Taking a Break

“Give me a break.” In the vernacular, ‘give me a break’ means “Oh, come on.” On the other hand, taking a break has no second meaning. Does that mean it’s more serious? Taking a break is so important that it is mandated by law to protect employees from being forced to work without eating or taking restroom stops.

Taking a Break from WritingTaking breaks makes us more productive. Coffee/tea breaks make life livable. Meditation breaks fill the screen of your mind with a pleasant je ne sais quoi. However it is positioned, taking a break helps balance body, mind and spirit.

One way of taking a break is to have someone do your work for you. Wow, wouldn’t that be cool? This strategy is usually a win-win. Why? The person doing your work often does it better because they don’t consider it work. They like it! And they’re often paid for it, which is good for the economy.

When we’re super busy, we like to convince ourselves that breaks are unnecessary. Been there, done that. However in my saner moments, I figure that if we weren’t supposed to take breaks, we wouldn’t have been designed to eat or to sleep.

“I think I can, I think I can,” says the little train filled with good intentions as it chugs up the steep hill. Of course we all think we can. We’re good. We’re professionals. We’re adults. Mostly, though, we’re invincible. But we’re not. Scientists know. The bad guys are certain: Starve people and keep them from sleeping, and they’ll crack.

Trend Alert: Taking breaks must be important: Google returned 729,000,000 results on the keyword string “taking a break.” This post will make at least 729,000,001! If those were seconds, the time to open up (without even reading) each of the separate results would require 12,150,000 minutes. Gee.  That’s 202,500 hours or 8,437 days. That comes out to 23 years. Taking a break is a very significant concept, evidently. We all need breaks, and more than one every twenty-three years.

Taking a break is essential. Standing up, taking a walk, stretching, reading a book for five or ten minutes. Meditating. Seeing a movie. Going out for a meal. Vacationing.

Breaks refresh, renew, revive, reinvigorate, restore, recharge, revitalize. We all know this. We just need to make time for it, schedule it on our calendars, find a break partner, and make taking a break a habit.

Or we’ll break.

Defining Your Project

There are projects and there are PROJECTS.

Let’s start with the basic definition of the word project: The Merriam-Webster online dictionary says, “A project is a planned piece of work that has a specific purpose (such as to find information or to make something new), and that usually requires a lot of time.”

Defining Your Project
Image by Katie Phillips

Business projects are a subset of the project umbrella. The business dictionary defines a (business) project as follows: … “a planned set of interrelated tasks to be executed over a fixed period and within certain cost and other limitations.”

 

Trends in Projects Today

We can describe most projects today as follows: Complex. Overlapping. Time sensitive. Expensive. Multi-disciplinary. Difficult. Challenging. Misinterpreted. Misrepresented. Missing pieces. Simple projects are hard to find in business and in life. Properly managed, projects get things done.

In fact, managing projects can be learned: the Project Management Institute has designed coursework toward a PMP (Project Management Professional) designation to indicate your ability to manage a project in today’s demanding business arena. It’s a difficult certificate to achieve, but a worthy objective.

Projects come in all shapes and sizes, and with varying degrees of complications and costs. I don’t care how big the project is… Knowing the audience and purpose are absolutely the most important aspect of your project. In the early phases of a software development project, for example, the team engages in an activity called “gathering requirements.” At this time, the client (be it internal or external) defines what they want the software to do once it is built. What are the outcomes they want? What should the client be able to do that they couldn’t do before? Who are they doing it for and what are their needs? The more questions you ask and answer, the closer you will come to defining your project.

There’s one more question that must be asked whether gathering requirements or simply setting goals for any project of any size. That question is: “Why?”

5-Why Analysis

Frequently used to discover ways to solve a problem, the 5-Why analysis also clarifies the project you’re creating. Why are we doing this project? Why ARE we doing this project? Why are WE doing this? Why are we doing THIS project? Stop and answer each one. And then ask one last question: Why are you here?

Once your project has been defined, you can start working. Once you know why you’re here, you can start living.

TEENY WEENYCheck out my book here:

IKEA Virgin

Have you been to an IKEA store recently?

Back in 2006, we opened season on sending our last son to college. We went to IKEA. I had heard stories, the sagas of the seasons passing during an IKEA visit, but I thought these people must have been exaggerating. They were not. IKEA makes Costco look like a backyard excursion in comparison to the global circumnavigation posed by an IKEA store visit.

 We were in the store for 5 ½ hours.

It was an experience I did not soon reprise: I haven’t been back in nine years. The store was well organized, well lit, fairly well staffed, and clean. It is also cheap and, the 5½ hours notwithstanding, it saves time, which is a particularly important commodity in a working person’s life. For instance, my husband is a lot of things, but he is not a shopper. IKEA is a store for the shoppers of us, but in reality, it’s a store for non-shoppers as well. Why? Because it gets the entire shopping thing done in one, long, grueling, gut-wrenching, foot-searing, back-aching, self-helping, mind-numbing session. In short, you’re your own decorator, designer, shopper, warehouseman, and delivery boy. DON’T FORGET: Bring room dimensions, or you’ll probably end up back there again!

Also, come to your visit with an empty, large vehicle, room on your credit card, and a couple of able bodied, but skinny people that can heft the furniture pieces, but also squeeze into the leftover crevices in your “personal moving van” to get the stuff home.

It’s 2015 today and as I said, I haven’t been back there. I do remember being impressed by the organization and the high-tech environment nine years ago. Everything had a place. Touch screens dotted the pickup area to help you find your items in their vast find-it-yourself warehouse. Thank goodness for numbers! (Who invented those anyway?) Bin numbers, SKUs and part numbers managed the inventory; employees in yellow shirts managed the flow of parts and people.

The food offering (IKEA knew that they should feed customers who would be spending the better part of 24 hours in their clutches) counter-balanced the vastness of the store’s inventory by its marked sparseness: they were out of three food items. There were, however, piles of suspicious looking signature Swedish meatballs, which they promoted with massive colorful signage, take-home offers, and daily specials. I wonder if they’re always on special just to get rid of them.

The store we visited was 28,500 square meters, or about 306,711 square feet. A typical American football field is 57,600 square feet, so we’re talking about five football fields here. We slogged through the stupid thing at least twice, going back to look at different things so our son could mix and match and create his very own college room décor. I found myself biting my lip at some of his choices, but he was spreading his wings and I was grinning maniacally as the grateful almost empty nester.

So while I used to be an IKEA virgin, I am now knowledgeable in the ways of what was then a brave new retail world wonder. As with that other rite of passage, I feel somewhat sullied, but no longer afraid of the unknown. In this case I have sore feet to prove my passage…

Meanwhile, we did right by our college-bound child. He needed stuff, and stuff they had. Lots. Everywhere.

News Blues?

I know we mourn the passing of great newspapers and magazines in print. However, look at it this way… people still seek content. It’s just packaged differently.

According to data published by ZenithOptimedia this week, folks in 2014 folks were consuming media online for an average of 110 minutes a day, compared to only 60 minutes in 2010. And while total traditional media outweighs Internet media consumption, traditional media consumption is on the decline. Print take the worst hit.

Infographic: The Internet Is Gradually Replacing Traditional Media | Statista

You will find more statistics at Statista.

So… where do you want your content? Online, of course. The magazines and newspapers get it. They’re all online. And they still need content. YouTube is content…someone writes the script, right?

We’re doing that. Providing content. It’s a Writing World… for writing that means business.

Curated Brands

Curated Brands

Image
The Getty

When is a post not a post? Hah. This post popped up on Twitter, but has yet to drop here.  It’s a mystery. Here it is today in my blog, and I hope it’s not a repeat for my followers.

Until now,  I did not tend to think of “brands” as being curated.  I think of museum pieces being curated. I think of a curator as in the Wikipedia sense:   “…from Latin, curare meaning “take care”). A curator is a manager or overseer. Traditionally, a curator or keeper of a cultural heritage institution (e.g. gallery, museum, library) is a content specialist responsible for an institution’s collections and involved with the interpretation of heritage material. The object of a traditional curator’s concern necessarily involves tangible objects of some sort, whether it be artwork, collectibles, historic items or scientific collections.”

More things are being curated these days:  I see in the business world the brand manager as curator, in that he or she is responsible for how that brand enters the marketplace and where it is placed relative to other brands. In the same way a museum only shows a selection of its collection, the brand manager strives to show the finest assets of the brand. Or they may choose to carefully and thoughtfully promote their brand to certain demographics, focused on a narrowly defined customer experience.

The curated brands in a recent USA Today article included Gilt, Target, and Apple. The piece was about AC Hotels by Marriott, and the journalist described the AC Hotel target audience as younger travelers, that the experience would essentially be more “tech-y” and hip. [my words]

Another place to look for curated material is at TED.com.  Nowadays, you can find someone you respect/love/would like to know/never heard of/ and see which TED talks they have in their curated collection.  It tells you a lot about that person by seeing how they would curate the thousands of TED talks.

My goal: to curate my own brand. Not there yet, but it is food for thought. Besides, it sounds so cool.

Tesla Motors, Autopilot Cars, You, Me, and Them

 

For starters, if you want to find out more about Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of Tesla Motors, head over to the TED Talk for a recent interview. Otherwise, stand back to witness the future unfold before your very eyes.

 

I hear you from all the way over here in my blog cave.  You’re saying, “Hah! Auto-piloted cars will never work.” And that’s what they said about toilet paper, airplanes, cordless phones (not to mention cell phones), and anything else that wasn’t here until it was.

 

The really cool part is that the visionaries that define these types of futures are “scientists” (or at least champions of the scientific method)  and dreamers all rolled into one. The Wright Brothers come to mind. Benjamin Franklin. Steve Jobs. Bill Gates. John Lasseter of Pixar.  (Is he a scientist or just a dreamer?)

 

Medical scientists do not radiate the pizazz of an electric car or a cell phone or an airplane, but they are visionaries all the same.  Example: People rarely die of infections any more thanks to Sir Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin back in 1928.  His claim to fame was that he paused to consider a fuzzy Petri dish on a vacation-neglected workbench. Visionary indeed.

 

Thank goodness we still have these folks in our midst. We are lucky to have people that believe they can do what they set out to do, and that they don’t give up.

I like to believe that you and I have the vision to stay out of their way.