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When Life Hacks You Off

When Life Hacks You Off

    How often have you been given some really, really good advice in your life? I’ll put money on it being a lot more often than the number of times you’ve taken it. And conversely I’ll bet  you’ve offered really, really good advice far more often than it’s been taken.

    (As an aside I’ll wager that the times good advice is taken is pretty similar to the number of times the advice matched what the person receiving the advice wanted to do in the first place!  But that’s very much an aside to my main point!)

    The point is this: it’s always easier to solve other people’s problems than your own. Admit it, you know it is.  It’s the way coaching works, after all. Coaches don’t have answers – what they have are questions. Or better yet, reflections of your own questions – making you look at things (problems) in a different light. And hopefully a more productive one.

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    There are a few tools you can use yourself to take advantage of this clarity of vision without the expense of a coach and I’ve listed some of them here. They don’t remove the need for a good coach if you’ve got a significant problem but will certainly help for the day to day problems of life…ask yourself this question:

    “If a friend of mine came to me with this problem, what would I ask them and what would I suggest?”

    There now. Simple…isn’t it!

    Let’s take a personal example where life hacks you off. Someone I know is in an abusive domestic relationship. That’s all you need to know from the outside to know what she should do next – leave. From the inside, however all she can see are the reasons why she shouldn’t leave and can’t leave. In other words, all she sees are the problems, not the end/solution.

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    Okay, I’ve over-simplified to make the point but I’m sure you get the idea.

    Less importantly, a friend of mine has a car which is falling apart and he doesn’t have the time or the money to maintain it. At the moment it’s still worth quite a bit of cash but the odds are very much that within the next six months it’ll devalue spectacularly.  From the outside the solution is simple – sell – but from the inside it all looks very different. Ask yourself this question:

    “I know I don’t know what to do to solve my problem, but if I did know the answer, what might that answer be?”

    Yes, I know it sounds silly but what it does is allow you to get past the automatic self-filtering of ideas that everyone does when they sort of know what to do but don’t want to admit it to themselves.

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    This one is – in my personal experience at least – particularly useful in business settings for problems such as what to do about rising advertising costs, or falling income predictions or a member of staff who’s under-performing…ask yourself this question

    “If I wanted to explain the situation to someone else, what would I say?”

    Try writing the problem down – the best format is to imagine you’re writing a letter to someone you absolutely trust but who you’ve not managed to keep up to date with – which means they won’t know the ins and outs of your issues.

    That in turn means you’ll have to explain the problem to them in simple steps, giving them all the information they need to solve your problem but only the key things they need to know.  Often you’ll find that the things you need to do come to you just in the process of writing this letter because you’re forcing yourself to structure your thinking and looking at the problem (and only the problem) not all the fluff and anxiety that lies around it.

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    If you don’t get inspired by the process of writing, try posting it to yourself somewhere else, so that when you read it you’re in a different environment. Address it to yourself using a different name to the one you normally think of yourself as… in other words, treat this letter as though it was coming from a friend.

    Chances are…you’ll spot a way forward.

    (Photo credit: Closeup Image of Vision Flow via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on July 10, 2020

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

    Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

    The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

    Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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    Program Your Own Algorithms

    Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

    Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

    By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

    How to Form a Ritual

    I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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    Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

    1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
    2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
    3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
    4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

    Ways to Use a Ritual

    Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

    1. Waking Up

    Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

    2. Web Usage

    How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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    3. Reading

    How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

    4. Friendliness

    Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

    5. Working

    One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

    6. Going to the gym

    If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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    7. Exercise

    Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

    8. Sleeping

    Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

    8. Weekly Reviews

    The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

    Final Thoughts

    We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

    More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

     

    Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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