Taking a Break – Work/Life

Nathaniel Elliott Builds Fire

I am someone who loves what they do most days. If you were to ask me how I am, many days I would respond that I am living in paradise! Why? Because I sincerely love what I do and the team that I work with at Inovalon. I understand that this isn’t the case for most, but there is a downfall of doing what you love: work/life balance. Also, when I say work, I don’t just mean the 9-5 you may live in but also the honey-do list and the continual task list that will never be completed. All of these things need to be balanced out, and I’ve seen three significant steps that have helped me and encouraged me to have a better work/life balance:

  • Start Small – Simply start making time outside of a work a priority by taking small moments here/there for yourself that aren’t focused on work or the next to do item. Take a walk and purposefully not think about work!
  • Plan It & Do It – After you start small, start planning the priortized time that you will take and use for the balancing of work/life. More importantly than just expecting it, you must follow through and execute on it and take time for yourself. Take a weekend away with no technology and breath!
  • Separate from It – When you start small, plan your work/life better, and execute, you also need to make sure you separate yourself from the work that you have going on. With a connected world, this is hard, but also with how our brains are wired, we like to solve problems but take a break and separate!

Why is this at the top of my mind? Well, this past weekend I took my wife and kids to a cabin in Maryland only an hour away from home for a reprieve. We spent time outside, we didn’t use technology, we spent quality time together, and it reminded me of the importance of these type of moments for my kids, my wife, and myself. And, when I returned to work, I was rested and ready to tackle what work had coming to me. My mind, spirit, and body were revamped and capable of doing what I do: solving problems.

What steps do you take to help with the work/life balance that we all need?

Starting the Morning Right

Fabulous App

For the last few months, I’ve been working on “habits” both personally and professionally. Purposeful habit-building has been an area for me that does not come naturally and yet, this tool/application fit perfectly into my routine. It talks about creating these keystone habits that you build on throughout the rest of your life. For example, if you take this journey, you’ll start with one habit: drinking water when you first wake up. At first, it seemed like a simple item to implement into my life, and it was, but turning it into a habit was a different story. It worked me through setting up a trigger to do so, setting my water out the night before, and a few other actions like “celebrate” when completing.

I know that you may be thinking, this is simple and not for me, but I would encourage you, these things add up to be influential in life quickly. If you are interested in trying out the tool, here is the email you would receive from me if I were to send the invite (and no, I don’t get any referral for it that I am aware of):

Check this out, great app for building healthy habits.

I thought of you while reading an article in this new app I downloaded called Fabulous created by researchers at Duke University. I’m using it to build new habits.

I thought it might be fun to use the app together and hold each other accountable.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“Having an accountability buddy is like taking a friend to the gym. It turns an otherwise difficult and boring chore into a fun and social outing. You’ll encourage each other to do better and end up going more often because you’re holding each other accountable.”

You can get it here if you want to partner up!

Let me know what you decide and how you are working on your personal & professional habits! I ended up paying for the service because of the high value I found from it after a few weeks. And, the journey is just starting. I am now working not only on my morning routine but also my eating routine, exercise

The Materials Today

Every day I aim to learn something new and gain more understanding both personally and in business. The books that stick out right now which are pushing me forward are listed here:

  • Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action – I am working through this book with my team at Inovalon to understand not only our jobs and roles within the organization but also as a tool to have more apparent communication/influence since it all starts with “why”.
  • The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business – I’ve been listening to this on a daily basis (the audiobook through google) and have fallen in love as I am working on personal habits like exercise, sleep, productivity, and much more. But, the book uses how habits form on a personal level to explain how organizational patterns are developed and how you could influence corporations to choose the right keystone habits.
  • A Walk Across America – Right now there is a significant pull towards adventure in everything I do. My father-in-law knew this and bought this book for me plan out my next long weekend on the Appalachian Trail and a possible climb on Mt. Rainer.
  • The Five Minute Journal: A Happier You in 5 Minutes a Day – One of the best journals I’ve had in a long time. Or, maybe the best ever since I don’t journal. But as I work through building out my mission in life and goals, I have been watching high performing people and learning the habits they focus on. These habits often have an early morning with journaling as a ritual. I’ll talk more about rituals in future posts!

Let me know what books I should check out to keep my learning and being more productive in my life! Here are the cover of the books to help you find them (and yes help support this site and free information).



Managing Time – Especially while Training

Nathaniel Elliott Time Tracking Tool

There have been many updates to my life since I last posted a blog, but it doesn’t negate the fact that time must be managed. One of the major updates in my career at the moment revolves around leading classes specific to agile methodologies (scrum, kanban, SAFe, and others). With that, there has always been a goal of live conversation and feedback during a class which can make time hard to manage while engaging the participants as well! What did I do to fix that? I created three key points to check against when taking questions during presentations as well as a tool in excel to help me manage the time well. Yes, I am all for timeboxing but what about when things are a bit more fluid than that? I ask myself (and sometimes the group) the following three things before going down a rabbit trail:

  • Does this help the group learn and apply what we are discussing?
  • Can we answer this as a group at a different time?
  • Is it helpful to remove time from another area of the presentation to handle this now?

When this conversation has happened, and I do a vote by class, I need to figure out how to keep managing my time moving forward! Below is the excel spreadsheet I created to help me achieve the flow (with delays) that often happens!

Excel Document: TimeDoc

Absorbing Knowledge

Over the past three weeks I’ve had the opportunity to reach out, grab drinks, and have a heart-to-heart with some very impressive individuals. I’ve learned the unique differences to business and personal life that must be undertaken to thrive. My goal has always been a simple one; to learn.

Theodore Roosevelt said, “With self-discipline most anything is possible.” This single quality has to be one of the biggest, and most unique, differences for those who thrive. They are disciplined individuals who aim to learn.

So, who did I meet with?

Bill Hocking

We had the opportunity to grab beers and watch the World Cup. During our conversations and watching his passion for soccer, I realized he possessed the same qualities in everything that he did; servant leadership and being passionate! This has been Hocking continual theme over the past year; after our first meeting, following my experience at Apollo Matrix. He is that servant leader who is willing to sit down with me, express pure passion for teaching, and share what he knows from his experiences at Microsoft and St. Johns College.

Erik Heisig

Erik and I had wanted to meet for coffee a few times over the past months and finally got the chance to catch up. He is an entrepreneur who refuses to fail on his goals; everything from a Federal Government placing company, to a car-flipping joint. Heisig has been a family friend for years and has always had this “entrepreneurial” bug, from what I’ve heard. After meeting with him for the specific purpose of absorbing his knowledge of this, I realized it was very true; because of his deliberate actions to make it true.

Throughout these conversations with Hockings and Heisig, I’ve walked away with the understanding that I should always chase after one main attribute; learning. I believe we all need to be self-disciplined, passionate, and deliberate in our actions to learn.

Here are a few of those I try to continually learn from… How do you continue learning from others?

Quirky – Organizing Problems

There are moments in life when you realize one thing…you are behind! I don’t know if I would truly consider myself behind but I would say that I haven’t written in a while. This should be a regular thing, so today I will start making it one. With that being said, let me get organized!

Yes, I really do mean organized. I have been a consultant/working for myself now for almost 10 months. I’m viewing this as a once in a lifetime opportunity (that will probably go on for a long, extended amount of time). In the process, though, I’ve become pretty equated with finding problems and thinking through solutions. One of these places that I enjoy checking out is Quirky. Quirky is a shop that is full of people with one interest and quality in mind: ideas. I definitely recommend that you hop on over and check it out!

After watching this site for almost a full year, I decided to take the plunge and purchase a product. I got the “cordies” to organize my life a bit. Now that I work for myself, I work at a standing desk and have cords wrapped around every possible inch of my work space. But more importantly, it is a problem that needed to be solved and the solution came from crowdsourcing. What an amazing way to solve problems!

Before & After

Back to the cord situation, I was a bit behind in fixing this problem and simply bought a solution. What do you think? Do you think this is a problem? Do you personally want it solved?

But really what I want to know is: what problems do you see around you daily?

Networking Again

There are many places to start this conversation but in short, I quite my job back in August and decided to make the break into the world of entrepreneurship. In this process I’ve learned quickly that I need to understand more about this realm of business. So, the best way to do this? Networking…

Networking is one of the best parts of my new style of life. I’ve been on a mission to learn more from individuals who are having success in areas that I aim to succeed in and Ryan Carson is someone who has had some major success in his startups. My personal goal was to learn his process for building out the startups. If you don’t know who he is, he is an entrepreneur who has started Treehouse. Treehouse is an online education tool that helps you learn new techniques from business to programming. Prior to that, he built out two companies that spun him in the direction of Treehouse. In these two companies, he learned what I am about to share:

  • DropSend
  • Carsonified

I wanted to learn three actionable items to apply to ahWriting and my consulting practice. Here is what I learned:

  1. Find Passion… He shared that why you are building a business, you need to build it around what others are passionate about as well. He explained that his goal was to find a way to not always be needed and this required believing in the team you build and allowing them to be experts in the areas they have expertise in.
  2. Hire Slowly & Fire Quick… Having this expertise means that finding people isn’t as easy as desired. Carson also explained that it meant learning how to have the hard conversations fast and firing when needed. He shared that it is a difficult thing to be comfortable with but that it is key to have the right people at the right time.
  3. Keep Priorities… The final thing that stood out that I will be applying is the idea of keeping the priorities. He aligns his goals and executes on them. He prioritizes and completes by staying focused and keeping excited / passionate about what he is building out as a company. Ryan aims to have a purposeful task list.

What was the biggest take away for me? Prioritize and Complete. He recommended reading How to Win Friends & Influence People… Ryan Carson was a passionate individual who kept his eyes on the goal and took passion and made it action.

PS – He wakes up at 5:00 AM to get going and keeps to a four day week! See his blog here: http://ryancarson.com/

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