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October 2007

Dear Friend,

One of the joys of being your own boss is having control over your vacation scheduling and workload (this can also be a pitfall, but we'll save that for another time). Many of you have been very kind to ask where I have been the past few months and the simple answer is I took some time off. I know that those of you who know me well are thinking "time off from what? You don't do anything anyway!" Well, that is not entirely accurate but in any event I had other plans and priorities, which leads into today's topic.

I had two brief encounters over the summer that stand in sharp contrast. The first occurred when my wife and I rented an authentic teepee at one of the Ohio state parks. We were out in the middle of the wilderness (except for the teepee next to us) enjoying the quiet beauty of creation when a family of four arrived to be our weekend neighbors. As their kids excitedly explored the teepee and we chatted with the parents, the father's cell phone went off. He answered immediately, and walked off a short distance while engaging in an intense work-related discussion. His wife rolled her eyes and said "that's one thing we can't get away from - his phone". It was clear that this was not the first time that their family time had been interrupted.

Another day this summer, my daughter and I were cruising down a state highway that runs through part of the large Amish community east of Cleveland. At one point I spotted an Amish family - three generations, male and female, all wearing authentic garb - playing volleyball in the front yard of their farmhouse. This was in the middle of the afternoon in the middle of the week! Didn't they know there was work to be done? I thought they were all about austerity and hard work, not carefree fun!

What can we learn about balance from these two contrasting episodes? The first incident is simply a real-life example of what many or perhaps most Americans are experiencing these days. The line between work and rest has blurred, slid, and in some cases virtually disappeared so that work (or thinking about or preparing for work) consumes our evenings, weekends, and even our wilderness "getaways".

I once was surveying questionnaires submitted by students in a professional class in which we asked them to rank themselves on a whole series of life skills so that we could then assist them in setting goals for what they wanted out of the class. Most of them had achieved business success at various levels, but despite the high marks many of them gave themselves in other areas, every single one ranked themselves very low at achieving balance in their lives.

It is impossible to "find" balance in your life. You do not slouch onto a bicycle and hope that you will "find" balance - you sit and move in such a way as to purposefully create balance. You plan for it to happen. After a while, it becomes second nature. Dr. Howard Hendricks was coaching someone who wanted to grow deeper in his relationship with his wife. He told Hendricks that it was a priority for him. Hendricks then asked the man for his day planner and after flipping through it commented "you say that this is a priority but I don't see your wife's name written in any of the appointment slots"!

So what about the Amish volleyball game? Unfortunately we had an appointment elsewhere so I could not stop to interview them, but I suspect from my limited knowledge of Amish culture and practice that the following was what had happened that day: The family was up before sunrise. They all had chores that needed to be done, animals that needed to be cared for, tasks planned for the farm that day. They proceeded to perform those tasks efficiently, promptly, purposefully, and skillfully. And, when the morning work time was done completely and properly, they probably enjoyed a large family meal together. Then, since it was neither harvest nor planting season, they purposefully engaged in some family fun. After all, what could be more enjoyable? And, what else was there to do - sit around and worry about the lack of rain, or how much work there would be to do when the harvest came? No, this was time much better spent, enjoying the summer sun while we had it.

I further would speculate that after the volleyball game and before evening chores began, they committed the ultimate 21st century American heresy - they probably took naps during the hot part of the day! (A habit also practiced by no less than hard- working John D. Rockefeller.) They knew that it would ultimately prove to be more productive to stop for some rest and relaxation, and return to work refreshed for their evening chores. When we push ourselves without this, we not only fatigue ourselves but our work suffers as well.

The formula for balance might go as follows: under scheduling + working efficiently + committing to and scheduling personal time + saying "no" + lowered career expectations = balance. I'm sure the last part of that formula raised eyebrows. What, you mean I have to sacrifice something? YES! You do NOT have enough time to be everywhere and do everything that the professional world demands plus fulfill your duties as significant other/spouse/parent/friend plus have any time or energy left for yourself. The choice is yours, but remember - no one ever said on their deathbed "I wish I had spent more time at the office". If you don't start making a life today, you will simply spend the rest of your days making a living.

(c) 2007 Robert J. Yanega

Humor of the Month
The only nonsense you'll find here

"At the Sharper Image Store I saw a body fat analyzer. Didn't that used to be called a mirror?" Jay Leno

Wisdom for the Month

"I've missed more than 9,000 shots. I've lost almost 300 games. I've failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." Michael Jordan

Recommended Reading This Month
Doing Work You Love by Cheryl Gilman

This is not the absolute best treatise on the subject, but it is a good read and has a lot of resources in it. Plus, you can get it cheap at Barnes and Noble right now!

Helpful Tip of the Month

Start balancing your life right now. If you have someone or something that you want to make a priority, take a minute and write it into your daytimer or program a reminder into your PDA to call that person on a regular basis. Maybe even consider making your home number or another loved one's phone number the first on your speed dial. This simply shift will be a tangible reminder to occasionally put work on the back burner.

February 2007

Dear Friend,

Last month we looked at what’s wrong with New Year’s resolutions and how to plan for meaningful growth and change in your life. I also alluded to the whole issue of living life deliberately, and that is what I want to briefly address this month.

First, I have a confession. This was supposed to have been written and sent out last Friday. I planned it and it was in my calendar. But, the important thing about planning is actually executing your plan – putting it into action. Hopefully this will serve to humble me; encourage you by demonstrating that even people who appear to “have it all together” sometimes drop the ball; and warn both of us to stay diligent and stick to the plan! I have several valid and many not-so-valid excuses as to why it didn’t happen, but the reality is that I did not work my plan.

That’s the second part of the old adage, “plan your work; work your plan”, and is equally important to the planning itself. But, we covered that need for action last month, so this month I want to focus on the “plan your work” portion. A more accurate statement of what I am about to share, however, is “plan your time”. There is every need to plan all of our time – work, family, leisure, etc. if we are going to lead truly successful and joy-filled lives.

When we have no time plan, several problems inevitably erupt. The first is the “tyranny of the urgent”. Without prior planned commitments, almost anything that is presented to us in our day automatically becomes something we must do RIGHT NOW because we don’t have anything else planned for that time slot. So, whether it is a legitimate emergency or merely noticing that our large and small paper clips need sorting, we focus on this new task before all else.

It’s easy to see how this leads to the second problem of “time leaks” in our day. Occasionally we will be so genuinely immersed in a worthwhile task that we look up and are astonished at how much time has elapsed. More often, however, we fritter away the day and then wonder where the time went and why we didn’t get anything accomplished. What started out as getting a report done turned into a search for a paper clip and then straightening out of the drawer during which time someone came by to chat and, since we had totally forgotten the report for now, we chatted until it was time for lunch after which we remembered we should stop over at - anyway, you know the story. Suddenly it was 5 o’clock and no completed report.

The net result of these time leaks and being tyrannized by the urgent is that our emotional energy is also drained so that we have this nagging feeling of having wasted the day, being pushed around by others, not doing our share or contributing anything meaningful to life. This can quickly lead to burnout, depression, and a total loss of joy. The worst part is the way most people attempt to fix it.

Some common “solutions” for burnout and depression are “vegging out”, shopping, drinking, gambling, vacations – all unplanned, all unhelpful. Why? They actually INCREASE the problem, not solve it. Like a person on a liferaft in the ocean who is dying of thirst, we begin to believe that partaking of the easiest option will cure us. But as we drink the saltwater of doing nothing, we only get thirstier! It’s a death spiral that worsens the problem, not solves it.

Let’s try this as a genuine solution to our depression and lethargy – let’s plan our way out of it. I know, your first thought is “that doesn’t sound like any fun”. You’re right – IF you don’t plan any fun into it as well. Do you like chatting at the watercooler? Fine – plan a 10 minute break and then announce that you have something on your schedule and have to get back to work – whether the something is finishing the report or sorting paper clips! As long as you have it on the schedule, you will feel a sense of commitment to it and you will communicate that to others.

What about leisure time – doesn’t scheduling ruin the fun of it? Well, yes, if you go to excess. If you seem to never have time to spend with your kids, suddenly announcing that all of you are going to the backyard to make snow angels from 6:45 until 6:57 will not fix the problem! Perhaps scheduling an appropriate amount of time each day for them to choose an activity and even being somewhat flexible in when that occurs will help.

For example, if you have ½ hour planned for family time and you announce “hey kids, let’s do something fun together right now –whatever you want” you may get a “we’re watching this show” response. If you think about it and realize that you had also planned ½ hour for getting dinner, you can then respond “okay, how about after dinner?” and simply flip-flop these 2 activities.

The same holds true for our personal time. Schedule a time each day to relax, pray, meditate, or whatever re- energizes you. Maybe you can combine it with an exercise goal, like walking or jogging. But be deliberate about it and guard that time. Then, when work time comes, you don’t feel shortchanged personally.

As we start to plan, life will inevitably show us what else needs to be included in our schedule. Can’t find a pencil to fill out your planning calendar? When you do, plan some time in to straighten out your desk. Haven’t used your computer’s calendar program? Plan time to learn it! You will be glad you did.

(c) 2007 Robert J. Yanega

Humor of the Month
The only nonsense you'll find here

There are three types of people in this world - those who can count and those who can't.

Wisdom for the Month

“Failure isn’t so bad if it doesn’t attack the heart. Success is all right if it doesn’t go to the head.” Grantland Rice.

Recommended Reading This Month
The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach

David Bach instructs those who have no clue how to achieve financial success, but also reminds others of us of things we may have heard before but didn't know how to put into practice. The best part is that he gives you an EASY, step-by-step plan to set things up automatically with money you ALREADY HAVE!

January 2007
Recommended Reading - 100 Ways to Motivate Yourself by Steve Chandler

I just finished this book, and I highly recommend it because the author gives you bite-sized ideas that you can implement today. If you want to get started on a better 2007, start reading a chapter or two each day.

Helpful Tip of the Month

Make a regular habit to sort through your business card file or contacts. You will be reminded of people to follow-up with, see outdated info. to clean up, and many other ideas. I recently did this and was reminded of 2 open receivables that I needed to collect - it was like finding money!
Wisdom for the Month

Proverbs 15:22 - Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed.

Humor of the Month - The only nonsense you'll find here

2 photographers were both shooting pictures of a grizzly bear feeding in a river when she suddenly sniffed and then came charging right at them. The one photographer calmly dropped to the ground, pulled some running shoes out of his pack, and started lacing them up.
 “Are you crazy?” yelled his companion. “You can’t outrun that bear!”
“I don’t have to outrun her”, he replied. “I just have to outrun you!”

Forgotten your New Year’s resolution?


   Okay boys and girls – let’s have a show of hands. Who has already forgotten their New Year’s resolutions? No hands? Come on now, be honest. Or didn’t you even bother to make any? You didn’t?? THAT’S GREAT!!! 

   Why is that a good thing? Because most people who do make New Year’s resolutions make one of 3 mistakes which doom them to near-certain failure. Let’s talk about a better way to make changes in your life, a way that has a far better chance of succeeding in helping you accomplish what you set out to do. 

   There’s the first mistake – never setting out. Most of us dream of changing something in our lives, but we fail to plan any action steps or actually make an attempt to work towards the goal. And, as Nathaniel Branden said, “a goal without an action plan is a daydream”. 

   The second mistake many of us make is that our goals are vague and not easily measurable- “I want to lose weight”, “I want to make more money”, “I want to become closer with my loved ones”. When we lack focus, we have a hard time getting started. And, if we do start, it’s easy to drop out because we never know where we are in relation to the finish line, if there is one. We need to ask ourselves “how much more money do I want to make, when do I want to make it, and what am I going to have to do to make that happen”? 

   This, however, often leads to the third challenge which is best illustrated by the question “how do you eat an elephant?”, to which the answer is “one bite at a time”. We can get so focused on the overall goal and the deadline we set for it that we are overwhelmed before we even start out. 

   So, how do we set realistic, measurable goals and then stick to a plan to work towards them? First, they must be realistic. The easiest way to refine a goal until it is achievable is to determine what we want to accomplish by the end of the year, and then break that down into monthly, weekly, and daily goals. If you want to lose 33 pounds this year (sounds like a challenging goal), that would mean losing 3 pounds a month for the remaining 11 months of the year (sounds more reasonable). That would mean about ¾ of a pound per week, or only a couple of ounces per day! If you consult a professional resource and discover that you could probably lose more or less than that in a week, then consider adjusting your timetable. By this back-and-forth “tweaking” you can set a goal that is measurable and attainable. 

   Right on the heels of that we need an action plan. What steps can we take (that we will actually perform) to lose a pound this week? Count and reduce calories? Perform some exercise to burn calories? Quickly research an approach that seems right for you and then GET STARTED! Even if you start to do something badly, at least you started. Modify the program as you go. It is better to do 10 exercises badly and work on better form or drop back to 8 exercises until you can add 2 back in than to never get started. Don’t be afraid to fail, and don’t use it as an excuse to stop; just assess what went wrong and then immediately try a new approach. 

   It’s Friday afternoon. Your goal is to spend more time with loved ones. Take out your day planner or PDA and schedule something for next week. You’re traveling? Then schedule a long-distance call to someone you love, or start writing a letter that you can leave under their pillow. Schedule something for the following week, or cancel something that you have planned for the weekend right after you get back. ( We’ll talk more about living life deliberately next month). But do something NOW! 

   The last thing we need to remember is to keep everything in perspective. We need to focus on the next step (eat a healthier lunch and do my crunches before bed) rather than that finish line which seems so far away (48 pounds – am I crazy?). We need to ignore the naysayers (“you look ridiculous in running shorts”, “no one has ever sold that much in a year before”, “you wuss – taking your wife to the flower show instead of watching the game with us”). Successful people picture themselves at the finish line, drinking in the sweet smell of victory. 

   Will that be you this year? It can be. It will be – if you get started right now. I, for one, will be cheering you on. I know that you have it in you. The question is, are you willing to do what it takes to make it so? Until I talk to you again (yes, it’s in my plan!),


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