WIth summer just around the corner, wedding season is kicking into full gear. My best friend, busy preparing for her sister’s wedding, was telling me about the exquisite centerpiece in great enthusiasm. A centerpiece, I quickly learned, is the most important item in the middle of the dining table.
On the table, a centerpiece is a large central object which serves a decorative purpose. Centerpieces set the theme of the decorations and bring extra decorations to the room […] However, centrepieces should not be too large, to avoid difficulty with visibility around the table and to allow for the easier serving of dishes.” - Wikipedia
That reminded me of a word cloud last week that was circulated within our team - in the prominent center, it was not the company name, but one of the values that have been top of mind for most of us.
Yes, improvement is the centerpiece in Buffer’s ‘dining table’.
“The most important item, in the middle of the dining table.”
“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” - Benjamin Franklin
Everyday at the end of the work day, our team writes down a ‘done’ list of the day using and share it on IDoneThis. In addition to tasks, we include a section of improvement. Writing the improvement segment often requires a moment of pause and reflection.
If there was one theme in Ben Franklin’s life, it is probably the focus on self improvement. His daily routine has been a huge inspiration to me; it involves early rising, learning and most importantly, beginning and ending with two questions: “What good shall I do this day?” and “What good have I done today?”
Writing out improvement items each day has helped me focus on both the learning aspect and the ‘good’ I wanted to do.
Keep it small
“A centerpiece should not obstruct the serving of dishes and visibility among guests.” Similarly, daily improvement has worked best for me when it is bite-sized. It is easier to focus on no more than two improvements at any given day. Being too ambitious can run into the risk of disappointing oneself.
Setting the theme and bringing extra goodness to everyday routine
Like a centerpiece does to the party, improvements set the tone of the day. Like anything related to building or changing a habit, it takes time to solidify. Setting a theme for each week allows time for experimentation and failing.
At the end of each week, think of one thing that can be carried over to the subsequent week. That helps moving from actively working on an improvement, to going onto maintenance mode and working on another area of improvement. Two weeks ago, I began the week with the intention to improve my focus. Then throughout the week, I became aware of bad habits like keeping too many tabs open. Wrapping up the week, I installed Fluid and Chrome Extension that limit my tabs automatically. By the middle of the following week, even though I was not actively trying to improve on my focus, the times I hit the limit have gradually decreased to 1-2 times each day.
Ask for help
There is something incredibly powerful in being open about improvements. Showing imperfection requires humility and confidence. Once I broadcast the intention to improve within the team, the accountability helps propel me to follow through with it.
Being vulnerable and asking for help can also open up others and build trust. When one of our teammates brought up an improvement about stopping nail-biting, it spurred a series of confession among a few other coworkers about the same bad habit! In the same vein, my two amazing coworkers Carolyn and Andy have suggested the two apps mentioned above that limit multiple browser tabs.
Being good vs. getting better
Everybody likes to do stuff they’re good at. When we’re doing the types of tasks and projects we’ve already mastered, we feel in control and confident. But settling into our sweet spots – and avoiding new experiences that require us to “stretch” – comes with consequences.
Being good involves proving you have ability and showing you know and are good at something, while getting better emphasizes on developing ability and learning to master a new skill.
In a hectic startup life, it is easy to be lost in the hustle and get consumed by work. Finding improvement as the centerpiece has helped me set a tone and stay mindful in a busy schedule. What is your centerpiece?