Why did I get up and go to work this morning? Was it just to make money to pay my mortgage to put my kids through school and pay all of my family’s bills for this month?
If you were to ask most people that question they would say that they go to work to earn a living. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, it doesn’t really give greater meaning and purpose to our lives. In the field of psychology, connecting to something beyond the self and helping others find fulfillment infuses more meaning into our lives than just working for sustenance.
Many people feel paralyzed by the lack of control over their own lives. One of the purposes of the Middle Class Guy blog is for you, my dear reader, and I to journey together to gain a greater amount of control over our lives and to begin leading our lives rather than letting them lead us. There are many things beyond our control, such as our height, our looks or our talent in a given area, but we can control how much effort we put forward to develop those talents that we are born with.
Inasmuch as my own talents lie in reading, writing, and speaking, I am hereby going to strive to be less boring in my writing. As an avid reader, I always want to convey a lot of information from what I have read in my posts, but do not have the time to possibly share everything.
Voltaire said that the secret of being boring is to say everything, and because I know that the only thing that my readers have less of than disposable income is their time, I plan to be more cognizant of that in future posts.
As Christopher Hitchens wrote, “The one unforgivable sin is to be boring.”
Here’s to not being boring!
Record Your Insights
I believe that everyone has good ideas. Sometimes great ideas. Our problems do not lie in the lack of coming up with ideas, but losing them without recording them or, in my case, coming up with idea after idea but not knowing how to or even fearing implementing them.
Can a 46-year-old Middle Class Guy who works most of his waking hours learn something new like graphic design for tee-shirts and the like, or how to create mobile applications for the one that I thought of years ago, has not yet been created, but soon will be by someone who either knows how to create it himself or is willing to pay someone five to ten thousand to create it for him or her? What if it flops? I surely cannot afford to take that risk, or the risk that whatever whiz kid I hire to create it will not claim ownership him or herself, growing wealthy on it while I grow frustrated.
No, the ideas that I come up with are mostly for blog posts, articles and eBooks. Something that I should be able to implement, given enough time to work on them.
I have kept idea notebooks for the past five years or so, even writing a list of the places where me and my family ate out during the month of May for a quick post about how we blew way past the average of 18 times.
A great title for one of my future eBooks came to me yesterday a mile away from my office, and without anything to write with, I wrote it down on the notepad feature on my pay-as-you-go “smart” phone. Instead of losing the idea, as I have hundreds or perhaps thousands of times in the past, I took a moment to record it.
When the eBook comes out in a year or two or whenever, I’ll think back on the day that I typed its title on my phone while I was walking during my lunch hour.
Activity Vs. Accomplishment
Unfortunately, so much of our work lives are tied up in routine or mundane activities.
At my place of work, we have to submit weekly activity reports as well as monthly activity reports via email. I do realize, of course, that listing out ten activities that you did during a work week or forty for a month looks better than one or two minor accomplishments, but isn’t our purpose of being at our jobs to accomplish something?
In routine, non-skilled jobs, activities such as how many customers you served, how many items you helped manufacture, or how many phone calls you made are easily logged and quantified.
But for more skilled professions, closing a deal or assisting a customer or, in my case, actually attracting a new business to my community (an accomplishment) instead of just calling or visiting them (an activity) is more fulfilling and moves my organization closer to accomplishing its goals.
So many of my colleagues complain about how busy they are, but at the end of the month, or at the end of the year, it would be hard to pinpoint what, if anything, they accomplished.
Whenever I hear a colleague complain about how busy they are, the phrase of not confusing activity with accomplishment instantaneously goes through my mind, and it has for years.
Who wants to go through their life at home, with their family or at work without having any genuine impact? Do you want to spend eight or more hours per day on a job that does not matter to you, feeling as if you have not accomplished anything at the end of the day?
I do not. And I do not think that you do, either. Better to accomplish something than to be like one of my colleagues, who are busier than bees but accomplish little for the most part.
What’s Your IQ?
Not your intelligence quotient, but your Implementation Quotient.
In You Don’t Need a Title To Be A Leader, Mark Sanborn writes that having good ideas isn’t enough – you have to be able to implement them.
Intent without action is daydreaming. That is something that has plagued me for a number of years, as I jot down ideas in my notebooks but have never implemented any until starting this blog.
Sanborn writes that the barriers to execution include things that plague many of us, including Paralysis By Analysis, Confusing Talking With Taking Action, Accepting Explanations As Excuses and the biggest one of all for me, Fear of Failure.
He writes about five ways of increasing your Implementation Quotient, which would be a nice post on its own:
- Dream Big – think through what you will need to achieve your most ambitious goal: the resources of time, expertise and the support of others.
- Plan Small – big tasks can be broken into smaller “to do”s and a great way to create momentum is by completing as many little things as quickly as possible.
- Team Up – this is where your people skills are tested. Who should be on your team? Who do you trust? Hold others accountable for accomplishments rather than just activities. As I always say in my field of economic development, I would rather work closely with one good business prospect that comes to fruition rather than ten others that the elected officials think that I should pursue, which have never actually turned into an actual business project.
- Keep Striving – one a “best practice” has been adopted, most people and organizations consider it done, go back to business as usual, and quit looking for the newer or better “best practice.” Sanborn writes that today’s best practice is next year’s discarded fad.
- Act Boldly – once your plan is in place and the resources and team are lined up, it is time to take decisive action. Don’t just act once; keep on acting until you succeed.
Don’t Forget to Prioritize
After my post about the busy week that I had a few weeks ago from May 8th to 14th, during which I listed out my to-do list on a 7 Days A Week form, I have not utilized the sheet again.
My weeks have not been less busy, it is just that I have not listed out my priorities, just going from thing to thing at work, mostly as they come up. I can easily exist for weeks or even months at a time in reactive mode, doing what the bosses tell me to do and responding to the business inquires that come to me, rather than me setting out my priorities on what I want to accomplish and who I want to call on.
Sometimes I remember or think of something important that I want or need to do at work, but contradicting my earlier advice to record your insights, I forget to and then the day or week passes without me doing something that would lead to more accomplishment than just the activities that I can do with my brain shut off.
Do you, too, ever find that at the end of a typical day you have accomplished everything except the most important on your to-do list? We get the easier things done, while the more important things stay undone.
To keep moving in a positive direction, like this post and my blog are meant to help myself and my readers with, we need to remember to prioritize, creating a daily or weekly list of things to do, but that is not the entire solution.
Prioritizing what is most important in accomplishing our mission, whether it is finally writing the post that I have meant to write for weeks, months or even years, or just calling back an account that you once lost to a competitor to see if he or she would reconsider switching back to your business, or whatever the hell it is that you do.
We cannot create more time into our lives, but we can put more life into our time. By focusing more attention and care into our future activities, we can create a greater number of accomplishments at work and in our lives.