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We all have those things that we work on that, for one reason or another, always get pushed aside. Currently, I’ve got two  items on my to do list that seem to never get crossed off.

Today, I’m going to accomplish both of them. But to do so, I knew I needed a change in venue. So I’m writing from the local coffee shop. I’ve treated myself to a latte and I’m not leaving until I make concrete progress on both items.

A break in routine or a new environment can be just the physical change you need to change your mental frame around accomplishing a daunting task (or two). Now, I’m off to accomplish my goals. Just as soon as I finish blogging.


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Letting go

In yoga class this morning, we did a partner exercise where another person helped us stretch. My job was to lie on the floor with the soles of my feet together and let my feet be gently pushed towards my face. All I had to do was relax and let go.

It was the hardest part of class.

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Yesterday, the monkeys went to bed about an hour apart. I put them both to sleep and found that it was much easier to put one kid to bed than it is to put two kids to bed. Even though Monkey #2 was wailing most of the way down.

Bedtime always seems more about processing the monkeys than playing with them, and walking one monkey at a time through the routine is just a lot easier. I can carry them around if I need to. They appreciated the individual attention and so didn’t fight me about tooth brushing and face washing. I suddenly wasn’t trying to do three things at once.  

Lot’s of the things that I do with the monkeys are actually better with two than they would be with one. Like playing in the park or going to the zoo. They feed off of each others’ excitement, engage each other, and keep each other on their toes. What’s more, some activities, like painting and other crafts, seem more worthwhile to get into when there are two kids enjoying the fun. But sometimes the facts remain: two is harder than one.

I’ve been thinking a lot about scalability at work as we grow our company. 10 people was easier to manage than 20. 30 was easier again, because by then we had to get systems in place. 50 people brings new challenges. We’re no longer a very small company but aren’t really big either. For every system and procedure, there always seems to be an exception.

Like having more kids, there are some things that get better and easier when you’re bigger. We have a deeper bench of talent. A broader range of interests and expereince. But the systems and the procedural stuff, like bedtime, are ever more challenging.

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When you’re a monkey, everything looks like a tree.

Image thanks to A. N. Erlandson.

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Often, when I’m working from home, I don’t take a long lunch break in the middle of the day. Instead, I take several short breaks throughout the day.

But sometimes, I need to shift into a different kind of activity to take my mind off a hairy problem and enable insights to emerge. (More on this idea here.) And sometimes, I know that the only way my family will eat dinner is if I manage to make it during the workday.  So I make dinner during lunch.

I’ve discovered several meals which work well when I make them ahead of time. Lasagna, oven baked risotto, and soba noodles with peanut sauce are my favorites. I’ll post the recipes when I get home (I’m writing this at SFO – not quite working from home today.) And please post other good make-ahead recipes that you make during lunch in the comments.

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Many people who work from home spend a lot of time on the phone, connecting with clients, colleagues and other important people.

On my desk, the phone is right next to the computer. It’s difficult for me to stop checking email, editing a document or surfing the web when I’m on the phone. But it’s terrible to conduct a conversation when only half your brain is paying attention. Even if the other person can’t see you, they can tell when they’re not your priority.

As much as I try, I have trouble fighting the suck of the screen when I’m in front of my computer. My solution: I put an extra chair in my office, away from my computer. I sit in it when I’m talking on the phone so I can focus on my conversation. If you don’t have room for a chair, designate another part of your house to sit in for phone calls, or more extreme, turn the computer off. It’ll help you stay focused on your task, stay in the moment and have better phone conversations.

My Staying Focused Chair

My Staying Focused Chair

(Note: I’ll admit. One or two sentences of this post were written while I was on the phone. Old habits die hard.)

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This is a zen Buddhist koan shared by Robyn Waters at the Jump@10 mini conference last week.

She’s the former VP of Trend & Design at Target Corp, current rock star at inspiring people and companies to think smartly, inspirationally, and honestly about their growth. I think she’s an excellent example of where combining your work passions with your life passions can lead you. She’s gone from a stellarcorporate career that almost ate her life to a careerr where she’s a writer/speaker/adviser who sets her own metrics for what successful work looks like and how that plays a part in a successful life. It is inspiring.

And I love the power that that quote reminds us about – our own power to take action to turn on the light. It’s so easy to imagine the shadows of villains all around us – our bosses, our partners, our kids – conspiring to make our lives difficult. When really, often, we’re getting in our own way.

Step out!


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