Taking Back Your Life from the Whirlwind

[ Blog/News ]

Taking Back Your Life from the Whirlwind

About five years ago, when people would ask me what I did for a living I’d confess that I managed a portfolio of homeowner associations, but in those few seconds before the blank stare or some exaggerated version of, “Wow!  I could NEVER do what you do,” my mind would drift into fantasy and I’d feel my clothes begin to tighten with the expanding pressure of the blue and red Superman tights beneath.  Yep, faster than the speeding bullets of cranky homeowners, more powerful than a locomotive pulling railway cars full of lawyers, doctors, teachers, engineers and other mere mortals, and able to leap tall Seattle buildings with a single bound! Of course then I would wake up.  Ultimately this is my personal story of taking back my life, back from the whirlwind; of getting off the Superman roller coaster and learning to live and work in a relaxed state of self-control and stress-free productivity. This is my story, but I have every confidence that it can be the beginning of your road to freedom as well.  My road began with the help of nationally acclaimed speaker and best-selling author David Allen of GTD® fame.  If you’re familiar with his work you will recognize much of what follows.  Because of space limitations I have broken this introductory article into two parts.  Part One explores a couple of core concepts that, when embraced, could cause a paradigm shift in the way you think about your work.  Next month I will examine in detail a couple of tools which could really begin to get you moving forward.

 

So just how does a Portfolio Manager stay consistently on top of his/her game?  How does s/he avoid the trap of putting out one community fire after another and completing bigger projects as time allows without ending up in what Pink Floyd described as the “English way” of “hanging on in quiet desperation?” Is it really possible for busy Community Association Managers to maintain healthy levels of pride and optimism for our future when we know full well that as we attend that party, or sleep, or God forbid, take a vacation, that the whirling tornado that is our job is even now touching down in undisclosed locations leaving behind a nasty trail of stress-filled destruction adding even more wreckage to the already huge piles of debris cluttering our minds and offices?

“The mind is an excellent place to process information; it is a terrible place to store it.” ~David Allen 

I can think of no better jumping off point than getting comfortable with the above statement.  It is so important that, at the risk of padding the word-count of this essay, I must repeat it: “The mind is an excellent place to process information; it is a terrible place to store it.”  I’m not much into reciting mantras, but if I was this would be mine.  Your assignment this month is to simply think about what I just said.

The minds of Community Association Managers are positively brimming with stuff; so much stuff that many of us are driven to the point of distraction, some even to despair.  We are carrying around massive quantities of things in our short-term memory.  We’ve got emails to answer, phone calls to make, bids to solicit, bills to code, financial statements to review, reports to write, meetings to attend, packets to assemble, sites to visit, delinquencies to collect, and developers to sue. There is grass to mow, weeds to pull, roofs to clean,  elevators to fix, cars to tow, keys to make, special assessments to consider, websites to update, and violations to enforce, just to name a few!  As our minds begin to resemble a hoarder’s living room our desktops, drawers, and every other flat spot or shelf can become covered with stacks of undefined amorphous blobs of paper.  And then there are those relationships to manage with homeowners, board members, vendors and co-workers, not to mention spouse and kids.  If we Managers are really committed to getting everything done, and our job demands that we are, then each piece of data, each scrap or pile of paper and every thought that has an action-item associated with it represents an open loop in our minds which must be stored someplace for easy retrieval, and at the proper time, or our career could very well go down in flames.  Our employers give us great tools like computers, notepads, sticky notes, file cabinets, calendars, cell phones and middle-managers to help us manage the steady stream of commitments we make but we generally make limited use of each of them.  Subconsciously we all understand that when it comes to actually getting things done for our clients the most important stuff is kept “right up here” (Point at brain).  And that’s all good as far as it goes, but experience proves that using your head as a filing cabinet or personal information manager in a busy environment like ours can come at a tremendous price to our productivity and personal well-being.  The price first shows up as reduced productivity, added stress, and stunted interpersonal relationships.  When stress is buried or otherwise left unchecked it may turn up again as deep personal dissatisfaction with our job, a reduced capacity for meaningful hobbies, a rejection of social interaction, and other destructive patterns of behavior.  In the extreme, stress can become the source of serious illness, burnout, job loss, or worse.  I contend that most of our stress is caused by carrying around hundreds of open loops in our heads.

 Out of Your Head and Into a Single Trusted System

Wouldn’t it be great if this marvelous brain of ours would only remind us of our prior commitments, unfinished projects and tasks when we could actually do something about them?  Unfortunately, our brain isn’t wired that way.  When the over-full kettle that is our brain arbitrarily decides to spill out one of these half-remembered commitments it comes at really strange times; like while we’re driving down the freeway, or in the middle of writing an email, or while we’re eating, or laying in bed, or conversing with a friend, or a hundred other times and places where we are either ill-equipped, indisposed, and least able to do anything meaningful about them.  Because of the random timing of these reminders we usually just resolve to remember to remember, and the thought is pushed back into our subconscious where it remains an open, stress-inducing, loop.  And this is how many of us live our lives, hour by hour, day by day, and month after month.

There is good news.  The cycle can be interrupted.  In fact, the first step to getting off of the work-related stress mill is surprisingly simple.  It is this: Get and keep as much of this data as possible out of your head, off of your desk, out of your email Inbox and into a single trusted system which you review regularly.  It is only when every open loop is captured in a safe place, a place completely trusted by the former storekeeper, that your mind is truly free to do what it does best: process information; create beautiful things; innovate; resolve conflict; interact meaningfully with others, or to just have fun.  If your system is not trusted by your brain and reviewed regularly, it will immediately and permanently take back the controls.

Next month I will introduce you to two excellent tools which are right at your fingertips which, if customized properly and used consistently, can completely revolutionize your ability to get things done in a more relaxed, stress-free way.  For further study, I highly recommend David Allen’s best-selling book, “Getting Things Done,” available online for about $10.

By Mike Walker, CMCA, AMS

The CWD Group, Inc., AAMC

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Federal Housing Administration’s (FHA) Condominium Guidelines

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Federal Housing Administration’s (FHA) Condominium Guidelines

The ever-changing FHA Condominium Guidelines continued to create problems for many CAI members in 2011. Despite the challenges, CAI was able to work with FHA to amend some of the FHA lending criteria even as FHA released new policy that created new obstacles for condominium associations.

In June of 2011, FHA issued major revisions to the Condominium Guidelines, which, according to FHA, would address concerns raised by CAI. While the new guidelines added some flexibility on assessment delinquencies, commercial space and rental restrictions, it also imposed new and troubling criteria on fidelity insurance, project certifications and assessment delinquency calculations.

After the release of the new Guidelines in June, CAI worked with our members to escalate our efforts to persuade FHA to engage in a more rational and transparent process in developing condominium guidelines. First, CAI sent a letter summarizing concerns about the new Guidelines to the FHA commissioner. CAI noted that the requirements FHA imposed on fidelity insurance and project certifications were in conflict with many state laws and with the best practices of condominium associations. CAI also chided FHA for putting the burden of collecting assessments from bank-owned properties on association boards rather than on the banks that get a subsidy from FHA under the condominium loan program. CAI also filed an administrative challenge against the new Guidelines, arguing that FHA failed to do minimal due diligence when drafting the new requirements. Then, working with our state Legislative Action Committees, we took our concerns directly to members of Congress in August. Additionally, when FHA announced during a public training session that it would be looking at the issue of deed-based transfer fees, CAI sent a strongly worded letter urging it to engage in outreach and research before taking any unilateral action.

The arrival of fall saw the return on the investment in our Congressional Outreach. First, FHA backed away from their costly and duplicative management company fidelity bonding mandate. This was followed a few weeks later by key members of Congress and the Senate sending letters critical of the FHA Guidelines and the lack of transparency in their development. It is through these efforts that CAI will continue to move FHA policy to more rational and fair criteria.

As the year end approaches, FHA’s financial position showed significant deterioration, with the organization well below its statutorily-mandated reserve requirements. There were whispers in Washington of a pending bailout, which would be bad news for potential condominium buyers as FHA continues to be the pre-eminent lender for condominium mortgages. This also will likely make CAI’s task for pushing for reforms of FHA lending criteria even more challenging. At the close of 2011, it looks as if 2012 will be yet another year filled with challenges on the mortgage front.

As part of our ongoing Mortgage Matters Program, CAI is working to protect homeowners in community associations and to ensure access to fair and affordable mortgage products for all current and potential community association residents. You can follow our work and share your thoughts at www.caimortgagematters.org.

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  • The Copeland Group - Banner Ad
  • HUB International NW - HOA And Condo Solutions - Web Ad
  • Condominium Law Group, PLLC - General Counsel & Collection Services - Partners Ken Harer & Valerie Oman - Phone: (206) 633-1520 Website: www.condolaw.net

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  • SageWater - Logo
  • HUB International NW - Logo
  • CIT - Community Association Banking - Logo
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  • Transblue - Logo

Chapter Magazine

Journal July-August 2022

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Journal Advertising Partners:

  • Newman HOA CPA Audit & Tax
  • CIT Group Inc. - Logo
  • Rafel Law Group PLLC - Logo
  • The Copeland Group - Logo
  • Bell-Anderson & Associates - Logo
  • Community Association Underwriters - Logo
  • Ruff Construction - logo
  • Charter Construction - Logo
  • Popular Association Banking
  • SSI Construction
  • Sagewater
  • RW Anderson Services - Logo
  • Pacific Engineering Technologies, Inc - Logo

  • Association Reserves of Washington - Ad
  • Pacific Western Bank - Small Ad