Category Archives: Personal Productivity

Opening the door to creative possibilities.

yes and no by abhi

I’m always intrigued when I find the same idea popping up in two totally different contexts.  It makes me think the universe is saying,  Hey.  Seriously.  Think about this.

This happened to me with the phrase “Yes, and…”.

The concept comes from improvisational theater and the rule is, when asked a question or given a suggestion, you must reply with “Yes, and…”.

I read the idea first in Parents magazine as a means of playing more creatively with your kids, and then found the concept again in Dan Pink‘s book on sales, To Sell is Human.

Here’s the thing:

Using ” Yes, and…” opens the door to creative possibilities. 

It forces you to use your imagination and encourages participation.

And it’s a lot harder than it sounds.

In trying to incorporate this idea into my own life, it has made me aware of how often I use the phrase “Yes, but…”.

Where “Yes, and…” opens the door, responding with “Yes, but…” closes it.  It negates what the other person said and effectively shuts down the conversation.

Consider this:

A team member comes to you with an interesting but unexpected professional development opportunity.  How do you respond?

Yes, but it’s not in the budget.”
or
Yes, and we can review the budget to see if there are any extra funds available.”

See the difference??

Try using “Yes, and…” and observe how your personal and professional interactions can be enhanced simply by your choice of phrase.

 

Originally posted July 1, 2013

This post contains affiliate links to Powell’s Books.

(Photo by *_Abhi_* via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)

 

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When did overwhelm become a noun?

Mosaic Salsa by brillianthues (cropped)

As in “How to Fight Overwhelm” or “Overcoming the Overwhelm.”

This use of overwhelm as a noun is a pet peeve of mine.  Now, I don’t exactly consider myself the Grammar Police.  I can overlook the occasional your/you’re or there/their mistake.  I can appreciate the creative use of language.  (Think different.)  And I understand that language evolves.  (Because internet.)  So why does this overwhelm thing get under my skin?

Feeling overwhelmed.  Finding a task overwhelming.  These are transitive states.

But when we take overwhelm as a noun, it becomes something outside ourselves.  An entity.  A separate thing that we can’t control.  It implies that taking on more than we can handle is an unavoidable fact of modern life.  Like gridlock.  Or the Kardashians.

But is it?  We certainly have an increasingly large number of demands on our time, energy and attention.  But to overwhelm is an action.  We need to remain clearheaded about who is putting stressful demands on our resources.  Because ultimately, it is a person, and likely, it’s ourselves.

I find this much easier to deal with than some amorphous entity we’ve dubbed Overwhelm.

What do you think?

 

(Photo by brillianthues via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)

 

Has your routine become a rut?

Carousel by Dominic Alves

Today I went out to lunch.

With my 2 year old.

For no reason.

It wasn’t a special occasion.  I wasn’t meeting a friend to “catch up”.  I just decided to stop at a restaurant before finishing our errands.  This may not sound that outlandish to some, but for me, it was something of a first.  See, I’m a person of routines.  I like my schedules.  I like having a plan.  And with a kid, this has served me well.  He and I know what to expect of each other.

And it works from a professional perspective, too.  I believe consistent work habits are crucial to accomplishing large tasks.  And a set routine frees one’s mind for important decisions and complex problem solving.

But being efficient only matters if you’re accomplishing something worthwhile.  Something meaningful.  Routines and habits are only half the battle.  You also need inspiration.

You need to mix it up.

Try something new.

Do things that remind you that life isn’t just a series of tasks to be checked off a list.

 

(Photo by Dominic Alves via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)

 

Keep calm and make a list.

to do list

In less than a week, I will be braving a cross-country, red-eye flight with a two year old.

Holyfreakingcow.

This is our first plane trip as a family and our longest extended stay away from home.  To say I’m anxious would be an understatement.  My mind has been racing with what seems like a million things to plan:  Figuring out what to bring on the flight.  Getting the house and dog ready for the sitter.  Anticipating what gear we’ll need once we’re in New York.  My blood pressure rises with every new thought.  But today I finally sat down and made a list.  And, amazingly, I feel much better.

Why do I always forget how calming a list can be?  Until it’s on paper, it’s an infinite string of things.  But once it’s in a list, it’s a plan.  And plans I can handle.

Here are some of my favorite thoughts on to-do lists:

 

freak out

Even my hair was freaking out about this trip.

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On optimism.

 

On optimism.

Sunrise by Nigel Howe

Do you write down your long-term goals?  Productivity gurus recommend separating our to-do lists into daily tasks, mid-range projects and long-term objectives (think: operational, tactical and strategic) and we all know writing down our goals keeps us focused, organized and accountable.  But did you know it can also make you feel more optimistic?

In her book The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky explains how recording our dreams in a “Best Possible Selves” diary can help us feel more positive and improve both our mental and physical well-being.  Writing down our vision of ourselves in 5 or 10 years helps us define our values and our identity.  You get a happiness boost from anticipation, and having a mental image of yourself living your best life helps you stay optimistic about the future.

Other ideas on managing your long-term goals:

 

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Notes To Self: Tracking Your Deliberate Practice

 

This post contains affiliate links to Powell’s Books.

(Photo by Nigel Howe via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)

 

Yes, and…

I’m always intrigued when I find the same idea popping up in two totally different contexts. It makes me think the universe is saying, “Hey. Seriously. Think about this.”

This happened recently with the phrase “Yes, and…”. The concept comes from improvisational theater and the rule is, when asked a question or given a suggestion, you always reply with “Yes, and…”. I read the idea first in Parents magazine as a means of playing more creatively with your kids, and then found the concept again in Dan Pink‘s book on sales, To Sell is Human.

Using ” Yes, and…” opens the door to creative possibilities. It forces you to use your imagination and encourages participation. And it’s a lot harder than it sounds.

In trying to incorporate this idea into my own life, it has made me aware of how often I use the phrase “Yes, but…”. Where “Yes, and…” opens the door, responding with “Yes, but…” negates what the other person said and effectively shuts down the conversation.

When a team member approaches you with an unexpected professional development opportunity, how do you respond?

Yes, but it’s not in the budget.”
or
Yes, and we can review the budget to see if there are any extra funds available.”

Try using “Yes, and…” and observe how your professional interactions can be enhanced simply by your choice of phrase.

This post contains affiliate links.