Making priorities a priority

I’ve spent the last two hours doing business planning and improving my structure, with the help of the intensely practical book The Accidental Creative. (I am following my own advice to DO THE MOTHERFUCKING EXERCISES. Who knew, it makes a difference! Oh wait, I knew. That’s why I give that advice. But it’s easy to forget.)

I had one Sledgehammer of Obviousness hit me between the eyes as I did this:

You can’t truly manage your priorities until they all live in the same place.

I don’t know about you, but I have a salad bar approach to systems. Especially systems for self-management. I tend to pick a wee bit here, and a bite of that, with a side of that other thing. Except this analogy isn’t perfect, because in a salad bar you put every bit of food on the same plate, and with systems I tend to put one in my pocket and another on my desk and a third in a spreadsheet and a fourth in my calendar and then I wonder why they don’t work together too well.

I’m a slow learner, not a no learner.

Now I have a Monday morning meeting to bring all of those priorities together, and get them to harmonise. Everything from upcoming projects to Date Night with The Dude – sounds like a bouffant 50s album – is going to be organised at the same time.

(So that I don’t, say, suggest we go out after a day with four hours of intense client sessions and then wonder why I cancel due to extreme poopedness. For example.)

From now on it’s all going to live on the same plate. I suspect this will make a dramatic improvement over time in my success at Getting Shit Done. I’ll let you know.

How about you? Do your priorities lead separate lives? Have you found ways to get them to play together? Tell us in the comments!

photo by: R/DV/RS

Two types of busy

Sometimes when you’ve got a lot on your plate, it’s like carrying a whole bootful* of shopping from the car to your door. You dramatically speed up in order to hasten the moment when you can put the burden down and sigh with relief.

*other parts of the world call the boot “the trunk” instead. I am a cross-cultural educator!

Sometimes when you’ve got a lot on your plate, it’s like carrying a slightly over-full cup of tea. You dramatically slow down in order to move more smoothly and keep all the tea in the cup.

The key is knowing when to run, and when to glide.

I know that I need to slow down when I start dropping things: forgetting details, making simple errors, losing the thread in a conversation.

I know I need to speed up when I have one big project that’s finished percolating, and is ready to get done, already.

When do you slow down and speed up? And how do you cope in those times when you have to move fast with a full cup of tea?

Tell us in the comments!

photo by: canorus

How to keep your reader’s attention

Attention is the most preciousest currency of the online world. Once you’ve gotten your reader’s attention, how do you keep it?

Here are my favourite three methods.

Tell stories

I subscribe to the newsletter of (and highly recommend) an Australian consultancy group called Anecdote. They teach organisations to find and tell their most meaningful stories. (I had morning tea with one of their principles once, and I felt Very Grown Up doing it.)

Their newsletter has a book recommendation every issue, and the books are always interesting. This is how I ended up reading a book called The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, despite not having a team at the time, functional or otherwise.

It wasn’t the grabbiest or most riveting tale you’ve ever read, being as it was about the C-level team of a culturally poisonous tech company, and their gradual transformation under the guidance of a new leader. But it was still a story.

So a dry book about a transformational model that had no application to my work – and was, frankly, not that well written – but I still read it all the way through. It doesn’t need to be an amazing fairy tale to be effective. (This small story wasn’t, but you still read it to the end.)

Make it about the reader

This is simple:

We have a limitless capacity to pay attention to anything that is about ourselves.

As long as you keep talking about me, I’m gonna keep listening.

Be a bit weird

One of the simplest ways to lose your reader’s attention is to be completely predictable.

One of the simplest ways to keep your reader’s attention is to be just a wee bit unpredictable.

Our brains are set up to automatically filter out familiar inputs, which is why it only takes three nights in a new house before you start ignoring all the what-the-giddy-hell-was-that? noises that kept you awake the first two nights.

Thus, the more you sound like someone I’ve heard before, the more likely I am to automatically, and pre-consciously, stop paying attention. Note that word “pre-consciously”: I will not even know I am doing it.

Fortunately, it doesn’t take much deviation from the ordinary for you to no longer fit the established patterns, and thus your brain says, “Hey, this is new. Pay attention.”

The easiest, most sustainable, and zero bullshit method to be just a bit weird is to stop self-censoring and be yourself. I am a person who swears when emotional and enjoys making up words. My writing became 23856% more interesting the instant I stopped fighting this.

(Science!)

This is just my top three.

I have another half-dozen in the top drawer of my toolbox.

What are your favourite methods to keep your reader’s attention? Share ’em in the comments!

The tiniest possible action

Something is not right!
Something is quite wrong!
Something is not right!
That’s why I sing this song.

Apologies to Madeline fans everywhere, who now have that song firmly implanted in their heads.

If something is wrong in your biz at this moment – and something undoubtedly is – then it’s easy to get wrapped up in the enormity of the problem and all its implications and oh fuck nothing is ever gonna fix this and I’m gonna go re-watch season one of Sons of Anarchy and eat a half tub of ice cream.

This is not useful!

What is, both in terms of possibly solving the problem and not demolishing the Neapolitan, is this:

Think of the tiniest possible action you could take that might improve this situation. And take it.

If you’re woe-ifying about Not Enough Cash, what’s the tiniest possible action you could take?

  • Mentioning one of your services on Twitter.
  • Emailing one of your regular clients to see how they’re doing.
  • Following up with an outstanding debtor.
  • Checking the sofa cushions for loose change.
  • Make one safe ask.

If you’re woe-ifying about Not Enough Joy, what’s the tiniest possible action you could take?

  • Watch a funny video.
  • Ask your Facebook followers to tell you the most valuable thing you have given them.
  • Re-read your testimonial emails.
  • Help someone.
  • Write a list of “I get to”s.

This way, you get your brain away from thinking about problems, and toward thinking about action. And if not one other thing happens, you at least made one tiny step toward improving the situation.

A challenge!

Next time the panicweasels get into your brain, try the Tiniest Possible Action. Report in the comments.

photo by: V&A Steamworks