When you bite off more than you can chew

kobayashi-hotdogs[1]Nathan’s Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest is an annual attraction on the 4th of July that attracts both competitors and audiences from around the world.  Mountains of hot dogs are stacked in front of the competitors as the anxious crowds wait to cheer their favorite competitor.

Takeru Kobayashi, a small framed native of Japan, holds six Guinness Records for eating hot dogs, meatballs and other junk food items. In 2001, he set his first record eating 50 hot dogs in 12 minutes at the Nathan’s Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest. The secret to Takeru’s success is his unique strategy to tackle monumental eating challenges by taking one bite at a time. Where many cringe and crack under the pressure, Takeru continues to set world records with ease.

Takeru realized early in his competitive eating career that the biggest challenge is not the number of hot dogs but the tendency for people to have mental barriers. He simply sets a goal and works toward it in a methodical manner.

When he was asked about his ability to think without limits, Takeru said, “I think the thing about human beings is that they make a limit in their mind of what their potential is”. Unlike Takeru, you may find that members of your team have preconceived limits that hold them back.

So as a manager, how do you help your team manage through times when they feel they have bitten off more than they can chew?

There’s an old saying that the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Helping your team recognize that every project has bite-size pieces can be a good first step. Managing these smaller sized portions is an easy way to be able to avoid being overwhelmed.

As stress mounts, we tend to focus on the enormity of the problem rather than the more manageable solutions. Team members who appear to be overwhelmed need you to coach them on how to find the most practical strategy to complete their work. The real barrier may be all in their perception and an objective viewpoint could be the perfect diagnosis to this common problem.

Leaders should use Takeru as an inspiration for their teams and teach them that often the biggest barrier to success is a mental one that can be overcome with the right perspective. Helping your team learn how to accomplish their goals without cracking under pressure will not only enhance organizational productivity but also show your team that you committed to making them successful.

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The $25,000 To Do List Method

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I am a note taker and to-do list guy, almost to a fault.  Yes, I am one of those weirdos that will actually remember something I accomplished during the day and put it on my to do list, only to be able to mark it off as completed.  There’s a sense of accomplishment that comes with marking a line through something, almost like removing that nagging voice in my brain reminding me of the things I need to get done. Something inside of me cannot relax until the items on my list or the metaphoric list that I keep in my head is completed.  Unfortunately, there are over a thousand ways to keep a to do list and I have tried 85% of them.  Finally, after reading Double, Double by Cameron Herold, I found a method that seems to work for me.

I was happy to find that Charles Schwab had a similar issues with getting things done.  The story goes that Schwab brought in a well-known efficiency guru, Ivy Lee, to help him with some of the inefficiencies in his company.  Lee met with the executive management team and advised them to make a to do list at the end of each day with six of the most important tasks to be completed the following day.  The next day, each member was to work on their list in order of priority, adding those tasks not completed to the next day’s list.  The legend states that Schwab agreed to pay Lee the value of his advice as product of the efficiency/production value over three months.  According to the legend, Lee received a check for $25,000 and the rest is history.

So for the past month, I’ve adopted this method using a 4×6 index card to force myself to be realistic in what I can accomplish in one day.  On the front, I keep my to-do list and on the back I document voice-mails I need to return or people I need to connect with.  I chose an index card not only for its brevity but also for its convenience.  I can keep it in the book I’m reading as a bookmark or keep it in the visor in my car (because all of my great ideas or cognitive moments come when I am behind the wheel).

I have had to do some adjustments to the process to make it work for me which included going very old school for this tech nerd…. buying a dated expandable file.  In this little jewel, each section is numbered to 31 so  I use it as my daily tracking system.  I put my little index card in there, bills to be paid, forms to be reviewed etc.  This method has helped me be able to plan ahead and forget.  This has been a life saver and has helped me be able to up my game in terms of my clients’ experience.

Bottom line, you have to find a method that works for you.  Here are some quick advice points for you as you search:

1. Try your method for one week, make revisions after that.  Sometimes just the process of trying something new feels awkward and makes you feel like it won’t work, give it a week.

2.  Be realistic. I have had grandiose plans with a to-do list that was an entire notebook page long.  Of course, I didn’t meet all of those tasks so the little “pat on the back” feeling I sought for eluded me every day.  Keep it to no more than 10 critical tasks and be willing to carry items over to the next day.  It’s really ok.

3. Categorize your tasks according to projects. This is another helpful method if you manage multiple projects.  Associating these tasks according to project will begin to shift your mind more to the “projects” you need to make progress on that day versus a simple task list.

About the Writer:

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I have a passion for driving results and have since I started my career in banking.  This blog is about that passion as well as the frustration I endures from those who do not seek results or slow down the process.

I have a degree in Marketing and a Masters in Management with an emphasis in Project Consulting.  Over my career, I’ve worked in numerous positions including sales, sales management, consulting, HR and recruiting.  I currently work as a head-hunter and project consultant, while trying to stay abreast of all of the changes in today’s workforce.

For a professional resume, click here.

Busiocrity-The Art of Looking Busy but NOT Being Productive

I’m not sure about you but I love the medicine commercials now. With all of the regulatory requirements placed on the pharmaceutical industry, 75% of those commercials are spent informing the potential consumer of all of the side-effects that could happen as a result of taking the medicine. Everything from blood in your urine to constipation to dry mouth or mood swings. I find myself being more intrigued with the side effects and forgetting what the medication is actually supposed to treat! So, in honor of that tradition, let’s assume Busiocrityis a virus…. indulge me for a bit.

Busiocrity, a virus that is plaguing offices internationally. Common symptoms:

 

  • Back to back meetings
  • Meetings about meetings that you’ve had or meetings you’re going to have
  • Endless To Do lists that carry over from one day to the next
  • Having a clean email box but destroyed desk at the end of the day
  • Trouble sleeping, constant list making, fever, heartburn, acid reflux and mood swings

 

Sound familiar? If so, you might be suffering from this common virus. Constant emails andmeetings that produce no results are becoming an epidemic in today’s workplace. As humans, we have evolved from spending our days toiling the land or chasing our food to toiling in meetings and chasing productivity. What’s worse is that there seems to be no end in sight for this plague. There are, however, some individuals who have escaped this Zombie virus to rise above the mess. What do they do? Let’s take a look:

Tip 1: Change your To Do List

Get away from the to do list, it’s a killer. Look at managing by projects and let that be the focus for your day. Managing according to projects helps to naturally shift your brain to keep your focus on the end goal versus the tiny steps that will get you there. Choose to focus on two or three projects a day and accomplish as much as you can for those. You will leave the day feeling accomplished and maybe even energized. Jeff Haden with Inc.com states that successful people “start at the end” and using a project minded approach will help move you more in that direction.

Tip 2: Shut down the email beast

Email owns so many people in ways that are borderline sadistic. If I am working on a project or doing research, I will close out my email and my social media and just focus on those items. This helps my ADDHD (in my case the HD is High Definition). I find I remain more productive and tend to get more accomplished by shutting down the noise of email and social media for two hours a day to do my most critical items. It also allows me to connect dots that would not normally jump out of me because of my fragmented focus.

Tip 3: Just Say No

This tip will be easier if you are in a management position or a position of influence so keep it in mind. If you are invited to a meeting with no agenda or is organized by a person that enjoys meetings because they allow them to pontificate, just say no to the meeting. I had one individual that I invited to a meeting who asked what we were to accomplish during the meeting. My response obviously didn’t engage them because they declined the meeting. After four times, I talked with this highly successful individual that said he only goes to meetings that have an agenda and a goal to accomplish. I’ve tried to keep this in mind as I get invitations and have learned to politely push back in some cases.

We are all busy but not all of us are productive. Try these simple tips and see if they work. If you have other tips, please share them. We’re all in this Zombie race together!