Tag Archives | attention

Time to Reflect. You’re soaking in it.

Madge. "You're soaking in it"

In today’s information overloaded, fast paced, digital lifestyle there can be little opportunity to pause and reflect. The mindset of “just have to keep up” can dominate one’s thinking if your are not careful. Every once and a while I get present to the fact that I spend too little time “reflecting” on things be they family, work, and life in general.

I’m soaking in it.

Like the image above, (I am showing my age and if you know ‘Madge’ you are too), sometimes you may find yourself “soaking in it” and not knowing what is going on, or the benefits of what you are in the middle of doing. Being a married, father of  3 boys, self employed business owner/pixel pusher can impose virtual blinders that, if I let it, will limit what I know, see, and what is possible.

So why am I rambling on about this? Recently I became aware of just how much I am soaking in it. My ‘inner Madge‘ woke up and reminded me of what was going on. And sharing this with others might remind them to stop, look around, and take stock.

I set some measurable goals at the end of 2009. These were goals I mentally planned on completing by the end of  the first quarter of 2010. Well guess what? Today is the start of the second quarter of 2010. And those three goals? Not met. I went through piles of paperwork over the weekend and found them written down. I got them out of my head not just as ideas and things to do, but completely out of my head. I was soaking in it so completely that I lost track of these goals.

What are, or were, the goals?

  • Publish new WordPress/Thesis tutorials based on recently completed projects
  • Design, develop, and publish a visual overhaul to berchman.com
  • Release a free Thesis portfolio theme

I had planned on these three things to be completed yesterday.

So what’s the lesson in all this?

Two things:

  1. Use your systems. These three goals were never put into project tracking systems I use and broken down into smaller, manageable tasks (basic productivity, duh). I am remedying that THIS quarter.
  2. Reflect more often. I failed to check in with myself on personal projects. All things in the client and family world are moving along quite well. I dropped the ball on myself.

Reflection time is over. I will now return to my regularly scheduled program.

Get back to work.

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Some thoughts on the first day of 2009

Photo I took of the sun setting where I live on New Years Day 2009.

Photo of sunset on New Years Day 2009. Ojai Valley, California.

As the sun sets on this the first day of 2009 I have had some time to reflect.

Many people look at New Years Day as a time to initiate their resolutions. In years past I have concocted my own list of resolutions only to find that 3 weeks later they were nice ideas and that was about it. Now every year I like to reflect on the year that has passed and take stock of my overall experience, strengths, and weaknesses from the past year. From this reflection I develop some overall areas of focus  in the coming year. This is not a hardcore set of resolutions like “I will lose 15 pounds,” or “I will stop smoking” (although I can add that to my belt—non smoker for 15 years). Rather they are ideas that I will spend mental energy on in hopes of making my life, and the lives of those around me, just a little bit better.

When I look back on my reflections from 2007 I can see just how far I have come during 2008. 2008 was a very good year for me professionally but more importantly I made great strides personally.

Time, time, time what has become of me.

2008 was a very busy year that presented a great many challenges for me. The biggest challenge of 2008 was time management. Using time well and effectively are so important to achieving goals and feeling accomplished. In 2008 this issue came up for me time and time again (pun intended). I continue to refine my approach to managing my time as no one tool or technique is the silver bullet.

Work, work, and work. But not necessarily in that order.

I am fortunate to be self-employed, learning new things, and been able to make a bit of money while doing both. It has been a great experience thus far. However, I basically make my money one way, actively. I do not derive any income from passive resources. An active source is like what I do. Trade your time and expertise for money. A very simple transaction. The passive model involves me building something (think e-book, etc.) that is created once and sold again and again without having to recreate it every time. In 2009 I am working on ideas of generating passive income and have some things in motion already. Lets just say that this year will prove to be a very busy working year to provide fruits of the labor afterward.

The suitcase and the onion.

Personally I have been working on myself quite a bit. We all have our suitcases of issues that we drag along with us through life whether we want to or not. Sometimes we open them up and deal with the issues inside, others may keep them shut and carry their weight with them all their lives. For me it was a year to open all the suitcases and lighten my load. Suffice it to say that I have opened all my suitcases, processed and discarded many heavy items, and I continue to find new items in the cases when discarding others—like the layers of an onion. I peeled much of the onion back in 2008—more than I have than at any other time in my life. I continue the work and discovery of self improvement with a much better toolkit going out of 2008 than when I went into it.

It looks like I will be spending mental energy (and time) on using time more wisely and effectively, working on passive income streams, and peeling back more of the onion. So here is to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

So what has your attention for the next 12 months?

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Taking Breaks Big And Small

Mexico

Something I am not good at is taking a break from work. Any type of break–5 minutes or 5 days. On a daily basis I find myself sitting at the machine for 3 hours at a stretch without getting out of the chair. Obviously this is not good. I did get a pedometer over the holidays to see just how much movement I am getting during a typical work day. Right now I am averaging over 10,000 steps a day which is not bad for a mostly sedentary desk job. On a day-to-day basis I do need to take more breaks and get up and move around. I don’t think we as humans were designed to be seated for long periods of time. To help with that I recently setup a small mac-based application called FlexTime. It is a great app that will let me program periods of time and breaks, and it will put notices up in front of me to let me know to take a break or switch gears. Not only the physical change, but the mental change of focus and attention will help as well.

Other than the day-to-day breaks are the BIG breaks–vacations. We all need vacations to help rest and recharge. Problem is in this country (US) we tend toward the workaholic side of the spectrum and take very few breaks on a daily basis and take very little vacation time when compared to the rest of the industrialized world. Then again our GNP is the highest in the world so there is a positive side to it. However, I tend to work so hard for so long that I get burned out. I have been to burnout and back several times in my career and its no fun. To help keep this at bay I recently made a decision to take a vacation that sort of landed in my lap. A friend who is going to Mexico for 10 days asked me to come along–out of the blue.

Initially my reaction was. “Well, I do have so many projects going on right now I’m not sure I can spare the time.” I told this to someone I met at a party over the weekend and he looked at me and said, “You should go on the trip. Work will always be there, a chance to go to Mexico will not.” I thought to myself, he is absolutely right. It is the advice I would give to someone else if they were telling me the story. I would say figure out how to make it happen and I am making it happen. My new passport is on the way and I leave 2 weeks from this Friday. I have never been to Mexico and I have lived a couple hundred miles north of the border for almost 15 years. Its about time I take a visit. The work will be here when I get back.

When was the last time you took a vacation or a day off?

Yeah. Exactly–too long. Make it happen. Take the opportunity when it comes, or make the opportunity now.

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Less Than 12 Hours Left To 2007…

2007-08

2007 was a professionally prosperous and personally challenging year. I am glad it is about to go into the history books.

In business I learned a great deal about attention, focus, and negotiation. I made more money than I have any other year. I worked more hours on projects AND on non-billable projects. I learned that one should never compromise but rather negotiate–never settle for less than is fair. Get paid what you are worth. If you feel you are not getting a fair deal, get out. Don’t settle for less than what your time and effort is worth–you end up with bad vibes. I learned that when working on projects it’s imperative to keep people informed. Don’t let projects escalate and change outside of scope without a change order. Don’t think, “its just a little thing” because that will turn into a monster. I learned you can never ask too many questions, ever. I learned to make better, more informed choices. I learned that I need adequate time to create great work. I learned that I can get through a tough spot. I learned so much more than I can list here. Suffice it to say that I got more out of 2007 in terms of business knowledge and experience than any time before.

While in the midst of 2007 it sometimes it felt like hell I am glad to have had the experience. Here is to entering a new year with a whole new set of wisdom to reflect upon.

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Overwhelmed? Me too.

Fire Alarm

Meetings, email, projects, laundry, dinner, kids, cell phone ringing! Don’t pull the alarm yet. They all demand your time and attention many at the same time as each other. No wonder our sleep-deprived lives are fueled by a steady diet of caffeine all the while stumbling around dazed and confused.

I recently read an article in the most recent Oprah magazine titled, “Wait! Stop! It’s All Too Much” by Martha Beck. I don’t typically read Oprah but my wife has a subscription and recently read this article and had to pass it along to me. Why? Because the stuff I complain about on a frequent basis was talked about in this article. The feeling of overwhelm is usually characterized by something called attentional blindness. It’s the feeling you get when presented with too many stimuli. As the article says, ” you sink into a muddled netherworld, like Dorothy in the poppy fields of Oz. Your intentions grow fuzzy. Is it dementia? Is it Alzheimer’s? Sheer cursed laziness? None of the above.” I have had this feeling on more than one occasion and it’s disabling.

A great example.
For a great example of attentional blindness go here and watch this video (It takes a moment to load).

You need to focus on the white team and how many times they pass the ball. Go do this now and then come back and continue reading. Don’t continue to read until you have done this.

Done? Great. Now how many times did they pass the ball? I counted 15. Should be about right. Want to know what is really the trick in that video? About halfway through a person in a gorilla suit walked through, thumped their chest and walked out? Did you see that while you were counting? If not, you just experienced attentional blindness.

You should go and read her full article. She does give a 6-step process for helping train your clogged mind to focus and help strip out the overwhelm. I highly recommend it.

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Design Thinking

Outside the box

The title is a topic I read about every so often in the blogosphere and sometimes mentioned in books. Fortunately this topic is gaining more attention in the mainstream business world. The idea is that designers of all kinds: graphic, web, industrial, interior, fashion, information, etc., play a critical role in society and business.

Designers are the creators of what people read, use, and see every day. The business world is now coming around to the idea that designers have more than just their end-products to contribute to the world–they have their process to contribute. The way in which they arrive at their final solutions is the gem. The distillation, the thinking, the analyzing all contribute to create that final piece, the deliverable, for everyone to behold.

Today I came across an interesting video posted on Bruce Nussbaum’s blog about Design Thinking. There are some interesting ideas and thoughts presented here. It’s worth a look.

You can watch the video here.

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Logic please come to my emotional rescue

SpockHow often do your emotions take over and hijack your better judgment? I would say quite often for most people unless you are Spock or a tree.

I have been struggling between allowing logic instead of emotion rule the day in given situations. Many times emotion will come in and take up all the air and space within the room and not give logic any room to operate. Only after some time for reflection can better judgments be made. However, some instances do not allow the luxury of time. For example, when your children are in the midst of staging a coup d’état and you sense the world is spinning out of control. This situation is ripe for emotion running the day and for regret to rear its head after the moment.

Upon reflection the logic of the situation always come clear but emotion with all its tugs and pleas commands attention in the heat of the moment. It is as if it is a small crying child demanding you to focus on it at the expense of clearer heads making the decision.

One good thing is that awareness is the first key to getting beyond this situation. I just need to keep watching more old episodes of Star Trek to keep growing my inner Spock fed and to continue to fine tune it. Not that I want to be devoid of my emotions, rather I do not want them to cloud good judgment.

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A whole ramble of thoughts

This is my first attempt at speaking the text of my blog. I am using a headset with voice dictation software. The title of whole ramble of thoughts is somewhat appropriate seeing that I am going to try to speak about many things here.

First is the foray into voice dictation software.  I have used this stuff before but have never been successful.  This is proving to be a rather decent experience.  I must admit it is a bit strange speaking and watching the words show up on the screen.  So here is to the future of what I hope to be more frequent, interesting, and thought provoking entries.

Previously.
In my previous entry I spoke about modes of communication and since posting that I’ve given some more thought to the idea. It was brought to my attention by someone who read what I posted that there is real value in having a face-to-face meeting with people. I don’t deny the value in that experience.  However, when looking at the larger picture of where I am spending my time and what value is derived from where I spend my time it seems logical to me to be a bit more stringent, hell just plain stingy, with how I spend my time. That’s not to say that I will never have a face-to-face meeting with the person again, I certainly will.  I think what I’m getting at is assessing how important is it to meet with that specific person regarding that specific issue.  It’s more about assessment of the meeting than anything else.  Do you really need to spend that time doing that?  Or is there something more constructive you could be doing with that time.

del.icio.us
Also since my last post I have been trying to clean up my del.icio.us bookmarks and have been experimenting with some new social media sites.  One thing is for sure, the interface for editing and deleting book marks within del.icio.us is too damn time-consuming.  You are only allowed to select one item at a time when it’s clearly possible to engineer the screen for me to see 25, 50, 100 bookmarks at a time and edit them simultaneously and then submit them.  However, I have been pretty pleased with the experience of using the del.icio.us website as a way to manage my bookmarks.  I primarily work on a Macintosh and I also use a Windows XP machine to get work done. Having the ability to access all my bookmarks from both machines at any time is pretty sweet.

Pro Bono.
Presently I have about three or four websites that are in the very final stages of completion.  I should be publishing them within the next few weeks.  It will feel great to have these projects done. I have some new work on the horizon and I need to clear the decks before I can get started.   A couple of these websites are pro bono websites and I recently read a great article written by David C. Baker of ReCourses that spoke specifically to providing pro bono work for the public good.  He smartly suggested the idea of creating criteria that each possible pro bono project would need to measure up to in order for you to work on it.  He suggested gathering an advisory group that would review potential pro bono projects and objectively measure them against the criteria that you’ve established.  Furthermore, he suggested posting a simple one-page application on your website and having that promoted in the local business community.  This way you would receive applications for your pro bono services.  These applications would be reviewed by your advisory group and they would select the most appropriate projects for you to work on.  This is such a smart way to include pro bono work in your creative practice.  Presently, my pro bono work arrives in my workflow somehow out of the ether. I really don’t know how it ends up there. What I do know is that I plan to employ this strategy for working on pro bono projects in the future.

Closing.
This may be as many words as I have posted in a single entry.  This is largely due to the fact that I’m speaking these words and they are appearing on my screen.  It’s pretty damn cool .  But at the same timea bit disturbing to watch your words appear on screen.  I find myself pausing at weird times and that causes the thought process not to flow as well.  What I imagine happening is that I can eventually sit back and not look at the screen and the words will just come out of my head excuse me I need out of my mouth and into the microphone and onto the screen and here they are.  Overall I’ve only had to edit about five or six words from this whole entry.  The accuracy is amazing. Anyhow that’s it for now.

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No public Air Guitar!

I happened to be on my way to deposit some checks from my business at my local bank. On the way there I happened to stop at the intersection before turning into the parking lot to go through the drive-thru teller. Looking across the intersection I noticed a sign. Don’t exactly know why I noticed it. In terms of color, typeface, etc. it blended into the surroundings very well. Perhaps it was because it was brand-spanking-new. Continue Reading →

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