A POWERFUL LIFE HACK

I’m not one to promote ‘life hacks’ as a solution. Generally, it takes consistent action and work to change one’s life for the better. This idea above can certainly guide us in the right direction. If we consistently ask ourselves how the person we want to become spend their time, we will find ourselves wasting a lot less time.

Another way to do this is to write down everything you do one day and how much time you spend on it. Do not try to alter what you would normally do. If you find yourself sitting down watching meaningless YouTube videos for 30 minutes, write that down. Do you scroll through social media for just a little bit? Write down when you start and when you end. It may shock you how much time all of those little bits add up to. Also, write down what you do that is productive and how long you spend on that. Did it seem like forever you spent cleaning the house or sending emails out to promote your business? Write down when you started and when you stopped.

As you spend time sitting and pondering what the person you are striving to be would do, it would be helpful to pull out your list. This is not merely to find out how much time you are spending productively verses unproductively, but gives you a list of other benefits as well. It will show you when you tend to be most productive during the day, as well as when you seem to fall victim to distraction. You could use this information to better plan when you should schedule work related items verses recreational items. Adding items from the list of things the person you are working on becoming would do will be easier if you have this list as well. If you spend an hour a day watching videos of bears sitting at picnic tables, it may be more beneficial to slip in a few videos of cost effective ways to promote your book. Maybe if you would like to dedicate a certain amount of time to getting the the house in order you could look at your daily list and find out when you seem to have the most energy and set a timer for 30 minutes.

Thinking about how the person you want to be would spend their time will keep you disciplined to not waste as much time and make better use of the time you have. This does not mean there is no time for recreation, but that there is certainly ways in which time can be better spent. Perhaps having a picture, or pictures, of the kind of person you wish to become posted where you will see them will also serve as a good reminder. Remember it takes more than asking yourself this question once. Ask yourself at least once a day, preferably first thing in the morning, how would the person you are trying to be spend their time and energy? This will give you some great energy and plans for your day. Do this often enough and in no time you will become the person you are striving for.

STOP PLANTING A PARKING LOT

A good amount of my family in generations past were involved in farming. Being farmers they seemed to have a language that us city kids found both hard to understand and at the same time rather amusing. I recall my great uncle asking me, “Why are you wasting so much time planting parking lots?” Being a teenager from the city at the time my thought was something along the lines of, “What on earth are you talking about?” Of course, back then it was filled with the colorful language of a teenager. I was never fully able to grasp exactly the point he was trying to make. Roughly thirty years later it was made clear to me.

My great uncle Ray

This story comes to us from the friendly confines of the Oak Creek Post Office, which is where I can be found exchanging my time and labor for money Monday to Friday. Ever since I was hired by the United States Postal Service, I have found it a great opportunity to practice may many lessons in self-improvement and positivity. Today was such a day. While there are plenty of folks at the post office who could benefit from exploring the fields of self-improvement and positivity, there are often very few so inclined. Most words of encouragement are returned with cynical or sarcastic statements. It can seem as futile as…here it comes…planting seeds in a parking lot. Suddenly, my great uncle’s words came back to me and I understood what he meant. No matter how good your seeds (or words of encouragement in this case) are or how often you water them (share encouraging words to others, if they are laying on concrete or blacktop they will not grow.

It is, I imagine, a charming way of saying you should stop wasting your time on activities that stand very little chance of success. If you had words that could make someone’s heart take flight, it may be best to share them with someone whose heart is not weighted down with layers of cynical thinking and pessimism.

Just when I began to think of myself as having discovered a person epiphany and was giving thought to saving my kind words of encouragement for an area they may be better served, a caveat to this way of thinking was served to me. This enlightenment came from my coworker Sharon. Normally one to supply her healthy dose of cynicism, this time she brought up a very good point. “You never know when that seed might bring the smile someone needed.” she told me. I thought about that for a while. Even parking lots have cracks I suppose. If one of your seeds (words of encouragement) happens to find one of those cracks in the parking lot (the rare open-hearted soul in a sarcastic world) it might resonate even more for its rarity in the situation. Proving, even in great farming wisdom, there are two sides to every story.

These are both good lessons to carry with us through our lives. We should check to make sure we are not spending undo time planting parking lots. That is spending our time and efforts on whatever goal we are aspiring to, in a situation in which it is unlikely to succeed. That being said, however, we should remember that a small light may not seem like much in the darkness, but it stands out a lot more than it would in a well-lit room. We also must remember that a little light may be exactly what someone needs.

YOU ARE WASTING $36,000!!!

Secrets to an amazing life, what are they? Here is an interesting secret to help you stop wasting your time, be more productive and live a more amazing life. Sounds like a big promise? Stick with me I promise you won’t be disappointed. This secret may shock you at first, it may even make you feel a little uncomfortable. That is okay. Feeling uncomfortable is where growth and positive change occur. It is also okay to feel uncomfortable because you are probably reading this alone. Even if you are not, nobody will know you are feeling uncomfortable unless you start fidgeting nervously.

Here is the secret, it is one we all have in common – you are wasting time. Before you get defensive, just relax. To some extent we are all wasting time. What may shock you is what that wasted time is costing us. According to ZDnet, the average American spends 5.4 hours a day on their phone. Millennials spend a little more at 5.7. Just so we all feel better we will round that down to 5 hours a day. Not all of this time is wasted but a good deal of it is. You start out by trying to learn how to spell the name of an important Egyptian pharaoh that you want to use in your blog and end up watching several YouTube Documentaries on Ancient Egypt, plus a video of a cute dog that looks like a baby bear that your lovely lady sent you…hypothetically. Throw in a few episodes of useless television, and a few other things here and there and we can easily get up to 5 hours a day.

So we waste 5 hours a day entertaining ourselves with mind-numbing foolishness, is that such a crime? Yes and no. If you are looking for ways to live an amazing life, you are throwing away a great deal of opportunity and perhaps a great deal of money. 5 hours a day times 7 days a week gives us 35 hours. That is almost a full work week. In essence we waste nearly as much time as we spend at work each week. Over the course of the year that is 1,820 hours. This amounts to 45 work weeks a year! Next time you find yourself scrolling through social media, imagine what our life would look like if we devoted just half of that time toward a project we are working on or a goal we are pursuing? You could still watch 2.5 hours of surfing cats, but put an additional 22 full 40 hour work weeks towards improving your life.

That may not motivate you but this might. How much do you think an hour of your time is worth? Not just what you are paid at your job, but what is an hour of your time worth? Let us just choose an easy number of $20. The real amount is probably a lot more, but we don’t want this to be too frightening. Now we take those 35 hours a week, 1,820 hours a year we waste and multiply that times the $20 figure. What do you come up with? To save you from doing the math, I will give you the answer – $36,400!

If you are working on your own business, or perhaps writing a book the amount of money you could be making putting that time to good use could far exceed the numbers we have mentioned. Maybe money doesn’t motivate you. After all, there is much more to living at amazing life. Can you imagine how much you could improve your relationship if you spent 22 full 40 hours weeks studying ways to improve your love life? How about your emotional and spiritual fulfillment? I shutter to think how much better my life would be with 22 full 40 hour weeks of meditating. How about spending those 2.5 hours a day on exercised to strengthen the mind? Reading a book in your selected field? Even just sitting down with a pen and paper and thinking of ideas toward your goal.

While it may be uncomfortable to think of how much time we waste, acknowledging that will allow us to make far better use of our time. Recreation is very important and I am not advocating we do not spend any time on activities that help us unwind. That is what the other 2.5 hours a day is for. I think you can see if we even spend half the time we waste reading tabloid magazines from the grocery store, how much further ahead in life we can be. I would love to know what great use of your additional 2.5 hours you have in mind.

SLOW YOUR SPEED IN THE NEW YEAR

It is the end of the first week of 2019. As I write this I am sitting in a local Starbucks watching a young lady pace back and forth as she waits for her coffee. The line for the drive-thru was quite extensive. Everywhere people are in a hurry to get what they need and where they are going. I must confess to falling victim to this myself from time to time. The question is when do we stop? You need to get your coffee…on the way to work, let us say. Then you hurry to work to be on time, an issue I seem to have more often than I would like. When you arrive at work you are in a hurry to have the work day end and be on your way home. During the ride home you are in a hurry to just get home so you can relax. Once at home, then we relax right? We hurry to make dinner so we could catch our favorite program, hurry through our household chores so we can finally get to bed and get some well deserved rest. When, at last, we finally find ourselves between the sheets our minds are still racing with thoughts of all we have to do tomorrow. It seems we just drift off into blissful slumber when the alarm clock beckons us to do it all again.

I don’t know about you, but I feel tired just reading that paragraph. The ironic thing about this whole mess is that we do it to ourselves. Time, as Einstein reminded us, is just a stubborn illusion. A better way to explain that is a thought I read on the bottom of a sales ad. how long 3 minutes is depends on what side of the bathroom door you are on. Of course, in at least one of those situations you are still in a hurry. Back to our example of the typical work day. It would seem the adult mind always races to what is next. While it is good to have a goal in mind and be focused on where you are going, it can certainly lead to increased sense of stress and anxiety.

Another thing we do that can leave us chasing time is multitasking. While it may seem like trying to accomplish as many things at once would leave us with more time, the opposite is generally true. The list of tasks in life is always growing and the only thing doing multiple things at once does is diminish the quality of job that we do on each task. It can leave us feeling overwhelmed and looking to ‘catch up’.

What is the solution for all of this? SLOW DOWN. The best way to slow down is to work on being present. Keeping our focus on what we are doing can help us appreciate all that is good about each moment. It will also help us feel less rushed. I know it may seem contrary to think that doing only one thing at a time will lead to more time, but it can. First of all, you do a better job by focusing on one thing at a time. This reduces the amount of time you have to redo things or correct mistakes. By focusing on one thing at a time you decrease the time each task takes. Not to mention it reduces the stress of overwhelm. Less stressed people are more productive people.

There are many ways in which we can learn the art of being present. There is one of my personal favorites, meditation. There are tons of free apps available. Some take as little as 5 to 10 minutes. There are also guided meditation videos on YouTube as well as available on CD. All you have to do is pop on a pair of headphones and relax away. You will emerge from that experience refreshed on more centered.

Another source of teaching on how to be present are children and animals. When we were young, we were much better at being able to appreciate the moment. A child could be lost in a moment of play for hours. As they grow older we teach them not to daydream and to focus on what needs to be done. Turning them into stressed out smaller versions of ourselves. Do yourself a favor and get lost in a moment of play yourself. Better yet, bring along a child to show you how it is done. Animals are the other half of this equation. Pet owners are generally less stressed than their pet-free counterparts.  In addition  to the love animals give us, they also remind, and sometimes force us to take moments to pause and totally live in the moment. I have watched a dog smell a tree for several minutes, every surface just to get the full story. While I wouldn’t recommend doing this as the neighbors may begin to refer to you as “That neighbor who smells trees” just taking a moment to fully appreciate what we are engaged in will reduce our stress and give us more time.

YOU NEED TIME FOR THIS

All of us have things in life that we don’t like to do. Cleaning the bathroom, doing the dishes, waking up early on our day off. Life is full of things that drain our happiness as well as our energy. The crazy thing is we really drag these items out. I am not necessarily talking about the actual act of doing them, although in some cases that might happen too. What I mean is we start dreading them long before we actually begin them. In the course of doing them often we can spend as much time complaining as we do acting. If we don’t do so out loud, we often spend countless moments cursing under our breath.

What I am suggesting? Certainly not whistling and dancing with one hand, toilet brush in the other? Not exactly, but if you can find a way to do that let me know. What I am advocating is striving for a little balance. We can do this in two ways. First, spend time every day on something you enjoy. Whether that is eating a Kit Kat or a taco. Maybe it is sitting down to a nice relaxing cup of coffee or tea. Perhaps listening to your favorite music? Whatever your moment of bliss is, make sure to schedule it. When you do, spend a few minutes getting excited about it before you actually begin. Think about how good that Kit Kat will taste, or imagine what toppings you will get on your taco. Hard shell, soft shell or both? Think about the scent of the coffee brewing or the feel of the warm liquid as you sip it. Then pay attention as you prepare the activity. Get excited as you brew the coffee. Smell the tea bag as you open it.

Lastly, be present while you are engaged in the activity. I can’t recall the times I have been looking forward to a particular dinner and I am half way through before I really slow down to enjoy the taste. With the delicious meals Margie creates that is about as close to a sin as you can get. Slow down and pay close attention to every detail of happiness. Why not? Enjoy it to the fullest. Use as many of your senses as you can. Feel the chocolate melt in your mouth as you eat the Kit Kat. Hear the crunch as you bite into it. Smell the chocolate. Enjoy the look of the perfectly formed wafers. Taste all the mix of flavors with each bite.

Second, try if you can, to incorporate some things that make you happy into some of the activities you dread. Of course you shouldn’t have a Kit Kat in hand and a toilet brush in the other. The potential for disaster certainly looms in that one. If you can however turn up some great music while you work, why not? Maybe treat yourself to a Kit Kat or taco after you finish cleaning the bathroom. I would, however, recommend washing your hands. It may even give you a little joy in what otherwise would be an arduous task.

Let us all schedule some bliss in our day. When we do let us make full use of it. Drink every last drop of joy and happiness out of the situation. Be totally present and treat it as a sort of mini vacation if you can. I would be elated to learn some of your moments of bliss. What activities bring joy into your life? Share them in the comments below!

KEEP MOTIVATED…DAILY! PART ONE

To paraphrase the late Zig Ziglar motivation expert and author, Motivation doesn’t last, neither does bathing that is why we must do it daily. So how to capture this? How can we work in motivation every single day with limited or no effort on our part? How can there be a reminder every single day to seed our mind to greatness and expand our compassion and our drive for success. The answer can be found on your wall, or on your desk, or on that table by the television. It is a great tool that is often overlooked. The day by day calendar. Whoever started this great idea was on to something. it is getting to be that time of year where calendar stores start popping up at your local mall. I strongly suggest paying a visit to one. For roughly the price of one dinner out you can be treated to daily motivation right in your home! They have calendars for all different angles. Trying to become more driven? They have calendars for people who are starting their own business. looking to create more peace and tranquility in your life? Try a zen calendar. The one I am currently using is ‘insight from the Dalai lama’ he is a man I greatly respect and his words give me a lot to think about as I go through my life. All I do to accomplish this is tear off a little piece of paper as I grab my daily cup of coffee. Think of whatever goal you are aspiring to, now imagine 365 powerful thoughts towards its creation. All of them already written and waiting for you with no effort on your behalf. how much closer to accomplishing your goal, whether it will be to be more relaxed, prosperous or enlightened if you could focus on it in a different manner 365 ways in a year. a great thing about these calendars you can tear off the sheet, which is roughly 4 inches by 4 inches and take it with you. fold it up and put it in your pocket/wallet/purse whatever. Then you can take it out and think about it several times a day. My aunt who either has far more ambition, time or both than myself even saved a few of her favorites and made a scrap-book of them. Thus, they can keep inspiring her for years to come. Now if I could only find that calendar with beautiful beaches, lovely island girls and motivational quotes I would be set. Seriously, stop by your local calendar store and take a look around, see what may work for you. Also there are nice little desk calendars and even wall calendars that can provide you with inspirational thoughts weekly or monthly. They are great for developing mantras and building on a single idea for a prolonged period of time. Recently my amazing friend Crystal gave me one and I love it! Not only do I enjoy the inspirational quotes, but I am always reminded of, and grateful for the amazing friend I have in her. So they also make wonderful gifts to inspire others.

WHAT IS THE SECRET?

Many people ask after reading this blog, “well what is the secret?” “How do I start living a positive rewarding life?”. First things first, there is no magic formula to wake up and start living a positive life.  In fact, I’m going to be honest it may take a week, maybe a month, maybe more.  The closest comparison I can draw is getting in shape or learning to play an instrument.  You don’t pick up the violin one time and suddenly become a master.  Neither do you go to the gym once and expect to be in shape for the rest of your life. Developing a positive attitude is a lifetime journey. Just like playing and instrument or becoming physically fit different ways may work for different people. Now before this starts to sound too much like work or just another challenge you may not have time for. Remember that the journey to a positive rewarding life, although a struggle, brings with it rewards of a far greater proportion than the effort it takes to obtain them. Not to mention they continue to compound on each other.  There are times people ask me, “ok how do I remain positive when ‘x’ happens?”  The answer to that is two-fold.  First, there are times when it is certainly ok not to be happy.  Nobody is happy all the time and nobody should be. There are moments in life that try our souls and make us cry.  Yet out of our sorrow we can even come to appreciate our joy more. The second part of that answer is that is a lifestyle change. When something goes wrong in our lives is not the time to start to be concerned with focusing on joy. Although I have seen tough times refocus some people.  No, the perfect time to begin our journey is today, right this very second. That way when tough times come, as they will, we can face them with a more hopeful spirit and a positive outlook.