Posts Tagged ‘time’

Flexible Focus #46: Lens on Consciousness

by William Reed on March 24, 2011

In the last eight articles we have looked deeper into the realm of the mind, looking through the lens of consciousness to see our life from higher, bigger, and deeper perspectives. And yet even from vastly different perspectives, it is all in the context of our daily familiar existence. Revisiting these articles will help you re-explore the territories where we have been, and see also how they fit together. These selections also correspond to the primary eight categories covered in the series, so this review provides an overview of one trip around the wheel, and also reflects the amazing range of topics possible to address with the Mandala Chart.

The images are assembled in the Mandala shown here, referenced from the articles and downloads below. In the conventional Mandala fashion, they are marked A (bottom center), B (left center), C (top center), D (right center), E (bottom left), F (top left), G (top right), F (bottom right).

Here are a few notes to set your thoughts in motion. For easy reference, and to trigger new insights, download the Mandala Charts and review the original articles from each of the links below.

MIND MANDALA BODY (From Flexible Focus #38: Flexibility without Forcing)

Out of your comfort zone…into freedom

Many people like the idea of flexibility more than the practice of it. This is understandable, for if the experience takes you out of your comfort zone, you may prefer the familiar to the flexible. When your body is stiff, then physical stretching can feel more like pain than gain. A similar thing happens mentally when your values or beliefs are forcibly stretched beyond their limits. The key to expanding your comfort zone is to have more degrees of freedom. A brittle stick has no degrees of freedom, so anything which bends it, will break it. The fear of breaking causes many people to retreat into their comfort zone when stretched, but rigidity is ultimately a zone of discomfort. When you have more degrees of freedom in your mind and movements, then you experience flexible focus in action!

A NEW MODEL FOR COACHING (From Flexible Focus #39: The Principle of Gratitude)

You are not the only one in trouble…Make the world a better place

One of the hardest lessons of flexibility is letting go of the ego’s attachments. Pride prevents you from achieving flexibility, because it insists on being right, being first, or being better than others. It’s companions are alike, inflexible, stubborn, righteous, and condescending. These attitudes have ruled and ruined empires as well as personal relationships throughout history, and of course are equally evident today. The ancient Greeks called it hubris (hybris), excessive ambition or pride leading to a fall, or to total ruin. In Asian tradition, pride is like the brittle stick which does not bend, but only breaks. The inflexibility of mind, also known as the hardening of the attitudes, is ultimately the cause of the problem. It is better to be flexible, like bamboo.

A NEW KIND OF NATION (From Flexible Focus #40: The 8 Frames of Life: Society)

Social Media is a classless…and virtually free territory

What is your place in society? At one time, and still in many countries, this was a not a question which you were permitted to answer or control. Rather, it was a matter of birth, circumstance, good or bad fortune, and your place in society was largely determined by people and circumstances beyond your control. Throughout history in various times and places, individuals and groups of people have raised this question, and asserted their right of self-determination, the right to determine their own role and mission in society. Now due to the momentum of such movements in the past, and the amazing impact of technology to connect people and facilitate communication, these questions are being raised widely around the world, not just in the traditional style of political movements, but in a brand new style of personal movements.

YOUR ENTIRE LIFE IN A MANDALA PERSPECTIVE (From Flexible Focus #41: Your 100 Year Lifespan)

The past can be changed…and the future is fixed

You periodically encounter popular sayings that life ends or begins at 30, or at 50, depending on the attitude and experience of the person saying it. It is a poor and arbitrary perspective really, and let’s face it, sour grapes living produces sour grapes sayings. Yet there are many people who lose the plot of their life somewhere along the way. If you look closely there is a plot, and although life’s drama unfolds differently for each person, there are underlying themes that are remarkably consistent in a meaningful life. The originator of the MandalaChart system Matsumura Yasuo created a framework using the 8×8 B-style Mandala Chart, called the 100 Year Life Span. He said that, “The past can be changed, and the future is fixed.” How can this be? Commonsense tells us that you cannot change what has already happened, and that no one can say for sure what is coming. However, using the Mandala Chart you can reframe what has happened, and you can pre-frame what is coming.

PUTTING TIME IN A NEW PERSPECTIVE (From Flexible Focus #42: Time Lapse as a Mandala Movie)

The Mandala Chart takes you out of conventional time…gives you a new perspective

The 3×3 framework of the Mandala Chart lends itself well to showing the relationship of the frames as a visual Gestalt, a whole which is greater than the sum of its parts. The bird’s eye view gives you a 3-dimensional perspective. But what about the 4th dimension, that of time? Most discussions about the 4th dimension focus on its abstract geometry, trying to visualize what it would be like to be 90-degrees perpendicular to the 3rd dimension, in effect looking at the transformation of a 3-dimensional object over time. This is not so difficult to imagine if you look at the effect you get in time-lapse photography, where you can watch a flower grow, or see a full day of cloud transformations in the span of a few minutes. Time-lapse in real time – it is even closer at hand than that, because we all experience transformation moment to moment.

WHAT YOU SEE IS NOT WHAT YOU GET (From Flexible Focus #43: 8 Levels of Consciousness)

The central premise…is that our thoughts create our world

As central as the number 8 is to the Mandala Chart and the original Buddhist framework of Wisdom which it is based on, it is not surprising then to find that in this framework there are 8 levels of consciousness. The first five are quite familiar. We call them the five senses: Visual, Auditory, Olfactory, Taste, and Touch, which are how we perceive the world, through our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and touch. The sixth is Ideation, our conscious thought, referred to in Buddhist thought as the Monkey Mind, because it is typically unsettled and constantly chattering. The first six levels of consciousness then make up the conscious mind, the part that we are mostly aware of. What gets interesting is when you delve into the subconscious mind, which has two layers; the Mana (Obscuration/Shadow) consciousness, which we refer to as the Ego, and the Seed (Storehouse) consciousness at the core.

A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF BALANCE (From Flexible Focus #44: Lessons in Life Balance)

How many things are juggled already in perfect balance…without any effort or interference on our part

The common word for it is Work-Life Balance, the challenge and stress of giving proper attention and time to both work and family. Part of the challenge is that every individual’s situation is unique. No one pattern fits all. Sometimes the stress is generated not so much by the situation, as by the person’s thoughts and attitudes in responding to it. Particularly stressful is the effort to give equal attention or equal time to everything. This cannot be done, though you can work yourself into a frenzy trying. At the end of the day, what really makes for Life Balance is not how you juggle the parts, but whether or not you maintain a calm center.

ABUNDANCE IN 8 AREAS OF LIFE (From Flexible Focus #45: My Cup Runneth Over)

Gratitude grows into giving…and is a principle seen everywhere in nature

In our pursuit of prosperity, we tend to take for granted the blessings that we already have in abundance. A Greek myth which made a big impression on me as a child was the story of King Midas and the Golden Touch. The King was granted a gift to his greed that whatever he touched would turn to gold, but the gift was a curse because he petrified everything and everyone he touched, turning it into a golden object devoid of life. Gold is as perennial in our culture as greed itself. While we talk about a heart of gold, good as gold, and the Golden Age, we often find that gold can bring out the worst in human nature, from gold diggers to Goldfinger. It is often taken as a symbol of wealth, the gold standard. But it is seldom seen as a symbol of abundance. Let your helping hand be one of Kindness, not a golden touch.

NOTE: The articles in the Flexible Focus series are updated with graphics, links, and attachments on the FLEXIBLE FOCUS Webbrain, a dynamic and navigable map of the entire series. It has a searchable visual index, and is updated each week as the series develops.

Inherent conflict between projects and operations might be called white-collar cage wrestling. Participants are focused, strong, and may carry the belief – winning means dominance of their approach. Who’s right? They both are. What is at stake is delivery of a product that performs well and is sustainable. This is especially true when the deliverable goes into production as an ongoing process or tangible deliverable produced in quantity. There is a solution to this tension, but first examination of the underlying causes will help in crafting that solution.

What Is Success?

Projects bring about change – that is why they exist. So, success is defined by bringing about some transformation.

Operations go in the other direction. Success is defined by stability. Specifically, stable reproduction of the desired process or product.

From a somewhat oversimplified perspective the situation can be restated as: Six sigma can be highly relevant in production while having little or no application in executing the project.

Is There a Middle Ground?

Can a compromise be reached? A better question might be, “Is compromise needed?” The answer is, ”No.” Taking a page from the Software Engineering Institute’s Taxonomy of Operational Risks a solution can be found. A very robust list of categories provides a framework for guiding projects in a way that leads to sound operational performance. Terms such as “usability” and “maintenance processes” are included. The definition of project success includes operational success!

So What’s the Problem?

This all seems well and good, and it is until other realities step in – the introduction of constraints. An example from the auto industry shows this well. In the 1970s the reality of “world cars” was exploding onto the scene. The desire to lower production costs plus move into international markets caused a frenzy of effort that continues to this day. This was compounded by issues commonplace today, e.g., time zone, cultures, metrics, languages, etc. The driving force at the time was the US market.  In the rush to globalize some cars in the US ended up having a mix of metric and standard parts.

Another constraint is the huge appetite for variety in the American market. Designers were pushed to develop new, fresh designs on an almost annual basis. Production and maintainability took a back seat. This led to craziness when it came to maintenance, e.g., having to loosen motor mounts and jack up the engine in order to change the oil. Some companies, such as Jaguar, almost went out of business over these issues. Boeing and Airbus could probably weigh in on this topic, too.

A Broader Solution

What shows when stepping back and looking at the situation is poor governance. The tension and animosity that can exist between project managers and operations managers may simply be a reflection of failure at the top.

Balancing the constraints is the responsibilities of senior management. It’s why there are the extra zeroes in senior management’s paycheck. This has been well stated in the career guidance book, “What Color Is Your Parachute?

To let the tension simply roll downhill to the operations and project managers can reflect poor risk and quality management if not an abrogation of responsibility.

If experiencing high tension and severe challenges then the pathway out includes looking up for direction rather than preparing for the next peer-to-peer fight.

Before I talk you into shelling out $1,000 for this e-book (just kidding – it is Free to download!), a little bit on what this book is about:

  • Creative Success and
  • More Freedom, Money and Time for you.

Being Creative

Are you a creative person? Well, before you answer that question, it stands to reason we first define what being a “creative person” means. In the author’s (Mark McGuinness) own words:

“By creative people, I mean people who take creative approach to work and life. People who work hard, but because they love what they do, it doesn’t feel like work.

They may be artists, writers, musicians, actors, filmmakers, coaches, scientists, cooks, entrepreneurs, healthcare professionals – or tackling complex, meaningful, inspiring challenges in other fields.

If this sounds like you, read on.

Why do creative people need Freedom, Money and time?

Creative people need three things to be happy.

  1. Freedom – to do what you want, when you want and how you want it. Not just in holidays and spare time – but also doing meaningful work, in your own way.
  2. Money – to maintain your independence and fund your creative projects. Of course you want a nice place to live, but you’re not so worried about a bigger car than the guy next door. You’d rather spend money on experiences than status symbols.
  3. Time – to spend as you please, exploring the world and allowing your mind to wander in search of new ideas.

Usually, you’re lucky if you get two out of the three. But if one of them is missing, it compromises the other two.

Without money, you don’t have much freedom, because you have to spend your time chasing cash.

Without time off, money doesn’t buy you a lot of freedom.

And if you’re doing something you hate for a living, it doesn’t matter how big your salary is, or how much holiday you get. You still feel trapped.

Surely there must be a more creative solution?

If this still sounds like you and you’d like a little more freedom, money and time in your life, read on.

What I got from this book?

In one word, Plenty! Here’s a list of the top 10 things I learned:

  1. Am I creative?: Creativity is not just a fancy label that only artists with long hair and thoughtful expressions carry – even though you might think you are not creative (or not creative enough), after reading the book, you might change your mind.
  2. It’s about Quality of Life: I want Freedom, Money and Time. Why? Simply to improve my quality of life.
  3. Don’t Compromise: It is OK to be Unreasonable about having all three – Freedom, Money and Time. Just one or two out of the three will just not do!
  4. Being skillful does not guarantee you money – Yes, you need to be skillful to make money, but, as Mark found out in his 2nd business, it’s not guaranteed.
  5. Your first love and the Market: In Mark’s own words – “Your market may be next door to your first love”. With poetry being his true love, he found “market-love” when he looked next door!
  6. Sharing adds; not subtracts: In today’s “knowledge based” marketplace, the more you share, the more you increase your chances of success. Why? Because it depicts your knowledge and people trust knowledge sources.
  7. Sales without Marketing is like surgery without an anesthetic:  Mark’s suggestion. Don’t try either. It’s way too painful.
  8. Your biggest enemy. Is sometimes (ok, most of the times), Ready?… YOU! Let go of your prejudices that limit your capacity. These usually start with thoughts like “I don’t think I can do that” OR thoughts that contain sentences that have the words “never” or “always”, in them.
  9. The wrong business model can crush you. Yeah, I know you knew this already. But, it’s these simple things that we neglect and overlook… until it’s too late. Mark shares his story about how this one got him!
  10. Never Give Up! – Well, before you take this too literally and rush to make some 2011 resolutions (you’re 17 days late!), there are some things that you should give up (like smoking?) … and then there are some that you should Never give up. I am talking about the latter – like pursuing your dreams. Persistence does pay! Keep creating and innovating!

About the e-Book

A few quick points about the e-book:

  • It’s FREE!
  • It’s a light read – 34 pages in all.
  • Describes Mark’s unconventional career journey, as a poet and creative coach, and the lessons he’s learned the hard way about finding the right combination of freedom, money and time.
  • It’s full of practical advice you can apply to your own situation, if you want to earn a living from your creative talent, or if you’re a freelancer or small business owner and want to make your business less stressful and more profitable.
  • Mark and his partners have also prepared an in-depth training program to accompany the e-book, and I’m pleased to be an affiliate partner for the launch. But the e-book itself is free to download, with no need to even give your email address.

Get your copy of Freedom, Money, Time and the Key to Creative Success by clicking here OR by going directly to the download page.

Also, please feel free to share the e-book with anyone who you think would find it helpful.

“Hangman” is a game having a lot in common with project management. The goals are identical, i.e., figure out what the stakeholder(s) in control wants/means without them telling the project manager (PM) directly. The noose of the triple constraint tightens as the PM and team try to decipher just what is needed and they miss the mark.

There IS a substantial difference between Hangman and managing a project. In Hangman determining the word or phrase (scope) the controlling player has in mind is all that is required. With a project there is a chance for triple jeopardy since the PM and team must not only get the scope correct, they must also make sure there are sufficient resources left in terms of time and money to actually implement the scope. There is a way to not only survive but also succeed in such situations.

Terminology – Constraints vs. Principles

The first thing needed is a distinction between what is desired and what actually works. The term itself, “triple constraint,” implies boundaries of some sort. There is value in taking this term apart.

Rather than say, “The triple constraint means scope, time, and budget” stakeholders would be better served by stating, “There is a scope constraint, a time constraint, and a budget constraint placed on the project.” Why? Simple. Scope, time and budget refer to three of the nine principle sets in project management with the other six being communications, human resources, procurement, quality, risk, and integration.

“Principles” means there is a balanced interplay among all the variables and stakeholders in the project. Constraint means an arbitrary limit being placed on the project. It is called arbitrary because it is made in isolation with the responsibility for integrating being passed along illegitimately to others usually down the power chain.

That sounds like a pretty strong use of “illegitimately.” However, it does apply since the responsibility for a constraint stays with the person who makes it especially if he is the power broker.

Wishes and Business Cases

A constraint, then, is essentially a wish to make something so. What works better is examining what is realistic based on the business case. That business case needs to be grounded in reality. For example, if the project is to open a low-risk savings account then having a “budget” constraint of 1-3% interest rate is reasonable. On the flip side, if I am demanding 12% return with the same low risk then I am working from a wish list. The demand will be illegitimate if a PM in charge of investing the money is punished for failing to find a secure 12% savings account. It gets even worse if the wish of having the high return investment includes being able to withdraw any time without penalty (schedule constraint).

Stated more positively:

When needs are derived from realistic business cases rather than wishes, a bridge can be built between the business case and associated project principles comprising scope, time, and budget.

Going back to the previous blog, Rainmaker, building that bridge requires incorporation of other principle sets. In the next blog we will explore those principles with the goal being generation of a balanced relationship with realistic boundaries between scope, time, and budget. It involves the creation of something far more elegant than a triple constraint.

Project Reality Check #2: Being a Rainmaker

by Gary Monti on December 28, 2010

“Rainmaker” is a title that fits with a lot of project managers. It sets the bar high requiring a great deal of skill and political savvy to bring about the deliverable as if almost by magic. The reality is quite different. In fact, there are several realities that must be juggled to be a successful rainmaker ranging from the very concrete to the intangible. This can be seen when looked at through the nine areas of project management: scope, time, budget, human resources, procurement, quality management, risk management, communications, and integration.

Nested Easter Eggs, Projects, and the Truth

Imagine a project as a nested Russian Easter egg. At the core is the candy, the measurable deliverable – the client’s main focus. Surrounding it is the smallest Easter egg – the triple constraint. The painting on this egg is an orthogonal latticework of scope, time, and budget with one axis just a little wavy. Time and money can be measured, as can portions of the scope. The scope, however, starts bringing in the intangible because it is driven by client needs, each one of which can be multilayered itself. This is why the one axis is a little wavy.

The language of the triple constraint reflects the deliverable but is different since it includes the time and money aspect. It also is more complicated because there are three dialects; one each for scope, time, and budget.  The language gets more complicated because there is a change in the truth system being used. That is how different languages develop, i.e., attempts to describe different realities.

In other words, when we talk “deliverable” one language is used which is different from when we talk “scope, time, and budget.” For example, imagine a soccer player who can put an amazing curve on a kick. Talking about the beauty of the kick is one thing. Talking about everything that went into that player to get to the point where the kick could be made is another. (Many a beer or other beverage has been drunk enjoying going back and forth between these two languages. It’s all very human and very much a part of any project.)

The next egg (layer) has a supply chain network drawn upon it. It comprises procurement and human resources. People, equipment, facilities, etc., are needed so the project can be completed. The intangibility increases. There are more, varied conversations occurring all of which need orchestrated and harmonized. The discussion around this orchestration and harmonization creates another language with two dialects.

This brings us to the next larger egg, which has a swirling pattern of two distinct colors representing quality- and risk management. Imagine it being drawn by a pointillist. Each dot represents a specific test of a component or system (quality) or a specific threat or opportunity (risk) that must be addressed. Holding the egg at a distance the swirls can be seen representing the interaction between quality and risk and how together they influence the inner components of project management and the creation of an acceptable deliverable. And, you may have guessed it, yet another language with two dialects is created.

And what about the conversation itself? This is where communications comes into play. This egg has a nervous system painted on it. Actually it is more like an LCD display where the flow of information through the nerves can be seen. This flow represents the even greater level of intangibility. Why? The message is in the flow between the various parts of the project.

Finally, the largest most intangible egg of them all – project integration. It is invisible. This egg can be felt but can’t be seen. Imagine a magnetic bottle. There is a very real force field present containing the other eight areas of the project along with the specific project components, stakeholders, and the energy that flows between them. This egg can be experienced, it can be discussed, it can be influenced but it remains invisible. Its language is one of connection and interdependence.  It reflects the achievement of acceptable balance among all stakeholders, components, and their performance. The integration exists in that balance rather than inside any one thing or person.

The deliverable only comes alive and is acceptable when integration has occurred and is sustainable.

What does this mean? An intuitive example of connection and interdependence is the relationship between an aircraft wing, the engine, and the payload. The engine must generate sufficient thrust to propel the wing forward and generate lift. However, if a large enough engine is too heavy then the design is pointless because there is insufficient lift left for the payload.

What makes a project manager a rainmaker is the ability to achieve that integration. It is reflected in commitments within the stakeholder community. Those commitments are then mapped into the design and creation of the deliverable through the project plan and execution of the schedule. Oh, did I mention there might be some magic involved?

Flexible Focus #26: Leveraging your time

by William Reed on November 4, 2010

It is time to refine our vision of time.

Is time a clock, a calendar? Is time an agenda, a schedule? Is time something that we spend, waste? Is time on our side?

Our view of time is heavily conditioned by the language that we speak. If you compare the view of time across various cultures, you find that some cultures treat time as a measured resource, while others seem to measure time by the seasons or rituals, and other cultures view time as a fabric of story and images.

Because our view of time is so closely tied to the words we use to describe it, perhaps it is easier to redefine time as experience itself. We know from our experience that time travels in cycles or seasons. Many phenomena in nature come and go. We also experience birth, growth, and death. Perhaps we can think of time as change itself.

The first step to gaining a flexible focus on time is to free ourselves from the tyranny of a single cultural perspective on time. This doesn’t mean throwing away our calendars and clocks, but rather recognizing that this is not the only way to look at time.

A new kind of action list

The next time you make a To Do list, even as you arrange the items in order of priority, think about how arranging items in a sequential list already assumes that they are separate, and cannot be accomplished at the same time. That is an assumption that you may not want to make.

By arranging your items spatially on a Mandala Chart, you already have a framework that enables you to examine the items in terms of categories and relationships. This arrangement changes not just our view of time, but also of the items themselves. Instead of being a stack of things to do, like an inbox of paperwork, arranged on a Mandala Chart they become factors or variables that can be arranged and multiplied to create various results.

Think for instance of a networking event. How different your experience and results will be depending on the venue, the people, your attitude and purpose in attending.

Therefore one way to leverage your time is to arrange the elements of experience on a Mandala Chart, and to view the elements as variables you can arrange and combine as you like. This is already closer to the way we actually experience things, but you can influence the results and maximize the possibilities by doing it consciously.

Time frames in motion

Another way we experience time is – as frames in motion, such as in movie or video. The frame rate is the number of frames per second (fps) used in video, television, and movies, and it is typically 24, 25, or 30 fps, though some formats 50, 60, or more. A slow motion video of a bullet penetrating a wall may run as many as one million frames per second, slow enough for the eye to follow, but still frighteningly fast.

Many professional athletes and martial artists report seeing things in a slower time frame, as if they had more frames per second, and more time to respond to the motions around them.

Likewise, to a person inexperienced with that type of motion, the ball may seem to come so fast that you don’t even notice it until it strikes you, as if you had fewer frames per second and less time to respond.

At world class levels in sport, the ball may actually move faster than human reaction time could allow for response. The fastest speed recorded in men’s tennis for a serve was Andy Roddick, at 155 mph or 249.9 kmph. In motor sports, vehicles travel much faster than that, and yet with occasional exceptions, drivers manage to maneuver in this time frame. Skill, experience, and flexible perception enable athletes to respond with timing that goes far beyond fast reflexes.

Likewise, you can leverage your time by enriching your experience and deepening your engagement in experience.

Valuing your time

Perhaps the most powerful way to leverage your time is to value it as life itself. I wrote about this in a separate article called Oceans of Opportunity, suggesting that we think of time as a fluid force like water, which can be directed, contained, and channeled. We are all given equal access to this force, but how you use it determines whether you sink, swim, or surf.

If you treat time as a valuable substance, then you will not waste it. If you respect other people’s time as you do your own, you will begin to understand and find ways to leverage time, to save time, and to buy time.

Seasons of Time

One of the best metaphors for time is that of the four seasons, which is familiar even to people who live in climates which don’t have four seasons. The cycle and energy of Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter give us a perspective on time, a reminder of change, of coming and going. Download the SEASONS MANDALA as a reminder.

It is worth reading and reflecting on the verse from the King James Bible translation (1611), Ecclesiastes III, which reminds us that time is everything:

3:1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

3:2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

3:3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

3:4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

3:5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

3:6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

3:7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

3:8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

This was recorded in the 1960s by The Byrds as Turn! Turn! Turn!, the classic Pete Seeger song written in 1952, and its message is timeless as time itself.

How to avail of opportunities that you cannot see?

by Himanshu Jhamb on May 17, 2010

We all have opportunities knock on our doors every now and then. Some might feel they have fewer than others and that might be true to some extent; but I’ll go out on an arm and a leg and claim that we all have our fair share of opportunities in our lives. The differentiating factor is how many do we make the most of. The genesis of this post was from a discussion I was having the other day with my fellow co-founder (Active Garage), Deepika Bajaj. We were talking about a dear friend of mine who is interested in investing in one of my ventures. My perspective in the conversation was that one of the key factors of my friend’s willingness to invest was the fact that it was ME who was involved and not entirely the venture. Put another way, what I was saying was simply that “People Invest in People”!

Although Deepika agreed with me on that, she offered another perspective that resounded with me at a level that compelled me to write this post! This is what she said to me:

“Yes. I agree. Your friend is investing in you but this opportunity would not have come about had you not taken the step to get out of your comfort zone and started your venture. Your friend has been your friend for a long time, and probably has had the resources to invest for a while now. However, what was missing was that you did not have an Offer in which he could consider investing in, until now. And once the offer showed up in your life, so did your opportunity!”

The not-so-obviousness of the above dialogue got me! We go about in life without realizing the number of opportunities we have in our lives, around us, all the time. We go about saying to friends, family and countless people that this is not for us and that we are happy wherever we are. What we do not pay attention to, or notice, is that even within this close network, we have opportunities that have the ability to lift the entire community (family, friends, all of it) with us! Yes, opportunities do have a strange way of showing up in our lives. They show up (or manifest themselves) through our offers. It follows that though we (and this is the obvious part, now) do not have control over the opportunities that will come our way, we do have absolute control over the number of offers we have – which (if I look at the flip side of the coin) are really opportunities for others!

The Question to ask

Suddenly, the question to ask transforms from an elusive “How to avail opportunities that you cannot see?” to a more fathomable “How do you become an opportunity for others?

Here are the top 3 answers:

  • Feel good factor: Are you in relationships that only make you feel good OR is there a real value in the way you mutually help each other?
  • Be a student: Learn something new, today. Everyday. If you do not have enough offers then the place to look is lack of education.
  • Build capacity: By building powerful relationships you essentially build capacity to do more.

… and last but not the least, while you go about doing all this, don’t forget to have loads of FUN along the way!

I’ve heard few authors say that they “found the time” to write their book! Time is not something you “find,” like a needle in a haystack (or, the New World).

Instead, time to write is something you create, and you create time using tools like planning, commitment, and efficiency.

Here’s a proven, 4-step process for making the time to write that works for me, and many of my clients.

1. Start with a plan

Whether you’re writing a book or a blog post, progress comes quicker when you know what you want to write before you sit down to write.

Your “plans” don’t have to be elaborate, and they don’t have to be formal. As you can see from the content plan I created at the start of this series, a simple mind map is enough to provide a framework for your writing success.

Likewise, if you’re starting a book, your plan might be as simple as a list of the 10 chapters you’re going to include in your book, plus the 7-10 main ideas (or topics) you’re going to discuss in each chapter.

For example, I just added a copy of a mind map I created a few years ago for a major project to my Active Garage Resource Center. It was one of my first maps, but it was enough to sell the project and help me write the project on time.

2. Commit to daily progress

Once you have created a content plan, or framework, the next step is to forget everything you ever heard about deadline-based “writing marathons.” Likewise, forget about “getting away” to write a book and myths like “I write better under pressure.”

I’ve interviewed hundreds of successfully branded authors, and the majority of them don’t believe coffee-inspired writing marathons. Instead, they commit to consistent daily progress, often in working sessions as short as 30 minutes.

Books are best written in short, daily working sessions, not stressful marathons!

It’s amazing what you can accomplish in 30-minute working sessions if you know what you’re going to write about. The act of creating a content plan, activates your brain so it is constantly working in the background, sifting and organizing ideas, searching for the right words, while you’re doing other tasks during the day, and when you’re driving or sleeping.

Fewer expectations equal less stress

One of the reasons that short working sessions are so productive is that there is less stress- -primarily performance anxiety- -involved in short 30-minute working sessions than in vacations or weekends. One of the reasons for this is that if you only expect to write a page or two during a working session, you’re not as likely to be disappointed.

But, if you have vowed to write a book over the summer at a vacation cabin, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Why? Because the expectation of a completed book leads to the worrisome thought, What do I do if I don’t finish my book? Won’t I be a failure? Won’t people laugh?

Likewise, expecting to write a book during weekends and holidays, creates guilt-based stress because you’re not spending time with your family.

3. Harvest your time

Begin by taking an inventory of your time, locating specific time periods each day when you can commit to 30 minute working sessions. Look for opportunities like:

  • Getting up 30-minutes earlier each day, preferably before the family gets up.
  • Staying up 30-minute later each night.
  • Arriving at the office 30-minutes earlier and closing the door.
  • Taking your lunch with you, and eating a sandwich at your computer.
  • Taking your laptop to a coffee shop or bookstore café during breaks or mealtime.

Then, make both public commitment of specific times each weekday. Don’t say, I’m going to write a little every morning! Instead, specify, I’m going to get to my office by 8:30 AM and check my messages or e-mail until 9:00!

Your daily writing sessions don’t have to be at the same time each day; your working sessions on Monday might be between 7:30 and 8:00 AM, but your Tuesday working sessions might be 8:00 PM to 8:30 while the family is watching television.

Once you’ve made a commitment to daily progress, and shared it with others, you’ll find it much easier to keep your project on track.

4. Track your progress

Since we all find the time to do what we want to do, it’s important that you keep yourself motivated.

That’s why the final step is to find a way to demonstrate your daily progress. One of the ways you can do this is to add a check-mark, or a strike-through, to indicate finished chapters and topics on your content map.

Another way to show progress is to print what you’ve just written during each writing session on 3-hole punched paper, and store them in a 3-ring binder.

Each time you open the binder and insert new pages, you’ll enjoy a feeling of accomplishment, as you see your finished pages mounting up.

Conclusion

All the “how to write” books and workshops in the world won’t get your book written if you don’t make the time to make the time to actually write your book. The 4-step process of planning your content, commiting to short, daily working sessions, harvesting your time, and tracking your progress is a formula that works. But, it’s up to you to put the process to work!

No matter what anyone says, Results are binary!

by Himanshu Jhamb on December 21, 2009

Results are binaryResults are binary… it’s either done or not done.

Having been a part of many projects since I started working (about 15 years ago), I have heard, seen and even said “these” so many times – that I have no doubt it is one of the most common conditions of being human. Not a very favorable one (since it hardly does us much good), but common, yes. I am talking about the common answers we mostly get when we ask the question “Is it done”? Here are some of the common answers to this question:

  • Almost
  • Yes, but…
  • Not Yet
  • I need a little more time
  • Its more complicated that I thought
  • The traffic was too bad…
  • I was not well, so…
  • What?
  • Well, you know…
  • Not really

Well, all these answers belong to one category – Not done. The only other answer is Yes, it’s done. Look, we all know that stuff happens: situations unfold, the world goes round, it rains, we make mistakes, the dog eats your homework, customers change their mind, hardware breaks, software does not perform as expected… the list is endless. The point is: Whatever the reason, the result is either – Yes, it’s done OR it’s not done.

The natural way of being for humans is to look into the reasons before facing and addressing the result. What’s worse is, we usually start with reasons or explanations (… alright! I will use the word, finally) or excuses before acknowledging if it’s done or not. Truthfully acknowledging the result before anything is said is the starting point to restoring the integrity of not keeping up to the commitment you gave in the first place… because once you make that acknowledgment, you bring forth a world where you are ready to take the responsibility of what went wrong – and the world of responsibility is just what reasons and excuses hate to be in!

You will also notice that it’s also a pleasure to deal with people who acknowledge the results they produce (or not) quickly, don’t give reasons or excuses and take responsibility for the situation and NOT repeating it. You’ll also notice the pain of working with people who make excuses all the time, don’t acknowledge the impact of the results they produced (or not) on the person/people working with them… I should know; I still go to my “land of reasons” from time to time – Rather, I still happen to FIND (since it’s not intentional, it just happens) myself in that land from time to time and when I do… I Boot out of it as fast as I can!  I suggest you do, too.

A little more about Projects

by Himanshu Jhamb on December 7, 2009

ProjectA while ago, I had written about “What a Project is Not”? This post is an extension of that post in which I will discuss why projects are needed and what projects, in fact, are. You will probably get as many interpretations of what a project is, as the number of people you talk with and most of them, are probably right in their own way. But, we are not talking about right or wrong here; we are concerned about what makes for a more powerful interpretation and that’s that. This obviously leads us to the question:  What makes something powerful? The answer is really simple – Anything that is in alignment with why it was invented in the first place makes up for a powerful way of existence. In Projects speak, this would be the purpose of the Project.

So, Why are Projects needed?

Projects are needed when old practices and ways of doing things no longer generate effective results or worse, generate breakdowns that we have to cope with. One of the most common sources that generate the need for projects is the rapidly changing marketplace. Today’s marketplace (as opposed to the one that existed 30-40 years ago) calls for the invention of new projects at breakneck speed. All you have to do is nothing for a month (probably, not even that) and you’ll see how your competition edges you out to obscurity.

What do you need to Invent a Project

The most fundamental thing that is needed even before a Project can be invented is – You must be “Up to” something. It can be as simple as going from point A to point B OR as complex as going to the moon. What you are “Up to” defines why you are inventing the project.  Entrepreneurs are inventing projects all the time. Projects teams are enrolled in this “Project mission” and “execute” on a “plan” towards achieving this goal.

How are projects brought into existence?

Projects are brought into existence by making specific declarations of what it is that will be produced at the end. There are, of course, other parameters on which specific declarations are made around – scope, time line and resources, to name a few but, at a fundamental level these are all declarations of producing a specific result by a certain time frame.

Projects are Costly, yet Unavoidable and Necessary

This is perhaps, the only guarantee, a project carries. Yes, it’s unfortunate, but true. Projects are inherently costly (we obviously see this as an investment – that’s why we incur the cost, but I’ll continue using the word “Costly” for now)  and what makes them so is that it takes time, energy, money and lost opportunities to learn the new practices & tools that are needed to run the project, efficiently. Then there are the costs associated with resources and then there are the many unknown costs – that only show up during the execution of the projects.

It would be a disservice to the topic of projects if I ended on the rather somber “Projects are Costly” note… Projects are also unavoidable and necessary … in that, they will continue to exist and invented as long as the marketplace continues changing and businesses find themselves coping with the changing landscape. Projects have an immense capacity to produce exceptional results to take care of the concerns they are invented for – as long as they are planned for, managed and executed well.

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At Active Garage, we keep tinkering on projects. We have two projects (one completed and one still going on) and more to come. Please check out our current projects here:

1. defiant, a social media powered eBook

2. BLOGTASTIC series

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