Monday, January 20, 2014

Week 3: Be Productive

Photo(13)Although I am always excited to see a new year and thankful goes without saying, I must confess I entered 2014 on the wings of some real frustration with my 2013 level of productivity. Oh sure, I can blame it on adjusting to the first year of marriage and there would be some merit to it, but transition aside, it seems to take a real effort to be productive these days.

Let’s be honest. Life as we know it in this great 21st century is filled with distractions – big and small. We spend our days on computers and our evenings glued to televisions. Either we’re tuned in to the latest pop culture TV series phenomenon or we’re plugged into mobile devices scanning the various social media channels – posting selfies and random thoughts about our lives. For some, our multitasking claim to fame has become the fact that we can and often do all of the above at one time.

Is your head spinning yet? Mine is. Well it was. I started this year by considering all the things I wanted to accomplish last year and examining all of the distractions – legit and not so much – that stood in the way of my forward progress. After my honest self-assessment, here are four subtle changes I decided to make in the name of becoming more productive:

  1. Tame the social media beast: Now this one is a little tricky. There aren’t many published authors out there who will tell you social media isn’t an intricate part of a writer’s publishing plan. Although I believe in its benefits, I had to remind myself that I am not to be “conformed to this world.” I am free to tame this beast by training myself to use it in the ways I’m led and not necessarily the ways I am told. In other words, I don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. I found that I was wasting entirely too much time riding the social media merry go ‘round – seeing what everyone else is doing, yet not accomplishing a doggone thing myself. All things in moderation, right? So in an effort to “moderate” my own social media usage I removed the Facebook (FB) app from my smart phone. What a liberating move that was. In the first week I was amazed (and embarrassed) by the number of times in one day I reached for my phone to go onto FB. Way too many… Now, I am forced to go on from a computer or my iPad (which stays at home on most work days). This limits me to occasional evening but mostly weekend use. This also focuses me. I still share my blog posts on my FB page, allowing me to focus on meaningful conversations that may stem from the post and giving me a shot at creating the community of conversation I’ve been wanting all along. So I still get to keep up with folks (family, high school classmates, former teachers, former coworkers and friends) and form new relationships and community through my writing, while still being productive.
  2. Use a calendar/planner: I am the world’s worst at double booking. And I just feel bad having to go back and say “no” to someone I said “yes” to because I find I have something else booked at the same day and time. So I’m trying to get better at keeping and consulting a calendar. I’ve tried this before, but not consistently. Let’s pray I do better this year, because it really does assist in keeping you focused and productive.
  3. Make lists: To-do lists are my #1 productivity tools. Recently, I learned that I enjoy checking things off a list. That feeling of accomplishment really helps me. So I try to make a list at the start of each week. Anything I fail to complete that week rolls over to the next. Some are long-term items; others are short-term. Either way, it keeps me focused on the important things I want/need to do and it helps me get them done.
  4. Prioritize: This goes hand in hand with #3. Although I write the list in no particular order of priority, each week there are certain things I note as priority items. For example: completing the week’s bible study lessons and weekly blog post are two of my priorities. This helps me to make sure I get them done.

So there you have it. This is my humble effort to make 2014 a more productive year. However, in the midst of all my planning and efforts toward productivity I try to keep the biblical words of Proverbs 16 in mind. I call it my planning chapter.

The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. – Proverbs 16:1 (NASB)

Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established. – Proverbs 16:3 (NASB)

The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. – Proverbs 16:9 (NASB)

What are your tips for being productive? What is your most valuable productivity tool? In what ways will you work to be productive in 2014?


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

HELP! I Need to Focus

One day on my way to work I whispered a prayer to heaven.

My request?


I need to learn how to focus and I need to learn in a hurry. Right now, as I’m writing this post there are eight browser widows open on my laptop, and I don’t even want to count the number open on my iPhone or my iPad. That doesn’t include the two MS Word documents I have open, as well. And please don’t make me confess to you the number of documents in progress and apps open on my iPad, right now. Pretty please.

My husband logged on to use my laptop one day and just got straight flustered because of all the stuff I had open. In my mind, I keep it all open for a reason. There’s usually some article I’ve stumbled across to which I plan to circle back. And usually I do circle back…eventually. In the meantime, I’m jumping back and forth from one website to the next. Heaven forbid I find a link that looks interesting within an article I’m reading. Then I go sliding down a rabbit hole like Alice in Wonderland.

The same pattern rears its ugly mug in my daily routine in other ways. On any given clean-up day,  it’s not uncommon for me to look around to discover kitchen cabinets and a dishwasher open from where I was unloading dishes, but for some reason I stopped and started washing clothes. Meanwhile the clothes from the dryer are on the bed. I was folding those when I went to the bathroom to put in fresh towels. Next thing you know I’m cleaning the tub. By night fall, I lay my head to the pillow, and it takes me HOURS to fall asleep. Why? Because now I’m filled with anxiety from the overload of information and activity I’ve encountered and equally stressed from the fact I’ve accomplished nothing. Nada. ZILCH.

And tomorrow, if the good Lord wills, I awake and the cycle starts all over again. Bottom line is I have trouble picking one thing and completing it before starting another project. That often leads to accomplishing absolutely nothing or accomplishing something very, very slowly.

So the morning I prayed the prayer begging the Lord to help me get focused, I was fresh off another night of minimal sleep (if any) and I was desperate. I mean, I don’t drink caffeinated anything, people. When I’m tired, I’m STUCK! Not a good feeling. Later that day, I picked up my cell phone and scrolled through my twitter feed. When I read the words: How to Focus in an Age of Distraction: 10 Things to do Before you Click all I could do was shake my head and whisper “thank you Jesus.”

It was a blog post by Ann Voskamp – author of the New York Times bestseller One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. If you are not familiar with Ann Voskamp, you can learn more about her by clicking here. I was so thankful to read her post, I immediately decided I had to share it with you all. So if you’re anything like me and feeling the need to become a bit more focused, I encourage you to click here and take a few minutes to check out Ann’s suggestions in this post. If you’re not as scatter-brained as I can be, then woopty doo for you! No seriously, though, it’s always nice to share good information with someone you know who can use it. So feel free to forward this post. Maybe those you forward it to and I can start some type of focus group. Get it? Focus group. Oh never mind.

Until next time…

Coming up at Be Completely You….. An interview with national youth motivational speaker and sex education expert Jackie Brewton in conjunction with The National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Don’t miss it.

Monday, November 21, 2011

4 Keys to Going for the Gold

I bought a car recently. Since then I’ve been periodically preoccupied by what appeared to be a coin lodged between the driver’s seat and the center console. That thing bugged me to no end because I couldn’t reach it. Occasionally, while sitting in traffic or at a red light, I’d pass the time away by trying to retrieve this poor lonely coin, but to no avail. I tried hard, too, but I could never seem to find the right tool to reach it. Since I don’t like for things to beat me, reaching this coin became my mission.

Last week, while on my lunch break, I did it! I finally freed the coin. I can’t even recall what I used to reach the coin. I just used whatever pen or pencil was in my hand at the time. To my surprise, what I previously suspected was probably just a quarter was actually a gold, United States dollar.

WOO HOO! Who knows how long the dollar had been lost down there.

Later, I chuckled to and AT myself as I reflected on my borderline frantic fishing expedition for one coin. I thought to myself, “There’s a message in here somewhere.” The gold dollar I retrieved is symbolic of my goals and dreams. They are within my view. Oh yes I can see them clearly, but determining a strategy for accomplishing them sometimes feels like yet another haphazard fishing expedition for a trapped coin.

From this one little exercise I was reminded of four things:

  1. Keep your eyes on the prize. So cliché, right? We hear it all the time, but it’s true. I kept checking to see whether the coin was still down there or if maybe it had rolled from within my reach. A ripple of joy flowed through me each time I saw it, because being able to see it meant it was still within my power to reach it. I knew that one day – someway, somehow – I was going to grab hold of that coin stuck on the side of my seat.
  2. Use the tool(s) in your hand. I’ve tried to use a pen or pencil in the past to try to reach this coin, but either it was too short or too wide. I just kept trying until alas I found the perfect fit. As I pondered the moral to this simple story I thought it quite ironic that my tool was a writing utensil. Coincidence? I think not. 🙂
  3. What you see may be larger than you think. Let’s not forget, the lonely little coin I assumed was a quarter trapped down there turned out to be quite a bit more – a gold dollar. Now that’s a message by itself.
  4. Never.  EVER.  give up. Enough said.

Completely ME!