Posts in work-life balance
And the Most Productive People Are...
3102499386_456d450197_mI wrote a while back about being a lazy blogger.  It received such positive response that it's been on my radar ever since.  I felt that I was on an island, admitting my own laziness and yet trying to overcome it.  As with many things that are very personal, it was strangely universal with a lot of TDS readers.

I've since been reading David Allen's work on Getting Things Done.  He has said on numerous occasions that he considers himself to be truly lazy which in turn motivates him to find the most efficient way of doing things.  I completely relate to this.  I recently created a rough plan for landscaping my yard so that my grass cutting can be made easier.  As few complex turns as possible.  I'm not sure whether I'm super lazy or just looking to avoid that annoying feeling I get each week when I cut the grass and wonder whether I could simplify the process.

Many saints have had a thing or two to say about the danger of laziness.  These of course temper all the enthusiasm for day to day laziness.  In fact, the tradition discourages persistent laziness, calling it "sloth".  Persistent laziness doesn't really acknowledge one's gifts as from God.  The result: a life wasted instead of maximized for doing good.

So can you be lazy and wildly productive?

Of course!  The key is in observing a few principles:

  1. Every gift and talent is from God. Every minute of the day can be returned back to Him as gift.  Kind of puts a new spin on time management, doesn't it?

  2. Life balance is virtuous. I've never admired the saints who burned out- there is a limit to the doing within a stretch of 24 hours.  Resting, recreation and relaxation are important so that one can keep up all of the doing.

  3. It's ok to admit to being lazy. It all depends on what you do with it.  If you're logging your undone projects and scheduling their completion, that's not really being lazy.  More like pacing yourself for a seven course meal.  You'll get there but you realized that Rome wasn't built in a day.  Or the completion of your To-Do list for that matter.

  4. Continual improvement is the key. I don't think of myself as being an A Type worker.  I enjoy the quiet moments of the day and find relaxation to be well...relaxing. I just try to balance this with 1-2 bursts of focused work sessions each day.  It doesn't sound like much but look around you- very few people continually do this.  As David Allen said, "Don't just decide that you need to set a meeting--decide whether that's an email to send or a phone call to make, and to whom. Watch things move."  Watch it move and your career will benefit.


Thought for the Road

“Sloth makes all things difficult, but industry, all things easy. He that rises late must trot all day, and shall scarce overtake his business at night, while laziness travels so slowly that poverty soon overtakes him.” Benjamin Franklin

*Photo by iFatma
A Look Inside my Lists
For better or worse, I chaperone a number of dances each year.  These usually leave me feeling old, somewhat disheartened and wondering where all of those slow-dance songs of my own childhood have gone.  Things are different now, including how young men meet young women.

The aquisition of phone numbers occupies a great deal of attention nowadays at dances.  Instead of a handsome pad of paper (very professional, no?), kids have cell phones which serve as the collection bucket for phone numbers. Before you roll your eyes at teenage behavior, let me suggest that their methods reveal a sophisticated method of list keeping.

CAPTURE THE INFO

Capturing information in a trusted system (see my post on lists) makes sense.  The mind can only remember so much at one time so any number of "buckets" become necessary.  Post it notes, pads of paper, iPhones, PDA's, voice recorders- the list goes on.  For teens, the cell phone is the capture tool of choice.  It's quick, allows for instant follow up and has a trendy vibe.  Who can forget the first Moto Razr phones?  You just wanted one even if you already had another cell phone- it was that cool.

A GTD CONNECTION

David Allen's GTD methodology is big on list keeping and capturing data into trusted systems.   I've been listening to his GTD Live! audio set and my motivation to cultivate lists has only increased.  The goal of this is not only to be able to touch the data at a later time but to clear the head so as to focus on more important things.  A 2007 Wired interview put it this way,
"Allen says his goal is to be free from worrying about anything he has to do. His techniques allow him the pleasure of having, much of the time, nothing on his mind. 'People are afraid of the void, afraid of negative space,' he says. 'But having nothing on your mind is one of the most awesome experiences.'"

MY CURRENT LISTS

Which lists am I currently maintaining?  Here are a few:

  • Around the house- 2 hour projects

  • Around the house- more than a day projects

  • Blog post ideas

  • Books to buy

  • By summer's end

  • Computer tasks

  • Craigs List/Ebay

  • Errands

  • Hardware store

  • Library- books to check out

  • Magazine subscriptions

  • Nice to have

  • Office

  • Online sites and articles to read

  • Phone calls

  • Someday/maybe

  • Supermarket

  • Why Catholic invites


I check these lists about once a week, some more often.  I've found a tremendous freedom in knowing that I have a system that I can trust for idea incubation, triggers to remember things, and blue-sky thinking.

APPLYING THE PRINCIPLE

As you consider your own life, it's a good time to evaluate your own list-keeping system.  How much do you trust your own lists?  How often do you check them?  If you're like me, I bet that an increased dedication to list-keeping will pay off and move you closer to a clear mind.  List-keeping is very contemplative and helps to appreciate the many blessings of daily life.

*Photo by sunshinecity
Productivity Interview with Entrepeneur Karl Schlegel


I sat down with former student and current friend Karl Schlegel to jive about productivity, social media and what keeps this up and coming business exec on the move.

Karl, tell readers of The Daily Saint a little about you and what you're currently working on.

Mike, I have been very blessed.  I am the oldest of 6 children and graduated from Oratory Prep and later Rutgers College.  I am a serial entrepreneur who seeks to work with clients who want to make a global impact and push past the boundaries of what they previously believed to be impossible.  My firm Blackstar Group, LLC takes a holistic approach to strategic business development and works with clients across a spectrum of industries (from defense technologies to children's characters).  We embrace a client's product or service and analyze it from several perspectives including the client's, the customers' and the market.  Then we formulate a strategic plan and help clients connect to the resources necessary to take their businesses to the next level.  We are very passionate about what we do.

Karl, how do you stay organized and efficient?


I believe that organization and efficiency is a discipline that requires practice and time.  I must say that I am far from being "organized and efficient", however I have been progressing along this path through the use of several tools:

1.  A person to keep me accountable. Like it or not, I need to be reminded of certain things from time to time.  Being held accountable is not a punishment, rather it is an opportunity to grow and identify potential stumbling blocks that interfer with moving forward.  A client ALWAYS keeps you accountable :)  I find that having a mentor or mentors is a great way to ensure that I stay on track and continue to grow on all levels.

2.  A scheduling book. I have a large notebook sized scheduling book that I use to keep track of deadlines and meetings.  I usually punch these into my blackberry so that I have this on hand on the go, but few things substitute for writing a "To-Do" or as I am working to call them "Accountability Tags" on paper with a pen.

3.  My blackberry: I use a blackberry curve and am grateful for the ability to get e-mail on the fly, as well as text, and my calendar.

4.  When something pops up, I try to do it at that time rather than wait till later. I have found that taking care of the little things allows you to take care of the big things.  Leaving too many little things causes them to turn into enormous tasks.


Karl, what productivity skills would you like to improve on in the next 6 months?


I am working on setting deadlines and completing tasks ahead of time.  I also am not a big fan of making lists because sometimes lists become unmanageable and serve to depress rather than aid.  I would also like to network more effectively at networking events.  I do not mean that I want to rush through and snap up as many business cards as possible, but I want to be a better judge of figuring out if I am the right fit for the other person and vice versa.  Events take time and money.  Therefore it is important to be judicious in the use of both.  Mike, I am open to suggestions on this :)


Karl, what effect has social networking had on your work?


Networking is one of my favorite topics!  I believe that everything revolves around networking and that all networking is social.  I believe that people are the hidden gems in society and that if people just looked around, they could find everything that they needed.  Therefore, I try to meet and start conversations with as many people as possible.  I have been very fortunate to have experienced great success with so-called "social networking" online.  I have met some great business contacts through Facebook, believe it or not.  I have also been able to take advantage of LinkedIn and met many people by engaging in the discussions hosted by various groups.  The key with social networking is to engage and participate in the community.  This is one of the core principles around Twitter which is being watched very closely by branding execs at companies ranging from jetBlue to Nielsen to Microsoft.  I recently attended a conference in New York where brand reputation was the topic and the keynote speaker, Jenny Dervin, from jetBlue spoke about the importance of Twitter and social media in building and managing a brand's (therefore company's) reputation.  Personally, I was able to help a company connect with Microsoft Health Vault by helping the company receive coverage on MedGadget, one of the top medical blogs on the internet.  The company ended up doing a deal with Microsoft Health Vault which was very exciting.  I also got invited to an invitation only dinner after an executive and I began chatting on Facebook and learned about the society balls.  As a result I ended up dancing in the Quadrille Ball and escorting a beautiful young lady at the Viennese Opera Ball.  The organizers and dancers in the balls have become close friends of mine and we get together several times a week!


Anything else you'd like to share with the TDS audience?


I try to live my life around a core set of principles.  Seek to help others, follow your passions and dreams, and understand that you are always selling yourself whether actively or passively.  I like the way Steven Spielberg said it best when asked what he did for a living in an interview.  He said, "I dream for a living".  Dreams are so powerful and propel us forward to utilize our gifts and talents.  I love working with passionate people.

I have also learned first hand from my failures.  I have failed a great deal and made many mistakes, however I try to look at failure as the teacher of success.  I like the following quote from Thomas J. Watson, founder of IBM.

"Would you like me to give you a formula for... success? It's quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You're thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn't at all... you can be discouraged by failure -- or you can learn from it. So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because, remember that's where you'll find success. On the far side."
-Thomas J. Watson, Founder of IBM

I have also learned that sometimes there is nothing that can be done except to trust.  While I struggle with this, as anyone who is human will, I draw confidence from my faith that the right thing will happen in the end.  I have also learned that no matter what happens, when we choose to accept what has taken place, we gain power over the situation and ourselves to move forward.

Thank you Mike for allowing me to share with your audience and thank you for being a great mentor and role model for me.

Follow Karl today on Twitter at  renovatiogroup
Two Quotes on Work-Life Balance
Take some time today to slow down and reflect back on the week.  Fridays are perfect for closure and preparation for the following week.  Look at it as a way to clear the decks.

On Work-Life Balance

People with great gifts are easy to find, but symmetrical and balanced ones never.
Emerson

Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance and order and rhythm and harmony.
Merton