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You are lying to yourself. You wont remember.

When you make a commitment, how d0 you follow-through? How often have you told yourself, Oh, Ill remember that., but then later realized that you forgot? Everyone has the good intent of remembering or doing it later. How often do you really remember? Its amazing how complex our brains are and how much information can be stored but I still forget the thing I said we would do yesterday.

 

I have a system for any commitment.

  1. Write it down. It all starts with writing it down. I carry a small notebook with me to record any commitment. I write down as much detail about what I need to do. For years I used a FranklinCovey® binder but have recently moved to a Moleskine® notebook.
  2. Transfer notes to a list. I review my notes at least daily (each morning) as I plan my day. I prioritize my list of commitments and action with the most important ones first. I only have one list (no post-its).
  3. Mark it complete. Nothing comes off the list until I do it.

When I make a commitment, I ask myself, Am I really going to do it?

  • If the answer is no, I try to be honest with myself and with the person I commit to. I dont commit if I don’t really expect to do it.
  • If I really intend to do it, I write it down. I write it down right now. I do not wait or convince myself that I will remember. I write it down now.

Dont be fooled after you get in the habit of writing down your commitments. Because you are writing down your commitments, you will tend to remember more. Writing things is an additional connection to your brain. Many times the act of writing is enough to remember later what you said you would do. At some point you may think that your memory is better. You start remembering without referring back to your notes. Once you stop writing down your commitments, you will begin to forget again. It is an evil natural cycle to keep you from doing what your commit to doing. Don’t fall for it.

You dont necessarily have to write down your commitments. You simply need to record it in some medium. Leave a voicemail for yourself or make a recording on your smart phone. Sure you dont like listening to your voice, but get over it. It is a great method for when I can’t write it down. Later when I listen to the recording, I add it to my prioritized list.

I even go the extra step and schedule what I commit to into my schedule. I block time when I will focus on completing the commitment.

How do you ensure that you do what you promise? Have you ever made a commitment but forgot to do it?

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What’s most important?

Have you ever found yourself spinning your wheels? I felt like this the other day when I had been working hard all day doing all sorts of activities but by the end of the day, I felt like I hadn’t accomplished much. I didnt feel like I made any real progress that would have make a difference in my life or anyone else’s. A good test of this is when someone asked me what I did yesterday, and I could’t remember what I did. Looking back now, I hadnt planned my day.

In a previous post I described a way to determine how you spend your time. It helps you create a list of the activities you do every day and apply how much time you spend in these activities. Maybe you have a good understanding of how you spend your time but are you spending your time on activities that provide you the best results?

I reference Stephen Covey because his method of determining the most effective use of your time is the best I have found in 20+ years of searching. In his book “First Things First”, Covey determines the most effective activities by using a formula of urgent vs. important.

  • Activities that are important are what you personally value, and contributes to your mission and high-priority goals.
  • Activities that are urgent are what you or other people feel requires your immediate attention.

Covey uses quadrants to illustrate how to categorize activities.

  • Quadrant I (important and urgent): These are activities that are a crisis or are an impending deadline. This is an activity that you must address now. Activities in quadrant I will always happen because we cannot predict the future.
  • Quadrant II (important but not urgent): These activities are time spent in prevention, planning, building relationships, and even recreation. These are activities that help you manage activities in all the other quadrants. The time you spend in quadrant II activities the less time you will spend on a crisis.
  • Quadrant III (not important but urgent): These activities are interruptions, a ringing phone, some routine meetings, or popular activities that are time bound. These activities pull your attention for something happening right now. You may not discover that it is not important until after you are involved in the activity.
  • Quadrant IV (not important and not urgent): These are activities that really don’t add any value. Examples include, trivia, busy work, and escape activities. Don’t confuse these activities with recreation. Recreation can be an important activity to refresh and renew you. Too much recreation can turn in to a quadrant IV activity if you spend too much time on it or if it really doesn’t help provide you energy to do more important activities.

If you did the activity from my previous post, continue in the right column next to each of the activities you do. Label each of the activities with a Q1, Q2, Q3, or Q4 label. Those activities with a Q3 or Q4 label make plans to remove these activities from your day.

If you are serious about being effective, you will spend more than half of your time doing Q2 activities. The rest of your time is in Q1 activities. When you find yourself in a Q3 activity, try to determine quickly if this is important to you or not. Of course spend the least time in Q4 (almost no time here).

Successful people that I know are not spending much time on Q3 and Q4 activities. What activities are you going to remove from your list? Leave a comment here.

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Taking control: You dont have to do everything

There just isn’t enough time to get everything done. Not only have we heard people say this but you have said it to yourself. The problem with that phrase is that you don’t have to do everything. What you need to do are the things that are most important. And, there IS enough time to do what is important. Winston Churchill said, It is no use saying, We are doing our best. You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.

Everyone has 24 hours every day, 168 hours every week, 8,736 hours every year. Think of the most successful people in the history of the world. They have (or had) the same amount of time that you and I do. They just decided to spend their time differently.

A common defense is that you don’t have control of your time. People will say that other people or responsibilities determine how their time must be spent. That is not entirely true. Most of the time consequences are determined by other people or responsibilities. What you need to decide is whether you can accept the consequences for how you spend your time. Sometimes those consequences are unbearable but if you are honest with yourself you still make the decision. How you spend your time is within your control.

Stephen Covey (author of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) said, “The way you spend your time is a result of the way you see your time and the way you really see your priorities.”

Whether you plan how you spend your time or not, you are already making decisions about what’s important. What people usually don’t do well is determining what the most important things are beforehand.

To start to have an understanding of how you spend your time:

  • Make a list of everything you do in a given day. Write this list in a column. Some examples might be, sleep, getting dressed, breakfast, commuting, meetings, lunch, exercise, preparing dinner, dinner, family time, reading, email, watching TV, doing homework, playing games, laundry, extracurricular activities, etc. Add whatever else you do to this list.
  • In the next column write down how much time each of these activities takes for you to do each day. (keep it simple and use half hour or quarter hour increments)
  • Add up the total.

What is the number that you added up?

  • Is your number less than 24 hours?
    • If so, what activity do you do that you did not put in your list. Add that to the list and add the total time again.
    • If there isn’t anything else to add, where did you miss judge the amount of time you spend? The 24 hours doesn’t change. You are spending your time doing something. Label it and add it to your list.
  • Is your number more than 24 hours?
    • If so, what did you list that you really don’t do. If someone else actually does that activity, then remove it from your list (ex. delegated tasks like housework).
    • If you still have a number greater than 24 hours, review your list and adjust the time to what is real. Ill make a bold statement here but I can say with confidence that it is impossible to spend more than 24 hours in a day. Make the numbers right.

This exercise should help you realize where you are spending your time. Are you spending your time doing things that are making a difference in your life or in someone else’s life? If not, maybe you shouldn’t be doing those activities. Only you can manage your own time and decide what is most important. A future post will show how you can determine which activities you should be spending your time doing.

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Another alternative to reading: Podcasts

What do you do with idle time? I define idle time when you are doing a mindless activity. Idle time examples could be taking a shower, driving or riding a bus to work or school, doing house work, or any kind of repetitive task that doesn’t require 100% of your attention. What could you do to make the most of your idle time?

 

You may have never heard of a podcast or maybe you have heard of it but don’t really know what it is. A podcast is a recording (much like a radio talk show) that is posted on the internet for audiences to either listen right from the internet site or downloaded to an MP3 player (iPod, Sandisk, Zune, or smartphone).

The term podcast originated from recordings (aka broadcasts) designed to be downloaded and played on an iPod (iPod broadcast = pod – cast). The really neat thing about downloading to an MP3 player is that you can then listen to the podcast any time you want and wherever you want. The range of topics are countless and can of course be paused, rewound, and listened to again (unlike a radio talk show).

If you have iTunes, or other MP3 player device you can find a function that lets you view, and search podcasts. There are other programs that are free like Juice that can go to internet sites and automatically download the latest podcast for you. Your MP3 player can be setup to download overnight so that when you plug in before you go to bed, your podcasts update and are ready to listen to the following day.

I listen to podcasts every day as I am driving in the car, or sometimes when I am exercising. Some of my favorite podcasts are:

  • 48 Days – Author Dan Miller’s podcast answers email questions about entrepreneurial ideas and seeking your vocational calling.
    Typical length: 48 minutes
    Frequency: weekly
  • 60 Second Science – Scientific American spends 60 seconds discussing some new scientific fact or discovery.
    Typical length: 1 minute
    Frequency: Daily, Monday – Friday
  • A Moment in Time – NPR broadcast from Richmond Virginia’s Dan Roberts explains a short historical event
    Typical length: 1 minute, 30 seconds
    Frequency: Daily, Monday – Friday
  • Best of YouTube – Video podcast that is guilty pleasure. Posted are top funny or amazing videos from YouTube.
    Typical length: 30 seconds to 5 minutes depending on the video
    Frequency: 5 or 6 times a month
  • The Buzz Report – CNET’s video podcast that highlights the past week’s technology news
    Typical length: 5 minutes
    Frequency: weekly
  • Discovery Channel – short video clips from recent Discovery Channel programs.
    Typical length: 1 – 2 minutes
    Frequency: 6 – 8 times a month
  • Freakonomics Radio – Unique perspective about what you think is true.
    Typical length: 15 – 20 minutes
    Frequency: weekly
  • Free Agent Underground – Owner of Free Agent Academy discusses through a live chat the tools of free agency.
    Typical length: 45 – 60 minutes
    Frequency: twice weekly
  • Manager Tools – Mike Auzenne and Mark Horstman discuss business management effectiveness.
    Typical length: 30 minutes
    Frequency: weekly
  • NOVA Video Cast – short video clips from recent PBS NOVA episodes.
    Typical length: 8 – 13 minutes
    Frequency: 1 or 2 times per week
  • PhotoTips: Photography Tips by BCphoto – video program that highlights basic to advanced photo techniques.
    Typical length: 30 – 40 minutes
    Frequency: weekly
  • Saddleback Church Weekend Message – Rick Warren (author of the book Purpose Driven Life) delivers his weekend sermon to Saddleback Church.
    Typical length: 60 minutes
    Frequency: weekly
  • Saddleback Church: DriveTime Devotionals – Tom Holladay from Saddleback Church reviews a portion of the bible designed to be listened to as part of your commute.
    Typical length: 5 – 10 mintes
    Frequency: weekly (5 posted each week designed to listen to one per day)
  • TEDTalks – Video podcast of some of the most compelling conference presentations from the TEDTalks conferences.
    Typical length: 5 – 20 minutes
    Frequency: daily
  • The Dave Ramsey Show – One hour of Dave’s 3 hour call-in radio show. Almost commercial free.
    Typical Length: 39 minutes
    Frequency: weekdays

I also listen to a few more than just these podcasts. Of all of these, podcasts that are at the top of my list and I try not to miss include, The Dave Ramsey Show, Saddleback Church: Drive Time Devotionals, Saddleback Church Weekend Message, Free Agent Underground, and 48 Days.

If you haven’t listened to a podcast, check out an few of these and let me know what you think. If you listen to podcasts already, let me know some of your favorites. I am always looking to find the next best podcast.

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Focus on the task at hand

There are so many opportunities to make choices in just about every moment of every day. We can choose to watch television, play games, read, surf the internet (including Facebook/Twitter), text, spend time outside, . . . the list goes on. When you have a task to do, git-er-done (as a famous comedian would say). It can be so easy to jump from one thing to another, especially when you have a task that you don’t want to do.

When you allow distractions to get in the way of completing a task, it prolongs the task. Think about that for a minute. If there is a task that you need to do but you jump to a “fun” distraction, it only prolongs the task.

I struggle with this every day. If I need to wash the dishes. While washing dishes I will have the television on (lying to myself that I can do both at the same time). I get distracted and end up stopping for a few minutes to watch what is happening on television. In reality it takes me at least twice as long to do the dishes vs. keeping the television off.

To discipline yourself to get the task done:

  • Focus on task at hand. Recognize that you want to do something else. I no longer watch television when I do dishes. I will turn on music rather than television because I know music doesn’t won’t slow me down. It actually motivates me (except when I dance).
  • Reward yourself. Once you complete the task(s), reward yourself with a “fun” activity that would normally distract you. Limit the fun activity to a short period of time so that you can move on to the next task. When using my computer, I will want to jump to surfing the internet. It is now my reward after getting important tasks done.

It was Helen Keller who said, Do not persist in folly. It is not a badge of character to continue down the wrong road.

What distracts you? How to do you combat distractions? Leave a comment here.

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Cut the strings: why you need an internet based email

What would happen if you wanted to fire your internet service provider (ISP)? An ISP is the company that you pay to get internet access at home. Some examples are Road Runner™, Comcast®, Verizon®, AT&T™, or Earthlink™. You may want to fire your ISP if they jack up your rates, provide bad service, you find a better deal, or you move. But you’re locked in with your ISP because they are also your email provider.

 

It is very hard to switch your email address. Everyone you know already knows your email address. You have accounts with on-line services that are connected to your email.

The solution is to get an internet based email provider. Internet based email is available free from several companies like Google®, Yahoo®, and Windows Live™.

There are several major benefits to internet email:

  • You can switch ISPs anytime. No need to contact everyone in your email list when you switch. Note: ISPs offer free email because people will keep the service to avoid converting email.
  • Access your email anywhere. You can access your email on any device with internet access (at someone else’s computer, public computer, smart phone, or tablet)
  • Massive storage space. Most all internet email service offer astronomical storage space. In other words, your in-box will never fill up.
  • Email is backed up. Internet email is backed up on the online service (email that you download to your computer is lost if your computer crashes).
  • Switching later is easier. If you choose to switch to another internet email service, part of switching can automatically forward your email to your new email.

It will be a pain the first time you switch. You will be handling two email addresses at the same time. But, it is worth doing this one last time.

  • Decide which email provider to use. Any of the top providers are good choices. I use Google’s gmail for my personal email and for my business email because Google isn’t going out of business anytime soon. The future of Google is also good with the success of Google’s Android operating system.
  • Learn the new system. There will be some basic instructions and maybe even some video training that will help you learn your new email system. Take a little time to learn the new email. Gmail is a different kind of email system that will require to think about email in a different way. Once you learn it you will like it.
  • Upload your contacts. If possible download your contacts from your current email provider and then upload them to your new provider.
  • Setup automatic forward. If your old email system offers it, setup your old email to start automatically forwarding new email to your new email address.
  • Only use your new email. This is the most important step. Commit to using only your new mail. You will find reasons to use your old email from time to time but stick with your new email. Start telling people your new email. Send email only from your new email. People you email will start to use your new email. If your new email offers an automatic signature add a line like “this is my new email, please update your contact list”.

After 3 months you will be comfortable with your new email. After 6 months, you will be using only your new email.

What do you like about your email provider? What don’t you like? If you are using an ISP email, why? Read comments here or add your own.

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Disagreements that turn to an argument. Dont get stung.

We have all experienced a disagreement with someone. Sometimes the disagreement is mild. Other times it is a full fledged argument. What causes a disagreement to escalate to something more emotional like an argument?

When the disagreement escalates, a natural tendency during the escalation is to polarize against each other. The longer the disagreement the more polar it becomes. I find myself doing this with my family more than I want to admit. It’s as if I believe that the more I dig in my heals the closer I will get to winning the argument. In fact, I am not getting closer I am getting further from winning.

Trying to make my case by going the opposite direction usually works against my position and for my opponent. I start grasping for straws and those straws get thinner and thinner. Many times this causes the other person to get angry and go radical toward their position. The argument gets heated.

One of the best public examples of this is in politics. If one party proposes a plan, the opposing party will counter the plan with something completely different. I’ve seen this happen not because the other plan is better but simply because it is different. The more one party argues their plan the more the other party argues theirs. Neither party considers how the two plans can come together.

Sometimes I (well . . . hardly ever, well . . . almost never, well . . . I hear this happens to other people) will realize after digging in my heals that I am wrong. This happens to me when I am being selfish or get emotionally attached to the argument.

What can you do during an emotionally charged disagreement (aka argument)?

  • Don’t beat yourself up. Recognize that it is a natural tendency for humans to disagree. We all have individual thoughts and want other people to think like us. Sometimes other people have good ideas too. When you realize that you are arguing, decide how you are going to handle it.
  • Take a minute and breath. Take a mental time-out. If possible ask if you can have a minute. Collect your thoughts and prepare to bring this argument to a resolution.
  • Grow up. Look at the other person’s opinion objectively. Except for politicians, people don’t generally argue just for the sake of the fight. Your opposition probably has at least a component to their argument that is valid (probably more).
  • Work together.Find how the two opinions are similar and work toward coming to the middle.
    • Your opponent is not going to jump to this as quickly as you are. First genuinely recognize the good points your opponent has. Reiterate to your opponent their good points until they feel that you understand their position. Only then should you try to explain your position.
    • Recognize that some of your argument will need to be thrown out so that you can find common ground together. Are you trying to win the argument or are you trying to find a way to agree?
  • Develop a win-win attitude. Invite your opponent to come to the middle of the argument with you. Take a little of their idea and a little of your idea (you will probably take more of theirs so that you can both win). Think about what is similar rather than focusing on the differences.

The right frame of mind comes in a quote from Abraham Lincoln when he said, If you want to destroy your enemy, make a friend of him.

Another great quote comes from William Hazlitt when he said, Those who are at war with others are not at peace with themselves.

Finding how you can agree will maintain and even grow your relationships.  Isn’t that what it is all about?

Have you had an argument that you couldn’t resolve? What techniques have you used to dismantle an argument?