Tag: parenting

Connection Trumps Productivity

June 1st, 2010

When I began my organization and became my own boss I realized more than ever that the way I spend my time is critical. How I spend my time directly relates to the success of my business objectives. I’ve had to learn to prioritize, focus, and work efficiently like never before. Accidental Creative has been a guiding force in my creativity and productivity for a number of years. David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done, has been instrumental in this process. I’ve also gleaned many guiding insights along the way from Merlin Mann.

Though I am not a card carrying lifehacker, I’ve seen tremendous growth in my productivity and creativity. Mann says warding off our tendency to multitask is an important quality if we are to see such growth. To be productive we must do one thing at a time, not many. This assumes, of course, that the one thing we’re doing is what we should be doing in that moment. Allen, Mann, and other productivity types seem to agree on this point. I’ve noticed this works well and is essential to my professional life.

But when it comes to my home and family, multitasking is not an elective–it’s a requisite. In fact, when I carry into this context my professional blinders-on kind of work ethic, I find I’m quickly frustrated and disappointed in how I relate with my family. Last Saturday I decided to paint our mailbox post. The project began as I had planned. I stirred and set out the paint and brush. Put down a drop cloth and began to prep the post by scraping and sanding. Everything was still on track. Then two helpers appeared in the form of my four- and seven-year-old daughters. Their lack of previous post painting experience did not temper their eagerness to help. My productivity quotient immediately dropped, and continued to drop for the remainder of the afternoon. After four hours we completed the project that would have taken me a quarter that time on my own. We took frequent breaks to climb trees, ride bikes on the sidewalk, and dig in the dirt.

Something is starting to dawn on me: I complete house projects while attending to more important activities. I’d like to say I do this without being infected with the task-oriented, get out of my way and let me get this done, virus. I can’t. I don’t do this perfectly. I’m not sure I even do it well. But I see how I would like it to be for my kids: that they would know they, not my projects, are my priority.

The gurus are right: multi-tasking is not productive. But when it comes to family and other life-anchoring relationships, who needs productivity?

    People Change People Podcast – Episode #4

    May 12th, 2010

    When we are transparent with others we offer others the gift of knowing us honestly. This does not mean they’ll like what they see. Too often, usually out of fear, we offer in the place of our true self an apparition; a look-alike stand-in. It’s important to remember that sometimes, when situations and relationships have proven unsafe, we do well to protect ourselves rather than risk transparency. Such self-protection can be essential for survival and sanity. But in relationships among those we trust and among those we serve, transparency is an ingredient we must not omit.

    Pleasant listening! Questions? Send me an email: andrew@peoplechangepeople.com.

      Gotta Gogh

      December 29th, 2009

      Last week my wife and I took our three young children to the Portland Art Musem. Through rooms of ancient Chinese, American Indian, romantic, and modern art they stuck by our side, and showed interest in many pieces. As parents we were gratified and surprised.

      We crested the top of a stairway and came upon one of Monet’s enormous Water Lilies, a brilliant masterpiece in purples, greens and blues. We entered the room, nodding to the security guard. He swiveled like a dour weathervane, pointing always in the direction of our family. Under the guard’s watchful eye we discovered many well-known artists’ works I would expect to find in such world-class institutes as the Smithsonian and Metropolitan Museum of Art.

      My wife and I sensed from our little ones’ sagging composure that they were running near empty. They needed a change of scenery. They needed food. They needed to leave. We neared the elevator when we passed Vincent Van Gogh’s The Ox-Cart. Van Gogh composed this work before discovering the brilliant colors of southern France that would distinguish him as one of the world’s great masters. His palette in The Ox-Cart is dismal–browns, grays, black and greens. Van Gogh emphasized the painting’s disconsolate mood by depicting cow dung as the cart’s contents. The painting stopped me in my steps. Van Gogh’s works are, in my mind, of incomparable beauty and emotional power. Being near one of his paintings was a gift to me. I imagined Van Gogh, some 125 years prior, standing before this canvas crafting his creation.

      “They have a Van Gogh!” I said to my wife. She was preoccupied as child-shepherdess and unable to join in my wonderment.

      I saw she needed a second shepherd. Navigating an art museum is a two-shepherd job, especially when the sheep are uneasy. The doors to an elevator opened. My family entered. So much of me wanted to stay with The Ox-Cart. It then occurred to me that my children are young, Van Gogh is dead, and his painting will be here when I return. My children will not always be children. These thoughts surfaced not as clear gems, but through much struggle.

      What we choose reveals what we truly hold dear. I don’t mean to sound like I’ve figured out life or parenting. I haven’t. My point is that good choices, those choices that contribute to the lives of those we love most, are almost always preceded by struggle. Entering into this struggle is our project as we seek to serve those we care about.

      When my wife and I return to the Portland Art Museum we’ll not bring our children, or if we do they’ll no longer be little. The guard can again be at ease. But I’ll be grateful then, as I am now, that I left Van Gogh this year to return to the painstaking work of building a family–my masterpiece.

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