Friday, January 17, 2020

Accountability, and Working From Home BY SUSAN HARRIS

                 The meme read, “Working from home, pants optional”.

Photo from Google images

After the first smile I began to ponder on the short-sightedness of the statement. It is myopic indeed. 

Clothes aside, working from home can bring out one's best self, or it can be the passport to glassy-eyed oblivion. The home office is as distracting (if not more) than the workplace; a main difference, however, is that co-workers wear more vogue outfits than the cat. 

I’ve been successful in both the workplace and the home office. (I actually work longer hours at home since elastic waist pants can be pulled up in a second, whereas the grooming for the workplace required an hour. And the commute is only 25 steps.) 

My work ethic does not change with location, and therein lies the premise to being my best self.  I have cultivated a sense of discipline. I hold myself accountable. I know how I spend my minutes.  

That’s not to say that there aren’t days when I wonder where’s the productivity.  The microwave flashing 1:00 p.m. in blue has prompted me on several occasions to ask what have I to show for the past  six hours. 

But I know what I’ve done. It’s productivity that’s the back end, diligence that may disclose the fruit in two weeks, or 10 months, or longer. But it’s never wasted time.

My bullet notebooks/journals

For two years now I’ve kept a loose form of the bullet journal using plain lined notebooks. (I buy cheap ones.)  I was always a list-person, but I used throw out my lists every night. Now my bullet notebook holds my to-do lists; my upcoming appointments and schedules up to a year; significant occurrences; insights, and reflections of the spirit. All captured in point form, terse sentences, or short stanzas. 

Last week my husband took two days off. After a full morning of phone calls and emails, I had no real output to show. “If I didn’t have this notebook with the evidence, come next week I’d wonder how I had passed the days.” I observed to him.

When he turned on football on television, that became my social media slot. I jotted the time we spent watching movies, and playing Scrabble. The hours of just talking across coffee or dinner, investing in our relationship. Because it’s written, I know. On days when the optics do not show that progress has been made, my bullet notebook  tells me the truth. When colour coded, at a glance the journal indicates where I’ve  spent the most time. Then I can re-evaluate if necessary.  

Behaviour must sync with the dynamism of fleeting time. Time swallowed up in eternity gone. I’ve learned that in being accountable for my minutes, I am being a good steward. Just as Jesus told in the parable that we should be. 

The underpinning premise is to create a system  to hold oneself accountable. The bullet notebook has become my reliance. 

A tracking mechanism of any kind can do the same job – digital or paper. I prefer paper. And pants. 

Susan Harris is an author, speaker, and television host of ETERNITY. 
Visit her website at   

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

New Year—New Possibilities

It's getting a little late in the month to greet someone with well wishes for the new year. But I'm going to do it anyway. "Happy New Year, everyone!"

There is something invigorating about starting a new year, and in this case a new decade. It's an opportunity to re-calibrate and start fresh. It gives us a chance to set new goals, toss out unproductive habits and dream new dreams.

For me, 2020 began with a long-hoped-for surprise. Here's part of the back story to the surprise:

When my novel The Soldier Who Killed a King was released in July of 2017, I was urged to get as
many book reviews as possible. The goal was to get 50 Amazon reviews by New Year, 2018.

"Magical things happen when you hit 50!" I was told. "The Amazon algorithms start working in your favour when you hit 50."

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to get reviews? Especially when you live in Canada? This is tough slogging. If you ask twenty people to post a short review, you may get one person who actually follows through. Also, reviews do not appear on The two sites operate independently.

Needless to say I didn't get my 50 reviews by New Year, 2018, or New Year, 2019 for that matter. But the numbers were creeping higher. By July 2019 I was at 49. Every week or two I would check if there was a change. Nothing moved. I was frozen at 49.

When 2020 dawned, I finally hit 50 reviews on So did the magic kick in at 50? It took a few days, but it did kick in. About a week later, my review count shot up from 50 to 59 on, and from 36 to 46 on

So am I still looking for book reviews? Absolutely. It's a new year and a new decade. It's time for some new dreams. How about a bestseller in 2020?

In the new online book selling model the real power belongs to the reviewers. That reviewer could be you.

What about your goals and dreams for 2020? Do you have some? Feel free to share in the comments below.

David Kitz is the chair of The Word Guild
Visit his website at

Saturday, January 11, 2020

What are the chances?

 We celebrated Epiphany last Sunday and our Christmas tree is put away. A few last decorations remain in our home—a couple of door wreaths that are as much winter as they are about Christmas, and a string of Christmas cards across the picture window inside our living room. I leave those a little longer to remind me of the special moments of the holidays, including time with family, and the reason we celebrate.

At our Toastmasters meeting this week, the Table Topics Master asked his impromptu questions and the last one was “What is your favourite holiday tradition?” I sat there thinking about it for a brief moment then put up my hand and was called forward to give my short speech that I composed on the spot.

I spoke about Christmas Eve service being my favourite tradition, after all I’ve been part of it for many years, many times singing in choir, sometimes helping my children with their violin preparations, and then many times too, sitting there and soaking in the atmosphere. As I write this post, I remember, too, the Christmas that tears rolled down my cheeks because a friend had died only two days before. The tears were there because I missed her, and I felt that my prayers for her had gone unnoticed by God. I had prayed that she might have another chance with the transplant, but it was not to be. I was sad. There had been a small sign while we held our lit candles that Christmas Eve, as we sang Silent Night, that assured me she was in heaven. I talked with her husband afterwards about that moment that was so hard to put into words.

But I didn’t speak of that Christmas Eve in my impromptu speech. What I did talk about was the beauty of the carols, the music, the flowers and candles and being surrounded by friends who also loved that same person we came to celebrate. In that Google building workplace, I didn’t name Jesus, but I’d said I was a Christian by practice. And I spoke of the feeling of calm and peace at the end of a year that might have been challenging or painful in many respects, but here was calm and peace. That was how I ended my short one-minute speech.

This morning as I prepare my heart for the good-bye service of a friend’s mother, I got this line in my head. What are the chances? And I started writing.

And so I might ask, what if that calm and peacefulness could last much longer? What if more people who struggle with feelings of being alone or lost, what if they could feel that same calm and peace in the middle of their challenges? Even if it’s an oasis they could move to in their minds, as I did on Christmas Eve, that would see them through? What are the chances? What do you picture there?

Friday, January 03, 2020

Keep Quiet and Let God Carry On by Rose McCormick Brandon

If I had to reduce 2019 to one lesson learned it would be this: Keep quiet, pray, and wait for God to work.

I wanted badly to say something to fix a situation. Wise sage that I am, I composed more than one approach in my mind. I prayed. What message did the Lord have for me? Keep quiet. Pray only. This important message should be shouted in capitals.

Psalm 27:14 says, “Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” 
It takes courage to keep quiet. And patience to wait for God to answer our prayers. I like the old word for patience – longsuffering – that word encapsulates how difficult it is to exercise patience.

When we interfere with God’s work we end up saying things we shouldn’t and things we can’t take back. We cause hurt feelings and divisions that in some cases take decades to heal.

With the ability to express ourselves instantly in a few keystrokes, discretion and waiting for God, has taken a beating. Every day we observe people fired up over a disagreement. Like soldiers with guns cocked, they shoot off a tweet, an email or a Facebook post. It’s not uncommon for people to discover within a few minutes that the event that fuelled their rage happened a decade ago, or perhaps not at all. Seldom does the blasting writer have all the details.

The desire to get others to think as we do and to act as we do is strong. We see ourselves as wise and others who think differently as fools. 

Correcting people is risky business. Few are holy enough (or kind enough) to pull it off.

In 2020, I want to become more proficient in the practice of discretion. It doesn’t mean I can’t have opinions, but my opinions, and the way I express them, must not push people away from God, or insult them.

The situation I wanted to remedy in an instant took God about a year and a half to fix. Often I struggled to keep a lid on my words. The Lord planned it that way to give me much-needed experience in waiting on Him.

I have a long way to go and much to learn in following Christ. I expect Him to teach me more about waiting in 2020. 

Rose McCormick Brandon writes about personal experiences, her faith and the children who came to Canada as immigrants, the British Home Children. She contributes to publications in Canada, the U.S. and Australia and is the author of Promises of Home - Stories of Canada's British Home Children and One Good Word Makes all the Difference. Find her faith writings at her blog, Listening to my Hair Grow. 

Popular Posts