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.

There is such thing as information overload

Information overload

I admit it. I get a little bit cranky when people say things like forms processing or document management. Not because I don’t think there’s a reason to have tools to help facilitate those types of activities but because I think by focusing on the processing of forms, you take away the focus on the outcomes that the organization is trying to drive. It’s one of the reasons why I talk so much about assessments because it is oftentimes a more apt phrase for what the organization is trying to do. When you gather information in a form, you generally gather that information so that you can evaluate something, perform a business process, or execute on the next step on some particular work flow.

The point of it is not simply processing the form or managing the document; it’s using the information that you collect to drive value for the organization as whole. That is why I think it’s so important to think about those types of things more from the standpoint of what are you trying to drive rather than the standpoint of simply managing information through a workflow. That mindset of management information through a workflow inevitably ends up with more information under management than is required. You end up collecting information because you can rather than because you need it to make a decision or to execute a business process and it’s a huge problem.

One of the amazing things about our modern technology environment is the ability to manage and store information. However human beings haven’t similarly upgraded their ability to process information in a way that enables better decision making. So the fact that you can store petabytes of data doesn’t mean that you should do it just because you can.  There are plenty of reasons to store information, to do big data type analysis, to make determinations of a whole host of different types of things, or to do ongoing investigations of things that might help your business. However if you’re trying to support a specific business process, I believe that you ought to keep the information that you gather to a minimum because there’s a real cost in gathering that information that goes far beyond what it takes to store it on hardware.  That’s the smallest component of that cost.  So that’s my piece and I’m sticking to it.

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.

A Jiu Jitsu champion’s views on what it takes to excel

I was listening to an interview with one of the most accomplished Jiu Jitsu players of all time, Marcelo Garcia, and he was talking about how he prepared for the championships and what drove him. I want bring up something really interesting that he said and I think it can be applied across anything that you do. If you want to check it out the point I want to bring up happens at the 5:30 mark in the above video.  He was asked, “What’s the most important characteristic that you can have to excel in this world?” He at first started out with a really kind of patented answer and I almost turned my brain off.  He said you have to give 100%.  That answer or give 110% I think is used so often that it’s become meaningless.  It’s what he said afterwards though that I found really interesting.  He said that if you give something just 80% and you don’t get there, you have wasted that 80%. I thought that really was something a little bit different from anything I had heard before and kind of changed the way I think about giving 100%.

When you think about the amount of time that you spend at anything that you’re trying to accomplish, whether its personal advancement, professional advancement, or a hobby, and you think about the amount of time that you put into it, you understand that you have a finite amount of time available to you. It really does put in perspective what giving 100% means when you’re doing something. Essentially, if you’re not giving it your all, you’re wasting your time. You’re not going to get where you want to go and you might as well not be doing it at all; you might as well be doing whatever else it is that you might want to do whether it is sitting on the couch watching TV or reading a book. With that logic he was saying that if you’re not going to give it 100% than what are you really accomplishing? So I thought it was a really interesting point; I’d never quite heard it phrased that way and I thought I’d pass it along.

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.

Agendas: Keeping you focused

Agendas keeping you focused

Every once in a while you hear somebody saying, “Oh they have their own agenda,” and it doesn’t always have the most positive connotation. From somebody who’s spent most of their life in meetings, some of which do not have an agenda despite the overwhelming consensus in the best practice area that that’s how it should be, I think it’s ok and should actually be encouraged to have your own agenda.  In fact if you don’t have your own agenda and no one else does either, you’ll probably all just end up wasting your time.  When I find myself in that situation where I’m going into a meeting and for whatever reason it would be uncomfortable or improper for me to ask or provide an agenda I like to spend a little bit of time developing my own agenda going into the meeting.  You should know things like:

  • Why am I attending this meeting
  • What am I hoping to achieve by attending this meeting

I also like to think about what the other people that are participants in the meeting might be hoping to achieve from it and what their agendas might be so I’m at least prepared for whatever direction the meeting might take.  Finally once I’m in the meeting and things begin to drift into that agendaless zone that happens so often when you don’t have a plan and the topics sort of drift left and right, I’ll try to steer the meeting towards value.  Simple things like

  • What are we hoping to accomplish in  today’s meeting
  • What are the actions that we are looking to get as we move out of today’s meeting

Simple prompts like that that get people back thinking about why are we here and why do we want everyone to take time out of their day to be in this one place or be on this one call.  To have the conversation be brought back around to what are we trying to solve is usually enough to get people tracking back towards value.  I’m curious what other people think as always and I look forward to hearing from 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.

You talk too much…and you never shut up!

gift of gab

I admit I love to talk.  Some people like talk about the “gift of gab.” Now I’m not sure if I have it but I do know that I definitely enjoy listening to myself talk.  However, as I’ve gotten a little bit older I’ve slowly but surely come to the realization that there are other people that are involved in a conversation.  If others aren’t involved in the conversation it is a monologue and people look at you funny, so this post is for all of you talkers out there.

If you find yourself in the midst of what should be a conversation and you realize that the other person hasn’t said a word in five minutes take a breath and see if maybe, just maybe they have something to add.  One thing that I try to make a concerted effort to do every time is listen first. If you get engaged in a casual conversation make it a point to really listen to what the other person has to say and let them get engaged in a story.  I find that if I work on listening first not only is my part of the conversation better because I know a little bit more about the other person but when people notice that you’re actively listening, a lot of times it prompts them to really open up. I think there’s almost a cue when you are actively listening to somebody that lets them know, “Hey this person is not going to interrupt me and they’re going to let me finish,” and because of that you get a better response on their part.

Finally I think that for every talker out there it’s really important to think about the conversations that you’ve had after you’ve had them. I think this is especially true and relevant in the business context.  Think about how you went through it and where you might have been better served to do some listening rather than speaking. It’s from my client calls or workshops with clients where I think I’ve really learned that the key to success is listening more talking less. I always try to take a minute and just think about the conversation I had and not just from the context of what was actually said, what I need to do about it, what are the action items, and other basic housekeeping details. I like to reflect on some growing points as well such as:

  • How could I have made the call better
  • How could I have listened more
  • Where could I have put in prompts to the cue the other person to speak
  • Where could I have elicited more information

As I said at the beginning, one of the keys to success is ensuring that you do at least as much listening as talking in any conversation because it’s what enables you to better meet the expectation of the other person. Many times, what helps you get your ideas across and enables you to convince the other person of the benefits of a particular idea or objective isn’t what you say so much, it’s how well you listen to them and how well you react to their cues.  I’m curious what other people have to say on the topic. It’s an area where I know I could still learn quite a little bit about.

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 buck stops here: Increasing accountability in the office

buck stops here

Accountability is one of the key ingredients to creating a high performing organization.  Being able to count on people doing the things that they say they’re going to do is critical for organizations to be able to improve and perform.  As a leader it is your job to create a team that can be counted on to execute.  If a team member fails to perform the fault ultimately isn’t with the team; it will fall on the leader’s shoulders who is responsible for their actions. I’ve made a list of some tips to help increase accountability around the office space.

  1. Remember at the close of every meeting to assign action items to specific people.
  2. When you send an email, specifically include your ask in the form a request to that person. Don’t just expect them to take the next step.
  3. Hold to deadlines and calendar dates.  If it was important enough to put a deadline on it, it’s important enough to keep to it.
  4. The flip side of that is also true. Make sure that you don’t arbitrarily assign deadlines and dates to things that don’t require it because then it’s hard to tell the difference between what’s important and what’s not.
  5. As a leader, manager, or team member, make sure you hold yourself to the same standard that you want everyone else held to.

As always I’m curious what everyone else thinks.  If you have any suggestions to add to this list I’d love to hear them.

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.

Short and sweet: The value of brevity

short and sweet

In today’s modern world much has changed in the way of how we get and internalize our information.  With so much new technology constantly coming out that makes it easier and faster to get information, we are oversaturated. We are constantly hit with a barrage of information about absolutely anything and everything.  It has changed many things around us as well as how we go about getting and ingesting our information. Twitter has become the monument to our shortened attention spans created by this information overload.  Its platform that makes you get your message down to 140 characters can teach you some valuable lessons about elevator pitches and messaging in this social media era.

  1. There is so much content available now that if you can’t get your message across in the first sentence or even the first 140 characters people may not read further.
  2. The act of focusing down your message into 140 characters forces you to filter out all the extraneous information and focus on what’s really important
  3. Most of us learned the wrong message in college.  That lesson being, if you said enough stuff the teacher would take it and think you put enough work into it and give you the grade.  That’s not how the modern world works. People want their information quickly, easily, and most importantly, concisely.
  4. Twitter itself has made 140 character messaging a must for most organizations. Most organizations need to be able to communicate on that platform and others like Vine, Tumblr, and blogs etc. that reward those that are able to be both concise and informative to be successful.
  5. People don’t have time to read the whole novel.  Give them the Cliffs notes.  They’ll appreciate and love you for it
  6. You get 90 seconds in an elevator pitch and most peoples decisions are made on that basis.  In the new social media world a lot of research has shown that most people never make it past the first 7 seconds of a YouTube video.  This just illustrates that the quicker you entice the better.
  7. Who reads your next email may very well be dependent on how good your subject line is.  Great subject lines need to capture an audience and intrigue in just a few words.
  8. If it’s a really good idea, you ought to be able to get it across in a few seconds. If you can’t, you’re going to have trouble getting the eyes, ears, and attention of today’s overexposed, information overloaded, and harried content consumers.

These are just a few reasons I believe brevity is a virtue that is becoming more and more valuable in today’s world.  As always 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.