Archive for the ‘Balanced Life’ Category

My love of reading.

August 11th, 2010

I once hated reading, but I disciplined myself to do it anyway and now have a genuine love for books. I always ask people what they’ve read recently and I’m always shocked when they respond with something like “Oh, I haven’t really read many books since college.” Oh really? Not only is that just plain sad, it’s a quick way to get passed up in the marketplace.

There are so many smart people out there writing such great stuff. Honestly, too much great stuff. I would read for hours if I could, but I’ve found that an hour a day minimum keeps me satiated. Here are a few tips for making reading a part of your day:

Commit to a time.
I personally like mornings. I get in early and clear a few things off my list. Then around 8:00 am, I take an hour for reading at the local coffee shop. I also enjoy an hour outside in the park as a great way to mix up my day.

Have a system.
My reading consists of blogs, e-newsletters, articles and books. I’ve given up on trying to stay current and clear out my RSS feed. I just commit to that hour. In that hour, I dedicate 40 minutes or so to my current book and another 20 minutes to the digital stuff. (Stay tuned for a future post where I will describe in detail my system for collecting and reading digital content.)

Share.
Finally, I share with my friends what I’ve been reading. I find it addicting to give away books or share a title that may prove helpful. You’re not just reading for you. You’re also building knowledge that you can give away.

So, speaking of sharing…read any great books lately? Feel free to comment about your favorites.

Capturing inspiration when it hits.

August 6th, 2010

When I was in Denver last month, I took in a session at the HOW Design Conference. The speaker, Cameron Moll, talked about good vs. great design and shared some of his techniques for achieving greatness. For me, one the best parts of the talk was when he talked about the difference between “inspiration” and “influence.”

Influence is something you can find. For example, if you were creating a logo, you might look at another designer’s work or visit a site like LogoPond.com. By looking at other examples, you may get ideas for the logo you’re going to create. This is influence.

Inspiration, on the other hand, seems to come and go when it pleases. Inspiration is earned. For me, it’s earned by not working too hard and finding outlets that give me time to process and think. Cycling is one of the ways I earn inspiration. I know for sure that my mind works non-stop when I’m riding and that some of my best ideas come to me when I’m on the bike.

The tricky part about inspiration is capturing it when it happens. More than once, I’ve had ideas flash across my brain only to lose them. I have two methods now that I use to capture inspiration before it vanishes.

First, is a trusty Moleskine sketchbook. I carry mine just about everywhere and I always sketch or jot ideas as they come.

My second and favorite new method for recording inspiration is a brilliant application called EverNote. I have the app installed on my computer, iPhone and iPad. It also works online. The best feature of EverNote is that it syncs whenever any of my devices connect to the Internet. I love love love EverNote. I’m using it now for all sorts of things.

Ultimately, you have to find the system that works for you. But I believe that the more time we spend doing things we love and taking time to rest and exercise, the more inspired we will be. Just don’t forget to jot it down before it’s gone.

Transparency

June 24th, 2010

There’s something about getting things out in the open that really helps us work through our junk and keeps us humble. It’s easy for us to buy into the lie that we are the only ones facing a certain issue, that somehow our problems are unique. I believe every human being is unique and special, but our problems are shared.

When I finally open up and share something, that’s me choosing to move beyond denial and arriving at a point where I can learn something. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve opened up and been inspired by someone else’s comments. Most people love to help. People don’t like to ask for help, though. Funny how that works.

Now I’m in no way suggesting that you become someone who complains or constantly begs for help. At some point you have to push through your stuff solo.

But being transparent is about helping others. You’re transparent FIRST so that others may be encouraged by your struggle and determination to work things out, Second, you’re transparent so that you can learn something. Being transparent is different than asking others to take away your problems, it’s about all of us learning together.

Be more transparent, I say. We have much to learn from each other. Besides, what’s the worst thing that could happen? You get laughed at? I’ve been laughed at before. You cry? Yeah, I’ve done that. You get yelled at? Sure, that’s happened before too. Trust me. That person you think has it so figured out? He is just as broken as the next guy.

Learn your reset button

June 22nd, 2010

Been in a funk lately? Feel like no matter what you do you can’t seem to get back on top of where you were last month or last year? Sometimes it’s important to just hit the reset button, even in the middle of a hectic time.

When I’ve had enough and I’m at that point where working at my desk almost becomes counterproductive, I hit reset.

What’s this reset button I speak of? It could be something fun, maybe time with family or friends. Perhaps it’s time spent alone or off listening to a lecture. For me, the best reset is time alone or time spent on my bike.

You also need to know what you are going to do after the reset. If you don’t have a plan for next steps, your day away could easily turn into a couple days or longer. You want to make sure when you reset, you do it correctly. If not, you could be in danger of taking a day off only to return and feel the same burn out as before. Add discouragement to the mix and it just gets worse. To create my post-reset plan, I write down three characteristics of a time when I felt productive and happy and like I was really handling things.

Finally, I hit the reset. Just close up the office and leave for a day. I don’t think about work in that time; just truly take time to reset. When I come back the next day, I focus on doing those three things or taking on those characteristics from a better time.

Sometimes it’s counterproductive to fight; hit the reset and don’t feel guilty about it. (Radio Shack has some reset buttons for sale if needed)

Sit on the floor and play some Legos

June 10th, 2010

When was the last time you just sat on the floor and played Legos (this post goes out to all you parents)?

It’s so hard to disconnect from work these days, even when we get home. Add in iPhones, laptops, iPads, etc. and we are always connected. And after a busy day, it’s just as easy to plop down on the couch and zone out on TV. But what about my kids? It’s not their fault that I had a tough day at work. And that’s why I’ve been really trying to be home when I actually get home. This is very hard for me to do, but here’s how I’m making an effort:

1. First, I remove all electronic distractions. I leave the iPhone in the bedroom or turn it off.

2. I try to make sure I greet both my boys when I get home. I really make an effort to ask the older one how his day was and pick up my two year-old to make faces and giggle.

3. I sit on the floor. Something about being at their height, playing with some Legos, it makes for a much better experience for them, I’m sure.

I love my two boys so much, I would do anything for them and I strive to be better at connecting with them… wait, was that my iPhone buzzing in the other room?

Work smart AND hard

June 1st, 2010

We’ve all heard the saying “work smarter, not harder.”

I think there is a common misconception that working “harder” means working “longer.” Somehow, we think more hours equals more success, but this is not always true. Another common misconception is that working “smarter” means only working four hours a week, which is also not true. Ultimately, I think it depends on how you define success. If you’re looking for only financial gain, then perhaps working “more” will get you what you want.

But for the sake of what? At the cost of what? Are you working non-stop and not taking care of your health? Does your family remember your face? Are you pursuing anything fun in your life? Are you giving back anywhere? What do you do each week to clear your head?

It takes lots of hard work to build a business, no doubt. But maybe we should re-tool this phrase and have it read “work smart and hard, then go home.” It’s not about getting to a four-hour work week; it’s about finding balance in your life.

One of my favorite quotes from Zig Ziglar reads, “I believe that being successful means having a balance of success stories across the many areas of your life. You can’t truly be considered successful in your business life if your home life is in shambles.”

work smart and hard, then go home!

Time for a “Hot Lap”. Be right back.

May 25th, 2010

Do you get stuck sometimes? Do you find yourself drifting over to Twitter or Facebook because you just don’t want to look at that project anymore? Maybe it’s time to hit reset.

We call it the “Hot Lap” at my office. Get up, go outside and take a lap around the block. It’s amazing what it can do for your productivity when you’re struggling.

P.S. Sorry to my cold weather friends. I realize that being in California makes the “Hot Lap” a little more possible than some other places in the country. So, take a “Cold Lap” and laugh at the poor saps in Cali, with their stupid high mortgages and time wasted on freeways in stupid traffic.

photo credit James Marvin Phelps

The email peek-a-boo

May 17th, 2010

I was away camping in Joshua Tree recently and it took everything I had not to check email while I was away. We’ve all done it; we set the vacation message saying that we’ll be back Tuesday and then we get into our trip. But not too long after, we start looking at email on our phones just to see what’s transpiring while we are away. The unspoken truth: It’s not like we are going to be able to do anything about those emails anyway. SHUT OFF THE PHONE.

What I realized on my recent trip is that I probably check email for my own benefit as much as for the sender’s. Sure, we want to respond and help those that have sent over requests while we’re away, but I also think we get some sort of hit off it all. Some sort of sick endorphin rush from the fact that someone actually needs something from us – a response, an idea – and they need it right now on the day we told everyone we would be away. The truth that I learned on this trip: “IT CAN WAIT!” The world does not come to an end while you’re away for a couple days; people figure things out or they just wait.

On the road back to OC, I told myself that I’m not going to check email on my phone; I’m not going to check it when I get home. Instead, I’m going to unplug, play with my kids, go for a bike ride with the family and check it tomorrow morning when I’m back in the office and can actually do something about it. The result? Absolute clarity and I’m recharged from a couple days away.

So, quit playing peek-a-boo with your email. Don’t read the first few lines on vacation only to then wait until you get back and draft a response. Take a couple days without looking at it. Trust me; the world won’t end.