I have just finished advising someone to work on building their blog. Gulp! I shared with them how easy it is to come up with blog topics. Gulp!
I finished writing them about this incredible technique I learned about in a seminar last year and realized how remiss I've been in adding to my own blog. So here's the technique...
You start by creating a list of 12 aspects of your business. If you're in business, this might include things like sales, marketing, experience, tips, secrets etc etc. If you're a realtor it might include things like working with buyers, working with sellers, downsizing tips, preparing for sale, the process, negotiating tactics etc.
Next you take each of those aspects and create four sub-categories. So sales might break down into pricing, guarantees, delivery, and after sale service. Preparing for a property for sale might break down into home exterior, de-cluttering, storage, deferred maintenance.
You now have 48 blog topics. So next you take each one of the sub-categories and you turn it into a question. For example, "What is the relationship between price and value when buying X?" Or, "How far should you go when de-cluttering your home in preparation for sale?" Next, come up with 3 answers or points to cover for the question you're posing. For example, the issue of quality or durability comes up when looking at the price and quality of an item. The issue of family photos on the wall comes up when preparing a property for sale, and helping the buyer picture themselves in the house
rather than you and yours.
Now you have 48 blog topics, each turned into a question, with three points to make in answering those questions. All that's needed now is for you to sit down at the computer and type for 5 minutes - non-stop. Think nothing about editing or crafting the piece. Just write answering the questions with whatever comes into your head, and covering the important points you've already laid out in advance. Bam! You have a rough draft of your blog topic. Edit. Perhaps find a useful picture to go with the article. And post.
I have just finished advising myself to work on building MY blog.
"All the advice you ever gave (your partner) is for you to hear." ~ Byron Katie
In my humble opinion, the one and only reason I have done a blog post today is because of a magic software program. I just found out about it today and already I've accomplished more in a day, in a myriad of arenas, than I normally accomplish in two! I'm calling my new discovery "my life on one page!" Such is my enthusiasm for Workflowy.
Workflowy is both an online productivity site and an iPad / iPhone Application. I've been working on it from my desktop today, establishing both an overview of my business and my life, as well as a detailed list of things to do.
Not only that, I've created a simple outline for my next book, input a list of places I'd like to travel to, and simplified various processes for our real estate business by creating checklists. All in one, dynamic document!
If that isn't enough, here I am resurrecting my blog which had been lost in a jungle of other tasks and responsibilities. It works.
Most people have busy lives, so being able to establish what is essentially a dynamic one pager for EVERYTHING, is tantamount to magic. The program is incredibly simple, and intuitive. Further, there are a number of YouTube videos that can help with the basics. I watched 4 or 5 short tutorials this afternoon and that was all I needed.
So do your life a favour and try out Workflowy. I'm as excited about it as I am about the documentary Searching for Sugarman. Both get a WOW! from me this week.
Every day we set goals and create courses for ourselves, often automatically and unconsciously. Much of this goal setting and course designing has to do with relatively mundane issues. We pick up the phone and speak with a friend, making plans to meet later for coffee. Goal. We pick the coffee shop and in so doing establish the first element of course design. We think about where we’ll be prior to that coffee meeting and contrast destination to location. Course.
For most of our young lives we’ve been following courses designed by ourselves and others. There was a course for our education through elementary school. The curriculum was predesigned. The levels were established along with standards of measurement. The same continued through high school and into university or college. But then?
The vast majority of people have followed a pre-designed course for their education but when they leave school no such course exists for their careers. There is no course. No levels. No standards of measurement. No pre-established targets. As a result, we meander through our working life, doing the “job” but not managing the career.
One way to be more successful is to pre-design the course you want to take. Know, in advance, where you want to go and contrast that with where you are now. This process establishes what Robert Fritz calls ‘structural tension’, a force which can then be used to propel us toward our desired end results. It’s the same tension that drives you when you have an appointment, and if you’re late that tension becomes even greater. Instead of unconsciously setting targets and contrasting those goals with where we are currently, we can do so deliberately.
In working on my book ’18 Holes To Your Goals’ I noticed that all golfers successfully make it around the course, time and again, repeatedly, because the course has been predesigned for them. This course is broken down into a series of smaller, manageable goals that are easy to see. Golfers always know where they are in relation to their next target and take action accordingly. Such a model can work well in designing your desired career path.
However, many people have a real aversion to setting goals and targets. So in my next Blog Post we’ll talk about why that might be the case.
I do understand the backlash against positive thinking. From a certain perspective, positive thinking looks like insincere tripe. And to the extent that you are trying to make yourself think or feel something that is NOT TRUE, it is tripe. However…
When we “realistically” look at how bad everything is, what is the effect? I notice that when I am in a lousy state of mind, fully in touch with everything that’s bad and wrong, I tend to be tremendously unproductive. My focus shifts from doing what I have to do, to doing what I can to change how I feel, and my strategies for doing so aren’t all that great. They include watching TV, surfing YouTube, playing solitaire, and overeating.
At the same time that realism is being touted, there is a corresponding bias against happiness and contentment. This arises as a result of the belief that if we were happy and content with things now, we wouldn’t want to change anything. Many people believe that happiness and contentment actually suck the life out of dreams and aspirations. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
Happiness and contentment are productive states. I’ve noticed that when I’m happy and content I get things done and when I’m getting things done I’m happy and content. Sure, it’s possible that you are different. So I suggest you monitor your results. And to the extent that dissatisfaction and unhappiness sap your powers, revisit the positive thinking approach using the power of questions.
Instead of asking yourself and proving everything that’s wrong, ask yourself what’s right. This is not about convincing yourself of something you don’t believe. That is an approach that makes positive thinking seem false and insincere. Instead, ask what is actually right in your world? Play with it. Make a list. And just check out the extent to which your state impacts your productivity and effectiveness.
In my next blog post, I’ll talk about how much we follow courses that are already designed for us, and where we need to create them.
What I like most about Facebook are the cool things other people post. Last week someone posted a TEDx video of a presentation done by author David Allen called “The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.” The title piqued my interest.
You may recognize David Allen as being the author of the book ‘Getting Things Done’, and his first suggestion was to PARK things to get them off your mind. In other words, make a list of the things that are on your mind, so they’re off your mind – for now. He even went so far as to suggest “don’t keep anything in your head for the rest of your life!” He suggests you should “use your mind to get stuff off your mind.”
Allen points out that we need room and space to think. He calls it ‘psychic bandwidth’. He says that when we need to be creative we need to be able to spread out and make a mess – and that’s just not possible when we’re already living in a mess.
Cheri and I have used this in our own lives but unfortunately we’ve often done it as a last resort. In other words, when one of us is totally stressed out and overwhelmed, the other will ask “would you like me to help you make a list?”
A better approach would involve routinely making lists, and then further breaking down those lists into sub-lists. You could categorize these lists by topic, or you could categorize them by time frame, making sure there is also an ACTIVE LIST that you are working with on any given day.
In my most recent book, 18 Holes To Your Goals, I point out that a scorecard acts as a kind of ACTIVE WORK LIST. Start on Hole #1, then proceed to Hole #2, Hole #3 and so forth. This pre-structured plan makes golfers effective at getting from A to B repeatedly. Active lists are, in essence, the structure of one’s daily course. And if you have not-too-much-else to think about along the way, that would make for some stress-free productivity.
In my next blog post, I'll be writing about something that inspires me.
At the end of my last blog post, and in an effort to maintain momentum with my writing, I added “In my next blog post, we’ll visit the idea of creating more powerful end results that evoke emotion.” And then some interesting things happened. Despite having ‘set the tension’ for writing this post, I actually avoided writing altogether because I was uninspired by the topic. And so this post is going to be about changing your mind as you go.
Often we think it’s not okay to change our mind. I know because I have done it often and upset people. I once decided not to attend a wedding I had said I would attend. At the time I didn’t think it was a big deal but my friend, the groom, certainly didn’t share that view! More recently, I found myself on an airplane, feeling tired, frustrated, sick with a cold, and finding no place to put my carry-on luggage. So I changed my mind and walked off the plane. Again, I didn’t think it was a big deal. But then it didn’t occur to me that they’d have to hold the plane while my stored luggage was removed! Duh!
For me, these albeit infrequent incidents of my own horribly aberrant behaviour have reinforced the idea that “it’s not okay to change my mind.” Unfortunately, while not changing my mind would have been the considerate and kind thing to do in the instances mentioned above, it doesn’t make much sense if one also can’t simply change one’s mind about relatively minor issues like the topic of a blog post, or the time of a dinner date.
By and large I like to be a man of my word. If I say I’ll be at a certain place at a certain time, I tend to get there early. I actually factor in unforeseen delays, like traffic tie ups. But when our commitments keep us from doing what we really want to do, perhaps these commitments need to be revisited. If I say my next blog post is going to be about a certain topic, and the thought of that leaves me uninspired and I don’t write anything for a week, a rethink is in order.
So where might you have made a commitment to do something, but that commitment actually no longer works for you in the larger scheme of things? Are there any commitments that are actually hindering you, rather than helping?
In my next blog post, chances are I’ll be writing about the power of lists. That is my intention. It is subject to change without notice. I also notice I don’t even like writing that it is subject to change without notice.
What do you do, habitually, when things become difficult? Do you keep going, or check out? Do you become motivated or irritated? Do you stay on course, or veer off in another direction?
Interestingly, golfers do the same thing whenever they get into trouble on the course. And it doesn’t matter if they’re old or young, experienced or inexperienced, professional or brand new to the game. When golfers find themselves in the woods the first thing they do, automatically, is ask “Where’s the flag?” Golfers routinely reorient themselves to their target and keep going. Why?
Robert Fritz, the author of The Path of Least Resistance and Creating says “It’s not what a target is, but what it does.” Targets give us something to refocus upon, particularly when we’re in trouble. Golfers find it particularly easy to refocus on targets because they have been pre-established as part of the course they are playing, and they’re either in view or just around the next corner. By contrast, many people don’t have a course established for their day, let alone their career or their life. It’s easy to be off course - when you don’t have one.
In a recent keynote speech in Switzerland, I outlined how we all benefit from pre-designed courses that are set out for us throughout our school years, and as part of our post-secondary education. However, once we enter the work world, there is no course pre-established for our career. As such, it is incumbent upon us to design such a course for ourselves.
What would such a course look like? Pretty much like the design of a golf course. We would have an overriding end result and a series of small targets that bridge the gap between where we are and where we want to end up. When we have such a course, we then know when we’re on course and when we’re off course. When we get into trouble, having established short-term targets, we’d have something to refocus upon and, as a result, some obvious next steps to take regardless of the challenges before us.
Unlike the phrase “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”, when we have a clear end result and we know where we are in relation to that target, we really don’t need to muster a great deal of internal fortitude to proceed. We simply chip away until we get there. And because the course is broken down into tiny, manageable sections, it’s easy to see the progress we’re making.
So where do you start if you don’t have a course for your life or career? Practice with your days and weeks first. Design your day, in advance, and see the difference a course makes. Make a game of it, and when the going gets rough, as it inevitably will, notice the impact of having those pre-established targets.
In my next blog post, we’ll visit the idea of creating more powerful end results that evoke emotion.