When did you last stop to smell the flowers?

Much has been said about the power of the moment. Books have been written telling us to focus on the most important time in our lives: not the past nor the future, but the present – the now. And, indeed, the present is where it’s at!
The present is where we make decisions and take action, and it is these actions that determine our future and create the memories that will, tomorrow, be our past. We process many of these decisions and corresponding actions almost unconsciously, but it is precisely this capability that is also our weakness, as it allows us to get distracted. In today’s world everyone demands our attention. Where the industrial revolution gave us more time by simplifying manual tasks (and in some circumstances removing them altogether), the information revolution is consuming more and more of our time. The difference is that now we have a choice: our devices have an off switch – and we should use these more often.

As I look back over the decades at the growth of consumerism, I can see that, as more and more things became available, companies vied for my money by promising me products with “effortlessness operation” and “lasting quality”. During the occasional visit to my aunt’s, I can remember marveling at her electric can-opener, thinking it was really cool. Fortunately, I never did buy one, as it would now be collecting dust up in the attic – along with the other marvels of health and productivity, like a juicer and an old vacuum cleaner. The industrial revolution brought about consumerism, the excesses of which are, unfortunately, visible not only in my attic, but also in the island of rubbish floating around the Pacific Ocean. But I guess this is the price we pay for what we have today.

www.sodahead.com

Now we have the information revolution, with many companies vying for our time and attention: the new currency. Everything is compressed; the mobile device makes us more productive, yes, but it also makes us a slave to others without even realizing it. Being able to read our emails & finalise a presentation on our iPad, whilst on the beach, may enable us to rethink where we can live; however, it also means we don’t really switch off during our holiday. Let’s face it, some of the stuff we can do with our mobile device can be addictive. Have you ever seen a couple having dinner in a restaurant, each of them with a smart phone in their hands, and, rather than looking each other in the eyes, they are both checking their emails! A perfect example of this new trend is a company called Zinga, which makes some of the most popular social games on Facebook. Last year it generated over 1 billion dollars of revenue from its 250 million users. Many of these users are addicted to the games and spend hours playing them on their computer everyday.

As we continue down the “on demand” path, we have more and more choices available to us at the touch of a button. Our propensity to get distracted grows exponentially, obscuring our ability to enjoy the moment without some kind of electronic stimulation. Of course, it’s a choice and we are the ones that make the choice. But choices are often made subconsciously, like the reflex to check your email when you hear the ping of your portable device. I suggest you consciously turn off your devices for a certain amount of time each day – dinner being one of those times, when you can engage in real dialogue and maybe even practice your storytelling skills. Go for a walk and fill your senses with the beauty of nature: the grandeur of the oak tree, the rustling sound of a river or creek, the sweet smell of blossom in the spring or the relaxing feeling of walking barefoot on a beach. Whichever experience is available to you, spending time reconnecting with nature and people is sure to be time well spent.

Francis Lambert – Zabok, 1 September 2013

The importance of habits

First I must apologize for the long absence of this blog. Facts are, I just lost my groove. So I reflected of the events in order to draw a lesson that I could share with everyone. During my analysis, I realize the importance of the habit. Sure, nearly every self-improvement book theses days peaches the importance of the habit, but it only when you have experienced it yourself that you truly understand the effects of habits have on your productivity.

When I started my blog some of my friends that already warned me about starting strong and quickly running out of steam. “The first three are easy, maintaining the pace is the real challenge”. But I was not to be fazed; I have discovered a good rhythm and created a habit. By the time November came around I have consistently delivered and I was proud of myself. The only problem now was that my environment surrounding my habits had changed. You see I have discovered that my most productive time is early in the morning; and we are fortunate to have a wonderful terrace where I like to sit and, depending on the time of year, watch the sunrise. These moments, alone and surrounded by nature, are truly priceless to me and where I am in my most productive state.  The only problem now was the temperature. When the snow came, even my jacket could not save me, it just made no sense to be sitting outside any more. Then of course came Christmas and everything that comes with it, many distractions and activities, but I still managed to get one article out. However by the time January rolled around I had completely lost my groove. Not only was it to cold now, and the snow firmly controlled the terrace, I had started a new project which required me to drive long distances every week and there just did not remain enough time for the blog.

This just happened to be the time, when I found out about podcasts. One but one particular podcast, “accidental creative” by Todd Henry, gave me some great insights about building habits and how to integrate my new work life with my creative side and my ability to deliver, quality material on a regular basis.  In fact I was so impressed by his podcast that I bought his book “the accidental creative”.  The insight that Todd shared in his book is that often people under pressure, who generally can’t find enough hours in the day, need to perhaps add something to their routine rather than cut back on their activities. That something is a  “point of reflection”. By stepping back and going through your plan of activities of the day you can correct your focus and increase the amount of time you are most effective, by rationalizing the urge to stray from the task at hand. This simple exercise will allow you to challenge your behavior and maintain a much higher level of focus. By increasing your awareness of distractions, over time it even allows you to alter your behavior and sustainably increase your productivity.  Make a plan of your activities everyday and take a few minutes each hour to review your plan. Make corrections as you see fit to maximize your outputs. You will also need to create the right environment as to minimize distractions. For example: I write on a piece of paper as not to be distracted by the lure of email; man’s instinct is to respond to the stimulation of that familiar email “ping”, as you sit there wondering who sent me an email. No having a computer in front of me completely eliminates the temptation.

Fortunately for me the sun and warm weather are back and the terrace season is opened.

Zabok, HR – 28th April 2013