Mrs D: empty moments

I’m a sucker for filling up spare moments with reading, listening, messaging. I like being in touch with people, and I love learning, so empty moments can feel like moments wasted.

But – and it’s a big but – it’s often in empty moments that your thoughts settle and clear. You make a connection between two thoughts, or have a new idea, or remember what it is you were really supposed to be doing today, or who it is you should be in touch with. You see the things around you more clearly.

You empty moments add value to your full ones by helping you to clarify, simplify and focus. And even if they don’t, they’re worth it on their own terms:

In people’s eyes, in the swing, tramp, and trudge; in the bellow and the uproar; the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses, vans, sandwich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment of June.

Virginia Woolf – Mrs Dalloway*

*Which I never thought I’d actually quote, and certainly not in an actual place.

Just in time (2): “I’ll just…”

There’s another kind of just in time. This is the kind when you lie to yourself: “I’ll just squeeze this extra thing in, and I’ll get there just in time.”

Pro tip: things that start with “I’ll just…” cost more than you think.

“I’ll just…” jobs usually end up taking longer, or they leave you dissatisfied because you didn’t do them well, or mean that you have to rush the next thing (like getting out the door), that you forget something, that you arrive late or flustered and on the back foot, that your thoughts and emotions are busy with something else. That you miss possibilities.

Next time you find yourself with ten minutes before you have to go and think “I’ll just write one more email” or “I’ll just check my messages”, count first what it’s actually going to cost in terms of time and emotional energy:

  • Is this a job that you can finish well and feel good about in two minutes (which probably means five to ten)?
  • Is it a job that you can leave – and feel happy about leaving – half done?
  • Is it worth the cost of energy and concentration and the likely rush later to squeeze it in?
  • Who is it going to cost? It will always cost you, and will usually also cost whoever you’re showing up for next.

Try this instead, for yourself and for them:

“I’ll just… leave ten minutes early, and enjoy the walk.”

Just in time (1)

There’s a good sort of just in time. We plan something, know what needs to happen and how, know what we need to do it well, when, where and with whom.

This kind of just in time feels great, with the right amount of tension for whatever it is we’re doing. Good training events feel tight like the skin of a drum – focused and snappy and free from clutter. There is time to share the material clearly, time to apply and discuss. There’s time and concentration to spare to tweak the way we present, double-check misunderstandings or discuss special cases. Time to focus and engage properly. The training starts and runs and finished – just in time.

Family events, trips to the market, airport departures, and collecting children from school all have their own ‘just in time’ feeling that comes from getting timings right, including time for traffic and coffee breaks along the way.

The thing about this kind of just in time is, you usually get it by allowing plenty of time – what feels like more than enough time – both to prepare and to deliver. You get it by allowing extra time for journeys and contingencies, and by allowing mental, emotional, social slack to compose yourself so that you arrive ready to participate, to perform or enjoy.

DriverlessCrocolutions 2019: Update 1

Disclaimer: I’m writing this as a note to self, and for anyone interested in the process. If that’s not you – then it’s not for you.

Lots happened in January and I didn’t manage to get down to specifics with my new year’s resolutions for DriverlessCroc.

For those who came in latehere’s an out-of-order review of my DC-related goals:

Resolution 7: Work on these goals in 12 week chunks

Achievable right now – by chunking the other goals, then executing on the plan. Using the ‘12 Week Year‘ approach, my twelve week years will run:

1: Tuesday 1st January – Monday 25th March
2: Tuesday 26th March – Monday 17th June
Two grace weeks Tuesday 18th June – Monday 1st July
3: Tuesday 2nd July – Monday 23rd September
4: Tuesday 17th September – Monday 16th December
Two grace weeks Tues 18th December – Tues December 31st

Resolution 1: Keep it up. 600 posts on DC by the end of 2019**, with enough of a frontlog to set it and forget it for a couple of holidays.

12 weeks is 84 days. DC has 220 posts live, with 330 days left until the end of the year. A post a day will leave me 50 posts short of 600… That’s about 15 extra posts per 12 weeks… so I’ll need to average eight and a bit posts a week.

Milestones: 

  • March 25th: 284 posts
  • June 17th: 380
  • September 23rd: 490
  • December 16th: 586

Resolution 2. Hit the reading list.

No worries here. I’m about two-and-a-half books in out of nine (The Inevitable, This is Marketing, half of Leveraged Learning and some of 4 Disciplines of Execution). This doesn’t need targets, just periodic checkups.

3. Podcast: an initial series of five episodes – starting with with a decent spec***.

Spec – check.

Other targets:

By March 25th:  1 episode – hitting this will need a big push in the first 12 weeks
By June 17th: 2 more episodes
By September 23rd:  2 more Episodes
Final Furlong: Review / rest on laurels.

Goal 4. A DC redesign.

This can wait until ‘Year’ 2 – 26th March onwards.

5. Pull key threads from posts into a more structured set of how-to articles.

By March 25th: Write an overview post
By June 17th: Write individual posts as part of the redesign.

6. Make connections with people who do similar work to me and/or find some of the ideas here helpful.

By March 25th:  Decide about running a workshop in the summer.

Summary: to do before 25th March:

  1. Hit 284 posts
  2. Have one full episode of the podcast up
  3. Write an overview post drawing together key threads from DC
  4. Decide about that workshop

Getting things done

Thought for the day:

There will always be more good ideas than capacity to execute.

Chris McChesney, Sean Covey & Jim HulingThe 4 Disciplines of Execution (amazon)

Conclusion: focus on one or two wildly important goals at a time, and get them done.

This is a lesson that I learn, apply, forget and re-learn in different areas of my life. It works.

Too many buckets

You can fill a bucket pretty quickly under a tap. But try and fill a lot of buckets at once – a drip here, a squirt there – and it can take a long time before you have enough to work with in any of your buckets. And you’re probably wasting time, energy and water moving constantly between them.

Three sentences to focus your work

My product is for people who believe __________.

I will focus on people who want __________.

I promise that engaging with what I make will help you get _________.

Seth Godin on The Tim Ferris Show Episode 343 (1 hr 9 mins, ish)

Stan Lee (1922-2018) – What If?

The exact cover of the Marvel What If that Dave’s brother kept in a plastic folder


Stan Lee was brilliant and prolific.

We know him for Spiderman, the X-men, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, Black Panther… for being the driving force behind Marvel Comics, now a multi-billion dollar, multi-media juggernaut.

It’s less well known that he started in the comics industry in 1939, aged seventeen, as a general dogsbody, lunch-fetcher and inkwell filler at Timely Comics (which would eventually become Marvel).

Lee must have had something about him – he became editor at 19 – but here’s the thing: he slogged it out writing comics – westerns, crime stories, horror and superhero work – for twenty two years without really hitting the big time. They say he chose Stan Lee as a pen name because he was worried he’d be embarrassed by his work in comics if he ever wrote the Great American Novel.

By the early 60s Lee was fed up, and ready to quit. The Fantastic Four was a last throw of the dice on his wife’s suggestion that he try writing the comics he wanted to write. There was nothing to lose.

He was forty-one years old.

The rest is history.

What if Stan Lee had never written the fantastic four?

Some takeaways:

Starting line

Where’s the starting line?

Sometimes we’re a few steps further down the track than the people we want to take with us:  we’ve given it more thought, we’ve done it before. We want it more.

We’re so keen to get people over the finish-line that we don’t notice that they’re still milling around at the start – or even that they’ve chosen to stay in bed.

How far away are you? How many steps backward will you need to take if you want to take them with you?

What do you need to communicate? What are the thousand other important things that you don’t?

When are you going to stop talking about techniques for crossing the finishing line and help them to put on their shoes?

 

*see also: Clarity. Simplicity. Focus.

 

Stay on target

stay on target

*Disclaimer: This post, originally lost in the Crocapocalypse, was only recently discovered sealed in an earthern jar in a cave near the Dead Sea. The post is intact, but some formatting (especially spaces) may have gone missing in action.

I sat down to write a post.

Saw the viewing stats for driverlesscroc looking interesting and inviting.

Hovered over.

Paused.

There!

Catch yourself in the pause – in the gap between stimulus in response.

Mind the gap.

Mind in the gapwhy did you come? What is this for?

Divert.

Stay on target.

Look!

The gap just got bigger.