Choose Your Pain and Your Gain

Choose what you pay attention to. If your mind lingers on something that bothers you, that’s kind of your fault. You do not need to pay attention to it if you don’t want to. Same applies to good things. You can choose to ignore or focus on the glass half full. Up to you. Be stubborn enough to believe you can pay attention to what you want.

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Turn Off Email Notifications

I did the math and realized my phone buzzes or beeps once every 3.5 minutes during the average work day. Over 90% of that comes from email. It’s a miracle that I am able to pay attention to anything at all with that party going on in my pocket. And forget restful sleep – there’s no way. Email is huge a distraction in my life. Out of spite, I’ve started leaving my phone places. Unfortunately, that results in a nasty habit of missing worthwhile phone calls. To combat the distraction, I started a very simple experiment: turning off all email notifications on my phone and laptop. I intend to track productivity and see how things go. With any luck, I will find myself more engaged in work, meetings, conversation and social outings. Text messages and instant messenger are still fair game if you have something urgent to say. Otherwise, you’re shooting in the dark with an email – I’ll get back to you when I choose to (and not when my phone nags me to).

Call It A Day

I can think of few things more unfulfilling and overwhelming than leaving an incomplete pile of work on your desk at the end of the week. You feel like you don’t deserve the weekend. But you do. That work will keep coming and coming. Sometimes you just need to let go.

I’ve found that it’s better to draw the line in the sand on your to-do list first thing every morning. Realistically outline and prioritize the tasks you think you can complete in one day and set the rest aside. Do not let the other tasks bother you. Fold them up and hide them – whatever it takes to focus and feel like you accomplished the list you’ve reasonably committed to.

I’ve turned into a sticky note junkie. I’ve found that the size of a sticky note keeps your list focused, finite and reasonable. I try not to commit to more than one sticky note per day. Nothing feels better than to crumple complete notes and throw them away at the end of the day. You should try it sometime.

Early Bird Gets the Attention

If you are first in line, there will be more water in the pool to make a bigger splash. If you hit the market first, it will be much easier to make some noise. Get in people’s queues first, and you will be read before the next guy. I have seen a direct correlation to the number of people who read my blog per day and the time of day I post – the earlier, the better. The early bird gets the worm. Or in this case, the attention.

There is a flip side to being first: a responsibility to quality. While you may secure for yourself a smash hit opening weekend by launching first, sustaining that hit overtime is a completely different story. In journalism, it’s always a race to publish first. But if the accuracy of an article doesn’t check out, the premature launch could adversely effect the organization’s credibility. To build a sustainable hit, you must keep quality high and consistently beat everyone else to the punch.

While my blog has little at stake to post “first,” I doubt I could have earned your readership if I published daily nonsensical poop jokes. Without question, quality counts in the long term. But if all you want is attention and immediate gratification, you better cross the finish line in first place.

Twelve Benefits of a Christmas Birthday

My birth date competes with the birth of a holy savior and the largest commercial holiday of the year. Many people hear that and cringe. Almost everyone asks about combined gifts, getting swept under the rug, or relocating the celebration to the summer solstice. While I wouldn’t mind being able to see friends on my birthday every once in a while, I absolutely love my birthday. My parents always worked hard to make sure I got my fair share of gifts and attention. I am lucky and blessed. Some of the other notable benefits:

1. I get to pick the menu.
2. Almost everyone has the day off.
3. I only need to write thank you notes once a year.
4. You get to spend the day with family, even members who live far away.
5. Old friends are in town, making it easier to connect and party around the date.
6. You’re not the only one opening gifts (it’s awkward otherwise).
7. Presents can be bigger and more expensive.
8. It’s better than being overshadowed by Christmas with a birthday just before or after.
9. Everyone is usually in good spirits.
10. The world decorates, plays music, and anticipates my birthday.
11. It’s impossible for me and close friends to forget.
12. It feels like a special date (rather than just another work day)