Monday, April 17, 2017

Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time 3rd Edition By Brian Tracy

I have been on a personal crusade to be more efficient and beat the monster called procrastination. It’s so easy to put projects off when I feel that I have time but just don’t feel like working on them. I’ve been trying mini habits to build up my commitments and bullet journaling to get myself primed for action. I am an advocate that there is no sure way for planning success and that everyone needs to find what works best.

Years ago, I read Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog! I used several of his suggestions to avoid procrastination and to motivate myself back on track. The problem is that I fell off and needed a refresher. Brian just released the 3rd edition of Eat That Frog! With enhanced chapters highlighting the good and ugly of technology. I enjoyed the book, even more, this time because I had tried more motivational tricks and tips over the years and no one gives sound advice better than Brian Tracy. Eat That Frog! Gobbles up any other resource on procrastination or goal setting in the market.  I encourage you to return to the 21 time tried suggestions for becoming a better you to meet surpass goals and scare the procrastination monster away.

I admire Brian’s analogy of the frog on the outset of his book. He likens your “frog” to your biggest and most critical task that you need to accomplish. It’s also the goal that you are most likely to procrastinate about and put on the back burner.  Brian eloquently says that "It has been said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that it is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long”. Very powerful isn’t it? We all have a weight off of our shoulders when we can throw off the one thing that prevents us from enjoying life and bringing key results.

We need to commit to ranking our core objectives and tackling them first. Don't complete the smaller tasks on your daily list just to have a feel good moment. You will only set yourself up for additional stress when your biggest task monster stares down at you. Always have clarity about what you want and make lists of categorized goals so that you can rank them and eat the biggest frogs first thing every morning.

Setting and achieving goals is a process and won't happen overnight. You need to build new routines and habits to maintain structure and guide you. Brian shows us the 3 "D's" of new habits to jumpstart our journey. They include the decision, discipline, and determination.  Once these behaviors are ingrained, we can start to visualize where we want to be and stop procrastinating on what is hindering our success.

Successful people know that they can’t focus on everything at once. Goals need to be ranked, and some may never even be touched. They are often "filler" goals that can be delegated or deleted off the list. We should focus on the goals that will give us the biggest bang for our buck and will have a meaningful impact on our lives. This process makes us more productive and leaves us more time for the precious areas of our lives. Too often people think that getting things done equals productivity and instead they are just busy bees flitting around accomplishing little. We need to zero in on what is critical and push for productivity with intent.

Brian offers 21 intriguing ideas in separate chapters to improve your productivity and kick procrastination aside. Each idea is recapped so that you can immediately implement it. We all have unique methods of organizing and approaching goals, so I love the many options that Brian introduces us to. You may want to pick one tactic a week to focus on until it's a habit or be more flexible in how you choose. Time management is your personal system and having flexibility is the key to success.

Last, Brian shares the good and ugly of technology. Being wired in all day real time is a blessing because we can feasibly do our job from anywhere and we have so many tools to choose. Conversely, technology can control us and drive procrastination or encourage poor habits. Use technology wisely and to your advantage. Don't allow it to consume you.

Eat That Frog! Is one book that I have marked up and highlighted to aid me in fighting procrastination and to use my time more wisely. In the past, I have listed my goals but conveniently started with the tadpoles first because they are easy.   I convinced myself that I'm hacking away at the list and being productive. Now, I'm eating frogs every morning and enjoying it!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Stop Guessing The 9 Behaviors of Great Problem Solvers by Nat Greene

Over the years I have worked in numerous companies in the turbulent financial services industry. There were always special projects and consultants in and out the door trying to solve problems or force solutions. Inevitably, the result was reworking teams or systems and even layoffs. After several months the same problems would crop up, and another roller coaster ride began.

Not everyone has the skills to be a problem solver and look at an issue objectively to find root causes. Companies spend too much money and resources chasing down problems and often end up sticking in short term solutions or even worse, they guess what is causing problems or go with the traditional groupthink of the moment rather than going through a process. It becomes a headache for everyone.

Nat Greene’s new book Stop Guessing The 9 Behaviors of Great Problem Solvers is a read for anyone that faces problems at work or in their personal lives. We all need to change the way that we think of and approach problems. Nat has worked with companies for years to solve problems and change mindsets. He is frustrated that the biggest problem with problem-solving is problem-solving. Problem-solving for most has become just good old guessing. When the first guess fails, we move onto the next theory or as some like to call it, hypothesis. This can turn into an exhausting game of guessing which costs time, resources, money, and burns everyone out. Many problems consist of too many facets to even begin guessing at a problem, and nothing is solved.

Nat Greene shows us how we should approach problems differently. He offers numerous engaging real-life stories to illustrate how we can change our problem-solving mindset and provides tools that can be used by anyone for any problem. Stop Guessing is an easy read that seamlessly flows from chapter to chapter and Nat builds on the principles that he shares. His passion is assisting people to make more efficient decisions using behaviors that are immediately implemented.

The core of Stop Guessing is the 9 behaviors that Nat introduces us to so that we can jump on the path to become better problem solvers. It doesn’t matter if the production equipment is broke or your oven stopped working. The approach that he shares is the same and will save time, money, and hours of frustration. Ready to start solving real problems?

The 9 behaviors of great problem solvers

1.       Stop guessing. Most of us default to guessing or brainstorming for solutions. We are pressured to make quick fixes and solve issues yesterday. Understanding why a problem exists and investigating it is the place to start. Nate suggests that when a problem crops up, have everyone write down their guesses as to what the problem and solution are and put it in a drawer. Look at it after the problem is solved. The remaining behaviors below should assist in measuring the problem, not guess.
2.       Smell the problem. You need to get out of your office and roam around into the field to find the pulse of the problem to use your senses. Attempt to find some patterns that emerge by being out and about. Ask relevant questions and involve people, study details, sift out what is happening – no guessing.
3.       Embrace your ignorance. What you don't know is what can solve a problem. Put aside any previous knowledge or assumptions. Start with the basics and work up from there. Proudly accept what you don’t know and don’t hide it. Ask dumb questions and don’t worry about how you look. Ditch the ego.
4.       Know what problem you are solving. Sounds crazy but often people jump to conclusions and work on the wrong problem. Define what the problem is and keep those assumptions out of the picture along with staying within the scope you initially defined. Use time and resources up front to properly measure and explain an issue.
5.       Dig into the fundamentals. Learn how a process functions by understanding the process and any data or science around it. Dig only into what is relevant, not everything. Be mindful of which variables you examine and have control over.
6.       Don’t rely on experts. This is my favorite. What is the first thing that we do if we can't solve an issue? Bring in the outsiders and walk away. They can be helpful for understanding a system or its functions, but we shouldn't just turn everything over to them. We should still own the process. They aren't wizards but our collaborators. The problem solving is on us.
7.       Believe in a simple solution. Have the tenacity to continue working on the problem until it is solved. Don't always assume a solution is expensive or complicated. Find the cause and perhaps 1-2 variable that are off and your problem may be solved.
8.       Make fact-based decisions. Try to avoid relying on opinions, guesses, team votes or ranking systems. They won’t bring you any closer to solving problems. Always challenge your facts and measure without any biases.
9.       Stay on Target. It’s easy to get lost in data and causes when you have a problem if you embrace too much you will be testing and forever wasting resources. Try to “measure drivers” that control a problem and don’t allow the issue to become cluttered. Stay on course and do not permit yourself to become distracted.

Nat concludes our problem-solving journey by assisting us in choosing our personal method for solving problems. We are all unique in how we approach problems using the strengths and tools at our disposal. An efficient problem solver needs some structure to stay focused and individual behaviors of the 9 Nat introduced us to will play to our strengths. No matter what methods that you employ you should not use guessing as a tool. Once you read Stop Guessing, you may never guess or make assumptions again! Nat's goal is for us to use structure, find patterns of failure, stay on track, and understand how a process works so that you can use data and measurable information to have a solution.

I highly recommend reading Stop Guessing and using some of the 9 behaviors that Nat shares. The behaviors are people and human capital focused and are the key to bringing actionable solutions to problems of all sizes. The ideas that Nat shares will save time resources, money, and egos. Teams will feel empowered to solve problems without all the “stuff” getting in the way.

You can pick up a copy of Nat’s book on