The Nashville Diaries: 6 Month Check-In

Tomorrow is our six month anniversary of moving to Nashville. In some ways it feels like we’re new here; and at other times, I feel like we’ve been here forever. There’s something about this city that makes me feel so... well, me.

I’ve been thinking about this new life a lot recently. Of course the change in geography stirs up questions like, “What business do we have being south of the Mason-Dixon Line?” Changing my career trajectory begs the question, “What exactly am I pouring my time into each day?” And all these, plus many more swirling thoughts, stir up the existential. Who am I?

But even with these dips and rises, I have to say: I feel like I belong more now than I ever have. For the most part, my current flow-state is how I felt at the peak of my life thus far, way back in Boston. And amazingly, I've reached this state just six months into a new Nashville life.

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We just returned home from the UK, where I got to see some of my closest friends, who were by my side through a few tough years in London. It was relieving and enlightening to talk to them about what a positive difference location and career has made so quickly. Chatting with them helped me see what just wasn't working for me as a business metaphor. It goes something like this...

I – like everyone – have a clear set of internal capabilities and core competencies. When I combine my strengths, skills, and technical abilities with how I do things: see the world, interact with people, and deliver results, you get my personal value proposition. 

But if I think about it in a broader context, an entity’s (and dare I say a person’s) value is only as good as what the market will bear. For example, if you’re the world’s best downhill skier and you live in Hawaii, your value isn't what it could be, in say... Colorado.

So what I’ve started to understand is: the way that I work… heck, the way that I live simply wasn’t advantageous for my situation in London.

 

At work, I like to do things well and deeply, stemming from a solid foundation. I contrast this to skimming the surface and ignoring glaring inefficiencies and weak infrastructure that will cripple a business in the long term. (If you’re one of my friends in the insurance industry with Lloyd's experience, you can see how the way I build businesses is completely at odds with that market – thinking about it still makes the hairs on my arms stand up. Ah!).

Also, I like being creative in my work. While I wouldn't declare my self an "artist" by any stretch of the imagination, I find creativity in applying ideas from different countries, perspectives, and industries to help a business and people stand out in their respective markets.

And lastly, I love building work relationships and friendships over runs, coffee, and nerdy conversations about intuition and meditation. I certainly don’t judge the pub life, but I am totally unskilled at it (and would rather be in bed as early as possible).

 

So after living in such starkly different cities, I've come to quickly understand that Nashville is the perfect antidote for me. It’s a city where my strengths play well with others. It’s sophisticated but acts like a small town, which means that my unreserved nature at work and home isn’t as weird as it was in Europe. I have work experience and international education that gives me differentiatiation. And as far as creativity goes... I estimate that the city has about 47,000 professional creatives, meaning: I'm in great company. 

 

But perhaps most importantly and striking to me is that Nashville embraces people and thoughts that go beyond our human dimension. Yes, there’s the obvious Bible Belt stereotype, but it's more. Remember this gorgeous mother and her son? I gotta tell you: they were not an anomaly. These people – ready to make eye contact, have important conversations, and act in accordance with their spirituality and connectedness are everywhere.

And for whatever lucky reason, these people have found value in me and pulled me right into the Nashville fold.

 

 

PS – One great example of Nashville pulling me into the fold was a recent profile by local organization Creative Soul Tribe. For this, I’m grateful, flattered, and proud. If you’re interested, I spoke with them about building a new life and career in Music City.

 

Photo by Christy Shaterian Photography + hair / makeup by Emily Lombard

A Little Personal Update

I never ever, ever, everrrrrrrrrrr thought I'd say this, but...

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I've been missing the U.K. 

Don't get me wrong; life in Nashville is good. Oh man, it's so good!

But like every other human, the change in seasons makes me nostalgic. In my case, the nostalgia is always a longing for wherever I was the year prior.  And last year, I was in London. And although I have only marginally nice things to say about the city :) November in London was a magical month of transitions. It was the only time of year where the soggy, chilly weather seemed to be just right. Mid-month we'd throw an American Thanksgiving, where friends of all nationalities would join us (we were able to give some friends their first Thanksgiving - how cool is that!?). Then by the end of the month, Christmas would be in full-swing, Love Actually-style. 

So it is selfishly perfect timing that two wonderful friends are getting married in Liverpool this weekend (hi, Sharon and Lee!). This is giving us a great excuse to visit some cities that I never saw when living in the U.K., so combine my friends with new cities and my longing for soggy leaves, and I am quite excited. 

So please excuse the short post this week. And also, please forgive the little email snafu last Friday; it was a technical glitch. Okay, okay. User error is possible, but let's say technical glitch :) The article about organization was released for real on Monday, so check it out.

Regularly-scheduled content will be back next week before we break for Thanksgiving. I hope that you too are soaking up the leaves and change of season this November. Take in the heartiness and warmth of the season, and enjoy!

 

Photo by the Londoner

Posted on November 9, 2017 and filed under Personal.

The Organization Actions that Changed My Life

Organization has been coming up in a lot of my conversations lately - professionally and personally. I've heard from several small business owners that they struggle to set calendar boundaries (AKA responding to emails 24/7 and running all over town for meetings), as well as feeling like they're on a "hamster wheel" with an endless to-do list. Additionally, this to-do list is merely keeping them afloat; it's not necessarily moving their business forward. On the personal side, my friends - especially those with kiddos - are starting to schedule 2018 activities and looking for ways to organize better. Yikes!

A couple years ago I wrote about organizing. Among my many weaknesses, professional and proactive organization is, happily, one of my strengths. And since I implemented the below actions three years ago, the amount of productive and strategic things I accomplish at work has skyrocketed. At home... well, I would give myself the most improved player award for 2017 :)

The turning point tool for me has been my Day Designer. I bought my first three years ago and am just as in love today. When I talk about it, I picture myself as Frank from You've Got Mail: "You know, that nut from the Observer who's so in love with his typewriter." My "typewriter" is this little baby (and warning, it's almost as heavy as a baby - ha!). I just ordered my 2018 edition, and when it arrives, my friend Mindy and I will promptly unwrap and throw an organization party. 

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Although I love the Day Designer itself, what's more important is how it's used. A plan(ner) is nothing without action. So if you're interested, here are the organization actions that have changed my life:

 

  • Schedule yourself a time block to get organized every morning. Meta, isn't it? "Schedule time to schedule." I feel you. It's tempting to dive right into those emails that came in overnight or head straight into your first morning meeting. Instead, try blocking out 30 minutes before your first commitment every day to review what you didn't get done the day before and prioritize for the day ahead. This is THE foundational step to you controlling your day so that your day doesn't control you.

 

  • Buffer your meetings, classes, and appointments. I always over-schedule time when meeting with other people, as well as make myself a 30 minute buffer between meetings. While I know that this isn't always possible, it is much more doable than people admit. Having a buffer allows you (a) to not rush and (b) gives you time to check off quick follow-ups or preparation required for what's next. In my new professional life, I'm going as far as only scheduling one client meeting a day - so that each person has my full attention, I can thoroughly prepare and follow-up, and I have blocks of time to do my own strategic work.

 

  • Review yesterday's to-do list and carry over what you weren't able to complete. Before just plopping your tasks onto today's list, think critically: is this specific thing a priority today? Maybe it's wiser to add it to your list for next week or next month instead of constantly carrying it over, just because the list says so. 

 

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  • Establish today's top priorities. This takes self-honesty, as many of us will quickly retort: "Everything is a priority!" I hate to burst your self-importance bubble, but it's not. Pick the top three things that you must do before the end of the day. Focus your productive energy on these three priorities before reacting to others. If you leave the day having completed your top three, that is success, and you should feel great.

 

  • Then, prioritize the other stuff. Some days, getting through three tasks will be a struggle. Other days, your priorities may not be time-sensitive. And yet other days, you'll power through your top three in just a couple hours. When this is the case, I number my other tasks so that there's no distracting myself with internet-browsing or chitchat when deciding what to do next. It takes the choice out: don't think about it; just move onto the next.

 

  • Have a system for the completion process. Unfortunately, life is full of half-completed tasks, waiting on others, and follow-ups. The next time this happens to you, try the following:
    • If you've completed your part of the task but are waiting on someone else before you can cross it off, circle your task. This trains your eye to not re-read the things that you can't yet do anything about.
    • If you must carry over an item to another day or week, mark a --> next to it. 
    • And the most satisfying: when you are done, you are done. Smugly jot down that big, fat check mark and move on!

 

As Carolyn notes below, organization is personal and subjective. Check out a few reader comments for what's worked well for others (especially night owls), and add your own. For example, a friend just introduced me to these desktop and writing tools, that she's using alongside her Day Designer.

 

PS - If you've been reading for awhile, you know that I'm a BIG fan of promoting other people, products, and businesses who bring exceptional value to my life. The Day Designer DEFINITELY falls into that camp for me, and many of you have bought one since I originally wrote this back in 2015. If you're still enjoying it as much as I and plan to buy your 2018 edition, you can do so through this link, and I will gratefully receive a small commission from your purchase (no price difference to you). And bonus discovered by Mindy: free shipping on orders over $100 right now, so go in with a friend - like we did - and save yourself $30. And thank you.

 

PPS - When I mentioned an organization party in Nashville, I was serious. If you live in the area and you're up for a fun, laid-back organizing party, email me at julie@ellevatedoutcomes.com. We'd love you to join.

 

 

Posted on November 6, 2017 and filed under Tips & Tools.