Tag Archives: self-discipline

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 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

How DIY Doesn’t Mean DIAY (Doing It All Yourself)

Working smart is one of the keys to creating a good living, and so is working hard. One pitfall to look out for is thinking that working harder will help you solve everything thrown at you in the course of running your business.  For your own sake,  don’t try so hard at trying that you get in your own way (advice that relies on the Taoist concept of wu wei — more on that in a little bit.)

A ‘Renaissance man’, as we understand the term, is someone who’s good at whatever they turn their hand to, and that basically encompasses everything, if you go by the definition given by the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Seeing as the phrase was coined in the 1400‘s, however, six hundred years has still not been enough to take this ideal to its logical conclusion. See, the times have very much changed.

Look at how much the sciences, arts, and humanities have expanded and deepened in all that time. Leonardo Da Vinci is a popular example of genius, and honestly, people with creative brains like his are statistical outliers.

Given today’s demands for specialization, it is very rare to find actual ‘experts-in-everything’. The bulk of people with notable successes can come from backgrounds out of the norm, or have been relentlessly putting in the work over a long  time — and then were discovered as ‘overnight sensations’.

And whoa, but isn’t that image exciting? Isn’t it seductive ? To think,  with just a little more push, you could be a sensation yourself.

 

The phenomenon of ‘overnight successes’ can often overlook years of work, or the set of circumstances that made these people successful (luck, family background, wealth, opportunities, etc).  But true renaissance men (in a non-gendered blanket term) today? Still statistical outliers.

The image lingers because it’s so compelling — think of John Wayne and the “Lone Cowboy’ hero image , and throw in the Lone Ranger too. And oh, hey, bootstrappers. The people who built empires out of their garages.

Stories like that are inspiring. We can dream big while we’re plugging away at our projects.

And sometimes trying to fulfill our dreams by following the old scripts can make us sick. “Going it alone,” and “doing all the things!1!1”, and putting letting rest, re-connection and recreation down by the wayside is like pouring out your energy on barren ground, and leaving no reserves.
Continue reading How DIY Doesn’t Mean DIAY (Doing It All Yourself)

In Cold Blood: How To Deal With Procrastination

Sometimes, when faced with unpleasant task that have to be done, the best way to get it done it is to just push away the unpleasantness you feel and do it. Like holding your breath when you have to take nasty-tasting medicine: you need to take it, you don’t want to do it because of the taste, but you do it anyway. And then it’s done.

Now, there are a lot of things we can feel ‘icky’ about. And sometimes — well, a lot of times — those feelings help paralyze us into not doing anything at all. By actively feeling them, we can blow the negative feeling out of proportion so they block the energy we need to get things done, and then drain that energy so nothing gets done. That’s why avoidant behavior is seen to be unproductive.

In a business, being non-productive is a liability. Procrastination is a solid example of how putting things off can hurt us. We push things off, we forget, we lose focus —  and small things can turn into large problems. How do you deal? identify the contributing factors.

Indecision.
It doesn’t help that the internet gives you access to massive repositories of data and countless options. Paralysis by analysis, anybody? You want to make the best way to fix it– whatever  ‘it’ is?

There are  specialized forums, customer reviews, and whitepapers. There  are first-person videos, how-to’s and comparison charts. You could dip a toe in that pool and not come up for air for days. You can lose time, lose perspective, and have your judgement affected by the sheer amount of data thrown at you.

Usually when we make goals we assess our time commitments and the weight of goals.  Colin Powell’s “40-70 Rule” (Lesson Fifteen here and explained a bit more here) gives a ballpark figure on how much data you really need to make a tough decision. Less than 40%, you don’t have enough to make a well-informed choice. More than 70% means you’d taken up too much time.

More isn’t always better. Sometimes it’s just more. You need to be nimble — you can’t  move fast when you’re busy weighing yourself down with data.

High emotions.
We can think more clearly before the actual commitment pressure is on–  a cold look, not a heated glare, so to speak. This helps you dispassionately assess what needs to be finished. Finished, not ‘in process’.

Pulling the trigger is easy when emotions aren’t clouding your judgment.  A rather cold-blooded, image, yes, but it does get the point across. Make the plan in cold thinking, pull the trigger even when —especially when — you don’t ‘feel it’ at the time you are supposed to act.

Now, how did procrastination ‘pay off’ for you in the past? More likely:

  • It increased the intensity and the level of your stress.
  • Added the number of  open loops fighting for your attention.
  • Added guilt, ate at your self image, and reinforced a negative one.
  • Gave you _more things to worry about, like additional fall-out and possible areas for screwing up.

 

This is trading in short-term relief for longer-term discomfort.
You already know this.
You also know you just want to get things done and over with so you won’t have to worry about them anymore– leaving you free to go and do stuff you like and want and look forward to doing.
The shadow side of ignoring stuff is that it’s like crawling  under the rock of misery and staying there since it’s so familiar it feels like home.

Resistance is the silent killer of momentum.
You have enough small stuff to capture your current attention, those small things become hooks that you catch on. They latch onto you and slow you down with ‘false dilemmas’

For example: cleaning papers in your office, whether on your desk, or filed away….somewhere. “Do I need this? Can I still use this later? I have to decide now? Maybe I have to keep this for tax purposes?”

And before you know it, you’re sitting on the floor with yellowing papers strewn out in ‘To-be-classified’ piles instead of actually getting the clutter out

‘Fake dilemmas’  are artificially inflated busy-work. Sure, you can attend to them but the net gain to your end-of-day productivity is negligible.

“But I  need to make the most out of this decision.”
No, you don’t. There are things that definitely need to be optimized, but these things are distinguished by their value and pay-off. Give the heavy stuff their due, not the light stuff.

“I need to get New Thing before I can start New Endeavor.”
Assess your resources.  Can you make do with Old Thing with New Endeavor to start with the New Habit or New Process?  Sometimes getting new stuff can keep the happy, but happy fades and you still have to do the work. And with business, keeping track of expenses is a good thing.

Don’t fall for the belief that New Thing will revolutionize your life and make New Endeavor an cinch. Work needs to be done, and if you can make do with your resources, cool.

It isn’t the newness of tools that get the work done, it’s what you know you will do with the tools you have. Try to make the new thing work with what you have, where you are. Unless you have very industry specific tools, the habit of practice comes from action and presence. It’s not always contingent on new stuff

“I want to do good!”
Yes, but you won’t do good right off the bat. It’s perfectly acceptable and expected to suck on the first few attempts or sessions. Waiting until you’re good without practice is impossible. A nice daydream, but impossible in real life. You don’t get to perfect on the first day, you just have to get it done for today. And that should be your  finish line .

This thing you’re putting off is important enough for you to plan and execute with the aim of getting it done. You don’t get it done now, you’ll still be the person to deal with it later, or tomorrow.   Plus,  the weight of disappointment and the blow to your expectations and self-esteem for not having done it will be the interest.

When you’re calmer, think of what situation or event triggers you most often.
You don’t want to do A Thing.
Why not the Thing?
Why anything  but The Thing?

Emotion is blocking you and your mind seizes any available outlet to explain why you don’t — won’t– do it.
Like, you could get a better outcome if you do a little more research. So you do that instead.
Or, you might need these files for tax purposes so you’ll sort them out later.

Where and when do you put off things the most?
Like any doctor, take historical data. Where have you screwed up by putting things off for so long they mutated and bit you on the ass? Filing important papers? Following up on projects? Where?

Be honest here, anything you hide will just fester. The areas in your work where you slack off may have secret minefield that you have to deal with, or else trip over at crucial moments .

The nature of your complaints can show you a connection you may have not been able to see, and show you a picture you might not want to face. You still have to — if not now, when? Until it’s too late (again)? How will you pay when that happens? In missed opportunities? In a missed-out life?

Bulling through is still reliable when doing so gets the job done.
— Do the task, being as present as you can.
— Remove temptation — use Leechblock, close the door, make sure you have a glass of water, and had been to the bathroom.
— Plant your as and begin until you finish. Not-feeling-it can fade away when you push through the I-don’t-wanna phase and find the groove.

Finding your personal relaxed best.
Have you figured out your personal rhythms yet? People have an optimal time for when they are relaxed and yet alert, so they can be fully present and immersed in what they do. Planning your  work for the best time that you  can do that work is a rare and treasured skill.

It takes testing, awareness, tracking, and knowing your productivity cycle: whether you’re a night owls or morning lark or somewhere in between, or needing the morning to gradually ramp up your processing power, etc.

What circumstances help you focus? What helps you brainstorm?
Find that spot, look at the circumstances that make it: a quiet room, closed doors, noise-cancelling headphones or your favorite inspirational, calming, or energetic playlist — whatever makes your environment conducive to get you into the flow.

Work at a coffee shop. Work in the library. Just make sure that what you’re doing is actually the work you’re supposed to be doing, and not just busy work, which is a stand-in for the real thing.

The point is to get this done so you can leave it behind.
The point is to close this loop so you can take the next step.
The point is to start so you can stop when you’re done.

Procrastination is a common habit, and a maladaptive one. It will take uncommon work and discipline to fence off and box in, as we are still only human, and sometimes, we need to have the freedom to put things off.

When you know you have a good handle on the things that are important to you, you can take that time. Until then, getting things done even when you don’t feel like doing them is one work approach that is sure to keep you on the right track.

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Deep Thinking And Your Chosen Path

Think of the following sexy, sexy business phrases: positive leverage, maximize gains, optimized performance, superior ROI, positive strides, minimized risk and overhead. Guaranteed returns.

Have they sparked excitement? Did they perk up your interest? Are you willing to do the real work of thinking out the best possible future reality for yourself and then do the work necessary for  these events to come true for your business?

Or have you been turned off by hitting Business Buzzword Bingo with all these arguably hackneyed corporate cliches?

Your reaction depends on  the emotions that you felt in response to these words.  If you’re interest, you stay on the page. If you’re not, you probably just close the tab. Right?

If you automatically brush things away because ‘everyone knows they’re all BS anyway‘, then maybe you’re letting old habits and patterns of thinking steer you in a direction you don’t really want to go. As  someone who runs a business, that kind of automatic brush-off can blind you to possibilities. There’s a big difference between filtering information and rejecting information right off the bat.

It all starts from the inside, so you need to go deep. Continue reading Deep Thinking And Your Chosen Path

Putting In Deep Time

When it comes to getting things done, don’t just think contemplate.

  • The essence of time-saving productivity tips generally boils down to putting in the time now to save time ahead.
  • The core of the GTD mind-set is getting the right things done in the time given — “right” varying with the criteria you use.

While no one can actually save time as if it were money in the bank, we can use time towards our own advantage — especially when we’re prepared to go up against our own selves.

Here’s the way it usually goes:

  • You block off time to think about certain important matters. In that time,  you make your assessments, assigning certain weights and priorities to certain activities.
  • You weigh, you prioritize, then you start weeding.
  • You lay out the plan over a  certain time period to make order out of these various obligations and responsibilities.
  • You clear the way to a good work-week ahead, or break down a n important project over a month so you won’t tax yourself too much.

Helpful articles: Start Early and Finish Early

Come go-time, something comes up that you just have to attend to, and other things fall off the radar — important but not urgent things.
The action seems to have lost its importance.
You can’t see the point in attending to them. Or you don’t feel like it right now.
And so on.

Helpful article:  Make It Easy on Yourself

You put in the time to do less of the non-important things, so you do the more (and most) important things first, even if it means chipping at these things a little at a time, day by day. You think ahead so you can arrange how to spend yourself  — your energy, your presence, and  your focus — on the high-value targets in your scope.

And then you get bored. You get distracted. You wander off-course.

In the aftermath of the things you did and did not do, you ask yourself. “What was I thinking?” So here’s a tip to help you away from asking that question so much.
Continue reading Putting In Deep Time

How To Crack The Secret To Your Personal Productivity

There are many ways to improve your personal productivity, and the most effective of them require deep self-knowledge and good feedback processes. Self-knowledge asks you to be aware of your boundaries, resources, strengths and and limitations, and good feedback processes help you protect, respect, and reflect them. In a weirdly parallel way, you can say the same about your business.

Listen to your internal rhythms.
Some people are early birds – they wake up easy and early, and are ready to go first thing in the morning.  Some people are night owls — they work best in the later hours. In between we get the bulk of humanity.

You’re busy. You’re swamped. You  are terribly, terribly aware of all the responsibilities you have on your plate, and you push yourself to process the important and the urgent the best that you can. How are you doing?

It’s a serious question, and in this article it will be dissected several ways.

One: “How are you doing?” asks about you: your internal state of mind and external state of health.

Two: “How are you doing?” asks about how you accept, prioritize and process the various action items, tasks, and check-lists of running a business. This, in turn, gives you a baseline as to how (and where) you want to improve in terms of productivity. Let’s start with the first question. Continue reading How To Crack The Secret To Your Personal Productivity

How To Plan Sustainable Progress Successfully

In a previous article we explained how planning helps improve performance — now we’ll discuss creating a planning  framework which would provide you the best, most sustainable processes for good outcomes.

How do you improve your skills?
It depends on what kind of learning works best with you. There are people who learn best in a structured environment, and those who prefer  real-live demonstrations instead of watching a video-course (and vice-versa.) There are people who do better studying on their own, and those who work better in a group learning session. It takes all kinds, but the key is being focused and consistent.

Systematic learning has a specific goal in mind:  getting certification, being measurably better at a particular skill, updating your knowledge, learning  more about a topic that will help add to your value, etc.  Learning can also be recreational– for fun instead of work. When you hit that sweet spot, it can feel like both: you enjoy increasing your valuable knowledge.

Now, what do kids do to learn? They explore everything . Curiosity and energy combine to make them the perfect question-asking machines. As we get older though, we learn how to channel ourselves and our energies and interests at school. Oddly enough, the problem start once we leave school behind. For many people there’s an unspoken belief that once you graduate, you have all you need to know.

Leaning how to plan can be scoffed at as being so basic even a kid can do it, but now, more than ever, the stress and overwhelm people experience just proves that that isn’t so, because if it was we’d be doing our work with a lot less anxiety and stress. Continue reading How To Plan Sustainable Progress Successfully

10 Tips to Address Work Overload

As an entrepreneur and a business owner, there is not enough time in the day for you to  accomplish everything  you capture and put on your list.   There’s business-related stuff, which covers making sure your business is healthy. This includes things like attending to your concerns in marketing, finances and taxes, production, customer relations, legal issues and  business permits, social media, blogging, etc.

Then there’s your personal stuff — like your health (physical, mental, and emotional), and the important things that make up your life — your relationships, your family and friends, your hobbies, etc.

In the rush and push to finish what is important and urgent– and the way things go, practically everything that falls into our laps feel that way– some things  eventually get pushed to the side along the way.
Peace of mind can become a faint memory.
Focus breaks down into stuttering dribs and drabs.
Energy levels drop. Attention fractures.
That’s what happens when the the To-Do list never ends for the day.

Being burdened with too many things to do is endemic in our world now. The  time-crunch and stress has  been the driving force behind the productivity movement and all the self-help material written and produced to help us carry the unwieldy and often out-of balance load.

Here we present  a few basic ways to deal with the issue, all of which can be used in various combinations or  simultaneously for a multi-pronged sustainable solution to the situation. Continue reading 10 Tips to Address Work Overload

Self-Improvement for The Entrepreneur

One of the most effective practices to success in your business is encouraging a positive mindset in facing challenges. When you work on stretching and expanding your capabilities and skills, your  potential for success can surprise you.  These skills include the specific abilities you use in your work (for example: coding and design,  data analysis and interpretation, planning ), but also extend to the so-called ‘fuzzy areas’ which include interpersonal relations, personal improvement, and risk-taking. When you strengthen your skills, you grow more confidence in your ability to handle difficult situations and adversity, and make a working  relationship with discomfort.

See more here: Welcome To The Discomfort Zone, Part 1 and Part 2

Learning and growth is a life-long road, and taking it asks for active engagement and real labor, hitched to  the relentless desire to become a better person in the time that we have. We are all mortal, and within mortal limitations we have only so much influence , and only so much time to exert it — we we better be frank with ourselves about where, why, and how we spend both.

Time won’t let you be the same person you were ten, five or even a year ago.  Nor will  you be able to say you’ll be the same person in another year’s time. That’s why you need to take the wheel and work on developing yourself and mastering the good habits you want to serve you. That means being able to accept that you will be facing challenges all your life. Continue reading Self-Improvement for The Entrepreneur