Tag Archives: james clear

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 6

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

This week, I found myself annoyed at someone about something they did, or rather, something they didn’t do. The thing about this was that the person would have had no idea that I expected them to do this thing and I had no authority that would require them to do it. Just an expectation that they should behave in a particular way.

As I worked through being irritated and annoyed at them, I realised I was blaming them for me feeling bad, when in reality, they’d done nothing wrong. I was being completely unreasonable, and I eventually figured out that dwelling on this was a waste of my mental space and that I should get on with doing my thing.

Like magic, I got an email covering exactly this topic from the Bold Self Love podcast, which I don’t listen to but I do flip through the transcript if it sounds interesting. The title of this week’s episode was “When Others Disappoint You”, which seemed to be about the feelings I had been processing. And, indeed, it was about exactly that.

The message was that when someone does something, it’s a neutral event but we choose to interpret it in a certain way and it’s our interpretation that causes our negative feelings. We then blame the person because we think their actions caused the feelings rather than recognising that it was our interpretation of their actions causing the feelings. If we’d had a different thought about the event, we could have ended up feeling completely differently about it.

The post goes on to say that we create instruction manuals for people, which are our expectations about how we think they should act and behave and then, when they don’t behave like we think they should, we get upset. The person has no idea we have these expectations and, even if they did know, we don’t get to write their instruction manual—they do. They get to choose how they behave and we get to choose how we behave and we get to choose the meaning we give to everything that happens. For example, hypothetically, my sister didn’t return my call as soon as she got my message. If my “sister manual” includes an expectation that she’ll call me back asap I’m always going to be disappointed if she takes three days to get back to me. If I release this expectation of her and accept she’ll get back to me in her own time, however, I’m not going to be annoyed if I don’t hear from her for a few days.

As I was reading this I realised it applied perfectly to the expectation that I’d had of the person whose behaviour had upset me and that it was up to me to change my thoughts about this, not up to them to change their behaviour. They’re allowed to do their thing, just as I’m allowed to do mine—indeed I can only do mine— so I need to get on with it and forget about what other people are (or aren’t) doing.

20190725 Cool cloud 2

A cool cloud I saw on Thursday

Along similar lines, an email from Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages, had a nice take on how to deal with people who put you down.

It can be challenging to deal honorably with others when they come off as judgmental, offensive, or belligerent. So when you find those pesky defenses and negatively charged emotions rising up within you, I want you to remember one simple maneuver that may just keep you sane—reframe it.

When a photographer takes a picture, what he or she includes in the frame makes a big difference. A portrait focuses solely on the face of a particular individual. Similarly, when we find ourselves focused on the actions of one person, that’s all we see. So if they treat us poorly, it fills our view and consumes our attention.

However, if the photographer were to pull back and frame a bigger picture, the person originally photographed would not seem as important in light of the overall scene. When you learn to pull back and reframe a negative interaction, it can make all the difference. You may have a judgmental in-law, but your spouse loves you. Your marriage is good. Your kids are happy. There’s a bigger picture, and you are not enslaved to seeing only one person’s opinion on your life. Same goes for a bossy boss, a complaining coworker, or a negative naysayer on social media.

Reframing your perspective in the midst of conflict could very well help you stay cool, calm, and collected. Remember, keep the negativity of others in its proper place. If there’s truth in it, acknowledge and learn from it—but don’t react to it. The quickest way to do this is to simply reframe it in light of the bigger picture and know their opinion is not the only one that matters.

James Clear had a good piece on what to do when you’re struggling and feel like giving up. I love the concept of the mind as a “suggestion machine”. James says,

Consider every thought you have as a suggestion, not an order. Right now, my mind is suggesting that I feel tired. It is suggesting that I give up. It is suggesting that I take an easier path.

If I pause for a moment, however, I can discover new suggestions. My mind is also suggesting that I will feel very good about accomplishing this work once it is done. It is suggesting that I will respect the identity I am building when I stick to the schedule. It is suggesting that I have the ability to finish this task, even when I don’t feel like it.

This reminded me of last week’s Bold Self Love podcast on self-care, which observed that our brains “like to avoid pain, they like to seek pleasure, and they like to conserve energy, so they’re kind of lazy” so they’re always telling jus to do things that make us feel better. But they want us to feel better right now, which is why our brains encourage us to not exercise, or to over-eat, or to drink too much alcohol, because it will make us feel better in the moment. And she says what we need to do is become aware of when our brain is telling us this and to “replace these thoughts with new thoughts that will lead to new results”.

Along similar lines, an article by Lisa Grace Byrne on integrating self-care into your life rather than it being a thing that you do.

I especially liked this line: “You eat all day, and every meal is an opportunity to support your body, mood and mind toward vitality and wellness” because it’s so obvious when you think about it. Every time you eat something you’re making a choice as to whether you will nourish your body (and mind) or potentially harming it. Every meal is an opportunity to care for yourself.

I love this!

Some other things that got my attention this week were

A piece that really spoke to me that a friend posted on Facebook about having been a smart kid and having been praised for this, but then growing up and not feeling so smart any more

This resonated with me this week as I was reflecting on my school subject choices, the expectations people had had of me at school, where that had led me to, and how my life might have been different if I had followed the dream I’d had in primary school rather than the path well-meaning adults set me on. (Coincidentally, I did an online career quiz recently and my top career result from this was the same thing I had wanted to be in primary school and early high school, before my “smart kid” got sent in another direction entirely.)

Which leads us neatly to James Clear’s five lessons on being wrong.

What is the likelihood that your 22-year-old self could optimally choose the career that is best for you at 40 years old? Or 30 years old? Or even 25 years old? Consider how much you have learned about yourself since that time. There is a lot of change and growth that happens during life. There is no reason to believe that your life’s work should be easily determined when you graduate.

James says:

Given that your first choice is likely to be wrong, the best thing you can do is get started. The faster you learn from being wrong, the sooner you can discover what is right. For complex situations like relationships or entrepreneurship, you literally have to start before you feel ready because it’s not possible for anyone to be truly ready. The best way to learn is to start practising.

So, with that in mind, here are 8 Micro habits that will completely change your photography in a year on the Digital Photography School blog.

And finally, Sean Tucker’s video on doing your own thing and ignoring social media attention.

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!

Weekend wisdom

One of the things I try to do on Saturday mornings is to go through the backlog of emails in my inbox that I haven’t read or dealt with during the week. I’m a slightly flawed follower of the inbox zero regime and I don’t often get to inbox zero but I do like to only have a small number of emails there that I can see all at once.

But I’m not here to talk about emails.

I’m on more email newsletter lists than I really need to be, many of them because I signed up for one thing and then never got around to unsubscribing from the list. Some of them I usually delete without opening unless the title of the email really grabs me, like one did this week. Some of them I glance through and some of them I read in more detail if I have time. Those are the ones where I often find little snippets of wisdom or inspiration. They often appear just at the right time when I’m grappling with an issue or a problem, which is kind of cool. (Still talking about emails . . . )

Sometimes I save the email in my extensive email library—but I’m not really sure why, because I never browse through my extensive email library. I usually file it away and never look at it again.

Sometimes I copy and past a couple of quotes into my journal so when I re-read it I’m reminded. But I wondered if there might be a better way to keep track of everything and I thought it might be fun to make a weekly blog post of quotes and information that I found interesting over the week.

So here’s instalment 1 of Weekend Wisdom.

Perfectionism and procrastination from Cassandra Massey,  which is not a website I regularly read, but the headline got my attention.

What interested me about this was talking about how we procrastinate because we can’t do the job perfectly or because the perfect conditions aren’t in place, so we don’t get the job done. And then we feel bad and try to do something to make us feel better, which is normally something that isn’t productive, like binge watching TV, endlessly scrolling through social media, having another glass of wine.

The podcast says that what to do instead of giving in to the bad feeling by “buffering” with one of these “false pleasures”, is to begin to tell yourself that you’re going to do the thing anyway and say, “I am not supposed to feel great about this right now. I am not supposed to be experiencing a positive emotion.”

Cassandra says:

Maybe it’s something that you haven’t done before. Maybe it’s a big project that you’ve been putting off for a long time. And so you’re experiencing a negative emotion and so just reminding yourself that that is okay, that that is part of the human experience.

When you can train yourself to allow that negative emotion and to do it anyway, you’re really building up a new skill and so the more that you do this, the easier it is going to be for you to follow through on things that you don’t feel like doing even though you know that they are going to lead to the result that you ultimately want.

I’ve been experiencing a lot of negative emotions this week and I think that reminding myself that it’s part of being human to feel like that is a good thing to keep in mind on the bad days. And linking it to procrastination, a thing that I am a master of, like this isn’t something I’ve heard of before.

20190621 Davey & Harrington St

One of this week’s photos from @hobartstreetcorners on Instagram

This one is from photographer Dan Milnor on the Blurb blog, which also served as a reminder for me to stop procrastinating because whatever I want to do won’t be perfect and just do it anyway.

Art is what you want it to be. A way of seeing the world, a way of thinking, a way of making something as pure expression, or something that has meaning.

Art is pure freedom. You can create and make anything your mind can dream up, and this acts as a counterbalance to many of the less than savory aspects of being human. Art also works as a translator, connecting people with varying opinions through the filter of light, shape, color, form, or concept.

The best way is to just start. Remember, there really is no right or wrong, only how you see the world, or an individual piece you are creating. Create as if you are the only person who will ever see the work. That way you allow for your real vision to shine through and not the vision you think people want to see.

Making art for art’s sake is a GREAT way to breakthrough creative plateaus. When left alone with no strings attached, you will create work that is pure you, and often times, this is the best work you will ever create.

And finally this week, some words from one of my favourite writers, James Clear, on the importance of showing up every day and mastering the fundamentals of whatever it is you’re trying to do.

It is so easy to overestimate the importance of one critical event or one “big break” while simultaneously forgetting about the hidden power that small choices, daily habits, and repeated actions can have on our lives. Without the fundamentals, the details are useless. With the fundamentals, tiny gains can add up to something very significant.

Nearly every area of life can be boiled down to some core task, some essential component, that must be mastered if you truly want to be good at it.

Mastery in nearly any endeavor is the result of deeply understanding simple ideas.

For most of us, the answer to becoming better leaders, better parents, better lovers, better friends, and better people is consistently practicing the fundamentals . . .

PS. I wasn’t going to post this at all because I didn’t have a snappy title for it. But I talked myself into it because if I’d waited until I had the right title, I’d still be waiting this time next year. Done is better than perfect.