Does your workspace energize and focus you? 2009
[originally posted to my Expediter coaching blog]
Next time you're at your desk, open up your attention and be where you are. What does it feel like? What bothers you? What doesn't belong? What do you love? What gives you a lift as soon as you notice it?
It's funny how such a simple thing as asking "am I getting what I need here?" can be so hard to remember to do regularly. The benefits of asking that question of yourself and acting on your answers are huge.
Take five minutes out from everything else, breath deeply, and look around.
Spot one thing that isn't as it should be and change it right now.
Maybe it's a souvenir you no longer love that can be thrown out or donated to charity. Get it out of here.
Maybe it's your computer desktop still showing the default image it came with. Put a picture on there of someplace beautiful that makes you feel alive and awake.
Maybe it's a stack of magazines from two years ago that you should decide you really don't need to read. Toss 'em in the recycling.
Maybe it's an empty stapler that needs to be refilled, for which you've been needing to get a fresh box of staples. Walk over to the supply closet, drop a note to the person who'll restock your desk, or add it to your errands list to remind yourself when next you're out and about.
Maybe it's something big like the complete lack of a view. So add "get a better office" to your projects list and spend a moment brainstorming a few things you can do to get that ball rolling (e.g. prep notes for annual review, rearrange office layout to face more towards windows across the hall, update resume). Whatever your tasks are, add them to your to-do list and make them a priority.
Every day take these few minutes out to tune in and give your world a little twist toward the best day you can imagine. It all adds up!
Dear silly lovely dog!
Dinah and Pepper in the Woods 2009
This photo was taken by Joe almost three and a half years ago on his first visit to Edgewood. As you can see, I love it there!
So much to see 2009
This one makes a great desktop image. Prick up your ears!
Black Pepper 2009
Another fun shot from my mum's morning walks with her dog Pepper. This is from about 3 years ago.
The perfect companion for a walk in the woods 2009
Another great photo by my mum of her lovely dog Pepper.
This is from over a year and a half ago and I think Pepper was 12 or 13 at the time.
Good girl, Pepper 2009
My mum's dear dog Pepper is ill so, while staying near the computer to see if there'd be more news tonight, I looked through our family photos and found a few favorite images on Flickr.
This is one of the best.
Improving your style in a few easy steps 2009
Even if you once were on top of the image you projected through your clothes every day, it's easy to get stuck in a rut and stop noticing changes in yourself, perceptions, and the condition of those old favorite clothes.
For a lot of us, though, we've never been on top of fashion at all. Maybe like me you grew up comfy without a lot of pressure to worry about your appearance. That's ideal when you're a kid, but tough when you're trying to make a good impression professionally. Certainly like everyone you're carrying around some baggage from your past. Maybe it's a color or kind of clothing you're convinced you shouldn't wear because of something someone said long ago. Perhaps an urge to hide some part of your anatomy that you've built up embarrassment about - I see the early bloomers nodding here, remembering being the tallest kid in the class or the girl who first needed a bra, and hunching their shoulders forward. Or maybe you've just been following along with the trends as they pass through the stores and your closets, never having devoted the time to find and celebrate your own personal style.
I'm not suggesting we all suddenly need to be studying fashion magazines and spending all our money on the latest clothes. I'm working from a simple thesis:
Each of us looks better in some things than others.
So why not wear more of those things and less of the others?
Step One: Figure out what you like.
Start paying attention to what draws your positive attention. It's fine to also keep track of what you don't like, but the goal here is to begin collecting images that please you, especially those relating to fabric, color, silhouettes, but really anything can act as inspiration. Yes, certainly you can paste into a scrapbook, but I'd be wary of too much of that lest you focus on what's in current magazines only. You want to draw from a larger pool of ideas. Learn how to take screenshots on your computer (on Macs shift-control-command-4 is your friend!) and start grabbing those details for a journal kept in a word processing file. It's easy to copy an image to your clipboard and then paste it in with a comment of what you like about it.
Look through picture blogs like Nerd Boyfriend and Fashionist to attune yourself to people who are really shining out as individuals beyond as well as through their clothes and accessories. Take a look at this entry from Nerd Boyfriend about Michael Caine for a good example of how perfectly normal clothes can amplify a personality.
Be sure your explorations include things you're passionate about and explorations in unfamiliar environments. Expose yourself to new experiences and old things viewed anew.
Step Two: Figure out what you're like
You can do this in parallel with step one. What are your best qualities, both physical and otherwise? A great guide to this is the book 10 Steps to Fashion Freedom: Discover Your Personal Style from the Inside Out by Levene & Mayfield. Your local library probably has a copy. Give yourself credit for your great smile, beautiful skin, expressive hands, or whatever your best physical assets are. Accept and embrace your other strengths - are you reliable, funny, kind, resilient, patient, forthright, charming, sensitive, vibrant?
Decide what 2 or 3 things are the impression you most want to create. A few example personal style statements (taken from 10 Steps to Fashion Freedom) are "I project a substantial and meaningful presence", "I present a confident and sophisticated image", and "My personal style exudes quality and individuality." Your personal style statement needn't be completely reflected in your current best qualities, but should be supported by them. Make sure it works for who you are as well as who you're heading into being
Step Three: Take Inventory
What clothes do you have and how do they interact with your body? This can be a big project so you may want to take it in stages. Pick a category of clothes which are important to you either through frequent use or because you'll need them for an upcoming event. Don't pick the category which makes up the majority of your clothes; you want to get a quick sense of this step without exhausting yourself. Ideally do this with a camera with a self-timer in front of a full-length mirror with lots of good lighting. Bring in extra lights, especially if you have a lot of dark clothing or your pictures won't capture the details which will be useful later.
Do this when you have time to relax and are in a good mood. Do not let yourself bog down in emotional baggage or bad internal talk as you look at yourself. Remind yourself of your best qualities and stay on track. Personally I find staring in the mirror can be tough - I weigh more than I want to - so taking photos was a great way to get enough distance to assess what works and what doesn't in my wardrobe.
The big advantage of the self-timer is that you can get pictures of yourself from the back and the sides. I found a few surprises among my clothes where things which are very flattering in front have details which makes the bad fit strangely.
Work your way through this category - suits or formal dress can be a good place to start - and then take a look at your photos. What new things do you learn about your best features? I found my hands appeared far more graceful than I'd expected. What negative patterns in your existing wardrobe do you uncover which you'll want to avoid in future? When I looked at my outfits as others see them, I realized how many things I have which are way too big for me and are unflattering as a result.
As you look through your pictures, watch for colors which make you look great. It's amazing the difference a color which complements your skin and hair can make.
I wouldn't have guessed a charcoal grey would make the color of my lips, hair and, though you can't see them in this photo, my eyes more appealing, but it turns out to be a far more flattering color for me than pale pink.
Don't count on your photos as the best way to document your colors; like me, you'll probably find your lighting isn't good enough for that. A great resource in identifying them is to compare the good looking garments to Wikipedia's "shades of" pages which include samples and color names. So handy! Just take a little detailed screenshot of the color you need and start to build up your palette in your style journal.
Step Four: Cut out the bad choices
Life is too short to wear stuff that makes you look crappy. Friends & family, charity, or trash, just get the worst stuff out. Better to have fewer choices than constantly have to route around the bad ones, especially when you're tired or feeling low.
I found it helpful to think about the clothes I'm keeping as belonging to two main categories: best and casual/adequate. The latter includes not only very informal clothes, but also ones which show too much wear to remain in the "best" group. There are also some in this group which are in good condition, but in a less flattering cut or color than I'd ideally like. Note that anything out-and-out unflattering hit the donation bags, these are just the ones that are "okay for now".
In future, I want to buy primarily into the "best" group with the idea that most if not all of my informal clothes should be of such good quality that they could migrate over to loosen up an otherwise dressy ensemble. Think about the impact, for example, of a really good pair of jeans worn with fancy shoes and a stylish blazer and shirt. That same pair of jeans could be worn with hip sneakers, a plain silk blend t-shirt, and a cool hoodie from an indie designer to create a fully casual outfit. Or any of the other parts of that casual outfit could be pulled in with more formal pieces to add ease and character.
If it's all good stuff and it looks great on you, mornings get a lot easier.
Step Five: Take opportunities to upgrade
As you eliminate garments or relegate them to your "merely adequate" group, start a wishlist of replacement pieces which will be more flattering in fit, color, and in reflecting your personal style statement. As I write this there are three pieces in my physical inbox awaiting addition to my shopping wishlist with notes "get this style in one of my colors", "too large! replace with a medium petite, ideally in a more coral pink & less salmon color", and "too long in body & sleeves, too loose in waist; need petite?".
Unless you're blessed with a huge budget or were fortunate enough to have a great collection of clothes already, pick out one to three pieces on your wishlist which you most need and which will be most versatile and just get those for now.
Don't forget to be creative with how you turn bad clothes into good; consider trading your clothes at a second-hand store you like that has regular buying days and use that credit to shop their shelves for your wishlist items.
As with most of life, just start leaning each of your choices in the direction of the future you want to have and you'll be amazed at the progress you'll make in six months or a year.
You are already smart; just step back from the noise & listen to yourself 2009
[originally posted to my Expediter coaching blog]
Increased productivity often comes more from better tools and processes than it does from new data. When you make it a regular habit to take time out to think about your commitments and organize your ideas, the logical next steps will reveal themselves. When you know what your potential next steps are for each of your projects, it becomes much easier to find one to fit your present context and energy level.
A best practice which can pay off more than any other is to stop trying to keep track of everything in your head. These days we've all signed on for more stimulating input than any one person can engage with fully in a lifetime.
"You receive too much information, and its not your fault. Just accept that there is more information than time, and that it's increasing every day." - good experience guru Mark Hurst, in his book Bit Literacy
The essential trick in the face of this daily onslaught is to think in advance and to respond appropriately in the moment acting in accordance with your priorities. This is as true for a creative professional as it is for someone who works with structured plans in an office.
"The randomness of my job is one of the most interesting things about it but that randomness feels less chaotic if I have all of that disparate clutter out of my head and categorized." - comedian and actor Rob Corddry
By learning the tools and techniques to regularly clear your head and review your goals and projects, you free yourself to act on new input in ways which help get you where you want to go. Distractions are transformed into opportunities or their negative impacts are minimized.
"In truth, I've found that any day's routine interruptions and distractions don't much hurt a work in progress and may actually help it in some ways. It is, after all, the dab of grit that seeps into an oyster's shell that makes the pearl, not pearl-making seminars with other oysters." - author Stephen King in his book On Writing
Taking the real stuff of your daily life and using it to produce your best outcomes radically changes your experience of the world for the better. It is this practical approach to being focused and open to change which creates a better work/life balance and a happier you, even in the face of moment-to-moment chaos.
Gaining new skills and understanding is a gift which pays off both in the short and long term. There isn't a single one-size-fits-all answer, but the specific practices which will most help you are out there. As productivity guru David Allen put it in regard to his coaching practice, "I'm not here to tell you what's the content of your process; I'm here to find out what is it that's getting in the way of you being fully available to whatever is now. And now. And now. And now."