The Productive Woman 002 – The Big Picture: Priorities & Guiding Principles [podcast]

_podcastTemplateWhen people think about productivity, they often think about calendars and to-do lists and project management, and all of those things are a big part of what we will discuss in coming episodes. But there's a big difference between being busy and being productive. True productivity requires a purpose to guide the activity. In this episode we talk about a process for coming up with principles to guide our decisions in such a way that our activity is consistent with our true values.

A brief summary of the basic steps:

  1. Set aside a time when you can be quiet and undisturbed. Gather your calendar, your to-do lists, paper and pen, and your favorite beverage.
  2. List/describe the roles you play in life, and the relationships that are part of your life.
  3. Taking into account your personal values, prioritize these areas of your life. Don't forget to make your physical, mental, and emotional health a priority.
  4. For each role, answer this question: “What kind of ______ do I want to be?” For each relationship, ask yourself, “How do I want this person/these people to remember me when I'm gone?” Spend some time journaling your thoughts about what each role/relationship would look like if it was all you want it to be (your part, not theirs!).
  5. Honestly evaluate where you are today in each of these areas. Write it down.
  6. What will it take to get you from where you are to where you want to be? Write down two or three specific steps you could take in each area to move in the direction you want to go.

Tip of the Week: Back up your digital data.

For more info, check out this article from the University of Pittsburgh's IT Department on Backing Up Your Data

Tool of the Week: Some great options for online backup services.

Resources:

Next week's episode will be a discussion of my “Top Ten Tips for Managing Your Day,” and another upcoming episode will talk about setting achievable goals. If you have questions about either topic, please leave a voicemail message by clicking the pink tab at the right-hand side of my website, or email your questions or suggestions to feedback@theproductivewoman.com. You can also join the conversation at The Productive Woman's Facebook page.

I look forward to hearing from you, and welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions.

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Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . .
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom
Email me

Goal-Setting and Rest

Are you a resolution-maker? A goal-setter? How's your new year going so far? Is it off to the start you hoped for?

As I've mentioned before, I spend time at the end of each year reviewing the accomplishments and events of the year just past, and imagining possibilities for the year to come. I love to set goals and work toward achieving them. I am an admitted productivity geek.

dreamstime_l_25458594I believe it's important to make wise and productive use of our time, to use the gifts God has given us to accomplish the things he's put in our hearts.

But the hazard of setting goals and focusing on being productive is that we can become too future-focused, too production-focused. We can come to identify ourselves by the things we do, the goals we achieve, the accomplishments we rack up. We can wear ourselves out trying to do more, reach higher, and miss the opportunities to savor the here and now.

Being productive is good. But it's also important to enjoy the people and experiences that come into our lives. It's even more important to remember that we are not what we do. Whether practicing law or writing a novel or cleaning a bathroom or curing cancer, the things we do–no matter how worthwhile or admirable–should not define us. And there is much to be lost in the constant striving to do more, achieve more.

IMG_0013I don't advocate abandoning the practice of setting goals and working toward achieving them. I am, and probably always will be, a productivity geek. (I'll be launching a podcast on the topic in the very near future.)

But I am trying to remember that I am not what I do. My identity is not found in my accomplishments. I'm trying to remember to not be consumed with building a life for the future that I don't make time to enjoy the life I have today. And I was reminded recently that life shouldn't be about constant striving to do more, be more.

After all, Jesus said “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

What do you think? How do you find the balance between being productive and enjoying your life?

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Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . . 
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom

Email me

Gratitude on Purpose

The last couple of years I've seen what appears (to me at least) to be a new trend of replacing new year's resolutions with a “word of the year”–a word that creates a focus for the year. I don't go out of my way to look for one, but rather suddenly in the week between Christmas and New Year's Day I felt like a word had been given to me for 2014.

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That word is gratitude. But I haven't really told anybody or talked about it. Yet in the last few days I've had more than one reminder to be grateful. At one point when I was struggling with sadness and frustration, a friend reminded me to not focus on the things I lack, but to instead be grateful for the blessings I do have. At the end of his text message he said this:

“Then, just focus on all the good you have in your life. Be grateful for all your blessings. . . . If you want more then that's ok. However, one doesn't usually get more until they accept and appreciate what they already have.”

This was a profound and much needed reminder at just that time.

Then as I was scrolling through my Twitter feed Sunday morning, I came across a tweet with this question:

“What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?”

I couldn't help wondering what would be left in my life. What did I thank God for yesterday?

My inclination is to look at what's missing in my life. Not so much in terms of material things, because I'm well aware that I'm blessed. My focus tends to be on the intangibles, including what I lack in terms of character, what I need to improve in my mind and behavior, what perhaps I feel I'm missing in terms of friends and free time. I have to be reminded constantly to be thankful for what I have. To look for something to be grateful for in every circumstance and situation. I tend to see how far I have to go and forget how far I've come.

A few years ago when I was in that frame of mind a friend assigned me the “homework” of starting a list of things I'm grateful for, and look at it every day for a month. The exercise changed my attitude and my life. I still have that list. I don't look at it every day, but from time to time, especially if I'm feeling down, I pull it out, read it over, and add to it.

No matter the situation, there is always something to be grateful for. As Abraham Lincoln supposedly once said, “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”

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This year I am on a quest to look for the roses, even when I'm feeling the thorns.

Your turn: If you woke up this morning with only what you'd thanked God for yesterday, what would you have left? Does that question change your thinking about what to thank God for today? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. And if you have any secrets for remembering to be grateful no matter what, I'd sure love to hear them.

Best wishes to you in the coming year. Let's keep in touch.

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Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . .
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom

Email me

Is It Ever Too Late?

I've had many conversations with women about the things they wish they had done. And often they lament the fact that it’s too late now.

But when is it really too late to start something you’ve always wanted to do?

Writer and speaker Michael Hyatt offers a response in his book, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. He asks these questions: When is the best time to plant a tree? Twenty years ago. When is the second best time to plant a tree? Today.

The same is true of our dreams. Maybe the best time to start was five or ten or twenty years ago, but the second best time to start is now. And really, as long as you’re still alive, it’s never too late to start.

I’ve written elsewhere about how my husband and I married at eighteen and had our first child when we were twenty. By the time I was thirty, we had three children, and I was pregnant with our fourth. I was busy homeschooling our children, teaching childbirth classes, and serving in music ministry with Mike at our church. In my mid-thirties I began thinking again about a longtime dream of going back to college (I had taken a few semesters of college classes in my early twenties). With my husband’s encouragement and support, I went back to school to get my bachelor of arts in political science. I still remember the day I walked across campus to attend my first classes. Looking at all those young people, I distinctly remember thinking, “What in the world am I doing here? I don’t belong. I’m too old to be a college student.” But with a pounding heart and shaking hands, I started anyway, and two years later (one month after the birth of our fifth child) I graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. I might have been one of the oldest students graduating that day, but my degree was just as good as those earned by those youngsters–and my husband and children celebrated the milestone with me!

222659_1032295458668_2757_nAs if that wasn’t enough, a few weeks later, I moved with my family from Nebraska to New York, where I started law school at age 35. This was something I’d dreamed of as a teenager, but life intervened and the dream got put aside for decades. Interestingly, I wasn’t the oldest student in my class. One of my classmates was in his late forties! Maybe because I’d waited so long for this opportunity, maybe because I’d lived in the real world before getting there, but I felt like my age actually was an advantage, both in law school and when I started my legal career at age 38.

I could point to any number of people I know who’ve started something new and challenging “later” in life–like my friend who married the summer after she graduated from high school and then many years later went back to school after she’d raised her children. She recently earned her master’s degree with her adult children and their children there to cheer her on. And there's my amazing husband, who just earned his master's in mechanical engineering this spring and started a brand new career–at age 52!

My point, of course, is that it’s never too late to start. If there’s a dream you’ve discarded because you think you’ve missed your chance, please think again. Pull that dream out of the trash, brush it off, and think for moment: what’s one little step you could take today (or tomorrow) to move in the direction of that dream.

What about you? Is there a dream you’ve set aside that maybe deserves a chance? What small step could you take toward making that dream a reality? Perhaps just the small step of saying it out loud? Feel free to share it in the comments below.


**Housekeeping note: I published an “extra” post last Friday, but due to a technical glitch it didn't go out to my subscribers. Bad news, because it included a giveaway of four great novels. If you haven't seen that post, be sure to check it out here (AFTER you leave your comments on this post below) and get your chance to receive a free copy of one of the novels I wrote about.


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Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . .
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom
Email me

I’m Running Away From Home (and We Have a Winner!)

As this post goes live, I’m packed and ready to run away from home. This weekend I’ll be holed up at a Dallas hotel with a writer friend of mine. She and I were talking a few weeks ago, both of us lamenting how close we are to finishing our respective manuscripts, but our daily lives and writerly insecurities keep getting in the way of typing “The End.”

In The War of Art (a book I recommend highly for people who pursue creative endeavors of any kind), author Stephen Pressfield writes about “resistance” as a force everybody has to overcome when attempting to do anything that matters. He says that resistance increases as you near the end, and boy, has that been true for me!

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

So my friend and I decided to run away from home (together) and spend the weekend in a marathon writing/editing session. I don't like being away from home for the weekend, but I’m hoping this focused time will help me get over the hump so I can finish this project in time to meet my goal of sending it off by the end of the month to the agent who asked for it 8 months ago! If you think of it from time to time, I’d appreciate your prayers for a productive time of writing.

Before I disappear for the weekend, though, I wanted to fill you in on a few random things:

  1. The winner of Sharon Srock’s new release (see the post about it by clicking here) is … Zoe McCarthy! Sharon will be in touch with you to work out the arrangements for getting your copy to you.
  2. If you didn’t win this time, take heart. Come back on Tuesday, May 14, to read an inspiring guest post and sign up for a chance to win 16 great novels in CrossReads’s “Spring Cleaning Print Book Giveaway.” Don’t miss it!
  3. As a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, I'm honored to have the opportunity to guest post on the ACFW blog on Wednesday, May 15. I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the question of being “called” to write, and I’d love to have your feedback. Please stop by and check it out, then let me know what you think.
  4. I was surprised and honored to learn last week that Do No Harm was selected as the winner in the women’s fiction category of The Write Stuff, a fiction contest sponsored by the Connecticut Chapter of Romance Writers of America.This contest was particularly worthwhile because the judges gave really helpful, detailed feedback on my 30-page submission.
    Write Stuff list 2013-05-09

One last request: If you’re a pray-er, I’d appreciate prayers for my sons:

  • Benjamin (the newlywed) started Army bootcamp this week, so we'd welcome prayers for both him and his new bride back in San Diego.
  • Sam just finished his freshman year in college and is home for the summer, contemplating big changes for next year.
  • Matthew will be moving his wife and sons from Hawaii to Connecticut this fall as he starts his next post in the US Navy. His new assignment is a big opportunity and an exciting challenge for him, but the move means a huge change for his wife and boys.

So what about you? Are you battling resistance with respect to something you’re trying to accomplish? What do you do to overcome it?

See you next week!

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Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . .
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom
Email me