Identifying flaws is not only a job requirement for most of us, it’s fundamental to any growth as a human being. The thing is, identifying the flaws is fairly easy; executing and improving is the challenge. Too often we set yearly targets – both as an employee and as an actual person – and revisit it infrequently (performance reviews anyone?) hoping the change we want to see happens magically or organically.
This year, I wanted to develop an incremental plan for improvement in my life. Borrowing liberally from the title of a ’90s romantic comedy my wife loves (one billed as a modern retelling of The Taming of the Shrew), I wanted to set a plan of action for making improvements in my life, as a husband, a father and a team member.
So each month, I’m going to focus on one thing I’d like to improve, define the steps I think will help get me there and realize that flexibility and feedback will only help the results.
I only have a four of the topics defined right now (not that there aren’t hundreds of things I can improve on), so part of the process will be to define the upcoming months, but here’s the current plan:
No more multitasking
- This is the big one for me. Right now, I surf the net endlessly, check emails during meetings, IM during conference calls. For some reason, I think my time is more valuable than those that host the call or call the meeting.
Sadly, this extends to my personal life as well. Why do I have an iPad beside me on the couch when my wife and I are sitting down for the evening? Why do I carry a smart phone and check the footie scores when I’m playing with my kids?
Basically, I need to concentrate on what is most important, and give 100% to that cause. If I’m in a meeting, be in the meeting. But if the meeting isn’t worth my time, decline it. If I’m hanging with my kids, be the best dad I can be. If I am preoccupied with the soccer game, maybe I should work out a deal with my wife to watch the game and then be focused on the family. Deciding what I should be doing will not only help me, it should help everyone around me. Eliminating my constant multitasking will make me more efficient and a better person. Win win.
Don’t discuss to the problem if I don’t have a solution
- This is another one that extends to both my personal and professional life. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of gossip and harsh words. Talking shit on an under performing team members without extending a hand to help them (or to at least explain why I’m frustrated) or a friend in real life. If it’s worth my time to bitch about something, chances are the person on the other end could benefit from knowing what my frustrations really are.
Letting the problem compound will only make it worse. Tension will creep into the relationship, and ultimately ruin it. So, February will be dedicated to repairing broken ties, fixing issues instead of complaining, and basically trying to become a better friend / teammate to the people in my life.
Unfortunately, this extends to social media as well. How often do I RT something without adding anything to the discussion or even following the author? How often will I dismiss a critique or original thought without engaging in a meaningful discussion? If I’m going to exist in this space, I need to make it of value for me and the people following me.
If I’m going to write, write something I’m proud of
I’m a writer. I’ve been published a few times. I blog endlessly, be it about music or work, but I’m not writing for me anymore. I used to dream of my next story, now I hammer out 500 words and hit post knowing what my readers want. It’s not a challenge and certainly not rewarding. I need to find the dedication and passion again. I need to find my story, or stories. This is more about creative outlet, but it’s super important to my happiness and my long term goals.
I know I’m busy and want to give my wife, kids and friends as much of my free time as I can, but if my mentor can do it, why can’t I?
Stop thinking my life is so hard
It’s so easy to complain. Work is hard. Kids are exhausting. Marriage always means sacrifices. These things; the relatively minor frustrations that derail my day pale in comparison to the horrible things we read about each and every day. It seems ridiculous to say I work too many hours when I can stop at 4 each and every day to pick up my kids. It is embarrassing to wish I had more, when so many have so few. Even the really heartbreaking stuff in my life – my son’s heart, my dad’s cancer – would be classified as the best of a worst case scenario.
I can’t afford everything I want, but there is little I need I don’t have. Acknowledging that distinction is huge. The solution here is easy. Every time I get angry at my job, my kids or myself for something that isn’t really an issue, I’m going to give back something that means more to me than anything else; time. Every complaint is going to be 30 minutes of volunteer time. I’ll keep a total, and every quarter make sure I donate my time to people that would trade positions with me in the blink of an eye.
I hope you will not only follow me on this journey, but start your own path to a better you. I know that sounds incredibly vain and a bit more “self-help” than I’d like it to, but hopefully these little steps will make 2013 a great year for me, and the people in my life. Look for #12thingsIhateaboutme @bryanacker and please offer feedback and advice. This is the most important dialog I’ll have this year.