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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Paralysis Analysis

Indecision can be a crippling thing. The fear of making the WRONG choice often leads to making no choice at all. Procrastination ultimately makes the decision for me, and when the results do not play out the way that I intended for them to, I lay blame at the feet of “circumstance,” neatly sidestepping my own responsibility for the outcome.

I do this frequently, and I hate it. Rarely are the decisions about life-altering events.  More often they are about things for which there is no right or wrong answer. Instead, there is simply “Choice A” and “Choice B.” And yet, I work myself into a worried frenzy over which choice I should make-convinced that one choice is better than another.

Case in point: I am going to Atlanta for a conference next week. The decision I am facing is simple. Should I drive or fly?

I live in the Chicago area, so the drive will take 12-14 hours. For many people, this might be a no-brainer. The thought of driving that far is mind-numbing. Most people would have bought their plane ticket months ago.

Not so for me. You see, I love to drive. The thought of all that time alone in the car, driving through the mountains in the midst of the changing fall colors, listening to music and uplifting tapes and audiobooks…that’s very appealing to me.

So then, why the mental wrestling match? If the drive is not drudgery but rather a joyful experience, why is this even an issue for me?

It’s the car…

My 12-year old Buick Century has more than 200,000 miles on it. The car is a tank; it took out a huge deer a couple of years ago and barely flinched…But she is getting long in the tooth, and I’m starting to sense that her age is catching up to her. I think that she’ll be good for another year or two, but a drive through the mountains, 1500 miles round trip, feels like a bit much for her.

The decision I am wrestling with is financial. Airfare is more expensive than driving…unless the car breaks down. A catastrophic breakdown in the middle of Kentucky (or worse, the mountains of Tennessee), would be very expensive. And of course, even if there are no mechanical problems with the car, the wear and tear of the drive will definitely make an impact.

I find myself frozen with fear. The indecision is palpable. If I make the “wrong” choice, I will be doomed to destruction. I will have carelessly spent money in folly, never able to recover from the error of my tragic mistake. Paper or plastic becomes a moral dilemma. Should I drive the van or the car? Should I drink coffee or tea? Should I go to the Starbucks in Merrillville or Crown Point? Should I, should I, should I…

I’m a drama queen, I admit it. I take seemingly small decisions and I inflate them to critical choices that will surely alter the course of my life in some irreparable way. Life is about making choices, deciding and moving on. And procrastinating my way into making a choice is a decision in itself. It’s the decision to be reactive instead of being proactive. It’s the decision to let life happen to YOU, instead of YOU happening to life.

The truth is, I went to sleep last night racked with indecision about this simple choice-fly Southwest, or drive to the south and the west.

I woke up with the decision made. Sometimes it really is good to “sleep on it.” But even if I hadn’t made a decision in my sleep, I would have still needed to make a choice this morning.

Because I’m tired of being passive-of letting life happen to me.

I want to HAPPEN to LIFE

 

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2 Keys to Higher Productivity

I wake up at 5:30 am. I sit on the edge of the bed, stretch, smile, and thank God for another day. As I bounce energetically into the shower, my mind is flooded with thoughts and ideas…blog topics dance through my head, things I need to add to my “to-do” list crowd my mind, and I can’t wait to get done with my shower so I can sit down and start my productive day. Hopping out of the shower, I hurriedly dry off, tiptoe quietly back into the bedroom-being quiet so I don’t wake my wife, and I get dressed.

Walking into the living room, I sit down in my favorite chair, pull my laptop in front of me, and move the mouse to wake my sleeping computer…

And all my focus melts away.

It’s my own fault. Last night, I failed to close out the programs on my computer. So as soon as my computer wakes up, it tells me about the e-mails I got during the night. The web browser tells me who won the presidential debate. And my sports feed makes sure to let me know that the St. Louis Cardinals are in the playoffs AGAIN.

I get distracted by information overload…and the ideas that have been dancing through my mind in the shower moments before fade away. And now, 9 hours later, I look back at my day and wonder…

“Where did all the time go?”

“What did I accomplish today?”

“Why do I feel unproductive and vaguely depressed?”

The answer is simple. I allowed myself to get distracted from my morning routine. I have allowed a new morning routine to creep in, one that is dictated by external forces, and it is killing my productivity.

In a recent podcast, NYT best-selling author Michael Hyatt discussed his morning “ritual.”  For some people, this word has a negative connotation. But Hyatt defines a ritual as “a prescribed procedure for achieving a specific result.” What a terrific definition!

DOCUMENT YOUR CURRENT RITUAL

Hyatt contends that we all have a morning ritual, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. Whether our ritual is helping to accomplish our goals is a different story. And he’s right! When I take control of my morning and stick to my “proactive ritual,” I get so much done, and I feel GREAT for the rest of the day. But when I fall into my “reactive ritual,” my focus wanders, and, just like a ship that drifts a few degrees off-course, I look back at my day and wonder how I got so far from my intended destination.

Hyatt offers seven steps to designing a morning ritual. I encourage you to read his blog article and listen to the podcast. I want to highlight the first two steps, because they are so critical to finding your path to productivity:

Acknowledge that you already have a ritual.

  • Again, this is not a BAD thing. We all have rituals, whether it’s how we dry ourselves off when we get out of the shower, or the route we take when we drive to work. Acknowledge that you have rituals for the way that you do things and move on quickly to step number two.

Document your existing ritual.

  • This is where the rubber meets the road. If you want to become more productive, you must first identify your current practices so you can see where you may be losing

My proactive morning ritual looks like this:

  1. Sit up as soon as the alarm goes off, stretch, say a brief prayer of thanks, and hit the shower.
  2. Get dressed, make a protein shake or a cup of tea, and sit in my chair.
  3. Write in my private journal.
  4. Read my Bible and pray.
  5. Open my computer and begin to write.

My reactive morning ritual looks like this:

  1. Hit the snooze alarm
  2. Hit the snooze alarm again.
  3. Drag myself grumpily out of bed.
  4. Stumble into the shower.
  5. Stand under the hot water for at least 10 minutes, hoping it will wake me up.
  6. Get dressed, sit in my chair, and open my computer.
  7. Surf the web for an hour.

I think you get the point.

THERE IS GOOD NEWS

I have identified my keys to a productive (rather than reactive) morning ritual. And they actually begin the night before! I need to do two things in order to prepare myself to be in the best possible position for having a good start to my day.

  1. I need to go to bed at a reasonable time. I have found that going to bed by 9:30 is essential if I plan to be productive the next day.
  2. I need to close down all of my desktop applications, leaving open only MS Word, with a fresh new page to write on.

Seems simple enough. And it is…Now I just have to remember to do it tonight…

And every night.

Because our attitudes are so much more positive when we are productive. And we can’t accomplish all that we are meant to be in this life if we mope around all the time with a bad attitude.

So identify your morning ritual…look for ways to tweak it…and add to your productivity.

 

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37 Days

It’s been a month…A MONTH…

Actually, 37 days to be precise…which is more than a month. But somehow, 37 days doesn’t sound as bad as a month. And that’s my problem…I’m trying to make it sound less bad than it really is.

It has been MORE than a month since I wrote a blog.

When I started writing, I had this vision of trying to share my life from a quirky perspective. I wanted to be able to encourage my readers. I wanted to make you laugh while offering a humorous view on the ups and downs of life. I imagined myself to be a modern-day Andy Rooney.

Andy Rooney died…

And so will this blog if I don’t get more serious about it.

The truth is that life, as is so often the case, is getting in the way. Health, wealth (or LACK of it), family, and friends have all bubbled to the top of my priority list, and I haven’t maintained my writing as a priority in life.

And that’s a shame.

Because I really do love to write.

I feel energized and motivated when I write. My brain engages, and the words come so fast and furious that I have trouble writing them coherently. As I get older, that “brain engagement” seems to come less frequently…so when it does, I get very excited.

I woke up this morning, and my brain was fully engaged. I was so excited to write, that I wish I could have taken my iPad into the shower. And as I sit in front of my computer, typing away, I glance at the clock…5:17 am. I am wide awake, fully engaged, and excited about the day before me. With a cup of hot milk tea by my side (my newest addiction, courtesy of my son, Matthew), my fingers are flying over the keyboard, capturing my thoughts as quickly as they can, straining to keep up with the voices in my head…and I can’t help but think:

“Why can’t writing be this easy ALL the time?”

The answer is simple…if it were so easy, everyone would be doing it. And then it would no longer be special.

So as I write this morning, I feel the energy…and I am embracing it. This is very much a spiritual experience. In the Academy-Award winning movie, Chariots of Fire, Eric Liddell says, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”

I understand what he meant by that.

Because I believe that we are all made for a purpose. And when I take time to slow down and listen, time to let the words flow, not from just my brain, but from my heart…

The noise of the world fades away and I can feel God’s pleasure.

I get filled…filled with energy, passion, focus, motivation…all the things that give me the fuel to get things done in life…

My brain is slowing down now…the words are coming less easily. My fingers aren’t flying across the keyboard as quickly as they were just minutes ago. The pressures of the day are starting to dance around in my head. And I know that it is time to bring this rambling post to a close.

I hope that the words will continue to come easily to me over the next days, weeks, and months.

But even if they don’t, I need to sit down, in the quiet of the early morning, like I have done today…

And write.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on October 11, 2012 in Focus, God, Procrastination, Self-discipline, Writing

 

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