Archive for category Best Life
I read this really good article by Peter Bregman last week called Are You Training Yourself to Fail? on the Harvard Business Review blog. It hit home with me and probably will with you too.
In it Peter talks about how it’s rare to find the person who is naturally pre-disposed to being highly effective. Most of us start our day with a long and ambitious to do list of the important tasks we hope to accomplish. Unfortunately we get busy with email, phone calls and errands so very little gets done. We then get discouraged and do things to make us feel better for the moment like browse the internet – often about articles on being more effective.
We do the same thing over and over relying on sheer will power, which yields the same result each day.
Here’s the thing: the odds are against us getting our most important priorities accomplished. Our instincts most often drive us toward instant gratification. And the world around us conspires to lure us off task. Given total freedom, most of us would spend far too much time browsing websites and eating sweets. And being totally responsive to our environments would just have us running around like crazy catering to other people’s agendas.
For me, the allure of accomplishing lots of little details would often override my focus on the big things I value. Each morning I would try to change my natural tendency by exerting self-control. I would talk to myself about how, starting this morning, I would be more focused, psych myself up to have a productive day, and commit to myself that I wouldn’t do any errands until the important work was done.
It almost never worked. Certainly not reliably.
By doing this, we are teaching ourselves to fail. Failure is fine as long as we learn, but what happens if we keep doing the same things, hoping for different results but not changing our behavior?
Then we are training ourselves to fail repeatedly.
Because the more we continue to make the same mistakes, the more we ingrain the ineffective behaviors into our lives. Our failures become our rituals, our rituals become our habits, and our habits become our identity. We no longer experience an unproductive day; we become unproductive people.
The only way to break the trend, according to Peter, is to develop new rituals. To do this we need trial and error. Each night take a look at what worked and repeat it the next day. Look at what didn’t work and stop it.
What I found is that rather than trying to develop super-human discipline and focus, I needed to rely on a process to make it more likely that I would be focused and productive and less likely that I would be scattered and ineffective.
Rituals like these: Spending five minutes in the morning to place my most important work onto my calendar, stopping every hour to ask myself whether I’m sticking to my plan, and spending five minutes in the evening to learn from my successes and failures. Answering my emails in chunks at predetermined times during the day instead of whenever they come in. And never letting anything stay on my to do list for more than three days (after which I either do it immediately, schedule it in my calendar, or delete it).
It doesn’t take long for these rituals to become habits and for the habits to become your identity. And then, you become a productive person.
Once you develop these rituals, don’t let up. Anyone can be productive for a day, week or month. However, if you get in a groove and stop these rituals you’ll be right back to where you were when you started. Productivity is similar to losing weight. It takes awhile to become productive, but you becoming unproductive again is very quick.
Check out the full article here. Peter also created a quiz to test how well you manage complexity. My score was pretty bad. How about you? Take the quiz here and let me know how you did in the comments.
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“When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful.”
It’s 6pm, shouldn’t you be watching the evening news? I mean, nothing like a heavy dose of murder, rape, drug raids, unemployment, and recession talk to finish your day. It’s hard to imagine a more depressing 60 minutes on television. Yet millions of us subject ourselves to this nonsense.
I listened to a great interview with Rabbi Schmuley “America’s Rabbi” on last month’s Success CD recently. Here is one of the takeaways:
“We’re surrounded in a culture that is just obsessed with death. Watch the evening news any given night, whether it’s NBC, CBS, ABC. Every one of those broadcasts starts with the end of the world. ‘The Mississippi River is overflowing everyone is going to drown. Tornadoes, oil leaks, hurricanes, we’re all Gonna die! The economy is collapsing, no one owns a home anymore. I mean God Almighty, I’m sick and tired of these prophets of doom.
These aren’t the right values. The right values are these are challenges, but we believe in life and we’re a culture of life and we’re going to overcome them.”
It is critical to stay informed and abreast of the serious challenges our country is facing, but it’s time to focus on the positive and find solutions. Instead of watching the local evening news, pickup a magazine or book and learn something constructive. Read the newspaper where you can skip those murder articles. Stay informed, but save the hyperbole for someone else.
Does any guy like going to the drug store? I sure don’t. Up until recently, it felt like I was there every other day. I would write down everything I’d need for the next few weeks and think I was good to go. A typical list would look something like this:
- Rogaine (I’m not going down without a fight)
- Garbage bags
- Birthday card
You get the idea. I’d walk over to Duane Reade, pick up everything I need, stand in line for 10 minutes and drop $120. Walking home I’d think “at least I won’t be back for a while.”
I’d be getting ready for bed that night only to discover I forgot floss, the reason I needed to go in the first place!
I know this has happened to you too.
Lucky for us, Soap.com came along. With its amazing selection, reasonable prices, user-friendly layout and fast delivery; it’s hard not to believe it wasn’t started by a guy who thought: “I can do better.”
Their customer service is also impeccable – I once sent them an email and got a response in 12 minutes. The shopping experience is similar to Zappos.com, so don’t be surprised if you receive your shipment the very next day.
Even if you forget to order something via Soap.com and need to visit the drug store, at least you saved yourself a trip.
Visit Soap.com to see what I mean. Here are a couple of discount codes to get you started.
- 20% off household items ‘HOUSEHOLD20’
- 15% off everything else that isn’t a household item – ‘SAVE15MORE’
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Finished a great book last week called Fire Season by Philip Connors.
Two Sentence Breakdown:
Former Editor for the Wall St. Journal leaves Manhattan and moves to New Mexico to serve as one of the last fire lookouts in America. The book chronicles a season as lookout, which lasts from April-August.
A decade ago Philip Connors left work as an editor at the Wall Street Journal and talked his way into a job far from the streets of lower Manhattan: working as one of the last fire lookouts in America. Spending nearly half the year in a 7′ x 7′ tower, 10,000 feet above sea level in remote New Mexico, his tasks were simple: keep watch over one of the most fire-prone forests in the country and sound the alarm at the first sign of smoke.
Fire Season is Connors’s remarkable reflection on work, our place in the wild, and the charms of solitude. The landscape over which he keeps watch is rugged and roadless—it was the first region in the world to be officially placed off limits to industrial machines—and it typically gets hit by lightning more than 30,000 times per year. Connors recounts his days and nights in this forbidding land, untethered from the comforts of modern life: the eerie pleasure of being alone in his glass-walled perch with only his dog Alice for company; occasional visits from smokejumpers and long-distance hikers; the strange dance of communion and wariness with bears, elk, and other wild creatures; trips to visit the hidden graves of buffalo soldiers slain during the Apache wars of the nineteenth century; and always the majesty and might of lightning storms and untamed fire.
Written with narrative verve and startling beauty, and filled with reflections on his literary forebears who also served as lookouts—among them Edward Abbey, Jack Kerouac, Norman Maclean, and Gary Snyder—Fire Season is a book to stand the test of time.
This is a great book, and most guys will enjoy it. Fire Season actually inspired my Grass Isn’t Greener posts. Philip is in the woods with only his dog Alice as company. A classic man and best friend vs. nature story.
While I sometimes thought Philip went into too much detail about the various peaks around him, I appreciate why he did. It is very obvious that he loves what he does.
My favorite parts included his thoughts on solitude, the adjustment each year to working the lookout, his relationship with his wife (who is extremely understanding), and the transition from Manhattan to New Mexico.
I think every guy, at some point, considers leaving the rat race to go off in the forest and live a simple life. Philip Connors is a guy who did and lived to tell about it. You can buy the book at Amazon.com here.
Published: April 5, 2011
A friend gave me this piece of advice once, and it’s always stayed with me.
A man is judged on three things:
1. How shiny his shoes are.
2. How clean his car is.
3. The condition of his lawn.*
* For urban dwellers, #2 and 3 may not apply. I substitute office/cube and apartment instead.
The best $34 my wife and I spend each year is on a subscription to Success magazine. I picked this gem up about a year ago and haven’t stopped reading since.
Their motto is “What Achievers Read” and it’s hard to disagree since every issue is packed with powerful and insightful information in some of the following areas:
For example, the April 2011 issue had articles on Seth Godin, Duke coach Mike Kryzewski, and Howard Schultz (Starbucks CEO). Each month focuses on a theme (entrepreneurship, sales, leadership, family) and piles on the information.
Every issue includes a CD with in-depth interviews with two or three key people featured in that issue with Publisher Darren Hardy.
What I love about Success is that it’s inclusive of all areas of your life, not just career. Therefore, they highlight people from all walks of life. It’s not only a great way to learn ideas and concepts, but from people in areas you may know nothing about.
Success is something I look forward to each month to help generate new ideas, stay positive and keep improving. It’s definitely worth your time to pick up an issue and see if you like it.
You can find out more at success.com.