The top, summit, apex, very end… and how you spend your time

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “the top, summit, apex, very end” is the first definition of the noun tip. The definition tells you that there is more behind this thing called a tip, as it is only the summit, or the end, not the full story.

Via a newsletter from Gazelles, I just came across a great tip for how to spend your more time on income-producing activities that I’m going to try.

Alex Lopez with Sydney-based Quantify Corporation uses a simple technique to double his income-producing activities. He divides his to-do list into two columns. Column one is labeled “Non-income Producing Activities” (Red) and Column two is labeled “Income Producing Activities” (Green). He then forces himself to place a to-do item in one of the two columns. When he first started, his non-income producing activities outnumbered his income-producing activities by a two to one ratio. Over time, he’s been able to flip that ratio.

Yes, you can quibble with yourself about whether something is income producing or not, but what is important is that you are thinking about it. And you can quibble about the reasons why this helps and shouldn’t you be doing something deeper to change what you do. Or you can take this as a “point” and just try it. You’ll learn and improve — even without the full story of why you do what you do behind it. Thanks to Gazelles and Alex for sharing this tip! I’ll tell you how my use goes.

And furthering the tip theme, we had a project at the Innovation Lab at Intuit that involved tips. The basic premise was that many people didn’t have time to read a How To, but people needed Tips to get them going in the right direction on something. Tip: When someone asks for your help, ask whether they are “tip” mode, or “how to” mode, and adjust your answer accordingly.

What is on my shirt is one of the best tips I’ve ever received. It comes from my family:

chose happiness

That’s a summit with terrific paths to and from…. enjoy yours!

What can I say?

I’ve been struggling. I wrote a post last week that I decided not to post. I had an experience today that I wanted to share. But overall for both, I did not feel it was appropriate to share just yet. I will share these points, but the immediacy is a challenge, as some things still need to shake out. I’m realizing that many things that are pressing on my mind, I just can’t post yet. So, tonight I took a step back, took a deep breath and here are my two experiences over the last week based on that wide-angle lens…

A tool I’m finding useful

A few months ago, the Spreadshirt Vorstand (roughly translated to executive board members … it is a German legal construct), we adopted a principle to follow: ask questions first. The point was to give the presenting person(s) the benefit of understanding their position and reasoning, before going negative. This sounds good, but rarely works in practice. Lukasz and I have done a good job of pushing each other on this principle and it has led to good results. Basically, we have both become comfortable saying, “I think you are breaking our questions first principle.”

What it has done for me… rather than feeling defensive if Lukasz starts with arguments on a point rather than questions, I back up and push for the questions first, as that brings out the issues more clearly… rather than a presupposed solution. Since we’ve both adopted this pretty well, I believe he feels a similar comfort.

Now, we need to be better about this in the Vorstand in general, and it is a concept I’m trying to practice and encourage in the company. So, even if you don’t have this principle agreed in your situation, you can take this approach. As soon as you feel that “defensive” instinct triggered, back up and ask for the questions. Don’t defend your position, until you get those questions and understand the other party’s concerns.

This tool reminds me one of the principles of talking to the press… answer the question you want to answer, not the one asked. This doesn’t mean ignore the question, but turn it into one that makes your key points. Like the above, this “press” principle puts you in control and not trying to back track through logic unfamiliar to you. Back up, start at the source where you are both on the same page. To be clear, to do this, YOU MUST LISTEN.

Something I didn’t do, but wish I had

In Watkins’s 90 Days book, the first point he makes is to promote yourself: Make a mental break from your old job and take charge in your new one. His principles and my comments on this:

  1. Establish a clear breakpoint. I did a rolling start versus a clear breakpoint. Watkins says to identify the ways you have to think and act differently. Maybe this is a good thinking point for the plane tomorrow night? Anyone have experience or advice on this?
  2. Hit the ground running. Done. I run and I feel good milestones have been established weekly, monthly, etc. that follow the corporate priorities. I’m following these and also driving them through the org.
  3. Assess your vulnerabilities. I’m on the fence on this. First, I’d redefine “vulnerabilities” to energy assessments, meaning where do you get energy versus have energy taken. But that’s not the point. I don’t agree with the assessment which puts me weak on Finance and R&D. I agree that I don’t get energy from Finance; I like the analysis, not watching the sausage being made. But I get tons of energy from R&D. If you look at the questions though, one of them that I ranked low was “project management systems” (I don’t get energy from implementing them, but I love them in use!). But the bigger point is, I don’t see that as R&D. OK, so that’s not Watkin’s point… the words. The point is knowing where you are vulnerable, and if I ignore getting project management systems in place because I don’t get energy from them, then I could be vulnerable. (Does this count for #5?!)
  4. Watch out for your strengths. I’m guilty here. I should back up more and spend some of the time I’m working more closely with some teams backing up and communicating the vision and priorities for the company more. This is really critical, even if the vision is the same, people need reassurance that it really is the same, and in general, “it’s the same” doesn’t seem to hit home.
  5. Relearn how to learn. Done. Well, I didn’t need to relearn here. My career has been spent as a learner. It is a strength… oh, darn, according to the above, I guess I should worry about that. I feel like I’ve just hit a circular reference. 😉
  6. Rework your network. Done. I haven’t done this as consciously as Watkins suggests, but it is again something I’ve always done. I’m fortune to have an incredible mentor network — I call them friends — who constantly reveal new skills and insights to me!
  7. Watch out for people who want to hold you back. I suck at this. (I am quite sure that isn’t something a CEO should say. Oh, well.) It has impacted me in my career. I trust people, and if they don’t want to support me, it is their issue not mine. With respect to Mr. Watkins, I’d change this one to… stay true to yourself. Don’t change your beliefs because of your new role, and don’t let the naysayers distract you. Learn from them, but don’t let them distract you from what you know is right. This thought crosses my mind almost daily.

So it is bedtime now, and this brings me to what is on my shirt today…

I’m recruiting!

 Spreadshirt is hiring, and we need great people. What better place to say it than a shirt?