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When Opportunity Knocks, Be Ready

In our own careers, sometimes an opportunity comes along disguised as a challenge

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This summer, with more people out and about, new opportunities, professionally and personally will unfold, as well as new challenges.

Based on the challenges that you face, the way to proceed might be to go for the whole shebang in one shot. A Russian proverb states that you can’t cross a chasm in two leaps.

Step Up to the Big Time

Suppose a professional boxer with a fairly good record gets a big break – the promoters decide to give him a shot at the champ. This opportunity might be out of sequence in the boxer’s career, but he takes it. If he loses badly, he might not get another chance. If he handles himself well, he might get a second chance, but who knows when.

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So, his goal becomes clear – to knock out the champ and seek the grandest prize in his weight category: to be the World Boxing Association champion.

The boxer decides to up the ante and go for the gold now, this year, at this impending fight, not later in his career. He’ll invest all his energies into this effort. Never mind the career path; his time to shine is now.

Filling in at Quarterback

The same thing happens when one athlete replaces another after the first sustains an injury. The back-up quarterback in football recognizes he might not get another shot at starting. He’s not content to merely fill in and do well enough to win. Instead, he wants to make a statement.

He wants to show that he is professional league caliber, that he can run the team from start to finish, win the game, then go out on the field and do it again next Sunday.

The phenomenon also occurs when an interim coach takes the place of the ailing regular coach. While everyone hopes for the best, they all know that the regular coach might not return. The interim coach, if he wants to be more than just the substitute, changes his procedures.

He begins working around the clock. He analyzes the team roster. He carefully assesses the team’s strengths and weaknesses and which plays have worked well in the past. He talks to the players one-on-one. He reviews previous game films. In short, he pulls out the stops.

Ultimately, he wants to indicate to the top management that whether the head coach comes back or not, he can do the job. Should the head coach come back, the interim coach wants to demonstrate that he ought to be the next coach when the time comes.

If his organization and owner can’t see it, perhaps another organization and owner will take notice. The interim coach has upped the ante in terms of his own goals.

The Ivy League

Such sudden ascension is not limited to sports. When the president of a university dies, becomes incapacitated, or is otherwise not able to work for some period of time, the Board of Regents appoints an acting president.

During this time, the acting president goes to work immediately to convince the board that he or she is the logical choice for next president of the university.

In our own careers, sometimes an opportunity, disguised as a challenge, leaps in front of us. In that case, career path be darned, we need to pursue the opportunity with vigor in the here and now.

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



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Business

The People Who Size You up Instantly

Beware of people who conveniently assess what you need, while missing the boat about their own needs

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I went to a social gathering and, arriving early, few others had arrived. So I took out my notepad and pen, and leisurely started making notes. A lady who saw me, asked what I was writing, which, of course, could be either a friendly way to start a conversation, or intrusive, depending on your point of view. I took it as the former, and shared with her my predisposition to take notes outside of my office where I generate ideas that don’t readily emerge at my desk.

Apparently my explanation was not satisfactory for her. In rapid succession she told me, ‘You need to get a drink. (Actually, I don’t drink.) You should to stop making notes. You ought to relax. (Making notes is relaxing to me.) You need to get a life.’

Paradoxically, I am the author of the books, Breathing Space and Simpler Living, and the audiobook, Get a Life. I also own the registered trademarks for the programs, Relaxing at High Speed and Managing the Pace With Grace. I have delivered 1,060 lectures on these topics for three decades.

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Quick and Wrong

It’s beyond strange when someone at a social gathering, in such short order, will assess what I need to do, with one pronouncement after another. When told that I needed to relax, I said, “If I was any more relaxed, I’d fall asleep.”

I came away from that experience recognizing that people who will readily tell you what you need are the ones who need what they’re telling you. You might have noticed a somewhat similar phenomenon in the workplace.

Suppose you work in a company that is crowded, noisy, and busy almost all the time. However, in your own office or cubicle, whichever the case might be, you’re able to maintain order.

Perhaps you have installed some sound barriers, if that is appropriate, and have crafted a workspace where you can get things done. People who walk by notice that your office equipment, resources, and possessions are organized. Guess what? Some office mates won’t tell you this, but they are uncomfortable with your organizing skills.

If they could find a simple way to articulate it, they would tell you, “Loosen up.” You don’t need to be so neat and orderly.” Why are they itching to tell you this? Because your level of organization makes them feel inadequate.

Be Like Me, I’ll Feel Better

Much like the lady at the social gathering, who told me ‘what I needed,’ some people in your immediate environment, in observing your capacity for taking charge of your space, and perhaps noting your higher-than-average level of productivity, would rather that you acted and proceeded in a different way. You might not hear that from them, but that is some might be thinking.

Beware of those people who so conveniently assess what you need, while completely missing the boat about their own needs. They fail to realize that what they’re telling you, is probably what they need to address for themselves.

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Business

Micro-tasking for Effective Performance

Professionals who can micro-task are in demand while those who multitask often do a disservice

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Much as been discussed about multitasking and fortunately, much of what has been written exposes the myth that multitasking represents. Instead of making us more productive and having a greater output, we tend to slow down on the very things that were trying to speed up on, and we end up making more errors.

Micro-tasking, by contrast, is the ability to compartmentalize and to focus in quick, short intervals on a variety of items that compete for attention. This is a vital skill for career professionals. While micro-tasking is effective for quick decisions, and for handling routine and short term tasks term nature, multitasking is the attempt to handle two or more important tasks at the same time. It is not to be confused with micro-tasking.

A Skill to Cultivate

Some workers have little choice in the short run but to work in a distracting, noisy environment. Some employees, in particular, were retained to be able to quickly shift their attention from one issue to another, focusing on each issue as needed.

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In an interruption-based environment, such as a hospital, police station, retail store, or airline ticket counter, the ability to micro-task is a valuable skill.

Throughout the course of a day, a manager in such settings might encounter a variety of people asking questions and voicing concerns. For sale managers micro-tasking can make all the difference in making quota or not.

Slow Down!

Tasks that require our sharp attention necessitate that we slow down, focus, keep interruptions at bay, and work as effectively as we can, toward completion. Handling two tasks simultaneously, each of which require sharp attention, is a prescription for poor results.

Professionals who can micro-task are in demand. Others, who engage in multitasking, often are doing themselves as well as their organizations, a disservice.

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