What Really Matters

In an article over at Pick the Brain, Jonathan Mead writes

One simple fact divides effective and ineffective people: effective
people spend the majority of their time working on important rather
than urgent things.

It’s an age old problem, what should I do now? I’ve spent decades with various planning systems and daily planning tools for business and my personal life. Some rely on ageless technology like paper and pen while others give me an excuse to buy PDAs, laptops, and software. I always love the chance to buy a new toy under the guise of “productivity.”

Alas, none of them have helped me decide what I should hope to accomplish. They merely help me keep track of what I wrote down earlier in the heat of a busy moment or brief daily brainstorm. I find that if I work from, manage, and update my list I am one thing — effective at working my list.

However, Jonathan has touched several items that truly help in choosing “what” to put on my list. It comes in at #3 on his list, but adding value is an absolute requirement in my planning these days. While he leaves it generally open to adding value for “myself or others,” I have to flip that equation and look at the value my work provides others first and to myself second.

Unfortunately, I always find that grande soy latte (or in my case that boring venti decaf no-room) “seems” valuable to me when I’m having it. But in almost every case that I’m adding value for a customer, my family, a co-worker, a manager, a friend, or even a complete stranger I leave that task feeling better about the day and my accomplishments.

It might be a random act of kindness, a quick hello by phone or the completion of a work project.   If it touches someone else in a positive way it’s a mark in the daily ‘important’ column.

I still have to do all the other things that keep the bills paid, food in the fridge, and the lights on, but that’s where some of Jonathan’s other points ring true as well.

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Fragg’d – an oddly graceful moment of Zen

Interesting commentary at Wired on virtual killing [and death].

— you watch as your corpse goes pinwheeling
gracefully through the air, arms and legs flailing in the grip of
rag-doll physics.

Clive Thompson recounts the ways he’s died in video games and a new paper on emotions of gamers by Niklas Ravaja. It appears we actually enjoy getting fragged. Or as Shakespeare writes in Othello:

If after every tempest come such calms,May the winds blow till they have waken’d death!

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Spirituality Graduate School

David B. Bohl from Slow Down Fast blog, writes at Pick the Brain:

Recent surveys have shown that the vast percentage of society holds religious or spiritual beliefs. It is also interesting to note that a majority of these people have broken from childhood teachings in order to seek out a belief system that holds greater personal meaning to them.

I can appreciate this quiet revelation given that my own spiritual journey took me far from my childhood path.    In the end I agree most strongly with two key ideas in David’s article, “spirituality is not religion” and “spirituality is deeply personal.”    Those views and an open-minded approach, allow me to find common meaning and purpose in almost everything around.

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Happy Life!

I really love the articles at PickTheBrain and this one titled The 6 Components of a Happy Life, is no exception. Tejvan Pettinger from the Sri Chinmoy Meditation Centre in Oxford asks:

“What is the definition of happiness? Why do some people seem to have the secret to happiness, while others struggle to gain any satisfaction?”

  • Simplicity – It’s good to know the route to happiness isn’t difficult and as it turns out it’s already here (now)!.   As the Buddha says, “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”    Anytime I spend too much time worrying about the past or imagining future events (that may or may not happen), I find my inner peace slipping away.   Like a planned trip across town, the past and the future are fine places to visit occasionally, but I don’t have permission to live there.
  • Live in the Heart – For me, I’d call this one “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Put in Charge of Your Life.”    Don’t get me wrong, I’ve spent years pouring knowledge and experiences into my mind and there are perfectly appropriate times when careful thought and intellect are exactly what’s required.    However, when I forget that non-intellectual side of myself, I can easily find myself judging others or trying to direct other peoples lives.    While accepting others doesn’t always mean embracing their beliefs, tolerance of diverse views does relieve me of the stress related to that desire to fix someone or prove them wrong.
  • Control Over Your Thoughts – In hundreds of texts, the power of positive thought is everywhere.  Recognizing negative thoughts and taking evasive action has been a difficult skill to acquire, but those days when I was ruled by stream of consciousness were brutal.
  • Gratitude – It helps me that the word “atitude” is embedded in “gratitude.”   In popular media and from the mouths of far too many people I know, come stories of worry and fear, tales of scarcity or future calamity.   If I can remain grateful for what I have my perspective on almost any problem I encounter positions me for success.
  • Active – I found this title a little misleading, but he quickly tied it to “usefully serving others” and what I read as selflessness or the balanced-ego. While I rarely had problems achieving goals, it was often difficult to choose the “right” goals. When I choose service to others, I never feel like my time is wasted.
  • Physical Exercise – I would broaden this to include taking care of ourselves physically. Moderation in diet and drink, regular health maintenance with a professional of your choice, along with an exercise program appropriate for your lifestyle and age are ALL great ways to prepare the body for calm and happy “be-ing.”

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Professional Grade Access with Gmail

I’ve become quite a fan of Gmail this year and here’s why. With relatively little effort and with reasonably inexpensive equipment, anyone can have access to their email from just about anywhere, get world class spam filtering, and enjoy better search capabilities than most corporate email systems.

I’m still tethered to a work email system (Lotus Notes of all things), but for the rest of my life I find Gmail an amazing addition to the kit. Polling multiple POP3 accounts, filtering mountains of e-mail into manageable piles, and giving me access to my messages anywhere I go means I get out of my office more and more.

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Five and Five – Tips on Productivity and Concentration

Five Tips for Staying Productive When You Work Where You
Live – Marshal Loeb (marketwatch.com)

  1. Separate your work space from the rest of your home and spend time in it only when you are working – “Create physical barriers, such as a door or a flight of stairs to isolate yourself from your home routine and focus your attention.”
  2. Sit at your desk at the same time every day and keep normal business hours – “One of the major challenges is prioritizing your tasks because nobody is there to tell you what to do,” says Holly Reslink, a member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches, “so it helps to create a daily goal sheet.”
  3. Dress in a way that will help you feel professional. – “You do not have to wear stockings and high heels, but it helps to get out of your pj’s and put on a crisp shirt”
  4. Disregard house chores until the end of the business day – “You wouldn’t wash the dishes, walk the dog or cook lunch for the kids if you were in a real office..”
  5. If your work does not require constant access to email, turn off your email program and check messages only at scheduled times – “Take advantage of your situation by enjoying a few moments in your backyard or on the front porch.”

Original article at CareerJournal.com

Five Tips to Maximize Your Ability to Concentrate

  1. Get Your Rest- “It might seem obvious, but the biggest factor affecting concentration is rest…”
  2. Make a Plan – “When you sit down to work without a plan, it’s easy to get caught up in crutch activities like checking email and browsing the web…” (Great tie in to #2 on Marshall’s list)
  3. Eat Light and Healthy – “Nothing slows down the mind and body like a big greasy meal…”
  4. Exercise – “If you don’t exercise regularly, this energy can manifest itself in the form of a distracted mind…”
  5. Take Breaks and Mix Up Your Environment.- “It can also be helpful to work in different places. Instead of being chained to your desk all day, make a point of moving around.”

Carefully picked from many less interesting rocks at Zenhabits.

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Where’s my Personal Air Vehicle?

Flying car implies it will replace anybodys car, said Carl Dietrich, chief executive officer of Terrafugia, which is developing the Transition, a personal aircraft designed to travel on skyways and highways. Flying car brings out a lot of connotations and The Jetsons.

A quick look at what it takes to control normal automobile traffic in our cities and states gives it away. We won’t be getting flying cars anytime soon, but I still just enjoy the fact that Paul Moller does what he does. I was a bit surprised to hear he’s 70 years old and I assume that means at some time in the next few decades we’ll lose updates on this story.

Fortunately for all of us, the X-prize and Google’s recent move to back the endeavor promise to bring us loads of fun for years.

  • Google offers $30 million for the first commercial lunar rover
  • Rover must safely land on the moon and beam back images and video to Earth
  • Google partnered with the X Prize Foundation for the moon challenge
  • Ansari X Prize contest led to the first manned private spaceflight in 2004
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If You Knew What You’ll Know

Nice simple piece at Businessweek today on your own perspective at the age of 95. I roll this into the same category of what you’d realize if you were fighting cancer and in remission. There are some events in life that help us cut through the fog and attain some level of clarity on what’s important.

In conducting research for one of my books, my co-author and I interviewed more than 200 high-potential leaders from around the world. A key question that we asked was: “If you stay in this company, why are you going to stay?”

The top three answers:

1. “I am finding meaning and happiness now. The work is exciting, and I love what I am doing.”

2. “I like the people here. They are my friends. This feels like a team—like a family. I might make more money if I left, but I don’t want to leave the people here.”

3. “I can follow my dreams. This organization is giving me the chance to grow and do what I really want to do in life.”

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If Your Inbox Could Talk

Merlin’s right on the money here with commentary on the recent WSJ article covering what your inbox says about you.

I like whacky pop psychology conjecture as much as the next guy, but I’ve learned not to draw too many conclusions…

I especially enjoy the proposed connection between our inbox and parental guidance. I wonder which part of parenting had the effect:

Mom and dad:

  • were neat freaks so I am too?
  • were neat freaks so I rebelled and I’m not?
  • never paid attention to me so I wait anxiously for every arrival?
  • doted on me constantly so I ignore others (email)?

Email management is more about who’s sending you email and how it fits into your life than it will ever be about family values and upbringing.

For example, my inbox says the following:

  • Too many strangers know my email address
  • Too many spammers guess my email address
  • I enter my email address at too many websites
  • Email isn’t my primary method of communication (phone)
  • Email isn’t an urgent method of communication (regardless of what others think)
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