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10 MORE ways to create a breakthrough in your life.

10 MORE ways to create a breakthrough in your life.

Here—again in no particular order—are 10 more ways to transform your working life. Maybe you should try them.

  1. Slow down. Give yourself time and space. Never be in more of a hurry than you have to be. Allow time for thinking, musing, just noodling around in your head with no apparent purpose. Give space in your thinking for ideas you haven’t had yet; allow openings for sniffing out the ideas of others. Haste is the enemy of creativity. Being busy all the time is a great way to stop any possibility of breakthroughs. You won’t break out of your old habits by rushing. When people are under pressure, they don’t have energy to try anything new. They reach for whatever they’ve done before, or for some supposedly “tried-and-true” answer. They don’t believe they have time to take risks with change. As a result, they rush headlong down the same old paths into the same old messes. Refuse to be hurried and surprising ideas and opportunities may present themselves.
  2. When you think you’ve gone absolutely as far as you can, keep going. You’ve just reached the starting point. Breakthrough can’t happen until you pass the boundaries you believe are there in your life and thought. If you find a boundary, be happy. You’ve just found what you need to break through. Learning and creative thinking are your only sources of sustainable competitive advantage. Never let anything close them down.
  3. Take your mind and thinking on trips away. Deliberately step outside your comfort zone. See what you can find. You may come back a changed person. Conservatism is the philosophy of always sticking with what you have and trying to defend it against change. It’s a hopeless attempt. The best, longest-lasting and most valuable ideas remain because they continually adapt to the times. There’s a word for things that don’t change . . . dead. The world is bigger, stranger, more wonderful, and less predictable than you imagine. You won’t find it limited to programs on your TV, or what you can find on the Internet, or what the media present to you. Go out there and look for yourself.
  4. Listen. Listen to everyone you can. Really listen. You don’t learn by talking about yourself and your own experience. You learn by listening to the ideas and experiences of others. By listening to the ideas of those around you, you can pick up whatever’s useful. Even the things you reject have taught you something—if only what to avoid. Everyone you talk with can bring you learning opportunities you might otherwise have missed. Never be snobbish either. The best lessons come in unexpected packages. One of the hallmarks of the fool is that he or she thinks learning is restricted to the “right” situations and people. Like birds of a feather, fools flock together, reinforcing their foolishness by deciding they’ll only listen to one another. Wise people know they can’t predict who or what will provide the best lessons in life. Sometimes it will be the voices all the “right” people have rejected.
  5. Delight in metaphors and analogies. Every object or idea can stand for something else, or suggest an unexpected link. Dull people restrict their thinking and reading to what seems obviously relevant. Clever ones peer into what isn’t. You’ll maybe discover far more about working life from poetry, philosophy, or good novels that you ever will from business books and self-satisfied self-help writers.
  6. Run away from any kind of dogma. Dogma is the product of a closed mind. It’s an idea with a threat attached. If you suffer from dogma, get it out of your life. Let it go. Kick it out. Try thinking the opposite. Treat it like a crazy joke. Do anything you can to get rid of it. It’s the greatest source of barriers to breakthrough.
  7. Never aspire to be fashionable. Fashion is the foolish imitating the arrogant. Being cool is fear of change dressed in designer clothes. Following fashion is a sure way to prevent any kind of breakthrough in your life. Free yourself from barriers like this. Be who you are, not who everyone else is pretending to be.
  8. Stand on the shoulders of those who went before you. You’ll see so much better and farther. Never imitate the past. Use it to understand better and provoke questions in your mind. History is too often neglected as a source of breakthroughs. By learning from what has already been done, you can make faster steps towards what hasn’t. Innovation is mostly sticking things together in unexpected ways. To create unique ideas and stimulate breakthrough thinking, hybridize from what you have already. Fresh combinations of old ideas can yield entirely new avenues of exploration. It’s simply not true that creative people come up with ideas from nowhere. Even the most startlingly innovative people need material to work with.
  9. If it’s habitual, consider dumping it. Habits are the iron bands that hold you in your current ways of thinking and behaving. No one ever made a breakthrough without letting go of whatever has become habitual and automatic. Breaking those tough old habits won’t be easy. You may have to endure some “cold turkey.” It will be well worth it.
  10. Begin anywhere. There’s no right place, nor any better place to start from that where you are right now. Waiting to find the right time and place to begin on your quest for breakthrough is a sure way to induce paralysis. New ideas arrive unexpectedly. Whenever they do, allow them to be heard. Learn to be alert always for good ideas and opportunities for breakthrough. Be flexible. Grab opportunities when they come. Don’t sit back and expect another one to be along in a moment. The universe isn’t like that. The idea or opportunity you just chose to ignore may have been the best one you’ll ever have. Begin anywhere. Begin now. Just do it.

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Adrian Savage is a writer, an Englishman, and a retired business executive, in that order. He lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his other articles at Slow Leadership, the site for everyone who wants to build a civilized place to work and bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership and working life. His latest book, Slow Leadership: Civilizing The Organization

    , is now available at all good bookstores.
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    Last Updated on April 8, 2019

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

    Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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    1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
    2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
    3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
    4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
    5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
    6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
    7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
    8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
    9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
    10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
    11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
    12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
    13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
    14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
    15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
    16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
    17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
    18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
    19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
    20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
    21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
    22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

    Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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