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Do You Want to Live a More Inspired Life?

Do You Want to Live a More Inspired Life?

    The Writing Process

    Sometimes I sit at my computer to write an article and the experience is a very logical, cerebral and practical one. To be honest, I think it’s more of a conscious process than it is a creative experience. I carefully consider what I want to convey to my readers. I think about the key messages, the communication style, some possible examples and analogies and whether or not I should share from a personal story to add a level of depth and insight to the reading experience.

    It’s fair to say that this style of writing doesn’t really come from a place of inspiration (which is okay). It’s typically educational, instructional and informative but rarely inspirational. If it does manage to inspire or excite anyone, the response is typically more about the reader than it is the article. And while I (nearly) always enjoy writing, it’s fair to say that producing these types of articles – as necessary as they may be – doesn’t really excite me (greatly) or provide me with a huge sense of achievement or satisfaction at this point in my journey.

    It’s kind of like work.

    Perhaps my days of writing “how to create a perfect arse in four weeks” (type) articles are numbered. Oh well, there’s always the archives to sift through.

    Turning on The Inspiration Tap

    Then there are times when I have no (immediate) plan to write anything but something happens and I have to stop what I’m doing and literally run to my computer. Sometimes, I feel like I’m sprinting with a glass full of milk trying desperately not to lose any of my milk (inspiration) as I run. Have you ever had an amazing idea or revelation and then lost it two minutes later? How frustrating is that?

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    Sometimes I’m inspired and stimulated in the most inconvenient and impractical places and situations. I often find myself recording ideas and thoughts into the voice recorder on my phone while I’m driving because something or someone has pushed a button or opened a door (metaphorically speaking).

    Many times in cafes and restaurants, I have downloaded ideas, feelings and thoughts onto a serviette or piece of scrap paper because the situation, conversation or experience turned on some kind of uncontrollable creative tap inside me. And that’s exactly what it’s like when I’m inspired: uncontrollable. It’s like the words flow despite me not because of me. I find that when I’m in that place, writing (or speaking, for that matter) is effortless and joyful.

    And who wouldn’t want that?

    Flow

    When my cerebral self (some might say egoic self) makes way for my creative and inspired self, anything can happen. And it does. It’s when I’m in flow. Doing what I’m built for. Happy.

    While I need and value the logical, rational, strategic, grown-up (version of) me – to make sure I don’t do anything too stupid or reckless – the ‘me’ I really like is the free-style, who-gives-a-shit-what-people-think, ten year-old that lurks within. I like him because he doesn’t write for approval, permission, respect or status. He simply opens the floodgates and stands back. There’s no filter. No censor. No strategy and no agenda. When it comes to creativity, inspiration and connection, sometimes the best plan is no plan. Sometimes, logical ‘me’ simply needs to get out of the way.

    “Brilliance is rarely found in logic.”

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    A Story

    A few years back, I had to open a convention with a ninety-minute presentation to about a thousand people. Just before this particular gig, my manager, had been contacted by a well-known speaking agent who told us that she was interested in using me as a speaker at some upcoming conferences. She also informed him that she would be in the audience (of my upcoming gig) to evaluate me as a potential speaker for her stable.

    On hearing this news, I decided to ‘razzle-dazzle’ my presentation a little. To make it a tad more polished, structured and, I hate to say it; electronic. Good grief. What was I thinking? I guess my thinking was that if I could wrap my speaking and entertaining skills around some slides, photos and maybe even a video clip, I’d blow Mrs Speaking Agent out of her chair.

    What a stupid idea.

    My Clever Plan

    So, with my clever new plan to impress, I discarded my much-loved white-board and markers (the only tools I use when I present) and took to the stage with an electronic (slide-changing) clicker in hand; the clicker that was about to take the audience and I on an electronic journey of personal growth and wonder (via my snappy new audio-visual presentation).

    Again, stupid idea.

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    Fifteen minutes into my presentation, I realised that I had totally forgotten about the clicker in my hand. What slides? What power-point presentation? What plan? What… an idiot. I panicked. I went from being ‘in flow’ and speaking from the heart, to clumsily trying to figure out what number slide I was up to. Like a deer in the headlights, I awkwardly clicked my way back and forward through random slides and felt my anxiety level rising. In the space of a few minutes, I had managed to move from connection (with my audience) to total disconnection.

    Quite the achievement.

    By switching from my instinctive, creative and freestyle mode (whiteboard boy) to cerebral, logical, let’s-impress-the-speaking-agent (ego) mode, the overall experience (for the audience and me) had gone from inspired to uninspired. The message from my heart was now coming from my over-thinking brain and I was totally losing the group. I was distracted and fighting for survival.

    Back to Free-style

    In a rare moment of clarity, I stopped all the electronic mayhem and clumsiness and walked to the edge of the stage. I put my presentation on hold for a moment and spoke to the group. “Is it okay with you guys, if I ditch the slide show? I don’t really know what I’m doing with this gizmo and to be honest, I find the slides kind of distracting and annoying.”

    Fortunately for me, they laughed and graciously gave me permission to revert to my free-styling ways. Between us, we managed to save the sinking ship, nobody died and we all learned something. Not long after I finished the presentation, I spied ‘Mrs Speaking Agent’ making her way towards me. I had totally forgotten about her. “Oh well, I blew it” I thought to myself.

    Surprisingly, her feedback was that she loved my story-telling and my humour but (not surprisingly) suggested that I never, ever use a PowerPoint presentation again.

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    Yes Ma’am.

    And yes, she gave me some work.

    Where I’m Happiest

    While my life requires a level of practicality, planning, accountability and structure (like any life), it’s usually when I escape my mind, connect with my inner intelligence and operate from a place of inspiration, instinct and child-like enthusiasm that I feel most connected, authentic, empowered and happy.

    Today, I’m encouraging you to find your inspiration.

    So, when are you most inspired? What turns on your ‘tap’? Do you want to live a more inspired life? As always, love to hear your thoughts, suggestions and ideas this topic. Even you long-time Lurkers.

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    Craig Harper

    Leading presenter, writer and educator in the areas of high-performance, self-management, personal transformation and more

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    Last Updated on July 8, 2020

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    It is easy, in the onrush of life, to become a reactor – to respond to everything that comes up, the moment it comes up, and give it your undivided attention until the next thing comes up.

    This is, of course, a recipe for madness. The feeling of loss of control over what you do and when is enough to drive you over the edge, and if that doesn’t get you, the wreckage of unfinished projects you leave in your wake will surely catch up with you.

    Having an inbox and processing it in a systematic way can help you gain back some of that control. But once you’ve processed out your inbox and listed all the tasks you need to get cracking on, you still have to figure out what to do the very next instant. On which of those tasks will your time best be spent, and which ones can wait?

    When we don’t set priorities, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. (And following the path of least resistance, as the late, great Utah Phillips reminded us, is what makes the river crooked!) That is, we’ll pick and sort through the things we need to do and work on the easiest ones – leaving the more difficult and less fun tasks for a “later” that, in many cases, never comes – or, worse, comes just before the action needs to be finished, throwing us into a whirlwind of activity, stress, and regret.

    This is why setting priorities is so important.

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    3 Effective Approaches to Set Priorities

    There are three basic approaches to setting priorities, each of which probably suits different kinds of personalities. The first is for procrastinators, people who put off unpleasant tasks. The second is for people who thrive on accomplishment, who need a stream of small victories to get through the day. And the third is for the more analytic types, who need to know that they’re working on the objectively most important thing possible at this moment. In order, then, they are:

    1. Eat a Frog

    There’s an old saying to the effect that if you wake up in the morning and eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that the worst thing that can possibly happen to you that day has already passed. In other words, the day can only get better!

    Popularized in Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!, the idea here is that you tackle the biggest, hardest, and least appealing task first thing every day, so you can move through the rest of the day knowing that the worst has already passed.

    When you’ve got a fat old frog on your plate, you’ve really got to knuckle down. Another old saying says that when you’ve got to eat a frog, don’t spend too much time looking at it! It pays to keep this in mind if you’re the kind of person that procrastinates by “planning your attack” and “psyching yourself up” for half the day. Just open wide and chomp that frog, buddy! Otherwise, you’ll almost surely talk yourself out of doing anything at all.

    2. Move Big Rocks

    Maybe you’re not a procrastinator so much as a fiddler, someone who fills her or his time fussing over little tasks. You’re busy busy busy all the time, but somehow, nothing important ever seems to get done.

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    You need the wisdom of the pickle jar. Take a pickle jar and fill it up with sand. Now try to put a handful of rocks in there. You can’t, right? There’s no room.

    If it’s important to put the rocks in the jar, you’ve got to put the rocks in first. Fill the jar with rocks, now try pouring in some pebbles. See how they roll in and fill up the available space? Now throw in a couple handfuls of gravel. Again, it slides right into the cracks. Finally, pour in some sand.

    For the metaphorically impaired, the pickle jar is all the time you have in a day. You can fill it up with meaningless little busy-work tasks, leaving no room for the big stuff, or you can do the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff, and finally fill in the spare moments with the useless stuff.

    To put it into practice, sit down tonight before you go to bed and write down the three most important tasks you have to get done tomorrow. Don’t try to fit everything you need, or think you need, to do, just the three most important ones.

    In the morning, take out your list and attack the first “Big Rock”. Work on it until it’s done or you can’t make any further progress. Then move on to the second, and then the third. Once you’ve finished them all, you can start in with the little stuff, knowing you’ve made good progress on all the big stuff. And if you don’t get to the little stuff? You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you accomplished three big things. At the end of the day, nobody’s ever wished they’d spent more time arranging their pencil drawer instead of writing their novel, or printing mailing labels instead of landing a big client.

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    3. Covey Quadrants

    If you just can’t relax unless you absolutely know you’re working on the most important thing you could be working on at every instant, Stephen Covey’s quadrant system as written in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change might be for you.

    Covey suggests you divide a piece of paper into four sections, drawing a line across and a line from top to bottom. Into each of those quadrants, you put your tasks according to whether they are:

    1. Important and Urgent
    2. Important and Not Urgent
    3. Not Important but Urgent
    4. Not Important and Not Urgent

      The quadrant III and IV stuff is where we get bogged down in the trivial: phone calls, interruptions, meetings (QIII) and busy work, shooting the breeze, and other time wasters (QIV). Although some of this stuff might have some social value, if it interferes with your ability to do the things that are important to you, they need to go.

      Quadrant I and II are the tasks that are important to us. QI are crises, impending deadlines, and other work that needs to be done right now or terrible things will happen. If you’re really on top of your time management, you can minimize Q1 tasks, but you can never eliminate them – a car accident, someone getting ill, a natural disaster, these things all demand immediate action and are rarely planned for.

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      You’d like to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant II, plugging away at tasks that are important with plenty of time to really get into them and do the best possible job. This is the stuff that the QIII and QIV stuff takes time away from, so after you’ve plotted out your tasks on the Covey quadrant grid, according to your own sense of what’s important and what isn’t, work as much as possible on items in Quadrant II (and Quadrant I tasks when they arise).

      Getting to Know You

      Spend some time trying each of these approaches on for size. It’s hard to say what might work best for any given person – what fits one like a glove will be too binding and restrictive for another, and too loose and unstructured for a third. You’ll find you also need to spend some time figuring out what makes something important to you – what goals are your actions intended to move you towards.

      In the end, setting priorities is an exercise in self-knowledge. You need to know what tasks you’ll treat as a pleasure and which ones like torture, what tasks lead to your objectives and which ones lead you astray or, at best, have you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

      These three are the best-known and most time-tested strategies out there, but maybe you’ve got a different idea you’d like to share? Tell us how you set your priorities in the comments.

      More Tips for Effective Prioritization

      Featured photo credit: Mille Sanders via unsplash.com

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