There Is No Wrong Way.

While walking the other day, I spied this sign. Of course, I had to walk towards it. I’ve always had a bit of a contrarian streak within me. Even as a kid, if my sisters were going one way, I went the other —just to see what would happen.

I did my entire walk the “wrong way” that day. I enjoyed crossing paths with other walkers, runners and cyclists and being able to greet them “face-to-face” with a smile or a nod. If I’d been walking the “right way,” I would have missed those human interactions, so important in today’s world.

One of my earlier posts, Walking (and Working) Backwards, came to mind. In that post, I explore some possible advantages to starting a project somewhere in “the middle” or even, at “the end.” There is certainly more than one way to approach a problem, reach a goal or generate a new idea.

On my “wrong way” walk, I recalled yet another of my earlier posts. In it, I recount “The Rules” attributed to John Cage, one of the most influential American composers of the 20th century. Many of his works disrupted the way we think about listening. To Cage, music was everywhere and could be made with anything. Chance plays a big role in many of his works.

Although Cage’s “Rules” are geared towards students and teachers, we can all learn from them. His Rule Six is my favorite. “Nothing is a mistake.” I need to remind myself of this, regularly. There is no “wrong way” to accomplish anything.

I also love the ambiguity of Rule Ten. “We’re breaking all the rules. Even our own rules.” I couldn’t agree more. Whether it pertains to our work or our play, there are no rules. We’re all learning and adapting as we go — especially lately.

There Is No Wrong Way.

Don’t Forget to Listen

When was the last time you listened, really listened? Some people go through their days and never listen at all. They talk. When someone is talking to them, rather than really listening, they’re only preparing to respond.

They forget the #1 rule of listening. To listen is to be silent.

Listen. Silent.

Interesting that the two words are anagrams of one another. We can’t do the first without the second.

Talking is easy. Listening is difficult. Yet, it is only by listening that we really learn — learn what our clients’ needs are — learn to be a better friend, better spouse, better parent, better human being. And, by listening, we learn to truly appreciate the world around us.

As a musician, I’ve learned that listening makes me better at my musical craft. When I listen, really listen to my fellow musicians, on or off the stage, that’s when I really learn, really improve.

And, by truly listening, I am able to understand more about my favorite composer, J.S. Bach. Each and every time I listen to a work by Bach, I learn something new.

Don’t forget to listen.

ONE

When was the last time you concentrated on accomplishing ONE task in 24 hours?

Lately, we all seem to be hardwired to “multi-task.” It’s as if we’re trying to prove to ourselves that we’re invincible.

To combat this, I’ve been consciously practicing the strategy of focusing on ONE work-related project daily. Rather than pretending to manage a long “to-do” list every day, I’m choosing ONE main item to accomplish each day. The item might be ONE that’s truly deadline driven (most aren’t), or ONE that has lingered on my list way too long and deserves closure. No matter the reason, I’ve discovered that when I devote my energy to ONE daily goal, my “to-do” list shrinks quickly.

At the end of each workday, I select the next day’s ONE project. That makes it easy to immediately dive into that ONE project the next morning.

Of course, not every project can be completed in ONE day. I’ve learned to break larger projects into sections that can be accomplished in a single day.

And sure, I’m regularly pulled away from my ONE task, be it responding to an immediate client need or taking part in a pop-up conference call. By knowing what my ONE task is for the day, however, I’m able to easily switch back and complete it.

By giving myself “permission” to focus on ONE main project per day, I’m feeling a greater sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in my work. I’m able to commit to client deadlines more readily. Rather than allowing myself to be pulled in many different directions each and every day, my greater focus is allowing me to work more quickly. And, I think my work is better overall.

Let me know your thoughts. Does the ONE strategy work for you?

by Rebecca Cochran