Minutia

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How do you prevent the minutia from taking over in everyday life? The laundry to fold, the groceries to pick up, the dog poop in the back yard, the package to drop off at the post office. The schedules to coordinate, the dog sitter to book, the bills to update on auto-pay, the scuffs on the wall to touch up with paint. These things can take over our time, our thoughts, and our conversations if we let them.

I know that these details are part of everyday life. Our life is made up of the moments, after all.

However, as an ENFP, I hate the minutia. I dislike talking about and thinking about logistics. I don’t want to dwell on details.

Instead, I want to dream big. I want to think about projects and possibilities. I want to tap into inspiration and the things that move me. I want to reflect on how we might put a dent in some of the big problems we face  in our world.

And yet, the details exist. The minutia remains. In many cases, we need the details in order to do the projects and have the space and capacity to create from.

What can it look like to have the details taken care of, while creating time and space for dreaming big, thinking ahead to the future, and solving real and important problems? What can it look like to accept and honor the place of the details, but in a way that doesn’t take over? How can we prevent the details and the minutia and the mechanics of everyday life from taking over conversations and thoughts and romances? What can it look like to tap into spirit while still getting the laundry done? To dream big and still empty the dishwasher? To put a positive dent in the world while still picking up the dog poop in the backyard?

This is an ever-present balance I’m trying to hold. I don’t always succeed. And, here are a few things I’m trying.

  • Create time each morning for the big stuff - writing, thinking, reflecting, and dreaming big. While this is something I’ve always done since starting my business, it feels increasingly important as there are more and more logistics than ever with this whole thing that we can summarize as #adulting.

  • Put the logistics into a specific container - a daily scrum, which houses all things that are logistical in nature. Logistics are reserved for the scrum and the scrum only, except in cases of high urgency that require discussion sooner.

  • Outsource. While outsourcing often involves hiring someone to help with the logistical components of life or business, it can also involve doing a trade, or other creative options. Clients have shared creative ways they’ve structured trades for childcare; other friends trade services such as help with yard work in exchange for help with painting. *Note: I recognize that this bullet, in particular, assumes some level of privilege - whether hiring someone, or doing a trade. It assumes that we have some level of discretion with our money and our time.

  • Hold the logistics lightly. It’s easy to let the logistics and the minutia take over if we let them. And, at the end of the day, there’s fluidity with most of them. It doesn’t really matter all that much if we empty the dishwasher at night or in the morning; if we get all of the laundry done before we leave the house or if we save some for later; if the package gets to the post office on Friday rather than today.

What about you? What are some of the ways that you allow the details and the logistics and the minutia to be taken care of, without taking over entirely? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


The Calendar Habits that are Currently Changing My Life

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A Simpler Time. Simplifying. Simplicity.

Themes of conversations I’ve been having a lot of with clients and friends over the past couple weeks. As we are building successful businesses and making more money and having more impact and growing in our careers, how can we stop and remember…

What’s it all about?

What really matters?

How can we go through our days and our weeks and our lives feeling free?

How can we simplify?

While I’m all for some life-changing magic of tidying up, I find that my own feelings of simplicity and freedom have more to do with my calendar and how I’m spending my time than how I’m folding my sweaters. For me, when my calendar feels out of control, my life feels out of control. And when my calendar feels aligned, my life feels more aligned.

As a result, my relationship with my calendar has been a constant work in progress. Since starting my business, I find myself unintentionally repeating some of the habits I learned in the corporate world - back to back meetings, double and triple booking myself, and packing my day with commitments from 7 am until 6 pm. Changing these habits is still a work in progress for me, even after running my business for over five years.

In recent months, I’ve been looking more closely than ever at the calendar habits that create more simplicity in my life...at the practices that make me feel more free...and that ultimately allow me to have more positive impact by focusing on the things that matter most. Here they are.


Do a 2-Week Look Ahead, Each Week.

This has been the most transformative process I’ve implemented recently (credit for this practice goes to Jake). Each Sunday or Monday, Jake and I sit down with our calendars, and look out at the next two weeks. What do we have going on? What shared commitments do we have? What logistical considerations do we need to think about for the weeks ahead? And what shared time do we want to block off to hang out, have dinner with friends, or take the pup to the dog park?

While I’ve been in a solid rhythm of doing my own weekly review for the past several months (which I also love), the process of the shared look-ahead has not only made my life feel simpler, but it’s helped to create shared accountability for non-work-related things that we want to prioritize. I can’t recommend this process enough.

Create White Space.

Schedule at least 30 minutes of white space (ideally more, when possible) each day to “zoom up” from the whirlwind and think critically about the things that matter most. To increase your odds of maximizing this time, make a note about what you want to focus on. For example - do you want to use this time to identify key priorities for the week ahead? Do you want to use it to connect with a client who you haven’t talked to in awhile? Or do you want to use it for quiet thinking and reflection? Schedule the block on your calendar, along with a note about its purpose.

Schedule Meeting-Free Time.

Reserve a half-day free of meetings once per week, to focus on strategic work and big picture projects. If you are part of a team, I recommend implementing this practice as a team. Collectively identify a block each week that could be free of internal meetings, and create an agreement to preserve that block.

Several of my clients have done this by creating a block of time each week that is free from internal meetings, and it has increased both the happiness and the overall impact of the team, by giving each team member a sacred block of time for heads down work each week.

Be Specific.

Be as specific as possible about what is happening within each calendar block, to increase the likelihood of it happening. For example, instead of relying on a recurring calendar hold that says “focus time,” add specific details about how you want to use your focus time during your 2-week look ahead. Otherwise, it’s very easy to allow this time to be overtaken by meetings or lower impact work.

Look Critically at Meetings.

Think critically about which meetings you need to be a part of. Ask, “what specific impact can I have in this meeting?” If you’re not sure, have a conversation about whether it really makes sense to attend. If you lead or manage others, have this conversation with your team members. How does the team feel about the effectiveness and relevance of weekly and monthly meetings? Are the meetings serving the overall purpose of the team, and the organization? Are there any changes that need to be made? The 2015 State of Enterprise Work Survey found that “wasteful meetings” were employees’ top obstacle to getting work done. Improve your approach to meetings as a way to improve your overall outcomes.

Be Realistic.

Schedule buffer time after meetings that often run long. If there are certain client conversations that always take longer than the scheduled hour-long block, add a 30-minute block to your calendar after each of these meetings so you can plan for the overage. Plan ahead so that you can feel prepared, rather than feeling as though you’re constantly running behind.

Add commute time and meeting transition time to your calendar - and base this on the “worst possible scenario” (lots of traffic, lots of red lights, seeing several colleagues in the hallway) versus “best possible scenario” (no traffic, all green lights, and seeing no other humans on the way).

Schedule Personal Commitments.

Add personal items - even small ones, like going to the grocery store - to your calendar so that you can plan for them as part of your day, rather than trying to “squeeze them in” to an already-packed calendar. As part of your 2-week look ahead, think about all of the priorities in your life - especially the priorities that span beyond work and client commitments - and the ways that you want to honor these priorities over the course of the upcoming two weeks.

Peter Drucker once said, “what gets measured gets managed.” For many of us, our calendar is a measure of how we spend our time. Being intentional about our calendar allows us to be intentional about our days, our weeks, and our lives.

“How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.” - Annie Dillard



Real Self versus Fantasy Self

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Are there any areas in your life where you’re holding yourself to certain expectations based on what I call your Fantasy Self? The fantasy self is a version of yourself that doesn’t exist today ... but might ... someday in the future.

For several years I had a fantasy self who meal planned. I was always so inspired by the people who had every single meal written neatly on a beautiful little meal planning calendar for the week, along with sides, snacks, and sauces. Chicken fettuccini with kale salad on Monday, fish tacos with cilantro cream sauce on Tuesday. ‘How glorious would it be to be so organized and have this type of menu prepared?!’ my fantasy self thought. My fantasy self tried to get into meal planning for years. I always thought that I just wasn’t organized enough, or proactive enough, or maybe that I wasn’t doing it right.

And then it dawned on me: my real self hates meal planning! My real self finds it confining and suffocating. My real self has no clue on Sunday what she wants to eat on Wednesday. My real self loves the creativity that comes from looking around the kitchen and creating something with what’s there. My real self loves what I call Spontaneously Inspired Cooking. My real self doesn’t need a meal plan or a fancy calendar. All she needs is groceries. My real self finds creativity in the kitchen, and a rigid meal plan totally stifles that creativity.

This realization about my fantasy self who meal plans and my real self who loves spontaneously inspired cooking occurred to me only within the last year and has been wildly freeing and empowering.

My question for you: are there any areas in your life where you’re holding yourself to expectations of a fantasy self, when in fact you could tap into what’s true for your real self, to create more joy, more ease, and more alignment? 

Why Saying No More Isn't Always the Answer

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There’s been a lot of talk in the self-development space and the entrepreneurial space over the last few years about saying No more.

It can be an important thing to practice, especially for those of us who say yes too much, who over-extend ourselves, and who happen to be Obligers.  Obligers tend to meet expectations from others, and resist expectations of ourselves, which, if not proactively managed, can be a recipe for exhaustion, burnout, and even resentment if it goes on too long. (If you’d like to explore your own tendency, Gretchen Rubin has a free, and super quick quiz here, as well as a whole book about this framework. I highly recommend both.)

That said, if we focus only on saying No, we miss another, perhaps more important question:

What are we saying Yes to?

I believe this is the question that matters most of all.

Before we start saying No, we first must start saying Yes – to the things that matter most, to the things that align with our values, and to the things we want to create more of in our lives.

Then, from this place, figuring out what to say No to becomes easy. We have filled our time, our calendars, our weeks, and our lives with the things that truly matter. In this model, saying No is less of a difficult decision, and more of a natural outcome.

Here is a process that I find helpful for doing so.

  1. Write down your values. At the end of the day, what matters most to you? What are the things you hold dear? When you strip it all away, what is most important? Write these things down; make a list.
  2. What are the things you’d like to create more of in your life? What are the things that aren’t as present today, but that you wish were?
  3. How can you create the greatest impact? What are you doing when you provide the most value and are operating in line with your purpose?
  4. Now, for all three of the areas above, write down what these things look like in action. What do you do to honor your values? How do you know when you see them? What do they look like on your calendar or in your life? What will it look like when the thing you want more of is present? What will be different? And what do you see when you are aligned with your purpose?

Here are just a few select examples from my list of “things I’d like to create more of in my life.”


What I'd Like to Create More of In My Life

  • Ease

What It Looks Like in Action 

  • Asking “what would this look like if it were easy?”
  • Asking “how could this be simplified??
  • Being mindful about avoiding back-and-forth scheduling nightmares

What I'd Like to Create More of In My Life

  • Time with my family and my sweet nieces

What It Looks Like in Action

  • Combining work travel with family visits when possible
  • Blocking out family visits in advance, and not scheduling over this block
  • Impromptu “let’s meet in XYZ place” meet-ups

What I'd Like to Create More of In My Life

  • Spontaneity

What It Looks Like in Action

  • Avoiding coffee meetings scheduled 6 months into the future and instead meeting up spontaneously when schedules allow
  • White space on my calendar that allows spontaneity to occur
  • Texting girlfriends to say “want to go for a walk?” or “want to grab coffee?”

This year, for example, I have been focusing on creating ways to see my family and my nieces more. Without this intention, this wasn’t happening as often as I’d wanted it to. Last year, my mom and I tried to find a day to bake Christmas cookies together - something we’ve done on and off through the years since I was very little. I couldn’t find a single free day on my calendar prior to the holiday to do so; each day prior to the holiday was booked with something – meetings, client events, or travel. We even tried changing it to “baking Valentine’s Day cookies” and I had a similar challenge. Ultimately, we never baked the cookies together because I couldn’t manage to find one free/unscheduled day in December, January, or February. Around the same time, I had a similar experience when trying to schedule coffee with one of my best friends. I could not find an hour to have coffee on my schedule for weeks….with someone who has been my dear  friend since I was four years old. These situations were not okay with me, and they were a bit of a wake-up call; they prompted me to make some changes in the way that I’m working, the way that I’m scheduling, and the things I’m saying Yes to.

A natural outcome of saying Yes to more time with my family and my nieces is that there are certain things I sometimes need to say No to. For example, I have drastically reduced the number of “can-I-pick-your-brain-coffee-meetings” that I say Yes to (more on that here). While I love meeting new people and truly desire to be helpful, the truth is that by saying Yes to so many coffee meetings over the years, I was being forced to say No to my family and my best friends – an equation that was not okay with me. Today, I focus first on what I’m saying Yes to (the people closest to me in my life – my family, my friends, and my clients), and then, from there, it becomes clear where there might be alignment for another Yes, and where the answer needs to be No. It’s less about the act of saying No, and more about the values-based Yes.

These are just a few examples in my life. For me, this is an ongoing process and is always a work in progress.

The Resonant Yes and the Enlightened No

 

My invitation for you is to think about your lists. What are your values, and what do they look like in action? What are the things that you’d like to create more of in your life? What are you doing when you’re having the greatest impact? And, are there any areas where your equation is skewed, as it was for me with my mom and my best friend?

Through this process, we create the opportunity to focus on what I call the Resonant Yes and the Enlightened No. The Yes that aligns with the things that really matter, and the No that feels aligned and clear.

What do you think? Are there any Yes's you’d like to create more of in your life? And any No's  that need to take place to make them happen? I’d love to hear from you in the comments. 

3 Things that are Simply Uncool

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While most of us don't try to be assholes, there are certain things we can do that take us down that road fairly quickly. 

Here are a few of them.

1. Disparage Others on a Group Email Chain 

I have been appalled recently to witness well-educated, grown adults (many with masters degrees and even PhDs), publicly disparage each other via the dreaded "reply all" button on a group email chain. Snide comments, harsh criticism, and public shaming - aired as dirty laundry for a chain of 50 or so people to see.

Before wading into the dark waters of disparaging group emails, I invite you to ask yourself:

  • Should this be a "reply all" or just a "reply?"
  • Would I proudly say what I'm about to type, in person? 
  • Should this be a conversation or a phone call instead of an email?
  • Is this reply constructive and helpful? 
  • Will I be proud of the virtual footprint that this email chain leaves? 
  • Would I feel good about my (kids, partner, friends, loved ones) seeing this email? 
  • Is this email nurturing, or damaging, relationships? 
  • Have I walked away, breathed, paused, and thought about what I'm about to say before hitting "send?" 

Spend some time reflecting on these questions before hitting "reply" and certainly before hitting "reply all." I promise, you'll be happy that you did. 

2. Ask for a Favor, and Neglect to Say Thank You Once the Favor is Complete

I recently heard from someone who I hadn't heard from in about 7 years. He was a colleague who I had worked with for a short period of time. He asked for career advice, as he was looking to make a transition. I spent about an hour putting together a long, thoughtful email which included suggestions; resources and links; companies in the area to check out; and the best round-up of virtual support I could put together for his situation. 

I heard nothing. 

My two cents: when you ask someone for a favor and they go out of their way to help you, say thank you. At minimum, send an email or a text. Better yet, send a hand-written note. While I believe in abundance and I believe in holding a perspective of generosity for all that I do, I also believe in manners. Show some manners, and send a simple thank you.

Note: if you ask for a favor during a time of crisis - dealing with loss, dealing with grief, or from a place where you are focused on meeting your basic human needs, you are exempt from this rule. 

3. Ask someone, "Can I Pick Your Brain?" when Brain Picking is Not the Appropriate Action

The first few years of my business, I said yes to "can I pick your brain?" meetings very regularly. I'd hear from people who (similar to the above situation) I hadn't heard from in years, who wanted to "pick my brain over coffee." Wanting to be helpful, and genuinely desiring to be of service, I said yes. When we arrived at the coffee shop, I frequently learned that they specifically wanted to pick my brain on "how to start a business that looks exactly like yours." Often they used these words. 

Again - I'm all about abundance. I'm all about generosity. And I genuinely desire to serve others who are following their purpose in the world. 

And, to ask for someone's time, energy, and free advice so that you can go replicate their business as your own (which several of these people did, following our meetings - and who, in a few extreme cases, actually copied and pasted text directly from my website onto their own), is simply not cool. Additionally, by intentionally starting a business that "looks exactly like someone else's," we miss out on finding our own unique voice, our own unique purpose, and our own unique Why. 

Before asking for a "pick your brain" meeting, I recommend asking yourself:

  • What does "pick your brain" really mean to me? Am I trying to use this in place of what should be time with a paid professional to figure out the strategy and core offerings of my future business?  Side Note: I personally hate the term "pick your brain." If I want help with the strategy and core offerings for my business, I call my coach (who I pay) or my executive mentor (who I pay). If I want legal advice, I call my lawyer (who I pay). If I want free advice, I check out the SBDC or the many other resources available online. 
  • Have I taken time to think about what feels authentic and true for me? Before looking at what everyone else is doing, have I taken time to get quiet, go inward, and think about what I want for my business? As I often talk about, we need to stop looking around and start looking within. This needs to be the first step in starting any new business, any new offering, and any new endeavor. 
  • Am I offering to buy someone a $3 cup of coffee when instead I should be asking to hire them for an hour of the services that they actually provide? Have a heart to heart with yourself. And proceed accordingly. 
  • What is my intention for this meeting? Am I clear on what I desire for the meeting? Too often, I see new entrepreneurs identify "meet with XYZ entrepreneur to pick their brain" as an early step in starting their business. When asked what they want to get from the meeting with XYZ entrepreneur, they say, "I don't know." This is a waste of everyone's time. 

All of that said, there are some great reasons to ask someone for coffee, which include: getting to know someone better; connecting and sharing; catching up; learning more about their business so that you can effectively point people their way; and simply enjoying a cup of coffee together. While the list of reasons to ask someone to coffee are many, "picking your brain" will not be one on my list. 

What do you think? Are there any items you'd add to the "things that are uncool" list? Or do you have thoughts on any of the items above? I'd love to hear from you.