Monday, February 17, 2020

Positively Social



I was planning to write a post this week about positivity in management. And, I think I will, eventually. I have many thoughts, and a few notes on my dark forays into, well, darkness. But, instead, this week, I want to talk about the positivity of social media.

Listen, I’m not Pollyanna about much, and certainly not social media. It’s a time suck. It’s false social and often poor media. It’s disjointed and siloing. It’s hateful and harmless. All that bad exists in social. But there are bright spots of good. That’s what I want to showcase this week.
Work for many museum managers has gotten real recently, I suspect. If your fiscal year i
begins July 1, you’ve gotten past the blurry fun of the first half of the year and moved into budgeting. You are looking at spreadsheets. You’re trying to make tough choices. It’s keeping you up at night.
At the same time, if you’re in this field as both an avocation and a vocation, you can’t help but hear the constant drumbeat of change. The quicksand of philanthropy is underneath, and our footing feels precarious. I’ve buttonholed more than one colleague to try to talk about real solutions for salary equity. The problems in this field are real, and so many of us want to be the ones to solve them. Though, these solutions will only occur if we talk more.

I’m so lost as to how we’re going to get out of the mess that is the equitable support of arts and culture in the age of billionaires. It’s a big ole mess, frankly. That said, I know I’m solving this with others.

Enter social media. I started a conversation about salary as a percentage of operating costs. Mostly, I was trying to understand how to make sense of the field. I wanted some outside perspective. So many people responded, like Michelle Moon of the Tenement and Bruce Wyman of USD-Mach Design Consulting. Their conversations with me helped me continue and expand my ideas. It might have been a moment in their days but it had a big impact on me. I suspect many of us have dropped a note on social, without much thought, that had an impact on others. It might not be social like your coffee meetings with live colleagues at work, but it is a social form of meaning-making. I am truly appreciative of this resource.

Which brings me to the larger comment about social media. Museums are a very small sector (though larger than coal-mining!). The scale might feel suffocating. It’s hard to be in this a while and not know everyone. But, it’s also wonderful. It’s great to be in this a while and know everyone. The power of connections is what makes this whole crazy fieldwork. I suspect, and tried to test this on Twitter, but didn’t quite hit it right, everyone is about three degrees from everyone else. 


Think about that. Everyone can find someone else who can help them within three degrees. I’m not talking about a popularity contest. Being cool or popular isn’t the point. Instead, it’s about being three degrees from someone who can help you with your thoughts. Or being three degrees from someone you can help. We’re in a position, largely due to social, where we can make collective action happen every day on social media. Art Museum Transparency is one good example of this; as are #MuseumsRespondtoFerguson and #Museumsarenotneutral.

What are the ways you can make a positive impact, one social connection at a time? 

Next week, we’re going to talk about how the quirky parts of our job can be positive. Do you have a story to share about something positive that resulted from doing the “other duties as assigned” parts of your job? Tag me so I can add your thoughts to this month’s summary post @artlust on twitter, @_art_lust_ on IG, & @brilliantideastudiollc on FB. 




Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Positivity starts with you





Pollyanna was one of my godmother’s favorite movies. It seemed a bit like a fable, this girl who looked for the good in everything. I hadn’t spent enough time with people to be think it was an unreachable fiction. But the world depicted was so divorced from my own life as to be basically as unlikely as ET.

Years later though, I remember hearing someone call another colleague a Pollyanna. I was surprised by their derision. Pollyanna wasn’t hurting anyone with her behavior. She was just trying to do her best playing the cards she was dealt. But, then I found myself interacting with the forced cheeriness of “I’m happy” colleagues. They wouldn’t speak negativity because they didn’t want to take sides, say. Or they would only talk about the successes, say. There were also the people whose idea of forecasting the future and budgeting was basically storytelling and conjuring. These were the people who call problems  “opportunities.” These folks use positivity as a coping mechanism and a shield. They often project, and even push, their attitude onto others. They don’t dig deeper into negativity. But like so many facades, the ugliness underneath remains. Potemkin villages don’t flourish; they just shine in the moment of inspection.

Why do people do this? Seeing the negative, voicing the reasons for such issues, and then finding solutions are all really hard to do. It’s hard to be willing to speak truth to power; it’s even harder to speak your own truths. You might be fooled by others (I know I often am), but the people many are most fooled by are themselves. So, people honest with problems is hard. Now, honesty is not negativity, though they can be kissing cousins. Honesty is about sharing good and bad.

Negativity is dwelling in the bad. They can sound like the same language. The difference with negativity is that it persists, permutating and propagating itself. Negativity has a velocity that can feel explosive. And, negativity loves power vacuums. So, the so-called Pollyannas often avoid negativity, in the way someone might avoid a potentially addictive drug.  Negativity feels good, at once a release of energy and people validating your fear.

But like a reformed sinner, I know the cost to your soul of negativity in the work place. The toxicity can erode your well-being. It fuels you, while at the same taking energy away from you. Negativity can eventually colonize your mind, and like a virus, just feed itself.

So, how do you not fall prey to the pull of negativity but also not be a Pollyanna? I don’t know if I have a universal answer. But, for me, it’s a bit about vigilance. You are the only one who can remind yourself to not be negative. You are also the person who has to remind yourself to be realistic. You might tell me that you can do your best at being positive, but you are mired in a toxic workplace. 

And, I’ll tell you the fight is real. I’ve been there. But, the best thing I did, and I had the means to do so, was to leave. I also made the very conscious choice not to continue to let my mental processes go back to that place. Old mental habits feel better than your most comfortable shoes. They’re well-worn paths are where your mind, if not trained, will take you. You have to push your mind to other, more positive paths. And, putting up a fa├žade of positivity won’t keep you off those dark paths. Your mind will take you there when you’re in your quiet moments or when the stress short circuits you.

Try this. On a given day, measure your reactions. How many of them were realistic, but positive? How many were hopeful? How many were about growth and improvement? How many of them were defeatist or negative? Be honest with yourself on these answers. After you tally your responses, try to make one more positive reaction tomorrow. Give yourself a couple weeks of being a bit more positive. Then assess how you feel. If this move toward positivity feels good, what does it hurt? Who knows—you might be glad of the change.

Pollyanna wasn’t a fool. Being positive is just as easy as not. If you aren’t pushing people into false positivity or shaming people for their level of negativity, your positivity can make doing work easier. And, I do believe there is plenty of good in every work day if you look for it. As Pollyanna said, there is something about everything that you can be glad about, if you keep hunting long enough to find it.” You are the one who can find sources of gladness in your work life.


Is positivity part of your work process? Tag me so I can add your thoughts to this month’s summary post @artlust on twitter, @_art_lust_ on IG, & @brilliantideastudiollc on FB. 


Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Positivity, Time, and Work


Last week turned into an empirical study in my own personal goal for the year (being kind to myself). I had written most of last week’s post at the beginning of the month. I only needed to dump it from the temporary file into blogger, but I couldn’t find the five minutes. Sure, there were five minutes somewhere. But, mentally, I just couldn’t. And, I could have beaten myself up. I could have thought of the scores of loyal readers, most of whom predate my authorship. I could have worried that people might be waiting for my post. Or I could do what I said in January. I could let it go. I could give myself a break. 

So, instead of stressing, I’m going to combine the last post for January and the first one of February. The topic for February will be about work and positivity. How do we harness positivity to make our own work better? 

For me, one huge step is to be confident in my own abilities, and honest in my weaknesses. Last week reminded me of a weakness. I can ignore work as easily as I can do it. In ignoring work, or procrastinating, I add new labor to my docket. I add the labor of worrying about the work I haven’t done. The worry becomes a shadow looming over me as I do whatever other actions I’m doing with my time. Now, last week, I forced myself not to worry. And, I did a pretty good job. But, it took real effort to stop worrying about undone work. There are times when doing the small task, like just finishing up this post, would be far preferable to the ghost labors of procrastination. 

Positivity in work is about making choices. Which tasks do I have to do to be less stressed? Which issues can I ignore because they don’t need my attention? Which elements of work are out of my control? What elements of this task can I control? When can I enjoy the fruits of my failures, compost for successes? 

Making good choices requires knowing yourself. For January, I was originally going to write about a practical goal I’ve set myself for this year. I’ve been trying to improve my work processes. You’re often the best person to improve yourself. As part of that task, I’m trying what I accomplish each week, and marking down how much of my time is spent doing each type of task (meetings, email, etc). 

I also tried to think critically about how long it takes me to accomplish something. I decided to do an experiment recently. In my early career, time was vast and free, or at least it felt like it. My energy was equally easily replenishable. I’d finish things right. No shortcuts were taken! Extra effort gains extra merit. But as it turns out, there isn’t really extra credit in the workplace. 

For example, two curators can be asked to write the same number of labels. One gets finished in ten hours and the other in twenty. Neither gets more credit than the other (if they’ve co-curated the show). Furthermore, lavishing ten extra hours on labels doesn’t ensure having labels that are twice as good. 

Why? Museum work includes many intellectual labors that draw on deep reserves of knowledge and years of experience. The person putting in ten hours from the example above might actually be putting in 10 hours plus 30 years of reading in the field. The person putting in 20 hours might have only 10 years of reading in the field. So, with 3 times of background, the first writer becomes twice as efficient. That said, experience doesn’t necessarily help. Some people are so mired in their process, and with years of using the same system, frozen in their ways, they can’t get faster at a task. Time, therefore, is not an indicator of quality. There are those people who say but I spent 20 hours on those labels—they can’t be half as good. There is no simple metric to understand how to consider efficiency and effectiveness in intellectual work. A good label is insanely hard to quantify. Just as porn was famously hard to define, good writing is easy to enjoy and hard to measure. 

Good writers are hard to manufacture. I’ve long asked applicants to write a short label based on a catalog entry. (In case you’re wondering, I shred the output after the job is hired. Their intellectual output should not be used for my org’s gain.) I did this because credentials often inveigle hiring managers. Your old prejudices and hang-ups, your own beliefs about credentials, are hanging out in your mind, no matter how you try to avoid it. Then, when you look through resumes, your unconscious brain might move you to a certain candidate. It’s hard then to say you’ve looked at apples and apples. You’re looking at a Harvard apple vs a Community College apple, say. Over the years, I found good writers didn’t come from a single background or training. They weren’t similar in temperament or attitude. Some people can just write. Some can’t. 

So, what does this aside about writing have to do with my experiment? Understanding work, time, and efficiency in museums aren’t easy or universal. Everyone’s process is different, and if you want to understand work in your organization, you should start with you. 

Over the holidays, as it was my first at my new job, I didn’t take a vacation. My boss was away, and I needed to be around. In this quiet period, I did three wildly different types of tasks. I performed an analysis of my organization’s attendance at programs for the last five years, I created the decorations for our new music series, and I worked on labels for an exhibition in our interpretation laboratory.

Data analysis isn’t strictly my job, but I’ve been asking everyone to start using data to help inform decision-making. (Notice I didn’t say drive). I work with a couple of data-obsessed folks, so my analysis was somewhat easy. Everything was at my fingertips, and I’m a bit obsessed with using excel as it was meant to be employed. 45 minutes later, I had some solid graphs and a couple of zip code maps to pour over. I made some quick conclusions and walked away. Later, as I was sending my findings to a colleague, I told them the exercise took me 1 hour. The active time was one hour, but there was that percolating time. It was as critical as my active time. In the workplace, we often don’t allot for these interstitial moments. Putting in the time to ruminate can be challenging, but in the end, essential. Smart workers often chunk rote tasks and/ or various types of tasks in order to allow space for deep thought. Also, it’s important to remember in organizations, work is often accrued time. I wouldn’t have been able to have that time, or data if a couple people hadn’t put in the initial labor to compile my source numbers. So, my 1 hour of work was also someone else’s 20 hours of work. Was all this time worth it? More on that later. 

After the data crunching, and before my analysis, I spent time preparing decorations for an event. It has been a long time since I made things. In an old job, I used to make all sorts of things. I’ve probably made more coasters than I’ll ever need. Most of the jewelry I wear are old samples. And I feel like if everything I’ve screenprinted in my life were lined up, it’d stretch coast to coast. In other words, I’ve got pretty good muscle memory and a great facility with scissors. It took me 20 hours to decorate 20 giant lanterns, make 20 T-shirts, print 4 large rolls of paper, print 80 tote bags, and make 12 banners. Now, I’m excluding the time in bed when I dreamed up the image, the hour to make the image for the screens (done by a colleague), the two hours to burn the screens (done by a dear friend), the half-hour of driving to get the screens and back. Experience not only helped me be efficient but in some ways, it helped me be effective. I chose an evergreen image we can use for years. I focused on big decorations so my efforts were maximized.

But experience also led me down some less smart paths. Work is often about patterns. Imagine you date a crummy person. Rationally, in the end, you say, no more bad people. Two decades later, you might find yourself recalling dozens of crummy people in your past. Museums have a lot of tasks that are terrible dates. For events, for example, you might decide you must have this particular set up. Sure it will mean you lose a weekend, and your porch will stink of indigo dye, but it’s worth it. The mission is worth it, you think. Well, friend, like that bad date, the mission doesn’t care about you. And your choice (I’m looking at you, Seema) was a bad one. I’d gotten into the bad habit of excusing the overage of hours for events and fell back into that pattern. (Though at a particular moment in December, a wiser me stepped in. We ended up with some indigo blue bags but more white ones.) I chose to spend time with my kids over wasting time getting the right blue. 

That’s the thing about work. Every single element is a choice. You might say I need to spend a good deal of time reading and searching before I write that label. You might feel you do your best writing twenty minutes before the deadline. You might think you have to write something out longhand first. Those are all choices. None of those choices are inherently wrong.

As to the last task, the labels, I’ve spent countless hours and none. At first assessment, I’m like the person who took 10 hours to write my labels. (I certainly feel twice as old as many). I’m a fast and slow writer. When I finally get to writing, I’m fast with the keys. But there are hours, weeks even, of time falling into every rabbit hole of research I find. I probably could change this method, but I’m old and I’ve never been good with tricks. Instead, I’ve chosen to set up systems to accommodate my process. I do things that are fast for me, like data crunching and silkscreening, by rote. I choose to sandwich rote tasks with deep tasks to give me time for both. I choose to allot a specific, very short, amount of time for tasks that don’t give me a high yield. 

In the end, I think the prepping data was a good use of my time particularly given that did the deep thinking part while silkscreening. My decorations were a mixed bag. The production was a good effort, but the batch dying wasn’t. While the products are a lovely blue, the products will not appreciably improve the event and as such it’s a poor allocation of my time. 

Finally, the hours I spend thinking about writing are an imperative use of my time. Ideas can be self-propagating but slippery. Their trajectory is hard to track; their path tortuous but exhilarating. In a knowledge field, ideas are our ore. We need them to fuel every part of our organizations and to propel our visitor-engagement. Does my scanning Blaire’s Moskovitz’s regular feature on museum collection connections to award attire look like goofing off? Sure. But then, hours later as I wait for a meeting when her thread sends me down a rabbit hole of colors, design and the science of looking, and then I find myself reenergized to write labels, I know that I wasn’t a detour. It was the scenic route—the richer, more enjoyable path. 

For me, time has an eggs/ basket quality. With these three tasks as my baskets, I decided the labels would take the most time, and that’s where I spent my time. 

Work processes aren’t a given or immutable. Reflecting on the time a task takes and if that is the right amount of time can appreciably improve the way you work and therefore how you feel about work. In the end, you might need to work longer. You might need to do things a certain way you perceive as right. And that is your choice. I made the choices that made me feel the most positive about my work and my output. 

What are some choices you make at work to help you feel good about your labors? Tag me so I can add your thoughts to this month’s summary post @artlust on twitter, @_art_lust_ on IG, & @brilliantideastudiollc on FB. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

NonProfit Work and Us



Alison Koch shared these thoughts originally as part of Museum Computer Network's 2019 Ignite. As I sat in an aerie above the stage, I DM'd her to ask her to share her remarks here. They were that true and that powerful. I hope you enjoy them. 

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Written by Alison Koch

I think us non-profit folks have a particularly complicated relationship with work.

Mission statements can quickly come to justify all sorts of bad habits and behavior, both as perpetrated upon us by leadership and peers, as well as the ways we often end up treating ourselves. I mean, we’re not not curing cancer. Everything feels like it’s on fire, sometimes because the rainforest actually is!

So, on the one hand, we have a meaningful north star – a noble mission – but on the other hand, we are struggling with a unique existential crisis, limited compensation, and sky-high expectations.

How might we re-imagine the future of mission-based work?

First, I think that museums need to think about their staff as a stakeholder group worthy of just as much time, attention, energy, and evaluation as visitors or donors.

What would it look like if we investigated staff turnover with as much rigor as we courted lapsed donors and members? We love a comment card from a visitor, but how can we gather better, honest feedback from staff early and often before they quit or leave the sector? And how do you act on that information to save the relationship? An exit interview is too late.

We also know we can’t just sit around and wait for a magical top-down change. How can we as individuals take steps to make this meaningful work feel like a sustainable choice in the long-run?

First, please stop beating yourself up. Don’t let the mission be a weapon you wield against yourself. You are doing enough, I promise.

You don’t have to start at “Yes”. Get better at saying “No.” Or “Okay, but I need until June.” If you are forced to stretch or sprint unsustainably, speak up. Document your concern. Explain. Advocate. Don’t just drink your coffee quietly while the room burns down, because you are also flammable.

What small thing can you normalize? What big thing can you break and rebuild? With whatever power you have, do something that makes other people stop and say, “Wait, we can do that?” Every inch we can move in the right direction course-corrects leadership and sets an example for our peers. It’s no small feat.

I’m asking you to stay. We need you. You are too important not to be a part of the future of our work. If we all leave, there’s no one to show us how to do it differently.


Biography: 
Alison Koch is a digital storyteller, technical product manager, design thinker, dog mama, and perpetual American Sign Language student, currently serving as the inaugural Digital Content Producer and strategist at Playwrights Horizons theater in New York City.

First Image credit: Paru Ramesh

The Future of Mission-Based Work

Usually, I'm really positive and optimistic. In many ways, I want to believe the future is what we can make. Though, sometimes when I do literature review for projects, I find myself depressed on the future of the field. There are so many possible futures that would suck. How do we make sure the future is the one we want?

Alison Koch offers her thoughts about this. I included these ideas in a month about wellness, because as you see from her remarks, the future is about each of us.

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Written by Alison Koch


I think us non-profit folks have a particularly complicated relationship with work.

Mission statements can quickly come to justify all sorts of bad habits and behavior, both as perpetrated upon us by leadership and peers, as well as the ways we often end up treating ourselves. I mean, we’re not not curing cancer. Everything feels like it’s on fire, sometimes because the rainforest actually is!

So, on the one hand, we have a meaningful north star – a noble mission – but on the other hand, we are struggling with a unique existential crisis, limited compensation, and sky-high expectations.

How might we re-imagine the future of mission-based work?

First, I think that museums need to think about their staff as a stakeholder group worthy of just as much time, attention, energy, and evaluation as visitors or donors.

What would it look like if we investigated staff turnover with as much rigor as we courted lapsed donors and members? We love a comment card from a visitor, but how can we gather better, honest feedback from staff early and often before they quit or leave the sector? And how do you act on that information to save the relationship? An exit interview is too late.

We also know we can’t just sit around and wait for a magical top-down change. How can we as individuals take steps to make this meaningful work feel like a sustainable choice in the long-run?

First, please stop beating yourself up. Don’t let the mission be a weapon you wield against yourself. You are doing enough, I promise.

You don’t have to start at “Yes”. Get better at saying “No.” Or “Okay, but I need until June.” If you are forced to stretch or sprint unsustainably, speak up. Document your concern. Explain. Advocate. Don’t just drink your coffee quietly while the room burns down, because you are also flammable.

What small thing can you normalize? What big thing can you break and rebuild? With whatever power you have, do something that makes other people stop and say, “Wait, we can do that?” Every inch we can move in the right direction course-corrects leadership and sets an example for our peers. It’s no small feat.

I’m asking you to stay. We need you. You are too important not to be a part of the future of our work. If we all leave, there’s no one to show us how to do it differently.

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Biography
Alison gave these remarks as part of her 2019 Ignite Talk for Museum Computer Network.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

On Staff Wellbeing


This month we're talking about wellbeing. Last week, I told you some of my thoughts about my own wellbeing plan for the year.

Before I turn the blog over, I'm going to tell you the truth. I'm a workaholic. It might be obvious, given a full-time job, consulting practice, and weekly blog. I've thought a great deal about myself. How much of this is healthy? From my own side, I have so much energy, if I don't find plenty to keep my brain busy, I can go awry. But, as a manager, what does it show for my staff?

While I've always encouraged my teams to take time for themselves. I haven't always done this myself. Recently, I've really tried to turn off completely. I sent an email at 6 PM on 12/20 to a contractor. I received an out of office saying that emails received until 1/6 would be deleted. Now, I'm not sure I'd want to make people resend their emails, but the impetus of that out of office was to create a system of sanity when you return from holiday. In many ways, that's the key to wellness and work for me. Make choices that don't make it harder for you in the long run. So, if the pile of emails after vacation is stressful, then find ways not to have that.

This thoughtful approach to work and wellness is at the heart of the blog post for this week from Laura Crossley.

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Written by Laura Crossley

Our wellbeing can affect how we feel about our lives, jobs, and relationships. It’s an essential part of us and something that is precious and needs to be cared for. Wellbeing at work can be affected by lots of factors, such as relationships with managers and colleagues, the amount of involvement people have with organizational issues and decision-making, job design and the level of control individuals have over their own work, work demands, and the acceptability of flexible working.

Writing on organizational resilience will tell you that staff wellbeing is important because it helps organizations; staff who feel good perform better, are more willing to go the extra mile, take fewer sick days, and are more likely to stay at an organization in the long-term. These are, of course, all great reasons to support the wellbeing of your staff. However, I’d argue this isn’t just about developing more resilient organizations; surely being nice to colleagues, showing kindness and empathy, and treating people with respect is basic human decency and ethically the right thing to do?

Self-care is important and it’s helpful to know the things we can do as individuals to boost our wellbeing but it’s not good enough to treat colleagues badly and think that’s okay because they can look after themselves. Employers and organizations have a moral and ethical responsibility to support the wellbeing of their staff and (in here in the UK, at least), a legal responsibility too.

So, as well as doing the basics of treating people with respect, what else can organizations do to support and promote staff wellbeing? As a starter, I’d suggest:

  • Put in place effective policies for managing people issues such as grievances and bullying, make sure staff are aware of these policies, and - crucially – ensure the policies are followed if complaints arise.
  • Give staff clear information about how to get wellbeing support inside and outside your organization. It shouldn’t be a chore to find out where to get advice and help.
  • Promote an environment where people feel as comfortable as possible talking about their mental health and how they are feeling.
  • Ensure jobs are reasonable and appropriate and give staff as much control as possible over their work. If you are a natural micromanager, I implore you to please consider the wellbeing of your staff and learn to resist the temptation to oversee every detail of someone’s job.
  • Empower, involve and value staff; ensure they feel comfortable about voicing concerns and include them, where possible, in decision-making. Communicate openly and often.
  • Encourage people to take breaks and holidays. Staff are people, not machines.
  • Cultivate a positive email culture. Do not expect people to respond to you when they are not working.
  • Invest in training for managers to help them manage empathetically and in a people-centered way.
  • Celebrate individual and team achievements and say thank you – it’s really easy and makes a big difference.

These are just some ideas and I’d love to hear what works for you and people in your organization.

We talk a lot in the sector about how the work we do has a positive impact on the wellbeing of visitors and participants. We congratulate ourselves on a job well done. But if your personal and organizational practices are negatively affecting staff wellbeing, I’d say there’s not a lot to celebrate. If we are truly to become a sector that promotes positive wellbeing, staff wellbeing must be made a priority.


Biography 
Laura is Head of Content at the National Football Museum, Manchester, UK, where she is responsible for overseeing collections, exhibitions, learning and community work. Laura is on Twitter at @lfcrossley

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Wellness and Personal Intentions


This month, the topic is wellness. Self-care is part of wellness, certainly. But wellness is bigger than yourself. In a workplace, everyone’s individual self care impacts the overall wellness of the organization. One person burned out behaviors can start a tidal wave of negativity through an organization. (That said, that burnout is likely a result of poor structures in the org; but that’s a topic for another month.) So, this month, the topic is thinking about wellness individually and how it impacts work.
January is the traditional month for imagining a better you. It’s the time when you focus on good intentions, and then at the first stumble, you start feeling like a failure. It’s a month of high hopes and low vibes.
So, let’s spend this month talking about good intentions but doing away with low vibes. The low vibes comes in part from the arbitrary nature of choosing January 1 as the date for your resolutions.
Time is a construct. January is the beginning of the year as part of an old Roman clerical choice. April 1 had been New Years. Some faiths have New Years in the fall.
Point is: pick a day, and feel free to make it your day to make an intention. But day two is often when the low vibes start. For example, let’s say today I’m gung ho about writing. I’m going to promise myself to write every day. Imagine tomorrow morning I have a crack of dawn flight and then a crazy day of meeting and then family responsibilities and then...Point is, every day is variable. Any one day can foil your plans. If your goal is everyday for a year, you’ve lost a whole year of dreams in two days. But, that’s because you gave yourself very little wiggle room and your intention was huge.
Now wiggle room is tricky. If you hope to do better in the world, you’ve got so much latitude anything will satisfy your goal. As long as you don’t call all your colleagues idiots and cut people off in traffic, you’ve succeeded in your goal.
Huge intentions are also tricky. For some people, they are just the ticket. These are also the people who’ve lived a life of succeeding in tiny goals. Their life is full of positive feedback loops. ‘Write a book this year’ can actually happen for them. I made that intention one year. Before that, I’d written many, many published works. I’d written essays, books, and labels. In other words, I’d trained. And success has trained me. I made a giant intention, but I’d set myself up to succeed.
Setting Goals isn’t like planning an escape room. You’re not trying to set up a system where you have a 99% chance of not doing it. You’re setting up an intention for something you have a likelihood of doing. Pick something where the odds are good but without work not great. If it is something you’ve already done okay, make a huge intention. It will motivate you, and you’ve trained yourself up. If it is new, set up smaller intentions. Like, if you dream of writing a book, set down mini goals: I’ll write 1000 words this week of free writing, say. But notice, my intention above is concrete and achievable. It’s not like the wiggly intention of doing better. It’s also got a bit of wiggle room, in that I give myself one week to write a set of words, rather than giving myself daily targets. Assign yourself this goal every week for two months, and you might have the level of success to give yourself daily word count targets. Or you might decide reading is more your speed than writing. And either answer is okay.
Which brings me to my intention for the year. I’m choosing a single big intention for the year. But I’ve been training up. I spent the last couple years consulting. I worked a lot; and I loved the work I was doing. One year, I decided I needed to get ideas out there, but I didn’t have the money for an editor. (Any reader of this blog can tell ;) ) But I also decided my ideas mattered, and I wouldn’t be hard on myself for typos. I had the best editor in the world at my old job. I just never learned the skills to catch my own mistakes. It irked me at first to have so many typos on my blog. I’m the sort of person who finds typos in The Times in seconds. Then I realized I am no more or less smarter than I was when I had an editor. If I need the ideas out there, I’ll just give myself a break about the typos. They annoyed me when I reread my writing at first. Now a couple years later, I just shrug and fix them. And, my life changed drastically from my blogging. People wanted to hire me. The positive feedback loop proved being gentle on myself was worth it.
With this one practice experience under my belt, this year my intention is to give myself a break in all aspects of my life. I’m going to be honest with myself and shrug off missteps. This is not to say I’ll ignore them, but I won’t ruminate on them. I’ll learn from them and then let go.
I’m choosing this goal because I think it will change how I lead. I hope it will have positive effects on my work and my energy. I guess time will tell.  And then I’ll tell you :)
Personal goals can have big impact on the work place. How you see yourself spills out into the world and workplace? Don’t believe me? Pick a drastic change of attitude at the work day. If you don’t generally smile, spend one day deciding you will smile at everyone you see. Come home and write down how your day went. I did this exactly experiment recently. Not with smiling, bc I’m naturally smiley. I decided to walk slow. It was hard. But when I reflected, I noticed more people approached me to talk. I also realized I noticed more things about my work place. Changing for one day, and a small thing, can have big impact. I’m excited for the impact I’ll feel, and through me, my work place when I spend this year giving myself a break.
What are your intentions for the day, month, year? Share here or on social media.