Fighter food: Getting fit for better personal and professional performance

Flinstone fighter food

Paleo: The “caveman” diet

Today I’m going to step outside my normal blog topics and talk a little bit about health, nutrition and some of the things that I’ve been doing that I believe have led to better personal and professional performance across the board. The last few years I’ve really been stepping up my exercise quite a bit.  I had gotten to a point where I was hovering right at 299 pounds. I had basically stopped weighing myself until I was pretty sure that the next time I did, I wasn’t going to be over 300 pounds.  Now I realize the signal probably should have come a little bit earlier but when I hit 299, I realized I really needed to do something. Even though I’m pretty tall and I’ve got a pretty big frame, there’s just no way that I should be 300 pounds. So I got involved in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and immediately shaved off 25 pounds and got down to about 275 pounds.

I started feeling a lot better and like I was in pretty good shape.  I was still about ten pounds off the weight I played ball in college at, but I still felt pretty good. So I was content for a little bit. That was until I had an instructor in the jiu jitsu program, Greg Souders, that pushed me and a couple of the other big guys to lose some weight with the idea that we would feel better and we would enjoy our exercise and sport a little bit more. So we had a competition. It’s amazing how making something a competition will push you to try new things and push you to break down barriers.

It was then that I actually started to follow a paleo eating program.  For those of you that are unfamiliar, I won’t go into too much detail but the paleo sort of lifestyle involves giving up a lot of things that I had really come to love. In fact, for about the last 7 or 8 months I’ve essentially been grain free, bread free no pastas, no milk, no dairy, and nothing with sugar added. It has been amazing the transformation, in not just how I look but how I feel.

I’m now down into the 240’s, which is where I was as a senior in high school. I feel absolutely tremendous and I think it carries over into my work.  I’ve finally gotten to a place where I can excuse any type of meal.  I used to drink a lot of lattes, I had a lot of high carb snacky type meals, a lot of, “Oh I’ll just catch a sandwich for lunch,” and it had become a habit over so many years working in such a high paced environment. It had become such a habit to the point where I actually thought I was eating fairly healthy. Looking back on it, I was eating terribly.

Now I have lunches that are salads, big hearty salads, but salads nonetheless. They can have steak on them, chicken, shrimp, whatever type of proteins you want including bacon. I also eat a lot more plain vegetables and a lot more meats that aren’t wrapped in grains. One thing that I’ve really noticed is that when I miss a meal, I don’t get the type of cravings that I used to get when I was on the more industrial based food diet.  While all of this is for the better, I think the one thing that has really driven me to stick with it has been that it’s not just that I lost this weight and I look better. It’s the whole feeling better at work and home all the time part that has really made this change worthwhile and enjoyable.

One of the things I thought I’d do is share a recipe. This recipe has been sort of what I’ve used to put in the lunchbox to take to work throughout the week. Despite how it may sound, it is extraordinarily tasty and my kids actually call it “fighter food” and they’ll eat it. This dish gets made every Sunday to make lunch for the rest of the week.  It is as follows:

  • 6 pounds of ground beef
  • 2 pounds of kielbasa,
  • 3 or 4 beets
  • 1 onion
  • 2 peppers
  • a bunch of carrots
  • curry powder
  • cayenne peppers
  • 2 cans of coconut milk
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes

I cook up the sausage and beef in a pan first.  Then I put all the rest of the ingredients into the crockpot along with the meat and let it stew for about two hours. (Side note: I leave out the cayenne peppers when cooking for the whole family and use it solely for my own personal stash of fighter food.  While I enjoy spicy foods I realize not everyone feels the same.) That is all there is to it. It’s a very easy dish to cook up and it keeps well for a whole week’s worth of lunches. Anyway I know this was a little bit of an off topic blog post but I really do think how you feel is a big proponent to how you perform at the office. So I wanted to share something that I think has really worked for me. With this combination of exercise and diet over the last year, I’ve dropped more than 50 pounds and I really feel good. I think it has led to better performance. So I would love to hear your responses and please don’t feel as though you’re obligated to try my meal, although if you do I’d love to get your feedback on it. Thanks for reading as always.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

To forward or not to forward?

To forward or not to froward

I woke up this morning and as is often my habit I went down to my office for a quick look at my email, just to see if there was anything that needed my immediate attention. Lo and behold one of the members of my team had reached out to somebody, somebody that I had been in the middle of an ongoing discussion with directly, and copied me on it.  So this would seem fairly benign if weren’t for how this second conversation came about. As I said before I had been having an ongoing conversation with this outside party and something of interest had come up in our conversation. So I forwarded this conversation to a person on our team, ostensibly to keep them in the loop.

Looking back on things, it probably wasn’t the best idea. I could have written up a brief status with instructions on how I wanted the information handled. I could have made a phone call to make this person aware of the situation. Basically I could have done a lot of different things but I didn’t. I just forwarded them the e-mail with a little note at the top that just said FYI. Now maybe its not the end of the world but this really frustrated me for a few reasons.

By virtue of this person taking that information and reaching out directly on that specific subject it: 1) put me in a position of having to respond and acknowledge this conversation really quickly which in this case, was actually something that I hadn’t wanted to do. I wanted to keep this person informed because it was an important conversation that was going on with an outside stakeholder. My intention had really been for us to have a discussion about it so that I could shape an appropriate response. So when this person jumped directly to the responding part they didn’t have the full context of how to respond. Not everything was in the email. This is an email that was the culmination of a lot of phone calls and a bunch of other things. So their interpretation and subsequent response lacked nuance because they weren’t completely informed.

When you think about it, the responsibility for all of that circles right back around to me.  I didn’t put, “FYI lets discuss so that I can respond,” I just put “FYI” at the top. So I certainly cant be too upset with my team member for essentially having taken the initiative to contact this person because I was really unclear with how I wanted the information handled. So in looking back and figuring out how I’ll move forward, it certainly brings to the forefront the idea that sharing these types of communication outside the immediate chains can be tricky but useful. I think sometimes there’s real value when all the sudden you’re going back and forth in an email chain and you recognize that you need another set of eyes to make use of it. I think it’s completely appropriate to share that out to somebody as long as, especially if its business correspondence as it was in this case, that’s a reasonable expectation of that exchange.  I believe that the e-mail that I sent was. It was focused on a business area so I don’t have a problem with having actually shared the information.

I think that what would have made this work would have been if I had just taken the time to write a simple sentence at the top of that correspondence that said, “Let’s coordinate to develop a response,” rather than simply put “FYI” on there.  I receive a lot of these types of communications from other people as well seeing as it’s a simple kind of a way to get people up to speed on a conversation that they haven’t been a part of.  Since this is used so often within my company and I’m sure others, there may need to be some basic ground rules and guidelines on how to handle that type of situation.

  1. I think the number one thing that needs to be included when you forward an email chain to somebody else is a quick explanation of what’s the appropriate way to handle this information. Is it OK for this person to directly contact that person? Is it ok for them to forward it on as they see fit? What are the rules around sharing the conversation? I think that is the first and foremost important thing to include.
  2. What is the anticipated next step in this?
  3. This rule is lower priority than the first two but I thought I should include them. What is the desired outcome? Especially if you’ve had a lot of correspondence, what are the outcomes you’re trying to achieve and what are the relevant points in the document that you’re trying to point them to? These are very, very useful in terms of helping somebody understand what the move forward is.

I’m curious what other people’s feelings are. Do you have other tips in this regard? Do you believe that you should never share conversations and that it should always be summaries rather than forwarding something? I’m really curious what other people have to say.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Assessments: Dealing with information overload

May 28th Blog

I was thinking the other day about how much of our lives really revolve around assessments.  Almost from your first days in schools, you’re being assessed.  I have a daughter that is in kindergarten and one of the first in depth meetings that I had with her teacher was about an assessment of her. We covered how she was performing in comparison to other kids within the school, the state, and the nation.  The idea behind this assessment was to provide us a feedback mechanism to help us understand where she is and where she wants to go. These assessments continue essentially throughout the rest of your school years.

Once you leave there you get into the work world where your assessments continue whether that be annually, quarterly or whatever their basis is. If you really think about your life, you are surrounded by assessments, for example, checklists. Checklists are essentially reminders of what you need/want to do but if you measure them, they are an assessment of what you have done. These assessments are everywhere in your life. It’s especially seen in governments lately. Legislation has come down that tries to understand and manage better our government resources.  In order to understand that we have to use assessments to see how they are being used now and then analyze them to see how they could be used better.

There are some things that you don’t necessarily see as assessments but they are embedded in there if you look close enough. PortfolioStat is something that was intended to assess an organization’s large investments. You can use it to ensure that if they were going poorly that either corrective action was taken or there was the opportunity to cut them off before they bled into everything else.  Now something that I hear a lot of in both the public and private sector is a need for some sort of form strategy. We’ve got all these forms that we use to assess things by but they aren’t being utilized to the best of their abilities. It’s important to remember that the forms themselves aren’t the purpose. They are simply collections of information. The purpose in many cases of those forms is to assess something. It’s to understand a particular thing, whether it’s an application for a permit you’re trying to get or maybe it’s a person’s application for a job that’s assessing them in the context of what the requirements are. All of those things are talked about as forms but really, they’re assessments.

Now the reason I’m bringing this up is to get back to the idea about what information should I be managing? You have to realize there’s a cost to everything. I think that when you look at it in terms of assessments rather than forms, it makes you think about why do I need this information rather than focusing on automating the information that you currently have.  It’s a really important distinction because automating it may reduce the cost to gather it but it won’t reduce it as much as not gathering it if you don’t need it. It still takes time.  Even the most automated system out there won’t help you because if you don’t need that information for something, than don’t gather and it don’t assess it.  You don’t need to further clutter your informational picture.

I think so many of us function in a daily information overload state. There’s so much that comes at us. It can get really hard to discern what are the important things.  Anyway I think that if you start to think about the why behind the information that you’re trying to gather, you’ll do a much better job of choosing the things that you spend time from an informational standpoint gathering, managing, and performing analysis on. You’ll also reduce cost by a function of that. So I think assessments are something that need more of a conceptual approach to information gathering than anything else. You start to think about them as “I’m getting this information for this specific reason,” rather than “This is the body of information I need to collect because I’ve always collected it,” I think you’ll be more cost efficient and more useful.  I’m curious what other people think.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Telephones: Fostering personal relationships since 1876

Telephones

Almost broke my cardinal rule this morning.  I started to make a list of all the people I should email. While email is an awesome tool and convenience in the modern world, I’ve mentioned before that it’s very tempting to use because it’s easier than making a phone call sometimes.  On the flip side you have to recognize that there are times that while it may be more convenient and ensure that you’re able to dedicate only the time that you want to dedicate to that interaction, it really does leave something to be desired as far as maintaining a real connection to the person that you’re talking with. It’s just not as good, period.

A phone call is very personal and enables you to have a sort of back and forth that is impossible to replicate over email. The ability to have some quick personal interaction is incredibly valuable in almost any setting. By that I mean whether that person is your client, your boss, a direct report, or whoever it is, that rapport and personal bond between the two of you is what counts in crunch time. When you need something done fast, those personal relationships are oftentimes what make the difference between success and failure.

You shouldn’t confuse, “I email regularly with somebody” with “I have a personal relationship with that person.” Whereas if you’re regularly on the phone having a conversation with somebody, you have a personal relationship with that person in a way that you just cannot have via email.  Email is great for exchanging information but it’s not that great for developing personal relationships. I think way too often we end up having people that we correspond with on almost a daily basis but because it’s all email, it’s almost always all business. Strictly email correspondence is sort of lacking in nuance from a personal perspective so you don’t as easily develop a meaningful personal relationship.

I think that if you have the luxury of having a little bit of extra time, it’s great to use that time to communicate over the phone. I know that there are people out there that say, “Well with the phone you don’t have a record of the conversation,” or “It’s harder to get action items out.” While that’s all true, you can easily just have the phone call and follow up with an email summarizing any actions discussed.  It’s especially important to use the phone if it’s important to your business, your projects, or maybe your long term development as a person. Take the time to have the phone call and to develop the personal relationship.

I’m convinced that the more offline you get and the more on the phone conversations you have, the better off you will be in the long run. Generally via email, you don’t ask somebody how their daughters doing, or if they enjoyed the dinner that they had last week, or whatever it is. Those are the types of things that build the bond back and forth.  That person learns a little bit about you and what makes you tick, and you learn a little about them. It’s building from those instances that make you more likely to go the extra mile for that person and vice versa. I know I don’t have any quantifiable evidence of that but I strongly believe in the power of the telephone.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

The undeniable power of a clean desk

Busy_desk_red_svg

So I got into work this morning and I felt a little weird. I realized it was because when I walked in, I really felt on top of everything. I think some of it has to do with something that seems really simple. That is, when I came in my desk was completely clear and completely clean.  This newfound cleanliness stemmed from a conversation I had recently. We had Dray Wharton from the Wharton & Co. out last week to help us with a product launch that we have coming up in late June and one of the areas that Dray specializes in is personal productivity. So we got a little bit of value add in our visit in not only did he talk to us about our product launch, but he also talked with me personally. He gave me some executive coaching and other helpful tips.

One of the things he mentioned was really simple and it fit in nicely with some of the Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity topics that I’ve talked about in the past. It was the power of the clean desk.  So if you’ve ever had a chance to come through the MB&A offices, you’ll notice that for the most part our offices are very clean, very organized, and very professional. That has a lot to do with my partner Erik Ballinger. I’m not sure if it has to do with his military background or if it’s just the way he’s always been but he’s a very organized and tidy individual. This tidiness and organization has sort of carried over into every other area of the organization, with the exception of my office.

My desk for years has been a sea of papers. Now this total swampland that is my desk does have some advantages. I will tell you that one of the benefits is that I don’t lose things because everything is somewhere on that desk if you dig deep enough. I’m sure the answer to the mystery of the universe is somewhere within the depths of my desk, but those days are gone. My desk is now clean. By cleaning that desk off all the way every day, one of the things it has enabled me to do was create the action items, takeaways and things that I need to remember for the following day right there. As I mentioned in the past, one of the things that I do in the evenings is use some of the Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, principles to complete tasks.

I create lists at the end of the day, things that are outstanding that I can’t get done right now. What this has done is just move my priorities forward and it’s moved my work life back out of my personal life and into my work time space. It seems like a really simple thing but it’s been really powerful. It’s made it so that I do those things in the last 10 minutes that I’m at work and I don’t have to carry that mental baggage home. I’m not trying to remember things that I need to get done tomorrow or the rest of the week while I’m having dinner with my family and I’m not grabbing my smart phone right before I go to bed and punching in a bunch of tasks. So for somebody who has spent the majority of his office life in clutter, it’s been a little bit difficult but it feels good. So I think that this is something that I will be able to stick with.  We’ll see. Maybe I’ll take a desk photo now and one in 6 months and well see if I stuck to it.  I’m curious what other people think or if other people have tried to do this and succeeded or failed. All I can say is so far the early returns for me have been really good.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Respect your peers: Self-Checklist before you ask for help

Peer review

I was having lunch with a good friend over the weekend and we got on the subject of reviewing things for people. Now this was somebody I’ve actually sent quite a few things to review and I know I’ve been guilty of violating his pet peeves from time to time. He had an interesting take on things and it’s definitely something I’m going to apply to my life so I’d like to share it.  One of the things we talked about was how frustrating it is to get something from somebody with the caveat of, “Don’t worry about spelling or nit nats, just take a look at the content.” Now this is something that I’ve actually said on a few different occasions so maybe it was a subtle message to me but the more I thought about it, the more it made a lot of sense.  His take on it is that there are three things that everyone should have to do before they send a draft out to someone. They don’t take that long, they make the editor’s job immeasurably easier, and they greatly enhance the appearance of professionalism that you put forwards.

  1. Run spellcheck.  It seems obvious but I know that I’ve been guilty of forgetting to do it myself.
  2. Read it at least once and preferably out loud for grammar. I know how easy it is to quickly dash something out and send it across for somebody to check over. You don’t ask for much, you just want to see if you’re headed the right direction or if this is the right approach. While this doesn’t seem on the surface to be to harmful, his take on it is that everyone has time to read something at least once. You shouldn’t send anything from your desk that you haven’t at least read and I have to agree.  If you don’t read it and you’ve got some glaring grammatical errors or you’ve made some really obvious mistakes, even if you’re an otherwise an excellent writer, it takes away from the appearance of professionalism that everyone should try to put forward. It often unnecessarily increases the effort required by the editor to do the work. This may be fine if you’re paying a professional editor and it’s on your dime but if you’re asking for a peer review, or particularly if that person is in anyway involved in reviewing you from a professional standpoint, you may want to think twice about what you send across, even if that content is early stage draft.
  3. Lastly, you should always include a simple line that says what you’ve done to ready your work before sending it across to them.  Again I think this is something that I hadn’t necessarily thought about but I kind of agree that it’s important. It sets the stage for the person that you’ve asked to review or edit to understand where in the writing cycle this work is. I know that I’ve had quite a few things dropped on me where when you open it up you think, “Wow, this looks like it’s in a really early stage or really unformulated.” That uncertainty makes it hard to gauge how you should phrase your response back.

So I thought those were three pretty good tips for anything that you’re trying to get edited by somebody, get reviewed, or even if you’re crafting a simple letter out to somebody. Following through those simple steps increases the appearance of professionalism that you put forward to other people. Running a spell check and correcting simple and obvious grammar mistakes shows you being respectful of their time in not making them waste time on simple unnecessary corrections. Finally just conveying what type of document you’re putting across to them frames what you’re asking much more clearly.  Just some things to think about next time you ask a friend to look over something for you.  I’d appreciate your thoughts as always.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Take the “resent” out of presentations: Ideas for public speaking prep

Take the resent out of presentations Ideas for public speaking prep

At some point or another, most of us have had to present to a group, whether that it’s a small group of 4 people or 250+ people in a large audience type setting. Even when it’s one of the smaller groups of people, there’s a lot of stress associated with speaking in front of people. Some of that is the social pressure of wanting to perform well and for your message to be well received. The other apart of it probably goes back to when you’re a little kid; there’s this nervousness a lot of people feel. Now if you’re somebody who is naturally able to work well in those situations and you don’t feel pressure in speaking in front of groups, you should count yourself very lucky. I think for most people there’s some tension that comes along with that. So as somebody who spends a lot of time talking in front of both large and smaller groups I’ve, over time, come up with some ways to deal with public speaking related stress and to improve performance.

One of the things that I’ve started doing recently is I’ve started to videotape things.  It all started when I began videotaping some segments that I’ve done for interviews, little pieces to help explain certain aspects of our business or business products, or things for my blog. One of the things I’ve noticed through these videotapes is how easy it makes it to point out flaws in my delivery. So what I’ve started to do is incorporate this into my public speaking prep time.

I’m a Mac user so I take advantage of the capture tools that are readily available to Apple systems. I use those tools to pull in whatever I’m going to speak about and then I just play it back pretty quickly. This isn’t done with the idea of creating some tightly edited masterpiece but with the idea of being able to quickly get a sense of how things play out altogether. I think a lot of us have practiced what we’re going to say in the shower or in the mirror in your bathroom, but one of the problems I’ve always had with that is that you tend to focus on correcting things as you actually do it. One of the nice things about letting it go into a video recording tool on your computer is that you don’t have to focus on that. Instead you just focus on your actual delivery. Then when you get done, you play it back and you can see the areas where you maybe don’t have things thought through all the way, you stumbled a little bit, or you started to ad lib and you got lost or off message. Whatever the problem is, it just bubbles up to the surface.

I have found that if I do that two or three times, I can really identify all the little points in my talk where I get stuck.  You can find where you need a statistic here or something else there to punch up the point that you’re trying to make. I think it’s a really great and easy way to get a lot more value out of the effort that you put in to prep for talks and other things. It’s really worth looking into if you’ve never done it before. Added bonus, it’s really easy from a technical standpoint. You have a lot of different choices on the Mac and I’m sure there’s plenty on the PC as well but for the purposes of this you can use iMovie on the Mac to capture the video, play it back, and check out the points where you’ve had issues. It’s worth a try and I’d love to hear if anyone else has taken the same route.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.