Reduce the number of decisions

Through LinkedIn I came across an interesting article, The Genius of Wearing the Same Outfit Every Day. It gives two different reasons. One is to cut down on the number of decisions, the other is to create a brand (think Steve Jobs).

President Barack Obama gave this reason for wearing a blue or gray suit all the time all the time.

I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.

Cutting down on the number of ordinary decisions makes a lot of sense.

Two college professors who have studied decision-making, Kathleen Vohs and Barry Schwartz, both found that a person has a limited amount of brain power in a day, so the more decisions they have to make, the weaker their decision-making process becomes.

Which ordinary decisions can you simplify?

Decide and Act

Jim Connolly posted What everybody ought to know about achieving their goals. It’s a great post, part of it goes like this:

The reality is that you don’t need to buy goal setting products. You simply need to know what you want and to make the decision to do everything you can, to make it happen.

Jim also posted What everybody ought to know about achieving their goals on Google+ where I took part in the discussion. One commenter wrote:

Someone once asked Dan Kennedy what the secret to life and business was. He held up an index card with one word written on it: ‘Decide.”

I think that is just part of what it takes so I wrote:

I think the “Decide”-card is only half the story. The other half is “Act”.

Jim summed it up in a comment in his blog:

Looking at the comments here and those on Google+, regarding this post, there’s a common theme.

Make the decision.
Do the work.

It may not sound very sexy, but it works.

Another comment on Jim’s post at the blog says:

I’ve discovered through those past tough weeks that most of us are “blind”, we don’t achieve our goals because we don’t see them.

That’s where a coach is helpful, they see things we can’t see ourselves since we are too close.

10 Rules to Reverse the Email Spiral

The Email Charter is a great idea.

We’re drowning in email. And the many hours we spend on it are generating ever more work for our friends and colleagues. We can reverse this spiral only by mutual agreement. Hence this Charter

The rules are these, they are explained more at the site.
1. Respect Recipients’ Time
2. Short or Slow is not Rude
3. Celebrate Clarity
4. Quash Open-Ended Questions
5. Slash Surplus cc’s
6. Tighten the Thread
7. Attack Attachments
8. Give these Gifts: EOM NNTR
9. Cut Contentless Responses
10. Disconnect!

Follow as many of those rules as possible and the (email) world will be a better place.

Nigel Marsh: How to make work-life balance work

I prefer to talk about creating harmony in your life but the message in this video is important and well worth considering.

Work-life balance, says Nigel Marsh, is too important to be left in the hands of your employer. At TEDxSydney, Marsh lays out an ideal day balanced between family time, personal time and productivity — and offers some stirring encouragement to make it happen.

Nigel is spot on – you’re the one responsible for creating the harmony you want in your life. No one else will or can do it for you.

Nigel says this regarding lives out of balance:

There are thousands and thousands of people out there living lives of quiet, screaming desperation who work long, hard hours, at jobs they hate, to enable them to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like.

TEDx video

This was originally posted at Bengt’s Notes, another blog of mine.

An 18 Minute Plan That Keeps You Focused

Yesterday this interesting article popped up in my Twitter stream: An 18-Minute Plan for Managing Your Day from Harvard Business Publishing.

The article mentions time management but time can not be managed. We can manage our priotities and that was the article is about.

The 18 minute plan is simple yet powerful when it comes to keeping us on track.

Step 1

STEP 1 (5 Minutes) Set Plan for Day. Before turning on your computer, sit down with a blank piece of paper and decide what will make this day highly successful. What can you realistically accomplish that will further your goals and allow you to leave at the end of the day feeling like you’ve been productive and successful? Write those things down.

I already use pen and paper for my planning, see Task management my way – pen and paper, step 1 above is just doing it differently from what I do today.

STEP 1, continued. Now, most importantly, take your calendar and schedule those things into time slots, placing the hardest and most important items at the beginning of the day. And by the beginning of the day I mean, if possible, before even checking your email. If your entire list does not fit into your calendar, reprioritize your list. There is tremendous power in deciding when and where you are going to do something.

My planning is usually not done in time slots, more a list of things for that day. Using time slots will make it clearer what actually can be done in one day. What really hit home was the ‘when and where’ part of the article (read more in their post):

If you want to get something done, decide when and where you’re going to do it. Otherwise, take it off your list.

Step 2

STEP 2 (1 minute every hour) Refocus. Set your watch, phone, or computer to ring every hour. When it rings, take a deep breath, look at your list and ask yourself if you spent your last hour productively. Then look at your calendar and deliberately recommit to how you are going to use the next hour. Manage your day hour by hour. Don’t let the hours manage you.

This is a smart trick, a regular reminder to check that you are on track and on time. It’s easier to manage hour by hour than to manage on day level.

Step 3

STEP 3 (5 minutes) Review. Shut off your computer and review your day. What worked? Where did you focus? Where did you get distracted? What did you learn that will help you be more productive tomorrow?

This is a great one too. I do review my days but not in a more formal way. Doing what’s in step three above will make the learning process much clearer.

Read more:
The jar of life – stones, pebbles and sand
Let limitations guide you to creative solutions
55 Ways to Get More Energy

This was originally posted at Forty Plus Two, another blog of mine.

How to find your passion in life

Coaching is about change. It can be finding a new career, creating better balance in life or adding a new activity in order to “spice up” life. In these contexts we often talk about trying to find ones passion and to follow ones passion. But finding ones passion is sometimes easier said than done, we either make it too complicated or think (hope) that it will be obvious and just pop up.

It is said that “Find Your Passion; the Money Will Follow” or “Do what you love and money will follow“. Money is not guaranteed but finding and following your passion will for sure make life better. Your passion might be in a tiny market which means you can not make a living from that alone.

If you don’t know what your passion is, you are not alone. At INeedMotivation it says that According to a recent survey, about 75% of the population do not know what their true passion is.

Where to start?

Finding your passion is not just about work, it’s about your whole life. If we have activities off work that we are passionate about our life will improve. It’s also a way of testing if our passions can be transferred into a job or a business. Skellie writes that Your hidden talents are the things you could do that would make you happy. My view is that among your hidden talents is your passion.

Your hidden talents will always fit your personality or interests in some way. Instead of being hidden and random – things to be discovered by accident – the things you love doing actually make a lot of sense.

Life Script says it well, A passion in life isn’t something you’re born with. It’s cultivated by your interests, what stimulates you and what you are genuinely excited about.

At Lifehack it says If there’s already something you love doing, you’re ahead of the game. Now you just need to research the possibilities of making money from it. They offer some questions that will help you in the search for your passion.

Mike over at ZenDonut writes in 3 Steps To Develop Your Passion … Not Just “Find” It that:

My concept is that a passion is not just floating around waiting to bump you in the head (i.e. “to be found”), but rather, by taking an active approach, you can develop your passionate interests proactively.

I share that view, we have work to do in order to figure out what our (more or less) hidden talents are. Then we have to find out if we can make money from it and how.

How did I find my current passion?

I had been working with IT and computers for a long time. That was and still is a fast changing area which made my work my passion, learning and doing new things at a pace that kept me on my toes. Off work I have always been doing other things, being active in organizations and learning new things – more or less related to what I worked with. Personal development, my own and others, has been a running thread in my life.

As often happens, eventually my passion for IT and computers started to fade. I wanted to do something else but could not figure out what. Like Mike says above, I could not describe my passion yet I knew it was hidden somewhere within reach. That was rather frustrating but I started putting the pieces together. I described my own personal profile, in terms of knowledge – experience – interests etc, using mind mapping and other techniques to connect the dots. One thing I focused on was analyzing situations that made me really feel alive, what was the key and was there any common factors.

After spending time at connecting the dots I realized that many of my different interests overlapped to some extent. That made me curious and I focused on that common ground, the core area that united things. I started to describe that core area in more detail and then realized that I had found my passion: I want to help people be the best they can be.

I had been coaching friends and workmates for years but I decided to take a coaching course that made me a professional coach. I love working as a coach and I learn something from each client session.

Are we resisting it?

Jonathan Mead asks if we know what makes us feel alive, why do we resist it? Why do we avoid doing what we love to do? and lists four reasons. One of them is that we have turned our passion into work. “Anytime you feel that you must do something, you lose inspiration.” Once we have made a passion our work we do need to keep the fire burning, to re-ignite our passion.

Read more elsewhere

7 Questions To Finding Your True Passion
The One Question
The 5 Percent Trick: Finding Passion and Purpose in Life
How Do You Find Your Passion In Life?
Find Your Career Passion
How to Find a Passion In Life (eHow)
If you don’t have passion and purpose, greater productivity won’t help you!

Update September 10, 2011
A great post: 5 Ways to Quit the Confusion & Find Your Passion

Note: This was published in the weekly newsletter Coaches Mojo on May 26, 2009.

This was originally posted at Forty Plus Two, another blog of mine.

The jar of life – stones, pebbles and sand

This is a classic story which unfortunately mentions time management. But time management is a misnomer since time can not be managed. We can only manage ourselves, our attention and our priorities.

One day, an old professor of the School of Public Management in France, was invited to lecture on the topic of “Efficient Time Management” in front of a group of 15 executive managers representing the largest, most successful companies in America. The lecture was one in a series of five lectures conducted in one day, and the old professor was given one hour to lecture.

Standing in front of this group of elite managers—who were willing to write down every word that would come out of the famous professor’s mouth—the professor slowly met eyes with each manager, one by one, and finally said, ‘we are going to conduct an experiment’.

From under the table that stood between the professor and the listeners, the professor pulled out a big glass jar and gently placed it in front of him. Next, he pulled out from under the table a bag of stones, each the size of a tennis ball, and placed the stones one by one in the jar. He did so until there was no room to add another stone in the jar. Lifting his gaze to the managers, the professor asked, ‘Is the jar full?’ The managers replied, ‘Yes’.

The professor paused for a moment, and replied, ‘Really?’ Then once again, he reached under the table and pulled out a bag full of pebbles. Carefully, the professor poured the pebbles in and slightly rattled the jar, allowing the pebbles to slip through the larger stones, until they settled at the bottom. Again, the professor lifted his gaze to his audience and asked, ‘is the jar full?’

At this point, the managers began to understand his intentions. One replied, ‘apparently not!’

‘Correct’, replied the old professor, now pulling out a bag of sand from under the table. Cautiously, the professor poured the sand into the jar. The sand filled up the spaces between the stones and the pebbles. Yet again, the professor asked, ‘is the jar full?’ Without hesitation, the entire group of students replied in unison, ‘No!’

‘Correct’, replied the professor. And as was expected by the students, the professor reached for the pitcher of water that was on the table, and poured water in the jar until it was absolutely full. The professor now lifted his gaze once again and asked, ‘What great truth can we surmise from this experiment?’

With his thoughts on the lecture topic, one manager quickly replied, ‘We learn that as full as our schedules may appear, if we only increase our effort, it is always possible to add more meetings and tasks.’ ‘No’, replied the professor.

‘The great truth that we can conclude from this experiment is: If we don’t put all the larger stones in the jar first, we will never be able to fit all of them later.’

In other words – make room for what is most important first, those are your stones. Other things can then be fitted around the stones.

This was originally posted at Forty Plus Two, another blog of mine.

Using SWOT analysis for personal purposes

The image below comes from Wikipedia’s article about SWOT analysis. The article starts like this:

SWOT Analysis is a strategic planning method used to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats involved in a project or in a business venture.

SWOT

I have used SWOT for business purposes but it turns out that SWOT can be used on a personal level too. Mary Jaksch at Goodlife Zen has a very interesting post about how to Optimize Your Life with the SWOT Matrix. The second part was posted on December 3rd, 10 Questions That Will Change Your Life: SWOT Analysis Part #2.

Do not get too hang up on your weaknesses. When it comes to weaknesses we shall think wider than about what we can improve. Do we need to improve in that area or can we team with someone else that balances our weakness?

Keep in mind that what shows up as weakness in one situation can be a strength in another situation, and vice versa.

When searching for more information about SWOT I came across this one, Using a SWOT Analysis in Your Career Planning. There is an example that helps you get started on your own career assessment.

Update November 30, 2009.
There is a new post on Good Life Zen, How to Reboot Your Life With the SWOT Matrix

Read more:
SWOT analysis method and examples, with free SWOT template
SWOT Analysis Discover New Opportunities. Manage and Eliminate Threats.
A Business Owner’s Secret Weapon: Swot Analysis
SWOT Analysis Mistakes to Avoid
An essential guide to swot analysis

This was originally posted at Forty Plus Two, another blog of mine.

How To Discover Your Life Purpose

Jonathan at Illuminated Mind writes an excellent post about “How to Find Your Purpose in Life” (site no longer exists). I love his explanation of purpose:

Your purpose has nothing to do with your degree, your resume, your career, or vocation. Your purpose is independent of all those things. In fact, it’s much bigger than any of those. Purpose has to do with your creative self expression. It has to do with what makes you feel alive. It’s something you do, where at the end of the day you think “I made a difference.”

Jonathan gives a four step exercise where you answer the question “What is my true purpose in life?” or “How would I want to be remembered when I die?” There is also a part about aligning your job and your life purpose.

The exercise comes from How to Discover Your Life Purpose in About 20 Minutes where Steve Pavlina writes about how he found his life purpose.

See also:
What do you REALLY want to do with your life?
Motivation Is Garbage
What If Money Was No Object?
How to find your passion in life

Read elsewhere: Do what you love. Find Your Purpose In Life

This was originally posted at another (now extinct) blog of mine.

Catch the trade winds in your sails

Brian Clark at Copyblogger has a very interesting post titled The Nasty Four-Letter Word That Keeps You From Writing that hooked me because I am in a situation where I have a chance to really change what I do for a living. Brian writes:

based on my personal experience, there’s a nasty demon hiding behind the excuses we make. This four-letter word represents a condition we don’t like to admit to ourselves, much less utter in polite conversation.

Yep, it’s the “F” word.

Fear.

Fear affects us all more than we care to admit

Brian’s article is about fear in connection with writing but his post is valid in many areas of life. He mentions five different fears, the key ones (to me) are fear of failure and fear of risk.

Under fear of failure Brian writes:

Countless psychological studies have shown that the fear of failure is the number one barrier to personal success. We fear failure because we don’t separate tasks from ourselves, and therefore our self-esteem is at risk every time we attempt to do anything we really want to achieve.

If we try and fail then we can get up and try again. But if we do not even try then we lock ourselves in where we are now.

This is a quote worth remembering:
Failure seldom stops you. What stops you is the fear of failure.

In the part about fear of risk Brian writes:

Is it really better to be safe than sorry? Sometimes, yes. But when it comes to your writing dreams and goals, being safe is a fate worse than death. Not only do your dreams die, but you get to live the rest of your life knowing it.

Remove the word ‘writing’ before dreams and this statement goes anywhere. Dreams are nice but until they turn into actions they remain dreams.

A while back I came across a quote that says a lot:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. (Mark Twain)

The feeling of safety makes us often hesitate and take the easy way out (stay in the harbor, no risk, no failure) and not take the exciting way (leave for the high sea, take risks). I think I shall go and check my sails…

This was originally posted at another (now extinct) blog of mine.

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