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Put yourself on the line

Put yourself on the line
Football Field

“Why don’t you join me on the line?” Do you think I’m inviting you to get on a conference call? Is the football player in you visualizing the scrimmage line? Does ‘on the line’ mean anything in particular to you?

The line that we’re going to look at today is the line that separates risk from safety. It separates the unpredictable from the predictable. It divides security from opportunity. The line also separates variety from sameness; possibility from lack; and adventure from monotony.

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As we’ve grown most of us have created a line that we don’t cross. The side we’re on is comfortable, familiar, and secure. We have developed a great life on our side of the line. It includes a good circle of friends, colleagues we trust and enjoy, a lifestyle that fulfills, and work that sustains. An example of this is living in an area where we know our neighbors, working at one company for an extended period of time, and engaging in a regular activity such as the tennis league. It is illustrated in driving the same route to the office day after day, stopping at the same convenience store for coffee every day, and reading the same author over and over. Any risk on our side tends to be minimized and controlled. For example, a person might play as a guest on your hockey team. As a guest he’s been invited and approved by someone you trust. Little risk that he’s going to be a mismatch for the personality of the team or an outright jerk.

The other side of the line can also be comfortable and even better than where we are now. If we don’t cross the line by a distance, we might simply move our line out farther and add something to the mix we have now. Benefits of experiencing the other side can range from a new job opportunity, a new locale with more like minded people, or expanded prospects. The other side might simply include things that make our life better. That might mean new conveniences, fewer stresses, welcome cross pollination of ideas. It might expand our capacity to try more because we’ve gone to a place we’re frightened of and succeeded. The benefits are probably unseen because we’ve been comfortable on our side of the line.

Let’s cross the line and do something over there. This does include taking a risk and probably getting out of our comfort zone. It is also likely to build our bravery, increase our inventory of good stories to share with others, and bring us new friends and opportunities. Think of the kid who always asked the pretty girls for dates. He was turned down many more times than accepted. Yet, by simply asking there was the chance that she might say, “Yes.” And some girls did say yes. This guy probably had the ability to bounce back from rejecting, creative ways to approach the girls, and a lot of fun. He likely didn’t take the rejection as a blow to his ego but looked at rejection as simply the need to redirection his attention and try again. Resilience describes that guy!

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So let’s get ready and cross the line with something small like driving a different route to work or big like replacing the usual vacation location for somewhere new. The whole idea is to grow, have fun, and experience something fresh.

Let’s list a few possibilities to serve as triggers for you to decide what to try.

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  • Eat lunch with someone different once a week for the rest of the year so that you meet someone interesting and increase your business network.
  • Get a recommendation for a new author in your favorite genre. Amazon’s suggestions is a place for ideas. Enter you favorite author and Amazon will say, “People who buy this also like….”
  • Try instant messaging if you’ve been technology challenged.
  • Dress in a style that someone else identifies for you. Invite someone with a look you like or whose taste you appreciate to help you select the top, bottom & accessories and give it try.

Let us know what you try and how it goes. The alternative is to stay in same old same old ~ hope you love it there if you do.

Susan Sabo is the creative mind at ProductivityCafe.com. She works with clients to help them get the right things done and to get home at a reasonable time. Her biggest step over the line was into the mountains of Nepal – Torang Pass at 18,000+ feet. Her toes got nipped with frost bite while her limits were reset beyond all previous boundaries.

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Last Updated on August 16, 2018

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system”.

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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The power of habit

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being six hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The wonderful thing about triggers (reminders)

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to make a reminder works for you

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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