I started the year off slow with my reading goal, but in the last two months have covered some lost ground. Below are my top four that I’ve read so far in 2014.

Die Empty

by Todd Henry

Toddy Henry first wrote The Accidental Creative, which is one of my all time favorite books and has sense released his sophomore release Die Empty. I just finished Die Empty yesterday and am about to take my entire creative team through it together.

This book left me incredibly inspired along with tangible activities on finishing my day, weeks, and life with the tank on E. And not the *“how did I run out of gas”I E, but instead a very strategic path with purpose so I can end each day with confidence that the work I accomplish today was worth it!

Principle: Mediocrity doesn’t just happen suddenly; it develops slowly over time.

Rework

by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson

Ever since our team joined Basecamp for our project management and communication needs I started following Jason Fried (owner/founder of 37 Signals) on Twitter and reading their blog (singnalvnoise). Once they announced a book release I made sure to purchase it. And it did not disappoint.

In the real world, you can’t attract millions of customers without any salespeople or advertising. In the real world, you can’t reveal your formula for success to the rest of the world. But we’ve done all those things and prospered.

The real world isn’t a place, it’s an excuse. It’s a justification for not trying. It has nothing to do with you.

That quote sums up the gist of the entire book for me. It throws out the window the statement, “well this is how it has to be done to succeed”. Rework is my favorite book regarding breaking the mold of what the “real world” believes you must fit into.

Manage Your Day-To-Day

by 99U

If you follow Behance Network99U, or have bought an Action Method Notebook you may already know about this book. No matter, this is a book composed of different articles and excerpts from a large number of incredible entrepreneurs, authors, CEO’s, designers, film makers, authors, and many more productive crazed individuals.

These new perspectives caught me off-guard— I realized that much of my most valuable energy had been unknowingly consumed by bad habits. My day-to-day practices had devolved to a point where I was at the mercy of everything around me— everything but my goals and true preferences.

If you read this book be prepared to gain extremely well written short doses of insights on productivity and how you are most likely missing it. This book opened my eyes to unproductive habits all around me that I had never seen before.

Overwhelmed

by Perry Noble

This is another book I finished this week and one that I felt was written more like a large collection of blog posts around the topic overwhelmed, which turned out to be a great way to read it. The book is a quick read and is packed full of incredible insights based around the book of Daniel, the story of Job, and Perry’s own personal struggles with depression and being overwhelmed.

Everything changed when I stopped praying, “Change my friends, change my circumstances, change my wife,” and I began to pray, “God, change me, change my heart. Something is wrong with me – please do a work in me.”

Perry does a great job here helping me laser in on Jesus, and how He and no one else or thing should hold my complete trust. This book hit home for me in regard to some of my personal circumstances in the last few years and was a breath of fresh air on trusting Jesus. Very thankful for this book and highly recommend it to anyone suffering with any form of depression and/or continual stress levels.

[note]So those my top four books so far this year. I would love to hear your thoughts as well as any books you guys are reading that we must know about![/note]

I’ve heard John Maxwell say many, many times that leaders are readers, and from the first time I heard that statement, I have been reading as often as I can. A few months back, I picked up “Manage Your Day -to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, & Sharpen Your Creative Mind” and read the following paragraph written by Steven Pressfield:

A professional is someone who can keep working at a high level effort and ethics, no matter what is going on – for good or ill – around him or inside him.

A professional shows up every day.

A professional plays hurt.

A professional takes neither success nor failure personally.

When I read this it came to mind that working for a highly visible organization or well known production company does not actually make you a professional. You see, I often thought that by working in “church” production world, I was at amateur status at all times. I believed that to become a professional, I would have to leave “church” world and head into the “industry.”

So here is what I have learned and what I believe currently it takes to leave the amateur status behind.

High Level Effort… Regardless

Professionals play hurt. Professionals play year around. Professionals stick to their beliefs/standards through it all. Over the years I have learned that if I want to take it to the next level I must put more hours than required. The average work week is 40 hours and most organizations require average work. So a few years back I found myself working more than 40 hours per week because I did not want to do average work. Instead I wanted to be leading the charge and that required more. (I will be posting next on why this part does not encourage a “workaholic” for life)

Show Up Every Day

I learned while playing basketball in high school that “phoning it in” during practice hurt me in the actual game (if the coach even decided to start me). Every day I do my best to show online casino up ready to give it 100%, whether it be in a brainstorm session, meeting, or a rehearsal. This may mean running through the entire lighting cue list one more time to see how I can simplify it – even if it is 11:00pm. It may mean playing back my online mix again and again even though I hate it.  And it may mean spending an extra 10 minutes cleaning up my office/desk before heading out the door for the day.

Success OR Failure  is not Personal

[quote]“A professional takes neither success nor failure personally”[/quote]  This is possibly the hardest statement for me to accept, but I believe it will take you to the next level. In creating service flow, programming lights, directing video or mixing online, I pour my heart into it. That in itself is very personal, which makes the statement “A professional takes neither success nor failure personally” very difficult for me to live out. So here is how I have dealt with it. I put my heart and soul into the planning & execution of the “product/service” then leave it there. Once the event is over or the product has “shipped” I do my best to leave the personal stuff off the table, because I want to make sure there is an evaluation after every event or product launch. If you are able to reach this level, you can improve on your art form so much faster because you will begin to take criticism and advice more seriously. This doesn’t mean you listen to what everyone says and change things based on every different opinion, but you won’t dismiss it because they may have hurt your feelings. With our latest installation of a separate online mixing console I have learned to trust the above statement the most.

There is so much more that can be said and discussed about what I have written here, but this is personally where I am right now. I have begun to share this with my media and production staff members and it”s resulted in a lot of good conversation. I encourage you to evaluate and discuss this topic with others in your circles. I promise it will bring up lots of great discussions.


[note]Photo taken from The Great Discontent article on Scott Belsky[/note]

I started using Toggl to track time at work a year ago, but it only would last for a week or so. That was until last month when I gave it another try, but this time around I simplified the process. I then added our entire production & media department (10 staff members) to Toggl. But before I get into how I/we use it, I want to share quickly why tracking your time may be one of the best things you can do for yourself and your staff.

There are three major factors why I started tracking my time. They are:

  1. Awareness
  2. Data
  3. Accountability

1. Awareness

Before I started tracking I only knew what time I came into work and what time the clock read when I left the office. This gives me no awareness to look back on a day and see on what and how I spent my time. I had assumptions on how much time I spent in my email inbox or in the hallway chatting. I always said updating the website with the latest sermon did not take long, but how was I to really know. I knew I took time during the day to check social networks, but it couldn’t be more than 10 minutes right?

toggl_time

Since I began tracking at the end of February I was able to best online casino run a report for the entire month of March. I found some interesting things that I will share after April ends and I can compare the two months. For now I spend a minute or two at the end of the day looking at where my efforts went. This awareness gives me the opportunity to keep my self in check.

2. Data

This is something that we don’t have as a team just yet, but by the end of May we will. All organizations/churches track some type of data. It may be their profit margin, online sales or Sunday attendance. They track the numbers because they are helpful when making upcoming decisions. The same goes for a media or production department in a church. There are always videos to produce, logos to be designed, rehearsals to be prepped or a “small” event to be organized. All of these things take time and usually we are very good at underestimating the amount of time and resources a project/event takes. Our hope is that soon we will have data from all these different projects to use as a gauge to assist us in setting true timelines instead of shooting from the hip. The data will also give us great raw data on how to approach the need for future hires.

3. Accountability

Having the entire team on Toggl together has already improved our workflow and work ethic for most. After just 2 or 3 weeks the entire team makes jokes about whether something is “Toggl worthy”. And I believe that is a great thing! I know for a fact the amount of time spent on sideways energy has decreased. We have also had less lengthy “creative’ discussions, also known as watching a new movie trailer and talking about it at lengths. This in my opinion has it’s place in our type of creative environment, but it can be abused.

The team has done a great job in helping each other with the new time tracking and I can’t wait to share in Part 3 the results we are seeing and the data we have compiled. Next up will be Part 2 of “Why I Toggl My Time” where I will show how I technically use Toggl and how we have integrated it with our Basecamp Next account.