The Importance of Fun

I’m a big believer in having fun. It doesn’t really make a difference where I am or who I’m with, fun is always better than no fun. 

 

Fun is a choice. 

 

That’s why even when work is really “bad,” or someone has disappointed me, or I’m really really busy, fun is a priority for me. It should be for you as well, along with the people you lead. 

 

I remember visiting a customer several years ago and the moment I walked in the door I could feel it…this was not a fun place. It was as quiet as a library filled with people who looked liked they were attending a funeral. 

 

I tactfully asked the owners about the “atmosphere” of their workplace and they explained to me that “this is a workplace” not a place where you’re supposed to be enjoying yourself. Now here’s the thing, these were very smart business owners in almost every way. They were constantly battling low productivity and output from their people and they made the all too common mistake of blaming their employees for that. 

 

Their “solution” to that problem was to simply tighten the screws on their employees. It was actually exactly the opposite of what they should have done. 

 

By the way, I was more than a little taken aback by their constant reference to the people who worked for them as “employees.” While I’m not big into buzzwords like “team members” “guest relations specialists” or even Disney’s famous “cast members,” I get why businesses use them. They use them to change a mindset.

 

The term “employees” is a bit technical and in practice dehumanizing. If you think of the people you’re supposed to be leading solely as employees and not real people then your attitude is going to show itself in how you speak with them and in how you treat them. It might even cause you to think about banning fun in your workplace. 

 

Anyway, back to fun. 

 

Fun as it turns out is a pretty effective business strategy. It increases productivity. People who enjoy what they do for a living and the people who they do it with will outperform people who don’t enjoy what they do. They will outperform them in every circumstance! 

 

As a leader it is better if you build the fun into your organization’s environment. If however you’re not the fun type don’t worry about it, just stay out of your people’s way and they will likely figure out the fun part on their own. 

 

Now, for those of you like me who believe that fun at work is important here’s something else that’s really important. 

 

Getting the work done. 

 

You can have fun before the work gets done, you can have fun after the work gets done or you can have fun while the work is getting done but I don’t care how authentic your leader is, the fun is going to stop pretty darn quick if the work isn’t getting done. 

 

I insist on having fun and you should too. But I have an ethical and morale obligation to earn the money I’m paid by getting the work done and so do you. I may be a little weird and I’m certainly blessed in this regard but for me, getting the work done is in itself a whole lotta fun. 

 

There is a minor league baseball team in my hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota called the Saint Paul Saints. It’s owned by Bill Veeck and Bill Murray…yes that Bill Murray. There are all kinds of shenanigans going on at their baseball games, from haircuts in the stands and all kinds of contests and skits on the field. They even play a little baseball too. The philosophy  of these two Bills is that “Fun is Good,” Bill Veeck even wrote a book by that title. 


I entirely endorse their philosophy, I hope you do too! 


30 Seconds to Success

I’ve known many a procrastinator through the years (myself included) but I’ve known few people who were procrastinators by choice. They were all mostly procrastinators by chance.

 

Most procrastinators have more to do than they know how. They almost get paralyzed trying to figure out where to begin and the result is often that they just don’t…begin that is. They just don’t begin. They don’t get much finished because they don’t get much started. 

 

This much is certain, you will never finish what you never begin. 

 

So the first step to overcoming procrastination is to simply begin. But the question remains; where to begin.

 

Here is one piece of advice I received years ago that has really helped me overcome my procrastination tendencies: If you have something to do, anything to do, and it takes 30 seconds or less to do it then do it now, RIGHT NOW.

 

Now the best procrastinators out there will tell you that you can’t get anything done in 30 seconds or less. They would be wrong about that. 

 

30 seconds is actually quite a long time. 

 

In 30 seconds you can make a prioritized task list of the things you must accomplish today in order to be productive. Then you’ll know exactly where to begin.

 

In 30 seconds you can answer an email. If you don’t believe that then time yourself when answering a few. You’ll find that most, the vast majority in fact, take less than 30 seconds. Most people read the same email several times before finally answering it. That’s called procrastination and it’s a waste of time.

 

In 30 seconds you can delete about 60 emails from last year that you never did get around to answering. 

 

You can respond to several text messages or send one to someone, like mom or dad, that you’ve been meaning to send for a while. 

 

In 30 seconds you can set a meaningful goal. 

 

In 30 seconds you can pay a bill online.

 

In 30 seconds you can say thank you to someone you’ve intended to thank for days.

 

In 30 seconds you could pay someone a sincere compliment. 

 

In 30 seconds you could make a decision that changes your entire life.

 

You can do a lot in 30 seconds if you choose to be productive instead of busy and overwhelmed. 

 

It should take you substantially less than 30 seconds to decide which one will lead you towards greater success.


The Difference Between Urgent and Important

In my last post I discussed the fact that leaders understand the difference between need to do and nice to do activities.

Effective leaders also understand the huge difference between what’s merely urgent and what’s truly important. Those urgent things are frequently less productive, and often matter far less, than the important things. 

President Eisenhower said, “The urgent is seldom important and the important is seldom urgent.” That statement led Charles Hummel to publish a small booklet in the 1960’s entitled, The Tyranny of the Urgent

In it, he described the tension that exists between the urgent and important things in life and the fact that far too often, the urgent wins. Sometimes the urgent things are also important but very often they are not.

So what about you? Are you running around doing urgent things all day or are the things you do truly important? If you’re like most people, yes sadly most people get caught in the trap of urgency, you’re in such a rush to “get it done” that you don’t really stop to separate, or prioritize the urgent things from the important things. 

What’s more important, a conversation about school, life or their choice of friends with your kids or an empty email inbox? The emails may be urgent but the kids are important, for most of us, our kids are by far the most important aspect of our lives. Yet we stay at the office that extra hour to try and “get through a few more emails” while our kids, those incredibly, unbelievably, positively, absolutely important kids are waiting at home. 

If that happens to you then you are a victim of the tyranny of the urgent. 

If that happens to you then I’ll also bet you just use that always popular time excuse. You think that saying “I just don’t have the time” let’s you off the hook. You’re not responsible, it’s not your fault, it’s just “stuff” getting in the way of you doing what’s really important. 

Wrong! 

You’re not going to like hearing this but the fact is, you don’t suffer from a lack of time, you suffer from a lack of prioritization skills. Or, you just never slow down enough to truly prioritize. The challenge for many of us is that we just don’t often invest the time to consider what really matters to us, we just rush through life doing what’s put in front of us without considering what’s left behind.

I understand that you likely can’t get everything done that you would like to; that’s just a fact of life in the world in which most of us live. But that’s not an excuse for not prioritizing, it’s the very reason you should. 

At some point you’re just going to have to stop the madness, shut down the distractions and make yourself ignore the “urgent” stuff long enough to truly consider what’s important in your life. Just stop once in a while to determine if you’re running your life or if your life is running you. 

You may not be able to get it all done but you sure as heck can get the truly important stuff done, you just have to be aware of what’s really important in your life. 

 

What Not To Do

Strategic thinking has as much to do with deciding what not to do as it does with deciding what to do. I’ve sat in literally hundreds of planning meetings where the discussion centered on what we should do to increase our success. I’ve seldom, if ever, heard a discussion on things we should not do. 

The reality is that what you don’t do can contribute as much to your success as what you choose to do. When we do not strategize about the “don’t do” activities we end of doing them without any consideration of the cost. 

Many of the costs are “opportunity costs;” when we are doing things we shouldn’t be doing we’re not doing things that we should. It’s at that point we use the always popular “time” excuse as in “we just don’t the time to do everything we planned to do.” 

Well, you might if you stopped doing the things you didn’t plan to do. 

Authentic leaders understand the difference between the “need to do” things and the “nice to do” things and they work hard at NOT doing the nice to do until the need to do things are complete. 

The real challenge is, and this is a big one for me, the “nice to do” things are usually easier and more fun to do than the “need to do.” Because the “nice” things are indeed nice we can fool ourselves into thinking we’ve accomplished something when in fact we’ve skipped over something we had planned to do.  

While doing the “nice” thing might even be productive in some way truly effective leaders know it probably wasn’t the most productive thing they could have done. 

If you want to improve your productivity, and your level of success then stop yourself every now and then and ask, “is this the most productive thing I could be doing at this very moment?” If you’re like me you will likely be shocked at how often your answer is NO! 

The answer to that question may not always tell you what to do but it will certainly help you understand what not to do.

 

Understanding Success – Part Five

Successful people get it. They simply understand some things that less successful people seem to have a hard time grasping. The things they understand are the “it’s” of success. 

This is the fifth post of a who knows how long series on those “it’s.” They will be short posts, each just long enough to give you time to focus on one “it” of success until the next post arrives. I’m not certain just how long this series will go it it’s beginning to look like an eight post series.

Successful people have a bias for action, they seldom procrastinate. But they also understand that all action is not created equal. They know that being busy and doing lots of “stuff” does not necessarily mean that they are productive.

Successful people understand that being productive requires that you act with a purpose and with an end goal in mind.

It’s that “end goal” that will ultimately determine whether or not you were productive. The most successful people in the world have goals, well thought out, plan full, written goals. They also have an executable plan on how they will achieve them.  

They know that unwritten goals are really just dreams and while some dreams may indeed come true, “dreamers” have little control over their future. Goal setters on the other hand have substantial control over their lives and their future. They know what they want and they know that to get it they must have as many productive days as possible. 

Successful people understand that if they didn’t get closer to at least one of their goals at the end of each day then they may have been busy but they were not productive.

That being the case then it stands to reason that if you don’t have goals, true written goals, then you simply cannot be productive….no matter how busy you think you are.

Goals are your roadmap to the life you want. Well thought out goals give you direction and purpose. The goal itself becomes your motivator and helps you push on when “goal-less” individuals have long given up the pursuit of their dreams. Goals give YOU control of YOUR life. 

Decide what you want out of life then set your goals and develop your plan for how you WILL achieve them. The more specific you are the more likely you are to reach your goal so no generalizations are allowed. You need to know exactly what you want out of life or you’re probably going to settle for something less than you could have.

Focus on being productive and leave the busy work to the people in your rear view mirror. 

Understanding Success – Part Four

Successful people get it. They simply understand some things that less successful people seem to have a hard time grasping. The things they understand are the “it’s” of success. 

This is the fourth post of a pretty long series on those “it’s.” They will be short posts, each just long enough to give you time to focus on one “it” of success until the next post arrives. I’m not locked in on just how long this series will go, it could turn out to be as many as six or even eight posts.

Because successful people are willing to ask for help they are able to get more accomplished than less successful people. Another reason that successful people get more done is because they understand the difference between procrastination and patience. 

They know that the perfect time to act seldom comes so they take action as soon as they can, whether the timing is perfect or not.

Successful people have seen how easy it is for “later” to become “never” so they don’t delay. They know there is no “someday” on a calendar, there is no “free” time in their schedule, and the less they do today the more they will have to do tomorrow. 

If you’re a habitual procrastinator then you should know this absolute fact: procrastination will kill your chances for success, if not today then tomorrow for sure. The best time to do anything is at the first opportunity you have to do it. 

Many people procrastinate simply because they don’t know what to do next so here is some life changing advice…. when you don’t know what to do just do the next right thing. No matter how small that “thing” might be you’ll have made some progress and built some momentum. Momentum creates more momentum. 

Some of you will say that you don’t know the next “right thing” to do but in all likelihood you really do. Never use “I don’t know” as an excuse to not take action. Successful people who really “don’t know” find someone who does and they ask them. Once they know they take action, immediately.

If you’re struggling with procrastination then try this simply adjustment in when you do things. If something takes less than 30 seconds to complete then do it immediately. For instance, if an email can be answered in a sentence or two then answer it immediately, don’t let it linger in your inbox, don’t open and read it several times with the intention of responding “later” because there will likely be something else more demanding of your attention later. That by the way is exactly how later turns into never.

Reject the “patience” excuse for not taking action. If you can do something now then now is the best time to do it. Realize that putting things off is seldom patience, it’s nearly always procrastination and procrastination is nearly always bad. 

Focus on what you can do right now and then do it….right now!

 

Don’t Start Until You Stop

Most people are really busy, at least they claim to be. Most people also wish they had more time but the truth is, no one on earth has more time than the people who say they don’t have enough. 

You see, you, and everyone else, have all the time in the world. No one, not one single person has more time than you. You have 1440 minutes a day, the exact same amount as everyone else. That’s why I don’t have much sympathy for people who constantly complain about not having enough. It’s as if they think the stuff they have to do is so important that they should somehow be given more time. 

Hogwash!

They don’t need more time, what they need is a lesson or two in prioritization. They need to look at their goals and values and decide what’s really worth doing and what doesn’t need to be done at all. They need to find a dictionary and look up the definition of busy and then look up the definition of productive. Notice that they aren’t the same.

They need to say no to the things that don’t matter so they can say yes to the things that do.

Despite their apparent shortage of time many of these same “short on time” folks will commit to doing more in 2016. They will commit to working out more, spending more time with family, taking up a new hobby and on and on it will go. 

If you’re one of these “never enough time” types then do yourself a BIG favor and just stop. Stop for a moment and ask yourself how anything “new” is even going to be remotely possible since you’ll have the exactly same amount of time in 2016 as you did in 2015.

Here’s a news flash for you: it’s very likely that your success in 2016 will be impacted at least as much by what you STOP doing as what you start doing. 

So begin 2016 by determining what you did in 2015 that you won’t do in 2016. What activities did you invest your precious resource of time in that gave you little or no return? Then why on earth would you continue to do them in 2015?

Successful people do not mistake busy for productive. They understand that what separates them from less successful people is often as simple as how well they use their time. 

Successful people use their time well but the most successful people are constantly asking themselves “is this the most effective use of my time at this particular moment?” 

If there is something more productive that you could be doing at any particular time then that’s what you should be doing. Now, before you go “all work and no play” on me understand that “productive” is your call. Sometimes spending some time to recharge your batteries WILL be the most productive thing you can be doing. That’s just fine so long as you’re honest with yourself.

So, before you add a single thing, task, or project to your to-do list in 2016 make sure you take something off. It’s the productive, and successful thing to do!