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11 Ways to Use Less to Make 2008 Your Best Year Yet

11 Ways to Use Less to Make 2008 Your Best Year Yet

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    A few days ago, Dustin suggested that I write a post about “ways to use ___” to kick off the new year. At first, I was at a loss to fill in that blank. I couldn’t think of any gadget, program or trick that was important enough to make a year-long impact.

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    Then it hit me. Maybe the reason I was having trouble coming up with a tool that would make an impact is because I was looking at the question the wrong way. Perhaps the problem with many New Year’s Resolutions, gadgets and the latest GTD hack is that there are too many of them. Simplifying your goals, to-do lists and gadgets you use might have a better impact than adding more to the pile.

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    Simplicity Saves More than Time or Money

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    A simpler lifestyle is easier on your wallet and schedule. But probably the biggest benefit of using less is your ability to pay attention. If you clutter up your environment with objects, tasks or gadgets that aren’t really important, you steal attention away from those that do.

    I’m sure I’m not the only person who wants to do more, accomplish more and be more in the next year. Here’s a few ways you can do that by actually using less:

    1. One Book at a Time. How many bookmarks do you have, scattered in half-finished textbooks, guides and novels? Reading only one book at a time does two things. First, it forces you to finish books instead of just starting another. Second, it forces you to abandon bad books instead of leaving them in your bookshelf purgatory.
    2. Eat Simpler Foods. Meals at the latest restaurants or even your regular breakfast snack at a fast food joint can add up the cost to both your bank account and your body. Try preparing simpler foods in advance so you need to eat out less. Brown rice and homemade stir-fry can be cooked in a large batch once a week, providing healthy, cheap and simple meals.
    3. Use a Simple Exercise Plan. Neon leotards and a 40 GB iPod aren’t core requirements for a workout. If you’re just starting to get back into the gym this year, I suggest taking a simpler approach. Try jogging, push-ups or sit-ups for 30 minutes each morning. Complex exercise plans with long commutes and classes can’t complete with a plan that sticks.
    4. Simplify Your Planners. I don’t use the full-version of GTD. Although having dozens of folders, lists and project planners for every possible task may be useful for corporate executives, as a student, I find it unnecessary. One of the best changes I made in 2007 was to simplify all my lists and folders into just a calendar, to-do list and notepad. Excessive productivity tools can actually slow you down.
    5. Squeeze Your RSS Reader. What’s the point of scanning 100 feeds if you can only read 10? Quality is more important than quantity. I’d rather carefully read one good article than skim over two good articles.
    6. Focus Your Goals. What aren’t you going to accomplish in the next year? It’s easy to set ten super-important goals and accomplish nothing all year. I think it is far better to set one challenging, but realistic goal and work towards it. A friend of mine who is a published author gave this advice, “You’ve got your whole life to learn to write.” Trying to do everything at once is a recipe for completing nothing at all.
    7. Slow Down Your Morning Routine. Are mornings for you a hasty scramble from the alarm clock, chugging down a cup of coffee before a rushed getaway to work or school? I recently added reading for an hour and a half to my 5:30 wake-up time. Waking up earlier and inserting a quiet activity into your morning can give you a relaxed focus for the rest of the day.
    8. Take One Day Off Per Week. For many of you, myself included, this is probably the hardest one on this list to accomplish. Taking a day off might seem suicidal when working non-stop still doesn’t seem to get everything done. However, giving yourself some time to rest can give you more energy to take on the world for the rest of the week.
    9. Watch Less Television. Do you really need more noise in your life? I’ll be the first to admit that a bit of television can be great. But a few shows a week can quickly turn into a continuous flood, distracting you from goals, work or meaningful entertainment. If you can’t find something more fun than television, perhaps you have a different problem.
    10. Cut Down on Internet Consumption. A little surfing can soon turn into a tidal wave. Last year I batched all my internet and e-mail usage down to just thirty minutes every morning. Keeping myself unplugged for the rest of the day ensures I don’t use the net as a crutch for reading real books, having real conversations and accomplishing real work.
    11. Live a More Frugal Lifestyle. The difference, in my opinion, between being frugal and being cheap is realizing the value of money. Frugality means you save your money carefully so you can invest in the future and spend it on things that will give a lot of value. Cutting down expenses that don’t matter can help you pay down debts, invest and buy things that are important to you.
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    How Setting Personal Goals Makes You a Greater Achiever

    How Setting Personal Goals Makes You a Greater Achiever

    Achieving personal goals deserves a huge amount of celebration but setting these goals in the first place is a massive achievement in itself.

    While the big goals serve as a destination, the journey is probably the most important part of the process. It reflects your progress, your growth and your ability take control and steer your life towards positive change.

    Whatever your goal is, whether it’s losing 20lbs or learning a new language, there will always be a set amount of steps you need to take in order to achieve it. Once you’ve set your sights on your goal, the next stage is to take an assertive path towards how you will get there.

    The aim of this article is to guide you through how to take action towards your personal goals in a way that will help you achieve them strategically and successfully.

    1. Get very specific

    When it comes to setting your personal goals, honing in on its specifics is crucial for success.

    It’s common to have a broad idea of where you want to go or what you want to achieve, but this can sabotage your efforts in the long run.

    Get clear on what you want your goal to look like so you can create solid steps towards it.

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    Say you have a vision on retiring early. This goal feels good to you and you can envision filling your days of work-free life with worldly adventures and time with loved ones.

    If retiring early is a serious personal goal for you, you will need to insert a timeframe. So your goal has changed from “I’d like to someday retire early and travel the world” to “I’m going to retire by 50 and travel the world”.

    It may not seem significant, but creating this tweak in your goal by specifying a definite time, will help create and structure the steps needed to achieve it in a more purposeful way.

    2. Identify the preparation you need to achieve your goal

    It’s easy to set a goal and excitedly, yet aimlessly move towards it. But this way of going about achieving goals will only leave you eventually lost and feeling like you’ll never achieve it.

    You have to really think about what you need to do in order to make this goal possible. It’s all very well wanting it to happen, but if you just sit back and hope you’ll get there one day will result in disappointment.

    Self-managing your goals is a crucial step in the process. This involves taking control of your goal, owning it and making sure you are in a great position to make it happen.

    In the early retirement example, this would mean you will need to think about your financial situation.

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    What will your finances ideally need to look like if you were to retire early and travel the world? How much money will you need to put into your retirement fund to retire at 50? How much extra savings will you need to support your travels? You could also start researching the places you’d like to travel to and how long you’d like to travel for.

    Outlining these factors will, not only make your goal seem more tangible, but also create a mind shift to one of forward motion. Seeing the steps more clearly will help you make a more useful plan of action and seeing your goal as a reality.

    3. Breakdown each step into more manageable goals

    The secret to achieving your goals is to create smaller goals within each step and take action. Remember, you’re looking for progress, no matter how small it may seem.

    These small steps build up and get you to the top. By doing this, you also make the whole process much less daunting and overwhelming.

    In the early retirement scenario, there are several smaller goals you could implement here:

    • Decide to make an appointment with a financial advisor asking what financial options would be available to you if you were to go into early retirement and travel. Get advice on how much you would need to top up your funds in order to reach your goal on time.
    • Set up and start to make payments into the retirement fund.
    • Research savings accounts with good rates of interest and commit to depositing a certain amount each month.
    • Make sure you meet with your financial advisor each year to make sure your retirement plan remains the best one for you. Research new savings accounts to move your money into to reap the best returns in interest rates.
    • Start investing in travel books, building up a library that covers where you want to go.
    • Think about starting a language course that will help you get the most out of your travel experience.

    4. Get started on the journey

    Creating a goal planner in which you can start writing down your next steps is where the magic happens. This is where the real momentum towards your dream starts!

    Create a schedule and start by writing in when you will start the first task and on which day. Commit to completing this small task and feel the joy of crossing it off your list. Do this with every little step until your first mini goal has been reached.

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    In the early retirement example, schedule in a meeting with a financial advisor. That’s it. Easy.

    As I mentioned before, it may seem such a small step but it’s the momentum that’s the most important element here. Once you cross this off, you can focus on the meeting itself, then once that’s ticked off, you are in a position of starting a profitable retirement fund…and so the momentum continues. You are now on your journey to achieving your dream goal.

    5. Create an annual review

    Taking a step back and reviewing your progress is essential for keeping yourself on the right track. Sometimes you can be moving full steam ahead towards your goal but miss seeing the opportunities to improve a process or even re-evaluate your feelings towards the goal.

    Nominate a day each year to sit down and take a look at your progress. Celebrate your achievements and how far you’ve come. But also think about changing any of the remaining steps in light of new circumstances.

    Has anything changed? Perhaps you got a promotion at work and you feel you can add more to your monthly savings.

    Do you still feel the same about your goal? It’s normal for our desires to change over time and our personal goals need to reflect this.

    Perhaps you’d like to take someone new with you on your travels and you need to take this into account regarding timelines. Are there any new steps you want to add as a result?

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    Remember, reflection is a useful tool in realigning your goal to any changes and it’s important to keep on the right trajectory towards it.

    Strive to become the best goal-setter you can be

    Having personal goals gives you purpose and the feeling of becoming a better version of yourself.

    But it’s the smaller steps within these big goals that the growth and achievement really lies:

    • Whatever your goal is, make sure you get specific on when you want to achieve it. This helps you focus on the necessary steps much more efficiently.
    • Research the actionable steps required to get to the end result and…
    • Break these down into smaller, manageable goals.
    • Create a daily or weekly schedule for these smaller goals and start the positive momentum.
    • Reflect each year on your goal journey and purpose, readjusting steps according to changes in circumstance or desire.

    Keep going and always have the end goal in sight. Remember the ‘why’ behind your goal throughout to keep you motivated and positive.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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