Weekly inspirational thoughts from our founder and chief imagination officer, Mark Henson.

How To Double Your Free Time

How To Double Your Free Time

Does it seem completely impossible to double your free time? I promise you, it’s not.

Your life — if it’s anything at all like mine used to be — is crazy busy.

Between work obligations, family schedules, volunteering for school, community, and Church events, and everything else you’ve overcommitted yourself to — you no longer have any free time, except maybe one or two weeks of vacation (and even that you have to work your buns off to get ready for).

Life zooms by even when you’re NOT crazy busy. It definitely speeds up up even more when your calendar is completely packed. As the wise man, Ferris Bueller, once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around for a while, you could miss it.”

I’ve been in your shoes. Not literally, that would be weird and creepy. I mean I know what it’s like to have a crazy busy life. I’ve got a wife, two kids, two parents, two dogs, a house, a yard, a business, friends, and a community that all want my attention. And that’s when there’s NOT an emergency or crisis to deal with.

There have been many points in my life when I didn’t feel like I had a minute of free time. Here’s what all those points have in common: they sucked. They drained my energy. They were no fun. So a few years ago I decided to create more free time in my life to do the things that I want to do, the things that energize me, the things that help me clear my head so I can bring my best self to everything I am committed to.

And it wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought.

How To Double Your Free Time

Doubling your free time is completely doable especially when you don’t have much to begin with. If you only have 30 minutes of free time (or Me-Time as I like to call it) each week, gaining another 30 minutes doesn’t seem out of the question, does it?

What if you could gain an hour, or two, or TEN? Before you shrug it off as impossible, I want you to finish this article and use the tool I’m going to give you.

The two main things that helped me create more Me-Time were:

  1. Identifying what I could change or let go of.
  2. Learning how to say no with confidence.

Next week I’ll share with you the recipe for saying no with confidence. This week I have a very simple, yet incredibly powerful tool to share that will help you learn how to identify the areas of your life where you might be able to double your free time — sooner than later — to do the things you really want to do.

Sound good? (I know it does. I just asked to get you to say “Heck yeah!” in your head).

The Me-Time Multiplier™

I recently created a tool to help identify the major time-takers in your life. It also helps you decide which ones you can change, let go of, or rearrange to create more free time every week, or even every day. I tested it out on my team (they’re always my guinea pigs) and they said hands-down this is the most helpful tool I’ve ever created.

It’s called The Me-Time Multiplier and you can download it for free below.

It takes as little as 10 minutes to work through it. Even if you’re time-starved right now — maybe ESPECIALLY if you’re time-starved right now — it is SO worth taking the time and you’ll start to see results almost immediately.

Here’s what it covers:

  • Clarifying your Me-Time.
  • Your Top 5 Time Takers
  • Your Top 5 Interruptors
  • Your Top 5 Time Wasters
  • Your Top 5 Repetitive Tasks
  • Your top 5 Most Dreaded Activities

Download the Me-Time Multiplier For Free

 

I hope the Me-Time Multiplier helps you, liberates you, and allows you double your free time (or more) so you can keep yourself inspired and energized. If you use it, I’d love to hear about your experience, so drop me a note, ok?

markonly

A Few Promises About My Upcoming Book

A Few Promises About My Upcoming Book

I’m almost an author (meaning I’m almost finished writing my first book).

I’ve ALMOST written a book at least three times in the past (meaning I never really started). This time is different, though. I’m actually about 75% done with the first draft. If all goes well I’ll be pretty close to finished by the end of next week. I’m shooting to get it edited, proofed, and whatever other hoops I need to jump through so it can be printed by June 1st, or December 31st, or at least sometime before I’m 100 years old. Most likely June.

As I’ve watched others publish and promote their books lately, I have noticed a few things that, honestly, have made me go “ugggh!” Watching “the way it’s done now” has made me loathe the whole book publishing thing so much I have considered scrapping the book altogether on several occasions. Rather than do that, though, I’ve decided to make a few promises about my upcoming book. Although these are mostly promises to myself — so I may keep my sanity and integrity intact — I also think they’re pretty solid promises to make to anyone who might be even remotely interested in the book.

 

A few promises to you (and me) about my upcoming book:

 

I promise not to state, infer, or imply that my book will make your life 10,000 times better. I hope it gives you something to think about and encourages you to take some action, but that’s it. It ain’t the Bible and I’m certainly not going to pretend it is.

 

I promise not to mount a relentless campaign to get everyone to buy the book on the same day just so I can become a “Best Seller” for ten minutes on Amazon, The New York Times, or any other list. If I become a best seller, I want it to be because the book is so damn good that people buy it, love it, and tell their friends to buy it, too. Yeah, I know some “experts” will say I’m naive and that’s not the way it works. They can pound sand. Creating hyped up sales just so you can claim to be a best seller is borderline fraud and I just won’t do it.

 

I promise to keep it long enough to make my point but short enough to keep you awake. I read a review of another book on Amazon the other day that said “20% of the book was good, the other 80% was useless filler.” I’m working very hard to make sure nobody will be able to say that about my book.

 

I promise the book will NOT be a super long sales letter in disguise. Will I create a retreat experience from the content of the book? You bet (in fact, I already have). Will I leave key pieces of information out of the book to entice you to come to my retreat? Not a chance. I hate, hate, HATE that approach. I’m going to put it all in the book, baby. When you read the book, you’ll get it all. You won’t NEED to come to a retreat, but you’ll WANT to…and you’ll beg me to tell you when the next one is, ha ha!

With those simple promises I feel like I can finish this project and be proud of it, even if nobody ever reads it. That sounds funny to say about something that I am pouring so much time and energy into. But in the end, I think that’s WHY I can make these promises. I’m not trying to become famous or rich or “best-selling” by writing this book. I’m writing it because I think the topic is interesting, I like to write, and it’s a fun new experience for me. If anyone else enjoys it or benefits from it, well, that’s icing on the cake.

 

Almost forgot to tell you: The topic of the book is “Ordinary Superpowers”. I wrote about this in a previous blog post which you can check out here.

 

If you’d like to be notified when the book comes out, drop your email below. I hope you know by now that I won’t bombard you with emails about it, just one or two during the first few weeks after it comes out.

 

Notify Me When Mark’s Book Comes Out!



I’m Done With Zombies (And Politicians)

It’s Spring and I’m in the mood to change my mood. A few weeks ago I cleaned out my closet and gave away half my clothes, including my varsity jacket. That was a great physical purge that really boosted my mood (still does every time I walk into my closet). Now I feel the urge to purge some of the mental clutter.

So, I’m going to turn off the TV.

Specifically I’m turning off The Walking Dead and House of Cards. I got started on both shows about a year ago and binged watched every episode on Netflix. I’ve been keeping up with the pretend zombies and pretend politicians ever since. And yes, saying zombies and politicians in the same sentence is redundant.

As compelling as these shows are, I really don’t like the way they make me feel when I watch them. They suck my energy in a far worse way than most television does. It’s no wonder, really. Both of those franchises showcase the worst of humanity: violence, greed, murder, selfish ambition, and more. Every time I watch them I just feel…icky. Looking back, I am surprised I got addicted to them at all. Such is the case with any drug, I suppose.

Oh yeah, I’m not watching any more debates, either. Same reason. Only those usually make me angry and sad and a little depressed. Not sure how I’ll figure out who to vote for, but I’ll find a way I’m sure.

I’d say I’m not going to watch the news anymore, either, but I gave up watching TV news (and reading the paper) years ago. That, without a doubt, has been one of the most positive things I’ve ever done.

To be clear, I’m not going full out Amish. I’ll still watch a movie here and there. I’ll still watch Shark Tank and The Profit like all good business owners should. But overall I’m going to watch TV a lot less and be a heck of a lot more picky with what I put in front of my face from now on.

Just making this decision I feel better already.

Anybody with me?

 

How A Control Freak Learned How To Delegate

As an entrepreneur (read “control freak”) I’ve never really known how to delegate. That’s not a good thing, but I am getting better. Nothing helps build skill better than a taste of success, though, so here’s a little story about how I’m learning how to delegate. Finally.

Our building used to be a paint factory. I know, cool, huh? The way they expanded the factory over time was to basically build a new building right up against the old one. What this means for us is that we have these large windows (that used to be exterior windows) between our office and the hall of our building that leads to the bathroom. A few years ago we started writing interesting quotes on the windows so our guests would continue to be inspired even during their potty breaks.

One of our former employees had been our scribe for a long time because she had decent handwriting. When she left I took over the windows. I tried my best to tame my penmanship, which most days looks worse than a prescription from a doctor who has had too much caffeine. I was actually a little proud of myself for making it fairly legible and keeping the lines almost straight.

Fast forward to last Friday.

I had new quotes picked out for the coming week and was headed to the hallway to scribble them on the glass. Then I remembered that Alisha, our new team member, has very nice handwriting. I know this because she wrote us a thank-you note after her interview…a lost art, by the way. I tentatively approached her and asked her:

“Hey, um, Alisha. Would you, um, like a, um, fun little project?”

As you can tell, I was, um, really sellin’ it.

Her enthusiastic, “SURE!” gave me a little more confidence. I proceeded to ask her if she would write the quotes on the windows this week. She agreed and went right to work.

Now it’s important for you to know that I spent, oh, maybe 10 minutes total on all four windows when I wrote the quotes. As I watched her progress from the office she easily spent 10 minutes PER WINDOW. From the very first letter her version was so much better than mine in every way. She is clearly gifted in window quote writing. And while I did it just because it needed to be done, she LOVED doing it and threw herself into it 100% — another important point to remember.

Just to show you the difference. Look back and forth at the picture from the top of this post and the picture below. It is the exact same window. Although I won’t hear you, please try not to laugh at my lame, lame attempt by comparison.

IMG_2994

 

 

 

When I wrote the quotes, people would glance at the quotes (maybe) as they traveled the hallway. Now people regularly stop DEAD IN THEIR TRACKS and stare at them. I hear people in 1953 had the same reaction when they saw the first color television.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because it so clearly demonstrates the power of delegation. Even in my second decade as a leader I still have a tendency to try to do everything myself. This isn’t good or even healthy, but I still do it. Even though I KNOW Alisha has way better handwriting than I do, I was reluctant to hand over the markers.

It’s hard to admit that other people can do things way better than I can. It’s helpful to remember that not only can they do them better, they actually ENJOY doing them and absolutely love it when I hand off something that I probably should have never done in the first place.

I now believe the vast — and I mean Grand Canyon sized vast — difference between Alisha’s window and mine was God’s way of telling me, “Hey dummy, see what good things happens when you let go?” I think he got tired of hinting and decided to hit me on the head with a neon dry erase marker this time. It worked.

I envy people who are great delegators. I definitely have a long way to go, but I’m working on it. Fortunately for me, the next time I struggle with delegating something, all I have to do is stop dead in my tracks and look at those windows on my next potty break.

 

Why I Finally Gave Away My Varsity Jacket

This weekend I cleaned out my closet. This wasn’t just any cleaning, this was basically a closet transformation. Inspired by the book, The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up, I took everything out of my closet and piled it on my bed. Then I held each shirt, each pair of pants, every shoe, and yes, even every piece of underwear, and asked myself “Do I actually like this?”

Go Acoustic More Often

My friend and frequent collaborator, Whitney Bishop, was recently telling me about a weekend trip she was planning with her husband. It involved driving to a remote location in Kentucky and attending a concert in the middle of nowhere. She also promised her husband she would be leaving her laptop and iPad at home. The phrase she used to sum up her plans really jumped out at me:

“Every once in awhile you just have to go acoustic.”

When a musician goes acoustic, she/he has set aside all the newfangled electronic instruments and plays instead with the non-electrified version. They trade their electric guitar for an acoustic guitar. Or they swap their electric keyboard for a “real” piano.

I’m a big believer in unplugging on a regular basis (I’m the guy who bought a cabin in the woods last year, after all).  I’ve always thought being connected was an all-or-nothing choice. Either you’re on-the-grid or you’re off-the-grid, there’s really no middle choice. You either live the the Amish or you live like the city folk.

 

Going Acoustic Might Be The Middle Ground We’re All Looking For

Then I heard that phrase, “go acoustic,” and it made me think maybe there is a middle ground after all. Maybe there HAS to be a middle ground right now. Maybe the idea of going acoustic could help relieve the stress that being so connected all the time can cause and simultaneously help relieve the stress I sometimes feel by NOT being connected.  What if I just went acoustic more often, both at work and at home?

What if I stop bringing my iPad to meetings?

What if I spend just 30 minutes every day thinking or brainstorming with only a pen and paper as my tool?

What if I leave my laptop in my briefcase on the weekends, or even one day on the weekend?

What if I only use my phone as a phone (and not as a distraction device) when I am with family and friends.

What if I check Facebook twice a day instead of twice a minute?

What if one night a week I pick up a book instead of the remote control?

Any one of these ideas would give my brain the rest it needs from the noise of my electrified world without completely disconnected. I can still carry my smart phone with me, but I could be smarter about the way I use it. I don’t have to leave my laptop at work, but I don’t need to leave it open twenty four hours a day, either. I don’t have to cancel my Facebook account, just curb how often I look at it.

I have actually made a lot of these moves in the past year and it has helped free up a lot of time and brainpower, and has definitely lowered the stress in my life. I can now see that I have been going acoustic quite a bit more than I used to. The big difference today, though, is that I’m starting to look at going acoustic as a worthy goal in itself instead of thinking it’s only a baby step to getting completely off-the-grid.

Funny how a single word can sometimes make such a huge difference in the way you think, huh?

Anyway, I wonder if you have something to add to this idea. Does going acoustic work for you or do you have to completely unplug? What’s your favorite way to go acoustic? Did this idea shake up your thinking at all like it did for me? Leave a reply below. I’d love to hear from you on this one.

 

My Next Big Thing (Maybe Yours, Too)

16 years.

That’s how long it’s been since I launched sparkspace.

I honestly had no idea my business would thrive for this long. Statistics do not favor startups. And yet, we made it past the first anniversary, then the fifth, then the tenth, the fifteenth, and here we are now, old enough to drive.

I believed in sparkspace 1000% from the start, as did our guests, clients, friends, and followers (and I am soooo thankful for all of them/you). What I wasn’t quite so sure about was ME. I wondered just how long I could stay interested and engaged in a job, even one I created. My previous record? 7 years. Before that? 3.

So, what’s the secret to staying engaged and interested for a long time (maybe even a lifetime)? It’s this:

Discover what your “ordinary superpowers” are and figure out ways to use them more and more all the time.

What are Ordinary Superpowers?

Ordinary Superpowers are your abilities, talents, and skills that pass this simple 4-part test:

1. They come naturally to you.
2. You’re better at them than most.
3. They help people (including you).
4. You love using them.

My ordinary superpowers are exploring new ideas & places, simplifying things, and communicating ideas conversationally through writing and speaking. I’ll be honest, I’ve known these were strengths for a long time, but I never fully owned them because I didn’t really think they were all that special.

The more I used them, however, the more I realized that not everyone has these abilities, and if they do, they likely don’t have my specific combination.

When I truly discovered my ordinary superpowers, started using them more proactively, and worked on improving them as much as possible, I began to have way more positive impact on the world around me.

THAT has kept me engaged for 16 years and counting.

As I share the idea of Ordinary Superpowers with others, I find people leaning in, wanting to hear more, and wondering out loud what their own ordinary superpowers might be. One of the things I love most right now is helping people start the journey of superpower discovery for themselves.

I believe it’s how you — no matter who you are, where you work, or what you do — can bring your absolute best self to the world, give your most powerful contribution, and experience true fulfillment in the short amount of time you’re given on this planet.

My Next Big Thing

Helping people discover, activate, enhance, and multiply their Ordinary Superpowers is what I’m dedicating all of my energy and resources to right now.

It’s my next big thing.

I can’t wait to keep sharing it with you. Here are two ways I plan to do that:

I’m writing a book about Ordinary Superpowers that will be published this spring. I’ll be sharing more about that soon.

I’ve also created a truly unique, one-day experience to help you discover, activate, and enhance your own ordinary superpowers.

Although I’ll be sharing my own exploration on the topic, this retreat is not about me, it’s about YOU. 100% of the content is designed to help you explore and maximize your own Ordinary Superpowers.

It will be immersive and interactive, brimming with amazing people and phenomenal content. It will be packed with positive energy and delicious food. I know when you leave you’ll look back on the day as an incredible experience.

I know that sounds like a lot, but hey, this is my next big thing and I plan on making it the best event I’ve ever produced in my 16 years at sparkspace.

I’m calling it The Superpower Summit because it will be a gathering of people who might just change the world with their superpowers. If you come, I know you’ll change YOUR world, for sure.

Are you interested? Want to know more about how to discover, activate, enhance, and multiply your own ordinary superpowers?

CLICK HERE to get all the details about the Superpower Summit at the one and only sparkspace.

I am kicking off the registration with an early bird discount that starts right now and only lasts for a short time.

Thanks! I hope you’re as excited about my next big thing as I am. I hope it’s your next big thing, too.

Here’s the link to find out more about the Superpower Summit.

The Magic Of Being Part Of Something Bigger Than You

Last week’s post, I Want To Be Part Of The Magic, Don’t You? resonated with more readers than I expected. One of the responses I received was the letter below from Michael Mitchell of Water4, a charity venture that empowers local entrepreneurs in tough parts of the world to bring clean water to their communities. 

I asked Michael if I could publish his note to me and to share a link to Water4 with you. My hope is that you’ll be inspired by both. Enjoy.


Mark,

We’ve met once when you were at Oklahoma Christian University a few years ago, but it was in passing. I just wanted to tell you how much your post spoke to me yesterday. After 12.5 years working at OC, I recently took a huge career leap (or at least it feels that way to me right now) and left my position as OC’s Director of Admissions to join a nonprofit in Oklahoma City, Water4, that’s making a huge global impact in the fight to eradicate the world water crisis. 

I loved working at OC and had gotten to a point in my career where I was on a nice, stable glide path. There’s really no such thing as a career ladder any more, I know, but if there was, I was on it at OC. I was in a place and had taken the right steps to continue advancing in a nice fruitful higher education career at my alma mater. I was even doing something that I felt good about in leading a team in the Admissions Office and helping students make one of the biggest decisions of their lives. I’ve seen the power of Christian education to change lives and I was getting to be part of that process in the lives of hundreds of young people each year.

And yet… I’ve always had this desire deep in my heart to fight for people on the margins. And while I’ve found outlets for that at almost every stage of my life & career, I’ve never given that desire my full attention. Over the years, without realizing it or being able to articulate it quite like this, I think I stopped believing in the magic. 

Then one day, I learned about an opportunity with Water4 that would be an almost perfect vocational fit with my heart for people on the margins…and it was an opportunity that I was qualified for! And I was scared. Scared to raise my hand. Scared to let my heart get excited. Scared to leap when the position was offered. Scared to leave something comfortable, stable, and familiar. But I raised my hand anyway.

And here I am. One week into my “new” world as a fundraiser and storyteller for a cause that is literally saving hundreds of lives EVERY day. And I feel the magic. The magic of new beginnings. The magic of vocation & purpose in near perfect alignment. The magic of being part of something that is SO MUCH BIGGER THAN I AM.

Wow. This has turned into a much longer email than I originally anticipated it being. I just wanted to say thank you for writing that post yesterday. Your words almost perfectly articulate the swirl of thoughts and feelings I’ve been having the last several weeks.

Thank you for your words. You’ve been a blessing to me. 


Michael,

Thank YOU. And best wishes for you and Water4.

 

I Want To Be Part Of The Magic, Don’t You?

This past weekend, I took my family and my staff to Miracles & Magic, my favorite fundraiser of the year. It’s a 2-hour Las Vegas style magic and comedy show that over the years has raised over a million dollars for charities that benefit sick kids and their families. This year was the best show yet.

You’re Overqualified. So What?

Have you ever felt overqualified for something you really wanted to do? Or actually BEEN overqualified for something you were really interested in doing?