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5 Steps to Pushing Boundaries and Growing

5 Steps to Pushing Boundaries and Growing
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You know that I like getting my ideas from non-traditional sources. I was speaking with an incredibly talented video producer and actor yesterday about her show, Galacticast. It’s a sci-fi comedy series available as a podcast, and catching fire on the internet among folks who love catching the references. We talked about quality.

The thing about Casey and Rudy are that they are producing for a medium that currently accepts the absolute worst content as well as professionally-crafted stuff. Go to the Apple iTunes Store and look at their podcast options, and you’ll see Jack Black’s Nacho Libre mingling with “My Cat is Cute” or similar. The barrier to entry is some inexpensive, simple technology, and even the frailest of ideas. (See YouTube for lots of that). And yet, the folks who do Galacticast are putting their hearts and guts into it. Why?

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Casey says it’s because she feels it’s always important to develop your boundaries of quality. Pushing yourself a little bit further each time is a method for building value back to what you’re doing. This clearly can apply to how you choose to hack life.

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  • Know Your Current State– The only way to seek personal improvement is to take an honest and fair assessment of your talents. Feel free to poll others, if you are worried you won’t be honest. But get a sense of how you stack up in the qualities you think might matter to what you’re hoping to accomplish. (This, in itself, is a bonus hack. Looking at what skills you need will help you understand what you can develop next).
  • Describe the Ending– Dr. Stephen R. Covey says to think about what you’re hoping to achieve. To improve your quality, you have to know what end goal you have in mind. Casey McKinnon from Galacticast clearly wants to push the boundaries of new media entertainment by doing what she calls “Sci Fi / Lo Fi.” It’s a great way to rise above the scores of amateurs just throwing stuff at the screen.
  • Make Reasonable Stepping Stones– If you’re still a file clerk and your plan is to be CEO, don’t make your next move, “Apply for CEO role.” I’m thinking it won’t work. But you might put down, “get some books on leadership,” and “attend local business socials.” And don’t forget: people around you that know you tend to view you as who you HAVE BEEN to them all along. Don’t let that dissuade you. In fact, spend time around strangers, and you’ll see what your potential new roles feel like when reflected by these new people.
  • Check In, Re-Assess, Be Open– Often times, if the journey you set yourself upon is truly going to make a difference in your life, you might find yourself heading in a direction you hadn’t intended. Be open to going with it. But don’t just jump down new roads willy-nilly. Check in with your plans and stepping stones. Ask yourself whether these new thoughts or ideas are a surrender, a retreat, or a re-imagined possibility. If it’s option 3, consider branching off the path and seeing what that does for you. Warning: too many branches and you’re likely avoiding something instead of trying new things.
  • Reward Yourself, but Keep Going– When we’re successful at smaller things, there’s a great sense of accomplishment and pride. Rest on that step in the journey instead of seeing your goals met, and you’re setting yourself up to quit the full plan. It’s just too easy to be pleased with yourself, and quit there. Surrender the dime for the dollar, friends. You’ll be much happier in the end.

Developing yourself is a scalable asset. It brings more to your business, your personal life, and all avenues you choose to pursue. By living consciously, and by holding yourself to standards that you choose to improve, you find within you the potential to develop and grow beyond your current situation. It need not be an endless loop, and finding satisfaction and happiness with who you are and where you are in life is another matter altogether. They’re not exclusive. My point is merely that all life requires growth. Trees don’t stop. You shouldn’t either.

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–Chris Brogan writes about self-improvement and creativity at [chrisbrogan.com], when he’s not watching Galacticast and forgetting to be productive.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

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

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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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.”[1]

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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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

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 6 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.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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