How to stay focused on what matters

One fact is sure in our lives: there is apparently way too many things to do compared to the time we do have available.
There is so much to do both at the workplace and at home that we think that we "have to deal with compromise."
In fact, there are many subjects we'd love to turn our thoughts to but have to recognize that we just don't have time.
Some of you may beat themselves up by telling themselves that "they should concentrate on the job in hand!"
On one side of the spectrum, labels come in. As in "procrastinator." Or "ADD" (for Attention Deficit Disorder). Or "victims."
On the other side, I know of people who try to keep up with all by behaving like superman or superwoman, only to discover that they are human persons with human limits. This can go very far, and become very destructive.

So, what to do to escape that deadly trap?

It is all in your mental attitude. Let's have a look.

Identify what matters to you

You can't be good in something if there is no passion. If you see no sense in what you do, ask yourself why you do it. What do you contribute to that makes you feel good? What's the meaning?
Look deeply. Do you want to be a good little soldier? That's not going to make you fly.
Being oneself is not that easy for most of us. It takes courage. It takes guts.
Make a list of the 20 "must do" things. And look at it deeply. Are these really "musts?" What is more like a "I do it because I don't want to upset someone?" or "I do it because that's always been the way I have done it?"

Look where you are strong and build from there

You aren't going to become more effective by leveraging your limitations. You'll become more effective by leveraging your strengths.
This may mean letting go of tasks you hate doing and outsourcing them. What about leveraging your business strengths to make more money and pay for the lawnmower man? Same for ironing, cleaning the floor and so on.
This may not come from day one but if you put your mind on that, it may happen faster than you think. Until you really trust your skills to deliver the extra means, there is no way out.

Take care of yourself first

How someone could be achieving stellar results while at the same time treating him or herself like crap is beyond me.
Do you believe you are special for yourself? Do you give you little gifts regularly? Like a massage, a walk in the park you like, or sharing time with people you enjoy being with? And I mean without guilt.
You can't genuinely help other people if you do not know how it is to help yourself.

Thank yourself when you achieve

Give you a little gift when you achieve a goal. And do it, don't forget, don't pass. It is a little habit that will help you lift mountains. It sure does for me!

Squash your limiting beliefs

Make a list of what you think you aren't allowed to do. I mean things that stay within ethical and lawful boundaries. Like in "I am not allowed to let the grass grow wild on weekends," or in  "I am not allowed to focus on the future because the present screams at me," or "I am not allowed to work less than 8 hours a day," or "I am not allowed to rest even if I am tired to death."
Do you have beliefs like that? Throw them out of window, they do you no good. Seek the reasons why you have those. Are they really yours? Have you been brainwashed in thinking that way?

Invest in your growth

One sure way to keep the motivation high and stand up to adversity is to invest in your own growth.
Did you read a skill-growth centered book or picked up a skill and followed through last month?
For example, I invested some time on how to use InkScape, a piece of software for drawing vector graphics. This gave me more confidence with such graphic work, and generally making me much more educated on graphical matters. So that I can express my thoughts and points with more impact.
Did you attended a workshop (even an on-line workshop) to understand something that can help you become a better you?
A continuous, growth centered investment regimen will do marvels for your self esteem. And better self esteem sure helps in focusing on what matters like a laser beam.

Optimize the chores and throw the crap out

Let's face it, there will also be a ton of chores to be attended to in life. We can either let them linger or let them take over our lives.
Isn't there another path? Yes: getting good at them so that they take much less time to do. Standardization to the rescue. For example I bought two dishwashers. When there is way too much to clean, these are a huge help.
Another thing is to get rid of broken things right away and not let them accumulate. A broken cup? Out to the trash. A pen that does not work anymore: trash! Objects are either in working condition or they are out. This may lead you to buy only high quality goods. More expensive, granted. But they help in staying focused. In the war "objects" vs "us", I am sure of one thing: "objects" aren't going to win!
I am not going to tell you here how I run my chores in detail but know that I've been quite harsh on reducing the burden. Outsourcing them is great as long as you can specify clearly what you want.
And stop brining in new "stuff." Do we really need yet another set of glasses, dishes, and the like? Do we really need yet another computer, peripheral, printer? More often than not, the answer is a resounding NO. Part of stopping crap mounting up is to stop it from coming in.

Don't overbook yourself and make your estimates twice the size

A big item in being able to focus on what matters is to stop thinking that overbooking yourself is the key to productivity. It is not.
So, stop planning time slices back to back. It doesn't work, will not work, and will never work no matter what.
Instead, pick three key objectives for your day and work on those. You'll feel good about having achieved them. There may be hundred things that scream for your attention. Well, you know what?
They will not all win.
Only three will. The three you selected. The three you find important. The three that give you back control on your life. And by "only" doing three, you'll be much better off than trying to do 100. "Doing 3" trumps "trying to do 100."
Also, makes your estimates twice the size. Especially if you are "trying to do 100." (In which case, you may want to make your estimate x5 or x10).
Estimates are usually done in "perfect days" without disruptions, attention drifts, and general mood swings. Make it twice the time and book your schedule accordingly.

Get help if you are in a medical condition because no amount of advice can cure that

All of the above advice is not applicable if you are suffering from a medical condition like depression.
Burnout also counts as medical condition.
In that case, the top priority is to call your health professional to get help and treatment.
There are sure signs of depression (latent or manifest) and that needs proper help.


So, let's now summarize the points to stay focused on what matters:
Identify what matters to you, look where you are strong and build from there, take care of yourself first, thank yourself when you achieve, squash your limiting beliefs, invest in your growth, optimize the chores and throw the crap out, don't overbook yourself and make your estimates twice the size, and get help if you are in a medical condition because no amount of advice can cure that.
So, to increase your focus on what matters for you, just pick one area in the list above and make something happen there for a week.
And then, repeat.
You'll be astonished by how much better you'll end up in three months.

Why forming the Belgian government is such a mess. #BeGov

Belgium is without a federal government since ... well, longer than anybody would dare to say it. It is insane. It starts looking like Israel and Palestine when it comes to coming to agreements. One is to wonder why they can't agree on how to sort out issues for such a small place. Belgium is smaller and much less complex than, say, larger San Francisco. Or New York. Being living here, and my core business being helping organizations and individuals to improve their performance, I am appalled by the current state of affairs. Isn't there anyone there having read things like "Getting to Yes" of Fischer for example? There is no long term view, everyone looks like it painted itself in a corner and can't exit by fear of either ego bruises or depleasing its constituency of voters. That's not what statemen do, that's not what a society is to be in the first place. A society is there so that it brings more benefits than trouble by working together. It seems to be the contrary now. Established perks abound, an entitlement mentality is encroached. And with the debt burden, we are heading more and more to the status of a "tax base" instead of citizens with a brain. You don't get anywhere with views like that. Or more precisely you end up in hell. We are in times of turmoil financially speaking, capital flows are rushing around the planet (look at the CHF of late, who ended up pegged with the EUR at around EUR 0.83 because it became a safe haven for a while). So, we need someone at the helm. In Rome in cases like that, they put a dictator to end the cacophony. We aren't in Rome anymore but we may end up their way, with massive devaluations and bad vibes. On a country as small as Belgium, do we ever think of being meaningful in any way on the financial checkerboard? We are going to be tossed around. People in the know do not even list Belgium in the list of countries that could make it. Get someone at the helm and fast. Again, this is a typical case of looking at one's own navel and gazing into it to death when the house is burning. A state of collective political denial that must be escaped. With friends like that, who needs enemies? So, to get out of this mess, there are priorities. And so far, what is discussed in the proposals is not about priorities, it is about minor points that render everyone sick. This is akin to a dysfunctional family full of severe narcissic pathological cases. You can't get anywhere until you have sane people aboard. But you can't because they locked the door from the inside, put the house on fire, and started looking to their own navels while chanting their own gospel. So, let they burn down to the ground and start anew. There are tons of sane people around. Get some of them in charge. Get leaders of socio economic areas in charge, get leaders in social and cultural affairs in charge. The education on financial matters looks like abysmal to me. I am quite unsure if politicians can make sense of a balance sheet and an ROI statement. Is there any case of statement of objectives for all this? Currently, I do see none. I see lots of proposals, actions, and other gestures that are all hiding the truth: that there are no agreed upon objectives. It is fire fire fire without any aim, not to mention Think! And measurements on how we do progress on objectives. Again: nothing, for heaven's sake. No a single measurement. Maybe there are things from each constituency, but no externally visible thing for the citizens. Who do they think they are going to fool? They are sliding into irrelevancy. Soon enough, we'll see a takeover by FX-loaded countries. Why not seeing China buying all debt and imposing a smarter policy centered on growth. They could do it. It would rig the game into another direction for once. Maybe will it be a wakeup call. On the added value for us, the people: well, inflationary measures, an image down the drain, and a mood that isn't that positive isn't going to propel us to the pinnacle of bliss for  sure. Even if we do have very competitive assets in form of brainware, will to get things done and general smarts. The best are escaping to other countries who are decided to fight. We are bleeding talent. That's a disaster. So, we need to get these objectives, measurements, and added value items listed and acted upon. Is it so hard to see what is the common good? We want peace, we want prosperity, we want decent security, we want to be doing business in a supporting ecosystem, we want to behave like humans do, helping the poor and the unlucky. And we want to reduce stupidity levels around. That last bit isn't going to be easy. But it is not because a fight can't be won right away that one's must refrain from trying. You never know, you may get lucky.  

How to beat resistance at its own game

In a previous post, we have looked at how our own internal resistance is what makes us procrastinate. To beat this foe, we need to put a regimen in place. And make no mistake, the first sale is to ourselves. Until we see tangible benefits from our actions, resistance will always win. So, one key is to avoid shooting for the moon right out of the box. One key to stay sane and achieve is to decide on rules that can be obeyed without problems. As you match those, you can put more rules. The rules muscle will strengthen with time, no problem. For example, let's say that one rule would be: getting a shower and being dressed by 7:00 am every workday. A simple enough rule that is easy to follow, right? Well, when you are working on your own, with nobody looking at you, you may spend the day without anything like that. And feel like crap all day long, reducing your productivity. Full disclosure: been there, done that. Not anymore. Why so? Because of the benefits. The benefits of achieving a much better internal state through creating new things, or achieving goals much earlier in the day, leaving space for other activities. What makes my day is thinking about stuff, tinkering with electronics, and other non-money making activities. By just obeying that simple rule, I've seen my productivity go up, up, up! So, what next? Another easy rule is to eat at regular times. It gives a rythm. It helps in structuring the day. It keeps the energy level correct enough to avoid bad times. These are two basic rules that can help. These are just mine, you'll have to make your own. Until next time, get some rules in place!  

#Sparx Systems named in top 100 software companies for 2011

SD Times judges recognize the top innovators, leaders and influencers in the software development industry. They base their decisions on the offering, reputation and leadership of vendors in the industry. The best of the best! Recognized for its contribution to the software development industry, Sparx Systems has won its third consecutive SD Times 100 Award! The award underpins Sparx Systems' ongoing commitment to model-driven development excellence.   I've been busy recommending Enterprise Architect since version 3.6 and it never ceased to amaze me how the product reached new heights version after version. As an official VAR, trainer, you name it for helping you reach new heights as well with confidence, check my services related to that matter.

Getting things in motion and getting results

One of the hardest parts of business is to get things in motion and obtain results. A lot of people:
  • know what has to be done,
  • how to do it,
  • planned for it,
  • even put budget aside for it,
But nothing happens. Or even worse, budget is spent, time is used, but there are no results to show. Weird isn't it? How comes? Poor leadership? Poor execution? Not really. What then? Inertia The tendency of an non moving object to stay put. Once things are in motion, they tend to stay so. That's inertia as well. Good inertia would I say. So, how to create momentum? Some clues: Instead of trying to attack the most complex thing, start by doing one tiny bit. And another, and yet another. You'll build up confidence. Don't beat yourself up by not having done what you think should have been done. What good will come out of that? Especially once you realize that everything takes twice as much time to do as when you estimated it. Get rest and exercise. Without these, you'll be tired and without energy. Do you think you'll get anywhere by exhausting yourself to death? Band together with a positive supporting group. Attitude is everything for being successful. Walk with a pack of losers, you'll end up the same. Misery loves company, okay? Self control has limits. And those are much lower than you think. One full hour of concentration? That's out of the range of most humans. So, work for 40 minutes, then get a break. Allow for dynamic replanning. Who in his/her right mind would stick to a crazy plan that has no chance of success given the new developements? Adapt. Evolve. Grow. Stop the excuses train. No excuses. No whining. Then you'll face the true enemy. Your own internal resistance. Not anybody else. And that's an never ending uphill battle from there. It is easier when you know it. You know what you are fighting against. Inertia, caused by internal resistance. All of the above clues are to help you fight the battle. You may not call victory every day but it is possible to win a fair amount of encounters. Until next time, Get things in motion! And grab the Audio Version while you are here, it may come in handy when you'll feel stuck.  

Download Episode