I mean this in two ways. First, read news and know what’s going on in the world. Second, read books. Doing both is important in all facets of life.
As for news, read whatever you like, such as the Wall Street Journal, the New Your Times, the Washington Post or other papers. Better yet, read or skim two, preferably with different takes, such as being left or right leaning. Reading different points of view allow you to process issues, ideas and positions. It also will help you craft your own point of view own coming from a well-read place because you’ve educated yourself on issues. You can create the time to do this by calendaring time with your morning coffee or for a mid-morning break. Knowing what is happening locally, nationally, and globally is part of being a citizen of all, and therefore of the world.
Reading books matters too. Reading the types of books you enjoy matters more. I rotate between fiction and non-fiction, and, with the non-fiction books, I rotate between biographies and business related books. I usually use my time reading books as an escape from work and thoughts piled up from my day, but sometimes I hear about a business book I find intriguing and am willing to read something likely to make me think. You should read whatever motivates you to read. It’s not a contest to read the classics, or more business books than someone else you know. It’s your time, so choose what you read based on your interests.
The best part of doing this is taking time for yourself, but it has other benefits. It will help you be generalist on the current news and other topics you read about. It also will allow you to be a specialists in specific areas in which you have real interest. Both combine to make you more interesting to speak with at a networking event or in conversation with friends and family. You will be able to have a conversation with anyone, which will provide you with opportunities.
Efficiency and organization are important. We all work hard, but, if you’re going to put in the effort and time, are you reaching your goals? This could be the calls you planned to make in a given day, or tasks or projects on your to do list, assuming you use one – it’s one way to try to be efficient and organized. Many ideas exist to help with this and most are right in front of us, but can be easily missed.
For example, are you a morning person or a night owl? Either way, do you schedule your days to take advantage of when you have energy and alertness, or do you slog through your day based on other’s schedules or because of perceived “normal” work hours? Fighting this makes no sense, when most people can work remotely from anywhere at any time of day or night. Sometimes you may have to show up at an hour of the day not optimal to your internal clock, but scheduling work when you are more likely to be in the zone just makes sense.
Another area we all can work on is organization. It doesn’t matter if you hand-write a to do list, calendar items, use tasks in Outlook, or an app meant to help with organization. You have to find what works for you and it may not be the first thing you try, or even the second. Whatever you try, make it as simple as possible because your system shouldn’t be so time consuming it actually is inefficient unless you find no other way to stay organized or on task.
I encourage you to speak with others on how they work. It’s kind of like diets these day in that everyone seems to have their own way of doing things. Something someone you know is doing may be your answer to efficiency and organization. Or maybe part of what they’re doing can work in the system you already have, but make it a little better.
Between trying new things and being honest with yourself about how you work best is the opportunity to improve your efficiency and organization. Done right, it can free up more time. Then you have to decide whether to work more or take some well earned time for yourself. It sure seems like a good problem to have.
Do you have a passion? I specifically am talking to a passion outside of your work. Maybe you like to play golf, or paint, or play an instrument alone or with others. If you don’t, can you pinpoint where you lost yourself into work or the interests or control of others? Feeling good about your work is important, as is enjoying what you do, because it takes up a lot of your time. Your passions outside of work provide texture to your life.
I’m an attorney who prides himself on doing the best I can for my clients to manage their risks with their given issues. That is one way to define me. On the other hand, those who know me will tell you I am passionate about music and live music, travel, and hiking. Sometimes when I am partaking in these activities, I specifically trying to take a break from my work and thinking about it. Other times, my passions and my work intersect.
I try to decide and control where the intersection is, but there is no way to fully control this. I may dictate a rough take of a blog post into my phone while hiking, or attend live music with co-workers, clients or other attorneys. In those instances, I may be looking for an opportunity to speak with a certain person outside the confines of my office or the business day, or have to be open to business and law being a topic of conversation raised by someone else. Other times I just want to lose myself in the music.
If you don’t have activities in which you find bliss, I encourage you to take time to consider this and try to find something. You can work hard and support your career while still taking time to do things you enjoy. If you disagree, this is a mental block. I am not telling you to take a month off to find yourself (unless you can afford to take that time and need to find yourself). I can hike for 45 minutes or an hour and get the break I need. Other times it may involve a longer vacation or leaving work early to meet up with people for food and drink before a concert. The time you choose to invest in yourself is up to you, but it’s an important investment.
If you have passions, but find yourself not taking or making time for them, put them on your calendar. Like most things, writing things down makes it more likely they will happen, or at least you will try. There are days where we don’t have the hour to give because of work and life related commitments, but most days you can find the time if you try. Are you willing to do so?