Time Without Energy Is Useless

December 1, 2014

Good time management comes down to good energy management. Time is of little use if you don’t have the energy to do something with it – a fact you already understand from the ordinary experience of the common cold.

You can have a beautifully organized to-do list and a wall calendar covered in sticky notes, but that doesn’t mean you have a finished plan. Knowing your what and when is obviously essential, but that still leaves out two-thirds of what you need to know to successfully complete a project, let alone get through an ordinary day.

To be skilled in time management, you need to address all six elements of the conditions in which you carry out your work: what, when, where, who, why and how: specifically how you manage your physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and financial energy.

If you aren’t following through on what needs doing, one of these elements has been left out or is off in some way. And the most likely missing element: energy.

Of all six elements, energy is the most important part of a solid Foundation. Knowing how to manage and care for your energy – on multiple levels – is essential and fundamental.

  • When you don’t care for your physical energy: you lack enough get-up-and-go and clear-headedness to handle just your everyday responsibilities, never mind your creative work…
  • When you don’t care for your mental energy: you rapidly deplete your ability to process information, make decisions, solve problems, and engage in self-control – all essential to completing a satisfying day…
  • When you don’t care for your emotional energy: worry and frustration infuse everything, clouding your judgment and leaving you vulnerable to distraction and procrastination…
  • When you don’t care for your spiritual energy: you lose your sense of purpose and connectedness to something larger than yourself – and thus your calm and focus…
  • When you don’t care for your financial energy: you cannot reliably fund your needs, which throws a big monkey-wrench into caring for the other four energies, and the other elements…

Again, you can have an immaculate plan, but without having at least some idea of how you are going to carry it out – that is, how you are going to manage your physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and financial energy throughout your day or week or project – you’re probably not going to make it.

At least not in a sustainable way that allows you to get up the next day and do it again.

If you aren’t getting from here to done in ways you feel good about – if you’re a limp dishrag by the end of the day or the week, your everyday responsibilities are piling up, or your projects just aren’t moving forward – instead of trying to get more “organized,” consider how you might better fuel the work at hand. Look first to your energy and start searching for ways to balance your exhales with more inhales.

Next: Time:Change:Energy

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What I Learned About My Ennui from a Routine Physical

November 26, 2014

I called my lack of motivation ennui. And I knew it wasn’t me, but my systems. So I worked with my coach on plugging back into my sense of purpose and accomplishment. I tried to counterbalance the slowing effects of shorter days and cooler weather. And yet it wasn’t budging…

And then my doctor called with the lab results of my annual physical. It looked like I might have one of those brain-fog inducing vitamin deficiencies…

It explained so much.

A number of small lessons and insights followed that news, but here are the two I want to share with you today:

Despite my skills and experience, I was completely unaware that in trying to address my lack of get-up-and-go, I was trying to “fix” myself. There is a fine line between using a system to change one’s working conditions and using a system to change oneself. And I had crossed it.

And the moment I realized I had, I experienced a huge wave of relief and release of energy. It really wasn’t me! It was my systems! My body systems!

And that reminded of me of two important things that are still much too easy for me to forget:

  • It takes an immense amount of energy to try to fix yourself. Rocket fuel quantities. More than you have. And it doesn’t work. Just don’t do it.
  • My brain is an organ and that means my thoughts are generated by my body. Less than healthy body = inability to think clearly. Thus proving my maxim – health before self-improvement! – once again.

Good Time Management = Good Energy Management

Now that I’m my cheerful, productive self again, I’m turning my attention to the coming winter term. I had already chosen energy as the theme of the coming quarter’s pre-course event, but my recent experience reinforced just how fundamental good energy management – especially how we care for our physical energy – is to effective time management.

So starting next Monday, from December 1 to January 1, we’ll be exploring different forms of energy and how to balance our exhales with inhales so the ecosystems of our lives remain sustainable.

Then from January 5-12 we’ll be putting that knowledge into practice in a 7-Day Energy Challenge to find out just how much small improvements in how we care for our physical energy changes our outlook and productivity for the better.

Stay tuned here on the blog for all the details (or follow along via the Aerogramme).


foundations-sidebarEarly registration is open for the winter term of Foundations!

Foundations is a twelve-week hands-on learning experience for creative thinkers and doers that shows you how to organize your livelihood around organic and non-linear principles so you can finally stop fighting yourself and do what needs doing, build momentum and profitability, and still have space and energy for the rest of your life.

Register by Monday, December 8 to choose the payment plan and receive bonus 1:1 sessions! You’ll find all the details here.


quicksand-sidebarHBBonus Guide: How To Find Your Holiday Quicksand Way-Around!

The holiday season can be a beautiful, celebratory and restful time of year. It can also be a huge source of overwhelm – a quicksand of too much stuff, too many activities, too much food, too many people, too much emotion.

From now through Thursday, December 18, How To Get Out of the Quicksand of Overwhelm includes a short bonus guide that builds on the principles and techniques of the handbook and shows you how to sidestep holiday quicksand and step into in the beauty of the season with pleasure and confidence.

[ Note: If you’ve already purchased the Handbook, look for the holiday bonus in your email inbox very soon. ]


Thanks, Awe and Wonder

Tomorrow is American Thanksgiving, so I feel I should close by expressing my gratitude for all of you. And while that’s completely true and real, it feels a little forced, you know? Like when some relative makes everyone at the table share something for which they’re grateful before digging into the turkey and mashed potatoes… and each person says family.

Here’s what I’d like to share instead. Every Friday during my weekly review I note my favorite small moments of fun or wonder (inspired by the example of Laura Simms, along studies of the power of awe).

For your inspiration and amusement, here are my unvarnished answers to the question: What moments of awe/wonder or fun did you experience this week? for the year so far…

  • Last Sunday’s sky-blue-sky walk along the railroad tracks, followed by a long nap.
  • snow!
  • snow to spring overnight
  • Sweet Honey in the Rock! (that’s what 40 years of practice will get you)
  • that the orthotics are working – yay! thank you Dr. B and western medicine
  • people’s resilience and positivity in the face of losing everything to house fire
  • the gala. it rendered me speechless
  • woodpeckers
  • beauty of the blooming peonies and gorgeous (though hot) weather
  • goodness, the flowers are amazing
  • lucky in the goodwill shoe lottery
  • discovering I’m a regular at the creperie and here at ABs
  • gorgeous roses! trellis looks amazing!
  • seeds sprouting!
  • library books
  • finding that feather in the driveway = lighten up/about to take flight
  • perfect spider web indoors!
  • homegrown corn!
  • I spent too much time nose-to-grindstone to notice. (Can that be true? and is it true there’s no awe inside the internet? double check.)
  • smell of summer rain
  • the skunk
  • and the plastic lion
  • and PvZ
  • the full moon
  • I at least took myself out for a bike ride
  • meeting bike repairman Brett at just the moment when I needed a repair
  • baking
  • cycling in sunshine + finding that “you are beautiful” sticker on guardrail at bluff
  • that moment when the optometrist demonstrated my monovision (I don’t know what made it so hilarious, but it was)
  • last nights full moon
  • our “snow day” (that wasn’t) was kind of fun + nice to fire up the digital fireplace
  • hosting dinner party – I should do that more often

Rather than trying to summon that obligatory sense of gratitude, compile your own list of small moments of awe, wonder and delight – just what you’ve experienced today or this week – and see what happens instead. (It just might leave you feeling genuinely and deeply thankful…)

Wishing you an awe-some holiday and weekend.

Peace and love,

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Right now, you only have two paths to choose from.

September 10, 2014

Recently, I had a revelatory learning experience.

It wasn’t revelatory because it contradicted what I already knew. What made it so eye-opening and useful was the way it gave what I knew context.

Given that new framework, all the tips, tricks and techniques I had been collecting over the years on the subject suddenly made sense. I finally understood what other experts had been trying to get at. And why I had gotten so bogged down in their processes and unable to make their advice work for me.

Even better, that framework turned out to be an example of my favorite kind of system: a fractal one. It works equally well at the small scale and the large, and in all kinds of circumstances. It’s efficient. It’s effective. It’s complex rather than complicated.

Learning it reminded me of my normally reticent high school chemistry teacher showing us the Periodic Table of the Elements for the first time and saying with obvious emotion, “This is the most beautiful thing I know.”

Some systems just make you weak in the knees with their elegant simplicity.

Learning it also reminded me of learning baking ratios. In the same way I better understand but no longer need to rely on recipes, I’m finding I no longer have much use for the formulaic advice I’ve been collecting, even though I now know what to do with it. Now that I understand certain basic principles, I’m capable of inventing something much better suited to my needs, much more quickly, on my own. (Seriously, it’s doing wonders for my infrastructure project…)

What context has to do with the end of this celebration.

Meanwhile, in the wake of that experience, I’ve been drafting this next-to-last missive of my anniversary celebration.

I had planned to illustrate the Art of the Debrief. Because here at the Atelier of Time, when we reach the End of anything – whether we’re closing a single co-working session or a twelve-week program like Foundations – we always review our recent experience, note what worked and what didn’t, and incorporate those insights into our systems and future plans. It’s a practice that allows our work to become increasingly efficient and effective and helps us to avoid repeating mistakes or reinventing that proverbial wheel.

But when it came down to compiling a review of all we’ve covered and next steps you could take to build on what you learned, all my suggestions ended up looking like this:

  • If you’ve realized what you’re lacking is enough energy rather than enough time – take the class.
  • If the organic nature of systems was a huge aha-moment for you and you want to model that in your business – take the class.
  • If you want to continue incorporating more R&R into your weeks – take the class.

And so on and so forth and so on.

Not because I wanted to pressure anyone into taking the course. But because the Foundations program is where you get the framework that makes taking your next steps a simple, straightforward process. But without any context, explaining what you should do next is anything but…

In the end, there are only two next immediate steps for you to choose from.

The Art of the Debrief and the other practices we bring to Endings allow us to make graceful exits. And graceful exits make for graceful entrances. How you close one thing has a significant effect on what follows.

That space between the close of one thing and the start of the next is a liminal one. It’s a transition.

We tend to be most vulnerable to distraction and misjudgment when we are in transition. Generally speaking, we’re fine while we’re immersed in the doing, it’s the spaces between the doing that get us into trouble. It’s the spaces in between when we’re most likely to fall back into old, unhelpful patterns.

Any space in-between is a Crossroad. As we discussed at the mid-point of this celebration, a Crossroad is an opportunity to pause, evaluate, and change strategy or direction as needed to reach a desired outcome.

Right now, you’re at a Crossroad.

You’re at a fork in the road.
On one path, you’ll do more of the same.
On the other, you have the opportunity to do something different.

I get why you’d choose to do more of the same.

You’ve learned from experience that other people’s systems don’t work out of the box for you. You’ve learned it’s a waste of time and money to buy the pre-packaged formulas.

Given that experience, collecting small bits of advice from here, there and everywhere and stitching them together into some kind of whole that gets the results you’re hoping for understandably seems like a sensible alternative. And because you’re a smart, creative Quick Study, that DIY approach also seems totally doable.

But here’s the truth I was so potently reminded of last month:

DIY is great when you think it would be fun to make homemade ketchup. (I’m still figuring out what to do with all my tomatoes.)

And DIY may be essential to developing innovative work in your field.

But it’s a ridiculously slow way to learn business skills.

I’m a pretty smart cookie, but five years of gathering and synthesizing various tips, tricks and techniques did not give me the comprehensive understanding of the subject that an expert was able to show me in the space of three days.

How long have you been trying to get more organized and better manage your time?

I’m guessing it’s been more than the twelve weeks it would take to complete the Foundations program. It’s probably more than twelve months. It might even be something closer to twelve years.

I’m guessing your own eclectic library of tips, tricks and techniques isn’t working any better for you than mine was working for me.

There are two kinds of invention.

The kind where you gather up little nuggets of wisdom from wherever you can find them and try to cobble them together into something useful. And the kind that comes from knowing the principles behind the nuggets.

Over the course of this anniversary celebration, I’ve been sharing nuggets with you because that’s what’s been appropriate to an open house of mingling over hors d’oeuvres while touring the facilities.

And, yes, there is more you could do with each one of those useful little nuggets.

But, ultimately, there are only two next immediate steps before you.

1. Do more of the same and add this series of excerpts and sample tools to a database of advice that (let’s be honest) isn’t serving you very well and has become less like stitching together a warm and beautiful crazy quilt and more like Frankenstein’s monster.

Or 2. Do something different and learn the principles on which those excerpts and sample tools are based and that tie them together – and consequently rapidly accelerate your progress.

The big and lasting transformations you’re looking for come from learning the underlying context and framework I couldn’t bring to the party.

The confident capability you want comes from having a solid Foundation.

In that high school chemistry class, I nearly failed every quiz on the Periodic Table until we completed the last lesson in that section of our textbook. Once I had the information I needed to understand how it all fit together, I didn’t just get it, I grokked it. And I aced the final with a higher score than the sophomore prodigies who were always kicking my academic butt. Years later in art school, thanks to that foundation, instead of reducing me to tears like my classmates, Glaze Calc wasn’t just easy, it was fun. Because I had a foundation, I was free to skip the formulas and invent.

I want you to have the same kind of revelatory learning experience I just had.

I want you to understand why other people’s formulas and advice haven’t worked for you.

I want you to grok why that’s not your fault.

I want to replace the complicated library of tips, tricks and hacks you’ve collected over the years with an easy-to-use framework that’s effective at every scale and in all kinds of circumstances.

I want the systems of your own invention to be the ones that make you weak in the knees with their elegant simplicity.

I want you feel smart again.
I want you to have some fun with this stuff.

And I want it for you by December.

Come January 1st of the new year, I want “get more organized” to be last thing you’d think to add to your list of resolutions for 2015.

I want your relationship with Time to be so transformed, you’re not just ready but eager to apply your new skills to meeting some big hairy audacious goals next year.

It’s totally within your capability.
And it’s what’s waiting for you on Path #2.

• • • • •

What’s it going to be?

More of the same?
Or something different?

It’s time to choose.

Registration closes next Monday, September 15.

foundations-sidebar-redux

Click here to choose something different.

• • • • •
Looking forward to walking Path #2 with you,

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You Don’t Work Best Under Pressure

September 2, 2014

There’s nothing magical about a deadline. Believe it or not, you can tap into the skills and abilities you use when you’re up against a deadline any time you like.

This week I’m sharing a simple way to reveal what you’re doing when under pressure so you don’t have to wait until the last minute to bring what are some of your best skills and abilities to your work.

I first learned how to do this from one of the best teachers I’ve ever had – my first-year design instructor. Being a practical man, he knew no matter what direction our art careers took, we would need to be able to meet deadlines. Whether we ended up working independently toward a gallery opening or employed in a group animating the next blockbuster – being able to complete our work in a timely way would be an essential skill. So he made us practice.

He regularly asked to us to complete small projects in the classroom within fairly short periods of time. No warning, no preparation – just 30 minutes on the clock and… go! So you had to figure out how to solve the design problem and execute that solution in less than half an hour. It was a lot like the television show Chopped.

At first we were horrible at it. At the half-hour mark, we begged for more time. At the one-hour mark, we’d whine for still more. At the two-hour mark: just a few more minutes, pleeeaaase! Eventually, Mr. B would put us out of our misery and make us stop and go to lunch.

But as the year progressed, with practice, we not only learned to work faster, we got comfortable with it. We could not only finish within the required time frame, we liked what what we made. It was genuinely good work.

There were a few key insights that made that transformation possible. And I’ll tell you what they were, but first – let’s see if you can discover a one or two of them yourself.

Like Mr. B, I’m going to give you a creative prompt to finish right now. And I challenge you to complete this prompt in less than 20 minutes.

You can use additional materials not specified in the prompt. How you complete this mini-project is up to you. That said, this is not a prompt to jump-start your creativity! This is about finishing something within a limited time frame.

And while it would be delightful if you came away with something you like, you’re not being graded on quality either. In this exercise, done is far more important than good.

Lastly, even if you’re not finished at the end of 20 minutes, stop working and reflect on the questions that follow the prompt.

So, set a timer for 20 minutes and (ready?)… begin!

• • • • •

Find the pages of a magazine that correspond to your birth date
(e.g., if you were born on May 20, 1972, you would use pages 5, 20 and 72).
Combine those pages into a single visual artwork or story in some way.

• • • • •

[ ding ding ding! time’s up! pencils down! ]

Again, whether you completed the prompt or not, put your mini-project aside and make some observations about what just happened.

  • What kinds of choices did you make to meet the challenge?
  • How did you make them?
  • How did you stay in action?
  • What did you say to yourself while you were working?

[ please note your observations before you continue reading ]


Here are the key insights I learned from Mr. B and our practice of meeting deadlines, as well as from what my clients have observed about their own experience. Hopefully, you discovered a few of these too.

The best ideas are the ones you can finish.

Given the choice between a genius solution that will take two hours to complete and a slightly less brilliant one that you can finish in less than half an hour, the correct choice is the latter. When you are working within time limits, the best ideas are the ones you can finish. Learn to recognize them. Learn not to be seduced by the bright shiny appeal of the too-complicated. And learn to be vigilant and ruthless about curbing scope creep as you work.

Trust your abilities.

When you’re up against a deadline, you don’t have time to explore and compare multiple solutions before choosing one or to start over. You have to go with your gut and follow through on it. As Mr. B drummed into us: You already have the skills you need to solve this problem. You don’t need to second guess your choices, because you know your stuff.

If you think about this, you’ll realize it’s true. How often during the creative process do you fuss with a color, font or wording – whatever – only to return to the one you started with? Exploration has its its place, but when you have limited time, it’s truly safe and best to trust your instincts.

Also, when you’re up against a short deadline, you probably aren’t working on your leading creative edge. In crafting something of quality, you’re relying more on what you know, rather than experimenting or stretching your skill sets. Try to satiate your need for play and invention during open-ended work periods, so you can set it aside when it’s time to crank out a deliverable.

Trust your next move.

When you have limited time, any action that moves the project forward is the right move. Rather than hemming and hawing about where to start or what to do next, you just keep taking the next immediate step. Because you have no choice. Again, if you second guess every decision, you won’t be able to finish on time.

Stop listening to the critical voice in your head.

This may happen without any conscious effort. The challenge may be so engaging and the concentration required to meet it may very well induce a flow state in which self-awareness and mind-chatter naturally fall away.

But even if it doesn’t, you’re probably very good at ignoring what I like to call your Worried Hurried Mind Hamster (who is probably also your Inner Perfectionist). No matter what it says about how stupid this prompt is, that there really isn’t enough time, and there’s no point in trying anyway since you can’t find the good scissors, besides this is probably going to be the ugliest thing you’ve ever made – you can tune out that noise. Because you know if you listen, you won’t be able to giterdone.

Whatever might be making the process uncomfortable, whatever you’re worried about, you become willing and able to draw on the knowledge, skills and self-trust underneath that surface chatter and get on with it. If for no other reason than knowing not meeting your deadline would feel worse.

But it’s not the deadline that’s doing that. You are. Again, there’s nothing magical about a deadline. You can tap into these abilities any time you like. And you should. Often. Because they are some of the best skills you can bring to your work. If you use them from the very beginning of the creative process, the quality of your output will go up and your stress level will go way down.

  • You always have a moment to vet your options before choosing the projects and approach you can complete within the time available to you.
  • You already have the skills to finish – and do a good job – without second guessing your choices.
  • You can always take a next immediate step.
  • You always have the opportunity and ability to tell your Worried Hurried Mind Hamster to go take a hike and quiet your thoughts before working.

Self-trust is always an option. Keep observing how you use it when under a deadline and practice bringing those skills into your work sooner rather than later. When you do, being your best won’t be something you only experience at the last minute.


Foundations, Weeks 7-11: Putting It Into Practice

Speaking of practice, the second half of the Foundations program is devoted to just that: turning your new knowledge into solid skills and habits and applying what you’ve learned to your real-world responsibilities.

In the process of discovering an effective framework for your week and crafting systems to handle your routine activities in more efficient ways, you’re also learning Consistent Persistence.

Building a foundation requires practice and experimentation. It requires some get-back-up-and-try-again. It requires you to do things to get information, not to get it right. If you are a Quick Study who is used to getting things things right the first try (especially in your early years), excited as you may be to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty with some real-life systems crafting, these requirements are likely to be uncomfortable.

Because, in an irony I find hilarious, people like you and me tend to be Quick Studies in everything but the skills and techniques of consistent persistence, of practice – of discipline.

This portion of the course is your opportunity to learn discipline. Not some regimented, butt-in-chair, will-powered asceticism (never!), but real discipline.

Discipline has nothing to do with our modern punitive associations with the word and everything to do with its Latin origins in learning.

Discipline is a practice of self-awareness, of learning all about yourself so you can create the conditions that bring out your best – circumstances in which force isn’t necessary because you have what you need and are doing what you want in ways you like.

But discipline is about more than the ability to create and enter a supportive space. It’s also about the willingness and ability to be uncomfortable. Because between here and growth, between now and what you want to create, is some discomfort. To meet the ambitious goals I know you have, you must learn how to move through the awkward parts of the creative process with more skill and grace and less resistance and drama.

And that’s why you need a solid, stable foundation. With a foundation come the self-care and emotional skills that give you patience, resilience and tenacity in the face of setbacks and shifting moods and energy. With a foundation comes the clear sense of purpose and direction that gives you a reason to bother bringing yourself back to your work, over and over again, even when it’s challenging. (Susan Piver’s definition of discipline is simply that: bringing yourself back. Brilliant, right?)

You’ve probably been trying to be more disciplined in how you manage your time for years. And I’d also guess you were pretty strict with yourself in your approach. And that it didn’t work at all.

But as I’ve been hinting and showing throughout this celebration, the fault isn’t with you. It’s your systems. Create a supportive set of basic systems based on how you think and like to work, and you may discover you’re actually a very disciplined person.

Even the sort of disciplined person who can get things done well before her next looming deadline.


Just now joining the celebration or missed a week?

Click the links to catch up.

Week 1: It’s THW’s tenth anniversary! Let’s celebrate.
giveaway: The Systems De-Ick-Er

Week 2: Who are you when you aren’t watching the clock?
giveaway: Never on a Sunday

Week 3: Your Life Is an Ecosystem
giveaway: On Decluttering

Week 4: Changing Your Relationship with Your Future Self
giveaway: The Role of Fun & Games

Week 5: How to Get from Here to There

Week 6: Choosing a Starting Point
giveaway: The Activity Survey

Week 7: How to Roll with the Unexpected
giveaway: The Choosy Catcher

For those of you who have been playing along: What happened when you pruned away some of the overgrowth in your life? How did you like the Choosy Catcher? Share your comments here on the blog. I’d love to hear from you.

And if you like what you’re learning, please invite others to the party. If your colleagues or readers would benefit from these gifts, please share this series with your audience via social media (or wherever you like to hang out).


Next: The Art of the Debrief

Occasionally pausing to reflect on your experience, capture any lessons learned and incorporate those insights into your approach to doing things is essential to the healthy maintenance and evolution of your systems.

Next week, we’ll take a look back at this celebration and I’ll suggest some ways you can integrate what you’ve learned into your everyday life.

Until then,
Peace and love,

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How to Roll with the Unexpected

August 27, 2014

IMG_0548

A few weeks ago, I pruned my tomato plants.

A heavy rain followed by very warm temperatures had created the perfect hothouse environment in which tomatoes thrive. My garden beds had turned into a jungle of fertility.

At first glance, such a jungle looks like gardening success. Everywhere you look there are blooms of potential fruits. But if you have any experience with growing tomatoes, you know this is an illusion. With that much foliage and that many blooms, no fruit will actually develop and ripen.

If you want to end up with tomatoes you can actually eat, you have to prune.

And prune I did. I nearly filled our big green yard debris bin with excess foliage, blooms and, yes, little green tomatoes. Because I knew the larger fruits already developing wouldn’t ripen if the plants kept putting all their energy into growing new branches, new blooms and new fruits.

Pruned back, the tomatoes that would soon grace my salads could finally reach maturity. With all that extra foliage out of the way, they were getting the sunlight, water and other nutrients they needed to ripen.

Had I not pruned, we’d still be eating store-bought tomatoes. Counter-intuitively, by cutting back, tomatoes are now ripening faster than we can eat them and I’ve started tucking away little bags of summer in the freezer, so they can be enjoyed during winter when we need a reminder of sunlight.

Of course, pruning doesn’t just apply to tomatoes. It has the same effectiveness when applied to how you use your time. That garden of ideas you’re cultivating can look as healthy and robust as my overgrown tomato plants. But the reality is if you don’t prune back some of the options occasionally, nothing will ripen. All those possibilities will never result in a finished project. All that potential will never create the momentum, revenue and satisfaction that comes from a fully realized idea. All those blossoms will never result in a ripe tomato that will nourish your body and delight your tastebuds.

To experience satiation, you must be willing and able to make choices.

You must be willing to say no, to say this not that. And you need a guiding framework for making such decisions that allows you to feel good about your choices and trust that they will serve you well. (I wasn’t guessing at which branches to trim away from my tomato plants. I had solid reasons for choosing what to prune.)

Understanding how everything you do is connected to and supports everything else you do and having plans that give you a clear sense of direction and purpose is what creates that guiding framework. With such a framework in place, you can prune away the occasional excess that inevitably grows from a fertile creative mind with confidence. With such a framework in place you can focus your time and energy on realizing the ideas and completing the projects that will most fuel and satisfy you.

And it isn’t just your fertile creative mind that’s generating more potential fruit than you can ripen. The Universe can throw a lot of opportunities and demands your way too. Often unexpectedly. Which brings us to this weeks giveaway…


Foundations, Week 6: Planning Is Useful, Plans are Useless

In the sixth week of the program, when we shift from theory to practice and begin applying what you’ve learned to your real-world responsibilities, it quickly becomes clear that your fledgling systems need to be able to handle the unpredictable.

The great thing about creating plans is they give us much needed direction. They allow us to make some decisions ahead of time and figure out how to support our work. They allow us to orient ourselves within a process. That’s useful. Very useful.

But plans are useless in the sense that no matter how much effort you put into anticipating what will be needed, you will be wrong about some things. Stuff will come up that you could never have imagined at the outset. The future is unpredictable.

A truly effective system isn’t one that only works when things go according to plan. It’s one that works just as well when you encounter the unexpected.

That’s why…

  • our schedules and routines always include extra wiggle room,
  • we practice working from a place of energetic reserves, not depletion,
  • we learn how to listen to the feedback so we can spot and stop the chaos before it becomes overwhelm,
  • we create systems that tell us what to do in case of emergency,
  • and we develop not just our planning skills, but our skills of improvisation.

Having improvisational skills and tools gives you the resiliency to bend without breaking and maintain your momentum and sanity in the face of the unexpected.

This week’s giveaway is one such tool for choosing a direction when there is a conflict between what you had planned, what’s come up that needs your attention and your mood, so you can take action and remain productive instead of going in circles. It’s a fun and effective way to shift from aimless to action in eight simple steps.

If you’re already subscribed to the Aerogramme, this Foundations excerpt, Rolling with the Unexpected and the Choosy Catcher bonus, is waiting for you in your inbox. If not, you can become a subscriber by entering your contact info below the airmail envelope in the top right of this page, then clicking “sign me up.”


Just now joining the celebration or missed a week?

Click the links to catch up.

Week 1: It’s THW’s tenth anniversary! Let’s celebrate.
giveaway: The Systems De-Ick-Er

Week 2: Who are you when you aren’t watching the clock?
giveaway: Never on a Sunday

Week 3: Your Life Is an Ecosystem
giveaway: On Decluttering

Week 4: Changing Your Relationship with Your Future Self
giveaway: The Role of Fun & Games

Week 5: How to Get from Here to There

Week 6: Choosing a Starting Point
giveaway: The Activity Survey

For those of you who have been playing along: What happened when you made caring for your physical energy your most important job? What did you discover from conducting an Activity Survey? Share your comments here on the blog. I’d love to hear from you.

And if you like what you’re learning, please invite others to the party. If your colleagues or readers would benefit from these gifts, please share this series with your audience via social media (or wherever you like to hang out).


Next: You Don’t Work Best Under Pressure

There’s nothing magical about a deadline. Believe it or not, you can tap into the skills and abilities you use when you’re up against a deadline any time you like.

Next week, I’ll share a way to reveal what you’re doing when under pressure so you don’t have to wait until the last minute to bring what are some of your best skills and abilities to your work.

Until then,
Peace and love,

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Choosing a Starting Point

August 11, 2014

Back at the beginning of this celebration I shared that my present to myself would be crafting comprehensive systems that would allow my body of work to generate reserves of time, energy and money. And while there’s still much more to do, I’m pleased with my progress so far.

The effort has required all the focus, tenacity and discipline that I anticipated. And because I have an online-business, that discipline has been narrowly focused on the screen of my laptop computer. Since the internet is a big place, that screen can feel a lot like a window – even Alice’s looking glass into another world – but the reality is the last month or so has been very ass-in-chair.

When I paused at the Crossroads last week, I had to acknowledge that I was turning into the stereotypical un-showered, pajama-wearing, take-out-eating, home-office-dwelling internet worker bee. (Ew.) I had to remind myself this is marathon not a sprint and while my single-minded focus was laudable, it wasn’t at all sustainable – which was hardly an epiphany, just something that I’m prone to ignore when I’m high on a new idea or project.

For those of us who spend a lot of time in our minds and are rewarded for what our brains produce, it can be easy to forget that the brain is an organ like any other and cannot function without proper sleep, food and exercise. What’s above the neck turns to mush when we don’t take care of what’s below the neck. There is a connection.

This week’s excerpt from the Foundations program is about choosing a starting point. And while there are probably many things in your life and business that could use some organizational TLC, you can never go wrong by starting with crafting systems to care for your physical energy.

You’ll often hear me say that good time management comes down to good energy management. Given that so many of our mental, emotional and spiritual experiences are primarily physiological and that our abilities to think, feel and connect in healthy ways rely on a healthy body – by giving priority to caring for our physical energy, we’ve often done most everything necessary to care for our energy overall. As systems go, you can’t ask for something more efficient or effective.

Like It’s Your Only Job

So for the rest of this month, while it’s so lovely to be in your body and the summery physical world, and in preparation for riding the wave of energy that comes with autumn and back-to-school, approach caring for your physical energy as if it’s your most important job – the one and only thing you need to get right.

This doesn’t mean starting some new fitness routine or diet regimen! And it certainly doesn’t require perfection. Just give priority to doing what you already know works and need to do to care for your physical health – actions like…

  • Nourishing your body with sleep, water, food, supplements, hygiene, movement, body work, healing, etc.
  • Treating your senses – sight, smell, touch, taste, sound – while working and beyond. For instance: bring cut flowers into your space, light a scented candle, wear your most comfortable clothes, enjoy your favorite beverage, play your favorite songs and so forth.
  • Bringing yourself back into your body when you’ve gotten all up in your head for too long and practicing refreshing contrasts like counterbalancing stillness with movement, digital with real-world, and so on.

Using this week’s giveaway or your own method of observation, notice the effect caring for your physical energy has on your outlook and productivity. And decide for yourself just how efficient and effective giving priority to your body really is.


Foundations, Week 5: Choose a Starting Point

In the fifth week of the program, having completed our review of Time and Systems, and information-gathering about You and What Needs Doing, we then roll up our sleeves and begin putting theory into practice in earnest.

Given that there is likely more than one thing in your life and business that could use some systems-crafting, you need to choose a starting point.

And the best way to choose a sensible and profitable place to begin is to conduct an Activity Survey.

This tool is first introduced during the second week of the course since it can reveal crucial information about the personal preferences around which your daily rhythm should be built. It also helps develop the most fundamental skill of time-management: the ability to engage in neutral, open-minded observation – because you cannot make improvements in the way you do things without self-awareness and self-compassion.

We then revisit the Survey a few week’s later to narrow and prioritize your focus for the remainder of the program.

That said, it’s a very effective tool on its own…

Not Your Usual Time-Tracking

The Activity Survey is designed to highlight where you’ve already got it going on (yay!) and identify where there are organizational problem spots and weak areas that need your attention.

Using the worksheet included with this guide, you’ll observe your daily activities for one week.

And don’t worry, this isn’t your usual time-tracking! Throughout your day, the worksheet will focus your observations on:

  • The way your energy ebbs and flows throughout the day and how certain activities affect your energy.
  • The balance of biz and non-biz activities in your life, along with the balance of creation, connection and maintenance in both areas.
  • The level of engagement and skill you bring to different activities.
  • Whether or not you finish what you start and how streamlined and effective your activities are.
  • What’s distracting you (are your interruptions coming from outside or inside your head?) and not just when you procrastinate, but why. (Observing your distraction and procrastination can yield a gold mine of information about what you need and how you work best.)

Rather than a disapproving missionary with a preconceived idea of what needs fixing and how, you’re encouraged to conduct your Survey with the mindset of a very curious and compassionate anthropologist who is fascinated by the culture of your daily life and wants to understand how things work in your society of one.

Your Starting Point Revealed

After you’ve made a week’s observations, you’ll then interpret the results of your Survey.

The guide suggests actions to take for each area of observation and, if more than one area needs attention, what to address first so your changes can have the most immediate and significant impact and build on each other in a sensible way.

However, you may discover some problem areas of your life resolving themselves without taking further action – because what we observe is what changes.

Once you’ve grounded yourself in something closer to reality – once you have a clear picture of what’s really happening instead of what you think is happening or should be happening or are afraid is happening or wish was happening – it’s often obvious what needs to shift and your subconscious just handles it. It’s a very cool – and very efficient – phenomena.

And if you have trouble interpreting your survey results on your own or remain unclear about what to address first, the Activity Survey includes a free half-hour private consultation with me. We’ll meet under the virtual skylight and figure it out together.

Click to download this week’s free
Foundations excerpt, The Activity Survey

Discover your starting point.
And find out what changes just by observing it.


Want a different sort of taste?

The communal work sessions are a favorite part of the Foundations program and you are warmly invited to experience for yourself what a little structure and camaraderie can do to transform your productivity.

Co-Working Open House
Thursdays, 9am – 2pm Pacific
Just two sessions left! August 14 and August 21
Learn all the details and join for free.

Reminder: Register early and save.

The sooner you join Foundations, the lower your tuition.
Register by August 25 and you can save up to $100.


Just now joining the celebration or missed a week?

Click the links to catch up.

Week 1: It’s THW’s tenth anniversary! Let’s celebrate.
giveaway: The Systems De-Ick-Er

Week 2: Who are you when you aren’t watching the clock?
giveaway: Never on a Sunday

Week 3: Your Life Is an Ecosystem
giveaway: On Decluttering

Week 4: Changing Your Relationship with Your Future Self
giveaway: The Role of Fun & Games

Week 5: How to Get from Here to There

• • • • •

For those of you who have been playing along: What happened as a result of pausing at the Crossroads of summer? How has the metaphor of a flip book helped you to start moving toward something more desirable? Please share your comments here on the blog. I’d love to hear from you.

And if you like what you’re learning, please invite others to the party. If your colleagues or readers would benefit from these gifts, please share this series with your audience via social media (or wherever you like to hang out).


Do You Know?

When you purchase a self-study like How To Get Out of the Quicksand of Overwhelm, To Hold in the Hand or Easier Email, you can deduct the cost of the guide from your tuition for Foundations?

And every purchase of a self-study comes with an Apprentice membership in the The Guild – an ongoing informal support program for new learners here at the Atelier of Time. As an Apprentice member you can join monthly Q&A calls and quarterly co-working sessions, book 1:1 sessions with me, among other perks and supports – all included with your self-study tuition.


Next: Planning Is Useful, Plans Are Useless

The future is unpredictable, no plan is perfect, and your systems are only as good as your worst day. Having improvisational skills and tools gives you the resiliency to bend without breaking and maintain your momentum and sanity in the face of the unexpected.

So next week, I’ll share a favorite (and fun!) way to choose a direction when there is a conflict between what you had planned, what’s come up that needs your attention and your mood, so you can take action and remain productive instead of going in circles.

Until then,
peace and love,

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How to get from Here to There

August 4, 2014

Well, Lovelies, we’ve reached the fifth week of Third Hand Works’ 10th Anniversary celebration. Which means we are at the half-way point – both the mid-point of this anniversary party and the mid-point of summer, right between solstice and equinox.

Why is that worth remarking on? Because a half-way point is an important a transition as beginnings and endings. And skillfully navigating transitions – the spaces between activities – is as key to effectively managing your time as caring for your energy.

I often refer to the half-way point as the Crossroads because it’s an opportunity to change strategy or direction if needed to reach a desired outcome. If you really want to stick your landing and make a graceful exit out of thing (which then makes for a graceful entrance into the next thing), you must pause at the mid-point.

So, let’s pause for a moment. Let’s stop to catch our breath and ask…

Are you engaging with the season in the way you intended? Will you look back when the air gets crisp and the leaves are on the ground and say, “That was an awesome summer!”

And are you engaging with the material in these missives the way you intended? Or are they piling up in your inbox or hard-drive unread, neither deleted nor saved where you could easily find them later?

If you’ve been following through on your intent, rock on!

If not, then take this moment to pause and change your direction so you can end in a way you feel good about. Be kind to your Future Self and don’t try to cram a whole summer into labor Day weekend. And if you are considering Foundations, be kind to your Future Learning Self and spare her the stress of a last minute decision.

Pausing at the Crossroads, practicing the Transition of the Middle, is one of the Fundamental Principles we study in Foundations. (Hey look, you’re already doing it by reading this!) And you can get a hands-on experience of intentional entry/pause/exit by participating in the co-working open house – where we always pause at the halfway point (details below).

Reminder: Foundations Early-Early Bird Flies Away Today

The sooner you join, the lower your tuition. Register by August 25 and you can save up to $100. If you’re ready to join TODAY, you save up to $200.

Want more of a taste before making your decision?

The communal work sessions are a favorite part of the Foundations program and you are warmly invited to experience for yourself what a little structure and camaraderie can do to transform your productivity.

Co-Working Open House
Thursdays, 9am – 2pm Pacific
August 7, August 14 and August 21
Learn all the details and join for free.

Now, let’s continue our tour of the program…


Foundations, Week 4: Shaping Your Days

In the fourth week of the Foundations program, after familiarizing yourself with our Fundamental Principles, we then begin crafting a framework for your days and weeks (this is usually called a “schedule”, but we tend to avoid that word).

At this point in the program, the more clear you become about the conditions that bring out your best, the more it may become apparent that you can’t just rearrange the current elements of your life into a better framework. Instead, you’ll have to make a gradual shift from your current commitments to something more ideal.

Here’s a simple way to approach such a transition.

How to Get from Here to There

Think of your current weekly schedule as the first page of a flip book and this more desirable/ideal schedule as the last page of that flip book (or the first and last cell of an animation or the first and last frame of a stop motion film).

Just as it would take a series of small changes to transform the drawing of a fish into a sketch of a bird, so too do you need to make a series of small changes to your schedule to transform it from what you have now to what you want it to be.

Small changes make the change smooth and doable rather than disruptive and overwhelming. And small changes allow you to understand and test one variable at a time and make necessary adjustments along the way.

It can help to actually put the schedule you now have and the one you want on paper and lay several blank pages between them. Then start sketching what those interim schedules might look like. Essentially… create a schedule flip book for yourself.

You may not be able to see what that full series of changes is from your current vantage point, but you don’t need to. Just focus on the areas where you have flexibility and choice and trade one thing you no longer want to do for one thing you do. Once that’s accomplished, switch the next thing, then the next, and so on.

Replacing activities with ones that will make the next change easier can help this transformation develop more quickly, but don’t tie yourself up in knots trying to be too strategic about such stepping stones. Movement begets movement and any change will help you to move forward.


Just now joining the celebration or missed a week?

Click the links to catch up.

Week 1: It’s THW’s tenth anniversary! Let’s celebrate.
giveaway: The Systems De-Ick-Er

Week 2: Who are you when you aren’t watching the clock?
giveaway: Never on a Sunday

Week 3: Your Life Is an Ecosystem
giveaway: On Decluttering

Week 4: Changing Your Relationship with Your Future Self
giveaway: The Role of Fun & Games

And for those of you who have been playing along, what did you discover from taking a closer look at the games you like to play about the conditions you find engaging and bring out your best? Please share your comments here on the blog. I’d love to hear from you.

And if you like what you’re learning, please invite others to the party. If your colleagues or readers would benefit from these gifts, please share this series with your audience via social media (or wherever you like to hang out).


Do You Know?

When you purchase a self-study like How To Get Out of the Quicksand of Overwhelm, To Hold in the Hand or Easier Email, you can deduct the cost of the guide from your tuition for Foundations?

And every purchase of a self-study comes with an Apprentice membership in the The Guild – an ongoing informal support program for new learners here at the Atelier of Time. As an Apprentice member you can join monthly Q&A calls and quarterly co-working sessions, book 1:1 sessions with me, among other perks and supports – all included with your tuition.


Next: Choosing a Starting Point

Chances are, there is more than one area of your life that could use some organizational TLC. Next week, I’ll share my favorite tool for prioritizing your systems-crafting for the most immediate payoffs.

Until then,
peace and love,

sig

Organized under Uncategorized. none

Changing Your Relationship with Your Future Self

July 29, 2014

During a recent trip to the grocery store I couldn’t help but notice all the back-to-school supplies that were on display. Like Christmas merchandise on the shelves before Halloween, it seemed more than a bit early. “It’s not even August yet,” I thought.

But then I realized what a hypocritical thought that was. Because I totally believe in preparation and planning ahead.

Yes, it can be true that life is what happens when you’re making other plans. But taking care of your Future Self from time to time can also be a great kindness to your Present Self.

Having made a choice about what’s next, you can trade the energy that was going into considering all your future options into engaging with what’s happening around you right now. And when the time comes to shift into the next thing, you can see that transition coming and ease in, rather than beginning in a rushed and reactive way.

It’s the sort of thing both your Present and Future Selves will thank you for.

That said, it’s a lot easier to take care of your Future Self when you don’t see that person as unknowable.

The life of a creative involves a lot of change and evolution, experimentation and reinvention. I expect you’ve fallen in love with an idea and thought, “This is it! This is the thing I want to do forever!” only to fall in love with another idea a few weeks or months later.

You probably also strongly prefer to be in the mood for whatever needs doing at any given moment. And those two things: not knowing where your ideas are going to take you and not knowing what you’ll be in the mood for can make it seem impossible to know how to take care of your Future Self and plan ahead.

And yet I know if you have an interest in my work, you have a desire to make such plans. So, how do you make commitments beyond today or this week without feeling boxed in or worrying that it will turn out to be the wrong choice?

In my programs, we explore techniques and practice skills that will get and keep you organized, but you’re not just getting comfortable with Time and Systems in the process. You’re also getting comfortable with your Future Self.

Coming to understand the core values and qualities, motivators and preferences that are the constants – what makes you You, past, present and future – is what allows you to make choices for your Future Self with confidence.

And, unless you regret every decision you’ve ever made (highly unlikely), you clearly already know how to tap into that. You already know how to dive underneath all those surface obligations and moods and make choices based on what is consistently important to you.

Which means you can buy back-to-school supplies in July without it spoiling your summer and trusting that your Future Self of September, at the peak of that post-Labor-Day transition, will be oh-so glad you did.

It also means that if you already know you want to participate in the Fall term of Foundations, you can register now with confidence that it will be the Right Thing at the Right Time.

foundations-sidebar

Yes, registration is open. And to encourage you to be kind to your Future Self, the sooner you join, the lower your tuition. Register by August 25 and you can save up to $100. Join by August 4 – that’s next Monday – and you can save up to $200.

And if you’d like more of a taste before making your decision, please join the Co-Working Open House. The communal work sessions are a favorite part of the program and you are warmly invited to experience for yourself what a little structure and camaraderie can do to transform your productivity.

Thursdays, 9am – 2pm Pacific
July 31, August 7, August 14 and August 21
The first session is this Thursday!
Learn all the details and join for free.

Now, let’s continue our tour of the program…


Foundations, Week 4: Fundamental Principles

In the fourth week of the Foundations program, we shift from gathering information about Time & Systems, You and What Needs Doing – and take our first steps toward synthesizing what we’ve learned into a supportive framework that brings out your best.

And the very first step is an introduction to our Fundamental Principles. Like line, form, space, color and texture or balance, emphasis and movement in visual art, these principles are the basic design elements we explore and put into practice in shaping our days and weeks throughout the remainder of the program.

One way to better understand both these basic concepts and the conditions that bring out your best is to analyze the games you most like to play according to these Fundamental Principles.

Games are systems – and typically very well designed systems. Through an exploration of the games you enjoy, you can learn a great deal about the kinds of working conditions you find both pleasant and effective – and those insights can be incorporated into the way you shape time and craft systems for yourself.

In this week’s Anniversary Celebration giveaway, I share what I’ve learned from my favorite games, the ways they’ve changed the way I structure my time and support my activities, and how you can do the same.

If you’re already subscribed to the Aerogramme, this Foundations excerpt, The Role of Fun & Games, is waiting for you in your inbox. If not, you can become a subscriber by entering your contact info below the airmail envelope in the top right of this page, then clicking “sign me up.”


Just now joining the celebration or missed a week?

Click the links to catch up.

Week 1: It’s THW’s tenth anniversary! Let’s celebrate.
Week 2: Who are you when you aren’t watching the clock?
Week 3: Your Life Is an Ecosystem

For those of you who have been playing along, how has redefining work helped you to feel more whole? What’s happening at the intersection of space and time as you declutter? Please share your comments here on the blog. I’d love to hear from you.

And if you like what you’re learning, please invite others to the party. If your colleagues or readers would benefit from these gifts, please share this series with your audience via social media (or wherever you like to hang out).


Featured Self-Study: Easier Email

easieremail-sidebar2I love a good clear out as much as I love systems crafting. And they both come together in this hands-on guidebook devoted to clearing your email inbox while developing systems to keep it clear at the same time. Because what’s the point of achieving Inbox Zero only for the overflow to return again all too soon?

Make a date with your overflowing inbox to give it some much-needed TLC – and shift the time, energy and money that’s currently sucked up by your email angst to the creative work that lights you up and earns your profits.

In final celebration of completing the Great Shopping Cart/Newsletter Service Migration, Easier Email is pay-what-you-want through this Friday (8/1) at noon Pacific. If a lack of funds has stood between you and inbox zero, please seize this opportunity!


Next: How To Get from Here to There

Sometimes, the more clear you get about the conditions that bring out your best, the more it becomes apparent that you can’t just rearrange the current elements of your life into a better framework. Instead, you’ll have to make a gradual shift from your current commitments to something more ideal. Next week, I’ll share a simple way to approach such a transition.

Until then,
peace and love,

sig

Organized under Uncategorized. One comment.

Your Life Is an Ecosystem

July 21, 2014

Again, given summer’s undeniable pull to go outside and play, you may be feeling greater tension than usual right now between what you want to do and what you have to do. This week’s excerpt from the Foundations program can help you resolve that conflict, so you can both enjoy the season and still finish what needs doing.

Summer also calls us to slow down, recover and prepare for the more ambitious energy that will arrive with autumn. It’s a season well-suited to adjusting to the growth and changes that resulted from whatever you created in the spring and to make space for the new to come. Decluttering is part of that preparation – and so in this week’s mini-guide, I share my thoughts on what happens at the intersection of Space and Time.


Foundations, Week 3: What Needs Doing

foundations-sidebarIn the third week of the Foundations program, having gained a fresh perspective on Time, Systems and You, we then shift our focus to everything that is demanding your attention, all the activities you need and want to do and the relationships between them.

Finding those connections is key to shifting that no-win sense that whatever you’re doing now comes at the expense of other things you need and want to do – and ultimately learning to work within your capacity and feel satiated by your activities.

One way we explore those connections is by redefining work.

Exercise: Redefining Work

Many years ago I read a magazine article about work/life balance, and the author made the compelling argument that dividing your life into these two halves and weighing the one against the other was the wrong way to go about achieving what we like to call “balance.” Our lives are much more like interdependent ecosystems, he said, with each person’s individual “habitat” being quite unique. The combination of activities one person needs to feel satisfied can be very different from another. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution and trying to conform to this 50/50 concept only leads to problems.

Or as Molly Gordon later pointed out more succinctly: we don’t want to be balanced so much as we want to feel whole.

A healthy, sustainable life is an ecosystem in which all the elements are interconnected and interdependent, each part contributing to and supporting the others in some way.

To further explore this interconnectedness, in this exercise you’ll redefine what counts as “work.”

We associate various qualities with the word work: activities that require significant effort, that which is the opposite of play or leisure, what one has to do v. what one wants to, and so on.

In this instance, I want you to redefine work in its sense of what counts as a legitimate activity.

For the most part, we tend to think of work as the activities an employer would pay us to do or what would be considered “billable” time. Anything an employer would discourage or prohibit in the workplace, isn’t work – a definition that can cause us to devalue many significant aspects of our lives.

That devaluation can seriously erode our sense of satisfaction with the way we move through our days and lead us to dismiss certain essential activities altogether.

So let’s redefine what counts as work by first defining work.

For myself, I define work as anything that directly brings money into my household or makes that effort possible.

Which means nearly all of my activities count as work. They are all legitimate uses of my time and energy.

For instance, writing the words you are reading at this very moment is clearly one element of my livelihood – what I’m doing right now is work. But so was preparing and eating the lunch I enjoyed when taking a break from this writing because I cannot write without fueling my body. In fact, anything involving food – from grocery shopping to cleaning the kitchen – counts as work.

Same goes for sleep. I cannot be sustainably productive without getting consistent and sufficient rest. So does that make sleeping part of my job? Hmmm…

Similarly, if I get my best ideas in the shower, digging in the garden, or when taking a walk through my neighborhood, then those activities are work.

And while ironing my sweetheart’s work shirts is probably the most prosaic thing I do in my week, it does fulfill a requirement of his job. It helps to bring money into our household, so it also counts as work.

I could even make the argument that participating in trivia night at my neighborhood pub is work because, as a contrasting activity, it refreshes my abilities to engage in other activities. And the same reasoning could apply to any social engagement, vacation or form of R&R.

And so on.

Play with this exercise long enough and you may find yourself challenged to come up with something that doesn’t contribute to making your livelihood possible and isn’t work.

The point of this exercise isn’t to turn every aspect of your life into a job or to only choose activities that directly contribute to your financial bottom line. And distinguishing between your professional and personal life likely will remain useful in many ways.

Rather, the point is to notice how everything you do is connected and supports everything else, has value and helps you to feel whole.

• • • • •

To discover this for yourself, start by choosing how you want to define work. (You can use my definition or something of your own invention.)

Then mind-map all the areas of your life that you want or need to give your time and energy to. You can group or organize your activities any way you like.

Once you’ve completed your brain-dump, ask yourself how each activity and each area of your life contributes to your livelihood. If you stopped doing something, what would be the effect on your professional life? On other areas of your life? Conversely, what would happen if you devoted more time and energy to an area?

Use lines, arrows and circles to illustrate the relationships you discover. Observe what falls outside that web of connections. Consider removing such tangents from your life. They are draining rather than contributing to the whole.

When you are finished, check in with yourself. How has giving yourself an objective picture of the interconnectedness and interdependence of the activities that make up the ecosystem of your life shifted that internal conflict between what you have to do and what you want to do, that tension between creation and maintenance, and that sense that whenever you’re doing one thing, you’re robbing yourself of something else?


On Decluttering: What I Know About Space & Time

There is a plethora of advice out there about how to organize everything from your closets to your inbox, purge your unwanted stuff, and keep your house clean. I am not an expert in such things and this is not that kind of how-to manual.

What this 9-page mini-guide does cover is what often gets discussed when students bring decluttering tasks to our co-working parties. These are my observations and experience of what happens at the intersection of Space and Time: how your belongings relate to change, how your possessions affect your energy, how your stuff is connected to your calendar, and how your worldly goods shape your experience and perception of time.

If you’re already subscribed to the Aerogramme, On Decluttering is probably already waiting for you in your inbox. If not, you can become a subscriber by entering your contact info below the airmail envelope in the top right of this page, then clicking “sign me up.”


Missed last week’s giveaways?

You can read last week’s Aerogramme and learn how to download last week’s gift, Never on a Sunday, here.

And for those of you who have been playing along, what happened when you spent a day away from mechanical time? How are you taking back your weekends? Share your insights here on the blog. I’d love to hear from you.


Featured Self-Study – To Hold in the Hand:
Ten Ways to Make Peace with the Ordinary Work of Everyday Life

MPWM-sidebarThe tensions between creation and maintenance can seriously erode your sense that your life is a healthy ecosystem in which all its parts contribute to the whole. And they can definitely lead to clutter! In To Hold in the Hand, I share ten ways to erase that sense of conflict and show you how to craft systems to stay current with the routine tasks of your daily life, rather than repeat endless and stressful cycles of catch-up.

And this week, in honor of my second foundational system-crafting task, changing my shopping cart service, To Hold in the Hand is pay-what-you-want through this Friday (7/25) at noon Pacific. If a lack of funds has stood between you and peace, please seize this opportunity!

“There has been something deeply healing for me about making peace with maintenance, especially understanding it as essential to the rest of my goals, and part of achieving those goals. What a relief to know that maintenance is important and urgent and that it’s okay for me to spend time on it. I have been feeling so much more loved by simply taking the time to care for myself through cooking, putting laundry away, changing the sheets & bath linens, and balancing my checkbook. So thank you for this ebook. It has made and is making a huge difference in my life.” – P.P.


Next: The Role of Fun & Games in Time Management

Next week I’ll share what I’ve learned from my favorite games about how to better manage my time, along with a mini-guide that shows you how to do the same.

Because “fun” probably isn’t what you think it is. And the ball is happening all the time, not something you get to go to until after you’ve finished an impossible list of chores.


Hope your summertime livin’ is easy…
Peace and love,

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Who are you when you aren’t watching the clock?

July 15, 2014

me at 10In considering how I want to honor Third Hand Works’ tenth anniversary, I’ve been thinking about other milestones – like when I actually turned 10. The transition to fifth grade was a rough year (and, wow, that Dorothy Hamill haircut didn’t help). I’m so thankful to be in the midst of an occasion significantly less awkward and confusing. The clarity and confidence gained from experience is also something I’m celebrating.

But enough with the past. Let’s get back to the present – and the presents! – and get on with the party. There’s a lot to unwrap this week…

In honor of summertime and its undeniable pull to go outside and play, this week’s Foundations excerpt and mini-guide giveaway are all about trading chronos for kairos and taking back your weekend.

Foundations, Week 2: Understanding You

As I mentioned last week, while the Foundations program is nothing like a boot camp, and I’m certainly not tearing anyone down in order to build them back up again, the opening weeks of the course are about separating what is yours from what doesn’t belong to you, so you can build your foundation on what is solid and true. With fresh perspectives on Time and Systems, in the second week of the program, we then turn our attention to gaining a fresh perspective on your own experience, history and innate talents and preferences.

One way we explore that is by finding out who you are when you aren’t watching a clock…


Exercise: A Day Without Clocks

At some point during the next few weeks, move through one full day without once looking at a single mechanical clock.

Since mechanical clocks are everywhere and are essential to our modern connections with others, this takes some planning.

For starters, you need to choose an appointment-free day as arriving at a specific time without being able to refer to a clock probably isn’t going to turn out very well. It’s easiest to do this on a weekend or sabbath day, but I strongly encourage you to also try it on a work day if possible.

The evening before your chosen clock-free day, go through your home and/or office and turn off, cover or otherwise hide all the clocks. (Just inventorying how many mechanical clocks are in your everyday environment is an illuminating exercise in itself.)

In my home there is a clock in the living room, one built into the thermostat, one built into the stove (we don’t use the one in the microwave), one in the bathroom, and the sunrise alarm clock in the bedroom, among others. Of course, clocks show up in our computers, telephones and smartphones, not to mention the TV. There is a clock in the car. I stopped wearing a watch when I became self-employed, but if I still did that would need to go too.

Having removed all the mechanical clocks, you’re now prepared to experience a day shaped only by your biological clock, senses and intuition.

Sleep until you wake.
Eat when you are hungry.
Move from one activity to the next as your energy and attention shifts.
Rest when you are tired.

There are no clocks to tell you what you should do.

That you should get out of bed.
That you should eat lunch.
That you should start or stop working.

You’re going to have to figure it out for yourself.

Though you may pine for the opportunity of unstructured time, removing this ubiquitous device can be a bit discombobulating. But that’s okay because it’s chock-full of useful information.

About how well you hear, understand and trust the signals and feedback your body, mind, heart and environment are giving you. About how easily you give yourself permission to act on that information. About what your personal daily rhythms actually are. And about how many rules you live by are tied to mechanical clock-time.

Also notice, in the absence of clocks, if you have more experiences of kairos.

The ancient Greeks distinguished between two concepts of Time, chronos and kairos. Chronos refers to numeric or chronological time. Kairos, literally “the right or opportune moment”, describes metaphysical or Divine time, a time between, an indeterminate moment in which something special happens. While chronos is quantitative, kairos is qualitative.

• • • • •

Kairos. Real time. God’s time.

That time which breaks through chronos with a shock of joy, that time we do not recognize while we are experiencing it, but only afterwards, because kairos has nothing to do with chronological time. In kairos we are completely unselfconscious, and yet paradoxically far more real than we can ever be when we’re constantly checking our watches for chronological time.

The saint in contemplation, lost to self in the mind of God is in kairos. The artist at work is in kairos. The child at play, totally thrown outside herself in the game, be it building a sand castle or making a daisy chain, is in kairos. In kairos we become what we are called to be as human beings, co-creators with God, touching on the wonder of creation. – Madeleine L’Engle

• • • • •

Chronos is clocks, deadlines, watches, calendars, agendas, planners, schedules, beepers. Chronos is time at her worst. Chronos keeps track. Chronos is the world’s time.

Kairos is transcendence, infinity, reverence, joy, passion, love, the Sacred. Kairos is intimacy with the Real. Kairos is time at her best. Kairos is Spirit’s time.

We exist in chronos. We long for kairos. That’s our duality. Chronos requires speed so that it won’t be wasted. Kairos requires space so that it might be savored. We do in chronos. In kairos we’re allowed to be. It takes only a moment to cross over from chronos into kairos, but it does take a moment.

All that kairos asks is our willingness to stop running long enough to hear the music of the spheres. – Sarah Ban Breathnach

• • • • •

Reflect & Note

Does this exercise feel impossible? If so, why?

If you completed this exercise, what was your experience? What did you learn about yourself and the effect of mechanical clocks on your experience of Time?

In the absence of chronos, did you have a greater experience of kairos?

What do you gain and lose without mechanical time?
How you would organize your time if clocks remained permanently absent?

• • • • •

Course participants have gained a wide range of insights from this exercise – from discovering how essential clocks are to their relationships, to a greatly lowered resistance and sense of peace about their work – even a whole new way of organizing their daily activities! Try it and see what you discover…


Never on a Sunday:
8 Steps to Taking Back Your Weekend

We have the best of intentions when it comes to taking time off. We want to do it, we make plans to do it, we try our best to follow through on our intentions – and we often fail. We either remain fully engaged in our work more or less seven days a week or we end up doing that even less satisfying in-between thing that’s neither rejuvenation nor work.

And even when we do give ourselves time off, our minds can be preoccupied with work throughout our entire weekend or vacation. There’s no shaking that nagging sense that we should be doing something else. And that mental distraction does nothing to help us rest.

In a culture that values productivity and considers busy a badge of honor, unplugging turns out to be something of an advanced skill. Even clients who have studied with me for years, when asked how they are going to celebrate and recover from the work of the week, at best have a wishy-washy answer and at worst don’t have any answer at all. And sometimes I can’t do any better.

Giving yourself some much-needed R&R actually takes some know-how, commitment and practice. So I’ve created this 16-page mini-guide to taking back your weekend.

If you’re already subscribed to the Aerogramme, Never on a Sunday is probably already waiting for you in your inbox. If not, you can become a subscriber by entering your contact info below the airmail envelope in the top right of this page, then clicking “sign me up.”

• • • • •

For a whole lotta years, I worked seven nights a week, three and four shows a night, and… I got a little tired. I think that everybody deserves at least one day a week off, even this lady

Oh, you can kiss me on a Monday,
a Monday, a Monday is very very good.
Or you can kiss me on a Tuesday,
a Tuesday, a Tuesday – in fact I wish you would.
Or you can kiss me on a Wednesday,
a Thursday, a Friday, Saturday is best.
But never never on a Sunday
a Sunday, a Sunday ’cause that’s my day of rest.

Most any day – c’mon be my guest!
Any day you say, but my day of rest.
Just name the day that you like the best.
Only stay away on my day of rest.

You can kiss me on a cool day,
a hot day, a wet day – which ever one you choose.
Or try to kiss me on a grey day,
a May day, a pay day and see if I refuse.
And if you make it on a bleak day,
a freak day, a week day – why, you can be my guest.
But never never on a Sunday.
A Sunday’s the one day I’ve got to get some rest!


Missed last week’s celebration?

You can read it and learn how to download last week’s gift, The Systems De-Ick-Er, here.

And for those of you who have been playing along: What happened when you said something more honest than you “didn’t have the time”? What have you discovered about the nature of systems that has surprised, delighted or comforted you? Share your insights on the blog. I’d love to hear them.


Featured Self-Study:
How To Get Out of the Quicksand of Overwhelm

If your to-do list is so overwhelming that you can’t begin to imagine taking a day off (with or without clocks), then you need to grab the rope!

This handbook is the missing set of emergency instructions – the stop, drop and roll – for getting yourself out of the quicksand of overwhelm and back on solid ground.

And this week, in honor of my second foundational system-crafting task – changing my shopping cart service – How To Get Out of the Quicksand of Overwhelm is pay-what-you-want through this Friday (7/18) at noon Pacific. If a lack of funds has stood between you and relief, please seize this opportunity!

“This should be required reading for every entrepreneur and, well, every human being. It’s filled with so much smart stuff and so beautifully done. Loving it! THANK YOU.” – Fabeku Fatunmise


Next: A Mini-Guide to Decluttering

Next week I’ll share a way to resolve that conflicting, no-win sense that everything you’re doing comes at the expense of other things you need and want to do, along with a mini-guide to decluttering. Because between the lemonade, gardening and concerts in the park, summer is a great time for the essential work of cleaning up our messes.

“Whether you’re trying to garden or take a picture or write a book, your ability to make a creative mess is your most productive state. You want to be able to throw ideas all over the place, but you need to be able to start with a clear deck. One mess at a time is all you can handle. Two messes at a time, you’re screwed. You may want to find God, but if you’re running low on cat food, you damn well better make a plan for dealing with it. Otherwise the cat food is going to take a whole lot more attention and keep you from finding God.” – David Allen

That cat food will also keep you from taking time off and enjoying summer…


Clink!

[ raising my glass of strawberry lemonade to yours ]

Peace and love,

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