Happier Means More Productive

A Minimal Effort ™ life includes happiness at work. I ran across this article and just had to share it: http://www.theworkbuzz.com/on-the-job/are-your-emotions-thriving-or-thrashing-in-your-job/?siteid=CRMemail&utm_source=Unengaged&utm_medium=handler&utm_campaign=CRMEmail


Getting Resistance? Great!


You must have encountered it on a beach at some point — two kinds of sand. There is the dry, soft sand and the wet, firm sand. As you probably know, it’s a lot easier to walk on the firm sand. Life can be like this too. When you find yourself in a situation where things are very forgiving and flexible, you may think that’s a good thing, but be aware of your progress toward your goal. You may be moving much more slowly and with more difficulty than you would if you had a firmer, less forgiving environment. And when you seem to be getting a lot of resistance, think about that firm sand and remember how useful a firm, resistant environment can be. It’s probably just the thing you need to push against in order to launch yourself in the right direction.

More Now, Less Later

Getting ready for a vacation this week reminded me of the Minimal Effort(tm) rule: More now, less later. It seems to always happen this way; the week before a trip is busy not only with the preparations for the trip, but also with extra work and chores and complications that don’t happen in a typical week. For some reason, the universe seems to think it is necessary for me to be completely exhausted and burned out in order to fully appreciate my vacation. I assure you, universe, I am quite capable of enjoying my vacation without the extra drama and stress beforehand!

However, there are a lot of cases in life when some extra effort early on can save you considerable effort in the long run. For example, it may take some time, effort, and considerable thought to implement a filing or other organization system, but if you consider how much time, effort, and frustration it will save you from now on, that initial effort is well worth it.

And so it has been for my vacation. A lot of extra effort initially means I am feeling very relaxed and ready for fun, knowing that I accomplished many great things last week and have taken care of anything that may have kept me worrying this week. I wish you many Minimal Effort(tm) weeks like mine — calm and proud of your accomplishments. One way to get there is with extra effort up front.

Resolution Check-in

Hiker on MountainDid you Join the Resolution Revolution?  Did you make a new resolution for June?  If so, how is it going?

If you are wondering what I’m talking about, go back and read my original post, Minimal Effort(tm) Resolutions.  Then join right in and get started making your life better in bite-size increments.

The Resolution Revolution is about making resolutions to improve your life, except instead of doing it on a massive scale once a year, all by yourself, we Resolutionaries do it together, one easy resolution per month.  After sticking to a resolution for a whole month, it should become habit, or nearly so, and be easy to maintain while you proceed with the next resolution the next month.

To that end, I made a resolution for June that I would update my blog three times per week.  I scheduled those updates for Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday of each week, although there is some leeway if the situation calls for a reschedule.  I’m happy to say that so far I have stuck to my commitment!  I have had some challenges, and yes, the schedule did need some tweaking more than once, but I’m still on track for my three updates per week, and feeling very good about it!

How is your June resolution going?  What have your challenges been?  Your successes?  Post comments here to get help with your challenges and celebrate your successes, no matter how small.  This is a forum for support and accountability as you systematically make tiny improvements every day that add up to 12 new great, beneficial habits every year.  You’ll hardly notice the miniscule burden this places on your daily life, at least until you compare your life as it is now to your life as it will be a year from now. I can’t wait to meet the “new you!”

In keeping with the supportive nature of the Revolution, I’d like to report my challenges and successes so far.  My biggest challenge was that I made a major life decision at the same time I made this commitment — I decided to go back to school!  That’s right, this mom of a 25-year-old Master’s graduate is going for a Master’s herself!  Not only that, I was generously given the opportunity to apply now and start in the Fall.  THIS Fall, that is , about two months from now!  Which meant I had a lot to do in a short time, including taking the GRE.  The program I am applying for is a Communication program, so the Verbal and writing scores were the most important, but I didn’t want to completely choke on the Math either, so studying was my life for a couple of weeks.

Now, understand, it has been several decades (I’d rather not admit how many) since I’ve used or even seen most of the math covered on the test, so I had my work cut out for me.  Fortunately, I have a 25-year-old Math major with a Master’s degree.  Oh, yeah, the son tutored the mom for sure!

Because of this program’s high expectations in the Verbal section, I couldn’t let that slide either.  So there was a great deal of preparation going on at my house, plus arranging for transcripts and recommendation letters, and writing my personal statement for the application.  All in addition to my usual obligations and activities of life, including work, although fortunately that is fairly light this time of year. (I mean fortunately in the time-management sense.  Unfortunately in the financial sense.)

So I did find it a challenge to get my three updates done per week, but I’ve done it one way or another so far.  And the GRE is now past, as I took it this morning, with good results.  Definitely a success worth celebrating!  I’ll have the last few pieces of my application turned in by the end of this week and then I will be at the beach for a week!

Speaking of which, updates will still happen while I am vacationing, but may be much shorter and/or “fluffier”.

Now that I’ve shared my progress so far and my challenges and successes, won’t you do the same?  Leave a comment below — I’d love to hear how you’re doing!

By the way, we now have only 11 days until July resolutions begin.  It’s time to start giving some thought to what you want your July resolution to be, if you haven’t already. Not sure what to choose?  Comment here for help from fellow Resolutionaries.

Keep on with your June resolution and start preparing for the July one.  In the meantime, have a GREAT Minimal Effort(tm) day!




How NOT to take Feedback (Part 2.5)

Ketchup SmileHow could I have left these out?  It’s true, my brain is a little fried lately — some of you know why — and my blogging time has been limited.  But I didn’t want to leave you without this important stuff, so here are 3 things you should NOT do with your feedback:

1. Don’t take it personally

A lot of people won’t give you accurate feedback because they are afraid of hurting your feelings or causing a problem, or because they are just not the sharing type, or because they are the type who only notice when something is “wrong” and therefore when everything is fine and great, they won’t tell you so.

So, when you specifically ask someone for feedback, and you make it clear that you want them to give their honest opinion, be ready to hear almost anything.  Your source may not be very practiced at giving feedback for the previously mentioned reasons, so they will not necessarily phrase it in a way that is encouraging or helpful to you.  That’s okay.  Think of it as applying to someone else, someone you have never heard of, then analyze it for how you can use it to move forward. Put on your grown-up pants and be professional.  Don’t take it personally.

2. Don’t take it passionately

In other words, keep your ego and  your emotions out of the picture as you receive and analyze your feedback.  Not necessarily an easy thing to do, but like a lot of things it gets easier with practice.  And it’s necessary.  The minute you react emotionally to your feedback, you lose any value you may have gotten from it.  The value in it is comparing it to your intentions and goals, deciding how much weight to give it in future decisions, and moving on.

When you allow someone’s comment to send you into an emotional tailspin or an ego trip, you are taking what is a limited and flawed piece of advice and turning into a rent-free resident in your mind who does nothing to help you reach your goal.  It’s time to evict that deadbeat and pile all the baggage on the sidewalk.  You’ve got work to do, and no time for anything that doesn’t help.  So don’t take it passionately.

3. Don’t take passively

If you just indiscriminately absorb every bit of feedback you receive, from every source imaginable, you will find that you are constantly being buffeted about by the opinions of others.  You will likely find yourself from time to time getting feedback you didn’t ask for from people whose opinions you are not sure you can trust.  You will occasionally hear things second or third hand that someone said about you or your work.  And there is always the completely random know-it-all on the street who finds it necessary to say whatever he or she is thinking, whether or not it is relevant or knowledgeable or even appropriate.

When these come along, remember that you are in control of your feedback.  If it was inappropriate for the person to say what they did, it’s okay to toss that piece of feedback and seek something more appropriate.  However, be prepared in case your more reliable feedback source agrees with the ninny on the street!

Also, never give any credence to any opinion you don’t get first hand.  If Susie says that Nancy said that her brother’s doctor’s hairdresser said… you just can’t be sure how true that information is, much less whether the opinion that was supposedly expressed is relevant or knowledgeable.  Therefore, it is not worth your time (or nerves) to even consider it.  Forget you heard it at all.  Unless it’s a really good review, in which case, you can claim a little credit and bask for a moment before throwing it out.  Whichever kind of feedback it is, you may want to go to your trusted sources and specifically ask for their feedback on that particular issue.  And as always, put your feedback under a microscope and use it to help you evaluate yourself.  Don’t take it passively!

As with a lot of things in life, there are hard ways and easier ways to take your feedback.  As “Your Minimal Effort(tm) Guru” I want you to do it the easiest way possible, and that means not wasting time and energy feeling high or low because of some feedback you got.  Give that feedback its proper place, and save your energy for the real work which is to come.

Feedback (Part 2)

When  and how should you take feedback?  In Part 1, we talked about the why and the who, but now that you know why you need it and from whom to get it, when should you get it?  And when you do get it, how do you take it?

There is an easy answer to the first question: as often as possible.  Feedback is an indispensable tool without which you can’t know how close you are to your target, or in which direction to move to get you closer to it.  It shows you where you are in relation to where you want to be at any given moment, from some perspective.  That last phrase is important, so I’ll repeat it: from some perspective.  If you’ve chosen the right person or people to get your feedback from, the views you’ll be getting will be the ones that matter to you.  No matter what, though, keep in mind that any one perspective is just that: one perspective.

Which brings me to the next question: how should you take feedback when it comes? Let’s assume you are receiving feedback you invited, from a source you chose, so you know it will be knowledgeable and relevant.  Still, there are things you need to remember as you consider what you’re being told about yourself, your effectiveness, your performance, or whatever your feedback is about.

First, remember that one person’s opinion is just that: one person’s opinion.  The further your source deviates from the knowledgeable and relevant, the more you must keep this in mind, but even the best source is still just one of many possible sources.  There could be quite a wide range of other reactions in your audience at large.

Second, not only is your source limited, the sample they are evaluating is limited too.  Keep in mind that the feedback you get is based on the sample of your work, that is, one essay, one speech, one painting, one online transaction, etc., out of many that you have produced or will produce.

So here you have a limited sample being evaluated by a limited source of feedback.  What does that tell you?  Good or bad, the comments you receive will only be a limited sample of the total reaction of everyone who ever comes in contact with your work.  It may or may not actually reflect the true effect you are having or your proximity to your goal.

Why then should you get this feedback at all?  Because, limited and flawed though it may be, it is still the best you can get with the resources you have available, and it will give you a starting point for your own self-evaluation.  Take the information and give it serious thought.  In the end, you may disagree with your source if you have sufficient evidence, but keep getting feedback and keep evaluating that feedback with careful thought.  Reserve the right to change your mind and actually agree later on if the evidence supports that.

Self-evaluation is very difficult because we are just too close to our own work to see it objectively.  That is why we can only do it with outside feedback.  But it is also important to take the feedback we get and run it through a process of careful consideration before blindly accepting it, because it is so limited in scope.  Of course, the more feedback you get from appropriate people within the range of your target audience, the less limited in scope, and the more useful to you, it becomes.

Now that you know why, when, how, and from whom to get feedback, what if you are the one who is asked to give feedback?  How can you do that most effectively?  Stay tuned, because that’s coming up in Part 3.

Until then, have a happy Father’s Day and a great Minimal Effort(tm) day!


Minimal Effort(tm) Weight Loss? The Best Diet of All

Trying to decide which diet is the best? I’ve always thought that the most effective weight loss plan is the one you stick to.  Then I ran across this article:  The Best Diet of All.

If’ you’re looking for the most effective and healthy way to lose weight, this article provides a great dose of common sense.

You might want to make some healthy eating habits or exercise one of your resolutions.  I’d love to share your resolution journey!  Just leave a comment with your resolution, thoughts, ideas, questions, hiaku or whatever you want (within reason — I do moderate).  Let’s support and hold each other accountable for our resolutions!

The Resolution Revolution is underway!  Join in by subscribing and participating here.

Have a great, Minimal Effort(tm) Day!


Feedback: Why, Who, When, and How (Part 1)

Nassau LighthouseFeedback is essential when you are working toward a goal, unless, of course, it has to do with sound equipment (yikes!).

You can never improve at anything if you don’t know how well you did the last time and in what ways, and you can’t know how close you are to your goal and whether the steps you took got you any closer if you don’t have some kind of feedback.

Sometimes your feedback is obvious and easy to obtain.  For example, it’s really obvious that I missed a scheduled blog update yesterday!  I know that because I remember that I didn’t do it, and because WordPress tracks all my posts and shows none for yesterday, so even if I couldn’t remember what I did yesterday, I’d be able to tell I didn’t post anything.

But often, something you’re trying to do just doesn’t have inherently obvious or immediate feedback.  You often need to get it from other people.  And that’s where it starts to get tricky.

Now that you know why to obtain feedback, it’s important to consider from whom to get it, when to get it, and how to get it.  And the same thing applies to giving feedback, which is an important skill.

In order to keep this short, I will stick to one thing today, and that is: Who? Who will be the person or people you ask for your feedback?  Not just anyone will do.  Ladies, if you ask your husband “Does this make me look fat?” he is not likely to give you an honest answer, especially if itisn’t his favorite look for you, and if he wants to keep harmony in your relationship.  In fact, there may be no one in your life who has the same eye for how you want to look that you have.  Your best bet for feedback on your own appearance is a mirror and a camera. (It’s okay to have someone take the picture or video of you — I didn’t mean that you have to stand in front of a mirror with a camera and try to take a picture of yourself.  Especially if it’s your behind that concerns you!)

I’ve often advised people that they should not necessarily share their most important goals with everyone they know.  Sometimes not even with those who are closest to them.  Your spouse, close friends, and family members are very emotionally invested in you the way you are now.  Sometimes when you set out to make an ambitious change in your life, these are the very people who will — subtly or otherwise — try to sabotage your efforts, often without even knowing that’s what they’re doing.  They want to help you avoid disappointment, perhaps, or they just have no experience in the realm you’re heading for and have anxiety about going there with you, even peripherally.  Maybe they think it’s “weird” that you want to do that, but they don’t want to hurt your feelings so they don’t come right out and say that.  Instead, they withhold support in subtle ways, or make suggestions that, if followed, would take you in a direction contrary to what you have chosen — usually a more conventional (to them) or less “weird” direction.

So if you can’t reveal your deepest desires and goals to your closest loved ones, to whom can you go for feedback?  Look for someone you know who has some expertise in the area for which you need feedback, but who is not necessarily a close friend.  Hiring a professional coach is a great option.

So is this space.  If you want to share your goal and/or resolution here and receive feedback, support, and accountability, please do!  Post your goal or resolution using the comment feature below and ask any questions you have or report periodically on your progress, challenges, and setbacks.

In Part 2 I’ll talk about when and how to take feedback, and in Part 3, how to give effective feedback.  Until then, have a great Minimal Effort(tm) day!

Great Minds Think Alike

Not long after I had finished congratulating myself on the great Idea that came for a visit recently (now named the Resolution Revolution, and described in the original post), I came across this blog and was immediately humbled.

It seems The Idea visited more than one of us, although in perhaps slightly different form. This gentleman (whose name is never mentioned on his site that I could see) resolved to learn 7 new things and give in 5 new ways in 2012 — 12 Resolutions for 2012. Unlike my idea of the Resolution Revolution — one resolution a month, resulting in 12 a year — he chose his 12 things at the beginning and is pursuing them throughout the year on the schedule he chooses.

I have several thoughts about this. First of all, I really admire his decision to do this, and the choices he made for his resolutions. I must be getting old, because I just can’t seem to muster up that much ambition all at once.  Second, I’m very pleased to see his excellent documentation of his journeys as he works on each resolution. I love his commentary and the pictures included in the posts. Finally, I’m amazed that anyone with that many resolutions going at once has stuck with it and not been completely overwhelmed. There is a lot of room in that list for excuses, and he doesn’t seem to let them have any air time at all. He is truly an inspiration.

For those of us who may be less disciplined or ambitious, there is the Resolution Revolution. One resolution is all you have to deal with at once. For ordinary humans, this approach may be much more likely to succeed, but if you just don’t want to wait, go ahead and use his approach. I don’t mind.

Whichever you choose, please comment here! Let me know what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and what we as a community can do to help and support you. We’re making the world a better place by improving our own little corners of it! Jump right in and join us any time!

Have a Minimal Effort(tm) day!


What If You’re Stuck?

"Oh, No! What Now?"A few days ago, I began what I have come to call the Resolution Revolution (read the original post).  I hope you’ve joined it, but if not, it’s never too late!  Just make a resolution today, just one, to build a new good habit, then stay tuned here for help, support, and accountability.

I’m on the third installment of my June resolution, which is to update my blog three times per week.  So far, so good.  It’s right about now, when I am feeling the pinch of that commitment, and the obligation begins to weigh a little heavily, that I often get stuck.  You know the feeling, I’m sure.

Yes, I SAID I was going to update three times a week, but really, this has been an unusually full week (and actually, in my case it really has, as some of you know, because I made a HUGE decision over the weekend and another, much bigger commitment for my future.  More about that later.) So you’ve been busy, the spouse and kids have been sick, things came up at work that kept you there for longer days, your in-laws are visiting, and the dog brought fleas into the house.  You’re feeling overwhelmed and the first thing you want to do is eliminate some stress — anything that can reduce your burden a little would help.  Usually the first thing to go is that recent resolution and voila!  You’ve proven yourself human.

I am not immune to this phenomenon.  I have been doing a lot of writing this week and feeling a little burned out with it, so when I realized it is Wednesday already and I have committed to update my blog today, I admit to feeling a little put-upon by that.  “My brain is fried!” I cried.  “I can’t think of anything to write!” I whined.  Fortunately, my inner coach spoke up and said, “My, we’re full of excuses aren’t we?  What a great example we’re setting for those people we’re trying to help!”

So, <grumble> here are your ways to avoid <sigh> ditching your resolution when things get tough <moan>:

  1. Be very clear about your priorities.  List the areas of your life that are the most important and get your best attention first.  Put your resolution near the top of that list, write out the list and post it where you can see it.  Refer to it when you are tempted to quit.
  2. Use your current situation as fuel.  In my case, it is blog fodder.  In yours, it could be “I’ll show THEM” or “Not on MY watch!”
  3. Have external accountability.  I’ve got a public audience to whom I’ve made promises.  You might have an exercise buddy, a diet pal, or a goals group to keep you on track.  Sometimes it’s very easy for us to let ourselves down, but it’s harder to let someone else down.  When my son was little, whenever I got out the vacuum cleaner, he’d ask, “Who’s coming over?”  Yes, that’s about how often I vacuumed.  It was because I couldn’t be bothered to clean for myself, but I didn’t want to let someone else down.  By the way, you can use me and this blog for your accountability.  We can help each other!  In fact, we may be a better choice for you than someone you already know well (see #6 below).  Use the comment button below to join in and let us know what your resolution is.
  4. As evidenced by my grumbles and moans, you don’t have to love it, especially at first.  Just do it.  Have an actively bad attitude about it if you want, but do it anyway.  Eventually you’ll figure out that the bad attitude is just taking up energy you could be using for something else, and you’ll let it go.  By then your new habit should be well-established and not nearly so difficult to maintain.  But in the meantime, feel free to grump it up.
  5. Add more to your expectations for a while.  If you’re seriously having trouble keeping your resolution, make it even more strenuous for a week or two.  That is, require more frequent blog updates, even more and longer exercise (check with your doctor on this one), an even more restrictive diet, whatever makes it even harder to keep your resolution.  Then ease off and say “Ahhhh, that feels better!”
  6. Write down your excuses and send them to your external accountability person/people.  If you’ve picked the right person or group, they will shoot holes in your excuses and make you toe the line.  Sometimes the best people for this are NOT the ones who are closest to you.  They will love and support you no matter what you choose and may not hold you accountable like someone outside your inner circle.  Or you may have trouble accepting “coaching” from them.  You may wish to be on an equal status in your relationship and not want to yield authority to them in cases like this.  So be careful whom you choose.

More help is on the way in future posts.  Be sure to share your journey with us using the comment feature below!

Have a great Minimal Effort(tm) day!

Laura, “Your Minimal Effort(tm) Guru”