First guest post! "Index cards and New Years Resolutions"

I'm thrilled about this week's post for 3 reasons. First, I noticed it in the Working Out Loud community on Facebook. That's a convenient place for WOL practitioners to ask questions and share techniques, and I was happy to see people around the world talking about a contribution from one of the community members. Another reason is the author of this week's post, Helen Sanderson. I met Helen in the UK last year at a dinner with a team from the National Health Service. She heads a consulting practice (Helen Sanderson Associates) who "work with people and organisations to achieve person-centred change." She's also smart, generous, and lovely.

The third reason is that Helen's post gave me the idea to collect useful techniques like this into a convenient guide to make working out loud even easier. So you'll see more posts from more people in the future. Based on your feedback, I'll bundle the most useful ones into a guide. (If you have a technique or idea or just a question, join the Working Out Loud community on Facebook. It's a private group where anyone can post.)

Helen's simple technique can help you be mindful of a particular person each day - 30 people and 30 contributions in just one month. It's a beautiful way to help make working out loud a habit.

Index cards and New Years Resolutions

September is New Year for me. I pack my briefly worn summer clothes away, find my beloved winter boots, and make new resolutions about work.

One of my resolutions is to find better ways to make working out loud a habit.

So let me start by explaining what I have tried already.

When we started to introduce working out loud with my team at Helen Sanderson Associates in summer last year, we developed a table together, based on the draft of John’s book. I had a word based version, my colleague Jon tried an excel one, and a graphic one as well. This was an effective way to summarise the goal, where you are now and plan contributions. Job done I thought. But it never quite made it to the top of my to do list. Surely all I had to do was post it somewhere where I would look at it every day, and this would remind me? But the reality of my week is that I am usually only in the office one or two days at the most and this was not enough for this to prompt me.

Next, in another team meeting we looked at creating WOL twitter lists. There is a function on twitter where you can create a private (or public) list of people who share a particular interest. By clicking on that list, you can follow just what that group is tweeting, rather than everyone on your timeline. I created a private WOL list of the people on my table, so that I could follow their tweets. You can see here that Norbert Lind has done a list too, his is a public list of people who are tweeting about WOL.

WOL Twitter lists

WOL Twitter lists

I tend to tweet several times most days, and the list prompted me to see what my WOL list are tweeting about to and join in and contribute to conversations where I can. This was spontaneous rather than planned, and I needed something more structured as well.

The summer is a big reading time for me. My family’s idea of a good holiday (I have teenage girls) is ‘fly and flop’ around a pool and sunbath. I search for shade, carrying books.

One of the books that I read was Manage your day-to day: build your routine, find your focus and sharpen your creative mind edited by Jocelyn K Glei. One of the authors suggested that instead of a to do list you write your actions on 3 x 5 cards and carry them with you. I wondered if that could help me with making WOL contributions a habit.

Manage Your Day-To-Day

Manage Your Day-To-Day

I bought coloured cards and a plastic wallet to keep them in. On each card I record the person’s name. I am trying to think about another level of contribution and whether thinking about what success might mean to that person (although I don’t know everyone well enough to have a clear idea). I am framing my contributions in this context, still ‘wrapped in a mindset of generosity’ to use John’s phrase. I ask myself

‘How could I contribute to them being (more) successful?”

Is sounds ridiculously audacious as I write it, but it helps me lift my head up from appreciations and sharing resources, which is where I had got a bit stuck.

Each morning, after meditation and before breakfast, I turn over the next card to find out who I will be focusing on today. I think about a potential contribution, make a note of the date, and what I planned to do.

I am trying to make completing this the first thing that I do when I switch my computer on, before I do anything else. It feels great to have completed that before I turn to my to do list. Whatever else happens during the day, I have shipped by contribution.

Of course John has already covered this in his book. He writes

“When you schedule the times you’ll practice these activities, then you don’t have to think about when to fit them in or juggle your task lists. The less you have to think about it, the less attention you’ll have to spend and the easier it will be to do it consistently.”

It is just figuring out the best way for each of us to make that happen.

The Index Card technique

The Index Card technique