Just Say No

Your Packed Schedule

You are a busy person. That just seems to be the way it is in the culture we’re living and breathing in. I’ll even bet you’re busier than you even realize, and that your job creeps into parts of your day that used to be sacred. We have email, meetings, email, packed work schedules, email, kids’ schedules, email, and then you have to try to figure out when to work out, do your hobbies, or just get away for a breather. This, my friends, is all too much.

As I’ve tried to diagnose the problem more clearly, I realized that it comes down to how easy it is for people to have direct access to you at all times. The barrier to entry is just so low. It used to be that a person had to wait until you were near a phone (the kind that was attached to the wall with a cord), write you a letter, or find a way to see you face-to-face in order to gain your attention.

Now, all it takes is a text, a tweet, Slack, an email, or a Facebook message, and you’re working on a project that you had no clue you’d be working on. Time to say goodbye to the carefully planned day that you thought you’d have.

Being unreachable is a thing of the past. Welcome to a day when anyone and everyone can put tasks on your to-do list from anywhere in the world, at any time of day, at the press of a “send” button.

It’s All Too Much

Admit it. It is all too much. And now that you’ve admitted it, you have to decide what you’re going to do about it. My suggestion? Learn to say “no” or “not yet” to others, and create spans of time where you are not accessible, times when you can put your head down and crank away at the important tasks at hand.

I know that it’s tough to say “no” or “not yet” to others, but learning how to prioritize what you need to do is an important tool to develop in today’s busy culture. It’s easy to get wrapped up in not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings at the expense of the important work you really need to accomplish.

When I do less-pressing work during daylight hours, my family reaps the consequences of me trying to keep up during the evening hours.

How can you navigate all of this better?

  • Create generic email drafts ahead of time. When the time for saying no arises, simply drop the drafted text into your email. Don’t write it out of emotion. When we spew out an emotional response, we usually have to follow it up with an apology and the situation is clouded with angst. Keep this message simple with something like:
    • “Hey, thank you for wanting to meet face to face; I appreciate it so much. Could we continue this conversation via email, though? I may be able to address your concerns more quickly.”
    • “Thank you for your request. While I won’t be able to get to this today, I’ll put this on my to-do list and get back with you by the end of the week.”
  • Say no to meetings you know you’re just going to hand off anyway. Make the connection without doing the transitional meeting. I’ve been so bad about this, but it’s okay to do this, because you’re saving time for everyone involved. Saying, “I may not be the best person to ask. Let me connect you with someone who can better help with this,” shows that you’ve given the situation some thought and are expediting the solution.
  • Block out spans of hours where you will close your email app, put your phone on do not disturb, put your headphones in, and crank away on the right work at the right time.
  • Straight up, be honest with people. I’m frequently contacted by people about sales, trainings, or partnerships. It’s easy to string a person along in the name of Protecting Their Feelings when you already know it’s not going to happen. Tell a person the truth, even if it’s difficult—they’ll appreciate it more. Remember, the person on the other end of that call or email is probably just as busy as you.
  • Have a plan in place that allows you to say yes when you really want to say yes. This includes a plan for saying no when you need to say no. If your schedule is full of the “no” crowd, you’ve filled up the space that would be better used by helping the people you’d like to help. We all know this, but time is limited. You only have a finite amount of it. I love my family too much to fill my nights and weekends by saying yes to more unnecessary work and no to having fun with my wife and kids.

Time to Take Action

Where do you need to say “no” or “not yet” more frequently? How will you build in uninterrupted times to get the right things done?

Have questions? Email or tweet at me and I’ll do my best to help you get focused on doing the right work at the right time.

My Return to Fiction

The Realization

When I started working at Frontline Church in 2010, I knew I’d have to catch up on some serious reading. I came from a church background that mainly lived off of the Mardel Top Ten list. The men and women in leadership at my current church job have reading lists that might have topped Mardel’s Top Ten list in the 1500’s.

So, for the last ten years I’ve been packing in the deep reading. Calvin, Luther, Augustine of Hippo were some of the old guys. The modern crew includes guys like Storms, Keller, Stott, Packer, Sproul, and Piper, to name a few. Thankfully, I love reading and I’m a fast reader (not to toot my own horn too much) and I’ve really enjoyed the journey the Lord has had me on.

Sabbatical

In the summer of 2018 I was able to go on an extended sabbatical. Thankfully, the leadership of Frontline sees the importance of taking much needed physical and spiritual rest and recuperation after many years of solid labor.

During this break I spent a lot of time in my Bible. I woke up and read on my front porch, I studied on my bed, I even tempted fate and read the Bible on my Kindle in the bathtub. When you don’t have to get up and go to work, you end up have quite a few hours during the day available to you.

A Love for Fiction

After cleaning my garage out for the second time, I decided to head to the Kindle Store to figure out what more I could read and that’s where I rediscovered my love for fiction. Give me a solid thriller with a touch of mystery woven throughout and a bit of a love story and I’m all in.

Over the last year, I’ve been treating myself to a nice fiction read on a near monthly basis. Yes, I still have a lot of theological development to do, but I’m trying to keep a two to one rhythm rolling (two books for development to one fiction read). Why? Well, I find that I’ve had a few positive benefits that I really wasn’t expecting.

The Benefits of Reading Fiction

  • I sleep better after reading at night instead of watching TV, there’s no doubt about it.
  • Reading keeps me connected to my heart. I rarely cry or feel the ups and downs of any real emotion when watching TV or a movie. When I read books there seems to be a real connection to my feelings and this has a positive impact on how I interact with family, friends, and coworkers. A Rex that is tender is a much better one to be around. Feel free to ask my wife about that fact.
  • The stress of daily living is high, reading takes me out of that mess and I can tell that the stress is kept at bay. As a matter of fact, recent research shows that reading can reduce stress levels by 68%. That’s more than listening to music, drinking tea, and even taking a walk.
  • Reading keeps your brain in tiptop shape and can keep future deterioration at bay. I feel like I’m thinking more clearly, my memory is stronger, and I’m learning new words all the time.
  • Finally, I’m just so happy when I get to crack open a fun new read. Just today, I finished Odd Thomas and experienced the highs and lows of the final couple of chapters and am now excited to get into the second book.

Conclusion

If you haven’t read anything longer than a long-winded friend’s Facebook post in a while, pick up a good book. See if you observe any of the benefits that I’ve been seeing. When you do find that next great read, be sure to share it with me on Twitter. I’ll pick it up!

Therefore, you should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, your name be honored as holy. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

Matthew 6:9-13

Renewing Your Mind | How to Pray According to God’s Word

I’ve elevated my study of the Bible over the last few years, but my prayer life is a place I have room to grow. The Renewing Your Mind Podcast had a great teaching by the late great R.C. Sproul today unpacking the impact of Luther on his prayer life.

I’ve been in pastoral ministry for over 20 years and have not heard the story of Luther’s barber asking him how to pray. Yes, Luther’s master barber that the whole town called Master Peter. The little book that Luther wrote him is so good and I’m going to work Luther’s plan into my prayer time. It’s gold.

Download A Simple Way to Pray (For Master Peter the Barber), it’s a quick read that could impact your whole life. Additionally, hit the title of the post above as it’s a link to the podcast episode from Renewing Your Mind.

Book Review – The Changeling: Victor LaValle

★★★★★

I didn’t know what I was getting into, I went into this read totally blind. I googled “top books of 2017” because I figured my library would have plenty of copies to read. I was right and I wasn’t disappointed one bit.

This is what you get when you cross an old fairytale set in modern times with a touch of horror, written by a man who is a real poet. That’s some mashup.

The first third of the book I was all in. The rest of the book was exciting enough to trade sleep for the conclusion.

I wish I could tell you more, but going in blind is the way to do it. Here’s all I’ll give you before you go and buy it, or check it out, like I did.

When Apollo Kagwa’s father disappeared, all he left his son were strange recurring dreams and a box of books stamped with the word IMPROBABILIA. Now Apollo is a father himself—and as he and his wife, Emma, are settling into their new lives as parents, exhaustion and anxiety start to take their toll. Apollo’s old dreams return and Emma begins acting odd. Irritable and disconnected from their new baby boy, at first Emma seems to be exhibiting signs of postpartum depression, but it quickly becomes clear that her troubles go even deeper. Before Apollo can do anything to help, Emma commits a horrific act—beyond any parent’s comprehension—and vanishes, seemingly into thin air.

The Changeling on Amazon

Old and New

This is me, I’m old. This is my family, we’re still kinda new as Stella is only eight. This is my first post on a new space I’ve carved out on an old, by modern tech standards, blogging platform.

I have an old itch that needs to be scratched and that’s putting new content out. Now, this new content won’t be great, let’s just get that out there now. It will, however, be moderately interesting if you like photography, theology, productivity, sports (Texas Rangers, Dallas Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks, OKC Dodgers), and my family.

Documenting my life and thoughts has actually been a thing for a while, but I always reset. It’s time for that reset, but let’s take a look at the past iterations.

  • Scroll back in time on this site, it’ll take you as far back as 2014.
  • My original Tumblr – Goes back to 2007 and encapsulates some good and bad times in the life of a blogger and a lot of photos from my art show days. The further you go back in time the stupider it gets.
  • The ProjectOKC Blog – Chronicles the rise and fall of a non-profit I ran from 2009-2011. A social network for good. Theology was all over the place as I transitioned out of a church job and into the non-profit world.

Spending the evening looking over these old posts has been fun for me, not as fun for you, but it’s time for me to move forward and start something new. Maybe it can be fun for all of us from time to time.

Say “Productive Past Presidents” Three Times Fast

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What is up friends and family? We’re having a great day over at the Maven Mansion, all 350 square feet of it. It’s a beautiful day, the birds are chirping, and construction is happening everywhere. Anyone’s city relate to that?

So, today we’re going to get some productivity tips from past presidents. Shoot, we’ve only had a handful of past presidents in the whole scheme of this global history thing. Now, this is an elite bunch, only one of these makes it in every four years, the run-up to becoming president can be a brutal sprint. These people have to try to figure out how to balance work, home, stress, and all that comes with the pressures of being one of the most public figures in the world.

This is the Maven Show and my name is Rex Barrett. I want you to learn new things and enjoy your whole life. And HEY, if you’re listening to this on Anchor, hit that applause button if you like what you heard. If you like the segment hit that plus sign and echo this content so that others can enjoy it too. If you’re listening to this as a podcast, tell a friend, give a review on iTunes, it really does help this little production get noticed.

And at that, let’s get to the dang thing today.

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TJ’s Canon of Conduct

First up we have good old Thomas Jefferson who had his “Canon of Conduct” a legit list that he followed and shared with his children, grandchildren, and shoot, anyone who’d listen. You can actually see handwritten examples of his sending these thoughts to people. Of his “Dozen Canons of Conduct in Life” he penned, we’ll take a look at the final one, everyone knows you save the best for last and this one is dang important. I moved the best to first because I’m generous like that.

He said:

“When angry, count 10, before you speak; if very angry, 100.”

I love simple quotes that have more depth than at first glance. On face value, you can read it as don’t reply when you’re angry ‘cuz what you say will be mean and/or stupid. And, yeah, that is a very true statement. I know that when I’m initially upset, even if it’s a person sharing something in my best interest – that would be helpful to me if I’m offended I respond like a wounded animal. You ever had a dog with an injury that you’re trying to help out? Yeah, they’re not so nice are they. At the end of the day, we all have wounds we respond out of, but that’s a topic for another day.

A deeper look into this quote says that if you count it out and take that pause, you not only don’t respond like a jerk, it allows a totally different part of your brain to interject. The calm part of your brain that allows you to not just ignore the statement, but answer the apart from the anger. To answer in a way that is helpful and not hurtful. Not just not hurtful.

People, do like Jefferson recommends. Don’t reply in emotion. Reply after the pause.

A favorite scripture of mine is in James 1:19. “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” Now that is super helpful.

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Eisenhower’s Smart Friends

Eisenhower said,

“I not only use all the brains I have, but all I can borrow.”

Dang, that’s good. If you’re going to borrow some brain power, it’d better be from people who are smarter, better, and view the world in a different way compared to you. I think it’s easy to think, “if I could just have five of me, I could take over the world.” But, that’s really not true. You’re still limited by YOU. You’re always going to bring you and your ideas and thoughts to the table.

Who you hang out with impacts your personal success. Jim Rohn says “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” That means that the people you hang out with affect how you act and think. Think about how many of the hobbies, political opinions, views of life you share with your closest circle of friends. I’d posit that it’s not just because we’re drawn to like people, though that is true, it’s also because we influence one another.

What should we do with this? It might mean you need to surround yourself with some more successful people than you’re currently hanging with. If you’re surrounded by downers, I’m betting your view of life is starting to drop to theirs.

Eisenhower said,

“Always try to associate yourself with and learn as much as you can from those who know more than you do, who do better than you, who see more clearly than you.”

Take a minute and think through who you’re surrounded by. Invite those smarter ones in a bit closer. Let them have more input and say in your life. You’ll be better because of it. Create a list of people in your broader circle and think through who you’d like to be around more often. Invite them to coffee, pay for it, and pick their brains. Draw the smarter people into the influential places of your life. You’ll be better because of it.

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The Habit that Multiple Past Presidents Share?

There are few things we can do that both expend energy and cause us to have more of it. No, it’s not sleeping, sleep is recharging our energy banks. Eating is filling our tanks back up. Creative outlets are close, they can be productive and charge our tanks. For me that’s photography. But nothing produces more energy through we are expending energy quite like exercise.

I’ve ramped up my steps and feel the energy and strength increased by the end of the day. My mental sharpness is stronger. My ability to go to bed just a touch later and not feel tired the next morning is increased.

Yeah, that habit the multiple past presidents share is working out. Life Hacker shares that,

“A large number of presidents have made it a point to add exercise into their daily routine. Obama planned for an hour of exercise a day, Clinton was an avid jogger, Teddy Roosevelt loved tennis, jogging, and boxing. George W. Bush was also an avid tennis player and jogger, while Jimmy Carter was a cross-country runner. John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan were all swimmers. Time and time again we’ve seen that exercise is as important for physical health as it is mental health, and in the stressful position of president, that seems to hold true.”

Get off your butt. Get moving. Burn that stress and strain out of your life. Shoot, if Obama represents the average amount a president works, that means they’re in the office 10 hours a day. They work from their residence three hours a day. And guess what, the nation doesn’t stop running on the weekend, so they power through Saturday and Sundays too. That’s a heck of a lot longer than any of us probably work. If Obama can find an hour in there somewhere, I probably can too.

What did we learn today?

  • So what did we learn today? Three productivity tips from past presidents:
    • One- Don’t reply out of anger
    • Two – Surround yourself with people smarter than you
    • Three – Get off your butt
  • Whew. Only three tiny things, but I’m betting there’s a whole heck of a lot to try to apply here…
  • I’m posting a transcript of this podcast onto my website at http://Maven.Show with links to even more productivity tips we can learn from past presidents…
  • If this is the first Maven Podcast you’ve listened to, please look up past episodes. We’ve covered how to make cold brew, how to avoid burnout, productivity apps, comic books, several that cover the best in fast food, and the top ways to get your caffeine fix. All these episodes exist to help us learn new thing so we can enjoy our whole lives.
  • Do you have any thoughts, questions, or comments on what we talked about today? It’s easy to reach out…
  • Download the Anchor App in the App Store and call in to tell me about it. I might just publish your thoughts.
  • What to chat on Twitter? Find me @RexBOKC. Head to the Facebook page for the Maven Show at https://www.facebook.com/mavenshow and coming soon, The Maven Show on YouTube. I’ll let you know when that’s up and running, but if you’d like to subscribe early so that when content comes out, you’ll have it, just head to rex.click/youtube.
  • If you like what you’re hearing, share, share share! I love being at the top of the charts so that we can get more people onboard and enjoying their lives a bit more. Seriously, if you’re on Anchor, go through and pick a segment that resonates with you and share it right now. If you’re listening on your favorite podcast app, leave a review, let’s get the word out. This community is growing and I’d like more to be on the Maven bus with us!
  • I’m Rex Barrett and you can find me at Maven.Show or where all fine podcasts are distributed.

Burnout, Stress, Relationships, and Getting Healthy

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Andrea Ayres writes the following in a post entitled “How to Bounce Back after Burning Out”.

By the time I was willing to admit to myself that I was burnt out, it was too late. I had withdrawn socially and stopped sleeping. I found myself crying during the middle of the day for no good reason at all. I just wanted to do better, to work as hard as I thought everyone else around me was working. It was easier for me to tell myself to work harder than it was for me to face the truth—that I needed a break.

I run into burned out or nearly burned out people every day. This is a bigger issue than most people pay any attention to until it’s too late. Let’s not wait until then. Let’s take some steps to address burnout before it takes you out. This is a follow-up to last week’s episode, so please download and listen to that episode too.

So, how can we get to the place where we are able to get healthy, take a break, and let the ancient magic of rejuvenation take place?

Oh, it’ll take work! Here are a couple more steps to help us get back to health.

  • One: I’m going to talk to couples for a minute. Go get counseling. I’ve worked with hundreds of couples in my life, and here’s something I’ve observed.
    • First, many wait for counseling until things are just absolutely terrible. Like, you’ve been miserable for years, instead of having joyful lives, you’ve allowed things to head to the gutter. Maybe, someone has finally threw out the words divorce or break-up in a for real manner, not just the threat. That’s when the door is finally open to having a professional speak into their lives.
    • Second, and let me speak to the dudes out there. Your significant other says, “we need some help” and you just brush it off. For me, it was 100% tied to my pridefulness. I figured I could read a book over a weekend and fix all of HER problems. Here’s the deal guys, a third party can help you see your blind spots. A real professional will help you grow and get more from your relationship. And the same is true the other way, she’ll grow and get more from you in the relationship. They help with the five and take the rights and wrongs. Couples counseling was one of the primary ways my marriage was saved. We’re wrapping up year 20 right now. Yes, that means we were married at 18 & 21. We’ll talk more about that some other time.
  • Two: The most practical answers that everyone already knows. Get more sleep. Actually, go to the gym. Eat better. I know, I know, it’s the standard answer. But you know what? I could show you hundreds, maybe even thousands of peer-reviewed studies that show you hormonally; psychologically, and physically what it can do for you. So, it’s a matter of doing it. For working out, put it as a time block in your calendar, just like you would an appointment with your boss at work. For food, don’t focus on the end game, it’s just too much. Focus on each good decision you need to make as the day progresses. Make good decisions and if necessary make better bad decisions. For sleep, good luck, I’ve not figured that one out yet. But maybe you’ve figured this sleep thing out. Call in if you have any solutions for getting the right amount. Help us all out!

Wrap up

  • According to Scientific American, exposure to constant stress releases the hormones epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol within the body. These hormones block your ability to properly process information—among a host of other health issues they cause.
  • Your physical and mental resources need time to regenerate. You didn’t lose them overnight, so you can’t expect to gain them back overnight either. Inch by inch, step by step, brothers and sisters…
  • And that’s it, folks. We’ve wrapped up another episode!
  • I’m posting a transcript of this podcast onto my website at http://Maven.Show.
  • If this is the first Maven Podcast you’ve listened to, please look up past episodes. We’ve covered how to make cold brew, productivity apps, comic books, several that cover the best in fast food, and the top ways to get your caffeine fix. All these episodes exist to help us learn new thing so we can enjoy our whole lives.
  • Do you have any thoughts, questions, or comments on what we talked about today? It’s easy to reach out…
  • Download the Anchor App in the App Store and call in to tell me about it. I might just publish your thoughts.
  • What to chat on Twitter? Find me @RexBOKC. Head to the Facebook page for the Maven Show at https://www.facebook.com/mavenshow and coming soon, The Maven Show on YouTube. I’ll let you know when that’s up and running, but if you’d like to subscribe early so that when content comes out, you’ll have it, just head to rex.click/youtube.
  • If you like what you’re hearing, share, share share! I love being at the top of the charts so that we can get more people onboard and enjoying their lives a bit more.
  • I’m Rex Barrett and you can find me at Maven.Show or where all fine podcasts are distributed.