Bedazzled by Shiny Baubles?
Disheartened by Not Getting the Real Work Done?
Before I give you the answer, I want to tell you about my penchant for all things new.
I worked for a large organization and was lucky enough to lead some pretty innovative files. That should have been enough to keep my curiosity and creativity fulfilled. But it wasn’t.
You see, I was addicted to the next great thing. In fact, I loved generating new ideas, new programs, and cutting edge initiatives. My favorite pastime was brainstorming with like-minded out-of-the-box thinkers.
You can imagine how much fun I was having. The dopamine was frantically flowing through my brain. But like any habit, there was a price.
The shiny objects of my affection meant I had a really hard time focusing on the real work. I’m talking the work I was accountable for completing – the meat and potatoes of my job. The things I couldn’t simply delegate to my staff. And trust me, I was a good delegator.
If you’re like me and go after shiny baubles because they’re fun, creative and leave you feeling energized, then chances are you’re also disheartened. It’s really hard to have one without the other.
If you’re an entrepreneur this can be the death-knell for your business.
Luckily for you, I’ve learned how to break the habit, dial back the chemical release, do quality work, meet deadlines and still allow a little creative fun and games.
The answer can be found in 2 words: creativity and discipline.
In this case, neither word is more important than the other. In fact, you can’t successfully have one without the other.
Let me explain.
If you commit to a daily practice of discipline then you can carve out time within that practice to create or play with shiny baubles. Consciously limiting your creative, brainstorming or idea generation to specific chunks of time will leave you feeling responsible, useful and with time to meet your accountabilities. You’ll stop the never-ending chase for the high because you’ll get your needs met without the guilt, shame and pressure of not getting the real work done.
But here’s the hook – you must commit to taking that allotted time each day to be creative. Otherwise, you’ll not be disciplined. You’ll lose motivation, interest and end up completely disheartened with no energy for anything. It has to be a continuous cycle of creativity feeding discipline feeding creativity and so on.
People like us need to keep our juices flowing, but not overflowing. We need just enough to keep us engaged, motivated and yes, disciplined. And we need discipline to provide us with the right amount of time and focus to get our real work done and still make time for creative idea generation.
Here are ways to put this concept into practice:
• Protect space in your calendar each day just devoted to creativity.
• Ideally make creativity time at the end of morning or afternoon – don’t start your day with it or you’ll find yourself too high to focus on the real work.
• Think about who you most enjoy brainstorming and being creative with and meet with them at least every few weeks. The idea of riffing off each other will keep you anticipating and committing to the creative time.
• Adopt the Start ⇒ Do ⇒ Finish rule. Chunk your work into small pieces and do one chunk until it is complete. Only then can you move on to something else.
• Log off your email, web browser and anything else that’ll keep you from focusing on the chunk of work in front of you.
• Let others know what you need to be successful at this (like letting you know when they see you getting speedy etc.). You aren’t an island even if you might be a solopreneur.
• Commit to your disciplined plan with an accountability partner.
• Notice when you’re getting overly excited (high), speeding up and talking fast – sure signs you’re overflowing with dopamine. Give yourself a time and space to dial yourself back down.
• Remind yourself you’re on the path to new habits and this takes time – lots of it. Forget the 21 day rule – just another myth from the ‘70’s.
Sounds easy? It’s not.
Making this kind of shift takes a deep level of commitment. That’s why my final bullet point is this:
• Sometimes we just need more help. Hire a coach to be your champion. They’ll keep you accountable with the added bonus of helping you get underneath the bedazzle and on top of disheartened.
As for the two questions at the beginning of the blog? They’re critical questions to ask when you find yourself getting sidetracked and hunting for the next greatest
So you have a big thing going on right now. It’s not the best thing to have but it’s there. In fact it isn’t even close to being a good thing. You keep swatting it away but somehow it just keeps coming back like craft paper to glue.
Just the other day it really got in your way. Not only that, it made you second-guess your own ideals. It had you shaking your head. Then you stopped cold and asked yourself, “Did that just really happen?” You even woke at 3 am last night in a cold sweat.
Now it’s getting out of hand.
Ah, the pressure of creating a New Year’s resolution. If I hear one more person ask me “What’s your resolution for next year?” I’ll scream. And I bet you would too.
That’s because a resolution actually means a firm decision to do or not do something or, the act of finding an answer or solution to a conflict, problem, etc. I don’t know about you, but I see both meanings as rather negative. Who wants to do or not do something and then end up feeling failure for not following through? And seeking a solution to a problem brings up the idea that we aren’t good enough as we are.
I have another idea that blows resolutions out the window – re-ignite.
How often in your career have you been part of a team that isn’t clear on its vision? How often have you been part of a team that embodied all the strengths needed to be high performing?
In his seminal book, Leadership, published back in 1978, James MacGregor Burns introduced Transformational Leadership; the basic concept in which leaders focus on the beliefs, needs, and values of their followers. For its time, this was breakout thinking.
How many of us are committed to regular reflection and seeking feedback on how we show up in our professional lives? My guess is not many.
Asking others to provide comments – albeit constructive – can be scary. As for self-reflection, for some of us this is just plain difficult and not a natural skill.
I have a way to understand your self-awareness on who you are, how you show up in the world, and what others see when you’re stressed.
But first, let me tell you how I discovered something really important about myself and how it changed everything for me!
In a recent article by Maynard Webb #ProductivityHacks, Chairman of Yahoo, he talks about how he builds trust with his team to leverage more time to spend on things he cares about. One of the actions he suggests builds trust stood out for me: ask questions.
too many question marks
In coaching lingo this is known as taking a “coach approach”. But will it actually help you build trust with your team?
I believe it will and here is why.
Recently I was having coffee with a young man (well, young to me) who I met a few years ago on a project. He sought me out to chat about my career and navigating the corporate ladder. Flattered though I was, I quickly turned the tables on him and, like any good coach, made the conversation about him and his aspirations.
I knew I’d hit a few nerves when we got up to leave, as he was a bit tongue-tied with swirling thoughts and ideas. I was happy to hit those nerves. That is what I do. That is part of the process in helping people become unstuck.
The details of our conversation shall stay between he and I. What I was reminded of as we talked are two concepts that are critical if you have aspirations to move ahead, manage and lead.
Like me, I think most of us grew up being told to “do your best”. We were never told to “make a mistake”. Good reason for that – as humans we strive to succeed and those around us want us to be the best we can be. But what if were given permission to make mistakes? What if that was expected of us?
Sure, no one likes to make a mistake, but there are benefits. When you own up to a bad choice or decision, it opens you up to these opportunities:
Over the past 3 years I have had 3 separate falls resulting in broken bones. Yes I realize I don’t have a great sense of balance (as hard as I work on it). But I also know that these accidents have stopped me dead in my tracks.
Fifteen years ago I had my first major fall resulting in 3 surgeries over several years. This too forced me to make some big decisions, like postponing grad school. It also gave me the opportunity to learn how to accept help from others. After all, I always felt it was my job to help everyone else.
I have noticed a lot of people have a really difficult time living in the gray zone. What I mean is, when they don’t have a clear path, clear goals and can anticipate what is next, they crumble under the pressure of the unknown.
In organizations this has been precipitated by changes in how business is being done, hence the proliferation of change management processes and experts over the last 15+ years. Yes we do live in a time of constant change and we are functioning at a speed never before imagined. And this is the new normal.