I Do Declare: No one proves the power of words like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today we commemorate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the civil rights activist who delivered one of the most powerful speeches in history in front of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963.

The speech is a total of 1667 words, every one of them meaningful, and not one of them wasted.

You can hear the speech thanks to this recording from the U.S. Archives.

Learn more here, here, and here about the occasion of the speech, the man, and his legacy.

I’m hard pressed to come up with a favorite part, because all of it is magnificent. However, if I HAD to choose, these two would be among the top contenders:

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

This one too:

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.

It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

Right Now: A comprehensive checklist might be just what you need

I confess. I’m something of a to-do list fanatic. Give me some lines with checkboxes and I’m in heaven. This is how I keep track of everything in my life.

Over the years I’ve looked into a lot of different systems. And while I haven’t ever found one system that works, I have discovered that I can pull pieces of many different systems and make them work for me.

And that’s what it all comes down to – what works for the individual.

I offer here what’s been working for me (i.e., my compilation of various systems) in the event any of you out there want to take this and incorporate pieces of it for yourself.

This is what it looks like:

MITgrid1

I track six days’ worth of activities, and my week is Monday–Sunday, so Saturday and Sunday are lumped together.

After keying in the specific dates (i.e., WEEK OF 1/11 – 1/17), I list in order of importance:

Row 1 – Most Important Things (MITs). These are, as stated, most important. They’re the things that will move my career forward, win the deal, give me a sense of accomplishment, etc. If I accomplish nothing else during the week, I want to hit these.

Row 2 – Tasks. These are not as mission-critical as the MITs, but they’re things that must be done, so I don’t want to lose sight of them.

Row 3 – Routine Items. These are everyday things that I might forget if I get too busy. Plus, I like checking them off. On my list, I have things like doing blog posts, exercising and taking vitamins. (Yes, I am prone to forget to exercise and take vitamins. Seeing it in print is a good reminder.)

Below the three to-do rows is where I list info on my current projects to keep them in front of me.

At the bottom are two “parking lots” where I keep track of things that need to get onto the calendar (i.e., usually into the MIT or Task rows) eventually and the list of long-term projects (e.g., pruning the berry plants, which I won’t do until the Fall).

The page is laid out on 8.5×11, landscape. The gap in the middle of the grid allows you to fold the paper without creasing over any text.

For some people this might look like overkill to the Nth degree. But it’s a system that works really well for me.

Want a free Word version of this to tinker with on your own? Drop a comment below.

Right Now: What sparks you? What are you doing about it?

This is the mini-chandelier in my foyer. Cute little sparky thing, isn’t it?

Today is Epiphany in the Christian church calendar.

Now, I’ve already mentioned the significance of this in terms of holiday decorations, but today I refer to Epiphany for an entirely different reason: It marks the start of a new Wednesday feature called Right Now.

This new feature is all about productivity, time management, and energy management. Essentially, it’s taking a butt-in-chair approach to getting projects done.

Which is where I am this year. I’m on a dedicated mission to get my articles and other assignments filed, my blog posts posted, my books written, my ebooks published, and my screenplays to “fade out.”

But you and I both know that those words aren’t going to write themselves. It’s going to take management to do it, and by that, I mean serious management of my time and energy.

So what does this have to do with Epiphany?

This holiday, in the Christian church calendar, is also known as Three Kings’ Day, when the magi visited the Christ child, bearing gifts. So, metaphorically, this focus on industrious use of time and energy can be a gift to myself and my projects.

Or, without delving too much into the theological aspect, the word epiphany also means manifestation or showing forth, a sudden revelation or insight, a transmuting of a belief into a realistic experience.

Which is a bit like taking thoughts and making a blog post or an article or a novel out of them, right?

Or, to narrow it further, it’s an emphasis on light and vitality: the spark! And when there’s a spark, energy naturally flows.

In these Wednesday posts, I’m going to talk a lot about sparks and energy management. There’s a connection between enthusiasm (the spark) and energy. Have you ever noticed that when you’re pumped about a project, the energy to get it done is almost self-generating? It’s true.

I believe maintaining positive energy is the key to seeing a project through all the way to completion, especially long-term projects like novels and screenplays.

And that’s how the mission gets accomplished.

If you choose to come along on these Wednesday adventures, and I hope you do, here’s your first assignment. Give some serious thought to these two questions:

  1. What sparks you?
  2. What are you doing about it?

Search your heart. Journal about it. Throw the questions out to the universe. Ask close friends what they think the answers are.

And then come back next week for more ideas and insights on how to keep the creativity flowing.

By the way, why am calling this feature “Right Now”?

Because there is no time like the present, as the saying goes.

Because putting off your creativity does not serve you or anyone else.

Because the world is waiting for your work, and there is not a moment to waste.

I Do Declare: Christmas decorations illustrate how I can go from sentimental to pragmatic at warp speed

The calendar says today is January 4, which means Christmas is over and we’re into a new year. This much we know to be true.

And yet: There are technically a few more days of Christmas left. And by technically, I mean if you follow the church calendar, Christmas keeps on keeping on until Epiphany (January 6). Which is why some people keep their decorations up until then.

Ha! Not me.

Sure, I follow the church calendar too, but when it comes to the trees and lights and garland and elves (whether on shelves or not), it’s high time they all went back to their storage bins and hibernated for about 11 months.

Not that I’m anti-Christmas or anti-holiday or anti-anything. My official policy is that the holidays are delightful. Enchanting. Blessed. And let’s be honest, a season of good cheer and good will to all is a pretty darn good thing, especially in this day and age – and this is only one reason why I celebrate it.

In fact, I’ve mentioned before how I love the magical tranquility of the days before Christmas.

But here’s the thing. It’s a season. Which is to say that it has its moment in the sun, after which it is meant to fade into the background, at least for a while, to be replaced by the next season.

And that next season is known as: Okay, everybody, up and moving, time to get organized. Or, as some call it: the new year.

For me – the consummate organizer – that season can’t come too soon. Almost as soon as the gifts are unwrapped, I’m ready to move on and get the house back in order. That table has been over in that corner making room for the tree for far too long. That garland wrapped around the banister is becoming an eyesore. The candelabras in the picture window are getting on my last nerve.

I need my house back, y’all. My surroundings require a place for everything and everything in its place.

The new year is here. I have a colossal project list, along with a daily planner that, if all holds true, indicates I will have to schedule my headaches. So be it. I’m ready for a substantial to-do list and the work it will take to get it done. I need checklists is what I’m saying.

As we move away from the meandering of the holidays and pick up the pace toward efficiency and productivity, I have a strong urge to enter the new year unfettered by the ghosts of months past.

My breakup letter to the past year notwithstanding, I’m done with excoriating 2020, as if continuing to rake it over the coals would mitigate one millisecond of the angst it caused.

To everything there is a season, so the scriptures tell us. Maybe the time for beating up 2020 is over. You’re forgiven, 2020. Go in peace.

Let bygones be bygones, I say. Let’s start fresh, with no past recriminations, no grudges held, no burdens of regrets and misgivings to carry around.

There’s a year to take hold of and make the most of.

Let’s get on with it.