Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness
No, this isn't about "Once upon a time." There are ways to know and share yourself with skill. You can combine stories and branding to reveal the truths that help you stand out in the marketplace or workplace, and play to your competitive edge.
But the challenge is this -- unless you're a skilled marketer, how do you reveal the power of your brand in a more compelling way?
I'm not a marketer, and I don't play one on T.V., so I have to work at it. The way I work at it, is I pay attention to the people that are outstanding at what they do.
So what do the people that are outstanding at this do?
They focus on values. Finding shared values is the key to building brands and building stronger relationships in everything you do ... in work, and in life. Brand building is largely about creating clarity around the values the brand stands for.
A simple way is to start by just figuring out three attributes that you want your brand to be about. For example:
It needs to be believable. You need to believe it, in your heart of hearts and soul of souls.
Related to that, you need to know who your brand is for. What are the values they share? What are the boundaries of those values, and at what point, do you have polar opposites or create conflict?
Find the intersection.
That’s where the magic happens.
If you want to be relevant, you need to find the intersection of the values.
Values are the ultimate lightening rod.
From the Archives Avoiding Do-Overs – Testing Your Key Engineering Decisions - From what I've seen, the most important problem is failure to test and explore key engineering decisions. By key engineering decisions, I mean the decisions that have cascading engineering impact.
Why 30 Day Improvement Sprints - I get asked this often enough that I think I should distill the keys.
From the Web Time Management Tips for Taking Action - Taking action is skill. It's one of the best skills you can use in conjunction with time management. The trick is to combine your time management skills in a way that helps you take more action. Here are 10 ways to take more action and improve your time management.
Time Management Tips on the Job – How To Be More Productive at Work - Time management is a skill you can use to be more effective at work and life. The trick is to focus on the vital few time management tips that keep improving your time management skills over time. This article shows you the key time management tips to apply to work and life that will keep improving your time management skills over time.
I wrote another book review: The Charge: Activating the 10 Human Drives that Make You Feel Alive
I've been reading a lot of books lately, looking for ones that I can use at Microsoft. Microsoft is a challenging environment that pits your skills against some tough challenges. When you're working in an arena that supports the world, the game gets tougher. As you move up the stack, there is no shortage of traps, pitfalls, and challenges to stretch and grow you in new ways.
The way I stay on top of the game is primarily through three things:
I read a lot of books, anything from project management, to business skills, to personal development, to leadership and strategy. It's not like you can ever be too good, and the game is always changing. Learning the right methodology, method, or technique can be the difference between success and failure. Some of the best tools are new ways of looking at the world.
People can show you things fast. Like “monkey see, monkey do”, great habits can rub off on you, if you surround yourself with great people. People really are the short-cuts. More precisely, mentors are the absolute short-cuts. They've been there, and done that, so they can save you a lot of pain and help you avoid dead ends. They can also light the path to a better way of doing things. People really are the way to achieve better, faster, cheaper results in the real-world. When you experience masters in action practicing their craft, you know exactly what I mean.
Practice is taking the science and applying it to the real world. That's the art part. While practice doesn't make perfect, it does build skill, and skills are the difference that makes the difference. Motivation and ability are one thing, but skills are the amplifier of what's possible. The greatest growth I have seen time and again is when somebody expands their capabilities with new skills. It's how they change their game, play at a new level, and transform what they are capable of. It's like a martial artist graduating through the belts.
Anyway, back to my point about books. The beauty of books is that they are a fast way to learn smarter ways for better days. One of the most insightful books I've read lately, is The Charge, by Brendon Burchard. It's a book about how to light your soul on fire and bring out your best in work and life. What I like about the book is that it introduces a new framework for motivation that goes beyond what we need, and puts a new spin on what we want, backed by the latest neuroscience and positive psychology.
I wrote a book review that gives you a guided tour of the book and what you'll learn:
Note – My book review format is evolving. I’m trying to develop a format and structure that helps you very quickly get a tour of the book, and really understand what problems the book is solving, and what’s really in it for you. It doesn’t replace book reviews on Amazon, but it should be a nice supplement in that it gives you a quick bird’s-eye view, as well as deep dives into the content of the book.
There's a quote in Ferris Bueller's Day Off:
”Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Satya gets it.
Sayta reminds us to individually think about our broader impact, our deeper meaning, and the significance of everything we do, even the little things.
Here is how Satya reminded us to focus on our significance and impact:
“I want to work in a place where everybody gets more meaning out of their work on an everyday basis.
We spend far too much time at work for it not to have a deeper meaning in your life.
The way we connect with that meaning is by knowing the work we do has broader implications, broader impact, outside of work.
The reality is every feature, everything you do, or every marketing program you do, or every sales program you do is going to have a broader impact.
I think that us reminding ourselves of that, and taking consideration from that, matters a lot. And I that's a gift that we have in this industry, in this company, and I think we should take full advantage of that. Because when you look back, when it's all said and done, it's that meaning that you'll recount, it's not the specifics of what you did, and I think that's one of the perspectives that's important.”
My take away is, if you’re not making your work matter, to you, to others, you’re doing it wrong.
Microsoft Explained: Making Sense of the Microsoft Platform Story
Satya Nadella is the New Microsoft CEO
Satya Nadella is All About Customer Focus, Employee Engagement, and Changing the World
Satya Nadella on the Future is Software
Satya Nadella on Everyone Has to Be a Leader
This is a very simple frame I use to help people rate their jobs:
It’s nothing fancy. It’s just a quick way to get a good sense of job they’ve got. Here are three quick checks:
If I were to expand the set, I might include a Competencies check, and a Culture check. Most importantly, I would include a Values check. The best job you can have, is the one where you can find a way to spend more time in your values. Notice how I said “find a way” – it’s rare that your dream job falls into your lap … it’s more of an exercise of shaping and transformation, both of the job, and of yourself.
From the Archives Agile Architecture Method -- Scope and focus your architecture exercise, use scenarios to drive the design and evaluate potential solutions, and expose key choice points. It's a way to bridge traditional architecture with more agile, iterative, and incremental ways. This approach is the synthesis of more than 30 seasoned solution architects inside and outside of Microsoft, as well as security experts, and performance experts.
User Stories for Cloud Enterprise Strategy -- A collection of user stories for the cloud. This collection is a simple map of the most common scenarios that Enterprise Architects, business leaders, and IT leaders will be facing as they adopt cloud technologies. These are real scenarios from real customers, thinking through and planning their cloud adoption.
Windows Azure Whitepapers Roundup – If you want to read up on Microsoft’s cloud story, there are plenty of whitepapers to get you started. This is a collection of the various Windows Azure whitepapers around Microsoft for developers, IT Pros, and business leaders.
From the Web Motivation Guidelines – A set of proven practices for improving your motivation, finding your drive, and inspiring action. Motivation is a skill you can use the rest of your life. Find the key practices that work for you, and use this collection as your mental toolbox to draw from.
36 Best Business Books that Influenced Microsoft Leaders – The beauty of Microsoft is the extremely high concentration of smart people and I like to leverage the collective brain I posed the following question to several Microsoft leaders, past and present, and up and down the ranks, ““What are the top 3 books that changed your life in terms of business effectiveness?” This is the answer I got.
It’s time for another take. Here it is:
The Exponential Results Formula
I made a mistake when I first named it. I called it, The Way of Success (sort of Bruce Lee style.)
While it certainly is the way of success, it really is more of a specific technique for getting exponential results.
I grew up in a world where results talk and BS walks.
And, time is a limited resource.
While I like learning, I don’t like wasting time, unless it’s by design. (And, sometimes it is.)
As a patterns and practices kind of a guy, I’ve studied and tested many, many, … many ways to find the keys to getting better, faster, and cheaper results. Cheaper can mean all sorts of things, but in this case, I mean it to be less cost, more efficient, and less wasteful.
In other words, I want more from the time and energy I already spend.
Don’t we all.
I also want to know “the map” and where I am on the map. This is especially true if it’s a long journey. As Zig Ziglar said, “People do not wander around and then find themselves at the top of Mount Everest.” Similarly, they don’t wander around into being a doctor. Or wander around and write a book.
Making great things happen usually takes great effort. That’s why passion and purpose are important.
But passion and purpose only get you so far. There’s a saying here that’s pretty relevant:
If all you have is motivation, but you have no technique, or the wrong strategy, that’s a recipe for failure. Or, it’s at least a recipe for a lot of wasted time and energy, and lackluster results.
Strategies, techniques, and mentors are the short-cut.
They help you find more effective paths and avoid dead-ends.
And that’s where the The Exponential Results Formula comes in.
It frames out a way to model success and amplify your impact.
After all, if you’re going to go for it, then why not go big.
As they say, go big or go home.
Getting Results the Agile Way, is “The Book that Changes Lives.”
You can also think of it as “Agile for Life.”
It’s the book that changes lives because people have used it to build high-performing teams, transform their business, and best of all … transform themselves and unleash what they are capable of. My Mom even uses it for projects on the house.
It’s also the playbook I wish Microsoft gave me when I started, but it’s also a playbook for life … in terms of how to make the most of what you got.
It’s a simple system for meaningful results … and integrates the life-long lessons I’ve learned from folks like Ward Cunningham and others.
The stories I get from people and how they’ve used it to find the fire inside, or to start a business, or to get back on track, or to build a high-performing team, or how to get a great review, or to get back on their feet, etc. have been amazing.
I’ve used Getting Results the Agile Way to build high-performing teams wherever I go, but lately, I’ve been giving more talks to other teams. I’ve been giving talks to teams over the years, but now there seems to be a growing interest in how to build high-performing teams and high-performance individuals.
I’ll find a way to share the talk in the future. I have done variations of it for some companies outside of Microsoft. Consulting companies especially care because it’s a way to amplify the productivity of individuals, teams, and leaders. After all, who doesn’t want exponential results?
Until I create the video, your best bet is to read the kindle version of Getting Results the Agile Way, and explore the Getting Results Knowledge Base, which includes checklists, guidelines, and how tos for topics like focus, goals, motivation, prioritization, and time management.
The beauty of adopting Agile Results, is not only will it help you be YOUR best at work, but it’s focused on meaningful results, so you will automatically start to live the three paths of happiness: The Pleasant Life, The Good Life, and the Meaningful Life.
Live your extraordinary life … with skill.
I was reading The Fruits of Innovation: Top 10 IT Trends in 2014, by Mark Harris.
Harris had this to say about the evolving role of the CIO:
“In the end, these leaders are now tasked to accurately manage, predict, execute and justify. Hence, the CIO’s role will evolve. Previously, CIOs were mostly technologists that were measured almost exclusively by availability and uptime. The CIO’s job was all about crafting a level of IT services that the company could count on, and the budgeting process needed to do so was a mostly a formality.”
Harris had this to say about the best qualities in a CIO:
“The most effective CIOs in 2014 will be business managers that understand the wealth of technology options now available, the costs associated with each as well as the business value of each of the various services they are chartered to deliver. He or she will map out a plan that delivers just the right amount service within their agreed business plan. Email, for instance, may have an entirely different value to a company than their online store, so the means to deliver these diverse services will need to be different. It is the 2014 CIO’s job to empower their organizations to deliver just the right services at just the right cost.”
That matches what I’ve been seeing.
CIOs need business acumen and the ability to connect IT to business impact.
Another way to think of it is, the CIO needs to help accelerate and realize business value from IT investments.
Value Realization is hot.
Stephen Kell on Value Realization
Blessing Sibanyoni on Value Realization
Paul Lidbetter on Value Realization
Martin Sykes on Value Realization
Mark Bestauros on Value Realization
Graham Doig on Value Realization
I happened to look over to my bookshelf and noticed that I have two books that landed together by chance:
I’m a fan of “just enough.” One of my mentors liked to quiz me with the question:
“How much process do you need?”
The answer was always, “just enough.”
The question, of course, then becomes, how much is “just enough?” The answer to that is, it depends on what’s the risk? … what’s at stake? It should be commensurate to risk.
I always liked the example we gave regarding how much to invest in performance modeling:
“The time, effort, and money you invest up front in performance modeling should be proportional to project risk. For a project with significant risk, where performance is critical, you may spend more time and energy up front developing your model. For a project where performance is less of a concern, your modeling approach might be as simple as white-boarding your performance scenarios.”
Just enough not only helps you eliminate waste, in the form of unnecessary overhead, but it frees you up to better balance your other trade-offs and priorities.
If you are an avid quote collector, as many continuous learners are, check out my collection of Life Quotes.
I grouped the life quotes into key categories for easy browsing. I used the following categories for my life quotes:
I selected quotes from a variety of sources including Charles Shulz, Confucius, Emerson, Oprah, Tony Robbins, and more. I’ll need to make another pass and find some life quotes from folks like Bruce Lee.
While there is always the idea of work and life, and the idea of work-life balance, I think that life is pervasive, and it permeates who we are and how we show up at work. The line is a blur and I find the happiest people are those that can express their values on the job, and drive from their life style. The opposite is also true.
I rounded up the life quotes in a way that I think you will find to be very easy to scan and choose your favorites. I do recommend first reading the the top 10, but then hopping around to find three that light your fire or wrinkle your brain in some way. The best quotes hit a problem like a nail on the head. The real beauty of life quotes though is that they take on meaning based on the meaning you give them. It’s like when three people hear the same song, all have a different take away. Quotes are like that.
So please stop by, check out my Life Quotes collection, and share with me your favorite life quotes. I’m always looking to fill my toolkit for life, and life really is better with the right words.
When it comes to time management, one of the most common questions I get is, “How do you dump your state?” Meaning, how do you dump what's on your mind to a place you trust, and how do you pick up where you left off?
Time management tips #14 is dump your state. Dumping your state helps you pick back up where you left off, and it frees your mind to focus on the tasks at hand. It also helps you move up the stack. After all, if your mind is filled with little unclosed loops, you are not at your most resourceful and creative best.
When you have baggage of the brain, it's tough to focus. Your mind is busy circling back on the loops it hasn't closed. It's also buzzing endlessly in the background to remind you of the things you should not forget. All the mental chatter gets in the way of you having peace of mind, clarity of thought, and focused attention ... right here, right now.
That's one scenario of why dumping your state matters.
Another scenario where dumping your state matters is when we want to pick up from where we left off. We spend all day working on a problem, building up state, but then we can't finish, so we have to park if for the day. The problem is we want to be able to pick back up the next day, from where we left off. Worse, sometimes we can't pick up back up the next day, and then all the state we built up starts to rot on the shelf of our minds, or decays in some place that we may never find again.
So what can you do?
It's very simple, and I call it brain dumps or "Session Dumps." To do a “Session Dump”, just dump what's on your mind, down onto paper or onto a page, using your favorite system. For me, sometimes this is an email that where I will dump my whiteboard fast, or I use Onenote to dump, or I use EverNote to dump plain text. In most scenarios, I have notepad open on my desktop, and I constantly dump to it ... so instead of little insights or actions floating in my head, they are jotted down to where I can see and organize them.
It might seem like an endless list in your mind, but you’ll be surprised that the more you dump, the less it is. It gets faster too. And thinking on paper is powerful. When you see the list in front of you, you may very quickly realize what you can let go, and what you really need to hold on to.
Here's the real trick though. Since I do this daily, I found that the best approach is to simply "dump state" to a clean sheet each day, and to name it the current date. For example, for today, I would title my Session Dump as follows:
Naming my Session Dump by date means I never need to figure out a good title, and by keeping all of my dumps in one folder, it's easy for me to always find them. I use that simple format because I can easily flip through in sequence.
I have to let a lot of things go, so I can focus on the best opportunities and challenges that lie before me. Time is always changing what’s important. Having a rapid way to dump state or pick up where I left off is a big deal. Now I never have to wonder where I dumped straggling ideas, or things that were percolating on my mind.
At the end of the day, dump your state before you go home and see how much it frees you up.
For free, self-paced modules on time management training, check out 30 Days of Getting Results.
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I’m working my way through my massive book backlog, and doing reviews as a I go along. Yesterday, I wrote my review of Mastermind: How To Think Like Sherlock Holmes.
Today, I read and wrote my review of The Innovative Team: Unleashing Creative Potential for Breakthrough Results.
It’s perfect timing. Just yesterday a friend ask me if there’s some science and proven practices that we could apply to create high-performance teams, especially when there is a lot of innovation involved and we need to be more agile in how we execute our projects.
At the same time, we need to give enough time to really explore the problem domain and build some solid foundation to base our solutions on.
The Innovative Team directly addresses this dilemma. And it does so in a pragmatic way.
It does do by framing out the 4 stages of innovation and the corresponding cognitive style preferences that people tend to have. The book then shows you how to leverage these different cognitive styles that can often create conflict during the project cycle. It includes specific proven practices for elaborating on ideas and then converging on solutions and keeping things moving forward. At the same time, the framework is all about getting the best out of every one on the team and bringing them along.
It’s a recipe for creating and leading high-performance teams that deliver high-impact, innovative solutions for big challenges.
Here is a quick look at some of the things I found especially interesting …
Here is a brief summary of each:
Here are some common scenarios that you might see, or see yourself in, when working on projects and going through the various stages of innovation:
As you can imagine, this is a powerful books, especially if you do project work. It’s also powerful even if you just want to improve your own ability to innovate, either as a one-man band, or as part of a larger team, or leading a high-performance team.
If you want a deep dive on the book and more highlights to get a better sense of what this book is all about, check out my review:
The Innovative Team: Unleashing Creative Potential for Breakthrough Results.
High-Leverage Strategies for Innovation
Lessons Learned from the Most Successful Innovators
Mastermind: How To Think Like Sherlock Holmes
Nobody Wants to Invest
I’ve updated my menu at Sources of Insight to make it easy to dive into hot topics including Innovation, Leadership, Personal Development, Productivity and more. (here is the full Topics pages.)
I made them front and center on the top menu bar:
I’ll be testing the effectiveness of this new menu for the next 30 days.
Here was my previous design:
There are pros and cons to both.
I’ve struggled with my menu, so I’ll share some of my learnings.
With my previous design of the top bar, Home | Archives | Explore | Topics | Resources | Store | About | Contact, it was easy to see the site navigation at a glance, and make sense of it. Another advantage is that the idea of Great Books, Great People, Great Quotes, was simple and clear, and it was easy to see Special Guests, including Best-Selling authors. The challenge is that it buried some interesting topics, under Topics.
So it was simple, but relatively generic, and some of the most interesting topics were nested under Topics.
With my new menu, Innovation | Leadership | Productivity | Personal Development | Fun are right in your face. Better yet, when you click More …, you have additional interesting topics right there, including Emotional Intelligence, Happiness, Intellectual Horsepower, Motivation, Strengths, and Time Management. This has several advantages. The main thing is that it puts hot topics at your fingertips. It also helps you get an instant sense of the scope of the site, and variety of coverage. It also makes it easy to showcase some interesting topics. Related, I can easily shuffle some of the popular topics to see which ones readers are hungry for, as well as test new topics. But a big downside is, my sub-menu looks more complicated now. I didn’t want to give up the Great Books, Great People, Great Quotes, or the Special Guests, since they are key features of Sources of Insight.
I’ve studied menus. Many menus. Many, many, many, too many menus. And, I’ve played around with my own menus for many years. Menus really are a living thing (or they die, and information starts to die.) That said, they are powerful when they are simple, intuitive, and help users achieve their goals, or explore and find interesting things (I’m a fan of supporting both River AND Goal people.)
I finally stumbled on a really good menu design article that clicked for me:
How To Design Effective Navigation Menus
What I liked was the simple flip through of many menu designs at a glance. This made it really easy to compare and contrast across multiple designs very quickly, as well as explore designs I hadn’t seen before.
What caught my attention though, was the following section on how the BBC has enormous information, but slices into a simple set of seven categories:
There’s more to the story than that, but I liked the idea of a “Hot Button Bar” at the top, where, without thinking, you could simply “Dive In.”
While my site might not qualify yet as an enormous amount of information, it is getting there. I have more than 1,000 blog posts, and many of them are significant in size.
Here’s the most interesting thing to me, though. As soon as I chose this particular set of categories, I found myself wanting to produce some highly-targeted articles to really create a compelling experience for somebody drilling into these categories. I also want to create “Getting Started” articles for these Hot Spots as well as some Overview types articles, and definitely more How Tos, and more Checklists.
I think my driving philosophy behind my design is:
Think less, explore more, and yet make sense of the site at a glance.
I’m a fan of simplicity. On one hand, I feel like a lost some simplicity on the sub-menu. In fact, specifically, I just don’t like having too many options visible. I also don’t like that some of my most significant pages feel a little buried on my Resources page. My Trends page feels really lost and yet it’s my trends posts that change lives and companies. On the other hand, even though it’s more categories at a glance than I like up front, it does make it easy to dive into some very different parts of the site.
While I may not have “nailed it”, at least I think I’m trending in the right direction, and most people I think will quickly find information they need or want.
I’m also hoping that I stumble on additional design moves for my menu that I don’t expect. I actually didn’t expect to put the current set of topics on the main menu. But, I like it. It’s effectively:
My open issue to solve is how to consolidate my sub-menu, while keeping the simple story of Great Books, Great People, Great Quotes, and making it easy to dive into key resources that are buried under the Resources page, including Checklists, How Tos, Lists, etc.
Keep in mind, as much as I’m complaining, all you really need to do is just click on the Resources page and you have bunches of resources at your fingertips.
But, like I said, I’m a fan of simplicity, and yes, I want my cake and eat it, too.
If you get a chance, dive in, take a look around, and let me know your thoughts.
There are articles in there that have helped people do amazing things.
If you just want some quick inspiration, take a stroll through my inspirational quotes collection.
Here is a sampling to get you started:
Explore for more.
Back in 2010, Gartner suggested that Business Value Realization would be Enterprise Architecture finally done right. Related, when people were confused by the scope of Value Realization, all we did was add "Business” up front (i.e. “Business Value Realization”) and that seemed to add instant clarity for people, and they said they got it.
They realized that it was all about extracting business value and accelerating business value.
The most interesting pattern I think I see is not that value is an individual thing.
It's that any individual can create value in today’s world – with their network, the ways they work, the technology at their fingertips -- they can focus on their end users and continuous learning, and operate without walls.
In fact, the enticing promise of the Enterprise Social vision is comprehensive collaboration.
There was an uprising in the developer world to create customer value -- it was agile.
It seems like the world is experiencing another uprising (and you hear Satya Nadella talk about a focus on individuals whether in business or life, focused on learning, collaborating, and changing the world.)
So it's not the CIO, the CEO, etc.
What is the new uprising?
Value is everybody's job.
In the article, The Strategy Accelerator, Alfred Griffioen shares four gears for differentiation and competitive advantage:
Strategies for Each Gear Griffioen shares strategies for each of the gears, to make the most of your market position:
Sometimes small is the best way to make progress. In fact, sometimes it's the only way.
If you don't have time to do something big, do something small. Don't make a major production out of it, don't make a mountain out of a molehill. Chunk it down. It's a skill you can practice daily.
What's one small thing you could do … today?
Here are seven practices I’ve experienced that worked well with meetings:
It’s really about momentum … we can spiral up or spiral down. Energy is our best asset to spend on the right things.
On #7 -- Any time I've seen meetings have momentum (and I can think of multiple vignettes), it’s when somebody put their thoughts out on the table first, without being sliced and diced along the way. I also think of examples, where somebody finishes painting the broad strokes of their picture ... and we get the bigger picture, before needling at the fine points, and fracturing great ideas in the making … or at least getting the bird’s-eye view before chasing the rabbit down the hole.
When we practice #7, it builds trust, people are heard and understood, and people will be less long-winded, and defensive, etc.
Bonus --- Have a skilled facilitator, manage the shot clock, set time for things (timebox), take decisive actions, and have a parking lot to put things.
Do you have something that you've been wanting to learn, but just don't have the time? Do you have an area at work that you struggle with? Do you dabble in too many things at once, and never make real progress?
Enter 30 Day Sprints.
Time management tip # 11 is 30 Day Sprints. 30 Day Sprints let you try something out for 30 days and make progress. 30 Day Sprints also give you a way to cycle through something new each month. It’s a great way to embrace continuous learning. Each month you can add something new to your portfolio of skills, so at the end of the day, you can have 12 big changes under your belt.
I adopted 30 Day Improvement Sprints several years ago to deal with a couple of challenges:
What I learned is that committing to 30 days of improvement in a focused area, is easier to swallow than changing for life. However, improving an area for 30 days, is actually life changing.
With 30 days, persistence and time are on my side. It's a big enough time box that I can try different techniques, while building proficiency. Using 30 days makes working through hurdles easier too. A lot of the hurdles I hit in my first week, are gone by week 2. Little improvements each day, add up quickly. I look back on how many things I tried for a week and stopped thinking I hadn't made progress. The trick was, I didn't get to week 2 or week 3 to see my results.
That last point is a big deal. When you stick with something for more than two weeks, you get over the humps and hurdles that hold you back. It's like chipping away at the stone, and sometimes the breakthroughs don't happen until you're a few weeks in.
This is also a powerful way to add habits or change a habit. Why? Because you can do something small today. And tomorrow you can do another small thing. You can keep little commitments with yourself. You can glide your way into your habit, versus run out of steam. If you’ve ever been gung-ho for a week, and then fizzled out, 30 Day Sprints can be your answer.
As we turn the page to a new month, pick a focus for the month, and make it your 30 Day Sprint.
In 30 Days of Getting Results, you can use the time management exercises to get exponential results on a daily and weekly basis. You can also find more time management tips in my book, Getting Results the Agile Way, and on Getting Results.com
“If the road is easy, you're likely going the wrong way.” ― Terry Goodkind
If you know struggle, you know adversity. If you know loss, you know adversity. If you know setbacks, you know adversity. If terrible things have happened to you, you know adversity.
But do you know what to do with adversity?
You can turn adversity into a gift. It's not easy though. In fact, if it was easy, it probably wouldn't be called adversity.
I wrote a book review on The Gift of Adversity: The Unexpected Benefits of Life’s Difficulties, Setbacks, and Imperfections, by Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D. Dr. Rosenthal is the same guy who first described winter depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and he pioneered the use of light therapy for its treatment.
It's a hard-core book with some grim stories, and some lighter tales, all about dealing with adversity. Dr. Rosenthal is a powerful storyteller and he does a great job of sharing his insights and actionable things you can do to embrace adversity.
In fact, according to Dr. Rosenthal, embracing adversity is how we can live more authentic and meaningful lives.
Dr. Rosenthal divides adversity into 3 flavors:
This works well because the book is written memoire style and Dr. Rosenthal draws from family, friends, and colleagues, as well as his own experiences, to share memories, personal anecdotes, and vignettes about the multiple categories of adversity.
Here is one of my favorite nuggets from the book ...
“Many people enter psychotherapy for problems they see as the result of repeated bad luck or the misbehavior of others. Such chronic failure to take responsibility leaves people like victims of fate rather than architects of their own destiny, which is not an empowering state of mind. Why do they think this way? Because it is painful to admit errors and shortcomings. It is generally far more painful, however, to suffer the consequences as they play out over time. That’s what happens to people who habitually fail to take responsibility for their actions.”
The key take away is -- don’t be a victim and don’t play the blame game. Rise above your circumstances and design a new story forward.
I share several more nuggets in my book review.
If you want to turn adversity into an advantage in work and life, check it out.
I know a lot of people inside and outside of Microsoft working on their books. In fact, I’m helping a few people birth their books, and ultimately produce what they hope to be bestsellers. My book, Getting Results the Agile Way has been in the top 100 on Amazon in the Time Management category. (In fact, it’s been in the top 5, and it’s been #1 in some countries such as Germany.)
I want to help self-published authors around the world make the most of their effort and get a fighting chance at taking their book to the top on Amazon.
Here’s the surprise …
I have the honor and privilege of hosting a guest post by Gary Lindberg, author of THE SHEKINAH LEGACY. THE SHEKINAH LEGACY is a genuine Amazon bestselling thriller. In fact, for over a week it was the most popular Kindle thriller on Amazon.
Here is Gary’s story:
Lessons Learned from a Bestselling Self-Published Author
I asked Gary if he would share his best lessons learned on how to publish a best-selling book as a self-published author. I thought it would be great to give self-published authors an edge in taking their book to the top. I’m a fan of helping people that put in the work, get the results. And I believe that if you know some of the key success strategies that you amplify your impact.
Whether you are an author, or aspiring author, or hope to publish a best-selling book, you can leverage and learn from Gary’s experience as a bestselling author. Gary has some fantastic insight and it’s very actionable. In fact, if you read his story, I bet it will instantly and forever change how you think about covers and cover design for Amazon.
BTW – Gary is not just a best-selling author, he is also a film producer and director, with over one hundred major national and international awards under his belt. Gary is also the co-writer and producer of the Paramount Pictures feature film That Was Then, This Is Now starring Emilio Estevez and Morgan Freeman.
I made significant changes to simplify the home page for Getting Results the Agile Way:
I focused on making the following scenarios simpler and more discoverable:
I also put Checklists, Guidelines, How Tos, and Templates at your finger tips. You can master Focus, Goals, Motivation, Time Management, and more.
Hopefully the site better exemplifies simplicity, effectiveness, and excellence. If there are key things you would like to see on the site, use the contact form on this blog and let me know. Keep in mind I am building out a rich collection of How Tos, Slides, Videos, and more.
Note that there is also a companion site of free time management training, 30 Days of Getting Results, at http://30DaysOfGettingResults.com .
I have a long history of keeping an empty email inbox. More than a decade. Not because I don't get lots of email. I do. And, I send lots, too. That's how I stay connected around the world, and it's part of my daily job.
By lots, I mean a few hundred directly to me each day (not CC, not part of distributions, etc., directly to me with actions required)
So clearing my mail is a daily chore, but it's not a daily win.
At one point it was.
Long ago, one of my early managers said that I need to stay on top of my email. I was getting hundreds per day and they all required some sort of action or response. It was insane. To me, it was a huge time sink.
My manager made it clear that I needed to process all my mail, but there's way more to the job than just that. I said, that if it doesn't count, then I don't want to do it. He said it was non-optional.
So, that day, I decided I would spend no longer than 30 minutes a day on email (what I considered administrative overhead.)
It was a bold goal. Sure, I was a fast typer, and a fast reader, but the daily onslaught of overwhelming amounts of mail was insane.
But, like with anything in life, there's always a solution. If you know where to look.
So I cast a wide net and basically found the people across the company who were the most amazing for dealing with information overload and for always being on top of their email. And, I found quiet heroes as well as very visible rock stars in the email management arena.
And, I studied them.
I modeled from their email practices and email management ways. That's how I formed the early version of my Zen of Zero Email.
Surprisingly, a lot of the strategies and tactics came down to doing exactly the opposite of what other people did. In fact, my most surprising lesson was the one I learned the hard way, when I reached the limit on Outlook's number of inbox rules. I forget what the number was at the time, but it was a lot. Since I couldn't add any more rules, I had to change my entire approach. That day, I went from a crazy set of rules, down to exactly one inbox rule.
Surprisingly, years later, it's still just the one inbox rule.
And, still, I hit zero email in my inboxes on a daily basis.
This way, I'm never paper shuffling. I don't lose actions or reminder among a sea of email.
Basically, I transformed my approach for email long ago, after a lot of pain, and a lot of trail and error, and by studying the best of the best in action, in the most extreme scenarios.
Here's why I tell you this ...
"Clear my email" is something I do daily, but it's “below the line.” For me, it's not a win anymore. It used to be. But now, it's well below the line … it’s just expected, and it’s just something I do.
It's below the line, and if it takes me more than 15-30 minutes daily, it's actually a flag for me that I'm spending too much time.
Rather than focus my day on how to react or deal with email, I can just always systematically clear my inbox and be done. I get back to everybody. Sometimes, it's as simple as acknowledging I got it, and a note that I'll respond more deeply later. But staying on top of my email means that I have a very simple stream of potential action and insights.
But the big deal is that it's a "below the line" activity.
It's not my high value activity.
So I spend as little time as possible in it, yet get the most benefit that I can.
That said, a decade ago, that very much would have been a win for me.
It probably would have been one of my Three Wins for the Day for a while.
But that's the point.
The goal isn't to focus on things to do forever. It's to transform them so that you can do them better, faster, cheaper -- or eliminate them entirely. And, spend more time where it counts.
It's how you move up the stack.
This is a long-winded way of saying, "Clear My Email" is no longer a win for me. It's a highly effective habit that helps me spend more time in my higher value activities.
And for that, I'm actually grateful.
I don't know that I made all the points that I wanted to, and I wandered a bit, but I thought the little story of transformation might be useful for you, and might help you think about how you pick off your Three Wins for the day (if you're doing Agile Results.)
It's also a reminder for me how easy it is to take for granted and actually forget how difficult things were at one point, and how a few proven practices can be transformational, and how they can pay back daily.
And, every now and then, instead of writing a 20 minute post, I like to write a 5 minute one.
10 Big Ideas from Getting Results the Agile Way
Agile Results on a Page
Clearing Your Inbox
The Zen of Zero Mail
While putting together business scenarios for the cloud, one of the scenarios that came up is “achieve cost-effective business continuity.” The business opportunity, solution, and benefits are summarized as follows:
Business continuity risk can be transferred to vendors by leveraging cloud solutions. Cloud providers can provide robust and less expensive business continuity solutions than businesses can achieve alone.
From the Archives Customer-Connected Engineering – Involving customers throughout your software development cycle can help you make sure you make something your customers need and want. It also helps you better understand the requirements and prioritize more effectively. It also helps you get more relevant and timely feedback so you can ship stuff that people will use. We’ve called the approach we’ve used in patterns & practices, Customer-Connected Engineering (CCE), and this is the approach in a nutshell.
Methodologies at a Glance – At the heart of every software methodology, there are core practices. When you know the key activities and artifacts that make up a methodology, you can easily compare across methodologies to find the best fit. You can also fill your toolbox with practices so that you can use the ones that you need, when you need them. This is a bird’s-eye view of some of the more popular software project and product development methodologies.
From the Web Focus Guidelines – It’s been said that the difference between those that succeed, and those that don’t is focus. Focus is a skill you can build and use throughout your lifetime, to counter distractions, fully engage in what you do, reduce stress, and improve your results. This is a comprehensive set of guidelines that give you an edge in today’s world.
How To – Set Goals and Achieve Them – This is a step-by-step guide for setting compelling goals, and making them happen. If goals leave a bad taste in your mouth, this can help you turn it around. It’s all about creating goals that inspire you and that help you achieve whatever you set out to do.