helpgrowchange

In times of disaster, we stand strong

A few days ago, over half of my son’s school burnt down. Four of the seven classes are lost, one of them being my son’s. Also lost in the inferno was the school library containing 125 years worth of archives. In addition to this, the school was preparing for it’s 125th anniversary in November, and to be hit by something as devastating as this, is simply crushing.

I am in shock at the moment. Still unable to process just how much has been lost. The amount of information lost in the blaze. How many projects have been destroyed. How much personality and culture taken away. Not to add computers, resources, books, all of it gone.

But, out of the ashes, before the sun rises in the morning, the human spirit of compassion began with offerings to help in any way. People want to give anything they have in order to get this little school up and running again. Ready to tackle another day and make a difference in our children’s lives. As the day wore on, I grew more deeply appreciative of the community I live in.

I love how, deep down, we humans band together in rough times. When disaster strikes, our tribal instincts kick in and we pool together to defeat what ever tragedy has occurred. We rise from the ashes to build something even better than before. We let go of our subtle differences, our minor grievances, and do what is necessary for the greater good.

This event was a fire at a little school in a little community on the far side of the earth. If something as small as this makes such a big difference in the lives of the people affected, I am emboldened by the thought of how communities have stood together in much larger events – such as the Christchurch Earthquake of 2011, or the Japan Earthquake and tsunami of 2012, and 9/11.

We might think the human race is getting worse by the minute with our overindulgence, our greed, our selfishness. But it’s at times like this that it all disappears. All that selfishness dissolves into selflessness. It amazes me and brings great joy when I see people banding together for the greater good. How we can simply find ways in order to help those in need. How we can let go of our own insecurity to reach inside ourselves and rebuild something that was lost.

This is the first time I’ve personally been affected by something like this, and it has hit me out the park. I like to help people, but this event is making me want to go that extra step and do whatever I can – dive into the rubble and help clear it away, donate money to help rebuild, or even help organise some sort of fundraising. Anything I could do to help, I want to do it.

It’s not only me. It’s the dance studio owner offering to entertain the out-of-school children this week for free. It’s the rubble removal company removing the leftovers for free. It’s the musician attempting to organise a variety concert to raise money. It’s human compassion, and I want to give more of it.

[Featured image: Terry Presley]

Why Being Lazy Is Good For Productivity

When it comes to procrastination and laziness, I think I could take home the prize most of the time. If something can be done tomorrow, I’ll postpone my effort until then. Provided a choice between the easy route or the hard – I’d pick the easy one every time.

I probably shouldn’t be telling you this, but I do the bare minimum required in order to get the job done right. I’ll see through the time necessary in order to ship out an article, finish a project, or even complete a performance review for one of my team members.

But it has to better than last time.

When I read about certain productive people, or watch them speak, it seems like they have it all together. They are like machines, keeping in high gear day in and day out. They have all their ducks in a row, with their products being shipped out, and their tasks being performed pro-actively. I look at my own productivity in comparison and see a limping effort, wandering around aimlessly like a lost puppy.

I am prone to bursts of productivity and stagnant pools of laziness – as I’m sure most of us are. We go through hyper-productive waves where we achieve our maximum potential, but then stand idle as we get bored or unclear on where we want to go next. I don’t believe this is a bad thing.

As long as the next burst of productivity achieves a level higher than the previous one.

For those machine-like people, being the best with their time management and project completion comes naturally to them. They maintain a steady pace of productivity like clockwork, and they churn out tasks like nobody’s business. For the rest of us, however, it’s a daily struggle.

It’s a struggle to maintain the motivation to start, to create, to finish what we started. It takes a huge amount of effort and energy. So much so, that when we get a success or two, we rest, we get bored, we get lazy.

But after a while we realise how lazy we are, and that we need to kick start again. We pick up the pen, we brainstorm more ideas, and we get moving. The passion begins to burn again. More ideas start flowing and action starts to happen. The period of laziness renews our energy to achieve more. Only this time we need to remember what we did the last time, and do better than that.

We must do better otherwise the time we were being lazy was just us being… well, lazy.

It proves nothing, gets us nowhere, and we haven’t really grown.

There is nothing wrong with being lazy. I’m a self-confessed procrastinator and a lazy bastard. The most important thing for me – and what drives me – is that when I do get going again, I go further than I went before.

Now, go. Be lazy. Put off that important task until tomorrow. The world isn’t going to end, it will just be slightly delayed. Just remember to be better than before.

Productivity Tip #1 – Make Time To Manage Time

Your task list is piling high. You barely have enough time to finish what you are meant to do (or not finish at all). Your boss is breathing down your neck for that report you were meant to finish last week. And your team is waiting for you approve their leave request.

Eventually it gets too much. You throw up your arms in exasperation! You know you have to find a way to manage your workload. Surely there must be a better way in order to get through your tasks.

I hear you – I felt like this before. I was busy all day every day, but when I got home at night, I didn’t feel like I had achieved anything. There was so much I was busy with, I didn’t know my left hand from my right. Emails, Incidents, Requests, Projects, further pressure from my management, it just never seemed to end. Sometimes, I would even need to work late into the night (many nights actually) in order to simply stay afloat in an ocean of workload.

I knew I had to do something about this, as working like that is simply not healthy. I started to read anything I could about productivity and time management. There was a plethora of information and many great tips, but one thing got to me – I didn’t have time to implement any of the advice. I would ask myself questions like ‘How the hell am I supposed to do this stuff when I am so busy with everything else’, or ‘These people make it sound so easy, that will never work for me’.

These were just excuses, though. I was just too lazy to try something new. I was comfortable in what I knew, and it looked like way too much effort to try these new tips. I also felt that some of the advice seemed a bit too generic, and would never work for me.

Despite my doubts, I tried the suggestions. Some worked, most failed. I discovered that not all advice worked for me. I found that I had to combine many different techniques in order to find what worked. And so should you. Even this advice I’m giving you right now should be taken with a pinch of salt, as it might not even be right for what you are looking for. But what if it is – you have to try.

No matter what you try in order to be more productive, you have to make the time to change.

Something has to give in order for you to have a better tomorrow. You must sacrifice some task completion now in order to ensure the better management of all your tasks going forward. It is going to be hard. You will not get to be the super-productive-ninja overnight. There is no magic wand to clear all the tasks away. It takes a lot of time, consistency, and many boring repetitions.

Having no time is not an excuse to hamper your future productiveness.

If you want to manage your workload better, the first item on your to-do list is to schedule the time in order to form your new productive habit. That habit will require conscious effort in order to be maintained. And after a while you will be doing it on auto. At that point, you schedule time to improve the next thing.

Some tips I’ve learnt over the years are;

  1. Make time to implement a new productive habit (whatever habit works for you).
  2. Implement only one new habit at a time. Having too many new habits will not allow you to apply the amount of focus needed to effectively form the new habit.
  3. Be vigilant. Your new habit will not be in place one, two, or even ten days. It’s going to take a while. That ‘while’ varies for different people. I believe that when you are performing your habit on auto more times than you have to think about it, then it’s comfortable enough to form a new one.

Read up more about my productivity methods in the Productivity Section

Having some problems implementing your productivity habit? Ask me a question, and I will try my best to help out with it.

[Featured image: Sonja Langford]

What Is Your Next Step?

You have been sitting in the same job for a few years, you know the tricks of the trade, you are the grandmaster. What next? Where can you go from here? What is the next step? Is there even a next step?

Let him that would move the world first move himself. – Socrates

Review your success

I am frustrated at the moment. I have a feeling that I am falling behind, not yet achieving what I am meant to be. I feel I should be working harder, constantly trying new things, pushing the limit to achieve the next level of success – whether it be at the office, or with my writing. I’m working hard, tapping away at the keyboard, or leading my team. Always striving to reach the next step, but never quite reaching it.

But then I look back over the past few months, review what I have achieved, and I realise that I have, indeed, been reaching that next step. The fault has been mine in that when I reach the next step, I’m already looking at the one after that.

I believe this is essential in achieving your purpose. Always looking to the next step – always moving, always improving.

Move forward

In order to attain our version of success, we must have a ‘next step’. That next step can be anything, as long as it’s something to work towards. Authors want more readers, minimalists want less stuff, or spiritualists want to be more content. They are successful at achieving these goals if they are continuously working towards the next step, the next level in achieving their vision.

If you are where you have always wanted to be, then kudos to you. But life is always changing, you are continuously evolving. On the other hand, what if you are not where you want to be. You are stuck in a rut, and don’t quite know where to go from here. That is actually the easier position to be in. In my experience, it’s easier to work towards getting to the top, than it is to stay at the top. How will you do this, though?

All mankind is divided into three classes: those that are immovable, those that are movable, and those that move. – Benjamin Franklin

Don’t stop moving. Move in any direction, do anything that matters (that fits your goal). What is essential to keep in mind is to learn, adapt, and improve. Achieve one thing, and move on to the next.

Don’t follow your passion

The theme of today’s self-help media and content is ‘find your passion!’, ‘do what you love!’, or ’you can do whatever you want to do!’. That doesn’t really work in the real world. We still need to pay the bills, eat food, and have a roof to sleep under. Simply ‘doing what we love’ gets us nowhere (my passion for watching T.V., for example).

My take on these messages is to rather find something that you enjoy doing. You enjoy it enough to work with it every day. Focus on that, learn more about it, and take action. Make bold decisions (any decision is a bold decision) to get it out there for people to notice. Whatever it is, it is you.

I get up every morning thinking about a positive impact I can make on my small area of the world. I may write about this passion, I enjoy writing about it, but writing certainly isn’t my passion – it is the action I’m taking to make my impact. The writing is the means of implementing my passion.

Grow confident

As you become more confident, take it to the next level, and ask yourself ‘What is the next Step?’, ‘what should I be doing in order to make this bigger, or maintain where I am now?’.

My own next step is to continue focusing this blog on the self-improvement and self-growth path, as well as gain further exposure through guest posts and building strong relationships with good people such as you.

Have a think about your next step and work towards it. Any big steps you want to share?

[Featured image: Wesley Eller]

Don’t Let Fear Hamper Your Growth

A few years back, I was offered the opportunity to lead a newly formed team in another part of the company I work for. I had proven myself to be competent at leading an on-site team, ensuring service was delivered to a customer. This new team, though, was different. It would challenge my leadership style and experience, as well as take me to the next level.

There was much uncertainty within me around leading this new team. Uncertainty into how it would run. Uncertainty into how the members of this team would react to me as a team leader (as I had worked with them as a peer before). And still further uncertainty into whether I was the right person for the job. I pondered on the decision to move to that team for a while. I let the fear hamper my ability to make a decision quickly.

I would think to myself, who am I to be leading these team members, who have so much more experience than I do? How would they react to me assigning tasks to them? Would they simply just disregard me – eventually leading our team to become a drifting boat without a sail?

Be nervous, but not too nervous

I finally decided I would take the opportunity, but it was a nervous start. I saw myself as a lesser, inferior person to my team members. They had many more years experience than I did. I stammered when I spoke, I was overwhelmed with the new workload, and I believe this lack of confidence could be seen by the team members, and filtered through into other aspects of the job. Every time I made a mistake, I would lambaste myself profusely.

Through the year, though, things changed. I grew as a leader, my confidence began to shine. The more confidence I had, the more I got to motivate my team. The more motivation there was, the more confidence they had to perform their jobs, initiate innovative ideas, and make a difference in our company.

As a team we lead the way in innovation, standard of work, and a team other people want to work with, and join. All this led to me being offered the opportunity to do this all again in another team…

Challenge yourself

When you are offered an opportunity that has an uncertain future, fear comes home to roost. Fear instils ‘what if’ scenarios that will attempt to turn you away from success and fulfilment.

Lean into that fear. Embrace it. Use it to build life experiences that will help you grow, make you stronger, and enable you to take on bigger challenges.

By all means, be nervous, be fearful, but don’t let it hamper you on your path to being the best you can be.

I didn’t hesitate in taking up this newer challenge. I am nervous again, but this time I know not to let that nervousness let me down.

[[Featured image: Paxson Woelber]

Do one thing today

When you wake up in the morning, once the grogginess of sleep has left you, there is a thought that appears in your mind. A thought of something that you would love to achieve that day. One thing that you’re excited about and will make your day feel like an achievement. It could be painting a picture, tinkering with the bike engine in the garage, adding a feature to your website, or even washing the car.

But then the day begins. We get bogged down by tasks that have to be completed, or emergencies that must be dealt with now. The children demand food and attention, the boss wants his report by tomorrow, or we need to buy bread on the way home.

And as we lie in bed that night, we commiserate that we never did that one thing we really wanted to do. We lambast ourselves for not being good enough, we bemoan that life is tough, and that it sucks not having the chance to do the things we want to. Why does life have to get in the way?

Think

Life will always get in the way. It will never cease to hamper our plans, throw curve balls in our direction, and crush our aspirations. We cannot let ‘life’ run our lives (ironic, I know). We have to be smart about it, devious even. We cannot wait for life to make time for us, we have to make our own time, shove a wedge in there to create space in order for us to do the things we want to do.

The only way we will be able to achieve that is to change the way we think and the way we go through our day.

Make time

When you wake up the next morning, and you think of that one thing you want to do, make it your purpose of the day to actually do it. Find the time inbetween the children and the boss’s report. Squeeze just that little bit of extra time to do what you want to do.

It’s hard, there will be sacrifices you will need to make, but you need to do it for you. I know you want to help everyone, making sure they are all tucked in to bed at night, but it is all no use if you can’t look after you. If you’re burned out, angry, and depressed, nobody will be able to benefit from your compassion.

Do it

So, instead of doing the umpteenth thing that absolutely has to be done today, scrap it and do one thing that you want to do. You don’t even have to complete it, but if you worked on it, you will get excited, elated, and feel that you’ve done something you wanted to do. Life won’t feel so bad, and you will have confidence when you get up the next morning. Confidence that will be vital to tackle the hardships of the next day, but remember…

Do one thing you want to do.

[Featured image: Alexander Shustov]

All articles