Sense of Place: It’s January, the month of resolutions, goal-setting, and life’s way finding. In a recent newsletter, I shared this with the Ho‘ohana Community;
Two Choices: The Change I Choose.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from my own experiences with making New Year’s resolutions, it’s this:
a) Make as few of them as possible, like 1 or 2. That’s it.
b) Don’t make them for the whole year, just for the beginning of it. Force the issue quickly, then move on.
A year is too long a time frame to limit yourself within. However, a year is also too short to be dawdling within, and you’ve got to push harder and move faster (at least I do.)
Here are the Two Choices I’ll be starting 2019 with…more about them here, if you’re curious as to what those choices were for me.
This post shares more on why and how I now hold this perspective as my next-stepping within a larger philosophy, and I have tagged it with Ho‘ohana, employing energy, next-stepping, piloting projects, productivity, spirit-spilling, ideas, and self-coaching.
Bulldogs and jugglers
I used to be a project bulldog: I’d only take on one project at a time, and bulldog it through. I was quite the “Less is more” disciple, with singular focus, commitment and devotion.
That has changed in recent years. I can’t trace back to any definitive spark for the change, but now I’m a juggler. I usually have 3 to 5 projects going on at any given time, and in light of my ho‘ohana’s self-direction, the lines between personal and professional projects are either blurry, deliberately messy and experimental, or completely missing because those boundaries don’t matter.
Do I get more projects completed now? Not necessarily, and accomplishing more hasn’t been the reason I’ve willingly gone through this change. To be sure, I’ve had to learn to be okay with differing degrees of incompleteness in my life, however it no longer stresses me out, and actually makes me feel more vibrantly alive. I’m not at all overwhelmed; I’m much happier as a juggler.
The management coach in me must pause here with a point of clarity:
I am still a dedicated finisher, and train managers to be one as well, when it comes to the Daily 5 Minutes and other conversations and initiatives we have with people. There are big differences between piloting projects and managing any people issues which arise.
Trickles and streams
I have identified the definitive spark that’s made me a happy juggler. It’s idea flow.
As a bulldog, my ideas usually were kept to a trickle, for my tendency was to suppress them; ideas were distractions which got in my way. We do train ourselves over time, and my conscious shooing away of ideas both big and little became unconscious—my brain kept doing what I had trained it to do.
I’ve become a project juggler, because I finally figured out what being a bulldog had cost me.
I was pretty good about writing my ideas down to capture them whenever I was conscious of them, but I rarely, if ever, went back to my notes, and if I did I found little excitement remained; what was once an idea, was now just the past history of a fleeting thought at best.
I unclogged the flow of my ideas so my trickle became a stream. I still wrote them down, but gave them a page of their own with space to follow-up on them as quickly as I could. Doodles and flowcharts became part of the writing process, until I finally had to do something, anything, connected to them. I pushed myself to make them actionable in small ways that could continue to build if their momentum continued with me.
“You can’t bottle up inspiration. You can’t put it in a ziplock, toss it in the freezer, and fish it out later. It’s instantly perishable if you don’t eat it while it’s fresh.”
~ Jason Fried, Inspiration is Magical, Signal v. Noise
I felt like I suddenly had way more ideas, ideas about everything. However I now realize there aren’t more of them in general, there are more that I dabble with, stretch and question, and take action on. I do my best to assure the excitement that qualified them as ‘an idea’ does not fade until I’ve made the very conscious decision to move on from them, and onto something else.
Examine your self-talk. Understand its influence on you.
I used to think I was not ‘an idea person.’
A large part of my belief was actually wrapped up in being a manager by choice, one who felt she didn’t have grand leadership ideas, and told herself that was okay. I liked working for other visionaries, enrolling in their ideas, and helping them bring them to fruition as a damned good manager. I believed that innovative leaders needed savvy managers to actually make their grand designs a reality, and I worked to prove it, deriving a lot of personal satisfaction in my accomplishments along the way.
Then one day, my boss, a boss I thought of as a mentor, told me, “Don’t ever tell yourself that again. Why in the world do you think great managers can’t be great leaders too? You have a lot of ideas—you share them with me all the time. You just don’t give yourself credit for having them.”
I’d like to tell you I made a change right then and there, but I didn’t. I had to believe in myself as much as he did. I had to have evidence, and so I became a better curator first, determined to track my ideas, progress and outcomes.
This wasn’t that difficult: Often I was simply more generous with calling my thoughts, input or suggestions an idea when that’s what they were, and should be considered. To evoke Mahalo, taking stock of what you have going for you, definitely helps with this endeavor to be more generous with what you consider a bonafide idea to be.
To call something an idea will elevate it—you will deem it more important, and thus, more worthy of your time and effort.
“And just as Steve loved ideas, and loved making stuff, he treated the process of creativity with a rare and a wonderful reverence. You see, I think he better than anyone understood that while ideas ultimately can be so powerful, they begin as fragile, barely formed thoughts, so easily missed, so easily compromised, so easily just squished.”
~ Jonathan Ives, describing Steve Jobs’ reverence for ideas
As for “time and effort” it’s true that you have make time and space for being a juggler. How can you make it so more ideas, and more time working on them, fits into your life and doesn’t drive you crazy?
Now we all know that time is finite, and time management is about how we use it. Looking back, I can now see how much time I wasted as a bulldog, because I would devote whole days to plugging away with one thing that needed to percolate while I in turn needed to recharge.
For me, shifting from bulldog to juggler has been the strategy to match my idea flow with my energy-to-work-on-them flow.
Idea flow and your energy
Knowing my energy highs and lows, and batching my project work to suit them has definitely helped me make this shift from bulldog to juggler.
Your energy level will always affect the degree of enthusiasm, action, and effectiveness you bring to making your ideas happen, whether with small steps or larger leaps.
Personally, I know I’m a true morning person; my energy levels wane quite predictably as the day wears on. 95% of my writing and all of my business strategic work is done in the morning. In the evening hours, the most I’ll usually accomplish fall in the category of housekeeping items and basic chores which have declining degrees of thought and focus attached to them—high routine, less think. When I really have to think things through, I delay it until the next morning after a good night’s sleep. As the years have gone by, I’ve better understood how valuable sleep is, and when I need to take a break with one of my projects, literally saying “Let me sleep on this; we’ll take it up again tomorrow, or the day after.”
Whether new idea, or idea turned into project, I pretty much know by now if I should work on it in the morning, in the afternoon, or in the evening—and you should know this about yourself too, then work accordingly.
In Managing with Aloha, we often talk about how energy is our greatest resource. Let’s treat it that way personally, so we get better at it professionally.
Postscript: Do you want to be a better juggler? Give this more thought, by revisiting our definition of Palena ‘ole, Managing with Aloha’s 9th Key Concept. Stretch this notion of energy optimization even further, by identifying the energy quotient you best bring to the 4 types of human capacity we work on as our Key 9 growth strategy.
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