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Productivity

Life with No Television: Our Reasons Why & What has Changed

Over the past couple of years, the amount of time we spend each evening watching TV has reduced. We both love watching TV, George loves a good TV series & movie, I love any reality TV show that exposes talent like American Idol, Britain’s got Talent, Dancing with the Stars & The Voice. TV can be a great distraction after a stressful day, it can fill in time when you are bored & can be used to switch off the mind and just veg out. However, watching it every day and using it as a form of procrastination and avoidance is where it turns into a health issue.

There were days we would both come home from work, eat dinner and put on a good show and watch about 3 episodes and go to bed. Our evenings were spent watching TV. We were both with each other but not really connecting. There was very little conversation and we were falling into a routine of our evenings been taken over by the TV screen.

When I look back now, I cannot believe we were like that because we are the total opposite now. How did this change come about? I don’t believe it was one incident but many different things happening over a period of about 2-3 years.

A couple of years ago we watched a really cool documentary called “No Impact Man” about a couple in New York who made major live changes for 1 year to drastically reduce the amount of waste they produced & energy they consumed. This show had such a huge effect on us & is definitely one of the major reasons we decided to reduce our waste.

They recommended that we all should have at least 1 night a week with no electricity which would have a drastic effect on the amount of energy we would waste, they called it Eco night. We adopted Eco night and every Wednesday we do not use any power for the evening. We light candles, read books, play boardgames, have long baths and go to bed super early (Winter). We love them. As a result, no TV watching can happen on this night and this routine of not watching TV gradually extended over time.

Eco night in action

The above couple were very inspiring but we needed to figure out why we wanted to reduce the amount of TV we were watching. We had a conversation regarding where we wanted our lives to go over the next 5-10 years and it was pretty obvious; we needed all the time we could get to work on the areas that needed work.

I decided to go back to school & complete a project management course with UBC part-time in the evenings and weekends for 3 months, George wanted to write a book. Studying and writing need a lot of time & both of us had full time jobs. We got up earlier in the mornings to work on our projects but we also needed all the time we had in the evenings too. This was the first real eye opener for us as to how much time we were wasting in the evenings watching TV. We got so much accomplished with our projects because we had no time for television. We wanted to carry this insight forward and apply it to other personal projects that we always wanted to do but couldn’t find the time to do them.

For example, I started a cooking blog and challenged myself for 1 year to see if I could keep it up, could I commit to something for that long and would I be consistent. The blog itself was very basic and I had 2 followers (my sisters), I don’t even think I made it public it was a personal challenge to see if I could do it. Anyone who writes or blogs knows that a lot of time and effort needs to go into keeping a blog going. This is what I started doing in the evenings instead of watching TV. Of course, there were times I was not in the mood at all for any of my projects and I watched TV but I always felt bad after it.

We both started reading more books on productivity, both for work & personal use. Basically, all of these books advised against watching TV and outlined how much time is wasted watching TV when you could be using your time much more wisely to achieve something you always wanted to achieve.  We started listing the important daily activities that made us feel good. Examples we listed were; exercise, getting outdoors, cooking, reading, writing & self-care. We incorporated these feel good activities into our days and gradually overtime the TV melted into the background.

We basically banned watching TV from Monday to Thursday. Eventually we really didn’t see the point to having a 36” flat screen smart TV in our small apartment. It was the focal point of our living area but it no longer was the focal point of our lives. We set a date for when we would put the TV up for sale, after the last episode of Game of Thrones in June 2019. We posted the sale that evening on Facebook and the TV was picked up the next day.

What our dresser looks like now without the TV

I have to say I panicked a little bit when I came back up to the apartment and there was a huge empty gap on the TV stand. Doubts went through my head if we had made the right decision. We have a baby on the way, would we not need a TV to relax after a hard day or will the child miss out with not having a TV? By the next day I was over my fears and was determined more than ever that this was the best decision for our family. In truth we don’t want to go back to our old ways of mindlessly watching TV…. especially when we have a child. We don’t want to be watching TV when we should be in bed resting and catching up on lost sleep. If we want to see a movie, we will go to the theatre to see it. If we want to see a TV really badly, we have a Netflix account that we can use on our laptop. We don’t need a HUGE TV taking up space and tempting us to turn it on.

We have no TV for almost 2 months now, it’s been great. The best thing for me is that the huge black screen is not facing me when I sit on our couch, instead it has been replaced with plants which are so much nicer. I feel the atmosphere has changed in our living space, it seems brighter and more spacious.

In addition, when we watch a TV show (Ozark) or movie at the weekend it’s a treat & we really enjoy it. We don’t feel bad or guilty about it because we have worked on all our other projects during the week and this is like a reward for getting our shit done.

We would not be able to write blogs, write books, read, cook, exercise, draw, paint, connect with friends if we still were the TV watchers we once were. We are so much happier without the TV. I believe the root to why we got rid of the TV was the fact we decided we wanted more with our lives. We wanted to achieve more in our personal time, we wanted to work on dreams & goals of our own. With the advice & guidance from productivity books it was clear if we wanted to achieve our goals while working in full time jobs, we needed our free time after work & the weekends.

Sit and think about what you want to achieve in your life, how can you break that down into daily tasks. How many hours would you need to spend on those tasks? Where in your life can you make up that time? Look at your TV and ask yourself how much time I spend watching it…….is it time to make the change?

Thanks for reading everyone,

I hope you found this helpful.

As always, we would love to hear any comments or suggestions you may have.

Have a great week,

Theresa xxx

Deep Work, By Cal Newport: A Book Review

“Instead of scheduling the occasional break from distraction so you can focus, you should instead schedule the occasional break from focus to give in to distraction.”

What is deep work? Cal Newport, in his book, Deep Work, provides the example of a blacksmith who hammers away at a metal ingot for endless hours until it eventually takes the shape of a beautiful sword. This man takes immense satisfaction in his work, using old fashioned techniques and, as he toils, he enters a hypnotic state of concentration. He does not mindlessly hammer on the metal but picks out the exact spot he must modify, working his mind as much as his arms.

This is deep work and this is what Newport talks about. He offers advice on how to get to such a state telling us that it is harder and harder to get there in today’s world with so many distractions.

Newport discusses the importance of working without interruption. We are now reachable at almost any time. Many authors and productivity gurus have spoken about distractions and the impossibility of multi-tasking. I have written a previous blog about it myself. We do not multi task, we simply switch from one task to another and when we do this, we lose concentration and efficiency. We lose the depth which Newport is talking about. He references Sophie Leroy, a business professor at the University of Minnesota, who demonstrates that when switching from task A to task B, our attention stays attached to the first activity, which means we can only half-focus on the second.

“Maybe social media tools are at the core of your existence. You won’t know either way until you sample life without them.”

He encourages breaks from social media for up to a month or so to see if you really need it as part of your life. From my own point of view, I use social media to promote the blog you are reading and I really feel the distracting pull of it. If I am working on something and my phone is nearby, I feel the need to jump on the social and check the stats, which in turn leads to a loss in concentration and a waste of time.

To combat this, I like to use screen time on the I phone, you can set time limits on the applications you use and set downtime periods for your phone. Generally, most apps are locked out of my phone from 8:30pm to 7am the next day. I can make calls, listen to audiobooks but I cannot read text messages, check emails or use social media outside of these hours. I set a password and save it elsewhere and the password is forgotten. This may not work for everybody but I find it useful. Refer to the below video.

Newport recommends to turn off all notifications, with a constant stream of information, it is impossible to get into a state of deep, productive work. I like to put my outlook into offline mode when I am working one something that needs concentration as the constant incoming emails grab me like a moth to a flame and I can’t help but check them.

“If you want to eliminate the addictive pull of entertainment sites on your time and attention, give your brain a quality alternative.”

He recommends planning your evenings and weekends by blocking out time for everything, including downtime. I don’t like the idea of living a scheduled life but in the work environment I have to block out time for what I am working on, otherwise it either won’t get done or I will spend too much time on it and ignore my other requirements.

Watch your internet usage. Plan your evenings and downtime around activities which don’t involve the internet. From a blogger’s perspective, this is difficult but that’s where the screen time feature and being deliberate about when I work online comes in. It is very easy to get sucked into the screen and stay there. I make time to go and read a book, get to yoga or get out for a run and I take these activities as seriously as I take my professional life or our blogging work.

To wrap up, this is a short, easy read. I listened to the audiobook in about a week. It has useful advice for professionals, students or anybody who’s work revolves around sitting at a desk or computer. If I was to sum up Newports advice in one sentence I would say cut the screen distractions from your life as much as is practical and remember that you don’t need to be accessible or responsive to people at all times.

I hope you enjoyed the blog.

Peace,

George

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who Do You Believe Is In Control Of Your Destiny?

What is your dream and how will you get there?

Do you dream big or do you settle for what you have?

You may already have everything you want but that doesn’t mean you don’t stop reaching. It doesn’t mean you stop searching.

If you have every step of your path laid out before you, then you know which direction to turn in your search when you are lost. Maybe you feel that you have already arrived at your destination. Ask yourself – have you? The journey doesn’t end so therefore the search doesn’t end.

Who do you believe is in charge of you and your destiny?

Is it the system?

Is it the beurocrats, the politicians, the government, your boss, your wages, your talents? No. These are all just aspects of your life.

I feel that the key word here is believe. Who do you BELIEVE is in charge or your destiny? It’s not society, it’s not the people who wronged you, forget them.

YOU ARE IN CHARGE, whether you believe that or not.

There’s that word again. That belief is what is important. That belief is what makes or breaks you. That belief defines you and shapes you into the person you will become.

If you don’t believe, then you will not change. Stand up, raise your chin, pull your shoulders back and declare to all in a strong voice “I am in charge of my own destiny.” Grab the bull the horns and get out there into the storm of a world we have to weather and take what is yours.

Take your destiny.

I speak metaphorically here, but the power is there, all you have to do is take charge. You have the power to get out of bed and go for a run before work. You have the power to spend one hour less watching Netflix and read a book from the library. You have the power to chose a salad or a pizza.

You are in charge of your destiny and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

Who do you think was in charge of Christopher Reeves destiny? Or Stephen Hawking? Or Viktor Frankl? Was it the horse that threw superman to the ground and broke his back? Motor neurone disease which slowed the world renowned physicist down to a physical stop but did it take charge of his life? The Nazis took everythign from Frankl but they did not best him.

Paralyzing injuries, debilitating sickness and an army of evil could not overpower these people.

They had the drive to keep going, to push through the hardest, life ending moments, to crawl through a river of shit and come out clean on the other side just like Andy Defresne in The Shawshank Redemption.

Forget about the privelaged folk who have everything, forget about the people you think you need to compare yourself to – they are not in charge of your destiny.

They do not care about your destiny. It is in your hands and you are in charge.

Take a pause and look around. Where are you? What are you going to do next? What did you eat today? Did you exercise? What did you learn? If you dont like the answer to any of these questions, remember that the rest of your life starts now and you are in control.

You have the power to change and shape your destiny as you chose. Not as someone else choses but as you chose.

Get up, look up, get out there and do what it is that makes you feel strong and powerful and keep on doing it. Keep on looking up.

You have the power to do what you want.

Peace,

George

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How To Be Productive In The Evenings During The Work Week: A More Relaxed Approach

Before we get into our evening routine & how we stay productive, let’s start from the beginning.

Each year we create our annual goals just before New Year’s Day. We record our goals under categories; Personal, Health & Wellness, Fitness, Financial, Future Business, Work, Home & Travel. All goals are written in our journals so we can review them daily/weekly/monthly. An important step which we love to do is to review the goals from the previous year and mark off what was achieved & what we have to work on, if it’s still a goal for the New Year.

Once all our goals are listed, we work towards them every day.

Creating the bigger picture of how & where you want your life to go over the next year will determine what you want to achieve in your day.

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For example, under the heading of Health & Wellness, we have a goal to have less stress in our life. How do we work towards less stress in our life, every morning we meditate, we wake up early to sit together to have our breakfast, we give ourselves lots of time in the mornings to get ready before work. All of this creates a calmer more chill morning for us so we can arrive at work rested & energised for a new day. We plan time into each part of our day to relax, chill & enjoy life.

Under the heading of Fitness, we have the goal to exercise daily. Our goal each day is to move for a minimum of 60 min. This can come in the form of 2 half hour walks on our breaks, or workouts in the evenings.

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We have figured out through trial & error the activities & goals we like to work towards in the morning and what we like to tackle in the evenings. The evenings are a mixture of relaxation & energy. We like to plan a week in advance for our evening activities. In our journals we list 3 tasks that we would like to achieve each night. Each task should be no longer than an hour. Therefore, we spend about 3 hours each evening working on specific goals.

These goals can range from:

1. Prepare dinner for next 3 nights

2. Read 25 pages of book

3. Go for 40 min walk

1. Iron clothes

2. Write Blog

3. Read 25 pages of book

1. Eco night

2. Go for walk /Yoga class

3. Write Letter to niece

We only assign 3 goals per evening. This more relaxed approach to the evenings takes the pressure off having to get a whole pile of stuff done & feeling really bad when we don’t achieve all 10 items we had on our list.

Usually we get home between 5pm & 6pm, we eat dinner, read, write or do jobs and exercise. All of these things align with our bigger picture goals.

TV is avoided in the evenings from Monday to Thursday in our home so we can use our time wisely during the week.

By the time we finish our evening tasks it usually about 8:30-9:00pm. We use this last hour to really wind down, take a bath, read more, play a board game, read some of our favourite blogs, listen to podcasts or audiobooks or just have a chat.

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Bedtime for us is between 9:30pm and 10:00pm. Lights are out at either 9:45pm or 10:00pm (George likes to read a little later…..I usually fall asleep with book in hand or mid-sentence!…No issues with sleep here..lol)

That’s essentially our evenings and how we make use of our time to work on goals that are important to us one hour at a time. Goals can be daunting but broken down into hours they really are achievable. We aim for slow & steady change overtime. We are definitely the turtle in the race. We joke about my Father that he is the man who is walking while all the others are running……. that’s how we want to approach life too. Slow & steady wins the race, apply it to your goals.

We hope this was helpful.

As always, we would love to hear your comments & feedback.

Have a great week,

Chat soon,

Theresa

Are You A Multi-Tasker?

Do you consider yourself a good multi-tasker? Can you multi task? Think about it for a minute before you read further.

I don’t think there is such a thing as a good multi tasker. In fact, I dont think multi tasking is even possible. Here’s my thoughts.

I try not to take my day job home, but sometimes it is necessary. Wheb I had to do this I would play Netflix in the background while going through emails on my laptop. Multi tasking. Watching a movie while working.

The truth is that I concentrated on neither task fully and I would have been much better off working with no distractions to completely finish my task and then sit down to enjoy something on TV.

The lesson here is that multi tasking does not lead to productivity. Single tasking does.

In other words, we need to concentrate on the task at hand until we have successfully completed it or reached a milestone where we are happy to move on to something different.

This is something we find very difficult to do nowadays. There is so much additional stimulation that we find it difficult to concentrate on one thing for any length of time. Even as I write this I feel the urge to check my smart phone.

In my opinion this is connected to the current smart phone / screen addiction. Maybe the effect of short term gratification from todays technological gizmos are wiring our brains to multi task more. I am willing to bet that multi tasking is a relatively recent phenomenon since the invention of screens and phones.

Todays technology also makes us more accessible to interruptions, forcing us to multi task. In some circumstances these are unavoidable but you can put measures in place like putting your phone in flight mode, closing your door or telling people to f*** off (JOKING – maybe don’t do that, we all about distressing and getting along here).

I think that we are also over whelmed with too much information these days. Too much information gives us too much to deal with and so we feel the need to multi task. The result is that you do not put your full attention into these items.

We also have the illusion that we will achieve more through multi-tasking. The brain rewards us with a dopamine hit when we complete a task but the satisfaction would be far greater if we complete a task knowing that we have given it our full attention.

We also have to deal with the ASAP syndrome. As an experiment in your professional life, take note over the next week of what the response is when you ask somebody “When do you need this?” I am going to guess 80% of the time the answer will be yesterday or asap. This encourages our desire to multi task. Outside pressure forces us to jump straight into action mode, rather than taking a breath to assess where we are at and what are our next actionable items.

The term, “jack of all trades, master of none,” applies to multi tasking. We certainly cannot be experts in anything when we spread ourselves too thin. Jacks of all tasks, masters of none. We are juggling our work load, but just like a juggler, we have a couple of different balls in the air, but we are only touching one at a time. In other words, we may think we are multi tasking but we are actually rapidly switching between tasks. It is this rapid switching which prevents from concentrating fully on any one task.

Put down the balls and pick up one at a time. When we attempt to multi task it may actually take 40% longer than putting our full effort into it. This brings me back to my Netflix / work example. I could have worked single mindedly for half the time rather than splitting my attention between two tasks.

According to Clifford Nass, a communication professor at Stanford, the more we multi task, the more difficult we find to learn, concentrate and be nice to people. I can think of many times where I cut somebody off or was rude because I had too many things going on at one time.

Nass says that if you think you are good at multi tasking, you aren’t. “People who multi task all the time can’t filter out irrelevancy. They can’t manage a working memory. They’re chronically distracted.” This is something I struggle with my self. I find it difficult to filter out the irrelevant and shut out the distractions.

Just as practising self control and meditation re-wire our brains, multi tasking also rewires our brain. These scattered habits have a similar scattering effect on our brain and our attention span.

Many studies support the fact that humans cannot multi task, we rapidly shift attention between tasks which does not allow us enough time to give these items our full concentration. This effects our proficiency and dilutes our abilities.

It is my intention to try to devote my full attention to everything, single mindedly, whether it is reading a book, answering emails or having a conversation with someone in a bar. If we take the time to pause, we can clearly define our next goals and the next task we need to address, making it easier to avoid hopping from one task to another and back again in quick succession.

Remember to focus. F.O.C.U.S.

Follow one course until success.

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Peace,

George