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Want results? Frame your work.

Want results? Frame your work.

    There’s a technique I use to get blocks of work done well. I evolved this technique as one of a host of survival mechanisms over the past few years in response to losing more and more time to IFS – Information Fatigue Syndrome. If you read blogs (and you obviously do), surf sites, scan RSS feeds and get tons of email you know IFS – you just don’t know it by name.

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    The symptoms of Information Fatigue Syndrome include “paralysis of analytical capacity”, “a hyper-aroused psychological condition”, and “anxiety and self-doubt”, leading to “foolish decisions and flawed conclusions”. It is a problem which the report argues particularly affects the group called knowledge workers whose jobs mainly involve dealing with and processing information.

    Over eleven years ago, The Reuters News Agency commissioned a study: “Dying for Information: An Investigation Into the Effects of Information Overload in the USA and Worldwide.” 1,300 managers in UK, USA, Hong Kong and Singapore participated in focus groups. At that time, few managers would admit they had succumbed to IFS – it was always some other manager they knew who’d let themselves catch this social disease. The study’s conclusions?

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    • Two out of three respondents associated information overload with tension with colleagues and loss of job satisfaction.
    • 42% attributed ill-health to this stress.
    • 61% said that they have to cancel social activities as a result of information overload
    • 60% that they are frequently too tired for leisure activities
    • People can no longer develop effective personal strategies for managing information. Faced with an onslaught of information and information channels, they have become unable to develop simple routines for managing information.(emphasis mine)

    Now this study was done in 1996 – kind of like studying AIDS in the early 80s, before AIDS killed 25 million people and devastated the lives of another 39 million to date. The malady that used to be confined to the ranks of a tiny percentage of the population – managers and the like – now affects all of us.

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    So here’s technique #1 I’ve evolved to beat IFS: Framing. I build a mental frame around a block of two to three hours. Here’s what the four sides of that frame consist of:

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    • Preparing to Flow. Flow is the opposite of Information Fatigue. You get so focused on some one thing that everything else fades into the background, time flies, you get some real work done. I prepare to flow by pulling out my “pre-flight” checklist, working through the physical and mental cues that get me mentally relaxed and prepared.
    • Turn off email, your browser and all telephones. I know, I know: it seems somehow indecent, unnatural, unnerving and scary to deliberately cut yourself off (What if something happens? What if there’s another 9/11?). But the fact remains: you can’t flow with a stream of interruptions breaking your concentration.
    • Get physically comfortable. Minor irritations like a chair with arms too low or high, the room being too hot or cold will also break your concentration.
    • Know the Desired Outcome, but don’t focus on the results. On one hand you want to know what you hope to accomplish with your time, but on the other, you don’t want to get so focused on that that you stress out.

    Put in a nutshell, by framing important work you can neutralize Information Fatigue long enough to get something substantial done. And knowing how to do that is very, very useful in this age of Information Overload.

    Bob Walsh writes, codes, podcasts and blogs about different aspects of the digital lifestyle at ToDoOrElse, MyMicroISV and Clear Blogging. His second book, Clear Blogging, is now available at Amazon and elsewhere.

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    Last Updated on January 2, 2019

    7 Steps For Making a New Year’s Resolution and Keeping It

    7 Steps For Making a New Year’s Resolution and Keeping It

    Are you keen to reinvent yourself this year? Or at least use the new year as a long overdue excuse to get rid of bad habits or pick up new ones?

    Yes, it’s that time of year again. The time of year when we feel as if we have to turn over a new leaf. The time when we misguidedly imagine that the arrival of a new year will magically provide the catalyst, motivation and persistence we need to reinvent ourselves.

    Traditionally, New Year’s Day is styled as the ideal time to kick start a new phase in your life and the time when you must make your all important new year’s resolution. Unfortunately, the beginning of the year is also one of the worst times to make a major change in your habits because it’s often a relatively stressful time, right in the middle of the party and vacation season.

    Don’t set yourself up for failure this year by vowing to make huge changes that will be hard to keep. Instead follow these seven steps for successfully making a new year’s resolution you can stick to for good.

    1. Just pick one thing

    If you want to change your life or your lifestyle don’t try to change the whole thing at once. It won’t work. Instead pick one area of your life to change to begin with.

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    Make it something concrete so you know exactly what change you’re planning to make. If you’re successful with the first change you can go ahead and make another change after a month or so. By making small changes one after the other, you still have the chance to be a whole new you at the end of the year and it’s a much more realistic way of doing it.

    Don’t pick a New Year’s resolution that’s bound to fail either, like running a marathon if you’re 40lbs overweight and get out of breath walking upstairs. If that’s the case resolve to walk every day. When you’ve got that habit down pat you can graduate to running in short bursts, constant running by March or April and a marathon at the end of the year. What’s the one habit you most want to change?

    2. Plan ahead

    To ensure success you need to research the change you’re making and plan ahead so you have the resources available when you need them. Here are a few things you should do to prepare and get all the systems in place ready to make your change.

    Read up on it – Go to the library and get books on the subject. Whether it’s quitting smoking, taking up running or yoga or becoming vegan there are books to help you prepare for it. Or use the Internet. If you do enough research you should even be looking forward to making the change.

    Plan for success – Get everything ready so things will run smoothly. If you’re taking up running make sure you have the trainers, clothes, hat, glasses, ipod loaded with energetic sounds at the ready. Then there can be no excuses.

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    3. Anticipate problems

    There will be problems so make a list of what they’ll be. If you think about it, you’ll be able to anticipate problems at certain times of the day, with specific people or in special situations. Once you’ve identified the times that will probably be hard work out ways to cope with them when they inevitably crop up.

    4. Pick a start date

    You don’t have to make these changes on New Year’s Day. That’s the conventional wisdom, but if you truly want to make changes then pick a day when you know you’ll be well-rested, enthusiastic and surrounded by positive people. I’ll be waiting until my kids go back to school in February.

    Sometimes picking a date doesn’t work. It’s better to wait until your whole mind and body are fully ready to take on the challenge. You’ll know when it is when the time comes.

    5. Go for it

    On the big day go for it 100%. Make a commitment and write it down on a card. You just need one short phrase you can carry in your wallet. Or keep it in your car, by your bed and on your bathroom mirror too for an extra dose of positive reinforcement.

    Your commitment card will say something like:

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    • I enjoy a clean, smoke-free life.
    • I stay calm and in control even under times of stress.
    • I’m committed to learning how to run my own business.
    • I meditate daily.

    6. Accept failure

    If you do fail and sneak a cigarette, miss a walk or shout at the kids one morning don’t hate yourself for it. Make a note of the triggers that caused this set back and vow to learn a lesson from them.

    If you know that alcohol makes you crave cigarettes and oversleep the next day cut back on it. If you know the morning rush before school makes you shout then get up earlier or prepare things the night before to make it easier on you.

    Perseverance is the key to success. Try again, keep trying and you will succeed.

    7. Plan rewards

    Small rewards are great encouragement to keep you going during the hardest first days. After that you can probably reward yourself once a week with a magazine, a long-distance call to a supportive friend, a siesta, a trip to the movies or whatever makes you tick.

    Later you can change the rewards to monthly and then at the end of the year you can pick an anniversary reward. Something that you’ll look forward to. You deserve it and you’ll have earned it.

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    Whatever your plans and goals are for this year, I’d do wish you luck with them but remember, it’s your life and you make your own luck.

    Decide what you want to do this year, plan how to get it and go for it. I’ll definitely be cheering you on.

    Are you planning to make a New Year’s resolution? What is it and is it something you’ve tried to do before or something new?

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