Clearly define your goals or be lost forever!

“In the absence of clearly-defined goals,
we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia
until ultimately we become enslaved by it.”
― Robert A. Heinlein

 

Procrastinate? Is that really what it is? What if the problem was easier to correct and just required some imagination and forward thinking?

Think about your last vacation. What did you do weeks prior to leaving? You most likely organized and planned what needed to be completed, so vacation would happen without any work issues.

Did it work? Probably did.

Try doing this for the bigger things in life. Where do you want to be for your job in 5, 10, 20 years. What about after you finish school, or retirement. You need to sit and envision it and then write down what success looks like.

Finally, make a list of tasks to move each thing forward a bit and then repeat that each week until you reach it.

 

Need some help? read:

 

Everyone Looking Down Texting

Signs you might be looking down too much!

“Very occasionally, if you pay really close attention,
life doesn’t suck.”
Joss Whedon

I needed coffee. Off to my local Starbucks I went. Mind you it’s in the bakery section of our supermarket and normally busy with people and shopping carts. I began scouting the area; however, identifying a discernible line was difficult. I did notice a woman at the counter and a guy with a cart too far away to say he was definitely on line.

I looked at the guy and we began an entire conversation of just looks and nods. He turned around as I got in line and mentioned that we had an entire conversation without saying a word. We both laughed and started talking.

The story he shared and the free coffee was why I decide to write this post.

His girl friend has three daughters, 15, 18, and 21. Mom, the girls, and this gentlemen were all at the house. He said the girls were in the living room and the TV was on, girls had iphones and headphones on, texting, and laptops. Of course they were all heads down and not talking – maybe via their cell phones! To the mom, he mentioned she should do something – change the behavior. She complained that it was just the way things are and went back to her own phone. He decide to leave and went home. What made the story stick was the fact that the mother called 3 hours later when she had realized he left.

He was also nice enough to buy me my coffee and thanked me for the conversation. We both left laughing and feeling a little better than we probably did when we entered the store. It made me think – how many people are missing opportunities to interact with great people because they are walking around with their heads down. Is that email or text really that important?

That missing conversation could have been the next most important contact you made. Someone to change your life, but if you never looked up; well, you would have missed it. Maybe it was your turn to help them.

Maybe you just get a nice cup of coffee.

Positive Journaling

The unexamined life is not worth living.

The unexamined life is not worth living.
Socrates

A bold statement and an interesting quote – to say the least. Provided by the 5th century greek philosopher Socrates in the “Apology.” Socrates was known for asking questions during a debate as a way to drill down to the truth. The process is know known as the Socratic Method and is something that can be useful to us in our own lives.
For this discussion, let you and I take this quote literally. Have you stopped to examine your life and do you feel you are living with a purpose? I used to feel that way and then I started this practice of observation and reflection. A personal internal observation of my thoughts and actions to see if I was on the correct path. To be clear, I am not speaking about being happy or creating a happy life, those are byproducts of something else, I’m speaking about something better. I am speaking about the ability to find purpose in your life and to focus on something where you truly believe you are giving back and doing the things you were meant to do.

The journey through life is both a personal and spiritual (even if you are not religious) journey for people. What I mean is that you decide what your life means to you. I cannot tell you the correct path nor can anyone else. This is your journey and you control the outcome. Ask yourself then, are you driving? What I mean is are you in the passenger seat of the car or the driver seat. See, when I’m in the passenger seat I nap, read, use my phone, and normally don’t watch where we are going, but if I am driving, I am making continuous adjustments due to the road, weather, and other drivers. So I ask you again, are you in the driver seat or the passenger seat?

Not an easy road for you to follow. Socrates stated that the inability to perform these tasks will make your life not worth living. That is pretty harsh for people now a day’s and at the same time I believe it’s what we need. The truth – be blunt and tell me to review what I am doing and make changes to make it better – why sugar coat the truth?

Get into the drivers seat

The purpose of examination is to reveal patterns that are counter productive to you moving forward. You are looking for habits that have gone unnoticed. Look at what you are doing and what others are doing to you. Society today puts you in a state of perpetual “busy”, thus never allowing you enough time to stop and reflect. Life is challenging and without a clear understanding of your unconscious actions – there is a chance you can wander aimlessly throughout your entire life. An example could be, you get home from work, you have dinner, and then you lay on the couch and watch TV until bedtime. Is this a positive or negative habit in your mind? For me it is a negative habit because I am losing hours that I could spend working on my projects. For others this may be a positive habit because of the time with the family. You have to decide and understand that it is only your choice and no one else’s.

Starting is easier then you might think. It’s observation right, how hard can it be to just watch, but realistically people are not accustomed to stopping long enough to “take note” of themselves and their surroundings. Remember the movie “The Bourne Identity?” Matt Damon plays the character Jason Bourne and there is a scene where he enters a truck stop cafe with Marie (played by Franka Potente) and he says:

“I can tell you the license plate numbers of all three cars out front. I can tell you that the waitress is left-handed and the guy at the counter weighs two-hundred and fifteen pounds and knows how to handle himself. I know that the best, first place to look for a gun is the cab of that grey truck outside.”

Jason Bourne was trained to be observant and to know his surrounding as an instinct. We want to learn from this and be able to naturally observe our internal and external surroundings. To observe without judgement will be difficult, but it is necessary to gather data that can be used to make logical decisions later. For now you want to assess independent of the gathering process. Later on you will build skills and habits that allow you to do this interactively.

Let’s start by looking at what you see during the day or more specifically, how are you spending your time during the day?

Step One:

Review a week Document how you spend your time during the entire day. My recommendation is setting an alarm to remind you to stop and observe every 10 minutes. You write down whatever you are doing at that moment in time. Start as soon as you get up and stop when you go to bed. This will allow you to get a full picture of your day. You will see two useful pieces of data: where are you losing time on wasted tasks and what habits are you performing that are wasting your time.

Tools

  • Alarm on your phone
  • Smart Phone Apps
  • Timer+ for iPhone is one example

Step Two:

Reviewing your findings Gather all your notes from the week. Now the fun part – we get to review your notes for patterns. We are looking for things that are patterns only, don’t worry if you think they are good or bad. Just look for things you seem to be doing over and over again. This can be making coffee in the morning, getting the kids ready for school, or how much you seem to procrastinate at work by talking to other people. It happens and now we can see how much.

Step Three: Next Steps

Now if you’ve written down the patterns.

  • Are there good Habits?
  • Are there bad Habits?

The good habits are easier to deal with and you should ask yourself one question, do they still belong where they are today? Can you make the good habits better by changing when you do them? For example, maybe moving for exercise to first thing in the morning or late at night. Would changing this time frame allow you to still have time with the family while not neglecting your health?

The bad habits are usually harder to change. Review each one and see if you can remove them from your day. I’ve found that I can change them sometime by adjusting my schedule. For example, if you get a coffee and donut each morning, try driving a different way to work or making the coffee at home. This will change the brains behavior in the morning and the confusion will help you keep the change.

I won’t lie, changing habits is hard and we all know it. But, we all need to try if we want lasting change. I’ll work to post other observations and techniques I learn and hopefully they will help you too.

Cutter Consortium Logo

My Newest Article: “Putting Architecture Back into Agile” – Cutter IT Journal

Cutter ConsortiumCutter IT Journal was kind enough to publish my article on “Putting Architecture back into Agile.” It is now available in the Cutter Consortium Feb 2015 issue. I would also like to thank my friend Si Alhir who brought this opportunity to my attention. The article is not available to the public, but I have the paper copies if anyone is interested in reading it.


Putting Architecture Back into Agile

by Daniel Horton

This article highlights a visible and real force — Agile — that is sometimes at odds with the notion of architecture. Author Daniel Horton, an Agile practitioner, speaks from experience, pointing out how architecture is sometimes completely absent from Agile projects. He also discusses situations where architecture exists but may as well not, seeming to operate in a parallel universe of its own.

If you are a member of the consortium – login here to read it.

Positive Journaling

How to change your Habits by leveraging Observation

“To acquire knowledge, on must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe.” — Marilyn Vos Savant

I was speaking with a friend of mine the other day and she was impressed in my ability to read someones body language.  I responded that it was just observation, but does take time to learn. That the ability to observe and see patterns is a very useful skill in many situations. She was interested. As a sales person the ability to read people would be invaluable. So, I started thinking about how I would explain this process, which in turn got me thinking – can increasing your observational skills help change your habits.

I decided to focus on my habits for the first quarter of 2015. I began to observe how my day progressed and how I interacted in it. I focused at such a small level that it allowed me to identify many small habits, which I would later review to categorize as good or bad. I then began the process of true observation as I took each habit I wanted to change and watched it in action, made notes, and made a plan to change it. With this level of clarity and focus I was able to really work on changing the habit. I won’t lie – I still had problems changing difficult habits, but I did have a very clear understanding of the consequences if I decided to do it anyway.

For this post I want to discuss leveraging observation as a tool to help you change your behaviors as they pertain to your habits. Your ability to observe your habits and the results of those habits will help you correct them. The focus needs to be on both external and internal. For example, how do you treat your alarm clock? Do you turn it off and get up to start the day, do you hit snooze 10 times before being able to get out of bed, or do you put the alarm clock across the room to force yourself out of bed? Have you even stopped to pay attention to this habit? What are you thinking when you perform this external action?

Observation

Internal observation focuses on your thoughts and your ability to calm and control them. These are the voices in your head that seem to have a mind of their own. I’m speaking about “monkey mind.” The voices in your head that continually speak to you, even when you are not listening, which is most of the time for most people. It is possible for you to observe, understand, and control monkey mind. It just takes practice.

“I am burdened with what the Buddhists call the ‘monkey mind’ — the thoughts that swing from limb to limb, stopping only to scratch themselves, spit and howl.” — Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love)

Elizabeth Gilbert explains “Monkey Mind” well in this quote. I think of it like a little kid running around the house while moms on the couch watching TV – no parental control. You need to step in and help calm your thoughts (the kids.)

Begin by listening and observing what’s going on in your head. Once it’s identified it’s just a matter of asking it to stop. I know this sounds simple and in a way it is, but what I’m recommending is the ability to change the way you think about things. You need to observe the thoughts you have and stop them before they drain your focus and energy. For example, after a stressful discussion with someone at work, you walk away, but for the next hour you replay the situation in your head and continually relive it. You many not even be aware that you are doing this; which, makes this the perfect example of “monkey mind.” The task here is to hear that voice and stop it – that is power!

The fact that you can stop your runaway thoughts will increase your mental control, decrease your stress, and provide many positive benefits to both your mental and physical self.

Changing a habit

You may be asking how a clear mind helps with your habits about now. The answer is rather simple – with a clear mind you are present. You are right where you need to be and not stuck in the past or in the future. This is not religious or spiritual, but logical. If your mind is off thinking about other things, it’s not here helping you now. Lost in thought helps our bad habits by allowing them to go unnoticed.

Changing your habits requires focused observation at a detailed level. You are providing “child care” for the monkey in your mind. You need to take note of how you react in specific situations. Really take notes in a notebook – Journaling[ Link to Journaling Post] will help you keep track of your thoughts. With this new knowledge you can watch for the situation and begin taking different steps, thus changing the behavior. For example, if I get frustrated in a meeting because people “don’t seem to understand” and I begin “teaching them,” what happens? Everyone gets frustrated at me for it and the message I am trying to convey is lost. The habit is a bad one and was hurting my reputation at work. How to change it? I decided to following the rule “listen twice and much as you speak” and I started listening more then speaking in the meetings. I would bite my tongue. Then if I disagreed with an approach or felt someone was off track I would speak with them after the meeting. This was more effective and allowed the other team members to “save face” I was not hurting their reputation with the team and my effectiveness with them increased.

How long should this take?

There was research performed on how long the process to change a habit should take. The traditional answer is 21 days with slight variations also communicated, 28 days, 30 days; however, research performed by a UK Health Behavior Research center ULC found that the average is 66 days to change or create a habit. This is the average and it is possible that the change can take less or more depending on the complexity of the change. For example, if you wanted to walk after lunch it may take you 10 days to make it a habit, but something more complex like eating vegetables with every meal may take closer to a year.

Don’t be discouraged because your habits are not changed within 66 days. Observe the small changes, the small wins, and enjoy the fact that you are continually progressing forward to the goal.

So What’s Next

To be successful at observation you need to clear your head. You need to teach the monkey to sit down and be quiet. This is the only way to gain clarity and focus.  Work on slowing down your environment long enough so you can understand what is happening and how you are reacting to it. I also recommend writing things down. Here are some steps to help you get started.

  1. Begin some simple meditation to observe what your mind is doing
  2. Get a notebook or app that will allow you to take notes
  3. Pick one habit that you want to change and begin your observation
  4. Document each occurrence and the outcome
    • What did you think?
    • What did you do?
    • What was the outcome?
    • Do you think you could have changed the behavior and how?

Good luck with your observations, it is a very powerful skill and can help with more then just habits.

Antifragility: Beyond Agility (March 11) #Agile NYC

Please join me in NYC today to support my friend Si as he discusses Anti-fragility and Agile at Agile NYC.

 

Si-Alhir

Agile NYC March 2015 with Si Alhir

AgileNYC

Wednesday, March 11, 2015 from 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM (EDT)

New York, NY

Tickets are Here

Quote: Can you bear your habits to others?

“A man who can’t bear to share his habits is a man who needs to quit them.”
Stephen King, The Dark Tower

Quote: Your beliefs become your thoughts

“Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

Focus on your habits in 2015

Welcome to the New Year and now what are you going to do with it? I was reading the Zen Habits post this week and it inspired me to share. The post covers some topics I’ve also spoken about on my blog. Seemed like a great place to start for 2015.

  1. Focus on habits and not goals — Last year I posted about habits, “Leveraging Habits to Complete all your Goals” and “We are our habits, and it’s time to change them“. Changing your habits will have a stronger and longer lasting impact on your life compared to just working to goals. Habits are harder to change, but how many goals have you kept over the past year? Try focusing on the habits that will make a difference for you. For example, I have been working on my sleep schedule. I have found that I waste time staying up late, but when I get up early I get so much more accomplished before the day even begins.

Like we see in the Zen Habit’s post, create a 2015 monthly calendar to focus your efforts. For each month pick a habit you would like to have or change. In addition, I would also make a note to yourself of why you are working on this habit.

What would your year look like? 

  • January – Sleeping: Change the time I go to bed and get up. Increases morning productivity
  • February – Language: Focus on learning a new language
  • March – [cont …]
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

 

Quote: Within Us

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson