Monthly archives of “January 2013

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#28DaysSolo Project

In case you weren’t able to watch, Tonya & I were part of a panel on Higher Ed Live last week guest hosted by Joel Goodman talking about productivity, work hacks and balance.

That conversation made me think about coming up with a way to really improve my own scheduling and discipline as it relates to my work life. I work hard and I get things done, but a lot of times as a solo when you’ve got your hands in a variety of different arenas, I find balance is more challenging.

Another thing about blogging, is I feel that from the outside looking in, it seems like people blogging have all of the answers. When in reality, we’re just sitting on our end figuring things out and sharing ideas that might be (somewhat) useful to you. This little exercise is aimed at getting people involved.

So I’m unveiling a little project called 28 Days. I get this idea from when I had to go gluten-free for health reasons. The transition was relatively easy, I had no real support system outside of the web but managed to do it and haven’t looked back. I find take a month to really change your habits in progressive ways can lead to major dividends.

Here are my goals:

  • Change my routine to get more productivity out of my hours throughout the day.
  • Gradually wean myself off technology in my off-work hours.
  • Track which sites I visit and for how long.
  • Complete a book a week.
  • Write a blog post everyday about my progress.

Some abstract goals and some measurable ones. This is less about talking though and more about doing. I’ve enlisted the help of the RescueTime Chrome App¬†for the time tracking my internet usage. I don’t want this to become a pedantic exercise, but akin to training for a marathon after being a bit of an undisciplined runner. Hopefully it’ll spawn you all to assess your own goals and your participate in 28 Days along with me¬†using the Twitter hashtag #28DaysSolo.

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Strategizing for the Future

My recent talk with Eric Stoller brought to light the connection between consultants and solo practitioners.

We’re more similar than most people want to acknowledge.

  • We’re frequently generalists.
  • We do a lot of things by accident.
  • We take risks.
  • We live without comfort.

Sounds scary, huh?

One of the most profound things Eric told me when talking about being a consultant is that there is a strength in being able to let go of control in some areas of your work life. Being able to relinquish control, however, is more than just letting whatever will happen happen.

“The greatest decision I’ve ever made was the most risky thing I’ve ever done… and it’s not for everyone,” Eric told me when I asked how he started his career as a consultant.

That sentence – even though it relates to a consultant’s livelihood – speaks volumes about the work we do as solos. The uncertainty in any field can be exhausting, but it can be especially so for Armies of One.

“Being able to go with the flow in a professional sense, when professionalism, a lot of times is about maintaining structure,” Eric said, is necessary for constructing a successful career as a consultant. It’s also an important quality for a solo practitioner.

But how do we deal with uncertainty, especially when we’re often the ones who have to help others deal with uncertainty in the workplace?

One trick I’ve always employed in the communication business – after working for a company that had almost yearly layoffs and rehires – is realizing that I control only my own actions and behaviors. Others try to model the behavior they believe is appropriate in order to show others how to deal with the ambiguity. Others stick their heads in the sand and ignore ambiguity and change – and the possibilities that come with these challenges – until it’s too late.

Everyone has his or her own tricks to dealing with uncertainty. How do you handle the ambiguity and lack of structure that can plague the work life of a solo practitioner?

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The Value of Authenticity

OurBrand[1]

We talk a lot about being our authentic selves, at least if the web is to be believed. But what does that really mean? And how does being an authentic self really permeate through our work and reflect positively on our employer? First, I think it’s about more than who you work for.

I strive personally for my authenticity to shine through in my dealings with all kinds of people who might not be related. In an ideal world, legions of people with whom have had contact with me but don’t know each other would be able to talk about their individual experiences with me and reflect on a common theme across those interactions.

This mantra isn’t anything I have written down, but I’m cognizant of it pretty much all of the time.

1. Be Real

This one boils down to “Don’t say anything behind someone’s back that you wouldn’t say if they were in the room.” We can often get into trouble trying to put on airs for people, in an effort to save face or to keep the peace. While I understand the penchant, I’m far more inclined to spend my time thinking less about what frustrates me about other people and thinking instead about what I can do to make those interactions go more smoothly. This doesn’t always work, but I just prefer to think about all of the horrible stuff people might say about me — especially unfounded — than to waste a lot of brain cells trying to conjure up what irritates me about someone and it generally serves me well. Especially when I’m supervising younger people, where favorites can often emerge without trying.

2. Always Be Helpful

I just figure that you never know what someone else is going through. People show up on your office or on the phone, and you just never understand what their needs are stemming from. Whether their boss is on their back or they just need something to go their way, I do my best to think less about what I’m going through when someone appears in my world and to try to help them through whatever they’re dealing with.

3. Listen

This one probably should be first. Last year, I met a lot of new people. One of the common themes they seemed to takeaway from our interactions, was how much I really listened what they were saying. Sometimes if you’re not always vocal, people can assume you’re tuning them out. Maybe they get used to this from their other friends or at home. But I’m always paying attention to the tea leaves. Doing so gives me inside information that might someday be useful. Plus, I just know that I like feeling when people are being sincere and so, I try to give back as much of that sincerity when I’m in a position to listen.

These are just a few things. I could go on and on. But the point of this authenticity is always being mindful. We think so much about institutional brands. Some of us enforce them in print or on the web. But we don’t always give a thought to every aspect of our own personal brands. Whether it’s how we dress, the words we communicate with or other things, I think it’s important to spend a bit of time thinking about the ways to make our day-to-day lives easier through intentionality.