A Case of the Mondays

When I first started at Marriott International, my leader would have a fun time leaving me voicemails. Often they’d sound something like this: “uhhhh hi yeah, Peter? What’s happening…Um, I’m gonna need you go ahead and come in tomorrow. So if you could be here around six, that would be great. Mmmkay? Oh, and one more thing, I’m going to need you to work a double, too.” #officespace #humor #hotellife #operations

Is this thing still on?

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here and a lot has happened. We’re now over 6 months into a global pandemic that has cost the lives of over 200,000 Americans. Several industries have been decimated by the economic consequences of suspended travel. I’ve watched too many of my friends and colleagues lose their jobs, and some of them are even starting to lose hope about finding a job in this new reality. It’s horrible.

As we wait for a vaccine, it’s becoming more clear that it may not be the panacea we need to overcome this. If COVID-19 becomes endemic, we’ll need to rethink much of how we travel, meet, and gather as tribes and societies. Regardless of the near-term outlook, we will all be better served by trusting science. Hope and optimism are great tools to catalyze our recovery, but only if our actions are grounded in science.

One thing that has really bothered me lately is seeing people making their defiance of risks clear by not wearing face coverings when serving others–I’m talking to you, small restaurant owners and workers.

Wearing a mask doesn’t infringe on your freedom. In fact, it enables the freedom of others.

The point of wearing masks isn’t to protect ourselves, it’s to protect our neighbors. So, won’t you be my neighbor?

A Day in the Life of a Remote Worker

In 2020, it’s quite common to work from home occasionally, but working remotely is a world all of its own. There are three main work arrangements that workers may find themselves in:

  1. Working in an office with other co-workers at all times.
  2. Working in an office some days, but from home on others.
  3. Working away from the office at all times.

Beyond the three personal working arrangements, there are three different scenarios for which teams can be deployed:

  1. Working together in centrilozed co-located work environments.
  2. Working independently with no central location or common office.
  3. A hybrid of mostly co-located workers with some remote workers.

Based on my experience over the last three years, I will argue that while it carries many advantages, working remotely on a team of co-located individuals is the most difficult scenario of all. While there are many personal liberties in working remotely, there are many things that are missed by remote workers: spontaneous coffee chats, shared meals, ad hoc meetings, happy hours, and most importantly, bagels in the break room.

“working remotely on a team of co-located individuals is the most difficult scenario of all…”

Being remote among a team of co-located colleagues means suffering through the latency and technical challenges of video calls from giant conference rooms, and never really knowing how your ideas are being received while delivering presentations from 1,000’s of miles away. Being remote when everyone else is together means that you have to trust others and have confidence in yourself every time you connect and communicate. Being remote takes courage and resolve. But those things aside, it also has its perks.

As a remote worker, you can show proof through the results of my work and not just the hours spent in the office. As a remote worker, how you structure your day is completely up to you. Whether that means Tuesdays in coffee shops, or Wednesday lunch by the pool, as long as the work gets done, the flexibility keeps work interesting.

While today’s current events may offer you a first chance at working from home, I thought you may enjoy taking a look at a day in the life of a remote worker to see if it’s all you thought it was cracked up to be. So, without further adieu, here’s a typical day from my home office:

(All Times below are Central Time, my team is based in Eastern Time)

5:37 AM – Wake up, groggy, reaching for cellphone to check the time. Get out of bed and head into the kitchen where I grind coffee beans and fill the coffeemaker with water.

5:45 AM – Open laptop and read e-mail, prioritizing anything urgent for the day. Scroll through LinkedIn and industry news.

6:00 AM – Shower and get ready for the day

6:20 AM – Continue reviewing e-mail and news. Identify Most Important Task (MIT) for the day in Bullet Journal

6:45 AM – Wake up one year-old, play and read books, and get him ready for school

7:30 AM – Help mommy and son to car to depart for school and work

7:45 AM – Timebox the day in Outlook and get working

8:00 AM – Check in with a few colleagues on Teams to just say “hi”

8:07 AM – Tackle Bullet Journal tasks

9:00 AM – Attend first conference call, fully focused on deciphering cross-talk, identifying faint voices from the back of the room and trying to smile remembering I’m on camera the whole time, with my face likely plastered on a 60″ LCD screen.

9:14 AM – Engage mute button while dog barks incessantly as a neighbor dog walks down the sidewalk in front of the house.

10:00 AM – Select Flow State playlist and dig into deep work.

10:02 AM – Doorbell rings. Dog barks excitedly.

10:03 AM – Explain to the visitor at the door that I’m not interested in switching lawn care providers at this time.

10:04 AM – Replace noise cancelling headphones and get back to deep work.

1:37 PM – Realize I have been working non-stop for 3.5 hours and that 1) I need to pee and 2) I am starving

1:44 PM – Reheat last night’s leftovers in the microwave for 90 seconds and enjoy my quiet lunch break

1:53 PM – Return to my office after a long break to get back to work.

2:00 PM – Join Teams video call with smaller group, which is nice because I can actively participate in the conversation.

3:01 PM – Send memes about how it’s only Wednesday to select colleague or two to mimic some sort of social interaction.

3:07 PM – Tackle another chunk of deep work

3:45 PM – Submit the day’s MIT (Most Important Task) work to leader for review

3:48 PM – Review next day’s schedule and update Bullet Journal accordingly

4:15 PM – Leave house to pick up the little one at school

5:00 PM – Return home and entertain the little guy until dinner with mommy

6:00 PM – Dinnertime

6:20 PM – Video call with Grammy + Pappy, followed by lots of LEGO Duplo play

7:30 PM – Bathtime

7:45 PM – Read books and continue playing with little one

8:30 PM – Bedtime for the little one

9:00 PM – Catch up on late afternoon/evening email/Teams messages, if necessary

9:30 PM – Lights out

Keep in mind, not every day is the same. That’s the great thing about working remotely. With the opportunity to work somewhere new each day, or venture out for lunch or to sneak in an errand, you have the full control to make your day work so you can do your best work.

Working remotely isn’t for everyone. To be successful, you really need to have the drive, self-direction, and energy to propel yourself each day.

Do you work remotely, or from home occasionally? What does your day look like? What are your secrets to success?

What is your career purpose?

Yesterday, at the beginning of a call with my leaders, our VP surprised me with a remarkable question, “what is your career purpose?”

Reflexively, I answered something to the effect of, “to find ways to use existing investments to make work easier, improve customer experiences, and help achieve organizational goals.” I admitted that this was simply an expansion of my previous mission statement to “find ways to use existing technology investments to make work easier so workers can better serve customers.”

Unfortunately, my offer was dismissed.

“That’s not a purpose, that’s an objective,” I was told warmly. My VP went on to share about his last three days of discovery of his career purpose, and that led me to start thinking seriously about my career purpose, well beyond the bounds that I have thought of it previously.

This introspective inquiry has led me down a rabbit hole of self-discovery and research. I have literally been up since the middle of the night thinking about his question. Obsessive? Perhaps. Bothered? Not at all. Inspired? Markedly.

To determine my career purpose, beyond what I thought it to be, I knew I would have to look far and wide, and deep into my soul. So, I turned to the first place that anyone else in this predicament would go: YouTube.

It was there that I found a wonderful story from Oprah Winfrey about her discovery of her own purpose through the journey of her career:

“Your real job in life is to figure out what it is you are called to do and you use a job until you can figure out what the calling is because a job is necessary to survive…” 

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah’s early career development seemed so familiar to me. Sure, I haven’t worked as a news anchor and I, a straight white male, have no idea how difficult it must be as a black woman in broadcast journalism. However, I have experienced and know what it is like to try a job that you later realize isn’t the perfect fit. It’s these experiences that have helped me to learn, grow, and pursue other things more suited for my strengths and desires.

They say you know you’ve found your purpose when you find the thing that, even as Oprah says, “you would do for nothing.” But will we all find that thing?

It turns out that what we are supposed to do, and our purpose can be two entirely different things. What you’re supposed to do, that, according to Merriam-Webster, is simply something you lay down tentatively as a hypothesis. Your purpose though, that is defined as “an end to be obtained.”

Until you find your purpose, you’re left with nothing but what you suppose you should do. The only dilemma then is you have no end to march towards. So, how are we supposed to find our purpose?

Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why, shares his perspective from the TEDx stage:

It turns out, according to Sinek, inspiring action all starts with sharing your vision and beliefs. So is finding your purpose just as simple as articulating your beliefs?

What is your career purpose? How did you discover it?

Leave a comment below.

Buying the Best Tools for Remote Workers

Shifting from working in a co-located office to working from home is a liberating and alienating experience. You quickly learn that limitations of the traditional office are non-existent and then much later that you’re the office manager, IT support, caterer, and receptionist.

As a technology enthusiast, one of the first changes that I embraced was the ability to choose which tools I wanted to work with. However, this comes with a catch: the upgrades would come out of my own pocket.

Not wanting to be constrained to a laptop display and a boring mediocre external display, I sought out the most capable, well designed, and high fidelity monitor I could find. For my keyboard and mouse, nothing less than ideal would suffice, so there too, I sought out the best of the best.

“The best investment is in the tools of ones own trade.”

Benjamin Franklin

While these tools may be seen merely as objects, and my pursuit of them as unnecessary consumerism, I instead saw them as a reflection of the value of my work and myself. I believe we are all worth more than a $20 keyboard and mouse combo. I believe we should have a monitor with enough real-estate and pixel density to help us do our work fluidly. I believe we should have a listening experience that helps us tune out the distractions and achieve flow. I believe we’re worth the investment of premium technology to do wonderful work.

Because of those beliefs, I invested in myself and I’m so glad I did. Now when I sit (or stand) at my beautiful desk in my ergonomic chair, or my thoughtfully chosen area rug, my hands flow across a beautifully designed and delightful to use keyboard built for creators. My right hand drapes over a precise and ergonomically designed powerful mouse. My eyes soak in pixels saturated with color from a curved display. My ears are enveloped in rich bass and my desk is clear of clutter due to the built in USB-C dock and port replicator in my monitor.

I’m not wealthy and my work didn’t reimburse me, but these were investments that have empowered me to do my best work and feel more value and confidence each day that I tackle a new project or stakeholder. I saw value in myself and my work, and knew that I also needed to assign value to the tools that help me do that.

Just as a chef needs a sharp knife, an artist the finest paints, a knowledge worker should value the tools and technology that will lead them to their best work.

What tools do you use in your office on the goal that help you to be successful? Leave a comment below.

Here’s what I bought:

HP ENVY 34 34-inch Monitor

$899

Logitech Craft Keyboard

$199

Logitech MX Master Mouse

$99

QuietComfort 35 wireless headphones II

$249

Pottery Barn Pittsburgh Crank Standing Desk

$799

Steelcase Think Chair

Gift

Microsoft Lifecam Studio

$59

How to be productive while you’re sick.

There’s nothing fun about having a cold, and certainly nothing funny about the flu. But sometimes these things happen while you’re in the middle of a busy time at work. Despite your best planning, nature can hand you an unsuspected surprise at what seems to be the worst time.

Toward the end of last week, I started feeling low on energy as I went through the day. I wasn’t sleeping well and woke up feeling fatigued. It was hard to concentrate during meetings and impossible to find energy, motivation, or focus to dig into complicated projects. I was getting sick.

On Saturday morning I woke up optimistic that a trip to grocery store would start the day right. It felt great getting showered and heading out the door, but by the time I returned home an hour later, I was completely devoid of energy.

For the remainder of that day and all day Sunday I stayed in bed. No laptop, no work e-mail, just rest. Each morning, I awoke feeling a little bit better. By Monday, I was able to stomach some breakfast, attend a few calls, catch up on e-mail and update some pressing files, but I wasn’t able to be much more proactive, and didn’t try. That night I hit the hay as early as I could.

The next day I woke up refreshed, clear-minded, and mostly recovered from my debilitating weekend. Total recovery time? 4-5 days.

Sure, I could have “plowed through” and sniffled and groaned through a few more slides or notes. I could have stayed up later, woken up earlier, but to what end? My recovery time could have easily doubled.

So, how do I stay productive when I’m not feeling well? I don’t.

When I’m sick and out of energy, my body is telling me it needs the time to do what it only it can do: recover. That’s not something that can be sped up, hacked, or improved. It’s just a process that takes time, and the sooner I yield to it, and the more time I allow for it to happen, the sooner everything comes back to 100%. Then, and only then, can I come back and be 100% me and 100% productive.

My Latest Collaboration with Microsoft

Last year I was asked by the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals to share my best practices in using Microsoft Teams to effectively collaborate with other sellers to win business and respond to customers more quickly. Here’s the video that they produced:

A Year Without Blogging

2017 was an incredible year for me. During this time, earned an incredible promotion, bought my first home, partnered with Microsoft for my first commercial, and finally graduated with a degree in Marketing Management.

While I spent this time focused on so many other things, I really missed the opportunity to share through long-formed posts. Now that I’ve accomplished many of the goals that I set out to achieve, I hope I can find time to come back here and share some of those stories in the hope that they might inspire others.

A Few Videos and Films about ‘Home’

In anticipation of building our first home, I’ve been quite interested in some of others’ interpretations of what home means. To me, moving pictures mixed with the right sound always seem to have the ability to move me. One day, while watching HGTV, a commercial for Home Goods came on that made me smile.

I later learned that the soundtrack was “Home” by Dan Croll and since then, I haven’t been able to shake the tune from my head or my playlist.

The pleasure I get from watching these old television clips and hearing the wall of sound brought me to search for other stories of home. I found a few while enjoying a cup of coffee this morning and I hope you’ll find to enjoy them too.

This is My Home is a film I found on Vimeo that reminded me a lot of the sense of curiosity I had when exploring my grandparents house. While we, as a society, may be trending towards valuing experiences and minimalism, I think it is important that we keep a space for these artifacts of our past as they have the ability to help us enjoy memories and have a window into our past. I’m not sure if this gentleman is still around, but if he is, I would love to go and see his home in Manhattan.

Continuing on the theme of curiosity, I found another home that reflected another one of my passions: airplanes. Here’s a man that decided to make a retired passenger aircraft his home. In the middle of the woods.

Now, here’s another. The home itself isn’t particularly remarkable. Maybe curious to some by its small size, but what is remarkable to me is the number of people that found this so interesting. Why would over 90,000 people want to watch a man put together his home in a time lapse video? Are we looking to learn the most efficient way to unpack and set things up, or are we all just curious what home means and looks like to others?

What does home mean to you?

What is a hashtag, and how do I follow one?

You may have seen your local news crew or a national television show encourage you to use a particular “hashtag” when tweeting or posting about their stories or shows. Usually they look something like this: #IAMUP which is the hashtag for my favorite local news team here in the Dallas / Fort Worth area.

The word hashtag simply means a tag (metadata) applied to a hash symbol (we call # pound, or the number symbol, but the rest of the world calls it the hash symbol). Metadata is information used to help the organization of information. So the hash tells the database the following information is to help others find this post. The tag is the string of text and numbers you use to help find that information. If everyone uses the same hashtag for a topic, then it is very easy to search for those posts using the “search” feature of your social network or special software such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck.

If you’re just getting started with social media and using hashtags, give it a try on Twitter. To use a hashtag on Twitter, simply compose your tweet, append the # symbol followed immediately by the tag text, like #IAMUP. Once you post your tweet, it’s searchable for anyone else interested in the #IAMUP hashtag.

Now composing those tweets and posts are only part of the fun. The real fun is seeing what others have to say! Using the search feature on Twitter, simply type in the hashtag you wish to search for such as #IAMUP. The results will give you a timeline of all of the other Twitter users talking about the same thing!

Capture

To keep the conversation going in real time, you might want to check out a program like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite that will allow you to create real-time columns dedicated to seeing those tweets as they happen.

Capture

So there you have it, a simple primer on hashtags, how to join the conversation and how to see what’s going on!


*This blog is not affiliated with WFAA or Tegna Media.The use of the #IAMUP hashtag for this post is for demonstration purposes only and is not an endorsement of WFAA, or an endorsement of this blog by WFAA.