Working From Home, Tip #4: Pit Stops

Why do race cars make pit stops??

Think of yourself as a race car.

If you’re familiar at all with racing, you know that every so often a driver will pull into the pit. In fact, it’s required.

A pit stop is a simple thing. But it’s crucial. Change the tires. Top off the fuel. Clean the windshield. Chug some Gatorade. Why would anyone waste time stopping while everyone around them is flying by at 200mph? Couldn’t the tires go a few more laps? Couldn’t the fuel last just a little bit longer? Sure. Maybe the car could keep going a little bit more… But eventually, it would break down. Run out of fuel. Or worse, malfunction and crash. It’s the pit stop that lets the driver finish the race.

YOU are that car. I know it sounds silly, but I take a break EVERY hour. I tend to do my block time in chunks of 45-55 minutes. Always. Always, always, always.

The largest research study of performance and productivity shows that productivity goes way up when taking a break after 52 minutes. I use a literal timer on my computer or phone every time my butt sits down in the chair to work on a project. Nine times out of 10, I just say, “Hey Siri… set a timer for 45 minutes.” And if I’m doing emails, I dig into emails until that timer goes off. No Facebook. No Instagram. No blogging. No other projects.

If the timer goes off and I’m in the middle of something or really in that theta brainwave flow of what I’m doing, I have the freedom to keep on working until I come to a stopping point that’s not interrupting my productivity. But most of the time, I wrap up what I’m working on and take a 10-minute Pit Stop.

During that 10 minutes, I can go back into the kitchen and check my phone for any urgent messages I may have missed. I might grab a bottle of water, do some pushups or a few vinyasa flows, go for a walk around the block and get some sunshine and fresh air, do some breath work or stretching, take the dogs to the backyard… whatever. (Even closing your eyes for 1-2 minutes during this time can have a huge effect, since a ton of fatigue can come from eye, neck, and shoulder strain if you’re sitting in front of a computer all day!)

Ten minutes is really a long time. The main thing is to give your eyes and brain a rest, to move your body, to re-engage with the world around you… so you can get into your next chunk of block time refreshed and refocused.

When you just burn nonstop through the day, by the time you get to 3, 4, 5pm… you’re burned up. And nothing GREAT comes out of that. No great ideas. No great art. No great projects. Nothing.

But when you take a break every 50 minutes, you’re taking regular Pit Stops throughout the day to recharge and refuel. Again, I know this sounds like common sense. Or even silly. But do the math: If you work 8-9 hours in a day, and you take a 10-minute recharge each hour, you’re refilling yourself for 1.5 hours during that day. That’s an hour-and-a-half more fuel for creativity and enthusiasm and energy and problem-solving.

Plus, you’re leaving enough gas in the tank, not only to get you to the end of the work day, but for your family and loved ones after work is done.

I challenge you to give it shot. Do it for one day and see if you don’t feel more energized. More productive. More rested and more excited about your work. And let me know what you think!

Working From Home, Tip #3: Block Time

Block time is super important for our productivity. If you’re not familiar with it, it just means you schedule time in your day for a certain thing. Things like working on your presentation, writing content for your blog or social media, researching a new project, checking email, making outbound calls., scheduling meetings, or even taking meetings.

Again, it sounds like common sense. But it’s not common practice. If it sounds simple, it’s because it is..and here’s the key:

If you block time to return phone calls at, say, 3:30-4:30 in the afternoon, you don’t check social media AT ALL during that time.

If you schedule block time at 10am to work on a presentation or write a song or a blog or create email automations for the month, you don’t answer the phone or return texts or check your email during that time.

If you’re working on social media at 11am, you don’t hop back and forth to email or todo lists during that time. You only focus on social media work.

Period. The end. You’re purposefully not drifting along, trying to work through the day according to how you may feel at the moment. And I know… for those of us who are creatives, it sounds confining and miserable and restrictive. But it’s not, I promise. By having structure, you actually have more freedom. More creativity. More free time.

For instance, in my life this is how it plays out. If I’m working out in my home studio or office, especially if it’s a creative block of time where I’m writing or doing video or working on a presentation, I intentionally leave my phone in the kitchen. My kids know that, unless there’s vomit or blood, don’t interrupt me. I’ll be available in 45 minutes (more on that in Tip #4). Until then, I need my full attention where it is so that I can give my full attention to them when I’m there. It has to work both ways. (FULL DISCLOSURE: Our school-age kids at home are 11 and 17… and they’re pretty good at being self-starters and self-sufficient. If you have younger kids in the house, I know this can be super difficult! What have you found that works for you??)

By the same token, when I’ve blocked family time, I don’t answer work texts or calls (unless it’s an emergency… which it almost never is.) I’m not going to schedule a work meeting during dinner with my wife. I’m not checking email or writing copy for a blog when I’ve blocked time for a family movie night. I treat scheduled family time just as importantly as a doctor appointment or a meeting with the CEO of a large company. Maybe even more so.

The problem is some of us still believe the lie of ‘multitasking’ and don’t realize that every time you switch tasks, you eat up precious mental energy and calories, and contribute to mental fatigue. And once you switch tasks, it can take up to 20 minutes to get back into the flow of what you were working on before you were interrupted. By jumping from task to task without completing them, you’re sabotaging yourself, sabotaging your productivity and your energy. As a result, your mood and emotional state will suffer because you feel less productive at the end of the day. How many times have you beat yourself up emotionally because you felt like the day was a failure or not as productive as it could’ve been. Or because you feel you didn’t do your best? It’s demoralizing.

Block Time has helped me create more. Produce more. Do more. And have more energy and focus for my loved ones once my work day is done. If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll give it a shot!

Working From Home, Tip #2: Ask The Right Questions

Tip #2 is simple. I start my work day with 2 questions: What do I need to accomplish? And what’s going to trip me up?

I keep a daily and weekly to-do list… (that’s my personal list to the left.)

Being able to identify potential problems, what could trip me up, has been HUGE for me. Thinking ahead. Before I ever get started in my day and identifying things like interruptions from social media, interruptions from my kids, or unplanned phone calls or texts. Do I have any virtual meetings today? And if so, who’s in that meeting that might need some help staying on track? Who might tend to dominate the conversation that I can help gently re-direct to keep things moving forward? I ask myself, ‘If _____ happens, how would my best self handle that? What would the best version of me do in order to keep things moving in a positive, productive direction?

Beginning to develop that muscle of looking down the road and predicting what might become a stumbling point, so that if or when it happens, I already have a strategy or a tool to manage it.

That’s helped me a TON. Maybe it will help you. Whether it’s on a sticky note on your computer, or an item in your daily calendar, or a list on your phone, start your work time with those two simple questions: What do I need to accomplish? And what’s going to trip me up?

You’ve heard the saying ‘the best offense is a good defense’? Well sometimes, the best offense is just a good offense.

Working From Home, Tip #1: Get Clarity

When CoVid-19 took over our lives in March 2020, I began making notes about working from home… good and bad. Along the way, I’ve picked up at least TEN things that help make me productive while working from home, that I want to share with you.

These 10 things have really helped me a LOT over the past several years, and I’m only sharing them out of personal experience, because I hope they’ll serve you well.

Let’s be honest, it doesn’t matter if you’re working in an office or from the kitchen table. Many of the same rules still apply. A lot of it is common sense, but it’s not common practice. You have to put in the same habits and practices you put in at an office. And I know lots of people who struggle with being disciplined even when sitting in a corporate office somewhere.

What’s happening right now is that our habits are showing. Our conditioning is showing..

It’s like the guy with all the muscles at the gym. He looks great. He’s got great abs and shoulders… but when a skinny, scrawny, thief takes off running with his wallet, all of a sudden the beefcake guy has to start running after him. And after 3 minutes of a full-on sprint chasing the crook, he realizes he should’ve done more cardio. And he finds himslef half a mile down the street, panting and out of gas.

Our conditioning is showing. That’s not a dig. That’s not a criticism. It’s just reality. It is what it is. The state of the world right now may have changed us in some ways, but it’s primarily just EXPOSED us. Our habits are showing.

Right now, a lot of us have a real GIFT. We have the gift of time. We have the opportunity to intentionally create the habits and the environment that’s most successful for US. I promise you, if you’ll take these 10 things and start implementing them into your routine, as best as you can, you’re going to be more productive. You’re going to feel better about yourself. You’ll be more productive and creative… and you’ll show up better for your family and loved ones.

Those of you who know me have heard me say this: “I wanna rig the game so I can win.” Right? I wanna rig the game so I can win. In other words, I wanna set up my days, my habits, my opportunities in such a way that it makes it easier to reach my goals. Not harder. I want to create an environment around me in such a way that I can accomplish what I’m after and serve those around me, help them accomplish their goals. Right? Like, why would I make it HARDER on myself if I could rig it so it’s EASIER and more successful?

So… let’s jump in.

Get clarity. You have to establish your weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly goals. I don’t care if it’s in a cubicle some where downtown, or from your kitchen table, if you don’t have clear, intentional goals on what you need to accomplish, what you want to accomplish, it’s never gonna happen. When you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.

I hear so many people saying things like “Working from home is so hard… there’s interruptions, there’s zoom meetings, there’s distractions… ”

Sure, it’s hard. It’s always been hard… that’s why it’s called ‘work’. And I’ve just asked them, “So what are your weekly goals?”. You know what their responses have been?

“Oh… you know… I’ve got some emails I need to send out.. I gotta make a couple of phone calls. I’m doing a lot of virtual Zoom meetings… that kind of thing.”

If you’ve ever been in that space, you know it’s not that things are hard. You know it’s that you don’t know what you want. That’s the problem. You don’t have clarity. If there’s no clarity, there’s no change. No goals. No growth. If your only goal is to drift through the day with a few emails and to zombie your way through a Zoom meeting, then you’re gonna you’re gonna not be motivated.

Instead, get crystal clear on whatever your goals are. Things like:

-I want to connect with 10 new potential clients this week.

I want to write 5 new pages for my book today.

-I want to learn how to create a click funnel or build a website in the next 2 weeks.

I want to balance this spreadsheet by Thursday at noon.

Bottom line. Get crystal clear about what your goals are. Make it clear and measurable. You’ll feel better about yourself and you’ll be more productive. Get. Clarity.

Six Truths

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us feel like we’re navigating a dark period.

Here are 6 truths to help keep us grateful, hopeful and strong

  1. Know that this too shall pass. Winters always yield to Spring. It’s just the way the world works. Fear and anxiety right now may feel a lot like Winter… but Spring will come.

2. Trust that this chaos will remake us into wiser, more creative, and braver people. Be confident that what comes next will be amazing.

3. That which makes us scared has simply activated pre-existing fear. This pandemic hasn’t changed us, it’s only exposed us. If it wasn’t there before, it wouldn’t be triggered now. Remember that an hysterical response comes from an historical wound. Now is a good time to heal the cuts that have limited you.

4. The job of an historic leader is to bring vision and courage to scared people. To stand for undefeatability while others are in panic. Find a group of people who will strengthen your courage and help you be a force of steadiness for others around you.

5. Maintain perspective. History shows that tragic events happen. Human beings unite. Innovation and invention increase. Solutions are found. And society advances. Thus far, the human race is undefeated.

6. Heroism isn’t a natural gift. It’s a trained result. By asking yourself the question “How would my best self show up today?”, you’ll be headed in the right direction. But don’t be afraid to ask for help along the way.

Those are my six. What would you add?

Dealing With Discouragement?

I’m just going to be honest here. It’s been a strange few days.

Some of our newest potential partnerships have fallen through in the last several days. There may be some areas this fall where we might not be able to feed some kids. It’s discouraging. 

And I’ve been talking to a long-time friend who’s currently homeless. A single mom of 3, who’s in recovery and working like crazy to get clean and keep her babies.  

I sat across the table from a man who’s recovering from bone cancer. I listened to him tell his story of infusions, quarantines, and waiting rooms filled with other patients. 

I spoke with another friend who told me that while she and her husband both recently lost their jobs… their refrigerator, washing machine, dryer, and microwave all decided to DIE at the house. So for MONTHS they got to wash clothes in the bathtub, dry them in the tree in the backyard, and store little bits of food in ice chests each day.

In the middle of the night, friend who owns his own business texted me about filing for bankruptcy. 

Another one shared with me about her experience being sexually assaulted and dealing with PTSD. 

I watched friends of mine care for their child with autism. And another one constantly travel the country to research her son’s rare genetic disorder. 

And the list goes on and on and on. 

It’s reminded me of a few things about discouragement. I’m sharing this here because I know if it’s in my little circle, most likely it’s in yours, too. And I hope it helps. 

For me, there are at least 6 things I do when I’m discouraged. Maybe they’ll be of value to you, too.

  1. Check my perspective. No matter what, things could always be worse. My friend who is struggling with addiction and homelessness made the comment, “At least we had my minivan so we had a place to sleep every night. I could have been literally on the street with 3 babies…”  . Once I realize just how much worse they could be, I begin to see the blessings I do have. Which leads me to #2. 
  2. Begin with gratitude. As a person of faith, I’m convinced there’s something to ‘counting your blessings’. And from a neuro-chemical perspective, you physically cannot be grateful and anxious/discouraged at the same time. It’s biologically impossible. And I believe life doesn’t happen TO me… it happens FOR me. Things happen, events, tragedy, hardships, whatever… those things don’t have any meaning in my life until I attach meaning to it. Everything that’s happened for me (even the terrible things) have made me who I am, given me compassion for others, taught me wisdom, made me strong, or helped me learn empathy. It may have sucked to go thru it, but I’m grateful for what it taught me. Adopting the mindset that life happens ‘for’ me, not ‘to’ me has made a huge difference in my level of gratitude. My friend who was living out of ice chests kept saying, “We made it just fine. I didn’t realize how strong we were… but we had peace in the middle of it all.”
  3. Share my journey with others. Be authentic. Share your successes. Share your struggles. Vulnerability is a sign of strength. In a social media culture where everyone posts their highlight real with just the right filters and just the right camera angle and perfect makeup and hair… just be real.  As human beings, we want to feel connected, not lectured. Let us come along with you on the journey. We’ll stand, sit, cry, pray, and support you. It will help you and us.  My friend who was assaulted has a couple of blogs and a book or two in the works. My friend with the son that has a rare genetic disease? She started a nonprofit and is shouting it to the world. 
  4. Run MY race. I work really hard to not compare myself or my journey to someone else. Stay on YOUR path. Stay where YOU’VE been led, designed to go. Running the austin marathon a few years back, best advice I got was from an 80yo man in the starting chutes. ‘This is easy. All you gotta do is just run your own race’.  He was right. The sin of comparison will kill you. Whatever you’ve been called to do, just  do you. 
  5. Adopt a LEARNING mindset, not a ‘success’ mindset. There’s no such thing as failure, only feedback. Test, implement, test, implement. It’s all learning.. which is progress.. which leads to more curiosity and more encouragement. positive, sparks creativity. You can learn ANYTHING… in fact, NEVER say the words ‘I don’t know’ ever again. Why? Because I’m going to GIVE you a free resource that will show you how to learn ANYTHING… Wanna fix your car? It’s in there. Wanna learn brain surgery? It’s in there? Wanna lose 20 lbs? In there.  It’s www.google.com . In 2019, ignorance is choice. You can’t say ‘I don’t know’ any more. You can say ‘I don’t know yet’ or ‘I don’t want to know’…but that’s it. 
  6. Take MASSIVE action. Go. Now. All in. It’s just as if you’ve started a new diet, right? If you wanna drop a few pounds and decide to stop eating Twinkies, but still eat burgers and fries and milkshakes on the daily, are you going to see improvement this month? Maybe. A little. BUT, if you decide for 30 days to completely cut out all refined sugar, all simple carbs, processed starches, and anything that comes in a box, a bag, or a can… do you think you’ll see any results? A little? Or a LOT? So when I’m battling discouragement, I take massive action against what I’m trying to accomplish, not so I can get massive results, but so I can get massive feedback. (It’s feedback that leads to results…)

What would YOU add to the list? What advice would you give ME? What’s worked for you?

Ego Is Not Your Amigo: Seven Lessons I Learned On Vacation

For me, the goal of a vacation is to ‘recharge and refuel’. Rather than lying on the couch binging Netflix for a week, I prefer exercise for my body (road trips, sunshine, and the beach) and my mind (books, podcasts, and journaling). Especially this month, it not only helped me recharge, but it also helped me learn (or re-learn) at least seven important things. Whether you run a business, a team, a program, or a family… I hope they’ll be helpful to you, too. 

  1. There’s a difference between being busy and being productive. A stack of sticky notes and a cloud of dust are not true indicators of productivity. The more I can tame my Monkey Mind, the clearer and more productive my hustle becomes. 
  2. There’s a difference between being at peace and being still. When I can sit still on the outside, but not calm my mind or my spirit, it’s time to reboot. And if it’s bad enough that I recognize it, everyone around me has recognized it. Conversely, I can also be moving and hustling and grinding it out (which can look like a frenzy), but have a strong internal sense of peace and clarity. 
  3. Growth and change requires movement. And movement causes friction. Always. Sometimes people around you may feel friction around you and not really understand that it’s the result of ‘movement’. And since most of us are afraid of change, communication is the key. Always. 
  4. When you think you’ve done all you can do, you’ve done about 40% of what you’re capable of. Author and Navy Seal, David Goggins spoke this into my ears months ago. I’m just now realizing how true it is. Whether it’s push ups or emails or sales calls, I can train myself to do ‘just one more’ in everything I do. It not only produces results, but it trains my mindset to ignore difficulty and just to the work. 
  5. Ego is not your amigo. Most of us (myself included) were raised in a world where the Alpha Male or Alpha Female model was an egocentric rhino who threw their weight around and established dominance. In today’s social economy, we have to value people over production. Empathy (EQ) beats IQ every day. Ego is tool we use to disguise our shortcomings… it’s insecurity with makeup on.
  6. In order to fly, you have to break the law (of gravity). Everyone wants to fly but very few people are brave enough to break the rules. We talk a good game, but fear and insecurity hold us back. Remember the Wright brothers? They moved from their hometown of Dayton, Ohio to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina for two very specific reasons: The grass was softer to crash on, and the wind was better. Sometimes in order to really fly, to just have to move on. 
  7. The hard part is not knowing how to get where you want to go. That’s easy. In 2019, ignorance is an excuse. Anything you want to do is just a Google or YouTube search away. Figuring out how to get there is the easy part. The hard part is deciding what to leave behind. You can’t move into the future and rely on past knowledge and skill. What you lay down is equally important as what you’re picking up. 

Having a block of time to recharge and refuel is something we all need. For me, I always come away with greater clarity and vision of where to put my energy and talents… and motivation to keep pursuing what I’m called to do. 

I’d love to know which of those seven resonate most with you! 

Three Things You Need To Remember

Every morning when I drop my daughter off at school, I tell her three things. 

I love you. 

Have a great day. 

Be legendary. 

I want her to know those things… every day. But it’s not just important for children to know it. It’s equally important for us as adults to hear and know those three things as well. Every day, you need to know it as well. We all need to hear it.

1. “I love you.”I want her to know that I’m in her corner. That no matter what comes, she matters to me unconditionally. Period. The end. No matter what. As adults, we need that same guarantee– that someone loves us and is there for us unconditionally. Ride or die. Period. 

2. “Have a great day.” I want her to know I’m cheering for her. That today is successful, fruitful, productive, creative, and filled with limitless opportunities. As an adult, you and I need the same affirmation–that someone is cheering us on, hoping the best for us today, and fully confident that we will succeed. 

3. “Be legendary.”My daughter understands that being legendary isn’t about followers or status. It’s about caring for people around her. It means if someone is sitting on the playground by herself, go play with her. If someone is eating lunch by himself, go over and sit with him. Adults have a hard time with empathy sometimes. We need to remember leadership isn’t about being in charge, it’s about caring for those in your charge. 

So before you get out there today, tell someone ‘I love you, ‘Have a great day’ and ‘Be legendary’. It just might change their world. 

All Dressed Up?

One of my biggest fans brought something  incredibly important to my attention this week:

“I like it when you get dressed up, Daddy… you look really handsome!”

(You can see why she’s one of my favs.)

It turns out she’d found this video online. I thought I’d share it with you guys as proof that, yes, every now and then we clean up, just like we did for the RRPIE Shining Stars gala after-party. What a great night!

Learning To See

When I was learning to draw, I had a good friend named Charles who had attended art school. He was excited to see me pick it up as a hobby. His wisdom to me was “drawing teaches you how to see the world.” 

I didn’t get it at first. But I soon realized he was right. Drawing does teach you how to see the world. It also teaches you how to see yourself. 

Looking back I realize that all creative activity is that way. Whether it’s songwriting, painting, creative writing, building, or a thousand other things, we always see things as we are.

So let me encourage you in this: remember that as you create– as you make thoughts into things– never forget the change and growth happening inside you. Never forget the transformation that you are going through. That’s the real magic. 

I’ll keep playing. I’ll keep creating. I’ll keep stretching and growing and trying and experimenting.  I’ll keep learning to see.

What are you doing creatively these days?