Thursday, July 18, 2019

Why Do We Try To Wear So Many Hats?

I've been a manager for a long time, and one thing I am good at is productivity.  I get a lot done.  It's because I'm organized, and it's because I take the time every day to get organized so I know going into each day what I'm going to do and how I'm going to do it.  I wasn't always this way.  I certainly wasn't born with this talent--I had to learn it.  There are two ways to get more done--either work longer, or work smarter.  I decided it was well worth the effort to learn to work smarter.  It's not easy to learn, and it requires a great deal of self-discipline. 

Because of it, I'm able to work a full time job, have a family, write a book or a novel just about every year, write for two blogs regularly, write three of four articles that are published in various magazines each year, fulfill the considerable duties of Secretary at my lodge, help organize numerous Masonic events, and still have time left over to read a couple books every week and catch my favorite television shows.

But I don't multi-task.  It's a myth.  I do one thing at a time.  I set chunks of time aside to work on specific tasks each day.  Once I have finished one task or project, I work on another.  I don't make lists of ten or twenty things I need to get done in one day like I used to.  I make a list of no more than three.  If I get those done, I can begin another task.  If I only get two of those tasks done, I'll finish the last task the next day.  It took years to figure this out.

You only have so much time in a day.  It takes the human mind time to shift between tasks.  When I used to shift between tasks, I'd have to stop and figure out where I was last time I worked on a specific task.  I'd spend valuable time re-familiarizing myself with it.  If I'd just have finished it instead of setting it aside to work on something else, I would have been time ahead.  There was great truth in something I was taught growing up--it's better to do one thing well than five things poorly.

I've known many "multi-taskers" in my lifetime, but I've yet to meet one that makes it work.  They are always busy, but don't seem to get much done.  Very often what they do get done isn't exactly perfect--you'll find mistakes or holes in their plans they haven't thought all the way through (because they haven't given themselves the time or focus necessary to do that job well). 

I know a lot of Freemason multi-taskers--in this Fraternity, that seems to be the rule rather than the exception.  I find the same thing with them.  They aren't any better at multitasking than the ones I know from the working world.  They try and do everything--Blue Lodge, York Rite, Scottish Rite, Shrine, Demolay, Eastern Star.  It's the same way I began, and I finally realized I needed to focus on a couple things I really wanted to do and could enjoy instead of spreading myself so thin.  It's not easy saying "no" but I've finally learned to, and as a result I enjoy it much more.  I go into meetings prepared.  I don't have to make excuses for why I forgot to do something I took on nearly as often.  I don't suffer the embarrassment of finding myself in a role for which I'm unprepared.  If I'd kept spreading myself as thin as I did in the beginning, I think I would have burned out by now. 

We've all know that Mason, the one that showed up at a York Rite Degree and forgot they agreed to take a part--and there they are a half an hour before it is to begin, standing in the corner trying to learn something in a few mintues they should have been working on for a month.  Or the Secretary that gets reading the previous month's minutes and realizes there were two or three things he was supposed to do during the last month that he forgot (I know that one from experience).   

We all know that expression about "wearing too many hats."  I've always wondered if that term originated with Masonry, since it seems to fit Freemasons so well.  We all want to wear many hats--be all things to all people.  And sometimes we leap before we look.  We take on jobs because we want to help, and then find we've taken on much more than we can actually do.  As a result, so many of the things we agree to do don't get done with the level of attention they deserve.

So think about these things before you write down more items on your "to-do" lists.  If your going to wear the hat and take on the task, then wear it well.  It just requires that we only take on what we can reasonably handle, focus on the task at hand, and finish what we begin. 

That old expression with the hats has a little hidden wisdom in it--you don't wear two hats at once, do you?  You see, the thing with hats is, you only wear one hat at a time.  You pick it out before you leave the house and you wear that same hat until you return from your errand.  Right?

~Todd E. Creason, 33°

originally published 1/23/14 as "The Myth of Multi-Tasking"

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Are Christians Really Happier Than Athiests?

I wrote this article back in 2013, and ran across it the other day.  It was based on research conducted at the University of Illinois.  I thought it was worth having another look at it.  I made a few changes to the original:

A study reported in the journal Social Psychological & Personality Science indicates Christians may very well be happier than atheists.  What researchers at the University of Illinois did was they performed a computer analysis of nearly 2 million Twitter posts from about 16,000 followers of prominent Christian and atheist personalities.  What they found was that Christians used more positive words than atheists, and talked more about their social relationships.

It seems to support previous studies that show a correlation between all religions and a sense of well-being.  One theory is that atheists tend to to be more analytical in their thinking--and at extremes this thinking style can make people feel less content and happy.  Christians on the other hand are more creative in their thinking style, and this can make them feel more content and happy.

Another difference between the two groups, is that Christians also enjoy more social interaction and support from their churches and social groups.  Other studies have shown a connection between social connectedness and well-being.  Social connections, especially with people that share your beliefs and values, make people feel happier.

I thought the study was interesting, but what I thought was really interesting was what I didn't find in the article--that maybe that happiness had something to do with what Christians believe and not just how the think and interact socially.

Isn't is at all possible that Christians are more content because of the things they believe?  Isn't it possible that having a better understanding of their own nature, and a code of conduct and ethics might lead Christians to be more content?  Perhaps they are more content because they believe they are part of some much larger unseen plan?  Perhaps it's because Christians understand gratitude, and they know the importance of giving thanks for what they've been given, and, therefore, are more content with and appreciative of what they have.

I thought it was interesting that a study about the differences between Christians and atheists focused on thinking styles and social interaction and never considered the cause of this feeling of well being could be from the one thing that makes the two groups so different to begin with--the belief in God.

~Todd E. Creason

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Something To Think About . . .

I couldn't have said it any better myself . . . in fact, I've said this a few times but not as well.  I used to say that Freemasonry's best advertising was its members.  In the social media age, I think that's working against us.  Let's remember who we are when we interact with the world . . . and try to remember that when we represent ourselves as Freemasons to the world, each of us represents ALL of us.

~Todd E. Creason, 33°

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Who Are You Really?

The hardest person to be honest with is yourself . . .

Billy Graham frequently said that if he was given ten minutes with a man's checkbook, we could tell where his heart was.  What people say means very little.  That's not new, even Benjamin Franklin knew that when he said, "Well done is better than well said."  If you want an accurate gauge of what a person is about, watch what they do, not what they say.  Your heart is where you spend your energy, your thoughts, and your treasure.  

We live in a world of virtue signalling.  We always have, but these days, it's just a lot more obvious because it's easier to check facts.  I'm not reminding you of this so that you can point at other people.  I'm reminding you of this so you can look in the mirror and see it in yourself.  

Do your actions match your beliefs?  Do the things you say match with the things you do?  Do the causes you support and the organizations you belong to share the values you claim to have?   Do you let outside influences convince you to support things you know are fundamentally wrong?  Are the things you spend your time and treasure on fall in line with the things you claim to support?

Too often when we really look honestly at ourselves, we find there are some inconsistencies in our life.  It may be because we're trying to be something we're not.  What we're showing on the outside doesn't match what we really believe on the inside.  The question is, are the conflicts because you're hiding who you really are because you're ashamed of who you are, or are you proud of who you are, but project something else to fit into an environment that doesn't share your values?  Either way, what we should do is to work very hard on ourselves, so that what we actually are matches what we claim to be.  That we either work on those weakness and flaws we're hiding, or work on being more honest with those around us in who we actually are.  In a perfect world, we should always be working on both--what's inside us, and what we do with that in the world outside.

Building character is hard.  It requires change.  It requires us to be absolutely honest with ourselves, and that's hard, because we lie to ourselves more than we lie to anyone else.  Virtue signalling is not a character trait--conviction is.  Anyone can pretend to be something they aren't, but character is foundational.  It's who you really are.  People of character are consistent in the things they say, the things they do, and the things they support.  People of character not only talk the talk, but they walk the walk.  And people of character continue to work on themselves throughout their entire life because they are always striving for a better version of themselves. 

~Todd E. Creason, 33° 
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