Take a Deep Breath

Everyone knows how to breathe, yet we're not all expert breathers.

Believe it or not, you can become a better breather. 

This solidifies the fact that everything can always be improved. 

Let's not overlook the small stuff that we can control that we interact with every single day.... In this case, every single second.  

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The Problem with Productivity

When you get more done, you end up finding more new stuff to do. And new stuff is harder than the stuff you love to do. 

Actually getting more stuff done in less time only becomes valuable if you use the extra time to do something other than related work. It's otherwise a vicious circle that continues until you're stuck doing things you hate - simply because you made yourself more time to get to them. 

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When There's Nothing Around

When there's nothing around

There's more to see.

There's less garbage on the streets

There are fewer signs to read.

When there's nothing around

It's easier to hear.

There aren't any cars honking horns

Nor are there crowds to march and cheer.

When there's nothing around

There's plenty of air to breathe. 

There's nothing to distract the senses

Because your senses aren't hard to believe.

When there's nothing around

It's much easier to think.

There are more ideas within clearer minds

And I can say so with a wink. 

 

Learn the Mechanics

Before you can even think about running, you need to know how to move your arms and legs. And before you can move your hands and feet, you need to understand how they play a role.

Everything that's strategic, tactical, and involving action requires a more fundamental understanding of "how it works."

Don't just learn the mechanics. Understand them deeply. Figure out how to make them better. 

Then, try your best never to stray too far from them. For that's always going to be the fastest way for you to run. 

Consider the Talk Show Host

I think (and write) a lot about fielding outside requests on a daily basis. It's an interesting problem I see every single day. It boils down to...

Should you respond to requests as they arise? 

Or...

Should you plan your day around your goals and stick to it?

I figured I'd answer it in the "It depends" way a little differently this time...

Consider the talk show host...

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I'm talking about the guy that spends all morning (4 hours or more) on the radio. He or she can be talking about news, answering listener calls, or otherwise. The point is, though - that he has an obligation to be somewhere and do something (albeit publicly) during those hours. 

This type of role favors the "plan your day without distractions" approach. But it made me think about the expectations that others would put on the host when they're off the air. A typical eight-hour day would suggest that he or she only has a few excess hours to fix any issues, review metrics, and plan for the next day's schedule. 

This host not only cannot allow incoming calls or emails to distract them while they're on the air, but I'll bet that they also don't set the expectations with anyone that they will be available when they're off the air. 

No matter what, this host needs to be well-organized and very good at time management. Perhaps you can learn something from him or her. 

The Misperceptions Behind Strategies

Strategies come in two varieties. An easy way and a harder way. However, the way they seem at the surface is the opposite to what they actually are. Here's what I mean:

The "perceived" easy way: Act quickly and productively. This strategy often comes alongside "Do what is best at the fastest pace possible."

The "perceived" difficult way: Move carefully and mindfully. Take the extra few minutes to document your actions so that the right processes are being designed underneath the overarching strategy. This strategy often comes alongside "It will take too long and we will lose market share!"

There is no replacement for quality. The less you think you can afford more time, the more you will pay correcting what you didn't do right later on. 

 

Digging the Wrong Hole

When searching for a buried treasure without any idea of where it is, you're going to dig a lot of holes before you are able to know you found it. 

You'll be reminded of the question at hand - "Is this treasure worth the effort?"

Those with ambition will continue, but may not do what's right. What's right is following all of the steps involved with digging for treasure.

  1. Find your spot.
  2. Dig your hole.
  3. Repair your hole.

Different types of searchers will go through the motions without following these steps. What they don't know is that disobeying rule #3 warrants a fine equal to the treasure. 

Before too long, the less diligent will be penalized out of being able to afford their search and the most diligent will be spending a significant amount of time digging (and repairing) each hole. 

There's never one best way, but there's always a right way to the treasure. 

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Obsolescence

It's one thing to avoid what is already obsolete. It's an entirely different animal to plan for what will one day become obsolete. 

It's the unique approach to fortuitous thinking that makes outliers so uniquely successful. 

No one truly knows what will happen in the future. But with the right data, intuition, and applied practices, the resulting winners will come out on top by thinking of strategies several years in advance. 

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Opening Day Pitch

This is a pretty disappointing picture for most of us.

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Although it's great to see the troops out there like that, this picture symbolizes the fracture of a century-long tradition. That tradition is having the President throw out the first pitch of Major League Baseball's Opening Day. 

President Taft did it in 1910. 

Obama did it in 2010.

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But the current President unfortunately had "other plans." 

Perhaps the one he threw in Boston back in 2006 was enough for him to ruin a beloved tradition like this.

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Emer(ge)Urgency

You can't say emergency without "urgency." 

Yet being emergent is not nearly the same as treating something as urgent. 

With the proper plans, we can build quality without urgency. 

All while never dubbing something as an emergency. 

After all, that would breed panic. Panic breeds fear. 

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While you can't completely avoid urgency, you can get ahead of it. Now that should be the emergency. 

Hitting Your Stride

Lux Narayan, a data scientist that studied thousands of published obituaries spanning two years laid out some pretty interesting statistics for us to consider as working professionals. 

Not only was there a lesson on how one's entire life and legacy gets re-lived and recalled in only a few paragraphs, but the data itself was extremely eye opening. 

When do we expect to hit our peaks? When will we achieve the moments we will be most remembered for?

For the younger generation, your time has yet to come. But of course, it depend on what you do and what you hope to accomplish. 

  • If you're in professional sports, your glory moment comes at the age of 28.
  • Art and entertainment professionals hit their stride at 35.
  • If you're a CEO, you're most commonly remembered for what you did at 40. 
  • Higher education level professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, hit their working stride at 42.
  • Finally, politicians, and rightfully so, average out at 45. 

More than anything, this data should tell us just how much life we have left to live. We are only just getting started on our own personal journeys. 

What are you working for? And more importantly, what do you want to be remembered for accomplishing? 

What Will I Do in April?

This list is in no way exhaustive.

  • Continue building fulfillment at work
  • Continue priming my mind by reflecting on reasons to be grateful for what I have every morning.
  • Maintain a daily workout that pushes me to be better.
  • Kiss my children more than 20 times per day.
  • Spend more 1-on-1 time with my amazing wife. 
  • Travel to Ohio to work on a secret project.
  • Help a first-time entrepreneur launch her business.
  • Take a weeklong vacation with my family
  • Anticipate an uptick in the market's volatility, and position myself to be on the right side of the move.
  • Maintain inbox zero every day. 
  • Always be useful.

What are you hoping to accomplish in April? 

1% of Big vs. 100% of Small

Would you rather....?

  1. Have a 1% chance at being successful, but have the upside equal everything you could have ever aspired to achieve and more? 

  2. Have a 100% chance of success, but need to work consistently to maintain the volume of these small wins that come in?

There is no right answer to this... Other than the realization that how we spend our time is solely based on how we perceive our own motivations. 

5 Rules That Make Me More Valuable

1. Keep it simple

Overthinking takes extra time. It's much more effective to spend less time doing more. It's about focus and it's about being the best at something - over and over again. 

Simplicity comes in many forms. The simpler the process, the easier it is to duplicate. The simpler the communication, the less time it takes for others to understand. 

2. Be useful

Be self-aware enough to quickly catch yourself when you're dazing off into your computer screen. In that moment, you're not being useful. 

It's about going further than useful. It's about being indispensable. I live by the mantra "the place should feel different when you're not present." 


3. Give freely

This usually comes in the form of advice. But it's also about charity. 

This is how we should be made up as compassionate human beings. We should care enough to donate our time and/or money to help others. 

The more you give, the more you'll get back. Always. 

  
4. Measure everything

You can't improve what you don't track. Not enough people realize that you can even measure the actions that don't interact with your business life. Are you fulfilled as a person? How do you know?

You need goals laid out everywhere so you know what you're living for. Did you travel enough this year? Did you help enough people? 

Figure out what drives you. Then record the truths that will help you realize how you're actually performing in your life. 

5. Express gratitude

This should be a daily activity. It's important to remind ourselves that we are much luckier than many others in this world. Consider all the good in your life and thank those around you that make it even better. 

Push vs Pull Work

I wrote about the "Push vs Pull" concept last week while answering a reader question for "Ask Logan Lenz." 

I thought it would be helpful to others dealing with time management on a day to day basis. 

Reader question: 

It's impossible for me to stay on task at my job. As a manager, my team comes into my office constantly to ask me about their situations. How can I better manage daily distractions at the office?

My Response: 

While it's true that you will never be able to completely resist against the real-time need for others that require your higher level of expertise, there are a few best practices that help to minimize the way these occurrences take place. The trick is to build the right protocols that leave your team with options to seek your attention ON YOUR TERMS.

Here's what I mean:

  • Define the difference between "push vs pull" in the work you do. Push should be defined as tasks you aspire to do on your own time. Pull is when others come to you, without warning, and require your assistance.
  • Because pull work is unplanned, the trick is to provide your team with the best method of communication to you, based on a sliding scale. If you don't determine, what's important to have you involved, this constant pull work can hijack your day.
  • Build processes and reference guides that build more autonomy over time. Are you REALLY needed by the team? In most cases, you'll come to learn that your team is simply afraid they'll do the wrong thing. In others, they're coming to you so you'll see they are smart or proactive. Empower them with your knowledge so that you can free up more time for your more important push work.
  • Define times of the day (or days of the week if you have more time to make decisions) that welcome pulls. Yes, you may end up getting flooded with requests during this time, but that's when you'll want to schedule meetings with your team so that you can solve all of their problems in one fell swoop.
  • Always be available, but never be available. Keep your door open, but ask an approaching team member how urgent something is. Using your aforementioned sliding scale, you can either postpone the conversation or quickly nudge them toward where they can find the best solution.

Regardless of all of these tricks, I've found that this is mostly a losing battle. But at the very least, you can establish the proper rules and processes that will afford you more time to do the work that you want and need to do (push).

Good luck!

The Dog That Chases the Car

The dog will start to wag its tail as the car approaches. The anticipation is elevating.

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As the car get closer, the dog starts to see exactly what it is. But at the same time, it doesn't quite understand what it means.

When the car gets close enough to see, the dog takes immediate action. 

As the car turns the corner, the dog takes off to chase after it. 

This is a common process. It's an exciting unknown that we're too interested in to not follow. 

But if we stop to really think about it, we'd need to answer the following question....

What would happen if the dog caught the car? 

Nothing.

But the dog may never realize that it will perpetually prefer to never catch up to the car. 

 

Priming the Mind

With so much negativity around us, all of the optimists in the world are serving as contrarions these days. 

I realized I needed to change how my surroundings impact me and my attitude. After all, you are a byproduct of your surroundings, aren't you? 

Recently, I started doing priming meditative exercises every morning when I wake up. This priming is all about expressing gratitude by recalling three moments you are grateful for. 

For me, I think about my wife, my kids, and my career. They are 3 things that I am not only grateful for today, but that I continue to be excited about for the future. 

I follow these priming exercise with a few stretches and then get right into my morning workout. 

At the end of my routine, I feel rejuvenated and ready to attack the day. 

Move Diagonally

It feels great to finish one thing and move on to the next. It's the most natural of progressive movements.

Similarly, it's comfortable working within easy and hard projects simultaneously. 

Both of these types of advancements are measured vertically or horizontally. As you work through a list, for example, you are accomplishing multiple tasks. Over time, you are moving throughout a horizontal timeline to do so.

The trick is to move the timeline vertically.

By accomplishing more items spanning a wider breadth, you are ensuring growth - and you can confirm it visually.

It's how the hockey stick pattern came to be. Diagonal growth is the healthiest of all. Move diagonally and you'll find yourself looking down when you "remember that time when...." 

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10 Best Stocks in the Last 10 Years

If you were to randomly invest in any of the following stocks over the past 10 years, you would have yielded the best returns in the market. 

Perhaps you'll find this list to be a little unexpected, although some of the usual suspects are leading the way. 

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These types of growth reports are always interesting to look at, but not very helpful. I still do not believe investing in single equities is a worthwhile and sustainable way to manage your own money. It's binary, unpredictable, and based solely on chance. 

It's the more advanced multi-leg trading strategies that make investing more exciting and lucrative - and far less risky. 

Congratulations to anyone who rode these waves over the past decade. Hopefully you weren't on the opposite side of the list you aren't being shown - "The 10 Worst Stocks in the Last 10 Years."