Doing Nothing is Productive: My 4 step system to productive relaxation

Sitting on the couch the other day, I had a sinking feeling that I was wasting time.  With so much to do, to hit maximum achievement in life, how can I sit on my couch and do nothing for over 3 hours? After a couple of minutes of stressing,

I realized that doing nothing was exactly what I was supposed to be doing.

Singing in the rain

Singing in the rain (Photo credit: John Fera)

I had given myself permission to relax. I had confidence that the work that needed to be done to achieve everything I had going was tucked neatly into my system.  I had built in a rest period.  It wasn’t a “cushion” in case I fell behind on work.  It was necessary in order to recharge the batteries.  I resisted the urge the to go into my office and write during this “free” time.  I had to remind myself that this wasn’t “free time”, it was, in fact, scheduled “chill-axing”.  I have a system to manage the balance of my day-to-day and big picture plan.   It works to  accomplish almost anything I want. Here is my 4 step system.

1. Have a place to “minddump”.  David Allen in Getting things Done still carries a little yellow notebook to write things down that “pop up” in his mind.  I carry a  Moleskin notebook and manage my mind dump on a weekly basis. .  From mowing the lawn to doing my taxes, the mind dump is the primary entrance into my system.  This is where I capture things as they come up. I intentionally schedule time to review my big picture plans (usually once a week and during my planning session) and add action items to this list. I’ll show you what to do with this information shortly.
2.Inbox. It’s so valuable to have a physical inbox that gives me assurance items will be managed.  I can’t tell you why, but I still put items such as bills, and kids school stuff on my mind dump to assure it will get completed.  This is a great example of tailoring YOUR system to what works.  My inbox assures that I won’t lose things and  assures they will get done.  Above all else, YOU must have confidence in your system.
3. Weekly planning: Choose a day that works best for  your season of life.  For me, Monday mornings at 5:15 am works for now.  This is a MUST!  Have all inbox sources open and available.  This is where you utilize the valuable minddump. Review each item and figure out what to do with it.  Typically I start with many of the same things, i.e., “write 2 posts per week”, “Run 3 times per week”.  These get fit in easily as these are recurring tasks.  Other items such as “review freelance opportunities”, “develop training class”, and “Schedule physical” must be fit in knowing my calendar weak spots for the week. Everything must be assigned to the calendar or trashed and crossed off the list.  Remember to plan everything including spontaneous acts.  For me, these things clog my creative pipes if they are sitting in the RAM memory of my mind.  From writing poetry for Jamie, to telling my kids I love them, there’s a place for all this in my system.  I find that the security of having the minimum safe and secure in my system opens my mind up for more “real” spontaneity. Know thyself and don’t over book your calendar.  You will quickly lose trust in your system of you do.  We will discuss how to develop long-term plans to pull from in a later post.
4. Weekly Review: Choose a day that works best for your season of life.  Friday afternoons before I go into weekend mode works well for me.  This doesn’t take long as this usually bridges over to my Monday morning planning session.  I review my calendar to make sure I haven’t missed anything. Any items that where left incomplete (things DO happen) are put back into the system for Monday morning’s planning session. I’ll close any loops such as emails or returned calls (if possible) so they don’t loom over the weekend. I will be implementing a quarterly review this month to help better manage big picture stuff.
When done correctly, a system clears your mind for better focus, clarity, and enjoyment.  The power of knowing you don’t have looming tasks and projects running out the back door is intoxicating.  Find a system and mold it to you.  If it works, it’s perfect! In my experience, most systems work if you are intentional and you periodically review the system (once or twice a year) for flaws based on your season in life.

When was the last time you did NOTHING?  Schedule some time for yourself, you’ll thank me later.

Rocco De Leo

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Dancing with Fear

Fred & Adele Astaire. ca. 1906. The photograph...

Fred & Adele Astaire. ca. 1906. The photograph is a publicity photograph illustrating Fred Astaire and Adele Astaire in a vaudeville act entitled “A Rainy Saturday”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The hills above my town are filled with trails for running and hiking. Rolling green hills, creeks, and beautiful canyons invite the adventure seeker. By day, its beauty pops and inspires, by night, it is hidden in the mysterious shadows, barely visible in the moonlight. What made me decide to shake things up and run into the dark? Forty dollar headlamps and a desire to conquer my fear. Running this the first time, two years ago was scary. Today, it’s a walk in the park.

 

Fear comes in many shapes and forms. Physical fear of the dark, inner city gas stations, or rattle snakes is your body’s way of protecting itself from dangers. Seth Godin refers to the Lizard Brain, the amygdala. This is the survival portion of your brain that only cares about the NOW and protecting you from immediate dangers. In our civilized society, we don’t face the same dangers humans did a million years ago. Our brains, however, don’t know the difference. Stephen Pressfield wrote about the Lizard Brain in a his brilliant work “The War of Art”. He calls it the resistance. I have written extensively about this subject throughout this blog. The resistance lurks in the comfort zone of your psyche, trying to pull you away from greatness and into the safety of mediocrity. Your brain works much like a parent who in an effort to protect his child from embarrassment or disappointment tells him not to try out for the school play. Like a child, we tend to listen to our Lizard Brain/resistance. Sometimes, like a rebellious teenager, we push away the resistance and end up with something amazing. Pressfield has articulated one of the most fulfillment zapping phenomenon in modern history; writers’ block, procrastination, distraction, self-doubt etc. Whatever shape or form you may experience, you WILL see the resistance. Pressfield suggests a WAR; a fight. Perhaps he’s missing an opportunity to dance.
In his recent work, Seth Godin challenges the notion of a “war”, in which we challenge the resistance. He instead, suggests that we must dance with it. I nearly drove the car off the side of the road (listened on Audio) when I heard this. The WAR concept is etched in stone in the creative world. Godin, however, is becoming the William Wallace of creative battles. Perhaps, instead, he would rather be the Fred Astaire. A day of writing without distraction is typically considered a good day. Not anymore:
The resistance (in its many forms) doesn’t show up when we are busy average.
I have never procrastinated sleeping in. Never has my Facebook exploration been interrupted by the desire to pray, or write, or do something meaningful. The opposite, of course, is a daily occurrence. The resistance, like the oppressive government in The Hunger Games, only comes after threats to the status quo. All the other “things” are safely locked behind a fence, unable to affect change. If working toward your fulfillment does not yield any resistance, no “Peacekeepers” coming in the night to take you away, there is no threat to the status quo.

Unless your status quo is complete fulfillment and you’ve achieved everything you were designed for, “status quo” is “status NO”.

You must pose a threat to invite the resistance. Start making progress and you’ll see resistance in its many forms lurking. Mother Theresa faced almost an entire lifetime of spiritual dryness known as the Dark Night of the Soul. The warm and fuzzy we get when we go to church was replaced with numbness. Mother Teresa was a real threat to the status quo of the poor being poor, body and soul in Calcutta. She did not fight the resistance, she danced with it, and many souls are dancing toward heaven for it. Replace the warm and fuzzy, the desire to do something else, the urge to question your ability, with the new dance of fulfillment. It’s coming whether you like it or not. Give up now and be average or put on your dancing shoes! Embrace the desire to procrastinate. If you feel it, you’re on to something. Welcome the inner voice that says you’re not good enough. Laugh a giddy laugh at the desire to check Facebook while your halfway through marathon training. You are a threat to the status quo. That, my friends, is moving the needle toward awesomeness.
I overslept and almost didn’t write this article today thinking inspiration will be here tomorrow. I chose to dance instead of procrastinate. How will you dance today?
Rocco De Leo

A Life Well Lived

As someone who values productivity and efficiency, I decided to get a head start on some future projects.   Here is a letter I am writing to address the many,  requests I assume I will get asking me how I became amazingly successful in achieving all my goals.

Worm's Head

Worm’s Head (Photo credit: Calidenism)

I want to get a head start on this since I’ll be busy fishing on Lake Tahoe, or surfing in Hawaii, or playing with great grandkids. Inspired by Eugene O’kelly‘s heart wrenching end of life memoir,  Chasing Daylight, I am sharing with you my perspective on my life,: a life well lived.

Family and Friends,
As I enter the sunset of my life, I am humbled to reflect upon the success I have in every aspect of my life. I have been seen by many as wise, entertaining, influential, and an all around awesome guy. My most coveted awards include “Best Dad Ever”,  “Best Grandpa Ever”, and “Husband of the Year”.  My personal life has been ever as successful as my professional life.  A corporate journey through success and innovation, as well as an award winning international speaker on topics ranging from relationships to productivity, my true professional joy has come from my many best selling fiction and non-fiction books.  Traveling the world sharing my stories has brought me close to the people, You!  Every day, I inspire people to live their dreams and live a life of love and adventure.  The best part of this all is that I have shared my life with a wonderful family. As I slowly fade from public figure to legend, I would be remise if I didn’t share the “secrets” to it all.  Here are 10 things to consider in living a life well lived.
1. Priorities in order:. God, wife, kids, myself, work, everyone else.
2. Do things to help others. Money and fame are side effects.
3. Surround yourself with trusted advisors who will keep you honest.
4. Happy family life equals happy work life.
6. Maintain Friendships and don’t keep score.
7. Wake up early and be passionate about every day.
8. Exercise with purpose. (I have ran at least 2 marathons per year since 2012).
9. Wake up early and don’t waste time on things that don’t matter.
10.  Perfection has never been the goal.   Give maximum effort and the results will follow.
Rocco De Leo Ph.D.
President and CEO of DeLeo Enterprises International
May 29, 2060
How are you living well today?

Turn your Anxiety into Ambition

A stack of books on my nightstand, twenty five blog ideas, ten podcast ideas, miles to run, and many more to-dos. Success starts first from an idea where you want to go and a plan on how to get there. The little voice in my head “the resistance” as Steven Pressfield coined, tells me that it’s just too much. I’m cranky, frustrated and finding it hard to focus on getting one thing done, let alone getting all these things done. This is my inner self sore from several weeks of a new driven ambition. Much like taking on a new physical routine, my body, or my inner voice is sore. Anxiety, in this sense is ambition in disguise. Anxiety, left alone, will ruin my plans and turn up the volume on my resistance. Anxiety re focused into ambition will be one of the best natural drivers to success and a “mute” button to the inner voice of resistance.Here is a step by step guide to ensure anxiety morphs into ambition.

1. Organize and write down my goals. Include time lines to let me know what I must do and what I can be comfortable NOT doing until later. If it is planned to be on hold, it is not procrastination, it is strategy.

2. Align a strategic plan with my goals. Once I know my target, now I am ready to aim. Starting with the end in mind, I work backward on how to achieve my goals. I will be publishing my goals on this blog soon using this methodology.

3. Align daily tactics with reality. What is it going to take on a daily basis to chip away toward my strategic plan? Planning time to work towards these goals with daily tactics (simply stated: tasks) is key to achieving my plan. This is where the rubber meets the road. Knowing that I have done the proverbial math and discovered that reading blogs 1 hour per day from 6-7 am will ultimately work toward achieving my goal tells my inner voice that enough is enough; no need to read 2 hours per day. Even if I hear Guy Kawasaki reads blogs 3 hours per day, my plan tells me I am not Guy Kawasaki and never plan on being him.

4. Take multiple second looks at the plan. First and foremost, having a plan makes me feel better and makes me actually work better. This is nothing new or profound. It is common sense. Re evaluating my plan periodically (the time frame will depend on the user) will help correct for un forseable situations and over-under ambitious planning.

5. Trust my plan. Be confident in my plan. I am smart and know what I am doing. I trust my plan to get me there. Re routing mid flight without careful analysis will assure failure to reach my ultimate destination. Turbulence in flight as well as in life is expected. Hunkering down and pushing through takes trust in the plan.

What is your voice of resistance telling you today?

Rocco De Leo