9 tips to commute like you mean it {productivity}

What do you do with the time it takes you to travel between home and work? Or going into town? For most people it is simply a means of getting from point A to point B, and little thought or productivity goes into it.

Yet it is by now well-known that your commuting time offers a vast treasure of opportunities for your day to pack more punch. Your choice: you can zone out in traffic – whether you use a car or public transport – or you can engage in a meaningful way.

For me, public transport is fortunately a fantastic option – and a welcome one! – and I prefer it because it frees me up to focus on other things while getting to my destination. These suggestions work best for that. Many of them can still be adapted for using your own transport as well – always of course bearing in mind that safety and alertness come first.

  1. Educate yourself: Read a book (if you use public transport and are one of those lucky folk who can read in a moving vehicle) or listen to an audio book. Those minutes add up when you use them to educate yourself! If you spend an hour on the road five days of the week, can you imagine how much you will have empowered yourself by the end of a year!?
  2. Plan & review: Use the time to plan your day if you are going into the office, or review your day when you go home. The advantage of this is that you walk into the office knowing what you want to achieve that day, and you walk into your home having already processed the stresses of the work day. Make a voice recording for yourself if you need to.
  3. Pray: Use your commute for prayer time. Yes, you can’t go as deeply into intercession as you would have if you were in your inner room, and this is not meant to replace that private time. As an addition to that time of worship on your knees, though, commuting prayer time offers marvellous scope for bringing the concerns of all your loved ones and the world to God. Or simply talking to Him, the way your kids used to talk to you when they were small and sitting in the back of the car. When I was driving more regularly, prayer time was one of the two things which kept me from road rage.
  4. Listen to music: I mean, really listen. This is the other thing which kept me calm in traffic. For me, spiritual music worked most especially well. But there are days you really just need that immersion into classical music or some good 80s music or the Beach Boys. Whatever you can immerse yourself in and which touches your spirit. If you want to make a challenge out of it, then set yourself the goal to listen to everything Chopin has ever composed, or Nickelback, or Hans Zimmer … whatever floats your boat!
  5. Create: If you are creatively minded, your commute can even be a time in which you work on stories or blog posts or Toastmasters speeches. Even if you can’t take notes, running through a first or second draft in your mind will mean that once you are at your desk, it will flow so much easier out of your pen.
  6. Memorize: This goes for practising that Toastmasters speech or work presentation you have to give, and also for learning a language or Scripture verse. Whether you are doing it out loud alone in your car or sotto voce on the train, this is one of the best stretches of dedicated time you are going to find to hone your skills. Why not make use of it instead of having to fit it into your day later?
  7. Meditate: Using public transport, this is one of the times I know I can dedicate to a short 20 or 30 minute meditation. There are so many guided meditation apps for Android and iPhone that it is the easiest thing in the world to pop in your head phones, close your eyes, and just become mindful and fall back into yourself.
  8. Notice: Remember when you used to play I Spy With My Little Eye on those long holiday trips as a kid? Have you ever set yourself the goal to notice something new on your trip to the store or to the office every day?
  9. Relax: Sometimes you need to create a little bit of space in your day, too, and the greatest gift you can give yourself is to not follow any of these suggestions, but simply relax, simply BE.

How do you use all the time you spend travelling?

Art by the wonderful Pascal Campion

Art by the wonderful Pascal Campion


piggybacking {productivity}

Last week I wrote about viewing tasks as full cycles.

Once you have that skill under your belt, there is an additional way in which this can benefit you: by expanding the cycle.

Adding an additional small task into a cycle is one of the easiest ways to build good habits. It is called piggybacking. You take something you want to make into a habit and piggyback it onto an already established habit.

Let’s use making a cup of tea as an example of what a full cycle plus piggyback add-on would look like:

  • Fill kettle, put teabag, sugar and spoon into cup
  • Boil water 
  • Pour water, steep
  • Remove teabag, add milk
  • Place milk back into fridge, spoon into sink, throw teabag away
  • Enjoy tea
  • Rinse cup and put into dishwasher

That is what constitutes a full cycle for tea-making, for me. The diamonds mark the two opportunities in this cycle to add something into it if you want to build a stronger habit. While the water is boiling, you have a few minutes at your disposal where you are probably just hanging around in the kitchen. This is the ideal window for a piggyback addition to the cycle. It could be wiping a counter, decluttering a shelf in the fridge, doing 10 wall push-ups, memorizing a verse of Scripture or a new word in a language you are learning. Or perhaps this is the time you take to connect with someone via a short note from your phone or tablet. The options are as varied as your imagination, needs and goals.

And likewise, while the tea is steeping, you have another small window of opportunity to piggyback a bonus habit onto the cycle. Taking vitamins, taking out the trash, taking something out of the freezer for dinner, updating your shopping list, whatever you can fit into that small window that needs to become a habit.

If you continue focusing on this, soon it will become completely natural for you to make that part of the tea cycle. Or wherever you see the opportunity to creatively make your day and your life easier. I find it easier to keep the bathroom clean since I have resolved to clean something small whenever I go in there. Instead of spending a dedicated amount of time on bathroom cleaning, whenever I visit the restroom I do one small thing: brushing the toilet, wiping the mirror, wiping the counters or windowsill. It means that the bathroom always stays under control and because the whole cleaning routine is broken up into small, widely distributed tasks, it does a lot to keep me free from overwhelm.

Need another example of this skill? Resolve to never leave your car without removing trash or (whatever does not belong there) from it. And when you have nothing left that needs removing, there is still the option to quickly wipe a rag over your dashboard or one of your windows at a time. I even do this while waiting at the stop light. This constitutes a major victory for someone who used to have a car that needed to be hidden from everybody I knew because it was such a dump!

Once you mind starts working in this way, the world opens up to you: you find ways and means to make so much of your day easier and more productive. And that, to me, is just one of the greatest joys possible!

What can you piggyback onto an existing full cycle habit?

Artist unknown

Artist: Leonard Leslie Brooke

words and presence

Slowly through the silence the words come trickling back. Words you thought had forever flown from you and you would have to sweep the Porch one last time and then board it up. But there they are, confident visitors to your back door, so confident that they belong there, they don’t even appear hesitant at all. Or penitent for their absence.

They simply are.

You are almost afraid that any sudden movements would scare them away and they would scatter like squirrels or elves. But for all their willful and incomprehensible other-worldliness, they don’t scare that easily, either.

You could learn from such confidence, such belongingness.

They have presence, these waywords words returning home.

Like him.

Confidence you could never have instilled in him yourself, you being so anxious and hesitant and trying-to-be-invisible-and-out-of-the-way. He walks with presence.

And your fidgeting, your duck-and-diving and feeling overwhelmed in the crowds, frustrate him.

His grace floods over his temper, though, when finally he, the child, teaches you, the parent: ‘You have to walk with presence. Then people will make way for you, not the other way around.’

So young. And he knows this thing you never learned.

And you know: If ever there were any doubt that you have a greater parent, a Father in heaven – in heart! – this is the evidence: that your child may be fathered and gently taught to walk with presence when you didn’t own such wisdom yourself.

He walks with presence.

And he teaches you to walk with presence, too. To trust more in The Presence – holiest of all! – that you walk in every day.

So you look at these present words, sitting so comfortably on your Porch, as if they belong there, and you smile. Because you recognize this: It is right.

And shoulders a little straighter, a little more confident, you welcome back the words, knowing they have come to the right place. They have come to play with you, to teach you … and you accept their confident gift.




warrior life

We have a choice.

We can be the struggling ones, hardly believing that we will make it, succumbing to weakness and temptation again and again. Falling, flailing and failing.

Or we can be the warriors, living proud lives of consequence, believing in ourselves, believing we can make a difference, believing we are stronger than weakness and temptation. Fighting, accepting and always moving forward.

I know which one I choose.

Does a warrior life mean that you never fall? No, you’ll fall, believe me. But you’ll get up again, brush yourself off, and keep focus on your goal and destination.

Does a warrior life mean that you are beyond temptation and weakness? No, they will still enter your life – in fact, if they’re on to you, they might truly hound you. But a warrior knows that life isn’t a carnival – it’s a fight between good and evil. A warrior is prepared for whatever the day might throw at him or her. So what do warriors do?

  • They plan every evening what they want to accomplish the next day.
  • They prepare for the battle by visualizing the successes they will experience that day, because a battle won in the mind is already won out there.
  • And at the end of the day they review what they did well and what they could have done better, and HOW they will do it better the next day.

Be it living healthier, achieving more at work, making more of a difference in your family or community, it all boils down to this: To being a warrior. To seeing yourself as the strong one, the one who can make things happen, the one who is able!

Image source: lotr.wikia.com

Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

five things i learned on vacation

Well, folks, I am back from holiday, and it is pretty strange to start the new year only now, in the second half of January.

The last evening in the Drakensberg we saw the most awesome rainbow. EVER!

The time away from all the normal rush and running about was very welcome – and interesting. I want to share with you what I learned while on vacation.

  • Zoom out. I’m a macro photographer by preference, there is no doubt about it. Nothing delights me as much as zooming in on something and really picking up the detail. But I learned that sometimes I need to look at the bigger picture as well. And strangely, this does not only apply to photography. On my way to the beautiful Drakensberg, I thought I was super prepared for the trip into the unknown: I had my GPS, I double-checked the route on Google Maps … and still I got so badly lost, I ended up driving the ENTIRE day to finally reach my destination. Google Maps took me through some deep rural areas where a single white female had better not drive alone. And the GPS got it wrong completely, because it did not want to accept the seconds I wanted to type into the coordinates. Turns out being out by a couple of seconds can make you end up almost 300 km off-course! It was the sort of adventure Hobbits try to avoid. And my brother – bless him – observed that I sometimes need to zoom out a bit, look at the map and see the waypoints, which would have helped, because my instincts were screaming at me the whole day that something was wrong. Lesson learned and internal zoom disengaged. (At least, that’s what I’ll be trying to remember!)
  • Don’t be afraid of the MANUAL setting. I learned a LOT about photography from my good friend, and finally made that jump into the next dimension where I set my camera on manual and started playing around with the F-stop, shutter speed and ISO. I am so very, very, very far away still from being a good photographer, but you know what? It was utterly empowering to let go of Intelligent Auto and trust myself to make mistakes. And make mistakes I did – and still do. It can be highly frustrating, let me be honest. But learning that the world does not end when I allow myself to fall down the rabbit hole, that’s kinda awesome. And that most definitely applies to life outside photography as well. Take life into your own hands, stop running on auto the whole time, make mistakes, and delight in learning!
  • Inner confidence ripples outwards. We went horse riding during the week in the Drakensberg, which was a first for me. My horse’s name was Apple – actually he might really have been a pony. And stubborn as a rock. He went this way, then that, sometimes he stopped dead in his tracks, and sometimes he started to canter … without me doing ANYTHING to communicate with him. After the hour’s ride, arriving back at the stables, he rushed up to the fence and tried to rub me off against it. I still have the bruise on my leg. And it was then that I realized that I had been communicating with him. I had been so hesitant, so ill at ease, this pony knew exactly who was boss. HE was! It is just as the Dog Whisperer says: You have to have a calm, authoritative inner confidence when you work with animals (and actually with people, too). If my bum weren’t so sore after the ride, I would have gone back the next day to do it over, this time with more confidence! I’m certainly going to remember this lesson, though.
  • Sometimes effects take time to reveal themselves. Think carefully what you do, because the after-effects may only show up later. Halfway during the horse ride, I stripped off my jacket and rode for 30 minutes with bare arms and shoulders in the sun. I thought that was too short a time to get sunburnt. Ha! I got burnt. Pretty badly. But here’s the thing: the sunburn didn’t show up after the ride. And I thought I was safe. But then I developed a delicate blush that evening. And 24 hours later, the blush turned into lobsteresque hues … and 48 hours later I looked like I was on FIRE! I don’t know why I develop sunburn so S-L-O-W-L-Y lately but let me tell you, after this holiday I have finally accepted that just because I look and feel fine after being in the sun, doesn’t mean that everything is okay. Wait 2 days to see the full effect! It’s like that with life too, sometimes, isn’t it? You do something and the results only show themselves some time later. This can be good, and it can be bad, depending on what you do. Patience is needed for the good, and awareness is needed for the bad. Just sayin’.
  • This might be as good as it gets, so you might as well start enjoying it. No, this is not something negative I’ve learned, not at all, though I can certainly see that the glass-half-empty folk might interpret it that way. To me, it is something vastly positive I learned! I arrived at my first holiday destination – the coast – extremely tired. 2011 was a demanding year. And I was in need of some REST. Due to various factors outside my control, my holiday turned out differently than expected, and I quickly realized that REST was not going to be as high on the agenda as I had hoped. I rebelled against it some, but in the end I simply accepted that reality differed from the plans I had had. And the moment I accepted it and decided to run with what I had, that’s the moment I started enjoying it. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I think back with longing to the two weeks of holiday I had. Did I rest? Nope, not that much. But was my spirit refreshed? Youbetcha! Am I thankful? More than you will ever know!

I don’t know about you, but I call that much learning a successful holiday!

And boy, am I looking forward to not only applying these lessons, but also learning more in the year to come.

Can't wait to go back again!