“What are you doing?” my daughter asked as I fumbled around my dashboard. “I’m looking for the seat heater,” I replied. On the car I had owned for two years, I might add. She rolled her eyes (as only daughters can do) and effortlessly punched the button that had eluded me.
I had earned that eye roll. I was so overwhelmed with driving, thinking, and talking, that I simply couldn’t successfully add another task. I would die of embarrassment in admitting this, if I thought I were the only one to have a seat heater moment. But I know I’m not. I watch people at work all the time doing their own version. They’re on computers, with two screens going, and they’re checking email, and they’re trying to have a conversation. And they aren’t doing any of them well.
Our minds are fabulous muscles, and can do all kinds of things, but they can’t do them all at one time. We’ve bought into the multi-tasking-is-good mindset. But I’m here to tell you, it’s a hoax.
Here’s the real secret to time management:
- Focus on one thing at a time.
- Take frequent breaks.
- In between even small tasks, take a long, gentle, calming breath.
- Shut off those email and text notifications.
- Stay on-task and in the moment.
You’ll be more productive, attentive, and calm — and maybe even avoid an eye-roll or two!
I just came back from the National Speakers Association annual convention in Phoenix, Arizona. Bringing one of my kids to NSA’s fantastic concurrent youth conference adds a whole new dimension to my experience.For instance, one of the highlights of my trip was attending an Arizona Diamondbacks game with my son. I’m not a Diamondbacks fan, but I enjoyed watching several outstanding players. When Luis Gonzalez came up to bat, my son said, “Watch his stance, Mom. It’s unusual, but it works for him!” Four seconds later, Gonzalez hit a homerun.
“How many little league coaches do you think told Luis to change his stance?” I asked.
“That’s the trick, Mom,” he answered. “Knowing when to listen to your coaches, and when to do what feels right for you.”
Another high point was the NSA awards program. I sat enthralled as the coveted annual CPAE awards were presented to five outstanding NSA members for their material, style, experience, delivery, image, professionalism, and communication. For a speaker, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime recognition of excellence.
One winner is an accomplished photographer. He uses his amazing images to transform audiences. I wonder how many times he was told he could never make a living taking pictures. I also wonder how many people would have been able to envision a business that combined photography and speaking.
Another recipient was one of my mentors, who reaches out to others by telling stories about her life. Her real life. One time she made a presentation wearing a bathrobe and slippers because she wanted to begin on a humorous note. In her acceptance speech, she talked about balancing her profession with her family. I wonder how many times she heard people say she wouldn’t be viewed as a professional if she revealed so much of her self.
No matter what their fields, outstanding professionals often seem to follow similar recipes for success: They learn from others, they graciously accept training and feedback, and they hold tightly to their uniqueness.
How does your uniqueness fit with your profession and expertise? Whether it’s your stance, your bedroom slippers, or your photographs, what do you offer that is yours and yours alone? What’s your recipe?
Have you learned the “trick”?
Driving on a long car trip with my adult son Josh is always a pleasure. Josh’s myriad of interests coupled with his loquaciousness makes for a pleasant journey. Travelling on Interstate 81, we were discussing pollution, global warming, poverty and the gravitational pull of the universe, to name just a few of the light topics.
Our discussion of poverty moved to income disparity, which led to salary inequality. Josh said that researchers have proven that employees who ask politely and professionally are granted more raises. Assuming that an employee asks once or twice a year, over a 40 year employment history, those increases of 1 to 2% can and do make a substantial difference.
Only half of the employed population has ever asked for a raise, according to PayScale.com.
We started discussing “If employees have this information, and they supposedly want more money, why don’t they ask?”
At this point, my daughter Katie, who we thought was sleeping, piped up, “Because their parents don’t teach them to ask for the ketchup.”
“Yeah, when I go out to dinner with friends, they don’t ask for the ketchup. They won’t even ask for a fork if they don’t have one.”
Katie continued, “They’re so afraid that they won’t be viewed as ‘nice’ that they won’t even ask.”
So, is asking for the ketchup a transferable skill? Are teenagers who can politely ask for the ketchup in a restaurant better equipped as young adults to ask for a raise? I think so and I am proud of Katie for seeing the correlation.
One of the questions I have for all of us is, do we consistently and appropriately ask for what we need and want in our work? If not, why not? If you don’t feel comfortable in these situations, practice helps. If you’re not teaching your children or your employees these skills, it’s time to start.
And if you are one of those people who ask for the ketchup, the mustard, the mayonnaise, the relish, the steak sauce and can you bring them all in fresh unopened bottles, there will be a different newsletter for you in the future.
Are you asking politely for what you professionally deserve?