Time tips

A few weeks ago I was interviewed by Annette Marner on ABC local radio Drive Time, and on ABC Brokenhill radio on the topic of ‘Time Tips for the New Year’. Here is the gist of our discussion.

The most important thing about saving time and making time to build the life you want (and to build in plenty of study time!) is to know what’s important to you. When you know that, you know what to concentrate your energy and efforts on.

At work, the most important parts of your job to concentrate on are your key result areas (aka KPIs — key performance indicators). To find out what’s most important to you in your personal life, think about what you value most–time with your partner, helping your children learn and grow into valuable members of the community, your own personal health and well-being …

Now you know what to spend your time and efforts on. You can fit in all those other things clamouring for your attention in between working on what’s really important so that you don’t fritter away your time and energy on trivial tasks and meaningless, value-less chores.

Now you can think about two things:

  1. Are you actually spending enough time in these important areas? That isn’t necessarily measured in actual minutes and hours; you often need to measure the quality of the time you’re spending. You can sit and stare at a text book or your computer screen for hours on end and achieve nothing, or put in a concentrated sixty minutes studying or drafting an essay.
  2. Are you getting the results you want in each of the important areas of your job and your life? Remember: it isn’t ‘busy-ness‘, but results, that count.

When any of your answers to those two questions is ‘No’, figure out what’s stopping you. Do you need more job knowledge or to improve your computer or keyboarding skills? Do you need to schedule in time for exercise or to get up an hour earlier to go for a walk or to study? Do you need to practice saying ‘No’ nicely because you’re spending so much time working on other peoples’ priorities that you don’t have enough time to work on what’s important to you? Do you need to stop procrastinating?

Once you know what the problem is, what’s stopping you from spending time on what’s important to you or what’s stopping you from getting the results you’re after, the solution is often staring you right in the face. That’s when you grit your teeth and do what you need to do to take charge of the way you’re spending your time.

Then you can look in the mirror at the end of the day and say ‘Yup, I added value today; I achieved something I wanted to; I’m in charge of my time and my life, not merely responding to other peoples’ demands.’ And that makes you feel good about yourself!

Discussion questions

Are you consciously shaping your life to be more like the life you want? What else might you need to do to make the most of your time? What’s preventing you from getting the results you want at work or in your personal life?

The power of mistakes

I’ve just watched an interesting 14-minute Youtube video by Derek Sivers called Why you Need to Fail. He explains three good reasons why mistakes–provided you learn from them–are helpful to your continued growth and performance.

First, you need to make mistakes in order to learn. When you’re not failing, you’re not learning. Paying attention to your mistakes actually helps you learn more effectively. Continuing to do what you’re already good at may make you feel good, but it doesn’t improve your performance.

Second, mistakes keep you in the growth mindset as opposed to the fixed mindset. A fixed mindset says ‘Talent is inborn; if I’m not immediately good at something, there’s no point in trying to get better.’ A growth mindset says: ‘I can master anything when I put in a bit of effort.’

Third, when you’re trying out new ways in order to find better ways, or in order to improve what you’re already doing, you can see these trials as experiments, which means it’s okay to make mistakes. Better still, when you see everything as an experiment, there’s no such thing as failure, just continually working to get better.

Sivers gives good examples to illustrate his points.

Discussion questions

Do you just ‘coast’, doing what your good at, or do you stretch yourself so that you can improve? Do you have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset? How might it help you to think of your activities as ‘experiments’?

Beware of stuffy meeting rooms!

We all know that carbon dioxide (CO2) is a problem for the ozone layer and the greenhouse effect. But did you know that too much CO2 in your office or home impairs your ability to make sound decisions?

Outdoor CO2 levels are usually about 380 parts per million (ppm); in buildings, the level can reach several thousand ppm, particularly in meeting rooms, where people gather for extended periods of time. (Poorly ventilated classrooms are another concern in this regard.)

Scientists at The Berkeley Lab, part of the US Department of Energy, using a sophisticated test developed by the State University of New York Upstate Medical University, have found that even moderately high indoor concentrations of CO2 significantly reduce peoples’ decision-making performance.

Using nine scales of decision-making performance, test subjects showed significant reductions on six of the scales at CO2 levels of 1000 ppm and large reductions on seven of the scales at 2500 ppm. The abilities to take initiative and think strategically fared the worst.

Although the scientists studied only 24 people, they say the results are ‘unambiguous’. According to one of the scientists, William Fisk, the stronger the effect, the fewer subjects you need to see it; “our effect was so big, even with a small number of people, it was a very clear effect.”

The implication for decision-making is that the more people there are in a workspace, the more CO2 levels rise and the more careful you need to be to dose up with fresh air when making important decisions. Maybe the idea of ‘walking meetings’ outdoors is as good for decisions as it is for your health.

The implication for sustainable buildings is that we need to think carefully about making buildings ‘tighter’ to make them more energy-efficient and less expensive to run. Not thinking clearly is expensive, too.

Discussion questions

How is the air quality in your workspace? How much fresh air do you breath during an average work day? (“Smokos” outside definitely don’t count!) When you’re running a lengthy meeting, do you give people the opportunity to take short breaks in the fresh air and open windows in the meeting room when possible?

Hire for Personality

In a Harvard Business Review video, Robert Chavez, CEO of Hermes US explains why it’s important to hire for personality. You can teach skills but you can’t teach people how to smile, he says.

Discussion questions

Do you agree with Robert Chavez that hiring for attitude, values and personality is more important than existing skills and experience? Would you hire someone who failed to switch off their mobile during an interview? To some people (me included) that would be a turn-off!