Your Next 100 Days

A lot can happen in 100 days. I haven’t written to my website blog for the past 100 days and more for the purpose of watching what happens. I last wrote a blog on the verdict day of the Kaylee Anthony Trial….the loss of a child in a tragic concoction of human choices, law and public fascination with this case. It captivated us worldwide. Dr. Phil has tried to keep this all alive via interviews with prosecutors and the Anthony Family, but alas…we have other things on our minds.

We soon left the trial for the most recent of events coming onto the screens of our lives via media bytes focused on new ways to capture our viewing, Twitter and Facebook posts. We saw the fall of Libya, Egypt and a host of unrest in the Middle East. Iran is trying to keep secret their ongoing nuclear arming, Heavy D died, as did Joe Frazier, and the Greek economy fell apart. Herman Cain seems to have gone the way of many politicians with a sex scandal, an asteroid comes ‘close’ to hitting the earth, and a star falls as Joe Pa and the Lions are embroiled in a sad display of treatment of our children.

I could write a lot here about what distracts and attracts us as consumers of media….but the point of this all for me is that life happens….and this too shall pass.

Yep, life happens. It comes and goes and fills us with events of world importance that grab our attention and “must see TV,” but it is also filled with those things most personal in our lives that supersede even the hottest of topics. In these 100 days, in my own life, family members have received not-so-good health news, some have died, financial burdens reflective of the economy have continued to be at the fore, I have celebrated with new students coming into the college environment pursuing a life calling and eventual vocation, been to some birthday parties, basked in Thanksgiving festivities and food, laughed a lot, cried some, and….well you get the point. Life happens….it goes on….and it is both predictable and surprising all at once.

So, what do we do with all this? I am reminded of my many years of academic training, professional work and personal philosophy that we should live each day as powerfully as possible, making plans for what we hope will unfold in life, loving those near us, counting our blessings, not sweating the small stuff, and being merry…..because we don’t know what the next 100 days will bring. This is not about giving one’s life up to the ‘fates’ but remembering that life is filled with certitude and joy as well as unexpected and unwelcomed moments. It is choosing to live life with gratitude, peace, love, kindness, gentleness, and all those things “against which there are no laws,” as the Apostle Paul wrote. It is about being aware that we live in a tension of the present and the future; finding a way to navigate them both with purpose, hope, joy and contentment.

I know what has happened in my past 100 days…I can only imagine what I must be prepared for in the coming 100. And you know them, too. Ever stop and wonder, “What is about to happen in the next 100 days based on the past 100?” So, bask in your blessings today, make the best choices you can for this moment, hug those you care about, live well as Aristotle challenged us, and work to keep all things in perspective.

Blessings to you for this day, and those yet to come….grace and peace.
David Neidert

The Zen of Gardening (and Life)

Flower gardening is one of my favorite engagements.  For me, it is relaxing, and ultimately fulfilling to see the work come to fruition in blooms, color, and symmetry around our home.  I like to just look at the progress and the results (just ask my wife how many times I stop at the end of the driveway in our car when coming home to look at my plants).  Flower gardening is not a passion, in that deep sense of the word, but it provides for me a connection with the outdoors, fresh air, and watching things come to maturity.

A recent Facebook post got me thinking about the zen of flower gardening because of the humorous responses I received from a number of people.  I posted that I spent time one morning using graph paper to lay out designs and flower beds for the coming season.  I also placed on the graph what I have accomplished in the previous two years of garden work.  My intent in the mapping was to provide what was just right for our house.  You might know what I mean, not the overwhelming gardens where the plants overtake the house and all its windows, and not the kind where there are Spartan attempts to make a house look presentable.  It is the kind of gardening that is simple, yet accentuating.  Purposefully placed, with no haphazard dots of greenery to fill in space. 

For me it is a study, a reflection, a purposeful reading of magazines on perenniels and annuals; the height a flower will get at maturity, what will grow best in our climate, which plants are hearty and will last year after year.  There is thus a zen in my use of graph paper as I drink my cup of coffee pondering placement, design, and interconnectedness of plants.

We think of Zen as something mystical.  But that is because we don’t understand the word’s history or basic meaning.  While it has come into vogue as an Eastern word, its origin is Sanskrit; an Indo-European word meaning “to see or look at.”  It is in the looking and seeing in my mind’s eye that I am able to map out what is there before me; to be intentional about what needs to take place in the early weeks of spring, so that the later days of summer and fall display beauty, fragrance, and art.

My zen of flower gardening maybe is translated from my own life and focus on mission development, planning, and goal setting for the ultimate purpose seeing my life come to fruition; to matter both now and maybe be translated into the lives of others.  Maybe some beauty of my life will add fragrance to another’s.  That is my hope, that is my own zen of life, too; to see and look at what needs to be considered and done so that I might live well now, not in some future moment.

The graph paper layout of my gardening is just like my day planner; a way of seeing life, looking at it, and figuring out how to design and plant early, so that in the summer and fall of life I might deliver on what I have planned.  I want both my plants and my life to develop, mature, and ultimately be beautiful–not too much, not too Spartan, but just right.

Blessings for this day, dear reader. Grace and peace to you.

David Neidert

You Have Every Drop There Is

            “Sorry, I don’t have enough time.”  That always amuses me when I hear it expressed.  I know—it’s just a colloquialism that rolls off our tongues when we feel overwhelmed.  But the reason it humors me is because I’m not actually sure where we get more time.  I cannot purchase it at the Time Store over on 33rd and Vine or save it from one day to the next.  Nor can I borrow it from my closest friend or neighbor like a cup of sugar or garden tool (and I cannot return it when I am finished with it).  And sadly, I may not live long enough to use or enjoy what I had expected was my “guaranteed” time on this planet.  

Simply put, time usage is about personal choices, daily choices of how to expend 86,400 seconds, 1,440 minutes or 24 hours.  The choices, I believe, come from our attitudes about time and our willingness to set goals that take us to our desired destinations.  I believe ultimately, daily time usage rests firmly on one’s personal mission statement; the written principle about what matters in the world.  (BTW, if you want to see how to write a personal mission, visit my archive blogs—“Living Well.”  You will find the map for it.)

            I don’t claim to be a time guru (there are plenty of them like David Allen, Brian Tracy, and Stephen Covey), but I do consider myself an effective time management practitioner.  I have learned that having a personal mission, changing your attitude about goals, and recapturing squandered time is not complicated but it does take a commitment of balancing life demands.  It is as simple and complex as Covey elegantly writes, “It is about putting 1st things 1st.” 

            What follows are some suggestions from me as a practitioner for managing time and life.  These suggestions are my self-designed amalgamated system of Peter Lowe-Stephen Covey-Priority Systems-Denis Waitley-Brian Tracy-David Allen that I have personally used for about 25 years.  There may be some specific time guru you love more than others.  If so, follow their advice and implement their wisdom.  But, if you don’t have a guru, try this practitioner’s hybrid of ideas for garnering time and balancing life.  I have used them and know they work.

1.      Determine the difference between what you want as balance and priorities in your life and where you actually spend your time.  Drawing two pie charts can reveal this.  In the first pie chart, divide it by proportions or percentages of what are the important things in your life—family, friends, hobbies, work, community volunteerism, etc.  Then in the second pie chart, divide it proportionally by how you actually spend the 24 hours you have each day.  Compare the results after completing this exercise.  Do the pie charts match?  What are the most glaring differences between what is important to you and how you use your time?  This is a starting point—the awareness—for setting a course correction.  It is like knowing where you spend your money.  Want a clue of that?  Spend some time reviewing your check book or bank statement.  It doesn’t lie.

2.      Write a personal mission statement.  I provide the outline for this in my previous blog, “Living Well.”  Look it up, begin the process and write out your personal mission with life legacy goals attached.  What does this personal mission tell you about how to use the time you have available?  What changes will help you become effective in your time usage as you match what you hope to become in life with how you are currently using your time?

3.      Write down your goals.  Unfortunately, most people do not have written goals.  Not having written goals makes those that may be rattling around in your mind nothing more than a “Wish List.”  Goals are tangible and real only when they are on paper.  They represent visually how we will use our time.

4.      Give priority to those activities in your life that are important to you.  Set your calendar by these priorities first (making “1st Things 1st”).  Place all your other appointments around these priority activities.  You must schedule priorities just like any other appointment.  If you do not, they will not be acted upon because they are not urgently screaming at you for completion.  And quite frankly, “Out of sight….out of mind.”

5.      Break down your goals into smaller manageable units.  If your goals do not have tasks, it is too easy to put off starting on your goals because they might be vague in your mind.  Having tasks breaks down your goals into details that must be accomplished if you are to succeed at living well.  Task lists help you determine the amount of time needed for each goal.  The adage, “How do you eat an elephant?” Answer, “One bite at a time” applies to this suggestion.  

6.      Deadlines are an essential element for the completion of your goals.  So often, we start working on our goals with open-ended time frames.  Thus we may start, but because we do not have a time deadline, we put off tasks and steps until they become urgent or a crisis.  When our goals reach that stage they become personal stressors that create anxiety or frustration.  Set the deadline and then work backwards, determining checkpoints along the way that have to be completed with your time resource in order for you to reach the goal.  Plus, knowing the deadline builds in time for “what ifs” that may add stress at the last minute.

7.      Do something daily related to your goals and tasks.  This seems so elementary, but is essential.  We have a tendency as humans to love the process but forget the action needed at the end of the process.  Action is the critical factor.  “Without action,” futurist Joel Barker notes, “we are just passing time.”  Make a choice every day to use your time well and be action oriented.

8.      Make a list of your personal “Time Bandits.”  These bandits are uses of time that sap us of this tremendous finite resource (remember, you cannot get more time tomorrow, more than 24 hours; you have all there is).  Some time bandits at work might be unfocused meetings, cluttered desk, and decision traps like procrastination, the telephone, Email, undefined projects or vague delegation.  But also consider your time bandits at home, like excessive computer usage (Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter; all enjoyable activities but they can easily amass hours of unfocused use of time), watching television, procrastination, and frittering away time on unfocused activities.  Your personal “Time Bandits” are different from mine.  But a personal self-examination will reveal your time leakage.

9.      Balance the urgent with the not urgent (a Coveyism—focus on Quadrant II).  Living constantly in urgency can cause burnout.  While there are always unexpected situations that require our attention, living in constant urgency causes paralyzing personal and mental stress.  Try balancing the urgent (Quadrant I) with ‘not urgent’ time needs (Quadrant II).  Planning, preparation, reading, and formulating strategies are not necessarily urgent but they will allow you to be prepared for the urgency that will most definitely come your way.  Planning, preparation, and formulating strategies may alleviate stress through proactively.

10.  Learn to say no.  This is one of the most vital tools for managing your time and gaining balance in your life.  It is so simple, yet we get caught in the mindset that there is an obligation for us to fill every moment with activity for some great cause (or at least the great causes of others).  Learning to say ‘no’ provides the time you might need for accomplishing what is vitally important and essential to you as written in your mission.

Peter Lowe, a motivational speaker, says, “Reaching goals is like paying down a 30 year mortgage.  The first few years you pay so little toward the principal it seems like it will take 1,000 years to pay it off…. It is like this with goals.  At first it will seem like you are barely making any progress.  Just preserve and you will accomplish your goals.” (Success Magazine, October 2000).  That is an insightful statement related to mission, goals, and the use of your time.  Try at least one of these suggestions in the week ahead.  Try it for two weeks.  It will seem like paying down a mortgage, but by choosing to use your time wisely, I know you will enjoy less stress and more personal mission achievement.  You have every drop of time there is….use it well.

Blessings to you for these next 14 days.  Drop me a note if this practitioner’s suggestions make a difference…and if they don’t.  I would like to analyze the endeavor with you.  As always, may you experience grace and peace.

David Neidert