Archive for the ‘Values’ Category

A Thanksgiving Quote

 

"Still Life" by Vincent van Gogh, Legion of Honor, San Francisco (photo by Margaret Lukens)

 

For all that has been, thanks.
For all that will be, yes.

Dag Hammarskjold, Swedish diplomat, first Secretary General of the United Nations (1905-1961)

The Won’t-Do List

 

No means no! (Photo taken on Vancouver's Canada Line by Margaret Lukens)

 

Productivity is as much about what we choose not to do as it is about what we do. (Remember the Evil Overlord List? 100 tongue-in-cheek won’t-do entries that begins, “Being an Evil Overlord seems to be a good career choice.”)

With this in mind, I’d like to supplement my list of committed tasks with a “won’t-do” list.

Below I’ve started with five things I’d like to eliminate from my life. I’ll be adding to my list whenever I think of something that is hindering my efforts to get where I want to go.

My Won’t-Do List

1. I won’t attend meetings with no agenda. And I encourage everyone else not to do it, either. Waste of everyone’s time. And in case it’s not clear, “so that everyone can catch up on what’s happening” is not an agenda. It’s a time sink.

2. I won’t balance my personal checkbook. For over 25 years I balanced my checkbook to the penny every month. In that time, the bank made two errors, one for a dollar and one for a dime, both in their favor. (Both came from misreading the numbers written on a check.) For the hours it takes to balance the checkbook every year, I can live with that error rate. I’m done.

3. I won’t get behind in my business bookkeeping. Given the won’t-do above, this one might seem surprising, but last year when my bookkeeper quit, I allowed my books to get months behind, which caused two problems. First, I had to catch up in order to do my taxes. But more important, I can’t manage my business if I’m not looking at the numbers in a timely way. I won’t “fly blind” again.

4. I won’t arrive on time. I’m already punctual; I believe that keeping people waiting often makes them feel disrespected, and I don’t want to do that. Now I want treat myself more generously. I won’t habitually cut my schedule so close that I feel anxious about arriving on time. Instead I will plan to arrive early. When I do, my reward will be time for a few games of ZenBound or Angry Birds.

5. I won’t agree to serve on committees or boards because I’m flattered to be asked. I love to feel needed and wanted, I do, which makes me something of a sucker for nominating committees and clever task force leaders. Plus, the work they offer me is really interesting stuff that I’d really like to do. But I won’t agree to serve just because I am flattered to be asked. If I don’t have room for it in my schedule as well as a genuine desire to participate, I won’t say yes.

Opinions change. Two years ago I would have said that I feel no need to jump out of a perfectly good airplane; now, thanks to the glowing reports of one adrenalin-amped nephew (who is not a daredevil but a well-balanced business owner, husband, and father of three) I have committed to a sky dive. And there was a time that I believed that, except for an omelet and salad, any meal that took  less than an hour to prepare couldn’t be very good; now I’m all about the 30-minute recipe.

On the other hand, when I look at my won’t-do’s, they look like they’re with me for the long haul. They represent real learning about what supports productivity and what diminishes it.  Last year’s “no way” may be next year’s “why not?” but my won’t-do list is here to stay.

What’s on your won’t-do list? Leave a comment here.

No Regrets

When I asked my father, then aged 85 and about to move out of the home he’d built with his own hands 25 years earlier, whether there was anything more he really wanted to do, his response was memorable: “You can always think of more things to do in a day than you can get done. But, no, there’s no place I want to go and nothing I want to do that I haven’t already done.”

Snowy Plover, hand-carved by Donald Lukens (photo by Margaret Lukens)

What an inspiration, a life so well-lived as to be free of regrets!

My father is the source of my “organizing genes”. His well-appointed workshop was  legendary for being immaculate: no sawdust, no unlabeled bins, no tools without a home. When I was 12, we worked together on a large project: he painted some 50 empty coffee cans an appealing pale yellow and I hand-painted labels on them in black: “3/8 inch bolts”, “roofing nails”, “1/2 inch washers”. The ones that made everyone smile were the set of three labeled “miscellaneous”, “maybe here”, “it’s here”.

From his workshop my father turned out a succession of projects requested by his family — a desk for my mother, adjustable stilts and a toy sailboat and a slingshot for my son, a cuckoo clock for one granddaughter, a chicken coop for me, a playhouse for my brother’s girls, a coffee table for my sister, and much more — along with many projects inspired by his own varied interests. (The snowy plover in the photo was made for me at my request; if I had asked for a six-foot California condor instead, I probably would have gotten it.)

One year I phoned my parents at about 9 pm on December 31st to wish them a happy new year. My mother and I chatted for a while, then she said, “Well, I’d call your father to the phone, but he’s got a project that he wanted to finish this year, and he’s downstairs working on it.”

For a man in his 70’s and 80’s, January 1 was much like December 31, yet he valued his time, he established goals, and he did what was necessary to achieve those goals. He couldn’t come to the phone on December 31st; he had a deadline to meet!

His joyful dedication to his chosen work resulted in a long life well lived, with no regrets.

Last week I read an article about the regrets of the dying by Bronnie Ware, that I found quite striking. The author, who worked for many years in palliative care, assembled the top five regrets that she had heard repeatedly from those at the end of life. Listening carefully to those with very little time left can often help us clarify what matters most to those of us who, for now at least, have time to spare.

The one I found most surprising was the fifth on the author’s list of five, “I wish that I had let myself be happier.” Wise men from Marcus Aurelius to Abraham Lincoln have observed that happiness is a choice, requiring very little to be within our grasp. Yet it seems that many of us have a hard time realizing that happiness is ours for the choosing.

My father had made that choice, and kept it throughout his long life, which ended this past Saturday, at the age of 92. Among the many things that I appreciate about him, one that I value more highly than the many objects he gave me  is the fine example he showed me of a life with no regrets.

Worth Repeating – July posts from New Leaf News

photo by Margaret Lukens

I’m sharing a few posts from the New Leaf archives. Here’s what was on our mind in Julys past.

How can you make progress on a goal that, for lack of a “natural” deadline, seem to take a back seat to everything else? Here are a couple of ideas to help you get it done.

In good economic times and bad, it always pays to be respectful of your most firmly limited resource,  time. Are you saving a little money but squandering your time?

Abraham Lincoln provides a timely and timeless hope for Independence Day and every day.

Happy Independence Day

An Iraqi voter (AP Photo/Andrew Parsons/Pool, 2005)

We should constantly be reminded of what we owe in return for what we have.

— Eleanor Roosevelt, May 10, 1940 (quoted in No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: the Home Front in World War II by Doris Kearns Goodwin)

Simplicity – a quote

St. Louis Arch (photo by Margaret Lukens)

You know you’ve achieved perfection in design, not when you have nothing more to add, but when you have nothing more to take away.

Antoine de Saint Exupery

Rest, rejuvenate, recommit

The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.

— Bertrand Russell

Stinson Beach, CA - enjoying a break

One of the most popular productivity books of the past two decades is David Allen’s book Getting Things Done. And while I appreciate his approach, and use many aspects of it myself, I’m afraid that his title may lead some people astray.

Ultimately, it is not about “getting things done.” There are so many things to do, we could get things done 24/7 and still not make any progress. There will always be tasks to do. In our hearts we know this, right?

What matters most is choosing the right things to do, then approaching them with focus and organization. Too much attention on getting things done can lead us to overlook a crucial piece of the productivity picture: time for rest.

Every week, without fail, devote a day (or two half-days, if you must) to rest, rejuvenation, and re-commitment. Do those things that give you joy, that make you pause, that remind you of why you bother to “get things done” in the first place.

Without attention to rejuvenation and re-commitment, business people are in danger of burning out — that condition where nothing matters, no carrot is juicy enough, no stick is scary enough, to make us move. Do not flirt with burn-out.

Remember that your professional life is about the pace, not the race. You must create a pace that is sustainable over years in order to succeed as an entrepreneur. If you are ill, take days off. If you are frazzled, take an afternoon and do what you love. And every week, give some time to activities that provide rest, rejuvenation, and re-commitment.

Here are some of the things that give me some “R & R & R”:

  • drive an hour to the mountains & hike among towering redwoods.
  • drive to the beach, walk miles on sand, get chilled and sunburned, eat lunch at Barbara’s Fish Trap.
  • attend a conference that really gets me excited about the possibilities of being an entrepreneur and reminds me that not only can I do it, I MUST!
  • walk my feet off in the city (in my case, San Francisco.) Take pictures.
  • if physical effort isn’t called for, spend a day (and I mean a whole day!) in a hammock with a library book that has nothing to do with work. I suggest West With the Night, by Beryl Markham – she’s not nearly as well-known as she should be.
  • or spend the day on the sofa with a bunch of movies in the “watch instantly” queue: five good heists (The Thomas Crown Affair, Dog Day Afternoon, The Italian Job, Ocean’s Eleven, …) , ten hours of English history (Anne of a Thousand Days, Elizabeth R, A Man for All Seasons, Mary Queen of Scots, …), or six degrees of Kevin Bacon (Footloose, The River Wild, A Few Good Men, Mystic River, National Lampoon’s Animal House, …) — you choose the theme.

What have you done lately to rest, rejuvenate, and recommit? What will you do this week? Leave your comment here to spark ideas for other readers.

Happy Memorial Day

http://www.enssc.com/products.aspx?store=517&story=216A quote for the day:

I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives.

I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him.

-Abraham Lincoln

(Hand-painted plate available through the museum store at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, in Springfield, IL)

Join the National Day of Unplugging March 19 & 20

One complaint that I hear popping up more and more frequently, a habit crying out for change, is the negative intrusion of technology into our lives.

I’m not talking about the miracle of GPS, which guides me directly to my destination in a strange city after dark. Or online chats that allow me to hold regular meetings with colleagues in other states and other countries. Or my iPhone, which allows me to search for critical information while I’m away from my office. But for every benefit that technology brings, there is also a possibility for that same technology to crowd out things that matter more — nurturing friendships, time to think, reconnecting with nature, enjoying an uninterrupted meal. Some complain that they can’t converse with a friend without that person giving half their attention to tweeting on their smart phone. Others lament that they can never really relax, since email interrupts their evenings and weekends now.

"Dear technology, give it a rest." (Photo courtesy of http://www.sabbathmanifesto.org)

Enter the National Day of Unplugging, from sundown tonight until sundown tomorrow. An invention of the Reboot crew as part of its Sabbath Manifesto, National Day of Unplugging is a step toward creating a less anxious and more meaningful life in the midst of daily stress.

The thoughtful people at Sabbath Manifesto emphasize that their effort is not about following someone else’s rules for how to use your time. Rather, it is an attempt to recover ancient traditions that create helpful boundaries, protecting meaningful things in our lives.

If technology has crept into larger and longer parts of your life, if you’re connected so much you no longer notice the distraction, if technology has become your drug of choice, or if you’d just like to shake up your technology habits a bit, join the National Day of Unplugging.

Beginning tonight, make other plans. Devote the whole day to face-to-face relationships. Write a letter. Take a walk. Daydream. See you on Sunday!

Strengthen your success with a gratitude journal

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but also the parent of all the others. — Cicero

Gratitude journalsFor years I had kept a gratitude journal — a notebook in which I recorded things large and small in my business for which I felt grateful.

I knew that great thinkers from all ages and traditions had commended the practice of gratitude. Though I was never certain how the gratitude journal “worked,” I was aware that whatever I focused on was the thing I attracted, and I continued to find the practice helpful in combating the slumps that beset solo entrepreneurs, so I recommended it to many of my organizing and productivity clients.

Recently, I encountered scientific validation for the power of my gratitude journal (see source of original study below.) As described by Dr. Martin Seligman in his book Authentic Happiness, “(the researchers) randomly assigned people to keep a daily diary for two weeks, either of happenings they were grateful for, of hassles, or simply of life events. Joy, happiness, and life satisfaction shot up for the gratitude group.”

Here’s my method for keeping a gratitude journal: Find a small notebook that pleases you. As you finish work each day, jot down a few things for which you feel grateful. Here are some of mine:

  • I am scheduled to teach the GO System workshop at (a client) next month.
  • Steve Overman wrote a recommendation for me on LinkedIn. What he wrote was warm, gracious, articulate, and deeply felt.
  • (One of my board colleagues) told me she is glad I’m president of the organization. She feels the group is more inclusive and welcoming.
  • Tonight I arrived home at 7 pm after an 11-hour day. The dog walker had already taken care of the dog. It was heaven!
  • I was able to refer (a client) to Susan Tiner for bookkeeping and financial organizing. I think it will be a great match for both of them.

Start your gratitude journal. Begin by recording one to five thoughts daily for a few weeks. Then use your journal as often as it seems helpful.

As you prepare to do a review of your accomplishments as part of your planning process, be sure to scan your journal entries to remind you of past accomplishments.

Do you keep a gratitude journal? What have you observed? Leave a comment here.

(Original study cited above: Emmons, R.A., & McCullough, M.E. (2003). “Counting blessings versus burdens: Experimental studies of gratitude and subjective well being in daily life.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, No. 84, pages 377-389.)

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