Plagiarizing is the sincerest form of flattery

It’s often said that there are no original ideas – that everything we do is just a version of something that someone else has said or done. And likely, they took inspiration (or blatantly copied) from someone too.

Just ask Shia LaBeouf.

I believe it goes back all the way back to the cavemen or the people in biblical times, depending what you believe. I mean, how else can we explain the resurgence of the Paleo diet, hellooooo…

So it goes without saying that me actually writing a blog was inspired by others. In fact, my path of blogging anonymously for 6 years and then emerging as a “real” person just over a year ago is very similar to what other HR bloggers have done. I wasn’t setting out to copy them – I just happened to be on the same path. That’s okay.

So back to the thought of using other people’s ideas. I have been reading about a movie being shown at the Sundance Film Festival called 52 Tuesdays, which as the title implies…is about 52 consecutive Tuesdays in the life of a fictional 16-year girl and the challenges of her changing family. The film actually takes place over a one year time frame, and captures a day in the life.

So to keep me on track with my blog and my development, I have decided to bastardize the concept of 52 Tuesdays and take advantage of my now publicly known unproductive Tuesday mornings to record what’s going on that week. This, of course, would be in addition to my regularly inconsistent posts.

I’m trying to come up with a clever title for this feature..and quite honestly 52 Tuesdays would be perfect, but I might need to dig a bit deeper. I am very much open to suggestions – so fire away.

If I use your idea, I promise to give you the credit. Even if we both know that you probably got it from someone else.

Life: So you think you know what you want…

January, more than Spring time, is a time to clean and organize. Maybe it’s the whole start of a New Year or maybe it’s a way to avoid the frigid temperatures, but a good closet purge and inventory check is good for the soul.

And so it is that I do the same for me. I came across some old notes, books, and even a diary (because I wasn’t cool enough to call it a journal) from high school. After cringing my way through many of these items I realized some pretty interesting things.

I am many things that I never thought I would be:

– An HR Professional (I mean…what the hell is HR?!)

– A version of my mother (said every daughter that has ever been born)

– A happy homebody living in an rural community (I was a suburbs kid)

– A person willingly passing on grains and eating things like kale, chia seeds, and sunbutter by choice (As a kid my favourite meal was Campbell’s Tomato soup with a grilled cheese slice on heavily buttered white bread…and a Joe Louis for dessert)

– A coffee and chocolate snob

– Confident and willing to speak my mind

– Respected and recognized

– Willing to say no

– Strong

Sometimes life doesn’t turn out the way you thought it would. Sometimes it’s so much better than you could have imagined.

Counter-productive

So speaking of advice, there is no shortage of articles, blog posts, or e-newsletters being circulated with advice on how to be more productive at work. Like here and here.

For the record, I think most of it is highly repetitive and common-sense, but good. With exception to this one which actually recommends procrastinating, working less and giving up.

One of the more interesting suggestions is to find out at which times during the day you are most efficient and try to schedule appropriate work accordingly. I agree with this concept because I definitely have my prime times for focusing and being creative and my ideal times for just getting shit done.

The issue is that my prime times don’t exactly jive with the regular work schedule.

Like today. It’s Sunday morning at 7am and I would tag this time as one of my most productive. Assuming that I had a quiet Saturday night (which is practically a given), and that I’ve had a decent sleep, I wake up early and ready to go. I’m ready to take on work assignments that I’ve been putting to the side, read articles that I’ve been meaning too, catch up on blogs, write posts, and get organized for the upcoming week.

Those few hours (if I’m lucky) are gold.

Now, fast forward to mid-morning on Tuesday. Oh sure I’m working, but at full capacity? No. It’s a good time to handle those not-so-challenging items on my desk. Like organizing my pencil drawer. Or filing. Or screening CVs.

You know what would be cool? If I could trade out blocks of time. I could then say, I will work on Sunday mornings, but take Tuesday mornings off. Or how about declining a meeting invitation because the timing sucks. You know you are not going to be able to focus on anything other than the doodles you make on your note pad.

Le sigh.

So beyond trying to convincing my company to accommodate my schedule, I would also have to try to convince my family and colleagues to adopt a similar system. Or at least revolve theirs around mine. Which, for the record, I can’t believe they aren’t already doing this.

My most productive blog writing time happens when my husband is working nights (or sleeping in on Sundays). I find it easier to focus and spend the time when he isn’t here. Yes, I’m calling him out as being a distraction, but in a good way…when you have a shift-work household, time together is limited and so we both protect it. Fiercely. And that means even from my blogging.

For the past few weeks he has been off night shifts and while it’s great to have him on a more “regular” schedule – it’s seriously affecting my blogging mojo.

So what’s a gal to do?

I believe the word is adapt. Or as I like to say to my kids (and some employees), “suck it up”.

Oh I will continue to dream of and work towards my Utopian vision of an open concept work schedule where you get things done, regardless of when or where. But until that time, I need to take advantage of these pockets of productive time when they pop up and give people fair warning during my down times and defer when I can.

Because two other key aspects of being productive are communication and managing expectations.

Wanted: Full-time adults

This week I participated in a round-table session at one our local universities. It was an opportunity for invited employers to meet with students who were interested in knowing what they could do with their degree and how to make the transition from full-time student to full-time adult.

I really enjoy meeting with students. I do. What I find challenging though is not being completely honest with them. I don’t mean I lie to them, but if I told them exactly what I was thinking I would probably come across as being a complete downer.

I’m not jaded, discouraged or check-out. At least not today. But then again, it’s Saturday and I’m still in my pjs.

Seriously though – I’m good with how things are going, even on the tough days; however, it wasn’t an easy ride. There were times (man, many times) when I asked myself: “What they hell am I doing…where am I going…what’s the point…this is bullshit”.

So how do you tell a new grad that?

How do you tell them that yes, networking and building relationships is very important. Try doing volunteer work (on top of your school studies and the job you have to do to pay for your school). Contact people and interview them. Stay positive. Take extra courses. Join ToastMasters. Sleep 8 hours a night. Exercise regularly. Smile all the time. Watch your SoMe footprint.

How do you throw out all those ideas to them (these were all things presented at the session)…but still convey that even doing all of those things will not guarantee you anything. Especially if your degree is in Psychology.

I try to be open and honest with grads, but I do this with a positive approach. I believe it’s important to set realistic expectations. There are very few people who graduate with a degree and are able to follow steps A, B, C, and then land at D…their ideal career.

Most people graduate with their degree and then look for a job. Any job. Then they look at how they can find a job in an area that is related to what they studied (assuming they still want to work in that area). Then they get another job (in non-related field). Then they might take another job in the same company, but now even less related to what they studied. Then they decide to take studies in a new area…hopefully one that will help them move onward in the area they are currently working in, but sometimes people to try a complete re-set and go back to school and start the process all over.

This is generally when people think “WTF?!” What’s the point of this?

Here’s the positive spin on this. You know all those unrelated jobs you worked at. You met people. You learned skills. You found out that you are good at things that you never even considered. You realized that there are things you absolutely hate doing. You became self-aware. You gained experience. You made mistakes. You did good work. You joined the “real world”.

So, my message to many of the students was yes, be open to all opportunities that come your way, but don’t think there is only one path to get where you are going. The knowledge, skills and experience that you get from taking the scenic route is what gives you perspective and depth. Work your ass off, keep your eyes and ears open, and be willing to take the side roads.

That’s what makes you a full-time adult.

Reading between the lines

I consider myself to be decently well read. I know I have a long way to go, but I feel like I’ve been open and exposed to a variety of writing styles and themes.

This wasn’t always the case – I was a fiction-gal. Non-fiction = school. So, any reading of non-fiction that didn’t contribute to a credit was not really high on my priority list.

This has thankfully changed and I’m trying to read one non-fiction for every fiction I read. And it’s actually got to the point where my “To Read” list is heavier on non-fiction.

Regardless of which category, I know what I like and what I don’t. I think I have a decent radar for BS and will sift through the text to take away the messages that I feel are most relevant, interesting, and quite honestly, the most realistic.

In some books this is easy because other than a bit a filler here and there, the bulk of the reading hits the mark. This is especially true for business, including HR, resources. I can often identify or see how things might work – whether for me, my team, or my organization. And while the writing style might be a bit too simplified or the anecdotes a bit too cheesy – it all makes a valid point.

And then there are the books that I plod through. Actually I should re-phrase that to say I force myself to plod through. I treat it like mining for gold. I’m sure there’s value in them there words, and I’m set on finding it.

And yet, the book I’m currently reading is like listening to a somewhat condescending prof who spends more time and energy name dropping and referencing other people’s material that my biggest take-away so far is a list of other books to read (not written by the author). Add the fact that the author is a logophile takes the level of pomposity up a notch. 2 points for using a big word that most will have to look up.

If I decide to invest my time in a book because of its topic…let’s say leadership, or organizational connectivity. Then I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that the bulk of the book is going to be about this. However, when the first 2 chapters are solid history lessons, with heavy emphasis on military references…and the author actually provides definitions, as well as the origin of the words he is using, I’m thinking….dude, you’ve got a serious case of “filler-itis”.

Despite this auspicious* start to the book – I persevered and made it to what I call the meat and potatoes (or the point) of the book. These were good, these were relevant, these were reality-based chapters….and then he went off on another multi-lingual, multi-cultural reference-tangent that left me thinking that this book really was only 3 chapters long, but the publisher asked him to beef it up.

In my book club (where we read only fiction), one of the members has a 10% rule. If the book doesn’t capture her by 10% in – she stops and walks away from it. No guilt, no regret, no wondering whether maybe I should keep going. I see value in this as we have limited time and do we really want to waste it on something that we don’t like (when we don’t have to). However, I refer to exhibit A: Yann Martel’s Life of Pi. Had I employed the 10% rule, I would never have finished one of the better books that I’ve read. It took a lot of push to keep me going on that one, but it was worth making it past that midpoint.

And so, call it variable interval reinforcement if you like, but I rarely don’t finish a book when I’ve started it. I feel like there’s always a chance that it will get better. A recent exception is On the Road. Either I’m 20-years too old or not stoned enough to appreciate that book. Plus, I had the “original” version which contained no paragraphs or chapters. WTF.

You’ve probably caught on to the fact that I have not mentioned either the book title or the author I’m currently reading. This has been intentional because I want to finish it before I slam it or recommend it. It would hardly be fair to say, I am on page 139 of 247 and this book is rubbish. I could put it down, walk away and decide enough time has been wasted.

Well, I could do those things….but then maybe it will get better.

Damn behavioural psychology.

*adjective: auspicious
1.
conducive to success; favorable.
“it was not the most auspicious moment to hold an election”
late 16th cent.: from auspice + -ous.