Posts in Books
Heat, Productivity and Perseverance

It's summer and it's hot. I can't actually remember a summer hotter than this and I don't live in the South. Here in New Jersey, we've had two straight weeks of 90+ degree weather.

It's almost sad but a day below 90 now feels like Fall and the entire family gets a little lift. The kids feel happier and Cary and I get a boost of energy and get outside for a bike or just to walk around our neighborhood.

How does heat affect you in the summer?

According to the Center for Disease Control, high temps can bring on what's called "heat stress". Heat stress brings on such real effects and (I'll spare you the details) basically makes you less productive.

According to the Mayo Clinic, high temperatures make your body work harder to cool itself down. The more heat, the harder the body has to work and that spells a decline in productivity.

But does it have to kill your entire summer when it comes to work?

Jessica Stillman from INC Magazine argues that summer doesn't have to be a death knell for your output. While you'll feel more relaxed in the summer (and that's ok), you can still get things done by taking a vacation and by enjoying the outdoors for brief spots during the day.

One thing I like to do at work is take a walk around campus right after lunch. It helps my sandwich digest, gets me more steps in my Samsung Galaxy s4's S Health app and generally makes me happy. 

You can do that too.

All of us, from President Obama down to the person who lives next door, have a need for time off in the Summer. Besides a full-blown vacation, you can also do any of the following small things:

1. Avoid sitting even more than usual. Since it's hotter in the summer, you'll tend to stick to your desk and chair. Stand up more often and if possible, buy or build a standing desk.

2. Take Fridays off. Most workplaces allow for "casual Fridays" but why not use some of your vacation days and just take four Fridays off in a row. It might have a better effect than taking a full week. Better still, it's cheaper than taking a vacation.

3. Rekindle your joy of reading. Be honest with yourself- when was the last time you got through an entire book? A magazine? A blog post online? Why not start and end your summer days with added (and for pleasure) reading?  (btw, a parent of a student of mine just lent me a book via Kindle- how cool is that?)

4. Give yourself permission to be less than awesome.  It's natural that the heat slows us down.  Don't beat yourself up over this.  This isn't a permission slip to slack off but is a bit of spiritual wisdom that will help as Summer rolls on.

These three, simple changes in your Summer can have a big impact on your productivity. Just because it's hot doesn't mean that your work has to suffer.

Why not try one of them this week?

*photo courtesy of FDP 

Mini Review: Something More: The Professional's Pursuit of a Meaningful Life By Randy Hain

Author Randy Hain has become the guru of faith-based advice for professionals.  He is humble, forward thinking and to the point.  With a successful career and a dynamic faith, his words ring true over and over again.

His first two books "The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work”, was released in late November 2011 by Liguori Publications. His second book, “Along the Way: Lessons for an Authentic Journey of Faith” was released a year later by Liguori Publications and formed the second hit in Randy's portfolio.

Something More: the Professional's Pusuit of a Meaningful Life is consistent with his first two books but also creates an avenue for greater dialogue.  I spoke with Randy a few weeks ago and he told me that he wanted Something More to be slightly more ecumenical than his first two works.  There's plenty of references to Randy's Catholic faith but it's not preachy by any means.  This book would be useful to a person with a value system even if they weren't die-in-the wool Christians.

Randy's style is very conversational and not "in your face" when it comes to faith references.  The book responds to so many professionals who find themselves staring in the mirror and wondering if there's more to life than getting a paycheck and a corner office.  Think about it- have you ever felt like your career is more of a rat race than a journey with purpose?

Something More addresses everything from one's motivations in the workplace to the need to be an authentic leader.  Randy challenges the contemporary notions of success and invites the reader to have courage when it comes to putting one's family first.  

What makes this book unique is its delivery.  Randy is the architect, providing an outline that encompasses just about every challenge that a working pro will face in his adult life.  He then compliments his own insights with dozens of interviews from working professionals in every chapter. Their perspective is fantastic, giving the reader a true "boots on the ground" application of the higher points that Randy provides.

Memorable Quote
"I needed to lead an integrated life where I could be the same person all the time and put his will first in every aspect of my life."

I loved this book and devoured it in a day.  It's a great resource to pass along to someone who is trying to make a difference in their work but feels pulled in every direction imaginable.  You can pick up a copy of Randy's excellent book here.

Randy was kind enough to provide me with review copy of the book.  Thanks Randy and keep up the good work!


At Work, Books, FaithMike StPierre
The Leadership Balance Between Input and Output

I was listening to a recent Catalyst podcast interview between Brad Lomenick and Rick Warren.  Warren, an avid reader, once asked his board of supervisors for only one perk within his job description- an unlimited budget for books.  Since then, he's read thousands of books on every topic under the sun.

Leaders do that- as John Maxwell says, "Leaders are readers."  They know that you can't lead from where you haven't been.  Books help the leader to go deeper, think bigger and broaden their people's horizons.  My team probably makes fun of me but it's ok- I still give them a book for a gift at Christmas.  Even if no one reads the book, I'm practicing the principle of adding quality input to their lives.

This is what we call input: what you put into your mind and heart.  This comes from books, audio, movies, lectures, etc.

The other side of the coin is output.  What we produce and put out into the world.  I've gotten a lot out of journaling and have written about my own prayer life as a result.

A great experiment happened recently.  I read Bill Hybels' book, "Too Busy Not to Pray" almost two years ago.  Since then, I've been praying every day since and have blogged about it periodically.  Input and output.

The key for leaders is to keep your input and your output in balance.  There will be seasons when you are publishing more than you are reading and visa versa.  Just be attentive to both and your leadership will thrive.

Trends I'd Like to See in 2011: Productivity
This is part III of III on Trends that I'd Like to See in 2011.  Today we turn to things that would be a welcome sign in the next year in the area of productivity.  Here goes:

  1. More GTD in non-business settings. Pastors need GTD (Getting Things Done) as much as CEOs.  Just read Fast Company's treatment of Pastor Bill Hybels' Global Leadership Summit and you'll see the benefit of the business-faith dynamic.

  2. DISC Profiles all around. If you're not familiar with the DISC Profile, you're missing out on something.  This is the single most powerful tool that I've used in the past year.  Manager Tools does the best job around of utilizing the power of the Profile.

  3. Podcasting that's consistent. I'm as guilty as the next guy of dropping a cast to iTunes and then not seeing the podcast studio for months at a time.  I don't think we need daily casts but a solid weekly cast would be more welcome.

  4. Productivity coaching that's affordable for non-profits. Let's make a commitment to help our non-profit leaders get more productive through affordable means.  They need to be on their game as much as anyone in order to change the world so let's figure out ways to help them be more productive.

What would you like to see in the area of productivity in 2011?

*photo by smemon
The Single Most Important Book I've Read this Year
At a party held this past week, a friend asked me about the past year at work.  A new leadership position has given me an opportunity to shape an organization and learn from some of the best and brightest that New Jersey has to offer.  Most of my friends are curious about how the job has changed me and my family.  Our core is pretty solid so our family has rolled with the punches of added evening commitments and earlier mornings.

Me on the other hand?  I've learned a ton.

The biggest thing I've learned is that I'm a strong introvert and while I knew this on some levels, the job has challenged me to learn even more about myself.  Learn more or burn out- that's the thing on most days.  Thankfully, school life is a hotbed for learning so things are getting easier every day.

I turned to a book which has, and I'm not exagerating, literally changed my life.  As an avid reader, few books leave the impression that Devora Zack's latest book has made in my everyday outlook.  Networking for those who Hate Networking is phenomenal!  It shows an introvert how to retain energy, listen more deeply and navigate life.

Zack argues that many introverts feel judged according to an extrovert set of metrics.  Think back to when you were a student in high school.  The old "class participation" portion of your grade was largely made up of the number of times that you raised your hand and spoke up.  Unfortunately, this metric is almost totally geared to extroverts- those who talk in order to think.  It can leave an introvert feeling slighted or worse yet, unintelligent.

Introverts, on the other hand, think in order to talk.  They need to process things on their own and then, only later, speak up.  Process is the key word.

They also crave time alone.  Like oxygen, the introvert needs to close the door and do work on their own.  This certainly applies to me as I need to go  for walks, put my head down and focus on a deep level.  When I don't, I feel wholly drained of energy and things get cranky.  My dad would go for drives on summer nights and now I know why- he's an introvert and needed time to think.

I'm learning how to attend conferences smarter.  My daily schedule is also getting some adjustments as to how best to use my energy and windows of focus.  In short, Zach's book has taught me more about myself than any other in the past year.  It's terrific to go deeper into myself so that I can then be more for those around me.

Application Points

As you go through your week, consider those around you who are introverts.  These could be family members, coworkers or neighbors.  They're not being rude by spending time alone- they're just recharging.  Find ways to give them the space they need to operate on a daily basis.  They're just wired differently and that's perfectly OK.

Bonus Material

Here is a brief interview with author Devora Zack on her introverted insights.

Mini Book Review: Rediscovering God in America
1595553134If you've read any of my previous mini reviews (here), they tend to focus on leadership and ministry.  This review is slightly different as I focus on Newt Gingrich's Rediscovering God in America, published by Thomas Nelson.

As the title infers, the book is about the God-centered perspective of America's roots.  From quotes that are inscribed on national monuments to processes that many people didn't know exist, Gingrich provides a "walking tour" of the many ways in which America was (and I'd argue still is) deeply God-centered.

I especially liked the fact that Gingrich's wife, Callista, took the photos that are featured throughout the book.  They are inspiring and help to build the case that America's founders intended a nation that not only tolerated God but went further to recognize His importance.

For more information on Rediscovering God in America, click here.

To sign up for Thomas Nelson's Blogger Program,, click here.
BooksMike StPierre