The Power of “What I Can Do” Now

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I read the The Power of Now some time ago and have been watching with some amusement at the level of activity surrounding Oprah’s embrace of Tolle.

Years ago I purchased a Tony Robbins tape set. I wonder if he still does the Unleash the Power(?) series? All I remember is a grinning giant in a helicopter on an island. “Yeah, I want all that [stuff].”

I’m left thinking that a balanced approach to the present and action is called for in my life.

I think Kent Thune is onto something in his post at the newly renamed “the Change blog.” He shares the following quote to start.

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”
Henry David Thoreau

In another article back on Kent’s blog, the Financial Philosopher, he starts..

“All truly wise thoughts have been thought already thousands of times; but to make them truly ours, we must think them over again honestly, till they take root in our personal experience.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

So where do we go with all of this? I think there’s significant truth to being here ‘now.’ Dwelling in the past or future seldom yields more than a fleeting warm memory but can often create hours of unease. It’s the action that I take now that makes me whole.

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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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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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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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How Bill Gates Works

I recently read an article describing ten leaders of business and non-profit organizations and how they use technology (look for link on same page as this article). I was amazed at the number of leaders still not using even email or relying purely on a team of admins (read as “very smart human based filtering systems”) to organize their time and information. A few were using technology on a daily basis, but like many of us they understood the 20% of a tools functionality that allowed them to accomplish 80% of what they wanted to get done. I recall one company executive that never quite figured out how to initiate an email from her Blackberry, but could respond to ones that came in.

CNNMoney recently published a good article on Bill Gates and how he deals with these issues.

Things Bill does:

  • Minimizes paper
  • Uses a multi-monitor rig on the desktop to spread work out (see photo)
  • Uses filtering and only receives email from parties he already knows or communicates with (has administrative support to filter others)
  • Mostly ignores “the toaster”, i.e. the Outlook notification that messages have just arrived
  • Uses desktop search to find data on his local machines
  • Uses project focused collaboration sites/tools like SharePoint
  • Synchronizes mobile devices with his office PC

Staying focused is one issue; that’s the problem of information overload. The other problem is information underload. Being flooded with information doesn’t mean we have the right information or that we’re in touch with the right people.

While I do have a multi-display approach, I haven’t managed to get the adminstrative staff to filter my requests. Regardless, it’s great to see how a modern executive of a technology company manages the same issues we all face.

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