Archive for December, 2008|Monthly archive page

Quote: Wishing you the best in 2009

A quote for the day:
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And now let us welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.
Rainer Maria Rilke

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Goals: the most powerful question

By Margaret Lukens, New Leaf + Company LLC

This week I was working with a recently-promoted executive at a non-profit organization to develop and articulate his goals. He had a broad list of possibilities in all areas of the organization from marketing to fund-raising to administration. Some were easy, some challenging. We began to talk about choosing his main focus.

There was one goal, completing a new information product, to which he felt passionately committed. In his previous position he had already accomplished a lot of work to develop the product, including building a strong team to work with him, and it was a project close to his heart. He thought it would be his main focus.

Then we asked the most powerful question: of all your goals, which one will change everything? Which one is the greatest game-changer?

Small change, big difference

Small change, big difference


A goal may be ambitious, compelling and important, but still not deserving of your best effort. In this case, because he had already developed a team to work on the new product, that project could go forward with relatively little direct effort on his part.

The executive’s response was immediate and certain: he wants his main focus to be another goal, one that will in subtle but profound ways steer his organization in a new and better direction. It also is a goal that makes use of his unique skills, knowledge and perspective.

In light of the powerful question “will this change everything?”, he was able to see which of his goals would actually have a greater and more durable positive impact on his organization. His primary goal for the next 18 months will be the less obvious choice, his game-changer.

Among your goals for 2009, which ones have the potential to change everything for you? Let us know by leaving a comment here.

Planning: try a change of place

by Margaret Lukens, New Leaf + Company LLC

While you’re working on your plans for 2009, make use of the creative juice available by putting yourself in a new space. Here’s an exercise to accomplish it:

On a fresh sheet of paper, make a list of everything you’d like to be, do and have during 2009. Include the huge (receive a Grammy nomination) as well as the trivial (buy a new red briefcase). Write fast without over-thinking. Don’t stop until you have at least 30 things; go for 50.

Do this exercise three times — once in your office, once in a public place with hubbub such as a coffee shop or hotel lobby, and a third time in a place of nature such as a hiking trail or beach.

Gates of the Valley at sunset (Yosemite National Park, California).

Gates of the Valley at sunset (Yosemite National Park, California).

Then combine your lists. Notice what turns up every time, and what came up only in a particular place.

Divide your be-do-have list into three roughly equal parts of “non-negotiables”, “really wants”, and “nice to haves”. The non-negotiables are those things that will make the coming year as worthwhile as possible.

Be careful not to over-commit. Some of your level 2 and 3 priorities will come to you anyway; being aware of them will help you achieve some of them with relatively little effort, so save your committed effort for the level 1 non-negotiables in your life.

In her book Focus: the Catalyst for Creativity (available for free if you subscribe to the author’s newsletter, here), Betsy Burroughs describes a practice she calls the “Focus Tour”. A few of her favorite alternative locations include shopping malls, museums, and public transit. My favorite among Betsy’s ideas is a one-day train trip from San Francisco to Yosemite. Work on the train, enjoy a three-hour walk in Yosemite, and arrive home in time for dinner. This one is on my be-do-have list for 2009.

What places put you in a new frame of mind? Where do you focus best? Please leave a comment here.

Announcing February’s SF coaching book

by Margaret Lukens, New Leaf + Company LLC

In October I requested recommendations for a book to share with the San Francisco coaches-and-friends book group. Several people, including authors, offered wonderful suggestions (see below for more good reads), making it excruciating to choose just one book.

book shelf

book shelf

But choose we must, so here it is:

If you are in the San Francisco area on Wednesday, February 18, 2009, please join the SF members of the International Coach Federation and their friends (no need to be a coach!) at Books Inc. for a discussion of Brain Rules: 12 principles for surviving and thriving at work, home and school, by John Medina.

As many of you know, brain science is a particular interest of mine, and this book, published in 2008, is one of the most accessible and interesting reviews of what the latest research can tell us about how to work WITH our brains rather than against them, for maximum productivity, joy and health. The book comes with an entertaining DVD, making use of at least two of the “brain rules”, #4: we don’t pay attention to boring things, and #10: vision trumps all other senses.

This book will provide immediate help if you:

* give a PowerPoint presentation
* parent a teenager, or a toddler
* wonder how to sell to a client
* influence an office layout
* want to learn new skills
* hope to remember things better
* and more.

Whether you have read the book or not, please join us for the discussion at Books Inc. on Van Ness Street in San Francisco this February.

And if you’re packing your suitcase with books in addition to a snowboard and gifts this month, consider adding these runners-up for the book club choice:

Being Productive, Getting More Done with Less Effort, by Chris Crouch, available later this month. Chris, sometimes referred to as the “Jack Daniels distillery of organizing” for the way he boils down and renders the best of what is known about productivity, is the author of several books on organizing. This is his newest.

Bit Literacy: productivity in the age of information and e-mail overload, by Mark Hurst. This book got votes, a testament to the need we all feel for help in managing new information technologies.

The Spiritual Art of Being Organized, by Claire Josefine. Many people yearn for a simpler and more meaningful life, free of clutter and confusion. Claire Josefine is their Lewis, their Clark, and their Sacagewea.

Fun With Filing, by Maria Parkinson. It’s about creating files (either business or personal) that last a life time and anyone can understand. Brand-new book by a first-time author.

If you can’t make it to the San Francisco group in February, please connect with the book discussion by leaving a comment here.

Update on April 3, 2009: As of this week, Brain Rules is now available in paperback.

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