Saturday, April 17, 2010

This is what I get up at 4:30 a.m. to read.

I like leadership books. I started buying and reading them starting at age 16. 10 years ago now-gosh I'm finally starting to catch up to my mom. Anyway. I really enjoyed John Maxwell's style and so his books are what I primarily stuck to. And then I got married, moved away, and became a momma (I'm "momma" not "mommy". I wasn't trying to refer to myself as a hot momma although I am one:). Reading leadership books became a luxury that I could ill afford. So my books have been rusticating on my shelf. And they're still rusticating because the book I'm currently reading I borrowed from the library. And the title:

Today Matters by John Maxwell. ISBN 0446529583, although that's for the hardcover version. It was published in 2004 so it's most likely out in paperback. The premise is that by focusing on today you can make today your masterpiece, and by making each day your masterpiece you can break out of the common mold and make yourself and your life more successful, more satisfying, and more meaningful. (Wulfa's words, not J.M.'s). But it takes work. It takes daily discipline. Each and every day. Same time, same place. Monotonous. Tedious, some might say. But only correct practice can make perfect. Damm read that it takes 10,000 hours of time to develop a skill to professional mastery and that by the time they graduate high school many videogamers have attained that level of skill (I would footnote but I don't know where he read that). And I discovered long ago that you can't plan weight-loss success by starting tomorrow. Specific example but broad application: You have to start watching what you eat/plan/think/do today. You have to start exercising/prioritizing/scheduling today. If you put it off until tomorrow you have already started putting excuses into action and excuses lead nowhere (there can be legitimate reasons for holding off diet & weight plans, i.e. a need to consult your doctor first, but I'm not referring to those situations).

John Maxwell says that ". . . when I get ready to approach a day, I have the whole thing laid out. Hour by hour. It's a rare day that I get up in the morning wondering what I will be doing that day-even when on vacation." (no footnote, but you can find that sentence on page 75.) I breathed a sigh of relief when I read that. Finally, confirmation that I am not the only one who has to schedule fun. I can't just wing it through a day. I make it 2 minutes and then I find myself laying out an action plan. Even if my goal is to have fun, I need to have that stated and find out for how long we're going to have fun. That's because I'm a wife, a mother, and a student and I have 48 hours daily that I have to fit into 24. I'm sure many of you can relate and in fact schedule your day the same way I do mine. And that's why we can do it-because each day we know exactly what we need to accomplish and we know how we are going to go about doing that. That's how I maintain A's, that's how my mom constantly looked like Superwoman, and it's how my dad got to where he is today-son of dirt poor immigrants from Belgium (who themselves ended up owning their own business) to being an engineer working for NASA.

If you don't have that detailed, nitty-gritty mindset, don't worry. You can also establish daily/weekly routines. You might need a wee bit of help. Currently I'm trying different things/tactics/routines out on Damm to see if they might help. He's a willing subject, by the way. Damm is a creative person. He's got that writer mentality. He could be that old professor in his study who's fuzzy on what day it is because he JUST DISCOVERED THE COOLEST THING. Within his art he is incredibly detailed and focused. But day-to-day activities are harder for him to keep track of. So at the beginning of the semester I started to verbally go over what each of us needed to do that day, what assignments were due, etc. And then we moved and our schedule was ripped to pieces so I decided we needed to write down our schedules. And so:

1. We sit down once a week and lay out the weekly plan.
2. We try to look at it daily; frequently it gets looked at every 3 days or so.
3. When we need to we schedule both our days hour by hour.

Other strategies I plan on implementing/have already implemented:

1. Taping 3x5 cards to the living room, kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom detailing how each room should be cleaned and when that cleaning should happen.
2. Each week I plan out our meals and write the shopping list. I keep previous meal plans & shopping lists so this process takes minutes and my trips to Walmart are blessfully shortened.

I thought that list would be longer ... I'm forgetting some of my strategies :) It may look like overkill, but Damm adores lists. Lists remove the need to think through an action because you took the time once to think it through and enables you to speedily accomplish that particular chore. And it helps me to remain focused: I'm the person who intends to finish something but along the way I see something else that needs doing and then something else etc. My babydoll/Orclette has begun doing the exact same thing. Kids are the best mirror sometimes.

To summarize: making today a masterpiece is important because it will set the tone for your entire life, just like a perfect morning/haircut/breakfast can set the mood for your entire day. It's worth it to maximize the time we have been given for yourself and for your family. And it's possible for artistic, flighty people to become more focused and for people who are already focused to become even more so (and maybe they'll finally have time to schedule some fun into their lives:)

And that's what I was doing at 4:30 a.m.

Edit: I actually slept in today until 6 a.m. Most other days I'm up at 4:30. And in the interest of humbleness, let me add that by no means am I a model of daily discipline, although frequently I see myself as a paragon of that virtue:)

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