Posts in Appearance
The Answer to Decision Fatigue

By some estimates, we make 35,000 decisions per day.  I'm writing this post at 7:42am on a Sunday.  So far, I've had to decide on the following:

1. what time to wake up
2. what to wear
3. what to drink
4. how much coffee creamer to put in my coffee
5. whether to have morning devotions on the porch or in the living room
6. whether to text my wife who just ran an errand
7. whether to use Safari or Chrome for the news
8. whether to draft this post now or save it for later

You get the point.  

I was a skeptic when I first heard the 35,000 statistic.  Then, I was honest with myself and started to inventory the many, many actions I take each day and the decisions that drive them. 

This is exhausting and can ultimately sap your energy and your productivity.  

Asian Efficiency provides the ultimate guide to overcoming decision fatigue.  No need to replicate their good work.  Their companion podcast also does an excellent job in breaking the issue down. 

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Decision fatigue hit me last week.  I arrived home and declared to my wife, "I'm done.  I can't make any more decisions today."  It wasn't anger.  It was exhaustion.  

Can you relate?  Have you had a time when you were just so tired of making decisions that you felt you couldn't make one more?  

The answer, I suspect, and the response to all of this is to do the following:

  • Admit that you've got too much on your plate. As the saying goes, the first step is to admit you've got a problem.  This isn't a moral failure but an acknowledgement that your life is full and maybe spilling over with commitments.
  • Decide today to simplify.  The good news?  Simplifying takes many forms and can be applied to any of the following areas:

-finances: you can decide to go out less often or automate your bills.


-fitness: you can decide to eat smaller portions or use a meal planning process.


-spirituality: you can decide to use the same prayer book each morning instead of searching for one.


-work: you can decide to work on certain things on certain days.


-wardrobe: you can decide you streamline your wardrobe and pair back your options.


-groceries: you can decide to use an Amazon Dash button to make less decisions at the grocery store.

You get the point.  These areas and corresponding actions are easy to read (and actually easy to do) but take courage to act on.  

Take the case of simplifying your wardrobe.  You and I both know that a simpler wardrobe will save time and money.  Yet, if I told you today to go through your closet and write down a few outfits that you absolutely love, that's where the process might fall apart.

Those actions, while not difficult, are hard.  They involve loss and further decisions.  They involve donating things and possibly buying new things.  They take time.

Could your simplifying contribute to decision fatigue?  Perhaps but once you press through, keeping your eye on the goal, you'll overcome it.  These decisions are actually ones that will counteract the others that feed into decision fatigue.

As a homework assignment, make a small decision today to simplify.  

One thing.  

Anything.  

Realize that it can counteract your decision fatigue and bring more peace of mind.  Then, you'll be able to bring your very best self to those you love and ultimately, the whole world.

A Better Way for Introverts to Promote Themselves
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"That's nonsense!  This is not a time for false humility!"

 

These words were said to me in 1996 by my advisor at the time, John McCarthy.  We were talking about an academic major and I was considering one path while he was clear on another. I suggested that the road I wanted to take was maybe "lesser" than what my friends decided.  He disagreed.  His point stuck with me- have confidence, be who you and stop being so falsely humble.

 

He didn't mean to be proud (often considered the opposite of humility).  Rather, he meant that, like Fr. Thomas Judge often said in the early 20th century, "humility is truth".

In other words...

-if you want to take this class, do it.  If you don't, that's ok.

-if you're smart, own it.

-if you are good at painting, be honest about that.

 

Be who you are- that's what it means to be humble.  Oh, and don't be a jerk along the way.  (My own interpretation.)

 

Fast forward to a conversation I had recently with a friend considering making a career change.  She was honest in admitting that she doesn't like to promote herself.  "I'm an introvert after all..." She argued as if that disqualified her from bragging about herself. 

 

That's when I go back to the wise words of Dr. McCarthy and say to my friend and anyone else of the introvert persuasion, "nonsense"!

 

Get over it.  I'm an introvert like you wouldn't believe.  I get it- the need for alone time.  The predictable rhythm of a weekly schedule.  Deep thinking... All of it I get and appreciate.  It's who I am and it may be who you are.

 

And guess what- very little of that will get you hired.  The system is just not built that way.  Instead, it favors the loud, proud and brightly adorned.  I wish I could change that but I just can't.  Schools do it.  Businesses too.  Our culture raises up those who can toot their own horn and introverts need to accept this.  This doesn't mean change who you are but it does mean an occasional season of career skill-sharpening.  

 

So what are you to do?  Do you become a phony and start acting like a celebrity or can you stay true to your own introversion?  Can you design an extraordinary career and maintain what's deeply good about your introversion?

 

Absolutely.  Good news- you can be both introverted and phenomenally successful at work. Did you know that Bill Gates considers himself an introvert?  Warren Buffet too.  They've done alright for themselves.  

 

I have three suggestions for how you can promote yourself without feeling like a phony. 

 

1. Keep your website fresh.  We talk about this all the time on the blog.  You have to have a good website to promote yourself.  It does the talking for you. Keep your website fresh, current and contemporary- it's a way to extend your voice.

2. In your interview (presuming you will have one that leads to a new job), practice your intro and closing lines.  You need to be clear about your narrative.  "I'm about to turn 30 and always wanted to do ... " or "Before my kids graduate from high school, I've made a commitment to ..."  You get the point. 

 

The close is also very important.  When an interview wraps up, they always ask you for your questions and you ought to have two in the can ready to roll.  Then, you can ask for a final thought. 

 

The script for the final thought is very simple and goes like this: "Mr. Jones (interviewer), can I say one final thing before we wrap up today?  I just want you and the group to know that

a) you'll never regret hiring me and

b) no one will work harder to accomplish the goals that you want for this position than me.  I know I can do a great job for you."

 

This works every time.  It projects confidence and moxy without being arrogant. 

 

3. Look for a place to work that values your introversion. You want a place where you can be yourself and really fly.  Most introverts will want to avoid open-office concepts such as cubicles, etc.  Too many distractions.  

 

With all of this said, introverts, while making up 30-40% of the workforce still need to practice being (occasionally) extroverted.  This will help you keep your career moving forward and keep you honoring your own introversion, which is a gift in an of itself.  

How to Use Style to Your Advantage

Style- you know it when you see it.  You'll recognize it in how someone dresses or in the feel of a person's living room.  You may see it in the way a person carries himself or in the way a person speaks.  

The key is to use it to your own advantage.  Easier said than done but it matters nonetheless.

I was interviewing some candidates a while back and was struck by how few had style.  Of the 10 people we interviewed, only two really stood out.  Both had their own websites and both were sharp dressers.

Note that I'm not saying "correct style" because that's probably an oxymoron.  Style relates to art so it's very subjective.  Think of your favorite restaurant and the decor- you may love it while your best friend may think it's too busy or uninviting.  

Style is like that- it's very subjective.

Still, you should identify your own style and then make it work for you.  Here are three simple ways that you can use style to your own advantage at work:

  1. Create your own logo.  I've used Fiverr.com for years for various logos and decided on this (to the right) for my new logo.  The official approval came from my wife who said, "very nice!" after it was complete.  It's clean and professional looking.  If she's happy, I'm happy!
  2. Invest in your wardrobe.  We're not talking about punking down $500-$1,000 on new duds.  Rather, consider simplifying and adding a signature look to what you wear.  I worked with a  guy recently who wore Chuck Taylor sneakers everywhere.  Maybe not my style but I remember him for his.  I've recently purchased a ton of skinny ties, hoping that this contributes to a simple, clean look.  
  3. Make your social outlets consistently "you".  By using your personal logo, you can add style to not only your resume but to your Facebook header, Twitter header and Instagram posts.  This will add some consistency and style to who you are and what you have to say online.  You may also want to add your own signature hashtag.  

Style matters and it will help you to stand out from the crowd.  How will you step up your style in the coming weeks?  

How to See the Beauty in Your Work

As they say, "one person's trash is another's treasure".  When you are hopping from one garage sale to another in the summer months, this adage is easy to understand.

When it comes to our daily work?  Not so much.

Seth Godin talks often about bringing art into work to the point where work itself is transformed into art.  Jeff Goins talks about this too as does Steven Pressfield.  

Goins, a writer in Nashville has been preaching the gospel of "work is art" for several years.  He explained in the first episode of his podcast, "Writers and artists have long had to figure such things out, but as the world of work changes, more people will be forced to think of their work less in terms of a job and more in terms of a portfolio."

So how can you see beauty in your work and see your work as an art-form?  I suggest that we look at the big picture- things can always be worse.  

An artists is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo. And an artists takes it personally.
— Seth Godin

Another idea is to keep a "smile file".  When someone sends me a nice email or note, I ask my assistant to file it in the smile file.  You never know when you need a pick-me-up (i.e. the entire month of January in New Jersey!).  

Finally, forming a professional "mastermind" group can really help.  You'll find that others have the same problems as you and that things really aren't that bad.  

There is a ton of beauty to be found in your work.  There is so much good that you can bring to your work!

How Do You Bring Energy to the Workplace?

Pastor Bill Hybels once said, “The most important thing a leader brings is his energy.”  This may be physical energy, a general attitude or the things you say at work.

If you were to give youself an energy grade for when you are at work, what would you give yourself?

A = upbeat, swift pace, positive in what you say

B = typically upbeat but not always so

C = a bit of a downer on most days

So how do you go from a C to an A?  I’m not sure, if I’m honest, that that’s possible.  But from a B to an A… that’s doable.

You can do this through any of the following:
1. Walk swiftly throughout your day, with purpose and meaning.
2. Know what you say and be clear about that, i.e. “say what you mean and mean what you say”.
3. Smile.
4. Look people in the eyes more often.  Savor the connection you have with them.
5. Keep your to-do list tidy.
6. Keep yourself in great physical shape.

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These six tips work!  I should mention that there is one downside and this is a word of caution- sometimes you move so quickly from task to task that you stop to smell the roses.  What I mean is that if you're moving through your day with some speed, you can a) not be fully present to those around you or b) be perceived as aloof.  Neither of these is good so you'll want to guard against them.  Speed in the day is a good thing but not at the expense of other people.  After all, God put them in your workday for you to serve and learn from.

One last point- to advance in your career you’ll want to harness and increase your energy levels.  People like energetic folks and you can be one with some intentionality and work.

Two Thoughts on Facial Hair and Professionalism

Facial hair on men is very popular today but maybe not as much as pop culture would have you believe.  Sure, science seems to be taking a stab at the hipster association with beards.  Still, a quick read of HBR's recent list of top CEOs only features a handful of men with facial hair.  

So what's the deal?

I have two thoughts on facial hair when it comes to professionalism:

  1. Figure out your unique look (but not too unique).  If a beard works for you, go with it but keep it groomed.  If a goatee is your thing, again, go with it but keep it groomed.  You want to avoid any facial hair that requires combing as it is perceived as too wild to most others.
  2. Remember that grooming is the key.  I like this post on the importance of clean lines and a clean neck line, even with facial hair.  Facial hair is perfectly cool but put grooming as equally important as the stuff that you can grow on your chin.