How Transitions Can Dramatically Improve Your Productivity

You may swig down your coffee between emails, trying to get all your tasks done, but you still can’t keep up with all your work. This hyper-active pace creates productivity gaps.

Instead of smooth transitions from one task to the next you are probably jumping around like a caffeinated dog. I’ve seen my friend’s dog drunk on coffee and it isn’t pretty.

You’re missing out on a vital need.

The time to process your thoughts from the previous task to the current one. Sure you’re getting your work done, but how do you feel at the end of the day? Do you feel energized to hang out with friends and family?

Our brains are sponges constantly soaking up information, but we need to take the time to squeeze it out every once in awhile (well, it really should be all the time) to keep ourselves healthy. Burn-out wastes more of company money than vacations. Actually people need to take more vacations in America because we are over worked. When employees take time off they are able to shake out the emotional crap that builds up throughout the year. When they come back to work they have new ideas that they can’t wait to share with their co-workers. Well…not everyone, but the ones that enjoy their job.

Wring Out Your Brain More Often

All the information builds up and like any memory drive it needs to be cleaned out or it can’t run efficiently. When you just go, go, go until you just can’t “go” any longer then it’s time to squeeze that brain out by giving it a break.

A break is always good for your health, but most of us only take short breaks in the morning and afternoon. This isn’t enough. And most of the time we are so busy worrying about work that it doesn’t even feel like a break. You need to take the time to process the emotional data that had built up over the past couple of hours.

To take an actual break that leaves you refreshed, you should take small breaks between tasks. When you finish an email, give yourself one minute to process and set up your next task. I usually make a mental note, but you may want to make a physical note when you first start (I’ll explain in the 4 step process).

My 4 Step Process to More Motivation and Less Stress

Step 1: When you finish an email then it’s time to take a moment to let out a breath. By actually being aware of this out breath you are taking the transition by the horns.  This allows you to process the email then think of what you need to do next.

Step 2: Let’s say you need to edit a three page report next. Lean back in your chair, get up and do a stretch or just take a moment to let your thoughts settle. If you need to look busy because you work in a cubicle (I’ve been there), then write down what you will do next on a little Post-it note or create a small list on your computer. This keeps you looking busy while allowing yourself to relax your mind.

Step 3: Before you dive back in to the next task I suggest a ten second inner dialog. Tell yourself what you want to accomplish in this next task and how long you expect it to take.  This helps create mental leverage.

Step 4: Then right before you start, notice how you feel before you begin your next task. This last step is most important. Why? Because it reinforces the good that you do when you take time to process, relax and set yourself up for your next task. The only way to change a bad habit and replace it with a good one is to show yourself that the new one is worth doing. If you do this once an hour, that’s only eight minutes in an eight hour work day. We can all spare eight minutes to reduce our stress and improve our productivity.

Results: Taking the time to transition between tasks will keep your motivation high and your brain functioning at an optimal level. This small reoccurring gift to yourself will allow you to relax on your breaks and during lunch. And when you get home you won’t feel as tired. This is the best part. My wife has seen such a difference in my attitude, she asked me if something changed at work.

I smiled and replied, “Yep, me.”

You have the ability to make work fit into your natural rhythms. It will take a little pig-headed determination and discipline, but believe me once it becomes a habit you won’t ever go back to rushing through your work. If you encounter any problems, just let me know in the comment section and I’ll help you find your own way to improve your happiness and productivity.

Do you have a routine that you use to transition between tasks? Let’s discuss in the comments. You probably have another idea that could help people enjoy their job just a little more.

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Image courtesy of Carplips Family and jj judes

My Work Happiness Week in Review – Grand Plans, Aha, and ACL

My week was filled with interactions with co-workers and customers. It’s a part of my job that I will miss. I’m not going to stay at my job forever and when I do leave, I’m going to miss them. (No job lined up yet, if any of my co-workers are reading this.) I’m going to miss the jokes that only co-workers laugh at. The smiles that come so easily.

I had a conversation with a co-worker about the creativity in plants. I know it sounds cool: here is how it went…

Blond Haired Texan (Him): Man, this plant needs some water.

Me: Isn’t it amazing how they find a way to stay alive even when we neglect them for weeks at a time.

Him: Yeah, look at this one. The soil is bone dry, but yet the leaves are green.

Me: Such creativity to stay alive.

Him: I never thought of it that way, but yeah. Any way they can keep it going.

Grand Plans

I’ve got grand plans for “Work Happy Now” and I plan to build some ideas on this website and launch some cool programs. I wanted to give you some of these by now, but I’m still working through some issues. Getting things done (GTD) issues.

The next year will be an exciting time for me. I’m still unable to GTD, but I’m working on these weaknesses. Fear plays a big role in this, but that’s for another post. This post is positive and upbeat.

Keep an eye out for an ebook and a secret product that I’m not ready to announce. All I can say is my heart picks up a beat just thinking about the possibilities.

Communication People!

My wife had a snafu at her job. Communication breakdown. This happens at every job. I wasn’t surprised, but the conflict never would have happened if they would have talked about their intentions. It was resolved quite painlessly, but there was no need for pain.

Co-workers need to convey their choices before they make them. If a decision needs to be made then inform the person why it was made.

Keep people in the loop.

It’s not too much to ask. It’s a courtesy that managers should extend to their employees.

Aha!

I’ve been reading “The Fluent Self” from Havi Brooks. An interesting take on dealing with patterns that hurt us.

She wrote about becoming friends with our feelings. As if they are there just talking to us, telling us what’s really wrong.

It was an “aha!” moment for me. I ignore my feelings (typical guy) and try to detach. Havi talks about giving those feelings a big hug and saying it’s okay to feel this way, let’s work on this together.

Go check out her blog and give a read, you won’t regret it.

ACL Music Festival

I have an awesome friend who arrived for ACL. My wife, friend and I are all going to hang out and listen to music all weekend. (The first day of the show, yesterday, was awesome.) My friend is also going to help me to create my first podcast. I don’t know how it will turn out; hopefully not as boring as my video. He, he. Hey, I tried.

I’m trying to add more creativity to this site, so you can get more of that work happiness that we all need.

If you are coming to Austin for the 100+ bands, but don’t know where to go at night or just want to get together for a beer just shoot me an email and we’ll meet up. If you are already in Austin then we can still meet. I just wanted to be a good host and help the out of towners.

Another great week of working…What was your favorite part? Any good business deals or good laughs with a co-worker? Let us know in the comment section. We want to share in the fun.

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Image courtesy of Oberto

Pig-Headed Determination and Discipline

I read a fantastic book, The Ultimate Sales Machine, that every salesperson should read. Forget that, every person should read this book.

We are all sales people, whether we are selling ourselves to our boss, or telling someone about the latest Apple product that we absolutely love. We are constantly influencing people whether we like to admit it or not.

Chet Holmes, the author, makes sure that he honestly sets up his sales people’s expectations. He tells his staff that they will be rejected on average 8 times before they get a yes. Let’s say your first sale is beginner’s luck and you get it on the first try. The next client may take 16 calls before they decide that your service is for them. The next one might take 5 calls and the one after that might take 11. Some clients may take 20 calls before they agree. This is a lot of rejection before sales start really rolling in. Chet makes sure that his sales people understand that it’s all a part of the process, so they don’t take it personally.

Specific Expectations

When a company creates specific expectations, employees are more willing to put in the effort to meet these needs. At most of my past jobs, it was all about flying by the seat of my pants.

I didn’t know whether calling a client to gather more information was good or bad. I just did it and hoped it went over well. Too many choices strangle an employee’s motivation.

Self-Discipline

Chet reiterates throughout his book the value of pig-headed determination and discipline. If the employee stops meeting expectations, you can sit down and point out what you first discussed when they were hired and do this again and again, until they grasp the importance of your system. If they can’t grasp it, you know what to do.

I used to hate Excel. I thought it was too rigid. That was until my boss showed me the error of my judgments. He believed in consistency. We creative types hate inflexibility. At first my Excel sheets were a mess. My boss showed me how to set them up the same way every time. Eventually I started formatting the Excel reports exactly the way he wanted. My boss was right. It saved me time and energy because I could go back to any report and know exactly where my information was. I didn’t have to search my tabs for ten minutes every time I looked for information within the report. I resented him at the time, but now I do my own reports like he wanted because he was right.

My boss never gave up on me and he knew that I would come around. He had the pig-headed determination and discipline to make me see his vision.

Determination

Never give up. You are going to be rejected for new jobs that you so desperately know you would be good at. You are going to be denied promotions. You are going to be deprived of new clients. Your success is all about not taking it personally and fighting through the “no’s.” It’s about trying every possible angle to scale the problems until you have enough strength and tools to get yourself to where you want to go.

Look in your recent past and remember a time when you were determined to succeed. How did it make you feel when you attained your goal?

It could be cooking a difficult dish or bringing your grade up from a C to an A. It was this determination that motivated you to make the difficulty a reality.

Workshops

Do you ask your girlfriend, brother, or mom to sit down with you and conduct a sample interview before a big interview? Good. You are trying to build the skills it takes to answer every possible question the right way to get the job. Believe me, there is a right way.

If someone asks you what your biggest weakness is and you answer… “I can’t help but steal office supplies, but I only steal the stuff that everyone already steals anyway.” Then guess what? You aren’t going to get the job. You have to be well prepared for every possible scenario.

That means workshopping every scenario. If you are in sales then workshop with a co-worker. Work together and refine those skills that help close a sale.

If you are in customer service then ask your boss to do a workshopping session with you every week for the next two months. Believe me, after you are done you’ll be leaving the customer with a smile almost every time.

You have to have the pig-headed determination and discipline to make good habits. Reading this article may put some good ideas in your head, but they aren’t going to stay there if you don’t practice them to help sharpen your skills.

What Does This have to do With Working Happy?

Having a career that challenges and stimulates your whole being is when pig-headed determination and discipline will be your most important attributes. To build the skills to create your own business or become a CEO of a Fortune 500 company you need to constantly work on your skills.

Working happy means optimizing your talents so you know what brings you and the people you are trying to reach the most value. A great painter like Picasso understood that he was meant to bring visual beauty to millions of people. It’s why Mother Teresa became a nun; if she could have been tested for empathy I bet that she would have been in the top 1% of all people ever born. She would have been a superstar in any charitable occupation she immersed herself in.

Without the passion to make your goals a success then you are floundering. I’ve never met a person who was happy with his or her career who floated around, never sticking with any one occupation. It’s your pig-headed determination and discipline that will help bring career happiness.

Have you ever been so pig-headed about something that you couldn’t help but succeed? What was it? Have you ever been so pig-headed that it hurt you? Let’s discuss it in the comments.

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Picasso image courtesy of wallyg

Imagination Isn’t Just for Kids

We tell our students, kids, nephews and nieces to use their imaginations to the max. If they get a little carried away we tell them that “it’s okay” that happens. As we get older we lose this connection because of social standards. There are exceptions like actors and other artists, but the rest of us are often locked down by our fear of being labeled “weird.” The weird guy in the office doesn’t get asked to join in on lunch.

Yep, that was me, but luckily I didn’t care and I won their hearts over. It was a boring lunch without me.

I’ve toned down my old ways and I’ve succumbed to social norms, but I’ve never given up my imagination. I refuse! Poetry, cartoons, and stories must come out or I become emotionally constipated. My wife has seen this happen to me and it ain’t pretty.

Conventional Vs Unconventional

I used to be the guy that danced on tables, asked the stranger at the bus stop what book they are currently reading and laughed during inappropriate moments. I wanted to be a poet, still am, but my passion has become more conventional – work happiness. I still do all those things, but only during appropriate moments.  Hey, dancing on a table can really get a party going.

My imagination has refused to wither away. You shouldn’t forget the strength you can garner from your imagination. When I see an old man that reminds me of a friend I used to work with, old stories flood my brain and new stories too. I might imagine the old man ripping off his suit to expose his white glittered outfit then dancing like he just won the lottery.

It’s fun to let my imagination get carried away when I know that dancing on tables just won’t be tolerated by my boss. We all need internal and external stress relief; we must take advantage of any way we can obtain this. Stress relief is just a byproduct of an active imagination.

The real reason I want you to use your imagination is for your career. Only the “core you” can truly know if you are happy with your current situation. Every job I’ve held in the past eventually bored me. It was my fault. I let myself become complacent. I was so comfortable that I stopped taking risks. I stopped indulging my fantasies.

Challenge Your Routines

Never stop indulging your imagination, otherwise you’ll end up like the people that are boring, predictable and tired.

The older I get the more I want routine, but the “core me” still wants excitement and challenge. It’s why I started this website to challenge my thoughts, writing and ability to attract people to the work happy cause.

What are you doing to challenge yourself to new levels?

You may have just read that sentence and don’t feel like answering it, but it’s one that you should ponder. It’s the simple ability of letting your thoughts wander around in new directions.

Don’t stop using your imagination because you feel comfortable. Do you always take the same route to work or eat at the same place? Then it’s time to take a baby step and switch it up. This is the spark that many of you might need to unleash those creative thoughts. Don’t be afraid. Next time someone suggests a change, don’t just look for the negatives, encourage their thinking by playing off their idea suggest something even crazier like buying a new client a beer on the company.

Just remember how you felt when you were a kid. The excitement of a new path that no one had yet discovered. Tap into these feelings and give your career that creative boost to take you to a new level. You may not want to get that stressful new position, but I sure hope you want to get better at your job because that’s what will bring the fun back into your routine.

What was your most creative job? Was it your favorite job? Let’s continue the conversation in the comment section.


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Image courtesy of Rickydavid

Does Luck Play a Role at Your Job?

Do you get lucky at work? No, I don’t mean that. Some of you have such dirty minds that it shocks me. I mean lucky as in good fortune comes to you and it comes often.

I really do believe in the luck that most lottery players are hoping to have. I believe in making luck happen, although even lottery winners have to take action to win. No one is going to win the lottery sitting on their butt while watching TV. They too need to act. They need to get up off that couch and buy a hundred tickets and pray to the lottery Gods to be kind and gracious.

I’m talking about even more action than buying lottery tickets and praying. The only way to create your luck is to take such persistent action that the luck is bound to come. I’ve heard that a salesman must be rejected by a potential client between 8 and 16 times before they make a sale. At first it may seem like the whole world is against them, but they know that like a trickle of water can wear away stone, they too can wear down the client and show them how much their product can help their company.

Steve of Change Your Thoughts wrote a cool piece entitled, “7 Ways to Be more Lucky.” My favorite was #2 Taking Risks.

People who are lucky take more risks. This doesn’t mean they gamble their life savings on a Dallas Cowboys win. Risk -taking needs to be calculated – you should weigh your options, know what you can afford to lose and go for it. If it doesn’t work out, you go for it again with an improved plan of attack.

The people who succeed big take big risks. Bill Gates could have stayed at Harvard, earned a bad-ass degree and made a nice living, but he didn’t want nice. He wanted to create one of the greatest businesses of all time.

How have you been lucky in the recent past?

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Image courtesy of cloud_nine

Active Relaxation

Using relaxation exercises to improve your emotional intelligence will also help you be more productive. It’s a win win for you and the people you work with. I’m working on a relaxation book as we speak, but it’s still a few months away (Summer 2009). Trying to come up with something completely fresh is not an easy task. But that’s where the true fun lies, in discovering hidden depths of focus, passion and creativity that I never thought possible.

The only way that I can hold down a full-time job, enjoy a healthy marriage and put so much into this blog is by using relaxation techniques that I’ve developed over the past two years. Each one is near and dear to my heart because they’ve helped me break away from worry, fear, and anger to take advantage of my opportunities.

You need to discover new parts of you every single day, otherwise you get comfortable and stop creating. Creativity is our second most important gift. Love is number one.

Creativity is inside all of us, from the young man who can take apart an engine and put it back together to a woman who can take apart an atom and discover a new world. We all have the ability to create. Everyone can draw stick figures and paint a tree. Some may do it better than others, but that’s not the point. Creativity is something we all must uncover as we grow older. The best way to do this is through active relaxation. It may sound like an oxymoron, but it isn’t.

When we send requests to our subconscious we can learn to unlock the fear that holds us back from these discoveries. Try this one on for size and let me know what you liked and didn’t like. Just be honest, so I can learn how to improve this relaxation as much as possible.

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Pick an Object in the Room and Describe Its Beauty

How:

Find anything that intrigues you and describe its beauty. It could be a plant, another person, or your dog.

Focus on:

The little nuances that most others would miss.

Why:

When we move our focus away from our usual routine we open new neural pathways in our brain, which helps us stay creative.

When:

When you are stuck in a room and you need to stop a cyclical thought pattern.

What I liked:

I picked my dog. The different shades in her coat and the shadows that she created entranced me. I liked how the energy within me changed from an intense feeling like a zooming dragonfly to a wispy butterfly, just going with the flow.

Who could use this:

  • A teller in a bank waiting for a customer.
  • A security guard passing the time.
  • A clown sitting down after a long night of performing.

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The great part about this meditation is its ability to make me feel differently each time. Now take 60 seconds to do this meditation. Let us know in the comment section how it makes you feel. Does it help you relax, or do your thoughts get carried away to something else? It may take a little practice, so if you can’t focus on one object for 60 seconds just do 20 seconds and build from there.

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Image courtesy of DistortedSmile

Trapped in a Job You Hate? How to Take that First Step Toward Career Bliss

This is a guest post from Janelle Vadnais, who is social media manager and a business blogger.

“It’s amazing how much unhappiness we needlessly cause ourselves by ascribing negative meanings to simple things that happen in our lives.” -Gaile Blanke

I hate my job.  Well, at least I used to.  Let me start at the beginning.

As long as I can remember, I’ve been an overachiever.  All throughout elementary and high school, I went from wanting to be a scientist to wanting to be a journalist.  The days of dreaming about DNA in test tubes quickly gave way to thoughts of working in a busy office environment editing news stories and meeting deadlines.  Bringing home anything less than an ‘A’ was unacceptable, and earning my Baccalaureate, Masters and then PhD was never an option; it was only a matter of being able to answer the question: “in what?” I finally decided on writing and editing because I determined it was what I liked above all else.  When college rolled around, I earned a full athletic scholarship to North Carolina State University for cross country and track.  And all throughout my undergraduate years, I thought I wanted to be a journalist.  I even did an internship for a well known, local magazine, but I soon realized that this wasn’t what I wanted to do; so through the course of taking a few electives, I transitioned into the fascinating field of Sociolinguistics and went on to earn my Masters degree in Linguistics. I set aside my applications for PhD programs when I came to the horrific realization that somewhere along the lines of having endured non-stop education from the time I was two years-old; I was burned out with school.

Crap.

The problem with most people who are unhappy in their “chosen” careers is that they are the victims of their own misery.  When I was in college, I was so determined to get that coveted sheet of paper-you know, the one that said I was a “Master of Arts” that I actually ended up losing focus of the other things around me that were important: my happiness.  I thought that having proof of an advanced degree would somehow make me happy, but in the end I was burned out and miserable…miserable because my only plan of action at that point was to immediately continue into getting my PhD, and I hadn’t exactly factored “burn out” into the mix.  And of course, as fate would have it, this all happened during my last couple of months of college.  With plan ‘A’ shot to hell and no plan ‘B’ to speak of, I knew I had to act fast otherwise I would wind up moving back home with my tail between my legs, so I did what anyone else in my situation would do: I joined the police department.

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

In retrospect, I can understand now how experience makes you wiser.  Going through the police academy taught me many things, mainly that I did NOT want to be a police officer for a living.  Needless to say, it was a unique experience and I certainly credit many of my friends and other officers I’ve met who are still serving the fine state of North Carolina.  But there came a point early on when I first enrolled in the police department when I thought to myself, “This is a mistake; you’re only doing this because you couldn’t find a job fast enough”.  It’s true.  I knew that I needed a job relatively quickly and the police department was hiring. 2+ 2=4, right? Wrong.  Sometimes you have to re-do the math and show your work.  I really didn’t think it through.  In fact, I even made up excuses and justified how a career in the police department might actually work out for me.  I could take my background in writing and editing, combine it with my background in sociolinguistics and maybe wind up as a detective behind a desk someday solving the world’s problems one crime at a time.  Who the heck was I kidding?

The long hours quickly wore me down. I would come home exhausted after a 10-12 hour midnight shift and get up the very next day to do it all over again.  The work, while it was physically challenging, was not mentally challenging enough.  I found myself bored while I was at work, and then too exhausted when I came home to do much of anything else.  What little social life I did have had almost died, and I soon found myself absolutely dreading going to work.  Hardly my dream career.  My overall outlook on where my career was heading seemed bleak.  I had been applying to jobs but only half-heartedly because negative thoughts coupled with low self confidence as well as feeling trapped in my current career were heavy on the forefront.  It finally took several long talks with my boyfriend and family to realize that I was the captain of the ship, and as the captain, I needed to pick a direction and stop blowing around in the wind.  I wrote down all of the things that were worrying me, possible solutions to the problems as well as why the problems weren’t getting solved, and you know what was to blame? My attitude.

I wish I had Known Then What I Know Now

Having been an athlete all my life, you would’ve thought that I might have had an inkling into just how powerful a role your mental state plays in your life.  Negative thoughts are like a virus.  Once they get into your head, they have the potential to spread and multiply like wildfire.  I felt like I wasn’t in control of my career path.  I began to feel miserable and didn’t even know why. Getting out of bed every day and chanting to yourself, “I hate my job I hate my job” is bound to get anyone down.

I think that the vast majority of people wind up in jobs or careers that they hate simply because their minds aren’t completely made up with what they really want to do.  This lack of experience lands you in a never ending circle of self-doubt, low confidence and feeling like you have to stick with whatever job you because you’re now bound by financial obligations, etc.  The key to happiness is changing your attitude.  If you’re unhappy about something- anything, assess why you feel that way.  Write it down, tell a friend.  Whatever you do, just make sure that you do something. (Karl’s note: I agree. One small step leads to another, which builds a career.) In my own struggles to get out of a dead-end career and into something more suitable, the following things have helped me:

Be knowledgeable: Know what makes you happy.  If you don’t know, perhaps it’s time to figure it out.

Be determined: Know what your goals are and stick to them.

Be positive: Know that things can and typically do go wrong. Nobody is perfect, but you can be better by knowing how to more effectively handle your stress.

Be surrounded: Know that you are not alone.  Use your resources: write down your thoughts; talk to a friend.  These things will help you.  Surround yourself with positive people who will encourage and guide you to make positive changes in your life.

Be wise: You’re never too old to make a change, and you’re never too young to learn from your mistakes. (Karl’s note: Yes! Go for your career happiness now!)

Janelle Vadnais is the Social Media Manager for Unlimited Web Solutions, Inc. and is the main blog writer for Create Business Growth.  You can follow her on Twitter also at ‘janellevadnais‘ or visit her on StumbleUpon.

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If anyone is interested in writing a story or article for Work Happy Now, please contact me at karl (at) workhappynow.com, thanks.

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Image courtesy of lamazone

Failures You Should Either Release or Keep Pursuing

Almost every detailed task, topic, or report is harder than it initially exposes itself to be. It always takes more time and more effort. This happens because our thoughts are fluid. We imagine ourselves working hard and everything magically coming together, when in reality we come across many obstacles that suck away our energy and creativity.

Our energy is what fools us into trying for the impossible. No one wants to be viewed as a fool. We look at those first couple of weeks of American Idol and we wonder why most of them even try. They wait in line for hours only to be laughed at.

By understanding our strengths and weaknesses, we can maximize our success. Do those awful singers really know how bad they are? I believe that most of them are fooled by what they want to see. They only listen to the people that praise every note they sing. They are tricking themselves into believing their talent will take them to great fame and fortune.

It’s Easier to Believe a Dream than the Truth

If we are going to enjoy what we do and make a living at it, we will need to understand which are real dead ends and which look like dead ends. We must separate the impossible illusions from achievable reality to make success easier. This concept has been a thorn in many people’s sides. We’ll explore why many of us, myself included, keep failing and trying something new over and over again, but never break through to real success. We will then learn how to avoid this trap and excel at what we love to do.

Where is Your Motivation?

Everyone fails, whether it be your hard working father or Bill Gates. They fail in small ways every day, but they put it behind them and try a little harder the next day. They know that there is a learning curve to every new thing. The smarter they work the more successful they become. They are able to align their talents with their passions.

Let’s say you have tried to write a book. If you are like most people you’ve probably started one and never finished it. (If you haven’t, you can substitute book for some other very difficult creative project.) You probably had a brilliant idea and got all excited. Then you hit your first wall. You put it aside and never came back.

If you ever tried writing a novel your motivation probably got stuck when trying to tie the character’s first adventure into the next. The scene becomes a story and you have to account for character synthesis, plot, and story line. The difficulty level increases exponentially. This is a common problem. Then you try to get yourself to sit back down and continue writing, but you just never can find the desire to make it happen. Maybe it’s a significant other or another grand project that demands your attention. Whatever it is, that initial excitement fades.

When you finally have some time to really think about the book you wanted to write, you decide your time is better spent somewhere else. Maybe it’s that good book that you always wanted to read or the fear of getting stuck again that distracts you from your initial burst of creative energy. It doesn’t matter. You make a conscious decision to fail because the project isn’t worth your time.

How To Let Go Of Your Expectations

Failure is such a harsh word, so we’ll call it a release. You released that project because the motivation was gone. This is a good thing. I’ve started hundreds of projects in my life and probably finished 10% of them. Not every project should be finished; actually most should be released. If you are anything like me (ADD gifted) you probably have many interests, and although it’s fun to dabble, it is usually when a project gets more difficult that it pushes you to give up.

Most of us couldn’t fathom training to climb Mount Everest for a year or two then taking the risk to reach the summit. Why would someone do this?

It doesn’t pay out gobs of money; in fact it costs a lot of money and time to make it all happen. I believe a person does this for two main reasons.

  1. They want to challenge themselves in ways that will help them understand who they are.
  2. Social status – If I’m honest and understand that it’s okay to appease the ego for the right reasons then I admit that it probably does feel good to tell people the story of climbing one of the most treacherous mountains in the world.

When we push ourselves past our comfort threshold we become stronger. This can lead to happiness. Not because of the obvious accomplishment, reaching the peak, but because it changes our outlook. We see life differently after we write a book or climb Mount Everest. It gives us a glimpse into our greatness. We all know that we are great, but we don’t believe it until we do something so difficult and exciting that it changes us forever. The problem that occurs when we fail is that our ego takes a hit. We become afraid.

Fear dictates our future choices. We don’t want to be perceived as the William Hung of what we love to do. We want to succeed. We want to succeed so bad that it holds us down. The difficult part is understanding when to let go and when to dig deeper and go for it all.

3 Questions You Must Ask Yourself to Understand When to Let Go or Push Through

I designed a three step process to help you understand your fear, release it and make the smart decision to continue with the project or let it go and try something else. First you must find a quiet place to be with your thoughts. Then…

1. Ask yourself, “Why am I really doing this?”

We fool ourselves into thinking that we are doing something because we want to accomplish an audacious goal, but in reality we may be doing it for someone else. You have to do some soul searching and make sure that you really want to accomplish this goal. If you do then move on to step 2. If even the thought of continuing the project makes you cringe then don’t even think another second about it, just release it; it’s not worth your time. Down deep you know that it isn’t in your best interest to tackle the project.

2. Where is the excitement coming from?

Are you working on your project and it gets that little spot in your gut excited, or are you doing it because you have to? When you can honestly answer that it feels good then you move on to step 3. If you aren’t excited about the project then there is no reason to stick with it, but be careful. Don’t throw away two years of work because you are in a grumpy mood. Let these thoughts settle, talk to a close friend or family member, and if the excitement is still gone then release it.

3. How does this project fit into the future you?

Part A: This is the last step that most people leave off. Let’s use the novel example. You may want to write a book, but are you doing it because you have something to say or are you doing it because you want the results of having a published book? More than 90% of books that are published each year fail in the publishers eyes because they don’t make enough money to cover the cost of printing and marketing the book, but it won’t be a failure to the writer that has larger plans. He knows that it will take work to market this book and he does it because he wants to help others. He knows it takes years to build an audience and he isn’t going anywhere any time soon so he may as well work his butt off to get that book up and running. The hard work fits into his goal for his future.

Part B: If you are doing work for someone else, you may not like it but you must ask yourself, “Is this helping the ‘future me’?” So when your boss asks you to do a certain project do you usually feel appreciated after it’s complete and do you also feel like it will help your career? If the answer “yes,” then that’s great, but if you are doing it all for the paycheck then maybe it’s time to drop that dead end job (even if you are making good money). Next week we’ll go into more detail about how your career pursuits affect your future.

Part C: If you like to paint and it’s only a hobby then the stress won’t overwhelm you. The desire to paint isn’t as powerful and you may go weeks without picking up a brush, but you can enjoy each stroke that you create because you are doing it to relax your thoughts. It fits into the “future you” because you want to create in a “stress free” state of mind.

Here’s Where Your Focus Kicks In

Some of you keep starting new websites, jobs, books, and the like because you want to keep that excitement going. As soon as your energy fades you’re jumping to that next thing.

This is where you have to get your emotional weight scales out. If a new idea pops into your head, please jot down a few notes, let the idea come out, but then let it rest for a few days. Then compare your most important project to this new idea and try to feel which one has more potential. This may seem difficult, but the best way to figure this out is to ask yourself which gets you more excited. If it matches with the one that has the most potential then it’s an easy choice. If one of your projects gets you excited, but the other has more potential then you need to go back to question 1 to break the tie. Ask yourself why you are switching from one project to another. If you are doing it because you are bored then switch to the more exciting project, but if you are doing it because you are frustrated then it’s time to dig a little deeper by doing some more research or asking a friend for help so you can get a fresh angle. Finishing a creative project is the most difficult step because there is no finish line. That’s why you must resist doing too many things at once. Your focus must stay close to the project or you’ll lose track of its direction.

One Big Project at a Time

You should only have one big project on your plate at a time. It’s important to get it up and running, let it get some energy underneath it and have a life of its own. Now that this blog has a good base of articles I have split my attention to other areas. I’m constantly coming back to the site, but I can focus on another big project and get that up and running. The hard part for us ADD workers is picking a few projects to juggle and not stretching ourselves too thin, which waters down the value. As soon as you feel this happening then you need to drop the weakest project like a hot potato. Burned fingers and scattered thoughts make for added frustration. Just try to forget about it and concentrate on the one plan that has the most potential. If the weaker idea has enough lasting value, you’ll come back to it, if not, then it’s time to release it.

No project, relationship, or challenge can be considered a failure if it helps the person improve his/her life in some way. I’m on my fourth book and in some people’s eyes these past projects might be failures. They aren’t published, and in many writers’ expectations that’s a failure, but to me they are stepping stones to a smarter and stronger me. I’m building my talents to bring value to people’s lives.

You need to work on projects that will bring a smarter and stronger you into the present. The more you try and fail, the stronger you’ll get. The more you try and succeed, the smarter you’ll get. You put both of those traits together and you’ll be building a successful career that’s going to make you happy.

Next week I will post about how to apply these feelings to your career. We’ll look at our careers and see why they’ve led us to this position in life and when it’s time to quit, dig deeper or accept our position and find happiness and excitement somewhere else.

What was your most important reason for sticking with a difficult project? When do you know that you’ve hit a dead end on a bad project and it needs to be released? Let’s continue the discussion in the comment section.

Articles to help you understand your career happiness:

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Image courtesy of M Dot

6 Things You Should Never Say to Your Boss

We all know the basics:

-        Dirty 4 letter words

-        No

-        This makes no sense

-        I’m too busy

-        I don’t like it when you…

-        Why do I have to do…

I want you to actually use these concepts, but not be a jerk about it. When your significant other asks you how they look in their jeans, if they recently gained weight you don’t respond, “Holy crap you look huge.” You respond with tact and decorum so you don’t hurt their feelings. When you learn to do the same thing at your job you will build a relationship that will help both sides grow.

Dirty 4 Letter Words

When your boss angers you to your core and makes you feel like screaming, you don’t respond with a rant that would make Paris Hilton blush.

Instead you should respond with:

“Ok, please stop.” Wait for them to stop ranting. “Please explain what is really going on.”

A calm mind. It’s the simple rule of fighting fire with water. When they are acting like a spoiled child that’s when you take a deep breath and try talking to them rationally. If they or you are too worked up then walk away and come back after the situation cools.

No

No boss wants to hear the word “no.”

Instead you should respond with:

“Sure, but let me finish this because it’s really important and I’ll do it as soon as I’m done. When do you absolutely need it by?”

A “sure, but.” is one of the best ways to say no without actually saying it. What I like is the ability to set the goal on your terms.

This Makes No Sense

A boss likes to have a resourceful employee. If you absolutely aren’t able to problem solve on your own and need more information then it’s time to ask the boss for help.

Try this:

“What are the three most important goals for this project?”

When you can rephrase something so they have a direction on how to properly explain it to you then you look like a solid employee who is willing to go a little deeper into the task.

I’m Too Busy

Never tell a boss that you are too busy, that’s like saying that you don’t care about the project that they want you to do.

Instead you should say:

“That sounds great. I’m right in the middle of this project and it’s urgent that I get it done (This only works when it’s true), but as soon as I am done I’ll get started. I was going to work on “insert project here” next, but I can push that off until next week if that’s okay.”

When you are honest about the other work that you have to do your boss should be respectful of your time and what you are legitimately able to get done.

I Don’t Like It When You

Never come right out with “I don’t like it when you (insert dislike here)” (ex. make comments about my body.)

Instead you should say:

“It makes me feel uncomfortable when you make comments about my body. I know I’m hot (always nice to throw in a compliment for yourself), but please be more respectful.”

When you come out with accusations of the person being a bad person of course they get defensive. Put the burden on how you feel, so they don’t feel attacked.

Why Do I Have To…

An employee that questions every move can become really annoying.

Instead you should say:

“I’ve noticed that we enter these contacts into the database, I call them to see if it’s a legitimate lead then give it to the sales person. I think we should try giving them directly to the sales person so the company can be contacted by someone who will deal with them in the future.”

Always offer an alternative solution to a problem instead of just complaining about a task that you hate to do.

If you get labeled as a whiner or a complainer, it’s hard to shake this tag. It’s best to learn the subtleties of phrasing problems or questions into constructive sentences that your boss can use to help improve your work experience.

How have you used a “rephrase” to make your response easier to handle?

Other Articles that will improve your work communication:

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Image courtesy of Alicia

5 Fun and Easy Tips to Let the “Real You” Shine Through at Work, Southwest Airlines Style

Southwest Airlines is one of the few airlines that is still able to make a profit in a volatile industry. They can do this because they planned ahead (bought fuel when it was cheap), have great management and encourage their employees to have fun. Management knows that when they allow their employees to be themselves, their good mood will rub off on their customers.

Most of my past employers stifled employees’ personalities because they wanted to control every little thing. Employees became afraid to make mistakes and this caused unhappiness.

We should take a lesson from Southwest’s lead:

1. Sing When You Feel Like it

    Southwest is known to have their employees bust out in song. It could be one employee or the whole group, but as I looked around during the flight attendant’s rendition of “Sweet Child of Mine,” I noticed that almost all the passengers were smiling. It makes the employee and customer feel good. It’s a win win.

    2. Wear Comfortable Clothing

      Southwest allows their employees to wear clothing that makes them feel comfortable. They have clothing that looks soft and not polyester starchy. When an employee can feel good and look good, it’s going to make them happier.

      3. Make Jokes

        The pilot got on the radio and made a joke about us making up time in the air. He said, “Ladies and gentleman we are powering up the thrust boosters and we’ll be on our way shortly.” It made me smile.

        4. Give Unique and Fun Information

          As we flew by the Grand Canyon the pilot let the passengers know that we were passing it on the right side of the plane. My wife and I were on the other side and had a tough time seeing it. We still got a glimpse when we stood up and looked from the aisle. When we were flying home my wife made sure to ask the flight attendant which side of the plane we needed to sit on so we could see the Grand Canyon. It made the first part of the flight back to Austin a little more interesting.

          5. Be Playful

            I drank too much Starbucks Tea (I got a Grande) in the airport lounge, so I had to use the bathroom 3 times. I have a small bladder, especially when I break the seal, you coffee and beer drinkers know what I’m talking about. The flight attendant, on my third time using the bathroom, noticed my peeing frenzy and said that I wasn’t allowed to use the bathroom. I responded in kind, “Did I fill it up?” We both laughed. It made me appreciate the personality that Southwest encourages to come out.

            What can you do to allow your personality to shine at work? Do you think this would allow you to enjoy your job just a little more? Or do you believe that your company would rather you keep your personality to yourself?

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