Trade Urgency for Intentionality

Society moves at a lightning pace.  Busy is the “in-thing”, and it is going to steal your awesomeness.  Busy-ness is unfocused productivity.  Doing a lot of the wrong things doesn’t make you effective or productive.  The goal, after all, is to have the power to achieve your awesomeness whatever it may be (insert stop killing your dream), and still be happy.  Stephen Covey illustrated the importantance classifying tasks in a simple manner and knowing how to protect your time from wasteful, non productive things.  His quadrants:

English: Mount Rainier

English: Mount Rainier (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1. Urgent/Imporant: crying baby, kitchen fire, etc.

2. Not Urgent/Imporant: exercise, planning, etc. (this is where your awesomeness lives)

3. Urgent/Not Important: interruptions, calls

4. Not Urgent/Not Important: Busy work, time wasters.
Living intentionally isn’t about blocking out interruptions or never wasting time.  Words with friends, crossword puzzles, and farmville are not wasting  time if you are choosing do these things rather than doing them at the expense of things that matter to your awesome.  There is no magic bullet here.  Every once in a while, you have to get back to basics, and evaluate your path.  Pay attention to these 3 simple things to assess your ability to focus and play in the urgent zone.

1. Define your Awesome:  What are you trying to accomplish.  Thinking with “the end in mind”, what is “the end”?.  Without this, you are wandering around aimlessly and everything will seem urgent.

2.  Awareness of where your time and focus is being spent:  Once you have defined your goals, you have a guiding light toward where the majority of your time and focus should be spent. You must be willing and able to evaluate your time and focus.  If this seems foreign to you, seek some coaching from a personal coach.  The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, The Effective Executive, and Getting Things Done, are great places to start.  They provide classic tools for managing your actions.  How much of your bucket is full of quadrant 2 activities? These are the things that will get you to your awesome.

3.  Making adjustments:  The thing about YOU becomming awesome is that you are blazing your own trail.  Sometimes a seemingly perfect path ends at a cliff and you must turn around and find another way forward.  You may feel trapped on your current path.  Your bucket may be filled with Job pressure, kids’ activities, traffic, ailing relatives, etc. Recognizing these things is only the start.  A small percentage of people get to this point, an even smaller percentage do something about it.  Doing something about it may be as simple as car pooling to soccer practice with anoother parent.  This will open some time for you to work on quadrant two activities.
 Relentless forward movement, however small, toward a defined goal, has a remarkable way of leading to success and accomplishment.
Urgency and focus grow and decline inversely.  Staying ahead of deadlines and intentionally protecting your focus time will keep more of the important things in quadrant 2.  You will get more done at a higher level.  Perfection is not the goal.  You define the goal, now do it!
Rocco

Is Efficiency Killing You? It’s Time You Become Effective.

Intentionality is a double-edged sword.  Certainly a must have weapon on the road to awesome, however, you must not lose site of being effective.  Short sightedness can sometimes lead to a dream killing “efficiency overload”.

What is the difference between effectiveness and efficiency? Effectiveness is the completion of a project or task. The project or task may be small daily items such as cleaning the kitchen or bigger life achievements such as publishing a book or owning a business.  Efficiency adds the element of “smoothness” or “cost effectiveness” to the these projects, but often times at a cost.  I’m often so focused on getting things done in tight time windows in order to fit in more “stuff”, I stop enjoying the process. Writing and reading, two things I love to do, started to be “boxes” to check.  Since these things are not my income source, they are easily discarded if they take from my quality of life. For you these “boxes” may be yard work, cooking, or even watching Breaking Bad on Netflix.

The thing about efficiency, is that it doesn’t stand on its own as a result.The ultimate goal is to be effective.

Certain projects have hard due dates.  To remain on a course toward awesome, you need to meet these timelines.  I don’t typically struggle with dates on projects, where I struggle are the “extra” things.

English: Questionable effectiveness I presume ...

English: Questionable effectiveness I presume this is for people on horseback. But then why have a gate here in the first place, I can only think it is here to keep cars off the dyke. It would be quite easy to lift a dirt bike over this wide gate, and any livestock you pass through. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These are things that I believe will set each one of us apart on a road to success. Due dates are easy, they are given to us and hold us accountable.  Reading, writing, exercising, etc don’t hold us accountable.  These things need to become a way of life;  a part of who we are.  They need to fall in between “happening when they happen” and “utter obsession”. Here are a 3 important things to consider:
1.  Don’t compare yourself to people at different stages of the process.  A tenured blogger (Michael Hyatt or Chris Brogan), has the history, audience, and developed talent to manage high volumes of readers, topics, and consistency.  You’re 3 months in, don’t trap yourself into thinking you need to keep up with these guys.

2.  Regularly schedule a Check-in on yourself.  Observe your ambitious schedule for a check on priorities, results, and your happiness. As I did this, I realized my attempt at consistent blogging was taking all the fun out of it. I can afford ( as this is only a hobby), to chill out for a while and slowly jump back into the game.  You will find these opportunities to fine tune your effectiveness verses efficiency.  Backing off on writing is not efficient, but burning out and hating it isn’t very effective either.

3. Are you enjoying what you are doing?  If the answer is NO, then take a look at what it is you are doing.  Is the process stealing your joy, or is it the thing in and of itself?  Figure this out.
Remember to prioritize things in your life.  I suggest starting with a Family Mission Statement.  Read my article  on this topic and look through the resources.  The process really forces you to focus on what really matters.  Things that cause anxiety and frustration that do not lead you toward your mission…well…it’s a no brainer on what to do.
Share with me what you do when the work you do becomes a “box” to check.
Rocco

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

Are You Failing at Authenticity?

Buzz words are all the buzz these days.  Some are fleeting phrases for a moment in time, while others have staying power and are truly profound.  This isn’t a post on phrases however,  or on the english language.  This is the power one word has over me, and how Jamie hit me over the head with it.  Words hurt, and words mean something.  Authenticity is one of those heavy words that leave a mark when they hit you; like a piece of plywood. While this word strikes me in particular, it is something I have thought about and challenged myself with for a long time.  To be authentic is to be what?  This blog is new to the world, but the ideas shared here on positivity and forward thinking are not new to me.  Not to say I don’t have moments of authenticity failure.  Last night I had a minor financial setback involving my mortgage and a mistake Citibank made with my escrow impound increasing my house payment from mildly uncomfortable to squirming in my seat uncomfortable.  I had about 45 minutes of authentic failure.  I panicked, went immediately to worse case and lost all focus on what was really in front of me.  I fell apart for a few minutes. My beautifully talented fiance’ challenged me.  She questioned if I am actually living the life I write and talk about (imagine that 99% of my material is yet to be blogged-she knows way too much).  Am I full-of-shit?  She stopped me in my tracks.  The Merriam-Webster definition of authenticity  in  this context is simply “not false” or to be “real”.  Authenticity  does not require perfection or even a perfect adherence to one’s own teaching.  The intention (another great word), drive, and desire to live our own teaching must be present.  Credibility can stand challenged if we are falling too short of our own teaching, but “less than perfect” is not “too short”.

The Authenticity  Gremlin can rear it’s ugly head if we feed it our doubt and allow it to grow.  We must certainly challenge ourselves to live our own message.  A pastor mired in adultery, a police officer addicted to drugs, or a teacher cheating on state testing are not areas of “just falling short”.  These are great failures of behavior.  Asking them to be perfect, though is impossible.  The last time I checked, the only sinless person to ever live was nailed to a cross 2000 years ago.  That’s not to say they can’t recover their authenticity. Trust may be challenged and even un recoverable.  Trust is earned and received while authenticity is lived and given away.  Those of us with a message to share (i’d argue that’s actually all of us) will certainly be held to a higher standard when it comes to our message.  You will be your own drill sergeant.  I read my own material because I learn from my own words. I am authentic as long as I share my imperfections.  Living fully with our passions, dreams, and needs/wants, is not easy.  If it was, I wouldn’t have a purpose to write.  You will hit bumps in the road on the way to “dreamville”.  Keep in mind these 3 things along the way to stay authentic:
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1.  Has your message changed? The methods and tools may need to adapt and change, but the message should remain the same.
2.  Do you believe your message NEEDS to be heard or are you trying to SELL something? Intentions are important and dreams are seldom “get rich quick schemes”.
3.  Are others sharing similar messages?  Usually this is a good thing.  Sometimes being the first to share a message is great. but many times you’re the only one sharing it because it’s right (timing may also be a factor) If, after challenging yourself and your message, you discover its uniqueness is what makes it valuable, then by all means, share it with the world.  You’ve done the homework to quiet the Gremlins in your head and are ready to lead the charge.
    You know your true authenticity.  Check in with yourself.  Utilize a system to evaluate your progress on a monthly or quarterly basis.  I like Getting things Done (GTD) or Seven Habits.  The point is to take a look at your map every once in a while to make sure true authenticity.
Rocco De Leo
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