Pigeon-proof Productivity

Bird-B-Gone-Pigeon-SpikesI was having dinner with friends and the conversation veered in many directions.  Not sure how we got on the topic but I was relating following story.

Between my career in broadcasting and my current career, there was a period of casting about, during which I worked in the family business, a very small New York based carpentry and masonry contractor called Cambria Construction.  After a couple of years mixing cement, carrying cinder blocks, taping and spackling, tarring roofs and fetching coffee, I started learning the estimating side of the business, including reading architectural drawings, engineering specs etc.  I used to be the guy who would scour the publications that listed requests for bid on all types of city, state and federal projects in publications like Commerce Business Daily and would go down to the old World Trade Two building, where the US General Services Administration would dole out bid documents and rolls of project plans, elevations, cross sections and details.

Imagine my horror/elation when I came upon a project that involved pigeon proofing a Federal Office building in Manhattan.  The project basically involved affixing steel spikes to the stone lintels along the spikebuilding’s façade.  You can imagine the deterrence factor.  But I have to say that I always imagined that offending fowl would end up impaled like pigeon kabobs.

What my friend and talented management consultant Andrew Cohn pointed out to me is that pigeons don’t land with their ass.  They land with their feet.

So even when we are forced to learn the hard way, we tend to absorb at the extremity.  There is no need to get hurt to our core or internalize fear that prevents us from taking the next leap, or looking for the next safe landing.  There’s a reason we lean in to something new, get feedback, pull back, regroup, come at it from another angle.  Feedback doesn’t kill us, it makes us smarter and better prepared.

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Create New Spaces for your Work

Today I am talking about virtual spaces rather than physical spaces.

Did you know that the Mac OS and Windows both have ‘virtual desktops’.  These let you customize the desktop for different users on the computer (e.g. which folders are viewed, what the background image is etc.)

You can also create a new desktop to ‘store’ a special project.  Say you are working on an article or a book.  Remember way back to the days of index cards that you would take notes on and spread on the desk to organize and catalogue as you got your thoughts together?  Use a virtual desktop to do the same thing.  Did you know you can highlight text or images and drag them onto your desktop to make clippings.  It works from browsers, text editors etc.   As you are drafting, take the work from a session and make a clipping on your virtual desktop.  As you are researching, drag facts, figures, details onto your workspace as clippings. Obviously if you are working on a piece of non fiction, make sure to note the source for later use in bibliographies.

Then when you get to the point where you’re ready to start writing, go ahead and organize your clippings into themes or chapters or an outline right on the virtual desktop and start writing.  Most of us have 21 inch monitors or larger so it is no trouble to have our word processor or desktop publisher or blog editing website on half the screen and our clippings available to drag right into our final project for composing, cleaning up and polishing.  (It works beautifully in Word but the drag and drop does not work pulling the clippings back into the native editor I am using right now on the WordPress site.  Now that’s ironic.)

You can add short cuts to specific apps or tools that match the project, like your image editors or analytic tools, on the virtual desktop.  You can have a different desktop for each project.

Using the virtual desktop is a way to open up the project when you are working on it, with focus and resources specific to the task, and slide it away when you are not by going back to your default (hopefully uncluttered) desktop.

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Been there, want to stop doing that!

What a beautiful day September 11, 2001 was, until it wasn’t.

I was right downtown, saw the horror and the heroism.  Nothing more to say.

It’s sad that we live in a world where violence still occurs daily.  Massive and public violence like those attacks thirteen years ago or the acts of war taking place September 11, 2014 all over the world.  All in the name of some cause.  And there are acts of violence that are smaller and more personal like prejudice and spouse abuse and acts of violence against the self, like fear and guilt and judgment.

How do we move the world to beauty, compassion, equality, mutual respect and peace?

Posted in personal productivity

Joy Restoration

I think my new mission is Joy Restoration.  We’ve all had Joy.  I would even posit that it is our original state.  We may have had it removed through the careful application of social ‘normalization’, religious indoctrination and enforced maturation.  But we can return to our natural joy.

My wife and I were out for a walk yesterday and I got the idea when we were talking about a comment an old friend from college made to her at our wedding two years ago.  My friend thanked her for ‘bringing him back’.  Actually I was on my way back for a while, but my relationship with my wife has freed me to express all the silliness and enthusiasm that I wasn’t always feeling free to let out.  Of course I hadn’t gone comatose, and by kids probably experienced more of my goofy, spontaneous personality because we’re ‘allowed’ to be that way with kids.  But ‘putting away childish things’ as we are admonished in Corinthians, doesn’t mean lose the child-like qualities of inquisitiveness, imagination, humor and the space in which to create and are recreate our world, our image and our options continuously.

Back to Paul’s letter to Corinth for a minute, because it has application in our productive practice.  Here is most of the last paragraph

When I was a child, I was speaking as a child, I was led as a child, I was thinking as a child, but when I became a man, I ceased these childish things. 12Now we see as in a mirror, in an allegory, but then face-to-face. Now I know partially, but then I shall know as I am known. 13For there are these three things that endure: Faith, Hope and Love, but the greatest of these is Love.

For me the implication is that as adults, our measuring stick is our reflection, how we are seen by others.  We are slaves of opinion.  As children we were original and direct.  Now I am partial, then and eventually again I am complete.  That’s what endures.
So the way restore joy is return to our completeness and let go of the persistent tendency to see ourselves only through the reflections of external measurement.  To mix the metaphors and switch to Shakespeare “to thine own self be true”
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Measurement is Management

This topic goes back to my very first blog entry on Productive Practice and it is sill one of the most important lessons I continue to work with and practice.

Measurement is management.  The first step to change is measuring.  Why?  A couple of reasons:

  1. By measuring at the beginning, you know where you are starting.  Said another way, you are acknowledging, accepting and cooperating with what is actually so instead of sticking your head in the sand and refusing to see the cold hard fact of where you are now
  2. By measuring repeatedly and consistently, at what ever interval is appropriate, you are training yourself in mindfulness and vigilance.  You are indicating an intention to yourself and by following through you are training your inner self that you keep your agreements and can be counted on
  3. What you focus on changes your behavior.  A simple change in focus can have a profound affect

What are some concrete examples:

  • What to change your body – choose the form a measurement.  Weigh yourself, check your BMI, measure the size of certain muscle groups, count calories.  Start with one metric.  Do no more that measure daily and see how your behavior changes
  • Want to increase the size of your client base or sales volume.  Track the number of contacts you make every week.  I recommend that you don’t track the dollars.  Dollars are a result, not an activity that can be measured and managed
  • Want to be more organized.  Track your next actions
  • Want a better relationship.  Track the number of loving things you say each day.
  • Want to be happier.  Track the number of times you laugh

Just measure and observe what changes take place

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Posted in personal productivity, Wellness

Spiritual Ecology

I have written about mental ecology.  Here’s a view of spiritual ecology.  Kind of the same line of thought

We can leave the physical earth with a much nicer frequency than we found it. These areas of responsibility apply to everyone. One reason the world is in its present condition is because many people “passed the buck” and said, “That doesn’t apply to me.” Spiritual ecology applies to everyone — no exceptions.- John-Roger, D.S.S.From: The Way Out Book, p. 148


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We need a runway for take-off and landing

24_ApproachI was on my yoga mat, in class, recently and had the following image;  the mat is like a little runway.  The practice we engage in, any practice, is both a jumping off spot and a place we land.  It launches us on our way and it is our safe harbor of return.

So what practices do we engage in that are ones that assist us in getting going and in returning.  My practice of productivity is a launch pad to success, accomplishment and action and it is also a safety zone of stress reducing organization and a repository of completion and acknowledgment.  My practice of health is a springboard to energetic engagement in the world and also a microcosm of peace and balance in my life.

When we are on our runway we are poised, in every essence.

What are your practices of approach and take off that bring you more of what you want?

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3D Competence: Domain Knowledge v Core Competencies

As we develop ourselves and our professional skills there are those that are 100% portable and those that may or may not move with us as we move through our careers.

I spent ten years in the training and development field.  I spent 20 years in the insurance industry (there was some overlap between the two).  I became quite knowledgeable in the disparate areas of risk management, liability, actuarial analysis, learning management systems, staff orientation training, performance, leadership training and curriculum development.  I also developed deep skills in the areas of financial modeling, project management, visual presentation of quantitative information, public speaking and productivity.

The portable skills: leadership, project management, analytics, written and verbal communication and others are a permanent part of my skill set.  I use them regardless of the domain.  The industry or job function specific knowledge: insurance underwriting and claims, financial or learning systems will always inform my performance as an experience base but may not be forefront in applying myself to the work task and problems in current or future engagements.

The point is that as we progress and develop, we continue to grow across multiple dimensions.  Our skills (portable) deepen and our scope (domain) broaden.

As a result we become 3D Competent

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Rebranding Ourselves

Think of some of the brands of which you are most aware.  If I showed you this logo and asked you for a word or two, what would you say? 

Search.  Innovation.  Technology.

If I showed you this one?

Quality. Luxury. Status

How about this one.

Change. Hope. Healthcare Fiasco.

If I showed your picture to co-workers, clients, your target market; what few words would you want them to have immediately come to mind?  How do you get to be known and how do you change the perception?

It takes repetition and exposure to create the type of lasting impression that makes for your brand.  Are you consistently well informed, up on the latest trends in your industry or area of specialty.  Are you known as the go to person for the types of things you want to known or for things you’d like to de-emphasize over time.  Maybe you don’t want to be the one who gets all the Excel projects and want to me more involved in strategy.  Volunteer for project teams.  Forward articles and ideas about strategy and how to apply to current issues and situations to your team.

Start doing those new things and you can build a new brand in the coming year.

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Making Change Permanent

Question to you the readers.  How do you make changes permanent?  If it’s changing a bad habit or starting a new regimen, starting a new career, changes large or small can be tough to integrate as a regular and permanent feature of our lives.

What has worked for you?  Please add comments below and let’s get a discussion going.  I’ll share my thoughts as well.


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