Leave something behind.

Being ill is a pain in the ‘arris.

Hardly a profound philosophical statement, I’d agree. To be fair, it’s also inaccurate unless you have piles.

Which means it depends on the illness, or the consequences thereof in terms of personal productivity.

I have a serious head cold with an uncontrollable cough and a sore throat that seems to improve and then bites me back. I can lessen the quantity of coughing by taking a deep lungful of air but doing that aggravates the throat.

A lot of people (you know them, the ones you work with who get sick about World Cup o’clock) use the tiniest tickle to justify getting their spouse to call the boss ‘because I’m too ill.’ I knew one chap who only ever got sick on Mondays or Fridays, making nearly every weekend just that little bit longer.

Well, I also have a friend who had a serious, life-threatening cancer which required a bone-marrow transplant and he spent a month in an isolation ward preparing case files and related documents for an investigation he was involved in. Gawd Bless Wi-Fi.

Recollection of which suddenly made me feel like a fraud, hence the fact I’m blogging while coUGh9jbg my guts up.

It IS true that, in workplace terms, no-one notices you’ve gone when you leave (although I left a couple of big ‘you-sort-it-outs’ when I left). Within a surprisingly sobering and short lapse of time, they don’t need your input anymore. They learn to cope.

Maybe.

But that shouldn’t stop you trying to leave some kind of legacy.

Find opportunities to develop new protocols, to train others, to write professional articles and even books. The learning you get while doing that can be immensely useful, and you get a reputation. A GOOD one. And the opportunities that follow can be equally rewarding. The people I’ve met and the work I have influenced over the past 20 years because I did those things are my legacy, even if it all does get forgotten when the people I worked with float off into the ether. (And I read a book that suggested it, so it’s not entirely my idea.)

Until then, I say give it all you’ve got. Do more than expected and think outside the proverbial for ways to teach and influence others.

Like all those people YOU remember.

A bit of fun.

A few amusing timesavers, today, just for fun. (Still a bit flu-ey.)

  1. Christmas films. They always turn out fine in the end. Even in July.
  2. The guy they arrest at 40 minutes into a US crime drama never, ever did it.
  3. The man/woman witness they talk to briefly at the start of said drama, and never see again? If they did it in something else, they did it in this one.
  4. If you had to wait the correct amount of time for a DNA result in NCIS you’d still be sat there watching it next week. If they aren’t busy.
  5. Ask any copper how much fun it is to see Special Agent Gibbs have a full prosecution file in by the end of the shift that started with that murder.
  6. In NCIS, they often phone their office and ask them to send an ambulance. WTF??? Phone ‘em yourself!
  7. ‘Trending’. People follow trends, they seldom ‘lead’ them.
  8. #Overusing #hashtags #that #no-one #will #ever #conduct #searches #on #is #annoying.
  9. The time you spend touring shops to get better deals. How much petrol did you use??
  10. How much time and data does it take to upload a picture of your dinner and the associated witty bon mot? Amusing nobody in the process.
  11. How many hours did you spend watching I’m A Cooking Celebrity Skating on a Love Island in Chelsea Shore last week?
  12. Pop Stars. If your song intro is long enough for an ‘ooooooohhhh’ and a ‘yeeaaah’ and a ‘mmmmmmmmm’ it’s to flipping long. Shorten it, or just shut up.
  13. LinkedIn users. See that quote by Richard Branson that has 1 billion likes? I’ve bloody seen it and so has 1/6 of the population of the planet. Do NOT share again.
  14. How fiddly is it to pick up your phone when in a rush, only to ring someone to say, “I’m just entering your building”?
  15. Move along, no more to see here.

 

The Institute of Advanced Existence.

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I teach people advanced driving. Friends who have known me since I learned to drive still don’t believe that. In fact, given my history, I have some trouble convincing myself that I can behave, but I can.

Most of the time. 😊

Lying in my sick bed these last three days, hence my absence, it struck me that the System of Car Control for police driving – which is the advanced template – is a great metaphor for life and self/time)-management.

The system’s mnemonic for an approach to any hazard is IPSGA, which means Information (what’s happening?), position (where do I need to be?), speed (need I slow down?), gear (what’s the best gear for getting through?) and acceleration (drive through and away to the next hazard).

The information phase isn’t just looked at once – it envelopes all the other phases so that, if the situation changes, you can re-enter the system at the appropriate point. (In the olden days of 2.8i Ford Granadas there was a requirement to do it all over again. And to learn all the definitions by heart.)

Isn’t that a great approach to any goal, challenge, opportunity, project or task?

There’s an event that I wish to bring under control.

  • What information do I have, or need? Where can I get it? Who can help, what might be a threat to my success? Information.
  • What’s the current position and what changes may (or may not) be needed?
  • How quickly should I start – do I rush in without thought, or is my current rate of approach just right? Need I slow down to allow more thinking time?
  • What equipment (gear) do I need? Do I need the latest whizz-bang laptop or can I do what’s needed on my phone? Am I working with the right team?
  • And once all that is settled and in hand – we can make serious progress.

In driving, doing any of that in the wrong order causes accidents (worst case), clumsiness (less impactive) and gives an accurate impression of total incompetence.

The same applies to managing projects, surely? And ourselves.

Some people don’t like advanced driving. They think it’s done by big heads and wannabe cops. Driving, they have decided, is ‘easy’ and a ‘chore’.

I look at the driving experience as something to enjoy, something to master, and something where I should seek the maximum levels of competence that I can. Which, incidentally, protects my family.

I wonder if some people’s lives reflect the same line of thinking.

Is your life a chore, or something to be enjoyed, mastered and done well?

 

Go to www.iamroadsmart.com for info on driving really, really fast and well better.

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Me driving the Nissan GTR 800bhp Fast and Furious Model. Sweeeeeeeet.

Read three lines, then act accordingly.

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If this post just popped up in some kind of inbox and you were alerted to it, let me suggest that you open the tab and then go back to what you were doing. Read it later, when you have a clear, spare two minutes.

Can you imagine if other people did that? Allowed YOU to decide when to be interrupted?

I have noticed that people are now imitating mobile phones. (Eh?*) When a phone rings, we answer it without thought. We have adapted to the urgency implied by the self-selected, jolly amusing ringtone and, even if we are engaged with someone else, will usually interrupt ourselves and answer it.

Unconsciously, people have now adopted the belief that they are smartphones, and I bet you have experienced the situation where you are chatting to a colleague and someone interrupts – and the conversation sways that way instead of where it was. Absolutely unbelievable and incredibly RUDE.

A wise man speaking as I did a spin session said, “An interruption is something that happens when someone thinks you care.” I like that. It’s a little blunt and it doesn’t apply to all interruptions, of course – but it is funny.

Interruptions – unwelcome interruptions – are those events that interfere in an untimely way with what we are doing that is more important. If an event intercedes with what we’re already engaged in, but the new event is more important, it is NOT an interruption – it is a new priority until it is effectively dealt with, even if that only means arranging the response for a later, better time.

That’s why a firefighter isn’t ‘interrupted’ by a fire alarm – that is their job and their greater priority. And given the aforementioned definition, they care.

But a lot of ‘interruptions’ are lesser priorities, and we need to (a) manage ourselves to have the discipline to negate their impact and (b) teach other smartphone-people that their urgency is not necessarily ours. (In fact, we often need to teach people that their urgency is their fault, but each occurrence has its own characteristics and we can’t generalise. Some such interruptions need our input.)

The proper response to a needless interruption is – “I’m sorry, I can’t deal with that now*, come back at/email me about it.”

I was once asked by a manager how he could prevent unnecessary interruptions. I asked him if he, like many managers in the organisation, routinely left his office door open. He replied that he did.

“Close it when you’re busy,” I suggested. He later provided feedback to the effect that shutting his door when busy was the most effective time-saver he’d ever used.

The key to managing interruptions is to know what your priorities are, plan your time to maximise the impact you have on those priorities, and manage everything else around that plan.

And ensure you communicate that system to those around you. If they know how you manage, they can adapt their needs (priorities, plan, execution) around yours, too. And little fleas have smaller fleas, as they say – the systematic approach to work, properly communicated, cascades downhill until only those interruptions that matter come to your attention.

Which in itself frees up enough of your time to make reading this article the best use of your time – and the best thing you have learned – today.

You’re welcome.

 

*American readers – ‘Eh?’ ‘now’ is UK English for ‘Wait, what?’ and ‘now’ is UK English for ‘Right now’. I am bi-lingual.

Misery is Optional – I know that, now.

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In time management terms, there have been only a few writers whose works have properly impacted that science. Alec R McKenzie and Alan Lakein are two, but for me the three ‘greats’ are Charles R Hobbs, Stephen R Covey and Hyrum W. Smith, Covey passed away in 2012, Hobbs earlier this year and, two days ago, Smith passed for too quickly after a cancer diagnosis in his mid-70s. But in Smith’s case, the work of most relevance to me at the moment is one he called ‘Pain is Inevitable: Misery is Optional.’

What’s that got to do with time management?

Time management, looked at in its essence, means focus. It means doing the best thing at the optimum time with maximum attention, whether you want to or not.
We can schedule a lot of ‘best things’ and do them at the most appropriate moment, but focus – that’s down to us.

As I have implied in previous posts, I recently made a mistake. The consequences did not have to be what they were but remaining in the situation wasn’t an option because of the way it came about. I’m not blameless in my ‘downfall’ by any stretch, but the whole thing could have been better dealt with by some of the others involved.(Okay, me too.)

Since that time, I have walked my dog nearly every day, and nearly every day the events repeatedly arose in my mind. This happened so much that I created a psychological connection between the walk and the event, which meant reliving the ‘what if’s and the ‘who did’s. Constantly, on every walk.

Until today.

When I got the news of Hyrum’s death, I started reviewing some of his writing. There were a few Kindle samples viewed, but then I remembered ‘Pain’, and this morning I read the opening pages between a 60-minute spin cycle (I came out very clean) and the aforementioned dog-walk. And two things occurred to me.

As he wrote of his own mistake (worse than mine, heavier, longer-term consequences to his spiritual wellbeing) and the experiences of the 9/11 families, among other things, I realised my woes are teeny weeny in comparison. I also remembered that this kind of setback has happened to me before and I’ve bounced back – usually better.

I gave ‘The Event’ no thought on the walk. Sure, a particular tree or corner reminded me of it, but I gave it no further thought. It’s finished.

The mental space needed for creativity and focus on the important things mean that we must acknowledge that any negative event that hurt us in the past needs to be kept there so that our mental energy can be better used on the now, and on the future.

The pain of a negative experience is temporary. I think 7 weeks isn’t that long to ‘feel’ it. But the misery I felt became, after a time, a reactive choice. Today, thanks to Hyrum, I made a better, proactive one.

Namaste, everyone. And RIP, Hyrum.

HWS

 

 

 

A Challenge.

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Yesterday I promoted the idea of designing or buying a systemised personal organiser so that instead of living moment to moment ‘as it comes’ you can live moment to moment ‘by design’. I’d gamble a lot of readers would have resisted the idea for any number of reasons (which are all covered in my book, Police Time Management).

We all live by ‘forms’. We’re constantly filling out applications, invoices, receipts, requests and other things because someone else wants them. I would wager that, right now (American for ‘now’, by the way), you have some forms in front of you for completion, or from which you will elicit some specific data pertinent to your current role. Am I right? I am.

So why not have your own forms which suit your situation and make your life better?

Although I currently use a purchased system, I did design my own system and use it in the same way. I designed forms on Word, printed them on A4 (Folio) paper, punched the pages using a 4-hole punch from a stationers, and kept them all – along with records, documents, receipts, booking confirmations and reference materials in a Wenger document case, although I also managed to find a leather A4 Filofax* binder in perfect condition for £2 in a charity shop, once. Bargain! (Remember, how to do all of that is downloadable HERE for free and at no risk.)

Everything I needed could be carried in that case, and anything that came into my possession could go into it, too. It cost me about £30, but here’s a BIG clue to saving on binders – use EBay. I’ve bought some £100+ binders there for a tenner, including the one I use at the moment. But go for the best quality you can, and Wenger is high quality at a ‘sensible’ price. That said, if you don’t need additional pockets, pen-loops or rain-proofing, any 4-ring binder can do the job.

Size is important.

A5/Statement size with 7-ring binders are available from Franklinplanner.com or daytimers.com (or co.uk) and form availability is excellent. I find them a teeny bit pricey but the quality is good and the size is probably the smallest most users should go. The diary pages address most needs.

BUT

If you are in any doubt about using a system like this, get an A4 binder and a 4-ring paper punch, print 30-31 of the below page back-to-back, read the free book so you know how to prepare and use it, and try it for a month. If you find it does serve you, consider whether to continue using it (adapting it as you feel suits you) or buying a posh system for Christmas. (You do NOT need another digital device or another jumper.)

I dare you.

1 day page diary page link

*£2!!

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He needed 10,000 men – and a planner.

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Yesterday, at a regional event for a national association to which I belong, one of the organisers was briefing the assembled members on planned events for the near and medium future. As he did so, I took out my trusted ‘Filofax’ (a generic term used by the uninformed for personal planning systems) and entered one such event into the appropriate monthly page for March 2020.

With a well-meaning chuckle, a friend commented, “Your whole life is in there, isn’t it?”

To be frank, not all of my life is in there, but a lot of the planned future events are. Along with planned assembly of materials, menus, referential data, booking references, confirmations and other bumf that might be needed to ensure that the said event goes smoothly. It is also, of course, a diary/record of what I do in a day – contacts and conversations, expenses incurred and (occasionally) bills paid, and notes of meetings that I can transcribe into a fuller form later, for example.

Modernists would quite rightly imply that a lot of what I am describing can equally efficiently be organised on a smartphone, and they would be right. Provided that any task list allows you to set priorities, organise around context (GTD) or roles or other criterion. Provided that your diary can attach small documents to a diary entry (which many can but it’s as fiddly as fish). Provided – and this is a major one in our modern era – you can refer to it in three years’ time when you need an alibi!

(I’m only partially joking, here. As I write, it’s Prince Andrew’s turn in the barrel about whether or not he spent time with a consenting adult (UK)/statutory rape victim (US) in 2001. That’s as I understand it and I take no sides or view on the matter. This is a time management blog, nothing more. I reckon if he had a diary……….I’m surprised no-one’s asked. )

The beauty of paper is that it doesn’t get lost in a drawer when your new 2-year diary/data/texts/calls contract update comes along and you don’t transfer all the old stuff to the new device. And don’t anyone tell me that they routinely do so – I’d happily challenge anyone who relies solely on their ‘phone to look up what they were doing on the 3rd of November 2016. I can.

(Four Daily Telegraph crosswords, a Speakers Club evening event, some shopping trip. And a Brexit decision was delayed in a High Court decision. Gina Miller’s, I expect. I could check.)

Of course, on any device you can keep/store some material related to the events you attend, but with a paper system you can still make a reference to which ‘actual’ computer you keep your source documentation. And the ‘screen’ is often bigger.

In effect, in either case – paper or device – there are compromises to be made. It’s very much a personal choice, and your situation may influence the choice you make.

If it’s to cumbersome a system to carry, you can always do what I do. In the event I am ‘away from my planner’ I have been known to send myself emails from one account to another, as a reminder to enter something important into my planner, when I can. This is actually more efficient than writing a phone note because (guess what?) you probably rarely check the notes you make on your phone. Have a look, now. Any ancient notes that are no longer relevant, that make you go, “Oooh! I’d forgotten that!”

In the final analysis, my advice is – just have a system. A reliable, wide-ranging system that consists of more than an A6 diary. You can design it yourself using free, downloadable advice HERE* and put it into an A4 binder for fourpence ‘apenny. It’s amazing – every letter you receive, any document or email you print, and sizeable record you need to keep, can all be printed onto A4 paper and kept in an A4 planning system.

Today’s homework is to download that free doc – you don’t have to register or anything, I don’t want your email address – and decide, after reading it, if there’s anything there that you can use.

I hope you find it useful. Prince Andrew would have.

 

*Look for this!

How To Cover

Even he failed – but made no excuse.

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A wise man once wrote, “I personally struggle with much of what I have shared (in this book). But the struggle is worthwhile and fulfilling. It gives meaning to my life and enables me to love, to serve – and to try again. The challenge to live with integrity is always in front of me.” (My italics.)

We all make mistakes. I recently made a monumental one. But the beauty of mistakes made by people with integrity is that (a) the pain is lessened because you know you can and will do better and (b) those who know you, know (a).

And we all make excuses. I have a philosophy on excuses. It goes like this – when you say why something happened and you acknowledge your part in it, that’s a ‘reason’. When you fail to acknowledge your own part in an error, you’re making an ‘excuse’.

The difference is subtle and relates to your integrity. You know when you are making one or the other. If you (normally) have a high level of personal integrity and you make an excuse – you know you’re doing so.

As alluded to by the writer of the opening quote, every moment is an opportunity to start again. Time, being linear, will not allow us to relive and repair the error before or as it is being made. But it does mean we can make a better decision, next time. Another of my favoured authors describes how trying to change the past is like firing an arrow into concrete – it bounces off and nothing changes. But firing an arrow into the future is like launching it into fresh earth – it can stick and be a guide. (I’m torturing the metaphor a bit, but you know what I’m getting at.)

I write on personal development and time management. Occasionally I will use current affairs to illustrate my points but the main focus is on counselling readers on a philosophy that might just improve their lives. Like them, I struggle with living 100% in keeping with the words I put on paper (except in time management, I’ve pretty much got that down pat). I occasionally make excuses for those times I fail to walk my talk as well as I should.

But I’m in good company. The author of the opening quote is Stephen R. Covey who, as you surely know by now, wrote the greatest book on principle-centred living ever written, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, which is NOT a business book, even though it’s usually found in that section of a bookstore. (Still, after 30 years in print.)

If HE found it hard, I’ll live with my inability to do the same. But that’s not an excuse. It’s an acceptance of my imperfections. I’m still going to try hard. And then try again. And again. For as long as it takes and for as long as I live.

And if, on the day before I leave this mortal existence, it suddenly all gels – it would have been worth the effort.

(Blimey. I even impressed me with that line.)

Try hard. Keep trying. Do your best, accept reasons and challenge your own excuses.

The people around you – family and friends – will recognise this when you occasionally err. And that, my friends, is amazingly consoling when you fail.

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Demi and Aragorn tell us how to beat the Bell.

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Hell Week. A term made famous by US Navy Seal training, when B/UDS volunteers go to the selection course to find out if they have what it takes to be a member of one of the world’s most elite special forces units. Famously immortalised in the 1997 Demi Moore film, G.I. Jane, which also starred Viggo Mortensen (but you might not remember because he wasn’t Aragorn, yet).

There are a couple of scenes where the trainers show the trainees the Bell. Traditionally, trainees who decide part way through the training that this isn’t for them go to the Bell and ring it, announcing their shame-faced surrender.

I recently read a quote from a senior SEAL officer, and the gist of it was that he could tell the ones who’d take to campanology the minute he saw them. They would be very fit young men and women, but there was an air of pose, of mock strength hidden by all the shaped musculature. In essence, he suggested that for all that apparent physical tone, the motivation behind it was narcissistic and would fail at the first challenge. And he’s usually correct.

The true SEAL (and by extension Royal Marine, SAS Trooper, GSG9 Kommando and so on) has all the physical capabilities required of their role, but they also possess deep character strength.

I think they may also possess a mental approach which supports that strength. I think they know that when all is said and done – the pain stops, eventually.

They know that the discomfort, the effort and the pain are all temporary states. They know from experience that it’s hurt before, but it stopped hurting and normality returned. They know that this will be the case again and again, so they accept the agony. And, as we all know, next time the agony takes longer to arrive, takes less of a toll when it does, and dissipates faster afterwards.

If we just keep training. If we just do what have we do, and in doing so get better at it.

I truly gasp when I hear about people who sue their employers because of the stress ‘they’ caused by asking too much of the employee. It seems, more often than not, to be related to the levels of paperwork. When I read that I think of people facing bullets and winder how they feel about administration-induced stress.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m no saint. I do try as hard as I can (sometimes!) when training but I, too, fall into the ‘It’s all too much’ way of thinking and mentally stroll towards that Bell. But more and more I am beginning to realise that there is some – a lot of – truth in the expression ‘what doesn’t kill us makes us better’.

I wish I’d learned that 30 years ago.

When you’re in work and feeling the strain of the amount of work you have to do, or its nature, just remember that other, well-known tenet – ‘This too, shall pass’. It usually passes just after you walk out of the door of the office. Furthermore, remember that when you finally go, everyone manages without you.

(I have only had one call since I left work, and that was from someone who didn’t know I’d gone.)

‘Your’ important work gets passed to someone else. The world keeps turning. It’s a bit sobering but it’s also quite liberating. Apply that at home-time – the work can and will wait.

So I have two lessons, today.

Everything (including us) is temporary, including the ‘stuff’ we hate doing. And we aren’t the centre of everyone else’s world, just our own.

And you can’t really ring the Bell on that one.

An Ivy-League Level Education for £150.

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Before I begin, can I ask a favour? Each day, LinkedIn tells me, a number of people whom I appreciate view my blog. That is very humbling. But what it doesn’t tell me is if they actually read them, or what they think of them.

Could you take a moment to like, share or comment on the posts so I know what you like, what you don’t, and what you may like me to write about in the future. Be mindful that the primary place for the post is my website threeresolutionsguy.com, so the subject matter should relate to time management and personal development but I am willing to tortuously twist any subject matter into such a theme. As you may have noticed.

Thank you.

 

On t’weekend I did the bike ride that nearly killed me in terms of effort. My patient and forgiving (but fast) friends suggested I resume using a tactic I have used before, which allowed me to maintain a level of fitness for cycling even though I never left my home. To be specific, I bought a spin-cycle about 2,500 static miles ago for less than £150 and I have got back in the saddle, if only to retrain and recondition by backside, which is the bottom-side for the interface between me and the narrowest bike saddle (knife-blade) created by man. (God bless Savlon.)

In only two days of using it I have noticed that even if I am tired when I finish, my knee, hip and ankle joints seem to be moving more freely that ever, as if an hour on the bike in the morning sets my joints up for the day, which is smashing.

But I don’t just ride. I watch telly. But not ‘just’ telly. Not MTV or the news or Doctors. No no.

Over the last two days I have revisited Stephen Covey’s Foundations of the Seven Habits (available HERE) while pedalling away. In the past I’ve watched time-management and personal development videos and DVDs, and I have listened to CDs and cassettes (yes, I have many) while sweating off the poundage.

You see, I am a student of the Sorebum.

(See what I did there, sounds like an esteemed French University. I shall use that again.)

There is no reason these days for people to sit around doing little or no exercise when for a relatively small outlay they can still sit, but also pedal, sweat, benefit, and learn from copyright theft on YouTube, making themselves better-informed people and, arguably, people of greater character. For the price of three months cheaper gym membership you can buy the one piece of equipment you need, plug in your tablet, laptop or whatever device you feel appropriate – and get cleverer, fitter and healthier.

And all at the same time.

How time-effective is that?

(My only bug with my bike is that I live in a small house and the garden shed I keep my bike in is b****y cold when I start off, and miles from my wi-fi hub. You should see the faces some speakers make when the signal drops.)

If you haven’t yet started that exercise regimen you KNOW you should, consider making it easier by bringing any equipment you need closer to your home, and reaping the reward of free training via YouTube at the same time. That could mean two hours or more of productivity done in just 60 minutes.

Then walk the blasted dog.

Argue