Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Rethinking Time and Actions

Probably stemming from my English-major mother of ten, I love reading books that help you focus your time and energies in better ways. Here's a few that I've really enjoyed, two very recently:

1. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Sure, its old and the title sounds like you're desperate and/or a hypnotist, but this books has so many wonderful little ideas for maintain a better outlook on interpersonal interactions. So many of the little things in conversations, in meeting someone for the first time, in correcting someone gently get lost in our "must please everyone all the time or else my ratings will go down" world. There is so much value to be had in the space between Bitch and Pushover but we forget about it all the time. This book gives comprehensive advice for becoming a better friend and communicator, not through being fake, but through noticing the little things.
How can you lose with these as your roadmap:
1) become genuinely interested in other people,
2) smile,
3) remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language,
4) be a good listener, encourage others to talk about themselves,
5) talk in terms of the other person's interests,
6) make the other person feel important - and do it sincerely.
I still keep these in my head and work on them... they just make me a better person.

2. The Four Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss
A dear friend and mentor once told me that life can be divided into four boxes: the urgent important, the urgent unimportant, the not urgent important, and the not urgent unimportant. Tim has this down to a science. His mantra is DEAL. That is,
Definition: define what is important, what your goals are, and how what you're doing helps you in achieving those goals.
Elimination: get rid of everything that doesn't help in the achievement of those goals, including wasted time in the unimportant.
Automation: put everything that doesn't require intelligence on autopilot or delegate/outsource the details that you can. (I think he takes this one a bit far, but the lesson is still there)
Liberation: frees you to do the things you want to do.

I'm not done with the book, so I'll have to give you an update when I do, but so far it has blown my mind with its super de-stressing approach to "time-management." Tim makes the point that it is not so much that we have too many things to do, but that we let distractions, poor thinking, and indiscriminate action take up all our time. Little things like checking your email only twice a day, essentially screening calls, and forcing people to interact with you in a succinct and precise manner can make all the difference.

3. Guerrilla Networking by Jay Levinson and Monroe Mann
The first two books were, while practically oriented, more focused on the theory behind the practice. Guerrilla Networking has a mere twenty-five pages of "theory" and the rest of the book is solid, practical examples of how to implement and focus your efforts in their re-thought model. Having been to many "traditional" networking events, both in undergrad and grad school, I must say that their approach makes all kinds of sense.
Levinson and Mann note that the people you want to meet are already meet-able. What you need to work on is making yourself stand out to those you want to meet. Often people constrict themselves to a traditional mode of application and interview, hoping that they will be able to distinguish themselves via their single sheet of paper and twenty minutes. Guerrilla Networking throws this approach on its head. You make the meeting times and places, you contact the people you want to work for, you make yourself the one that they want to me. It's an interesting concept and one with a lot of value.
What this approach does is change you from the passive to the active mode. It fosters your creativity and instills energy in the process. It makes you more of an independent contractor, rather than a cog in the system.

All three of these books are well worth the read. Foster creativity, free yourself from the routines that just develop rather than the ones you choose, and remember that everyone puts on their pants one leg at a time, even those giants you want to work for.


David Hallowell said...

Great thoughts, Taylor! Well written.

David Hallowell said...
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