Tag Archive for: development

More or Less

Over the past year and a half I have been involved in leading a team at our church. The team’s mandate is to develop and execute the strategy to get the church into a new facility.

There has been a lot of hard work and effort invested in the preparation and planning phase of the strategy. And, over the past few months, we have been focused on a capital campaign.

I was out every evening for most of the week last week to help host information exchange sessions. My role was to present the case statement and to help with the question and answer segment. Overall, I am really proud of the team’s efforts and contributions. We have worked hard on communication and I think we have done a great job in that area. Our reveal of the first year campaign results happen next Sunday. And I anxiously await the results of the campaign.

There were some things I missed last week in the midst of all this activity. My youngest son’s birthday was on Tuesday. Although we did have a family dinner a few days beforehand, I struggled with missing his special day. You never get those moments back.

I am still in final mixes for a project, and with all of my other commitments, I had to delay work on the project for a couple of weeks.

I suppose the other thing I missed was sleep. I was averaging about 3 or 4 hours of sleep each night last week. It showed. After a couple of days, I found it difficult to stay focused and alert. I get on the road to work very early in the mornings and there were a couple of drives last week that I simply do not remember.

Back to more normal patterns this week. It will be nice to have a few evenings at home with my family.

24 Hours a Day

Like most people, I lead an active life. I am committed to my family. I am very active in our church. I have a challenging career. I run a recording studio. I keep myself highly proficient in music and golf. I am an avid reader. I maintain a blog. And so on.

A question that I am often asked is: “How do you find time to do all this?”

Yes, I have read extensively in the area of time management. And I have learned a lot from all that reading. I have also been a keen observer of how successful people approach their lives. And I have learned a lot from my observations.

I have also learned that most people are so incredibly bad at managing their time that rock-bottom personal productivity is simply accepted as normal. Anyone who consistently invests their time each day in intelligent, productive activities is going to look like an overachiever by comparison.

The secret to effective time management is simple: clear goals and deliberate action.

My wife tells me that I am extremely focused and highly productive. And, in her view, I have some innate gift of productivity that enables me to accomplish many things in a short timeframe. In reality, I am ruthless in my focus. And that is because I focus my energy on deciding what is important and then I make time to do what is important.

Since 1990, the year that I first read Stephen Covey’s book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I have invested time over the Christmas season to reflect on what I intend to achieve over the course of the new year. I write my objectives for the new year and I group them under six categories:

  • Family
  • Faith
  • Finances
  • Fitness
  • Personal Growth
  • Career

I then define and work on specific goals for those objectives in ninety day segments. In ninety days, I can make dramatic and measurable changes. Absolute clarity gives me focus. Absolute clarity keeps me on track.

Without thought to the important objectives in my life, my day-to-day actions would be without context and without consequence. Random events in an unplanned existence. And that would mean a waste of time, a waste of potential, a waste of a human life.

Today Matters

John Maxwell’s book, Today Matters, outlines 12 daily practices as a way to provoke focus on making each day count. The 12 practices include:

  1. Attitude: choose and display the right attidudes daily
  2. Priorities: determine and act on important priorities daily
  3. Health: know and follow healthy guidelines daily
  4. Family: communicate and care with family daily
  5. Thinking: practice and develop good thinking daily
  6. Commitment: make and keep proper commitments daily
  7. Finances: make and properly manage dollars daily
  8. Faith: deepen and live out faith daily
  9. Relationships: initiate and invest in solid relationships daily
  10. Generosity: plan for and model generosity daily
  11. Values: embrace and practice good values daily
  12. Growth: seek and experience improvements daily

Maxwell argues that we should assess where we stand on making these decisions as part of our daily lives. We should take time to think through each area and make a major decision in each one that will be lifelong. Obviously, making good decisions requires discipline.

I reviewed all of these decisions and reflected on the good decisions that already take place daily. And, there were quite a few. I identified the decisions that I still needed to make and decided to focus on this one: attitude.

A Better Dad

I read an article by Rex Stoessiger and I must admit it caused me to think deeply about the quality of my parenting to my children and to my sons in particular. As a parent, I have been concerned about the increasing media representation of men as dopes and as violent, self-obsessed brutes.

What have I been doing to model appropriate patterns for my own sons? Likely not enough. Here is an excerpt from Stoessiger’s article:

Father Hunger

An important issue for most men and a crucial one for boys’ education is the lack of fathering in current society. This is something that Steve Biddulph talks about in Manhood where he draws on the work of Robert Bly to illustrate the importance of father-son relationships in male development.

He points to the effects of the industrial revolution which meant that fathers and sons, who used to work together in the fields, were now together for only small amounts of time, usually after a hard working day when both were tired. This means that boys see only very limited aspects of masculinity, not the full range of male behaviour.

Today the separation is possibly even more rigid. Men are off in factories or offices and boys are at school for longer and longer periods. In primary schools about 80 percent of the staff are women. Many boys, and girls, go through eight years of primary education without a male teacher. In such a world, how do boys learn to be male?

Construction of Masculinity

With fathers physically and emotionally separated from sons it’s harder to learn what it means to be male. But in our society all boys have to grow up to be men. There isn’t a choice. Boys will learn their masculinity one way or another.

In present day society there are three obvious ways for boys to learn masculinity. And all three are dangerous.

First, boys commonly learn about masculinity from the media. Boys typically see much, much more television than they see of their fathers. But the models of masculinity displayed on television are either ultra-competitive sportsmen, violent men or dopes; not much to choose from.

The second source of models of masculinity comes from the peer group. Young men spend much more time with males of similar ages than with adult men. In peer groups it’s the most aggressive and violent male who calls the shots and ends up providing the example of “successful” masculinity.

The third way young men currently learn their masculinity is by reaction. Bad as the other two methods are, this is potentially worse. If you can’t learn about masculinity from men because at home and school you are largely surrounded by women then it becomes straightforward to interpret masculine as “not-female”. The particular dangers of constructing masculinity in this way are the very limited range of behaviours that come to be accepted as male and the anti-female attitudes that are likely to develop.

Getting Things Done

I read David Allen’s Getting Things Done over the Christmas break. Since then I have come across a few interesting posts on how to manage Outlook as well as how to be more focused on getting through the many tasks of each day.

Email is a blessing and a curse. I enjoy the ability to readily communicate with a wide range of people yet the sheer volume of messages can be overwhelming at times. Between my various email sources at work, at home, via RIM, via blog and websites, I usually process 200 – 300 email messages a day.

Jeff Sandquist has some great posts on how he approaches managing his inbox here and here. I had already downloaded the Outlook add-on from David Allen’s site but I had not taken advantage of the category feature of Outlook. As part of my New Year’s resolutions I had decided to be better organized with my inboxes. Jeff’s material offers a great start. I also enjoyed this link from Jeff’s post.

I also committed myself to learning more about postmodernism and the emerging church. This site had a fascinating collection of resources, links and recommended readings.

There are those that believe that the emergence of the postmodern era (1960 onward) will impact the world and the church in a profound way. The church is heading to a second reformation. I do hope the church in North America does head somewhere. As far as I can tell the church is at risk of heading nowhere.

Passing The Time Away

I was able to get through a number of books during my vacation.

Technical Readings

Blog On: The Essential Guide To Building Dynamic Weblogs by Todd Stauffer. I have been debating a move to a Server-based Weblog such as Movable Type or pMachine. Stauffer’s book provides a good overview of the major Weblog platforms. I found his book helpful in understanding the pros and cons of Movable Type and pMachine. Stauffer really likes pMachine. His discussion on blogging would be good for those people taking the plunge for the first time. Alas, I have been blogging too long and I did not find much new learning on the basics of blogging.

The Musician’s Guide To ProTools by John Keane. I was surprised by how much I learned from Keane’s book. I have been a heavy ProTools user for years and I had obviously locked into a style of working with the software. Perhaps this happens to you as well. You figure out how to make the software do something and you do not really think about whether there are more effective techniques to accomplish the same objective.

Recording and Production Techniques by Paul White. This was the first of three books by White that I read. He covers production techniques from session planning, microphone and tracking techniques, effects and mixing approaches to media. Not much new for me but a good refresher on how to approach recording. If you have not been in a studio before this book would give you a good sense of what is involved in producing a commercial recording.

Creative Recording by Paul White. I found the book too basic for me although there is a great discussion on acoustics which would be very helpful to hobbyists. He focuses on four areas: microphones, acoustics, soundproofing and monitoring.

Live Sound For The Performing Musician by Paul White. This book will be very useful for me in my work with live sound volunteers at my church. I had prepared an 8-hour course to cover an introduction to live sound last year. White has some great material that I can use to update this course when I deliver it again this year.

101 Guitar Tips by Adam St. James. I had purchased a similar book last year called 101 Bass Guitar Tips. This book is a great reference for the club player. I really enjoyed reading it and I am looking forward to getting back home and trying out some new ideas on my guitar rig.

Personal Development

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity by David Allen. My life is busy and I really focus on using my time effectively. Allen has some great ideas in his book. He also offers a Microsoft Outlook plug-in that implements his approach to make more effective use of email. I routinely parse through several hundred emails a day. Allen’s book and this plug-in look very promising!

Today Matters by John Maxwell. This was a Christmas gift from my wife. I have read it once and I am reading it again to make sure I take his key points to heart. My learning so far is not so much from a context and planning perspective but from an attitudinal perspective. I need to change my perspective on what matters today.

Beach Reading

State Of Fear by Michael Crichton. A pleasantly surprising read. I normally classify this type of book as read and forget. However, Crichton uses the story as a platform to challenge conventional thinking on global warming. He also includes an essay at the end of the book to reinforce the point that we can be easily misled and accept as truth the conventional wisdom presented by the media.

Black Wind: A Dirk Pitt Novel by Clive Cussler and Dirk Cussler. Is this pulp fiction at its finest? Is this the equivalent of reading the National Enquirer? Hey, give me a break, I’m reading on the beach 😉