Who will run your day?

March 13, 2019

From an article on planning and time management that I recently read – “Either you run your day or your day runs you.”

The article wasn’t about trying to control things, which is good, because there is no way to be in control of the day; however, you can be in control of yourself…and that was the point the article made. It was about having the self-discipline to get up and spend some time thinking about your day and how you wish to spend it, rather than getting up, looking at your phone and immediately going into react mode. In fact the article phone with msgspecifically mentioned being disciplined enough not to look at your phone until you had created a prioritized list of the things that you want to get accomplished that day – call it a to-do list or a schedule or calendar.

When you eventually do look at the messages and news that have accumulated on your phone overnight, you will be able to slot any needed reaction to things you see there into the schedule that you have set for yourself. You may have to juggle the schedule a bit, but you still have an ordered and prioritized list of things that you want to accomplish. You are running your day, instead of the day running you.

Another piece of advice from the article was not to let “shiny things” distract you. Shiny things are those distractions that occur during the day that are attention grabbing and shiny thingscan cause you to wander seriously off course. For some it can be the little ding or musical notes or buzzing that indicates that a new email or message has arrived on your phone. Somehow, we have become trained to react in real time to the need of the phone for attention. Most of the time the attention-demanding message turns out to be spam or trash, but we have interrupted whatever we were doing to answer the demand of the phone for our attention. Other shiny things might be something passing by outside that catches our eye or someone entering the room. Whatever it is, if you let those things distract you from what you were doing the day is running you.

The key point in the article is constantly being aware of what you are doing and why. If you are aware of that, you will not let other things (distractions) take time away from the tasks at hand. You also need to be aware of those times when you have nothing on your tree slouthschedule and decide how you wish to spend your down time. A popular term in our vernacular today to describe such a time that has no plan is “I’m just hanging out”. A person who answers the question, “What are you doing?” with that phrase is letting the day run him/her. You are basically saying, “I have no idea what to do and have turned off my brain.” There are always things to do. Things that you have been wanting to do. Things that you’ve been putting off. Opportunities to spend time with family or friends. You are in control of that down time.

If you are in control of nothing else, you do control how you spend your time. Don’t just hang out, letting the day run you…grab the day and run it.

Oops, gotta go…my phone just buzzed. I must obey. Ooooooh, shiny thing.

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That’s all I need…

September 8, 2015

“The last suit that you wear, you don’t need any pockets.”  (Wayne Dyer),  from the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

I just returned from the funeral of my wife’s sister; so this little saying hit home.  Another thing that really hit home came out of the funeral service. The pastor was delivering the homily and told the story of a little girl (I think he said she was three years old or maybe five) who volunteered to recite the 23rd Psalm in Sunday School. The 23rd Psalm is a very famous Psalm that is often used in funerals and which is often taught in Sunday Schools.  The 23rd Psalm starts out, “The Lord is my Shepard, I shall not want…” This day, the Sunday School teacher asked the class who could recite the 23rd Psalm, which they has been studying, and the little girl enthusiastically raised her hand. When she was called upon, she stood and confidently said, “The Lord is my Shepard and that’s all I need.” 

I think she got it exactly right. That is all that we need. If we believe that Jesus is our Shepard and follow Him, we don’t need any pockets.

A friend of mine lost a courageous battle with cancer recently. He was fun to be around; he was a good man and he will be missed. As I read through some of the posts from his family and friends on Facebook that week, everyone was sending their condolences to his widow and mentioning that he was now at peace in Heaven. For me, and for most Christians, thoughts of going to a place we call Heaven is plan “A” for life after death. It got me wondering what those who have not embraced religion have as plan “B”.

Some who claim to be agnostics deride the faithful believer’s vision of a life with God after death, but I wonder what they think happens next. What is their plan “B”? Somehow, as simplistic as it may seem to some, thoughts of life going on, albeit in a different level, is a lot more comforting than life just ending. I find no comfort at all in that plan “B”. I’m hard-pressed to understand what they believe in.

So, for me at least, I’ll go with the plan that the little girl in Sunday School laid out – The Lord is my Shepard and that’s all I need.

What’s your plan?


But, I was busy all day…

July 14, 2015

“Never mistake activity for achievement.”  – John Wooden

Do you ever get to the end of the day and wonder where all the time went? I do. Then I sometimes realize that I didn’t get many of the things done that I wanted to do, even though I seemed to be busy all day. Maybe that is the problem. I was busy all day with activities but didn’t achieve much of want I set out to do. Why?

phone with msgOne of the reasons that I have to admit is that a good deal of my activity is centered on the palm of my hand and that nasty little time-stealer that seems always to be there – my phone. Checking the weather or my email or playing the little word game that I like on it are activities that take time but usually have nothing to do with achieving anything. I get well over 100 emails a day, plus Facebook notices and WordPress notices and LinkedIn notices and on and on. Of course, each of them demands my attention and then I have to decide what to do with each – save or delete. I’m busy, busy, busy, doing nothing of importance and achieving nothing during those times.

There are lots of other activities that I do almost every day, like going to the gym, that may not achieve much in terms of my daily goals, but they are at least healthy activities. I also walk my dogs 3-4 times a day, which is a time waster, but one that I enjoy and one which give me some time to think. I watch very little TV anymore, mainly the news and maybe an HGTV show during dinner, so that can’t be my time killer. There just seem to be lots more things that need to be done these days and very few of them can be done without something else being women looking at watchaccomplished first.

I’ve noticed than many activities involve as much “fixin’ to” time as the activity itself requires. Fixin’ to is what you do to get ready to do something, to actually achieve something. When my wife asks me when I’m going to get to the chore or tsk that I set out for myself for the day, I tell her that I’m “fixin’to.” Fixi’ to involves all of the pre-work activities like sitting and thinking about it, the planning it and the getting ready to actually do it – buying the necessary materials and getting out the required tools. Fixin’ to is an activity that may be mistaken for achievement, but is actually a necessary part of the achievement and a time consumer.

Trying to multi-task often involves lots of activity with little real achievement to show for it. The problem with most multi-tasking is that none of the jobs that you are trying to do at the same time get dome well, if any really get done at all. The constant interruptions to move on to give some attention to the other tasks in progress often mean that none of them get the time that they need. In the end you may feel exhausted but have achieved little. You can do the same thing with relationships or friendships by trying to juggle too many things with friend at the same time and giving none of them the time that they’d really like with you.

man thinkingSo, what are we to do? I’d suggest spending a little “fixin’ to” time each morning to think about and prioritize the things that you really need to or want to get done that day. Maybe even write yourself a list in priority order so that you have something to refer back to during the day. Then, when those little interruptions that we all know happen during the day come up, you can look back at your list and get your priorities back in order.  Most of the things that we allow to steal our time and attention during the day aren’t really that important. Answering email isn’t a real-time requirement, nor is responding to a Facebook post with your pithy comment. If you have things that are important to accomplish today, focus your activity on them and let the other stuff slide.

I’m fixin’ to make my list right now. How about you?


So, use your brain already…

June 25, 2015

“Humans are distinguished from other species by a massive brain that enables us to imagine a future and influence it by what we do in the present.”  – David Suzuki

brain mapHumans may not have the most massive brain in terms of pure mass; although I’m not sure what other species I could point out that might have bigger brains. Certainly some dolphins have sizeable brains and one would think that some apes have brains that are nearly as large. It’s hard to imagine what the size of an elephant’s brain may be. Both apes and dolphins show a developed intelligence and ability to learn that is quite impressive; however, it’s that part about imagining a different future and then making that future happen through or plans and actions that really sets us apart.

In a recent post I talked about visualization as a technique to achieve success. Visualization involves not only imagining the future but also imagining how to get there – the plan and the execution of that plan. Visualization lets us imagine the perfect execution and the perfect result; it lets us practice in our minds.

Planning and problem solving are also parts of influencing the future to achieve the future that we have imagined.man daydreaming Unlike visualization, which focuses on the execution; planning focuses on the preparation. Planning is the process whereby we fill in the details and beak the journey to that imagined future state into small, executable steps. Problem solving involves adjusting those plans when we encounter the unexpected or when the expected doesn’t go as expected. While problem solving is part of the execution step it involves little side trips back to the drawing board to react and re-plan in order to overcome setbacks. A massive brain helps with those things, too.

Of course, also lurking in that massive brain for many are such things as fear, uncertainty and doubt. There probably are parallels to those things in other animals. We have likely all seen animals cower in fear or stop in their track, uncertain as to whether to proceed. Other things that impact our ability to get to the future that we’ve imagined may involve our emotions, which also reside in that massive brain. Sometimes emotions blind us to obvious cautionary signs or perhaps egg us on when caution would be the better course of action. woman thinkingSome emotions help and some hurt our efforts to get to the imagined future, but all probably have some impact on the speed at which we advance.

An interesting evolutionary quirk is that our massive brains seem to produce a cumulative positive effect on further brain development .As we invent things to get to that better imagined future we continually make out present better and easier. Our massive brains allowed us to evolve from hunter-gathers focused almost solely upon survival into what has become an information-driven society. We created things to do the hard work involved in surviving and that allowed us more time to spend thinking about that different future and the other things that we needed to make. What has a dolphin or an ape ever invented? They may be smart enough to adapt tools from things that they find in their environment, but they never go to the next level. Sure they have “social structures” within groups of their own species, but those are mostly rudimentary hierarchies based upon survival or mating habits.

So, here we are with our massive brains; what do we do with them? Our calling is to use them to imagine a better futureaha moment and then make it happen. Do you spend time every now and then just thinking about the future that you would like to have? What do you do then? Do you just write that off as wishful thinking and go back to your “normal” life? Why? Why not take the next steps and turn your imagination loose on the “how” and not just the “what” of your imagined future. Don’t just imagine something that floats out in front of you like a mirage; image also the road to get to that dream future. See the steps and lay out a plan. Then you can begin using visualization to practice executing those steps. It’s all in there somewhere, in your massive brain, if you will just take the time to use it.

Have a great day and take a little time to imagine what you want and where you want to be in 2 years or 5 years or 10 years. That’s the future that you want to imagine. Then imagine a way to get there. Imagine that.


What’s the “Next Play” in your life?

February 20, 2015

A recent post on the Jack’s Wining Words blog had this – “Next play!”  (Mike Krzyzewski)  A recent article in the Detroit Free Press told of how Duke basketball coach “K” has a ritual of saying to his team after every play (good or bad), “Next play!”  No matter what’s happened, focus on the task at hand. 

We all tend to spend too much time on regrets about the past or worrying about the future when we really need to be more in the moment and focused upon the “Next Play.” Life is not like a chess game where you can plan several moves ahead; it is much basketball playerstoo dynamic and has too many variables for that. Rather it is more like that basketball game with you as the point guard. You go brig the ball down trhte court for the next play and try to quickly assess what you are facing (what the defense is doing ) and make adjustments. You don’t have all day to make your decisions (the shot clock is running) and sometimes they are wrong, just like in life; so you keep adjusting and trying again. Sometimes even a well-executed play doesn’t work and sometimes life throws a foul on you.

But, before we get too far into the weeds with sports metaphors for life, let’s backtrack to the main thought of today’s little saying and that is to stay focused in the moment and what is right ahead in life. While we would all like to think that we can multi-task, in fact all we usually end up doing is multiple things badly, instead of any one of them well. Letting one’s mind wander off to the past or focus too much out into the future means taking it off of the tasks at hand and life is far too complex to be doing mental texting to yourself while trying to live (drive).

eye on worldFocusing upon the present will allow you to see the whole court (back to the basketball analogy). What are the decisions that must be made? What are the options that are available to you and what are the possible outcomes of each option. That’s actually the approach that the IBMers took with the Watson computer that they built to play chess. They programmed Watson to look fairly far out at the possible moves and countermoves at any point in the game. We usually don’t need to go as deep into the possible future in real life, but we do need to recognize that every decision and action has a consequence. Hopefully we are guided by a good moral compass and strong common sense.

The Next Play in a game coached by Mike Krzyzewski is seldom something crazy or planningoff-the-wall, but it is one that he makes sure his whole team understands and is ready to execute. If you don’t understand how to execute your Next Play, call a mental time out (as coach K would call a real one in the game) and think it out. Does it make sense to you? Are you capable of executing that Next Play? If the answers are “no” then step back and come up with a different play.

What’s the Next Play in your life? Are you ready for it? Are you focused upon it?


Three little words – Choice, Chance, Change

February 10, 2015

“Choice, Chance, Change.  You must make the choice, to take the chance, if you want anything to change.”  (Unknown) – from the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

How often we dream of things we’d like to do, places we’d like to go or people that we’d like to meet; only to sit and watch those dreams evaporate because we don’t make the choice to the take the chances that are needed to make the dreams come true – to man daydreamingchange things. A dream without a plan to accomplish it is just an idol wish – a waste of the time that it took to dream it in the first place. Choice, Chance, Change.

Maybe you have a dream of a better job; but you can’t make the choice to take the chance, so nothing changes. That job is not likely to come looking for you and maybe it even requires some skills or education that you don’t have yet. The choice then might be to enroll in a community college or a businessmenregular college and take the chance of learning what you need to know to change your life so that you are equipped for that new job. Choice, Chance, Change.

Maybe your dream is to meet Mr./Ms. Right and have a lasting and meaningful relationship, perhaps even marriage. There are TV commercials for sites like Match.com that constantly ask why you have not signed up for their service; why you have not made the choice to take the chance that this site and their service will change you r life? Whether you believe in
handshakethose sites and services are not the real questions that they are asking you are about what overt actions you have taken or are willing to take to realize your dream. Choice, Chance, Change.

Many people have the desire to travel, or so they say; yet too many never get away. They claim that they are too busy with work or with family to be able to travel and see the things that they dream of seeing. Many say that they will travel when they get older; while the elderly often lament that they wish they had travels when they were younger and could still participate in the many activities that might be available (there are few geriatric para-sailers). Taking time off and getting away to relax and rejuvenate is an important aspect of our health and most people will never be in better financial positions than they are when they are younger and working. So why don’t we go? Choice, Chance, Change.

At some point in many people’s life they start thinking about less about themselves and more about others; what could they do to help someone else. Sometimes that is forced upon us as we assume caregiver roles; but, many times it is just because we have finallytutoring become at peace with our own life and started to see more of the need around us. Perhaps we have had some cathartic religious moment or maybe we just finally looked up from our own feet and noticed that not everyone has been as fortunate as we have been. Whatever the reason, many people eventually turn to philanthropy and service to others, no matter how small the gifts or efforts. Many look back as ask why they haven’t been dog this all along. Choice, Chance, Change.

So where are you with your dreams? Have you made the choices that you needed to and taken the chances that are required to make the changes that were necessary; or, are you still sitting there dreaming about things? If you at least make the choice to try, then you can at least move on to the planning stage. That will expose the risks (chances) that you must deal with and give you a road map of the changes that are rewardrequired.

An interesting by-product of getting started is that by making choices and taking chances it will change how people perceive you – you will become a doer and not just a watcher; you move from being a fan to being a player and that will make you a whole lot more interesting person to know. You will also find that you have a different and improved self-image. No more will “coulda, woulda, shoulda” define your life; but, rather, “been there, done that and now I’m movin’ on”, will be what you and others see. Choice, Chance, Change.

What’s your choice today?


Start the year by considering three words, three words and five words…

January 1, 2015

The words to pause and consider are …What it was, what it is and what it yet may be.

The media tend to spend a lot of time at this time of the year looking back on what was and pundits are called upon to look ahead and make predictions (which, of course are reviewed at the end of the next year to see which came true).

What it was – It’s not a bad idea in our own lives to pause and look back at what was, realizing that all of those things (both good and bad) are in the past. The value in looking back is to try to learn from those things and, hopefully, be able to do less of the bad things and more of the good into the future. This is something that should not be dwelled upon for too long.

What it is – Pausing to look at where you are at today gives you the foundation for making thinking hardchanges. Taking the time to do an honest assessment of your current situation will allow you to plan properly for the prospects that you see (or desire) in the future.  The key is to be realistic with yourself.  Don’t BS yourself if you hope to plan to get ahead. Sometimes it is valuable to get some honest third party input on this topic. You may need that to honestly answer the question, “Am I as good as I think I am?” More on why that is important below.

What it yet may be– This is the most important thing to think about and should be is a combination of your hopes, dreams and aspirations. More importantly these should be the thingswomen dreaming that help you set your goals. Being realistic about your goals in life is important, too. I have read many stories about very successful people who were able to set high, but realistic goals, once they let a dose of reality into their planning. It’s great to have a dream of being a major sports star or perhaps a Rock Star; but, if you’re only a mediocre athlete or an average singer in a small garage band it may be time to get real. If you love the industry and want to remain a part of it, perhaps you can focus on being one of the successful industry players around the periphery – sports or music agent or producer or reaching goalperhaps a stage hand or umpiring official. Many people who take those routes end up quite successful and still get to hang around with the sports or entertainment performers that they love.  An important point here is that taking this route may be better for you than abandoning your dreams altogether and looking back later with a bad case of the coulda, woudlda, shoulda’s.

Where do you go from here?

For some the year may have ended in a failed marriage. I hit that a lot in my real estate business. This process of reflection, assessment and planning provides the opportunity to clean the slate and start fresh, perhaps with a new relationship in your future. A clean slate in those cases doesn’t just mean trying to wipe away the memories of the ex-partner. It also means trying to see and old cooupleunderstand the roles that BOTH parties may have had in the failure of the marriage. Once you can see the things that perhaps you did or could have done differently in the partnership to make it work, you are on your way towards maybe having a successful second chance – one that works this time. Trying to go forward with the chip on your shoulder that the fault was all the other person’s is a sure receipt for repeating the disaster. That person is gone. Focus upon fixing the person that you still have with you.

For some, perhaps the year ended in loneliness because of the loss of a life partner. There is no reason that you cannot find happiness and companionship again with another person. There are introductionsocieties in which a widow is expected to live alone for the rest of their life; ours is not one of them. Any partner with whom you were happy would want you to continue to be happy and that means having the companionship of someone new. Appreciate what you had in the past, but move on with life. You needn’t fear having to go back into the dating game. You might be surprised how the “game” has changed, especially if you are a bit older. Maturity does a wonderful job of refocusing people away from the superficial things that seem so important to the young and onto the things that actually provide the foundation for lasting relationships – personality, humor, interests, etc. Modern technologies and social media have also made it much easier to find a new partner.

For most of us the challenges of life as we start a new year aren’t quite as big or dramatic; so, for us this time reflection, assessment and planning is a chance or renewals  or mid-course corrections. Maybe we just need to renew and revitalize our goals, perhaps taking this opportunity to reprioritize some of the plans that we’ve been executing upon. For some, maybe it is time for a mid-course correction. You’ve been working towards your goals for some time and now you’ve facing new daylooked up and assessed. Are those goals still valid? Is that what you really want to achieve; or, do you now see that this either the wrong destination or just a stop on the journey towards where you really want to end up? Either way, it’s good to find that out, so that you can make course corrections. Maybe you got a degree in one thing and now realize that you don’t want to pursue that field as a career. Your degree is still worth something and maybe you can apply some of what you learned in a different field. Maybe it will just provide the base from which you can get further education in the field that you now see for yourself. The important thing is to realize that you need to change courses and go for it.

So, take time as you pause to begin a new year and look back on “What it was”, take a good look at ”What it is” and then spend some time contemplating “What it yet may be.” The past is written in the books; you are living in the present; but, the future is yours to shape. Have a great year ahead – it is yet to be.