About six weeks ago, I started to make some changes to the way I work to create more focused time. I wrote about my thoughts at that time here (https://kalliopesjourney.com/2017/10/21/from-buzz-to-flow-regaining-focus/). Since then I removed about 5 hours of weekly recurring meetings from my calendar, which of course immediately created a significant amount of time in which I could work. Not having unnecessary meetings also meant I had a lot more energy to spend on the tasks I wanted to complete. As an introvert, meetings require more energy than working on something on my own. So, while some meetings are fun and a sometimes even useful, a better mix helps me to manage my energy throughout the day and week.
I also tried to be more effective while working on my tasks. I turned off all email notifications, so the only way to see if new emails came in, is by opening Outlook. This limits “external” interruptions. It also makes it easier to stay focused during meetings, as I don’t have to contain my curiosity.
I also tried to change my habits so that wouldn’t distract myself all the time by looking at my phone, Facebook or Instagram. This is working particularly well at times when I have enough energy. I still notice that when I’m tired, frustrated, or stressed that I look for distractions every few minutes. Managing this requires more practice, although the more comfortable and effective solution would be to manage my energy a bit better.
The first few weeks I was managing my calendar rigorously. That worked so well that after a few weeks I loosened my grip a bit, thinking that I had this under control. What followed were several weeks with training and off-site meetings though. Meaning that multiple days in those weeks were lost for doing actual work and having “normal” meetings. In those weeks the normal work got stuffed into the other days, which meant I tried to do five days’ worth of work and meetings in three days. I’ll just state the obvious: that doesn’t work. I got stressed out and frustrated over not being able to manage my schedule and too much time spent in meetings.
Overall, I’m very pleased with the progress that I was able to make in my way of working. I was able to complete a lot more pro-active tasks and manage my energy better. That last both good for me and for the people around me. I will need to stay very alert though, loosening my grip means that my calendar fills up beyond what I feel comfortable with.
I also need to remember to take care of my energy first and other people second. If I’ve been in two days of off-site meetings I want to be in the office, to be available to other people. However, after two days like that I’m also in need of some solitude. Choosing to be in the office works well for a couple of hours, but after that I get frustrated by trying to combine too many meetings, catching up with work and unplanned conversations. I’ll try to improve on that by planning a day of working from home after full day meetings next time.
All in all, some very positive results in a relatively short amount of time, with several opportunities to grow and improve on.
On Friday a friend pointed out the graduation speech that Tim Minchin delivered in 2013 at the University of Western Australia (9 Life Lessons – Tim Minchin UWA Address). I’d not heard of Tim Minchin before this.
Thanks to Youtube’s cunning algorithms I found and watched several other Tim Minchin video’s. Ok, I might have watched more than “several”.
Over the course of the weekend I have tried to figure out what it is about the video’s that appeals to me. It would be easy to say that it is just a simple crush, because I like people who are smart and witty and people who like musical theater and can sing, but it’s not that vulgar.
What appeals to me most is the fact that Tim is a critical thinker, who takes empathy to the next level. He is eloquent, funny and critical about ideas, but he doesn’t “target” specific people.
It’s nice to see someone with an audience who is smart and can express his ideas and who doesn’t appear to take himself too seriously. It’s a nice break from the negativity that you see on TV, in the news and on social media these days.
It also feels very good to be intellectually challenged, on a subject that is not work related, to take my current thinking one step or on some topics several steps further. I like a challenge, and this is an interesting one I feel is worth exploring. I like the idea of strengthening my critical thinking skills.
Based on some of the conversations I’ve tried to have about this topic I think this is probably a good moment to share a definition of critical thinking. There are several definitions on Wikipedia, but this one appeals to me the most:
“Critical thinking is disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence”.
It’s lovely to hear someone argue a point based on logic and reason, rather than operate based on the principle of “he who shouts the loudest is the most right”, which is what I see a lot, both in the media and in work environments.
I have scratched the surface of critical thinking, but I’m excited to practice it more and see where it will take me.
There is one thing that I’m a bit worried about.
For the last few days I have been looking for someone to discuss the idea of critical thinking with and it has been quite hard to find someone who was aware of the concept and interested in it. I was actively looking for a conversation about the topic itself. If I really get into this, I would as a result be more inclined to challenge ideas, whether out loud or to myself. Here’s my concern:
If you are a critical thinker, will you be able to ever have a friendly and fulfilling conversation at a birthday party, or an office get together?
I’m afraid that Tim’s nine-minute beat poem “Storm” contains the answer, but I guess time will tell…
I’m very happy with my life at the moment. I have a fantastic job, a beautiful house that fills me with pride, a good relationship with my parents and a small group of close friends who I love dearly and who I know will have my back should that ever be necessary.
Yet many people pity me and feel that I should be looking to change my life. Did you guess why yet?
I’m single and I don’t have kids.
I realize that my life is different from that of most people my age. I also understand that this means that I’m missing out on certain experiences. But I’m ok with that. My life allows me to spend time on the things I love to do, to change plans last minute, to design my house the way I want to and make changes to it whenever I feel like it.
I’m happy and not looking for a man in my life. I also don’t hear or feel my biological clock ticking.
My life is rich and full spending time with friends, playing sports, regularly visiting my parents and feeling blessed spending time at home, on my own.
Whenever I want to share my thoughts and experiences, or when I feel the need to vent, I can go to my friends and family, or I can write about it and share it with you lovely readers.
Yet several people around me feel the need to regularly ask me if I’m dating yet. And every time I explain that I’m not and that I’m also not looking for someone to date. I’m not saying it will never happen, but I’m not taking any action to make it happen.
Sometimes I feel like asking people that keep getting back to this if they are divorced yet. But that’s not nice and I’m pretty sure it would not be considered socially acceptable. I hope that someday people will realize that asking me or any other happy single if we are dating yet is just as disrespectful towards us and our lifestyle.
I’m living my life the way I choose to live it!
For a while now I have been contemplating about a couple of things related to writing and my blog. One of the things I’m on the fence about is whether I should try writing in Dutch (which is my native language).
There are two main triggers:
- I would like to reach a larger audience
- I often feel that my posts come out “heavier” than I intent them to be and than they feel when I’m thinking about them in my head
I would like to get more readers. I have learned from someone who’s experience and opinion I value greatly that the best place to find a loyal audience is in the smallest niche you can find to write about. My original idea was that I would write in English, from a “successful woman in business”-point of view. I felt that would be a decent niche, and it’s who/what I am, so it seemed simple enough. However, when I try to put a “female” angle in my posts I tend to lose all inspiration.
Now the people that read my posts are mostly personal Facebook friends and some Twitter followers.
Another way to find a niche could be to write in Dutch.
The second reason to consider writing in Dutch is that I feel my posts always come out quite “heavy”. I write about serious topics, but the highlights that are in my head before I start writing the post usually feel lighter to me than the written result. This might just be my feeling, and not how others read it of course, but it means that I’m not always as excited about how a post comes out as I could be.
While brainstorming about this on Facebook one of my very smart friends also suggested that the posts do not get heavier because of the language, but they might get heavier because of the format. I had to think about this for a day, but he might be onto something.
When I think about a post before I write it, I always think about it in English. While it’s in my head, I usually address it directly to you (the reader). However, when I start writing, I don’t want to come across as a smartass and I’m afraid that I might offend people. To avoid this, I turn the post around a bit by writing from my own perspective, focusing on my own experience.
I’m interested in your opinions as I’m still not entirely sure on the best way forward. For that same reason you might find some experiments on here in the weeks to come!
Why is it so hard to follow your own advice? On some days I feel like “do as I say, not as I do” could be my motto.
Even though I know that the people that work with and for you will copy your behavior. That means that it’s very important to practice what you preach.
When someone at work is not feeling well, I truly feel that they should they take care of their health first and stay home until they feel better. I try to get this feeling across to people, so they feel comfortable taking the time they need.
However, when I get sick, for some reason it’s a completely different story. As long as I can sit, walk and drive I will go to work. That’s setting a bad example!
Today was such a day. I had a rough night and was coughing and not feeling well. Of course, by the end of the afternoon it was even worse. Despite it being a productive day, it’s not comfortable for me and it’s not a good example for others. Changing your own behavior is difficult though.
But at least there is some hope: I already called in sick for tomorrow. No more excuses. My first order of business is getting better. Once that is taken care off I will get back to work.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote Focus to succeed, about being able to focus on one goal for two years. Since then I’ve read “Busy” by Tony Crabbe and I’ve come to the realization that in today’s world most people, myself included, don’t even really focus on a single thing for thirty minutes.
In some cases, when I’m working on something I get distracted by someone asking me a question, or by a phone call. However, if no one appears at my desk or gives me a call right when I’m trying to get something done I will distract myself. I will open Facebook to check for new messages, check my phone to see if anyone tried to reach me, or have a look at that incoming email.
Thinking about it I think I seldom spend more than ten minutes focused on something during the day. For some reason I think I do a bit better in the evening. Even now that I’m on holiday I look at Instagram while reading a book, or check for interesting news stories while cooking a meal.
The few things I enjoy most are playing tennis and running and those happen to be the things that get my complete attention for at least an hour. Coincidence or not?
According to Tony we get a little dopamine buzz every time we switch attention, which makes us feel good for a few minutes. However, as the buzz wears off we need a new fix and thus switch again. And again.
I’m addicted to the buzz…
The best thing to substitute the buzz with is the nice high that you get from feeling in flow. Getting in flow requires us to deeply focus on something that is challenging and where we get direct feedback on the result.
When I get back to work and normal life next week I’m going to try to focus on a single task at a time. I think that is going to be a significant challenge in itself!
I’ll report back on how I’m doing in a few weeks.
When you see someone do something you feel isn’t nice, or right, or decent, do you give that person feedback about their behavior?
One of my customers is very serious about safety and they actively encourage everyone to give feedback to someone who doesn’t follow the safety guidelines. They are very clear about the desirable behavior. Yet even in that environment it’s a big step to really address someone to ask them to change their behavior.
About a year ago I went out to a work-related dinner and one of the man there was very pushy and rude to both me and the waitress, who was about half my age. Several people noticed has was consistently asking me inappropriate questions and everyone, including myself noticed how he was treating the waitress even worse. Yet no one corrected him.
Fairly regularly you see someone throw their junk out onto the street. Either a fast food bag or box, or the remains of a cigarette for instance. Do you ever confront them and ask them why they do it, or ask them to pick it up and throw it in a bin?
I think most people react the same in these situations. Maybe out of fear. Sometimes fear of retaliation, but in a lot of cases probably just to avoid the potentially awkwardness that it will result in.
I always wonder “why” someone jumps a line, or doesn’t bother to throw their junk in a bin nearby. I find the why almost more interesting than the act itself. Maybe they have a very good reason. Someone might have just gotten back from the dentist and be in a lot of pain. Their partner might be very ill and they have to get home as quickly as possible to help them. With some creativity you can think of a lot of reasons why someone might be behaving inconsiderate, but we don’t know, because we don’t ask.
I think of myself as being pretty considering. I try to
treat people with the same respect that I hope that they will treat me with. I don’t litter my environment. I even regularly pick up someone else’s junk if it’s close to a bin and doesn’t look too gross. But I hardly ever give feedback to someone directly about their behavior if they are being rude or inconsiderate to other people, themselves, or our environment. Except in traffic sometimes…but that’s a completely different story…
I’m going to try to make a change and at least ask “why” more often. People might surprise me. And if not, then my question might surprise them enough to trigger something.