Being An Extravert In An Introverted Field

I have a very strong preference for Extraversion when looking at my Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Some workplaces attract people with a specific preference. My day job is in Information Technology, where many people have a preference for Introversion. But before I get too involved in telling this story, let’s be clear on some basic definitions.

I am talking about Extraversion and Introversion as is laid out in the MBTI, not popular culture. There are a few key differences. Primarily, this is talking about a preference not a static state. I prefer Extraversion, but that doesn’t mean I can’t function in an Introverted state. Popular culture has invented the term ambivert, meaning that you act in both states. This is an unnecessary and confusing term as everyone acts in boths states at some point or another. The term ambivert ignores the concept of preferences altogether,  which I believe does us all a disservice. Also, what is meant when looking at whether one has a preference for Extraversion or Introversion? Simply put it answers, where do you put your attention and get your energy? If you put your attention to and get your energy from the outer world of people and things then you might have a preference for Extraversion, whereas if you put your attention to and get your energy from your inner world of ideas and images you might have a preference for Introversion (you can read more about Extraversion and Introversion from the Myers & Briggs Foundation here).

So when I say I have a strong preference for Extraversion, that indicates that I prefer to get my energy from and put my attention outward towards people and things. But it is just a preference, I am quite capable of looking inward, however I find that more draining. For example, I may come back from facilitating a workshop full of energy while spending time looking at code will leave me mentally exhausted. That being said, IT in general can be said to be a field with a preference towards Introversion. These are some things I have discovered working off-preference.

The majority of my time is spent at my desk working on my computer. I drink plenty of water and move around regularly, however there isn’t much interaction with other people in my day-to-day. As a result, I experience an almost permanent mental exhaustion. One way to combat that is to work with people in personal as opposed to over email. This isn’t always possible, but when it is it can give a brief window of relief.

In general, people don’t understand that there is something wrong. This doesn’t surprise me, since we tend to look at things through the lens of our own preferences. I remember one time doing a team building session that focused on behavior styles (DiSC). Of the four main styles, I was one of three people in the i group. This was out of about 40 people. So, there can definitely be some different expectations of what constitutes a good environment.

Even though most jobs and work environments have a tendency towards one preference over another, it is possible to find positions/roles that benefit the other side of the preference coin. For example, in my current role I sometimes do training and product demos. These type of things play nicely with my extraverted preference. Many similar preference pleasing roles can be found in a variety of workplaces. For example, perhaps in an extravert heavy professional like sales and service there are roles that might benefit someone with a more introverted preference, such as accounting or bookkeeping.

All in all, while it may be easiest to find a workplace with the same preference as you, you can usually find something to match your preferences in any job, even if it is just a small part of the overall picture.

10 Books To Enhance Your Personal Development

While there are many places to look for personal development, sometimes reading established books can give you a lot of great ideas. As in the quote above, I find it very useful to pick and choose from the many techniques available and put my own personal spin on them. I am fond of saying “There’s no one right way, just many ways that may work for you.”

Here are 10 books (in alphabetical order by author) that I’ve found useful, as well as a little bit from me on why each book is meaningful to me:

  1. The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

    I absolutely love the seven principles found in this book. I’ve used them in my own personal development as well as facilitating training and coaching sessions and running several successful book clubs. The most impactful principle for me is the 20-second rule. Basically, the idea is to make things you want to do 20 seconds easier to do and things you want to stop doing 20 seconds harder to do. That’s enough to overcome inertia and help start a positive habit or stop a negative one.
  2. Getting Things Done – The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

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    The most impactful idea from this book for me is in the workflow. If something can be done in 2 minutes or less, do it when you process the task rather than moving it to a later time. It’s amazing how much that helps keep things in check!
  3. The Myth of Multitasking: How “Doing It All” Gets Nothing Done by Dave Crenshaw

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    While our society often expects multitasking it is important to focus on single tasks if we want to be our most productive. I am a strident advocate for single-tasking and am grateful for the concept.
  4. The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? by Seth Godin

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    I got to see Seth Godin speak live in 2011 and quickly read most of his books immediately after. For me, the reminder that we are never told the second warning of “Don’t fly too low” was important. We’re told not to shoot too high, at the risk of always shooting too low.
  5. Unlimited Power: The New Science of Personal Achievement by Anthony Robbins

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    I wasn’t sure where to start with Tony Robbins’ books, but I was intrigued and wanted to learn more. I think my biggest take away from this book is the idea that what we feel isn’t the result of what is happening in your life but rather is your interpretation of what is happening.
  6. Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

    Another book that yielded some great book club discussions. The concept of the Golden Circle, with Why being the core instead of starting with what and moving on to how, start with why.
  7. What To Do Then There’s Too Much To Do: Reduce Tasks, Increase Results, and Save 90 Minutes a Day by Laura Stack

    This was the first book I ever facilitated a book club for. I love the idea of triaging your work as it comes in so that high priority/importance items get looked at first.
  8. Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracy

    Another book club favorite. The biggest take away is to take action on your most important task first thing rather than putting it off.
  9. Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher, William L. Ury, Bruce Patton

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    This is one of those books that should be required reading for anyone who is on either side of a negotiation. My favorite takeaway is the idea of inventing options for mutual gain. There is always a way to strike a deal where both sides get something positive.
  10. Born To Win: Find Your Success by Zig Ziglar and Tom Ziglar

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    I am always inspired by Zig Ziglar and his message. From this book, I especially like the idea of being the best you can be regardless of your job or profession.

These books are being discussed in my Personal Development Book Club Facebook Group. Feel free to join in the discussion!

What parts of these books resonate with you? What other books have you found to be useful in your personal development?


10 Ways To Build Your Resilience

Resilience is the process of bouncing back after adversity. Having resilience doesn’t mean you can prevent adversity, but that you can bounce back from difficult circumstances and experiences. Resilience is something that everyone can learn to improve.

Here are 10 ways you can build your resilience:

  1. Stop comparing yourself to others – Accept yourself for who you are. This doesn’t meant that you don’t strive for personal development, but that you recognize your worth as you are. When you compare yourself to someone else you may be comparing the beginning of your journey with the end of someone else’s. This can be discouraging.
  2. Recognize your inner voices – When you have negative inner voices it is more difficult to build and maintain your self-confidence and self-esteem, the foundation of resilience. Respond to your negative voice with positive affirmations to reduce their negative impact.
  3. Monitor your self-talk – If you let your negative inner voice have power you may inflict negative judgements on yourself. Instead of taking a rejection in stride, for example, you may tell yourself that you don’t have good ideas or that you will never succeed. Replace your negative self-talk with positive thoughts instead.
  4. Make and maintain connections – People who have strong connections at work are more resilient. Identify your support network, and if you are lacking now is the time to actively work to increase it. Just having a support network is not enough, however. You need to maintain as well as build your network of connections. Make time for casual interactions, be there when people need your support, and be willing to keep your circle open to new people.
  5. Set and achieve goals – Setting and achieving goals increases your resilience because goals provide purpose, direction, commitment, and motivation. It enables you to stay true to your purpose no matter what is going on around you. When you set goals one method to use is to set goals that are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Write your goals down and post them where you can see them. Break your goals into smaller steps (if a step will take longer than a week to accomplish break it down some more). Keep track of your progress, commit yourself to reaching your goals, and celebrate your successes.
  6. Embrace change – Change can be difficult to accept, and the process of reaching acceptance often mimics the grieving process (denial, anger, bargaining, acceptance). We want to sway and bend in the wind of change, not be broken by it. One way to become more resilient is to look for the positive opportunities a change may hold. Figure out what you can and cannot control. For the things you can control, make a plan to implement the change. For the things you can’t control, let it go and make peace with it. Recognizing the consequences of not changing can help you gain a realistic perspective and see the benefits of making the change.
  7. Use flexible thinking – Flexible thinking is the ability to shift your thoughts in order to respond effectively to any situation. You can develop mental flexibility and strength just like you might develop physical flexibility and strength, through practice. Some ways to practice mental flexibility are to be more spontaneous, adopt an attitude of a neutral observer, and to look at things from other points of view. Forcing ourselves to be more spontaneous helps break entrenched thinking and more open to flexible thinking. Viewing situations as a neutral observer before reacting can help you see things you might have otherwise missed. When we look at things from another point of view it helps us break out of ingrained perspectives and negative patterns.
  8. Use coping strategies – In order to be resilient, you need tools for dealing with being upset when it is happening in the moment. Allow yourself to have a bad day. It happens to all of us. Go for a walk, have a good cry, yell and scream, do some deep breathing, then recognize that the bad day won’t go on forever and get through the day. You can also figure out what must be done and what can be put off to a later date. If you are in a crisis mode it doesn’t help stressing about things that don’t need to be done. Reach out to your support network as needed. Look for the good, focus on something you can be grateful for, smile, and laugh.
  9. Stress management – Learn how to say no. Work on improving your time management. Avoid people who bring stress and drama into your life. Watch out for perfectionism, learn when “good enough” is good enough. Don’t try to control the uncontrollable. Learn to forgive.
  10. Relaxation – Get enough sleep. Engage in a hobby. Use your vacation time!

By following some or all of these steps you can start building your resilience today!


Why Focus Is Important To Me

Focus can apply to larger long-term goals as well as the immediate task at hand. I like to think of focus as the rudder on a ship. Without a rudder a ship will still move around, but only where the wind and current take it, not necessarily in the intended direction. Focus is the same way, you can still get things done without intentional focus, but those actions might not reflect your goals and aspirations.

You’ll note I said intentional focus above. It is quite possible to unintentionally focus on something and then that focus will determine your outcome or reality. So we must be intentional in our focus. If you can keep your long-term goals in focus this will help lay the groundwork for intentional focus in your immediate tasks. Without that long-term focus it is much more likely that you will succumb to unintentional focus (dealing with whatever is in front of you and seems urgent).

Long-term focus is the “keep your eyes on the prize” mentality. You know where you want to go and even if there are things you don’t like doing, if they are necessary to meet your goals you need to focus on them. Focusing on immediate and short-term tasks is part of finding your “flow” and single-tasking on that one task for a specified time period or until it is complete.

It can be too easy, especially when you are tired or stressed, to set yourself adrift and “put out fires” / just do whatever comes across your desk. By intentionally focusing on what is important we can better achieve our goals.


Why You Should Prioritize Your Tasks

I’ve previously shared 7 Ways To Prioritize Your Tasks And Get Stuff Done and I hope you’ve found that helpful. That dealt with the question of How but I never addressed the Why. And although I didn’t follow Simon Sinek’s advice and start with why, I do want to answer the Why, why is it important, why should you care about prioritizing your tasks.

The short answer is that prioritizing your tasks gives you control over your life. When we make choices and have control we are better able to accept the bad with the good.

If we don’t prioritize our tasks, whether directly or indirectly, we can find ourselves constantly “putting out fires” handling things that seem urgent (or that other people have deemed urgent). Everyone has days like this, but if that is your normal way of operating time will pass without getting a lot accomplished. You may be always busy, but busy does not equal productive.

When I say directly or indirectly prioritizing your tasks I am referring to whether you directly list out your tasks and assign priorities to each one, or if based on your goals (you have set goals right?) you mentally assign priorities to get things done. I’ve been doing this for a while and am very comfortable using an indirect method of prioritization. When you are just starting out you may find it easier or more reassuring to directly list your priorities out. The indirect method however can be detrimental to team or group projects. Those situations are better served with direct methods. When dealing with your own priorities you can be more flexible.

By knowing what your goals are and having prioritized tasks to achieve your goals you are gaining more control over your life and outcomes. Now when someone needs to add something to your list you know where it fits in with your existing priorities. Maybe the new thing needs to move to the top of the list, but maybe not. If you didn’t know your priorities the new thing might get done before something that should have been done first.


Get To Know Yourself Better

By having a better understanding of ourselves not only can we make great strides in our own personal development but we can also apply what we know about ourselves to our interactions with others, improving communication and increasing harmony.

Here are some ways you can get to know yourself better:

You might wish to do some research on your own and then reach out to a professional to work with you. If you’d like to work with me, I’d love to hear from you!


Social Learning Opportunities

One of the ways we learn is by observing and interacting with others. There are many types of social learning opportunities, let’s look at a few that I am fond of:

Twitter Chats: There are so many great chats to be found on Twitter, covering a vast range of topics. In general, chats are set up in a question and answer format, where a host asks a question, usually prefaced with Q1, Q2, etc. Then everyone participating can chime in with their answers, usually prefaced with A1, A2, etc. Often further discussions branch off based on people’s answers. If you regularly attend the same chat (often they are held weekly) you will start to see familiar faces and get to know your fellow chatters. If you can’t participate live you can always read the tweets at a later date, and some moderators put together a summary or recap, using Storify or other platforms. A few chats that I enjoy are the Power Of Connection chat #PoCchat, #NextChat, and #HBRogue. You can stumble upon chats organically if you see people you follow participating in them, or you can search out chats using a list, such as this Twitter Chat Schedule. You will probably want to use a tool like TweetDeck or HootSuite to monitor the hashtag as high volume chats can be a bit tricky to follow, especially the first time or so.

Facebook Groups: Facebook Groups are another way to learn about various topics and participate in discussions around them. Some groups are more free-form, with many people contributing conversation starters. Others have one or more moderators who post most of the content. I’ve also participated in groups that revolved around other events, such as Facebook Live broadcasts, webinars, or physical or virtual conferences. The Group then acted as a place for people to discuss that event. While many Twitter chats tend to be high volume for a bit and then quiet until the next chat, some Facebook Groups can be moderately active throughout the week.

Local Meetups/Conferences/Workshops/Virtual Events: Sometimes the best opportunities come when we gather (physically or virtually) around a particular topic for an extended time. Look for events that interest you in trade magazines/websites, online discussions, or through professional organizations. Getting together with people all interested in the same topic can help build connections and open the door to more opportunities. Although schedules and budgets usually make attending these events less frequent, they are worth the investment. Take the time to find at least one big event you’d like to go to and then make it a goal to attend in the next year or so.

College/University: Going back to school is the biggest commitment both in time and expense. However, if the program is set up well you will have many opportunities to engage in social learning, through group work, class discussions, and discussions held with classmates outside of class. These opportunities help reinforce the lessons learned in your courses.


7 Ways To Prioritize Your Tasks And Get Stuff Done

There is no right way to prioritize your tasks or how to get your stuff done, only ways that are right for you.

Here are a few ways to try that may work for you:

  1. 6 Steps To Better Time Management – I list steps I’ve taken to use my time better.
  2. How I Prioritize My Tasks – A few ways that help me to get through my task list, including my favorite, the Eisenhower Matrix!
  3. The Pomodoro Technique – Work in 25 minute distraction-free chunks to get tasks done.
  4. Getting Things Done Methodology – 5 steps to GTD
  5. Write down your top 3-5 priorities. Look at the next three months in your calendar. Note how much time you have allocated towards those priorities. Are you scheduling time to work on your priorities? If not, that’s a good place to start.
  6. Schedule time for reflection – Did you just finish a goal, spend some time reflecting on what went right and what could have been done better. Celebrate your win!
  7. Schedule time for planning – Having planning time in your calendar allows you to think about future goals so you don’t get lost in the day to day bustle. Don’t find yourself busily working on whatever comes up, make sure you have a destination in mind.

 


I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

When I was growing up, one of the shows that I liked (and still like) is The A-Team. And while the whole team was great, Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith was my favorite. Looking back at it now through my grown up lens there is one feature of his character that stands out.

Hannibal had a catch phrase “I love it when a plan comes together.” But the funny thing is, he never had a set plan that went through exactly as he may have envisioned it. He had an end goal, and was flexible in the means taken to reach that goal. This brings to mind this quote from an unknown author:

Be stubborn about your goals,
And flexible about your methods

Very often we might think we know what path we will ultimately take to reach our goals, however obstacles may come that force us to take different paths. If we are flexible about our methods, or which path we take, we are more likely to achieve our goals. This is true whether you are a mercenary on the run from the military police or an office worker trying to get the latest TPS report done.

About five years ago I had set some five-year goals. As this period is coming to a close I can see that many of the goals I set I have achieved or am close to achieving, however I definitely have not achieved some of them through the methods I originally thought. There are some goals that have become outdated and I no longer desire to achieve, and there are some that the underlying meaning behind the goal still exists even if the stated goal does not. Maintaining flexibility is key to achieving your goals.

More short term, I set weekly goals. I do not plan out exactly, hour-by-hour, how I will accomplish these goals on a daily basis. I prefer a more organic approach, scheduling time to work on projects as they fit my priority and inspiration. And though my day to day may not seem as firm, that flexibility winds up allowing me to reach my goals.

Regardless of how you may achieve your goals, the important step is to set goals and be stubborn in your efforts to reach them. Then when you achieve your goal you can chuckle, grin (cigar optional), and say “I love it when a plan comes together.”


How I Use Social Media To Engage

I am most active on Facebook (both personal and with a business page), Twitter, and LinkedIn. I use each platform differently, so let’s take a look at each:

Facebook: Facebook is my number 1 go to social media platform. It’s a one stop shop, with personal connections, professional connections, and groups.

My personal profile is me, I talk about and share what’s on my mind, including religion and politics (yikes!). You can probably get a good sense of my love for my family and friends, puns, bad jokes, and music. I also share things that are of a professional interest. My sharing/posting is all in realtime, so if I’m feeling particularly sharey you might get inundated with a ton of posts all at once (sorry, not sorry). I also have been using Facebook Live every Wednesday to talk about the topics in my blog post for the week.

Groups have really taken off recently as a great way to connect with a larger community. It’s redesigning the old school Bulletin Board Systems for the 21st century. I’m active in several Groups, some are long term and others exist around a specific moment and then slow down or stop. From personal or professional development to keeping up on a game that you play, you can probably find a Group or two to meet your needs. (Shameless plug: If you’re looking for a Group and want to discuss some great books, join the Personal Development Book Club)

A Page can be for your business or special interest topic. On my Page I share one article a day (content curation) that I find interesting (scheduled with Buffer, see tools below). I also share my blog posts and Facebook Live videos here.

Twitter: I mainly use Twitter for content curation, I have eight posts a day scheduled (using Buffer, see tools below). I also use Social Jukebox (see tools below) to post inspirational quotes, a blog post, an invitation to subscribe to my blog, and an invitation to join my book club. My blog posts also get posted to my Twitter. My live interaction with Twitter is mainly through Tweet Chats. These are live, usually hour long, discussions focused around a topic with a set number of questions that those participating answer and discuss. Since it is live and because of the character limits of Twitter the discussion is quicker paced and more concise than might be found elsewhere. I usually find the chats to be very interesting and informative.

LinkedIn: I have one post per day scheduled through Buffer (see tools below) and I re-publish my blog posts as LinkedIn articles. Admittedly this is my least used platform of the three listed here. I keep my profile up to date and check in regularly, but don’t use it as much.

Tools: I use several tools to automate or assist with my social media engagement:

Buffer – I use Buffer to auto-post articles across all three of my social media platforms. I have different schedules for each and usually have different things posting to different places at different times so there isn’t too much duplication. The free version allows you to schedule up to 10 posts on each platform at a time.

Social Jukebox – I use Social Jukebox to post a motivational quote picture once an evening, a random blog post on Saturday, and every evening an invitation to sign up for my blog posts by email and to join my book club. I also send an automated thank you to my top interactors for the week every Friday.

Pablo by Buffer – I use Pablo to make all of the branded images I use for my blog posts. The image at the top of this post was created using Pablo.

Crowdfire – I use Crowdfire to manage my Twitter followers. This app makes it really easy to see who has followed or unfollowed you and then either Follow or Unfollow back. You are limited to 25 follows and 25 unfollows every 24 hours with the free version. I generally will unfollow anyone who unfollows me, but am more selective on who I follow.

TweetDeck – I use TweetDeck when participating in Tweet Chats. It helps to follow the conversation easier and to see my mentions to respond. If I spent more time on Twitter it would also be useful to set up different columns to monitor streams.

HootSuite – I manage the Facebook postings for my church congregation’s page. I use HootSuite to schedule all of the posts. I schedule posts out monthly.