Thursday, August 26, 2010

Limits to Creative Energy

In my experience, there are limits to creative energy. Sometimes in a very short period of time I can prepare a great speech, powerpoint or article. Other times, it takes me five times as long to produce quality material(or it never gets produced).

And what I have found is these creative periods tend to be short. Of course my goal is to make them more and longer.

Some tricks I try are:

1 - The old timer trick. Set my Blackberry timer for 25 minutes. And just do it. 25 minutes is short enough that I can do it any time.

2 - Stimulation. I find reading often acts as a stimulus. I take notes while I read.

3 - Rest. Obvious but I am more creative if I am rested.

4 - Health. I am more creative if I am healthy.

5 - Exercise. A good run or weight lifting session can inspire.

6 - Setting goals. I always work better with goals. Creative goals work for me.

Off for another busy day.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Babylon Dirty Sock Run and the Skinny On

I ran a 10K race this morning in Babylon. Weather was great. Overcast and a bit of light rain on and off. Running is a great way to feel more connected to the elements and to come to respect how small of a range we are comfortable in.

I love the race route. Through a woods on a wide trail and around a lake. The only obstacles are dodging the odd horse manure (horses use the trail sometimes) and parts of it are sandy which makes it hard to run (the key is to try to find firmer ground).

My final time was a disappointing 53:56 (my slowest 10K ever) a minute and a half slower than I ran the Dirty Sock last year. Still finished in the top third which I guess is OK.

Running a race is a very inefficient way to run a 10K (or any other distance). It kills a morning which is much longer than the actual time running. But there is something to be said for race culture during the pre and post race. I see friends and acquaintances and the more I race, the more people I know.

Then I had an afternoon nap which would be OK except it was more than 20 minutes. 20 minutes is a perfect time. I awake refreshed and not draggy. Longer and it is more of a sleep than a nap.

I think the race, travel and hay fever made me tired. Perhaps I need to read a good book on Willpower (see below).


This afternoon, I read a series of books today called "The Skinny On". My expectation was not high when I got these but they really pleasantly surprised me. The material and ideas in most of them were right on.

The books are short. For example, "The Skinny on Time Management and other life challenges" was only 110 pages although it likely had less words than my 80 page book "Time Leadership - Using the Secrets of Leadership for Time Management".

These books are more like a series of PowerPoint presentations than an actual book. There are 2 slides per page. This format makes them very easy to read quickly.

I read "The Skinny on Time Management", "The Skinny on the art of persuasion - how to move minds", "The Skinny on Networking - Maximizing the power of numbers", and "The skinny on Willpower - How to Develop Self Discipline". All topics that interest me.

Most of what is covered is stuff I know but I like reading things that reinforce good knowledge and inspire action.

The one on Willpower had a list of 15 points for improving willpower and self discipline:

1 - Be sure you are totally committed (This one I believe. I have fond the goals I do not achieve are the ones that I lacked commitment. One trick I use with goals is to drop anything off my goal list that I am not prepared to spend at least an hour per week on)

2 - Prepare for a difficult journey (I do not like the negative connotation here)

3 - Reduce incidents where you need to exert willpower (this is one of my favorite ways. I eat right if the garden is overflowing (as it is now) with good vegetables)

4 - Identify specific goals and define a process. (of course I like that one)

5 - Break the challenge down into small pieces.

6 - Maintain vigilance over thoughts.

7 - Control your dominant thoughts

8 - Frame you challenges as pleasant not painful. (I love proper framing)

9 - Pick your spots

10 - Visualize the end

11 - You already have more willpower than you think

12 - The more you use willpower, the more you will get.

13 - Turn positive activity into habits. (of course I am a big believer in success habits)

14 - Self Discipline is not Self-deprivation.

15 - Strong Willpower can take you to new heights.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Leverage The Best - Ditch the Rest

Leverage The Best - Ditch the Rest is the title of a book by Scott Blanchard and Madeline Homan. The subtitle - The Coaching Secrets Top Executives Depend on.

I loved the title since I am a big believer in working on your strengths and spending a much time using them as you possibly can. That tends to be the way people add the most value.

I think the key to weaknesses is to do just enough to minimize them. But spending a lot of time trying to be good at something you are weak at only gives you some stronger weaknesses.

The book is written as a workbook. Lots of exercises. The exercises reinforce everything I know like have goals (written and specific of course), have good success habits etc.

I loved the chapter on Name and Claim Your Standards. Standards can be great. But they can also be a limit. More people fail from perfection than fail from speed. I know in my own life, my standards have often caused me undue stress.

I loved the chapter on Eliminate Your Tolerations. Basically - what are those things you "put up with". One way I know a book is good is if it actually causes me to take action. One thing I have tolerated is messy bookshelves. I am inspired to tidy them today. So the book must be a success.

Now off to organize my bookshelves.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Business Intelligence Success Factors

Back from travel at least for now. I had a productive morning so allow myself a break now.

On my flight I read a great book - Business Intelligence Success Factors - Tools for Aligning Your Business in the Global Economy by Olivia Parr Rud. I had had it for a while but was avoiding reading it because I was thinking it was about Data Mining/IT etc. I was wrong and it is my fault for not doing what my speed reading lessons always taught - do a quick pre-read or flip through of a book. The book is more about people and getting the most from teams.

She talks about the Seven Business Realities that Jeopardize Business Survival (from Information Revolution). Stuff like business cycles are shrinking and globalization helps and hurts.

The book ties in nicely with the recent books I have been reading like Smart Swarm and The Whole New Mind. It speaks of collective intelligence. Interconnectedness increases this collective wisdom.

She has a good list of 11 ways to avoid failure with collaborative teams (like replacing management controls with online collaboration tools).

She has 10 Principles for Leading a Dynamic Organization (like create adaptive strategies)

There was an excellent section on closed loops and feedback. Closed loops are a great way to solve problems. I am not an advocate of paperwork and admin but one thing I like about ISO9000 is the closed loop they advocate. IE - not only solve the problem but look to why there was a problem in the first place and put in place processes to solve that.

Good book - better than the title.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Smart Swarm

I have been busy so today I quite enjoyed having time just to kick back and relax.

Weed the garden a bit. Harvest lots. A friend of mine calls it garden therapy. Great way to reframe weeding.

I also read a book. The Smart Swarm - How understanding Flocks, Schools, and Colonies Can Make Us Better at Communicating, Decision Making and Getting Things Done. Yes - long subtitle.

I loved it and found it captivating.

The book explains how things like ant colonies interact (more interesting than you would think). First thing in the morning the scout ants take off. When they return, the gatherer ants leave but only if there is the right number of scouts returning - not enough or too many at once - danger. And if they find food, they carry it back to the nest and release a scent that other ants follow to find the food. Fascinating.

Ant colonies accomplish great things (especially termites that build termite hills to vent the carbon dioxide from the colony and provide fresh air from the wind).

Although colonies accomplish great things, the individual ants are not too bright.

Case after case in the book (like why birds that flock don't bump into each other) point out the intelligence of the group even if the individuals only focus on the few individuals around them. They are leaderless groups. Even the bee hive does not have a leader. The queen lays eggs but does not decide where they live or where the food is. Specialists each do their job.

So how does this relate to business? Studies have shown that the collective group is more intelligent than the individual.

So what does this say about the CEO or leader? As I always knew - often a leader can hinder decision making. It is incumbent on the leader (whether by formal position or just by reputation/expertise) to make others feel worthy of speaking up. And in many senses, minimizing themselves so the group can make the best decision.

Awesome book - captivating read.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

More on Daniel Pink

I was in Ottawa yesterday. I do my sightseeing at dusk.

I reviewed "A Whole New Mind" by Daniel Pink a while ago. A friend emailed me a talk he did on motivation that I thought was excellent. It is 10 minutes which is a bit longer than I like but the message is excellent, thought provoking and controversial.

What I find interesting is people are not even clear in their own mind what motivates them and often say it is money when really it is not.

Short blog post today because I believe in the power of brevity (and I am busy).

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Efficiency Tips While Traveling

One of the cardinal rules of blogging is to be regular. So I apologize for being less regular than usual. I have been traveling.

I am just back from London (and a day trip to Edinburgh).

When I travel, I tend to be less efficient than when I am in my office. Part of this has to do with the "lost" time caused by waiting. Part of this has to do with time zones.

So of course I have been thinking how to be more efficient when I travel and came up with the following ideas.

1 - Use a Blackberry (ok perhaps a bit self serving) And of course make sure your carrier/model supports local networks.

2 - Use an "air" card. I happen to have one from Verizon that works fairly well (although they are not really well clued in about people traveling outside of the US - they left me a toll free number to call that only works in the US when they knew I was traveling.

3 - Reset your time zone clock. I really dislike drugs but do use an over the counter sleep aid the first couple of days to get my system on the right zone.

4 - Exercise. This is my cure all for many things. It is great for resetting your clock or waking you up.

5 - Try to eat right. I always eat way better when I am home especially at this time of year when most vegetables come from the garden. But planning and choosing right still works.

6 - Plan. I love to have all my files/meeting goals organized in advance.

7 - I have my bag packed with toiletries and everything I need to just grab and go. I can pack in about 3 minutes for a week trip.

8 - I prefer going carry on. I learned a lot about packing light and small from canoe tripping. Outfitters and running stores sell light and quick dry clothing. EG - I usually carry a thin singlet rather than a tshirts to work out in - wash and hang - they dry fast.

9 - I try to spend a bit of time outside. Good blog post on that here.

What are your travel efficiency tips that I have forgotten?