I took the early morning train from Ottawa to Toronto today. It was dark when I started and I watched the quiet misty winterlight rise up as though from the forest floor. It was magical and made me feel like meditating but instead I read some of Kerouac’s Dharma Bums which I have been working through in stolen moments of free time.
I was struck that during breakfast in the train, one of the attendants picked up a baby girl of one of the passenger and walked her around the train whilst the young mom had her breakfast. It was natural and friendly and cheerful. No guile or pretence.
Life should be more like that, shouldn’t it? Trusting and helping each other in a brotherly or sisterly way should be a commonplace.
That would make for a better world, in my mind anyhow.
On sunny summer days, the water calls
Transparent between blue walls, reflecting the sky
We gather in the change room, often silent
Stripping down with no pretence
There are ladders in the pool
No hierarchy though
Just grace and speed and will
The coolness of the water
Distant splashes around you
Brief bursts of music through your cap
Rhythmic breathing bringing calm and peace
Perpetual movement going nowhere but far
Repetition becoming contemplation
It’s a quiet place
Where you’re together but apart
And it’s ok
I am generally very productive. I get things done, I forge forward, and I pursue goals until they are achieved. I recently found a link between my “productivity” and a constant, low-level hum of worry, disquiet or even some anxiety.
Taking a mindful approach to life has made me discover that my approach to productivity has these negative side effects. It is often productivity driven by worry and anxiety. So I have been thinking about how to reverse this, and trying some experiments.
Try to make peace with the goals and tasks in front of me, plan reasonably and then enjoy the process appears to work. I am finding that this allows productivity driven by desire and enjoyment, rather than by panic or guilt!
So, what are some observations from my mindful productivity experience thus far:
- Be more aware of the impact of my pattern of goal setting and tasks on my life and the life of those around me.
- Set timelines that don’t include “working on a total project”, but rather a realistic timeline for achieving small parts of a big task.
- Try to get a few small things done every day, working toward your larger goals.
This way you are aware of the small tasks can micro-plan your day better. You are also aware of the impact on others (deadlines’ impact on other’s work or lives, your availability or lack thereof impact on others, etc.), so you feel better about what you’re doing – less guilt, more getting things done.
It sounds simple, but I am finding a mindful approach to life is really a series of simple changes that lead to more overall well-being.
I am normally an early riser, but focusing on trying to calm to myself and sleep more has led to a couple of later days. Today I woke up at 6:30, much later than normal for me.
I did have a chance to make myself a sprouted grain toast (Ezekiel 4:9 Raisin), one with organic coconut oil (nutiva) and the other with organic peanut butter (President’s Choice). I also made myself an americano, which I drink black.
Then I did my favourite thing in the warm (and warmish) early mornings. I took the steaming coffee and toasts onto the deck and read a little (from a book today, but sometimes my kindle). It is such a lovely feeling to see the light change from the rich oranges, pinks and golds of early sunrise to the pastels of early morning.
Feeling the morning light on my skin just makes me feel alive.
Ok. Now time to get to work. Have a great day. 🙂
This Canada Day marked my return from a year’s research leave. It has been a good year- I moved into a new home, got involved in the federal election, made a bunch of great new friends, and wrote most of a new book on social media in Canada. I also became pescetarian and mindfully started on the path to fitness.
I am looking forward to coming back to McMaster as director of the McMaster-Syracuse Master of Communications Management program for a three-year term, until 2019. I love teaching and being part of the university community. I love the rhythm and cadence of university life and the excitement that students feel at the prospect of learning and growing. I love research and discovery – both from the personal perspective of gaining a new understanding of the world, but also because research and the enlightenment it brings help to transform our communities for the better.
The MCM is a wonderful community of practitioners who learn from one another. I count our faculty among the learners as well, because when twenty very bright, leading communicators from across Canada get together in a room to discuss and debate the theories and practices of management, strategy, marketing, and communications, even the top experts become facilitators. What a joy for all involved.
If you have been thinking about an MBA, you should consider the MCM. We offer the course courses of the MBA in a format that works with your schedule and busy life. It really is an “MBA for creative people.”
The fact that the MCM is offered to you by McMaster University in partnership with the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, opens a whole world of experience for you in the United States!
If you’re interested in the MCM, do send me a note and we can chat about the program and your application to join the 2016-17 cohort, which starts in October.
We have extended our application deadline to August 15, 2016.
Amazingly, I have stuck to two of my New Year’s resolutions: meditating and writing.
Each day, I have been spending two hours (at least) focused exclusively on editing JPC or working on my book project.
I have found that the time I spend writing and editing has become an inspirational and meditative time that I look forward and crave, because instead of stressing about not having written, instead, I think of writing as a relief from the stress of everyday life. This has made all the difference, taking writing from being work and transforming it into something exciting and relaxing to look forward to.
I got here by meditating in the morning, a little at lunch and in the evening. Each time for about 5-10 minutes. During that time, I try my best to calm my mind and then focus my thoughts (or blank them).
This has led to each meditation session being a source of inspiration for my writing or editing.
I will check in again soon with an update if this still continues to work.
I have been a computer enthusiast since I was a young boy. My first computer was a Texas Instruments Ti99/4A on which I first learned the joys of video games and computer programming.
After that we had a Macintosh SE, with a whopping 10MB hard drive. It felt like a supercomputer! My first laptop was a Macintosh Powerbook 145, with a trackball. After that I switched to a Dell Latitude wintel laptop and then came back to Macintosh with a Macbook 13″ (black), a Mac Book Air and a desktop iMac with windows double boot. My current computers are a MacBook Pro 15″, a retina iMac and an older iPad (first retina edition from 2012). I have never had an iPhone, staying loyal to BlackBerries.
The video games side of computing never really stuck, except for strategy/puzzle games like Myst, Riven, King’s Quest, Fool’s Errand, Starcraft or my favourite… the Civilization franchise (I have actually purchased Civilization: Beyond Earth from the Apple App Store but have not yet had a chance to play).
What computers have always been for me is a window to the world of information and communication technology. The internet is an infrastructure that was build on the technology that little kids like me played and learned with 30 years ago. Having an understanding of computers opens new vistas of understanding and experience for you, particularly as a professional communicator.
Knowledge of computers and the cyber culture they have enabled is key to facilitating relationships for clients. As a communicator, you should try and become as tech savvy as you can!
Today, my colleague Terry Flynn, co-founder (with Maria Russell) of the McMaster-Syracuse Master of Communications Management program (of which I am director), was interviewed for the McMaster Daily News today. The piece listed his recent achievements and focused on his opinions on the unfolding crises in journalism in the Leslie Roberts, Amanda Lang and Jian Ghomeshi situations.
First, allow me to congratulate my esteemed colleague his recent achievements. Terry was recently:
- The first Canadian to ever be elected to the board of trustees of the Arthur W. Page Society — the leading global association of chief communications officers — and
- Named a board member of the prestigious Institute for Public Relations.
- Named one of the Top 50 Social Media Marketing Influencers on Twitter by Vocus Research, a global communications research company.
Terry has been an inspiration, mentor and friend to me over the last seven years that I have known him. He has opened the world of PR scholarship and practice to me, by trusting me with his baby – the McMaster-Syracuse MCM program and introducing me to his international network of public relations and communications management colleagues, both professional and academic.
I am proud to know him and owe him a lot. He’s a constant inspiration and support to me.
The writing process involves creativity, of course, but that creativity is also a product of discipline and hard work. Writing is something that each of us has to develop a process to be able to do well. I will quickly describe mine for you.
I write every day. In fact, you will have noticed that I have taken to writing a blog post every day – that is one of my New Year’s resolutions and also something that has helped me “prime the pump” for larger writing projects.
I enjoy writing and to do it professionally, you must enjoy it too. I find it calming and even serene when I sit down in front of the computer and start to put words onto the blank screen. As the words take shape, I feel myself relaxing – my muscles loosen up, my mind is calmed and I begin to be engrossed. All I hear is my own voice saying each word as I type it.
When I wrote on paper, I used to love watching the words appear on the page, with each stroke of the pen, until the canvass was filled, not only with my ideas, but with the scratchy cursive that I had fashioned. I recently started writing in longhand using a stylus on my iPad, and in the short couple of weeks since beginning that practice, I have already found my penmanship improving. My goal is to have a flowing script someday.
There is something magical about the writer’s craft. If you love ideas and stories, you should try to develop your own writer’s craft. The craft is as diverse as there are passionate writers.
Good luck and happy writing!
The Internet of Things (IoT) is there: machines are starting to speak intelligently to other machines and automate small parts of our lives. Soon a greater portion of our lives will affected by the machines we use everyday, as they track our actions and adapt their functions to our habits and preferences.
We are only beginning to see the massive transformative effect that digital tech will have on our society, economy and selves. We’ve seen email make distance and time irrelevant for the transfer of large documents that used to have to be couriered. Then social media made connecting and keeping up with a disparate collection of acquaintances possible. The next wave will be the advent of machines speaking to machines and automating different parts of our lives.
Marshall McLuhan said that, from a communications perspective, technology extends the body and retrieves something from the past. The IoT extends our ability to be in sync with nature, I think and it retrieves the concept of the staffed household. In the past, only aristocrats or the very wealthy could afford to have staff who would help run a house, intelligently adapting to the owners’ lifestyles and habits. The IoT will network our appliances and link them together intelligently, creating a “smart house steward” concept, I think.
The opportunity for communicators here in U/X, I think. The house will need to have an avatar or at least a voice and personality. The “house entity” will have to be capable of building a relationship with the owner – very rudimentary at first, of course, but increasingly layered and textured as times goes on. It will start with a crude Siri-like interface and grow to the moment where “House” is an actor in your life – a family member, a partner, etc.
This new “House” personality will be an agent in the lives of the house’s occupants, and it will steward the flow of information to occupants as well as regulating temperature, etc. Much as Google can guess your proclivities and make suggestions to you, “House” will do the same. It really will be a butler and a friend.
It is up to professional communicators to understand how to build relationships with occupants through the “House” and use it as a tool rather than perceive it as a barrier.