Life planning

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7 Tips for Work-Life Balance

Today’s Get-it-Done Guy episode is about work-life balance. I actually don’t think there’s any such thing. There’s only your life, your time, and how you choose to use your one life and your limited time.

I’d really like to put together an open Q&A/brainstorming teleseminar on the topic. It would be part lecture, part Q&A and real-time coaching. Would there be any interest?

Listen or read the episode on how to manage work life balance here: http://getitdone.quickanddirtytips.com/manage-work-life-balance.aspx.

Keep the Big Picture When Making Life Choices

Keeping The Big Picture Will Lead to Better Life Choices

They’re considering eliminating over 100 bus routes in Boston to save money. You see, the public transit is considered a separate profit center. That means it has to pay for itself through the money it raises. In order to balance its budget, it must drastically reduce service.

The problem is that public transportation is part of a larger system. If it becomes too expensive, or the serviced drops too much, people will buy cars. Probably cheap cars. In addition to pollution, that will cause much more wear and tear on the highways, not to mention more congestion in an already highly-congested city. Let’s not even consider what it will do to the parking situation.

From the perspective of the community, the public transportation system isn’t just a standalone business. It also reduces the burden on other costly parts of the community. But since the subway doesn’t get any monetary credit for reducing congestion or roadway wear-and-tear, those positive effects aren’t reflected in the decision to eliminate the bus routes.

Your Life is a Community

You can think of your life as being an entire community, made up of projects and activities chosen to meet your needs. When we want to improve our lives, we find a need that isn’t getting met and try to focus on improving that part of our life in isolation.

For example, we may decide we need to get in better shape, so we begin working out regularly. But that much working out takes time, and we may not realize we’re taking the time away from socializing—which also fills an important need. Considering our needs in isolation can lead us to make decisions that may be good for the individual need, but not so great for our overall life.

Consider Your Whole Life When Choosing Action

When considering how to improve your life, don’t just consider one need or shortfall. Make a full map of the things that are important to you, and consider the overall balance of how you’re getting your needs met in each area. Then when you decide it’s time to improve an area, search for ways to improve that won’t detract from other areas of your life. When you decide to exercise, if you know socializing is also important to you, you can be on the lookout from day one for social ways to exercise. This can lead you to uncover entirely different approaches to getting your needs met. For example, signing up for team sports instead of choosing a solitary exercise program.

Income Inquality

I just watched this TED talk on income inequality. It speaks for itself. Very powerful result. On a whole host of general measurements of social well-being, it is income inequality, not average levels of income that drive social problems. Wow. This has huge public policy implications, which I suspect will go largely unheeded in a society where many politicians are little more than hired representatives of anonymous rich people. (Thank you, Supreme Court, for ratifying the existence of the Super-PAC.)

Thanks, Teachers, Firefighters & Others!

Thank you, firefighters, soldiers, teachers, policemen, doctors, nurses, pipe fitters, teachers, civil servants, electricians, plumbers, utility workers, and people who keep our everyday lives running smoothly. Thank you, artists, dancers, actors, volunteers, and housewives. In terms of the actual value you provide and difference you make in my life, you trump 25-year-old billionaire tech entrepreneurs any day of the week. It’s just you do your job so well, and your jobs are so necessary, that it’s easy to forget that they’re the most fundamental to our well-being. (Please feel free to add to this list!)

How do you deal with fundamental overload?

When you’ve made real commitments that add up to 100%+ of the time/mental energy you have available, how do you deal with it? I’m in that situation at the moment and find myself debating whether to concentrate on one thing, get it done (while other things fall by the wayside and/or miss deadlines, causing a backlog to pile up), or continue making small progress on many fronts, but not finishing anything.

Or perhaps there are other ways? What are your thoughts?

You have to want to succeed as much as you want to breathe. Really?

I just saw this video, shared on Google+:

“When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful.”

How Bad Do You Want It from Greyskale Multimedia on Vimeo.

The sentiment is common: in order to succeed, you have to want it so bad you burst a blood vessel. The only problem with this sentiment is that I don’t know that there’s any truth to it. Maybe it’s true in weight lifting (I’d like to see the study), but I’m not aware of psychological research or motivation research that supports it. While it’s true if you want something badly, you’ll go after it, it’s also true that too much urgency shuts down creativity, problem-solving ability, and even perception. There are plenty of domains where it’s possible to succeed without that kind of motivation1.

There’s a similar zen fable about enlightenment. The story ends differently. The student goes to the zen master and says, “Master, how long will it take me to become enlightened?” “Ten years,” replied the master. “What if I work at every day of the year, every waking hour, and try harder than I’ve ever tried before?” “Then, it will take a lifetime.”

I think we do ourselves a disservice in looking only at the “work unbelievably hard and you’ll succeed” situations in life.

There are plenty of successful people who are motivated by peace, serenity, and joy. And yet they still seize opportunity, they still do work, and they still get what they want out of life. But they don’t have to force themselves into an asthma attack to get there.

There are plenty of people sitting on their asses doing nothing. I agree that asthma-attack motivation is better than nothing for those folks. But it would be nice to put the last few decades’ research into the psychology of achievement into practice and teach people to achieve without needing this stress-filled style.

There are plenty kinds of achievement that are motivated the other way. Do yourself a favor and find one of them. Train hard, keep your eye on your goal, but don’t give yourself a heart attack in the process.

1 Forbes recently did a study of the Forbes 400 and discovered that half of those folks inherited their money. I would submit that those folks reached positions of success without the kind of unbelievable franticness we see in this video.

Job hunting process

As we’ve been developing JobTacToe.com, we’ve been discovering that most job hunters we’ve encountered don’t seem to have particularly good process in mind. They don’t know what they should do each day. They have no metrics set up to know if they’re making progress. They just do what they do, and hope that it works.

The challenge for us as a business is that people don’t know they have a lousy process. If they don’t know they’re disorganized, they won’t think to visit our site to help put structure around their search.

I’ve taken a stab at an initial page called “Give me Job!” (quoted from our JobTacToe caveman job hunter Zak) that lays out at least a skeleton of what’s required. If you have any suggestions, please send them along. It’s hard, being intimately familiar with the job search process, trying to figure out what will be useful to someone who doesn’t know much about what is and isn’t successful.

Safely Using Social Media In Your Professional Life

Q: Hi Stever (and GIDG fans), I’m dreading creating separate professional twitter/facebook accounts because I don’t want to come up with another name (other than my own) and start building my network all over again. But I’m afraid I’ll bore my friends (who aren’t in my profession) if I start posting more career-related comments, and the overlap of friends/colleagues seems so inefficient to me. Is there any appropriate way to combine personal & professional social networks?

A: This is really hard, especially because businesspeople who want to see your personal life may realize you have two profiles and request access to the other one. (An employer would never ask to walk through your apartment before hiring you, but they’ll happily ask to see your Facebook profile.)

I would create a LinkedIn profile as my professional profile, and only give that one to colleagues. If they want access to my Facebook profile, I would politely explain that I keep that only for my non-work life and prefer not to mix the two.

If they object or complain, that’s valuable information that you’re working for (or about to work for) a company that does not respect your privacy and your boundaries. For me, that would be a huge red flag. Do you really want to spend your entire career with a company worrying about revealing your private life?

No matter what you decide, however, it’s still hard to control the information. If your “real” profile shares friends with a business colleague, they may see your private updates on the mutual friend’s wall, in their comments, etc., even though they can’t view your profile directly.

This is one of the interesting issues with social media: in the real world, humans can present themselves differently to different people and in different situations. Social media as we’ve implemented it makes that much, much more difficult. On one hand, it means we see each other, warts and all. On the other hand, I’ve met very few people who are accepting enough to forgive others’ perceived faults, which means displaying our warts could have bad social consequences. (Unless they’re shaped like four-leaf clovers. Those warts are universally admired and envied.)