Category Archives: Best Practices

Slow is Smooth: Creating Good Habits

Anything big can be broken down. Big dream, big goals…it’s not that they’re out of reach precisely, as is you’re far away. It isn’t always that they’re pipe dreams, ones too grand to happen, but sometimes you hold the goal too close to be able to look clearly at the pathways you need to get there, and for that you need distance (perspective), persistence (grit) and work (action) to close the gap.

Grit can be sourced from many things. From positive (belonging to a supportive and encouraging group of friends or family, having a goal you’re really invested in) to grey-negative (Out of sheer, seething spite to show people up, for instance.) Grit varies from person to person.

And for distance and work to work, you need to notice time. Pay attention to the way you habitually spend your time, and you’ll get a clear view of what you are or aren’t doing to get your goals realized. As much as we can say about what’s important to us, an actual record of what and where we spend our time on is a much more reliable indicator of what we prioritize.

And one very small, very powerful way to close the gap is the power of good habits. Continue reading Slow is Smooth: Creating Good Habits

How To Manage Change Using Loss Aversion

Marketing psychology studies consumer behavior to find out the reasons and influences behind people buying stuff. And just as with any body of knowledge, it can be used well, or to take advantage of others.

A hard-wired human trait that marketers take advantage of is loss aversion.
One of the hardest instincts to overcome, loss aversion can be explained like this: It’s scarier to think of losing something that you already have, than it is to consider a possibly risky action to get something you want but don’t have yet. What you have is yours. A threat to it, or a hint of losing it, will hit you harder than losing a chance to gain something else.

Fear is a very strong motivator to hold onto things. When you have something, you have it: you can touch it, look it up, console yourself that it’s in storage. You know it’s there, you know you have it, and that knowledge keeps your stable world view secure. It also gives you some peace of mind that you have control.

Witness hoarders from the minimalist to the extremists, and how the storage industry helps people hide more stuff than they can fit into their homes. Think of the data storage industry and how it uses assurance to assuage people’s worries about data protection. In your own home there’s the catch-all drawer, and, well, how many old, busted umbrellas do you have hanging around somewhere?

No one likes losing stuff. Marketers from every niche and industry know it, that’s why there’s insurance for damn near everything. People also buy stuff motivated by the need to protect the things they already have.

All of that being said, how can use you use the power of loss aversion for yourself?

Knowledge is power, and now that you’re aware of how the threat of loss can affect your decisions, even subconsciously, how can you use that power to work in your favor?
Continue reading How To Manage Change Using Loss Aversion

When X Marks The Spot

It’s a general rule of thumb to break down big goals into smaller blocks.

  • Psychologically speaking, smaller blocks are easier for us to wrap our minds around, and make for easier mental digestion and responsive planning.
  • With this helpful breakdown, we can see the steps much more easily, and we’re able to adjust and improve our actions in carrying them out. This helps a lot in allocating time and labor accurately.
  • However small we make these blocks, each step we finish helps build momentum for the process, and we get to energize ourselves with the knowledge that we’re closing in on the target.

 

Positive brain hack:
Keeping a visible record of your micro-accomplishments — for example, a trailing word-count, a tally of calls made, a checklist of actions taken — keeps your brain engaged with frequent feel-good endorphin boosts at every small ‘win’ you make.

 

In working towards a goal you make incremental gains until the goal is met.
If the goal is time-bound and the time is scattered across days (or more) a good way to get it done at a sustainable rate is being methodical and, ahem, ‘metronomical.’

You make ready, and then make steady. Block out a time, and in that block pay attention to nothing else but that open action that needs closure. Between the required focused blocks, you can rest, attend to other matters and still get stuff done while paying steady action to this particular ‘string’ of finished blocks you’re building.

If the time-line to accomplish the goal is compacted, then doing the work without interruptions or spillage in the time you’ve got is necessary. When something important comes up our vision has a way of filtering out the less important issues until the main one gets solved.

It’s not the issue of bringing your A-game as it simply bringing yourself fully to the table. You choose to ignore worries and mental static from unrelated issues other than the one you tasked yourself to handle in this particular time block. You plant your tush in the chair, and you work on what’s in front of you. Even if it’s a B-minus game you’re doing, when you get the work done, then it’s A+.

Did you ever thing of ‘bonus’ work, though?
Continue reading When X Marks The Spot

Your Presence Is Required

What’s the difference between doing something and practicing doing it?

When we practice something, the consensus is, the practice is a lead-up. Framed this way, practice gets a different treatment from the ‘real thing.’ For example, doing something like taking a few practice swings to warm up and get into the groove before playing ball. Since practice gives you more space to allow and accept mistakes, it’s not as serious, nor for keeps.

With practice, you have more time to ‘get it right’ and not so much pressure to get it right as to ‘get into the flow.’ That’s how the practice of practice can give off the impression of it not being as important as ‘the real thing.’ Without, say, screaming crowds or an apprehensive, appreciative audience, you can’t be faulted for thinking that. It’s the exciting stuff that gets attention.

So, makes what’s the difference? Take your pick.

Goals.
The end defines the means. The clearer the goal, the more chances you have of finding appropriate ways and means to get there. Different goals for different fields show this. And even acquiring skills are counted as goals.

Goals that require physical mastery, for example, like playing the violin or playing basketball. Each area has different requirements, but in essence on the professional level one must be able to play with the instrument of choice as if it was an extension of one’s body. It does what you want it to. For that to happen, you need to train your whole body to know what to do to produce a desired effect, whether it’s producing a trill or making the perfect overhead shot, without you having to consciously think about it.

Goals that require intellectual discernment are different. Rote memorization can be boosted by memory exercises and practice. Discernment can only be gained through exposure, trial-and-error experience, and critical thinking. It isn’t making something do what you want it to as figuring out the how and whys, before going on to such questions as, what can I do with this, how can I make it do this instead.

 

Resources.
Limits help define what you can and can’t do in a particular situation. Limits can force us to be more creative with how we move within them, just like stretching a budget (limited funds), being fanatically good at time-management (limited time), and focused productivity (limited focus and mental energy.)

Continue reading Your Presence Is Required

How To Make Boring, Unsexy Progress

When people speak of others being overnight successes, what it boils down to is the fact that all of a sudden, everyone is talking about that particular person. In today’s language, these people became viral in a good way.

Breaking the phrase down, ‘overnight’ and ‘success’ hits all the sweet spots in our hindbrain.  ‘Overnight’ appeals to the part of us that want things fast and easy. ‘Success’ gets us to imagining what it’s like to be admired, or wealthy, or famous. Or all three.  Witnessing an ‘overnight sensation’ also works in the same vein — ‘sensation’ taps into the feel-good mechanism in our brain, which lights up whenever we get a hit of something that pleases us or makes us feel good about ourselves. “If they can do it, I can too!”

It rarely matters to the public how hard or how long someone’s been working on whatever it is that helped them become a success; When somebody becomes a star, being in the spotlight can cast a deep shadow over the work done behind the scenes and throughout the years. All the audience can see is how flattering the lighting is, and how put-together and happy the star of the show looks, and how inspiring the story is.

And aside from sound-bytes and maybe a short montage,  you don’t usually get to see the frustrations, disappointments, wrong turns and stubborn grit it took to get them to the point where they finally caught the public’s attention. The editors and technicians see to that.

The thing is, the way ‘overnight’ comes across, and adding the temptation of ‘sensation’ into the picture, that all glosses over one small principle that gets overlooked and yet can help us become successful to ourselves and for ourselves.

‘Get-rich-quick’ and ‘get-famous-quick’, or ‘overnight success’ can sometimes end up as ‘one-hit wonders’ and ‘flash-in-the-pan’ phenomena. Consistent and steady progress makes for meaningful, solid work that lasts. Continue reading How To Make Boring, Unsexy Progress

Getting Things Done Even When You Don’t Feel Like It

With everything technology has given us in the ways of getting in touch with one another, the demands that come with being always connected has set work culture up to be quite a free-for-all, one with numerous competing bids for our attention. When you can talk to anyone from anywhere, anytime, you can be reached everywhere, all the time. Unless, of course, you’ve taken precautions.

When you have a good system in place to filter those demands, that takes a weight off you. Still, there are always days where it’s all you can do to somehow slog through your workload.  It can be wearing on a daily basis, but consistently having bad days? That’s a recipe for burn out, mentally and emotionally. In that case, prevention can help things from getting worse.

Related article:  Technostress: Rise Against The Machines

Assuming that you got a good set-up going for you, what else can you do to make it easier to still get things done when you’re hit by one of those zero-motivation days?

Certainly mindfulness is a very good skill to develop. It’s something that can help you distinguish and filter out the noise from the signal. Mindfulness also helps you cut through the distractions that swarm in and eat at your focus. But since mindfulness is a practice that you can get better at over time, what other things can you do to help you focus the work you need to finish today, even when you’re really not feeling it?

Quick spot-check:

  1. Are you watered? Dehydration can lead to headaches and fogginess, you delicate flower you, and could be why you’re wilting. Coffee still counts as a liquid, but the caffeine can act as a diuretic. Go get water-water. Whether carbonated or flavored, get water. Please steer away from sodas and other sugary drinks — they’re not good for you in the long run.
  2. How’s your blood sugar? Is it crashing? Speaking of sugar, when was the last time you ate something substantial, and not artificially flavored? Do yourself a good deed and treat yourself right. It’s not just garbage in, garbage out when it comes to sustaining yourself.  Eat real food.
  3. How’s your breathing? Slumping in front of your computer screen doesn’t only play havoc with your spine, it compresses your lungs and you don’t get as much air as you need.  Go take a brisk walk, preferably outside if you can. Stretch your legs. Pull your shoulders down and back and breathe into your belly, exhaling slowly through your lips. Get your blood oxygen up.
  4. Do you need to go to the bathroom? Go to the bathroom. Wash your face and your hands while you’re at it to clear up your head and shake off the mood. Use cold water to wake yourself up. Continue reading Getting Things Done Even When You Don’t Feel Like It

The Secret To Your Best Performance: Intelligent Self-care

In an article written eight years ago, we spoke about tailoring for performance. Then and now, the basic principles are still holding. If you can’t find your comfort where you can, you make it. If you can’t find ease in your daily work load or everyday routine, take steps to create ease. You’ll last longer, you’ll do so in a healthier state, and you’ll be in a better position to lead your business.

Food for thought:
Elite athletes very rarely do it alone. To get to that level of performance requires a support team, especially at the Olympic level. For the right diet, rest, proper self-care, and winning mind-set you’d expect the following: a dietician and/or a personal chef, a physical therapist and a sports-specific  doctor, and a coach, just to start. This team would help support the athlete as they go through all the relentless hours of training to burn in muscle memory and raise their performance to the best it could be.

You may not be an athlete. You may not have the funds for such a support team. But you can still  take the actions necessary so you’re able to perform at your best on a consistent basis. And honestly, who else would be in a better position to act on what’s best for you than you?

Food for thought, part two:
Life can be stressful, but stress shouldn’t be a default state for you. Yes, it’s true that there are people who seem bullet-proof when it comes to stressful events and situations, but if you’re not included in that particular group, you still have choices on how to make life easier to weather.  It isn’t just however many road-blocks you encounter, or how many holes you have to dig yourself out of, it’s also the feeling that you’re not in control of anything.

On road-blocks and holes:
Going along with this scenario, how will you know if you’re a good driver? See, in a sense, this is what tailoring is about. Learning how to drive  is learning a particular skill that enables you to move and act independently. Learning how to ‘tailor’ in this sense, helps you have an easier journey. You prepare, you act, and you put yourself in a position to choose the best way the job gets done. You’re in control.

  • What, in your particular situation, is your ‘driving’ skill’? Are you prepared for dealing with ‘potholes’ and roadblocks?
  • What are the common obstacles you frequently encounter? What were their effects? How did you deal, and what did you to prepare if they come up again?

Related Series: Lessons From Defensive Driving (Parts one, two, three, four and five.)

 

The same principles for having a good road-trip still apply to having a good routine that supports you in performing at your best.  A clear goal is a definite end-point,  so doing stuff that takes you further away or in the opposite direction should obviously tell you you’re doing it wrong. Making sure you’re equipped for the length of the drive tells you to plan for pit-stops (breaks) and refuelling (rest and recharge), as well as being well-supplied with what you need to make the drive safely and comfortably.

You can only be on the road for so long without resting. Your tank can only reach a certain level before you need to refuel. Running on fumes won’t do you or your car any good, and will lead to problems over time. Identify what it is you can control, prepare for what you can’t, and make sure to take of yourself so you arrive in one healthy piece.

Without the mixed metaphors.
Between where you are  and the place you want to go, there forms a space where you can carve out a better situation for yourself with your actions. There are multiple approaches to improving how you do things, just as there are many ways you can draw a line between Point A (where you are), and Point B (where you want to go.)  the more specific you can be about the things you can do to make your work easier,  the better the fit to your desired goals.

First, you have to actually pay attention to what you’re doing. You want a better performance, you want to be more productive, you need to establish a baseline so you know what you’re starting out with. You do this by:

  • Observing yourself and what you do regularly every day.
  • Taking note of when you’re at your most awake, and when your energy slumps.
  • Looking at the activities where you encounter the most problems, and the ones which take your time and energy but offer little in real returns for you. (Hint: This is where the stuff you can stop doing resides.)

Then you look at these things, individually, and in connection with your whole habitual set-up.

  • Address the things and attitudes that hold you back.
  • Look at the empty habits that don’t add anything of positive value to your work or to your life. If they’re not helping, they’re weighing you down and taking up energy you can use for better things.
  • Address the stuff  and especially the habits that weigh you down, whether physically, mentally, financially, or emotionally. Or chronologically.
  • Look at things that can shave time off doing, or save time by letting go or outsourcing if you can’t.
  • Look at stuff that helps you perform better, and try to make them a habit.

Be realistic about what you can accomplish.
There’s always a price to be paid when you abuse your resources. Always. Whether it’s a battered immune system from too much stress, brain-fog, back-pain, or creeping weight-gain, there’s always a rebound effect — and that’s only the physical aspect. Abuse erodes and uses up healthy reserves, whether we’re talking about your body, your finances, or your mental and emotional health.

This push to do all the things and then brag about how much sleep you’re not getting is a loser’s game. Discomfort is not a virtue. Comfort is not a sin. We have to take care of ourselves. Nobody wins an award for burning the candle at both ends.  Be smart. Be creative. If you can’t find ways then make ways to take care of yourself.

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Give Your Website A Boost Behind The Scenes

It’s easy to overlook things when you’re engrossed in the day-to-day events  of running a business or focused working on projects, so we’re just taking a few minutes of your time to share a few pointers and help you with your website:

Website health-check.
A website works while you sleep.  Barring DoS attacks, a cut cable somewhere on the ocean floor, or Skynet dropping the boom — or you forgetting to renew your  hosting subscription — your business website is up 24/7/365. An asset like that deserves proper care and maintenance to keep on working for you the way you have it designed to.

If you haven’t done it yet, just take the next three minutes to write down all the maintenance dates and details for your website  — and then put copies of the information where it makes sense to put them, whether as an extra page in your operations manual, an index card in your day-planner, or a laminated printout for your files.

For added assurance, reinforce the data with reminders on your preferred calendar app or your business planner.

  • When do you need to renew your hosting, domain name, and security certificates?
  • Are your security details updated for your hosting, security and domain authorities — down to the correct email address, updated contact numbers, and even the credit card expiration date, if it comes to that?
  • Are the charges for those items  on an auto-debit or automatic billing cycle?

Continue reading Give Your Website A Boost Behind The Scenes

Are You A Poor Entrepreneur?

Any business of any size is run by people. People, being people, carry their own mind-sets and world views with them wherever they go, and make decisions, have habits, and see things according to the way their world-view works.  How you see the world decides how you act in it, and vice versa.

And with that setting the context,  you have heard of the scarcity mindset, right?

In essence, the scarcity mindset is concerned with lack.  If we were talking about it like it’s eyesight, it’s hyper-focus and short-sightedness at the same time.

  • With hyper-focus you can get tunnel-vision. While doubling down on an issue can help especially when time is running out and the need is urgent, you can also get blindsided.
  • With short-sightedness you won’t be able to focus on what’s further ahead.

You’re fully caught up in the moment, and not in a good way.  Think of it like treating the symptoms and ignoring the illness. You feel better temporarily, but it doesn’t fix that you’re sick.

When you’re focused on what isn’t there, you can’t focus on what is there. You’re too tied up to respond freely, consciously, and deliberately.

What happens when you have have this mind-set?

  • You spend the majority of your brainpower  and energy on what you see as emergencies, and the important things can slide right out of focus.
  • Your judgment is affected, as will as your willpower.

When these two things are set askew, you won’t be able to make the most appropriate choices in the situations you face,  and you could find it easier to throw your hands up and pick the closest ‘solution’ available, or simply give up, which doesn’t help and can make the situation worse.

 

In many cases, that sort of thinking can be a big a problem hiding in your blind spot. You might not think there’s anything out of the ordinary, you might not see that there’s an issue, but somehow you keep bumping into the same snarls, chokepoints, and roadblocks.  You keep putting out the same fires.

See, the scarcity mindset isn’t just the overall feeling that “there is only this much, and no more,” so you have to get yours while you can. It’s an entire way of moving in the world, and for you, it’s just normal. And it’s holding you back.
Continue reading Are You A Poor Entrepreneur?

Don’t Lose Sight of The Customer — Or Yourself

At the first, second, and third look, a business is in it to make money.
If it’s not making money,  then it’s an exercise in frustration and a money-sucking black hole at worst, and an expensive ‘hobby’ at best. A business provides services or products to consumers in return for money. Electronic commerce (e-commerce) is the business of selling goods and providing services using an online platform, i.e the internet. That’s why you’re here.

So yes, you got into this wanting to make money . And somehow you are making money.  After keeping good records and getting updated licenses and permits and whatnot, how do you do? Do you lie awake at night worrying about how to make your mailing list grow? Do you wake up worried about making your bottom-line? Is your free time occupied with scribbling out plans with words like leverage, maximize, sales funnel, and  optimize?

When this kind of financial pressure makes you micro-focus on the numbers, you lose sight of several important things in the whole equation.
Yes, you do need to keep good records and updated permits and licenses and whatnot.
Yes, you do need to work on growing your mailing list. That’s all just good accounting and legal practice, and business sense.
But focusing on the bottom-line frames your business solely in terms of numbers. In doing so, that sort of gently moves out of focus the prime movers in the business.  And who are those? You, for one, and your customers, for another. Lose sight of either, you  can go off track.

Focusing solely on the point to get the money is missing the other points. Continue reading Don’t Lose Sight of The Customer — Or Yourself