More than a decade ago, I decided I needed to get back into regular exercise. I was overweight and tired of feeling exhausted. I needed to do something. But like everyone else, I was busy.
I had a habit goal I wanted to install: Exercise for thirty minutes, Monday through Friday, at 6:00 a.m. There was only one problem. I couldn’t seem to follow through. If you’ve ever failed at reaching a New Year’s resolution, maybe you can identify.
In all my years of using Apple products, I have never returned one. Until now. Last month I purchased the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. What a letdown. It’s the first Apple device that’s actually made me less productive.
When I watched the company’s October keynote, I left feeling disappointed. At the time, I said I thought they’d lost their product mojo.
Why? The company has lost touch with Steve Jobs’ vision for simple, elegant machines. Using the new MacBook Pro for the last several weeks confirms my hunch. It’s a dud.
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The Revenge of Analog (PublicAffairs, 2016)
My personal involvement in the digital revolution made me extremely interested when I encountered journalist David Sax’s book, The Revenge of Analog. He follows the trend away from digital in several different areas including publishing, retail, the work environment, and education.
Sax makes explicit something many of us feel implicitly. Real, tangible things matter. And that insight has tremendous implications for business today—not only in how we purchase and consume, but also in how we invest and grow.
Sleep Smarter (Rodale Books, 2016)
The importance of sleep for our energy, focus, creativity, and overall health has been a major topic for me. When we skip sleep we downgrade our performance. But good sleep boosts our energy, mental function, everything. It’s like a secret weapon. Sleep Smarter reveals twenty-one strategies anyone can employ to unlock the power of high-quality sleep.
I was surprised to see how many I already knew and used. I was also surprised to see how many I didn’t. Mileage may vary, so Stevenson encourages the reader to experiment and optimize your sleep for success.
I’ve read dozens of books on planning. But after the planning is done, the execution begins. In my experience, this is ninety percent of success. Yet, surprisingly, very few books have been written on this topic. In this book, the authors identify four disciplines of execution (4DX): focus on the wildly important goals (WIGs), act on lead measures, keep a compelling scorecard, and create a cadence of accountability.
Not only do the authors explain each discipline in detail, they provide scores of real-world examples from companies big and small. They also explain exactly how to “install” the disciplines in your organization. Based on consulting with hundreds and hundreds of clients, they provide practical solutions and best practices.
My team and I used 4DX for most of 2016, and it was incredibly helpful in reaching our organizational goals.
Mindset (Ballantine Books, 2007)
What is a mindset? According to world-renowned Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, it is an established set of attitudes or beliefs. We all know instinctively that attitude is important, but Dweck argues that it is basically everything.
She explains why it’s not just our abilities and talent that bring us success—but whether we approach them with a fixed or growth mindset. A fixed mindset is one in which you view your talents and abilities as … well, fixed. In other words, you are who you are, your intelligence and talents are what they are, and your fate is to go through life avoiding challenge and failure.
A growth mindset, on the other hand, is one in which you see yourself as fluid, a work in progress. Your fate is one of growth and opportunity. Which mindset do you possess? This book challenged me, because I realized that in some areas I possess a fixed mindset and others a growth mindset.
Deep Work (Grand Central Publishing, 2016)
If we want to be productive, we have to stay focused on the kinds of projects that add real value to our businesses. But that’s harder than ever today. When I talk with busy leaders, they tell me the biggest productivity challenge they face is constant distraction.
The problem is that even if those distractions qualify as work, they don’t add much value. Cal Newport, associate professor of computer science at Georgetown University, labels most of these activities shallow work. Think about bouncing in and out of email, checking social media, or tweaking lists. This is low concentration work just about anyone can do. Deep work, on the other hand, requires intense focus and concentration. It’s demanding but adds a lot of value.
It’s resolution time. Getting fit, getting organized, improving our personal finances, traveling, and reading more are among the most popular resolutions this year, according to research by iQuanti.
Sounds great to me. Who wouldn’t want those things? Unfortunately, despite good intentions, thousands will fail at their resolutions in just a few weeks. But that’s only the start of our problems.
The turn of the year is always a good time to evaluate what’s working in our lives, what’s not, and make any changes that will start us down a better path.
As we pause and reflect on where we’ve been and where we want to go, we normally have a sense of what to do. But that sense comes with a risk.
Even if it only represents an inkling of clarity about what to do, it’s imperative that you act immediately. If you don’t, you can fall prey to the Law of Diminishing Intent.
Some of my favorite memories of growing up are building model airplanes with my dad. I remember him showing me how to assemble, sand, and paint them. I think back on how proud I always was when we finished a project together.
On one occasion, I remember struggling to get two parts to fit together. I tried several different angles. Nothing seemed to work. I grew increasingly frustrated.
Calmly, my dad said, “Son, don’t force it.” I stopped what I was doing, looked up at him, and instantly knew he was right.