Easier Done Than Said

Bill Taylor over at the Harvard Business Review gives it as his opinion that “There’s nothing more boring than when bloggers write about their own experiences as a way to make a broader point about life, work, or society.” How embarrassing. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming…

This week I have the opportunity to do something I don’t often get a chance to do, though: I get to share a success story about doing the difficult thing.

Even the most self-directed person starts to lose steam after a few weeks if they don’t have ultimate decision-making authority and project approvals are lacking, and this is what was happening to me. Each day of the week prior I expected to get the answers I needed, and each day I knew I should really pick up the phone and ask for them, and I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Continue reading “Easier Done Than Said”

Gratitude and Apology

Last week at the office I made coffee, realized the creamer display was empty, refilled it, and spent several minutes unsuccessfully trying to get the box to fit back into the cupboard so the door would close. I finally gave up and resolved that I would mention it to the receptionist – duly apologetic, of course. Just then she walked into the kitchen to do the restocking so I mentioned it, she looked, saw it, and said, “Oh, thanks – I’ll take care of it.” Her tone was cheerful and there was nothing in the whole exchange that seemed to require a second thought.

Except five minutes later another member of the admin staff walked into my office. Apparently she had happened to be walking past as it took place and found it offensive. She thought my request was disrespectful – as if I thought it was the receptionist’s “job” to do that. She made a point of saying that she didn’t care about “whose job it is,” she just does whatever is needed, and would have kept working at the box until it fit. She then asked, in a tone that implied she already knew the answer and it wasn’t good, if I would have just left it that way [indefinitely].

Continue reading “Gratitude and Apology”

A Week in the Life

One thing I like to do every few months at work is a minute-by-minute audit of how I spend my time. I often find that I’ve slipped into using time more inefficiently than I realize in the routine of each day, and it’s also useful for reporting to management which projects are taking a disproportionate amount of time and need support. I decided it would be a good thing to do in my personal life too. Here are the results.

Note that for this blog, I chose to display activities grouped by category rather than by exact sequence to make the number of entries for each day slightly more manageable – but it’s still pretty long, so feel free to skip to the bottom, where I show an even more manageable aggregate.

Continue reading “A Week in the Life”


The original idea when I picked the theme for this blog was to tell stories of situations that presented a choice between the easy and the valuable, along with the decision I made, in hopes that knowing I would have to tattle on myself would keep me accountable in the moment. It’s an idea that’s much harder to carry out than anticipated, because I don’t always wish to share those stories. Sometimes they are genuinely too personal. Sometimes they involve other people, some of whom might be identifiable. But I still like the idea, and with attention – which after all was the whole point, to live attentively – I think I should be able to find one situation in the space of each week that I’d be willing to share. And it’s something I probably should do.

This is the story of the past week: I spent most of my time in a room filled with about 320 people, and as much as possible, I avoided the 300 people I didn’t know and talked only to the 20 I did. Every day I knew I should walk up to at least one new person and introduce myself, and on no day did I actually do so. It’s not to say I didn’t meet anyone new, but I think I can say that it was never through an effort on my part.

There are plenty of reasons for why that was, but the fact remains: I had 2,400 chances to succeed (300 people x 8 days) – and I didn’t take any of them. If I’d thought of it in those terms at the time, I certainly would have – it would have seemed such a small thing to do the right thing .04% of the time! Lesson: There are so many opportunities to grow, and if you’re not paying attention, it’s so easy to miss the fact that you’re missing them. Also, you can grow by making comparatively small efforts.