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The 7 No’s: “Know” your Priorities And Say “Yes!” to Life

The 7 No’s: “Know” your Priorities And Say “Yes!” to Life

Priorities vs. Time: A Constant Struggle

A few weeks ago, my friend John Arnold shared a story with me about his friend, who had time management and productivity problems. Frustrated by his number of upcoming commitments, he turned to John as if a light bulb had suddenly gone off in his mind and said, “I just need to learn how to say NO!”

John replied, “Friend, you are great at saying no. You are saying no to your family, no to your health, no to sleep, no to exercise, no to staying hydrated, no to having fun and no to living a life that is meaningful and purposeful to you.”

What a powerful insight. Do you really know your priorities? Or, are you saying “No!” to life?

  1. No! to your family?
  2. No! to your health?
  3. No! to sleep?
  4. No! to exercise?
  5. No! to staying hydrated?
  6. No! to having fun?
  7. No! to living the life you want?

The Time Management and Productivity Concept of LIMITED CAPACITY

Time is a zero sum game. Whatever you choose to allow into your life automatically prevents you from using that time for any other activity. You have to choose between one activity or another.

Your time is limited to 24 hours each day. In the world of time management and productivity, it’s called “The Concept of Limited Capacity”.

 

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The Glass Half Full

     

    A container can only hold the capacity it was created to hold.

    It doesn’t matter if you intend to put more into a glass, it doesn’t matter if the glass wasn’t filled to capacity yesterday and it won’t change anything if you try to use a different glass. The capacity of a container is the maximum amount it will hold.

    Your Calendar and LIMITED CAPACITY.

    • 168 hours per week
    • 24 hours per day
    • 8 to 10 hours per day to work

    Your calendar has a limited capacity, and once it is full of obligations and commitments then, just like the glass, it will reach maximum capacity. It is at that point that something inside your soul recognizes the incongruence between the life you envisioned for yourself and the life you are actually living.

    Life is experienced by the choices you make about how you spend your time. Right now, at this moment – you are experiencing life. Right now – life is passing you by.

    In many cases, you are experiencing the life you have agreed to experience – by choosing how you will spend the minutes of each day.

    The LIMITED CAPACITY of Time: Heart, Body, Mind, Soul

    Every morning you wake up with a new day, an empty glass so to speak. Many of us have work commitments, but when you look at your calendar, what do you see? Pull out your smart phone and review the activities and commitments you have scheduled for today:

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    •  8:00 am staff meeting
    • 10:30 am budget report due
    • 11:00 am call with vendor
    • 11:15 am lunch meeting with client
    • 2:00 pm teleconference with marketing team
    • 4:00 pm dentist appointment
    • 6:00 pm choir practice

    You arrive home at 8:15 pm and still need to clean the house, do the laundry, cook dinner, check your personal email, pay the bills, etc. This isn’t life. This is a list of obligations.

    If your calendar looks like the one above, you have chosen to react to life, rather than plan how you want to live it.

    LIMITED CAPACITY of Life: Heart, Body, Mind, Soul

    Plan in advance. For the next few weeks, rethink what you are really saying “No!” to.

    In order to say “Yes!” to life, there needs to be a framework of non-negotiables. These non-negotiables are your personal priorities. Without establishing priorities, men and women across the world experience stress, anxiety, frustration, irritability, fatigue and low self esteem because they don’t allot enough time for personal priorities.

    Here are four foundational priorities that many people are currently saying “No!’ to, simply because they are not consciously aware that their work and personal priorities are so far out of balance.

    Say “Yes!” to These 4 Priorities

    Block off time for your Heart

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    How much time would you like to spend with the people you love? Make your heart a priority.

    Block off time for your Body

    Block off time for your body. Exercise, nutrition, hydration and sleep are critical to experiencing the quality of life you want to have. Finding time to exercise can be challenging. Some people enjoy getting up at 5:30 am to go to the gym, but there are alternatives. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to stop and walk for fifteen minutes twice a day. Walk at night with your family, or take up a sport with your kids. And, really – how hard could it be to drink a minimum of 60 ounces of water a day and sleep seven to eight hours? Block off the number of hours you will choose to sleep.

    Block off time for your Mind

    Humans are curious creatures from birth, constantly challenging ourselves in various ways to find entertainment and novelty. The actual neural circuits in your brain either grow stronger through use and stimulation, or weaken and die if you are not regularly challenging your mind. Read books that contain stories of courage and bravery and you will become more courageous. Make an appointment to meet someone brilliant in your industry, spend a morning with them and you could gain years worth of wisdom.

    Finally, Block off time for your Soul

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    This really should have been first, yet it is often the first thing we ignore. When you are overwhelmed, your soul grows cold and numb. It is not that your soul is sad or happy. It is that you have unknowingly lost touch with your soul.

    You wake up one day and you wonder:

    • Why am I so tired?
    • Why am I stressed?
    • Why am I overworked?
    • Why don’t I feel like my life has meaning or purpose?

    These are soul questions. Humans are deeply rooted with the desire for their lives to matter. We want to make a difference in the world. We want to have an understanding of why we have been placed on this earth. Each of us has unique strengths and talents, yet we lose connection with our true soul. Somewhere along the way, we’ve reached the maximum capacity of time and willingly let other projects, tasks, committees, and even volunteer opportunities fill up our days with things we do – not the life we live.

    How can you fix this?

    Choose to Say “Yes!” to Your Priorities

    1. Yes! to time with your family
    2. Yes! to your friends
    3. Yes! to exercise
    4. Yes! to better nutrition and drinking more water
    5. Yes! to sleep
    6. Yes! to choosing one new thing a month to learn, grow and stimulate your mind.
    7. And, say Yes! to taking time to re-connect with your priorities and purpose. Rediscover what you believe is most important in your life. Think about what makes your life meaningful and what will make a difference in the lives of those around you.

    By choosing to say “Yes!” to your priorities, you choose to reconnect with your heart, body, mind and soul.  This will reconnect you with your life.

    P.S. One of my priorities was to reconnect with my soul. One week ago, I said “Yes!” to going skydiving. The 120 mph free fall was amazing! What will you say “Yes!” to today?

     

    Featured photo credit: Allyson Lewis via fbcdn-sphotos-h-a.akamaihd.net

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    Allyson Lewis

    Allyson is a nationally acclaimed author, motivator, speaker, time management, productivity strategist, and executive coach.

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    Last Updated on May 21, 2019

    How to Be More Creative and Come up with Incredible Ideas

    How to Be More Creative and Come up with Incredible Ideas

    Regardless of how creative you already consider yourself to be, there’s a good chance you would like to level up your creative abilities.

    You might want to write a better song, think of better solutions to problems at work or around the home or maybe paint a picture.

    In any case, the good news is that creativity is not born: it’s made, and each one of us has the potential to be more creative and come up with incredible ideas.

    “Creativity is any act, idea, or product that changes an existing domain, or that transforms an existing domain into a new one.” — Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

    The definition of creativity is broad, and reminds us that creativity is not limited to artists or musicians. It does however require that we have some kind of impact on the domain in which we create.

    Creativity also emphasizes values.

    “The process of having original ideas that have value” — Ken Robinson

    This makes up for what Csikszentmihalyi misses out. For instance, we can make a change in the world without adding significant value. Any destructive act, like smashing a window, creates change, but it doesn’t necessarily create valuable change.

    In short, there isn’t one single definition of creativity It’s up to us to find a definition that feels true and useful. When you know what your standard is, It’s much easier to embrace creativity and start to cultivate it.

    And in this article, you will learn how to be more creative and take a good look at what goes into the creative skill:

    1. Cultivate Focus

    In order to create, there needs to be a focus on creating something, whether it’s a song, a theory, a product, or a sculpture.

    You could also call this “drive” – it’s the initial spark that drives the solution to a problem, or the will to get on your laptop and start typing.

    However, it’s worth noting there are different stages to the creative process: the divergent stage and the convergent stage.

    In the divergent stage, we want a broad focus – we want to be willing to let in lots of different inputs, ideas and insights. This is the time for brainstorming all possible ideas and solutions.

    In the convergent stage, we start to narrow our focus, like a camera lens. At this stage, we start to drill down to a handful of ideas or solutions, discriminating throughout the process.

    How to cultivate focus?

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    Take a 20 Minute Walk

    Walking away and getting your heart rate up is the best free tool you have in regaining your focus.

    I know it might seem counterintuitive to take a break right when you’re at your busiest, and especially when you’re drowning in your massive to do list, but the effects it will have on your clarity and ability to focus are undeniable.

    Walking is physiologically proven to release stress, and clear your mind. In fact, most of my most brilliant ideas (and some pretty terrible ones too) have occurred on my daily walks.

    If you give this technique a try, what you’ll find is that you’re much more productive than you were before you took a breather.

    Over time, if you do these walks daily, you’ll quickly find that your to-do list starts to feel a lot less significant, and a lot more doable. It’s all about keeping razor focused, and that’s what short daily walks will gift you.

    2. Build a Structure

    When I wake up in the morning, I start the day with a structure in mind. I know that 15 minutes will be dedicated to meditation, 30 minutes to coffee and reading, 20 minutes to yoga and so on.

    The structure of this morning routine might be boring, but the act of each task in itself has the potential to be, on some level, “creative.”

    The point of structure is that it gives you the space to make time for something you want to do. It helps you carve out the time to do your creative work. Once you begin that thing in itself, you are free to go about it however you’d like.

    Without structure, we can lose focus and can feel overwhelmed with possibility. If you’ve ever looked at a blank page and felt too overwhelmed with possibility to make a mark on it, you’ll know what I mean. How much easier it gets when you are given some guidelines or a deadline?

    The trick is finding the right amount of structure for you and your creative needs. Too little structure and we feel overwhelmed. Too much structure, and we risk feeling limited and stifled.

    Again, it’s worth thinking about creating in those two stages: divergent (less structure) and convergent (more structure.)

    How to build a structure?

    Create a Morning Routine

    Your morning routine doesn’t have to be rigid or so arduous you dread waking up. In fact, it should feel like the opposite. When you get a routine that works for you, you’ll look forward to starting the day.

    We all have different needs and preferences which can shape our ideal routine. In the book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey, you can be inspired over 160 different creators’ daily routines, from Charles Darwin to Pablo Picasso.

    Experiment with any that take your fancy, and see how you feel with a bit more structure to start your day.

    You can also take a look at this article about morning routine for inspirations: The Ultimate Morning Routine to Make You Happy And Productive All Day

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    3. Find Motivation

    There is a theory that suggests: people will be most creative when they feel motivated primarily by the interest, satisfaction, and challenge of the work itself — not by external pressures. This is also known as intrinsic motivation; a drive that comes from within.

    Think of a time when you did some of your best work — chances are you were totally absorbed in what you were doing, to the exclusion of everything else. You were completely focused on the work itself, barely noticing time flying by.

    Now think of a time when you felt under pressure to perform. Maybe it was an exam, or a commission for an important client, or maybe your boss had told you “there’s a lot riding on this.”

    Notice the difference? In the first memory, you were driven by intrinsic motivation, which made it relatively easy, even enjoyable, to be highly creative.

    In the second memory however, extrinsic motivation was breathing down your neck, distracting you by whispering about the rewards for success and the horrible consequences of failure: likely making it harder to focus on the task at hand.

    For this reason, intrinsic motivation, if you can find it, is what separates the good from great creative work.

    This isn’t to say only internal motivators help. I personally get motivated by luring myself to work with a good cappuccino at my favourite cafe. That will get me ready to write or edit or whatever I’ve been avoiding.

    How to find motivation?

    Connect to Your “Why”

    Your “Why” is your fuel: the thing that drives you forward, that gives you a reason to do what you’re doing.

    ‘He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.’ — Friedrich Nietzche

    When you have a reason to do something, a purpose or a goal that matters to you, you can connect your daily actions to it. Then, each act becomes infused with meaning and you find that intrinsic motivation comes naturally.

    The trick is to remember your “why” and connect with it on a regular basis.

    Think about how you want to feel on a daily basis. What would you like to accomplish in the next year? What would you like for yourself in the next five years? How about in your lifetime?

    Ultimately, the tasks you face on a daily basis, or at least some of them, will connect to a greater purpose if you follow this path and you will find you feel more motivated to create and less resistance.

    If you aren’t sure where to start looking for motivation, this will help: How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

    4. Be an Expert in a Chosen Domain

    Research has shown that just as expertise in one domain does not predict expertise in other unrelated domains; creativity in one domain does not predict creativity in other unrelated domains.[1]

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    So just because you can paint a pretty picture, doesn’t mean you can creatively solve a mathematical problem.

    If you’ve taken one of those tests like the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking, which will ask you to think of a bazillion uses for a pencil, and scored well, unfortunately this is only an indicator of divergent thinking skills. It is not a predictor for creativity all round.

    The good news is, you can train your creativity in your chosen domain. Much like a muscle, you can isolate exercises to strengthen it.

    Of course you can still do a total body workout – or atotal creativity workout – but it means your creativity-training exercises need to come from a wide variety of domains; not just thinking up uses for a pencil.

    How to become an expert?

    Make a Mastery Training Plan

    Following our physical workout analogy, it’s worth applying the habits of great athletes to your chosen creative domain. For example:

    1. Decide what area/s you want to work on

    Much like a tennis player who decides they need to improve their serving technique, you can decide what area within your creative domain you want to improve at. Get specific.

    2. Decide how much time you can dedicate

    Most of us don’t have all day to train like a pro tennis player might, but you can likely squeeze 20 to 30 minutes in a day, if you want to. Whatever the time you can allow is, decide to dedicate yourself to it.

    3. Review your progress

    Finally, in order to check your progress, you can take regular reviews. Decide what your metrics are, and take time each week to check in with yourself.

    How many days did you practice? How did you compare to the previous week? This kind of review can help you stay on track, and actually creates more intrinsic motivation as you see yourself develop.

    5. Create a Conducive Environment

    A psychologist in 1943 proposed that behaviour is:[2]

    “a function of both the person as well as the physical environment they are in.”

    I would suggest that the act of creating is a behaviour and that, even though it begins as an internal process, it’s very much affected by and even dependent on the environment we are in.

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    I started noticing how environment affects me when I worked in an office. Over time, I realized that the more people who were in or who were talking, the more distracted I was. If I got to the office early before my coworkers arrived, I was twice as effective.

    I was even more effective if I was at home. Now that I work from home, I know I’m even more effective when in certain coffee shops. Ideally, places that have high ceilings, gentle lighting, some barely noticeable background music – and excellent coffee.

    It’s these little variations in our environment that can really shape our creative output.

    If you’re an introvert, you probably do your best work alone. If you’re an extrovert, you probably do your best work in the company of others.

    This isn’t to say you should find one way of doing things and stick to it: in fact, varying your environment from time to time is a great way to stoke the creative fire too, which we’ll touch on more later.

    How to create a conducive environment?

    Add or Subtract Stimuli

    Novelty in our environment has been shown to stimulate the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that increases our desire to seek out reward.[3]

    If you’re looking for creative motivation, adding some novelty into your environment can be just what you need.

    On the other hand, some people are highly sensitive and when it comes to having too much stimulation in their environment, they find it difficult to focus.

    Experiment with working in different environments. Note how you feel. Note whether you do better creative work or have more interesting ideas when you’re alone or with others.

    Try listening to music, people chatting or try being in complete silence. Try a dimly lit room, try working in bright sunlight.

    In each case, note how you feel before, during and afterwards and rate the quality of your work.

    The Bottom Line

    Creativity is not one particular skill or talent one can have. It comes in as many broad and unique flavors as there are people on this earth.

    To be more creative, take little steps each day. Acknowledge where and when you feel most inspired, motivated and original and spend more energy in those areas.

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    Featured photo credit: Sticker Mule via unsplash.com

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