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How to Effectively Use Personal Development Posts

How to Effectively Use Personal Development Posts
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    Why are you reading this?

    It’s likely not out of boredom — there are hundreds of Facebook games and “failblogs” for that.

    No — you’re here to improve yourself or your life in some way. That’s what great personal development blogs are all about, right?

    But they sure can get overwhelming, can’t they? This is the age of information. Everywhere you click, there are hundreds of articles screaming at you :

    “Do X for a Happier Morning”

    or…

    “5 Ways to Enjoy Your Commute”

    The charming headlines and promising content lure you in. And before you know it, you’ve got 10 tabs open and are skimming through each one, hardly pausing before you click to the next.

    Is this an effective way to digest this content?

    I don’t think so. Think of it as swallowing your food whole.

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    So how can we ditch these bad habits and really get the most out of personal development posts?

    1. Determine what it is that you want to develop.

    Are you having productivity issues? (Note: Then you may want to skip the personal development posts and just get to work!)

    Is writer’s block keeping you from putting words on the page? Having problems on knowing how to structure your day?

    Knowing what you’re looking for before you dive in helps you to stay focused and ignore those screaming headlines that have nothing to do with your cause.

    2. Set aside time.

    Do you surf personal development sites haphazardly? Maybe you’re in the middle of working, get stuck, and so off you go to your favorite site. (I’m guilty of that one from time to time…)

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    I think we often turn to personal development posts when we’re avoiding our work. But instead of using them as a tool for procrastination, we can actually use them as they are intended — to help us grow. Setting aside a designated time keeps it from leaking into your work time, and ensures that you’re focused on what you’re looking for.

    3. Put on the blinders.

    Those headlines can be so tempting, I know. They’re supposed to be. Their aim is to draw your attention.

    But if you’re searching for ways to become an early riser and you’re ending up on a post titled “Top 5 Ways to Keep Your Toddler Safe” and you don’t even have kids…then you know you have a problem.

    When you’re focusing on that one thing you want to develop, ignore the headlines that you know won’t serve your quest. Bookmark them for later if you want – I know sometimes it’s entertaining to just click through random posts, but look at the previous tip for that. You don’t have to give it up completely, but while you’re actually trying to improve some area of your life, focus is key.

    4. Read the articles thoroughly.

    With so many great headlines, it’s tempting to open a bunch and skim through them. But this won’t help you out much, and I bet you don’t retain the information (I know I don’t). Having a focus in mind definitely helps with this step, and it seems easier to soak up the information. Read each article all the way through — skimming defeats their purpose.

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    5. Ask yourself: “What did I learn?”

    After you read a post, pause a moment to reflect. Did you learn something? Was it what you set out looking for? Do you need to keep looking? Then take it from there.

    6. Implement.

    After reflecting, if you feel you’ve found what you’re looking for…stop looking.

    That’s the tough part, because you know there’s always more out there. But if you want to use what you’ve learned and actually grow, you’ll have to simply stop looking. Close the browser, use your reflection and take action. How can you use what you just read?

    While it is very easy to get lost in the sea of personal development, don’t do it. While it’s true that there are many fantastic posts with the potential to improve your life – they are only good for you if you use what you read and take the action to make it happen. The idea is that they are should help you develop, and not envelop you in the process.

    (Photo credit: Personal Development flow via Shutterstock)

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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.

    More on Building Habits

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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