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The New Year’s Question: Are You Starting Again…Again?

The New Year’s Question: Are You Starting Again…Again?
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    Time in pubs with friends is rarely wasted. At the very least you get in a good chat with your friends, and at best you get a life-changing revelation. This one started out as the traditional:

    “If you knew then what you know now, would you do it again?”

    We worked on it and developed it and made it into something ‘more’. We made it into this question:

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    “Knowing what you know, would you start again from where you are — if you had the choice?”

    From that, we developed a whole process for deciding what to do next when it comes to the big ideas in life and so on. The idea is simple — and is particularly useful as we head into a brand new year…

    Step One: Value What You’ve Got

    Ask yourself a question: If some super-intelligent alien race arrived tonight and asked you what you’d got and you told them — and they did the same to everyone else, they’d probably have a pretty good idea of how much you had was worth in the grand scheme of things. The ‘alien bit’ is important because it implies that they have a complete understanding of what’s going on, but no emotional or sentimental attachment to things.

    What you get at the end of that is a notional value of, say, ‘X’ thousand pounds, dollars, euros, yen, smarties or whatever.

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    Step Two: Play or Fold

    This step is designed to make you think about your circumstances a bit. If they offered to take what you’d got and give you that fair valuation for it, would you take it?  Again, the fact that it’s an alien is important, because it’s important that the X thousand they give you is absolutely, objectively fair.

    If you’d take it, fine. If not, also fine. But not taking it implies there’s something above and beyond the economic value of your stuff. It implies that there’s an emotional attachement. Great. It means you believe in what you’re doing and it means you’re likely to be passionate about it. Good for you!

    Step Three: Starting Over

    Starting over is the most important one – and it assumes you were forced to sell to these strange aliens, whereas the previous step assumes you have a choice.

    If you got a fair amount of money for your stuff, what would you do with that money?  Would you buy back your own stuff?  Alternatively, knowing what you now know (which is different from what you knew when you first got your stuff, obviously – and critically) would you buy something different?

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    It’s all about ROI – return on investment. If you’re happy to buy back your own stuff (emotional attachment aside), it follows that you must believe your stuff represents the best portfolio of ‘stuff’ that you could have. On the other hand, if you think you can get a better return on your money, knowing now what you didn’t know when you first got that stuff, you shouldn’t buy back your own stuff. Instead you should buy different ‘stuff’.

    Step Four: Repeat the Repeating

    This idea of starting over (and over) is an interesting one. It’s probably possible to take it too far (daily? weekly?) but it probably has merit as the process for a monthly review – or perhaps an annual review of what you’ve done, not done or might do in the future.

    It’s an idea that encourages you to be honest — brutally honest — with where you are and what you should do next. Doing it regularly means you’re constantly assessing where you are and asking yourself if you’re making the best use of your resources.

    The Downside

    There’s always a downside, right?

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    The big one we found as we tossed this idea around is this – it doesn’t take account of the cost of change. Implicit in the alien’s approach is that it costs nothing to change from where you are to where you should be, objectively, and sometimes the cost of change is greater than the benefit of doing that. Cost, of course, can be measured in money, time, effort and energy, peace of mind and a host of other ways!

    So one last step is to ask yourself this:

    “If you think you should move to something else – is it worth the effort?”

    And if you’ve decided not to move, the question should be whether you’re using the cost of changing as an excuse.

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    (Photo credit: Concept image of a signpost 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.

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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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