The art of Procrastivity

People talk about how bad procrastination is, but I think that there is a way to procrastinate productively. I dub this effort PROCRASTIVITY and it helps me to do #ALLTHETHINGS!

Yes, that is a made up word…mind you if we look at the way language evolves it might be a real word soon enough. I digress, but really it’s just the synergy of how my avoidance of particular tasks can actually match up with my goals and deliver more outcomes in less time than you might expect.

To be honest I have a lot of things on the go at any one time. Collaborative projects, writing commitments, grad school, work for clients, hobbies, etc. etc. I do a lot of things in my quest to be a polymath and when I procrastinate I have discovered that I often avoid one work effort by doing another.

What? I decide that I don’t want to do my expenses and say…uhm…spend the time instead of doing my expenses writing a blog or doing research for a client. I’m not unproductive, just producing differently. You might be familiar with the feeling of being struck by a powerful need to clean out your closet when you should be doing your homework, or maybe the urgent need to squeeze in that week of meal prep before you can contemplate going to the gym. If you use your desire to avoid a task as fuel to complete another you can be abundantly productive.

While I have to admit that sometimes I do avoid tasks with the help of my couch and Netflix (I’m human people!) when I am avoiding one thing I am primarily working on something else that adds value to one of my goals.

So often we hear about the downfalls of procrastination. We hear stories of how people struggle to accomplish their basic life tasks and rarely hear positive stories. I’m here to tell you about how the act of deferring one task in favour of another can actually help people to deliver more than they thought possible.

Strategic diversity

In order to master procrastivity you need to make some choices about how you want to grow as a person. From making space to develop a creative skill, growing your career, or investing in a dream, your alternate projects need to deliver value to your life plan or personal goals. By doing this you will be assembling items that regardless of what you pick will be doing something good for you.

Think of it like a menu from your favourite restaurant, no matter what you select, it is sure to be tasty and fill your belly. BUT…… you also cannot and should not live exclusively on junk food anymore than you should limit your goals.

Implementing procrastivity

Make the initial list of everything you want to do and prioritise it. Include all the things that you want to do personally, with your loved ones, and professionally. Do not skip concepts like relaxation, fitness, and time with your family as they need to fit in just as much as getting that new certification or promotion might.

Note: The items on your list do not need to add instant value, but MUST add long term value to YOU (nobody else needs to get anything from your goals). Make sure that you are thinking thoughtfully about the things you are adding to your to-do list and how they might contribute to your overall quality of life and personal goals.

An example of this strategic diversity might be goals like learning a language, educating yourself about your professional field, training for your first marathon, doing your day job, and spending time with your family. While this might seem like a big roster of items you can easily slot them all in if you are aware about what items you can be flexible with and what items you need to stick to a schedule with.

Something like education in your professional field could have complete flexibility because you are reading/listening to content about the topic or maybe taking part in a MOOC. These items can be done in the time you wait in a queue for coffee or when you have a few moments free waiting for transit. Comparatively, things like our day jobs can’t be quite as flexible so you have to slot the other items around them.

Most items sit in the middle zone. Training for a marathon for example might require a certain commitment of hours on the road so you need to find a block of time a few days a week before or after work, while family/partner time might be very flexible about the when and not about the how much so you block most of your weeknights to dedicate to your goals and spend your weekend adventuring with your loved ones.

You also have to accept that the priority must correlate to how much time you can invest in each item right now. Maybe that means that something is not going to get as much attention in the short term because of current demands, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t continue to progress as time allows and may become more focused when something else reduces in volume or effort.

Opportunity for connections

So often when we are in the middle of something specific we develop tunnel vision. We forget about other perspectives or options. It’s not our fault, it just happens.

Procrastivity allows us to see new links between seemingly disparate topics through reflection and new knowledge creation. Personal reflection is often powered by walking away from a task and provides us with chances to let our subconscious brain problem solve as it places the new knowledge into slots in our brains. More often than not something that I have been working on for one thing can serve to inform another when I least expect it.

Learn new things

I know this is a bit overly simplified, but doing more than one thing intentionally helps you to learn and grow as a person. We can never know how a passion to learn to play the guitar might result in finding your dream job because of a connection you make or a place you go. Creating a plan to extend your comfort zone will be sure to drive you forward in more ways than the single skill you are acquiring or developing in that moment.

So, now that you have realised that procrastivity is the way forward what are you going to do about it?

new-piktochart_block_2
#Procrastivity for the WIN!

There are also some great to-do lists that can help you to master procrastivity. I really like this one from That’s what she said.

Personal Reflection-increasing understanding by making space

The need to have time to reflect is critical to solidify learning theories for students and professionals alike. By acknowledging the space between what we read or hear and what we already know we are able to create links between the two. It is through these associations that new ideas and perspectives are born.

Making time

When I headed back to school to complete my MBA in 2012 I had an instructor (Kim Gunning-Mooney)  recommend we focus on taking the time to reflect. She explained what I think was some version of my description above (honestly I was mentally and physically exhausted for most of MBA so I can’t guarantee that I am totally accurate here, but she deserves credit), and rationalized that we would never imagine what this space could do for the development of our ideas.

Honestly, I thought it was crap. What would writing down my thoughts about what I had read, seen, or heard do for my ability to write an assignment or to do my job?

LOTS!

We often don’t realise how our brains create connections, but in many cases it is when we aren’t studying a topic that we begin to understand it. Have you ever had that moment in the shower or driving to work when everything suddenly makes sense?

That is the power of space to reflect.

Creating connections

I spend a lot of my professional time telling stories to clients and partners. Customising the story to each individual is critical to making it relevant to them and this is where I discovered how reflection helps us make connections.

Many of the early years of my career were spent in the home improvement industry. This causes me to tell a lot of stories about how computer software/employee engagement /management/ marketing/leadership is like the plumbing in your home.

Stay with me here….

You often don’t take the time to think about your plumbing or FILL IN THE BLANK business challenge until it is broken and find yourself in a hurry to get it fixed before you are covered in poop. In a really bad circumstance, it is being covered in poop that tells you the problem exists in the first place.

The importance of the analogy (or any analogy really) is the fact that people can suddenly see the connection between two ideas and just how urgent or serious the challenge they are facing has become.

Our ability as experts to connect the dots matters more than the dots themselves

By walking away from a challenge, literally or figuratively we are able to encourage our brains to connect these new concepts with the information that we have already internalised.

Build compelling arguments

I used to follow my gut on everything. Gut instinct is a powerful thing, to be sure, but honestly it is meaningless when you are pitching a multi-million dollar venture to the board for sign off. You need to have evidence (shown through the connections) in order to make a point.

You: “Hey board of experts I just know that this is a good idea so can I have some cash, please?”

Them: “Yeah, nah bro.”

But when we have some evidence (I consider all ideas evidence to create a compelling argument), and then we combine it with gut instinct and past experiences we are able to make connections that create a compelling and successful business case in many situations.

You: “Hi board of experts we have a challenge and it can be met by combining this times that. We believe it will work because of this idea X connection = result and this idea X connection = result.”

Them: “Well of course! Here are your millions of dollars”

Yes, this may be a bit of a simplified circumstance, but the likelihood of creating those connections is infinitely higher when take the time to reflect and internalise new information. A few steps that work for me are below, but feel free to reflect in whatever way you find effective.

  1. Write down what the content told you in your own words:
    1. Create a summary of what you read so that a fifth grader can understand it.
    2. Journal about the items you are reading. When you start telling the story you connect items without thinking about it.
    3. If you can’t summarise it yet, that’s ok move to step 2
  2. Brainstorm around the topic:
    1. Use a mind map or fishbone diagram to list concepts and create connections between them. The lines are the part that matters most
    2. Use a word blurb to see what concepts repeat most in the article. Tools like Wordle are awesome for this.
    3. Use your favourite method of brainstorming, the method is not as important as taking the time to do it
  3. Walk away
    1. Go for a run, take your kids to the park, binge watch some OITNB, read a trashy novel, it doesn’t matter what it is just get away from the work for a few minutes/hours/days as your timeline allows and let your brain do its thing.

What’s in it for you?

This is the age-old question when we put a task in front of someone. Why would you give up something you value (time, space, money) in exchange for this thing?

Reflecting makes connections faster than reading or listening to lectures alone. It helps us to find ways to internalise the idea and merge it with our personal expertise to make it valid and relevant. AND even if you don’t get anything special from it at that moment, we are raising our likelihood for shower Ah ha! moments exponentially just by trying something new.

 

References:

Reflection is the most important part of the learning process

Mind Tools Brainstorming

The importance of teams

Being a part of a high performing team is a pretty rewarding thing. What few people realise is that it rarely happens overnight, and is incredibly special when it does.

Pulling the weight

I’ll admit it, I never used to like working on teams. A team always meant pulling someone else’s weight and dealing with last minute scrambles to do work that someone else committed to delivering and didn’t. I’ve talked about how everyone wins when everyone contributes here, but sadly this is not always the case.

Over years of working in ineffective teams, it became easier to promise only what I could deliver and so I became an advocate for independent projects. Truth be told, even when I started to manage people I was selective about how I continued to work within the team I was leading. This is a bad habit to get into and only serves to create large groups of people doing tasks in a similar space.

Nothing changes without new inputs

In order to create a new output something has to change or be introduced. Yes, as an individual I was able to get things done. I was able to consistently deliver at a reasonable level, but nothing was pushing me forward.

Working independently doesn’t offer as many chances to grow a skill base or challenge ideas. By working with others, you are able to collaborate and create great ideas and output from what would otherwise be good enough, but not spectacular.

Some people would argue that they are pushed by reading and engaging with new content through independent development efforts and while this is partially true, we cannot always see past a single idea or concept limiting the scope of our ability to grow. A second (or third, or fourth) set of eyes, experiences, and ideas offers us that new perspective to help us develop.

Making things great

Great teams challenge one another through dialogue, brainstorming and more. By introducing new variables, (such as alternate skill-sets and backgrounds), we are able to develop hybrids of our approaches that meet the needs in new ways.

Sometimes this leads to creating something that is entirely new. This magic cannot happen without a collaborative approach to delivery.

With good comes bad

Challenging a person’s ideas is a place for potential growth and has the high potential to create conflict. Having lived through some pretty tense team environments, I can say that this is something that should be addressed early on.

Setting expectations for engagement and conflict resolution early in the effort cam serve to avoid or limit the scope of these issues. I understand that one bad experience can create a bit of fear when it comes to team delivery, I have to say that when it all comes down to the end it is all worth the drama.

My discovery: great teams are strange polygamous relationships.

Each person finds their way to contribute and cares for the team dynamic differently. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some great people I might never have met because of team assignments and I am better for them all.

In order to create high functioning teams, tools like charters, communication plans, and expectation management are critical.

There are lots of resources out there that can help, but Lane Sherman, a former team coach of mine recently wrote a book that really steps you through everything you need. You can buy it here. I was lucky enough to help provide feedback on it, and he has done a great job taking some of the mystery out of developing (or fixing) teams.

 

 

Mutations in the Public Domain

Bond. Steve Bond.

Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, now does it?

Every day we use methods and models that used to belong to someone else to produce intellectual property of all sorts that we eventually profit from. In software, we often talk about open source versus closed source code bases as though they cannot possibly ever connect. In many cases closed source code involves open source areas and vice versa. This is true in the real world in many cases as well.

As a writer I like to think that my ideas are open source and the words that I have actually written are closed. In my head my words are mine for now and forever. It’s a magical concept that doesn’t really exist.

Sadly the reality is that my words are mine, for now at least, but at some point in the future they will not belong to me or to those who inherit what I leave behind. Eventually whether or not my words are worth remembering, they will progress to the public domain.

So what is the public domain?

The public domain is a place where ideas and words blend together to be created and redesigned in the way a new author or producer sees fit. It’s open source ideas and words to be mixed and matched for the profit of whoever wants to create something with them.

The best example of content in the public domain that I can come up with is the fairy tale. Since most of our favourites are hundreds of years old, people are able to re-write/re-produce them and even subsequently profit however they want and no income is returned to the original author or those who now hold their estate.

As someone who has been raised with these recycled favourites I had come to accept the idea that every fairy tale was mine as much as it was a possession of The Brothers Grimm.

So… why should anyone care?

50 to 70 years after our death our ideas become public domain for mutation in good and bad ways.

The first founding part of modern pop culture has become public domain in Canada (every country has different time guides). James Bond is no longer part of the Ian Flemming estate and someone has already written a new Bond book.

It made me realise that even books and movies that shaped my childhood like Star Wars and Harry Potter are en route to public domain too. After all George Lucas is already over 70 so maybe not in my lifetime, but shortly thereafter someone may create something new with themes that I hold dear.

All of the things that shape us as are eventually subject to reinterpretation by others.

I hope that at some point someone may think it’s a good idea to build on an idea or theory I present helping to further contribute to the wider body of global knowledge, but they may also mutate it beyond measure and that is outside of my control.
 

Head back to Academic and Social Research or check out other posts on Education.

Image Source:

What I learned from doing my MBA

I recall back to when I was researching grad schools I was frantically trying to find content that would tell me about the experience. I searched forums, youtube, and websites all resulting in next to no content.

I was so frustrated. Nobody was there to really tell you what they felt like as a student. I couldn’t figure it out. There was information before they started and information after they finished, but hardly anything about life completing an MBA.

I would change this! I promised myself that I would document the experience. Boy was I wrong.

The reason that there was next to no content about how life really felt during an MBA was because: THEY WERE TOO BUSY DOING THEIR MBA’s. I too failed in my personal promise to document the journey. What little I wrote can be found here.

Taking on an Executive MBA program while balancing family, work, and life means that there will be sacrifices. It’s been a year since I finished, and I have only managed to just lose the weight I put on from sacrificing fitness during the degree so that my other commitments wouldn’t completely fall by the wayside.

I gave up a lot of things during my degree like my fitness, movies with my partner, evenings visiting with friends and family, and relaxing vacations. I also lost some things which may never recover like friends I wasn’t able to keep regular contact with that have all but faded away.

In exchange for my sacrifices I was given many things which I consider to be of higher value. Lessons like increased ability to problem solve and work with a team to think critically and deliver effectively. I also pride myself on my resiliency and ability to balance demands coming at me from all sides. Something I wasn’t aware of before I started in the degree.

In the end, my answer to those who ask is that it is a hard balance to take on a degree as a working professional. It requires you to be humble about what you can and cannot accomplish and forces you to make decisions about what matters most every day.

Sorry I wasn’t able to share these insights in real time, I was too busy doing the work, to write about how the work felt…. Now onward to another degree I’m just about to tackle an MA… maybe this time I will be able to better document the experience…. or maybe not.

An open letter of immense gratitude

As I began to write the list of acknowledgements for my graduate project I realised that most of my thanks need to go to many who will never read such a document. Gratitude this large and passionate deserves broadcast to an audience wider than just that of a paper filed neatly in a folder somewhere.

My life has changed a lot over the last few years. I have a new partner, friends, company, job and now a new country. The person many of you met was going through a massive change and I credit my success this far to each and every one of you.

I’ve finally started to become a version of myself that I respect, on my way to being the person I want to be when I grow up. Certainly, not the version someone else wants, but one I was seeing in my head and heart not so long ago. I jumped into a hurricane and ended up on a quest to this new life by walking the yellow brick road and meeting all of you along the way.

There have been scary times during this adventure I promise. I have made choices that are not at all popular and certainly unconventional but I have grown and evolved. Today I feel that it is time that I offer credit to all of you who helped me get here.

To my partner: you are my everything, my future and I am (literally) willing to follow you to the end of the world.

To my family: yes, I am different than what you thought I would be. No less flawed, but it is with the knowledge that you will love me anyway that I have had the courage to make the leaps I have so far and those I am merely plotting for the future.

To my support system and chosen families: you know who you are. You cheered me on, heard me cry, told me I WAS good enough, strong enough and smart enough. You pushed me up hills that I never would have challenged both physically and emotionally. You offered honest and sometimes hard feedback to help me grow and change and I am forever in your debt.

To my team, company and customers: it has been the act of working for you that has made me willing to forget about myself. Thank you for helping me to see the big picture.

To my scholastic colleagues and leaders: each day I spend with you in my life I become stronger and more capable to face what the future brings. I am lucky to know each of you and credit you among my nearest and dearest.

So, with a little love and honesty I need to offer credit to each of you for the massive dent that my bucket list has taken over the past few years. I credit your support for the fact that it has also more than doubled despite the long list of items marked happily with a strike through. You are helping to push me forward and for that I am eternally grateful.