March Vinyl Acquisitions

I actually made it a month without buying any records!  Of course, I was recovering from illness and working through the 2,000 records I bought in January, plus it was the shortest month of the year, and I had a couple business trips (photos from one coming soon!), but the fact remains I didn’t buy any vinyl in February.  I had worked down the January acquisitions to less than 100 records to process, which included clearing one of my two shelves of about 150 records that were “in queue” to be listened to as well.  So overall, a good month for working through my acquisitions, and I felt like I had reclaimed much of my available space in the man cave.

I made up for it in the last 8 days, buying about 825 records, of which about 75 are “junk”. Of the 750 I like, about 475 are mostly Motown and soul, and the other 275 are classic rock.  They’re currently sitting in 9 crates and boxes, so all of that available space I created in February is about gone.

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9 boxes of vinyl remaining after sorting out the “junk”…

The group of classic rock is fairly spectacular in my opinion.    It came after the Motown collection, and Mrs. Outspoken’s response after I received the call about the collection was “Really?   You have all these albums yet to clean and listen to, and you’re buying more?!?!”

Yep.  I gotta buy when the opportunity arises.  I went 7 weeks or so with nothing, so buying 2 collections in a little over a week might seem a little over the top, but both were great deals at under $1 per album.

So what makes the collection of rock so great?  How about 4 Zeppelin, 4 Pink Floyd, 4 David Bowie, 4 Allman Brothers, 3 Beatles, and 20 Bob Dylan for starters?    Other artists with multiple albums include Van Morrison, Elton John, The Rolling Stones, Steeley Dan, Springsteen, Foreigner, Rush, Yes, Kansas, CCR, ELP, Grand Funk, Heart, Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Jackson Browne, the Cars, and Aerosmith.  It’s basically a compendium of 70’s and 80’s radio rock music, including some of the softer folk-ish tunes, with none of the pop-disco stuff.

Then there’s some oddball stuff too – stuff I just don’t see. The Butterfield Blues Band, Steve Hackett, Kate Bush, Patti Smith,  Nektar, and some Christian praise stuff by 2nd Book of Acts and Phil Keaggy.  Honestly, I could probably enjoy listening to about 80% of this collection, and if it comprised my entire collection, it would represent probably 60% of what I’d want to have.  Basically, the guy who assembled this collection and I had similar tastes.  🙂

One of my favorite finds so far has been an album from The Monroes.  It’s an EP, only 5 songs, and it was their only album.  I really enjoy it.  Definitely and 80’s sound, but 80’s guitar, not the electronic stuff.

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It was missing a lot of Beatles (but hey, it has Abbey Road), Hendrix, and some of the psychedelic stuff I like, but overall, it’s a great collection in my opinion.   I’m sure I’ll find enough titles to cover my costs, but I think I’ll be keeping a much higher percentage of this collection than normal.

Both of these collections came through my previous contacts; the albums are finding me at times!  It’s also part of why i got the deal I did on them.  I’ve treated the sellers fairly, and they’re active collectors, so I was in a way helping each of them move a large quantity of records quickly.    I also agree to buy them all, and don’t get into cherry picking the collection  or nit-picking on the condition of certain albums.

The way you treat people is important in life and business.  Over the course of my career, I’ve always been focused on process improvement; how to find ways to do “it” better.  It hasn’t really mattered what “it” is, as the basic problem solving methodology of Lean works anywhere (at least I’ve yet to find an application where it doesn’t).  While some people call me an efficiency expert, I look at it more as improving the overall performance of the teams and systems of an organization.    We change the system to change the result, and coach the people through the systemic changes.  But it’s about more than results; for the changes to stick, it’s also about behaviors.

As we change the behaviors and systems to produce different results, we start changing beliefs within the organization.  What happens when the shared beliefs of an organization change?  One, we change the future of that organization.  Two, we have created a culture change.

How’s all this tie into me buying arguably too much vinyl?  Honestly, I wasn’t sure at first.  But for one, I buy with no fear of spending too much, because I have a several year track record of all my hobbies actually producing money.  I have the tax returns to prove it.  🙂 Plus, I’m spending cash that has come from the hobbies.

Therefore, I believe, as does Mrs. Outspoken – even if not as completely as me – that I’m not being irresponsible or delaying our objectives, because in the end I actually contribute towards those shared  objectives from my hobbies.   And I believe I’ve done so buy dealing appropriately with others, and the evidence of that is the number of opportunities that tend to find me.

Second, since there was so much David Bowie in the one collection, would be this album:

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A line from the song Changes is perhaps the foundation of the best inspiration I can think to provide today:

“These children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds, are immune to your consultations, they’re quite aware of what they’re going through.”

No matter what it is you’re trying to do or achieve, there are often people who will try to hold you back, make you feel like it’s too hard, not worth it, or even impossible.  Don’t listen to them.  Act responsibly and with intention, treat people with dignity and respect,  but be courageous at the same time.   You can’t do what everyone else thinks you should do and still achieve the greatness that is within you.

Great things aren’t done by being average.

 

 

Time Management – by the hour or by the job?

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We wanted to get our house cleaning done before leaving on vacation.  It’s actually really nice to come home to a clean house – it just feels so much more relaxing, especially after a long trip home.  To get this done, I used the time I normally set aside for writing each morning, so I knew how much time I had each day to do housework.

First, let me say this: cleaning house can be hard work.  At the end of each period of house cleaning I was sweating almost as much as I was earlier in the week when I was moving gravel and top soil in the yard!  Anybody who stays at home and keeps the house clean and the kids in line truly works hard.  But as I was wrapping up day one, I started thinking about how I managed the task of getting the house clean and the timeframe I had to complete it.  When I compared my housecleaning style to my wife’s, I  realized there are two distinctly different time and task management styles we use, and I see the same types in business.  I’m sure there are many other ways too, but I’ll compare the two styles we use, which I’ll call managing “by the hour” and “by the job.”

So first is how I manage tasks, both at home and at work.  When I have a task to do, I try to break it down into components.  Some people call this “eating the elephant.”  Why?  The old question or joke about big tasks is “How do you eat an elephant?”  And the answer:  “One bite at a time.”  For the task of cleaning the house, I break it down by rooms.  Next, I sequence the tasks, so for house cleaning I think about which order to do them in.  Then I look for commonalities.  For example, when running the vacuum, I do all the rooms of a group at once, making sure I pick a central location for the electrical outlet to allow this.  I do the same with cleaning toilets and windows.

Now I have a strategy, of sorts.  I wouldn’t treat a business problem any differently than this.  But next comes the time management part.  I knew I had three blocks of time at 90 minutes each.  I estimated what I thought I could get done at each block. Drawing from my sequence of activities, I wanted to get through to the point of having the Master Bedroom cleaned on day 1, The Dining Room on Day 2, and the Den on Day 3.

So what does this have to do with time management?  Well, now that I have tasks, a sequence, and expected completion deadlines, I can effectively manage my time.  On day one, I start cleaning and I push hard, working at a steady pace with no interruptions.  I work up a sweat – especially in bathrooms and vacuuming steps.  For me, music helps.  Since my mind wanders, when an idea pops into my head, I jot it down and keep working.  This blog post was one of those periods of mental spacewalking.  Grabbing a roll of black & white film to shoot some old buildings in my hometown was another.  But I try to stay focused on the tasks at hand.

The key difference is this: I don’t stop when I get to the end of the task I wanted to complete.  I stop at the end of the time allotted.  I actually completed my housework in two 90 minute sessions.  I then used the third session to go to the grocery store and the bank prior to leaving on vacation – both tasks my wife had planned on doing.  This is “managing by the hour.”

The other way I see is managing time “by the task”.  Often, when managing by the task, the planning steps are the same, and they probably should be.  But the difference is in the time management.  My wife will keep working util she gets the expected task complete.  She doesn’t seem to feel the pressure of time.  She also has no problem working longer, and she’ll delay following tasks if necessary to get the current tasks complete.  I see this in business too.  Development teams will keep working on one task and let others slide, with seemingly no concern over the time it is taking.

I think in some ways it comes down to the mental payback of the work.  Just like some people get paid by the hour and others get paid by the job for their wages, I think some people gain satisfaction for completing a specific, expected group of tasks.  Only when it’s all done can they get paid mentally for their work.  Only at completion do they get the reward of feeling like a job was well done.  They need to get paid by the job.

Others are fine getting paid by the hour.  For my housecleaning, it was “hey, I got two extra rooms done today.”  When moving gravel, even though the pile wasn’t gone, I could say “I moved about 3/4 ton of gravel tonight”.  For my wife it was “when are you going to finish moving that gravel?”  It’s almost like she felt bad for me – working that hard and not getting it finished.  But for me, my 2 hours was up, and it was time to move onto the next task.

Having this self-imposed time constraint also helps me in a couple few ways from a productivity standpoint.  First, I don’t let the task expand to the allotted time – a.k.a. Parkinson’s Law.  In manufacturing I call this “pacing your work.”  My Pap would call it “lolly-gagging”.  He’d say “Quit’cher lolly-gagging and get that work done!”  or “Don’t be lolly-gagging on your way home.”  If I give myself a day to get housework done, it can take me all day – and it still isn’t finished.  Just like if I give a team a week to get something done, I don’t usually see it until the end of that time period.

The second way it helps is that having the time constraint often helps me be more efficient and effective.  I get focused on the one task, and can pull my attention back to that task for the remaining time allotment once I get distracted.  Plus, I get the bonus mental break when I complete a task early.  I rarely jump onto the next task.  If I’ve got 5 or 15 minutes left, I do something I enjoy.  It’s the only way I know to effectively multi-task: Single-task in several different chunks each day.

I guess there’s a third benefit too.  Every day, I can reflect and see what I got done; what I created.  Even if nothing was fully completed, I can get satisfaction out of the tasks that I worked on for each segment of the day.  Which leads to a fourth benefit – “backburner creativity”.  Which is probably an entire blog post in itself, but basically it’s why some people get good ideas a weird times, like solving a problem in a dream or in the shower.

Because of the possible psychology of the mental payback stuff, I don’t know if people can change the way they derive satisfaction from task completion.  But I think it’s worth a try.  Every day, I get little internal boosts of motivation by looking at work completed.  For those that think “by the job”, they can go days or weeks without feeling like they “got anything done”.  I think by changing their mindset to focus on “eating the elephant” and then remembering to look at the empty plate from each meal, they might get a little more satisfaction from their efforts.

Give it a try some day – even on something as routine as your chores around the house.  You might find it works for you and actually find extra time in your day, and eventually have less things you didn’t have time to do.