Posts Tagged ‘action’

Quality Results Guaranteed

September 12, 2008

The trick to doing most anything well is doing it badly first.

My favorite illustration of this comes from the pages of a wonderful (short) book called Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland:

“The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot – albeit a perfect one – to get an “A”. Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.”

Perhaps it is truer to say that the trick to doing most anything well is DOING the thing in the first place. The hurdle lies in moving from contemplation into action…and the best way over the hurdle is practice.  Far too often, we don’t give ourselves permission to practice — to dive in head first, make a mess of things…in essence, create a bunch of ugly pots.

But what if we did?  What if, more often than not, we moved across the great divide between contemplation and action by focusing on doing rather than on doing well?  What if we set our sights on the quantity of practice rather than on the quality of our efforts?

Consider it…What would change for you if you gave yourself more permission to practice?

Jen

P.S. Many thanks for the terrific response to last month’s ZoomLetter on Laughter! Friend and veteran television director & producer, Abby Russell, makes it her mission to share the benefits of laughter with others.  Abby is the founder of Comedy Fights Cancer, a non-profit organization that delivers live and taped stand-up comedy to patients in hospitals and care facilities and organizes comedy benefits to raise money for cancer research.  CFC’s mission is to improve patient quality of life through humor. Learn more about this amazing organization at www.comedyfightscancer.org.

Jen helps people to set goals and then exceed their own expectations!
Her personal & career coaching programs are custom-designed for students and professionals.  Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Financial Times, Smart Money, Forbes.com, Time Out New York, and on The Today Show.

To learn more about Jen’s private coaching services, or to schedule an introductory session, please contact Jen directly:

Phone: 914.617.8283
Email: Jen@JZBcoaching.com

Visit Jen on the Web at  www.JZBcoaching.com
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Favorite Organizing Tricks

February 15, 2008

In this week’s ZoomLetter, I shared 4 of my favorite ORGANIZING TRICKS.
What follows is an addendum to each of the first three of them. (To check out all 4 original tricks, scroll to the bottom of this post).

1) Additional e-mail trick: If you have the willpower, make it a point to check e-mail just twice a day. To take this one step further, consider adding an auto-responder message along the following lines: “Thank you for your email. Please note that I regularly check email at 11am and 4pm. If your matter requires immediate attention, please call me at the following number. Thank you and have a great day.”

2) Two more TO-DO list tricks: a) Consider dividing your daily TO-DO list into two or more parts based on content, location, or time of day. For instance, I divide mine into “day and evening” sections, placing daytime items towards the top of the list. Alternately, you can experiment with dividing your TO-DO list into “work and personal” sections or into “in the office and on-the-road” sections. b) When it comes to longer-term wish list items (i.e. planting that garden, taking that dream vacation, cleaning that closet, or taking that painting class), try keeping them all on one “intention” list (perhaps as a document saved to your computer). Then, each week during your 15-minute personal planning session, scan the “intention” list and see how you might add a small piece of one intention to your daily TO-DO lists for the coming week. For instance, “call travel agent” jotted on Wednesday’s TO-DO list or “research classes at The New School” jotted on Thursday’s TO-DO list starts to make taking that dream vacation or that painting class MORE REAL in bite-size chunks.

3) A twist on eliminating piles: If folders aren’t your thing, consider using open bins. Any type of boxes or bins will do (i.e. plastic, cardboard, wicker). The trick is to make sure not to use lids, so it’s easy to throw things into the bins. This will eliminate the tendency to leave papers accumulating out in the open on desktops or counter tops. You can assign names to the bins just as you might do to folders: “the action bin” and “the catch-all bin”, and you can put off sorting the bins until they start to fill. If you’re looking for something important, the worst that can happen is that you’ll have to sort through one or two bins (rather than looking all over the house). For young kids, try making tossing items in bins into a fun game.

If you have more organizing tricks that you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment to this blog below…

To learn more about personal coaching, visit www.JZBcoaching.com.

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THIS WEEK’S ZOOMLETTER: 4 OF MY FAVORITE ORGANIZING TRICKS

2) TOUCH E-MAIL ONCE: The old rule about touching papers once applies to e-mail, too. If your e-mail inbox feels like an overwhelming TO-DO list, it’s time to stop using e-mails as visual reminders that lie around like piles of paper. When opening an e-mail, commit to do 1 of 3 things: a) delete it, b) reply to it (if doing so will take less than 1 minute), or c) make a note on a separate daily TO-DO list to respond later. This eliminates the need to continually scan through e-mails or re-read them (both big time-wasters), because you rest assured that if an e-mail has been opened, either it has been acted upon or has been “captured” as an action item on your TO-DO list. Keep in mind, too, that in many cases, time spent deliberating over how to craft an e-mail “to strike just the right tone” can be cut in half by picking up the phone.

2) SCRAP THE LONG TO-DO LIST: A lengthy TO-DO list that includes everything from work meetings to salon appointments to grocery items to longer-term wish items (like finally planning that dream vacation) can overwhelm the sanest of us. Instead of keeping one long-running TO-DO list, commit to putting aside 15 minutes once a week for a “personal planning session”. I like to hold mine on Fridays. Every Friday, I transfer my work appointments and personal appointments for the upcoming week onto individual, daily TO-DO lists (this is a snap if you use an electronic PDA, but if you’re like me and do it longhand, a ringed steno notebook or weekly planner comes in handy). After the appointments are in, I add other action items to each day, according to what errands I want to run and where I’ll be that week. For instance, I generally add an item like “work out at the gym” most weekday mornings, while I might add “do laundry” to Thursday’s list and “buy groceries” to Tuesday’s list. This way, items aren’t left floating on a long list, but rather, have a day of the week assigned to each of them. Another nice thing about taking the 15 minutes for a planning session once a week is getting to scan the upcoming week from a 30,000-foot view, allowing a vantage point to plan ahead. For instance, if I see “corporate presentation” on Wednesday afternoon, I can make sure to add “prepare handouts” to Tuesday’s TO-DO list.

3) ELIMINATE PILES: When opening mail or sorting papers, keep 4 items close by as a short-term “filing system”: a) a garbage can, b) a folder labeled “catch-all”, c) a folder labeled “action”, and d) your daily TO-DO lists (or PDA). The most obvious is the garbage can – for items that can be tossed.  (As a wise reader points out, ALL clean office paper, receipts, cardboard, inserts etc. should be recycled, and not tossed into the garbage can). The “catch-all” folder comes in handy for items that don’t require action but may be good to hold onto for future reference (i.e. coupons, notices, receipts, etc). Alternately, for items that require action (i.e. bills, invitations, etc.), file them in the “action” folder and make a note – right then and there – on your TO-DO list of the action you want to take (i.e. pay insurance bill or RSVP to Jane’s birthday party). When it comes time to take the action, you’ll know just where to find the bill or the invitation — tucked away safely in the “action” folder. After the action has been taken, you can transfer the bill or the invitation to the “catch-all” folder (for safe-keeping, if you want to hold onto them). This filing method eliminates clutter on counter tops, takes the pressure off needing to sort or file upfront (since you only have two folders to contend with), and means you always know where important papers are (either in the “action” folder or in the “catch-all” folder). Once a month or so, carve out some time to go through the catch-all folder, discarding some items and transferring others to longer-term filing systems as needed (for example, if you save statements or bills for tax purposes).

4) ADD A GOOD SENSE OF HUMOR: As helpful as a TO-DO list and a fab organizing system can be, nothing beats a sense of humor when it comes to feeling good in the midst of the crazy-busy lives most of us lead. Cut yourself some slack, be kind to yourself and to others, and remember to laugh when the best laid plans go awry or something falls through the cracks. Others will appreciate you for it, and you’ll add years to your life and quality to those years.

As a personal coach, I help busy individuals self-style approaches to taming “overwhelm”, finding time, and keeping organized. If you have a valuable tip for doing any of the above, I would love to learn about it and share it with our readers. Please don’t hesitate to reach out!

Here’s to being human and having fun,

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Tales of a First-Time Novelist…

January 31, 2008

 

On January 28th 2008, twenty-eight days after putting hands to the keyboard, I met my personal goal of completing the first draft of my very first novel in one month’s time!

During the wild ride, I vacillated between times when I marveled at my own elation (quite literally, I was nothing short of shocked at how much I could enjoy the process) and times when I would have preferred to rub my palms against sandpaper than stare at the screen and wrench another 1,000 words from my constipated brain.

That’s the experience in a nutshell, but it leaves so much out. The takeaways for me were the lessons I learned about how to approach and enjoy any meaningful undertaking that starts out feeling daunting.

I found a few things to be extraordinarily helpful along the way. I figured it might be valuable to share the three BIGGIES:

1) WRITING IN JANUARY: Although NaNoWriMo takes place each year in November, I found January to be an ideal writing month for the following reasons: It’s a long month (31 days); it includes a 3-day weekend (ideal for catch-up); it’s cold and dreary where I live (so no problem missing the outdoors, as long as skiing isn’t your thing); and it’s still football season (which, if you’re the wife of a JETS fan, makes the play-offs less painful).

2) TRUSTY WRITING COMPANIONS: Mine are www.dictionary.com (and its cousin www.thesaurus.com); www.wikipedia.com; and www.bartleby.com.

3) A FOCUS ON ACTION OVER CONTEMPLATION: Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo, calls it “exuberant imperfection”. As the NaNoWriMo website states, “The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly…By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.” And, I found it to be TRUE. The relentless drive towards quantity took my focus away from perfecting each line, and kept my sights set squarely on the action I had set out to do — WRITE.

Some reflections on writing a novel in one month:

What I come to love most about writing my novel “NaNoWriMo-style” (i.e. in one month flat) is this — AGONIZING is not an option. On days when I’m not “feeling it,” I simply don’t have the TIME to feel sorry for myself, get angry, give up, or (the deadliest time-waster of all) RE-READ what I have already written. I know that to do so means not finishing by the end of the month — not meeting my personal goal — and in effect, sacrificing however many days I have already committed to this insane project in the first place. I am not about to let all that prior labor and elation (not to mention, word-count) go to waste. And so, what I realize by Day 5 is that it isn’t the BIG GOAL (a 50,000-word finished novel) that keeps me going; rather, it’s the DAILY GOAL (of writing 2,000 words/day) that keeps me motivated. On the practical side, I have incentive to NOT GET BEHIND for even one day, as 2,000 words are more than enough to shoulder each day.  While maintaining my full-time coaching practice, I am writing anywhere from 2-5 hours per day (depending on the muse’s whims), pulling early mornings or late evenings before and after clients.  On the more emotional side, I come to see that while the big goal (50,000 words) continues to feel overwhelming (most of the way through), the daily goal (2,000 words) continues to feel doable — and MORE DOABLE each day I do it!

But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it is harder to write on Day 5 than it is on Day 1. Even though I begin Day 1 without so much as an outline or a plot (appropriately, I might add, as the NaNoWriMo book written by founder, Chris Baty, is after all, titled No Plot? No Problem!), I find myself flying through Days 1-4, charged up on adrenalin as well as Brie, hard salami, and imported olives (which I spy at the grocery store and jokingly fancy might make me feel a cosmic connection to one of the “Lost Generation“). I keep a log of REFLECTIONS as I write. Reflections from Days 1-4 include: “Getting such a kick out of the fact that as crummy as the sentence may be, it has never been written before!” “The best part of writing is losing all sense of space and time — when I turn around and 2 hours feels like 20 minutes,” “I’m enjoying laughing out loud as I write (nothing new here, as I’m always laughing at my own jokes)”……..and so forth. A plot starts to emerge slowly, and then…Days 5-8 HIT like the 20-mile “wall” in a marathon (many miles short): “Having trouble, words don’t flow easily,” “I’m dragging my carcass behind the keyboard,” and “It feels great afterwards, until I think, I have to do that all over again tomorrow.”

And so, as with most things in life, this one comes in spurts and drags…and spurts again. Allowing myself no weekends off is one of the toughest parts, and Day 10 marks the first time I miss my self-imposed 2,000-word daily quota, but I manage to make it up quickly. On Day 13, I reflect with joy, “I crossed the half-way point today with just over 26,000 words!” and by Day 20, I write for the first time, “I have a strong feeling that I can do this.” On Day 22, I reflect on the physical “toll”: “Exercise has suffered, as have the eyeballs…I’m trying to remember to blink as I type.” It is towards the very end, Days 24-27, that I pull back some, missing the daily quotas. In one reflection, I wonder at my reasons for slowing down, “Could it be I’m really going to miss this?…I think so.” At 3:23pm on January 28th, I type the final two words — THE END — and instead of what I anticipated (jumping up and down, painting the town red), I enjoy some quiet moments of feeling very lucky to have experienced something I’ve always wanted to do AND some twinges of sadness that this part of the journey is complete.

So what comes after writing a novel in a month? Some rest & relaxation, some enjoyment of weekends again, and one quiet afternoon I have planned to read the first draft from start to finish for the very first time. I have been told that a good re-write can take upwards of a year to pull off, so my work is cut out for me if I decide to continue this extraordinary process. And not least, I look forward to giving back. One of my favorite things to coach around with my private coaching clients is “how to effectively take on a challenging personal goal — something bigger than ever before.” I feel more energized than ever to coach others to GO FOR ACTION and enjoy the messiness of the ride…

Personal Coaching is an incredible asset…If you’ve ever thought about writing a novel of your own — or taking on another wild adventure that more closely suits your personal style — I am enclosing my loudest cheer of support and a warm welcome to reach out. I would love to hear from you!

To learn more about personal coaching with Jen, visit www.JZBcoaching.com.

To adventure!

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