Friday, January 29, 2010

Motivation and Ways to Wake Up Early

One of my readers sent me the following email in response to my 6 Reasons to Wake up Early article:

Feeling the annual winter-lack-of-motivation-I-don't-want-to-get-up blues...
Why do I want to get up early? Because by the end of the work day I'm exhausted, and have no interest in doing anything except lying on the couch and reading (which I think is okay, sortof). But I like the IDEA of using some time in the morning to clean, organize, write a note to a friend, search the web for fun, exercise. I somehow can motivate to exercise at night (usually, but not everyday and it should be), but that's all I do: Get up, go to work, walk the dog, exercise, read on the couch, go to bed. BLAHHHHH!

So I thought I'd do a little Dear Abby here and respond with ideas that might help.

Although I do have ideas, I will say I'm nowhere near perfect with any of this stuff. I'm still learning it. One of the reasons I write about stuff like this is the more I write about it, or teach, the more I learn. Teaching is a great way to learn.

We take action if it's more rewarding than not taking action, or we take action if it's uncomfortable for us to not take action. So the best way to get action to happen is to add to the pain, or add to the pleasure.

So some ideas include:

1. Adding a reward to an activity is a great way to get it done. So think of the things that you can use as rewards and allow yourself to do those if you get it done. For me, I like drinking tea and I don't drink tea until I get certain tasks or chores done.

2. Think of things you can do to add punishment and add punishment for not doing things. So if you like to read a particular book, don't let yourself read that particular book unless you've done something else. Figure out a few punishments you can use.

3. One thing that causes me to take action is if I understand my WHYs well, So I like making a list of the whys because that increases my drive and my motivation.

4. Often analyzing why we are not doing something is a great way to move us forward. For example, if you wake up in the morning and don't hop out of bed because your bedroom is cold, perhaps you should have a setback thermostat that turns the heat up before you get up.

I often find I procrastinate on projects because I'm missing a piece of information or don't know how to do something. Identifying why I'm not doing something is a great way of moving me forward.

5. Recognizing your limits is also important. Especially when I was younger would often have completely unrealistic goals and therefore I would not accomplish as much as I thought I would. One thing that's given me great hope though is we tend to accomplish less in a day than we think we can and do accomplish more in a year or a decade.

So what I'm saying is if you can't do your goals, perhaps you're trying to be too disciplined and perhaps you're not giving yourself enough "time off".

When I'm working on my goals, I delete from my list anything I'm not prepared to spend at least an hour a week on and what I often have is something on my goals list, wake up 3 or 4 weeks later and find I haven't spent the hour so I take it off my goals list and it becomes a not now.

6. Tracking is another trick on getting things done. The simple act of writing down things you want to do and giving yourself your own little star can be motivational enough to do it. Sounds strange, but it works.

7. I like making games of things and one of my favorite games is chaining. What I try to do is build a chain of doing things right. So I try to build a chain of number of days I get up before a certain time, or number of days that I work out and then if I break the chain, then the next chain I try to build it longer. This gives me something to keep striving for.

Any more Dear Jim letters I should answer?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Leading the Disciplined Life

I've always found I'm more productive when I lead a disciplined life.

For me that includes things like getting up early (and this means I have to discipline myself to go to bed at at a reasonable time), working out daily, and staying focused on the highest priority items.

Although I say this is leading the disciplined life, I realize from studying success habits, really that is simply leading a habitual life. In the end it's all about habits.

I also like to lead a frugal life.

I actually find the internet allows me to be a little bit more frugal, using things like free coupons (one site that has them is It has coupons and deals and allows users to post the ones they find. There are a couple of press releases on that service. See Coupon Codes

It's interesting that they use a pig as their logo, the same as PigSpigot,(an online service that allows people to send cards).

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Roll Up Weekly Reports

One management technique that can be used to run a larger organization is what I call roll up weekly reports.

The reason they are called roll up is they start at the bottom or mid-level and everyone sends their report to their supervisor, sends it to their manager, sends it to their VP, till eventually it hits the CEO's desk.

One principle is the weekly report is a maximum of 24 lines long (that's how long my screen is and I don't like using the scroll button).

The weekly report is very specific in what it addresses:

1. The organization typically has 3-5 large goals and there should be something addressing each one of these large goals.

2. The individual has 3-5 weekly goals, each one of those weekly goals should be addressed.

3. In the weekly report, the goals for the next week are also laid out.

4. I like a short section on things I don't know that the numbers don't say. For example information on a customer, opening a new location, or a competitor letting go staff or something else in the industry.

5. What you need from me. This is one way to get action from the manager or leader to help the person shake through and get things to the next step.

Roll up weekly reports are a great way to keep a sense of urgency in an organization as well as keeping things focused on the goals.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Loudest Duck - diversity

I recently read The Loudest Duck - Moving Beyond Diversity While Embracing Differences to Achieve Success at Work by Laura Liswood.

It's interesting when I moved to New York, I joined an Angel Investment group called Golden Seeds (I was very impressed with their due diligence process). One of their mandates is to only invest in women-owned businesses and entrepreneurs. To some extent this provides me with a little bit more portfolio diversity since most of my investments are in male-owned and operated businesses (I like to think not by design, simply by seeing businesses as genderless and making business decisions based on what I thought were the right businesses).

As the title suggests, the book is about diversity. The obvious case is that discrimination still exists and this discrimination actually hurts companies.

The book did touch on the damage the efforts of trying to legislate things has because simply trying to fill numbers ignores the real skills and needs of a company.

One point the book made which I thought was excellent is leaders often tend to surround themselves with people who look like themselves.

I've noted in business that true maturity is being able to accept people who don't have the same characteristics and being willing to value them similarly to ourselves. The biggest example I saw in business is the accounts receivable people all think the sales people don't care about selling to customers who won't pay their bills on time and the sales people think the credit department is simply making their life miserable and adding to their challenge in selling. Truly mature people realize there is great value in a sales person and an accountant.

In my view, the ideal team should be made up of people which have the right diversity of views, background, experience and the appropriate mix of skills, regardless of their race, gender, religion, etc.

So as the book suggests, the ideal is to be able to look through any of these natural biases.

The book concludes with: "It is by no means easy to create a successful Noah's ark of diversity, yet once accomplished - and with much sustained consciousness - the rewards are enormous."

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Other 8 Hours

I read a great book by Robert Pagliarini - The Other 8 Hours - Maximize Your Free Time to Create New Wealth & Purpose.

When I first heard of the book I thought. Oh no, now a time management system that figures out what to do instead of sleep - which for me would be the other 8 hours (well actually, I would rarely sleep that long).

But the gist of The Other 8 Hours discussed in the book are the hours that you're not sleeping and not working. So it's time after work essentially.

I think the book would be more appropriately targeted to those who have a job. To those who, like myself, work for themselves or are serious executives, working much more hours than full time jobs, the book is not as appropriate.

The gist of the message I completely agree with and that is get off the couch and learn something or do something with the other 8 hours. That's the best and easiest way to get ahead. One of the reasons this works for getting ahead is so many other people simply sit on the couch with the channel changer.

In addition to that basic thesis, the book is chock full of time saving ideas, like use two monitors. I learned this from my years at SYNNEX and it's very tough to work with just one monitor after you've used two.

The book talks about the things that steal productivity, listing a huge long list of things that maybe don't need to be done.

One reason might be appropriate for people who have a job is much of the talk is about money and how to make more or save more money, with lots of tips.

It's a good book, well written, well organized, easy to read.

Whenever I give my Time Management presentation, my goal is always to have people leave with two or three habits that they continue doing and are doing six weeks after the presentation. I don't consider my presentation to be a success unless this happens.

This book has so many ideas I would think only people who use the most polished of systems wouldn't be able to get a few ideas they could use.

I found the book very reinforcing.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures

I recently read What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell.

It's really a series of stand-alone stories. They're not fiction, they are true stories. Some of them are fascinating, others I found not as interesting.

Gladwell is a great writer.

According to E. Bukowsky (booklover10) on Amazon:

""What the Dog Saw" has some intriguing passages that will impel readers to say, "I never thought of this subject in quite that way before." The provocative Gladwell enjoys toying with conventional wisdom and challenging our preconceived notions. For instance, in one article, he defends certain forms of plagiarism, a transgression that many would consider indefensible. In another, he states that tragedies such as the Challenger disaster are unavoidable, since for a variety of reasons, "we don't really want the safest of all possible worlds."

This water-cooler book will have people arguing vehemently that Malcolm Gladwell is either out of his mind or, conversely, that he is a courageously honest writer who dares to tell it like it is. "

Friday, January 15, 2010

Simplifying Innovation, a 5-step system for doubling speed to market and new product profits with your existing resources

I recently read Simplifying Innovation, a 5-step system for doubling speed to market and new product profits with your existing resources by Michael Dalton.

He calls it a theory of constraints business model.

"Three Rules of Work: Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity" - Albert Einstein

This is one of those books that is written in storybook style. I'm not a big advocate of this type of writing, following fictitious people around and figuring out how they like their steak is not particularly interesting to me.

That said, the book is interesting and has a number of valid points. If you just wanted the business points of the book, you could quickly read through it and find the summaries which are italicized.

The theory of the book is that there are always bottlenecks in any innovation. The key is to identify those bottlenecks and figure out how to get through them more quickly.

One other part of the thesis is high focus pays and having less people on a project, spending more of their time on it, is likely to get better results than having more people spend less of their time.

As I'm reading the book, I'm thinking of how this plays with my Fail Often. Fail Fast. Fail Cheap. mantra that I often repeat. Where I think it's used slightly differently is the innovation the book is talking about is primarily development, not necessarily the pure research, or alternatively it's the execution or the implementation which is often a shortcoming in companies.

Fail Often. Fail Fast, Fail Cheap is one way to generate a lot of ideas, then figure out which ones are working and put more resources into the ones that are working.

The book did talk about DADS (Device Attention Deficit Syndrome), caused by Blackberries and cell phones. Ironically, even though I am a huge Blackberry user and a big advocate (and I sit on the board of RIM), I do see some validity to DADS. If DADS is a problem, it means the device is not being used as it should be used - as a productivity device.

"Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art."-Frederic Chopin

It's a good book, appropriate for anyone involved in the development of products.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Constant Learning - Deciding What to Learn

I was interested in an Harvard Business Review article on "Should you Sack Yourself". The gist of the message was that often people fall in love with their own strategy and methods even though they are not working. Sometimes the company would be better off without them.

I have seen many cases where a company outgrows people. Perhaps this is because I have always been involved in growth businesses or perhaps because I have always been in the technology business which is naturally high change.

Change is inevitable and therefore people need to adapt. I have long believed that proper adaptation or the "right" changes can be studied and learned.

I have constantly set myself with the challenge of "what do I need to know" and "what will I need to learn". I then devise learning programs around it. For me, much of the studying is reading books but some is setting myself with the question and then I find that material I feed myself becomes relevant - eg - the article a friend forwards hits home or a passage in a book triggers a thought pattern.

People often ask me how I managed to run a start up from the trunk of my car and also a Billion $ plus business. For me, it was this deliberate study.

I am a life long learner.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Learning By Teaching

We've all heard it said that the best way to learn is to teach. I'm a big believer that this is absolutely true. I think this is probably one of things that inspired me originally to start teaching my time management seminar.

When I first started preparing my time management seminar (and this came before my time management book), I did what I often do and I chose to study it. For me, this meant getting most of the books at the library. Listening to the audio programs, watching the videos and I even went to a couple time management seminars.

The more I study the topic, the more excited I got and the more I incorporated a number of the success habits in my life. The more I did this, the more success I had.

This became the start of momentum that built to eventually not only doing the seminar over a hundred times, but writing the book, publishing the audio cd and the time leadership eBook.

I know time management much better because I studied it and I taught it. Your tip for today is if you want to learn something well, teach it.

I think this works because all of us want to do a good job so we don't want to go teach without preparing.

I think there is a tendency of people when they teach to set a little bit better example (although people are better to do as I say and not examine me too closely in what I do, I'm still a work in progress on the time management front).

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Soldier First and Still Alice

Over the holidays I finished two non-business related books.

One of them was General Rick Hillier's book A Soldier First - Bullets, Bureaucrats and the Politics of War. I know Rick so the book was doubly interesting to me. I also have a daughter and son in law in the Canadian Navy.

At one point in the book he talks about expecting to have a break between postings of six weeks and what he planned to do is golf in the mornings and putter on his household chores and get his house all in order before his next posting. Then what happened is he got a call on Monday saying that he was going to have to leave on the following Monday to start his new mission.

So we can guess what happened, he then threw himself into accomplishing his list of chores and sure enough he got them all done. Then ironically he got the call that he wasn't needed for another 4 weeks, so he was able to truly relax having finished most of his "work" list.

One thing I noticed about productivity is when we absolutely need to get things done, we can be tremendously high productivity and like the old saying goes, "the work expands to fill the time available".

The second book I read was Still Alice by Lisa Genova which, although it is a novel, it is a well researched book written in the first person about a woman who has early onset Alzheimers. She is a Ph.D who advances through multiple phases of dementia. A very moving story.

Both books were entertaining, thought provoking and interesting.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Using Books For Inspiration

Anyone who's read this blog for any period of time knows that I'm a voracious reader. I believe one of the best values in North America is the library card. I read a statistic that only 3% of the population has a library card. It seems to me it's likely those 3% are some of the more successful, since it not only helps with the quest for knowledge but it also helps with the law of savings.

It would be interesting to commission a study to see where library users stand relative to the rest of the population on success and economic scales. Would be tough to grade but also where they stand on just "being interesting" scales as well.

Of course it's also possible among the more successful might be some of the people who buy some of the books so library correlations might not apply.

I have long used books for inspiration using the following simple exercise:

1. I write down what it is that I'm trying to do or what I want to accomplish.

2. I start to read and choose an appropriate book close to the topic I wish to study or gain inspiration on. Seems obvious but starting is half the battle.

3.I highlight or make notes either in the book or on a separate journal.

The simple act of knowing what I'm looking for when I'm reading a book often inspires me to find the answer.

A simple example of this is I was preparing to do a seminar on Goal Setting and in order to do that seminar since it was longer than my usual, I needed to come up with more material. So I started to read more books about success and success habits and sure enough the presentations flowed.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Thought Provoking Videos and Snippet Learning

A friend of mine sent me a link to a few thought provoking videos. (Thanks Jackie at Recruit My Friends. )

The YouTube videos talk about the changes that are happening in our world and the state of our educational system. They talk about learning.

I'm a big believer in change. I believe change is opportunity and when I can't find change I try to create some. One thing I like about change is it actually helps smaller companies and entrepreneurs gain their place in new world order.

I am definitely a constant learner. My chosen way to learn is mostly by reading but I am certainly open to learning in any way I can. I love audio books because they suit my sense of time management.

I'm also a believer in Microlearning or Snippet Learning (that's learning in short snips), or perhaps I should call it A.D.D learning.

Hope you enjoy the videos.

I also talk about change in my Are You Galvanized or Paralyzed article.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Super Freakonomics and Unintended Consequences

This post was written a few days ago.

I am just through airline security. No carry on by order of security. I did bring a book (The Tristan Betrayal - by Robert Ludlum - yes - just a mindless spy thriller). I have long read while I am in airport lines but these days it is even more important to develop the skill and focus to do this.

I read just Levitt's new book SuperFreakonomics (I love it) which delves into "unintended consequences". One consequence of 9/11 was 10,000 more traffic fatalities. I wonder what the consequences of the current crackdown will be.

I am thinking video conferencing will become even more pervasive. Interestingly, travel has always been very costly (mostly from a time and energy perspective). Executives that run larger companies have paid the highest price. They might actually get a productivity boost by having less travel. I know from experience the inefficiency of travel.

Conference calling with PPT will also increase. Perhaps my investment in online meeting company Calliflower (low cost Webex) will take off.

I think less people will travel. Will we become more local?

I also think executive jets will have a surge.

I used to have a rule, if I could drive it in 5 hours, it was more efficient not to fly. Thinking I will need to expand that to 8 hours or longer. So I wonder if audio book sales will increase. Perhaps I need to stock up on my Time Leadership CDs. Hire a few more people to handle the shipping.

SuperFreakonomics challenges some climate myths. Like buy local is not better for the environment. My brother Lyle (who wrote "Small is Possible") will no doubt have arguments with that. Perhaps the buy local will be pushed more for diversity and lifestyle than environment.

He also has some radical environmental proposals - some of which scare me to death (like releasing sulphur into the atmosphere to combat global warming). The book will be controversial and I hope is not used as an excuse by some to just keep damaging the environment on the theory that science can save us.