Flexibility: Bend without Breaking

flexibility

It was about 2 in the morning when I realized the power had gone off. It was early Monday morning…the day that usually the busiest for HOPE Unlimited. The steady, sometimes heavy, rain continued, and by 5:00, when my day would normally start, the power was still off.

The power came on at 9:35, a full 4.5 hours later than my day would have started. I essentially lost a third of my day already, and on a day that already tended to have a large list.

I could do nothing but be flexible. I admit I wasn’t thrilled, but I survived. Here are a few flexibility tools I drew from.

  • I took advantage of the opportunity for extra rest. I lazed in the warm bed for longer than I normally would. Maybe I needed the rest.
  • I used some remaining Internet access. Due to a battery backup on our WiFi, I did have access to the Internet and could engage a bit, check something for a client, contact two other clients, etc.  I wasn’t fully functional, but by being prepared with that backup, I wasn’t completely off the grid on a work day.
  • I finished a book. I have a practice of finishing one book per month (not start and finish, but finish.) I had about 30 minutes left on this month’s book, so I was able to finish it. This was nice, as it was already the last week of the month and I hadn’t finished it yet.

When the power came on, I modified my routine. I decided to still go through some of the “morning motions” that are important foundations for my days. I did shorten or skip some, as appropriate though.

The key to the day was adapting. There are going to be things that happen out of your control. I’m all for making a reasonable plan for the day, using schedules and having lists. But unless we accept that our plans are mainly guidelines, we are going to live in a frustrated state most of the time. Maybe it’s better to start the day with an attitude of holding our plans loosely enough that if we need to adapt, we won’t over-stress about it.

 

I’ve created a fun coloring sheet to reinforce this concept. Sign up below to get it!Be flexible coloring sheet

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Make Your Morning Ritual Work for You

 

Time to make the donuts.”

This phrase from a classic commercial points out that most of us have some type of morning ritual.

Whether you’ve made it intentional or not, you have a routine you tend to follow when you first get up.  It may be haphazard, or very structured. But whatever it is, you DO have a routine.

You can leverage your morning routine to help you get your day started in the right direction to excel for the rest of it. How?

Here are a few tips:

  • Think: What does my morning routine already look like?
  • Decide: What would I love my routine to look like?
  • Adapt: make reasonable, incremental adjustments.

THINK: Ask yourself, on a typical weekday, what does my routine look like? Does it include getting dressed, making breakfast, pouring a cup of coffee, reading the paper? Make a list of what you typically do on a morning.

For example, I have an extended morning routine because I have the flexibility to work from home a lot. Many others have to be somewhere by a certain time. My morning routine contains quite a few elements that pertain to my personal values.

DECIDE:  What would you LOVE your morning routine to look like? Do you want to have time for exercise first thing in the morning? Would you love to have 30-60 minutes to pursue a hobby or study? I have a client who decided that writing was important enough to her to get up one hour early daily and make time for it. She now treasures that daily time before her workday begins.

ADAPT:  Your morning routine will be a work in progress. You probably can’t suddenly decide to get up an hour earlier each day if you don’t make changes on the other end by going to bed earlier.  As my friend did above, she adapted her morning ritual to fit writing time in. You may not be able to adjust by an hour or more, but perhaps you could start by waking up 15 minutes earlier.  Make small, incremental changes, perhaps one per week or even one per month, until it turns into a habit.

YOU are the only one who can make your morning routine work for you. Think. Decide. Adapt. You’ll begin to see a difference in how the rest of your day goes!


Bonus tip: If getting up early is hard for you, start your day in bed. If reading inspirational material is important to you, for example, set the book or tablet by the side of the bed and as you wake, do some reading. Sometimes it’s the idea of having to pop out of bed immediately that makes it so hard for us to try to get up earlier. Ease into the day instead.

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Five Ways (Some) Multitasking Can Work for You

Includes a Guest Infographic: How to Be Good at Multitasking

The concept of multi-tasking has gotten a bum rap. Articles such as this one are tell us that we are not as effective when we multi-task. We are being told to slow down, focus on one thing at a time, and not over-commit ourselves. That’s great advice–but it’s harder for some to implement than you think. What if your personality is one that thrives on having several things going at once and being fast paced? 

As a seasoned multi-tasker (seasoned meaning I’ve been doing it for a long time, not that it is always succcessful for me) I am challenged by this new wave of thinking (some call it “uni-tasking.”) However, I have my doubts that swinging the time management pendulum from one extreme to the other is the best way to go. I think there is a middle-ground that can be a healthy place.

The idea of multi-tasking is to have several things going on at once. The idea of single, or uni, tasking is to focus on one thing at a time. Let me pitch to you a compromise: complementary multi-tasking. This approach embraces doing two (or possibly more) things at once, but being intentional that they complement each other, not distract from one another. Common sense and safety are key components of this idea.

When you are planning your “to-do” list, ask yourself the following questions to see if you can apply complementary multi-tasking to your list. (For the sake of simplicity, we will consider planning two complementary tasks, although sometimes you could plan three or more.)

1. Are there two tasks that can be done in the same general vicinity? For example, making sandwiches for tomorrow’s lunch while waiting for water to boil for tonight’s spaghetti works better than leaving the kitchen to check email in another room.

2. Is one task relatively hands-off and one hands-on?  While a new software program is downloading, I can organize one drawer in my desk.

3. Can two things be going simultaneously, safely? My laundry can be drying while I work on a blog post.

4. Could I mix a mindless “task” opportunity with a “people” opportunity?  With the help of a phone earpiece, I can fold laundry while talking to a friend, which would be better than trying to answer email while also talking with her on the phone.

5. Will doing these two tasks at the same time add cause more mental fatigue or less?  Listening to a podcast or some music while cooking may help pass the time nicely, while trying to help your child with homework while also preparing a meal can become frustrating for both of you.

So before jumping on the bandwagon that all multi-tasking is ineffective or wrong, consider that complementary multi-tasking may be the way to accomplish two important tasks without driving yourself crazy.

Question: What are two tasks that you can do at the same time without misusing the idea of multi-tasking? Join the conversation by commenting!

 

My thanks to Gisele Navarro (@ichbingisele) for the infographic, originally seen here.  (If you receive this by email and cannot read the infographic well, click here.)

 

How-To-Be-Good-At-Multitasking

 

 

Four Reasons Why You Should Enroll in My New Course – Part 4

 

Calendar Course NEW 60-90 minute course (self-paced.) Click to learn more and enroll!

Our April Theme Month was on the topic of calendars is to introduce you to my new course, Conquer Your Calendar. Each week, I’m providing one reason for joining into HOPE Academy and being part of this course, specifically. Now it’s time for the last reason.

Reason number 4: Your professional development is important, and it is your responsibility.  This course gives you an opportunity to take a look at something you use every day, and determine if you are using it in the best way to help you serve others, reach goals, and stay sane.

Enroll today!

 

How to Calendar for Increased Creative Flow

A Guest Post by Allyson Baughman

Have you ever tried to manage your calendar in a way that doesn’t actually work for you?

You got a new scheduling tool. You invested time and energy to bring it into your life. It was supposed to focus you and increase your productivity and creativity. But all it did was add another layer of work and stress — without any real benefit.

Maybe you just didn’t stick with it long enough. New habits take a while to settle in.

Or — maybe what you need to do your best, most creative work isn’t more detailed scheduling, but less.

To discover if this is true for you, consider the following:

How do you develop your best solutions?

“I get my best ideas in the shower.”

Have you ever said something like this? Maybe not about the shower, specifically, but about any other non-work environment that triggers your best thinking?

There’s a reason why your best solutions come when you’re not scheduled to be working on them.

Epiphanies — your best, most creative solutions — develop incrementally. They aren’t instantaneous. They may feel like they are, but they’re actually a long time in the making.

Before an epiphany occurs, you’re actually busy developing it. You’re gathering bits of information and ‘weaving’ them together without even realizing that weaving is taking place. At some point — often uncontrolled and unscheduled by you — the last ‘thread’ gets pulled in, and a pattern emerges. The solution becomes clear to you.

You may recognize the pattern in an instant, but you didn’t create it in an instant. The creation took time. And plenty of cognitive spaciousness within which to ‘weave.’

Think about it. Can you imagine trying to weave a large, intricate rug in a cramped closet? Even if you wouldn’t recognize a loom if it fell on your head, I’m sure you can envision what happens to a creative process when it gets cramped and confined.

This is why blocking rigid times to work on a specific problem (and isn’t every piece of work about solving a specific problem?) may not produce the results you want. If it doesn’t, it’s because you haven’t allowed time and space for the weaving. The creating.

For most of us, creative flow isn’t an on-demand resource. And for most of us, our most vibrant creativity occurs when we’re doing the opposite of demanding it. Hence, the shower epiphanies.

Does your calendaring process support creative flow?

I’ll be honest. Years ago when I first started freelancing, my inability to schedule my creativity drove me nuts. After all, I was being paid by the hour to be creative. Every productivity expert I came across told me I needed a defined schedule to boost my creativity, and therefore my productivity.

But when I tried the standard “task batching” guidelines they recommended, the opposite happened. Instead of blocking out time to work, my creativity got blocked and my productivity plummeted. I appreciated the set times to focus on a specific client and their needs. But I didn’t do my best work during those periods. Not even close.

There seemed no point in setting a detailed calendar if it didn’t support me to do my best, most creative work.

You don’t have to be a writer to need access to your creative flow. We all need it. Your creativity is your differentiator, regardless of your profession.

You owe it to yourself to ask yourself: does your schedule keep you on task without blocking your creativity?

How can you calendar to increase your creative flow?

Strip your calendar down. Drop the fussiness. Add only actual events, small repeatable tasks, and final deadlines.

Every Monday morning, study your calendar for the next two weeks. Visualize your deadlines. Map them in your mind. This will trigger the subconscious weaving process for each problem you need to solve.

As your week unfolds, check your calendar every morning to remind yourself of your deadlines and trigger additional deep thinking. Make short notes of the solution narratives that are forming in your mind. Or don’t. Do whatever feels most effective to you to organically facilitate the weaving process.

As deadlines draw closer, instead of pre-scheduling blocks of rubber-meets-the-road working time, wait until an idea is ripe and then sit down to document your solution.

Each time you sit down, if you hit a wall, stop working and stop the clock, even if that wall comes only after 10 minutes of actual work. Hit pause, let go, and let the weaving process resume. Let the cognitive barriers untangle themselves until you’re ready to work on the problem again. Because they will untangle themselves, if you let them.

Fair warning: From the outside, this process can look undisciplined and inefficient.

Culturally, we’re used to rigidity in our scheduling. It’s a social norm. And it can be hard to step away from. It’s easy to feel that if you don’t have a tightly managed schedule, you’re disorganized.

Or even worse — that if you’ve scheduled a block of time to work, that’s the same as actually working.

Inject white space into your calendar. Give yourself elbowroom to weave. Not with laser focus on each thread, but with holistic understanding of the pattern.

If you do this, your creative solutions and productivity will improve.

You will become both disciplined and efficient.

Most importantly, you’ll actually give your clients the creative expertise they’re paying you for.

Allyson BaughmanAllyson Baughman is one of our Strategic Referral Partners.  She specializes in thought leadership writing coaching, editing and ghostwriting. I thought this was a very interesting take on calendar management…something that can prompt us all to think a little differently.  Learn more about Allyson here.  – Beth

 

 

 

We also thank Greenville Office Supply for supporting Calendar Month.