Friday, 12 February 2010

The 45-minute hour

One of the ways that I try to manage my energy and concentration is to adopt the 45-minute hour.  What do I mean?

Well, I've discovered that my concentration span is no more than 45 minutes these days.

So when I'm working in my office at work or at home, I plan to work for 45 minutes on any one task, then take a break.

During the break I can make a cup of coffee or stretch a bit, or go and talk to someone else in the building.  I also take a minute or so before I start again to re-focus and pray.

I've even found that it helps to set a reminder to alert me when the 45 minutes is up.  As this rhythm is developing I find that I'm also scheduling meetings for 45 minutes, or having a break in longer meetings after 45 minutes.

It feels more productive and I've got more energy.  

Do you have any tips for using time wisely?  I'd love to hear them.

Sunday, 7 February 2010


In an effort to simplify my life I've decided to stop blogging here.  I will still be blogging as "Of dreams and visions".  Please join me there.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

On leadership

"We should be calling for leadership that will challenge us to face problems for which there are no simple, painless solutions."
Ron Heifetz - Leadership without easy answers

This sentiment has been on my mind lately - as I've been in conflict with colleagues, about facing up to the realities of our situation rather than basking on past glories and carrying on with management techniques that aren't able to meet current challenges.

I know that change is difficult, but we have collectively accepted that we need to change, we've committed to it publicly with our staff groups - now we need to move from rhetoric to reality.

And what about me?  Well, I need to change too, and it begins with conscious acts of letting go.  Letting go of some specific (comfort zone) tasks; letting go of control; letting go of old certainties; letting go of simplistic, unsustainable solutions to problems; letting go of moaning about the inability of my colleagues to move forward...

Instead I need to model the behaviour that we have said we will adopt - scary and exhilirating.  I need to offer moral support to those managers who are keen to see the changes happening; to offer practical advice and guidance to those who don't 'get it' yet.  In short, I need to champion the changes that we need to make, to be willing to explore the uncertainty; to re-trace my steps when we take the wrong direction; to listen to feedback - even when I don't agree with it; and to assess where we are honestly and frequently.

Monday, 1 February 2010

The meaning of words and phrases - "playing Devil's advocate"

It strikes me that we frequently use words out of tired old habits, without thinking - or meaning- what we say.  I thought it might be fun to occasionally pick a phrase and see if we can explore what's really being said.

So let's start with... "playing Devil's advocate".  Two alternative meanings spring to mind:

"I disagree with you, but I lack the courage or integrity to say so."


"I'm much smarter than you, but so that you don't feel totally dumb, I'll use this phrase to soften the blow."

Any other ideas about the real meaning behind this phrase?

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

More on 'why'

Interestingly (after yesterday's post) I came across this today:

The one question you should ask now.

Monday, 4 January 2010

The importance of purpose

This is an extract from an entry over at Kevin Eikenberry’s blog:

“It seems like Kevin talks about “why” a lot; he talks about the importance of purpose – both looking backwards and forward.”

This struck a chord with me. It seems that in some settings – work, church – people can get a bit nervous or, even, defensive when I talk about vision. Maybe there’s too much association with snappy (or not-so-snappy) slogans.

But the key to planning, and therefore reviewing, any organization or task must relate to its purpose. So maybe I need to focus more on telling the story of ‘why’, or asking the questions that help us all understand ‘why’; rather than trying to convince people of the need for a coherent vision.

Certainly at work, as I continue to adapt to a new role in what we hope will be a new culture, I need to focus on “the importance of purpose”; to deal with “why” more than “how”; to do the thinking and the communicating rather than (micro)managing tasks.

Like all changes, this won’t be easy. But it should make a significant difference, and it will help me to look at things positively, instead of moaning about other people ‘not getting it’.

It’s not exactly a New Year’s Resolution, but I’m happy to be held accountable for my performance as the year progresses.