Photo by Elena Taranenko

I couldn’t tell you when I started work yesterday or how long my lunch break was. But I could tell you what I produced.

Time management is overrated. What you need is attention management:

  1. When you’re in the zone, keep working.
  2. When you’re not, take a break.
  3. Log your focus, not your time.
  4. Pause all notifications — including coworker messages/email.
  5. Measure your outputs (results), not your inputs (hours worked)

If you can produce in 2 hours what takes others 8 hours, congratulations. What will you do with your remaining 6 hours?

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Photo by NeONBRAND
  1. Ask your boss*, “What do I need to do in order to get a raise?”
  2. Start doing the things they listed and update them on your progress
  3. Once you’ve completed the list, request the raise

(*If you’re your own boss, ask yourself #1 and #3)

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Photo by Mick Haupt

“What’s the one thing,” Geoff Woods proposes, “That would make everything else unnecessary or irrelevant?”

In other words,

  • Which problem can you solve that solves the other problems?
  • What habit can you form that forms the other habits?
  • What decision can you make that makes the other decisions?

You’ll know that you’ve found your leading domino when knocking it down causes all of the other dominoes to fall.

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Photo by Manki Kim

Ichi-go, ichi-e 期一会. “One time, one meeting”.

The Japanese idiom asks us to look at every moment as singular, unrepeatable, sacred.

  • When you drink the same cup of coffee each morning: ichi-go, ichi-e.
  • When you do the hard work of parenting, school, or your 9–5 each day: ichi-go, ichi-e.
  • When you crawl into bed each night: ichi-go, ichi-e.

Notice, every day, that there is no such thing as “ordinary”.

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Picture by Marvin Meyer

The business school adage is as true for individuals as it is for organizations. Innovation — the application of new ideas that are useful — is requisite for survival in an entropic world.

And that’s a beautiful thing.

Entropy is an invitation built into the fabric of the universe to step up, innovate, and hold the chaos at bay.

What new and useful thing will you create today? Will you:

  1. Launch that program
  2. Take that risk
  3. Organize that closet
  4. Teach your kid something new
  5. Write that song

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The other day in a conversation with a colleague, I said, “This goes without saying, but you did a great job on that project.” Her response made it very clear that it didn’t go without saying. It never does.

People need to hear that their efforts are seen, that you appreciate them, that you’re thinking of them.

It never goes without saying.

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Image by Marcelo Leal

“I will abstain from all intentional wrong-doing and harm”.

This ancient Greek maxim bears an uncomfortable amount of restraint. Why not change it to, “I will actively engage in doing good?”

The same question might be asked of the leaders at Google, whose founding motto was, “Don’t be evil.” Why not vow to “be good”?

The reason: humility.

A physician can’t promise that she’ll cure the disease, but she can promise to not knowingly exacerbate it.

A professional can’t promise to make the right decisions, but he can promise to not knowingly make the wrong ones.

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A shelf of my bookcase
  1. Read what you want to read, not what you want to want to read
  2. Only read books that others say have changed their life
  3. Befriend the library. Always have holds queued up.
  4. Borrow books you’ve never read, buy books you want to read again.
  5. Ruthlessly abandon books you’re not enjoying (#4 makes this possible)
  6. Join a book club
  7. Use an alarm clock and resist bringing your phone into the bedroom
  8. Put your book on your pillow, not your nightstand, to force a conscious decision to read each night
  9. Read for the first fifteen minutes of your work day. (I read 9 books doing this last year)
  10. Track your progress

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Row of Model T cars. Source: http://acabrerahistory12.weebly.com/uploads/8/8/0/9/8809455/9270329_orig.jpg
Source

In 1912, Henry Ford’s workforce was leaving in droves. Turnover was so high that they had to hire 60,000 employees to cover 10,000 jobs.

Ford, like all visionaries, tackled the problem using a win-win mentality — a positive-sum idea that would entail a win for the business and employees. His solution?

Triple the minimum wage.

The result? Satisfied employees, soaring profits, and ripple effects that would eventually give way to an American middle class.

Most seemingly intractable problems can be solved by mustering the courage to endure short term loss for long term gain.

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“If we are victorious in one more battle we shall be utterly ruined.”

King Pyrrhus just spent everything he had in order to win a series of battles. Why was he upset? Because his victory was Pyrrhic: he won the battle but would lose the war.

A Pyrrhic victory is one where you win at such high a cost that it is tantamount to defeat:

  • You receive the refund, but had to sit on hold for an hour
  • You win the argument, but damage the relationship
  • You get the car, but become crippled by debt

Not all victories are worth winning.

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Alexander Burlingame

Learner, thinker, and doer. Lover of spreadsheets, books, design, and craft beverages.