Keep track of what really matters

I am a fan of keeping a journal. I keep one myself and I encourage the leaders I work with to do the same.

The format does not really matter (what you thought, what you did, what you said, how you felt, etc.) as long as you record it. By recording it you’re acknowledging that it mattered at the time and you’re making it matter now.

You don’t keep a journal to revisit it. You keep a journal to make a record, to state that your day mattered.

I’m reminded of this by a recent post I read on keeping a Good Times list:

to notice and record the moments and experiences in life that bring you joy, or that energise and fulfil you. This one thing will help you appreciate what really matters, and to do more of them. It’s simple to do, and you need nothing more than a pen and paper.

It’s another form of “counting your blessings”. And it will help you keep track of what really matters.

[photo by Dina Spencer]

 

 

It’s too early to call it “the new normal”

We’re at the end of Week 3. We made it through another week!

I say “made it through” because there is nothing usual about these times.

Almost 10 million people filed unemployment clams in the last two weeks. 24% of SMEs have shut down temporarily in response to COVID-19. Among those who haven’t temporarily shut down, 40% are likely to do so within the next two weeks. I think folks are too quick to call the current circumstances “the new normal”.

And for those of us who are still employed, we’re not really “working from home”. It’s more like we’re at home, with our spouse/partner, with our children, with our pets, all day, every day, trying to get work done.

We’re coordinating events, chores, and meals with our spouse/partner, arranging lessons and homework with the children, walking the dog, etc., all day, every day, trying to get work done.

This is not the common variety of remote work, distributed work, or WFH. This is survival in new challenging circumstances that will last for a while.

So, let’s not expect productivity to be the same as before – our productivity, that of the people we work with, and that of the people who work for us.

And let’s not judge. Depending on whether you have worked from home before this, whether you have children at home, and depending on the health of your financial situation, everyone is tackling different sets of challenges which might cause them to be nervous, anxious, and scared.

If anything, these new circumstances should make us more understanding, kinder, and more forgiving of ourselves and others.

Stay healthy. Stay home. Stay connected.

 

Finding humor amid the challenges of working from home

As countries are now enforcing some form of quarantine, many of us are (re)discovering the travails of working from home.

You might remember Robert Kelly on the BBC from some years ago. I’m sure he didn’t find the episode humorous as it occurred…

but he certainly did later.

Stay healthy… and keep smiling!

 

How can management theories guide life decisions?

On the last day of class, Clayton Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor, asks his students to turn those theoretical lenses on themselves to find cogent answers to three questions:

First, how can I be sure that I’ll be happy in my career?

Second, how can I be sure that my relationships with my spouse and my family become an enduring source of happiness?

Third, how can I be sure I’ll stay out of jail?

Though the last question sounds lighthearted, it’s not. Two of the 32 people in my Rhodes scholar class spent time in jail. Jeff Skilling of Enron fame was a classmate of mine at HBS. These were good guys—but something in their lives sent them off in the wrong direction.

As the students discuss the answers to these questions, I open my own life to them as a case study of sorts, to illustrate how they can use the theories from our course to guide their life decisions.

More at How will you measure your life?

 

 

 

Life lost on the curated projections of other people’s lives?

Worth pondering from James Shelley:

Time spent reading social timelines is time lost. Scrolling through a timeline is time consumed by the curated projections of other people’s lives, which are absorbed wholly and only at the cost of living your own.

Or, to put it another way: time spent on timelines amounts to time spent not living your life.

Spending your time on a timeline is valuable only to the extent you define value in your life by the amount of your life spent reading about the lives of others.

Time spent on a timeline is not time paused, it is life extracted. On average, then, time spent reading timelines is irredeemable and wasted.

If the most immediate value we derive from timelines is that they distract us from ourselves — from the lives we are living, here and now — how much value should ascribe to them?

See also Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.

 

9 Simple Money Rules On 1 Index Card

“[The best personal finance advice] can fit on a 3-by-5 index card, and is available for free in the library.”

“So, if you’re paying someone for advice, almost by definition, you’re probably getting the wrong advice because the correct advice is so straightforward.”

 

  1. Max your 401(k) or equivalent employee contribution.
  2. Buy inexpensive, well-diversified mutual funds such as Vanguard Target 20xx funds.
  3. Never buy or sell an individual security. The person on the other side of the table knows more than you do about this stuff.
  4. Save 20% of your money.
  5. Pay your credit card balance in full every month.
  6. Maximize tax-advantaged savings vehicles like Roth, SEP and 529 accounts.
  7. Pay attention to fees. Avoid actively managed funds.
  8. Make financial advisors commit to the fiduciary standard.
  9. Promote social insurance programs to help people when things go wrong.

Source: The Index Card

 

Here’s a 10-point audit to help you assess your stress level

Manfred Kets de Vries at KnowledgeINSEAD:

Consider your life today and answer the following questions:

  1. Do you feel that your life is out of control and that you have too many things on your plate?
  2. Do you often feel confused, anxious, irritable, fatigued or physically debilitated?
  3. Are you having increased interpersonal conflicts (e.g. with your spouse, children, other family members, friends or colleagues)?
  4. Do you feel that negative thoughts and feelings are affecting how you function at home or at work?
  5. Is your work or home life no longer giving you any pleasure?
  6. Do you feel overwhelmed by the demands of emails, messaging tools and social media?
  7. Do you feel that your life has become a never-ending treadmill?
  8. Are you prone to serious pangs of guilt every time you try to relax?
  9. Have you recently experienced a life-altering event such as a change of marital status, new work responsibilities, job loss, retirement, financial difficulties, injury, illness or death in the family?
  10. When you are stressed out, do you feel that you have nobody to talk to?

If you have answered “yes” to most of these questions, stress might have started to build up. If you feel close to your breaking point, it’s high time to take action.

 

 

We are verbs, not nouns

In conversations with managers, I often hear people say something like “Well, I can’t help myself, that’s who I am, I’m an engineer / a finance person / a lawyer,” etc.

I share Stephen Fry’s consideration in The Guardian:

“We are not nouns, we are verbs.

I am not a thing – an actor, a writer – I am a person who does things – I write, I act – and I never know what I am going to do next.

I think you can be imprisoned if you think of yourself as a noun.”

 

Your job might be killing you

There are 120,000 excess deaths per year attributed to ten workplace conditions and they cause approximately $190 billion in incremental health care costs. That makes the workplace the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. — higher than Alzheimer’s, higher than kidney disease.

  1. Being unemployed sometimes as a result of a layoff.
  2. Not having health insurance.
  3. Working shifts and also working longer periods, e.g., ten or twelve-hours shifts.
  4. Working long hours in a week (e.g., more than 40 hours per week).
  5. Job insecurity (resulting from colleagues being laid off or fired).
  6. Facing family-to-work and work-to-family spillover or conflict.
  7. Having relatively low control over one’s job e.g., workload.
  8. Facing high work demands such as pressure to increase productivity and to work quickly.
  9. Being in a work environment that offers low levels of social support (e.g., not having close relationships with co-workers.
  10. Working in a setting in which job- and employment-related decisions seem unfair.

Both articles report the findings published by Jeffrey Pfeffer in Dying for a Paycheck: How Modern Management Harms Employee Health and Company Performance—and What We Can Do About It.

I have not read the book yet, but I definitely will.