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Do It 2017 #13: Making Excuses

September 21st, 2017 2 comments

Do It 2017 #13: Making Excuses

Glenn Carstens-Peters

Do It 2017 #13: Making Excuses

“Stop Making Excuses,” is a phrase we often hear from our parents, our teachers, and even our employers. Making excuses is akin to be called lazy — a slacker — a loser. Making excuses isn’t the problem though. Failing to think deeply about why we are making the excuse is what is really required,

Yes, we all make excuses for a wide variety of reasons, myself included, but the worst part is that there is often a valid reason for the excuse. We might be missing an important skill. We might be missing the basic desire to do something. We might be fearful that we cannot do the task at hand. Typically, it isn’t the excuse that is the true reason we aren’t doing something, but rather something deeper. Something hidden. Something scarier. Something that keeps  you awake at night.

As bad as it might seem to others, we often dislike ourselves for making excuses, too. We know we aren’t doing the right thing, but it can be difficult to do the right thing, so we make the excuse so we can move on.

If you have recently offered an excuse for something, take some time to deeply think about why you made the excuse. Is there some smaller part of the issue that you can tease out and solve that might allow you to avoid the excuse in the future? Can you break the situation down into manageable chunks that you can address one at a time? If you are like me, you might surprise yourself with how many excuses you can avoid by taking them piece by piece and issue by issue.

First, do you have a good reason for learning new skills? Do you enjoy doing that kind of work? Sometimes it is the case that you simply aren’t interested in pursuing a particular area of work. If you aren’t, there is little that can persuade you to learn that new skill, much less become accomplished. Even if it might bring you better jobs or a higher income, you have to honest about where your interests lie.

If you decide you do want to learn new skills, how can you learn them? Can you go to school or training center? Maybe. Your next hurdle might be that you can’t afford to pay for school. Ok, that is indeed a reality for a lot of people. If you can’t pay for school, can you learn the skills you need online? Can you teach yourself from books? Can you ask someone knowledgeable to show you for free? Can you take out a loan – will it be worth that financial burden to obtain this skill?

The important part of breaking down any excuse is not to let one particular problem stop you. If you hit a roadblock, think about ways of circumventing that particular, smaller, issue. Attack each of the small issues in turn and see how far you can get. I think you will be surprised at how far you can progress through any excuse if you want to.

Of course, that is the real issue with any excuse. Do you really want to progress beyond the excuse, or is it simply easier, quicker, less stressful to use a blanket excuse and move on? I think for most of us — and most of our excuses, — we would feel better about ourselves if we made fewer excuses. It would have so many benefits in our lives, but it requires hard thinking to do this, and too many of us give up rather than face the hard work ahead. It is a constant challenge for all of us to see what we want and need from the future and how we can get there and not take the easy path out and make the excuse.

What is one excuse you have fallen back on lately? Can you break it down into smaller parts and slowly chip away at it? Do you even want to? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Do It 2017 #12: Don’t get stuck in your technology tastes

August 12th, 2017 Comments off

Do It 2017 #12: Don’t get stuck in your technology tastes

Do It 2017 #12: Don't get stuck in your technology tastes

Tommy Lisbin

There is a point in everyone’s life when our music tastes atrophy. It maybe the 1980’s or 90’s or for some of us it might even be the 60’s or 70’s. We simply stop listening to music after a certain date, or, worse still, we actively denigrate any music outside our chronological range.

There is an even worse version of this syndrome, though. We can get stuck in our use of technology, too. Where our taste in music doesn’t usually fundamentally affect our lives, getting stuck in our technology choices can affect your productivity, your work, and your career. If you don’t keep growing your technology skills the world — personal and public, home and work — can quickly pass you by while those around you continue on their productive way.

Let me be clear. I am not suggesting you immediately adopt every new service, social media site, software or hardware. Rather, you need to be aware of those new innovations so you can actively decide which ones can help keep you keep growing your work and productivity.

This was all brought to mind as I watched several people struggle with organizational issues over the last few weeks. Whenever I see this occur I can almost immediately think of 2-3 ideas that would ease their organizational issues and lead them to a higher level of productivity. In almost every case, though, they are extremely reluctant to make changes, even if those changes would be better for everyone involved. The most common reason I hear for not changing is “I don’t want to learn something new.”  Even if the changes are something I would consider minor, they will continue to struggle along — adding hours to work day — when 10 minutes of learning could save them hours instead.

Why does this happen? Well, much like the music example above, they are stuck. Even worse, they have decided to remain stuck, no matter what the cost. I’m sure you’ve seen it in your own life and work, too. While it affects those who are stuck, it also affects everyone around them. I know I can find this extremely frustrating when faced with a situation like this and I am sure are, too. No matter what you might say or do, nothing will change.

So, how do you keep your work moving forward? How do you prevent yourself from getting stuck?

First, when faced with an issue — especially an issue that you have faced multiple times in the past — take 10 minutes and see if there is a way of preventing the problem from recurring ever again. The truth is, there might not be a good solution, but in many cases, there will be an easier and faster way of accomplishing your goals. Technology moves at breakneck speed — and always has — and today’s unsolvable problem could very likely be done and dusted by next week. Again, you don’t have to research and adopt every single new piece of technology out there, but when you see one, think for a moment of how it might make your life a little bit easier. If you have a use for that technology, then go and use it. Sure,  you might have to take a few minutes to learn about it, but the overall effect on your productivity could be dramatic.

A couple of examples

From my recent experience, there are 2 areas where technology could most people greatly if they only took advantage of it. First is technology that helps you communicate and coordinate with groups of people.

In the past, if we wanted to work on a document with someone else or communicate with a group of people we had to pass around files on floppy disks or use reply all on our emails. This often leads to files having multiple, different versions and people who are “out of the loop” on important discussions and decisions. That doesn’t need to be the case anymore, though.

Google docsThere are many options today that can help groups work together no matter where they might be in the world. My own favorite is Google Docs, which includes word processing, spreadsheets, slideshow presentations and more. There are many others available to you and it matters little which one you use. The benefit comes from using it.

 

Whenever I am starting a new group — whether it’s organizing my CareerCamp unconferences — the first thing I do is start sharing any documents with all the involved parties using Google Docs. In this way everyone can View, Edit or Comment on the files to include their input AND, more importantly, everyone else can see their input immediately and build off it. Never again will you have people commenting on different versions of a document, changing sentences that have already been changed or figures that have already been connected.

The same benefits also apply to calendars. I have spent years using shared calendars and I can say that nothing has a greater effect on my sanity. All three of us have different — and often competing — schedules. It is important that when I enter something in my calendar I have an up to date view of everything in everyone else’s calendar and vice versa. If you can stop multiple bookings, issues with who has a vehicle that day and where everyone is on a specific day, you can do a lot to ease your stress, worry, and confusion. This is so much better than a calendar that is saved into a document and then emailed around. Static documents are out of date the moment they are saved. Wouldn’t it better to have a shared calendar that can be accessed by everyone and is guaranteed to always be correct?

Finally, every group should have an email list or productivity service such as Slack to facilitate real time discussions between group members. For email, you shouldn’t rely on everyone’s due diligence to hit Reply All on every email. Set up a mailing list like mygroup@googlegroups.com instead. Then, when people send an email to that address, everyone on the group receives the email automatically.

SlackSlack (Slack.com) is a more “real time” version of a mailing list where people see new messages from members as soon as they are posted. Workgroups can be thousands of miles apart and still feel they are connected on a daily basis.

Using either of these methods you can drastically cut down on situations where people say ‘I didn’t see that. What version is this? Did such and such do what they said they would?” These systems keep everyone on track and in the know.

Don’t let yourself get stuck in your use of technology in your life or in your business. If you are facing issues over and over, reconsider how the application of a little, new, technology might help smooth your path. While you can happily keep listening to your favorite hits of the 60s, 70s, and 80s without any undue effects, ignoring new technology and the productivity benefits it can have for you can be painful and slow your work and career.

Are you stuck in your technology tastes? How can you break out? Share your comments below!

Categories: Business, Careers, Creativity, Do It!, Education Tags:

Do It 2017 #11: Eat the frog and other productive advice

July 27th, 2017 Comments off

Frog Photo by Jack Hamilton on Unsplash

Photo by Jack Hamilton on Unsplash

Jack Hamilton

Eat the frog!

It has been said — in variety of forms throughout history, that…

“If the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.”

A thoroughly disgusting thought, but a good one for my productivity of late. I am as fond — if not fonder— of procrastination of specific tasks that most people. Tasks like balancing the checkbook to doing my daily blog posting to sweeping the patio. Many of these tasks are extremely important, but most also come with an unpleasant side. Sure, it isn’t like mucking out the horse stalls of my youth, but we all face them with a certain amount of distaste.

So, in an effort to keep things moving forward in all aspects of my life, I have taken to “eating the frog” whenever possible. I’ll get up, make my coffee and then face the most procrastination-causing task on my to do list. Once that’s done, I can move on to other, more enjoyable tasks without feeling guilty about avoiding them and knowing that that is probably the worse thing I will have to do today. It doesn’t always work, but I have used it to recently move a couple of projects forward that have been languishing for a while now. Can it help you? It might. Then again, you might be someone who is blessed to never procrastinate on anything. I envy you, but we all have to find out own way through the swamp that is any given day.

Bird by Bird

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table, close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’” — Anne Lamott

This phrase crops up in our household on a daily basis. There are times we all need a reminder that every big project is made out of many smaller steps — and sometimes even smaller ones. The only way to complete a big project is to take it “bird by bird.” In my case, this means making a daily to do list — separate from my overall to do list. This list contains all my typical daily tasks as well as those weekly items that occur on the same day each week. Partially this list is to help me remember all the little things, but they are also a “bird by bird” breakdown of tasks that move each project forward. Typical entries include my daily posts to Instagram, a blog post on Garden Decor, video clips from my talks, reading time-related documents and articles, feeding the birds (the real one’s outside my window), phone calls, emails and more. Breaking my larger tasks in these small, even tiny, steps, helps to keep me progressing even when I might not be able to complete the entire project today.

To some, such a detailed to do list can make projects seem overwhelming, but for me, I find great joy in progress, even the smallest progress. If I keep on doing the small steps each day the overall project will eventually get done. If I never start on the big project because it is too big then it will, guaranteed, never get done.

Work on a variety of tasks throughout your day

I don’t have any pithy quote to accompany this advice, but for me, it is probably the most important. If I focus on any one task for too long, the quality and speed of my work quickly diminish. I start making silly mistakes, misspelled words, fuzzy thoughts and more. I have to switch up my work throughout the day to prevent this from happening while still getting work done. This means I might do something like writing this post and then switch over to some video editing for a while. Sometimes it means culling a bunch of photos and then working on an Arduino program I have been trying to get running. Finally, sometimes it means I set an alarm for 20 minutes, lie down on the couch, allow the cat to sit on my lap and dose. Never underestimate the power of a short nap to reenergize your day!

Douglas E. Welch To Do List

I have learned over time that I am a variety junky in all aspects of my life. My way of working may seem scattered to some, but it works for my and my overall productivity seems to prove it. In many cases, some of my best ideas about a project come from when I am thinking or working on an entirely different project. You can never tell how moments in your life are going to interact, so it’s important to experience as much as possible and see what happens.

What are your favorite pieces of advice that keep you productive in life and work? Share them in the comments!

On Podcast: Charles Duhigg on Self-Motivation, Mental Models, and Getting Stuff Done – The Upgrade by Lifehacker

March 25th, 2017 Comments off

Charles Duhigg on Self-Motivation, Mental Models, and Getting Stuff Done – The Upgrade by Lifehacker

Listen to this podcast

If anyone knows the difference between being busy and being productive it’s Charles Duhigg. The Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the New York Times and author of The Power of Habit has made a name for himself plumbing the science of productivity, and this week he’s joining us on the podcast.

Charles is, by any measure, a very productive person—he wrote a bestseller while working full-time and raising a family. And even though success begat success, he started to feel like he was treading water and didn’t want to come home every day after work to spend another five hours answering emails.

So he started calling researchers who study productivity as well as very productive people he admired to learn why some people manage to do so much while others struggle to reach the inbox zero promised land. Those phone calls and conversations are what led to his second book, Smarter Better Faster.

In today’s show we talk about many of the key principles Charles detailed in his book, including how pilots used ‘mental models’ to land a severely damaged airplane, how the worst automotive manufacturing plant in the country turned itself around when new owners gave the workers more control, and what it means to be truly productive.

Categories: Business, Careers, Creativity, Education, Podcast Tags:

Do It 2017! A Year of Making, Doing, Creating, and more!

January 12th, 2017 2 comments

Do It 2017

The holidays are a time for gathering together with friend and family AND reflecting back on the year that has past.We attended several parties over the holiday season and many other, smaller, get-togethers for drinks or dinner. In talking with everyone, one statement I heard again and again at these events was the desire to actually and concretely DO something this year.

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Maybe they wanted to do more knitting or cooking or reading. Maybe they wanted to work on their new novel , take more photographs or even get more involved with politics. While the desires were quite varied, the desire to DO something was strong in everyone. Creativity is a major part of everyone’s live and when denied can lead to a life filled with dissatisfaction.

“Zorana Ivcevic measured personal growth by asking people about their continued development and realization of their potential (e.g., “In general, I feel that I continue to learn more about myself as time goes by”). She found that people who scored higher in a “creative lifestyle” (those who engaged in more creative acts in everyday life such as making a scrapbook, visiting an art museum, inventing a new recipe, and taking photographs) were significantly more likely to score high in personal growth.” – Scientific American

I know in my own personal case, when my time is completely occupied with “work” for others, I begin to feel an itch, a concern and, in some cases, an increase in feelings of depression and hopelessness. This is why, when you read my blogs, or follow me on social media, you often see a wide variety of content spanning writing, photography, music, technology, gardening and a hundred other areas. This is my defense mechanism. This is my mind screaming out for something creative, something interesting, something fun and, in some cases, something powerful in my life. I am guessing that you feel a similar pull in your life and similar results when you deny it and I feel this is why I am hearing the “create” as a mantra from so many people.

“Research has shown that creating or tending things by hand enhances mental health and makes us happy.  Dr. Kelly Lambert (www.kellylambertlab.com) explored the relationship between hand use, current cultural habits, and mood.  She found that hands-on work satisfies our primal need to make things and could also be an antidote for our cultural malaise.” – Psychology Today

Therefore,

In an effort to spur my own creativity and execution of those creative ideas, I am starting this series, Do It 2017! I’ll be offering up my own experiences and 100 0177 2creative projects, interesting projects I find on the Internet, and maybe even a few interviews with others who are seeking to make something important this year.

I’d love to hear your plans for the year, too. What projects have you itching to get started? Do you need a little push to take that first step? Are you waiting on something to change in your life before pursuing these new ideas? What roadblocks — both personal and professional — stand in your way? Share your thoughts here and let’s build a supportive community of creators that can help each other move forward, even if just baby steps. I know for myself, taking action — even the smallest of actions — is often the best (and only) way of getting started. Let’s help each other take those small, concrete actions that lead to great things!

Here are a few of the projects (and general themes) I want to move forward in 2017:

  • Return to my guitar, piano and harmonica playing. Play music with others more often.
  • Create useful, cool and fun Internet of Things and other technology projects using Arduino, Raspberry PI and other technologies
  • Open a hackerspace/makerspace where I can share my creativity with other and help introduce them to the wonderful (and powerful) world of making things
  • Create other communities of like-minded people to support and challenge each other to do great thingsP7310559
  • Focus on photography more as both an artistic release and financial benefit by creating products of all sorts to bring more beauty into people’s lives
    • Aso, set up a schedule of regular photowalks to dedicate time to creating new photos
  • Find new food and recipes to add to our Recipes in Rotation
  • Travel more to both new places and places I haven’t visited in a long while. This includes some lovely places in northern California and also exotic places like Iceland.
  • Be outdoors more both in my own garden and in the amazing countryside that surrounds Los Angeles.
  • …and much more!

How about you? What are your creative desires for the coming year? How can I and all the readers here help you in your endeavor?

I’ll be posting a new idea of how I am trying to Do It! this year each week here on the blog. Subscribe here on My Word or follow me on any of my social media accounts to join in!

Dewsig

The Creative Habit and The Collaborative Habit by Twyla Tharp | Douglas E. Welch Gift Guide #34

December 4th, 2016 Comments off

Dew 2016 gift guide

Two excellent books by choreographer Twyla Tharp delve into the creative process and collaborating with others. The books give an in-depth view of both her work and how she creates it. There is lots of great ideas to be found here for anyone seeking to improve their career.

From Amazon.com…

One of the world’s leading creative artists, choreographers, and creator of the smash-hit Broadway show, Movin’ Out, shares her secrets for developing and honing your creative talents—at once prescriptive and inspirational, a book to stand alongside The Artist’s Way and Bird by Bird.

All it takes to make creativity a part of your life is the willingness to make it a habit. It is the product of preparation and effort, and is within reach of everyone. Whether you are a painter, musician, businessperson, or simply an individual yearning to put your creativity to use, The Creative Habit provides you with thirty-two practical exercises based on the lessons Twyla Tharp has learned in her remarkable thirty-five-year career. 
In “Where’s Your Pencil?” Tharp reminds you to observe the world — and get it down on paper. In “Coins and Chaos,” she gives you an easy way to restore order and peace. In “Do a Verb,” she turns your mind and body into coworkers. In “Build a Bridge to the Next Day,” she shows you how to clean the clutter from your mind overnight. 

Tharp leads you through the painful first steps of scratching for ideas, finding the spine of your work, and getting out of ruts and into productive grooves. The wide-open realm of possibilities can be energizing, and Twyla Tharp explains how to take a deep breath and begin…

 

The Creative Habit and The Collaborative Habit by Twyla Tharp

 

Tharp creative habitTwyla Tharp the collaborative habit 

 

More book by and about Twyla Tharp on Amazon.com

* A portion of each sale from Amazon.com directly supports our blogs

Previously in the Douglas E. Welch 2016 Gift Guide…

Do The Work by Steven Pressfield | Douglas E. Welch Gift Guide #29

November 29th, 2016 Comments off

Dew 2016 gift guide

I have read — and re-read — Do the work by Steven Pressfield and would highly recommend you do the same. In fact, I am thinking that I will make it (and Pressfield’s earlier book, The War of Art) required reading before I will work with any client. Both books have helped me tremendously in my life and work. We all have to start somewhere on our creative adventures and Pressfield’s books are like an experienced guide that can help to lead us through the creative forest. Revisiting them on a regular basis reenergizes me to face the fight that all creatives feel.

Of course, creativity isn’t just the domain of some specialized class of people. We are all creative in unique ways and we all experience the haunting voice of resistance, as Pressfield names the monster that frightens all of us away from big, transformative changes in our lives. Pressfield reminds us of the nature of this beast and gives us the tools we need to defeat it — again and again.

In my work, I meet so many people who don’t realize their own potential. They drastically underestimate their power to change their lives and change the world. They face the resistance dragon and allow it to eat them nearly every time instead of emerging, triumphant, like St. George. It is often my goal to give them the tools — the horse, the lance, the sword — to help them slay the dragon of resistance just as I have to fight against it everyday. Sometimes I can bring them along with me — at other times, not, but I will never stop trying.

So, to repeat my unasked for advice — get these books, read them and then start on your own creative adventure. You can overcome resistance and create something new, something unique and something great!

The War of Art is also available from Amazon and your local public library. Add it to your creative toolbox today!

 

Do The Work by Steven Pressfield

More books by Steven Pressfield

* A portion of each sale from Amazon.com directly supports our blogs

Previously in the Douglas E. Welch 2016 Gift Guide…

Fancierstudio Professional Digital Video Continuous Softbox Lighting Kit with Lighting Stand, 3000 Watt | Douglas E. Welch Gift Guide 2016 #15

November 15th, 2016 Comments off

Dew 2016 gift guide

From Douglas…

Do you have a new media or podcast creator friend? This lighting kit is cheap enough to gift to them and help them raise the quality of their productions.

A couple of years ago we had need to purchase some equipment for a testimonial project and a series of interviews. First on our list was a basic set of video lights that would provide nice, basic illumination and still be easy to transport, as we would be shooting the interviews at the client sites. As we are just starting to move into the video production business (beyond my own personal productions) and not exactly knowing how far this line of work will take us, I didn’t want to invest thousands of dollars only to have to sell the equipment later for a loss.

I did quite a bit of searching online and came across this kit on Amazon.com. I made a point of reading nearly every review available, both positive and negative to see how this kit might fit our needs. Overall the kit has a 4 star rating over 77 reviews. The one item I kept seeing in the reviews was the fact that this was, indeed, a “cheap” kit. That didn’t mean it didn’t work well, only that you had to be careful when setting up and tearing down and you couldn’t necessarily toss it around. Knobs are plastic, although the screws themselves are metal, the nylon bags holding the diffusion boxes are poorly stitched and things like that. Almost all the review said, though, that if you are looking for a good, entry-level kit, this could be it.

Based on these reviews, I ordered the kit and crossed my fingers that it would work out well. Once it arrived, we did a test setup here in the office so we understood how everything went together before we tried to do this under the time constraints of an actual shoot. It took a little time to learn exactly how to best put the lights together, but now that we have down 6 setups and tear downs, we are pretty good and can set up two lights in about 15 minutes.

Since we had the warnings from the reviews, we have been very careful to treat the kit with a light hand and try to keep the abuse to a minimum. These seems to have served us well, as nothing has broken or been damaged over the course of the last 2 months of transport and shoot.

Everything — stands, light bulbs, fixtures, diffusion boxes and screens — fits back into the original carrying case and allows us to move around quite easily from car to location to car. The kit is small enough that it easily fits in the trunk or back seat of all but the smallest vehicles.

Overall, we have been very satisfied in our purchase and while we may move up to more expensive (and expansive) equipment in the future, it has served us well as we grow. Go into this purchase with the full knowledge that is “cheap” and may require a little gentler care than most, but we have found it quite functional for, albeit limited, needs.

Fancierstudio Professional Digital Video Continuous Softbox Lighting Kit with Lighting Stand, 3000 Watt
 

Lighting system

More lighting kits from Amazon.com

 * A portion of each sale from Amazon.com directly supports our blogs
** Many of these books may be available from your local library. Check it out!

Previously in the Douglas E. Welch 2016 Gift Guide…

Tip: How to Use a Paper Journal Effectively via SnapGuide

July 10th, 2016 Comments off

A friend texted today for a link to this SnapGuide which I did ages ago. He had started to use this technique when he originally saw this guide and wanted to share it with some of his friends. I hadn’t thought about this guide in a long time, but it is great to see that it is still useful to people.

Snapguide journal

Check out How to Use a Paper Journal Effectively by Douglas Welch on Snapguide.

Categories: Business, Education, Lifehacks, Tips Tags:

Unique Christmas and Holiday Gifts Now Available Exclusively from Douglas E. Welch

December 1st, 2015 Comments off

Unique Christmas and Holiday Gifts Now Available Exclusively from Douglas E. Welch

This year I am offering a selection of unique Holiday Gifts created from the photographs I have taken over the years. These gifts are available exclusively from me using the services of RedBubble.

Great Gifts for Friends and Family!

These include items for the home such as pillows, tote bags, mugs, photographic prints and posters.

Yellow flower pillowRiver rose mugMex bird tote

Also available are technology items like smartphone covers, iPad covers, and Laptop Skins and Sleeves

Mex bird iphonePink dahlia laptopRoses sleeve

Finally, you can purchase cards and postcards, stickers, spiral-bound notebooks and hardcover journals.

Pink dahlia cardsMex bird notebookCup tea journal

Check out my entire portfolio of photos and products

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