I enjoy spending time with Ingrid. (Just as well, she’s my wife! :)) Counting the number of conversations we’ve had would be a futile exercise. A few days ago we spoke briefly about space and things in our home. It was not a long conversation but, for me, turns out to be one that I am still thinking through. I’ll call this the, “more space and less things conversation”.
At different times in our lives, careers and organizations we contemplate the stories that we want to leave behind. The stories we want posterity to tell of us. To find inspiration through us. Interestingly, we find inspiration from stories that we hear from or about other people. From the movies we watch. There is something almost inexplicable that always opens the door for us to connect with stories we see on the screens.
Then there are the stories that we want to tell from who we are and what are doing now. It is the story of the life you have experienced and the one you are looking forward to. It is the stories of what your organization is doing as part of their bit in changing the world or adding value. People connect with stories than they do with numbers or statistics. Statistics only matter for people when they have a compelling story attached to them. As you attempt to share your life, cause or vision, consider the story you want to tell.
Stories are the platform for rallying support for your cause. They are the platform on which intimacy in relationships or partnerships is fostered. Think about it. We often feel more connected to people after spending an afternoon of hearing some of their childhood stories. For people to buy into your organization or cause there must be something that captures their imagination. There must be an ‘enchanting factor’. This is done through stories. At a TED talk, Andrew Stanton from Pixar, shares clues to a great story. Check out the talk below. (There is one incident of one strong word at the start, besides that, it is all worth a watch)
It matters how you start your day. Your productivity depends on it! I have a couple of things I’ve learned about myself that may be helpful for you too.
- Sleep in: It sounds counterproductive but it really isn’t. I got this from a talk, “Dead Leader Running”, by Wayne Cordeiro at one of the Willow Creek conferences. The idea is to sleep in but on the right end of the clock. This means instead of trying to sleep an extra 2 hours in the morning you go to bed 2 hours early. I don’t always get this right. (I’m also reminding myself through this post). You can also adapt this point this way: get enough sleep! I’ve tried the whole you need eight hours of sleep and that just doesn’t work for me. (Eight hours is just too long.) If you are not sure how long is good for you. Keep a sleep log and see how long you slept when you felt great after a night’s rest.
- Earn it: related to the previous point: earn your sleep. I find that I sleep better after exerting myself during the day. I am not suggesting you ‘kill’ yourself with work. What I am suggesting is taking care of the work you were supposed to during the day. One of the things that interfere greatly with my sleep is unfinished business from the day. Often, the best way to get something off your mind is by getting it off your to-do list.
- First milestone: I get pumped for the day when I start it with an attainable and tangible goal. Sometimes it is a small goal e.g. Write 500 words; go for a 30 minute run, read for 15 minutes etc. Start with something small but attainable. Small goals are great confidence boosters. There is something about accomplishment that feeds our desire and confidence to go after more.
- Run… or something!:I am sure you’ve heard this one many times. You might even be tired of it. But, exercise! I enjoy a good game of squash but I am not able to play in the mornings. At the moment I am using VirtuaGym. It is easy to use and also has a mobile app for my phone. The closest gym is very far from where I live and this app works great for me. I have more energy and clarity during the day after a good workout.
- Pray: I pray. I feel less overwhelmed in tackling my responsibilities when I’ve started my day with prayer. You may want to try it! I am not easily stressed out or thrown in a panic during the day when I start my day with prayer.
- Old school: The to-do list is not dead! If you want to be productive for you and the things pertinent to you, draw up your to do list before other people start giving you their agendas. Simple! If you don’t have a plan or goals for yourself, there are many people that can give you theirs! Without clear goals you may not have much to show for at the end of the day despite the busyness that you can be involved due to chasing other people’s goals. I am not suggesting you neglect or ignore your team where your work interlaces with theirs, what I am saying is be clear about what you are chasing. Having a to-do list will combat frustration while it is a long way off.
- First: I know some of the things that stress me out. As a result I do not look at my emails or make phone calls until I’m adequately prepared for the day by doing what I have highlighted above. Perhaps you don’t want to start your day by hearing the bad news of the fuel hikes… Be intentional about what you hear and who you interact with first. Productivity depends on it! Make you that your batteries are fully charged before you start placing demands on them.
Remember: Productivity will not just happen on its own; it must be caused!
What do you do to ensure a productive day?
One’s prayer life is often a great indicator of how their walk is. Shallow relationship with God is often a product of a lack of prayer. Intimacy with God is often a product of prayer. The quality of prayers (for a lack of a better terms) is indicative of where we are in our walk with God. If there is ever such a thing as a “profound prayers”, I’ve come across some from St. Thomas Aquinas. Such prayers could only be products of an intimate relationship with God.
Below is one of Thomas Aquinas’ prayers that I echo. Hope it impacts you, at least, as much as it impacted me.
O Lord my God, help me to be
obedient without reserve,
poor without servility,
chaste without compromise,
humble without pretense,
joyful without depravity,
serious without affectation,
active without frivolty,
submissive without bitterness,
truthful without duplicity,
fruitful in good works without presumption,
quick to revive my neighbor without haughtiness,
and quick to edify others by word and example without simulation.
Grant me, O Lord, an ever-watchful heart that no alien thought can lure away from You;
a noble heart that no base love can sully;
an upright heart that no perverse intention can lead astray;
an invincible heart that no distress can overcome;
an unfettered heart that no impetuous desires can enchain.
O Lord my God, also bestow upon me understanding to know You,
zeal to seek You,
wisdom to find You,
a life that is pleasing to You,
and a hope that will one day take hold of You.
May I do penance here below and patiently bear your chastisements.
May I also receive the benefits of your grace,
in order to taste your heavenly joys and contemplate your glory.