I love weekends! After a busy week of work, it’s nice to spend the weekend playing. To ensure I get the most out of each weekend, there are 2 tasks I like to have completed before I go to bed on Thursday evenings. They are:
- Mow the lawn, when seasonally applicable
- Have my weekly blog post written and scheduled to post
The reason I like these tasks done by Thursday evening is because I enjoy the feeling when I arrive home Friday night to a freshly mowed lawn knowing that my weekly blog post is already completed and teed up to be posted on Saturday morning. Since I’ve already done this work, I don’t have to waste precious time on the weekend to complete them.
There’s something satisfying to me to go into a weekend, or on vacation, or to an event knowing that I don’t have a bunch of unfinished tasks waiting for me when it’s over. A little work ahead of time sets me up mentally for stress free enjoyment of whatever it is I’m doing.
I’ll admit that it takes a little planning and discipline to get work done before playing. However, it’s not hard to find the motivation when you realize that if work is handled first, you won’t have to cut the fun short in order to do the work that wasn’t completed ahead of time.
Are there areas of your life where you could benefit from getting your work done before playing? If so, make the effort to successfully get your work done first. Then, get out and enjoy yourself without the burden of uncompleted work in the back of your mind.
We’ve had a busy week at our house. One filled with unpleasant trips the dentist and unexpected visits to the veterinarian for a sick cat. Neither of these events has been very enjoyable, but what they’ve lacked in joy, they’ve made up for in unexpected expenses! Regardless, unexpected events are a part of life, and when they occur, we have a choice. We can run from them, ignore them, or face them.
Unexpected events, especially when more than one of them occurs at the same time, can feel overwhelming. When we’re overwhelmed we may feel like ignoring or putting off what we know we need to do. While this may sound good in the short term, failing to act only prolongs the situation. I think it’s best to face it and take the action we know we need to take. It’s ok to be overwhelmed, and nothing says we have to enjoy unpleasant experiences, but after we’ve had a moment or two to be feel overwhelmed, it’s time to face it.
The best way to get through a bad situation is to face it and start moving toward a solution.
My wife and I were extremely excited to see the production of Hamilton when it came to Portland Oregon earlier this year. One thing that enhanced our enjoyment of the production was the preparation we did prior to seeing the show.
About a year before Hamilton came to town, we began listening to the soundtrack and getting familiar with the story. We also did some additional research like reading books about Alexander Hamilton and early American history, as well as watching documentaries about his life. By the time the show arrived, we were eagerly expecting it and had learned a tremendous deal. The effort we put into learning about the Alexander Hamilton greatly enhanced our enjoyment of the performance.
I think there are a lot of ways we can prepare for experiences that will enhance our enjoyment of them. For instance, we can:
- Learn about the history and attractions of a new location prior to traveling or moving there.
- Research an employer and its employees before a job interview.
- Read about how to effectively communicate with others in social settings.
- Maintain good physical health so we can enjoy physical opportunities that come our way.
- Spend time practicing before a public performance, whether it’s playing an instrument, giving a speech or a presentation.
- Find out what is of interest to people you spend time with and be aware of that the next time you see them.
I’ve found that a little preparation enhances most experiences. To put it another way: I’ve never been disappointed that I spent time preparing for an experience.
Are there any upcoming experiences you have that you’d like to potentially enhance? If so, invest some time preparing yourself to get the most out of that experience. A little preparation will make the difference between a good experience and a great one.
Last week we were on vacation in Denali National Park. While the landscape and wildlife were spectacular, what stood out most to me was how easy it was to start a conversation and connect with other people.
Whether it was on the park bus or standing in line somewhere, it was so easy to start up a conversation with people by simply asking a question like:
- Did you see any wildlife in the park today?
- How long have you been in Alaska?
- How long will you be in Alaska?
- Where are you from?
- What are you going to see next?
It was equally easy to start conversations with folks based on a sports team, a geographic location, or some other familiar identifier on a person’s clothing. (“Go Packers!” seems to be a good conversation starter with people wearing Green Bay gear.)
It got me wondering why we don’t start conversations with people around us when we’re not on vacation. When I look at my own life, it seems easy to avoid connecting with those around me, even though there are so many of the same conversation starters in everyday life.
Why not start initiating conversations with people around us, even when we’re not on vacation? We might be surprised with you many interesting and friendly people we cross paths with each day.
I was starting to get stressed. Just days away from going on vacation, I still had a big task I needed to complete at work before I left, and it didn’t feel like I was going to get done in time.
Four days before vacation, a colleague who is working on the same project stopped by to see how it was going. I told him that I didn’t think I’d’ be able to finish my piece of the project before I left. As I told him about what I had left to do, I could see he was thinking.
After I was done describing what I believed needed to be done, he started asking about what absolutely had to be done at this stage of the project. As we talked through it, I realized my focus was placed too far out for this stage of the project. We didn’t need a 100% finished product; we just needed some basic functionality that could be delivered to the end users as a first iteration.
With this new perspective, I realized that I’d easily be able to deliver my portion of the project before I left for vacation. In fact, I was able to deliver with 2 days to spare!
I’m so thankful my colleague came by and gave me a different perspective. Our conversation and his suggestions shifted my focus toward what needed to be done at a specific stage in the project, rather than what needed to be delivered as a finished product.
Are you stuck in a false mindset or stressing about how to get something done? I suggest talking to a friend, colleague or someone else who can give you a new perspective on your situation. You might just realize that you’re stressing out for no reason.
I was recently practicing bass guitar in preparation for playing on my church’s worship team. There was a specific part of one song that I kept having trouble with. For some reason, I couldn’t rhythmically understand how a series of note were to be played. I could hear it when I listened to the song, but I couldn’t make it happen when I actually tried to play it. It was time to dig in!
First, I wrote out the notes I was to play. Then I played those notes several times in the order they were to be played. This helped me become familiar with what I was supposed to be playing. Next, I listened to this section of the song at a much slower speed over and over as I counted out what beats the notes fell on. Every time I figured out what beat a note fell on, I’d write it down so I could move on to the next note without forgetting what I had just learned. Once I had determined what beats all the notes fell on, I was able to begin playing along with the song at normal speed. From here I continued to practice what I learned until it became familiar.
It can be like that for problems we struggling with. Sometimes what we need to do is do a deep dive on what we’re struggling with and give focused energy into figuring it out. This may involve slowing down, breaking our problem into pieces, addressing each piece separately, and then reassembling these pieces into what will be a solution to our problem.
Think of some problem you’re struggling with or a concept you’re having a hard time grasping. Perhaps you could benefit from devoting some focused attention toward figuring the problem out.
My wife has been a task-closing machine this past week. We’ve had a handful of tasks that needed to get completed, but we just hadn’t gotten to them. One by one she set her sights on these tasks and took action to close them. I was amazed to learn how many tasks she was able to complete in a relatively short time.
One thing that stood out from watching her was that our biggest barrier to getting stuff done, or causing something we want to happen in our life, is our own failure to take action to bring it about. Sure, we all want things to happen or task to get done, but “wanting” alone will not make it happen. Taking action is the secret ingredient to completing tasks, achieving goals, and successfully bringing about change.
Is there anything in your life you want to do, start, or complete? If so, I encourage you to follow my wife’s lead and take action to make it happen. And if you make taking action a habit, you’ll likely see positive life changing results.