Dec 28, 2007

2007 Reconciliations

I know we all get paranoid when the year end gets closer and closer... you don't have to!
We'll discuss here in brief few points about how to reconcile your positions and get ready for fresh recharge.

1-Note down your Achievements List: If you weren't taking notes of your progress, that's too bad, but not too late to realize it. You'll have to just recall your achievements although you might miss some.
Sit back and contemplate your list... "did I accomplish anything?", "I was driving my goals? or was I simply the victim of my daily emails and the norms of my environment?" Answering these questions will let realize your status and wake-up a bit. Now, if you don't want to wake-up, it's another story, then you're a sleeper... eventually you're socially dead! however smart and important you think you are!
Now, what?
Make sure you don't do that again in 2008! We'll make as our first Objective.

2-Recognize: Reward yourself for your achievements.

3-Note down your Network Update: Who you know, old and new.

4-Mistakes you committed: Big or small, declared or hidden, don't kid yourself... reconcile!

5-Close-Down: Don't keep any of your files open. It's always better to start fresh with new resolutions. If you had to, reshape and remodel your objective; give it a face-lift!

6-Our 2008 Mission List:
     -Write them down, be it personal, private, or business related. 
     -Rank them, you can prioritize them later.
Now, we can go deeper on how you handle them, but basically you'll have to put minimum 5 actions per objective. Those actions are the ones you'll be committing along the coming year.

Are you stiff?
The main thing to concentrate on, is flexibility! You have to stress on change continuously, no matter how great you think you are! If you miss this point, you're missing the train!
Change your style to better handle issues around you.
Change your reception and perception.
Motivate yourself.
See the big picture.
Plan, plan, plan,... write them down over and over again by coming back to this list.

Good luck, if luck has anything to do with it?

Dec 22, 2007

Think Week

We always need new insights to move forward in life, and Think Week is a great way to get them.

This experience reminds me of Bill Gates’s Think Week. Think Week is the week taken by Bill Gates to go for a retreat and spend time to ponder the future of Microsoft and the industry. He does it twice a year and has done it for over 12 years. The insights from the Think Weeks give strategic direction to Microsoft to embrace the future.

While mine isn’t exactly the same as the Bill Gates’s Think Week (for one thing, Bill Gates spends the whole week just to think while I didn’t), I do feel the benefit of getting fresh insights and perspectives by taking time away from normal routine. It makes me think that I may need to have more dedicated Think Weeks in the future. If even a “partial” Think Week could give me some good insights, I wonder what a dedicated Think Week might do.

How does Bill Gates do his Think Week? There is an excellent article from The Wall Street Journal which describes it. Here are how he does it:

  1. Two months before the Think Week, his technical assistant collects papers from every corner of Microsoft and prioritizes them.
  2. He takes a helicopter or seaplane to a cottage on a quiet waterfront.
  3. He bars all outside visitors — including family and Microsoft staff — during the week except for a caretaker who slips him two simple meals a day.
  4. He reads 100 or more papers during the week, some of which could be 100-pagers.
  5. He writes detailed comments on the papers he reads. The printout of his comments could be 6-inch thick!
  6. Some days he works 18 hours straight.
  7. By week’s end, he sends e-mails to hundreds of people and writes a Think Week summary for executives.
  8. In the weeks since returning to his regular schedule, he holds follow-up meetings.

We can learn a lot from the way Bill Gates does his Think Week. Here are some lessons for an effective Think Week:

1. Allocate enough time

Without allocating enough time, we won’t be able to look at the whole picture and get valuable insights. While seven days might be too long for most of us (Bill Gates does the thinking for a huge company by the way), we should be sure that we allocate enough time to look at the whole picture.

2. Prepare what we are going to think about

Bill Gates’s technical assistant collects papers and prioritizes them long before the Think Week begins. Similarly, we should prepare the topics we are going to think about and collect the necessary resources in advance.

3. Stay away from our normal routine

While not all of us can afford to go to “a cottage on a quiet waterfront”, we should stay away from our normal routine as much as possible. Doing so allows us to take a holistic view at things without getting lost in details.

4. Make serious effort on thinking

If we are not serious enough, the Think Week could easily become Vacation Week in which we have a lot of fun but do very little thinking. Bill Gates works long hours during the Think Week (which could be 18 hours straight) and it shows how serious the effort he puts on thinking.

5. Take detailed notes of every idea we get

If we think hard, there should be a lot of details that emerge. We should record all of them. A 6-inch thick printout indicates that Bill Gates’s comments are very detailed.

6. Follow up the ideas

Without following up the ideas, the Think Week would lose its value. The Think Week is useful if it could change the way we live and work, and that is possible only if we follow up the ideas.

Dec 19, 2007

Practicing Simplified GTD

Make three lists. Revise them daily and weekly.

Those eight words are what I got out of three years of reading and writing about Getting Things Done. In addition to my usual email inbox and calendar, which I used pre-GTD, I added three lists to my work life, that I look at, edit and re-edit every day and every week.

The Three Lists

These are my three lists:

  1. To-do list. The equivalent of David Allen's "Next Actions" list, my to-do list is about 20 small, highly doable things I'm committed to doing in the near future (like the next month.) My to-do list is how I assign things to myself, so I'm really careful about what I put on it and how. Here's more on the art of writing a doable to-do list.
  2. Projects list. Allen defines projects as undertakings that have several sub-actions associated with them. (Like, "Clean out the hall closet" is a project because it involves many sub-actions: "Sort books into library drive boxes." "Empty unlabeled boxes." Etc.) While Allen says most people have about 100 projects (!), I've got less than 10 going on at one time. Perhaps I lack ambition. Maybe I'm commitment-phobic. But for me, a short projects list keeps me feeling light and nimble. A long project list, on the other hand, becomes a heavy laundry list of crap I need to do before I die, and when I look at it, I want to crawl in a hole and suck my thumb instead of live because I think things like "I'll never get this done." And that's not the point.
  3. Someday/Maybe list. The name of this list is pretty self-explanatory. This is the stuff I haven't committed to doing yet, and may never. Things like "Learn Italian" and "Build BSG fan web site" and "Run a marathon" go here. Here's where I let my imagination go wild, and add every and any kind of possible goal and task I might want to complete someday. Someday/maybe is for dreaming big without committing.

Note: WHERE you keep these lists is up to you. I love text files and my favorite text editors, so I just keep these in three .txt files. You might use Remember the Milk or Outlook or Tada-Lists. It's up to you: just make sure the tool you use isn't too distracting and that you enjoy using it.

Once you've got your lists, they only serve you if you actually look at them.

Dec 18, 2007

Neurolinguistic Programming And Social Anxiety

Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP), also called the scrambling technique, has been a proven treatment for social anxiety disorder. Neurolinguistic Programming is a psychological therapy that involves finding your personal power and getting to the root of your issues, by using positive affirmations and letting go of fears and blockages. NLP is basically a process of reprogramming your brain.

Neurolinguistic Programming was developed in the early 1970’s at the University of California at Santa Cruz. The study began as an attempt to discover exactly what made people become effective and successful, and why different people with the same level of education and identical backgrounds experience different levels of success. During the study, it was discovered that the patterns of a persons thinking plays a huge role in determining the amount of success that person will experience, and that the brain can learn the healthy patterns and behaviors that bring about positive physical and emotional results. Neurolinguistic programming was born.

Neurolinguistic Programming is about viewing experiences from a different angle, either voluntarily or by force. This helps to reprogram thought patterns. For instance, a woman starts having panic attacks anytime she gets behind the wheel of a car and eventually gave up driving. While visiting a foreign country with her children, the only way to get around was to drive.

The woman was forced to drive, using a clutch and driving on the left hand side of the road, instead of the right. Once we learn to drive, it becomes automatic to us - like breathing. But this woman was forced to drive in ways that were absolutely new to her. As a result, she was cured of her panic attacks while driving, and when she returned home, she was able to resume driving without having panic attacks. Her thoughts on driving were totally reprogrammed.-(motivationworks)

Dec 2, 2007

Pedometers and Physical Activity

JAMA recently had an article (referenced below) that showed "The results suggest that the use of a pedometer is associated with significant increases in physical activity and significant decreases in body mass index and blood pressure." Overall, the pedometer users increased their physical activity by 26.9% over baseline. The person who gets the most out of the use of a pedometer is the who has a step goal (ie 10,000 steps per day).

The JAMA article also found "Pedometer users also significantly decreased their systolic blood pressure by almost 4 mm Hg from baseline. Reducing systolic blood pressure by 2mmHg is associated with a 10% reduction in stroke mortality and a 7% reduction in mortality from vascular causes in middle-aged populations; thus, it is critical that the effects of pedometer use on blood pressure be examined closely in future studies."

Perhaps you might think about getting a pedometer for someone for Christmas or even one for yourself. It does not need to be an expensive one. I use the Sportline 340 (having lost a few, they cost less to replace). I never bothered to program in my step length. I simply use it to count the steps and aim for that 10,000 mark. Most days I go past it, but there are days I have to "work" at it. Simple adjustments will add up--park the car farther away from the store, take the stairs down two flights or up one rather than using the elevator, walk one extra block, etc.

Some suggestions on getting started with your new pedometer...
  • Start out by wearing the pedometer each day for two weeks and don't do anything to change your normal routine. Keep an exercise log of the daily step count. At the end of the second week, take a look at how many steps you are taking each day in the course of living your life.
  • If you feel comfortable doing so, take the highest number of steps you have walked on any given day during that 2 week period. Use that number of steps (ie 2500 steps) as your first daily step goal. To avoid injury, do not select a higher number. Continue to keep your step log.
  • At the end of that two week period, review all the steps you took each day. If you are ready, add another 500 steps to your daily goal. Your new step goal is now 3000 steps a day for the next two week period.
  • Continue in that manner, working up until you finally reach the goal of 10,000 steps a day.
  • The goal is to keep you active for the rest of your life. So don't go overboard and injury yourself. Take it slow. Take it easy.
  • It takes about six months to "lock in" a new behavior. Aim to do what is necessary to change your exercise behavior permanently. Be prepared to dedicate yourself to your daily goal each day for a minimum of six months. If you do that, you are much more likely to maintain this goal permanently.
  • If you skip a few days due to illness, work or other obligations, the sooner you get back into the exercise groove, the more likely you will be able to get back into your routine.
  • Reaching that walking activity goal of 10,000 steps does not mean that you can increase your food intake. Continue to try to eat a healthy and reasonable portion diet.
  • So the weather's yucky, walk laps at the mall, go to a museum, or walk laps inside your home. Get up and move!

Dec 1, 2007

7 Sure-Fire Ways to Develop Persistence

There is no such thing as cheap success. If we want to succeed, we have to pay the price. And the road to success is long with a lot of obstacles. No wonder most people stop at one point or another after running into the obstacles. Only a few people have the persistence to keep moving forward, and these are the few people who succeed.

Persistence is essential. In fact, persistence is one of the most important characteristics successful people share in common. There is no other way to succeed but by developing persistence in our life, and here I’d like to share seven ways to develop it. Here they are:

1. Learn the life of successful people

Understanding that successful people do need persistence to achieve success will inspire you to be persistent yourself. So find and read the life stories of successful people throughout the history. While most people recognize them only through their achievements, by reading their stories we will understand the persistence they need on the way to success.

2. Expect a hard way, not an easy one

One of the main reasons people giving up early is having wrong expectation. They expected the way to be easy, and they are surprised when they find the reality to be the opposite. Their enthusiasm quickly melts and they lose heart.

So start your journey with the right expectation. As I wrote above, there is no such thing as cheap success. Expect a hard way, not an easy one, and you will be mentally prepared when you encounter the reality.

3. Don’t underestimate the amount of time required

Just like you should not underestimate the difficulty of the journey you are about to take, you should not underestimate its length either. Of course, everyone wants to achieve instant success. But this, unfortunately, is not realistic. The journey to success is a marathon, not a sprint, so prepare yourself accordingly.

4. Have a big why

To keep your persistence, you need a strong source of motivation. How else can someone keep trying again and again without strong motivation? And such strong motivation comes from your purpose. You should know why you want your goal in the first place. And your why must be bigger than the obstacles. The bigger your why the better.

5. Know how to handle failure

Since failure is a certainty on the path to success, knowing how to handle it is critical. By knowing how to handle failure you will be able to keep your persistence. On the other hand, not being able to handle it will soon drain your mental energy. So arm yourself with the right tactics to overcome failure.

6. Find partners

Things will be much easier is you have partners with whom you can encourage each other. They can motivate you when you are in the low points of life, and you can do the same to them. Besides, your partners could give you valuable lessons from their experiences so that you don’t need to find them yourself the hard way.

7. Minimize your stress

To be able to keep your persistence for long time, you should minimize leaks on your mental energy. Stress is one such leak you should learn to manage. If you fail to do this, you won’t be able to stay on the track for long. Even if you do, you won’t be able to do your best since you’ve lost a lot of energy. So arm yourself with the tactics to minimize stress and preserve your energy.


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