How to work with others to change our lives

change our livesHow to work with others to change our lives

I belong to a couple of small groups that have been meeting regularly for decades. The men’s group meets biweekly, while the consultants’ group meets monthly. I have been exploring and writing about facilitating change since the earliest days of this blog. So in 2021, I developed and facilitated for each group a process for working together to explore what we want to change, and then change our lives.

Each group spent several meetings working through this exercise.

What happened was valuable, so I’m sharing the process for you to use if it fits.

The process design outline

It’s important for the group’s members to receive instructions for the entire exercise well in advance of the first meeting, so they have time to think about their answers before we get together.

Exploring our past experiences of working on change in our lives

We begin with a short, three-question review of our past experiences working on change in our lives.

These questions give everyone the opportunity to review:

  • the life changes they made or attempted to make in the past;
  • the strategies they used; and
  • what they learned in the process.

This supplies baseline information to the individuals and the group for what follows.

The questions cover what:

  • we worked on.
  • was tried that did and didn’t work.
  • we learned from these experiences.

We each share short answers to these questions before continuing to the next stage of the process.

For the rest of the exercise, each group member gets as much time as they need.

Sharing what we would currently like to change in our lives

Next, we ask each person to share anything they would currently like to change in their life. This includes issues they may or may not be working on. Group members can ask for help to clarify what they want to change.

Exploring and discussing what we are currently working on to change our lives

Next, each person shares in detail which of the above issues they are currently working on, or want to work on, to change in their life. This can include describing their struggles and what they are learning, and also asking the group for advice and support.

Post-process review

Exploring long-term learning is important. So, after some time has elapsed, perhaps a few months, we run a post-exercise review of the outcomes for each person. This helps to uncover successes as well as difficulties that surfaced, and can also lead to additional appropriate group support and encouragement.

Here’s an example — what I shared and did

Things I’ve tried in the past to make changes in my life that didn’t work

  • Trying to think my way into making changes w/o taking my feelings/body state into account
    e.g. trying to lose weight by going on a diet.
  • Denial—doing nothing and hoping the change will happen.

What I’ve learned about successful ways to change my life

  • Anything that improves my awareness of feeling or body state can be a precursor to change: e.g. mindful eating or emotional eating.
  • Creating habits: e.g. brushing my teeth first thing in the morning; setting triggers (calendar reminders, timers for meditation or breaks).
  • The habit of daily exercise, regular yoga, which improves awareness of my body state.

Three issues I worked on

  1. Tidying up and documenting my complicated life before I die.
  2. Meditating daily.
  3. Living more in gratitude; developing a daily practice.

My post-exercise three-month review

  1. I’m happy with the way I continue to work on the long-term project of tidying up my office, getting caught up on reading, and documenting my household and estate tasks. To help ensure that I work on it every day, I created a simple spreadsheet with columns for various short tasks that advanced my goals. Checking off time spent on one of these tasks each day shows me I’m making progress, and this feels good.
  2. I created a buddy system with another group member who wanted to meditate more. We send each other an email when we’ve meditated. This has greatly improved the likelihood I’ll meditate every day.
  3. After trying a simple daily gratitude practice, I decided to let it go for the time being until my daily meditation became a fully reliable habit. Sometimes, small steps are the best strategy!

Detailed instructions

Interested? OK! Here’s how to run this exercise.

First, explain the process and see if you get buy-in from the group about doing this work. It’s helpful to explain that each person can choose what personal change they want to work on. There are no “right” or “wrong”, or “small” or “large” personal change issues. Any issue that someone wants to work on is valuable to that person, and that’s all that counts.

I think it’s helpful for everyone present to participate, rather than some people being observers, but ultimately, that’s up to the group to decide.

Well before the first meeting, share the following, adapted to your needs, with group members.

Working together to change our lives – the first meeting

“We’ve decided to work together on what we are currently trying to change in our lives. As we will have about an hour for this work at each session, we’ll need two or more meetings for everyone to have their turn.

For the exercise to be fruitful, we will all need to do some preparatory work before the meetings.

Our eventual focus will be on what we are currently trying to change in our lives, and how we are going about it.

We’ll start with questions 1) and 2) below, which are about the past. Please come with short (maximum 2½ minutes total per person) answers to them. Please answer question 3) in 90 seconds or less. At subsequent meetings, we will spend much more time on questions 4) & 5).

Please come to the first meeting prepared to answer the following three questions:

==> 1) What have you tried to make changes in your life that didn’t work? What have you learned over the last 20 years?

==> 2) What have you learned about successful ways to change your life over the last 20 years?

Don’t include childhood/teen lessons learned, unless you really think they’re still relevant to today’s work.

Remember: a maximum of 2½ minutes for questions 1) and 2) combined!

==> 3) What would you currently like to change about how you live your life? (You might not be working on it. You can ask for advice if you want.)

Be as specific as possible in your answer to question 3). Your answer should take 90 seconds or less! (But we’ll provide more time if you want or need help clarifying your goals.)

Working together to change our lives – subsequent meetings

At subsequent meetings, we’ll each take turns to answer questions 4) and 5) below. You’ll have as much time as you need to answer these questions and partake in the subsequent discussion.

==> 4) What are you currently working on to change in your life?

==> 5) How are you going about making the changes you shared in your answer to question 4)? What are the struggles and what are you learning? What advice would you like?”

Running the meetings

At the first meeting, you’ll typically have time for everyone to share their answers to the first three questions. Keep track of the time, be flexible, but don’t let participants ramble. It’s very helpful for the facilitator to take brief notes on what people share. If there’s still time available, I suggest you/the facilitator models the process by sharing their answers to questions 4) and 5) and holding an appropriate discussion. Use subsequent meetings as needed for every group member in turn to answer and discuss these two final questions, and write notes on these discussions too.

The post-exercise review

When this exercise has been completed for everyone, I suggest the group schedule a follow-up review in a few months time. If your group starts with check-ins, it can be useful to regularly remind everyone about the review and ask if anything’s come up that someone would like to discuss before the review meeting.

Before the post-exercise review, let group members know that the facilitator will share their notes for each person in turn, and ask them to comment on what’s happened since.

At the start of the post-exercise review, explain that this is an opportunity to share information — discoveries, roadblocks, successes, etc. — without judgment. It’s also a time when group members can ask for ideas, advice, and support from each other.

Finally, you may decide to return to this exercise at a later date. After all, there’s mucho be said for working on change throughout our lives. The above process may be the same, but the answers the next time may be quite different!

Have you tried this exercise? How did it work for you? Did you change/improve it in some way? I’d love to hear your experience with it — please share in the comments below!

Distracting ourselves from what matters

distracting ourselves from what mattersWe spend too much time distracting ourselves from what matters. Distraction is fine, up to a point. But when we spend two trillion dollars annually on entertainment, I’d say we are well beyond that point.

As Seth Godin puts it:

Marvel spent $400,000,000 to make Avengers: Endgame. Because there was a business model in place that made it a reasonable investment choice.

What if we wanted to cure river blindness or address ineffective policing as much as we wanted to watch movies? The business model would shift and things would change–in a different direction.

I’m not sure there’s an intrinsic reason that watching a particular movie is more satisfying than solving an endemic problem. We’ve simply evolved our culture to be focused on the business of amusement instead of the journey toward better. [Emphasis added]
—Seth Godin, In search of amusement

Seth points out that our business models have shifted away from those that satisfy needs, towards those that satisfy wants. These growing businesses make money by selling distraction from work, work that is needed to make things better.

Pandemic distractions

As I write this, the COVID pandemic has been raging for a year. We’ve had even more reasons to distract ourselves from the additional turmoil the pandemic has brought to our lives. Online streaming consumption has soared (while live event attendance has plummeted). The rise of online makes it possible to choose exactly the kind of distraction we want with a click or finger tap.

It’s hard to believe that in a (hopefully) post-pandemic future, we’ll spontaneously give up our newfound distractions. Especially since businesses are hard at work creating more distraction opportunities and temptations, making it even easier to avoid what matters.

After all, that’s where the money is.

Or is it?

A different choice

Each of us can make a different choice.

It’s going to need to be a conscious choice, because businesses craft their distractions to be as addictive as possible. They will continue to do their best to make us want things that aren’t what we need.

There are so many unmet basic needs in this world. Here are some important ones:

  • Shelter
  • Food and water
  • Healthcare
  • Safety
  • Adequate income
  • Education

None of these needs are impossible to satisfy. The human race is capable of significantly improving access to all of them right now.

Working to meet these needs is a global effort. No one person can singlehandedly satisfy these needs. But each of us can do something.

You can make a difference

Individually, you can make a difference. Each of has unique talents and energy to devote to issues that matter.

We can choose to distract ourselves a little less, and use our freed up time to make the world a little better.

Because, for our world to become a better place, we can’t keep distracting ourselves from what matters.

You get to choose. Reduce weekly Netflix watching? Stop solving quite so many crossword puzzles? Don’t play Solitaire so often? (Those are some of my choices.)

Use your freed up time to make the world a little better. (I choose to help run non-profits that provide support for healthcare and education, and to support other non-profits that work on improving the world.)

Make a conscious choice that works for you. One that supports a “journey towards better” for the world we live in.

 

 

Have I Met You Before? Three ways to minimize embarrassment when meeting people

Have I Met You Before
An embarrassing incident
I was hanging out at the Marlboro South Pond Regatta, a whimsical affair where local sailors of all stripes and abilities casually “race” around a few buoys in the lake, sometimes stopping to chat mid-race with each other or watch our beautiful loons. (They carry their babies on their backs — see photo!)

A man passed, and our eyes met for a moment. “Have I met him before?” I thought. “He looks very familiar.” But I couldn’t make the connection, and said nothing.

A few minutes later, my wife, who was talking to a woman I didn’t recognize, turned to me and said, “You remember Lisa don’t you?” Memory flooded back, and I realized that I’d met Lisa on Anguilla 18 months ago when she and the familiar man, whose name I now remembered as Willy, had visited the island.

I felt a little embarrassed.

This happens all the time
As a facilitator of conferences and meetings, I meet and talk with hundreds of people every year. I used to be pretty good at recognizing people I’d previously met, and was invariably able to remember their name, the circumstances, and what we talked about.

These days, my memory for these things…well, it sucks.

While I’m with people, I remember them well and can be with them effectively, using the information they’ve shared to explore new areas and deepen the relationship.

But within a few days, my recollection starts to blur. Circumstances, names, and details of our conversations disappear from short-term memory, and if I later see someone again I often can’t put them in context. A reminder brings my memory back, but needing one can be embarrassing. I don’t want to forget the people I meet — but my aging brain is less cooperative.

What to do?
I don’t want to fake remembering someone when I can’t initially place them. Having an aide with flawless recall at my side wherever I go, ready to whisper “that’s Merrigan Pertussis; you met her at the 2012 Nutrition for Athletes; in September you water-skied with her younger brother Placido in Ibiza” would be nice, but, unfortunately, is not an option for me or, I suspect, most people.

So here are three ways to minimize embarrassment when meeting people whom you might have met before.

Read the rest of this entry »

My treadmill desk — the next generation

My treadmill desk — the next generationI’ve replaced my treadmill desk with the next generation: a simpler, cheaper, and better alternative!

Five years ago I shared my initial and follow-up experiences with a treadmill desk. Since then I’ve walked over 1,600 miles while working, and have seen a clear correlation between my general level of wellbeing and regular use of my walking desk for (typically) a couple of hours a day.

Last week, however, I noticed that my upper arms were aching after using my desk. After a few days experimenting, I realized that the height of the commercial plastic shelf I’ve been using since 2012 was causing my shoulders and upper arms to tense up while typing, leading to the achiness. Though this hadn’t happened before, I’m getting older and creakier and I needed to do something if I was going to continue to reap the benefits of my walking-while-working routine.

Googling “DIY treadmill desk” led me to the post How to Build a Treadmill Desk for Under $20! which acknowledges the original inspiration of Super Cheap DIY Treadmill Desk. Both articles described a simple, cheaper, and better solution to my problem.

Simple, because I could quickly build a better shelf myself.

Cheaper, because I used materials already in my possession. (But even if you bought everything, it should cost you less than $20.)

Better, because the new shelf:

  • rests on the arms of my treadmill at a perfect height for me to type with my forearms level, avoiding the scrunched up shoulders my old desk required, and;
  • is twice as wide as the old one, giving me a place to rest reference materials right next to my keyboard while writing.

Materials: a piece of plywood, two brackets, four screws, two hooks, one bungee cord.

Tools: saw, tape, pencil, screwdriver.

Time: about an hour.

Here’s the side view of my finished shelf. The brackets were only needed because my treadmill’s arms have a gentle slope. Some treadmills have horizontal arms, making construction even easier.

My treadmill desk — the next generation

Construction is so simple that these pictures and the referenced articles should contain all the information you need. Though I don’t regret purchasing my (now discontinued) commercial shelf in 2012, this homemade version is a great improvement. If you have a home or office treadmill and want to work while walking, this is the way to go!

How to get better at doing anything

get better at doing anythingHow can we get better at doing anything?

A lost tourist asks a native New Yorker “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” to which the local replies “Practice, practice, practice!”

Good advice. But if we want to get better at doing something, what should we practice?

The obvious answer is that we should practice improving what we are doing well. So we get even better at it.

My mentor Jerry Weinberg has a different suggestion.

“What are the basic skills required to be a good programmer?”

When this question came up on Quora.com, lots of good and useful answers were given, but they all seemed to be external answers. For me, with more than 60 years of programming experience, the one thing that made me a better programmer than most was my ability and willingness to examine myself critically and do something about my shortcomings. And, after 60 years, I’m still doing that.”
—Jerry Weinberg, What are the basic skills required to be a good programmer?

Being continually willing and able to notice our shortcomings and concentrate on working on them may be the most effective strategy we can use to get better at doing anything.

Image by Jonathunder (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

My favorite to-do list manager

favorite to-do list manager

My favorite to-do list manager

I’ve lost count of the number of To Do list managers I’ve tried over the years—there have been so many. Most recently, Omnifocus and Wunderlist were my repositories, but I eventually grew frustrated enough to dump them; nothing I’ve used has eliminated the time-honored alternative of writing notes on scraps of paper that get scattered around my desk.

Until now.

I have been using Trello for the last six months, and I’m very happy with it. [Update in 2021: Six years later, it’s still my favorite to-do list manager!]

Here’s what I like about this nifty piece of software.

  • It runs on my desktops and mobile devices, syncing seamlessly between platforms. I can update my To Do lists anywhere. (Trello runs on Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer, iOS 7+, Android 4+, and, should the spirit move you, your Kindle Fire HD – 2nd Gen.)
  • It works flawlessly. (Wunderlist, I’m looking at you—I shouldn’t need to frantically email tech support when all my lists vanish; yes, you did restore them for me which is very nice for a free service but…)
  • Trello can handle much more than To Do lists. I keep all my To Do’s on one Trello “board”, but you can easily create additional boards for projects that have more than a few associated tasks if that works better for you. (Or you could color code a project’s items so they stand out on your main To Do board. Or you could tag them. Or…)
  • It’s very flexible without being over-complex (Omnifocus, I’m talking about you.) I use a combination of Getting Things Done and Kanban methodologies, and Trello makes it a snap to extend the core Kanban model (To Do, Doing, Done) in any way you like. Each Trello board can have any number of Lists, and each list can hold any number of Cards, which are your basic individual action items. For an example look at my To Do board above, which includes a set of three priority To Do lists (cool, warm hot), a Brattleboro list (for things to do when I go into town), a Waiting list (off screen) for things I’m waiting for someone else to get back to me on, as well as Doing and Done lists.
  • Moving stuff about is a dream. On a desktop device, drag a card with your mouse to where you want it. No delay, just drag it to a new list and it pops into place. On a touch-screen, use your finger to drag; it works the same way. Wunderlist sometimes had annoying lags (“did I move it or not?”) while Trello just works—Steve Jobs would be proud.
  • More features are available when you need them, but they don’t get in the way. See this intro Trello board that lists some of the things you can do that maybe I’ll want to do some day.

favorite to-do list manager

  • Trello is free for the functionality I need. If you start using it inside an organization, you can purchase Trello Business Class, which costs $5 per user per month or $45 per user per year and adds administrative controls and security (plus export in CSV format; see below). That’s how they make money. At the time of writing, Trello has ~5 million users.

See why it’s my favorite to-do list manager?

Any quibbles?

Of course—nothing’s perfect! (But Trello comes close.) The main thing that’s a little disturbing is that all your data is stored by Trello and if the company’s massive server cloud was vaporized you’d lose all your lovely To Dos. The free version of Trello only allows export to JSON, which cannot be opened by Excel, and you’d need to use a JSON->CSV converter to get your To Dos in a form that us mere mortals can view and manipulate. The only other thing I find a little clumsy is the procedure to add or change a due date for a card, though writing this article led me to discover a world of Trello shortcuts which simplify such operations. (Yup, more evidence that the best way to learn about anything is to try and explain it.)

Conclusion

Sign up today! It doesn’t cost anything, and no salesperson will call. Want to explain to me why the To Do list manager you use is way better than this? Type away in the comments!

How to spread your time jam

Spread your time jam 4394731141_abbe5288c3_b

What’s the best way to spread your time jam?

You’re probably a consultant—even if you think you aren’t. So, what’s the best way to spend your consulting time? Let’s explore the choice of how many people to work with.

You could work with one other person, maximizing your influence and effectiveness for that one person. In one-to-one work you can adjust the amount of detail and depth, level of sophistication, optimum environment, and speed at which you interact to create the best possible circumstances for appropriate learning and problem solving.

Or you could work with several people simultaneously. A small group can be a marvelous place for people to learn, with your contribution immediately available to all and easy access to clarification and further learning through feedback, questions, and sparked conversations. Perhaps your words of wisdom are more relevant to some in the group than others, but what you say is reaching a wider audience.

How about teaching a class? Now your expertise reaches tens or hundreds of people, though it’s harder to know whether what happens is hitting the spot with your students. Even using frequent feedback and small group work doesn’t give you the same guiding information you could get from a small group, and your class could be largely irrelevant to some without you ever knowing it.

What about writing a book? I spent four years part time writing Conferences That Work: Creating Events That People Love. Thousands have purchased the book, many more people than I’m ever going to reach at a single event. That’s an impressive spread of influence. And yet, although I’ve spoken with many purchasers over the last three years since it was published, they are a minority. For most buyers, I don’t know whether they’ve devoured it from cover to cover or if the book sits, unread, on a pile or a shelf.

There’s a dilemma here.

The Law of Raspberry Jam

Jerry Weinberg, calls this dilemma the Law of Raspberry Jam:

The wider you spread it, the thinner it gets.

The smaller the number of people we work with, the more likely we are to influence effectively. The more people we work with, the wider our influence spreads but the weaker it gets.

One interesting observation about influence is how our society values spread over depth. In general, people who successfully spread thin but wide are compensated—with money and fame—better than those who successfully go for depth.

Or, as Jerry puts it:

Influence or affluence; take your choice.

(I wonder about the rightness of this. Most of the important learning in my life, and I suspect in most people’s, has sprung from powerful personal interactions, not thinly spread broadcast content. Well, so be it.)

So what should we do?

As usual, it depends. Let’s assume you have needed expertise or something important to share. If you want fame and fortune more than anything else, then get cracking on that blockbuster book, big movie role, etc. If you want the opportunity to make a big difference with a few people, then concentrate on being a great consultant to your clients.

I love working with individuals and small groups, so I spend much of my time concentrating on depth over breadth. But it’s also important to me to get my ideas out into the world, even though I don’t enjoy the process as much, so I blog, write books, give presentations, and facilitate conferences. Spreading my influence thinly in these ways creates openings for the personal connections and work that are my preferred passions.

This way of looking at how many people you work with can be applied to your use of social media too. Celebrities broadcast to their followers but usually don’t interact with them much. I prefer to use social media for conversations, but I also send out links to my blog posts. We get to choose.

Making a choice

Getting the balance right between depth and breadth is a personal choice—there is no one right answer. The first step is to notice the balance you use and determine if it’s working for you. If not, consider adjusting your work mix so it better reflects your needs and wants.

Don’t stop there. I worked with clients almost exclusively for many years before discovering that there were things I wanted to share en masse. Your optimum balance between depth and breadth may change over time. So evaluate it regularly as part of your regular work life review.

That way you’ll be spreading your time jam just the way you like it. Yum!

Photo attribution: Flickr user KennethWatt

How to continuously improve your work life

continuously improve work lifeI’ve already shared what I’ve learned about working productively. Now, here’s a simple review you can use to continuously improve your work life.

But first a confession…

An important part of the Getting Things Done methodology, of which I’m a devotee, is a weekly review. For years I’ve struggled to consistently implement the GTD weekly review, but I’ve never been able to completely integrate it into my professional life. Creating a regular review habit isn’t easy for me, and, I suspect, for many. That’s why my success with a work life review could be valuable for you.

An accidental discovery

I fell into doing a work life review by chance. When I was an information technology consultant, I billed my clients at the end of each month. As I added up the billable hours I found myself thinking about the work I had just completed for them: the effort it took and the aspects I did or didn’t enjoy.

As the months went by, based on what I was noticing, I slowly started to make changes in:

  • How I was doing my work.
  • The kinds of work I promoted to potential clients.
  • The clients I chose to work for.

For example, I realized that working with clients who paid well but wanted me to be at their beck and call, or who treated me disrespectfully was not worth the stress and occasional unpleasantness I experienced. Over time I dropped these clients and became better at choosing work situations that were a better fit for me.

My monthly work life review became an essential part of my professional routine during my 23 years as an IT consultant. Twelve times a year, with the results of the past month’s work spread before me, I gave myself the opportunity to reflect on what had happened and what I might like to change. This practice made me a better consultant—and a happier one!

But I’m not a consultant!

Even if you’re not a consultant or self-employed, invariably there will be aspects of your work that you can make choices about, and a regular work life review will still be useful. Implementing a work life review is important because, in the constant rush to keep your business healthy and responsive or to keep up with the demands of your job, it’s easy to neglect to review the direction of and satisfaction with the work you perform. When you don’t take the time to do a regular work life review, your relationship with your work is likely to get stuck in a rut.

For example, during a review perhaps you’ll notice there are certain work tasks you like better than others. At some point you may be able to alter your job duties so they’re more aligned with what you’ve discovered you prefer. Or you get an opportunity to delegate activities that don’t fit with your abilities or interests. Being aware of what you want for your work environment makes you ready to act on openings that could appear at any time.

Even if your manager or boss directs every minute of your workday, a work life review can still be a useful exercise if you’re considering changing your job.

Getting in the habit

Convinced that a work life review would be useful for you? It’s helpful to tie it to a regular and appropriate work activity. Why? Because it’s hard to make time for, and easy to put off such optional activities. My end of the month billing was ideal, since it required me to review all the work I’d done over the previous four weeks. Look for similar kinds of reviews you already perform as part of your work. See if you can incorporate a work life review at the same times.

It’s important to schedule a regular review. Once a month worked well for me.

Review tasks

Here are questions to ask yourself during each work life review.

  • What activities am I spending time on?
  • How much do I enjoy working on each activity?
  • How stressful has my professional life been since the last review, and how is that related to the amount and type of work I’ve done?
  • Could I change my work emphasis to make my professional life more enjoyable/lucrative by:
    • Concentrating more of a particular subset of clients, or by giving up a client?
    • Focusing on the kinds of work I enjoy/find more lucrative?
    • Turning down work offers that my reviews indicate are not a good fit for me?

I didn’t find it necessary to include the development of action outcomes at the end of every review. Rather, I began to notice patterns over several months and these helped me make changes, both small and large, to my consulting practice when the right opportunities presented themselves. You may prefer, however, to include a brief evaluation at the end of each review, perhaps in writing, so that you can discover recurring themes from one review to the next.

I encourage you to develop your own design for your review. You may decide, like me, on an informal, intuitive review, or a more formal process with fixed questions, written responses, an evaluation, and action steps. Ultimately, creating a review that works for you and is easy to implement regularly is what’s most important.

Perhaps you already use a work life review? What do you do, and how has it affected your work life? Share your process and discoveries here. And if you are inspired to start a work life review, I’d love to hear how it works out!

Photo attribution: Flickr user jamescridland

My treadmill desk: some follow-up observations

My treadmill desk: some follow-up observations
The author looking spry on his 61th birthday recently.

A couple of months ago I wrote about how much I’ve been appreciating my treadmill desk. Here are a few follow-up observations.

Take it easy!
Before I started using my treadmill desk my main scheduled exercise was walking outside (on varied, hilly terrain) for forty minutes or so three times a week. After starting, I set the treadmill and timer for four daily 20-minute sessions at 1.7 mph and a 4% incline. I felt great after the sessions and not especially tired. But after a couple of weeks I began to get achy joints. Not only my knees but also my shoulders and neck. I had been overdoing it.

As a result I reduced my walking speed to 1.2 – 1.3 mph, increased the session time to 25-30 minutes, and eliminated the incline. I now average 3-4 sessions a day and the aches have disappeared. According to the Sole F80, my daily workout consumes around 200-270 calories, down somewhat from the 300 calories I initially was burning. On average, there are one to two days each week when I don’t have time to go on the treadmill (nearly always when I’m away from home and walking while working or shopping around town).

Ramping up over time
In my first post, I speculated that I might ramp up the number, length, or difficulty of sessions over time. What I’ve found so far is that I feel well exercised and reluctant to walk more after 90-120 minutes of treadmill per day. While I’m sure that I could stay on the treadmill longer I am satisfied with the time I spend on the machine and don’t currently plan to do more.

Sleeping better
I’ve noticed that I sleep better on the days I exercise. This is a major plus!

Weight loss
After having more or less the same weight for the last year, I’ve lost six pounds over the last three months. I seem to be keeping the weight off. Losing a couple of pounds a month is approximately what you’d expect from the amount of additional exercise I’m now doing. I can stand to lose some more weight—long may this continue!

Increased creativity
Finally, I continue to find working while walking a significant stimulus to my creativity. For a long time I’ve been writing about one blog post a week. Recently, I have been averaging nearly two a week. I am also working on finishing my next book, and have found it much easier to get those 600+ words a day written while walking.

Conclusions?
Better sleep, healthy weight loss, increased creativity? What’s not to like? As long as I don’t overdo it, using a treadmill desk works for me. Recommended!

Why, sometimes, how is better than why

how better than why

“People don’t buy what you do; people buy why you do it.”—Simon Sinek

In his popular TED Talk, Start With Why, Simon Sinek explains why he believes that knowing why you do what you do is a fundamentally more important question to be able to answer than how you do it or what you do. He says that great leaders are successful because they are able to infuse their organizations with the why of their existence. Consequently, Simon argues that you need to figure out why your company or organization exists and why that should be meaningful to your customers.

I completely agree with Simon that Why do you do what you do? is the fundamental question. Another word for this is mission, and once you or your organization has one it guides everything you do.

(My mission, by the way, is: I love to facilitate connections between people.)

So why then, when I start a Conferences That Work event with The Three Questions, is the first question participants answer: “How did I get here?” not “Why am I here?” Why not get down to the nitty gritty Why? instead of spending time on the less important How?

My answer? Because “Why?” is one of the hardest questions to answer. It took me around 55 years to arrive at my current mission statement (yes, it could still change). Expecting people who have just arrived at a conference to come up in a few minutes with the why? that drives everything they do, including attending the event, is unrealistic and unfair.

Asking about how participants got here allows answers from the mundane (“I flew here from Chicago”) through the informative (“I first came in 2005 because Joe told me I had to come; he was right; I met so many wonderful people and learn so much every year I haven’t missed one since”) to answers that are, in fact, about mission (“I saw the program and couldn’t think of a better way to meet people who share my passion about creating tech startups that don’t crash and burn.”)

In other words, how? is a question that allows participants to safely share about themselves, revealing something about their past that brought them to the event. And, crucially, answering how? does not preclude the possibility of answering why?

Your big picture how? includes motivation, and ultimately mission. Sometimes, you get to your why? via your how? That’s why, sometimes, how is better than why.

Feel free to share your mission, or your personal journey towards one, in the comments below!

P.S. Bonus: here’s a two minute video I made of the start of Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why” talk at Meeting Professionals International’s 2011 World Education Conference.

Image attribution: startwithwhy.com