Saturday, 28 March 2015

You Got To Work Hard Times Two : 50 quotes to reinvent your career, Make mornings better & Deep work

'Getting old aint for cissies!'.

The aforementioned quote was attributed to a once-upon-a-time hollywood legend by the name of Bette Davis. If you're under 40 and know who she was, you are an absolute star.

As time marches on, we get older, wiser and ( whisper it) more conventional in our thinking. We start to become more softer around the edges. Even hardened rock'n'rollers ( think Keith Richards..I hope you know who he is), want to take it a little easier with age. Having read his biography a few years back, I was quite surprised to find that he has a sizeable library of books. I'd never have thought that 'the human riff', would be the sort to sit down for a few hours, going through a chapter or three of any sort of literary tome.

In any event, any kind of kickstart to your creative juices at any time of the day, is always a godsend. Especially if your current vocation could do with a revamp or rethink :-

50 Quotes to Inspire You to Reinvent Your Career

Some of these are trully fascinating. Jeff Bezos' quote, for instance, is something I've always held to be an absolute truism. It's a double edged sword, however, because not everyone wants to work in I.T. or be a waiter, or be a pharmacist and so on.

But the world needs qualified people in those fields, too. So if you can't necessarily be the next Degas, or the next Johnny Marr or Vince Clarke, you can still apply that creative streak to something else. I can personally vouch for that via my years as a systems guy in the computing tech field. A lot of engineers I met and shared lunches, pints of beer and the odd ciggarette with, had creative streaks of remarkable merit.

However, most tended to them as hobbies, while some of us were juggling both a career and a 'sideline wanting to become a career', for years on end. That's down to the strength of the passion within a person, as well as a lot of determination, luck, good karma etc. And that's why not everyone can make it in certain fields, because even in those fields, there is probably less than 10% who've had overnight success. So that's 10% of 1%. Think about that for a moment.

In effect, it's not about the fame or the money, although both may appeal slightly. It's about feeling like you have no other choice but to do the thing your doing. This can make your life easier on so many levels. The conflict and dissonance of doing one thing and feeling another, dissipates altogether. Again I can vouch for that, too. You have less 'oh no!' days , and such days that come along tend to be taken more in their stride.

Of course, everyone is wired differently, but blessed are those who can do what they love for a living, and get paid for it. I'm fortunate that I can do that more often than not. It's all a case of 'swings and roundabouts', and your quality of life can be dependant not only on the foresight and vision you have to implement things, but also on your ability to change and take risks. Having fun in the process, should be de rigeur too.

And having fun during the early daylight hours, can make a difference to your working day. But it involves a certain amount of adaptability :-

How To Make Mornings Better, Faster, And More Fun

I get most of my creative work done by midday, so that's 3 to 3.5 hours of solid, head down grafting.  It's not about pondering, but about just 'doing it'. I also delay my mid-morning cup of coffee or tea, as to ensure that I've completed something I started at another point by then, or am at least 80 to 90% there. So the 10% or so left over, feels like knowing you're going to win your own set race, and hence lunch feels like it's well earned and deserved. These aren't hard and fast rules, but I do tend to stick by them with a little bit of flexibility, during the working week.

It's ironic, as I was always sluggish first thing in the morning, but since I got into yoga/meditation, I get up earlier, so I start work earlier and the knock on effects are fantastic. After lunch and onwards is more for interactive group and/or one-on-one stuff, such as meetings and  travelling.

As mentioned earlier, it's in the morning when I'm firing off with a cognitive sharpness, that is greater in intensity than later on in the day. That's because true to form, it's when I can think deeply and with more concentration, whilst getting past any cognitive blocks that start to appear later on in the day. So doing work that matters, is what really counts. :-

Knowledge Workers are Bad at Working (and Here’s What to Do About It )

Any work which involves a level of deep cognitive involvement, relies on previous knowledge and the ability to transcend some of that and find your own answers to problems and present solutions with a level of finesse and credibility. More importantly, it means you have to be able to NOT be distracted so easily by your environment and it's incumbents, wether they be people or technology.

The 'Deep Work' mentioned here, is the equivalent of heading into the archimedes 'eureka moment'. Again, I consider myself blessed at this moment in my life, that I can work for the aforementioned stretches of time that are required to almost subliminally come up with answers and then to use them in order to steam through the work. You then go over the work once away from it, so you come back 'cold' so to speak, and can have some perspective on what you've been doing. This allows you to start modifying ( the 'add & subtract' principle) your efforts with a clearer perspective.

The whole thing is an immensely satisfying process to go through. You've effectively allowed your mind a freer reign to create, implement and execute ( at least in draft or proto form), and then you can come back and start to do the refining and chiselling. Of course, if the 'cold' session reveals that it's a load of nonsense, then you have to be objective enough to junk it. I've done that a number of times, and whilst it can intially be uncomfortable, you get used to the scrapping process, in the context of the journey.

Some of the concepts described in the theory of 'Deep Work' remind me of the work of W. Edwards Demming and his PDCA or PDSA cycle. It's all about continuous improvement and keeping a flow of information recorded with each consecutive step. This then makes it easier to go back and check on each part of the process, in the event of major (or minor) changes.

Documenting any workflow and methodology, even if in your own special brand of 'shorthand', saves hours later on. This knocks onto time and money, not to mention that quicker results and problem solving mean more time spent in  less stressful conditions and situations.

Working harder is essentially not just about putting in the hours and grafting until you drop. That does happen occasionally, but in fairness we should all strive to work SMARTER instead. That is done by adhering to another concept of sorts, called the 6P'S. This was explained to me at length almost two decades ago, by an ex-army seargant, who had moved into his own manufacturing business. The 6 P'S are :-

Proper Preparation Prevents Pretty Poor Performance.

The word 'Pretty' was replaced by something more abrasive in the original definition he gave me (ahem), but I digress.

In effect, coming to the task well prepared, wether it means a good night's rest with a rough or 'skeleton' concept ready to go, or even just earlier and fresher and honouring the taks at hand, can mean you've potentially won half the battle. It then makes the rest of the fight to get it all ship-shape and spot-on, less challenging.

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