A personal journey of lifelong learning, sharing resources, creating things, and trying to be better.

Tag: Productivity

Resolutions for 2017


17 Changes that I’m Making

Around a year ago, I wrote my first real post on Medium. Coincidentally, it was also about New Year’s Resolutions:


The essential message that I was trying to make was that you don’t need an arbitrary date, like January 1st, to mark that you want to change. You can change — or do new things — anytime you want. And that it was better to do anything at all, than it was to do nothing.

But, looking back on this, I realized that I didn’t go into detail at all with what I truly wanted to accomplish.

Something I have learned the hard way, after trying time and time again, is that you cannot change your entire self.

When I read a lot of self-help articles and books, I often find the author telling the reader the many things that they need to start doing differently. My skepticism makes me often wonder if the author themselves practice what they preach.

So I am plainly going to write out what I plan on trying to accomplish. None of it is rather grand — baby steps. Feel free to copy any of it.

These aren’t goals, either, rather they are plans for a better system. Things I can work on every day, and not stop when I reach a specific milestone.

I. Health

  1. Have a healthier diet. The exact science of ideal human nutrition has become more of a debate as time goes on — polar opposite diets regarding specific macros are said to be the healthiest way, with studies to back them up. But I’m a simple person, so really this just means cutting out things that have a high sugar (or artificial sweetener) content, as well as stopping myself from overeating. Maybe adding a few more fruits and veggies to my diet, too.
  2. Stretch for 15 minutes every morning. This routine is also one that’s debated, as runners that do stretch show signs of strain and injury nearly as much as those that don’t. But I find limbering myself up before the day makes it easier for me to handle physical activity.
  3. Meditate for 10 minutes every morning. Meditation is something I have done since I became a practicing Mahayana Buddhist when I was around 13 or so. I believe it is one of the most essential habits one could have, as it allows you to truly and deeply think about what exactly you want to do with your day. Visualizing your day is a powerful tool.
  4. Go for a 25 minute jog every other day. Back when I was in high school I used to do a lot of sprinting, but I now usually find myself barely able to write-in any physical activity into my schedule. Using a tool like Runkeeper is also a great motivator.
  5. Sit less. While I don’t think sitting is as detrimental to your health as some might believe, I do think that it’d be healthy to get up every 20 or so minutes, particularly if I’m working at a screen.
  6. Go to bed early, wake up early. My circadian rhythm has proven to be difficult, and I often find myself staying up late and consequently waking up late, giving myself no time to focus on the rest of my day. And I know that nothing makes me feel more energized or gives me more momentum than having spare time to do the things I enjoy in the morning.

II. Creativity

  1. Publish a story on Medium bi-weekly. When I post, I find myself doing it sporadically and in great quantity all at once. By queuing and planning ahead with my writing, I’d be better able to maintain a consistent pace and write more often.
  2. Read and comment on more Medium stories. Something I need to take advantage more of on this platform is the community. There are so many amazing stories and authors that go unrecognized and ignored, and I want to start a dialogue with that.
  3. Learn a new language. I’ve been using Duolingo on-and-off for a few years trying to improve my French. If I start using it, among other language resources, every day and expose myself to more French media, I know I’ll be able to become fluent.
  4. Self-host a blog for a side-project. As much as I thoroughly enjoy Medium for blogging, using it as a host is a crutch. I need to expose myself to more front-end and back-end web development by deploying my own blog for another niche hobby (maybe poetry, photography, music — who knows). A few good examples would be Jekyll or Ghost.

III. Productivity

  1. Tame my monkey mind. I believe this is the most important thing I want to accomplish. It’s a humorous way of saying I want to stop procrastinating and wasting time — allowing myself to subside and mindlessly scroll through Facebook or Reddit. I would much rather spend half of that time doing something I sincerely enjoy to relax and feel a lot better about it.
  2. Write a weekly review, every week. One habit I seldom partake in when I journal write is reviewing. I often leave my notes said and done with, but going back and reviewing the most important aspects of my week would really help me see where I can improve. In addition, once I have my weeks reviewed, it’s far easier to review the month, the year, etc.
  3. Start working with a Pomodoro timer. One of my worst problems when working is burnout. I usually work for three or four hours straight — or don’t do any work all. Pacing is key to working longer without a decay in quality.
  4. Review and study for 30 minutes each day. Whether it’s for school or for my own self-education. Utilizing flashcards and mnemonics instead of rote learning helps exponentially.

IV. Personal

  1. Be kinder to all. I am often times, too hard on myself, and others around me as well. Whether it be strangers or good friends.
  2. Care less. On the other hand, I also find myself getting mixed up in things that truly hold no meaning. I can’t waste my time fretting about fake news, or getting worked up about differences of opinions. I have no time or energy for things that don’t consume me entirely.
  3. Review this document each day in 2017. Most of the time, we unconsciously give up our resolutions because life becomes too busy and we fall back into complacency. By forcing myself to look at this document every day, I’ll be sure to increase my chances of sticking to what I want to start doing. Maybe I could start making updates? I’m not sure, for now.

Time Management Notes

Time is Running Out | Source

Recently I’ve been reading some time management literature by the likes of Brian Tracy and Stephen Covey. I thought I’d share the notes I wrote while studying.

Psychology of Time Management

The four D’s of effectiveness:

  • Desire — Have a burning passion to achieve.
  • Decisiveness — Put in 100% of yourself into it.
  • Determination — Have the grit needed to not give up.
  • Discipline — Cultivate yourself in the long-term.

  • Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.
  • Law of Control states that the amount of self-worth is determined by how in control we feel we are of our lives.
  • Positively visualize yourself as a good time manager, reaffirm this by telling others the same thing. Reprogram your brain. Fake it until you make it.

Determine your Values

What do you value the most? Realize you are extraordinary. Analyze yourself:

  • I am…
  • People are…
  • Life is…
  • My biggest goal in life (or another category) is…

Think about your Vision and Mission

  • Think (slowly) before acting. Stand back and engage in self-analysis and introspection.
  • Keep the end in mind. What will your life look like when you look back on your 80th birthday? Why are you doing the things you do?
  • Examine your methodology. Once you know what you’re doing, ask yourself how are you trying to do it. Then, ask yourself how it’s going. Question all of your assumptions.
  • Seek a better way. Once you ask yourself ‘how’s it going?’, see if you can find something better. There is more to life than just increasing speed. Ask the tough questions.

Project Forward, Look Backward

  • Take 30 minutes each day before it starts to review your goals, progress and plans. Think (slowly) about what you’re doing before you take action.
  • True greatness only emerges from introspection, retrospection, solitude and contemplation.
  • Ask yourself what you should be doing today to have the greatest impact in your life five years from now.
  • Back from the future thinking. Make better decisions in the present, ignore instant gratification.
  • Every action you make either leads you down the path you want to go or steers you away from it.
  • Time management can only speed up where you’re going to go, not change where that place is.

Make Written Plans

  • Every minute spent in planning saves you ten minutes in execution.
  • Once you are clear about a goal, write down everything you need to do in order to accomplish it. Then, organize by sequence and priority.
  • Sequence is organizing things chronologically, from the first step to the final one.
  • Priority is organizing things by their importance and impact, focusing on the 20% of the goals that will accomplish 80% of the results.
  • Even the largest goal can be achieved if it’s broken down into smaller parts.
  • Review your plan and goals daily and when you feel frustrated by them. All plans have flaws and risks so it’s good to search out the ones in yours.
  • Taking action before planning leads to failure. Do not be tempted to take action before planning it out.

Planning for goal achievement. Clarity is the next more important aspect of planning. Ask yourself:

  • Why difficulties and obstacles are you facing? Why haven’t you reached your goal yet? What are the 20% of problems that create 80% of the obstacles in your way?
  • What additional skills, knowledge or information is needed to achieve my goal?
  • What help do I need from others to achieve my goal? Of all the help I could ask for, what would be the most effective?

  • Create a visual (a PERT chart) landscape to see what goals you need to accomplish in order to reach newer ones. Chart things out and set clear goals for everyone.

Create your Daily To-do List

  • Take twelve to fifteen minutes every night before going to bed to write out what you want to accomplish tomorrow. It will make sleeping easier.

Once you have written out what you want to accomplish it, assign it a label from the ABCDE method. The way to do this is to think about the consequences of each individual task:

  • A is for things that absolutely must be done.
  • B is for things that should be done.
  • C is for things that could be done, but don’t need to be.
  • D is for things that can be delegated to somebody else.
  • E is for things that can be eliminated, or your ‘not to-do’ list.

  • Set clear priorities, use the law of three.
  • Stay on track. Ask yourself what the most valuable way to spend your time is right at the moment.
  • Ask yourself if a task is important and/or urgent. Try to spend the most amount of your time on tasks that are important, but not urgent — and vice versa.
  • Avoid multi-tasking. Explicitly decide what single task you want to focus on. Shut out all other distractions.

Overcome Procrastination

  • Everybody procrastinates, the trick is to procrastinate tasks of low-value.
  • Mentally program yourself to stay on-track. “Just do it now!” is your mantra.
  • Break down large and daunting tasks into smaller sub-tasks.
  • Alternatively, use the ‘salami slice’ method and only work on a task for a certain amount of time.
  • Develop a sincere sense of urgency. One of the most sought-after and rarest traits within a person is to get a job done quickly.

Create Blocks of Time

  • The only way to truly get meaningful work done is to schedule your day into ‘chunks’ where you can work without interruptions.
  • These should be anywhere from sixty to ninety minutes with small breaks in between. Make a ‘Do not Disturb’ sign if you have to.
  • Don’t mix administrative and creative time — know when you have ‘external prime time’ and ‘internal prime time’.
  • Get up earlier to gain more time for ‘chunking’.

Control Interruptions

  • Work all the time that you work. Don’t waste your time at work with anything else.
  • Minimize interruptions, plan out phone calls and emails before you make them to make them as brief as possible.
  • Stand up immediately. Create a sense of urgency for others when they want to ask you about something.

Batch your Tasks

  • Bundle similar tasks together and do them one after the other.
  • Use your email and social media as a servant. Check it once at lunch and then ignore it for the rest of the day.
  • Create an auto-response to let people know they can call you if it’s an emergency.
  • Delete and unsubscribe to everything that isn’t a priority.
  • Avoid telephone tag, when leaving a message, specify when exactly you’ll be available to call back.

Conduct Effective Meetings

  • Calculate the cost of the meeting.
  • Prepare an agenda. Prioritize it and set strict time-limits.
  • Ask more questions.

Read Faster, Remember More

  • Be as deliberate and selective with your reading as possible. Ignore things that aren’t relevant to your work or life.
  • Bunch your reading and learn the techniques of speed-reading.
  • Create and set a system. Use your free time to read and use it as often as possible. Leaders are readers!

Final Tips

  • Invest in personal development. Constantly renew and review things that will make you a better person.
  • Organize your work-space, it will lead to an increase in productivity.
  • Focus and prioritize your inner-life, physical health and relationships.

The Best Time to Start a New Year’s Resolution is Right Now

Image Credit

Today is not your enemy. There’s no need to complicate today (as in right now) with the uncertainty of the next five years. Every day when you get out of bed in the morning, you have two options:

  1. Do what you want.
  2. Don’t do what you want.

That’s all there is to it. You’re tricking yourself if you think that there’s something beyond the choice of doing what you love or not doing it.

But I won’t be dishonest in saying it’s very easy to get caught up in thinking that there’s some sort of oasis of productivity that’s just a few more miles away, all the time. That we’re just one epiphany away from no longer struggling, a few more articles away from the missing link.

And before we know it, another year has passed. Or maybe it was another important—albeit sentimental — day. Perhaps this birthday marked the last year of your life where you muddled around. You’re getting older, we’re all getting older.

But we cannot forget that these are arbitrary dates on an arbitrary calendar. Instead, start now.

Plain Binary

It’s widely known that a large majority of New Year’s Resolutions essentially dissolve after February. It’s facts like these that make me wonder about all of these people. Why do they want to make a change in their life in the first place? What made them stop?

And there’s just too much research and media regarding this for me to spout any more nonsense about it. Because every day when you get out bed, you have two options:

  1. Be a person who is going to change.
  2. Be a person who is not going to change.

This isn’t about capability, this isn’t about potential. This isn’t about test scores or past accomplishments or downfalls. This is about today. At the end of it, you’ll have either accomplished one of those two things. It’s plain binary.

Baby Steps

I’m not asking the world of you. In fact, nobody good in your life is. Surround yourself with good people. Whether they have clout or connections is irrelevant. Be warm and kind these people your whole life.

But I digress; start small. You can’t build more than one good habit at once, and you can’t get rid of more than one bad habit at once. Just one. That’s what you’re capable of today.

The Blank Canvas

It is so easy to become paralyzed by the blank canvas in front of you. Especially if it’s been that way for a week, or a decade. It’s easy to get hung up over the fact that you did nothing yesterday or the day before. For some reason, our instinct is to allow this streak to continue.

And in contrast, our most effective way to counter is this is by starting a streak in the opposite direction. Push a little, every day starting today. And ignore the self-doubt that comes from messing that up every once in awhile.

Just slap anything on when you see a blank canvas staring you in the face like some imbecile. Many painters are afraid in front of the blank canvas, but the blank canvas is afraid of the real, passionate painter who dares and who has broken the spell of `you can’t’ once and for all. — Van Gogh

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