I am normally not into cross-posting on different sites, but hey, rules are there to be…. no, I won’t say it! Afterwards all you remember is “hey, on KillerConsultant they said it would be alright to bend rules!” No, friends, it is not that easy. Also, what does your client say when you admit that you actually have time to read a website? Seriously.
Anyhow, I wrote the following for my private site, but thinking about it, this might just be interesting for you KC guys as well. Here goes!
Yesterday night I found out about Randy Pausch. Randy is a professor at Carnegie Mellon University who delivered (and recorded) two very interesting speeches. One is called “Time Management“, in which he talks about very practical tips on how to get more things done in life. This is not a theoretical talk – it is very down to earth, it is full of things you can directly apply yourselves. The other talk is called “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams“. In this talk, part of CMU’s “last lecture” series, he talks about how he managed to achieve his childhood dreams, and how one can work towards that – or help others achieve their dreams.
The “last lecture” series at CMU is asking the speaker to imagine – if this was the last lecture he or she gave before they died, what would they talk about? For Randy, he needs no big imagination. Randy gave this speech knowing he will most likely die from the cancer he has in the next few months. He already knew that when he gave the speech on time management as well. Don’t shy away now! His lectures are incredibly funny. There is no darkness and sadness in them. All this frightening fact really does is make the speeches more intense. For me, on the receiving end, it feels like an incredible gift Randy has given to us. He even made the last lecture a book – how awesome is that!
When you watch those lectures, you wil realize what a fighting spirit Randy has. Not surprisingly, he is still alive, still fighting hard, still making the best out of the days he has. On his personal website you find a summary of all the things I just introduced to you, as we as updates on how he is doing.
So what can you take from that?
- The lecture on time management will give you many good tips for every day effectiveness. Take for example the clues he has for being short and concise on the telephone. I am sure all of you have experienced that – you get on the phone, you need to clarify something quickly, or make an arrangement – and the person on the other side thinks that you definitely have time to discuss yesterdays soccer results and whatnot. Randy’s advise is to set a clear agenda in the beginning – “hi Bob, I’m calling because there are three things I want to clarify with you” – and get out of the call once the agenda items are ticked off. His version of “there are students waiting for me” can easily be converted to “I have to dial in to a telco” or “I have a meeting to attend to”.
Of course, you might want to be a bit more elaborate with your todo-list than Randy tells you to (where are context and projects? Phew, REALLY!) and not rely on post-its for planning – greetings from GTD!
- It is not doing things right that will get you where you want to get – it is doing the right things. In the second lecture mentioned, it is about going for your dreams. You can only achieve that if you actually know what your dreams are. If you do not know where you are headed, most steps you take will be in the wrong direction. So this is about the grand perspective of things, where instantly the (also recommended by Randy) 7 Habits of Highly Effective People come to mind. That book by Stephen Covey is, in my opinion, the ultimate companion to GTD. When you actually know what you want to do with your life, having “focus” instantly has a much deeper meaning. And be careful what you wish for. It might just come true.
Right for you?
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Time management often seems to be the issue – but is it really?
My own experience tells a different story. Of course, time management is important, especially in the fast-paced consulting world, where sometimes you feel like the week is just a stream of deadlines, meetings and deliverables. But often enough, energy is a more limiting factor than time…. and it seems that researchers agree big time.
Introducing The Energy Project, founded by Tony Schwartz, has been following this question for a few years now.
I got onto them because a former colleague sent me their article from Harvard Business Review, titled “Manage your Energy, Not Your Time”. It is available as a free download right from the website of The Energy Project.
Go there now, download it, print it out, read it the next time you are on the plane, train, or whatever your mode of transportation is.
The basic proposal is:
Be aware of what you focus on, and when.
Don’t try to multitask throughout the whole day, because it wears you down (Classic example: The every-five-minutes email interruption)
Fuel yourself with the energy of meaning and purpose.
I see some grinning faces already – as the tasks of a consultant bring it, sometimes when you are knee-deep in some data analysis, it is hard to see meaning and purpose of what you are doing there. What might help there is being aware of the big picture – what you will do with the data you dig out, for example. If the big picture is nothing that carries meaning and purpose for you, that would be an alarm bell ringing very loud right there.
In the worst case – when you are a junior down in the smallest stream of a huge project, far from the big picture strategy… be a renegade. Make your analysis, your pile of data, your Powerpoint slides something special – make it a game if you will.
If there is no meaning in what others give you, and you have no choice to reject it, then you better give it some meaning. Gosh, dare I say it – be creative! Your alternative is work that drags you down, and there are few things worse for your energy than that.