Productivity Isn’t About Time Management. It’s About Attention Management.

“Time management” is not a solution — it’s actually part of the problem.

A few years ago during a break in a leadership class I was teaching, a manager named Michael walked up looking unsettled. His boss had told him he needed to be more productive, so he had spent a few hours analyzing how he spent his time. He had already cut his nonessential meetings. He couldn’t find any tasks to drop from his calendar. He didn’t see an obvious way to do them more efficiently.

“This is going to sound like a joke, but it’s not,” he confessed. “My only idea is to drink less water so I don’t have to go to the bathroom so many times.”

We live in a culture obsessed with personal productivity. We devour books on getting things done and dream of four-hour workweeks. We worship at the altar of hustle and boast about being busy. The key to getting things done, we’re often told, is time management. If you could just plan your schedule better, you could reach productivity nirvana.

But after two decades of studying productivity, I’ve become convinced that time management is not a solution — it’s actually part of the problem.

For most of my career, the most frequent question I’ve gotten is: “How do I get more done?” Sometimes people ask because they know I’m an organizational psychologist, and productivity is one of my areas of expertise. More often they’re asking because they’ve read in a New York Times article or a popular book that I get a lot done.

But the truth is that I don’t feel very productive. I’m constantly falling short of my daily goals for progress, so I’ve struggled to answer the question. It wasn’t until that conversation with Michael that it dawned on me: Being prolific is not about time management. There are a limited number of hours in the day, and focusing on time management just makes us more aware of how many of those hours we waste.

A better option is attention management: Prioritize the people and projects that matter, and it won’t matter how long anything takes.

Attention management is the art of focusing on getting things done for the right reasons, in the right places and at the right moments.

According to conventional wisdom about time management, you’re supposed to set goals for when you want to finish a task. I decided to try it for this article. The target was 1,200 words, so I sat down at 8 a.m. and gave myself three hours, which would allow me to write at the leisurely pace of six words per minute. I then spent the next six minutes writing a grand total of zero words, staring at a flashing cursor. The only task I completed was a Google search of whether the cursor was named in honor of all the writers who have cursed it. (Yes, I know you’re mocking me, you poor blinking excuse for a rectangle.) Then I wondered how many words I actually type per minute and took a typing test. I wasn’t happy with my score, so I took another … and another.

Eventually I got frustrated and shifted to attention management. E.B. White once wrote: “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” But in my research, I’ve found that productive people don’t agonize about which desire to pursue. They go after both simultaneously, gravitating toward projects that are personally interesting and socially meaningful.

So instead of focusing on how quickly I wanted to finish this article, I asked why I agreed to write it in the first place: I might learn something new when synthesizing the research; I’d finally have somewhere to point people when they ask about productivity; and it might help some of those people. That led me to start thinking about specific people who might read this, which reminded me of Michael. Boom.

Often our productivity struggles are caused not by a lack of efficiency, but a lack of motivation. Productivity isn’t a virtue. It’s a means to an end. It’s only virtuous if the end is worthy. If productivity is your goal, you have to rely on willpower to push yourself to get a task done. If you pay attention to why you’re excited about the project and who will benefit from it, you’ll be naturally pulled into it by intrinsic motivation.

Attention management also involves noticing where you get things done. I grew up in Michigan, and when I went back there for grad school, I tried to convince a friend from the West Coast to join me.

“It’s too cold and gray,” she said after a visit during a snowstorm. She then went off to Stanford. That next Michigan winter was the coldest, grayest season I could remember, and I have never been more productive. There was nothing to do but work!

Sure enough, a series of studies led by Julia Lee (now at Michigan) show that bad weather is good for productivity because we’re less likely to be distracted by the thought of going outside. Researchers found that on days when it rained, Japanese bank employees finished transactions faster, and on days when the weather was bad in America, people were more efficient in correcting spelling errors in an essay. With that in mind, I deliberately waited to start writing this article until the day after a snowstorm, when the melting slush outside my window was not appealing.

My favorite part of attention management is the when. Most of our productivity challenges are with tasks that we don’t want to do but that we need to do. For years, I thought the way to handle those tasks was to do them right after the most interesting tasks so the energy would spill over. Then my colleague Jihae Shin and I ran a study in a Korean department store and found that when employees had a highly interesting task, they actually performed worse on their most boring tasks.

One possible reason is what’s called attention residue: Your mind keeps wandering back to the interesting task, disrupting your focus on the boring task. But in an experiment with Americans watching videos and then doing a dull data entry task, we found support for a different mechanism: contrast effects. A fascinating or funny video makes the data entry task seem even more excruciating, the same way a sweet dessert makes a sour vegetable taste yuckier. So if you’re trying to power through a boring task, do it after a moderately interesting one, and save your most exciting task as a reward for afterward. It’s not about time; it’s about timing.

I’m guessing your goal is not just to be more productive — you probably want to be creative, too.

The stumbling block is that productivity and creativity demand opposite attention management strategies. Productivity is fueled by raising attentional filters to keep unrelated or distracting thoughts out. But creativity is fueled by lowering attentional filters to let those thoughts in.

How do you get the best of both worlds? In his book “When,” Dan Pink writes about evidence that your circadian rhythm can help you figure out the right time to do your productive and creative work. If you’re a morning person, you should do your analytical work early when you’re at peak alertness; your routine tasks around lunchtime in your trough; and your creative work in the late afternoon or evening when you’re more likely to do nonlinear thinking. If you’re more of a night owl, you might be better off flipping creative projects to your fuzzy mornings and analytical tasks to your clearest-eyed late afternoon and evening moments. It’s not time management, because you might spend the same amount of time on the tasks even after you rearrange your schedule. It’s attention management: You’re noticing the order of tasks that works for you and adjusting accordingly.

Paying attention to timing management also means thinking differently about how you plan your work. I love Paul Graham’s suggestion to divide the week into “maker days” and “manager days.”

On manager days, you hold your meetings and calls. On maker days, you block out time to be productive and creative, knowing you’ll be free from distractions that would normally interrupt your flow. Unfortunately, few of us have the luxury to manage every week that way, which means we need to find ways to carve out maker moments.

 

Time management says we should eliminate distractions altogether — not just interruptions from other people, but also the times when we interrupt ourselves. If you’re getting sucked into social media, you’d need to stop cold turkey. Attention management offers an alternative: Be thoughtful about the timing of those distractions.

When I was in middle school, I lost a whole Saturday to watching TV and I felt pretty disgusted with myself afterward. But I didn’t give up TV. I made a rule: I would only turn on the TV if I already knew what I wanted to watch. I’ve adopted the same policy on social media: In times when I could be working, I only log in to share content. I save scrolling for windows when I couldn’t be getting anything done, like waiting for a flight to take off or cooling down after exercise.

Most of the writers I know wait for maker days to start writing, believing they need at least four or six hours to dig into a big idea or a complex problem. But there’s evidence that binge writers actually get less done than people who write in shorter bursts. You can make meaningful progress in surprisingly small intervals: When graduate students were trained to write in 15-minute intervals, they finished their dissertations faster.

If you’re trying to be more productive, don’t analyze how you spend your time. Pay attention to what consumes your attention. I’ve just looked at the clock for the first time since I thought of the story about Michael. It’s 10:36 a.m., and I’ve gone about 500 words over my target. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether the past 156 minutes were a good use of my attention — and whether the past few minutes of reading this were a good use of yours.

Which brings me to one more thought: I’m pretty sure there’s an eighth habit of highly effective people. They don’t spend all their time reading about the seven habits of highly effective people.

Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at Wharton, is the author of “Originals.” For more on building your career and connections, listen to WorkLife with Adam Grant, a TED original podcast on the science of making work not suck. You can find WorkLife on Apple Podcasts, or on your favorite podcast platform.

8 traits for effectively leading the family ranch forward

Want your family business to succeed and transition to the next generation? It starts with being an effective leader.

Amanda Radke | Mar 27, 2019

I received a phone call from a college student yesterday. He was a freshman studying animal science and had been assigned the task of interviewing beef industry leaders to learn about their careers and to gain advice and insights for their own futures in agriculture.

I took the call while driving to a FFA fundraiser where I was speaking, and he asked me a wide variety of questions. What would you do differently in your college years? What advice would you give to a college student wanting to be involved in the industry? Who do you look up to in agriculture? What motivates you in your career? Why is it so difficult to bridge the gap between consumers and producers?

Honestly, the conversation spurred many ideas for future blog posts.

However, one question in particular got me thinking during my road trip. He asked me, “What challenges do you face on your family ranch?”
Admittedly, I had a hard time answering at first. Our problems seem so “common,” and I wasn’t sure which one to pinpoint as a challenge worth noting. Do we communicate well? Is our transition plan solid? Does our multi-generational business operate as smoothly as it could? Is there room for improvement?

I decided to go the route of transition planning. Depending on the day, my dad will say he’s retiring in one year or 15 years. To me, that uncertainty is one of the biggest challenges my husband and I will face in the upcoming years.

We certainly don’t want to “push” him out before he’s ready. On the contrary, I could use a little more time to get my own affairs in order, so I feel confident and financially secure to purchase assets as he transitions into retirement.

It’s just the unknowing. How soon will we need to be ready? What will a purchase agreement look like? How much can we take on?

In thinking about those variables, I noticed I was placing the burden squarely on my folks to figure everything out. That’s when I realized that I hadn’t necessarily expressed these concerns or vocalized how much or how little we were willing to take on, should my parents decide they are ready to retire.

So I made a goal for myself — to schedule a meeting for all of us this summer. The discussion of this family business meeting wouldn’t necessarily be on the “when,” but on the “hows,” so when the time comes to transition the operation into new leaders — whether that’s six months or six years from now — we’ll know what the plan is and how it will be executed.

I’m sure it will take more than one discussion, but we’ve got to start somewhere, and it needs to start with me. By being transparent in my own goals and plans and by being willing to communicate and walk through all scenarios and potential pitfalls, I hope it will be a seamless transition that leaves the business intact and the family harmonious.

I recently read an article that addresses what it takes to be an effective leader in the family business. Written by Steve Moyer for SKM Associates, the article recaps management guru Peter Drucker’s list of traits that make for a great executive in the business. Although it was written from the perspective of what it takes to be a good executor of an estate, I think it applies whether you’re a Millennial or Boomer producer working with another generation in a family business.

Drucker’s list includes:

1. Ask what needs to be done.

He says, “Get the knowledge you need by asking what needs to be done, and take the answers seriously. Failing to ask this question will render the leader ineffective. Once you know the to-do list, set priorities and stick to them.”

2. Ask what’s right for the enterprise.

“Don’t focus on what’s right for individuals (i.e. owners, family members, employees or customers.),” writes Drucker. “What is right for the enterprise may not be right for individual stakeholders or family members.”

3. Develop action plans.

“Set a plan that specifies results and constraints compatible with family and organizational goals,” he advises. “Create check-in milestones and revise your plan as necessary to reflect new opportunities or insight.”

4. Take responsibility for actions.

“Ensure each decision specifies the person accountable and the appropriate deadline,” says Drucker. “Define whom it affects and whom to keep updated and informed.”

5. Take responsibility for communicating.

6. Embrace change.

7. Run productive meetings.

8. Say “we” not “I”

Read Drucker’s tips in full by clicking here.

I would love to hear what has worked for your family in effectively running business meetings, guiding conversations and making meaningful and lasting decisions for the operation and the family. Please email me your advice to amanda.radke@informa.com. Thanks!

Become the CEO of Your Own Brain

Melanie Greenberg Ph.D. The Mindful Self-Express

How to be the boss of your brain, rather than letting it master you

Posted Apr 02, 2013

To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s own mind.

Buddha

You may have tried to control your thoughts at one time or another. With the aid of self-help books, perhaps you really tried to “Be Positive” and “Show Negativity the Door.”  And this may have even worked for a while. But sooner or later, you probably found yourself back at the starting point. I’m here to tell you that there is another way. And that is to become the CEO of your own mind – skillfully directing it to live in harmony with the other players of self – body and spirit.

If you follow the six steps below, you will be the master of  YOU in no time.

STEP 1:  LISTEN AND ACKNOWLEDGE

Like all good leaders, you’re going to have to listen to your disgruntled employee, and acknowledge that you’re taking its message seriously. Minds, like people, can relax and let go when they feel heard and understood.  Practice gratitude and thank your mind for its contribution. “Thank you, mind, for reminding me that if I don’t succeed in making more sales, I might get fired.” “Thank you for telling me that I may always be alone and never find love and have a family.”  “These are important areas of life, and I need to pay attention to them, and do my best to take advantage of every opportunity that comes up. I also need to learn from past experiences so I don’t keep making the same mistakes.”

STEP 2: MAKE PEACE WITH YOUR MIND

You may not like what your mind does or the way it conducts itself. In fact, all that negativity can be downright irritating sometimes. But the fact is, you’re stuck with it and you can’t  (or wouldn’t want to) just lobotomize it away. In the Book, The Happiness Trap, Dr Russ Harris uses the example of the Israelis and the Palestinians to illustrate your relationship with your mind’s negative thoughts. These two old enemies may not like each other’s way of life, but they’re stuck with each other. If they wage war on each other, the other side retaliates, and more people get hurt and buildings destroyed. Now they have a whole lot less energy to focus on building the health and happiness of their societies. Just as living in peace would allow these nations to build healthier and more prosperous societies, so making peace with your mind – accepting that negative thoughts and feelings will be there  -that you can’t control them, can allow you to focus on your actions in the present moment, so you can move ahead with your most important goalswithout getting all fouled up. You don’t necessarily have to like the thoughts or agree with them  – you just have to let them be there in the background of your mind, while you go out and get things done.

 STEP 3: REALIZE YOUR THOUGHTS ARE JUST THOUGHTS

Most of the time we don’t “see” our minds. They just feel like part of us!  Dr Steve Hayes, the founder of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, uses the concept of being “Fused with your thoughts” to illustrate this relationship. To be fused means to be stuck together, undifferentiated. You feel like your thoughts and feelings are YOU and so you accept them unconditionally as the truth without really looking at them. “I’m thinking I’m a failure and boring – gee, I must be a failure and boring. Well. Isn’t that nice? Now I feel really wonderful.”  This kind of simplistic logic seems to prevail because we can’t see our own minds, so we have difficulty stepping outside ourselves and getting an objective observer’s perspective.

In actuality, our thoughts are passing, mental events, influenced by our moods, states of hunger or tiredness, physical health, hormonessex, the weather, what we watched on TV last night, what we ate for dinner, what we learned as kids, and so on. They are like mental habits. And, like any habits, they can be healthy or unhealthy, but they take time to change. Just like a couch potato can’t get up and run a marathon right away, we can’t magically turn off our spinning negative thought/feeling cycles without repeated practice and considerable effort. And even then, our overactive amygdalas will still send us the negative stuff sometimes.

STEP 4: OBSERVE YOUR OWN MIND

The saying “Know thine enemy.” is also  applicable to our relationship with our own minds. Just like a good leader spends his time walking through the offices, getting to know the employees, so we need to devote time to getting to know how our minds work day to day.  Call it mindfulnessmeditation, or quiet time. Time spent observing your mind is as important as time spent exercising. When you try to focus your mind on the in and out rhythm of your breath, or on the trees and flowers when you walk in nature, what does your mind do? If it’s like mine, it wanders all over the place – mostly bringing up old worries or unsolved problems from the day. And, if left unchecked, it can take you out of the peacefulness of the present moment, and into a spiral of worry, fear, and judgment.

Mindfulness involves not only noticing where your mind goes when it wanders, but also gently bringing it back to the focus on breath, eating, walking, loving, or working. When you do this repeatedly over months or years, you begin to retrain your runaway amygdala. Like a good CEO, you begin to know when your mind is checked out or spinning its wheels, and you can gently guide it to get back with the program. When it tries to take off on its own, you can gently remind it that’s it’s an interdependent and essential part of the whole enterprise of YOU.

STEP 5: RETRAIN YOUR MIND TO REWIRE YOUR BRAIN

There is an old and rather wise saying, “We are what we repeatedly do.”  To this, I would add “We become what we repeatedly think.”  Over long periods, our patterns of thinking become etched into the billions of neurons in our brains, connecting them together in unique, entrenched patterns. When certain brain pathways – connections between different components or ideas – are frequently repeated, the neurons begin to “fire” or transmit information together in a rapid, interconnected sequence. Once the first thought starts, the whole sequence gets activated.

Autopilot is great for driving a car, but no so great for emotional functioning. For example, you may have deep-seated fears of getting close to people because you were mistreated as a child. To learn to love, you need to become aware of the whole negative sequence and how it’s biasing your perceptions, label these reactions as belonging to the past, and refocus your mind on present-moment experience. Over time, you can begin to change the wiring of your brain so your prefrontal cortex (the executive center, responsible for setting goals, planning and executing them), is more able to influence and shut off your rapidly firing, fear-based amygdala (emotion control center). And, this is exactly what brain imaging studies on effects of mindfulness therapy have shown.

STEP 6:  PRACTICE SELF-COMPASSION

The pioneer of Self-Compassion research, Dr Kristin Neff, described this concept as “A healthier way of relating to yourself.”  And that’s exactly what it is. While we can’t easily change the gut-level feelings and reactions that our minds and bodies produce, we can change how we respond to these feelings. Most of us were taught that vulnerabile feelings, are signs of weakness – to be hidden from others at all costs. Or “Let Sleeping Dogs Lie.”  These bits of common-sense philosophy were dead wrong! Authors,such as Dr. Brene Brown, provide us with a convincing, research-based argument that expressing your vulnerability can be a source of strength and confidence, if properly managed.

When we judge our feelings –we lose touch with the benefits of those feelings. They are valuable sources of information about our reactions to events in our lives, and they can tell us what is most meaningful and important to us. Emotions are signals telling us to reach out to for comfort or to take time out to rest and replenish ourselves. Rather than criticizing ourselves, we can learn new ways of supporting ourselves in our suffering. We may deliberately seek out inner and outer experiences that bring us joy or comfort – memories of happy times with people we love, the beauty of nature, creative self-expression. Connecting with these resources can help us navigate the difficult feelings while staying grounded in the present.

SUMMARY

To be a successful  CEO of your own mind, you need to listen, get to know your employee, acknowledge its contribution, realize it’s nature, make peace with it, implement a retraining or employee development program, and treat it kindly. It will repay you with a lifetime of loyaly and service to the values and goals that you most cherish.

Manage Your Thoughts

To successfully compete in this 21st-century global marketplace your skillset must be fresh, valuable, relevant and compelling.

Beyond every great coach and leader, a brilliant mentor can be discovered. As we unleash our vast potential and explore the outer depths of who we are on our self-discovery journey, mastering the art of relationship building is essential. Relationships are partnerships. They must be authentic and sustainable. The goal of partnerships is to create value and win-win situations. Instead of entering relationships and situations with the mindset of receiving. Shift your focus on what you can deliver and give. Make it easy for people to know you, help you, believe you and value you.

We all need a portfolio of conversation partners. Your network is your net worth. The people you surround yourself with most have a significant influence on your behaviors, attitudes, beliefs, and performance. How these relationships impact the thoughts you think, the actions you take, the words you express and how you envision yourself in this world set the course for your life today and your future tomorrow.

At eighty-one years of age, I no longer believe in waiting for the right moment. I believe in living immediately while using the resources available to find a way. Let each day be a step forward in cultivating your dreams. Courage is the only virtue you cannot fake. The more burning the fear, the greater the grit must be. You can win a lot in life just by being the last one to give up. Sometimes the difference between winning and losing is the ability to summon up extra reserves of energy and strength you did not know you possessed.

Repetition and obstacles are vital to our personal growth journey’s towards mastering ourselves. I have come to realize, one of the most overlooked personal growth objectives is how we incorporate learning and knowledge acquisition into our everyday lives. Learning transpires when you acknowledge what you do not know. To successfully compete in this 21st-century global marketplace your skillset must be fresh, valuable, relevant and compelling. Remember you are always a work in progress. It is about disrupting your own operations and habits while auditing your life to find ways to improve and get 1% better every day. You must be your own disrupter and coach.

As life changes, so must your mind. If you do not manage your thoughts and allow repeated falsehoods to take hold, they become truths. Intellectual capital and living in a state of peace emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually will always trump financial assets and gain. Wealth, luxury and fame cannot protect a person from despair, loneliness, depression, anxiety, and pain. You cannot heal what you do not acknowledge. What we suppress, we empower!

How to Use Discomfort to Improve Your Well-Being and Transform Your Life

By Teddy McDonald, Contributor

Have you ever had that inner voice inside nudge you to do something you knew was going to be beneficial, but also difficult? One of those things that is tough enough for you to choose not to do it and stay in your comfort zone? We all have. There is an opportunity to go through that difficulty and get to the other side. We know that if we were to take said action we would benefit, but sometimes something holds us back. That something is going through the temporary pain, frustration and difficulty, even though we know there are greener pastures on the other side.

Here are a few things you can do to help yourself push through the pain, get to the other side, improve your well being and thrive! It’s time to get out of our little box and create a life far beyond our wildest imaginations. Without the extra push, we stay stuck and we settle for less than our potential.

Exercise is the perfect example of how we give ourselves healthy stress to get stronger. As you see, many of the people in the US and around the world don’t like to exercise even though all the science shows that you will feel better, live longer, and be happier. What do we need, to be hit in the head?

Changing your diet or cutting out a crutch is another tough thing to do, but you know that you’ll be better once you do it. Too much caffeine, too much sugar, too much food in general, all can be harmful, but some people don’t want to go through the pain and discomfort of giving it up to get to the amazing feeling of strength and vibrancy.

I recommend starting with small difficulties to get used to being in a tough situation, this is what yoga is all about. We create a safe environment to challenge ourselves, our mind body system learns how to deal with difficulty, and it becomes easier and easier over time.

Here are a few other things you can do to get the ball rolling:

Meditation

Sit for just a short time. Of course, you have to do something that’s challenging for you, so if you’re used to meditating, find something different. When I started my meditation practice, I couldn’t sit still for longer than a few minutes. After pushing through the tough times, I’m able to sit comfortably for 20-30 minutes and I love it. I feel the benefits all day long from a great meditation.

Crucial Conversations

I’m sure there is someone in your life who you’ve been avoiding or a conversation you’ve yet to have for one reason or another. Why are you waiting? This shows up in relationships a lot and sometimes people stay in relationships too long. I know I used to, but now, thanks to my wife and our communication, we make it a practice to deal with things as they come up. It’s definitely made our relationship better.

Travel to New Places

I love to travel and get excited about visiting new places, but I know that’s not the case for many people. If you’re one of those people, make it a point to get out of your comfort zone. Even if it’s a different section of your own city. Make a choice to do something out of the ordinary and you’ll always find that you’ve grown as a human being.

Be By Yourself

I know I’m guilty of checking my phone when Lauren goes to the bathroom while we’re at dinner, are you? Don’t lie. See if you can avoid that next time. Just sit, like we used to do, be uncomfortable in your skin and see what happens. I bet you won’t regret it.

There are a multitude of things we can do to push ourselves in a healthy way. The way muscles stay strong is through use of the muscle. You push it, it recovers, you push it a little more. The same is true for our psyche. There is a great cartoon that shows two booths, one booth has a sign that says ‘Uncomfortable Truths’ and the other booth says ‘Pleasant Lies.’ Guess which one has the huge line in front of it? That’s right, most people want to be told pleasant lies over uncomfortable truths. Don’t be one of the sheep in this world, take the road less traveled, you won’t regret it. I’m always here to help you along the way if you need some!

Is Average Good Enough for You?

Kit Pharo – Pharo Cattle Company

As silly as it sounds, average is good enough for most cow-calf producers.   In agriculture, average is breakeven.   Below average producers are losing money.   The only way they can stay in business is to subsidize the farm or ranch with outside income.   Above average producers are profitable.   A few are extremely profitable.   They are profitable because they do things differently from status quo (average) producers.   They have a distinct competitive advantage.

Most PCC Customers are well above average.   Many have doubled or tripled their profits.   They are focused on production per acre – instead of production per cow (bragging rights).   They are using ultra-low-maintenance bulls – instead of the status quo, high-maintenance bulls everyone else is using.   They know stocking rate affects profitability, or lack thereof, more than anything else.

Ag economist Danny Klinefelter explains how you can get a competitive edge simply by rejecting the status quo.   That’s right… by rejecting the status quo!   Klinefelter says, “The only truly sustainable competitive advantage today is the ability to learn and adapt faster than your competition.”   Click on the link below to listen to what he has to say.

Reject the Status Quo

Following the crowd and doing what everyone else is doing is never the best way to manage a business.   In most cases, it is the absolute worst way to manage a business.   If you are part of the status quo herd, you will never be above average – and you will never have a competitive advantage.   Dare to be different.   Dare to be a Herd Quitter.

Quote Worth Re-Quoting –

“If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t try to compete.”   ~ Jack Welch

Learning in Tough Times

Learning in Tough Times

Posted August 23rd, 2009 — Filed in Bud’s Musings

If you are a person who likes to learn or needs to learn, these last two years should have been wonderful.  The next two years may be even better.  We can’t change the world but we can learn how to live and do business in it better.

We are going through a time period now that has a chance to educate a lot of people. Maybe that should be, a chance to relearn some things that have been forgotten or ignored. People go to a University and pay a lot of money for the possibility of learning something. Now we have a situation where very large to very small businesses also have the possibility to learn something. This may cost a lot more than going to the University but there is the potential to learn some things that will have a lot more value.

Some of our largest companies forgot or never knew the most basic things of good business practices.  They did things that never should have been done. Now they get to pay for the education.  Did they learn, or do they just get to pay for it?  We have many small businesses that did the same things, it just may not cost them as much.  The education might cost less but it could be just as valuable. Individuals also had a chance to get a good education with possibly very little cost.

Everyone should have learned something about debt or borrowing money. Most of the time the people that loan money expect it to be paid back and with something they call “interest” added on.  “It is easier to borrow money when prices are high than it is to pay it back when prices are low.” These are good things to know.

Something else that is good to know is that “When it is easy to borrow money to expand the business other people are also expanding.”  Another good thing to learn is “When things are good and everybody is expanding their businesses it is possible that there may be some over production.”  Here is another good lesson “Over producing tends to bring low prices and it may be hard to pay the debt off with low prices.”

Maybe when business is good we should save money instead of borrow more. Then when prices go down we would have money instead of owe money. When we decide to expand it should be with some of our money, maybe not all, but some.

Invest money in things you know something about or invest very little and then only money you already have. Buy things you have the money to pay for.  If you don’t have enough money to pay then buy less or smaller. To save money takes very little effort and you don’t have to spend money to save, it also can make money. Learn to save and how to make money not just how to spend. To make money takes effort and you may have to spend money to gain or hope to make money, just try to spend money that you have.

The large and small companies that had and are having financial problems had people that were well educated at our finest educational centers. They had all the newest equipment and technology  to work with, yet they had these problems. Most of their education or at least what they learned was how to spend money, when they should have been learning how to make and then save money.

This is what we should learn from this problem that “emotion is trying to make bigger than it is.”  Develop as much skill at your job or business as you can then learn how to make, save, and manage money, not just how to spend it. It’s not necessary to own half the world by the time you are 21 years old. Learn and really understand what you want to accomplish, then start doing things as properly as possible. Then you can really own what you have not just have payments to make on something that might be gone with the first little down turn in the economy.  Things are so good now that it is easy to get over extended.  Because of spending money that people didn’t have, they say things are bad. The only thing bad is the people who keep telling us how difficult things are.

When things are like this there is opportunity everywhere. If we lose money, a job, a business,  the knowledge we gained should have been worth more than the money, job, or business was worth. That will make it easier to get started and be more successful than before. Or we can learn nothing because of complaining and feeling sorry for ourselves. If we lose a business it must have had very little value or it could have been sold for a large amount and everything would still be alright. Sometimes to lose a business that has very little value can actually be a good thing, then we can start over and do things better and have a business that is worth a great deal. If we lose a job it is the same thing, we should have learned enough that a new and better job is easy to find.

Learn all you can, these next few years should be fun, just like the last fifty have been. After all, we get to decide how good or bad they are.  I’ve decided that they are good, that’s why I can        Smile and Mean it.