How to Develop the Habit of Finishing Stuff

How to Develop the Habit of Finishing Stuff

Bad habits – in the beginning – are easier than good. The habit of almost finishing stuff destroys effectiveness, diminishes respect, and drains energy.

Anyone can start. Leaders finish.

People live with dangling rabbits pulling at their brain – unfinished stuff they intend to finish.

Rabbit chasers are exhausted. When your hands do one thing, but your head is thinking about the next thing, life zips past without you.

Image of a bunny with one ear up and one ear down. The shorter way to do many things is to do only one thing at a times.

How to Develop the Habit of Finishing Stuff

#1. Finish one small thing before you begin the next thing.

Take something off your plate before you put something on it. It doesn’t have to be big. Here’s an example.

When I sit down to work, I might put a couple books back on the shelf before I begin something. You could:

  1. Throw something in the garbage.
  2. Save an unsaved document that’s hanging out on your desktop.
  3. Put something in its place.
  4. Close a few browser windows.

Caution: Don’t chase a dozen dangling rabbits. Finish one thing. It’s about the habit, not the rabbit.

#2. Begin-AND-finish small tasks.

Don’t create dangling rabbits by half-doing a task you can finish quickly.

Every dangling rabbit you create dilutes your ability to concentrate.

#3. When you leave your desk, put one thing in its place.

Before I leave my desk, I put my surface in the docking station and place the stylus in front of the docking station.

Before you break for lunch or go to your next meeting…

  1. Put away paper, pens, or headphones.
  2. Prepare your desk for the thing you’re going to do when you return.

“The shorter way to do many things is to do only one thing at a time.” Mozart

#4. Only start what you intend to finish.

Ask yourself, “Do I intend to finish this?”

Run a test if you aren’t sure you can finish. But always finish the test.

What bad habits create dangling rabbits?

What mini habits might help leaders develop the habit of finishing stuff?



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How to Use Toy Stories to Connect

How to Use Toy Stories to Connect

My fondest childhood memories include toys.

I had a boy-doll named Rocky. Later I had a James Bond 007 spy attaché case with secret compartments and a gun that could be assembled into a pistol or a rifle. Both versions had a scope.

Image of a small child holding Winnie the Pooh bear by the leg. If you'd like to connect with someone, ask,

First memory:

The original Morrison farm, situated on a dirt road in Bradford, Maine, burned to the ground before I was in first grade. (Mom was a Morrison.) The only memory I have of the farm includes a toy.

I remember playing with my fire engine in the sloped hallway between the kitchen and the front room. I was probably two or three. The slope was useful.

Later memories:

I had a Lost in Space set with a battery powered chariot that ran on a course I configured with my imagination. I wanted to be Will Robinson (Bill Mumy).

I turned thirteen the year Neil Armstrong walked on the moon (July 21, 1969). I still remember the grainy pictures and hearing Commander Armstrong say, “One small step…,” punctuated with beeps. I built models of the Apollo space craft and the lunar lander. Before Apollo, I built the Mercury and Gemini spacecraft.

Sometime in my early teens I used my Chemistry set to create an explosion that shook our house. There were no injuries or fatalities, just fear that I was going to ‘get it’. I didn’t.

I’ll never forget my raspberry red five speed Western Auto Buzz Bike with a banana seat, high-rise handlebars, and gear shift. (This image is the right model, but the wrong color.) I bought it with my own money at Western Auto.

4 questions to connect using toy stories:

  1. What was your favorite toy when you were a kid?
  2. What was it about that toy that you enjoyed so much?
  3. What did that toy enable you to do?
  4. Who did that toy allow you to become?

Skillful leaders connect with people.

What was your favorite toy when you were a kid?

How do leaders connect?

Note: My childish exuberance allowed me to exceed 300 words. I apologize.



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Your Brain has a Mind of Its Own: Brain Management Strategies

Your Brain has a Mind of Its Own: Brain Management Strategies

You have thoughts you would rather not think.

Your mind wanders like a cat looking for mice.

You know you know something but can’t remember it. You tell yourself to forget a bad experience and you can’t stop thinking about it. Then you kick yourself for doing it.

Image of a bull facing down a rodeo clown. Your brain has a mind of its own.

Your brain has a mind of its own:

You tell yourself, “Don’t worry about what others think.” What do you do? Wonder what people think of you.

I tell my brain to stay open, but I ignore myself.

Brain management strategies:

#1. Accept reality.

Forget the idea that there are two voices in your head. There’s a rowdy crowd in your head. Your boss, co-workers, customers, kids, neighbors, spouse, teachers, parents, and the dog all live inside your head.

#2. Stop beating yourself down.

I have the attention span of a chipmunk on steroids. It does no good to beat myself down for it. It’s the truth. Matters get worse when I beat myself down.

#3. Aspire without self-accusation.

Aspiration is an acknowledgement that you aren’t there yet.

Self-accusation is slop to pigs. The more you beat yourself down, the more you think about beating yourself down.

Accept, for example, that you don’t manage time well, AND aspire to make improvements. Don’t wallow in slop.

#4. Talk to yourself.

When your inner critic yells, “You’re an idiot,” say, “There’s my inner critic.” Then ask, “Anything else?” Or say, “Do you have anything useful to add?”

Lighten up. We’re all in the same boat, even people you admire.

#5. Understand others.

I met a guy from California who said he didn’t have a loud inner critic. I think he was smoking a joint. Everyone else beats themself down.

You don’t have to beat people down. They do it to themselves.

Challenge and affirm.

Correct with optimism.

What strategies help you manage a brain that has a mind of its own?



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Three Ways to be Ready to Lead

Three Ways to be Ready to Lead

Show up like a kid peeking over the fence. Better to live on your toes than stumble back on your heels.

Successful leaders are prepared for action. They show up READY.

Image of female runner on the track. Learners go further than knowers.

Three ways to be ready to lead:

#1. Ready to say YES:

Consistent results require stable environments. ‘No’ protects the status quo; ‘Yes’ disrupts.

If you aren’t careful, ‘no’ becomes your default response to input and ideas. If you frequently say ‘no’, people choose sleepwalking over engagement.

5 ways to lean toward YES:

Be ready with a first response that leans toward ‘yes’ instead of ‘no’.

  1. How can you give that a try?
  2. What are you trying to accomplish? Instead of simply saying ‘no’, explore goals.
  3. What do you need to make this happen?
  4. What needs to be true for you to take this idea forward?
  5. Who is impacted if you move this idea forward?

You tell people their ideas matter when you lean toward ‘yes’.

Tip: Use caution when ideas impact others more than the idea giver. It’s easy to know what others should do.

#2. Ready to finish stuff:

Starting things is a distraction when you aren’t committed to finish stuff.

You end up overworked and stressed out when you habitually add to your bucket without taking something out.

Manageable time pressure increases concentration. Running from one thing to the next invites frustration, mediocrity, and cutting corners.

 If you’re a leader who loves to start things, finish something old before you start something new.

#3. Ready to learn:

Learners go further than knowers.

You can be ready to say ‘yes’ and ready to finish stuff, but you’ll crash and burn if you aren’t ready to learn.

  1. Show up asking, “What can I learn?”
  2. Stay open to learning from unexpected people.
  3. Ask, “What am I missing?”
  4. Record learnings.

What does it mean for leaders to show up READY?



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Two Things You Can Do that Aren’t Stupid

Two Things You Can Do that Aren’t Stupid

Everyone does stupid things. Thankfully, most of us don’t do stupid things on national television.

Last Sunday, Terry Bradshaw did a stupid thing when he joked about Antonio Brown (AB) on national television. Brown is the wide receiver for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Bradshaw said, “Put him in a straightjacket and take him to some hospital.”

AB did a stupid thing when he walked out on his team in the middle of a game.  Many think his flamboyant departure is the end of a controversial football career.

Image of a dog sleeping on a chair. Fatigue makes you stupid.

Two things you can do that aren’t stupid:

#1. Rest before you’re exhausted.

You drink water before you collapse from thirst. Give your body a rest before you’re exhausted.

Fatigue makes you stupid.

When you’re exhausted, small issues are big and big issues are overwhelming.

  1. Don’t wait till you feel miserable to go home. Go home, once in a while, full of energy.
  2. Take short breaks during the day, a short walk for example.
  3. Do more things that give you energy.
  4. Red Bull isn’t the answer.

#2. Resolve hot emotion before making decisions.

Don’t express yourself when emotion is a bubbling cauldron.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose a response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Victor Frankl

You need a confidant; someone you can say things to that you can’t say anywhere else.  

A confidant is on your side but won’t take your side.

People who take your side when emotion is hot:

  1. Weaken relationships by fueling false courage.
  2. Strengthen stupid decisions. A side-taker says, “You’re right to be upset,” and leaves it at that.
  3. Neglect negative consequences. It’s stupid to say off-handedly, “Consequences be damned,” before reflecting on consequences.

What are some things leaders can do that aren’t stupid?



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How to Bring Up Thorny Issues

How to Bring Up Thorny Issues

Normal people choose pleasure over pain.

It’s normal to avoid thorny issues.

Image of children playing tug of war. Shift from pulling against to pulling with.

How to bring up thorny issues:

5 reasons people avoid thorny issues:

  1. The burden of feeling right creates stress to convince others they’re wrong.
  2. Power imbalance. No one wants to contradict the person who controls their salary, for example.
  3. Feeling good is good. Bringing up thorny issues feels bad. But it’s silly to believe spending more time walking on thorns makes you feel better.
  4. Memory of past blow-ups is motivation to shut up. Bad intervention makes thorny issues worse. If you are certain intervention will make things better, short-term pain is worthwhile.
  5. You see a thorny issue that others don’t see.

The thorny issue you can’t bring up is a lid in your life.

Not on their own:

Thorny issues don’t go away on their own, but some issues go away as time passes. Why?

Things that are true when thorny issues go away over time:

  1. People know there is an issue and they’re already working to make improvements. Undramatic progress may go unnoticed.
  2. People acclimate. Complaints about new procedures decrease as people adjust, for example.
  3. Competence gradually improves with practice. Incompetence sees big issues where competence sees opportunity.

Thorny issues don’t magically resolve themselves.

Number one:

You can’t solve thorny issues when people have conflicting concerns.

Shift from pulling against to pulling with.

We all know what we don’t want but ‘not wanting’ isn’t leadership. Determine what WE want.

You shift from pulling against to pulling with when you embrace a shared goal.

Four tips for bringing up awkward issues:

  1. Acknowledge awkwardness.
  2. Resolve emotion before solving thorny issues.
  3. Curiosity is less stressful than knowing the solution.
  4. Momentary relief from avoiding thorny issues results in calamity later.

Why do we avoid thorny issues?

What practices enable leaders to bring up thorny issues?



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5 Ways to Increase Your Capacity

Working more hours to get more done is the downfall of most failed leaders.

This problem is due to a lack of capacity. Capacity is the amount that something or someone can produce.

When someone moves into leadership, they typically have more responsibility. If they don’t increase their capacity per hour, they will by necessity have to work longer hours.

If over time a leader can increase his or her capacity–produce more results in a given period of time–they will not only succeed but potentially free up time to pursue new projects and revenue streams.

Here are five ways to increase your capacity:

Education.  Think of education as what you know that can be translated into skill. Knowledge is information understood. Education is information applied.

Not only does learning new things increase your capacity, it can also decrease stress and anxiety. In 2020 financial researchers found that even pre-pandemic, a low level of financial literacy was a top contributor to financial stress and anxiety. Learning how to understand and manage their finances made people less anxious.

In my book, Always Win, I suggest “first ask who before how.” Rather than trying to figure out how to do something, determine who already has that skill that you can learn from or collaborate with.

And here is a great resource for lifelong learners from my friend Eva Keiffenheim.

Delegation. Good delegators pick the best people to do the right jobs. Doing it yourself isn’t a luxury leaders can afford.

Effective leaders know that delegation isn’t about finding someone who can do a task better than you (but of course, if you can, that’s great), but finding someone who can do the task well enough.

For example: If you have an important message, you can draft the key points and delegate at least the proofreading, or at most the development of those key points into a message, to someone who is a good communicator.

Collaboration. In this insightful article, collaboration is defined as working together to create something new.

Done right, collaboration increases results. Done poorly, it wastes time and resources. Of all the ways to increase capacity, this is the most challenging.

A good collaborator has complementary skill sets, good communication skills and a desire to work together. The best collaborators inspire each other and discover ideas that neither would have by her- or himself. And that’s where the “something new” is created, whether a process, product or service.

Cooperation. The article referenced above defines cooperation as working together for mutual benefit.

A shared agenda with everyone working together is the foundation of cooperation. Everyone knows what needs to be done and is willing to do it. Cooperation done right is about removing resistance and obstacles, sharing the work and supporting and encouraging each other.

Innovation. Whether done alone or with others, innovation is figuring out new ways to do old things or new ways to do new things. Innovation can be as simple as improvements in processes and as…

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