In Bangkok, Thailand, in 1955, historians discovered the world’s largest gold statue while they were moving a plaster statue to another location in the Wat Traimit temple. During their final attempt to remove the plaster statue from its pedestal, the harnesses and ropes ripped apart. As the five-ton statue fell to the ground, the plaster chipped off to reveal the gorgeous gold statue beneath it. Today, the epic gold Buddha sits on public display.
The golden statue discovery reminds us that, in order to be mindful, decisive, and creative, we need to make room for our own true brilliance to shine. That requires us to consciously accomplish two things:
- Remove distractions and energy drainers in our hectic lives
- Implement new tools to streamline activities that do not serve our best and highest use
There are many benefits of tracking your activities for a week, and if you are like most people I’ve worked with, you’ll find that you spend between none and 5% of your energy on activities that help you invent and imagine the future. It’s no wonder that the leadership team seldom invites you to strategy sessions.
This time tracking exercise is similar to tracking your diet: Recording how you use your time forces you to confront the truth about your daily habits. But tracking your time is just the tip of the iceberg in any success formula. When used as the only strategy, it’s a recipe for rigidity. It’s simply not practical or energizing when you rely solely on time tracking tools and systems as a method to “discover your gold.” Ask any attorney or accountant how drained they feel when it comes to tracking hours for clients.
Living a creative life is also about creating space for new ideas to emerge and simplifying.
Last year I made a conscious effort to simplify everything in my life. Here are ten activities, tools, and habits that helped me–and members of my community–dramatically improve in 2014. Some may also ignite creativity and productivity for you:
Time is precious, so we need every moment of our meetings to align with our intentions and for each person to feel centered and focused for the work ahead of us. Asking some combination of these questions will accelerate productivity and trust almost immediately:
- What were your successes this week? (What’s working in your performance?)
- What are your challenges? (What’s not working in your performance?) Where do you need help, and how do you plan to address it?
- What new ideas did you learn that can improve our business?
- For what are you grateful?
- What are your intentions for the upcoming meeting/week?
A wise person once said, “A good friend is someone who tells you what you don’t want to hear.” That person was right–and that friend should also tell you what you have not yet imagined. The days of the lone wolf are rapidly disappearing. Successful leaders cultivate strong sounding boards that help them invent the future. My accountability partner and I just returned from our annual offsite planning retreat. I walked away with a renewed confidence, feeling rested and ready for the upcoming year.
Music uplifts me in immeasurable ways, and when it comes to breakthrough music innovations for 2014, Sonos wins a top spot. Their wireless speakers allow me to activate streaming audio from any mobile device. The products arrive in a beautiful box complete with simple instructions. Installation took seven minutes. I can listen to any streaming program (Pandora, Sirius XM satellite radio, Spotify, and more) with the touch of a button.
Successful leaders like Arianna Huffington unplug. For the past six months, I have spent most Sundays in detox mode, bereft of any electronics (except music and streaming audio lectures). I don’t call, email, or text anyone. I read, meditate, exercise, and socialize without constantly searching for the next selfie or perfect Facebook post. They are, without question, my most restorative 18 hours of the week.
In 2014, I took at least 17 different domestic and international trips. Ten of the 17 quick trips involved time to relax and play tourist. This trip schedule doesn’t count a family tradition of scheduling a three-week “work-cation” in Central Oregon.
Living your best life is about optimizing your energy level. Unless you are a full time organic farmer, it can be challenging to eat healthy to fuel your busy day. Since August, I’ve been tracking my diet using MyFitnessPal. You just can’t lie to this app. When I installed the app, I set my daily caloric intake to 1350. I gleefully lost 8 pounds by December. And I now know the optimal balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fat to maintain my current weight.
My client and good friend, Eric Lecky, recommended the Waze app–now I’m hooked. Lecky, who commutes more than 45 miles to work each day, says the app transformed his commute last year.
Crowd sourced and real-time, “Waze provides impossibly accurate information on everything from traffic jams and accidents to police presence, road construction, and even potholes,” he told me. “On average it has cut 10 to 15 minutes off my commute each day—valuable time to get back into my life.”
TimeTrade does this with ease. I spend time discussing business goals and initiatives with my clients, not chasing an endless stream of email meeting requests.
Last month, I joined forces with my meditation group to reduce our carbon footprint. I stumbled across The Low-Carbon Diet: A 30-Day Program to Lose 5,000 Pounds. Each week, we read one chapter and take one action towards reducing that footprint. Whether it’s removing our names from direct mail lists or installing low-flow showerheads, each action makes a difference. We are shedding CO2 as well as emotional baggage.
You’ll find it much easier to impress clients when you have created more white space on your calendar and reduced your global footprint. Make it your policy to return all phone calls within two to three hours. Respond to all client emails within 24 hours. It’s highly likely your competitors are not following this practice.
I’m convinced that these 10 ideas greatly contributed to my company’s double-digit revenue increase and a tripling of profits over the previous year. Somewhere within these insights is your golden statue.
Which one of these ideas can you implement right now?