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Personal Devleopment

Personal Development — lifestyle

The Productivity Project, By Chris Bailey: A Review

Chris Bailey is young, well younger than me anyway, maybe that’s not so young anymore.

When I saw his fresh face on the inside cover of his book on Productivity I wasn’t sure he had the experience to be a “productivity guru.”

Experience he has, a whole year which he spent trying every productivity technique under the sun.

The book is an easy read and full of useful information. My favourite tips are as follows.

  1. Meditate.
  2. Drink water.
  3. Get enough sleep.
  4. Nap.
  5. Turn off notifications.
  6. The rule of three.
  7. Keep your work week under 50 hours.
  8. Catch your ideas.
  9. If it doesn’t work, don’t do it.

I had some of these practises in place before I read the book, but here’s how I put them into action.

Meditation:

Chris explains that one of the results of meditation is to create space in your brain and that regular practisers create approximately 30% more space for memory, leaving you with more “battery life” to concentrate.

I started small, with 5-10 minutes a day and built up to 30 minutes a day at one stage. 30 minutes didn’t work with my schedule and routine, but here’s the key, instead of not meditating, I just cut it back to a manageable time. That’s 20 minutes for me and I have stuck with that consistently for probably three years now.

I think that’s a great rule you can apply to almost any habit. If you feel you are struggling with it then instead of abandoning it, just reduce the time you are putting into it.

Drink water:

This is not something I have worked at as consistently as I should, but what I try to do is start the morning with a pint of water with some lemon juice in it. It helps you wake up quicker as you are dehydrated after a nights sleep. Lemon is also a great way to hydrate.

It’s helps to prepare this the previous night. As I have said in my previous blogs, a successful morning starts the night before.

Get enough sleep:

As I just mentioned, a great morning routine starts the night before (Click here to see my previous blog on this subject).

Getting enough sleep is so important. Chris compares people in today’s society who are sleep deprived to hoards of mindless zombies, roaming around, unable to operate at full capacity.

I have also read that a good nights sleep depends on the amount of sunlight you receive during the day, bringing things full circle. Sleep depends (somewhat) on sunlight, and daytime alertness, productivity and mindfulness depend on sleep.

Chris also talks about blue light and caffeine. Blue light – ie. screens should be avoided at least an hour before sleep. There are blue light glasses you can buy and filters for your devices if you really need to use them before bed but my general rule is no screen time after 8:45pm. The same applies in the morning, the only screen time I have before 7:00 is to use my meditation app (insight timer).

Caffeine is another one to watch out for. It will stay in your system for 8-14 hours so you should avoid drinking caffiene after 11:30am. Chris also recommends using caffeine strategically, as in timing it so that it will carry you through the low energy parts of the day. I was never into coffee so my caffeine intake is a cup of green tea early in the morning.

Napping:

I was once asked in a team building exercise what my superpower is. My answer – the ability to fall asleep anywhere. We had a 10 hour layover in Toronto once, so we had time to explore downtown and as Theresa browsed the shops I sat down on one of the display couches and slept.

The author talks about the value of a short nap throughout your work day to boost your productivity or energy levels. For me the optimum time is about 12 minutes. Each time I put my head down for the “12 minutes” I feel like I will not sleep yet the alarm always wakes me. I say 12 minutes because it is not long enough to fall into a deep sleep and you will not have that groggy, heavy feeling when you wake.

Some people just can’t nap, but napping, in my opinion, is a skill that can be practised and learned, just like meditation. It started for me, years ago when I used to drive to different building sites all over Ireland. I might have a 3-4 hour drive home after a though days work. I always made sure to pull over before I felt too tired. A 10-15 minute nap and I would be good to drive safely for another hour and a half or so.

One word of caution, napping will not replace deep night time sleep as your body will not regenerate and repair as it does throughout the night.

Turning off notifications:

This ties back in to my morning and evening. Apple iPhones now have a great system called screen time, which will either limit your phone time or app time or lock you out completely. I restrict my phone so I cannot use it during the night or early morning. I can still receive phone calls if there is an emergency, but my phone will be in do not disturb mode. Another great feature which you can turn on automatically.

 

Screen shot of Screen Time from IPhone settings

Screen shot of Do Not Disturb from IPhone settings

One thing that annoys me a little is apps that constantly offer to turn on notifications. It’s not my thing. I have almost all notifications turned off. The author talks about the amount of time (25 minutes) it takes to get back into the flow of work after you have been interrupted,whether that be a device or another person.

I really believe that multi tasking is a fable, you simply cannot concentrate on more than one thing at a time. My own personal example is that when I’m in the office working away on something and an email pops up in the lower right corner I will immediately open it, lose my work flow and actually start working on the email. (There’s the start of 25 minutes to get back into the flow).

What I like to do to combat this is to put outlook into offline mode and only update my inbox at specific times or when I have fully finished a specific task.

The Rule of Three:

This simply means identifying three things you want to accomplish during the week ahead and also the day ahead. I only use this on a daily basis rather than a weekly basis, but when I sit down at my computer in the office I list my three most important tasks. Indeed, like everybody, we probably have one hundred and seven things on our to do list, but identifying the three most important let’s me see what the priority is. I also have a sense of achievement when I get through them, rather than feeling overwhelmed with the amount I have left to do.

These three tasks may take me an hour or the rest of the day but once they’re complete I can move onto something else or head home knowing I achieved something.

Keep your work week under 50 hours:

This can be a tricky one to put into practise and stick to. Sometimes you cannot avoid working over 50 hours, especially when you work for yourself or if you are a full time parent but the authors experiments (along with other independent research) showed that any work over the fifty hour mark was not productive.

In other words the same amount of work was acieved in 80 hours as was achieved in 50 hours.

I try to stick to this in my own working life by getting out of the office between 5 and 6 every day and not engaging in work (unless absolutely necessary) at home. France has actually made it illegal for companies to contact employees outside of work hours.

35-40 hours is your most productive working time for the week.

Catch your ideas:

Make lists. Many people (Richard Branson among them) carry a notebook everywhere to write down ideas (I suppose everyone does nowadays with a smart phone).

This frees up space in your mind rather than having your brain work away in the background to remember tasks.

I write everything down and have done so for years now. Probably 90% of what I write down is never used but the other 10% consists of important things I need to remember and also creative ideas (like my pending historical fiction novel and these blogs).

I also catch all my work tasks electronically so I am not spending brain power trying to think of what I need to work on. It is easily accessible in my calendar or email with reminders set up to ensure it gets done.

SIRI or voice memo is a great way to note things which pop into your brain when your driving. Just record it or ask SIRI to send yourself an email.

This makes a big difference to our overburdened brain. Have you ever gone to the supermarket without a list and found yourself overwhelmed by everything on offer?

You can also (if possible) address easy tasks right away. Why put it on a to do list if it isn’t worth it? David Allen (author of Getting Things Done) recommends that if a task takes less than two minutes then it doesn’t go on a to do list.

My caution here is to make sure it does not interrupt your work flow. I do not recommend jumping off something you are in the middle of to address a two minute task as the interruption to your work flow is a lot more than two minutes.

If it doesn’t work, don’t do it:

Another really interesting thing I learned from this book is that if it doesn’t work for you then don’t do it.

The author struggled to get up at 5:30am for some time before coming to the conclusion that it didn’t work for him. Many productivity “gurus” talk about using the morning time to your advantage but this isn’t necessarily what will work for you.

Determine your most productive and energy filled times and use them to your advantage.

 

The verdict:

Overall The Productivity Project is an quick and easy read and has lots of useful info. It’s also written for real, everyday people rather than CEOs and Hedge Fund investors (Whatever the hell that is), though the advise does apply to everyone.

I recommend this book if you work a regular 9-5 job like me, or if you feel overwhelmed by the amount of work you have in your general life.

If you want to know more about Chris Bailey and his productivity experiments have a look at his blog by clicking Here.

Peace,

George

P.S. If you like the blog it would be very much appreciated if you left a comment or shared it.

Give The Gift Of Attention

It’s Christmas time.

A time of giving and goodwill, so we are all out shopping for gifts and rushing about. In last weeks blog, I encouraged everybody to take the time to slow down and stop. To be patient and experience this time of the year.

Though I joined all the madness and got out there to contribute to the materialism that drives Christmas I would like to suggest another gift that we can give to anybody we chose this year and it costs nothing.

Our time is valuable and I agree that it should be treated so, but attention can be given freely.

It can be given in different ways. You can make your attention a gift to yourelf by sitting in silence by the Christmas tree and really enjoying the moment, or walking through the lights at the Van Dusen Gardens and really experiencing it. Or you can truly feel the silence and softness of the snow covered trees while you showshoe in the mountains.

Van Dusen Gardens (Dec 2017)

We can also give our attention to others. When we spend time with our family and friends, we can be fully present with them. Drop the phone or turn it off and experience Christmas dinner with no interruptions. Or keep the phone on and reach out to family or friends.

If we are making the 12 pubs of Christmas happen or if we are out with our friends for New Years eve we can be there with them and appreciate the moments with these people that we may not see again for months. We give our full attention even if only for a short time.

We also shouldn’t forget about the odd 3,500 people who are homeless in the Greater Vancouver area (or wherever we live).

Certainly, we can donate our time or money to help, but that is not always possible.

We can, however, give them our attention. We don’t have to hurry past them without so much as a glance. I think the gift of attention will be appreciated by the homeless more than anybody as they are invisible to a certain extent. It can be as simple as a smile or a greeting.

So maybe consider what is important this year? The materialistic objects out consumerist lifestyle (I’m guilty too) encourages us to buy or the people around us and the experiences we have at this time of the year.

Thanks for reading.

Peace,

George

PS If you enjoy the blog please share it

Why Do We Want to Manage Our Time?

For years I left things to the last minute. Studying for exams was a classic case. I would avoid study right up until the week or few days before an exam. I spent more time on extravagant timetables than actual time studying. I would end up pulling all-nighters and sit the exam exhausted and ill prepared.

University was a period where I struggled with managing my time evenly between the major areas in my life: school, relationships, self-care, health and financial. As a young adult I was incapable of saying No to a night out on the town or working an extra shift in work. I always seemed to find the time to socialize and work. There was minimal time for school, self-care and exercise. I had met George while I was in University, so we saw each other at the weekends when I returned home. We both worked part-time jobs, so we would catch up with each other after in the pub.

I am still amazed at all the things I did achieve during university, I worked almost full-time hours for the majority of Uni. I tutored 7 students at the weekend before work and I always managed to save enough money to go on a holiday.

However, if I had spent less time on socializing and working, I could have had excellent grades, a healthy body and more free time to take care of myself. Not to mention a pile of savings! Lol!

Now that I am a little older and my priorities are much clearer, I schedule my time around those focus areas. You will be happy to hear that socializing has dropped way down the list😉

Warren Buffet recommends we write down the 25 goals in life we really want to achieve in no order of importance. Then number each goal from the highest priority to the lowest. Cross off 10 of these goals. Review your list and cross out another 10 goals. You are now left with your top 5 goals you want to achieve in your life. For you to achieve these goals you must spend time everyday on working to complete these. When or if you complete a goal, you can then replace that goal with one of the originals goals from the list of 25 you had originally.

The whole reason behind writing down the 25 goals and crossing out 20 is that you are deciding to not spend time on lesser important goals. This way you do not waste time or procrastinate by working on semi important tasks when you should be spending time on your top 5 goals you want to achieve. This simplifies what we spend our time on and encourages you to complete a goal or a task, so you can work through your list if you want.

My major goals are:

  1. Learn to speak Spanish……so one day I can live and work in a Spanish speaking country and teach my children another language
  2. Learn to cook healthy meals……..So I can teach my children the importance of healthy food and diet. Live by example
  3. Be financially free…………. to start our own business and work for ourselves
  4. Have a healthy body & mind………to life a long and healthy life right up until it’s time to go
  5. Learn & grow everyday……be open to learning new things and ideas up until our last breath😉

What can we do everyday to achieve our goals and when can we find the time to do it?

This is the fun part.

If TV is not a priority for you, stop watching TV.

If spending hours on your phone is not one of your top 5 goals, stop browsing on your phone.

If drinking and socializing with friends every evening did not make the cut, then learn to say no!

Free up time by dropping all the unnecessary wasteful habits you do now and replace them with good habits that will help you achieve your goals.

For example, we no longer watch TV during the week, Friday night and Saturday are our nights to watch a good movie or a TV show we really like. No trash TV anymore.

We go to bed earlier, so we can get up earlier in the morning to work on our goals.

The above changes have given us so much time. We generally do not meet friends during the week unless they want to join us for a yoga class which is a goal of ours.

How do I work on my goals everyday?

Learn to speak Spanish: Every morning I listen to my Spanish Audio books on the way to work 20 minutes, on my break I go for a walk and Listen to my Spanish Audio for another 30min (1-hour daily)

Learn to cook healthy meals: At the weekends research cookbooks and on Sunday mornings or evenings will spend 2 hours prepping lunch and dinner for the work week (3 hours once a week)

Be financially free to start my own business: Created a budget that I review at the end of each week to ensure our savings are on track. We spend very little money during the week and bring our lunches to work every day. We are embracing a waste free lifestyle and try to only shop when we need something…..I do love clothes and will buy some nice pieces each season. We have become more mindful shoppers which prevents us from spending on a whim…although it can still happen😉 (2hours once a week)

Have a healthy body & mind: We meditate each morning for 15-20minutes. We have gratitude diaries. We go for walks on our lunch breaks. We practice yoga 4 times a week and will go on walks or cycles on the other days. (at least 1 hour daily)

Learn & grow everyday: Reading books, blogs, articles, listening to audio books & podcasts and watching documentaries are all ways we learn and grow. We also like to write our own blogs, short stories and novel (George). Each morning we will read for at least 30 min, as we are doing the dishes or getting ready we will listen to our own audio books or podcasts, I like to listen to my audio book on my second walk during work, we both read for 30min before going to bed each night also. We will write short blog posts for Instagram & Facebook in the morning and spend time on our website blogs one evening a week (2hrs)

Once we stopped wasting our time on activities that were not our primary goals we have freed up so much time to work on the things that are important to us.

I have been listening to 12 Rules For life by Jordan B. Peterson. There is a very emotional part to this book when he speaks about creating meaning in life. What can we do everyday to bring meaning to our lives……what can we do everyday to make tomorrow better?

So many of us just let each day drift by and not really think about what we achieved that made us a better person than the day before. For me the most important thing about time management is what you spend your time on.

We have so much time in the day, we need to spend all that free time before and after work on the things that make us better human beings with meaning in our lives. The world would be filled with content, caring and better humans if we all figured out why wake up every morning.

What are your goals? How will your free up time?

Have a great week,

Love,

Theresa xx

Be Selfish – It’s Good For You

I was at a party once. I wasn’t drinking for whatever reason. Maybe I was training for a specific goal or maybe I was just trying to be healthier. The host, a good friend of mine, told me she didn’t have any boring drinks for boring people. On another occasion I told the same person that I was training for a 27km trail run (I finished last – ha ha, but who cares). It was early summer. Her response was – “Oh, your going to be boring this summer then.”

I am no longer friends with that person. Here’s why.

We all try to do the best for ourselves. In a world of instant gratification where anything we want is at our fingertips that can be difficult. Our willpower is easily depleted as our vices are in our faces at every corner. This is why we need support to succeed at anything. We need the support of good people. We need people to hold us up and keep us strong in our moments of weakness. Whether we are trying to lose weight, exercise more often, write a book, climb a mountain or meditate.

We don’t want to be dragged down by negative people. If you want to do something, then go and do it. If you want to succeed, then go and succeed. There will always be those who want to hold you back. Cut them out, you will NOT regret it. Put yourself first, look out for yourself. Toxic people will drain your life. Negativity is contagious, but so is positivity. Surround yourself with what you want to receive.

We have the power to change our own circumstances. We have the ability and strength to achieve whatever we want. We have the power to cut the ropes. Free yourself. People may stop liking you. That is when you know who your true friends are.

I have so many good friends that I don’t see as much as I want. How do I know that these people are such good friends? How do I know that they are dependable? They are there no matter what. Time passes and days turn to weeks and sometimes, regrettably, weeks turn to months and we haven’t spoken. But things haven’t changed. We are still strong. There is no accusation, no bitterness, only celebration to see each other again. These are the people I treasure.

The people you want around you are the people who make you stronger. Is this selfish? Maybe, but is it selfish in a negative way? No. If the people in your life are strong and positive and they support you then it works both ways. This can only be good.

The only ones you owe an obligation to are those who support you and those who carry you. You owe an obligation to those who congratulate you on your success, those who stand by you with strength when you need them, those who are there in your darkest hours.

When you are prioritizing your goals, there is no selfish. Your true friends will support you no matter what.

Your time is your most valuable commodity. Learn to say no. Who is worth your time? For me, as an immigrant I spend the majority or my time away from those closest to me (apart from my wife) so I am very aware of how valuable my time is.

It is not selfish to put yourself first – it is SELF-FULL.

A Course in Miracles tells us that “When you give to others so much that you are sacrificing yourself, you make the other person a thief.” You cannot look after others unless you look after yourself. You cannot achieve your goals unless you look after yourself.

Jim Carey says that “the effect you have on others is the most valuable currency there is.” It works both ways. By being selfish or self-full, by cutting the negative influences out of your life, you make space to focus on yourself and those who really matter to you like the friends and family who are there for you. These are the people you have a true obligation to. It is not imagined. These are the people who were there for you and those who you will be there for. The people who are still there even though the weeks or months may pass.

If you are not making someone else’s life better, then you are wasting your time. The only way to make someone else’s life better is to focus on YOU. Clear the space. What do you need to clear out to focus on what really matters?

I try to let go of the past grudges I carry. A grudge is like radiation. It hurts the one who carries it. Let the grudges go. Put them down and let them fade.

Keep your own cup full and focus on you. Work hard on yourself. Be full in yourself and you will have plenty to give to those who you have made space for.

 

Peace,

George

 

 

Reading for Self-Improvement, Entertainment & Knowledge

We love reading in our home. We ensure to make time everyday to read. 10-15 minutes in the morning, 20 minutes during lunch breaks, 30 minutes after coming home from work, 30 minutes before bed time. In total I read for about 1hour 30minutes per day. For some people that may seem like a lot for others its nothing. For me during the week this is realistic, the weekend however, I can get an additional hour of reading done.

I like to read 3-4 books at a time. My aim each month is to read 4 books. I like to read very different books from different genres. For example, this month I have read Give a Shit by Ashlee Piper, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng and I am currently reading Principles by Ray Dalio.

Give a Shit is guidance on how we all can reduce our carbon footprint by making small changes like:

  • Carrying a reusable bag and not using plastic bags,
  • Carrying a to-go mug with us so we can avoid the paper mugs,
  • Replacing our paper towels with old rags

We are trying to reduce creating waste in our home and this book is a great source to help motivate us and remind us why we need to stop creating unnecessary waste. It highlights how ‘The Power of 1’ really can change the planet, if we all did a little to reduce waste the oceans, forests and animals would be cleaner and safer.

Little Fires Everywhere (Fiction) tells a story of an artist Mia and her daughter Pearl. When Pearl and her mother move into the ‘perfect’ neighborhood their simple way of life is turned upside down by the Richardson Family. Secrets, betrayal, love and revenge, this book has it all. A great book describing many mother daughter relationships, and all the complicities that go with it. This book is a great read and one you will complete quickly.

Principles by Ray Dalio is a book based on a set of principles Ray has learned throughout his career in the financial sector. He wants to share what he has learned so others can achieve their goals in Life and Work. This is a 2-part series, the other book is more financial, and investment focused. I am only at the beginning chapters of this book, so far, I love it. However, do note I love reading financial books on investing, and personal finance so this may not be everyone’s cup of tea😉

Having a physical book in my hand to read with a cup of tea beside me is my ideal Sunday morning. However, I don’t have the time to sit and read all day. That’s why other mediums like audio books and eBooks are an excellent tool to maximize my reading time. In work I listen to my audio books on my breaks, I listen to audio books in the car too as I cannot read in any form of transportation. It makes me feel ill!

eBooks are great to have on my phone so that if I’m getting my hair done or I am waiting in a long line up I have a book to read. I prefer this to browsing social media. I have times of the day I like to browse social media and I try to stick to that for no more than 15min at a time.

I read a quote somewhere years ago that I will completely mess up, but it was something like…. having the ability to read and not using that gift doesn’t make you any better off than a person who is illiterate.

I think this statement is so powerful. I think we can take the ability to read for granted. We spent years of our life learning to read and write. We all should be reading more and writing more to broaden our way of thinking and expanding our knowledge. Humans would benefit deeply if we did.

What are your thoughts?

What are your top 3 books ever?

Have a great week.

Chat soon,

Theresa x