Archive for August, 2010
I’ve never used a batting cage, but I’ve watched people doing it – mostly in movies, I admit. There seems to be a stock joke where the pitching machine gradually speeds up till the poor batter is swinging wildly, simply trying not to get hit by the balls being spit out one after the next.
Lately, my life has been feeling a bit like that: things needing to be done are coming at me faster than they ever have, and it feels as though I’ve no sooner finished one task, than another (and another and another) have appeared on the horizon.
I suspect I’m not alone in this. So, in the interests of helping myself and others stay focused and not fall into the swinging-wildly-so-as-not-to-get-hit mentality, here are some approaches I’ve found helpful:
Take time off. This may seem counter-intuitive, but I’m finding downtime even more essential as my life speeds up. To watch a TV show, go to the gym, do Sudoku, sit on the deck with my beloved and watch the sun set…all these things are relaxing and rejuvenating – and even though the balls-to-be-hit may be building up whilst I’m resting, I’m better equipped to hit them out of the park when I come back.
Take one at a time. When there are a zillion things to be done, it’s easy to look at the whole list and feel completely overwhelmed. But really, you can only attend to one thing at any given moment – I often remind myself that I wrote my books one page at a time; that we created our garden one plant at a time. I just need to hit each ball as it comes over the plate. Which brings me to my third piece of advice…
Take the time to do it right. The ‘punch line’ of the visual batting cage slapstick is the person swinging madly, missing everything, getting beaned with ball after ball. I’ve found it’s even more important than usual to stay focused when things are moving fast: I attend to doing things as quickly as I can, while still doing them well. It’s a fine line, a middle path, a key discipline: mono-focus, hit that ball right on the seams and immediately get ready for the next one.
And after a day of that, I definitely need some deck-sitting…
A quick note to let you all know that I’m going to be on the radio again today. The show is called “Brainstormin’ with Bill Frank” and it’s out of Ventura, CA. You can listen live at 1400AM KKZZ, or streaming online . Bill and I are talking at 10am PT/1pm ET.
If you’d like, you can also call in to ask questions or make comments at 805-639-0008.
See you there…
After almost 4 years of blogging on Typepad, we’ve moved my blog (we meaning Tim Grahl and his crew at Out:think) to WordPress.
This is my first post on the new platform. It’s pretty much the same – title at the header, same options for posting and commenting, same bar of menu items above this text space, etc. And yet it feels a little harder, a little odd — just because it’s new.
Which reminds me, yet again, of the interesting relationship we humans have with habit trails. When you’re familiar with something, it feels comfortable; it’s easy, it doesn’t take a lot of mental investment. Which can feel relaxing and a relief – or boring and stifling.
It seems to me that many people have a hard time finding a balance of habit and newness that feels good to them. Some folks seem to crave the excitement of something new (job, relationship, idea, friends, home) to the extent that they don’t go deep, get comfortable, build trust. And other people seem so wedded to the familiar, to their rituals and habits, that they don’t stretch themselves, test their capabilities, open themselves to new ideas or approaches.
I suspect we’re meant to find a balance. Unlike most other creatures on the planet, we each have the capacity to envision and then move toward a new and different future: we can want to become, have or do something else.
In my observation, most people who feel happy and successful have both a nest – relationships, places and activities that are continuous and deeply important in their lives – and some ‘flights away from the nest’ – activities, ideas and creations that are true and substantive departures from their day-to-day.
How’s your balance of safe/familiar and new/untested?
If you’ve got time this afternoon and are interested, I’m going to be doing a radio/online interview this afternoon for Money Matters Radio (WBNW 1120, WESO 970 and WPLM 1390). It’s at 3pm ET, and you can listen on the radio, if you’re in the Boston area, or online. (You can listen live, and they also archive it for listening later.)
The host, Denis Vaughan, has sent me some questions beforehand, and they’re very insightful…I think it will be a fun and useful conversation!
Have you ever had the kind of day where everything exceeds your expectations? Today was like that for me. So many great connections, new ideas, insights, opportunities; it was overwhelming.
My instinctive reaction, in situations like this, is to start trying to make it all make sense: to chew over all that’s happened and try to make myself understand and absorb it by force of will. But I’ve discovered over the years that – for me – that’s really just a nervous twitch, and not very useful.
When I have a day that really blasts open my preconceived limitations, I’ve finally learned that the best thing to do is simply relax and let my brain and spirit integrate the new reality.
So tonight I had a long talk with my husband, then went to the gym, and then came back to my hotel room and did some cross-stitch while I watched reruns of Medium. Nothing too mentally demanding. And I can feel myself somehow expanding to accommodate all that I experienced and learned over the past few days.
I’ve noticed the same phenomenon over the years when we coach executives: during a two-day coaching session, there’s something that we’ve come to call “the overnight effect.” On the first day, people can struggle to open up to news ways of thinking, or different approaches to managing or leading, or an expanded understanding of themselves. But quite often when they come back the next day, their discomfort and resistance have disappeared, and they have a new, clearer sense of themselves and of what’s possible.
I suspect I’ll wake up tomorrow morning with more capacity: ready and able to operate from a new perspective.
Such an exciting journey…
I had a great conversation with our social media guru, Tim Grahl, yesterday. It was a kind of tutorial on blog-writing. Like most bloggers, I suspect, I would like my blog to be read and enjoyed by lots of people. He had some excellent simple suggestions that I want to pass on to you.
#1 Make the important stuff easy to see
You could spend all day, every day online, looking for interesting things. Even if people want to read your blog, they don’t want to wade through a lot of mildly interesting stuff to get to the important points. Tim suggested I break each post into bite-size pieces, with headers, and then put the critical info within each paragraph in boldface. Then the folks who want to take a leisurely wander through the post can do so, and those who just want to do a quick run to pick up the key points can do that, too.
#2 Create visual interest
Tim opined that pictures, graphics and videos are a great way to make your blog more 3-dimensional. I’ve been using pictures all along, but now I want to find ways to incorporate other visual elements – without making the post too busy or distracting. One other important thing he pointed out…I’ve been just pulling visuals off Google image searches, so I may be using copyrighted images. He suggested pulling images from the “Creative Commons” area of flickr, to make sure you’re not doing anything illegal.
#3 Put links in the post – and make them optional
You notice I’ve got a link to the place I’m talking about in the paragraph above. This was another thing Tim recommended. I’ve been doing a lot of the links in my posts using a feature in Typepad called “quickpost,” where the link you’re referencing is at the top of the post. Tim suggested this is harder for people to follow – that if you’re referencing another article, post, or piece of information, it's best to embed the link in the post at the point where you’re talking about it. He also suggested that the post should summarize what was important to me about the linked information – so that people can go to the link if they want to, but it’s not necessary. They can get my point without having to go somewhere else.
#4 Provide take-aways
Finally, Tim pointed out that people read blog posts (and pass them along), only if they find them valuable. He suggested that I should check to make sure that the post answers the questions, Why should I care? or What can I do with this? Technorati’s blog directory includes almost 75,000 blogs. Even if people are avid blog readers, they have to prioritize somehow, and personal benefit is a great sorting mechanism.
A post that does these four things immediately becomes both interesting and useful. How might you integrate this advice Tim offered me into your own blog?