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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,


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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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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Non-negotiables and purposeful living

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. [Philippians 3:12]

So, umm… yeah… I am without excuse for neglecting this blog for the past two months. I do have a list of lousy excuses, though, in case you’re curious:

  • sold a house
  • bought a house
  • relatives flew in from Brazil, California & Kentucky as I unloaded the moving truck
  • got sued (well, my employer did, and I handled PR for that)
  • helped a friend run her business after she fired key staffer
  • said “yes” to too many volunteering appeals
  • developed alarming addiction to Lifetime movies

To those of you who have stuck around here despite the cobwebs and chirping crickets, THANK YOU. You are greatly appreciated.

So, speaking of summer drama and blog abandonment, I’ve been thinking about balancing last-minute emergencies and opportunities without losing sight of priorities. You know, the non-negotiables: stuff that has to be watered and fed, no matter what.

Michael Hyatt, president of Thomas Nelson, blogged a while back about his non-negotiables, or “disciplines that if practiced faithfully would make the biggest impact on the quality of your life this year.” Michael’s top three include Bible reading, prayer and exercise, which I really like (even if I avoid exercising like the plague).

Now, my problem is that while I LOVE planning, defining tactics and goals, I suck at implementing them. Michael offers two tips for tackling that obstacle:

1. Get an accountability partner. “Knowing I will have to give [my accountability partner] an account is sometimes just the leverage I need to get up and get with it,” he writes.

It’s true. I used to be part of a small accountability group that met monthly and would charge you $20 if you failed to complete one of your monthly goals — that’s $20 per failed item. After a while, the money would go to charity. (This example is a bit extreme, but you get the idea.)

2. Slay your dragons before breakfast. “If I can get the first couple of disciplines knocked out first thing in the morning,” Michael writes, “the rest of them will follow like beads on a string.”

Henry Ward Beecher called the first hour of the day the “rudder” of the day, effectively directing how the rest will go. 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.”

They’re right. We have a short amount of time on this earth to make significant, lasting impact. Time for more purposeful living, laser-focused efforts, and some dragon-kickin’ thrown in for good measure.

And that’s non-negotiable.

When it’s wise to neglect your weaknesses

“Do not neglect the gift which is in you, [that special inward endowment] which was directly imparted to you…” (1 Timothy 4:14, Amplified Bible )

This verse recently got me thinking about a counter-intuitive lesson I learned while starting a business a couple of years ago.

Being the creative type, I could cook up a great product, but completely sucked at sales, accounting and a couple of other skills needed to run a business. So I immediately hired a business coach with the goal of mastering those areas.

While my coach was invaluable in getting me to think and act strategically, improve internal processes and close a few more sales, one thing became clear: No matter how much I worked on my weaknesses, they remained my weaknesses. Meanwhile, I neglected my core strengths because I spent so much time and energy polishing those weak spots.

One day I shared that concern with Tiffany, a seasoned marketer and business strategist. Tiffany told me something that still rings in my ears today (to be fair, I think she got it from some best-selling business book):

On a scale of 0 to 10, let’s say you were born a 5 in one talent area. You work hard at it, and over time, you climb up to a 7. The problem is that the world only pays for a 10.

Now, I’m not saying we should give up on bettering ourselves – on the contrary: Added knowledge, wisdom and practice are essential to success in any facet of life. The problem is that many of us are miserable and overwhelmed because we’re trying to pattern our lives, habits and performance after someone else’s. The truth is we make the most impact (whether in profits or people’s lives) when we operate in our innate gifts.

Dan Miller, best-selling author of No More Mondays, agrees: “How sad that we often diminish our best gifts by struggling valiantly to develop in someone else’s area of ability.” He adds, “Find an area where you run like the wind, with few competitors. Then you’ll rise from mediocrity and experience uncommon success.”

The advice proved true in my experience. I found success by focusing on what I do best — my “10” areas — and joining forces with professionals whose skills complement mine.

Along these lines, Dan offers the following rule of thumb for our work strategy:

  • Work where you are the strongest 80 percent of the time.
  • Work where you are learning 15 percent of the time.
  • Work where you are weak 5 percent of the time.

What strength have you neglected while trying to develop a weakness? What weakness can you delegate, delete, trade or outsource so you can focus on your gifts?