Saturday, December 28, 2013

Morning rushing versus pacing

A lot of people experience this situation: They wake up in the morning, start working and at some point say to themselves that they will leave a little bit later than usual. They know that they need to get to work on time, that it typically takes, for example, roughly 25 minutes to get to work in the morning, but instead of leaving 25 to 30 minutes before work starts they figure they’ll leave 15 to 20 minutes before hand to get more done during the start of the day. Other times people stay up later than usual to get more done in the evening so they sleep in and leave later.

Does morning rushing ever make up for a little added productivity in the morning or evening? Rarely. People typically feel pressured to speed, drive through yellow lights about to change, roll through stop signs, etc., all in an attempt to make up for lost time. This rush strategy typically results in stress and other negative emotions which carry on throughout the day, resulting in decreased feelings of well-being and reduced overall daily productivity. So dangerous driving aside, even if they do not get pulled over it is still not worth it to be in a morning rush situation.

The alternative to the morning rush is morning pacing. This requires a different mindset. People thinking this way are planners and take a holistic approach to their day. They know when to say no to certain tasks, and by giving themselves an appropriate morning drive time cushion they are more relaxed, happier, and more productive overall.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Do people have to be self-employed to achieve self-actualization?

People are on their way to self-actualization when they work to reach their full potential. However, no one ever reaches their full potential since that suggests that no further improvements can be made and things can always be improved upon. So, I like to think of self-actualization in terms of a continuum rather than a destination which suggests some sort of impossible personal perfection.

What self-actualization actually looks like will of course vary from person to person because it is linked to unique characteristics such as one’s abilities, interests, and personality. So to address the title of this post, no, a person does not necessarily have to be self-employed to reach self-actualization. Although I believe many require it and others would be more self-actualized if they were self-employed.

There are some common characteristics of self-actualizers. Abraham Maslow believed they are growth-oriented and tend to have a high degree of independence. They’re often found in creative fields and feel free to pursue their creative passions without disruptive constraint. So let’s compare working for organizations versus self-employment.

People who work for an organization have to deal with politics and are often at the beck and call of their bosses. Some have creative leeway, but far more often they are expected to complete some sort of narrow task which is often repetitive. Many are frequently worried about losing their jobs. All considered, it’s more difficult to be self-actualized working for others but it’s not impossible, again, because self-actualization is a stage or state that is linked to individual characteristics.

From my vantage point it appears that, when considering jobs that involve being employed by an organization, some are more suited for self-actualization than others. Tenured professors come to mind. In contrast to factory workers, for example, they have job security, relatively low task repetition, significant freedom in setting their work hours, and can generally pursue their intellectual interests. But even they have to report to administration, teach at certain times, feel pressures publish, and might feel compelled to focus on areas they may be tired of, etc.

Independent entrepreneurs, writers, film makers, musicians, and artists tend to have more freedom and control. A lot of these fields also allow a great deal of creativity. And it is apparent that a lot of people aspire to be in and are happiest in these sorts of fields because many move into them when they “retire” from other work upon reaching a certain degree of financial independence. The reason why more people are not in these fields is because they tend to not pay very well since many are willing to do the work for little pay or even for free.  

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Advice and conflicts of interest

We all take advice of some sort or another, and it’s often critical to our decision making. It’s typically and especially sought out prior to making important decisions, and therefore it’s important to recognize and analyze what might be influencing the advice you’re receiving before you assign a value to it.

Ask yourself, does the person you are obtaining advice from have a conflict of interest of one sort or another? Are they truly unbiased? The most common conflict of interest in financial, so try to figure out the source of the person’s livelihood. In other cases advice is clouded by fear. It’s not uncommon for multiple factors to be at work. 

Let’s say you are considering going to law school, and you estimate that its debt and lost wages will cost you about $200,000. There are other jobs outside of law that you would equally like but at this time you are shopping for opinions to see if law school makes sense from a cost benefit perspective. Let’s say that you are enrolled in an undergraduate business law course. You decide to ask your business law professor’s thoughts on the issue because he is a convenient source. It would not be surprising if the professor said that law school is an excellent idea, and that your job and earning prospects will be great! He may go on to suggest that you go to the university’s affiliated law school. In giving that advice he would obviously not tell you is that the job market for many law graduates is abysmal.

In the above example the professor’s conflict of interest is both financial and fear-based. He may be thinking, “What if I lose my professor job and can’t pay my student loans? How will I support myself?” It’s important to keep in mind that particularly the untenured professor (the majority) is first and foremost looking out for his own career and financial stability. If the word got out that the professor spoke negatively about graduate law education, especially the university’s affiliated school, he may get a warning from the department chair or people within the university’s administration. Advancement and tenure may come in to jeopardy. Department colleagues may ostracize him. Perhaps his department will be downsized if he pushes students away from law, or there may be other negative outcomes which could influence his advice.

As you can see people with conflicts of interest are susceptible to steering you in directions which are against your best interest. Ask yourself the right questions before hand and you’ll be in a better position to weed out and avoid poor advice. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Create to-do lists

Do you have a daily to-do list? I have experimented with not using one and using one. I've found that I don’t get nearly as much done during the day when I do not have one, so, I've gradually gotten in the habit of creating one on a daily basis, typically in the evening because by that time I know what’s been done during the current day.

There’s been a lot written about the best way to organize one. I've found that it’s not so much the way it’s organized that’s important but rather the fact that one has been created. Probably 90% of the benefit comes from having one and 10% comes from how you choose to organize it. Once you get in the habit of using one you will eventually find a style that works best for your cognitive style.

When I create a to-do list I simply write down all the tasks that I plan on completing the following day starting with the tasks that I am prioritizing. I’ll cross-reference it will my calendar which has items which were planned more in advance. I transfer items from the calendar to the to-do list, and number tasks according to their importance. Often I’ll list the time of day I want to start or complete them, creating a goals. I found that this promotes focus and motivation.

Sometimes I’ll draw lines linking tasks that are associated with one another in some way. For example, if one “task” is meeting up with a friend at 6 pm and another is to get a present at a nearby store, I’ll draw a line linking the two. If I didn't consciously link two associated tasks I would find myself backtracking once in a while. For instance I might go home after meeting up with a friend and realize later that I should have gone to the store while in the area.

In sum I think a to-do list will help make you a more productive and organized person. And there’s also the satisfaction of looking at checked off tasks throughout the day which can motivate you onwards.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Creating an external motivator

Many people struggle to motivate themselves and stay on task. If you spend a great deal of time sitting in front of a computer, you may find yourself easily distracted from what you know you should be working on. Some of the more common distractions include excessive web surfing and email checking. If you are a blogger that allows comments, perhaps you spend too much time checking for them. Actions such as these can bring people in another world of sorts and it’s easy to lose one’s sense of time and before you know it, minutes or hours are gone.

Having an external reminder of some sort can be helpful. You could have on a wall next to your work space a piece of paper that says something along the lines of “get things done,” “do the work,” “work on the list,” or something along those lines. It’s important that the wording is bold, in your line of sight, short, and direct. In place of or in addition to having a motivator on the wall you could have one of those slogans written on the image set as your background on your computer monitor and/or phone. I really think this is a great idea. One obvious benefit to this that the motivator is portable.