Archive for the ‘Staying Focused’ Category

Reactive Thinking

Monday, October 19th, 2015

Critical thinking is the systematic attempt to avoid errors in reasoning. A critical thinker is someone who learns and uses skills that make for organized, disciplined thinking. It’s not about what you KNOW—it’s about how you THINK.

There’s another kind of thinking that’s the exact opposite of critical thinking. It’s called reactive thinking— the kind of automatic, unexamined thinking we all do at times.

This kind of thinking isn’t always bad. You don’t want to stop and ponder when a train is headed your way. You want to react.

Author Malcolm Gladwell calls this “rapid cognition.” It’s not completely separate from a critical process, but it’s much less conscious. And sometimes that’s what we need, especially when there’s too little time for a full critical process.

BUT…when it comes to deciding how to approach a large project, or whether to make a big investment, or how reason out the obstacles that would keep a key initiative of the company from getting stuck—that’s when you need a systematic process that helps you avoid errors in reasoning. It is how you take the most relevant facts and process through them to make the best recommendation—understanding the best case, worst case and likely scenario of moving ahead. And a workplace filled with people who develop that skillset is going to be more engaged and more productive as a result.

Build structures for time optimization

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Your brain is a wonderful thing, but it isn’t perfect. Sometimes it needs a little help. And one of the best ways to help your brain to be its best is by building structures to optimize your time.

If you are not using a checklist for your job, you ARE going to miss things. There’s simply no way your brain can keep track of everything efficiently without that simple external structure. Whether it’s an app on your phone or a pad of paper on your desk, it’s an absolute business essential.

Break down each item on the list into steps, and force yourself to report in to the steps along the way. While you’re breaking it down into smaller bits, be sure to spend time on the big picture as well. Build times into your calendar to work toward key results, or they won’t happen.

Whether it’s the small picture or the big picture, don’t cross your fingers and hope. Build the structures that optimize your time and ensure that things happen.

Agreements of Meetings

Monday, February 3rd, 2014


There’s nothing worse than a poorly run meeting—one that takes an hour to accomplish five minutes of work, or wanders in overlapping circles until everything is tabled for the next meeting.

Meetings are essential, but they don’t have to be pointless or painful. The key is to establish effective agreements for every meeting. For example:

Every meeting will have a written agenda distributed in advance.

Agenda items will be actionable—another one that too many meetings fail to follow. That means your agenda won’t include an item that says, “Holiday party.” Otherwise you’re in for a wandering half-hour brainstorm about the holiday party. Instead, you might say, “Choose location and set budget for holiday party – 10 minutes.” Boom! That’s actionable. Things will actually get done, and people will feel good about it.

Every meeting will have a designated timekeeper who will work to keep everyone on track and the agenda on schedule.

Those three agreements alone can transform meetings overnight from exercises in pointless collective misery to a driving force for your organization’s success.

Blow expectations sky high with the product of the product

Monday, January 6th, 2014

Imagine that your boss has asked you for something. That “something” is the product. If you give her the product, she will be satisfied.

But “boss satisfaction” is a goal as unworthy as “customer satisfaction.” You don’t want customers who are merely satisfied—you want customers who succeed wildly because of your efforts, so they rave to all of their friends and family about you and your company.

Same thing with the boss. Satisfying him or her is a mediocre response to the challenge of your job. The boss is not likely to go home and say, “Wow, guess what happened today, honey: Steve did what he was supposed to do! Again!”

Instead, when you get a task, see that as the product, and immediately start thinking about how to deliver the result at a higher level. That’s the “product of the product.”

Say that your manager asks you for a file folder. That’s fine, but she doesn’t really need a file folder. She needs what the file folder will produce for her. Suppose she needs it to prepare for a meeting with a client. Wouldn’t it be helpful if, instead of just throwing the file in front of her, you attached a note that said, “FYI, I looked in LinkedIn to find out more about this client and thought you might want to know that this year is the 25th anniversary of their business. And by the way, remember that the last time you talked to him, his daughter was headed off to college.”

THAT’s the product of the product. Don’t just give what is requested. Anticipate what is really needed and deliver on that. That’s what an “A” player does, while a “C” player just delivers the file folder.

See the difference?

So from now on, deliver not just the product, but the product OF the product, and you will be a superstar.

How to Maintain Focus During the Summer

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

The sun is shining and it’s a perfect 75 degrees outside with no clouds in sight. It’s one of those beautiful summer days.

Only you get to experience this day through your office window…

And I know exactly how you feel, especially when the summers here in Minnesota are even more coveted because of the long winters.

You could choose to let this bring you down…not working efficiently, because deep down you really want to be somewhere else…like at the cabin or the beach. But imagine that you learn to take this tantalizing day and use it in your favor?

Chances are you have a ton of stuff that you have got to get done. So why not use this beautiful day as true motivation to being efficient! With everything complete at work, you’ll be able to enjoy the summer without worry. Then, as soon as you leave the office, it’s pure relaxation time!

Learn to commit yourself to the moment you are in. If you’re with the family, be with the family. If you’re at the office, be at the office.

Learn to give your whole self to wherever you are.