Find your rhythm and stay in it

Fining your rythm

Athletes talk about getting into a rhythm all the time. They talk about having a feeling like the next shot is going to go in or the next swing is going to be a hit. If you listen to any commentator, whether it’s a football game, baseball game, or a soccer game, when somebody’s doing really well; they’ll often refer to it as so and so has found their rhythm. They’ll say a quarterback has found his rhythm and is connecting their every pass. A soccer player has won every 50/50 ball that has come his way and he has settled into a rhythm. The baseball player has strung together several hits in a row and hitting is a notoriously streaky thing, it’s often attributed to finding their rhythm at the plate. I think in the work world, this idea of finding your rhythm is just as applicable.

A lot of times I’ll suddenly find myself really feeling like things are coming easily. That I seem to be getting things out with less effort and that the daily tasks of getting things done are just coming easier. I attribute a lot of that feeling to being able to get into and keep a regular schedule. In sports you’ll sometimes hear the crazy stories about guys that are in the middle of a hot streak and are wearing the same clothes, wearing the same shirts every day, and eating the same meals because they’re trying to find out what that secret recipe is for success. While I don’t necessarily think wearing the same shirt is going to help your cause I do believe there is something to be said for regularity of doing things.

If you can find and establish a good series of events that you do on a daily basis, that gets you through your daily tasking, and gets things accomplished, then you should do what you can to hang on to that to maintain the same types and orders of tasking. I try to get in in the morning and do some of the writing and creative tasks that I have created for myself right at the beginning of the day when I am fresh mentally. From there I transition into some of the more rote type tasks and meetings through the middle of the day and finally, I’ll circle back at the end of the day and do creative tasks again. The creative types of tasks are something that I enjoy so I don’t like slogging through it during my midday slump which generally doesn’t produce good results on those types of tasks. That’s when I try to crunch through some of the more mundane tasks that everyone has to do in their day to day life.

The mundane sort of tasks aren’t the ones that make you get out of bed in the morning but they come with any job so those are the things I try to do in the middle of the day when I’m sort of on autopilot anyway.  So I think one of the keys to success is finding a schedule that works for you and trying to figure out why it works for you. Is it because you do certain things better at certain times of the day and that sort of thing. Once you find it, stick with it.  There’s a lot to be said for doing a little bit of experimenting to find out what works for you. On the other hand I also think that when you get something going and you seem to be making great progress, you should be careful about breaking from that schedule. At the very least be conscious if you do break from it so if your productivity starts to suffer, you can go back to the things that are working for you.

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.

Brainstorming dead end? Try doodling

Brainstomring

I keep a stack of legal sized paper, a pencil, and a couple different colors of pens on my desk at all times. When people first walk into my office and see the set up I’ll sometimes have people laugh at me but there is a reason for this. Whenever I have people in my office and we’re talking through a problem, I like to take a sheet of legal paper and just start drawing. I think part of the reason I’m getting laughed at is because I’m sitting at our high technology company and I’m pulling out a piece of paper to draw on instead of my computer; but I really think it’s one of the most powerful brainstorming tools at your disposal.

A pencil and paper gives you so much more freedom to make mistakes, to throw things away, and to just start over. The classic pencil/paper combo is also a timesaver across the board.  Being able to quickly sketch something out gives you that sense that remaking, erasing, crumpling up and starting over isn’t the end of the world because you’ve only lost a few minutes. I think there’s something to that. It triggers something subconsciously where you’re simply not as afraid to make mistakes and because of that, it encourages you to think outside the box.

If you insist on using your computer I’ve come to favor free form drawing tools such as Omnigraffle for building presentations. The best thing about this software is that it doesn’t come with any preconceived notion of what you’re going to put on a slide.  It is a tool that really allows you to have a blank slate and there’s lots of nice drawing tools at your disposal. Again I really believe that it keeps you from putting boundaries on yourself when you’re in the middle of brainstorming.  So the next time that you’re faced with a tough problem or you’re trying to do some brainstorming, maybe try writing on a piece of paper before you crack open that PowerPoint deck or start typing into Word. I really think your eyes will be opened to something new if you’re just willing to give it a shot.

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 danger of always swinging for the fences

Swinging for the fences

I loved playing baseball as a kid.  I ended up playing all the way through school and up into college. I had a great time, helped cover some of my costs going to school, and in general it was a good experience.  Most of that time I was a swing for the fences, all or nothing, hit a home run or strike out kind of guy.  When I finished playing I was about 270 pounds and so if I didn’t hit it really far, there’s a good bet I wasn’t getting on base.  I always used to say that if you hit it far enough you don’t have to run around the bases, they let you jog. Unfortunately that approach might have semi-worked in baseball but it certainly didn’t transfer as well to the work a day world.

There’s a lot to be said for hitting singles or making bite sized progress every day. One of the things that’s really hard to come to grips with, whether it’s in working your way through a  project, developing a business, or quite honestly most things in life, it’s rare to hit the home run and have instantaneous success in something.  More often than not, you sort of have to grind away at it and string together singles, if we’re going to stick with the baseball analogy, in order to be successful. I certainly don’t want to discourage anyone from thinking big, but I think you’re more likely to get those big dreams if you can see a path to get there that is built on a steady stream of incremental success that are easier to attain individually. When you put them together they can take you someplace great.

All that swinging for the fences in little league, in high school, and college didn’t necessarily get me where I wanted to go with my baseball career but it did teach me that when I stepped out into my professional career, I ought to try a different approach. I adopted some of the more grinding approaches that comes from the age old formula of just hard work and good ideas.  So the next time you’re thinking about how you ought to approach something, it’s always good to brainstorm around what the really big idea could be. I think sometimes that gives you a vision of how far something could go. From there you can try to come up with a path that gets you there with maybe a few more steps involved; but with those few more steps it’s probably a lot easier to accomplish.

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.

Long hours at a desk: A quest for the cure for “Office Back”

Office Back

I’ve found the cure for lower back pain, or “office back.”  Well maybe I didn’t find it, but I did hear about it from a chiropractor, use it in life, then made it my own. As somebody who has a spent an awful lot of time sitting at desks I’ve had lots of problems with lower back pain. I’ve tried just about everything under the sun from massages, to chiropractors, to all different types of stretches, and while a lot of things worked a little bit, nothing worked all the time. Luckily, I’ve finally found something that works.

I’ve started using a lacrosse ball to deep tissue massage the muscles in my lower back and it’s been incredibly effective for me. First you take the lacrosse ball and pin it between yourself and the wall. From there you almost do a sort of wall squat up and down the wall and use the lax ball to dig into the muscles that are getting knotted up from sitting at a desk for 8 to 10 hours a day. It’s the type of thing that you should probably do alone because I speak from experience when I say you will be made fun of if somebody sees you doing it. Squatting up and down the wall while trying to dig the lax ball into your lower back does not leave you looking very dignified but I have found that it makes you feel a lot better.

So in the face of some funny comments from friends and family who have seen me do it, I will continue.  I’ve even caught a few of them trying it out. It’s definitely one of those things that it doesn’t matter how you look its how you feel and it has certainly made me feel a lot better.  It’s very similar to a lot of what people are doing with foam rollers on their hips to release some of the tension from their muscles. I keep a lax ball with me at work, I’ve got one at home, one in my home office, and I keep one in my car. Whenever I start to feel a little bit tight I take it out, spend 3 to 5 minutes using it on my lower back where the muscles feel knotted, and the next thing you know I feel much better.

So it’s worth a try for all of you that spend a lot of time at a desk. There are a lot of other things that I’ve tried that are helpful including making sure that you get up at regular intervals. This is another one that if you just get up a couple times an hour and get a quick stretch you’ll find that at the end of the day you’re not nearly as miserable as you could be; but if you do end up with that horrible set of knotted muscles the lax ball is a really good way to cure “office back.”

Photo credit: Eugenio “The Wedding Traveler” WILMAN

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.

Stay active, stay interested and stay young

Bruce wilis stay young blog

My grandmother is not old.  She might have a lot of years on her but when you talk to her you realize just how much you can do if you live life to the fullest.  I was talking to her last weekend and she was planning on a long trail ride in the Black Canyon down in Gunnison National Park. She’s doing a bunch of pre-rides so that my cousins who don’t get out on horseback very often didn’t have problems with some of the horses. She wanted to make sure that the horses had been ridden enough so that these folks who don’t get out much would be able to handle it and I definitely got kind of a kick out of that.

Whenever I think about my grandmother I associate her with somebody who is young and vibrant and is just making the most out of life. I think a big part of that is that every time I talk to her on the phone, for my whole life, she’s always been on the go or doing something.  She’s always been riding horses, working in her garden, on the go to the next thing, or planning her next big adventure. This has made her stay youthful and I think there’s a real lesson in that for everybody.

I hear people say things like, “I’ve been going so hard I just want to spend a week on the couch” or “I just want to do nothing”  all the time. Maybe you’re dong the wrong things in your work life or I guess the ultimate takeaway is that finding the things that get you excited about in your day to day life, whether that is things at work or things that you do outside of work, are a big part of the key to staying youthful. You may not be able to change the passage of years but I think most people know somebody who is in their 70s, 80s or 90s and hasn’t quite seemed to realize it yet.  They’re still going like they did when they were much younger and in a lot of cases they’re outpacing people half their age.

That’s the person I want to be when I get older; somebody who is excited about every day, who is still finding new challenges, and has found a way to be excited about the things that they do. So I think important parts of that are:

  • Figuring out what makes you excited
  • Making sure that you try new things so that you don’t get stuck in a rut
  • Finally, part of it is just attitude, finding the silver lining in anything that you do, and either making it a game or figuring out how it ties into the bigger picture

Slogging through things just to mark the time isn’t going to do much for your quality of life and probably doesn’t do much for the quality of things that you’re doing. 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.

Staying connected when your workload hits capacity

Blog 8-13-13

One of the things that’s easy to do when the workload starts piling up and you’ve got multiple deadlines, multiple projects and multiple priorities, is that unless you’re careful you can sometimes end up isolating yourself in an effort to get all of it done.  I know this because I’ve done it firsthand a lot of times and the results are never as good as if you stay engaged with the rest of your team.  There’s a lot of temptation to just try to bowl through work in order to get it done. While that may solve the crisis of the minute it probably doesn’t help you succeed in achieving your big picture goals. If you do it often enough and long enough, you can begin to lose touch with the rest of your team and you’re going to see team wide performance degrade and eventually you’re going to add to the workload that you have. All the sudden it becomes a vicious cycle that’s hard to overcome.

I think one of the things that you have to do is engage with your team and make that effort to spend time with them. I think this is important even if it’s not helping you share the workload because you can’t share the workload. It’s about staying engaged so that you maintain the awareness of what the team is doing. No matter how hard you’re working or how little time you have, take ten or fifteen minutes to walk around the office, pick up the phone or send that email that keeps you connected to the people that help you achieve on a daily basis. Even if they’re not working on the same project that is keeping you up late right now, it’s important to stay connected and not lose touch.  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.

Corporate Speed Dating Anxiety

Networking Blog

I’m going to a Salesforce partner event this morning called the “Salesforce Partner Exchange for DISA” which I’m sure will be a fabulous event. They do a great job putting these things together. A lot of great information comes out of them and you get a better understanding of not just the organization in focus, but the partner community that is supporting that organization as well. All of that is great however, one of the big draws for these events is the networking aspect of it.  You’ve got a lot of different people from all the different parts of the Salesforce value chain and community including product vendors, services vendors, consultancies, other customers, and just a whole slew of different types of people that are engaged around this type of event.  For a lot of people that’s a big draw, myself included.  You want to meet other people that are a part of the community and see how they fit in, see how what they are doing dovetails with what you are doing, are there any synergies and so on and so forth.

In these types of events, a lot of times I feel a little bit uncomfortable. It feels a little bit like I’m speed dating people.  You go in and you meet this person, you have a 3 to 5 minute conversation with them, and then you move on to the next person. It all just feels a little bit artificial. I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is but I often feel a little bit put off by the personal interaction in those circumstances. I mean I’ve met a lot of great people at these types of event. I’ve met people who have over time really become integral parts of my business and close personal friends but it hasn’t ever felt very natural to me. So all in all I always have a little bit of dread of going to these things. I feel kind of uncomfortable because I’m not a naturally outgoing person in the sense of meeting new people.  I talk to people that I’ve know for a while to the point where they’re almost all searching for ways to get me to shut up but it’s hard for me to go into something like that and meet people that I haven’t met before.

As I was thinking about all that this morning, I realized that everyone’s in the same boat at these events. So there shouldn’t be a feeling of discomfort about this idea that you’re speed dating each other. My plan for today is to address that head on and essentially try to do briefer types of meets.  One of the classic mistakes I make at an event like this is I’ll meet somebody, find them really interesting, spend the next hour talking to them and probably minimize some  of the value that I could get from an event like this.

One of the points of an event like this is to expose the diversity of the community to you so that you can really expand the breadth of folks that you know. There’s always the possibility in these to meet people that can help you, that you can work together with, and that you can socialize with. Getting too locked into any particular conversation is probably counterproductive so I’m going to try to be much more concise in my meetings. I’m also really going to make an effort to do more with the time that I have in these and not be locked into my phone. Eyes on your phone is basically the universal sign for don’t talk to me.

I’d love to know how other people address this type of issue. I know it’s fairly common for those of us who aren’t natural networkers to try figure out how do I do a better job of taking advantage of these types of events and meet people that I have something in common with.  So I’m going to try to do a better job today of reaching out to people and being the first person to say how instead of just being the respondent. I’d love to know what tactics and techniques work for other people who aren’t naturally extraverted at these events.

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.