New Year’s Habit

It is not enough to be busy, (the ants are busy)

we must ask: What are we busy about? ~Henry David Thoreau

Writing Habit

About this time every year I make a resolution to write more blog posts that will eventually lead to writing a book. And live the rest of the year under the guilt of not living up to that goal.

So this year I decided to revise it. I would combine my goal around community development/social action with the goal of keeping a blog. I would aim to write a piece every week on a community event I participated in or issue I was thinking, talking, watching and reading about. Then a conversation with another writer combined with a piece I read designed to motivate creative people pushed it up another notch: write every day. It doesn’t matter if I write only a paragraph, if I write for work, as a volunteer, in my journal or on this blog, but I will aim to write something every day until it becomes a HABIT.

And as I begin to write again, I rediscover an identity that had been dormant. The more I write, the more the words flow. The poet in me gets another chance to emerge and fresh ideas flow from my being.

Sabbath

San Juan Islands

Drawn to an active and activist-centric life, learning to prioritize rest has been a challenge for me. However, reading Dan Allender’s book Sabbath last spring helped me see new and beautiful ways of how refreshing a day “off” from routine and work could be. Implementing them has proven to be both energizing and enriching.

In short, Allender’s description revolutionized my ideas of what that day could look like. Rather than being restricted to do nothing but sleep and engage in spiritual exercises, the sabbath, as Allender describes, should be a day of pure delight–of exploring, of art, of feasting, of music, of community, of rituals, of play, of enjoying nature. Of the latter, he writes:

The earth is bubbling with the presence of God. It teems, swims, gurgles, and cries out, “Holy, holy, holy!”–without speaking a word. And its abundance is so ripe and full that it is impossible to ignore” (p.122).

The first time I got to intentionally implement a sabbath like this was on a writing retreat with a couple of good friends. We stayed in a cabin on a San Juan island and in addition to working on our individual projects, spent some time recapturing our time in nature one evening. Below is what I wrote:

God’s Theater

Stepping onto the path next to the sea of grass was like entering an imaginative world of creative wonders. Mountain peaks which had before remained hidden to my eyes appeared out of nowhere; it was as if the curtain in a play had been drawn back to reveal an entirely new scene in God’s theater. Snow-capped, they jetted up towards the heavens where icing pink clouds floated past.

We meandered down the empty lane, the blue Sound spread out like a blanket to our right, the citrus-colored sky to our left.

“I want to smell that wild rose,” my friend said.

She breathed deeply, the scent as fragrant as sweet wine. Suddenly she shrieked.

“Bee!”

The bee had plunged to death after indulging in nectar; yet hanging to the outer petal, a live bee lapped its wings. The buried, dead bee began to move as well. A zombie bee?

Yet the magic had only begun. The scenes changed again as a rainbow appeared in the sky. An evening rainbow? Oh the surprises found in God’s playhouse!

The Now Habit: Making Playtime a Priority

The Now Habit

It seems counter-intuitive: scheduling time to play. How can that be productive? Yet in his book, The Now Habit, Neil Fiore argues that part of the solution to overcoming procrastination is the “unschedule”–that is, scheduling fun first then making the slots around that filled with high productivity. This is particularly important for entrepreneurs working on their own time, whether after hours from a scheduled job or full-time from an office, home or coffee shop. Rather than get our tasks done, it’s easy to procrastinate: check Facebook, send emails, water the plants, feed the dog, watch a TV show, sort the mail, talk on the phone and do everything except complete our task list, partly because we resent not having the time for recreation or socializing.

I’ve been scheduling play for over a year now, and while there’s always room to improve, I’ve found life to be much richer since doing so. About once a week, I go through my Facebook invites, e-vites and other lingering invites and mark on my calendar the ones I’m remotely interested in attending. I try to make a definite reply as much as possible and found that I’ve attended more social events than I did before because my open-ended personality was so noncommittal, I would’ve let them pass before realizing I’d even been invited. This approach works especially well when combined with a bit of planning as described in Getting Things Done. In addition to invites from others, I have my own flexible fun lists to try to make happen by scheduling a few each season.

This means that before heading out to an event or during my non-playtime scheduled slots, I can be super focused on what’s in front of me. Concerted efforts with 30 minutes of focus can produce a lot higher results than you might think! Even 8 minutes, as inspired by The 8 Minute Organizer, can knock out a kitchen cleanup or other task I’ve been procrastinating on. I find that if I spend just 8 minutes per day on personal email, I can prevent it from piling up and drowning me with unopened messages.

All for tonight. It’s time to go schedule some fun!

Getting Things Done

Getting Things Done

Entrepreneurs must be organized and stay on top of loose ends to accomplish big goals.

As entrepreneurs, we have a lot to manage. In addition to normal demands on our time–household chores, relationships, errands, groceries, e-mail, bills–we have our passion to pursue! This often involves networking, meetings, conference calls, creating and updating social media, marketing, bookkeeping, product designing…and the list continues, sometimes in addition to holding a full-time job! Getting things effectively checked off our ever-growing to-do lists requires efficient planning and organization.

I’m a “P” personality type, according to Meyer’s Briggs, which essentially means that when left in my natural state, I go-with-the-flow, have amazing friendships and a lot of fun, but live with the guilt that I’ve let essential things slide, most importantly my passions of creating sustainable social enterprises. How-to books like David Allen’s Getting Things Done have helped me develop basic life skills for managing these many tasks effectively.

Allen’s primary recommendation is that we de-clutter our brains by jotting down everything we need to do in some sort of list. If an activity can be completed in less than 2 minutes, do it immediately, otherwise assign it to a list. While Allen has a crazy exhaustive list of lists to keep track of, I’ve found the following to work well for me:

  • Yearly planner for thinking ahead when the best time to do something would be (I try to limit a day’s activities to 2-3 items, after working 8 hours, or 4-5 on weekend days)
  • Grocery list on my refrigerator door
  • Shopping list in my iPhone
  • Phone calendar for meetings and scheduled events
  • Comprehensive Word doc to-do list where things I know I won’t get to in the next week, or possibly the next month even, live. This list includes titles of books to read and movies to watch.
  • A Gmail task list for my daily work activities
  • A 30 Things to do when 30 list for fun
  • A list of the next dozen blog posts topics I want to write about

So maybe I am competing with Allen when it comes to keeping lists! But lists, if followed, help create a time and space for actions, for getting things done. As professional organizer Regina Leeds eloquently stated, “So how do we quiet the clutter? We clear the debris. We create systems to handle the things we want to keep by giving them a designated place to live. And we honor what we have created.” (p. xi, The 8 Minute Organizer).