Tis the season to be…maced? The latest Walmart pepper spray incident has left a lot of people perplexed. Had the mace-toting gal had a little more slow, she might have gotten out of Walmart without a police escort. This Wednesday Wait a Minute examines how to deal when the Christmas lights are tangled and your nerves are all a’jangled!

Work with What You’ve Got

September 18, 2011

As autumn returns to the Northern Hemisphere, I always get extreme nesting symptoms to the beat of the descending leaves that blanket my lawn. It is also the time of year in which local communities hold children’s bazaars to earn money for schools or charity projects. In return, we get a stand somewhere on an auditorium floor to sell our kids’ old things.

“Time to batten down the hatches, mates!” I bellowed with mop in hand recently. The kids got that fearful look in their eyes.

“Oh no. Mom’s on another purging spree.”

After an entire year of toy domination in one particular part of our house, I was ready to reclaim the space as the reading nook it was meant to be (and has never been). My daughter wanted to earn some cash for a new cell phone so I asked her what skill sets she had and how she planned to earn the money to buy one. She came up with some impressive ideas, including pet sitting, baby sitting and helping around the house more. Then she eyed her most valuable toys that had done a great job gathering dust over the last twelve months.

“Let’s sell all my Playmobil stuff.” And so we set about putting all the hundreds of pieces in their right order, each belonging to a specific set, and put them on eBay. People are bidding like crazy and my daughter has well exceeded her financial goal.

“Work with what you’ve got,” I told her as we manned the bazaar booth that showcased her old clothes. She worked the people, offering fashion advice and giving away a free children’s magazine for every purchase made, no matter how small. I was quite proud of her for her slow crawl to financial freedom.

As I cast a view across the dozens of tables that overflowed with things, I realized the less we possess, the more we have.

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Leadership is a term you read in business magazines across all industries. As the workplace rapidly undergoes its evolution, skilled leaders face numerous challenges.

The concept of leadership from a power of slow perspective is particularly intriguing because we normally don’t think of leaders as people who embrace slow, tactical solutions. At the forefront of any organization, leaders, especially C-suite ones, are tasked with high visibility. Oftentimes, they’ll go for the impressive outward move to show investors they are ‘doing something’. But is a fast pace always the sign of good leadership?

Not always.

I can recommend two books that point to the importance of taking things slowly when times call for it rather than falling prey to the sirens of speed.

Aptly entitled Strategic Speed: Mobilize People, Accelerate Execution, this Harvard Business Press book written by Jocelyn Davis, Henry Frechette, Jr. and Edwin Boswell, underscores the fact that slow is faster. They claim, among other things, that when top athletes strive to relax, they actually increase their speed. They point toward new metrics for speed. Smart organizations look to increase the time to value (meaning how long it takes to train the new employee to be ‘up to speed’ on the tasks of the job), but also consider the value over time (if I train the personally properly and invest time in him or her upfront, I will benefit from his or her value over time). More efficient companies (such as India’s Tata Sky satellite TV company) focus on clarity of vision, unity (employees stand behind the vision with a spirit of teamwork) and agility (adaptability in the changing business environment). Perhaps most importantly is the work climate in which people are employed. You can tell when you walk into a place where the morale is high. As a customer, you can feel it in every pore of your being. Great leadership trickles down to every aspect of the organization. Speed for speed’s sake is never desirable (except, perhaps, on the race track!).

The IT industry is a stellar example of how the workplace has changed. I remember fighting with the IT department to get them to fix my computer when it would crash. Their standard response was “Have you rebooted?” Today, IT is not only a part of internal affairs in most companies, but an equal player in the viability of the company in client-facing activities as well.

The CIO Edge: Seven Leadership Skills You Need to Drive Results by Graham Wallter et.al can be summarized in one sentence: “Soft skills drive hard results.” The seven skills a top Chief Information Office (CIO) needs today include:

1)      Top commitment to leadership (everything else, including tech savvy, comes second)

2)      Think analytically, act collaboratively (the social-participative leader is the most successful one. He or she asks everyone about their opinion on things, considers them, weighs them against the situation and incorporates the best ideas into an optimum solution)

3)      Go sideaways to move ahead (don’t just ‘report up’ and ignore down; consider all sides to the equation)

4)      Effective communication

5)      Inspire others

6)      Build people, not systems

7)      Gain greater fulfillment on the job and in your life

The seventh ‘skill’ is all about the power of slow from an alignment perspective. When we are aligned in everything we do, it doesn’t matter what we do or how long it takes. We’re in flow. The power of slow applies to leaders as it applies to the rest of us, too.

Everyone’s a leader. You lead your life. And that’s worth a lot more than just money in the bank.

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Desiderata Days ~ Career

March 30, 2010

I don’t see work/life balance as a truism. The conversation we are really trying to have is not about balance, which implies stasis, but about alignment. Are we in alignment with our truest purpose? Are we engaging in the things that are going to get us there?

Max Ehrmann says:

Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

I started out as a secretary in the marketing department of a large investment firm so we could have health insurance. Imagine if I had not gone with the times? I may never have shown an interest in public relations and marketing.

Delight in where you are today and know you are the master of your own ship. Be the best you can be in every moment. Learn new things and watch your life unfurl as you take new steps to change with the times.

On Finding the Happy Within

Positive psychology is, if you’ll pardon the pun, a positive step forward, looking at what we are doing right and building on that versus just trying to solve ‘the problem’ or mental illness. As the father of positive psychology, Martin Seligman has done admirable work in the field of the human psyche. The issue I see with ‘happiness research’ is that we are somehow tempted to look outside ourselves for sources of joy. In my own work I encourage people to find ‘flow’ as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi terms it. That utter state of timelessness uplifts our souls as we nurture that which is good about ourselves.

Is it not oh-so-human to wish for the quick fix? (Or perhaps it is distinctly Western in thinking). I agree we need a path to wisdom, relying on our inner knowing. For we are born with an intrinsic voice. It is a most joyful experience to lend it its song.

As Gretchin Rubin (author of The Happiness Project) and others will tell you, happiness comes from within. How we view our surroundings is a reflection of our inner being. But I needn’t tell you that, Deepak! 🙂
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

The Beast of Multitasking

January 16, 2010

The trader nervously tapped his pen on his desk as he viewed three monitors seemingly at once. Driven by his own ambition, he attempted to absorb the thousands of data points coming at him every day, until his mind became so jumbled that he made a vital mistake that cost his client millions.

It is a scene that plays out more often than we care to realize.

People who have a hard time filtering information are often fearful of missing out. Wall Street traders, in particular, are often haunted by the thought of missing the ‘big fish’. They become distracted, bouncing from one realm to the other. The good news is help is on the way in the form of one psychologist who has designed a way to sharpen their focus in eight simple steps.

Sports psychologist and peak performance coach Dr. Doug Hirschhorn works with Wall Street executives to help them improve their performance. In his new book 8 Ways to Great: Peak Performance on the Job and in Your Life, Dr. Doug outlines the eight performance principles he uses to coach today’s front-line performers in the toughest corporate jobs.

“Time is [a trader’s] only commodity,” he told me in a Skype interview. “Their number one priority is to make money and to generate substantial profits.” When feeling time-starved, people tend to make rash decisions based on emotion, not information.

Self-awareness is the first step to change, he said. He examines the trader’s personality to see where his or her strengths lie. “I help them slow their thinking process down,” he admitted. While many of them are moving a mile a minute, he helps them identify what they do best, then counsels them to concentrate on only that thing. “If you are an expert in oil, don’t trade corn,” he quipped. The key to success lies in focusing on one thing at a time.

Kill the multitasking beast. But how?

Because we were on video conference mode, he gave me the perfect visual to end the multitasking nightmare so many of us engage in. He grabbed a fistful of pens. “When I toss them into the air, try to catch them.” Obviously, I couldn’t, but I got the picture. Then he suggested I concentrate on only one of the pens. When he does this demonstration during his presentations, inevitably the participant manages to catch the one pen because the person is focused on that one thing.

That’s why multitasking doesn’t work. We try to grab all the pens at once, thereby dropping them all. We are driven by the fear of missing out and then being held accountable when things don’t work out.

“The phrase I can’t is merely avoidance of accountability,” he admitted. People who attempt to multitask are really avoiding accountability. The reasoning is if you concentrate on 100 things at once, it is easier to hide your mistakes.

The power of slow provides us with an opportunity to slow down our thinking to examine our strengths and to play to them as best we can. When we learn to delegate, we free up the time it takes to grab the ‘right pen’~ every time.

January has motivated me to save. I’m not sure why, but I have this sudden urge to revamp my finances. It got me to thinking about how much money we waste on things we don’t need (one look at my children’s forlorn toy box will tell you they play with one-tenth of what they own). It also has prompted me to consider five ways we can discover cash lying around the house (and I don’t mean under the couch cushions, either!) .

How? Look no further than your drawers and closets.

1. Sell your junk. During the winter months, a yard sale is a tough thing to organize, especially if you live in cooler climes. We once hosted a ‘moving sale’ in December. It rained cats and dogs, but we made over $1500. The term “moving sale” draws more people than the phrase “yard sale” as they know you’ll be selling off ‘good stuff’, too. eBay, the premiere online auction portal, offers a great opportunity to sell off some of the stuff you no longer need. Familiarize yourself with the rules, though. As a seller, you are obliged to pay a percentage of the end sale price to eBay itself.

2. Recycle. In some states (and countries), you receive a refund on return bottles and cans. Set up a recycling bin in your pantry or a corner of your kitchen to house the cash-based recyclables. In my car alone I have at least a dollar’s worth of bottles rolling around the back seat.

3. Turn those books into cash. If you have a shelf full of books you’ll never read again, consider selling them used on amazon. All you need is an amazon profile and a bank account. The most current books tend to sell the fastest. Price them competitively, but remember amazon takes a commission from the sale price. Read the terms and conditions to be sure you understand them before offering your wares on the site.

4. Donate items. An alternative to selling them, you can also benefit from a tax deduction when you donate books that are in good condition to your local library, for instance. Goodwill also provides an opportunity to write off household donations, clothing and more so start your spring cleaning early this year!

5. Clip coupons. Not all coupons are a good deal so be mindful when you use them. Only save those coupons that correspond to things you would normally buy. Take advantage of triple coupons where available.

Being mindful about your finances means investing some time to develop a strategy that works for you. You might not get rich recycling those cans, but you’d be surprised at how much cash comes loose when you look around you.

Simplify Your Finances

January 8, 2010

This blog is about mindful living. When we slow down to see the Big Picture, we realize what’s truly important to us.

Our financial future is one of those things. Yet many of us do not take the time to think about it until it is often too late. Here’s where the Power of Slow can really come in handy.

Bryan Link is the CEO of SimpliFi, a free savings calculation tool that spells out exactly the amount you need to save each month. He suggests the top five things people can do now to simplify their finances this year. The Power of Slow talks a lot about slaying the inner pig dog (inneren Schweinehund) that says now is never a good idea. Procrastination is the best way to kill your financial dreams. (See “The High Cost of Procrastination“)

Bryan writes:

1)      Develop a financial plan that maps out your financial goals.  If you put together a written financial plan, you increase your chances of achieving your goals by 250%, so this is the best place to start. 

Editor’s Note: You can’t get there if you don’t know where you are going. Build a plan, even a small one, to reach some of your financial goals this year. One of our goals is to rebuild our entire wrap-around porch. Surprising sources of income have shown themselves as a result of our intention. Sometimes you have to build it so they will come!

2)  Develop a monthly spending plan that can help you achieve your financial goals–both short and long-term.  Knowing how your going to spend your money before you do it is the key to financial success.

Editor’s Note: This is a hard one for many people. Tracking hidden spending such as that quick coffee or an impulse purchase confronts us with our habits. Be rigorous in your tracking for a month to see where the money flows. It can be fun if you treat it like a treasure hunt. You’ll find all kinds of income that can be redirected if you know where it’s going in the first place.

Once you’ve completed #1 and #2, then:

3)   Set up automatic withdrawals for your savings and investment accounts, and have them hit at the first of the month (or whenever you get paid).  This “pay yourself first” approach is really the only effective way to enforce savings discipline.  If you wait until the end of the month to save, you’ll find there’s never any money left.

Editor’s Note: This one is key. It is amazing how contractable your bank account can be when you have an automatic draft going to your savings account. Consider it your own personal payment to yourself. You aren’t spending it. You’re paying YOU!

4)   Use cash for discretionary purchases like drinks/snacks, entertainment, and low-cost dining.  Studies have shown that we have a harder time parting with cash, so if you force yourself to use cash for these purchases, you will spend less.  EVEN BETTER:  use the envelope method in conjunction with your monthly spending plan for these purchases.  It works like this:  budget a specific weekly amount of cash for these purchases, then each week, withdraw that amount, put it in an envelope, and only use what’s in the envelope for that week.  When the cash is gone, no more spending until the next installment.

Editor’s note: I do this in particular with the children’s items. It helps me have an overview of where the cash is going. A field trip here, a pair of soccer shoes there…

5)   Increase your giving to a charity that helps those less fortunate–and find a way to volunteer there as well.  Both of these actions will increase your happiness and make you feel more grateful for the blessings you have in your life.

Editor’s note:  It not only gives you a great feeling throughout the year, come tax time you’ll get that warm feeling all over again!

What great timing as I have chosen to sleep in two days in a row. It occured to me that we are most productive when we are most rested. So here’s to a YEAR of great sleep. After all, you can’t have the American Dream without it!
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

On November 6, 2009, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics issued its most recent data on unemployment in the United States. It has reached 10.2%, the highest rate since April 1983. In fact, it was reported that 9.3 million people are involuntarily working part-time as a result of the economy.

With all the depressing news of today’s economic forecast, it is no wonder people feel time is not a positive in their lives. With ‘too much time on their hands’ people are left feeling unproductive and unfulfilled.

The power of slow addresses time as friend for the super busy and for the super bored. Having lived through six months of unemployment in my own family, I understand how hard it can be to organize your life into meaningful chunks when times are tight.

One of the things my husband and I did during those dire moments was rent a yoga video from the library. We could walk to our local branch, which saved on gas, and check out a free video for the week. After we put the kids to bed, we would do the thirty-minute workout to clear our minds and cleanse our souls. It helped tremendously to work off the stress unemployment can bring.

At a recent talk at the New York Public Library mid-Manhattan branch, an underemployed actor asked me what she could do with all the time she had at her disposal. She spent hours playing solitaire on her computer. It was a devil’s circle. The more bored she became, the more time she spent playing meaningless rounds of video games.

So here’s a slow tip. Design pockets of win in your life. Whether you are overstretched at work or underutilized, create situations in your life in which you know you will win to keep up your momentum. For instance, when I know I’m going to have a particularly challenging week, I’ll place something on eBay that I know will sell. Then, in my moments of despair, I check in on how the auction is going. On other occasions I may cull through my book shelves and donate a few items to the local library. Passing things on can lift your mood automatically, granting you the necessary perspective to keep going. 

Perhaps your pocket of win is volunteering, working with animals or gardening. Sometimes that pocket of win can be as simple as an ice cream sundae shared with your best friend. Whatever it is, seek out those moments of yes in your day. It will help you sustain your energy and your mood as you transition from this moment to what’s next.

Original Post from Psychology Today