Zen is you – Be.

Take a Vacation

Posted in stress relief by dave225 on September 19, 2008

Sometimes you just need to get away….

You might say it’s too busy to leave right now – well maybe that’s the best time to leave!

There’s never a great time to leave work – If you have a busy job, it’s always busy.  But that’s what makes a vacation so easy to do!  You’re going to have just as much crap piled on your desk when you get back as you would if you stayed.  Maybe more.  But you’re only going to be able to do as much as you can do.   (Read Doing less with less – be a monk.)  So take some time for yourself and let go of whatever’s waiting for you at the office.

Keep it in perspective: Your job is work.  Your life is worth way more than that.  Don’t forget to enjoy it.

I’ve taken vacations with a laptop before – and I’m glad that I did.  An hour in the morning of checking in (not because I was afraid of the world continuing without me, but because I was really energized about my job and loved it) – followed by 5 hours on the beach.  Not only did I keep up so that I wouldn’t have a lot of catching up to do when I returned, but I worked whenever I wanted and played whenever I wanted.   The way work ought to be!

But taking a vacation and completely shutting out work for a week (or two!) is even better.  You don’t need to scramble the day before you leave to get it all done – or burn up upon re-entry.. Approach it as you would any other day; do the important things first and let the small stuff go…

There is no crisis unless lives are at stake.

..and, I’m off….

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How are you helping?

Posted in ideas, impact by dave225 on September 14, 2008

That question has stuck with me for years… My next door neighbor, Marty was painting the garage one day when his son Ben (about 7 years old a the time) came running by, doing some childish nonsense.. whatever it was, Marty said to him, “Ben, how are you helping?”  Ben was a great kid.  That question was all it it took for him to realize that he was doing anything but being helpful.

I always wanted to make a bumpersticker that said, “How are you helping?”  Not just to get people to start thinking about whether or not they are doing enough to help, but because so many bumperstickers send a message of aggression;  And how is that helping?

So this past week, as the political campaigns have really started to ramp up and the candidate bashing has started to get ugly, I ask, “How are you helping?”  To whom are you pointing out the weaknesses of the other side’s candidate?  Are you singing to your own choir?  Are you engaging in battle with the other side?  You’re not going to win.  Bashing the candidates only make the other side hostile – it doesn’t change their vote.  And as for your own side, I once again call on Eleanor Roosevelt who said, “Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people.”  If you want to convice someone to vote for your side, discuss ideas.  Talk about what you think our society needs the most right now.  If you want to convince someone, convince them that your ideas are important.  If you get them to agree, they’ll see through the campaign bullshit and pick the best person to uphold that point of view.

And if you want to make an impact, you may need to go outside of your own neighborhood.  Although there are people near me who don’t share my ideals and won’t vote the way I vote, I know which way the scale will tip in November for my precinct.  It’s the electoral votes two hours away from me that have me worried.

You want to make a difference.  You can put a lot of time and energy into being active.  Yes, it takes a lot of energy to stay busy.  Work, work, work all day performing duties.  But the measure of impact is the output, not the input.  So how are YOU helping?

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9/11, world peace, inner peace.

Posted in Uncategorized by dave225 on September 11, 2008

Three unrelated items today that are tied together by the attack in 2001:

Daniel Schorr, eloquent as always, speaks about our society’s slow recovery. 

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=94428414

My friend Ben Blanquera posted today a video about Peace One Day – September 21.  As he passed it on, I pass it on.  http://columbustech.blogspot.com/2008/09/peace-one-day.html .  Pass it on.

In a meeting today, the facilitator started with a minute of silence to remember 9/11.  What you do with a minute of silence is up to you, but I was amazed at how long a minute of total silence feels.  We are (or maybe just I am) so used to stimulation that a minute of silence is almost uncomfortable.

Take a minute and stop everything.  And in the example of Peace One Day, take a day and stop everything.

Doing less with less

Posted in satisfaction by dave225 on September 10, 2008

I ran across this blog post yesterday about being a monk – or, like a good, capitalistic member of modern society – take a lesson from a monk. Good thoughts if you can make them work for you. One rule in particular struck me though:

Do less. A Zen monk doesn’t lead a lazy life: he wakes early and has a day filled with work. However, he doesn’t have an unending task list either — there are certain things he’s going to do today, and no more. If you do less, you can do those things more slowly, more completely and with more concentration. If you fill your day with tasks, you will be rushing from one thing to the next without stopping to think about what you do.

I combined this lesson with the way I run larger projects – I committed myself to working on specific tasks for a set period of time. When the time is up, it’s time for a new task. By first prioritizing what I really, really want to get done today, I can start by making a conscious decision about what I will not do today. So when someone asks me about anything that’s not on today’s list, I can respond with, “That is not my focus for today.” Also, by timeboxing (committing a defined duration to work on a task) I have to be sure to get the most out of that time period that I can. So if my goal for the hour is to draw a picture of my dog, I’m going to start with a rough sketch of a dog, and I’ll save the characterization of the fleas until later, if I get to that at all.

Well, I thought this would work out pretty well … But an hour into the day it fell apart. A meeting ran long. And when I returned to my desk, I found six messages waiting for me that a good portion of work from earlier in the week had somehow disappeared. Oh, how I hate a crisis! Side note: When my colleague came to my desk to alert me in person, before she could say anything, I said, “I want to read a quote to you.” The quote was something I had Tweeted earlier in the day:

“Today, I timebox everything. 1 hour to work on project definition. 1 hour to review documents, etc. No exceptions, no emergencies.”

Then I said, “Sorry, but I already claimed dibs on my day. Can’t help ya.” We both laughed and then started to work on the issue. I was prepared to chuck the plan if I needed to – but I think it also helped both of us to start with some levity.

Then I went to lunch and wrote this post.

The afternoon may not end up being any better – the issue from the morning is still unresolved. But I have taken my timeboxes for today, reevaluated them, moved some to tomorrow and kept some for today. So I feel good about having a plan, even if that plan doesn’t work out.

“The plan is nothing. The planning is everything” – Churchill

And I know this method will not work when you have ten hours of work that MUST get done today and something else comes up. But if that happens regularly, back up and plan at the week level or the month level. (Build in some contingency time too, if you need to.) It’s either all going to get done or it’s not. So when it’s “not” – plan so that something gets done, rather than a whole lot of things that get almost done.

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Great Minds, part 2 …..

Posted in ideas by dave225 on September 5, 2008

Great Minds Think Alike!”  Whether that’s just something you say when someone else shares your idea or whether it’s conventional wisdom….. it ain’t true.

A great mind I know refuted this old saying with, “Great minds do NOT think alike.  That’s the definition of a great mind, isn’t it?”  Ha.  Right on!  Great minds may reach similar conclusions, but a truly great mind thinks independently.

You acquire a great mind by exercising the one you’ve got.  Question everything.  Learn what makes other people tick.  Turn things upside-down and imagine how things would work if they were bigger, smaller, inside-out, black, white, broken, mended, backwards …. Take the last hour of the day today to examine your current work – the stuff you were going to do anyway – and think about how you could do it without its most essential element.

For example, how might you write a blog post without language?  Well, you could resort to pictures… Now, you go…

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Tsk Tsk Task

Posted in Uncategorized by dave225 on September 4, 2008

This may seem ridiculously obvious, but it took me a long time to learn, and I have to remind myself of it every week…. Work is not life.

Now, countless people before me have spoken about not putting all of your energy into your job, and I agree with them. But not because you may be missing out on life. Good golly, life is about experiences – so if you are getting a life’s worth of experiences through your work – good for you! I’m not trying to tell anyone where they should get their kicks.

But I am trying to tell people where not to get validation.  Or rather, from where not to derive too much validation.  You can put all the hours you want into your job, and you may well enjoy every minute of it. But you can’t make that your identity. Unless you outright own your business (and even then, you don’t own it – the market does.) – your livelihood can be taken from you at any time. Not to sound pessimistic – I just mean that tying your identity and self-validation to something that isn’t yours is a bad idea. No matter how important you are or how secure you are in your position, when it comes to your job, not everything is under your control.  More things in your life that you control = good.  Limit your dependence on things you don’t control.

So find additional places where you can feel good about yourself. Get a hobby. Volunteer. Challenge yourself!