Nov 232011

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. We have much to be thankful for and I hope you take a few minutes to reflect on your blessings. This is the time of year when things slow down a bit (and in some workplaces, a lot) with people taking time off work. I know my office will be pretty much shut down around Christmas/New Years. My previous employers were just about the same. As a project manager, we always plan for a slowdown in the work for the last three weeks of the year.

So what if you are still working and not vacationing somewhere warm? Now is a perfect time to take my Holiday Challenge. Pick up the phone and make an appointment with someone on your network. Go to lunch or just get together for a chat. Chances are they will have some free time around the holidays as well and will be glad you called. Take a few minutes to reconnect and find out what they are up to. Find a way to give them a hand.

If you are up for a real challenge, expand your network by meeting with someone new. This is the perfect season to do it. Many are in a giving mood and the calendars are a little more relaxed. Some people are more rushed, so be flexible. However, I know as I get closer to the end of the year, my ability to accomplish tasks is severely impacted by the absence of others. I always have time available for odd tasks. Networking is one of those perfect fillers.

Have a holiday party coming up? Dreading standing around not knowing what to do? Take the challenge! These parties are a perfect opportunity to meet someone and talk for a few minutes. You never know who you’ll meet and it can be real fun. I love going to my wife’s work Christmas parties. I don’t have to worry about office politics and there is always someone sitting bored. This is the perfect chance to strike up a conversation an find out something about them. Who knows – you may be the best thing that happens to them all night long.

Make this season bright by meeting someone new or renewing a old relationship. Take the challenge and make an appointment today. Let me know how it works out. I bet you will have a wonderful time.

Jun 242011

When someone tells you to pay attention to the details, how detailed do you go? I learned a whole new level of detail a couple weeks ago. I will never look at detail the same way again. I have a whole new standard for what it means to ‘do a good job’ and ‘clean’.

I am a Mormon and we have temples. You may have seen a few around. These are not ordinary church buildings to us. They are very special buildings reserved for very sacred ordinances. We dedicate these buildings as the Houses of the Lord. And that is where this story begins.

Every six months, the temple is closed for two weeks for cleaning. Members volunteer to work in the temple to clean it and keep it in good shape. I had not had the opportunity to clean one of these special buildings until this year. I signed up for a four hour shift in January and June. Both times, I was lucky enough to get to clean chandeliers.

I couldn’t find a picture of the chandelier in the Mount Timpanogos Temple, but the one at left is close enough for you to get an idea of the task (This picture is from the Atlanta, Georgia Temple). There are literally thousands of glass rods, crystal chains and pendants in the large one in the center. It took twenty of us four hours to disassemble the glass and lay it out to be cleaned. Each level is unique and had to be kept together so that it would all fit back together again. We wore cotton gloves, never touching a piece with bare hands. The oils would transfer to the glass and attract dust faster. Each piece was then cleaned by hand by rubbing it vigorously until the glass heated up and released all the dirt onto the towel. Each piece would take 20-30 seconds of this active rubbing to come clean. Believe me, my arms and back were sore by the time I finished.

Every light bulb was checked and changed if necessary. We lost count of how many bulbs are in the fixture. Next, all the brass was cleaned and dusted, taking thirty minutes for a team of three working on ladders. Even after the fixture had been lowered, it was still over ten feet tall. Before my shift ended, we had only cleaned about 1/4 of the glass. Another shift came in the next day to finish and reassemble it.

The second experience in June was much the same, except I was assigned to one of the little chandelier sconces, like you can see on the wall. I was on that fixture alone to clean and reassemble. It took me all four hours to do just one.  Believe me, I never look at those beautiful chandeliers the same way again.

While I was cleaning, I got talking with one of the full time staff about the process of cleaning the rest of the temple. I asked just how thorough of a cleaning happens each six months. She started detailing out the entire list of things to do. The chandeliers are only the beginning of the task. Every table and chair, rail and banister is checked and painted if there is a scratch or nick in the finish. Then they start at the ceilings and wipe down every wall. The carpets are shampooed and dried. The tiles are hand cleaned with tiny brushes. The doors and railings are cleaned, using toothpicks to get every tiny crevice dirt free. The vents are cleaned with Qtip swabs. Every surface is cleaned top to bottom, including the furnace rooms. And that is just the inside. The outside often gets renovations in the gardens, cracked sidewalks are removed and repoured and all the trees pruned and shaped. It takes them every hour of those two weeks to get it all done.

So why the attention to detail? After all, how dirty can a chandelier get in six short months? It surprised me how much brighter the chandeliers were after being cleaned. I thought they were beautiful before, but the difference was noticeable. We believe nothing is too good for the House of the Lord. God will not dwell in unholy places and we will make His house clean for Him. It is worth every minute of work to be in that holy and peaceful place.

The lesson I took away from my latest experience of service was to examine my own life. Am I paying as much attention to detail to myself and my family? Am I letting our standards sag, turning a blind eye to a little dirt here and there? Do I get out the toothpicks to maintain my integrity and character? Do I make mistakes? Of course I do. I’m human. But I am working toward raising my efforts all the time.

The standard is set in Mathew 5:48 when Jesus said, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Naturally, I can’t make that goal in this life, but striving to come as close as I can is what I want. I try to keep that standard in mind as I go throughout the day. I don’t always make the grade. Some days I lose my temper or get impatient. Then I remember the lesson of the chandelier and the doors of the temple. I get out my toothpick and cotton gloves and get back to work.

images courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

Feb 212011

A few years ago, there was quite a ripple through the blogsphere about Jerry Seinfeld and his productivity calendar. Seinfeld shared his method to become a better comic was to write a better joke every day. To keep track, he uses a twelve month wall calendar and would put a big red X on the day upon completing his writing. After a few days, he had a chain of X’s. The mantra then became, “Don’t break the chain!”

I have talked before about it taking 21 days to make a new habit. Seinfeld’s idea follows the same concept. By extending the chain each day, the new activity becomes a habit. The visual queue of the chain becomes a terrific help to keep things going. As the chain grows, it increases the pressure to add just one more day and to not let that day be the one that breaks the string and forces it to be started over. That internal pressure can be just what is needed to motivate to action.

One of my goals this year was to write on this blog twice a week. Most weeks I post three times. Last week I didn’t get a post made for Friday. I had a host of details in my personal life requiring attention and I ran out of time and energy. Things do happen occasionally, but since my goal was twice per week, I was able to allow myself to take care of it without guilt because I knew the goal was met on Wednesday.

However, that knowledge that I had a string going since before the first of the year drove me to writing tonight. Yes, there are many other things that I still need to do, but I didn’t want this to be the week I broke my chain. That desire drove me to the computer tonight. Don’t break the chain.

Pick a habit, any habit you really want to achieve. Write it down. Describe the habit in detail. What are the activities it requires? What does success looks like?  Why you want to acquire this habit? Get a calendar or make one in Word or Google and a red marker. A handy Chain Calendar at the left is available free here. Do the activity for today. Take the marker and make a great big X through today. It will feel great. Say out loud, “Don’t break the chain!” Do the same thing tomorrow. Don’t forget to say it out loud.

Don’t break the chain.

There are several great websites and phone apps that help record the chain. A couple I have checked out are ChainCalendar and HabitForge. Find something that works for you.

Don’t Break the chain.

picture credit: