Tag Archives: Productivity

Living in the Present and Staying in the Game

It’s so often easy to let ourselves get caught up in the things that happen in our lives. We always seem to end up in one of two places, either thinking about the past or thinking about the future. And the thing about both of these places is that they cause us to end up frozen in the present.

When we’re thinking about the past we’re typically dwelling on a situation that we either wish we could live again OR that we wish we had done differently. When we’re thinking about the future it’s typically some form of anxiety or worry. Hoping for something to workout a certain way or uncertain of how things will happen.

What we don’t realize is that when we go to either of these places we actually drive our own mental cars into the ditch. We put ourselves in a situation where we have now become stuck. If you’ve ever actually had your car get stuck somewhere in a snowy or muddy ditch you know it takes a lot of effort to get it back out. Typically it takes some outside help, like a tow truck, to pull you back on to the road.

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In life, a lot of times we do this same thing. We get ourselves stuck in a ditch and we sit there waiting for the next tow truck to come along and pull us out. Waiting for the next thing to happen in life that will brighten our mood and get us out of that ditch so we can get back on the road.

But while we’re sitting in that ditch dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, everyone else’s car is driving right past us. The rest of the world keeps moving forward and what we fail to realize is all of the people that also get stuck in a ditch every now and then.

And that those that are happiest in life are the ones who know the tricks to getting themselves out of that ditch as quickly as possible so they can get back on the road.

That’s the key right there. Everybody falls into a ditch but the happiest people know how to get themselves out while the rest sit and wait for a tow truck.

So how do you get yourself out of that ditch on your own? The effort typically needed to get out of that ditch is so great. How can you ever match the strength and power of the tow truck to actually pull yourself out of that ditch?

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The secret is in realizing that you can only ever actually do anything in the present. Once you start to realize that you can only ever make a strategic move while in the present you understand that trying to do anything with the past or future is useless. You physically cannot make any changes to the past or future, understand that.

It’s sort of like the present is the basketball court or soccer field. The areas inside the field represent the present. All of the areas outside of the field, the fans on the sideline, the bench, the parking lot, everything outside of those lines is the area where you can’t actually play the game. They represent the past and future. You just simply can’t go to those areas outside of the field and actually make anything happen. It just doesn’t work that way.

photo cred: Victor Garcia

The way we take advantage of this is to get back onto the field or court and to just start doing things. Literally doing anything is still better than not being in the game at all. You have a better chance of winning if you are in the game than you ever will if you are on the sideline. If you’re on the sideline (stuck dwelling on the past or worrying about the future) you cannot make your situation better. You cannot get yourself out of the ditch.

BUT, if you put yourself into the game, you put yourself into the present and start doing things, you’ll find that suddenly you’re not stuck in the past or worrying about the future. You’ll find that suddenly, almost magically, you’ve pulled yourself out of that ditch and put yourself back onto the road without even realizing it.

So the next time you catch yourself feeling down about the past or worrying about the future go find something to do! Go for a walk, go read a book, go take a shower, go make a snack, go do something positive for yourself, or better yet someone else, and take action.

Take action in the present and get yourself back in the game.

Before you know it you’ll be out of that ditch and right back on the road.

Should You Have One Big Goal?

Having one big goal. One big target for what you’re after in life. A dream.

That’s what it’s all about. Time after time we see athletes and musicians have one big dream to grow up and make it big. They have this one dream, their life is all about it, and they are 100% focused on this one thing to make it big.

And the rest of us try to follow suit. We try to have just one big dream, well and then the other demands in life, school, work, family, social responsibilities. They all seem to be getting in the way of our one big dream, yet these other athletes and musicians don’t seem to have that problem? Why not?

The reason why not is actually quite simple. This idea of having one big goal and one big dream and only that one dream…. IS…. A…. LIE….

Let it soak in for minute….

….

….

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This idea that you have this big target you’re aiming for and that’s the only thing that you’re about is a trick. It’s something that’s used to sell self-help books to millions of people that still can’t manage to achieve their goals. Funny how so many books are sold yet so few people don’t achieve their dreams. Don’t feel bad, I was one of those people.

David Goggins once said he had an NFL player reach out to him and ask, “How do you keep that dog mentality. Once I got to the NFL I’ve struggled to keep the fight in me” and David responded by pointing out that the person had a finish line in their mind.

Basically they had this one big goal and once they reached it, their dream was over. They’d crossed the finish line and now realized they didn’t know what do with themselves anymore.

photo cred: Adi Goldstein

This is the problem with one big dream or one big goal. Even if you manage to achieve it, once you do, you’re left wondering what to do next. The drive that existed on the journey is no longer there at the finish line.

So here’s the thing, life is a lot longer than most of us realize. What good does it do to drive hard for 10 years to spend the next 30 unsatisfied?

And even if you could focus in on your one big goal and drive it all the way to completion you’d suddenly realize that you now have nothing left to look forward to. You would have built your whole life on one thing and one thing only. And let me tell you about how life likes to take dreams that you have and shove them in your face.

Don’t back yourself into a corner on a single dream because that’s what you see in a Nike commercial. There is enough time in life to do it ALL. I promise you. Life is long and there is a ton of time to do things.

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So my advice is to go out and set multiple dreams. If you want to be a musician great! Go practice every day. Then think of what else you want to be. What other hobbies do you have? What other responsibilities do you already have? Play any sports? Great go work at being great at that too. Spread your dreams out and work towards all of them.

Quit putting all of your chips into a single bet because that’s what the media has been telling you to do.

Go live a full life and DO IT ALL!

If you’re not doing something different every day, you’re wasting your life.

Automate FTW

It’s been a little while since I’ve written a true productivity post and today feels like just the right time to make that happen.

One of the most effective ways to get ahead in anything that you do is to learn how to automate as much as possible. In the world of technology there are a million ways to automate things but there are also opportunities to automate smaller pieces of our daily lives.

When you automate things you allow yourself to get more things done in the same amount of time. This is the real trick and the secret win to automating. Think about a situation where you do a task. Let’s say you log on to your computer every morning and you open up a series of applications, your email, your chat client, maybe an application you need to do your work, some music, a website or two to check the weather, etc, etc…. and in total, it takes about 5 to 10 minutes for everything to load up and be ready.

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And let’s say you do this every day, Monday through Friday for the entire year, that’s roughly 252 days. If all of this takes roughly 10 minutes to do each day, that’s 252 days x 10 minutes which comes to… 2,520 minutes or better said, 42 hours.

Now think about the time you save if you take those 42 hours and instead of doing the same task everyday you use those 42 hours to automate the task and take a 10 minute task down to a couple of seconds. The return on investment here is astronomical! I mean you’ve reduced the effort of this task by 99.99%. You’ve basically eliminated this work from your life and now have gained that time back to invest elsewhere.

photo cred: Carlos Aranda

So you should be thinking bigger now. What about a task that you do multiple times a day? Something that you do maybe 3 to 10 times a day? Maybe it takes a minute each time, maybe it takes 5. What about a task that takes 30 minutes every other day?

One area that I’ve cut a ton of time and work out of my own life is in managing my finances. I would constantly have to sit down and pull up an excel spreadsheet and breakdown and workout how my budget looked. What was I spending, what was I saving, where it was all going. It took a couple of hours every month and then a few minutes every week to keep it updated.

After a while I got tired of the constant manual labor and started looking for a better solution. Then I found https://www.mint.com/ and I’ve never looked back. Mint automated so much of the manual labor I was doing and not only gave me back a few hours each month it actually made my budget more accurate and less prone to human errors.

And if you continue to identify these types of tasks, these little things that you repeat on a daily or weekly basis and then you find ways to automate some parts or all of them you will find that you’re able to get even more done with the same amount of time.

This is the big trick to getting ahead. You’ve taken what’s fixed, the number of hours in a day, and you’ve managed to get more done within that fixed number of hours. If you keep compounding this effort over-and-over your levels of productivity will climb higher and higher than before.

Automate, automate, automate for the win!

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How to Master Anything

We often times consider ourselves to be good students. We can read a book or an article, watch a YouTube video, or take a class, and for the most part, we feel like we can learn the things we need to learn to be better.

Then we can go and actually try to do the things we just learned about. We try to fix that leaky pipe from the YouTube video or we try that next parenting trick on our kids, that we read in some book and again, we get a little bit better.

photo cred: Sharon McCutcheon

We repeat this cycle with almost everything that we do in most of our lives. We learn and then we try, we learn, then we try, and this is actually a pretty good method. I mean, it’s how we are raised from the time we enter school until we become adults and it gets us to where we need to go for the most part.

Even when we get into our jobs and professions, we start out as students and then we are trained by our peers and we practice on what we’ve learned and soon enough we’ve got it down.

There is though.. another level. A level beyond just learning and doing. A level that can take us to that Next Level. That level is teaching.

When we start to teach something we take on a new perspective. We are now no longer asking questions but are stating what we believe are facts. We are saying, “This is how you should do it.”

What scares a lot of people away from making this next step is the potential to be wrong. The chance that a student or another teacher comes along and says, “no you are teaching this wrong” and so we’re afraid to fail as teachers, and so often times, we don’t teach.

But teaching is so incredibly valuable to becoming a better student that by avoiding that failure we are limiting our chances of getting to the Next Level. Teaching allows us to put to test the things we’ve learned and practiced. It let’s us validate if what we learned and how we learned it, is any good in the first place.

photo cred: Austin Distel

Most of us tend to take something we’ve learned the first time and that becomes the way we know how to do it. We learn it once, and it becomes the end all. I see so many people who learn something from one person, one source, and they believe it to be factual for the rest of their lives. They become completely unwilling to change because it isn’t the idea they were taught the first time.

Don’t be like those people, instead, you should take what you have learned and go teach someone else. Validate your ideas and see if it can work for someone else.

Along the way you will start to learn even more than you did as a student. You will start to see the things that really do work and the parts that really don’t. You will start to become better at whatever it is you are teaching and be that much closer to going from student to teacher to Master.

The Next Level

How do you get to the Next Level?

How do you take yourself, your life, your goals… how do you take them and move them to the Next Level?

It’s a question I had been asking myself over-and-over-and-over… how do I do more? How do I find more success? How do I find more happiness? How do I get more out of life in general? I just couldn’t figure it out.

I literally went round-and-round trying to figure out how to reach the Next Level. And there have been times in my life where I actually went to the Next Level. Where I earned a promotion, or where I landed a new job, where I met a milestone, or managed to achieve some goal.

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The thing was though… the thing that I learned… was that none of those were actually getting to the Next Level. They were the consequences of already being at the Next Level. Take minute to re-read that. The promotions, the milestones, the achievements. Those were all just the consequences of already being at the Next Level.

That’s the thing about The Next Level. It isn’t a goal. It’s not an endpoint. It’s not somewhere you get to and then you hang your hat up because you’re done. The Next Level is in the choices you make on a daily basis. The Next Level is how you live every hour of every day.

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Want to get to the Next Level in your career? Start practicing, reading, and learning the skills for that career, everyday.

Want to get to the Next Level in your fitness and diet? Start eating one more healthy thing than you did the day before. Workout for one more rep than you did the day before.

Want to get to the Next Level in your relationships? Start doing one more selfless thing for another person than you did the day before.

Want to get to the Next Level in your business? Start working one minute longer than you did the day before.

Often times we want the rewards of being at the Next Level but we don’t want to actually do the work required at the Next Level. Then we get upset, and we get down about ourselves because we didn’t get the reward we wanted.

photo cred: Greyson Joralemon

When really, this is fair. Life is giving you the exact reward that matches the level you are on. If you want a Next Level reward you have to put in the Next Level of work.

And it doesn’t happen in a day.

Life doesn’t reward you with a multi-million dollar business because you went to the Next Level for a few days.

Life doesn’t reward you with a better marriage or relationship with your kids because you tried harder for a week.

Life doesn’t reward you with a better body and longer life because you went to the gym a couple of days.

Life doesn’t reward you with more money because you went above and beyond that one time at work.

Life rewards you with what you deserve.

photo cred: Martin Sanchez

My advice would be to stop worrying about the next reward. Instead, start focusing on how you’re getting to the Next Level every, single, day.

Avoiding Distractions and Getting in the Zone

Your phone beeps… the kids ask for a snack… someone rings the door bell… the next work email comes in… someone messages you on Teams or Slack… the dog starts barking…

Working from home was supposed to be quiet and peaceful. Wtf happened?

Well for starters, we had unrealistic expectations. Let’s be honest, things were never all that quiet to begin with. We’ve just added in a ton more distractions and made it a lot more convenient for them to distract us. Right now… as I’m writing this… I can see the little light on my phone blinking because I have a message…

It’s already distracting me from writing this and all it is… all it is, is a little light that is flashing every 3 FREAKING SECONDS!!@#$!

So how do you actually get any real work done throughout the week? How do you make forward progress on things you want to accomplish without being pulled in every other direction? Read on!

There are literally millions of distractors in our life and they all play on different senses. For example, we have visual distractors like if we see someone walk past our window in the middle of the day, or an email notification popup on our computer, (or that little fucking light that keeps blinking on my phone… OMG!).

We have audible distractors, like when we hear the kids or if the dog starts barking. We have distractors that relate to our sense of touch or comfortableness. Is it too cold? Too hot?

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All of these different distractors are ways to throw you off your game and keep you from getting nothing done and feeling even more stressed than ever before. but… the best way to fight these off is to start building tricks that defeat each MAJOR distractor.

I say MAJOR because you’ll waste all day trying to remove every distraction ever. Don’t be a perfectionist. Focus on the ones that give you the biggest ROI. Here’s a list of my distractors and how I fight them off and get INTO THE ZONE.

  1. My Kids – love them to death, can’t work with them at home.
    • The trick – promise them if they are good, I will #maketime to play with them that night.
  2. My Phone – beeps and buzzes all day long.
    • The trick – Silent mode and flip it upside down so I can’t see it. (finally the blinking is gone…)
  3. Emails/Messages – emails are endless…
    • The trick – Set my status to DND, turn off Outlook, and flat out ignore people. Sorry bout ya!
  4. Uncomfortableness – sometimes it’s too cold or too hot.
    • The trick – A cheap 20 dollar floor heater and mini-fan. I use them as needed.
  5. Little Noises in the House – the kids playing, cars driving by, my wife coming home on lunch.
    • The trick – Headphones and music loud enough it’s all I can hear.
  6. Other tasks or things on my mind – Often times there’s just other thoughts and ideas that can creep into our heads
    • The trick – Set a timer and focus on staying in the zone until the timer goes off. Then once it goes off, indulge for a bit. Bonus trick – write things down and then put that list somewhere you can’t see it until after you’re timer goes off.

These are all examples of distractors in my life that I’ve had to come up with little tricks for to block them out. Working from home didn’t actually make anything less distracting but I have found ways to get a ton of work done just by simply getting into my zone.

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I aim to reach this zone where I’m at my peak performance a few times a day. I try to setup some blocks of time and know what I want to get done in that block. Then I go through and pull out all of my tricks. Headphones in, coffee filled up, heater on, DND set for my messages, email closed, phone upside down, each and every trick I’ve got, I put to use.

Then I get in my zone and go to work.

I would love to hear other people’s tricks on how they get into the zone! What kind of distractions do you face on a daily basis and what tricks work to help you get in the zone?

The 3 Key First Steps to Accomplishing Any Goal

Accomplishing our goals is tricky business. It’s actually really tricky business. So tricky that it’s eluded me for years. I’ve spent a good solid chunk of my lifetime trying to figure out the best ways to accomplish my goals. And I always had all kinds of goals. I wanted to do something with my health or tackle this with my fitness. I wanted to start some business or do this project. I wanted to pickup this hobby or try out this new thing. I wanted to be this type of father to my kids or this type of husband to my wife.

But to accomplish all of these things I knew I needed a good game plan. I knew I needed a solid strategy to get there. And so I read, and read, and read. Book after book, online article after online article, trying to figure out what the secret sauce was.

And O…M…G… was it a pain in the ass… I could not find the right answers on anything I wanted to accomplish. I would read one piece of material that would offer suggestions on how to accomplish your goals. I’d try it, it would work for a little while. While my motivation was really high. And then as soon as I had a rough day or something threw me off track. It was game over…

photo cred: Sigmund
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And every piece of advice or material I read was the same. The system would be different, the tricks would be new, but as soon as I hit a little bit of adversity. As soon as I got punched in the mouth by life. I would be right back where I started. It was such a sickening cycle…

So I set out to do some research of my own. Instead of reading about research someone else had done, I went out and did my own. I found other highly successful people who were already doing the things I wanted to do and I nailed down what it was they were doing. And I figured out a pattern…

These other highly successful people were doing two things that were setting them apart from the rest of the world.

  1. They had Powerful Why’s
  2. They felt they HAD To Do It

Each one of the highly successful people I looked at, whether it was success in fitness… comedy… politics… money… was using these two techniques to get it done. Even if they didn’t realize they were doing it, which in most cases was true. For a lot of these highly successful people I found that they were doing these things without even realizing it.

Life had forced these habits on them. Because of their circumstances growing up, or where life had taken them, most of them were being driven by Powerful Why’s that life handed them and the other half were being driven by things they felt the HAD TO DO. Sometimes it was poverty, sometimes it was hardship, and sometimes it was for their families.

So how can you take these same drivers and apply them to your own life?

What’s the secret sauce?

This is the third key to the first two and it’s probably the most critical for you.

Write… It… Down…

WRITE IT DOWN!

photo cred: Aaron Burden
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I mean it. Sit down, pull out a piece of paper and write down your goals. Then for each of your goals, write down your Powerful Why’s. Try to think of why’s that are both selfish and selfless. Think of things that motivated you when you first thought of your goal. Maybe when you first started wanting to get in shape it was because someone made you feel bad. Write that down. Maybe you wanted to start that new business because you were inspired seeing someone else had done it. Write that down.

And once you’ve put together a nice long list of Why’s, set that piece of paper aside and grab a second. Now start writing out your HAVE TO List. Write down the things that you HAVE TO DO if you’re going to accomplish your goals on the other piece of paper. Write down not what you should do…. but what you HAVE TO DO, TODAY, to accomplish your goals. Write it down. And everyday you wake up, sit back down, and write down your HAVE TO DO List. Everyday. Write it down.

The reason this key is so important is because we tend to forget about the mission we’re on. We lose our motivation, we lose sight of our goal, the day-to-day distractions of life get in our way. By writing it down you give yourself two advantages. First, writing will help it stick in your mind better. Second, if you forget, you’ve already got it written down so that you can go back to it. So when I tell you this part is key, I mean it!

Write shit down!