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Milking it whole, not skim

Milking it whole, not skim

It used to be that the phrase “milking it” carried a pretty negative connotation with it for me, for as kids we only used it about people we thought were taking advantage of some situation without earning the right to do so. People who were “milking it” were the human equivalent of leeches.

However I’ve recently found that the phrase is very useful when I turn it around to be about me and not someone else. Milk is good. Milk is healthy. And “milking it” has turned into a great personal practice, specifically in regard to my habits with getting the most out of information I suspect holds new learning for me.

If you are reading this, and you are one who reads blogs on a daily basis, I would guess you struggle with information overload. Knowing that you do, you very willingly sit at a computer screen which is going to add even more to what your poor brain is already struggling to process. It’s addicting, I know.

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You get better and better at skimming, and yet even that skimming takes time, and there are too many instances where you’ve turned off for the evening and purposely NOT asked yourself, “What am I taking away from the last few hours sitting here?” because you know you won’t like the answer. Skimming isn’t very satisfying at all.

And to skim over something I should have paid better attention to? Something promising? Something which could have been a breakthrough if I’d taken the time to internalize it, and really know it in the whole it was intended to be? Well, the thought is just criminal. Worst than a whole barrel of leeches.

So instead, in an effort to respect my own time and use it well, to “Milk It” has become a new habit I have practiced lately with far better results. I can switch offline each evening now feeling pretty terrific if I have done this at least once during my day of information bombardment. My MILK IT self-talk goes like this:

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M- Make house and sit for a while when something intrigues you as Milkable.
I- Inventory all the Info available to you right here, right now. Whole Milk.
L- Listen to yourself think about what it all can mean for you. Learn it.
K- Know something you didn’t know before. Grab hold of a take-away.

I- Ink a commitment to use your new knowing. Calendar an “I will” action.
T- Take that action the next day. If not then, the sooner the better.

This does take discipline and self-restraint. You need to be okay with reading less, realizing that as the adage goes, “Less IS more.” Hard in the beginning, but the secret is to make it to T and take that affirmative action. Soon, it is the action that gets addicting.

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Starting this habit at a good time helps. Sacrilegious as it may sound to you, choosing “mark all read” in your RSS aggregator first helps too- a lot.

I printed my Milking It Mantra on a 4×6 index card over a month ago. I had declared Joyful Jubilant Learning the theme for my Ho‘ohana Community at Talking Story over the month of September, knowing I would have 27 very interesting guest authors contributing articles to our JJL ‘06 forum daily, articles which definitely could teach me something. I committed to starting my Milking It habit with their contribution each day, knowing the very compelling Learning theme of the forum would make it pretty easy.

Each day in September, I propped the index card up next to my keyboard as I read, and I opened up my Outlook calendar and a blank Word doc for my Inventory and Inking steps.

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Wow. September was one of the most productive months in new learning I have had in a very, very long time. I had created this practice for me, and there was a huge bonus in collaborative learning I had not expected.

Whole milk is wonderfully nutricious as brain food, and I’m never going back to skim. After all, I don’t have to drink everything, just the healthy, satisfying stuff.

Want to try it? First, print your own index card. Then, here are some related posts to help you get in the mood for New Learning while Milking It:

Rosa Say is the author of Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawaii’s Universal Values to the Art of Business and the Talking Story blog. She is the founder and head coach of Say Leadership Coaching, a company dedicated to bringing nobility to the working arts of management and leadership.For more of her ideas, click to her Thursday columns in the archives; you’ll find her index in the left column of www.ManagingWithAloha.com

Rosa’s Previous Thursday Column was: The Cost of Convenience.

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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