Feb 20, 2009

- Add Structure to an Idea-Packed Day

Boundaries Get All the Bad Press
If you think about it, our society has a serious issue with the association of the word “boundary”. We don’t like the thought of being constrained in any way. Consider these historical events that revolved around breaking boundaries:
  • abolishing slavery
  • tearing down the Berlin Wall
  • wommen’s suffrage
  • nearly every war/battle ever fought
These are only a tiny, tiny portion of events in America (and worldwide) that cause our modern society to wig out and run in the opposite direction when faced with the word “boundary”. When you read about boundaries being enforced in the news and elsewhere, it’s typically in a negative or controversial fashion.
The same is true with how we work. Entire industries are built on the prospect of “sticking it to the man”, quitting the “9-5″ and becoming your own boss. And rightly so… the antiquated business work model is old and in serious need of an overhaul. (See: Excellent post by Leo on natural working rhythms.) But we’re straying from the point, aren’t we?

While we may hate it, work and boundaries go hand in hand. I’m not talking about oppressive mandates passed down by a suit. I’m talking about structure. Structure is what ensures our work days are effective, especially for those with jobs that demand creativity on a regular basis.
Without any sort of boundaries, we loose focus. We can’t perform. Things get dropped, ideas are lost. And when it comes to the business of capitalizing on ideas, it’s imperative that our ideas are seen through.
We gotta have structure.

Structuring Our Day = Better Returns On Ideas
Somewhere down the line somebody thought it would be best if we just made the process of forming and working on creative ideas as loosey-goosey as possible. And the concept makes sense too: How can ideas truly thrive and grow unless they’re constructed in an environment without boundaries?
Unfortunately this is all a myth. I can tell you from experience, (and I’m sure many of you would agree), that bopping from idea to idea is unsustainable. Yes, it’s important to have some elbow room with how we work, like the 3 opened project method. So here’s how I walk the fine line of working in a structured manner, while at the same time allowing for random ideas, thoughts and other miscellaneous work.

My Daily Structure
I start with a plain white sheet of print paper. I’m not using an online list because of the quick “jot-friendly” nature of paper and pen. I just let the ideas/tasks flow from the hand onto the paper. (There’s something magical about writing something down with a pen that imprints the output into your mind. This doesn’t happen with computer-based typing for me.)
Instead of making the typical “To Do” list, I break apart my day into 3 different categories:
  1. Writing
  2. Thinking
  3. Development
These are the three different aspects of my job, or the different “gears” used to get stuff done throughout the day. I’m either in writing mode, development mode, or thinking mode. The three columns allows me to switch effortlessly between different types of work. If I’m tired of writing, I’ll switch to development. If I’m tired of development work, I’ll switch to thinking. And so on.


Feb 19, 2009

- Can Matrix Structure be Lean?

Many organizations introduce matrix management in order to be faster and more flexible and to share resources across the organization.
But matrix management, by definition, introduces another strand of reporting and coordination across the organization that lies on top of the previous vertical lines of reporting to functions, geographies etc..

A feature of matrix management is that this can lead to additional meetings, conference calls and emails and the proliferation of reporting and coordination mechanisms - this can make matrix management the opposite of lean (fat?)

Matrix organisation structures are a further step in creating a traditional hierarchy around what have become much more flexible ways of working, and may actually be counter productive.

A lot of the bad press that matrix management has experienced in the past is because this layer of complexity and coordination has been additive.  In order for matrix management to be lean we have to simultaneously simplify the way we work in the matrix.
Luckily a lot of the cooperation, communication and control in a traditional organization is completely unnecessary and can safely be discarded and replaced with a more streamlined and decentralized form or matrix management.

The problem is that people management techniques developed for simpler times can make matrix management worse. Beyond a certain level of complexity more teamwork, meetings and conference calls make things worse. In matrix management we have to challenge these outdated assumptions in order to be both lean and matrixed.

It is not that matrix management is necessarily fat and wasteful, or that lean is always the best answer - it is about how we organize ourselves to be more effective.


- 10 Essential Tips to Change Your Life

If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.
You need to change in order to grow. You can’t grow if you just stay where you are. You can’t grow if you don’t change the way you think and act. In fact, changing your life is a continuous process. It never ends. The moment you stop changing, you stop growing.
I’m not saying that I know everything about changing life. I’m still learning myself. But here I’d like to share with you what I have learned so far.
Here are ten tips to change your life:
1. Slow down
To change your life, you need time to think and reflect. If you are always busy, you won’t have the time to think about your life let alone taking action to change it. You won’t have the room to apply the tips below. So slow down and make the room for change.
Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast - you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.
Eddie Cantor
2. Be willing to change
Willingness is essential. It’s your life; nobody can change it but you. If you aren’t willing to change, then nothing in this world can make you do so.
To build the willingness to change, first you should realize that your life can be better than it is now. No matter how good your life is, it can always be improved. On the other hand, don’t feel hopeless if your life doesn’t seem good right now. You can always change your life for the better.
3. Accept responsibility
Accepting responsibility for your life is a must. Don’t blame other people for the bad things that happen in your life. Don’t blame your family, friends, boss, or the economy. Whether your life goes up or down depends on you and you alone. Once you take the responsibility, real change is within your reach.
We immediately become more effective when we decide to change ourselves rather than asking things to change for us.
Stephen Covey
4. Find your deepest values
Deep down in your heart, there are some principles that you know is true. Take the time to find them. What do you think is the most valuable thing in life? What principles do you think you must follow to live a fulfilling life? These are the values you need to align yourself with. Find them and remind yourself constantly about them.
5. Find your cause
Change is not easy because there is inertia you need to overcome. Just like a space shuttle needs a powerful rocket to overcome the Earth’s gravity, you also need a powerful source of energy to overcome the inertia to change. Your cause is the source of energy you need. Your cause can give you the strength to overcome the inertia. To find your cause, find what matters to you.
6. Replace limiting beliefs with empowering beliefs
Limiting beliefs are among the biggest obstacles that hinder you from changing your life. You need to identify them before you can effectively handle them. To identify your limiting beliefs, observe your mind for thoughts that contain phrases like:
  • “I can’t …”
  • “I won’t be able to …”
  • “I will always be …”
  • “There is no way …”
Whenever you find one, write it down. After some time, look at your list. These are your limiting beliefs.
After identifying your limiting beliefs, you need to replace them with empowering beliefs. Write positive statements that counter the negative ones you wrote before and make positive affirmations using those statements. Do it whenever you realize that a limiting belief is at work.
7. Replace bad habits with positive habits
Besides identifying limiting beliefs, you should also identify bad habits you have. Are there habits that drag you down? Are there habits that you know you need to break? List them all.
Then, rather than focusing on breaking those habits, focus on creating new positive habits that replace them. For example, let’s say the bad habit is watching too much TV. Rather than focusing on reducing your TV time, you should focus on building a positive habit that will use the time in a better way. For instance, you might want to build the habit of reading.
8. Find a mentor
Finding a mentor can greatly help you improve your life. Not only can your mentor give you advice on what to do in certain situations, he can also warn you about possible pitfalls in your path. Without a mentor, most likely you will have to learn many lessons the hard way. Having a mentor will save you serious amount of time.
Getting a good mentor is not easy though. In many cases, you can’t just expect someone to invest his time in you for nothing. At the very least, you should show that you are an open-minded and teachable person. Furthermore, try to be useful to your mentor. Help him in any way you can to make his job easier. This way you send a message that you are a serious mentee that is worth investing in.
9. Have the right expectation
Having the right expectation from the beginning is important. Otherwise, it’s easy for you to be discouraged when things don’t go as expected. Change takes time, especially if you want the change to last. Having the right expectation prepares you to be persistent in difficult times.
10. Maintain the momentum
The most difficult part is always the beginning. Once you go through it, things will become easier if you maintain the momentum. Just think about pushing a car. The most difficult part is getting the car to start moving. Once it’s moving, pushing it will be easy as long as you don’t let it stop again.
Similarly, you should keep improving your life. Change your life day by day. As the quote above says, if you don’t change, you don’t grow.

Feb 15, 2009

- First: Your Feelings … Then: Your Action Plan

Most of us have to-do lists. Many of us have long terms goals. Few of us have a list of how we actually want to feel in our life.

And aren’t feelings the whole point? 
The income, the relationship, the hot bod’, the high thread count cotton sheets - everything on our to-do, to-get, to-experience lists all drive back to the feelings that we crave … connected, comfort, powerful, rich in love and cash, beauty, vitality, useful, calm.
And so it goes that a solid make-it-happen strategy should be grounded in the awareness of how you want to feel. It’s the elemental point that most action plans and goal setting systems overlooked.
Feelings are magnetic. Each feeling is a beacon that attracts a reality. Love attracts love. Gratitude attracts more reasons to be grateful. Generosity creates a generous response. What we focus on expands. So choosing to focus on feelings that, well, feel good, is a sure way to create the experience you want.
  • Career
  • Relationships
  • Spirituality
  • Wealth
  • Wellness
Write out a few desired feelings in each area. 
You’ll likely see a pattern emerging - it usually gets down to three or four key emotions that you’re always hankering for. If you have goal lists or vision boards, write your desired feelings on them - front and center. Stick a note of your key feelings into your day-timer. Look up the definition of each of your feeling words. Become a connoisseur of desired feelings and you’ll transform your wants into realizations. Desires are dynamic - they love to be danced with adored, explored.
I’m clear that in every area of my life I want to experience: communion, affluence, sexiness and creative freedom. Those desired feelings drive everything I do - from how I interact with the waiter at the restaurant, and or my blog audience, to what I write, wear and dance to. How I want to feel sits in the margins of my schedule and the center of my heart.


If I’m feeling less than affluent, I give - I write a thank you note, I check out the entrepreneurs I’ve sponsored on Kiva.com, I pick up the tab at lunch. If I want to feel more communion I intentionally plan to create it. I’ve just mapped out a plan for the New Year that includes a road trip to see my soul sister in Vegas, a week at the Burning Man festival, a budget to go to more concerts, and a commitment to have one dinner party a month - all things that make me feel closer to life and to love.


When you’re clear on how you want to feel, you can be open to what life wants to give you. You’ll be anchored to the function, rather than the form. And this is really the essence of simplified living - a focus on what matters most. The house, the partner, the job may not “look” like you wanted, or come when you expected, but if something or someone generates the positive feelings you’ve been longing for, you’ll be able to let that good stuff into your life.
When you’re clear on how you want to feel you instinctively know what to say yes to, and when to say, “no thank you.” And that’s the best feeling in the world.
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