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Trial by Fire Productivity – The Intro

Trial by Fire Productivity – The Intro
Tools

    Launching a new project is extremely time-consuming. It’s at these times I begin to learn how effective my productivity process and tools really are.

    Since creating a 36-hour day is out of the question, the next best thing is making the hours you have more productive. Enter tools and processes.

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    The thing is, you can never know how well they’re going to work under real stress, until you’re in the middle of a firestorm. So I decided to run an experiment. Not in a controlled environment, but in a real-world situation – hectic and full-on.

    The Plan…

    Over the next 60 days, I will be preparing my new venture for launch. I have some aggressive time lines, plus existing commitments. In order to hit my goals, I need to be ultra-productive – and that means I’ll need some effective tools and processes.

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    But I’m starting clean.

    I’ve used so many different tools and methods over the years that tend to fail when I need them most. So this time, I have decided to go commando – so to speak.

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    I’m ditching everything in the way of tools and processes, but a few essentials – Google calendar, grid-lined spiral notebook, and Thunderbird. Then as I need something, I’m going to pick a tool and add it in.

    In order for it to work, I am setting a few criteria. I’m keeping it somewhat loose, since I’ll be adjusting as I go:

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    • Efficiency First – Above all, whatever I choose, it has to make my workflow more efficient. As a lifehack junkie, I could have the tendency to add a bunch of tools, based solely on the coolness factor. So my primary focus when deciding will be efficiency.
    • Instant Use – I won’t have time to read a manual or do a bunch of tutorials, so I have to be able to integrate it right away. This means it has to be extremely easy to use. Now, fortunately, I’m kind of a techie. So this may give me a little less of a learning curve.
    • Analog vs. Digital – I’ve used both paper and digital tools. I prefer simplicity, so sometimes that means paper, sometimes the convenience of data on a machine. I’ll be looking at both.
    • Cross Platform – I use both Windows and Linux, and at least 2 machines at a time. So whatever computer-based tool I use, it has to be able to be accessible from both, and preferably can share between them.
    • Cost – I’ve spent so much money over the years on stuff that I end up not using. For this experiment, I plan to use free or cheap tools – ideally open source, but ease of use and the other criteria may trump that.

    The Progress…

    Each week, I’ll post about a tool or process I’ve added and how well it’s integrated into my work-flow.

    At the end of the first 30 days, I may do a podcast or vodcast that covers some of the more useful things in more detail. It depends on how well this works, if I’ll have the time.

    In the end, I may be back to just grid paper and Google calendar. But I hope to find some useful tools that will help make my life as a home-based entrepreneur, easier.

    Tony D. Clark is an entrepreneur, writer, and artist who spends a lot of time talking others into profiting from what they know, being creative, and doing what they love. His blog Success from the Nest provides inspiration, tips, and advice for the home-based entrepreneur and those aspiring to be one – all served up with humor and cartoons.

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    Tony D. Clark

    Tony is the blog owner of "Success from the Nest". He aspires to help people do meaningful work and reach their dreams.

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    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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