I didn’t understand it, then I could never hope to understand it and learning from it would be a much more difficult proposition.

 

My son who loves to cook asked me to give onions, specially prepared by him, a try even though he knew that I’ve disliked onions all my life.  He just wanted me to move a category of onions, ones that he has prepared into the different area.  I resisted.  He persisted and now sometimes I eat onions.  They haven’t moved into the ‘right’ category exactly, but I eat them and even allow that they add to the overall flavor of a dish.

 

There are things that should not go into ‘different’ – people or situations that make you less than you should be, or make you feel uncomfortable, in danger.  Anything that really belongs in the ‘wrong’ space.  Different isn’t meant to remove this option.  Just to provide an option for an unknown that deserves an opportunity to prove it’s worth.

 

I think of times when I was quick to judge and came out wrong because I didn’t take some things into account.  I remember a story of a long road trip, a broken gas line and some questionable looking teens who made sure that my mom and sister got home safely despite my mom judging them initially on their appearance.

 

Do you have a ‘different’ category where you set things aside for further consideration?

 

© 2014 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

Directionless Progress

Let’s face it, sometimes it really isn’t clear what our next step should be – in our career or in life.  We can ask friends, coworkers and family for assistance or suggestions and we will get varying opinions and conjecture but it is up to us to create the direction.  Since we expect life to be ever advancing and improving we put a lot of import on making the right decision about direction.

 

Maybe it is our years in school that give us this impression of life as continuing advancement.  We have to learn the basics to build on with later, more specialized classes – calculus won’t make sense until we know the fundamentals of math.  Each grade builds on the information gained in previous grades, and school goes on and on for what feels like forever.  But life doesn’t really work this way, so in that respect school hasn’t prepared us at all.

DSC03746

If only it were as simple as a video game where the arrows show up ahead as you drive to tell you the next stage of your route.  Instead we have to explore, experiment and experience occasional false starts.  Or seem to stay in place while the world moves forward without our active participation.

 

If we don’t have clear direction, can we really make progress?  If we decide to change direction does that negate everything that we did toward our old progress?  Who is to say that all of us are meant to click into a certain track in our early twenties and follow it through thirty odd years of a career without any pause or deviation?

 

I haven’t taken anywhere near a traditional path (assuming traditional is that set 30 year career track).  I think that I’ve done all right with my progress despite some meandering directions – mainly because I have learned so much along the way.   In fact, since learning has been a main goal, I could say that I really didn’t meander in my direction in that respect.

 

How do you define progress for yourself?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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