time management is always tricky. to do-lists and should-do lists and didn't-do lists. they are ever-present. so, i wanted to share a little "business buddhism" about time management, mainly that it's not about time management at all, it's about *energy* management.

here's my suggestion: next time you're feeling weighed down by your to-do list, look at the things on your list and spend a minute reflecting on how long they actually take versus how much mental energy they take. chances are there's a tiny task that is taking a disproportionate amount of energy. you know that thing you've been putting off for two weeks that actually takes ten minutes? that's what i'm talking about.

often, it's those small energy weights that make it all feel overwhelming. not the lack of time!

so, if buddha went to bschool he would say: plan your time but *manage* your energy. cuz some things take a small amount of time but a large amount of energy and those are the things we have to manage.

alice in wonderland

this is usually the really hard stuff or the stuff you hate doing. often it's unavoidable but sometimes it's not! and like so many other things, if you understand it you are much more able to manage it. maybe it's something you should try to task someone else with, something you should outsource. maybe it represents a skill you need to develop.

whether it's something you need to work on or a shortcoming you need to just accept, look out for those tiny energy weights on your to do list. spot them and manage them so you can keep on movin' on.


when i started this blog (exactly!) six months ago, one of the things i knew i wanted to do was to share some of the lessons i have learned about design, business and life from "business buddhas" in my life. the other day i looked at the brainstorm notes i compiled before the launch and in huge letters in the corner of the first page i wrote "if buddha went to bschool aka lessons from kabi." and so, this series was born! but i've never actually shared anything from kabi himself. so, here goes!

kabi is the ultimate business buddha for me. he was a professor of mine during business school and taught a class on power and politics. the class was kind of about organizational behavior and kind of about life. i have found his insights so deeply helpful! i'll probably share a couple of lessons from him here but i thought i'd start with a few of his core principles about power and organizations, mainly: how to create pockets of power and manage people politics.

image found  here .

image found here.

first a definition: power is the actionable capacity to get others to do what you want. if you go even deeper, it is the actionable capacity to get others to want what you want.

one of the things kabi teaches is that there are three types of power: position power (where you are); expert power (what you know); and relational power (who you know). 

long story short, you need all three and you need to be thinking about cultivating all three. as kabi says, you can say that playing "politics" is dirty or manipulative. but the reality is that it's not about manipulation, it's about navigating relationships and personalities in thoughtful and efficient ways so you can spend as little time as possible putting out fires.   

lesson one: position power (your title, your role) is the end-all-be-all when markets and organizations are in a stable and predictable place. in calm times, position power is where it's at and what people care about. it's a big one.

but (lesson two!) it's not all about your title. you have to cultivate all three types of power. because when uncertainties increase, expert power and relational power becomes much more important.

one of the things kabi reminds you of is that (lesson three) power is not like energy, it CAN be created. so, you have to look for holes in the structure of an organization - gaps between the strategy and structure where things don't fully fit - and fill them in. this is where you can create pockets of power. and the way you do that is by using your expertise (expert power) and your relationships (relational power).

so, in summary:

1. know there are three types of power. be thoughtful about positioning yourself to have formal and informal power so you can navigate times both good and rocky.

2. position power is great but make sure to cultivate and leverage your expertises and your network for when change hits.

3. as much as we all want to avoid organizational politics and drama, there are pushes and pulls in any organization. so being aware of how you and the people around you are shifting the levers will always be a source of power.


Max Wanger Cliffs

if buddha went to bschool he might say: give the meeting / take the meeting.

this one is a lesson in managing up and down. the idea is that you can really empower people by giving them the meeting. a former boss of mine used to practice this. every now and then, i'd walk into a meeting, pause, look at him (waiting for him to kick it off) and he would say “this is your meeting. go ahead.” at first it was a little intimidating, but the truth is that it forced ownership, proactiveness and was incredibly empowering. i think managers want to see you come to them with solutions, not problems, and this is an extension of that. if the meeting is about something you’re working on you should walk in with a plan, with answers, ready to shape the conversation. asking for the meeting and taking the reigns by managing the discussion and the use of time is an important exercise. if buddha went to bschool he might say: you gotta own it and you gotta let others own it as well.

image from this beautiful series by max wanger, via designlovefest


Peach by Kirra Jamison

if buddha went to bschool he might say: you know what's a good pre-meeting strategy? ten seconds of summer.

the idea behind this "bschool buddhism" is that you have to be conscious of the energy you walk into a room with. that you should always go to a positive, mindful place before you start an important conversation.

there are definitely people i’ve worked with that have great energy and people who just kinda don't. and when the latter walk into a room, with gossip or pessimism or negativity, they change the energy. i heard a former ceo speak to this and it really stuck with me. he said he was the sucky energy guy, but just didn’t realize it. when people asked him how he was he would “be honest:” the babysitter cancelled last minute, traffic sucked this morning, my dishwasher is broken. one day, he realized that since he was leading the meeting, if he started it with a negative comment he affected the energy of the room. something clicked. he decided to make a conscious effort to have a pre-meeting strategy, which i call his ten seconds of summer. he would go to his happy place for a couple of seconds before meetings - summer, on a beach, with his son - and was really amazed by how it shifted and aligned so many things for him. it forced him to pause, be more mindful and ultimately regain a sense of perspective we often lose in the day to day.

so, if buddha went to bschool he might say: before you walk into an important room, first go to a happy place, think of a happy thing, smile, and exhale. PAUSE. if your energy is high, positive, and bright, people will be more responsive to you, like to work with you more, gravitate towards you. and, importantly, you will have more opportunities to be effective and lead.

image above (which feels like summer to me) is by artist kirra jamison 



“as the story goes, walt disney had a key piece of advice to the executives planning the magic kingdom: build the castle first. disney understood that everyone involved in achieving his vision - from the madison avenue advertisers selling it to the guys hacking their way through the mosquito-infested florida swamp - needed literally to see the beauty of this vision to remind them what they were working toward. so the first thing to rear up out of the swamp was, in fact, cinderella’s castle, which, with its fluttering flats and whimsical turrets, was the very embodiment of the magic he intended to make.”

this is from a post on harvard business review's blog and an extension of a piece of advice i heard a couple of times during business school: build the castle first.

the advice boils down to this: leadership is bringing a vision to a group. with a new idea, people need to see something, have something to hold onto, they need to feel it before they can get on board.

hence, the castle.

in order to lead in a new direction - and break down barriers - you have to provide that *littlesomethingspecial* for people to build from. whether you’re selling friends and family on a new startup idea or building out a new venture within a corporate structure, think about building your castle first - the prototype, the logo, whatever your symbol may be. it shows people you’re for real and gives them just enough of the tangible stuff so that they can dream with you.

castle illustration by amy broadwell.



i saw this quote a couple of weeks ago and immediately felt that - not to be dramatic or anything but - it captures my life philosophy and so much of what i want to share here.

first, it’s all about looking up and out in order to dream, explore and find what inspires you - for me, this has often been beautiful design, creative people and surprising, original ideas. ultimately though, i believe fulfillment cannot come without the second part, looking inward and getting to know yourself. i think we spend so much time looking to understand others, that it’s easy to take for granted that we need to get to know ourselves first. it’s kind of a weird concept: i am me, why do i need to get to know me? but i have consistently found that the people that seem most authentic to me, most fully realized, know themselves very well. so, i really believe it's essential to really get to the core of what we like, what drives us, what moves us, what we’re good at, so we can start living accordingly, fully and authentically.

for me, finding that authenticity is what it’s all about.

background image (edited by me) by julie bourdais



this is one of my favorite quotes, lessons, pieces of wisdom, whatever. a mentor of mine in business school said this version of it, but i’ve heard different variations. it’s based on a buddhist teaching and practices of mindfulness. i think this applies to almost any area of life - work, times of change, relationships. the essence is that you have to be deliberate about what you hold on to and what you let go of. maybe this means releasing the hold an awful boss had on you and embracing the lessons it gave you about management. maybe it means releasing the anger around a painful experience and embracing what it taught you about yourself. it's all about separating out what is productive to hold on to (the lesson), versus what just adds weight unnecessarily. i probably say this once a week. i guess you could say this is a boss aesthetic mantra.

original image (slightly edited by me) by (one of my favorite photographers) max wanger



i love this quote. of course, in some situations decisions have to be consensus based, made by committee. i think this quote is relevant in two ways though: first, as a leadership lesson and second, as a personal lesson. a former CEO came to speak to a class of mine during business school and he emphasized that you have to collect information from everyone - from the highest ranking person to the lowest ranking person in your organization, everyone should feel a part of the process and everyone can provide valuable insights. however, when it comes to making the final decision, as a leader, it's your job to weigh all of that information, take in all of the varied opinions, quiet the noise, and make a decision. i think the same applies as we make big life decisions. i have so many friends going through big life transitions right now and making big choices and i really think this is the best advice: first, take in opinions and advice from the people you trust, people who care about you, people who have been through what you're going through. and then, sit with yourself, quiet the sea of opinions and make the decision that feels most right for you.

original image (slightly edited by me) by (one of my favorite illustrators) monica ramos



i had a professor in business school who talked often about building a personal board of directors and it really stuck with me. the idea is to find people who have different things you need to navigate challenges and find your path, people who you can go to for advice, support, perspective, mentoring, expertise, etc. this image by tony buckland reminded me of that - figure out what you need, find the birds in your life that can guide you and build your flock of directors.

original image (slightly edited by me) by tony buckland