The Five Conversations We Need to Have Right Now

Margaret Wheatley is an internationally known bestselling author who has spent a lifetime studying the nature of human interactions and the impact they have. In an exclusive for the BK Communique, she contributed the list below for the five conversations she feels we must have with ourselves as well as with others for the sake of our future:

1. Who is my neighbor? Community is the greatest untapped wealth we have available to us at this time. Do we know who lives nearby? What do we need to do to get to know each other better?

2. How can I cultivate curiosity rather than judgment? It’s not our differences that divide us, but our judgments about each other. Are we willing to be curious to listen to the stories of those we’ve distanced ourselves from?

3. What is my role in creating change? We can no longer wait for leaders or laws to create the changes we need. It’s up to us, and it’s the only way the world ever changes--when a few friends start talking. Am I willing to assume the responsibility for creating the changes I want to see in the world?

4. Am I willing to reclaim time to think? As the world speeds up, we’re forfeiting our most precious human capacities -- reflection, awareness, dreaming, relationship. The only way to restore these capabilities is to slow things down, to reengage in reflection, to pause and truly notice what’s going on.

5. Can I be fearless? Fearlessness is not being free of fear. It means that we do not allow our fears to silence or stop us. What issues and people summon me to be fearless?

Do you agree? Are there other conversations that are equally crucial? Chime in!

Five Tips That Can Improve Your Speed and Performance

As contributed by various members of Berrett-Koehler's staff:

1. Turn off your email, IM messenger, and telephone to concentrate. Whatever time saved by responding to those "quick question" emails and calls while working on a project is illusory. True, it takes only a few minutes to deal with a "quick question" email or phone call, but the time taken to refocus on a project after being distracted outweighs the time saved by dealing with the distractions immediately. You will deal with both your projects and your communications much faster if you handle them separately at separate times.

2. End meetings at a set time -- no matter what. Meetings run long because we allow them to. Get into the habit of adjourning at the scheduled time. Shelve any topics not discussed for the next meeting or, if time sensitive, another time. People will soon tire of having their topics shelved or attending extra meetings and will move meeting discussion topics along faster to meet the scheduled end time.

3. Take breaks.
It seems counterintuitive, but taking time off to grab some coffee or go for a short walk actually helps you work faster in the long run because people have more energy when they take time to rest. Many places even encourage catnaps as they have shown to be highly effective in boosting energy during the afternoon stretch.

4. Mix it up. Don't work on one project from beginning to end, especially if it's a longer project. You may find that you tire after a while and work at a slower pace. Switch between two or three projects on an hourly or even half-hourly basis. Though it may feel strange at first, you'll quickly fall into the routine.

5. Eat that frog!
If you have one hairy project and two or three smaller projects to finish, it's appealing to complete those smaller projects first and leave that hairy one for later. Of course, each day brings additional smaller projects that cause you to repeatedly set aside that one big project for later. Follow this routine, and that one hairy project remains not only incomplete, but delayed as well. The stress and anxiety around that project increases with time, which in turn slows down progress on the project even further. As Brian Tracy says, "When you have something nasty that you have to do, like eating a frog, do it first!"

Do you have any tips for us or for other readers on how to work better faster? Add them below.