impact

The Pareto Principle

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I ordered my green smoothie, minus the chia seeds.

“Just so you know,” he said, “after Friday we’ll no longer be serving smoothies. They generate the smallest amount of our revenue and cause all of our headaches.”

“Have you heard of the Pareto Principle?”

“Yes, I love the Pareto Principle!”

We proceeded to geek out on the Pareto Principle for the next 10 or so minutes, after which I walked out with one of the last remaining green smoothies on the menu.

The Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule, states that for many events, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. It is credited to Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto, who was born in Italy in 1848. In his case, he noticed that 80% of his pea plants generated 80% of the healthy pea pods, and then went on to discover that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.

In the case of the restaurant I visited, 80% of their stress, irritation, and time investment tied back to 20% of their menu items (in this case, smoothies and smoothie bowls). And this 80% stress, irritation, and time investment produced under 20% of their revenue.

We can apply this same principle to nearly any type of business, to how we structure our work day, to the way we prioritize our work, and even how we approach our health and fitness.

Like Essentialism, this is one of those things that (for me) feels like common sense, yet takes constant attention and intentionality to apply in everyday life.

Here are a few ways that I like to practice the Pareto Principle.

  • Looking across all the projects I’m currently involved with, which fall in the 20% that create 80% of the positive impact and also feel the most joyful?

  • On the flip side, which projects fall in the 20% that create 80% of the stress and headaches?

  • Looking at the flow of my workday, where can I invest 20% of my time and effort for 80% of the returns? (For me, when doing independent work, the answer always falls in the early hours of the morning.)

  • Looking across my life at the things that aren’t working as well as they could be, where are the 20% of small irritations that are causing 80% of the lack of daily ease? (often, for me, this ties back to some sort of misalignment with my calendar.)

  • Which 20% of clothing items do I wear 80% of the time? (I’ve been working on continuously donating that other 80%, as for me there is a very clear 20%. I tend to wear the exact same few outfits on rotation.)

  • In which 20% of our house do we spend 80% of our time, and how can we maximize that 20% for the way we live?

  • Looking at my list of monthly, weekly, and daily to-dos, which 20% will yield 80% of the results?

The Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 Rule, can help us to focus our time and energy on the things that yield the highest results.

Do you use the Pareto Principle? If so, in what ways has it been helpful for you?

Manifestation and Action

"Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life."

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There’s much in the personal development space about this concept…about the fact that our dream lives are ours to create...about the fact that anything is possible...about hustling, about shining bright, about getting after it, about believing...and about doing all of the other things we see made into nice inspirational quotes, written in calligraphy.

I believe that so much is possible. I believe that changing our thinking and the way we view the world can have a massive impact on how we feel each day. I believe we can create from everything. *And,* I believe that sometimes, in these spaces of motivation and personal development and anything is possible and your dreams are yours to achieve that we sometimes neglect to talk about some of the harder, more complicated parts of this equation. Like the fact that in many ways, even being able to have these conversations and think about these things are privileges themselves.

What can it look like to hold both?

The possibility, and also the reality of what is happening around us?

The invitation to manifest, alongside a commitment to action?

Being positive and optimistic, while not turning a blind eye to the things that are deeply painful in our country and our world right now?

These are questions that don't have quick and easy answers...questions that I feel committed to examining and exploring and that I’ve been leaning into.

What do you think?

3 Ways to Create More Freedom in Everyday Life

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In celebration of Independence Day, let's talk about freedom. As those of us in the United States celebrate our freedom as a nation and the many freedoms we're afforded by living in the US, I've been thinking about what freedom feels like to me in small everyday ways. 

Freedom is not only something I'm grateful for, but it is also one of my values. When I feel free, I feel happy, and often when I feel happiest is when I feel most free. 

So how can we cultivate more freedom in our everyday lives? Here are a few things that I find helpful.

1. Ask Yourself: What Makes Me Feel Free? Write it Down. 

For me, I feel most free...

  • In nature
  • During the summertime - and in the presence of sunshine and warm weather 
  • When I have time and space on my calendar to breathe, zoom up, think strategically, and be creative 
  • When I have some level of flexibility for impromptu plans throughout my weeks and months
  • When I create time early in the morning to think, plan, reflect, and write 

I have found that I feel least free when I feel trapped by my calendar, trapped by commitments that don't tie to my values or my higher purpose, or trapped by too much back-to-back work-related travel. Identifying what makes me feel free (and what makes me feel least free) allows me to make choices that align accordingly. For me, my feeling of freedom ties directly to my feeling of creativity - and ultimately helps me serve my clients in a more impactful way. 

2. Free Yourself From Your Inbox

Over the past 5 years, I've had the opportunity to offer leadership-based workshops and courses to thousands of successful professionals across many different industries. Regardless of role, tenure, or working style, one of the most common things I hear is that people feel trapped by their inbox - a constant flood of incoming emails each day, taking their attention away from the things that matter most, and causing them to feel as though they can never catch up.

I believe there is a better way!. And this better way involves putting ourselves back in charge of our inboxes. Here's how:

  • Determine how often you need to check email each day in order to be effective and responsive. I've found that for most roles and industries, people self-identify that the sweet spot is around 4 times per day. For some it is more, and others is less. 
  • Determine, based on the above number, the optimal times to check email. I typically recommend morning - but not first thing, late morning/midday, mid-afternoon, and end of day.
  • Schedule 20-30 minutes at each of these times to check email. Pull out any tasks, to-dos, or follow-up items into a separate list. 
  • Start your day free of intake (this includes your inbox!). Give yourself at least 10 minutes each morning to reflect on your highest priorities for the day before opening your inbox. 
  • Turn off all notifications for your email and your inbox. In this new model, you are now in control of when you check your email; those notifications are no longer in control of you!
  • When you're finished checking email during your pre-determined blocks, close out your inbox entirely, and back away slowly.

I recognize that this entire process may sound terrifying - especially if you're accustomed to having your inbox open all day long, and responding to emails individually as they come in. The process of checking emails all day everyday can have a huge hit on our productivity; research from Gloria Marks at the University of California-Irvine has found that we are distracted, on average, every 11 minutes - and that it can take us 25 minutes to return to our original task after interruption. If we think about this data in the context of our inbox, we can quickly start to understand why it's easy to feel like on some days, we go to work for 8-10 hours per day but get nothing done. 

I've had many clients go through this process, and the impact has been tremendous. (even for clients who were very resistant at first!) Almost immediately, my clients have noticed decreased stress and frustration, and an increased feeling of productivity. 

3. Get Rid of Commitments that Feel Like Obligations 

Do you dread going to committee meetings for the volunteer group that you're a part of? Did you renew your position on the board because you felt obligated to, rather than because you wanted to? Have you filled your calendar with meetings, scheduled months into the future, that don't actually align with your highest purpose at your job, in your business, or overall?

Time is our most precious and valuable resource. It's a resource that we never get back once we spend it. And yet often, we give away our time in ways that we would never give away our money or other resources. Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, when we are doing things out of a feeling of obligation, we are simply not having the greatest impact possible - because we are not operating from a place that is aligned with our passion and our purpose. 

When saying "yes" to things that we put on the calendar, I invite you to reflect on the following:

  • Is this a "hell yeah?" In the words of Derek Sivers (and many others since), "if it's not a hell yeah, it's a no." 
  • Does this commitment align with my values? 
  • Does this commitment align with my higher purpose? Am I creating some sort of positive impact through this commitment? 
  • Do I know why I'm here? This is especially important if you're working within an organization that is facing meeting overload. When planning meetings, each participant should have a clear understanding of why they are being asked to participate in the meeting. If you receive an invitation to a meeting and you're not sure that you need to be there, I invite you to be empowered to ask! Several of my clients have been able to reduce meeting fatigue within their organizations  by consistently asking this question for every meeting they schedule. 
  • What is the cost? If I say "yes" to this, what is the trade-off? And am I okay with that trade-off?

If this is hard for you (it's still incredibly hard for me too - even after practicing this diligently for the last five years), I recommend reading the book Essentialism. And then, if you're like me, reading it again...and again. :)

Note: May we remember, as we celebrate our independence, that we are, and always have been, a nation of immigrants.  If you are looking for ways to support families separated at the border, you may consider reading this article for ways to get involved and concrete steps you can take to contact your representatives, and/or supporting one of the following organizations. 

I hope that these strategies are useful to you as you consider ways to create more freedom in your everyday life. I'd love to hear from you if you try some of them out, or if you have other strategies that you find useful. 

My Current Weekly Review Process

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Those of you who know me, or who have been following along for awhile, know that I love all things reflection-related. Journaling, visioning, intention setting, morning reflection - I love it all, and I do most of it regularly as part of my daily and weekly rhythms. 

That said, I'm not an incredibly structured person - meaning that I often do what I feel like doing, when I feel like doing it, within a general framework that I'm committed to, when it comes to these things. Sometimes it's my favorite notebook and a pen in the morning. Other times it's the Desire Map Planner or the Five Minute Journal

One thing that I haven't been terribly diligent with recently is an in-depth weekly review. I've done various forms of a weekly review over the years, but I hadn't found one that really stuck. Inspired by this article, which my friend Megan sent to me, I decided to revive my weekly review in hopes of creating something that a) would be deeply impactful and b) I'd look forward to doing each week.

I'm feeling quite excited that so far, it seems that my revived weekly review process is a winner. I've typically been doing it on Sundays, and it includes deep reflection on the week prior, as well as planning and visioning for the week ahead. 

Some of the key reflections in this weekly review include:

  • Successes and Things to Celebrate 
  • Things I Wish I'd Done Differently
  • Things I'm Stalling On and Why I Might Be Stalling 
  • Brutal Honesty about Things that Didn't Get Done 
  • Progress on Top 3-5 Priorities from the Week Prior 
  • Identification of Top 3-5 Priorities for the Week Ahead
  • Project Check-In: Are All Projects On Track?
  • Logistical Check-In: Have I Taken Care of All Logistical Items for the Week?
  • Values Check-In: How Have I Honored Each of My Values This Week?
  • Things I Learned
  • My Why and My Stake for the Week Ahead

I've been amazed at the way in which this process has helped me to simplify my weeks, and also get more done, in the time that I've been using it.

Do you have a weekly review process that you like?

Or would you like a copy of the worksheet that I am using for this process? If so, feel free to drop me a note at sarah@zingcollaborative.com and I'll happily send a copy your way. 

Happy Reviewing!

 

 

Lessons I've Been Learning This Year

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This week, I embrace another year of life - a gift I am so grateful for, and something I do not take lightly. What an amazing opportunity we have to live on this earth and continue to create our lives each day.

This week, between eating lemon cremes, lemon macarons, and lemon cupcakes (there’s a trend happening here - it's been my strategy to deal with the April Blizzard we've gotten here in the midwest), I’ve been reflecting on some things I’ve been learning over the course of this past year of life.

Do It Your Way.

This is a lesson I’ve been both teaching, and learning, since I started my business. It doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing, how anyone else is running their business, or what anyone else’s website looks like. What matters is that we are creating in a way that is 100% aligned with who we are and what we believe, in a way that serves the world from a place of our unique genius. If ever I find myself even 2% adrift from this place of pure alignment, I know that it is time to pause, tune in, get quiet, and shift accordingly. And for everyone out there who is building something and has the urge to go look at other people’s websites “for inspiration,” please - I beg you - don’t do it. I promise you, your energy is better spent with your head down and your heart open to your own version of truth and inspiration.

Schedule it First. On the Calendar. Otherwise, It Almost Certainly Won’t Happen.

This goes for time with girlfriends, trips to see family, vacations, yoga classes, date nights, weekend adventures, and all the other things we say we want to do but can’t find time for. We will never find the time. We must create it, and we must create it first.

Go for the Comfortable Couch.

While the mid-century modern apartment sofa looks cool in the living room, nobody (including me) actually wants to sit on it.

When Working with the Right Clients, the Business Model is Easy.

“Work with amazing clients who inspire me” is the majority of my business model, and has been for the last several years. It’s a part of my business model that I never plan to change.

Vibes Matter.

The energy of spaces and places matters. I spent two years searching for a new home yoga studio, visiting almost every studio in my city. I finally found “the one” - based almost 100% on the energy and vibes. A studio that smells like feet, has a crumbling ceiling, or has a waiting area that feels like a sardine can is not a studio that I want to hang out in. Acknowledging the importance of vibes and energy allows me to more easily make decisions about where to spend my time and my money.

Enthusiasm Can Have a Dark Side.

My top Strength in Strengthsfinder is Positivity. All of my other assessments cite “creativity, visioning, possibilities, and enthusiasm” as top traits. All of these things have major gifts - especially as an entrepreneur and someone who likes to create and start things. However, they also have downsides; it can be easy for me to get wrapped up in an idea, a possibility, and the potential for what something “could be” versus the reality of what it really is or how much time it will actually take.

We Often Need to Take Our Foot off the Gas to Realize How Fast We Were Going.

2017 was a year of velocity for me. I didn’t realize the speed at which I was driving until I finally paused and took my foot off the gas in late December. Upon doing so, I realized that it had been a thrilling ride, but that the car would eventually run out of gas if I kept driving at that pace. I needed to take my foot off the gas in order for this realization to occur; I didn’t notice the danger of running out of gas while I’d been driving, full speed, with the windows down and the music turned up high. While driving at full speed is exhilarating, I realized that I also need to build in time to take the car in for a tune-up, refill the tank with gas, and even take the slow scenic road at 25 mph once in a while - ideally, before the last week of the year.

Ways to Stay Grounded During Ungrounding Times

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It's been another week of heartbreak and tragedy in our country.

2017 continues to test our resilience and our optimism. Each time we momentarily catch our breath from one tragedy, it seems, another occurs. 

This cycle leaves us in a seemingly constant state of fight or flight mode. It's hard to create positive change when we are elevated, stressed, and reactive. We create positive change through intentional action. Intentional action requires that we are present and calm.  

We often hear that we must first fill our own cup so that we may fill the cups of others. This is especially true right now. Below are a few strategies that help.

1. Make a list of things that make you feel calm and grounded. Do at least one thing from your list every day. 

My list includes cooking, delicious food, hot baths, time in nature, movement, writing and quiet reflection, flowers/plants/planting things, and time with soul sisters. When I'm feeling ungrounded or overwhelmed by the events of the world, I know that these activities help me feel more grounded and put me in a place where I can more consciously digest what I'm reading and learning.

I invite you to make a similar list - a list of things that are both accessible and powerful. Ideally, they don't require a lot of supplies, travel, or advanced planning. One of my clients keeps her list visible, and references it as a checklist whenever she's feeling overwhelmed.

2. Make a list of the people in your tribe. Connect with them regularly.

These are the people who get you, who fill you up, and who raise your average. These are the people who ask you how you are and then really listen to your response. They are the people who are thoughtful and kind, and who leave you feeling nourished rather than depleted after you spend time together. 

If you are feeling uncertain about whether your current tribe mates meet the above criteria, I lovingly encourage you to expand your tribe. Life is too short for friends who make you feel shitty. Consider attending events or Meet-Ups, volunteering, or perhaps even apps like Bumble BFF - I have a number of girlfriends who are having great success meeting new female friends via this app.

3. Be still. 

Whether it's quiet reflection, prayer, meditation, or just slowly drinking a cup of coffee in the morning, create time each day for stillness. I recommend doing this first thing in the morning  (more here and here on morning rituals and routines). This doesn't need to be two hours. It can be five minutes. And it's more essential now than ever. 

4. Bookend your day.

"Bookending" is a term I've been using for a strategy that I've been experimenting with for the last year or so. The idea is: start and end the day in a way that feels joyful. I've found this to almost always lead to a really good day. The bookends don't need to be fancy - but they should be things that feel fun and nourishing (you may want to consult your list from #1), and ideally they should be one of the first and last things you do each day. 

5. Avoid reading the news first thing in the morning or right before you go to bed. 

If you took my Efficiency and Flow course, or if you've ever been in one of my leadership courses, there's a good chance that you've been part of a passionate discussion about not checking email from bed first thing in the morning. This also applies to the news. Checking the news first thing in the morning or right before bed, especially right now, can wreak havoc on our mood, our sleep, and our productivity. In the morning, I recommend reading the news only after you've completed your morning routine (see #3 and here and here). In the evening, I recommend reading the news for the final time at least an hour before you plan to go to bed.

6. Take action. 

It can be easy to feel helpless and hopeless and think "there's nothing I can do." But there is always something we can do. Make donations to organizations that support the causes you care about. Join groups and organizations that are talking about the issues that matter. Get involved locally. Contact your representatives. Write letters or have a postcard writing party.  Make a commitment to yourself to take some sort of positive action each day, or each week. Enlist members of your tribe (see #2) to join you. We will not create positive change by ranting on Facebook or losing hope. We will create positive change through action. 

7. Connect through kindness.

Make eye contact with someone you don't know. Smile. Buy a stranger coffee. Let someone merge in front of you on the highway. Say "thank you" and "I love you" and "you did great work this week." Send a hand-written note, flowers, or a small gift to someone dear to you. Look up from your device and at another human. 

We cannot control the events of the world at large. But we do have the ability to impact how we engage in our own worlds. We need to be the change that we want to see in our world - and that is an opportunity we have every single day.