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Should Document Your Company’s Stories

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Why do you think Legos are such a popular toy?

I bet you can guess from the title of this chapter.

Legos are popular because you can see your hard work come to life. Every Lego brick you stack the more your progress improves. You can see how the story unfolded.

Many of your employees don’t get to see the physical results of their hard work. They don’t see a customer’s reaction or what happens after they hand it off to another department.

That’s why it’s important to focus on the outcome of your employees’ hard work.

That means asking the right questions that helps them see their progress at work.

Do you want to be a better leader at work? Then we should talk about you can improve employee engagement and happiness. Click here to see how more happiness can help your organization.

A great question to ask your employees is…

What is the thing that you’ll remember the most from this past week?

The answer will help add to your company story. Every story is a lego brick that shows your progress.

Can you keep a company journal that helps keep track of milestones and stories that occur at work. I suggest that you keep it positive, but nothing wrong with being able to document and laugh at mistakes so you can learn from them.

People need to believe that the work they do is worth doing. Otherwise they see no point in putting in extra effort.

A great way to help your employees find meaning is to tell stories that they can connect with. A good story can show a perspective that the employee hadn’t yet seen. The hard part is remembering these stories and making them easy to share.

My Father

My father is an electrician and has owned Staib Electrical for 40 years. I worked with him through high school and college. I was always baffled by his need to form the wires so perfectly. My dad made sure his electrical panels were like little pieces of engineering art work. One day, after he fixed my work, I asked him why it was so important to him to make the wires look perfect.

He explained how he recently received two phone calls from potential clients. They had both heard from a previous customer about the great work he did. He asked them who referred him, and they both named a neighbor of theirs, Mr. Flankel. My father told me about Mr. Flankel’s delighted expression when he showed him his work. Mr. Flankel then bragged to his neighbors, and they too wanted an electrician that cared as much as my father does.

His story helped me understand why the presentation was so important. If he didn’t apply a bit of art to his craft, everyone would think he was just like every other electrician. It separated him from the crowd and as a result people became a fan of his work and promoted him to people they knew.

Word of mouth is the best form of advertising.

From that point on, when I worked with my father, I applied a little extra effort to every wire I formed.

Why Stories Work

We share these stories all the time at work, but many of them get lost and forgotten when someone who had this skill leaves the position.

Stories help show your employees how to bring a little extra creativity to their work. If they are willing to go the extra mile they will be more engaged and get much better results. This starts all starts by sharing stories of what worked in the past. It also helps them see their progress at work. It’s a win-win that can help for years and years.

It’s up to you, but helping your employees appreciate their progress at work is one of the quickest way to bring happiness into your team The best part in documenting your company’s progress will show them how far you’ve come as a team.

Yes

My belief is that every company should document their stories. It’s a great way to pass on information within an organization. It’s also a great way to help improve the marketing. If a company goes through a struggle and comes out the other side more successful that’s something customers and investors can get behind.

Your Turn

Do you notice how your company shares its stories? Company meetings, around at lunch, on your social media accounts etc. Even the mistakes can show how much you care as a company.

How to Say No to Soul-Sucking Tasks

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You’re busy. I get it. You get lots of emails. You work a lot. You’re really important to lots of people. You usually get nods of approval when you talk about the depths of your busyness.

But I’m not impressed.

Look, everyone is busy. It’s not impressive anymore. Bragging about being busy is like a fish bragging about floating downstream. Neither busyness nor floating requires any effort. Busyness is an inevitable consequence of our culture.

You do, however, have to do quite a bit of work NOT to be busy. You have to do even more work to be busy with the right things. Saying “no” is one of the most difficult parts of my life. Falling asleep thinking about work happens more often than not. Giving my time to the right people in the right proportions happened once in 2007 (and it was an accident). The current of busyness is strong and swimming upstream is not easy.

So how do we swim upstream?

Do you want to be a better leader at work? Then we should talk about you can improve employee engagement and happiness. Click here to see how more happiness can help your organization.

Your Goals Aren’t The Problem

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.  – Steve Jobs

There is a common practice among productivity gurus called the “M.I.T.” or “Most Important Task.” An MIT is a single, actionable task for the day. If all you accomplish today is your MIT, you’ve had a good day. Setting daily MIT’s is a great habit.

But when I first implemented MIT’s, I failed constantly. The problem wasn’t that I couldn’t decide what needed to be done. I couldn’t decide what didn’t need to be done. I had too many priorities. I wanted too many things. My MIT’s were inconsistent. I couldn’t focus on one task without feeling guilty for not completing the other 10 things I also considered “most important.”

Sure, I could write down one MIT every day. Sure, I had a mission statement. Sure, I could tell you about my passions. But for every spoken priority, I had so many more unspoken, unwritten priorities. The truth is that clarifying one’s goals and aspirations is only half of the equation. And it’s the easy half.

The hard part is clarifying one’s anti-goals. The almost-passions. Someone else’s aspirations you’ve unknowingly adopted. The I.I.T.’s (“Important-ish Tasks”). The passions you’re “supposed” to have.

The Un-Priorities.

The Un-Priority

The thing about an Un-Priority is that it often looks and feels just like one of your real priorities. An Un-Priority isn’t something you don’t want to do, but something you do. Un-priorities are the mostly-good things that make you too busy to follow-through on your priorities. They’re the shadows of your real priorities. Prioritize an un-priority and it will give the illusion of progress, but will bring very little long-term satisfaction.

To help you identify some of the un-priorities in your life, I’ve broken them down into a few categories. Just like the first step in reaching your goals is to identify them, the first step in eliminating un-priorities from your life is to identify them. Grab a piece of paper as your read through these categories and see how many un-priorities you can identify in your own life.

Someone Else’s Priority

Many of the priorities we adopt from others are really good. My mom is a priority in my life because she is a priority to my dad. I learned to prioritize my mom by adopting someone else’s priority until it became my own. Of course, I’ve adopted a lot of priorities that I don’t want. Those are tricky. My dad wants me to move closer to home. My boss wants me to start traveling to give presentations. Acquaintances want to “stay in touch.”

These priorities didn’t originate with me, but I feel pressure to keep them. These un-priorities don’t bring fulfillment to my life, but rather function to please someone else.

Our lives only have room for so many priorities, so we need to be quick to label the expectations of others as un-priorities and turn our attention somewhere else. It may feel weird (or even mean), but the sooner you label someone else’s expectation of you as an un-priority, the quicker you can move forward with your true priorities.

Too Many Priorities

The people on this planet who end up doing nothing are those who never realized they couldn’t do everything. -Kevin DeYoung, Crazy Busy

In any sport, there is a clearly defined out-of-bounds. Un-priorities are your out-of-bounds. The grass may look the same on either side, but the line tells you where you need to be. Un-priorities aren’t bad things. They’re good things that take you a little too far out of the game. Shrink your field of play. Define your out-of-bounds so that you can play the game you want to play.

If you’re like me, you default to treating every project, every opportunity, every goal, and every person as a priority. But if you want your life to matter in any way, there can only be room for a few priorities. To be busy with the right things means you have to label a lot of really good things as un-priorities. Not the bad stuff. The good stuff.

What are the good things that are stretching you so thin that you can’t give yourself to what matters most? Where do you need to draw an out-of-bounds line, even for the things you value?

Everyone Else Is Doing It

Some un-priorities are so commonplace that they are generally believed to be priorities. They look and feel like priorities, but they aren’t. They’re counterfeit priorities. Let me give you some examples.

Priority: Cultivating friendships

Un-priority: Daily Facebook use

Un-priority: Christmas cards

Priority: Rest

Un-Priority: Netflix

Un-priority: Excessive alcohol use

Priority: Communication with customers and co-workers

Un-Priority: Constantly checking email

Priority: Lifelong learning

Un-Priority: Over-consuming the news

Priority: Being a loving father and husband

Un-priority: Over-working to “provide”

Cultural stigma and peer pressure are powerful forces. Don’t let them push you to make pointless or harmful activities a priority. Label them an un-priority and move on.

Unspecific Priorities Are Un-Priorities

When is enough enough? If I’ve never taken the time to decide, I will be susceptible to over-work and giving my best time to the wrong priorities (or maybe the wrong proportions to the right priorities). Let me throw out some examples. In all of these, your ability to say no to un-priorities is dramatically increased if you have been specific and clear on your priorities.

Vague Priority: Serving my local church

Specific: Serving through handyman work for widows and single mothers

Specific: Volunteering once every month in the church’s nursery

Specific: Mentoring a high school student every other week

Vague Priority: Loving my wife

Specific: Asking a thoughtful question every day after work

Specific: Planning (and never missing) a weekly date night

Specific: Being home by 5:30 every day, leaving all work at the office

Vague Priority: Improving my resume

Specific: Working on a side business daily from 5-7 a.m. (no more, no less)

Specific: Spending 30 minutes every day learning Spanish via Youtube videos

Specific: Increasing measurable work metrics by 20% over the next 60 days and then asking for a raise

How can we know when enough is enough? Be specific. How can we prevent our most important priority from overshadowing our other priorities (and becoming its own un-priority)? Be specific. It’s all about drawing that out-of-bounds line.

Closing Remarks

While it’s not bad to be busy, it’s dumb to be busy with the wrong priorities.

If you don’t want to be defined by your un-priorities, you need to identify them. Remember the tips we discussed.

  • What un-priorities are the expectations of someone else?
  • What un-priorities are the result of having too many priorities?
  • What un-priorities are the product of peer pressure or cultural normalcy?
  • What un-priorities have resulted from lack of specificity?

If you haven’t started an un-priority list, start one now. What is your most profound un-priority? Check the comments to see if others are struggling with the same ones.

Author bio:

Matt Smelser is an aspiring doctor, the founder of GY20R, and is glad that you read this entire post. He is from Colorado, but currently lives in Lincoln, NE. He often speaks in the third person, like he is doing right now. Whether you’re young or old, he thinks that you should check out his blog Get Your 20’s Right.

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