Before it becomes urgent

In the long run, our ability to be consistently productive is dependent on our ability to habitually prioritize the important before it becomes urgent.

Getting something done before it becomes urgent saves us time and energy because it helps remove stress and stress-related mistakes.

It helps to get things done before we’re forced to.

Haircuts and hairlines

I was getting a haircut the other day. The kind lady showed me the finished cut and asked me if it looked good. I thought it looked great.

Seeing myself in the mirror, I half-joked about my receding hairline. To this, she said – “You know that only you notice it right? Nobody cares.”

She reminded me of a powerful truth that day – we all overestimate how often others think about us.

Reacting to executive feedback on documents

One way to improve our learning curve on writing good documents (or creating good presentations) is to stop being overly reactive to executive feedback.

A better approach, instead, is to use executive feedback to better understand what good looks like. We can do that by digging into the why behind their feedback or by asking them. When we repeatedly do that, we’ll hone our gut for what makes a good doc. That’s most of the battle.

So, the next time you find yourself asking – “Will this doc work for x executive?”, consider the reframing the question to – “Is this doc clearly laying out my argument for someone who isn’t as close to the problem as I am?”

If the answer to the latter is yes, the former follows as the byproduct of a good product.

Re:stacks

A few years ago, a then-good friend shared Bon Iver’s “re:Stacks” with me. She shared the song at a chaotic time. And, somehow, the song brought calm. A reminder to simply recharge. Then begin again.

I think I might have looked up the lyrics once in the years since. I can’t remember them. As I can’t parse Bon Iver’s accent either, I have no idea what the song actually says or means.

Nor have I bothered to look it up. Many a time, it isn’t about what a song says. It is about how it makes us feel.

So, on days when everything around me feels chaotic or out of control, I just sit with Bon Iver playing in the background.

And, as it has consistently done over the past 6 years, it reminds me to keep calm.

Then begin again.

Indra Nooyi on mentors

“Mentors pick you, you don’t pick them. They pick you because they see something in you that they want to hitch their wagon to.” | Indra Nooyi, Pepsico’s former CEO.

I’ve seen many attempts at describing the process of finding mentorship over the years. The good ones drive home the idea that asking people to be our mentor isn’t how it works.

This, however, flips the message and, in doing so, describes reality so beautifully.

It resonated.

So much magic

I played music on our speakers using Airplay the other day.

It was amazing to think about all that happened in that one moment.

I thought of a song I liked, pulled out a phone from my pocket, found that song, played it thanks to wireless internet, and then transferred it over to a speaker to play it for everyone in the room.

So much magic.

So easy to take for granted.

Blemishes and character

We were talking about a few scratches and blemishes on our wooden flooring the other day. Our friends reframed it for us when they described the blemishes as “character.”

Over the past weeks, we’ve been joking about how we’ve been adding (or discovering) character throughout our home.

Jokes aside though, that reframing was powerful for three reasons.

First, it brought a sense of liberation that comes with accepting imperfections (like bubbles on a screen protector).

Second, it drove home just how little others care about the blemishes we pay attention.

And, third, it drove home the importance of mis-steps and imperfections in shaping our character. Character is a set of mental and moral qualities that are distinct to us. We wouldn’t develop them without those blemishes.

That parking spot

I was looking for a parking spot the other day. As I turned in, I noticed folks get into a car nearby.

Assuming they’d be getting out, I decided to wait.

However, they decided to take their own time.

As I continued waiting, I noticed a car pull into an empty spot just 5 or so cars away.

That gave me pause.

A great example of the pitfalls of overusing a good thing – in this case, a single-minded focus on a parking spot.

When the list gets long

Whenever the list gets long and overwhelming, I find myself reminded of
Anne Lamott’s wonderful story.

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day.

We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead.

Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’” 

Bird by bird indeed.

Tools and utility

My grandmom felt some discomfort in her mouth. She found the source of the discomfort – a white spot.

She decided to run some Google searches and stumbled on some article that explained this was a cancer symptom.

Cue: worry.

It turned out to be a small infection.

The dentist asked her to go straight to a doctor next time.

Aside from inspiring a chuckle, it was a good reminder that having access to all the information in the world doesn’t guarantee utility.

Like any tool, we need to know how to use it productively.