• Andrea is a contributor at:

    BlogBurst.com

    HighCallingBlogs.com

    Alltop, all the cool kids (and me)

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 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?

Hearing From God When I’m in a Mess

freemp3-johnImagine you’re fortunate to have a loving dad who possesses superior insight, influence and resources. But you don’t talk to him much—you’re just too busy.

Except when a crisis hits, in which case you barge through his front door, firing off questions: “What do I do about money? And my job? You know what a mess I’m in; my boss hates me, and what the heck am I supposed to do about those TPS reports? Plus I have this weird growth on my back; how do I make it go away?”

Your dad smiles, looks into your eyes and says, “Sit down, child, we’ll get to that. Haven’t seen you in a while . . . Can I get you a Coke? How’s the family?” But you’re not interested in chitchat—you’ve come for specific answers, and you need them fast.

Curiously, your dad knows this but purposely holds the answers back. Why? Because he’s most interested in intimacy and, if he were to dispense directives as fast as you want, you’d rush out the door and not return for another three months. (Plus, the kind of help you really need has nothing to do with TPS reports or the funny growth on your back.)

Sadly, this scenario (fresh in my mind from a podcast by John Eldredge and Craig McConnell of Ransomed Heart) often mirrors how we approach God—like an ATM: Punch in our password, get our cash and go. We go to him in panic mode with our list of demands and we’re frustrated he’s not spitting out answers fast enough.

Meanwhile, he’s often after something deeper or more important than giving us money or job-related information in the midst of our fits. “Of course he wants to speak, guide and direct us,” John explains, “but not at the expense of relationship . . . He’s not the heavenly Wikipedia.”

So what do we do when we need an answer now? Recognizing that such answers flow out of consistent, conversational intimacy with God, John tells us he’s intentionally formed the habit of sitting down in the morning with a cup of tea, journal and pen in hand, and simply asking, “Lord, what is it that you want to speak? What’s on your heart today?” “It’s a way of letting go of my list,” he explains.

Occasionally he might add, “Lord, I’m not hearing you on [insert question]. What do you want to talk about? What question should I be asking?” “I let him change the question,” John adds, “and take it to what he wants to take it too.”

If you feel like you’re not getting answers from God, it’s possible he’s trying to talk to you about something else. Forget the boss and the TPS reports for a minute—what are your real heart issues?

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Notes:

  • Think on this: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” [Matthew 6:33]
  • I need to give credit where credit’s due: Much of this post is an adaptation of the Ransomed Heart podcast (“Intimacy” episode). You can download it from iTunes or by clicking on the “Free mp3” graphic above.
  • More on this topic in our next couple of posts: I’ll share how I started hearing from God, and then some insight that changed the way I view Romans 8:28.

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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Getting angry about the right stuff

*Warning: Today’s post contains whining*

I’ve been getting angry a lot at work lately.

Angry at the customer who gives me final approval on a project, then, a few days later, decides she wants to make “just one more change.” Eight times.

Angry at the team member who gives me the wrong project specifications, forcing me to re-do it all later.

Angry when I must depend on others to meet my deadlines.

Angry when the assignment I’ve spent hours on gets canceled or postponed indefinitely.

And then this two-minute video by Rob Bell shut me up.

Here’s a highlight:

Some people are looking for a fight because they aren’t in one. The people I know who are most engaged with the suffering of the world . . . who  have given themselves to bold, beautiful, healing kinds of causes, they’re generally free from that irrational, petty kind of anger. They don’t fall under the trap of that low-grade rage that actually increases the brokenness of the world.

Amen, brother, I get it. Thanks for setting me straight.


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Related resource: “Be Angry But Don’t Blow It” 16-minute audio by Lisa  Bevere (one of my heroes)

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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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