helpgrowchange

Be better than yesterday

The achievements in our lives are defined by the action we take, the change we initiate, and the actual doing of ‘stuff’. We have to continuously improve ourselves and our surroundings. If we rest too long, someone else will come along and happily take your place.

I am constantly striving to be better than before. Looking for new ways to be a better father and husband, to drive better, or even brush my teeth better. It doesn’t really matter what it is, it must be better than before.

I’ll list a few of the ways in which I achieve being better.

Day dream

No matter what you might think. Daydreaming is proven to initiate imagination and planning. I day dream often. But I use that time to envisage how a plan of mine might play out, or how I could implement a new piece of information I just read.

It’s also a time-out. A little piece of time to reflect and get away from the constant hustle of a work day (or two boys at home).

Daily 5-item to do list

This is probably my biggest win at achieving tasks while at the office. Using lists to remind yourself of tasks is good, but the important items may get lost when the list begins to get too long.

At the beginning of each day, I review my email (and anything lingering from the day before) and ask myself what are the 5 more important things that need to get done today? These can be small or large, there is no right or wrong thing to put on the list.

Some of the items I have had on my list include; Speak to John Doe about performance review, Write up Statement of Work for that project, or Put in expense claim.

I don’t achieve all 5 items every day, generally completing 3 out of 5 is a good day.

Feedback

I know some of my weaknesses. I know where I want to improve. But there are times when I don’t know where I need to improve.

I am always asking for honest feedback. Asking from anybody who would care to answer. I ask my wife, my team, my peers, my manager. Any feedback they provide is taken on board and processed.

Only honest feedback counts. One of the things I tell people when asking them is I can’t fix it if I don’t know about it.

If you ask someone for feedback, do not react when they give you bad feedback. This is vital. If you do, you will never get honest feedback from that person again.

Take risks

Every day is filled with decisions. From when you decide to get up all the way through to when you decide to go to sleep. Every little thing you do is a decision. Every. Thing.

Break that mould that you have made for yourself and make a decision to do something different. Try something new. Take a risk and see how it turns out.

Now, I’m not saying go sky-diving, or quit your job. It’s the small things that matter. Catch the train a bit earlier, go to a colleague instead of sending an email, say ‘no’ to someone making an unreasonable demand.

You simply won’t know what an outcome will be until you take the risk to change it.

Be Grateful

And finally, I take the time to reflect on what I have, who I am with, and what I have achieved. I purposely take the time to acknowledge the important things I have in my life, and how lucky I am to have them. I become more resolved in my purpose to be better so that I don’t lose these things I am grateful for.

What about you? What do you do in order to improve and be better than yesterday?

Why Being Lazy Is Good For Productivity

When it comes to procrastination and laziness, I think I could take home the prize most of the time. If something can be done tomorrow, I’ll postpone my effort until then. Provided a choice between the easy route or the hard – I’d pick the easy one every time.

I probably shouldn’t be telling you this, but I do the bare minimum required in order to get the job done right. I’ll see through the time necessary in order to ship out an article, finish a project, or even complete a performance review for one of my team members.

But it has to better than last time.

When I read about certain productive people, or watch them speak, it seems like they have it all together. They are like machines, keeping in high gear day in and day out. They have all their ducks in a row, with their products being shipped out, and their tasks being performed pro-actively. I look at my own productivity in comparison and see a limping effort, wandering around aimlessly like a lost puppy.

I am prone to bursts of productivity and stagnant pools of laziness – as I’m sure most of us are. We go through hyper-productive waves where we achieve our maximum potential, but then stand idle as we get bored or unclear on where we want to go next. I don’t believe this is a bad thing.

As long as the next burst of productivity achieves a level higher than the previous one.

For those machine-like people, being the best with their time management and project completion comes naturally to them. They maintain a steady pace of productivity like clockwork, and they churn out tasks like nobody’s business. For the rest of us, however, it’s a daily struggle.

It’s a struggle to maintain the motivation to start, to create, to finish what we started. It takes a huge amount of effort and energy. So much so, that when we get a success or two, we rest, we get bored, we get lazy.

But after a while we realise how lazy we are, and that we need to kick start again. We pick up the pen, we brainstorm more ideas, and we get moving. The passion begins to burn again. More ideas start flowing and action starts to happen. The period of laziness renews our energy to achieve more. Only this time we need to remember what we did the last time, and do better than that.

We must do better otherwise the time we were being lazy was just us being… well, lazy.

It proves nothing, gets us nowhere, and we haven’t really grown.

There is nothing wrong with being lazy. I’m a self-confessed procrastinator and a lazy bastard. The most important thing for me – and what drives me – is that when I do get going again, I go further than I went before.

Now, go. Be lazy. Put off that important task until tomorrow. The world isn’t going to end, it will just be slightly delayed. Just remember to be better than before.

My 5 Favourite Articles After Year One

It started off on a cold, rainy winter’s night in July 2013. I published my first article to browntel.net – simply wanting to get my message out to the ether. A year down the line, I am reviewing what I’ve done over this first year before I kick into the next. I’ve got some big things planned over the next year with Help Grow Change, and I really hope you join me on this journey. For now, sit back, relax, and have a read of five of my personal favourite articles.

Let’s begin with the very first article, which pretty much set the tone for everything to come; a short, simple post about keeping things simple.

The Key To Efficiency Is Simple

 
The first few months of this blog was inconsistent. I had no clear message that I was passing on except a few opinion pieces. I wrote about living in an earthquake city, second hand smoke, and even privacy concerns. One article that stood out for me was today’s toys for our children. But the one article that got me going was the one I laid myself out for all to see.

This Is My Story, And What It Means To You

 
That was September 2013. My writing was starting to take on a certain theme now. I was getting more confident and excited about having the ability to change people for the better. An idea had sparked. In the new year (and after I began my regular newsletter), I published about why you will never be good enough.

Why You Will Never Be Good Enough

 
I believe the writing from then on has had a similar theme, which I hope is appreciated by the people that read it. The next favourite article was a simple one with a simple message.

Take Action

 
In March 2014 I had renewed inspiration with helping, growing, and changing people. It started with an article which struck a chord with me, and I love it. Be you, be awesome.

Be you, be awesome

 
Ok, I lied. There were so many articles out of the 47 I have written so far, that I couldn’t keep the list limited to 5. One message I truly believe (and couldn’t not put it in here), is that there is always hope.

Hope In Your Darkest Hour

 
Thank you for your support over this past year. I hope you continue on this journey with me. A journey that will move us out of mediocrity and into awesomeness.

Productivity Tip #1 – Make Time To Manage Time

Your task list is piling high. You barely have enough time to finish what you are meant to do (or not finish at all). Your boss is breathing down your neck for that report you were meant to finish last week. And your team is waiting for you approve their leave request.

Eventually it gets too much. You throw up your arms in exasperation! You know you have to find a way to manage your workload. Surely there must be a better way in order to get through your tasks.

I hear you – I felt like this before. I was busy all day every day, but when I got home at night, I didn’t feel like I had achieved anything. There was so much I was busy with, I didn’t know my left hand from my right. Emails, Incidents, Requests, Projects, further pressure from my management, it just never seemed to end. Sometimes, I would even need to work late into the night (many nights actually) in order to simply stay afloat in an ocean of workload.

I knew I had to do something about this, as working like that is simply not healthy. I started to read anything I could about productivity and time management. There was a plethora of information and many great tips, but one thing got to me – I didn’t have time to implement any of the advice. I would ask myself questions like ‘How the hell am I supposed to do this stuff when I am so busy with everything else’, or ‘These people make it sound so easy, that will never work for me’.

These were just excuses, though. I was just too lazy to try something new. I was comfortable in what I knew, and it looked like way too much effort to try these new tips. I also felt that some of the advice seemed a bit too generic, and would never work for me.

Despite my doubts, I tried the suggestions. Some worked, most failed. I discovered that not all advice worked for me. I found that I had to combine many different techniques in order to find what worked. And so should you. Even this advice I’m giving you right now should be taken with a pinch of salt, as it might not even be right for what you are looking for. But what if it is – you have to try.

No matter what you try in order to be more productive, you have to make the time to change.

Something has to give in order for you to have a better tomorrow. You must sacrifice some task completion now in order to ensure the better management of all your tasks going forward. It is going to be hard. You will not get to be the super-productive-ninja overnight. There is no magic wand to clear all the tasks away. It takes a lot of time, consistency, and many boring repetitions.

Having no time is not an excuse to hamper your future productiveness.

If you want to manage your workload better, the first item on your to-do list is to schedule the time in order to form your new productive habit. That habit will require conscious effort in order to be maintained. And after a while you will be doing it on auto. At that point, you schedule time to improve the next thing.

Some tips I’ve learnt over the years are;

  1. Make time to implement a new productive habit (whatever habit works for you).
  2. Implement only one new habit at a time. Having too many new habits will not allow you to apply the amount of focus needed to effectively form the new habit.
  3. Be vigilant. Your new habit will not be in place one, two, or even ten days. It’s going to take a while. That ‘while’ varies for different people. I believe that when you are performing your habit on auto more times than you have to think about it, then it’s comfortable enough to form a new one.

Read up more about my productivity methods in the Productivity Section

Having some problems implementing your productivity habit? Ask me a question, and I will try my best to help out with it.

[Featured image: Sonja Langford]

You Are A Leader

Being a leader is not about a fancy title or a corner desk. It’s about taking the responsibility to grow other people. It’s about being passionate about initiating change. Having the balls to make decisions and take responsibility for the outcomes.

Be helpful

When I was still a system administrator, I never thought I was a leader. I was helpful and genuinely interested in resolving other people’s problems. I never thought I could be one of those great, important, managers who I reported to or walked past in the corridor.

However moving into a proper team leader role changed all that. Once I realised the responsibility that came with my newly acquired position, I took the initiative to learn more about what it means to be a leader. What happened next, I didn’t expect.

I discovered my true passion – growing people.

Being able to initiate ideas to show my team that they can be more than what they are, then seeing them go and do it. Seeing my team (and even others) go on to achieve great things inspires me further to help the ones still around me.

As I delve further into my life purpose, I realise that being a leader is about helping everyone. Those that are struggling and need some guidance, as well as the high performers to help them continue on their highway of achievements.

What I also realised, is that you don’t need to be in a leadership role to guide others. You are a leader already. When someone comes to ask your opinion on a particular topic, they respect you enough to seek guidance from you. When your management ask you to run with high profile tasks, they believe you have the ability.

Yes, that does mean you are a leader. You’re just leading in different ways, more subtle ways.

Have the balls

One of the first times I realised the importance of making hard decisions was during an extremely high profile system failure. I realised I couldn’t hide anymore. I couldn’t escalate to my own leader. I couldn’t simply stick my head in the sand until someone else took care of the situation.

On that day, I accepted the challenge. I stood strong, faced the crisis, took control, and we got through it pretty well. One important aspect I believe a leader must have is to be calm in the face of danger. A leader must filter the critical mass from the crap and pass only the relevant information to his team.

There have been a few more tough times since that first emergency. There have also been a few other types of challenges that I have had to adapt to. But that is the nature of this very blog. It’s all about growing and changing when the time calls for it.

You can do the same. Yes, it’s scary – I was nervous as hell (I still am a lot of the time). But the great thing is it gets easier every time. You gain valuable experience, the situation isn’t as scary the next time, and even less scary the time after that. Each time you’re in a similar situation, you can make better decisions. With better decisions, you become more comfortable.

When you’re more comfortable, try challenge yourself with different situations. Try to find that nervousness. The nervousness means you’re out of your comfort zone – that’s a good thing.

The more you are outside of your comfort zone, the more you are learning, growing, changing…

How are you leading others through helpfulness and decisions you’re making?

[Featured image: Kumar Appaiah]

Dream it, do it

I dream way too much. I dream of a new phone, more money, a holiday on some remote Pacific island. You’re dreaming about it too – the white sandy beaches, the crystal clear water… maybe one day we will get there.

You and I always fall into the same trap with these dreams. One day I will be able to afford a holiday. One day I will get a top-of-the-range phone. One day, when I get a promotion, I will get that money I’ve been dreaming of.

One day will never come about. Your dream will always be exactly that – a dream – until you make them into plans.

Take action

Instead of dreaming about one day, why not start planning today. Take action and begin the journey to reach that dream. I’m not saying put the island holiday on the credit card and book flights tomorrow (that’s a bit crazy), rather begin to formulate a plan.

Write it down

While you are dreaming about that phone, holiday, or training course, write it down. It doesn’t matter what format, just whip something out and start writing the ideas down. Things like what time of year would be good, what is the actual price of the item, why do you need it?

Slowly, a picture will form. A picture showing you what is required for you to attain your dream. When I’ve done this before, I have found that I think of other factors that I would not have thought of if I were simply dreaming about one day. For a holiday, necessities like passport requirements, currency, or even local hazards such as earthquakes or volcanoes. For a phone, I would think about specs and data speeds that are compatible with the phone. And even for more money, it’s a matter of what do I need to do to get there?

Plan it

Once notes have been made and a little research done, you will feel a sense of achievement. That is because action was taken, something was done, a step was taken towards that dream.

When you physically note something out of your head and onto paper (or a screen), you have taken your dream and made it a plan. You make your dream more real, more feasible, more attainable. You have something tangible you can work with. You can mould it, shape it, and work with it to reach that dream.

You can also decide where you will go next. Do you need to save money? How much? For how long? Do you need to compare products, services, providers? What area do I need to focus on to improve in order to get that promotion?

All these questions can be answered with a little planning and action.

[Featured image: Thomas Galvez]

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