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The New Lifehacking #3 – Avoiding Failure With Improvement Goals

The New Lifehacking #3 – Avoiding Failure With Improvement Goals

In the prior article in this series, I shared that it’s important to figure out the nature of your current time management system before running to the Internet, books, or programs to find random tips, tricks and shortcuts. I emphasized that when you conduct a random chase, you could end up becoming a tip-a-holic: someone who frantically searches for the latest tip with no real purpose in mind.

For most people, doing an assessment is a good start, but it’s hardly enough. Even the very best assessment that reveals your faults might take you in the wrong direction because there’s an assumption made by the creator that you can’t escape: her/her concept of “ideal” performance. Their particular ideal may not be the same as yours, however.

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After the assessment is complete and you have received the results, the next step is important. In the training I conduct with clients, I describe a range of skills from low to high, using a scale of martial arts belts ranging from White (beginner) to Black (expert.) I issue a warning at the same time: “The point is not to become obsessed about gaining the highest belt possible in the shortest amount of time.” In fact, that’s a good way for you to fail. Instead, you need to set your own goals using the tool’s results. Ideally, your goals should cover each of the behaviors from the assessment, and incorporate a realistic time-frame in which to accomplish them.

Why is this important?

Consider what happens in the life of young tennis players: As they proceed up the ranks, they set goals that are appropriate for their age group. Some just want to enter the top 10 in their city, while others want to dominate their national age group. Neither goal is betterthey are just different.

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As professionals, we need to take the same approach to improving our time management systems. We are all different from each other, and don’t need to have the same level of productivity in order to be effective in our lives. I might be quite happy with a Yellow Belt; a level of accomplishment that might produce havoc in your life. I might not need an upgrade for another ten years, while you might need to put one in place every six months, just to keep up with a fast-changing life.

This may all sound like common sense, but it flies in the face of the conventional wisdom. There are many productivity systems being sold today that promise to “Triple Your Productivity Overnight.” It’s like selling a 10-year old tennis prodigy on the idea of “Winning Wimbledon in 2 Years!” We laugh at outrageous productivity promises but they come in different guises and offer no form of actual measurement: “Save 30 days per year.” “Stop wasting 2 hours per day.” “Instantly double your income by 33.3% by managing your time better.” “Implement this one time saving tip and…”

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Fact from Fantasy

Turning away from outlandish claims, how do you know whether your improvement plans are sound? The following checklist can be used to separate fact from fantasy.

  • Have you done a diagnosis of your current skills?
  • What are the symptoms (if any) that your current level of skills are too low for your life’s demands?
  • Do you know the level of demands to be placed on your time in the future? (personal, business, community, etc.)
  • Are the goals in your plan realistic, and gentle enough to almost guarantee success?
  • What role does changing technology play in bringing new demands in your life?

As you can imagine, a part-time graduate student who is single and has a 5-year-old, has completely different needs than a 24-year-old who’s just entering the workforce. Unfortunately, most books and programs fail to distinguish between them. In their one-size-fits-all thinking they assign them all the same goals… and no idea how quickly they should be accomplished.

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This is a huge disservice. Many, many people fail because they try to follow someone else’s goals at the pace they recommend. They come to learn the truth that researchers have learned: implementing behavior change is tough work and advertising that “It’s Easy!” may provide a catchy headline that sells, but in the end it leads to customers feeling guilty, or that something must be wrong with them.

Let’s back the heck up. We are all different to begin with, so we need to set unique goals that suit our needs, and we need to attempt to achieve them at a speed that almost guaranteed success. It’s time for us to stop failing at time management, and take our destinies into our own hands.

More by this author

Francis Wade

Author, Management Consultant

How To Manage A Post-College Productivity Dip Why You Need to Understand and Accept Your Productive Type A Tendencies The New Lifehacking #7 – Why You Should Be Open to New Stuff, But Wary About Using It The New LifeHacking #6 – Staying Away from Harmful Gadgets The New Lifehacking #5 – Tricking Yourself into Making the Changes You Need

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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