Posts Tagged ‘Vacation’

Complaining isn’t a strategy.

It’s easy to complain about how things are going, especially when they’re not going well. But even with the best intentions, complaining doesn’t move the organization in a new direction.  Sometimes people complain to attract attention to an important issue. Sometimes it’s out of frustration, sometimes out of sadness and sometimes out of fear, but it’s never the best mechanism.

If the intention is to convey importance, why not convey the importance by explaining why it’s important? Why not strip the issue of its charge and use an approach and language that help people understand why it’s important? It’s a simple shift from complaining to explaining, but it can make all the difference. Where complaining distracts, explaining brings people together. And if it’s truly important, why not take the time to have a give-and-take conversation and listen to what others have to say? Instead of listening to respond, why not listen to understand?

If you’re not willing to understand someone else’s position it’s not a conversation.

And if you’re on the receiving end of a complaint, how can you learn to see it as a sign of importance and not as an attack? As the receiver, why not strip it of its charge and ask questions of clarification? Why not deescalate and move things from complaint to conversation? Understanding is not agreeing, but it still a step forward for everyone.

When two sides are divided, complaining doesn’t help, even if it’s well-intentioned. When two sides are divided and there’s strong emotion, the first step is to take responsibility to deescalate. And once emotions are calmed, the next step is to take responsibility to understand the other side.  At this stage, there is no requirement to agree, but there can be no hint of disagreement as it will elevate emotions and set progress back to zero.  It’s a slow process, but when the issues are highly charged, it’s the fastest way to come together.

If you’re dissatisfied with the negativity, demonstrate positivity. If you want to come together, take the first step toward the middle. If you want to generate the trust needed to move things forward, take action that builds trust.

If you want things to be different, look inside.

Image credit – Ireen2005

Preventive Maintenance for People

A car has a warning light to protect its engine from running too hot, and when the light goes off you pull over immediately and shut it down.  You made a big investment in your car, and you want to make sure it runs for a long time.  You respect the warning light.  And if you’re late to work because your car overheated, everyone understands.   They respect the warning light.

What if you had a warning light? What if you wore a sensor that’s wirelessly connected to your phone that measures your pulse or blood pressure, and your phone flashed a warning light when things get too hot? Would it be okay if you shut down immediately and went home? You and your company have made a big investment in you, and you want to make sure you run for a long time.  Would you respect the warning light? Would your company respect the warning light? What’s the difference between a warning light for a car and a warning light for a person?

All machines come with an owner’s manual. In the manual, the manufacturer provides clear instructions on how to take care of the product so it runs well.  Tighten the bolts every month, clean and inspect the electrical connections every six months and replace the wear parts per the table in the manual.  And if you follow the instructions, the machine will run as advertised.  But if you don’t follow the maintenance schedule, expect degraded performance or an unplanned breakdown. Everyone knows the machine must be shut down regularly for maintenance, or it won’t run right.

What if you had an owner’s manual, with clear instructions on how to take care of yourself? How about eight hours of sleep, balanced diet, exercise and some fun? And if you follow the instructions, you will run as advertised. But if you don’t, shouldn’t you and your company expect degraded performance and unplanned downtime? Doesn’t everyone know you must shut down regularly for maintenance or you won’t run right?

I want to perform as advertised, so I’m shutting down for vacation.

Image credit – Mark Fischer

When on vacation, be on vacation.

monks avoid unintended time travelAs vacation approaches the work days drag. Sure you’re excited about the future, but when compared to the upcoming pleasantness, the daily grind feels more like a prison.  Anticipating a good time in the future rips you from the present moment and puts you in a place you’d rather be.  And when you don’t want to be where you are, wherever you are becomes your jail cell.

Mid-way through vacation, as the work days approach, you push yourself into the future and anticipate the stress and anxiety of the work day.  Though vacation should be fun, the stress around the workday and the impending loss of vacation prevent your full engagement in the perfect now.  I’m not sure why, but for some reason your brain doesn’t want to be on vacation with you.  It’s difficult to think of your perfect vacation as your jail cell, but while your brain is disembodied, I think it is.

And when vacation is over and you return to work, it’s pretty clear you’re back in jail.  You put yourself back in the past of your wonderful vacation; compare your cubicle your previous poshness; and make it clear to yourself that you’d rather be somewhere else. And the better your vacation, the longer your jail time.

But it’s easier to see how we use unpleasant situations to build our jail cells.  Our aversion to uncomfortable situations pushes us into the past to beat ourselves up over uncontrollable factors we think we should have recognized and controlled.  We turn a simple unpleasant situation into a jail cell of self-judging.  Or, we push ourselves into the future and generate anxiety around a sea of catastrophic consequences, none of which will happen.  Instead of building jails, it’s far more effective to let ourselves feel the unpleasantness for what it is (the result of thoughts of our own making) and let it dissipate on its own.

The best way to become a jail breaker is to start with awareness – awareness your mind has left the present moment.  When you’re on vacation, be on vacation.  And when you’re in the middle of an unpleasant situation, sit right there in the middle of the unpleasant situation.  (No one has ever died from an unpleasant situation.)  And, as a skillful jail breaker, when you realize your mind is in the past or future, don’t judge yourself, praise yourself for recognizing your mind’s unintended time travel and get back to your vacation.

But this is more than a recipe for better vacations. It’s a recipe for better relationships and better work.  You can be all-in with the people you care about and you can be singularly focused on the most challenging work.  When someone is standing in front of you and you give them 100% of your attention, your relationship with them improves.  And when you give a problem 100% of your attention, it gets solved.

Think about the triggers that pull and push you out of the present moment (the dings of texts, the beeps of emails, or the buzzes of push notifications) and get rid of them.  At least while you’re on vacation.

Thoughts on Vacation

Some thoughts on vacation:

Take fewer longer vacations at the expense of shorter ones.

Work hard, but on something else.

On route to your destination, throw your cell phone from a moving vehicle.

Forget about your work so you can do it better when you return.

Don’t check in at work – that undoes all the relaxation.

Vacation with kids, and take your cues from them.

Recharge your brain.

Battery life of cell phones is horrific. We’re sold on high functionality, communication speed, and beautiful, bright screens, but with all systems up, the phone cannot deliver; we get about half a day. We pare down functionality, and try to make it through the day; we shut off regular requests for updates; we shut down our network connections; dim our screens to save energy. All the high functionality that defines the phone cannot be realized; the functionality that sets it apart from others, the stuff that others only dream of, cannot be realized. Our special capability cannot be used to do our jobs to the fullest; it cannot be used to do our jobs like we know we can.

Another tactic is the power nap – the quick charge in the middle of the day to get us through the crisis. Commandeer a power outlet in a quiet corner, and settle in for a little charge. (Ahh, it feels good to charge up on someone else’s nickel.) But it’s not right that we must ration our capacity for a narrow slice of the day, to save up for a flurry of high-end activity (especially Angry Birds); we should be able to go all day. But we can’t because expectations are out of line with our capability. In this new era of high power draw, our batteries cannot deliver. We must change our behavior.

Nothing beats a regular charge – home at a regular time, turn off the phone, plug in for an uninterrupted charge, and wake up in the morning fully refreshed and ready for full output. For the whole day it’s unique, innovative functionality, all communication networks up and running, and full screen brightness. That’s what you’re paid for, and that’s what you deliver – every day. But if you skip your full charge cycle, even one, it’s back into the unhealthy cycle of half-day battery life and dimmed screens. This is not a good for you, and not a good value for your company. You (and they) need you doing the things only you can do; they (and you) need you contributing at full brightness. Maintaining the regular charge cycle takes discipline, but, over the long term it’s the most productive and enjoyable way to go.

In the new lithium-ion world, we’ve forgotten a hard-learned lesson of the lead-acid era – the trickle charge. With the trickle charge, the battery is taken fully off-line, fully disconnected from the world, with no expectation of output of any kind, and hard-connected to a big charger, a special charger. This charger is usually located in a remote location and hard-wired into a dedicated circuit that cannot be compromised for any reason. For the trickle charge, the battery is connected to the all-powerful charger for two weeks, for a slow, soothing , deep-cycle charge that restores and invigorates. Upon return from the trickle charge, long-forgotten capability is restored and screens are at full brightness.

Used together, ritualistic over-night charging and regular, deep-cycle trickle charging work wonders.

Shut your phone off when you get home and take a long vacation. Your brain needs a re-charge.

Out of office reply: On vacation!

Mike Shipulski Mike Shipulski
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