Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to consultants everywhere.  New years give us the chance to turn over a new leaf.  2010 was absolutely fantastic for me.  I'm grateful for all the gifts of friendship and creative outlet that I was afforded, but I'm looking forward to starting anew in 2011.  I can say "I'm ready."  Are you?  Hopefully you have been able to (and will still be able to) think about your consulting a little broader than normal during the holiday lull.  I hope to see many of you in 2011. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What’s Wrong with Work?

I had a conversation with a client recently and we were talking about holidays and vacations. We talked about what the company granted in terms of holidays, sick days and vacation days (btw, did you know that companies are not required to give 2 weeks of vacation? They give it to compete in the work marketplace.)

She asked about what I, as a consultant, take. I was about to say I take “a lot” of vacation when, after doing some mental math realized that, by most people’s use of the language, I had negative vacation this year. I was thinking vacation meant contentment and fulfillment, not the usual definition of hours spent working. It seems when I have squeezed out unproductive hours from work somewhere, I immediately apply those hours back to work somewhere else. For a moment, I felt a self-imposed, obligatory fatigue setting in.

But why should it be so? If you enjoy what you do, it is not work in some sense of the word. Smart hard work is generally rewarded and work can be a prime area of life where you can make a difference, have varied experiences and generally feel useful. So, similar to my last post, I’m suggesting today, when many people are taking a break from work, to head into 2011 mindfully about work, however you do your consulting, and the value that it brings.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Count (von Count) through the needed tasks

If you’re on Facebook, you may have noticed a rash of profile pictures changing over to old cartoon images. The origin is a campaign to raise awareness about Worldwide Violence Against Children and Child Abuse. My choice was The Count, or more formally Count von Count. I know he’s not a legitimate cartoon, but he’ll do. He got so much enjoyment from counting things and hey, that guy could count to 20!

I still count, but I’m not counting things as much as counting the time away occasionally when I find myself doing that which falls into the category of “need to do, can’t avoid, but it will pay off.” Usually I don’t even know what I’m counting to. If I need to be “present”, this is not preferred. It’s just a mental distraction while the task completes so I can get to those fun and rewarding tasks.

Here are some counting situations for me:

1. Changing the litter box

2. Twisted into a painful yoga position

3. Get dressed

OK, get it? The bigger picture here is how you spend your time. Are you doing it consciously? The litter must be changed and the body must be exercised and clothed, but if it doesn’t earn and it’s not truly fun or needed, you should make plans to count those tasks out for 2011.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Limiting Options to Increase Satisfaction

I have a friend who is building a house. At first, he was heavily into the relatively small decisions that need to be made such as light fixtures, how many outlets in each room, toilet features, doorknobs, etc. There seem to be dozens or even hundreds of possibilities for each decision. A month into that level of detailed decision making and the choices now are being made much quicker and based on principle. Some high-level color schemes, preferred vendors and price/performance preferences have emerged from the dozens of decisions already made and those are allowed to bear heavily on the ongoing decisions. If he didn’t recognize the need for patterns, the build would take five times what it now should.

Sometimes, choice is good. However, many of us have too many choices and can tend to be overwhelmed. When you perceive 10 choices instead of 2, it is difficult to ultimately be satisfied by your decision, regardless of which decision is made. You can just feel like you left too much on the table.

This is why it’s important to plan as a consultant. When you make plans, you decide what choices and options will really belong to you as decisions come up. It’s easier then to make the decisions – and feel good about them.