Momentum


momentum

Momentum can be a powerful ally.

It’s that natural rhythm you build up once you’ve stepped out and started along your path to your goal. Some days, that momentum can be so strong that it seems all you have to do is ride the wave.

I’m reminded of this every time I step onto the treadmill at the gym. Those first few steps can seem so hard (especially at 5 a.m.!), but once I get going, I sometimes feel like I can run forever.

Worse than not getting started is stopping before your reach your destination. Whatever my project is – whether working for a client, saving money for my kids’ college funds, or just getting from one place to another on the subway – I find that the worst thing I can do is stop before I am truly done.

Getting started again can be harder than when I started in the first place. It was just going to be a temporary pause, I told myself at the time. Excuses are rampant and easily justified.

Reminds me of “Standing Still,” which I wrote a couple years back.

Once you get started, don’t stop. You’ll never cross the finish line if you do.

Happy New Year!


Happy New Year 2014

It’s that time of year again.

Time when every media outlet known to man puts together their year-end lists:

“Best of…” and “Worst of…”

“Top 10…” and “Top 100..”

“Things we want to remember…” and “Things we’d rather forget…”

They all make the rounds, competing for your attention, your likes and shares, your retweets and plus-ones.

And while my favorite kind of list – “Words for the New Year” – is nothing new, I’ve never made one of my own.

So to get my desire to do new things in 2014 kicked off right, I’m going to start today. Here’s my first ever “Three Words for the New Year:”

Community & Kindness – OK, so my first word is actually two, but that’s only because I think they’re inseparable. 2013 was a divisive year, with sides taken on almost everything. Anger, hostility, and a general incivility seemed to be everywhere we looked. In 2014, we need to be better at working together to achieve common goals and not just give lip service to “getting along” when all that is doing is providing yet another way to point a finger at someone. If you can’t start a conversation with a compliment of some kind, then you probably shouldn’t talk.

Economy – With so many resources, so much technology and so many things to do in a day, we could each make a full time job out of just managing what’s coming over our transom. In 2014, we need to slim our intake in order to make our output more productive. That doesn’t mean do less – it means eliminate the noise. Stay on course. Keep checking items off your to-do lists and adding new ones. Get to the finish line as fast as you can, and then go find a new one.

Creativity – Perhaps a perennial word, but one that should be repeated anyway. New years mean new starts, new things to discover and new records to smash. It means bending your brain in ways you haven’t yet – or haven’t in a while – to achieve that thing that’s been on your to-do list for so long it’s starting to collect dust. Creativity is the leaf-blower of your life, so plug that sucker in and go all Carl Spangler on it.

There are other words that came close to making the cut, but for now I’ll stick to these. A year from now, we’ll look back and see how these words – and the ideas behind them – held up.

What are your words for 2014?

Happy New Year!

Evolve or Die


Evolution

Last week I was on vacation, so this is going to seem dated.

But I swear I wrote this on Tuesday, August 6 at 6:40 a.m. sitting in the kitchen of the house we rented in Rehoboth Beach, DE. Here’s what was on my mind:

“As we wake up to the news this morning that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has purchased the Washington Post, the storied and steadfast paper of record for our nation’s capital, I am struck by the number of comments online treating this as though something terrible has happened. “Sad” is a word that even the great journalistic icon Bob Woodward has used.

“While change may be a challenge, it strikes me as odd that anyone would mourn a shift in leadership that hasn’t even stated its future plans: as of this writing, Bezos hasn’t talked about a single layoff, a reduction in distribution or a shift in any aspect of the newsroom or editorial page. What we do know about the paper that brought down Nixon is that its circulation is hardly enviable, its staff has been repeatedly reduced and its margins are ridiculously low. On paper, the revered paper looks more like it should follow in the footsteps of too many other much needed dailies that have gone the way of the dodo.

“Seems to me that WaPo is ready for an evolutionary shift – something Bezos knows a thing or two about.

“Evolution is part of life on planet Earth: organisms large and small all evolve over time, or they die out. And while the evolution of an organism can take generations, each individual plays its own small part in the larger process.

“On a smaller scale, we need to evolve over the course of our lifetimes too. We must learn new things, explore new subject areas and develop new skills. All this will make us better professionals and better people, allowing us to offer more to the world in which we live and the people whom we know and love.

“Take a cue from the organisms that have walked the planet before us: evolve or die.”

Ask, and Ye May Receive. But Stay Silent And…


Handing Out Literature 2

I don’t understand the evangelists who stand at my train station every morning.

That’s not to say I don’t like them. They seem like sincere, polite people, attempting to spread their faith in their particular religion. But in the seven years I have seen them standing there with their reading materials, whether they are wearing brightly-colored sun bonnets or skull caps and down coats, they have never once offered me a pamphlet or even tried to engage me in conversation.

Now granted, perhaps I am not their target demo. In fact, my physical presentation makes me quite sure of that. And if they did ask me a question or hand me a pamphlet, I would politely decline and wish them a good day.

But here’s the thing: they’ve never even tried. And by not engaging with me, they don’t even know whether I would be receptive to what they are offering.

The same holds true for business: if you don’t ask, you are certain to not get. And no business can survive on that strategy.

Xbox One Isn’t the Only One


XboxOne

The unveiling of the Xbox One has got my inner geek pretty stoked.

Tear it apart any which way you want, but this new console it represents a terrific leap forward in the way we experience and share media in our homes: music, movies, games and TV. The new functions look very cool, especially the improvements in Kinect. I will be getting my hands one as soon as possible.

It’s probably not the elusive “all in one” box that Microsoft claims it is, but I frankly don’t think we will ever get there, because we really don’t want to. As consumers, (especially us geeks, who thrive on variety and shiny new things that replace and outdo the old ones) we don’t like limiting ourselves to just one platform or one way of doing things. We like to integrate our systems together and make them do unique things that serve our purposes.

The Xbox One is also a good example of how we – as communications professionals and PR people – need to constantly keep up with evolving technology that affects our business.

I was a semi-early adopter of social media, and saw its potential for one-to-one, human connectivity right away. And while I’m better at it than most, I’m far from an uber-user or an expert by my definition of the word.

Part of the reason we fall behind is because things evolve so quickly, it’s hard to keep up. And yet, that’s also part of our business: recognizing the changes afoot and evolving our tactics with them. We need to take time out – hard as it can be – to experiment with these technologies and make them work for us.

Take time to turn off all your inputs and just experiment, at least once a week. Part of keeping up is making sure you do it with the frequency to make it effective.

Getting In Focus


GettingInFocus

I have a confession: I am a total scatterbrain.

Completely disorganized. I get sidetracked so easily, I may not finish writing this post in a single sitting.

To combat this inherently anti-productive weakness, I know I need to employ helpful strategies to keep me on track. Maybe some of these will work for you too:

1. Make lists. I do this to the point of obsession. Mostly because when I have an idea, it disappears if I don’t write it down. That’s how I either fall behind in my work or simply forget to do something altogether. (See also: sticky notes, refrigerator magnets, emails to myself and strings around my finger.)

2. Work when you are inspired to work. This isn’t as flippant as it sounds. What I mean is, listen to your brain and its normal patterns. Do you get flashes of brilliance late at night? Do you go into creative lockdown after lunch? By identifying when (and where and how) you work best, you can train yourself to maximize your productivity and efficiency.

3. Use tools that help you be more productive. I write all my posts in Evernote (including this one) so they are with me anywhere I go, on any device. So if I think of something and want to add it to something already in progress, that key document isn’t somewhere inaccessible. Find the tools (hardware, software, apps or even coffee!) that will help you work easier.

Side note: there’s a phrase you don’t hear often, “work easier.” You hear a lot of “work better” or “work smarter.” The real goal is to make work seamless, zen-like, so it just flows out. And that’s the key. Work easier.

4. Automate the mundane. True or not, a favorite story of mine is the one about Albert Einstein having a closet full of nothing but brown sweaters, white shirts and khaki pants, and wearing the same outfit every day so he didn’t waste a second thinking about anything but his work. He just grabbed the next set of clothes in the line and kept moving. It’s why I keep my wallet and keys in one place, or park in the same spot at the train station. If I have to stop to think “where are my keys?” or “where did I park?” I am losing what could be valuable moments or a train of thought about something far more important.

5. Eliminate distractions. Everyone knows this, but it bears repeating because none of us do it all the time. Do you shutoff your email while you are working on a strategy document? Close out social media networks while you are not using them? I sit facing away from the window at client meetings. Get rid of the things that snap your head around the other way, or that make you zone out.

There are probably plenty of other productivity strategies that you have encountered too. What are some of your favorites?

Overexposed


Overexposed

There’s such a thing as doing too much. And we know it when we see it.

We live in a hectic world, always running somewhere: running to catch a flight, running home to have dinner, running to meet a client or a deadline.

So much of our life can be spent running. Chasing something. Sometimes we don’t even know after what.

We need to slow down.

Not “take a vacation” slow down (although right now on this flight home from San Antonio, a vacation sounds awfully good), I mean slow down in our every day lives.

Moving too fast is an invitation for stupid mistakes. It drains the meaningful out of what we do, and inflates the trivial. It makes mediocrity feel like a win.

We’re not supposed to spend our lives putting out fires and fixing mistakes. We’re supposed to avoid the matches in the first place so we never even have to call the fire department.

Some people, some organizations – especially in the public relations world – seem like they are always out there, all the time, hogging the spotlight and yelling above the din. Lesser people would be tempted to match their frequency in a quest for our own feeling of connection and satisfaction. To do as much as they are. We would be wrong.

Fewer, smarter, better campaigns are always preferable to the run-and-gun school of public relations. The news cycle is what it is. And there’s always another one coming.

You’ll get your turn at bat. Make sure you can see the pitch when it comes.

Eliminate the Noise


Noise

Anything that distracts us from our goals can be defined as noise.

It’s all around us, mostly in the form of messages designed to get us to take action, and usually to spend money. It’s siren song lures us into big box stores with promises of zero-percent financing; into restaurants for two-for-one, bottomless drinks and dinners; and into all manner of other entertainment, experiential and consumption opportunities.

But if those opportunities don’t align with our goals, the are distractions. They sap our attention, energy and resources. By that definition, they must be eliminated.

This is not an anti-marketing message; rather, this is a pro-YOU message.

It’s your job to figure out what is noise, for you, your organization and your goals. You need to filter the noise from the essential. One man’s noise can be another man’s nirvana.

It can be daunting, and perhaps not fun. Asking – actually telling – other people that their best and sincerest efforts are not welcome.

But it’s either them or you. You can’t apologize for doing what you do.

Be Here, Now.


You Are Here

I just finished listening to a podcast by the brilliant Chris Brogan, part of his series called The Human Business Way. If you’ve not checked it out, do yourself a favor and click over. I listen on Stitcher, because it’s everywhere with me.

In this particular podcast, Chris is interviewing Marcus Sheridan, “The Sales Lion,” who has a fascinating story of personal success. But it was something else that caught my ear and got me thinking.

At the top of the interview, Marcus thanks Chris for “treating me like I was the only guy in the room” on the occasion when they first met. That’s huge. And it stopped me cold.

How many times have we been at a networking event, nursing our favorite libation, with one eye and ear in the conversation in front of us, while the other eye and ear is scanning the room or checking the door to see who else is worth talking to?

Liar. We’ve all done it. It’s such a huge mistake, because it short changes what you’re doing in that moment. And it’s something I am going to work on changing in myself.

It reminded me of a post I wrote about a year ago on multitasking. At the time, I didn’t include personal relationships in the post, and that was a huge omission on my part.

You see, I believe that when we’re doing something, we’ve got to commit. 100%. We’ve got to be in that moment right then and there, and not have one eye on what might be coming next. Savor what is there in front of you, extract all its value, and give a little back in the process. In other words, “Be Here, Now.”

So the next time we meet in person and I look over your shoulder to scan the room, smack me.

Are you REALLY working in that office?


Office Space

I try to be in the office as little as possible.

It’s not that I don’t want to work, or that I want to always be on a warm, sunny beach with a drink in my hand (ok, that second part is true).

It’s that offices can lull us into a false sense of security about what we are actually accomplishing. There we are, sitting at a desk, surrounded by colleagues that are doing the same. Phones are ringing, emails are being sent, coffee is brewing. But what are we accomplishing?

There are benefits to being in an office: we are around our colleagues, able to collaborate face-to-face. We can focus all our energy on tasks that need completion, without the distractions that are associated with being at home or in a coffee shop. And we have access to resources we might otherwise not have, including documents and computer files (although in our hyper connected world, if you don’t have access to your computer files wherever you are, you are sorely out of touch).

But there are also traps to being ensconced in an office, the worst of which is that being “at work” convinces us that we are actually working.

For those of us in the client service business, that’s a huge lie. And one that can cost us everything we leave our families every day and go to work for.

Let’s be honest: many of us can work from wherever we are in the world, so long as we have a cell signal and/or Wi-Fi. And getting out of the office gets us in front of people: those other humans we need and need to know, who help us collaborate and get things done. People who give us new ideas, force us to challenge our preconceived notions and give us a new appreciation for which way the world is turning.

Hiding in an office kills all of that.

I try to get out of the office regularly, to see people for lunch or coffee, to chat over what they’re working on, something interesting I have read or discuss new business or projects. I am lucky to work at a place that encourages that behavior.

Some office cultures despise and actively discourage being out of the office. Those cultures are destined to fail.