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Bootstrapping Life: Five Tips

Bootstrapping Life: Five Tips
Kaizen

If you had just one tool for improving yourself, what would that tool be? A casual study of the world’s self-made millionaires, past and present, may not reveal it, but all of them were likely successful bootstrappers. Bootstrapping, at its simplest, refers to getting by in an entrepreneurial endeavor simply with what you have. You take what you earn and cycle it all back in. Only grow as you are able – no major loans.

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Thus, the ultimate life hack is, arguably, bootstrapping. Bootstrapping is a time-honored way to grow a business, but it can also be used for learning a language, improving your skillset, designing and creating something and much more. Bootstrapping is a way to go from essentially nothing to a more desireable result. It comes in a variety of flavors, with variations from numerous cultures. The following terms are not exactly synonymous, but they are related. Most of these terms have complex meanings; I’ve only given one for each, and generically refer to all of them collectively as bootstrapping.

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  1. Kaizen.
    Kaizen is a Japanese term for a Chinese concept. The gist of its meaning is continuous improvement by slow degrees of change. It has applications in quality improvement (at least in the US) but can be applied to many disciplines. You don’t set out to be perfect immediately. Start with what you have and slowly improve it through continuous/ daily actions. This methodology can be applied to anything. I use this principle to improve my websites and that of clients. The wikipedia definition of Kaizen gives a much fuller explanation which mentions three core principles that must be applied. I’ve only covered the gist.
  2. Top-down design.
    Top-down design/ modelling is a process typically used in software development and programming. However, it is used in other disciplines. Start with nothing but functional specifications, write up the skeleton/ outline, then flesh out each section. Using this technique, I’ve written 1,000-3,000 line programs in just a few days, when the industry standard has been 2 lines of code (including research, design, coding, testing, and revision). I use top-down design to write books, e-books, manuals, and larger articles as well.
  3. Bootstrapping.
    Bootstrapping is a classic method used by entrepreneurs for starting a business with pretty much nothing, and reinvesting all revenues and efforts back into the business to help it grow. Loans are at an absolute minimum, if any at all, and growth is controlled. (Keep in mind that most new businesses fail in the first year, some because they grow to fast for their cash flow.) Bootstrapping is also applied to numerous other disciplines. Want to know more? Read Guy Kawasaki’s article The art of bootstrapping and Seth Godin’s free ebook The bootstrapper’s bible.
  4. Tunneling.
    In an article in the Consumerist entitled How to: move to New York City, Ben Popken mentions the term tunnelling as a way to use the resources in your current job to help you on your way to a better career. This is very much in the same spirit as bootstrapping: use what you have to get what you want.
  5. Refinement.
    Refinement is probably the most general form of bootstrapping, but is more in the vein of Kaizen. It is sometimes used synonymously with top-down design, but I feel that it has some distinctions in the stage of use in a project. For example, stepwise refinement is used in mathematics and physics to use existing data to develop a formula, then refined to be more accurate bit by bit, as new information is available. The distinction for refinement is arguably that it is used in a later stage, after the fact, to improve what you know to already be incorrect, whether that’s a formula or software or something else. SEO techniques often use “tweaking” of content, which is essentially stepwise refinement. You could also say that physical tools have gone through a long history of refinement, with existing tools used to create new tools, then refine older ones.

In the generic definition, bootstrapping is a non-linear activity. Small actions combined eventually produce a greater synergy and exponential growth or successes. These techniques can thus be used to build a new career, a new product or software application, slowly build a successful business, fix something that isn’t quite right and so on. When applied to bootstrapping your life, each unit of action you apply must not only be within your ability to do, but you must feel in control of each action, and each must carry you forwards. This is a necessity if you want to be a self-starter.

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Raj Dash writes about professional blogging, learning and productivity, and ghost writes for several other sites.

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Last Updated on October 15, 2019

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

Why we procrastinate after all

We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

So, is procrastination bad?

Yes it is.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

How bad procrastination can be

Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article:

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8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

Procrastination, a technical failure

Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

Reference

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