How Spilling Ice Tea Taught Me To Live My Values

The other day I was bringing lunch to a customer of mine.  Usually I have it delivered, but on this day, they requested a local burger place that wasn’t set up for delivery.  As I loaded the lunch in my car, I realized the 6 fountain drinks were going to cause me trouble.  Top heavy and flimsy, the drinks looked almost “eager” to tip.  Corner after corner, I drove timidly and very deliberate.  I was already running late, but didn’t care.  My objective wasn’t customer focus, make the sale, or go above and beyond. My objective was to NOT spill the drinks.  As I was nearing their office, the driver of the car in front of me was spooked by a yellow light and slammed on his brakes.  Normally, it’s not a big deal to come to a quick stop, but today was different.  I was out of sorts and balancing something new.  The drinks went sliding

English: An artist's depiction of the rat race...

English: An artist’s depiction of the rat race in reference to the work and life balance. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rat_race Made with following images: http://www.openclipart.org/detail/75385 http://www.openclipart.org/detail/74137 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

across the floor of my car soaking my floor with Ice Tea.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what living a  balanced life looks like.  Not the “business book” balanced life of “work-life balance” where you somehow are happy because you don’t work too much, but the appropriate balancing of the stuff that matters.

I discovered, for me, that living intentionally also means living for purpose and doing the things that matter.

This means having a clear vision on what my values mean to me.  My values are clear and aligned to my living, rather than my living aligned to my values.  As part of “faith” we go to church, but we would have done that anyway.  Every week on our way to church, I have had  a gnawing sense that we could be doing more to incorporate faith into our lives.  Until recently, most of the time my values were “touched” in the way I lived my week, but that was mostly by chance.  Mediocrity, however, is the only result we can expect from living by chance.  Awesomeness comes from intentional living. Without clear direction, I was unbalanced in living my values, taking the “bumps” of life timidly and defensively trying not to stray too far.  While I’ve been busy living the ins and outs of life, checking a lot of boxes, I was not clear on how to LIVE my values.   I have discovered that to do this, I need clear specifics defining what those values look like in action.  Faith goes beyond “living a Catholic life”, and drills down to “praying nightly, prayer before meals, mass every Sunday” and much more.  With this I am able to intentionally pull specifics and plug into my weekly planning and measure my accomplishments against.  Instead of the careful balancing act of chance, I am able to aggressively incorporate the stuff that makes my values real and a part of the life i’m living intentionally.

How do you stay balanced and live an awesome value centered life?

 

Rocco De Leo

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Fuel your Awesomeness with Mental Energy

As a runner, I recognize that I only have a certain amount of energy to run a distance at a certain pace. By fueling my body with the right types of food and energy bars, I am able to incrementally increase my maximum output.  Running a marathon is a great example.  On a normal day, running 26.2 miles is outside my physical capacity.  But with some training and slow stepping up of my mileage, I am able to build my body’s energy capacity to that level.  Mental energy is no different.  Our ability to think, smile, create, walk and chew gum has a finite energy source. On a typical day, my mental energy level is at its highest around 7 am and at its lowest after dinner.  The importance of managing mental energy toward success doesn’t stop with knowing your mental time clock.  This is nothing new.  Perhaps more important is focusing your mental “spend” on  the things that matter.  The other day I as I was driving home from a week long meeting when I received a frustrating phone call regarding a returned check to my Chevron credit card.   After 45 minutes we realized the mistake and remedied it.  However, I was exhausted.  It took a large portion of my mental energy. Each and every day you and I both recharge our physical and mental batteries as we sleep. By focused training like reading, engaging conversations, audio programs, and meditation, you increase your mental capacity. If you’re doing this, keep doing it, if you’re not, you should. During a typical day, you also spend that energy on important things such as writing, talking with your kids, working on projects at work, and planning for the future.  Unfortunately, things like my Chevron credit card phone call interrupt the normal flow and “steal” some of that energy.

 

Awareness of the limits of your mental energy  gives you  a sense of urgency or a desire to protect the things you are doing.  Just like time management, mental management is a must have skill for a successful life.

 

Of course, interruptions do happen and sometimes are important to handle.  You can’t control that.  Here is a list of 3 things I recommend to keep mental energy at its best:

 

Wind Energy

Wind Energy (Photo credit: janie.hernandez55)

 

 

 

1.  Avoid Distractions: This is so obvious and immensely important.  So many times I’ve sat down to work on a mentally draining task (like writing a blog post), only to have my focus taken away in a moment of email distraction.  Even if the email doesn’t need my attention, the mere fact that I know I got an email takes a little slice of my mental energy. If you are intentional toward avoiding distractions, you will learn with time the things that take distract you and steal your mental energy.  I use squarespace notes app on my iPhone to send quick notes to my Evernote inbox.  When something distracts me and I don’t want to fix it then and there, I put a note in squarespace to fix it.  Then, I fix it.

 

2. Schedule your mental tasks at the appropriate times:  Different tasks take higher and lower levels of mental energy.  This is something you will learn with time.  Typically the more creative (writing, planning) and involved (things with complicated directions) take the most mental energy.  Creating enough space in your schedule and the best available time will vastly increase your mental energy and lessen the frustration.  Deciding to build the IKEA entertainment center and hour before church is a bad idea.  Mental energy tasks are not usually the “on a whim” things you want to do.  Be intentional and realistic and schedule this time.

 

3.  Know what you want to do:  This may be too “big picture” for a small blog post, but you need to know what your goals are.  If you have a vision, and idea of what you are trying to accomplish, you will be able to identify the things that are ‘right” to be doing.  If you don’t have a vision and a plan in place to achieve that vision, I am going to create one for you.  Your vision is to create a vision.  With a defined vision, you will have “stuff” to do.  We all have “stuff” we have to do such as laundry, dishes, feed the dog, etc.  Most people stop there.  That’s the mediocre life.  You are going to plug in your awesomeness and the “stuff” needed to be done to accomplish this awesome.  If what you are doing does’t fit into one of those two categories, stop doing it.

 

 

Remember that you own your mental energy.  It is yours to spend as you wish.  We all have responsibilities.  Better management of your mental energy will improve your results in all areas of life and leave room for you to do things that make you awesome.

 

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How Doing Laundry Helps Me Write More

The other day I was at home trying to catch up on some chores.  One of my least favorite household chores is laundry.  Laundry is inherently never-ending and tedious.  In a household of 7 people, falling behind on laundry is disastrous.  Putting on my “productivity hat”, I realized one of the simplest and important skills I use professionally comes  from my love/hate relationship with laundry.   I sort my clothes by darks, whites, and baby clothes.  Whites are simply my undershirts for work and are very easy to fold and put away.  Baby clothes are small and tedious and take the most effort.  I love my baby girl but her laundry drives me bonkers. My darks, on the other hand are relatively easy to fold and put away, but take a lot of room and build up fast.  Not only do I sort my loads (I can hear the resounding “duh”), I batch the types of loads.  I typically was 3 loads of colors per week, 1 whites and 2 baby clothes. By batching them, I get in the zone all at once and get them done much faster.  Rather than doing 1 load every other day or back and forth with load types, I only have to start once and maintain the specifically needed focus without the energy of restarting.  What does this mean toward success in life? Why should you care about my laundry?

Laundry Room

Laundry Room (Photo credit: Gene Wilburn)

Think about the things you do in a given day or week.  A lot of what you are doing are similar in mental focus, tools, physical needs, and location, AKA “context”.  Just like an airplane taking off, the hardest part of the journey is simply getting off the ground.  As I sit here at Panera writing this post, I am batching multiple posts.  It took me ten minutes just to clear  the creative cob webs in my mind.  I get better at writing as I settle in.  I get in the “zone”.  Rather than start and stop multiple times, I’d rather take advantage of the energy to get started once and write multiple posts.  It makes sense.

Batching not only helps get more work done, it helps the work where quality matters.

As you approach your short term planning (I do mine weekly), think about where you will be and your time constraints.  Find opportunities to batch similar tasks.  Do the laundry and clean the showers together. Mow the lawn and clean the shed.  Of course, drink a beer and eat a burger together when you’re done.
Share  some batching successes.  Can you overdue batching?  I want to hear the hilarious overdone attempts at batching where too much of a good thing makes for great instagram pictures.
Rocco
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Clipping My Wings & Productivity

Who says they can just “wing it” when it comes to getting things done?  Typically someone who is underachieving. I had my wings clipped many years ago.  If you are like me, you are busy.  I heard Dan Hayes of the Simple Life Together Podcast (SLT) say “Busy is the New ‘I’m fine’”.  People wear busy as a badge of honor.  Busy without purpose and focus is just a waste of time.  I don’t know about you, but if I’m not going to be productive, I’d much rather do it on the couch than running around in circles.

How do we avoid being busy without accomplishing anything or more likely, busy while accomplishing “little”? Clip your wings! Planning with a purpose, being intentional with and an end in mind changes the nature of your activity beyond filling the day to “feel accomplished” to actually accomplishing things.  Often, a productive day is a shorter day since you move with purpose from one task to the other without wasting time.  Productivity Gurus  David Allen (GTD) and the late Steven Covey (7 habits), talk about goals and objectives.  Take time to plan.  If you aren’t a “planner”, start small.  Here’s a list of 3 things to start with:

RAF Flypast - Red Arrows

RAF Flypast – Red Arrows (Photo credit: Mikepaws)

1.  Define your Goals:  From spring break travel, to organizing the garage for spring, to building a business or planning your retirement, start with the end in mind.  Most people don’t even get this far.  Defining your goals will give you a tangle and “clean” target to work toward.
2. Build your Plan: Creating a simple plan to intentionally achieve some or all of your goals gives you a road map.  Have you ever been driving on a road toward a new destination not sure if you should be going North or South.  The anxiety is torturous.  Once I decide to hit the Onstar button for directions, even if I’ve been going the wrong direction, I get back on track and feel great.  Why? Because I know that I am on the path to my destination.
3. Execute:  There are people who plan but don’t follow through, and there are people who do things but have no plan or direction, and finally there are a group of successful people who do both.  Planning without execution is only a dream.  Create  a plan that is realistic and fits your season in life.  Check in periodically to make adjustments and don’t beat yourself up if you’re not 100% on target.  Keep on Keeping on!
These 3 steps are the foundation to clipping your wings and living intentionally with purpose.  How will you start today to live with purpose and intentionality?
Rocco
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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