Fear Kills in Tough Times

Hey, dammit – what the hell are you doing ranting and raving about old people when most of them are laying us young kids off?

I get it.  Times are tough.  The economy sucks.  Calling unemployment takes anywhere between two and three days now.

Why have I blatantly been ignoring it?  I suppose for the same reasons that most other media has been ranting and raving about it for the last… three months?  Gosh, has it been that long?  Whatever. Continue reading Fear Kills in Tough Times

Recovering From Foot-in-Mouth Disorder

It’s been one of those days.  The sun is shining, but not on you.  The birds are singing outside, but they’ve also dive-bombed your car.  You walk into work with all this glorious energy and frustration in your possession.  Then your “favorite person” from work confronts you about the fact that you’re two minutes late. Continue reading Recovering From Foot-in-Mouth Disorder

Making Sense of it All – Nick’s Rant

My most favorite words ever written were those prepared for a character named Alan Shore on David E Kelley’s smash legal hit Boston Legal, which tonight wrapped up its 5 season run with all the class you can come to expect from a show filled with top-notch actors.

But of all those actors, none have made me feel all at once elated and deflated as the character of Alan Shore, played by James Spader.  No one else’s words have ever had so much power to get me so fired up. Continue reading Making Sense of it All – Nick’s Rant

You Suck! Customer Satisfaction in the 21st Century

I recently attended a presentation and the speaker was talking about how his company got popular.

He made reference to the fact that no publicity is bad publicity; love it or hate it, if you provide a URL, people are going to click to see what’s up.  So why give people you hate the satisfaction of more and more free publicity?  Just *don’t* talk about them.  Continue reading You Suck! Customer Satisfaction in the 21st Century

Silly FCC, the Internet is for Porn!

There has been talk lately from Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin about auctioning certain bands of airwaves to use for Nation-Wide Free Public Internet.

Bloggers everywhere (but mostly those in cow towns) are rubbing their grubby little mitts together at this very second dreaming about it.  Unfortunately, Martin included a catch – the free public Internet can’t show any porn. Continue reading Silly FCC, the Internet is for Porn!

How Not To Ask For Help

I’m not the savviest of investors.  If I were, I wouldn’t be writing this blog.  I’d be writing the “Guess Who I Bought This Week? Weekly” blog.

But, damnit, if it isn’t just so freakin arrogant when you make CARS for a living, to fly in a big fancy private jet, dress up in your best Sunday clothes, and ask the Government for a small percentage of 250 Million + people’s money.

Honestly, who the hell do you think you are? Continue reading How Not To Ask For Help

Avoiding Burnout

Sometimes, the bright bulb of ideas and information that is your brain just blows a fuse.

Burn out.  It happens every day to millions of people in millions of offices around the world.

How do you get around it?

Some people do it by patronizing their business partners behind their back.  Always hilarious, particularly when an idiot co-worker forwards your e-mail to said business partner.  Some people just go plain nuts and form their own athletic clubs, complete with trainers and coaching staff.

But for every disruptive, albeit fun, method for distracting yourself from burn-out, there are equally effective ways to return yourself to the work at hand.  And… avoid being fired.

  1. Reorganize your office space. I recently did this, and boy what a difference does it make.  Let me make it a bit clearer with a picture.  Before, my desk was all the way up against that wall – and I have a co-worker in the next office who occasionally stares out into space – through that window.  Needless to say, if you think you’re being watched 24/7,  you’re not going to get much work done.  So, rather than stick my tongue out all day and make random faces, which worked for the first day or so, I can now happily enjoy my own work space without feeling distracted.
  2. Give yourself a to-do list. Create a daily or weekly to-do list of things that you can do that day or that week.  Pick one or two things off that list and work toward them until you finish ‘em off.
  3. Allow yourself a break or two. They say that the average worker only gets about 3 good days of productivity in an average week.  It makes sense that you’d want to maximize your time working, but if you go non-stop like a robot, you’re going to become unproductive at some point.  Give yourself a timed break, 5-10 minutes to get up, walk around, get a drink, check the news or e-mail, and go back to work.
  4. Manage your time. Everybody knows that coworker, the one who likes to pile on projects for you, give you extra work, and then congratulate you with another “honeydo” list.  It’s vitally important that you set your own work schedule – besides the one that your boss sets for you.  How and when you go about making progress on your own projects is up to you.  Don’t let anyone bully you into making the wrong decisions just because they’re your friend (or not).  Set boundaries to interruptions.  Be honest about when you have free time in your schedule to answer questions.
  5. Think outside the box. Most people have problems to solve in their job.  Or repetitive tasks to complete.  Make a game out of it.  Do something unexpected to go the extra mile.  Color code things to make more sense.  Look at tough project issues as a puzzle you have to solve.  The more intrigued and engaged your brain becomes, the faster and easier the solution (or the end) to your problems will be.

One last thing.  If you absolutely positively cannot fathom even one more hour of tedious, unsatisfying work… don’t be afraid to jump ship.  Or at the very least, have a conversation with your boss about acquiring some additional duties that you consider interesting.  It could make all the difference!

Stooping

It should go without saying that being at the top numbs you to certain duties you might have performed on your way up.

Maybe, though, you’re a young professional.  And you are being asked to go outside your area of expertise on a project – or to pitch in in an area you’re not all that familiar with or that, frankly, is beneath you.

Well, never fear, Vader.  So long as it’s not a permanent change, you should really do it anyway…

It’s a perfect way to expand your skillset.  Or maybe impress your boss.  Or help your friend.  In all seriousness, though – you should at the very least consider it.  I’m serious!  There’s no better way to impress people than to replace the paper towels in the bathroom, retrieve a heavy box from a top shelf for that short co-worker, learn particle physics to fix the LHC before the winter…

Okay, so maybe you can use the force for those menial tasks.  But, looking at those more challenging tasks, what if you discover something you like doing – like figuring out the Search Engine Optimization if you’re a Web Programmer, effectively turning yourself into a Web Marketer for a day.  Don’t like doing it?  Still a skill you can add to your resume…

You never know how who you help and what you do will turn around and help you out in the long run, so go for it!

Persistence

I didn’t know what mortality was until I bought a Wii Fit.

Okay, so maybe that’s not a fair statement to make.  But look, every time I get on the damn thing I think I’m gonna die.

You know what though?  I’ve been watching the graph fluctuate.  I know my fat-ass needs to lose some weight.  I know that the longer I spend on it, the more that graph dips.  And I know that after I get on it for about 30 minutes a day, seven days a week, after I stop feeling like I want to die, I feel much better.

I may sound bitter.  I am.  I can’t believe that I’m in my early 20’s and I need to exercise every day and can’t gorge myself on Chipotle burritos every day and still live to be at least 30.  So, why do I get on that white board of death every single day?  Because I know the consequences if I don’t.  Americans are getting fatter and fatter and there’s no end (at least, not the kind that I wanna see) in sight.  Thinking about becoming a doctor?  You should, you very well may be supporting 66% of the American population when they become obese adults.

Or worse, when they develop obesity related diseases, like diabetes, heart disease… well, you’ll be rolling in the dough.

Don’t take it personal if I try to keep your wallet a few dollars skinnier, though.

You might be wondering – how do I tie this back into the workplace?  Well, because, much like your health… your motivation to do well every day at work has long-reaching consequences.  If I don’t work out every day, I’m going to get fatter and fatter and then… well, you won’t have as many articles to look forward to from me.  If you don’t work well at work every day, you won’t be able to afford the internet to view my articles.

Your motivation can sometimes be as simple as setting yourself a mediocre goal: Don’t get diabetes.  Don’t die in a state that requires a crane as a pallbearer.  Don’t get fired.

The sad reality is that most people just think they will be okay even by not setting these goals.  They don’t have persistence.  And what’s worse is that, even if you do try for those mediocre goals, it’s only human to sometimes fail.  I have to face the possibility that even if I do everything right… I may still get diabetes.  I may still be overweight.  You may still get fired.

That’s the thing about being fired, though.  And having diabetes.  The simple fact that you *are* something – anything besides dead – means that you have another chance to make it right… or at least do something about it.  So… screw up today – get back on it tomorrow.  Even if it makes you feel like death.

Focus

These days, if you’re a talented individual, everyone will want your help on one thing or another. This happens all the time at the workplace.

I mean, just look at Al Gore. Some enterprising young fellow who didn’t want to do his Environmental Studies homework offered Mr. Gore $50 and the opportunity… and now we have all sorts of inconvenient truths out there.

So, short of hiring Al Gore as your personal office assistant and focus-keeper-pro-tempore (believe me, he rules with an iron fist), what can you do to make sure that the tasks you are finishing are… well, the ones you’re supposed to be finishing? I mean, honestly, when you’re being inundated by a flood of requests, what can save you? How do you keep your focus without letting down your co-workers? Can you finish what you’re supposed to be doing without becoming your office’s version of Dwight?

Yes! But you must make goals!

When it comes down to it – only you and your boss know which tasks are the ones you need to finish first. Unfortunately, no career exists in a vacuum (metaphorically, speaking of course). If you don’t help your co-workers with a task every now and then, they definitely will return the favor by not helping you out when you desperately need one of their skills. Not even Al Gore can save you, then.

Create a task list – simple goals that will help you achieve the results you need while not alienating your co-workers. Remember – you’re creating your task list using SMART goals. You want to set a timeline for each task on the list – including estimated time to complete with some “give” – usually an hour or two. You should also set a priority for each task on the list, including your co-worker’s tasks. If you have time left over, help your co-workers out – after all, they might be able to help you out with your projects. If not, tell them when you will have time to help them and ask for them to come back at that time – this is called skillful rejection. You’re telling them “no, not right now”. But what they hear is, “yes, I’ll help you very soon”.

Be honest about your time constraints – both with your boss and with your co-workers. If you honestly think your time can be better spent helping out a co-worker with their problem than on yours, don’t be afraid to say so (gently – remember, they’re still the boss and can override you). If you can’t finish a task in the time allotted, ask for more resources or more time. Sometimes you won’t get either, but if you can learn the art of “skillful rejection” with your co-workers, you’ll have most of the time you need.

Utilize your time as best you can by making sure you understand all the problems in front of you – five more minutes gathering information can save you a lot of time in the long run. Taking longer in person to “gather requirements”, so to speak, can save you hours-long chains of e-mails.

Once you have your task list and have given each one a priority, bust on down through your list and re-evaluate priorities and time needed after each completed task. (You can even high-five Al Gore if you want). Time management is a difficult skill to master – but keep practicing!

Did I miss something? Let me know by commenting!