We have a whole new #labrat experiment to try, and we need your help!
There’s been a lot of buzz this year about a new productivity tactic, one that helps you recognize and fix bad habits, avoid burnout, be happier at work, and have real, tangible progress to keep you moving towards your goals. It’s called journaling, also known as keeping a diary or, our personal favorite, a “logbook.” As Austin Kleon, whose daily logbook inspired us, explains:
From the Wikipedia entry for “logbook”: A logbook was originally a book for recording readings from the log, and is used to determine the distance a ship traveled within a certain amount of time. The readings of the log have been recorded in equal times to give the distance traveled with respect to a given start position…. The distance the ship traveled. I like that.
At the end of every work day, take five minutes to jot down the main events of each day. It can be a bulleted list, have doodles, or not. But getting at least five facts of the day down is the only goal.
The idea of having a tangible “I was here, I conquered” list sounds wonderful and all, but at the end of my work day, usually the last thing I want to do is spend even five more minutes in the office, much less trying to pull up the mental energy for reflection then. But it’s hard to ignore all of the smart people who have shown it to be a good idea.
So for the next week, Monday, April 7th through Friday, April 11th, I’ll be keeping and sharing my own logbook with you. By the end, I hope to find out if keeping one is actually feasible, and if looking back on that data is actually beneficial as well.
Starting was a little uncomfortable. How much do I share? It was hard to decide what was a noteworthy event of the day and what was just noise. Kleon, one of my main, earlier mentioned inspirations, doesn’t include emotions in his — just events. I’d like to use my data to fix issues of stress/bad repeating patterns though, so the clear-cut emotions (this went badly, this was good, etc.) seem important to me.
Side note: feel free to keep your logbook online, on your phone, or whatever kind of medium you prefer. There’s a lot of good suggestions in the comments, and writing it out by hand is just how I remember things best.
Today I updated my logbook in the little spare chunks of time that presented themselves, instead of the end of the day. This made for an end-of-day wrap up that was much more reflective and less of a scramble to get it done so I could finally leave work. Plus, it meant I added things as I finished them, which also helped to decide what was worth recording.
Definitely into updating throughout the day; it gives such a sense of validation, even if the entire project itself isn’t complete yet. Also, it’s only been three days, and already it’s becoming clear that mornings are not my thing. For any #labrats who have followed along before, this shouldn’t come as a total surprise though. Have you started to notice any trends you weren’t entirely aware of yet?
I had a lot of juggling to do today, more reactive work, which made filling this out a lot harder. I didn’t really find time to do it until 6 p.m., which at 7:30 p.m. now, was basically the end of my day. I have the itching suspicion that I forgot a lot of smaller tasks or busy work — how many times can you really write “email” though? However, I also know that keeping a more detailed log than this would immediately make me drop it entirely. How specific or exact do you try to be?
Last day! I was able to take some data from the other days (like how, by 6 p.m., I’m too burnt out for creative work) and restructured my day today to do all of my creative-producing work in the a.m., with the more mindless, reactive tasks later in the day. Made Friday much more enjoyable, and my work flow totally manageable! I’m thinking now of continuing on on my own, and checking back in a month to see if I can crunch some real big data to then share with everyone the next step of getting the helpful info out of this whole practice.
How did your day go? Keep your own daily logbook and share your progress + photos in the comments, on Twitter, and Instagram with #labrat. Every day I’ll pick my favorites and share it with your fellow labrats.
Traveling is at the top of every ‘How to’ list for finding new ideas and inspiration. However, travel for the sake of travel can quickly become a chore-like task when you’re simply checking off landmarks from a city guidebook. Bonnie Reese, a previous design researcher at Frog, recommends making your own “must-see” list based on personal passions instead of the more general ‘Must-See’ recommendations of travel guides. For Reese, that includes hitting up pools and public bathhouses wherever she travels:
Another less academic passion of mine, is bathing in foreign countries – whether for a swim or a wash. I always bring a swimsuit and read up about where to go for a swim or soak. I dove off the diving platform in the Olympic pool in Berlin with a line of impatient teenagers behind me chattering away in German, watched a Turkish mother battle over combing her toddler’s hair in a local bath in Istanbul, swam laps with older women in the middle of Paris, and sat naked for hours with local women in an outdoor spring in the mountains of Japan. My love of a good swim and a hot bath is the farthest thing from an intellectual pursuit but it always yields unique insights and a pleasurable experience. There’s no better way to contemplate cultures than sitting naked with the locals.
By mixing personal passions with travel, you deepen your experiences and open yourself up to new ones not found in any tour book. On Reese’s trip to Mexico City, she found herself visiting a barn-like structure hidden behind a school on her quest to see as many Diego Rivera’s murals as possible. She never would have discovered this secluded location if it wasn’t for her interest in art.
Visiting textbook locations will still provide an excellent source of inspiration due to the simple change of surroundings; however, more is to be discovered if you commit to a mini mission. For the coffee snob, it could be as simple as finding the best cafe near your work. For the cinephile, it could be exploring your local neighborhoods where movies have been filmed. If you really want to be inspired by your travels, you’re going to have to jump in the water. Nothing inspiring ever happened poolside.
For some of us, the idea of being a “lifer” can be nauseating. You’d much rather do your best work and move on. But the paradox of doing your best work, of being exceptionally good at your job, is that you can be stuck doing it for years longer than you actually should. To avoid developing career intertia, Jayson DeMers, Founder & CEO of AudienceBloom, encourages us to ask ourselves, “What did I learn from yesterday?”
No matter how simple or complex your day was, you must have learned something. Did you master a new skill or learn a new process? Did you find something out about your organization that leads you to better understand your position within it? Did you have an experience that will help you in future, similar situations? Find at least one thing that you learned from the previous day and consider it. On one level, this is going to help you reinforce the new ideas and skills that come to you on a daily basis. On another level, it’s going to help you look for new opportunities to learn. Since you know you’ll be asking yourself this question, you’ll be driven to force yourself to learn something new every day, and you’ll therefore be improving yourself every day.
Millennials value the growth and thrill of professional challenges. Typically in your first year, you learn the ropes. In your second, you hit your stride. And in your third, you make your mark. Beyond that, if you’re not learning, then you’re not growing. Don’t wait for a year-end assessment to determine your next career path. Assess your trajectory every day, or you’ll slip into a pattern of doing the same thing day-in-and-day-out with little or no forward/upward mobility.
If your workplace isn’t fostering innovation, challenging you and providing you opportunities to learn, then don’t feel bad about cutting the cord. Your future self will thank you for it.
“No” can be a time saver, a boundary builder, a reputation protector, and a frustration preventer. But how do you say no gracefully, respectfully, and firmly? Email templates are great, but what about if the ask is in person on the spur of the moment — how do you avoid the automatic guilty yes? Memorize this one-line, knee-jerk response:
“Let me check on something and get back to you.”
This answer breaks the time-worn habit of agreeing to projects or tasks before you have time to truly consider if it’s something you can and want to do. It allows you to acknowledge the request while buying time and the mental space to formulate an informed yes or no down the line. You can use it with colleagues, clients, people you meet at conferences, and even your manager. Take control of your time and your to-do list by saying no to saying yes.
Your IQ (or intelligence quotient) is the abstract capacity at which you are able to process information. While IQ is certainly important for life and work, it turns out that cognitive intelligence isn’t everything when it comes to success.
Just as important as your IQ is your CQ (curiosity, or creativity, quotient) and EQ (emotional quotient). Having exceptional ability in one quotient—like intelligence—is great, but having a good balance between all three areas (ICE) is what helps propel those we call “geniuses” to excel.
Over at the Harvard Business Review, Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic explains why curiosity and emotional intelligence are just as important as cognitive intelligence:
…People with higher EQ tend to be more entrepreneurial, so they are more proactive at exploiting opportunities, taking risks, and turning creative ideas into actual innovations…
CQ leads to higher levels of intellectual investment and knowledge acquisition over time, especially in formal domains of education, such as science and art…. Knowledge and expertise, much like experience, translate complex situations into familiar ones, so CQ is the ultimate tool to produce simple solutions for complex problems.
In other words: IQ is about managing a lot of information in the short term, while CQ deals with overall knowledge and risk-taking, and EQ entails the ability to perceive and control emotions. Having a high IQ allows you to process rich, complex information better, but the ability to adapt to uncertainty and produce simple solutions for complex situations are all due to high levels of EQ and CQ .
Having the right blend of all three areas—intelligence, curiosity, and empathy—means being able to understand problems, generate novel solutions, and execute on ideas. If you’re lacking in any one area, you can increase your likelihood of having a successful career by making up for it in one of the other areas.
This is greats news for those of us who may have less-than-ideal IQs; since IQ is something research shows we can’t always improve throughout life, while empathy and curiosity can be developed.
To develop your CQ you can’t take things for granted. You must use the feeling of boredom as a flag to explore and learn, and most importantly, to never stop asking questions. To quote Albert Einstein, “The important thing is not to stop questioning… Never lose a holy curiosity.”
To develop your EQ is a little tougher, but still do-able: when people are talking to you, listen intently, try to imagine what those around you are thinking and feeling, and focus on outrospection whenever you find yourself stuck on a problem or situation.
Intelligence certainly matters, but without curiosity and empathy it’s just not as powerful. Focus on building all three areas in order to really thrive and succeed.
Parkinson’s Law states that work “expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” This could likely explain why you sometimes work more than 60 hours per week, when in fact you could easily shave off 20 or so hours by managing expectations with your boss/client. Instead of flinging yourself into the workweek with unrealistic expectations of clearing everything off of your to-do list, let the people who depend on you know what you plan to accomplish. Robbie Amed, author of Fire Me I Beg You, suggests writing two emails every week to manage your workload:
Email #1: What you plan on getting done this week
Email #2: What you actually got done this week
Subject: My plan for the week
After reviewing my activities here is my plan for the week in order of priority. Let me know if you think I should re-prioritize:
Planned Major Activities for the week
- Complete project charter for X Project
- Finish the financial analysis report that was started last week
- Kick off Project X – requires planning and prep documentation creation. Scheduled for Thursday.
Open items that I will look into, but won’t get finished this week
- Coordinate activities for year-end financial close
- Research Y product for our shared service team
Let me know if you have any comments. Thank you!
And here’s what Email #2 looks like:
Completed this week
- Completed X Report
- Started the planning for the big project
- Finished the month-end analysis and sent to financial controller for review
- Created a first draft of the project charter, which is currently being reviewed by Project Manager Z
- I have some questions about the start date of Y Project, but should get confirmation by Tuesday morning
- We need X Report signed off by EOD next Wednesday. Can you follow up with Jane to get this signed off?
That is all for now. Have a great weekend.
This model works even if you’re part of a team that has weekly progress meetings. By managing expectations, you no longer need to work 60+ hours (even if it’s just for the optics). Under-promise and over-deliver.
It’s obvious that bad meetings need to stop. But justifying if a meeting is necessary is easier said than done. To help us confidently arrive at the conclusion that a meeting is required, Elizabeth Grace Saunders, author of How to Invest Your Time Like Money, proposes four easy questions:
“Have I thought through this situation?”If not: Set aside some time with yourself to do some strategic thinking. During that time you can evaluate the scope of the project, the current status, the potential milestones, and lay out a plan of action for making meaningful progress.
“Do I need outside input to make progress?”If you find yourself in this place, don’t schedule a meeting; update your to-do list and take action instead.
“Does moving forward require a real-time conversation?”It’s much more efficient for everyone involved if you send over items that they can look at on their own (while you’re not awkwardly watching them read during an in-person meeting) and then shoot you back feedback.
“Does this necessitate a face-to-face meeting?”An online chat can help you answer questions quickly, or for more in-depth conversations, scheduling a phone call or video conference can work well.