Mentoring at Dartmouth

While searching for resources on mentoring I came across Dartmouth Mentor Exchange. Dartmouth is a college in New Hampshire but the mentoring resources are valid in most contexts.

Under Mentor are resources that aree useful for mentors and under Mentee are resources that are valuable for the person being mentored.

Mentoring is a form of development where the mentor shares knowledge, insight and experience with their mentee to assist the mentee in reaching their potential.

Mentees should proactively approach the mentoring relationship with specific development goals in mind and be receptive to feedback, coaching, learning and growth.

This was originally posted at Bengt’s Notes, another blog of mine.

The Pomodoro Technique – manage your attention

I was reminded of The Pomodoro Technique™ when I attended Øredev 2009. It’s an interesting concept described like this:

The Pomodoro Technique™ is a way to get the most out of time management. Turn time into a valuable ally to accomplish what we want to do and chart continuous improvement in the way we do it.

Time management is a misnomer since time cannot be managed, it’s all about managing your attention. Pomodoro is Italian for tomato, it refers to the timer you use to keep track of time and the only tool you need. The basic unit of work in the Pomodoro Technique™ is as simple as these five steps:

1. Choose a task to be accomplished
2. Set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes (the Pomodoro is the timer)
3. Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper
4. Take a short break (5 minutes is OK)
5. Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break

The Pomodoro Technique is great. Step three above is about working on one task and that task only – no distractions and no multitasking. Knowing that the timer will tell you when the time is out means you can focus completely on the task at hand. The Pomodoro Technique works great together with the 18 Minute Plan.

The timer sound gets a bit annoying hearing it that often. I’ll do some work on my timer to make it more quiet. An alternative, as long as you are by your computer, is Tomatoi.st which is a Pomodoro timer in your browser. Another option is focus booster which can be used online or as a desktop application.

To get a quick introduction to the Pomodoro Technique, get the Cheat Sheet in Pomodoro Resources. The Cheat Sheet is described as This one-page paper is a valuable tool for Pomodoro Technique™ beginners. It’s also the perfect way to show your friends and colleagues how the technique works. In the Pomodoro Resources are also Worksheets (To Do Today and Activity Inventory) and a 45 page PDF that explains the concept more in details.

WebWorkerDaily asks The Pomodoro Technique: A GTD Alternative? To me it’s not about one method or another, pick what works for you in the different methods and create your own mix.

You can follow @PomodoroTech on Twitter and join Pomodoro Technique on Facebook. Francesco Cirillo, the man behind the Pomodoro Technique, is on Twitter at @cirillof.

Update December 27, 2009
I found ClockSmith Lite and use the chime every half hour as my timer. At the chime I take a five minute break, then work for 25 minutes until the next chime. The chime sounds much nicer than my kitchen timer.

Update March 27, 2010
Today I came across Tick Tock Timer which is a very nice online timer. It’s now bookmarked for future use.

Update July 7, 2011
See a really nice Pomodoro Desktop Timer.

This was originally posted at Bengt’s Notes, another blog of mine.

The Tao of Coaching

The Tao of Coaching by Max Landsberg is an excellent book about coaching as a leader. The tagline on the book says Boost your effectiveness at work by inspiring and developing those around you which sums up coaching from the leaders perspective.

The books is described like this:

This book offers information on how to unlock the potential of people by applying the techniques of coaching. Coaching is the key to realising the potential of your employees, your organisation and yourself.

This book provides the techniques and tools of coaching that are vital for those who want to develop a team of people who will perform effectively and who will relish working with them.

The techniques and tools of coaching are integrated in the story about Alex and his career as manager. That makes it easier since you see them used in context.

The book lists these reasons why a manager shall use coaching:
• Create more time for yourself
• Achieve better results
• Build your interpersonal skills

If you want a great introduction to coaching as a leader, and a book you later can use as manual, I suggest that you buy The Tao of Coaching.

This was originally posted at Bengt’s Notes, another blog of mine.

Start Managing Your Attention

Over at ChangeThis is a great free e-book Quit Managing Your Time… and Start Managing Your Attention. Time can not be managed, time management is a misnomer and misleading. This little book is about what we can do – manage our attention and our priorities.

You can’t manufacture time, you can’t reproduce time, you can’t slow time down or turn it around and make it run in the other direction. You can’t trade bad hours for good ones, either. About all the time management you can do is to cram as much productive work as possible into each day. What you can manage, however, is your attention.

The e-book includes a simple question that helps us indentify what our top priority should be:

If I could accomplish only one thing right now, what would that one thing be?

The e-book also describes the Eisenhower method for sorting our tasks by importance and urgency, it’s simple yet powerful.

This was originally posted at Forty Plus Two, another blog of mine.

Words Do Matter – Busting the Mehrabian Myth

On Twitter I got a link to a great video by CreativityWorks, Busting the Mehrabian Myth (video is below). So, what is the Mehrabian Myth then? Olivia Mitchell writes about in Why the stickiest idea in presenting is just plain wrong:

The stickiest idea in presenting and public speaking is that the meaning of your message is communicated by:
* Your words 7%
* Your tone of voice 38%
* Your body language 55%.
These figures are based on a formula first proposed by Albert Mehrabian in 1967.

I think we have all heard these numbers in connections with presentations, that How (tone, body) is more important than What (words, content). But Albert Mehrabian makes a reservation:

Please note that this and other equations regarding relative importance of verbal and nonverbal messages were derived from experiments dealing with communications of feelings and attitudes (i.e., like-dislike). Unless a communicator is talking about their feelings or attitudes, these equations are not applicable

Max Atkinson’s Blog: Body language and non-verbal communication has a great cartoon strip and raises these questions:
1. How come it’s much easier to have a conversation with a blind person than with someone who’s completely deaf?
2. How come we can have perfectly good conversations in the dark?
3. How come telephones and radio have been such spectacular successes?
4. How come we have to work so hard to learn foreign languages?

I had taken the formula more or less for granted (heard it often) and I am pleased to see that I was wrong. Words do matter!

Busting the Mehrabian Myth – video

Read more:
Albert Mehrabian’s studies in nonverbal communication : Speaking about Presenting
Create Your Communications Experience: The Visual Dominates – Mehrabian Revisited
Six Minutes – Best Public Speaking Tips and Techniques: Weekend Review [2009-06-06]
Albert Mehrabian – Wikipedia
YouTube – Mehrabian Myth! WORDS DO MATTER!

This was originally posted at another blog of mine.

Why am I here?

Seth Godin posts about “Why am I here?” The title made me think of how to discover your life purpose or how to find your passion in life but it was more straight forward than that.

This is a simple mantra that is going to change the way you attend every meeting and every conference for the rest of your life.

You probably don’t have to be there. No gun held to your head, after all. So, why are you spending the time?

A simple but powerful question. Use your time wisely and if you go, make the best and most of your time there.

If there isn’t a good reason, go home. If there is, then do something. Loud, now and memorable. Productive too, please.

A side note.
I like Seth Godin’s blog and his style with fairly short posts, 200-300 words.

This was originally posted at another (now extinct) blog of mine.

55 Ways to Get More Energy (Zen Habits)

Zen Habits has a great post about 55 Ways to Get More Energy.

If you’re tired all the time, a change in what you eat (diet) or what you do all day (activity pattern) may be all you need to turn things around 180°.

At times we get stuck and/or feel low on energy. This post gives you ideas about what you can do to get back on track. Pick something from that list and feel the change. Today I’ll opt for number five (Have a piece of chocolate) and number ten (Take a power nap).

Some of the items on the list are daily habits for me. I always do some of number 23 (Play to relax), number 24 (Eat smaller, more frequent meals), number 25 (Enjoy a cup of tea), number 45 (Take a walk outside) and number 50 (yoga).

Number 39 is great – Purge low-value tasks from your todo list. Focus on what’s important and don’t waste energy on what’s not.

Credit: Photo by johnmarchan.

This was originally posted at another (now extinct) blog of mine.

Worrying gets you nowhere

Worrying keeps the mind busy and zaps energy but it does not change anything.

Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere. ~ Glenn Turner

Worrying in itself does not make the future better.

Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy. ~ Leo Buscaglia

Worrying stops you from doing things.

You can’t wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time. ~ Pat Schroeder

Worrying can cause physical problems.

Heavy thoughts bring on physical maladies; when the soul is oppressed so is the body. ~ Martin Luther

Worrying is often about things that will never happen.

Most things I worry about never happen anyway. Tom Petty

Worrying about something is like paying interest on a debt you don’t even know if you owe. Mark Twain

Since worrying does not get you anywhere, do something about it instead. Take one worry at a time, either solve it or drop it. It is a waste of time and energy to let worries continue to spin.

“Worry a little every day and in a lifetime you will lose a couple of years. If something is wrong, fix it if you can. But train yourself not to worry. Worry never fixes anything.”

This was originally posted at Forty Plus Two, another blog of mine.

What it takes to be great

Fortune has a very interesting article about What it takes to be great. The article is from October 30, 2006 but it popped up on Twitter today. The post title says “Secrets of greatness: Practice and hard work bring success” which sums it up nicely.

The good news is that your lack of a natural gift is irrelevant – talent has little or nothing to do with greatness. You can make yourself into any number of things, and you can even make yourself great. It’s nice to believe that if you find the field where you’re naturally gifted, you’ll be great from day one, but it doesn’t happen. There’s no evidence of high-level performance without experience or practice.

They conclude that practice makes perfect but it has to be practice that is focused on improving performance – challenge your comfort zone in that area – and gives you feedback:

The best people in any field are those who devote the most hours to what the researchers call “deliberate practice.” It’s activity that’s explicitly intended to improve performance, that reaches for objectives just beyond one’s level of competence, provides feedback on results and involves high levels of repetition.

The article then goes to the business side:

How do you practice business? Many elements of business, in fact, are directly practicable. Presenting, negotiating, delivering evaluations, deciphering financial statements – you can practice them all.

Still, they aren’t the essence of great managerial performance. That requires making judgments and decisions with imperfect information in an uncertain environment, interacting with people, seeking information – can you practice those things too?

The key according to the article is to change your mindset: Instead of merely trying to get it done, you aim to get better at it. It is about constant improvements, Kaizen, and seeking feedback and ways to measure your progress.

In summary, change your mindset – aim to get better at what you do – and then practice to make you great.

This was originally posted at another (now extinct) blog of mine.