Feb 142012

I have talked much throughout the year of staying connected with old friends and colleagues. This is important to do. However, it is critical to stay close to the ones we love. Take time today to tell them. It doesn’t require chocolates, flowers or a card. A hug, a note on their pillow or saying the three little words are all it takes. Spend some time doing a little act of service – clean up the dishes, take out the trash or give them a back rub. Doing something means so much more than just saying it. Don’t let a day pass by without demonstrating your love for your family and closest friends. Now if you will excuse me, I’m going to go wake up the love of my life.

Happy Valentines Day!

Dec 012011

Some weeks life is just survival and this is one of them for me. My work week has been one long string of meetings, one after another away from my office. I haven’t been able to do much more than process email. Home life hasn’t been much better. Obligations have kept me away from home every night this week, so nothing is getting done there, either. Life is constant motion, but little progress.

These are the times when I depend heavily on my Task Management System. Without it, I wouldn’t survive. I depend on it to keep me from getting buried in all the little tasks that are accumulating. Normally, these little two to five minute tasks are things I just do and get out of the way. Right now, I can’t. It is all I can do to get them captured in the system. Next week, when I finally get to come up for air (won’t happen until Wednesday), they will at least be sitting there waiting for me. That thought is what I hold onto to keep me sane.

Here are some tips I have learned this week.

  1. Spend time when you have it to get comfortable with a system. Crisis mode is not the time to play around with a task management system. An investment of this type can only be done while the world is behaving. Take time to mold your system to the way you like to work. I recently tweaked my system to only show those tasks I can get done in the next two to three days, while highlighting those I must get done today. This adjustment has been godsend for me this week. I’m not staring at twenty tasks that could get done today, just the three that must be completed.That is a huge stress reliever in itself.
  2. Have your task capture mobile and always with you. I use Toodledo on my iPhone. When time is short, it is critical to have it with you as all times. Tasks will come quickly and leave consciousness even faster. With just seconds to capture a thought, you have to be ready or it is gone.
  3. Use any available moment to process. When I have had a couple minutes to myself, like a bio break or lunch, I have spent the time quickly processing my inbox or a task list. Few things discourage me more than 50 unread email messages. Scanning and quickly deleting the many useless announcements and filing the rest for later has kept my email inbox to a manageable level. Since I know I won’t have time to catch up until next week, I use this in my judgement.
  4. Use an auto respond message to alert coworkers I won’t be around for a few days. This helps keep everyone informed that I won’t be as responsive as normal. This little effort helps them plan around my unavailability and keeps them moving without me.
The bus is nearing my stop and that’s all I have time for today. If you get in a situation like this, I wish you luck. Take time now to prepare for it. It will happen at some point and without warning. Spending a little time now can really help later when life turns to survival mode.
Jun 242011

When someone tells you to pay attention to the details, how detailed do you go? I learned a whole new level of detail a couple weeks ago. I will never look at detail the same way again. I have a whole new standard for what it means to ‘do a good job’ and ‘clean’.

I am a Mormon and we have temples. You may have seen a few around. These are not ordinary church buildings to us. They are very special buildings reserved for very sacred ordinances. We dedicate these buildings as the Houses of the Lord. And that is where this story begins.

Every six months, the temple is closed for two weeks for cleaning. Members volunteer to work in the temple to clean it and keep it in good shape. I had not had the opportunity to clean one of these special buildings until this year. I signed up for a four hour shift in January and June. Both times, I was lucky enough to get to clean chandeliers.

I couldn’t find a picture of the chandelier in the Mount Timpanogos Temple, but the one at left is close enough for you to get an idea of the task (This picture is from the Atlanta, Georgia Temple). There are literally thousands of glass rods, crystal chains and pendants in the large one in the center. It took twenty of us four hours to disassemble the glass and lay it out to be cleaned. Each level is unique and had to be kept together so that it would all fit back together again. We wore cotton gloves, never touching a piece with bare hands. The oils would transfer to the glass and attract dust faster. Each piece was then cleaned by hand by rubbing it vigorously until the glass heated up and released all the dirt onto the towel. Each piece would take 20-30 seconds of this active rubbing to come clean. Believe me, my arms and back were sore by the time I finished.

Every light bulb was checked and changed if necessary. We lost count of how many bulbs are in the fixture. Next, all the brass was cleaned and dusted, taking thirty minutes for a team of three working on ladders. Even after the fixture had been lowered, it was still over ten feet tall. Before my shift ended, we had only cleaned about 1/4 of the glass. Another shift came in the next day to finish and reassemble it.

The second experience in June was much the same, except I was assigned to one of the little chandelier sconces, like you can see on the wall. I was on that fixture alone to clean and reassemble. It took me all four hours to do just one.  Believe me, I never look at those beautiful chandeliers the same way again.

While I was cleaning, I got talking with one of the full time staff about the process of cleaning the rest of the temple. I asked just how thorough of a cleaning happens each six months. She started detailing out the entire list of things to do. The chandeliers are only the beginning of the task. Every table and chair, rail and banister is checked and painted if there is a scratch or nick in the finish. Then they start at the ceilings and wipe down every wall. The carpets are shampooed and dried. The tiles are hand cleaned with tiny brushes. The doors and railings are cleaned, using toothpicks to get every tiny crevice dirt free. The vents are cleaned with Qtip swabs. Every surface is cleaned top to bottom, including the furnace rooms. And that is just the inside. The outside often gets renovations in the gardens, cracked sidewalks are removed and repoured and all the trees pruned and shaped. It takes them every hour of those two weeks to get it all done.

So why the attention to detail? After all, how dirty can a chandelier get in six short months? It surprised me how much brighter the chandeliers were after being cleaned. I thought they were beautiful before, but the difference was noticeable. We believe nothing is too good for the House of the Lord. God will not dwell in unholy places and we will make His house clean for Him. It is worth every minute of work to be in that holy and peaceful place.

The lesson I took away from my latest experience of service was to examine my own life. Am I paying as much attention to detail to myself and my family? Am I letting our standards sag, turning a blind eye to a little dirt here and there? Do I get out the toothpicks to maintain my integrity and character? Do I make mistakes? Of course I do. I’m human. But I am working toward raising my efforts all the time.

The standard is set in Mathew 5:48 when Jesus said, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Naturally, I can’t make that goal in this life, but striving to come as close as I can is what I want. I try to keep that standard in mind as I go throughout the day. I don’t always make the grade. Some days I lose my temper or get impatient. Then I remember the lesson of the chandelier and the doors of the temple. I get out my toothpick and cotton gloves and get back to work.

images courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints