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Category: MAKING TIME BIG

time and energy management, timing, tools and strategies

PUT IN PLACE

PUT IN PLACE

It’s the first thing they teach you in chef school:  a system called mise-en-place, or literally, “put in place.”   It’s a French phrase that means to gather and arrange the ingredients and tools needed for cooking.

The mise evolved out of the rigid “brigade system” of culinary hierarchy codified in the 19th century by Chef Georges-Auguste Escoffier.  This system emphasizes focus and self-discipline and a high level of organization and order.

Escoffier would probably have agreed with Ben Franklin who once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

In the high-stress world of the professional chefs, planning and preparation are paramount.  How else could they prepare so many meals of exceptional quality, one after the other in a three-hour period, night after night after night?

Preparation is the essence of mise-en-place.

BASIC MISE

At its most basic, mise-en-place means to set out all of your ingredients before you start to cook. Measure out what you will need, chop the vegetables that will need to be chopped, and have everything ready on the counter or in small bowls on a tray.

In the following YouTube video, “How to Mise-en-Place, published by Cooking Light, Chef Keith Schroeder, author of MAD DELICIOUS: The Science of Making Healthy Food Taste Amazing!, demonstrates how home cooks can start to “mise” their recipes.

TAKING IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL

If you talk to professional chefs, that part of the mise-en-place is just the tip of a very large iceberg.  Some of them get downright Zen or Jedi about it.  Everything has to be in place, including your stance and your mindset.

Writer Dan Charnas, of hip-hop journalism  fame, wrote a book last year, WORK CLEAN:  The Life-Changing Power of Mise-en-Place to Organize Your Life, Work, and Mind.  It grew out of his interviews of dozens of culinary professionals and executives and focused on his understanding of mise-en-place as a personal code of ethics that emphasized excellence.

As Charnas says in an article he wrote for National Public Radio, “….most colleges and grad schools don’t teach basic organization.  Culinary schools and professional kitchens do.”

This YouTube video, “The Ingredients of Work Clean,” published by Rodale Press shortly before the book came out, contains a brief explanation of what it is: a simple system that helps you focus your actions and accomplish your aims

  • Planning is prime. Be ruthlessly honest about time and timing.  It’s the only way you can set it up right.
  • Arrange spaces so you can perfect moves. Place things so you can make your moves with just the flick of your fingers.  Know how you move and place your dishes of prepared ingredients and your tools right where you will be able to reach them when it’s time to use them.
  • Clean as you go. Keep your tools and your station as organized as when you first started.  This knife goes in this space.  The chopped chives go right there. Everything that is no longer needed does not belong at your station.  You’ll need it later so if you’ve got a breathing space, wash up the thing you’ve used and put it aside for when you’ll next need it.
  • Know what to start first. Start the longest process first.  It will be done by the time you get to the shortest process and by the time you’re done, you’ll be at the end.
  • Do not wait to finish. It isn’t finished until it’s delivered.  As soon as it’s ready, let it go.
  • Slow down to speed up. Don’t panic when things get hectic.  Calm your body, calm your mind.  Hurry opens the door to mistakes.  Get it right, and fast will happen.
  • Open your eyes and ears. Balance your internal and external awareness.  Remain focused and open.   Be receptive.  React as needed to the world around you but stay focused on what you are doing.
  • Call and call back. Streamline and confirm essential communications.  Follow up, update your team and turn information into intel you all can use to work together well.
  • Inspect and correct. Excellence requires vigilance.  Check your work.
  • Aim for total utilization. Avoid wasting time, space, motion, resources or persons.  Figure out how to tap into the flow of using them all and making them move in the direction you want them to go.  Look to create a synergy that you can step into.

The real is that mise-en-place is about being able to “work clean.”  It’s not about “creating order,” as in, “Gee, wow, I’ve organized my desk and doesn’t it look clean and cool?”

What mise-en-place says is, “I’m committed to move through all of these many steps I need to do and get them done right.  When I’ve finished with all the steps of this project  I am on now, I’ll wrap it up and deliver it.  Then I’ll resume my stance at my station, put myself in a position where everything is in place for me to work on the next project, and I’ll deliver that one.”

With mise-en-place you can repeat as needed for as long as necessary and it all gets done right every time.  You think about the process of making something from start to finish, and then you set up a system so you can get it done.

The system you create and maintain will allow you to stay focused on the most important thing at each moment.  What you need to do to accomplish something gets done faster and more proficiently because everything you need to do it is right there in front of you.

It’s cooking, planned and executed like a military campaign, and the moves are eminently transferable to other life-things as well.

A companion YouTube video, also published by Rodale Press, The Daily Meeze is a short introduction to the 30-minute daily planning session that Charnas recommends as a way to take mise-en-place out of the kitchen and apply it to regular life.

You may be able to figure out your own way to make your “meeze” your own.  Think about it.

Here’s a poem:


I SHOW UP

I suppose one thing there is

That can be said about me:

I show up.

It isn’t much, that.

Not earth-shaking….

I raise no mountains.

 

It’s not like I’m riding

On the waves at Jaws,

Throwing myself down

The face of some

Massive wall of water,

The epitome of Cool.

 

I show up.

What needs to be done

Gets done because of that.

The gears get oiled,

The wheels keep turning

And nothing comes

To a screeching halt.

 

I show up.

By Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “Dongjiadu Mise-en-place” by Gary Stevens via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

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HURRY SICKNESS AND SPARE TIME

HURRY SICKNESS AND SPARE TIME

There used to be a thing called “spare time” which was greatly anticipated and enjoyed by those who had it.  It was the time we had available to do other things than work, developing our hustle-muscle, or striving for S.M.A.R.T. goals.

Spare time nourished us and kept us engaged and enjoying life.  Spare time helped us to thrive in the middle of Life’s inevitable obstacles and challenges.  We were able to find meaning and mana in our ordinary lives because of our spare time.

Where did all the spare time go?

hurry-up
“Hurry Up” by Peter Grob via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]

THE RISE OF HURRY SICKNESS

For many people it’s become a point of pride and a badge of honor now to be “Crazy Busy.”  The adrenaline rush of speeding through many tasks and communications can be addictive.  It feeds our illusion that we are always in high demand, that we’re conquering new territory and moving toward something grand.

The breath-taking pace of technological breakthroughs that help us feed our addiction for effortless speed and “saving time” and keeping up with the all of everything while  checking off to-do lists, hammering goals and piling up accomplishments is revved up and running, raining down every progressive technological wonder upon us and we are entranced.

Along with all the joys and blessings of our rapidly expanding technology, assorted researchers tell us, we are apparently experiencing an epidemic of “Hurry Sickness.”

crosstown-traffic
“Crosstown Traffic” by Bob M via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

THE MIND-BODY CONNECTION

Hurry Sickness is not some newly discovered phenomenon.  The term was first coined by cardiologist Dr. Meyer Friedman.

Dr. Friedman and his colleague Dr. Ray Rosenman shared a cardiology practice in San Francisco in the 1950’s.  They began studying and writing about the link between behavior and heart disease.  Their then-controversial work introduced the concept of the mind-body connection that is still being investigated and explored by researchers today.

The doctors’ observations were published in a popular 1974 book, TYPE A BEHAVIOR AND YOUR HEART.  It was the start of a whole new field of study for behavior researchers as well as a way to explain a lot about the consequences of human behavior on physical, emotional and mental well-being  to the general public.

It started to turn the focus of their studies towards ways that people could help themselves look for and find ways to greater personal happiness.

“Type A personality” soon became a popular buzzword to describe the driven, tenacious and relentless strivers who were likely to snarl at slow-moving salesclerks and other minions, who were compulsive multi-taskers extraordinaire and often prone to road rage.  More easy-going folks were categorized as “The Type B personality.”

Friedman’s life work was trying to get people with a Type A personality to behave more like people with Type B personality.  He came up with a therapy regimen that was meant to modify Type A behavior.

As the good doctor was fond of reiterating, “You can’t change personalities.  We just try for more B-like behavior.”

slow-down-kid
“Slow Down Kid” by Predi via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]

HURRY SICKNESS AND YOU

A YouTube Video published by the London School of Business, Do You Suffer From Hurry Sickness? points out some of the less-extreme symptoms of Hurry Sickness observed by Richard Jolly, a London Business School professor and business coach.

According to Jolly, about 95 percent of the managers he has studied suffer from the illness, which has been defined as the constant need to do more, faster (even when there’s no objective reason to be in such a rush).

Working at breakneck speed for extended periods of time does not enhance productivity; it reduces it,” declares Dr. Edward Hallowell, author of CRAZY BUSY: Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap! Strategies For Coping In a World Gone A.D.D.

Some of Hallowell’s thoughts from the book are presented in this YouTube video, uploaded in 2006 by simplyab.

As Hallowell says in his book, “When we work too fast for too long we get tired, become inefficient, make mistakes, and become unable to think clearly and sharply.”

ANOTHER HIGH-STRESS SCENARIO

Our bodies and minds aren’t meant to endure continual stress.  We get irritable, easily angered and upset from frustration and exhaustion.

Hurry sickness increases the body’s output of the stress hormone cortisol, which suppresses the immune system and has been linked with heart disease.  Blood pressure spikes and eventually remains at an elevated level.  Hearts wear out.

Chronic stress has also been found to trigger allergies, arthritis, obesity, diabetes, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and loss of appetite…it says here.  Running all-out frantic is generally not good for health, productivity or happiness.

slow-down
“Slow Down” by Wil C. Fry via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
When our bodies and our minds stay in a constant state of overstimulation, it’s like being surrounded by lions and tigers and bears that work in shifts.  Survival becomes the order of the day.

When you’re too busy, you don’t do anything well.  Relationships suffer.  Performance at work and productivity suffers.

As Jolly points out, when you are caught up in all of the minutiae of being connected every minute of the day and night, you cannot take the time to slow down a bit and ask the big, really important questions.  You get too frazzled to entertain any creative thoughts.

Worst of all, you don’t enjoy life.  How?  You’re too busy flying from one thing to the next and you just haven’t got the time.  If unchecked, studies have shown, all this jittering can lead to burn-out and depression.

Hurry sickness is not limited to executives and entrepreneurs.

A classic baby boomer children’s book, HURRY HURRY by Edith Thacher Hurd with old-timey illustrations by her husband Clement was a favorite of my children.  In it, a nanny Miss Muggs who is always in a great hurry comes to stay with Suzie while her parents are away.  Little Suzie gets pulled along faster and faster as the nanny’s great hurry leads from one disastrous situation to steadily worse ones.

[The Hurds were one of the children’s literature’s best-known teams in their time.  The book was part of the “I Can Read” book series published by Harper Books.  It came out in 1960 and it’s still a grand read.]

SEED THOUGHTS AND SUGGESTIONS

For real, it is surprisingly simple to overcome Hurry Sickness.  The thing is, it ain’t easy.

The main thing to understand is the wise guys were right.  There are just three things that can help you reach your freedom from busy:

  • Discernment (also known as asking the right questions)
  • Clarity (also known as deciding what and who are most important and necessary for happiness in your life)
  • Selectivity (also known as choosing to say “yes” to what is important to you, and “no” to everything else)

In later posts, I’ll be exploring these three.  I’ll present exercises and such that you can try to help mitigate the effects of Hurry Sickness.  There are all kinds of neat mind-games you can try.  Some of them may work for you.

In the meantime, here’s a list of assorted books that you might like to explore:

slow-down-snail
“Slow Down Snail” by Aftab Uzzaman via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Here’s a poem:


WORD IS….

Word is the World’s not fair,

Twists and turns turn dreams to air.

 

[Make a new plan, Fran….

Set a new goal, Cole.]

 

You watch them crumple, bite the dust.

All that’s left is some soggy crust.

 

[Choose a new mark, Lark….

Start a new plot, Scott.]

 

Entropy rules and it don’t care

‘Bout your Big or your share.

 

[Find a new view, Lu….

Try a new trick, Slick.]

 

Time moves on, all in a flurry,

Pushing you to hurry, hurry.

 

[Shape a new deal, Sheil….

Find a new map, Sap.]

 

Proactive-reactive, boom-shaka-boom….

Drowning in all the doom and gloom.

 

[The game goes on, Dawn.

Do you REALLY want to play, Clay?]

By Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  Hurry!  By Michael Pardo via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

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TIME HORIZONS

TIME HORIZONS

The time frames you set to realize your goals can influence whether you achieve your vision of success.  This is the foundation for another exercise in Un-Seeing.

We seem to have been brain-washed into believing that if we don’t weight ourselves down with a lot of pressure to get things done and done and done, then we’re going to just sit there like lumps on a log.  That’s often the rationale behind all this deadline-making fetish we’ve all fallen into.

Put enough pressure on yourself and you’ll squirt ahead of the crowd.  Oh yeah.  Uh-huh.  Ri-i-i-ght.

More often, it seems, putting all that pressure on yourself makes it very hard to move with grace and is likely to break something – either in you or in your relationships and in your world.

SOME THINGS TAKE TIME…A LOT OF TIME

Baking a cake takes an hour or so.  Slow-roasting a side of beef takes a lot longer.  If you turn up the heat and try to cook that hunk of meat in an hour like a cake, all you will get is a charred piece of raw meat and an over-heated kitchen.  It doesn’t work.

Setting your time frame is like deciding whether the race you are running is a fifty-yard dash or a marathon.  Different strategies are required, depending on the race you choose to run.  You have to pace yourself — allocate your time and your energy differently.  You have to train differently.

This YouTube video “Eight Stages of Marathon Running,” published in 2013 by BuzzFeed Video is a giggle-inducing depiction of the emotions experienced by a first-time marathon runner over the course of a 26.2 mile run.

It’s hard to imagine any short-race runner going through all of that.

HAWAIIAN STYLIN’

Hawaiians have a most interesting concept about time.  They know that time is a mind-construct.  It doesn’t really exist in the Real, they say.  Because time is a human-made thing, it stands to reason that humans can play with time.

When the pressure mounts and they are feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of things that have to be done, Hawaiians remind each other to “ho’omanawanui.”

In modern times this phrase is translated as “don’t worry.”  However, a wise old Hawaiian shaman once told me, the literal meaning of this phrase can be broken down as follows:

Ho’o” = “make”

Manawa” = time

Nui” = big

When you put it all together “ho’omanawanui” becomes “make time big.”

The shaman was gently pointing out to me that I was trying to solve a very big chronic problem in a very short time frame.  It was driving me crazy. It seemed like every move I made compounded the chaos and it all got overwhelming.

The shaman listened to my tale of woe and advised me to give myself more time and more room in which to make my moves.  Letting go of an artificially set deadline, he said, would give me more time to allow the big mass of chaos I was facing to settle down so I could see how I could use my available resources – my time, my energy, my attention and my money – to better effect.

The moves I could choose to make became clearer when I did not feel the looming pressure of the deadline I had set for myself pressing on me.  Giving myself more time to resolve the situation was a simple matter of telling myself that I had all the time I needed to turn it all around.

This let me take a breath and slow down.  The situation no longer felt like a life-and-death emergency run, with lights flashing and sirens blaring.

flashing-lights
“Flashing Lights” by Thomas Berber via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
I could slow down.  Slowing down helped me see the opportunities that were already there and I was able to use them to help mitigate and correct a truly intolerable situation.

That one worked.  So have all the other times I’ve tried to use the Ho’omanawanui strategy.

THE FALSE “EITHER/OR”

A wide time horizon can help you avoid false “either/or” decisions.  It’s useful for challenging the assumptions you are carrying whenever you’re facing some choice.

all-at-sea
“I’m all at sea….” by GraceOda via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Here’s an example.  Should I spend the summer with my kids making a memory?  Should I spend the summer building my client base so we’ll be able to continue living in the style to which we’ve grown accustomed?

If you start thinking on this in March and you’re looking at the upcoming summer, it’s likely that you’ll end up turning the choice into an “either/or” thing:  EITHER I spend the time with my kids OR I build my business.

If, however,you choose to spend next summer off at the beach with your kids, then you can use the year in between to save money, take on additional clients to generate more revenue, and give advance notice to your existing clients that you’re going to be taking off next summer.

You can even get the kids into planning what they want to do and see and making their own plans for the trip as well.   Together you can work on making the whole experience more meaningful and fun.

The decision becomes an “and”:  I am building my business AND I’m building a special memory with my kids.

GETTING TO “AND”

An even bigger one is the one where you consider doing what you love and doing what makes you more money.  A wider time horizon can allow you to turn the thing into an AND decision, rather than making it an EITHER/OR proposition.

Giving yourself a wide time horizon allows you to consider working during the day and following your passion during the non-work hours.  Or, you might choose doing what you’re passionate about as your primary activity and getting side gigs that make you money.  Or, you might be able to figure out a way to make money doing your passion.

If you don’t load a lot of time constraints and have-to’s onto yourself, you can figure out how to get to where you’re going gracefully.  A bit of graciousness can creep in.

FINAL THOUGHTS

One of my favorite quotes about time is this one by Michael Altshuler:  “The bad news is time flies.  The good news is you’re the pilot.” 

Altshuler should know.  He is a sales coach whose personal track record shows over $65 million in personal and managed sales and he speaks before corporate audiences about peak performance.  For a while he did a stint on the t.v. hit show, American Gladiators.

Here’s a YouTube video produced by eSpeakers in 2016 that shows Altshuler in action.  His message in this thing is a good one….

Here’s a poem:


SAVING

There is no saving time,

No matter what they say.

There’s only the spending

In wise and foolish ways.

 

It is a saving grace,

The knowing this is true

It becomes a matter of pacing,

Of finding the real for you.

 

And when the hours are gone

And the clock has had its run,

The cosmic jest may yet come clear.

Here’s hoping you had fun….

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  Gear and Hands by Domiriel via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

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THE TEN THOUSAND HOUR THING

THE TEN THOUSAND HOUR THING

Everybody’s heard about how putting in 10,000 hours  working on a particular skill-set pretty much “guarantees” that you will be very good at using those skills.

The number makes the “rule” easy to remember.  It’s so nice and round.

It’s also more than a little intimidating!  Ten thousand hours apparently translates to about ten years, after all, and I’m not sure whether that includes time for eating, sleeping and doing all of the other stuff humans do.

On top of the sheer immensity of it all, there is a caveat hooked onto that number:  any self-improvement and skill development that occurs after you’ve reached a certain level of skill is actually tied to how you spend your time practicing and expanding on what you do.

WHAT IS IT REALLY?

The 10,000-hour thing bounced around scientific circles since the 1970’s.  Why, the Big Brains wondered, did some people achieve an extraordinary mastery in some discipline while others did not?

It was in 2005 that a research team headed by Neil Charness, a psychologist from Florida State University, published the results of a decade-long investigation of The practice habits of chess players.

Their findings were popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his 2008 book, OUTLIERS, and all of a sudden every man- and woman-in-the-street was urging their offspring to put that nose to that grindstone.

THE SCIENTIFIC STUDY

Throughout the 1990’s the Charness team placed ads in newspapers and posted flyers at chess tournaments, looking for ranked players to participate in their project.  They eventually recruited over 400 players from around the world.

For each player, the scientists collected a detailed history and created a timeline of their significant training and practice events.  The players were asked questions like these:

  1. At what age did you start playing chess?
  2. What type of training did you receive each year?
  3. How many tournaments have you played? When?  Did you win or lose?
  4. Were you coached? By whom?  How?

And so on…

The Charness study not only asked the players how long they practiced, it also asked what the players did when they practiced.  What the Charness team found was that chess masters dedicated five times more hours to serious study of the game than the players who plateaued at the intermediate level.

THE HOW OF THE MASTERS

The grandmasters focused on what Anders Ericsson, a colleague of Chandress, called “deliberate practice.”  These players chose to do activities that stretched their chess-playing abilities where they most needed stretching.  As Ericsson would say, the grandmasters challenged themselves “appropriately.”

The grandmasters studied the moves of historic gamesmen.  They memorized important game strategies until they could recognize the start of a game-winning gambit.  They studied counter-moves and practiced blocking or subverting their opponent’s efforts as well.

In this YouTube video, “Deliberate Practice,” calligrapher Esteban Martinez allows his viewers to watch as he practices writing his kanji.  It is a beautiful thing to watch.

COMPETITION DOES NOT FURTHER

An interesting sidelight was the finding that, after a certain point, tournament play really did not significantly improve playing skill.

The better guy wins.  Period.  If the better guy is you, you’re just using your skill well.  If the better guy is not you, then you lose the game and probably don’t learn much that is new.  The improvement to your game playing, if any, is a small “don’t-do-that-one” insight.

Hundreds of follow-up studies in a diverse array of fields validated the Charness team’s finding that deliberate practice is the key to excellence.  If you practice deliberately, you do get very good.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Assorted life-coaches and other advisors will usually give you the following pointers after they’ve explained about the hours.

  •  In order to get past “good” you have to take on projects that are beyond your current comfort zone. You have to bite off more than you can chew, but not so much that you choke on it.
    • Because the project is an exploration of new territory, you are going to have to shift into high gear and pick up chops. Hustle becomes the order of the day as you try to keep all those spinning plates going on that forest of sticks on your stage.
  • At some point you will go into overwhelm.  If you keep on going past that point, you will break through your  former comfort zone barriers.
    • That’s when your “comfort zone” gets bigger.  That’s when you’ll succeed at pushing back the fences and walls that enclose your zone and all of a sudden you’ll have more space to move.
  • It is a good idea to measure and get feedback on everything when you’re heading onto new territory. Measure, track, and listen your way to a new understanding.  Then you’ll be able to repeat your successes and avoid the potholes and bogs into which you’ll probably fall the first half-dozen or so times you do this.

WHAT MOST ADVISORS DON’T SPELL OUT

All of that practical advice is good and righteous.  They are very likely to work just fine in real life if you actually do them.  However, most of the advisors do tend to touch on (and then bypass) a most important point.

It seems to me that what you are really doing during all the rest of the 10,000 hours as you work towards mastery of the skillset of your choice (after you get “good enough”) is deliberate practice.  No matter what other skills you are refining and perfecting, the one that is the meta-skill, fully transportable into every endeavor, is that one.

maui-trees-at-sunrise
Maui Trees At Sunrise by Derek van Vliet via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  an understanding that mastery requires practicing deliberately over time.  [Doing something over and over without conscious thought (like a caged hamster running around a wheel) is not deliberate practice.]

As you work your way towards becoming a superb artist or a magical performer, a superlative farmer or a business-magus extraordinaire, you will also be learning how to pay attention to details without drowning in them.

You will be learning how to focus down on the essentials of a thing, learning to suss out what matters and what does not.

You will be developing the capacity to turn your hand to any task, even when it is outside your comfort zone.

More importantly, you will be developing grace and agility, the confidence and the trust that you will be able to deal with anything that life throws at you because, like the chess grandmasters, you will develop a very large repertoire of mindsets, strategies, and moves that work as you move along your way to your own mastery.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Real is “deliberate practice” is just another phrase for what the wise guys call “mindfulness.”

To me, it’s a cool thing to know that a person can get to that without having to sit in a corner folded up like a pretzel, trying to breathe right.  I have a hard time sitting still and have spent a lot of my life failing at that one.  It’s good to realize I won’t actually have to.

What do you think?  Your comments are always welcome….

Here’s a poem…


WAITING

Waiting properly, not stagnating,

Not caught in indecision,

Patiently doing what is essential,

Right, real, and true,

Letting time work its changes

One by one by one.

 

When the time comes to move,

You will know it.

There is no need for haste.

By Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  Chess by Bob Vonderau via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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ROCKS AND GRAVEL AND TIME

ROCKS AND GRAVEL AND TIME

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  a tendency to choose to do what is important to you.  [If you know what’s important to you, you can free up your time to consider how to get THAT just right by letting go of spazzing about your trivia.]

One of the best visual metaphors I’ve ever seen about time management is this one that involves stacking sand, pebbles and big rocks in a jar.  This YouTube video was put together by 7 Big Rocks Productivity System, a company that sells websites and computer hosting services, and was inspired, they say, by Stephen Covey’s classic book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change.

When Stephen Covey first presented this metaphor at a workshop he said the point of it was this:  If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you won’t be able to get them in at all.

MAKING IT A PRACTICE

The way to turn the metaphor into a practice basically takes four steps:

  • Decide what is important to you. Write them down.  Starter ideas might include spending face-time with family or friends, learning a new skill, putting time and effort into a side-hustle, experimenting with new ideas…whatever.  These are your big rocks.
  • Choose your “jar” – day, week, or month.
  • Place your most important things – your big rocks — within that framework first. What one action will move each of your important things forward?  Put that in your jar.  Make the time for the one action you can take that addresses each of your important things.  The rest of your day or week or month can fill up with other stuff, but you’ve got your big rocks covered.
  • Do the big rock moves first.

Each time you finish each of the important big-rock actions you’ve put in your jar, find the next action that will move that big rock forward.  And so on…repeat, repeat, repeat.

DOES IT WORK?

Does it work?  Sort of.  The real is that there will be times when “urgent” trumps “important.”  The manure hits the fan and you’ve got to pull out the buckets and mops and clean up the mess before the stench reaches major proportions.  That one is very likely to take a bunch of time away from your important stuff.

But, once the mess gets cleared up and the mops and buckets are put away, then you can go back to filling your jar with your big rocks and doing the actions you’ve chosen to do.

The little steps you make working on your big rocks do accumulate.  The things that are important to you get done, eventually.  You can call yourself to order when you go off-tangent.

REALITY CHECK

There is one other reason to try this thing.  When you do this, you will have a ready-made system that can help you re-think what is important to you.

If you’ve made the time and the room for the things you call big rocks, but you never complete any of the moves you want to try, it may be an indication that the “big rocks” you’ve chosen really are not yours.  Maybe they are other people’s big rocks that you have adopted as your own.

If the big rocks you’ve targeted are not really yours, you won’t do them, even if you’ve set aside the time for them.  Try to avoid beating yourself up about that.  It’s okay to choose other big rocks if you find that the ones you thought were big for you are really not.

Look at what you’re doing instead.  Maybe that’s where your real big rocks are hidden.  Or maybe you just haven’t found anything yet that is important enough for you to give up the trivia.  Keep looking.

Here’s a poem.  It came in response to a quote by philosopher Alan Cohen, who said in his book WISDOM OF THE HEART, “A friend is someone who knows your song and sings it to you when you’ve forgotten it yourself.”  I have had so many of those.  Lucky, me….


THANKS FOR MY SONG

Hey, babe,

Thank you one more time.

 

I had gotten so caught up

In other-people imperatives,

In their projects, plans and priorities

That had me prancing

Like a Lippazaner stallion

As I drowned in the minutia

That led me to forget

That, for real,

I am not a pretty white stallion

And have never wanted to be;

That had me dancing pretty

Going ’round and ’round

Yet another arena

Head held high.

 

You sang my song for me,

The one you’ve heard me sing

And you brought me back to me.

 

So, here I am

Getting back on my dragon

The one I parked in that mountain cave,

The one drowsing in the boring blah,

The one who woke up

When you started singing

My song back to me,

Making me remember

Who I am and why.

 

Dragon’s in the courtyard

Bugling her impatience with me.

I’d better go now

Before she throws a hissy-fit,

But, I did want to stop by and tell you,

Thanks, eh!

by Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  Maui Sunrise by Frank DiBona via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0] 

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RUBBING TWO TRUTHS TOGETHER

RUBBING TWO TRUTHS TOGETHER

Sometimes rubbing together two truths could produce a whole other way of seeing that might lead to new ways of thinking.  It’s sort of like rubbing two sticks together to make a fire, another way of Un-Seeing.

One natural progression brought on by rubbing together two equal and opposite truths is this:

CONFLICT –> PARADOX –> REVELATION

Think about it. It is how new hypotheses are formed and how new business deals (and art and poetry and all kinds of gadgetry) are made.  A new construct that’s built on the tension between two or more very different or even opposite ideas can lead to a new way of walking for you and, perhaps, different results in your life.

Need a concrete example?  There’s this:

THINKING ON BUILDING RITUALS

Working on “building rituals” à la Tony Schwartz, THE WAY WE’RE WORKING ISN’T WORKING:  The Four Forgotten Needs that Energize Great Performance  is supposed to mitigate that godawful feeling of being in Overwhelm.  The idea is to ritualize certain practices so that they become an automatic part of the way you go through your day.

The theory is that if you can make it automatic, then it just is part of what you do and you don’t have to spazz about doing it or not doing it and your head doesn’t seize up from all the push-me/pull-you that happens when you’re in transition and trying to change.

Here’s a YouTube video, “Tony: The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working” put together by Schwartz’s own company, The Energy Project.  It’s a snippet of one of his speaking engagements, that explains the premises from which he operates.

HERE’S THE HOW-TO

  • Start small and build incrementally.   Undertake to add no more than one or two rituals into your day a time.   Once they’ve gotten set into your day,  you can add a couple more.
    • Schwartz says, “Embedding any ritual can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months.  Even then, it’s possible to build several rituals over the course of a year, one at a time.”
  • Aim for precision and specificity.  Define precisely when you’re going to do something (i.e., “It’s Thursday; I water houseplants.”)
    • “If you have to think for very long about doing something, it’s unlikely you’ll end up doing it for very long,” Schwartz says.
  • Focus is important.  Make sure you’re focusing on something you are doing rather than focusing on something you are trying not to do.
    • A real-life example of a failure to focus properly is my 50 or so aborted attempts to quit smoking.  Every time the attempt has been about not-smoking.  Success has been limited to avoiding the expansion of a bad jones.
    • I was disappointed to learn that I am not quite Gandhi enough to “be the change I want to be.”
  • Recognize when and why you sabotage your own change.  Schwartz says that even the most passionate commitment to a given change is always balanced by an equally powerful, often unseen commitment not to change.  The only way to change it is to admit it, accept it, and then change anyhow.
    • One tool to use is asking a series of questions:
      • QUESTION 1:  What do I want and what will I do to avoid getting it?
      • QUESTION 2:  What am I currently doing or not doing that undermines my commitment to changing?
      • QUESTION 3:  What is my competing commitment that urges me to not-change?
      • QUESTION 4:  What’s the Big Assumption behind the competing commitments?
    • Schwartz says you need to take a look at your shadows.
      • Ask yourself what you fear might happen if you actually followed through on your primary commitment and changed your behavior.
      • Are these fears realistic ones?
      • If they are, then how can you design the ritual so you enjoy the intended benefits but also mitigate the costs you are fearing?
      • I am still working on this one.
  • Notice the positive effects of the new ritual as you continue to do it.   Are other people seeing any positive changes in you?  Can you ask them for help and support if you need it?
  • Honest self-observation is the antidote to unwitting self-deception.   It’s a good thing to check out whether the new way of doing stuff is actually”better.”  If you’re not happy with the results or if the benefits are not what you thought they’d be, it could be time to re-think the thing.

CHANGING UP THE SAME-OLD

Okay.  So you’ve built up all your routines and are flying on automatic pilot.  You make up routines as you go along because it gets to be a pain always thinking, thinking, thinking about your next move.  Doing a routine makes it easier to slide through the days.

But, it also lets the days slip away from you and everything tends to get a little bit blurry as a result.  After a while that gets…unsatisfactory.

Deliberately changing the routines of your life and paying attention to everything you can learn about people, the world around you, and your own self seems to make the days more real somehow.  They also tend to help you find better ways to do the stuff you have to do.  A different cool thing.

Maybe it can result in a thing like Sarah Kay’s beautiful spoken poem, “If I Should Have a Daughter.”

(That YouTube video was produced by So much Noise.  It’s one of the more beautiful versions of Sarah Kay’s work.)

Changing up the same-old that grew out of your routine-making can lead to wondrous things.

MEETING IN THE MIDDLE….

So there it is:  all I know about routines.  You make them to give yourself space to do all the stuff you need to get done to get to where you want to go.  But, then you need to break up the routines to give yourself the ability to enjoy your life.  It just goes ’round and ’round, that.

How much routine you choose to have in your life depends on how much you can stand zombie-ing out,   I suppose.   Me, I get a bit paranoid when things get too routine.  (That may be the result of reading too many spy thrillers.  “Predictable” is never a good thing in those stories.)

And here’s a poem:


SCRAMBLING

Feeling BEHIND.

Why am I thinking this is a race?

Where is the course?

What is the pace?

 

Time goes flitting by

On a crazy butterfly course,

Flowing outward….

Outward from the source.

 

What am I trying to reach

In my mad and scattered way?

Am I learning anything new?

What is it I have to say?

 

I want to make Time BIG,

And sit quiet with my dreams.

I need to hear the whispers

Under all the stadium-crowd screams.

 

Time marches on, they say,

Momentum tugs you right along

And your teeny-tiny voice gets lost

In that mighty, martial song.

 

Time waits for no man.

(The pundits say that’s true.)

But…HEY!

Here’s a sudden thought….

I am NOT a man!

By Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  in the key of…bee!  By Jack (jmtimages) via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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THE ONLY COIN

THE ONLY COIN

Poet Carl Sandburg once pointed out, “Time is the coin of your life.  It is the only coin you have and only you can determine how it will be spent.  Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.”

There are a multitude of methods and products that are supposed to help you manage your time.  The problem with most of them is they don’t work all that well any more as our world speeds up and our to-do lists grow exponentially.

Self-discipline strategist Rory Vaden’s counter-intuitive thoughts on time management is explained in the following TEDx Douglasville talk, “How to Multiply Your Time.”

The book Vaden mentions in his video is one he wrote.  The name of the book is PROCRASTINATE ON PURPOSE: 5 Permissions to Multiply Your Time.  It came out in January, 2015 and it was an instant national bestseller.

Here’s a poem:


MONEY, TIME, FREEDOM…UMMM….

People tell me

Money buys time and

Money buys freedom

And that is why

(Or so people tell me)

They spend all their time

Pretending to be those wild cowboys,

Those rodeo “champeens,”

Chasing money down

And wrestling it to the ground

To the cheers from the assembled fans…

Which is sort of peculiar to me

Since in real rodeos

Those wild bulls don’t ever

Seem to do anything

‘Cept stay wild

So those cowboys can go on

Chasing them down and

Wrestling them to the ground

As the fans go mad.

 

Hmmm.

 

People tell me

They spend all their time

Locked in step with

All the others

In this ticktock world

Chasing down elusive bits of

Specially printed paper

That flutter in the wind,

Moving away…always away.

They tell me

They have no time for freedom right now

Because they’re wrapped around

In the chains of their commitments and obligations

That depend on their presence at all times

Overseeing all this herding of money.

Corralling all those cash cows.

 

Hmmm.

 

There are whole libraries

Of books about money –

How it talks and what it says,

How it moves inside your head,

How it grows and what it knows,

How it flies and how it dies.

It sure takes a lot of time

To learn about money.

It takes up lifetimes.

All this stuff generates a lot of head-scratching,

A lot of movement and activity.

There are whole colleges full of

Eager-beaver students

Learning ’bout money.

There are entire cities

Of people devoted to

Chasing and wrestling down money.

 

Wow.

Ummm….

I’m sorry, but I’ve gotta ask a stupid question:

This time and freedom that money is supposed to buy?

Who does it belong to?

By Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  Coins by Ruth Hartnup via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

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HOW ARE YOU BUSY?

HOW ARE YOU BUSY?

One of the best bits of advice I’ve come across is in Sam Bennett’s book GET IT DONE: From Procrastination to Creative Genius in 15 Minutes a Day:  “Be busy like a trapeze artist flying through the air or like a stuntwoman – just cleanly move through each task with great clarity, concentration, and grace.

WHY MULTI-TASKING IS NOT A GOOD IDEA

I’m thinking that the development of clarity, concentration and grace is probably the best argument there is for not multi-tasking.  Think about it.  When you’re trying to do three things at once, you are never very focused or concentrated on just one thing because the other two tasks you’re trying to do in tandem keep niggling at you and jostling your elbow.

These other tasks distract you and that can make you clumsy.  You don’t do any of the tasks you’ve set for yourself very well and it’s likely that you’ll screw them all up.  And if you’re flying high, it is probable that you’ll also take a tumble.

The antidote to multi-tasking is uni-tasking:  doing one thing at a time with focus, care, and attention.

Since I’ve got lots of things to do, serial uni-tasking is going to be my next big thing!  Do many things, one thing at a time….one-step, one-step, one-step.  I’ll still be busy, but I probably won’t fall off the trapeze in a distracted moment.

ULTIMATE UNI-TASKING

I’ve been tripping on watching guys play at parkour, which is also called “free-running.” This extreme sport, which apparently began in France, involves running at top speed through an urban or natural obstacle course using whatever happens to be there to get further.

The practitioners have to just DEAL with whatever gets in their way and just keep on going.   In a split-second they have to accept what lies in front of them and fling themselves at it in order to overcome whatever challenge it presents.

It’s an astounding display of physical prowess, fast thinking, and fearlessness.  You cannot do anything ELSE except stay on course and keep on going because if you’re distracted in the middle of leaping from one rooftop to another, you are likely to end up as street pizza on the sidewalk below.

Here’s a You-Tube video of the world’s best parkour and free-running.  It was posted by StuntsAmazing….

To remind myself of my latest resolve, I have a new motto:  PARKOUR!

And here’s a poem about yet another strategy – accepting what is and saying “yes.”  This poem is written in pidgin.  However, only a few of the words are likely to be unfamiliar, I am thinking.  Mostly it’s the grammatical liberties taken by the speaker that makes the poem pidgin.

The word “went” set before any verb turns that verb into past tense, so “you went show me” translates to “you showed me.”  Often the “is” and the “are” get dropped in the sentence structures.   (“You no fool” is really “you are no fool” in proper English.)   “For” is oftentimes substituted for “to” in a sentence.

All of this ungrammatical playing around gives pidgin its own special rhythm, which is very useful for certain poems.

Right on” basically means “accurate” or possibly “true.”

Braddah” means “brother.”

Babylon” is the nonsense and delusions that the world tries to sell you.  It’s a favorite shorthand word taken from Rastafarian speechifying.

No fool around” means “to talk straight.”

Go good” basically means to “move the right way.”

‘As how” means “that’s the way to do it.”

Some good” means “very good” and “all good” means “everything is good.”

Da kine” is a local pidgin phrase that’s really hard to describe.  It basically refers to the all of everything in a particular context that requires no further explication, mostly because the other person already knows what the speaker is referring to.  Sometimes the use of “da kine” can verge on telepathy.  It requires that the two people who are talking are in tune with each other to a high degree.


FOR REAL

You know you right on, my braddah.

You went show me how for live.

“For drown out Babylon,” you went tell me,

“Say ‘yes’ to Yes.”

 

You no fool around, my braddah,

You went teach me for go good.

“No question, just stay cool,”

“Say ‘yes’,” you went tell me, ‘to Yes.”

 

“Say ‘yes’,” you went tell me. ” ‘As how.”

” ‘No’ only bring you down.”

“Accept,” you went tell me, “what’s now,”

“Say ‘yes’,” you went tell me, “to Yes.”

 

Through your anger, grief, and pain

“Say ‘yes,’ ” you went tell me, “to Yes.”

And now…oh, wow…some good

‘Cause you went say “yes” to Yes.

 

My braddah, you went show

Da kine can be all good,

And ev’rything just flow

When you say “yes” to Yes.

By Netta Kanoho

Picture credit: Trapeze Artists by Tender Young Pony of Insomnia via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]

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FRANK-THE-MECHANIC MOVES

FRANK-THE-MECHANIC MOVES

I don’t remember where he originated.  He was a character in one of the potato-chip (you can’t just eat one) books that I like to read.  In the book, Frank-the-Mechanic was a retired assassin who gets sucked back up in leftovers from his previous life.  He was a super-casual sort of businessman who had a number of interests that he kept up, all of them suitable as a single career.  He did each one – a little bit every day to move each project forward.  And he was most excellent at everything he did.

It was a good story, but it was Frank I fell in love with.  I keep him in my head as a role model.  “What would Frank-the-Mechanic do?”  It helps me stay on top of the myriad details of my life and, when I get it right, the day ends well for me.

I do a little of each thing I do as well as I can every day.  Some days I can do it well; some days, not so much.  But the weight of all those itty-bitty little things done on all of those days does add up to a whole pile of something, a lot of which I like.

On my good days it feels like I am working with the Creative to help my Millenium Falcon fly….and that is a good thing.

And then there are the days when the one thing I’m doing eats the whole day and a lot of the night as well.  One time I told myself I was just going to work on a little blog post – a small story that was part of an epic tale of traveling between Nepal and China to Lhasa when the border was just being opened.  (It was one of the Light of My Life’s stories.)

I had other things to do, after all.  The palm leaves that passing tropical storms dropped needed to be hauled off to the compost heap.  The bamboo and the false ‘awa, two rapacious patches of wild and free plants, were encroaching again.  I needed to get a bunch of little nit-noy stuff set up for my property management gig.  ARGH!

I got so caught up in the tale I just kept going and going and going.  I ended up with four long blog posts with pictures and so on and so forth.  I also blew off work in the yard and work on a number of other projects, none of which was particularly pressing.  So it goes sometimes.

I got on the other stuff the following day and in the next days after and it all eventually got done.

One of my favorite, pertinent quotes about all this is from English comedian Russell Brand:  “One day at a time.  It sounds so simple.  It actually is simple but it isn’t easy.  It requires incredible support and fastidious structuring.”

Uh-huh….

Here’s a poem….


THE ONE ABOUT TRYING

Universe always gives you what you want

It usually comes one day after you can’t stand the waiting any more.

 

What are you grumbling for?  Ambiguity is good for you and balancing on cliff edges is

Exhilarating…if you can stand the height.

 

Listen to the grass blade underneath that rock

Pushing, twisting, bending, finding the light…and making the concrete crack.

 

And watch the baby wobbling on unstable legs,

One step, fall, up again; two steps, fall, up again; three steps….well, you get the picture.

 

Pay attention to water weaving through a stream bed,

Seeking ways over, around, under, past, and through…and through.

 

Think about the wind gently, gently pushing against stone,

And think about mountains twisted into eerie spires and fantastic gyres.

 

Old truths repeated one too many times become clichés,

And very often “trite” means “old” and “trite” means “true”….

by Netta Kanoho

picture credit:  Two-Handed by Daniel Incandela (images courtesy of Jean Damon) via Flickr.  [CC BY-NC 2.0]

 

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WASTE OF TIME

WASTE OF TIME

Sculptor Auguste Rodin contended, “Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely.”

This poem was born after I attended a formative meeting for a new support group for professional residential property managers.  My frustration level was high and I was NOT in a good mood…especially when one outspoken know-it-all felt moved to tell us her Very Important Point over and over again.  It was, of course, a point that many of us also-experienced folks already knew.

The woman just went on and on.  (Sigh!)  Maybe she thought she was helping.  Maybe she should have done a survey or something.   The funny part was that this one was a relative newbie in a room full of people who had been in the business for decades.   Her “revelation” wasn’t much of anything.

The incident reminded me of one very telling comment by an old mentor:  “You’ve got two ears.  You’ve got one mouth.  Try to use them in those proportions.”

The meeting also reminded me that I no longer have the patience that is needed to be a part of a group – any group.  Soon I’m going to become a hermit, I am thinking.  However, with this one, I figured that anything that I can use to make a poem is not necessarily a waste of my time….


OH-OH….

 I can’t do it…not again.

The trauma-drama worlds

Of this one’s shoulds

And that one’s don’ts

Are distracting now.

 

I am on a mission,

Looking for a way to get this stupid thing

(That I’ve spent all of this time cobbling together)

To fly.

The Millenium Falcon’s gonna ride again

If I can only get this dumb launchpad built.

 

What do I care about the spazzings

Of yet another control-freak

Who insists the earth has to quake and tremble

When they speak?

Do I care if they cry?

 

The joys of listening to other people’s dreamings

Have gotten thin.

Maybe it’s just me.

Maybe I have heard all the same stories

Out of different mouths one time too many.

 

“Get away from me, kid…

Ya bother me!”

Oh, dear…

I’m turning into W. C. Fields now! 

Sheesh!

by Netta Kanoho

Picture credit: by Dineshraj Goomany via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

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