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4 Musts For Significant Productivity

Work less, achieve more. Sounds great, but is it realistic? Yeah, actually, it is–and simpler than you might expect.
 
A few months ago I test-drove a truckload of tricks, tactics and tools that promised to add hours to my day. I devoured Tim Ferris’ The Four Hour Work Week and Todd Duncan’s Time Traps. I downloaded desktop alarms and project tracking software. I banished low-impact tasks from my planner and attacked similar tasks in batches. I called my email from my car, firing off messages through a voice recognition device. I downloaded audio books so I could “read” while driving, standing in line at the post office or cleaning the house.
 
Some of these tricks and tools did ease my workload. Others didn’t fit my lifestyle and just burned extra daylight, batteries and brain cells.
 
As I reflect on my immersion into productivity tips an gadgets, I’m reminded of four unchanging principles that work for all of us, all the time. (And, wouldn’t you know it, the Scriptures had them recorded long ago.)
 
1. Good time or project management stems from good self management. One common trait successful people share is the discipline to do the right thing even when it hurts. They understand that significant fruitfulness can’t exist without structure and self control.
 
If you’re struggling to maximize your time and outcomes, try focusing on managing yourself instead. What’s holding you back? What bad-habit triggers (think television, online networking . . . whatever’s hindering you) can you minimize or remove from your path?
 
2. People who produce significant results consistently monitor what goes into their minds. It’s been said you can judge someone’s bank account by the size of his or her library: People with tiny bank accounts tend to have no libraries, but usually have big TVs. If you’re letting junk in, junk is what you’ll produce.
 
3. Innovative producers take time to think. Author and PR veteran Mark DeMoss writes in his Little Red Book of Wisdom, “Everyone, it seems, is busy designing, writing, buidling, producing, implementing–unfortunately, too much of it is divorced from good thinking.” Henry Ford, says Mark, called thinking “the hardest work there is, which is probably why so few engage in it.”
 
Why do you do what you do, the way you do it? Is there a more effective way?
 
4. Purpose-driven professionals recognize that how they start each day affects how they finish it. Henry Ward Beecher called the first hour of the day the “rudder” of the day, effectively directing how the rest will go. Career coach Dan Miller writes, “If you get up late, grab a cup of bad coffee and a Twinkie, rush to work fuming at the idiots in traffic, and drop down exhausted at your desk at 8:10, you have set the tone for your day. Everything will seem like pressure and your best efforts will be greatly diluted.”
 
How about starting each day with a time of focused meditation, prayer and prioritizing? This practice alone will kick you into high-energy, conquer-the-world mode for the rest of the day. Give it a try. (I double-dog dare ya.)
 
Until next time, don’t hesitate to drop me a note and let me know how you’re doing and how I can help.
 
Wishing you a blessed weekend and a kick-butt week,

Andrea

Related Scriptures:
Psalm 90:12  |  Ephesians 5:15-17  |  1 Corinthians 9:26-27  |  Proverbs 6:9-11   |  Romans 12:2  |  Psalm 119:11   |  Luke 14:28   |  Matthew 14:22-203 

Note: Our email subscribers received approximately 8 other related resources you won’t see here… but you can rectify that in the future (and get some other goodies) by signing up for our e-newsletter right here. (That’s a hint!)

Top 10 Business, Faith & Faith-at-Work Podcasts (Part 2)

Alrighty, then: Here’s the second (and final) installment of podcasts that send my gray cells a-dancing . . .

button-salesguySales Guy’s Quick and Dirty Tips For Getting The Deal Done
I confess: As an introvert, the word “sales” used to scare the daylights out of me. But I’m learning we’re all in sales, no matter what we do. Plus, biblical selling is all about servant leadership and relationship building . . . The Sales Guy delivers short, powerful tips for closing the deal in about six minutes each week.

button-acThe Accidental Creative
In a show aimed at the creative types among us, the AC guys explore topics and interview leading experts on what it takes to thrive in the create-on-demand world and “keeping your creative passion alive while dealing with the daily grind.” Check out my favorite episode on the “War of Art” (or forcing yourself to produce brilliant stuff, on deadline).

button-procrastinationStop Procrastinating Now
Umm . . . does this one really need a description? Each episode covers a root cause of procrastination and practical steps for overcoming it, building good habits and “obsessive consistency” (whatever that means).

button-kouklStand to Reason
Why do you believe what you believe? Because your mama taught you that way? Because the preacher said so? The good folks at Stand to Reason help us understand what truth is, and how to back it up with solid reasoning and evidence (yes, I said evidence). “There is a difference between choosing an ice cream flavor and choosing a medicine,” says host Greg Koukl. “When choosing ice cream, you choose what you like. When choosing medicine, you have to choose what heals. Many people think of God like they think of ice cream, not like they think of insulin. In other words, they choose religious views according to their tastes, not according to what is true . . . I think you can test religious truth, and I’d like to offer [some] of those methods to you.”

button-mommyMommy Mastermind
For moms of small children who have other ambitions and responsibilities in addition to (the awesome privilege) of raising their children. (I’ll definitely implement Mommy Mastermind’s tips as I prepare to grow EspressoShots.com while caring for a newborn in a couple of months… Lord help me.)

. . . and that about covers it. (I follow dozens of other podcasts as well, but figure that’s all the pod-talk you can take for now.) What resources do you consume on a consistent basis?

Please stay tuned for our next post, coming in a few short hours: “4 Musts for True Productivity” (Hint: Email subscribers will get 8+ related resources that the rest of you won’t see here . . . But you can rectify that by hurrying up and subscribing here.)

Top 10 Business, Faith & Faith-at-Work Podcasts (Part I)

girl-earphonesIf you made me choose between eating and being able to listen to my favorite podcasts for a day, that’d be a tough one for me. They’re my brain food, and consuming them makes me smarter, wiser and happier.

One simple (yet very, very powerful) success principle is choosing carefully whom we listen to and what goes into our minds. So I’m always searching for great audio teachings from men and women who embody the qualities and impact I want to have in  my own journey.

As an added bonus, I find that pumping helpful knowledge and wisdom into my ears makes tedious tasks like driving, filing, house-cleaning and standing in line at the post office far more enjoyable and fruitful.

Below is the first half of 10 podcasts I can’t get enough of, in no particular order (I’ll deliver the remaining 5 in the next couple of days to keep this post a more “digestible” length).

button-carrieBreaking Free with the Barefoot Executive
Carrie Wilkerson, the “Barefoot Executive,” is one of my heroes. Each week, the preacher’s daughter and rock-star business woman from Texas lights up a fire in my belly (and under my derriére) to not wait for success, but go after it with a club. Her podcasts always leave me wanting more, so I gladly write Carrie a check each month for more intense mentoring through her online mastermind group. (Although Carrie’s message focuses primarily on women business owners, she’s got plenty of male followers.)

button-psychotacticsPsychotactic Zingers
Sean D’Souza, who calls himself a “Brain Auditor,” teaches the psychological reasons customers buy (or don’t buy). The quirky host also shares psychological tactics for self-improvement and more powerful communication.

button-48days48 Days To The Work You Love
Each week, best-selling author and psychologist Dan Miller advises callers about finding ways to profit from their innate gifts and passion, and how they can transition to their dream job in a relatively short amount of time. According to Dan’s web site, “his unique clarification of how God gifts us will introduce you to a new sense of freedom and fulfillment of your life’s calling.”

button-bibleListener’s Audio Bible Proverbs Podcasts
This podcast features brief readings of the book of Proverbs, written by King Solomon, who is still widely regarded as the wisest man who ever lived. In the words of author and PR veteran Mark DeMoss, the wisdom found in Proverbs “is universal, timeless, and foolproof.” Wisdom from above, DeMoss adds, “does not favor intelligence or education, affluence or sophistication; it calls to everyone, everywhere. We need only to respond.”

button-getitdoneguyGet-It-Done-Guy’s Quick and Dirty Tips to Work Less and Do More
Somehow, Stever Robbins is able to pack great productivity tips and humor into about 6 minutes each week. Good stuff. 
 
Again, I’ll deliver my next top 5 podcasts in the next post. Meanwhile, I’d love to hear what you feed your brain.

What resources have breathed new life into you and your career?

Save Time (And Effort) By Empowering Others

Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning. [Proverbs 9:9]

Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning. (Proverbs 9:9)

Those of us with a strong need to please (or to be in control) often are bogged down by people who seemingly depend on us to get anything done.

A dear relative, who somehow thinks I have amazing Internet powers, used to email me: “Please search XYZ on the Web and let me know what you find. And, by the way, I need that by 3 p.m. today.”

Despite the fact that she had Internet access (and even used that access to email me her requests), she just thought I could do a better job, faster. And so I did. I searched for product specifications and prices. I searched for sources for her Masters thesis. I even searched for good vendors in her hometown, even though I live a gazillion miles away.

Meanwhile, something similar happened at work. A “technology-challenged” co-worker often bypassed our company’s IT support and came to me for help each time her computer crashed or a program wouldn’t respond as expected. Eager to please, I’d walk over to her cubicle and troubleshoot with her.

When helping = hurting

Then one day it hit me that all that “helping” on my part was actually hurting everyone involved. It consistently sucked up big chunks of time and energy, hindered my other commitments and kept my relative and co-worker dependent on me to complete their projects.

I realized the best thing, both for them and me, would be to (1) teach them how to execute those tasks on their own, and (2) begin gently saying “no” to their requests so they would no longer be dependent on my assistance and availability. (As the saying goes, “Teach a man how to fish and you’ll feed him for life,” right?)

How to double someone’s IQ (and free up your time)

You may have heard of Tim Ferris, best-selling author of the The 4-Hour Work Week. While I don’t subscribe to all of Ferris’ advice, he does have some good points: “It’s amazing how someone’s IQ seems to double as soon as you give them responsibility and indicate that you trust them.” After equipping his team to make decisions, he says, “[they] now know that I don’t respond to emergencies, so the emergencies somehow don’t exist or don’t come to me.”

Now it’s your turn: Banish those time suckers

What problems can you eliminate today by removing yourself as an information bottleneck and empowering others?

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Making Work Matter

20-21 (NIV)

"Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:20-21

A couple of years ago, I had the privilege of eating breakfast with a local business hotshot. The whole thing was arranged by my boss as a mentoring opportunity. During our conversation, the polished lady sitting across from me asked about my career objectives. I told her about my desire to help people apply biblical principles for business success and marketplace impact.

Knowing this lady didn’t share my faith, I then shoved a biscuit in my mouth while anxiously awaiting her response. She was silent for a moment, then said (partly to herself), “People really are hungry for purpose and significance, aren’t they?” You bet. Driving the point home was the fact that our company president had recently quit to become a minister. A few months earlier, one of our vice presidents shocked everyone by taking a massive pay cut to pursue “a calling from the Lord.” No wonder the lady across the table was intrigued.

As Bob Dylan said, the times, they are a-changin’. While researching marketplace trends and forecasts for a writing assignment, I noticed that emerging value shifts typically fall under three themes: Simplification, Balance, and an insatiable thirst for Significance. I suggest both the root and answer for all three can be summed up in one word: Relationships.

It’s no coincidence that relationships are at the core of successful business models and of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Scriptures do not call us to religion, but to a genuine, personal relationship with Christ and with each other. Being a catalyst for change in today’s (and tomorrow’s) marketplace means we must invest in God and in people.

So why aren’t we doing it? One obstacle is busyness and the clutter that comes with it. Fear is another roadblock. What will people think? What if my faith is politically incorrect? What if the right choice is the least profitable one? Then there’s the unfortunate inclination to treat God as a spiritual Santa Claus, using prayer as a substitute for obedience, as A.W. Tozer explained:

Have you noticed how much praying for revival has been going on of late — and how little revival has resulted? I believe the problem is that we have been trying to substitute praying for obeying, and it simply will not work. To pray for revival while ignoring the plain precept laid down in Scripture is to waste a lot of words and get nothing for our trouble.

In future posts, we’ll address some of these roadblocks and value shifts. Meanwhile, it’s been said that the best way to feed relationships and foster change in our organizations, communities and spheres of influence is to accept people as they are. After all, that’s what Jesus does. Yet, because He loves us, He refuses to leave us as we are. Any way we look at life or business, we’re either polluters or part of the cleanup team. Take your pick.

Two things to keep in mind as we explore biblical principles for success and fruitful relationships: Truth, by its own definition, is exclusive. In the words of best-selling author and apologist Ravi Zacharias, “all-inclusive philosophies can only come at the cost of truth” (Jesus Among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message). Applying the truth of the Scriptures to our daily grind is the absolute wisest thing you and I can do to make a positive impact in our jobs and in the marketplace.

Second, too many counterfeit believers serve up a watered-down, distorted version of the gospel that requires as much commitment as ordering a cup of coffee. They dilute God’s Word until it is as potent as decaf with skim milk, and then wonder why the world isn’t moved by it. This mishandling of the gospel gives true followers of Christ a black eye and bad rep. (Which reminds me of St. Augustine’s words: “Never judge a philosophy by its abuse.”)

In a world where the rules of engagement change at dizzying speed, some things just never change.

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Related Resources:

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Redefining Significance & Impact

lady-smacking-forehead2Every now and then we need someone to remind us of the obvious, and then it hits us like a brand-new revelation.

Kinda reminds me of the time I met with an executive and, upon realizing a mistake she’d made, she smacked herself on the head and said, “Duh! Should’ve had a V8.”  I think you and I could use a little forehead smacking right about now.

Earlier today I discovered the following text by an unknown author. The questions posed below were just the kick in the pants I needed to re-examine my motives and definitions of success and career significance.

And you know what? I’m breathing easier now. Because I realize the assumptions I’ve been operating on lately were just plain wrong and, frankly, sucking the life out of me.

I trust you will also benefit from the following exercise:

Take this short quiz — it will make you think!

  • Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
  • Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
  • Name the last three winners of American Idol.
  • Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.
  • Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.
  • Name the last decade’s worth of World Series winners.

How did you do? The point is, none of us remembers the headliners of yesterday.

These are no second-raters. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are forgotten and buried with their owners.

So here’s another quiz. See how you do on this one.

  • List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
  • Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
  • Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
  • Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
  • Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.
  • Name half a dozen heroes whose stories have inspired you.

Easier?

The lesson? The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones who care.

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It’s all about Whom you know…

sweetsuccessI’m a list junkie. Dig through my purse, laptop, desk or whatever book I happen to be reading at the time, and you’ll find about a dozen lists: some typed, some neatly written in my planner, others scribbled on random pieces of paper.

During the past few months, I’ve compiled a long list of personal goals, mostly new habits I want to establish in various areas: business, family, health and spiritual growth. Although I made some progress in developing those new habits, I lacked consistency (plus, the number of action items on my lists was hardly manageable).

Then one day, the clouds parted. It was one of those Holy Ghost revelations that hit you right between the eyes.

“Forget your list,” I sensed the Lord say. “I want you to focus on one — only one — goal for now.” He then reminded me of Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (NKJV).

So I put my “new habits” list aside for the moment and kept only one: To start each day by spending time with Him, no excuses. You see, in an effort to get all of those list items done, my daily time with the Lord had been rushed. I would often sandwich it between appointments, unable to focus as I should, or I’d multi-task, splitting my attention between God and some other activity, like housecleaning or watching my daughter babble on about SpongeBob.

This time, I’d give him my undivided attention for a good chunk of time, before I even got dressed for work. In other words, I would “tithe” my time by giving Him the first part of my day.

If you’re in the habit of doing that, you know that the more you feed yourself with His Word and presence, the hungrier you get and the easier it becomes to carve out time for Him. It doesn’t take long to see Him shift your situation, business, outlook, desires, abilities and … oh, yeah … habits.

Since renewing my commitment to seek Him first and not worry so much about the rest, He’s made it His business to take care of that long list of goals. By keeping my eyes on Him, items on my wish list are checked off with less effort.

Whether you’re an ambitious careerist, a workaholic with an unhealthy fixation on getting ahead, or a mom trying to balance your many roles, I hope you remember that it’s all about Whom you seek first.

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