Why It’s Important to Measure Twice and Cut Once

Having a Good Plan is the Best Way to Avoid Mistakes

The importance of planning became evident this morning while working on a project at home. I mis-figured and cut two boards the wrong length. Fortunately, the cut was too long rather than too short. The boards were salvageable, it just wasted a couple of 3” pieces.

My wife had been wanting some chickens and the opportunity came up a few weeks back. My sister had more chickens than she needed as well as a small (3’ x 6’) chicken pen/coop that she didn’t need.

The goal or purpose of chickens is to have fresh eggs as well as reducing bugs. (Also, my wife loves hearing a rooster crow.) We can’t let the chickens out because the dog and them wouldn’t get along. If we leave them in one location for more than a few days, there won’t be any grass left in that spot.

It’s up to me to find a solution…

The best solution is a mobile pen that can moved around, otherwise known as a “chicken tractor”. The difference between our pen and a “chicken tractor” is the ease of portability. Our pen needs some wheels.

My problem solving/builder brain kicked in.

The pen is two separate units attached together which allows it to flex in the middle when moved. The more flexing done when moved, the weaker the attachment of the two sections will get. Okay, this means we need a frame that will prevent this from happening.

The next thing is wheels. We need to keep the pen down tight to the ground so that snakes can’t get in and get the eggs but make it so it can be rolled when it needs moved. They need to be able to be raised and lowered.

Back to the plan and minimizing mistakes.

An important part of a plan is knowing the cost upfront. Most ready to go chicken tractors of a comparable size are between $350 to $500. So, one question a plan can provide, “Can I modify the one we have so that it will do what we need for less money?”

I found a 2x4x16’ rough cedar board in the shop, left over from a project, that will work for the frame. I’ve got an old push lawn mower that doesn’t work… it has adjustable wheels. I think those will work. I have plenty of screws, etc. for fastening. So…zero cost for material.

Now comes the design and engineering phase.

I neglected to put any of my ideas into a drawing and this is where the mistake that I spoke about earlier happened. It was a simple mistake. One that was easily fixed but could have been avoided with a simple drawing. It was a miscalculation and dimensions on a plan would have shown this.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re modifying a chicken pen or building a multi-million-dollar building, both turn out better with a plan. The same is true for your life. The end result will be better having a plan and being intentional about implementing it.

The two boards that I cut too long because I didn’t have a plan on this little project was an easy fix. A new home or your life might not be so easy or inexpensive.

I will let you know how the finished project turns out!

Action is Required if You’re Going to Accomplish Anything

A Plan is a Great Place to Start, But Won’t Build the House

I don’t know about you, but I find it easier to plan than to do. Last week we discussed how overthinking things slows down our plans. The thinking part is important, but it alone isn’t going to accomplish our goals.

The week before we examined how learning can keep us stuck and prevent us from moving forward. Like thinking, learning is also essential to moving forward toward our dreams.

It became evident that while both of these are great, neither will work without action.

We must “do” if we’re going to succeed.

On the other hand, just doing has issues as well. If you don’t know what you want to accomplish how will you know if what you’re doing is the right thing.

If you want to build a new home, you need a plan before you start. Granted, it doesn’t have to be a full blown super detailed set of blueprints. It could even be just in your mind, but there’s still a plan.

The problem is that it’s hard to clearly share plans when they’re only in your head.

So, if there are any others you plan to share the home with…it might be a good idea to find a clear way to communicate your plans.

The key to accomplishing the things you want is in understanding how planning and doing work together. Napoleon Hill summarizes this well with his quote…

“Plan your work and work your plan.”

Building a house is a great example for building anything, whether that’s a building, a business or a life. You need to start with the end in mind. What is it’s purpose? What will it look like when it’s finished? What needs to be done to achieve that outcome? In what order do these things need to be done? This is the planning part.

The doing part comes with some questions as well. Are you going to do it by yourself or hire professionals? Do you know how to do it or are you going to need to learn how? How long is it going to take if you do it yourself? Do you have that much time?

The bottom line is that you need to be clear on what it is that you want to accomplish and then determine the best way to get there. Once you’ve figured this out get started building.

If you don’t get started, you’ll never get finished!

Time is the Most Valuable Commodity

Be Sure to Spend it Wisely

The topic of spending time is nothing new. It’s a topic that is written about a lot. My search online for “spending time” uncovered 289 million results. Just so you know, I didn’t read them all. 😊

As I’ve been working on setting my goals for this year, I’ve been thinking a lot about what and where I should put my focused intensity. I struggle with this. What things should be in what order.

Earlier this week I heard a Business Made Simple Daily from Donald Miller entitled How to Know What is Worth Your Time. Notice it doesn’t say “what your time is worth”, but “what is worth your time”. Donald uses the example that his truck tags had been expired for several months, but he chose to spend his time on other things he determined to be a higher priority.

This conversation about time reminded me of how in his Hero on a Mission course for goal setting and life planning starts out with writing your obituary. This form of starting with the end in mind makes the point that for each and every one of us…life is over at some point. As we race through the routines of our daily lives, we just don’t think about time from a finite aspect.

We tend to approach life as if we have all the time we want. This isn’t the case!

So, if we accept that time is limited, what do we do? Determining “what is worth my time” is a good place to start.

This is the hard part for me…there are so many great things that I want to do.

One of the problems with time is that we we’ve been given it. You’ve done nothing to earn the time you have. It isn’t like money. You can’t go earn more time. You can’t put time in the bank and save it for later. Time is being spent constantly and we take it for granted!

Once time is gone you can never get it back. Don’t waste what little you have!

Each of us spend time differently. The important thing is to determine where it is that you are going to spend yours.

Back to goal setting and how time relates.

As I have been listing out all the things I want to accomplish this year, I realized many of them were on the list last year and the year before that…and the year before that. I see a pattern here.

Maybe I’m trying to do too much?

The more I worked through the list the more lost in the fog I got. How can I figure out what is worth my time?

I decided that if I was going to do this, I needed to take the limited time thing seriously. To do this I determined that a good place to start would be to figure out how much time the things on the list would take and compare that to the amount of time available to spend.

Those of you that know me, know how I’m going to this…a spreadsheet, of course.

I’m now going to go get to work on my time budgeting spreadsheet. I’ll let you know how that goes in a future post.

Every Year is a Great Year, Some Are Just Greater Than Others

And What Makes a Year Like 2020 so Great?

Some people would argue that there was very little about the year 2020 that was great. 2020 was certainly not what I expected or had planned for. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t great.

Often, when asked how my day’s going, I will pause briefly, review the day and answer, Good, but then…

Every day is good. Some are just better than others.

While writing in my journal yesterday morning, I was enjoying the fire burning in the wood stove as I looked out at the falling snow. It was so peaceful and quiet. I don’t think life gets much better than this.

Not everyone would agree with my assessment of the snow. This is fine, we are all made different. The important thing about any situation is to look for the blessings. Just as some are not fans of cold and snow, I’m not a fan of heat and humidity. But in every situation, I work to find things to be thankful for.

The focus of this journal post was my annual life planning. Reviewing the past year and looking forward to the new year. As I thought about the coming year, I wrote…

2021 is going to be a great year, but then…every year is great. Some are just greater than others.

As I wrote this, I realized that this mindset was the same years as it was for days.

The new year is a natural time for stepping back and reviewing the past and planning for the future. It’s common for new year’s resolutions to be made and then be abandoned once the busyness of our daily lives takes over. This annual process is great, but it needs to be done more often if it’s going to be anything more than a fleeting resolution.

It needs to be done more often than just annually. It also needs done quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily. This is hard to maintain. We get into daily routines that become weekly, that become monthly, that become quarterly and the next thing you know another year has gone by.

We look up and realize we didn’t accomplish the things we wanted.

Several years back I broke my year down into these smaller increments as an effort to not loose track of my year’s goals. It worked really well until the past few years when I gradually neglected to keep it up. It’s up to me to not let this happen.

This is where my need for focused intensity comes in.

I have control over a limited number of things, but those things are directly connected to how great this new year will be.

Things I can control:

  • What I say yes to
  • What I say no to
  • My schedule
  • My attitude
  • My perspective

I’m going to be intensely focused on my plans and the choices I make in 2021. This will make it a great year. Breaking the mountain down into shovel size amounts makes it movable.

As I review 2020, what made it great?

  • I joined a mastermind group. Never before had I done anything like this. The friendships, personal growth and opportunities from this have been life changing.
  • The personal and business connections from this mastermind opened up the opportunity to take a digital marketing training that have expanded my abilities and skills for growing my business.
  • Substantial business opportunities that have and will come from these connections
  • Opportunity to build an audiovisual booth in the sanctuary at church without causing disruption to worship service during the weeks we didn’t have live worship.
  • Our Pastor’s willingness to start recording, broadcasting and sharing his messages virtually when we weren’t having live worship. (We had been trying to get him to do this for a few years.)
  • Realization of how fortunate I am to have a loving family that is close both emotionally and geographically.
  • A clearer understanding of who God made me to be and the skills I have and the opportunity to help others with them.
  • The fact that I’m alive and haven’t completed the work that I was put here to do.

2020 was a great year, but then…every year is great. Some are just greater than others.

Here’s to your having a great 2021!

Why Do I Need Focused Intensity?

And the Importance of Me Incorporating It Going Forward

The world is full of amazing, exciting and interesting things which are constantly fighting for our attention. Now more than ever we are bombarded by things requesting our time. The difficult part is sorting through them and determining which ones we should spend our time and energy on.

I constantly struggle deciding what to and what not to do. What makes one thing better than another? I realize this is an issue that ultimately comes down to me deciding for me.

We’ve all been given talents and interests, designed to fulfill a specific purpose.

The fact that we are different means there is no “one size fits all” answer to the question of what you should do. What’s important to one person isn’t to someone else. The crucial thing is that you figure out what your purpose is and are true to who you were made to be.

We are never going to be perfect this side of Heaven, but this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t constantly be working to build a better life. An important part of this is self-reflection. Looking back at things we did well and things we need to improve on.

Incorporate learning from the past as a part of your plans looking forward.

As I work on my life plans for the new year, this year I decided that I would incorporate a theme for the year. Something that will serve as a building block in the foundation of my life. Knowing that I struggle with clarity when making decisions I’ve decided that my theme for 2021 is… FOCUSED INTENSITY.

As I thought about and researched different themes, I chose FOCUSED INTENSITY because I think it’s a building block that will make my foundation stronger. It strengthens places I’m already doing well and supports the expanded building in the places where I’m not.

The existing foundation that FOCUSED INTENSITY supports:

  • Honor God in all that I do
  • Make all I can, Save all I can, Give all I can
  • Spend time wisely, there is a limited amount
  • Pay attention to detail
  • Never be satisfied with mediocrity
  • Find and maintain the balance in everything
  • Move the mountain one shovel full at a time
  • Remember that I have two ears and one mouth
  • Avoid drama
  • Be accountable
  • Take off the blinders, be more observant
  • Intentional action

What is FOCUSED INTENSITY?

Focus – is the central point of attraction, attention and activity. It is concentrating and directing one’s attention and efforts.

Intensity – is the quality or condition of being intense. It is a lot of energy, strength and concentration applied to specific activities and thoughts. It is a high degree of emotional excitement.

The purpose of this building block is to provide the needed support for building my best life.

Next week I will show you the mortar that will be used to adhere this building block of FOCUSED INTENSITY to the foundation of my life.

There Are a Limited Number of Ideas

So, What Makes One Better Than Another?

It’s less than two weeks until this year will be over. The end of one year and the start of another is often a time used for reflecting on the past and looking to the future. In last week’s post I referred to my working on goal setting and planning.

I made the process of reviewing and setting goals a part of my annual routine.

It’s on the calendar and done intentionally.

Another thing that coincides with this time of the year is inboxes being flooded with new and better ideas for goal setting and life planning. I currently know of 6-8 of these that have been bombarding my emails regularly and repeatedly. Most of them I have used or are familiar with.

One such plan is a course in Donald Miller’s Business Made Simple University called Hero on a Mission. This is a course that I went through years ago, before BMSU even existed. I still use parts of it in my current life planning system.

My friend and accountability partner Shep and I are going through the Hero on a Mission course together. Over the past several months we have gone through a variety of different types of courses and workshops. One discussion that continually comes up, regardless of the topic, is how they all seem to be the same thing.

So, what makes one better than another?

Why are there so many options if they are all so similar. And how can so many similar options be needed?

I think there are two basic reasons for all the different, yet similar options.

First, I compare it to reading the Bible. If you’ve ever read the Bible more than once, or even if you’ve just read select scriptures more than once, you probably experienced those same exact words having different meanings at different times.

I think this is just a matter of where we are in our lives when we read it. Different circumstances, problems, celebrations or experiences all contribute to seeing things from different perspectives.

This is one of the greatest things about the Bible and what makes it so timeless. It is always relevant yesterday, today and tomorrow.

I think goal setting and life planning is similar. It’s the same content over and over yet for whatever reason today it makes perfect sense. It has to do with where we are in our life journey.

The second thing is that we all connect differently. We could have heard something ten times before and then like magic it makes sense. We will not understand it when one person says it and then when heard from someone else…poof…it’s clear as can be. It comes down to who is presenting it.

There is a limited number of ideas.

When it comes to goal setting and life planning the most important part is to do something.

The Hero on a Mission would be a great place to start, but if this isn’t the right one for you, try something different. Or mix and match, using different parts from different plans, like I have.

Don’t just drift through life letting it happen to you. Knowing where you’re headed and what you want to accomplish. Take intentional action and have a great 2021

An Unexpected, Modern-Day Twist to The Christmas Carol

It’s Never Too Late to Build A Better Life

An update of the December 29, 2018 post.

As I’m working on goal setting and planning for the new year, I’ve been reviewing the past several years. Looking back can be disappointing and discouraging if things haven’t gone as well as you had planned. And this year certainly didn’t go as planned

While thinking about places I fell short and opportunities I missed or ignored, it caused me to think about the Hallmark Christmas movie, “A Shoe Addict’s Christmas”. In this movie a woman, Noelle, accidently gets locked in a department store where she works. While waiting to be rescued a quirky woman, Charlie, appears. Over the next few days Charlie, a guardian angel, helps Noelle rediscover the life she has been avoiding, by visiting Christmases past present and future.

We all have situations that we can look back on and wish we had done something different. We can’t change the past, but what we do today will affect the future.

You may have heard the story (or some variation of it) that Charlie told Noelle in the movie. It goes like this, there was man who was out in the snow and someone came by in a sleigh and offered him a ride. The man refused. He said, “God will take care of me”. Later as the snow continued to get deeper another man in a sleigh came by and offered to help. Once again, the man refused. “God will take care of me.” The next time a sleigh came by the snow was up to the man’s chin. For a third time the man declined the help and said, “God will take care of me”. Then the man is in Heaven and asking God why He didn’t save him. God answers, “I sent three sleighs and you ignored them all”.

Too often we ignore the sleighs that God sends us.

As long as we’re still alive, even if we’ve missed or ignored sleighs in the past, it’s never too late to use the next one. It is up to us to decide. There is a balance of faith and doing. Dave Ramsey says to “Pray like it all depends on God but work like it all depends on me.” We need to take of the blinders off and be more observant of the sleighs. “God moves mountains to create the opportunity of His choosing. It is up to you to be ready to move yourself.”, “The Traveler’s Gift”, Andy Andrews.

If I don’t want to get buried in the snow, I need to shovel what I can when I can and take the sleighs when they come along. I was presented some sleighs this past year and took them.

Learn from the past, look to the future, live in the present.

Watch for the sleighs and make this year the best year ever.

There’s Enough Time to Do Everything You Should

You Can Do Anything You Want, You Just Can’t Do Everything

There are so many things to do and never enough time to do them all. This a common battle. The problem isn’t time it’s the long list of things we’re attempting to do.

We’ve been given enough time to do everything we are supposed to. God built the world and everything in it in six days. We’ve been given those same six days. Granted, building the world is a lot…we just need to remember that we’re not God.

The key is getting clarity about what we are and aren’t supposed to do.

Deciding what things we’re supposed do is the real fight. Especially for people with a servant’s heart. There are so many important and valuable things that need to be done and we want to do them all.

It’s not our responsibility to do everything.

I struggle with knowing what I should do and what to say no to, but I continually improve. My system for planning and scheduling is huge for helping me with this. Over the past six weeks I’ve written about how I schedule and plan what I will do.

  • How to Get Control of Your Life – There’s no simple, one size fits all, magic app for tracking things and budgeting time. You need to find or design a system that works for you.
  • Writing it Down Makes it More Real – It is easy to find ourselves drifting. We need a clear path to a target. When it is written down, I’m more accountable to myself.
  • How I Use Outlook to be Better Organized – Allotting time to things that are on the list gives a time parameter each task will need. It increases the focus for completing them and gives a visual of the progress.
  • Putting the Right Pieces in the Right Places – Even though multi-tasking has been a popular idea; I would argue that we can’t do focused work on more than one thing at a time. Pick one piece and focus on putting it in place.

The real struggle with scheduling and planning is in prioritizing.

This is the tricky part. What is the most important thing I should do and when? The way I’ve been able to determine this is to ask my CEO (God) and board of directors (the people close to me that I trust). If you will ask, you will get clarity. Satan loves keeping us confused.

The more unclear we are about our direction the less we accomplish.

Clarity is a process, not the magic snap of fingers. Opening our mind to the right directions and taking action moves us toward achieving the things that we were put here for. This is not an easy process, but one that’s worth all the effort required.

You have plenty of time to do everything you’re supposed to do. Not everything you want to do. Having a system for planning and scheduling will make the process easier and relieve some of the pressure.

You’ll Never Get the Things You Want Done…Without Being Reminded

How “Outlook Tasks” Can Help You Accomplish This

Organization can be difficult to achieve. One monkey wrench that regularly gets thrown into the organizational machine is forgetting things. This can be costly when it’s a meeting with a customer or a deadline for a proposal that’s missed.

Too many things bouncing around in our head at one time, makes us more likely to forget things.

Over the past several weeks we’ve discussed the system I use for scheduling my time and organizing my tasks. There were two main focuses.

The reasons for having a system –

The tools I use –

Now we’ll look at the third tool – Outlook Tasks. This is a separate function from the calendar in Outlook. On the surface, using Tasks in Outlook seems redundant to having lists in OneNote.

I shared how I use OneNote for collecting and sharing information. It is great for this. It’s easier to move things around when reviewing and prioritizing lists. Not to mention you can draw, record video, record audio, and a whole lot of other things that you can’t do in Outlook Tasks.

Next was how I used Outlook Calendar to block out and schedule my time. The benefits of a calendar, whether digital or written is allotting time for tasks. One thing written calendars and Tasks in OneNote don’t do is remind you of upcoming appointments and things on the to do list that need done.

Reminders are the game changer.

In Outlook, both calendar events and tasks can have reminders scheduled…there’s some reminders now. As I writing this a reminder alarm sounded and a window popped up on the screen. Now it’s up to me to determine what to do with these reminders.

One is a recurring meeting with myself coming up in 15 minutes (snoozed it until 5 minutes before). Two are action list reminders (snoozed for 15 minutes). Any of these reminders can be snoozed for a specific period of time or dismissed to be rescheduled later.

When I’m in the middle of doing focused work like preparing proposals for construction projects or writing a blog post, etc. It’s easy for me to lose track of time and forget things. Reminders help prevent that.

Outlook Tasks will connect with the other tools in my scheduling system.

All the tools in this system have specific functions that only they serve. At the same time, they all support the other and work together. (There’s the reminder again. Am I going to snooze them again or take a break from writing? I’m going to pause my writing and come back to it. I have another meeting coming up in 30 minutes.)

Here I am, back to writing. I only have a short amount of time to write before I need to go home to watch the Camping World Truck race that’s on this evening. Another thing that’s scheduled on the calendar.

I can set reminders in Outlook Tasks to be one and done or recurring at specific times and days. I can embed links in the tasks directly to action lists in OneNote. This way when a task reminder comes up, I can open it, click on the link and go directly to OneNote to that specific list.

I know all that scheduling and planning can seem overwhelming and it can be. You can decide if or how much scheduling and planning you will do. Not doing anything will leave you drifting through life with no clear destination. Having a system in place with reminders both for prioritizing and allotting time, will help you get things done.

Are you going to be in control of your life or is it going to be in control of you?

Putting the Right Pieces in the Right Places

Scheduling is Like a Puzzle…and Who Doesn’t Love Puzzles?

Scheduling and planning can be a daunting task, but don’t have to be. Each of us have control over what we do and when we’ll do it. I’ve been writing about scheduling over the past several weeks.

I started out with how to get control of your life. Next, we opened the tool box and looked at OneNote and how I use it. Then I pointed out the increased likelihood of hitting the target by writing things down. Last week I wrote about being intentional and how I use Outlook to be better organized.

This all fits together like the pieces of a puzzle.

Attitude is key to enjoying puzzles. If we approach them with dread, they won’t be much fun. However, if we look at them as a challenge and an opportunity to learn and do better…the experience will be much more enjoyable.

I’ve started really focusing on being more intentionally productive six or eight years ago. I think it started shortly after God smacked me upside the head, I don’t know for sure. What I do know was that I was tired of not getting the things I wanted to, done.

I discovered that time, like a puzzle had fixed parameters. There were a fixed number of pieces, a predetermined picture of what it would look like when it was finished, etc. The question was how to get all the pieces to fit. Once I began to see the similarities, I’ve began to develop…

a system that allows me to be productive with less stress.

A great life example of puzzles is a group activity that I had my team of three assistants do. At a monthly team meeting I dumped 300 jigsaw puzzle pieces out on the table and asked them to put them together. They had no picture of what the finished puzzle would be. They just had a pile of pieces.

As they began sorting and spreading the pieces, they realized there were twelve corners. They continued separating the pieces and finding the edges and sorting by similarities of color and design. They continued this process until they had the three separate 100 piece puzzles finished.

There were several lessons learned that day that correlate with scheduling:

  • Every piece has a place in the puzzle, but some have higher priorities than others. Some things have deadlines or are scheduled meetings that involve others. You can decide what pieces are the corner pieces and can’t be moved around.
  • There are a fixed number of pieces per puzzle. Trying to squeeze those 300 pieces into one puzzle wasn’t going to work. The pieces were looked at, determinations were made and they were sorted accordingly. There are a fixed number of minutes in each day. There are a limited number of things you can do in 24 hours. If you try to put in more things than will fit it just won’t work.
  • It doesn’t matter how fast you want the puzzle finished; you can’t put the piece in any faster than is physically possible. Things often take longer than we think or want. If you haven’t finished and you’re out of time. You either have to quit and come back or reschedule the next thing. You can decide.
  • A big pile of pieces can be overwhelming. Quit thinking about the big pile and just focus on one piece at a time. Don’t let your to do list overwhelm you. Prioritize it and work on the first next thing.

The key to unstressed productivity is knowing yourself and being intentional with your plan.

Getting the pieces of your life to fit into place is like doing a puzzle. It is only stressful if you let it be. You have control over how to put your puzzle together. Remember to have fun with your puzzle…it’s up to you.