E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

General Interest

You Are Not Perfect! Live With It

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo's Surroundings in the SpringI really like Inc. I mean, I really heart it. I discovered it by pure chance a few weeks back and I am now completely hooked up to it, mostly not only because of the top quality articles, publications, videos, etc. etc. they keep putting up on their Web site, but also because of how helpful it’s proving to be as an essential resource “to help entrepreneurs and business leaders succeed“. Seriously, if you are looking for topnotch quality content that could very well help you redesign the workplace of the future look no further than those folks. They are doing an outstanding piece of work so far! Ohhh and talking about the workplace of the future, how about if today we spend a few minutes talking about redefining that space embracing over 100 years of research, instead of ignoring it like we have done in the last few years. Ready? Well, here it comes: Stop Working More Than 40 Hours a Week.

Seriously, it’s not helping you become better at what you already do, and, definitely, it’s harming more than you would know, and realise about, and not only your own work, your colleagues’, your customers but, eventually, your business itself in the long run. That is, indeed, the rather thought-provoking premise from a recent Inc. article put together by Geoffrey James under the title: Stop Working More Than 40 Hours a Week which comes out in a rather timeline manner, since I, too, recently blogged about this very same topic under “40-Hour Work Week – The Magic of Sustainable Growth“. 

I am not sure what you folks would think, but I’m starting to find it a rather fascinating topic, that is, how we actually manage work, without trumping our personal lives at the same time. When we all know, giving the current financial turmoil, how more and more is being asked from knowledge workers nowadays, i.e. work longer hours, while on the road, while at your home office where telecommuting is no longer there, therefore you have a couple of extra hours you could make use of, while on vacation, etc. etc. or at a time where we see how pervasive work has become with the emergence of social technologies, but, mostly, also, because of the huge impact on the corporate world by mobile altogether. Yes, it’s expected that we should be putting longer hours on what we are working on; it’s expected that if we don’t do that we are slacking off; it’s assumed that if you don’t work those longer hours, you just basically don’t have enough work, which is, obviously, not seen as a positive outcome, as a knowledge worker. Essentially, it’s just like we can no longer have an excuse not to put longer hours at work, for free, and not only our very own managers would be frowning upon us, but even our very own colleagues, too!

Yes, I know, I can sense all of you out there nodding away in violent agreement with that scenario. But how wrong is it? I mean, there used to be a time when we all used to think that those who remain behind at the traditional office were pretty sad souls who just couldn’t get their work done in 8 hours and therefore were punished to stay behind till they would finish it. Gosh, a few years later, it looks like things have turned around 180 degrees and nowadays it’s actually the opposite: if you leave your (home) office by the end of those 8 hours, something is wrong with your productivity: rather your fault or just basically not having enough work. Where do you think you are going, Mr.?, is probably almost everyone’s perception when you decide to leave the office on time. 

The reality though, as I have blogged in the past, is that numerous decades of research have proved that we start dropping off on our productivity levels when we reach 40 hours, beyond that we keep failing to deliver, yet, we expect people to stick around just because we feel it would make us more productive and therefore provide better business results. How wrong! It’s actually quite the opposite, as Geoffrey nicely describes it on that article I referenced above, as you basically would just be accounting for burnout and eventually be creating more trouble than helping out. Yet, we keep expecting it to take place. Yet, we all feel guilty if we “leave the office” before our colleagues do and we get frowned upon if we don’t stick around long enough. And that long enough is no longer according to your own terms, but someone else’s!

We need to stop that. And the sooner, the better! Yes, social networking tools for business, as well as mobile, are making that job really tough, since work has finally transitioned from a physical space, a la having to go to the physical office every day, to a mental state, where work happens wherever you are. You are work, work is you, as some folks would say, but at the same time You are life, life is you, I would say.  And in most cases we are the only ones who know how to get the best out of it not just for ourselves, but also for those around us, the ones who we care the most about in the first place!

So if that extensive research has proved that 40-hour long work weeks are the best option to remain productive, why don’t we stick around with that notion, instead of giving in to that work and peer pressure? You know, there used to be a time when, back in the day, I always felt sorry for those folks who had to stay behind at the traditional office finishing up work because they just couldn’t finish it off on time. I would try to help as much as I could on my own ability, but time and time again they ended up being on their own. Few years later. I am still sorry, but this time around for those folks who, on purpose, decide to “stay behind in the office” working a few extra hours, for free, without having anything in return, just because it looks good to their bosses and to their peers, because, you know, if you don’t do it, it would look like you would be lazy around. Seriously, why do we keep having this obsession of endless work days with 7, 8, 9 or even 10 hours of meetings, and then have to finish off work, when it’s just that same research I have mentioned above the one that has proved time and time again it’s just an unsustainable model in the long run? What are we trying to achieve eventually?

In a way, we are just killing ourselves, slowly, but steadily, and without even realising it. Yes, I know, we may be all working really hard, specially, now with the pervasiveness of social networking tools within the workplace, because they enable us to put up more work hours breaking the barriers of timezones, geographies, and whatever else, but what at what costs? Is it really worth while sacrificing your only one single life on this planet and those who matter to you the most for that promotion, for that advancement in your career, for that looking good to your boss and colleagues, when eventually, according to that research, you won’t be even capable of enjoying it to the fullest just simply because you would lack the energy, the good health and the ability to do so? Really, do you think it’s worth while the fight? Or aren’t out there much, much, better things that you could be doing instead?

It’s interesting to note how time and time again I always have plenty of people admiring how religious I have become in protecting my own personal, private time, versus work time, in becoming a zealot on how I split up what’s work and what’s everything else. Basically, what I have been talking about in the past around “Work Life Integration“, versus work life balance where I have always claimed that there isn’t such balance because work always wins. What most folks may not know though is that I have become so good at it, because I learned, through the hard way, as usual, how to do it. It goes back to 2004, January 22nd, to be more precise, when I learned that unless you look after your own personal life and make it count, no-one else is going to do it. And I had to reach the state of being in a rather poor healthy status to realise about it. Stress was one of the minor worries at the time. I was very happy I was in time to react and acknowledge that I no longer need to apologise to anyone when I am done with work within those 40 hours. There is no reason to do it. It’s not even worth it. Yes, you may think that you may be risking your own career, but let’s face it, do you want to risk your career or your own life? You know, you still have the choice. Always have.

At a time when most knowledge workers spend 3 years per average on any given job, if not shorter altogether (More on this one shortly!), I guess it’s time that we, knowledge Web workers, start protecting more, and set the boundaries of both work and personal, because at the end of the day, if we ourselves don’t do it, no-one else is going to do it for us. And don’t worry, there isn’t even a need to apologise. To anyone. After all, you are all looking after your own health. And that’s just priceless. And much to treasure for, regardless of what other people may think or say. You would still need to break the chain and keep challenging the status quo to keep your sanity intact. You need it. They need it. We all need it. 


Oh, by the way, if you have got a chance, take a look into the 4 minute long video clip, towards the bottom, (Wish I could share the embedded code below…), included in Geoffrey’s article, that features Lisa Price – President and Founder of Carol’s Daughter – sharing plenty of insights on how she manages it all, no apologies to anyone either, and you will see why I titled this article in the way I did…

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The Happy Secret to Better Work by Shawn Achor

Gran Canaria - Risco Blanco in the SpringPositive Psychology. Goodness! How cool, and how timely, is that concept? At a time where we are constantly being bombarded by all sorts of various different news items, most of them on the negative side of things, about the global financial crisis, the need to reboot this or that other country in order to get back in shape, their own public institutions, their own business models, or their societies in general, here comes positive psychology to go and change all of that and demonstrate to all of us how we may have been holding, all along, the wrong end of the stick! Well, time to change all of that! Welcome to “The Happy Secret to Better Work“.

If you have been following this blog for a while, you would probably know by now what a big fan I am from TED Talks. Those rather inspiring, thought-provoking, mind-blowing at times, truly life transforming presentations / speeches by incredibly amazing talented folks on a wide range of topics. Well, in the last couple of weeks I have bumped into one that would fit in that profile and so much more! The beauty of this one is that it’s totally unexpected on its final outcome, and you will see what I mean shortly, and on the good side of things it’s just a bit over 12 minutes long. So rather easy to digest, pause and ponder, and even worth while watching several times! 

This particular TED Talk I’d like to spend a few minutes on today is coming from Shawn Achor under the rather suggestive title “The Happy Secret to Better Work” and in it Shawn shares plenty of insights around some interesting issues that we seem to keep neglecting and that perhaps we shouldn’t, like the dangers of measuring the average, because, according to him, that’s exactly what we are going to get: the average, instead of excellence. His views on wanting us all move the entire average up, so that we don’t just focus on our current average, is just remarkable. 

Essentially, he comes to proclaim that in order to become better at what we do and to become better at who we are, we need to focus on the lens which the brain sees the world and change that lens so that we would also be capable of changing reality, our reality. That way, by shifting that focus, we would have a great, unprecedented, opportunity to change our happiness, our education, our business. Anything. And everything.

Mind-boggling, to say the least! But it gets better as you move along through the TED Talk. What he then comes to state in rather powerful messages is how we need to shift gears into changing, or even better, reverting the formula for happiness and success with a rather simple equation: focus on the positive and not on the negative. Going away, slowly, but steadily, from that mantra we have lived on over the course of decades along the lines of “If I work harder I will be more successful, if I am more successful I am happier“. More than anything else because every time our brain hits success, you already get to change automatically that goal of success, meaning it’s already embarking on to the next piece of success. And if happiness is on the opposite side of success we will never reach that state of happiness. What we have done, according to Shawn, is “push happiness over the cognitive horizon as a society. WOW!!! I told you, mind-blowing!

But there is even more, because coming close to the end of his dissertation he mentions how what we should eventually be doing is focusing on raising everyone’s level of positiveness in the present, so that the brain would experience what it’s called a happiness advantage. Meaning that if our brain is positive it will perform significantly better than thinking neutral or negatively. Yes, I know. Think about it, it makes perfect sense, don’t you think? 

So essentially, what we would need to do in both our work and personal lives, is to find a way to become positive in the present, then our brains will work even more successfully. Doing so it will make us all happier, but it would also turn on all of our learning centers in our brain allowing us to adapt to the world in a different way and better. Much better.

Wrapping up his TED Talk presentation, Shawn proclaims that when thinking about small changes rippling outward we could surely start creating lasting positive change with a good number of very simple, yet, incredibly powerful, things to consider, such as these:

  • 3 Gratitudes
  • Journaling
  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • Random Acts of Kindness

No, don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil all the fun explaining much in detail each and everyone of those items I have just quoted above. Instead I would strongly encourage you all to make time (Like I said, a bit over 12 minutes…) and allow Shawn to wow you big time by watching the video, because he’s certainly going to do that, I can guarantee you! In fact, I would take things even one step further and state that Shawn’s Talk will not leave you indifferent. Rather the opposite. Forever. It will challenge you to think there is a better way out there, a way you can certainly influence right off after you finish watching the attached embedded video clip: 

 

Because, like he just said, by doing that not only would we be creating “ripples of positivity“, but eventually we would be creating a real revolution that we can all relate to and feel even more attached, engaged and committed to providing us all with much better quality lives, lives where fulfillment and happiness rule big time altogether over everything else! And that’s just such a fine feeling, don’t you think?

You bet! It’s already helped me think about things in a completely different manner, whether work related or on a personal level, to the point where something I was not expecting did eventually happen. Moments of happiness galore, if I can say that! WOW!! Rather liberating and incredibly re-energising to say the least… Yes, you should try it, too! 🙂

Thank you, Shawn! 

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The Tribulations of Customer Service with Opera

Opera Logo
Over the last few days I have been relatively quiet on this blog, more than anything else because I have been doing plenty of thinking, along with drafting a bunch of blog entries, on venturing to re-design and redefine the corporate workplace as we know it seeing the huge impact social computing is causing on how we get work done. I already ventured to share some of those insights on previous blog posts, as you may have already noticed, but I’m now ready to share plenty more. So it’s time to pick up my regular blogging schedule and get down to business. How about if we take a look at the state of one of the most powerful use cases and success stories behind social networking and social media out there, Customer Service, and see whether we have got another winner or not… Hummm … not really. Colour me an skeptic then: “I cannot go to the Opera, because I have forsworn all expense which does not end in pleasing me” [by Charles Townshend]

For a good number of years, actually, for as long as I remember, my all time favourite default Web browser has been Opera. I know that may sound as pure heresy by those who live on Internet Explorer, FireFox or Chrome, for that matter, but, it’s true. I have always been in love with that browser from the very first moment that I used it on Windows and now on Mac. Something that I cannot say for any of the others, as they have taught me, over the course of the years, to not trust them much for doing an effective job or for making my Web work any easier. Opera did though.

For those folks who may not be familiar with Opera it’s that massive swiss knife-like Web browser that allows you to do a bunch of various different tasks and activities without leaving the application itself: email (Ha! Before you run into the wrong conclusions, like when I mentioned this over on Twitter, I still use *personal* email for private exchanges, specially, with those folks who loathe social networking tools or for those other who haven’t bought into it just yet, but it’s still my personal email, not work related); newsgroups and forums; Internet Relay Chat (a.k.a. I.R.C.); RSS / Atom newsfeeds; torrents, etc. etc. It’s all you need in a browser to help you become a powerful knowledge Web worker. And it works. It *does* certainly work. Till you lose 7 years of history. 

That’s right! Last week, I got a prompt to upgrade Opera v 11.62 to v 11.63 on the Mac through the Mac App Store. Free upgrade, as usual, rightly embedded into the App Store experience for the first time *ever* and ready to take the plunge. And there I went, and there I lost 7 years of both personal and some work related stuff. Ouch!!! The upgrade went all right, or so I thought. No glitches noticed and in a matter of minutes I was upgraded. The problem though became apparent when, after starting the browser, I could have access to everything (Bookmarks, links, speed-dial options, etc. etc.), except the Mail folder. The folder that contained all of those personal private email messages, several hundreds, if not thousands, of RSS feed items, newsgroups, forum posts, and so forth. All of that completely wiped out. Gone! 1.76GB of data smashed as if they never happened. 

Initially, I thought that the folder may have just been misplaced, or it may have been located elsewhere, but when trying to use Grand Perspective and WhatSize I just couldn’t locate that 1.76GB of disk space anywhere. Just anywhere. I looked and looked for a couple of days and nothing to be found. All deleted. Wiped out. Completely. No more available and slowly entering into panic mode at that time! One of the reasons why I have delayed blogging about it because you know how it goes as one of the golden rules for blogging: never blog when you are upset or angry. But I was. I *certainly* was. Right there, last week, I was prompted to upgrade to a new version of my all time favourite browser and right there it managed to destroy that trustworthy relationship of the last 7 years. Panic mode growing stronger by the minute. So I turned to Opera’s customer service hoping they might be able to help out. But, no, they couldn’t. In fact, they didn’t. Or worse, they never ever even responded! Talking about the power of Social Media in providing good customer support / service… Not!

I opened a Forum post at the Opera Forums for Mac users. 4 days later I’m waiting for the first response / reply from any of the support folks from Opera itself. Nothing has happened so far. So in an effort to get back to normal, I decided to reach out to them on Twitter and experience their customer support through social media channels. Just as inexistent, and still waiting for a response through a Mention, Forum Reply or whatever else. Yet, nothing: 

 

 

I know at this point in time most of you folks may have been thinking that I’m making too much of a fuss with all of this, since I could just fire up my most recent copy of my data stored in my Time Machine, copy it across and move along. I did do that already and I managed to recover almost entirely from it, having lost only two weeks of data, but I still think it’s beyond the point. If I am a customer, and end-user of your product, and I have run into trouble because of an upgrade you are advising me to take upon, the least I’m going to expect is for you to be there when I need you. When I need your help to get me back in business, because something may well go wrong, like it did. What I was not expecting at all was not perhaps a feedback comment that I had too much of bad luck, but the fact that there hasn’t been a single reaction, *at all*. Again, talking about customer service in the era of Social Media engaging through social channels. Colour me skeptic once again, because it’s just not happening!

And Opera is not just the only recent occurrence of this lack of customer service through social channels. In the past, and just through my own personal experiences, although my good friend Euan Semple has also got a recent, rather interesting, upsetting story on poor quality customer service from an ISP provider: Orange, other businesses like Delta Airlines, Movistar, Swisscom & NH Hotels have been running into the same issues of poor customer service and they have never gotten in touch. Months have gone by without anything happening and, at this point in time, I won’t expect a response either. And the same would apply for Opera. Thus just like I did with all of those businesses (No longer flying with Delta, no longer supporting Movistar, no longer staying at NH Hotels who employ Swisscom as their wi-fi providers), over the weekend I recovered fully from the huge mess the upgrade caused and I have now stopped using Opera altogether and have moved on to RSS feed readers, specific mail clients (Sparrow), and both FireFox and Chrome as my new browsers. 

Now, I know I won’t be trusting them to do the right job, since they never have done it properly in the first place, the browsers, I mean, but I already know that. I’m on guard with both of them and keeping an eye on my data to ensure it’s all there in a consistent manner. However, I trusted Opera. I have trusted it for over 7 years to do the right thing and it has done so all along, but for one instance where a big mess was caused the last thing I expected was a lack of response. Not a single comment, not a single reaction. Sorry, but that hurts. Customer loyalty takes years to build effectively, just as much as trust does, but it just takes a split second to destroy and to not recover it again. So time for me to move on and don’t look back, since they have done so just the same. 

I can imagine that plenty of businesses are buying into the whole mantra of using social media to be closer to their customers and help support them accordingly. The thing though is that you eventually need to do that. If you are going to be there, be there, be willing to actively listen to not only the wonderful, positive feedback that you get from your customers about your products, but also the rough commentary, the constructive feedback that people share kindly with you without expecting any kind of compensation except than you fixing your own problems with your products so that they can be happy customers again. If you are only willing to listen through social media to the kool-aid and how great your products are, you are just use social technologies as another marketing thingy, whatever name you would want to insert there, and we all know how much we, dear customers, loathe that kind of cheating behaviour. End result? What I started this blog post with: 

“I cannot go to the Opera, because I have forsworn all expense which does not end in pleasing me”

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Engineering Life Work Integration

Gran Canaria - Las Canteras BeachI am sure that this may have just happened to everyone out there and on a rather regular basis, too! Specially, if you are a blogger! Just as I was putting together a blog post on the topic of the 40-Hour Work Week (- “The Magic of Sustainable Growth”), which I published a couple of days ago I happened to bump into another really interesting and worth while watching video clip that touched quite a bit on the very same topic that I covered on that article: work life balance, although, like I said in the past, I have grown to be more fond of the concept of Work Life Integration, instead. The video itself comes from the Ignite series (Ignite Philly, this time around) and it’s a rather thought-provoking 5 minute-long inspiring speech by Pam Selle that tries to share with each and everyone of us how whenever we reach the tipping point of stating “Get a life!” we may as well need to do so! As we may be missing far too much of what really matters… because of work.

Like I said above, the video is a short, crisp and rather powerful awakening call for all of those knowledge workers out there who may feel that their job is eating up not only all of their work time, but also most of their personal time, along the way, too! Now, I understand the video has got some strong language, but I think Pam gets the point across very nicely and in a tone that while I understand may not be getting through for some folks, I think it’s all just too down to earth, and rather realistic on helping everyone understand where we are and how we may need to keep on challenging a good number of the presumptions that we have always been taking for granted in a business environment when talking about work time AND personal time.

Go the F*ck Home: Engineering Work/Life Balance” is a rather provocative watch, for sure, but well worth the time to discover the real consequences of working overtime, of giving up your time, just like that!, for free, of constantly being used (and treated!) as an asset, of showing how there are better, smarter ways of getting the job done, of re-focusing on what you would need to do and do it!, in the time that you have been allotted, so that you, too, could get a life. I loved her comment about naming more than two things that we all get to do outside of work and if you can’t name more than two, you have got a problem. Indeed! Too much work time, too little play, personal time! Priceless!

You see? It looks like the best option for all of us is to have an escape plan, something else to do, other than work, to occupy our time during the course of the day, when we are no longer working, and still have the feeling we are achieving something meaningful. And all of this going all the way to the top, including management!, who should be acting as leading examples, in the first place, helping their employees understand that they, too, have got a life and therefore should leave work, and do something else, before they would come to realise that their knowledge workers may be rather unhappy with their overall jobs, just as much as they themselves. When we all know that happy employees are the ones who produce the better outcomes: happy customers. After all, if Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg can do it, why can’t everyone else, right? What’s our excuse?

And if you need an escape plan, how about having a vacation? That would probably help out everyone out there start up with making that separation between work and personal life, right? And stick around with it altogether as well, upon your return. After all, we all know how beneficial, relaxing, chilling, unwinding and healthy it is to take a good long vacation, of, at least, two weeks disconnecting from everything for optimal results (Yes, even my own boss is confirming that!). Even better, we all know and embrace the many other good benefits from having unlimited vacation days, as I have also blogged about in the recent past sharing the experience of the delightful Maggie Fox from Social Media Group So why not do it? No, don’t worry, contrary to what most people would think, knowledge workers, in general, would not slack off. Why? Because they are hard working professionals, remember?, the ones you hired in the first place, the ones who you have trusted all along to do the right thing, i.e. getting their work done. So they are not going to abuse it. All the other way around! They are going to become even more productive and effective at what they do and work harder, because they are the first interested parties in keeping things that way!

Ohhh, that you cannot take vacation, because you can’t afford it? Even your work project won’t allow it? Well, let’s take it into the next level… How about *not* having any vacation, nor off sick time altogether? Let’s go to the other extreme. Let’s wipe out the entire concept of taking a vacation from the workplace and instead, like my good friend Kevin Jones blogged about just recently, let’s introduce this rather fascinating and refreshing new policy: “Need it, Take it“, which goes pretty much as follows:

If you need time off, take it.  If you are sick, stay home.  Just continue to do amazing work

Yes, I know, if you have been reading this far you are probably thinking I am just crazy. But why not? Why couldn’t we just live without vacation days and, instead, shift gears ourselves and change mindsets thinking that you may not need to have a fixed vacation period eventually, but, maybe what you need is just taking the time off, when you need it, for the time you consider responsibly enough to take off and just go ahead and do it! Knowing that it will happen when you know it will have the least impact on the business. Your business.

Smart companies like Evernote are already doing it and proving that it can be done and I guess at this point in time you may be wondering what you would need to do in order to make it happen for yourself, right? Well, something relatively simple: just ask! You know, like I have always been telling people, if you don’t ask, you already got the “No!” for an answer; if you do ask and get a “No!” for an answer, that’s just totally fine, remember you already had it. But if you get a “Yes!” for an answer you may find yourself you are right on track and you got it! A win-win situation for everyone, because when you get that “Yes!” you would probably be *the* most interested party in keeping things going that way. And I can’t blame you. I would do the very exact same as you would be doing. In fact, I have already been doing it myself for the last 8 years working AND living in Gran Canaria. Remember, for many years I didn’t ask, so I had a “No!” already. But then, one day, I eventually asked, took the risk, a good chance that things could work out, and, I got it! I got the “Yes!” and two weeks later I moved permanently to Gran Canaria where I have been living and working ever since. And still having a blast!

But if you don’t ask, if you don’t provoke that conversation to take place, it will never happen. So you are back to square one. And I am not sure what you would think, but I do believe it’s worth while taking the risk of asking away (your immediate management or whoever else), because in a way you are also helping your management line to understand how they need to shift gears themselves and instead of measuring your performance by the amount of hours and days that you work, they would probably be much better off measuring your overall outcomes, your deliverables, your output, and understand fully how, in a good number of times, you would be providing that extra level of top quality value by taking time off to focus on what you need to focus on: yourself. Re-energise, charge your batteries and come back for more!

After all, it’s a beautiful, wonderful world out there and every extra hour that we spend doing overtime or not having that time off for ourselves to do other things as part of that personal work life integration strategy you should all start working your way through on it, you are losing out. And you are losing big. As big and mind-blowing as this:

Don’t you think it’s worth while asking after all? Don’t you think it’s a good time now to take your life back and instead of talking about work life integration you start living more that life work integration for yourself and for what really matters?

You bet!

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Work Live Integration – 23 and 1/2 Hours

Tenerife - Roques de Garcia with Mount Teide in the WinterOver the course of the last few weeks, perhaps couple of months, I have noticed how I am starting to post articles about a good number of different topics on this blog that have expanded beyond the original intent to talk about Knowledge Management, Collaboration, Online Communities, Learning and Social Computing / Networking for Business. In particular, I have begun to become more and more interested in those subjects related to work life integration that are surely part of the business world, too, specially, when time and time again plenty of folks have been talking all along about that work life balance, but time and time again we have never seen it become a reality. Well, what if that balance didn’t exist in the first place? Most importantly, what if that work life balance has never existed, right from the beginning, despite what we may have been thinking about all along? Time then to wake up to that new reality of always-on, (inter)connected, and readily available, regardless of where you may well be, what device you may be using, who you may be connecting with, and what you may be working on at that moment?

While I was in London a couple of weeks ago participating at the #UCExpo event, where I did a keynote session on the topic of Living A World Without Email” (See this great article put together by Guy Clapperton to get a glimpse of what I talked about or this other link for the recording of the session itself) and the subject of work life balance came up from the audience when asking me how do I balance it all out not relying on corporate email anymore and instead having made the transition into social networking tools for getting work done. One of the attendees brought up the whole concept of work life balance and how important it is in today’s business world and how we all seem to keep neglecting it big time, and I just couldn’t help getting a chuckle or two, because, in reality, I have always thought that such balance just doesn’t exist. It is a big myth. It always has been!

In most cases, indeed, it’s a myth that most corporations have made us, knowledge workers, believe is possible to have in today’s work environment as a way to combine our work lives with our private ones, when, all along, I have always stated that such balance just doesn’t exist and for a single reason: work has always won (and it will continue to win!). It has trumped life all along and it will continue to do so for many decades to come. Instead, a long while ago I have made the transition into what some people have been calling work life integration, where one of key words / concepts that has started making the rounds in the last few years, that is, flexibility, is gaining more and more importance and relevance as we move forward.

Work life integration, and that flexibility, starts kicking in when both knowledge workers and employers begin to understand how we need to make a transition into measuring business performance by the outcomes and deliverables of what you produce, regardless of the time that it would take you to complete such tasks, rather than by just your mere physical presence, working a good number of hours, even if there is no more work to be done. It’s all about autonomy and how you are going to manage your work hours in the wider, larger context, of how you are going to live your own personal life. And we should all remember that we just got ONE life, and perhaps MULTIPLE jobs (Seeing today’s new reality, in the dozens!).

Just recently I read this fascinating article, over at Lifehacker, that points to this other, much longer, but equally worth it, piece of research by Sara Robinson about how if your work week extends beyond the 40 hours per week you may be having a huge problem with your own productivity that you would need to tackle. And soon! There is no denying that in today’s corporate environment becoming even more productive and effective knowledge worker is going to ever increase our stress levels because more and more is being demanded from us, by multiple projects, teams, networks, communities and some times it’s difficult to juggle with it all. But what if we would take a step back, and realise that not everything is about work? That not everything is about being chained to whatever the computing device to get work done. That there are more important aspects out there, in our lives, that we should treasure perhaps even more than work, and I am not even taking into account the private quality time that we spend with our families, friends, relatives and loved ones, which we all know has been decreasing quite a bit over the course of time anyway, in the first place.

In this particular case I am talking about something so fundamental as health, our very own health. Indeed, that aspect of our lives that we keep taking for granted, day in day out, till it’s perhaps too late and we cannot longer back out of it, because we didn’t pay enough attention to it in the first place. One of the things that I have come to terms with over the course of the last 4 years, when I started with this initiative of Living A World Without Email“, is that us, knowledge workers, are not that fundamental, critical to the business and indispensable that we think we are. In fact, we aren’t. Whether we would like to admit it or not, the business world will always continue to move on, with us, or without us, and things will be just fine. You know, it’s something that’s been happening all along, but that we have never realised about it till probably now. We all go on holidays for one, two or three weeks, or longer, if you are lucky enough! (Fascinating read that one, by the way, that I will be picking up on another blog entry), and we try to disconnect, relax, unwind from everything work related. We may be more or less successful in achieving that, but one thing for sure is that when we are not there, things keep moving on just at the same pace as before, if not even faster, judging by the amount of catchup most of us have got to do upon our return.

That, in itself, is an indication of how we, knowledge workers, may need to start shifting gears and become more focused on what work is all about and what our personal lives should be about. It’s that integration between work life that needs to kick in, to understand that some times you will be working really hard for over 12 to 14 hours straight, because work would require you to do that, and then there would be other times where you may just be working 2 to 4 hours and the rest of the time you can dedicate it to spend it doing something else. The key challenge though would remain on how willing would those businesses be to allow for that kind of flexibility in the corporate environment and whether they would be able to support it or not. In my opinion, they surely would, because, amongst other things, they would haven’t have much of a choice, if they would want to retain their talent in fear of those knowledge workers moving elsewhere, i.e. to another business that would be much more accommodating for that same flexibility.

That’s why, over the last few months we have seen how plenty of corporations have been paying attention to one key fundamental aspect that affects them, just as much as their knowledge workers: our very own health! I am not sure whether you may have noticed it or not, but plenty of companies are starting to carry out rather intense campaigns to raise awareness of how important and critical it is for knowledge workers to look after their own health in order to be able to perform better. I am sure most of you folks out there would have plenty of reasons to share across on why businesses are finally paying attention to such important matters, but one thing that is undeniable, to me, is that in this matter if one self doesn’t look after their own health, no-one else would. So, I am really glad we are now finally seeing this topic coming up on the table. It’s an important one.

That’s perhaps why as of late, I am becoming a whole lot more interested in that work life integration from the perspective of taking into account other important aspects of how we can conduct work in a meaningful way, rather than in work itself. After all, we all know it’s going to happen eventually anyway, so if we can remain focused and purposeful about it, we should probably take into account other important aspects, like this one on health. It all became a lot clearer to me way back in July last year when I decided to take a bit more of a proactive approach in taking care of my own health by growing up the habit of doing daily workouts (and plenty of exercise!), a good healthy diet of learning to eat smaller portions of everything and get plenty of sleep, as I have detailed on a blog entry at the beginning of this year. From there onwards, interest grew in me further along as the results of my overall performance at work have been much better eventually in the understanding that the healthier you become, and no need to go through to the other end of the extreme!, the much more productive and effective you end up being.

And that’s why I wanted to put together this blog entry over here today to highlight a short video clip I bumped into over the course of the last couple of days that I am sure most folks would find quite a fascinating watch, not only because of how relevant it is to this whole discussion of living a healthy life, while getting work done and enjoying plenty of good quality private time with your family and friends, but also for covering some stunning facts about how something so relatively simple as 30 minutes of physical activity on a daily basis can be so beneficial for us all. Indeed, in 23 and 1/2 hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health? Dr. Mike Evans gets to describe a whole bunch of facts as to why regular physical exercise can help boost not only our health levels, but also our intellectual capacity, which is rather remarkable, because it comes to confirm how we may need to stop obsessing too much about getting work done, and perhaps start obsessing more with looking after own health, if we would want to become better at what we do.

Very little more to add at this point on such important matters, other than perhaps include the embedded code of the video clip over here, so that folks could have a look into it and start pondering how and when they would need to start injecting such energy boosts that come along from that daily exercise in order to provide us with a higher quality life, which I guess is just as good as it gets. And don’t worry, work will continue its course. It always does. Right now, as an example, I am stuck in a hotel room in Madrid, trying to get some work done, but, alas, I can’t because my VPN connection to the Intranet is currently down. So, you see? The world doesn’t stop. It just moves on. Like you should be moving on! This time around the key challenge, and the good fight for us all, is all about trying to figure out how we can integrate it (Work, that is) effectively with other more important tasks dropped on to each and everyone of us: live fully a better quality life.

See? Don’t you think it’s worth it every minute? And it’s just only 30 minutes per day… What’s our excuse not to do it then? Please don’t tell me it’s work, because it surely isn’t. It’s never been about work. It’s always been about how much good care you would be taking about yourself and what really matters to you. And I bet work alone does no longer cut it, does it?

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One Moment Meditation

Tenerife - Mount Teide in the WinterHere we go again, already done with another one of those crazy, rather hectic and buzzing Mondays, and embarking on what promises to be quite an interesting and exciting week, as I am preparing for my next business trip, which, once again, is going to take me to two different cities in two different countries in the next few days. First to Antwerp, Belgium, to attend and present (On Being Social, as a panelist, and on #lawwe as a speaker) at the stunning BLUG event, where the agenda seems to be more impressive than ever; then, over the weekend, heading over to London, UK, where I will be staying till Wednesday, participating and presenting as well at Melcrum‘s fine Digital Communication Summit, as I will be talking about IBM’s journey towards becoming a social business sharing the experiences, lessons learned, hints & tips, and adoption techniques of our now 5 year old Social Software Adoption program called BlueIQ.

Phew! You can imagine it’s going to be a rather intense week (Another one of those!), where perhaps stress will make its presence more than once, and, just now, when thinking about it, I can sense it’s going to show up a few times eventually. Nothing new, really, right? I mean, in today’s current business world who doesn’t that have feeling that some times, and, hopefully, just some times, there are just so many things going on at the same time that even juggling with them to see how many balls remain on the air proves to be quite a challenge on its own.

My good friend Jacob Morgan captured, really nice, on a recent tweet, what the actual impact that stress is causing into the business world and although his tweet was just specific to the US, I can imagine how it would also be applicable in multiple other countries. If not judge for yourself:

 

Now, I can imagine that there would be plenty of various different things and activities you could do to help tame that stress and bring it back under control, since we all know that negative stress has never been rather helpful to one’s productivity and effectiveness. But yet, since we are all so busy doing multiple things and juggling with multiple projects, and whatever else, there is one key question that keeps popping up: Where do you get the time? You know, we are all so busy, we just don’t have it any more! We cannot even control it or have a little glimpse of what we are doing with it. It’s become the new economy. Along with Attention Management, of course, for that matter.

But what if we would have that opportunity to address, manage and tame that stress to reasonable levels with something so relatively simple as one minute? Yes, you are reading it right. One minute! Nothing more, nothing less! Who can’t afford a single minute going by here and there then to achieve that new goal of living a stress-free work life and get so much more done? I am sure you may be thinking that I am dreaming, once again, or that I have become a bit of a utopian. But what if it were possible? Would you do it? … I bet you would!

So allow me to introduce you to this absolutely delightful video clip of just over 5 minutes that will introduce you to the wonderful world of Meditation. In this case, One Moment Meditation by Martin Boroson. I bumped into this video late last week on my of my Google Plus circles and, of course, I just couldn’t help watching it through to see what it would be all about. And, I eventually, got to practice it!! Whoaahh. Really. And it works!!

There are lots and lots of things that I could say about the video, how incredibly inspiring it is and all, but once again, I am not going to spoil it for you folks and I am, instead, going to encourage you all to watch through the video, right as we speak, even if you are not stressed out, so that, when you are, you know exactly what you can do to avoid it and move on with your work. I tell you, I tried it out while going through it and I can certainly vouch for how effectively it works, to the point where it doesn’t feel like you are doing it, and, yet, you are and getting the best results! Just brilliant! And painless!

Again, you may not need it just now, or you may need it pretty drastically; the good thing is that after you watch it, it is just so easy to carry it on with you that no matter where you may well be, or what you will be doing, or what you will be working on, as soon as you notice that negative stress kicking in, it’s time then for that One Moment Meditation, and get back on track. Seriously, it’s that effective.

What do you think? Does One-Moment Meditation work out for you as well? Feel free to drop a quick comment or two and let us know whether it is working out for you or not, and if you have other tips and techniques to help tame that negative stress share them across as well. I bet we would all love to know about them!

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