Tag Archives: asian efficiency

Weekend wisdom 9

I went through my email inbox this morning and I didn’t get a lot this week that I really want to remember so it’s a short post this week.

One thing I’ve been loving lately is James Clear’s new weekly 3-2-1 email, which offers three ideas, two quotes and one question. Two of the ideas he presented this week especially resonated with me for different reasons.

  • Idea 2: When making plans, think big. When making progress, think small.
  • Idea 3:  A simple strategy that will save you so many headaches: don’t care about winning trivial arguments. Did someone say something you don’t agree with? Smile, nod, and move on to more important things. Life is short. Learning to not care about having the last word will save you so much time.

Idea 3 reminds me of something I saw a few weeks back, I don’t remember where.

Before you argue with someone, ask yourself, is that person even mentally mature enough to grasp the concept of different perspectives? Because if not, there’s absolutely no point. (Amber Veal)

I listened to Asian Efficiency’s podcast with Mridu Parikh, which I found full of useful tips, some of which I knew about and others that were new to me.

Here are my takeaways from the podcast:

  1. Use the pomodoro timer not just for things you want to get done but also to set limits around distracting activities. If you’re going to do something distracting, set yourself a time limit and then stop and get back to work when the time’s up.
  2. To make your top three (or five or one) tasks stand out from everything else, put them on a sticky note somewhere that you’ll see it all day. These are your “gotta do’s” not your “wanna do’s”.
  3. If you struggle with making yourself do your work when you’ve blocked out time to do it (hello!), break it down into more manageable chunks. Don’t block out two hours to work on a report. Block out 30 minutes to do a specific task for the report: look up statistics, write the introduction, then another 30 minutes (or an hour or however long you need) to do another discrete task. That way you know exactly what you’re going to be working on and you’ll be able to sit down and focus on that task (once you’ve got rid of the distractions that Mridu also discusses in the podcast).

I’ll be trying to put these tips into practise this week as we roll into another busy time at work.

Weekend wisdom 8

A weekly review of things that came through my inbox that I found interesting and want to remember.

This week, I stumbled on Dr Sarah McKay, a neuroscientist who studies women’s brains. She’s also an author and presents the ABC’s Catalyst program. On her blog Your Brain Health, Sarah outlines the seven habits of healthy brains, which she says are:

  1. Sleep—it needs to be a priority, not a luxury. It is essential for consolidating memories and draining waste products from our brain. We also under-consume natural light during the day and over-consume artificial light at night, disrupting our natural rhythms, hormones and immune systems.
  2. Move—physical exercise is the best exercise for your brain. It triggers the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which promotes neurone growth and survival, reduced inflammation and supports the formation of long-term memories.
  3. Nourish—she says research favours a Mediterranean-style diet of mostly plants, fish, some meat, olive oil and nuts.
  4. Calm—chronic stress can change the wiring of our brains. Too much cortisol prevents the birth of new neurones and causes the hippocampus to shrink, reducing your powers of learning and memory. Meditate, walk or nap. Do something you’re good at that requires some degree of challenge.
  5. Connect—we are social animals and have a fundamental need for human warmth and connection. Loneliness and social isolation is as bad for us as smoking.
  6. Challenge—regularly challenge your mind and stay mentally active. Choose mentally challenging activities that you can practise regularly, that are reasonably complex and take you out of your cognitive comfort zone.
  7. Believe—seek out your purpose in life. People who score high in purpose live longer, healthier and more fulfilling lives. Set fantastic, passionate goals and work like crazy to achieve them. Find your place of flow.

What struck me when I was reading this was that six of these seven things are the exact same things I am (or will be) working on in my wellbeing program. So this is good to know.

Another post I found useful was from the Insight timer blog, an app I used to use regularly but haven’t used for several months now. It talks about morning routines, which are supposed to be good for us in setting up our day, but which I have fallen out of lately. This post specifically talks about how to alleviate anxious feelings by establishing a healthy morning routine. I generally don’t have a problem with anxious thoughts in the morning but the routine is similar to what I used to do before it all fell apart.

This is their suggestion for such a routine:

  1. Examine your thoughts
  2. Get up and hydrate
  3. Practise gratitude
  4. Breathe
  5. Meditate (incidentally, Sarah McKay’s blog has a great article on what to do if meditation stresses you out, which I’m kind of glad to hear her say because when I was doing it I always felt like it wasn’t helping me and I guess that’s one reason why it was so easy for me to not resume when I broke my 500+ day streak last year, when I think I was doing it under a sense of obligation to maintain the streak than any actual benefit. Maybe that’s one to think about for another day.)
  6. Exercise

I found this great article from songwriter Christine Kane on another blog I read occasionally. It’s about how to overcome “attention splatter”.  Of all the articles and tips I’ve picked up over the years I’m finding this to be one of the simplest and clearest outlines of what to do when you “mindlessly and half-heartedly splatter your attention on non-activities, but you never fully engage”. This sounds like me.

Christine’s seven steps are:

  1. Have no more than three priorities for the day. Ask yourself, “If I only accomplish one thing today, which one thing would make me most happy?”
  2. Know the task before you sit down at the computer. Assign tasks. (i.e. “Clean out email folders”) Assign times. (“From 1pm to 2pm”) Stop as soon as the end time arrives.
  3. Put an end to activities that leak (like checking mails). Make a list of “leaky” activities, and stop the leaks by scheduling these activities—and stop when the time is up.
  4. Use your small slices of time. Learn to fit constructive things in to small slices of time. (Along the same lines, this week’s Asian Efficiency podcast has a heap of ideas for activities you can fit into small slices of time.)
  5. Use your intention. Before you begin any activity, set an intention for that activity. Focus on your desired outcome and how you want to feel during the activity.
  6. Get rid of anything that doesn’t feed you—emails, unread books, subscriptions . . .  if you subscribe to it, ask yourself why. Start letting go of stuff. Be ruthless about keeping the incoming stuff to a minimum.
  7. Be present in your down-time. When you take a nap, take a nap. When you take a Saturday off, really take it off. Don’t spend the day obsessing about the things you should be doing.

I think the last one is a really great thing to keep in mind. You aren’t going to recover and rejuvenate yourself if you keep working and don’t take a proper break.

And finally, two thoughts from James Clear. Or one thought and a question:

An imperfect start can always be improved, but obsessing over a perfect plan will never take you anywhere on its own.

I need to put this up in very large print above my desk.

How long will you put off what you are capable of doing just to continue what you are comfortable doing?

Indeed.

Weekend wisdom 3

A weekly review of things that came through my inbox that I found interesting and want to remember.

This week was a mix of a couple of intense days and a couple of less intense days where I was able to slow down and deal with the backlog of things I had neglected during the intense period. I even got to inbox zero at work, which was a nice feeling to go into the weekend with.

There wasn’t a lot that came through my inbox this week that really jumped out at me as something I wanted to remember and/or put into practice. The first thing I noticed was from James Clear, who wrote about the myth of multitasking in his weekly email.

I’m familiar with this concept so the article was more of a refresher than anything new. James observes that while we are capable of doing two things at the same time, such as watching TV while we’re cooking dinner or sending an email while we’re talking on the phone, it’s impossible to concentrate on two tasks at once. So what our brains do when we think we’re multitasking is actually switching very quickly back and forth between the two tasks. This uses a huge amount of energy and wastes a lot of time because of the time it takes to get back onto the previous task when you switch. And it results in lower performance.

To overcome trying to do many things at once and to enable him to focus on what’s important, James says he identifies his “anchor task” every day. This is the one priority that he has to get done that day. He says that, while he has other things he has to do during the day, the anchor task is the priority, and he plans everything else around doing that one thing.

What I like about this model is that James has a weekly schedule of these anchor tasks, which give his week some structure and allows him to know exactly what he needs to focus on that day. So, for example, on Monday he has to write an article and on Friday he has to do his weekly review. This is something I’m going to try out and see if it works for me.

20190702 Elizabeth & Macquarie St from Franklin Square 442pm 2

Completely unrelated photo taken on my phone on the way home during the week

The second article I found interesting this week comes from Asian Efficiency, which is about checking in on how you’re going with the goals you set for yourself at the start of the year. If, indeed, you actually did that.

The article suggests if you look at how you’re tracking half-way through the year you can adjust your goals accordingly so that they remain achievable for the rest of the year. The example they give is if your goal was to do 50 book reviews and you realise you’ve only done 15 by six months, the mid-year review would be an opportunity to either adjust the goal or to amend the number of reviews you do each week to help you achieve the original goal.

The article suggests some things to look at, which include:

  • changing a goal, for example, because your circumstances have changed
  • removing goals you no longer want to pursue or that aren’t as important to you anymore
  • looking at where you’re at with the goals you set and what else you’ll need to do to get there.

It also touches briefly on the idea of setting more frequent goals, rather than 12-month goals. For example, rather than 50 book reviews in the year you could set a quarterly goal of 12 book reviews. By setting shorter-term goals, the article says you need to make more frequent check-ins. So you’re less likely to become overwhelmed by the length of time needed to achieve the goal.

I guess most, if not all, of my goals for this year are in my 19 for 2019 list, though I didn’t write the list with “setting goals” as an objective. Some of them aren’t so much goals as nagging tasks I keep putting off. Looking over the list there’s only two that I would consider to be “goals” that I haven’t made a lot of progress on and that I want to tick off by the end of the year. And I still have six months of the year left to do them so at this stage I’m not too worried. Ask me how I feel about them again in November!