Making Decisions Part 2 – How do I stay on track?

By the end of this post, you’ll have a way of staying on track of what you decided to do.

Tl;dr; – Listen to whatever motivational triggers you need when you are on your commute (For me, that would be listening to “Fearless motivation“– it’s free for Amazon Prime members – free trial link). Use Trello to track tasks and a recurring timer to keep yourself in check.

So you’ve decided to do something, the next step is to define a solid reason (your why), track your tasks and make sure you’re working on the right things.

For example, say you’ve made the decision to start a blog/vlog or book. We’ll explore some ways to track your tasks and making sure you’re still working on the right things.

Figure out why you’re doing this – this will be your core priority. Are you doing this to make money? To help others? Having this clearly defined will allow you to better decide on what tasks you need to do.

1) Tips for defining a reason

Try to find a reason where you’re not just doing it for yourself, but for people you care about.

Also note that internal motivation is a better driver than external (physical rewards-based) motivation.

Finally, use this project as a redirection for your bad habits – when you find yourself about to get distracted (emails/Facebook/explicit videos/video games), use that energy to make progress on this project– this is a tough one, but it brings a huge confidence boost when you are able to control yourself at moments where you are weakest.

You can get your own copy of Motivational Speeches at Amazon.

If you’re having difficulty defining a purpose, I guarantee that these speeches will help you to find one.

You can also join Amazon Prime to stream thes motivational speeches [here’s my referral link for a 30 day trial].

(full disclosure: I get a small commission from these referral links at no cost to you)

Moving on to the details

Now that you have the internal drive, I’m going to get a bit into the details and name one solution that works well for tracking your tasks– Trello – I’ve tried a lot of task management solutions already and this is the best. If you already have your own tool, then use that.

2) Task tracking

When you set off to do your own project, there are so many ideas you will have. To make things less overwhelming, you need to write them out.

  • If you like to keep your notes digital, use Trello – you can group tasks into buckets (or ‘cards’) – great for jotting down all ideas, then sorting through them later.
  • If you need something tangible, there’s always post it notes. You can do something similar by jotting down all ideas, then categorizing them on a whiteboard.
  • Tip: Write out tasks that will take 1-2 hours to accomplish. Anything shorter is probably just paperwork stuff.
  • Pick the task depending on your energy level (i.e. for the tasks that require more thinking, do those earlier in the day)
  • Pick the tasks that you feel will have the most impact – if there are several of these, just pick one and do it. Save your “decision energy” for more important things.

One thing at a time…

At this point you probably have ideas for multiple projects – try your best to do one project at a time (1 completed project is way better than 2 half-finished projects)

Each day, pick two of these 1-2 hour tasks to complete (they are probably going to take you longer than you expected).

3) Are you still working on the right things?

As you make progress on your project, you may start wandering off… That article looks interesting, I just remembered I needed to respond to…, maybe I’ll watch TV instead.

To combat the distractions, you can do the following:

  • Set a recurring hourly timer – when you hear that beep, ask yourself “Am I doing the right thing?” This keeps you in check in case you start going off on a tangent on something that isn’t as important (like tweaking the way your blog looks).
    • Ideally, this will not be an alarm where you’ll be pulling out your phone to turn it off.
  • Set a time limit for your breaks so you don’t start bingeing.

I use Blip Blip for Android. It beeps every hour at the times that I specify. It sounds like my old Casio digital watches.

Conclusion

I hope this has helped you to stay focused on your tasks.

Define the purpose, redirect bad habits to your project, and expose yourself to triggers that will get you in a high confidence / high energy mode.

Here is the soundtrack I’ve been listening to lately:

(please use my affiliate links as a way of showing support – Amazon gives me a small commission at no cost to you)

Keep on hacking efficiently!

Making decisions Part 1 – A or B?

We’ve all been at a point where we had to decide whether to do A or B. If only there was a process to help you decide.

The processes that are common are pros and cons list, ask someone who’s already been through this situation, consider the opportunity cost etc. But what if that still doesn’t make the decision process any easier?

Recently, I’ve listened to an audiobook called “Decisive” and I want to share some key takeaways with you – they might apply to your situation.

You can get your own copy of ‘Decisive’ at Amazon.

(4.6 stars @433 reviews as of 4/13/18)

You can also join Audible for two free audio books [here’s my referral link].

(full disclosure: I get a small commission from these referral links at no cost to you)

Can you do both?

Usually, I default to thinking ‘either-or’, because that’s easier. What’s a bit non-intuitive (and requires some creative thinking) is to ask yourself if you could do both.

For example, if you want to start your own business, can you start with something small and still keep your job? Can you do something for your business on your personal time that will also benefit you in your day job?

On the web, A/B Testing is really common. It’s basically trying two options on a small set of users and seeing what’s better.

Here’s an example of how it works – for the first X users, layout A is presented to a 50% of random users, and layout B is presented to the rest. The program determines which has the best outcome (e.g. results in most purchases). Going forward, only that layout will be presented to future users.

Really consider whether you can do both (get creative). However, if it really is an either-or decision, keep on reading.

Vanishing options

There was an interesting scenario brought up in the book. It was whether or not to fire someone who isn’t that competent at their job. If you fire them, there will be lots of paperwork and it will take forever.

A proposed process is to ask ‘what if this person can’t be fired? What would we do then?’, this lead to considering finding cheaper workers to do the job and allowing the person in question to find another task that they are good at.

Get some distance

The last takeaway that really hit home with me was to back away from your situation and ask “If you were to give advice to your friend in the same situation, what would you tell them?”

Other questions to ask yourself:

  • How does this decision jive with my core values?
  • How will this decision matter in 10 minutes, 10 months, 10 years?

Final words

  • Try to minimize the decisions you have to make to the very tough situations – it drains mental energy when you have to decide.
  • There’s never a way of knowing if you’re making the right decision – do your due diligence and you’ll be confident that you’re making a good decision based on your criteria at the time.
  • Think of a recent time you had to decide between A or B – how did you make your decision? or did you do both?  Let me know in the comments!

Pick up a copy of Decisive here

Here’s my referral link in case the graphic above is hidden.

In the next post, I’ll answer a common question – How do you track your tasks for the day? And how do you ensure you’re working on the *right* things? See you then!

Taking Baby Steps

The first month of 2018 has come and gone. 

If you’ve created a bunch of goals for the new year but haven’t achieved those goals, don’t worry  — but take another look at them.  Maybe you've set a really big goal and are struggling with it...

For me, I’ve been struggling with figuring out what to work on next with my blog-to-audio web service.

  • How do I make the website look better?
  • How much should I charge?
  • How should my email sequence look like?
  • How do I market this?
  • What do I put in the terms and conditions?

Now if I think about all these issues at the same time, I’d be overwhelmed.  

The advice I've received is to focus on one thing, get to a point of 'good enough', then move on to the next important thing. 

Questions to ask yourself

  • What small steps can I take today to move closer to my goal?
  • Is my goal based on factors that I can directly control?  (e.g. lose 30 lbs - you can't directly control this;  exercise 30 minutes a day - you can control this)

This is Radhika (my daughter) showing you how to take baby steps

Productivity tips I’ve picked up in January

Use Trello — it lets you group your tasks into buckets, so it’s very easy to take 100 tasks, which is daunting, and categorize them into 10 groups of 10

Don’t prioritize your tasks with numbers, just move the task you want to focus on to the top of the list - just by being more visible, it becomes important.

Book Recommendation

The One Thing - Learn how to focus on one thing at a time.  It's available in audiobook format as well.

What were your goals again?

So before you leave, I'd like for you to share one of your goals and what small (realistic) steps you will take in the upcoming weeks to achieve it.

I wish you success!

Tech Stuff That You’ll Use

Tech items that I actually own and has made me more productive

With the holidays coming up, you may be in the market for some tech gear.  But wait, how much of this stuff would you actually use?

I buy lots of tech gear (which irritates my wife), but here are the ones that I actually use daily…

Bluetooth (One-ear) Earbuds 

These are perfect for just listening to podcasts or audiobooks — they are also very discreet as well. I bought two so I always have one that’s charged. They run just under $20 each.

These are the ones I got, and it fit pretty well in my ear without falling that easily.

If you don’t already have an Audible subscription, you can use this link to get 2 free audiobooks— one thing you probably didn’t know is that if you try to cancel during your free trial, they give you free credit to NOT cancel 🙂 Not sure if this still works though…

Echo Dot

Most people are confused as to whether they need an actual Echo to use the Echo Dot — the answer is no. The Echo Dot works fine by itself — it may not have the best microphone, but it is only $50 bucks and probably cheaper during Amazon flash sales. There is also the Google Home Mini that was released to compete with this, but I haven’t used it myself.

It can do lots of things, but I just use it to play music for my kids (yes, you can connect it to Bluetooth speakers). 

Shameless plug: Make sure you check out the Orator Skill — which lets you play tracks from articles converted from your bookmarked links.

If you already have an Echo Dot, you may want to consider getting a battery base (it lasts for 10 hours on standby), but it’s great if you want to move your Echo dot around the house without having to restart it. Another first world problem solved!


Bluetooth Mouse

Speaking of first world problems, if you've got multiple devices (computer, laptop, tablet) and want to use the same mouse without moving a stupid dongle around, get the Logitech MX Master 2S - there is a switch underneath the mouse to pair it to 3 different devices.

There is also horizontal scroll as well.  Furthermore, it charges with a Micro USB cable - you can use the mouse and charge at the same time.

Android Smart Watch

If you’re in the market for an Android smart watch, check out the TicWatch E by Mobvoi for $160. It’s got all the bells and whistles for a relatively cheap price. I just received mine, so I can’t really review it yet, but I have tried the Google Keep app and it seems to work well for viewing/deleting/creating notes.

Though you may not have heard of the brand, the company has made watches that received some pretty good reviews.

Cheap Cell Phone That Actually Works Well

Personally, I use a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, but I probably would not get any more curve screened phones because the screen protectors don't fit and I end up not using one.  (then my screen cracks)

But what I was more excited about (strangely) was a cheap phone that runs a relatively new version of Android.  So I got the BLU R1 (2 GB RAM, 16 GB storage), which is the best bang for the buck at $100, however it will remain at Android 6.0 with no updates.  There is now a successor BLU R2 which runs Android 7.0, it costs just $10 more.

It's a great back up phone when you don't want to go downstairs to grab the phone you left on the couch.  Another first world problem solved!

Laptop to replace Desktop

I have an HP Omen 15t which I've purchased at the end of April 2017 - the specs are the best for the money at the time.  

Specs:

  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050Ti 4GB GDDR5
  • i7-7700HQ Quad Core Processor
  • 32 GB RAM
  • 256GB m.2 NVME Solid State Drive
  • 1 TB 7200RPM Hard Drive
  • I got it at $1,254.56

The bad news is that I can no longer find it at this price point, however there is another (cheaper) gaming laptop that is the best bang for the buck - that would be the Acer Predator Helios 300. You get a better graphics card (which is VR ready) 

  • 256 GB SSD, no regular hard drive
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 with 6 GB of dedicated GDDR5 VRAM
  • 16GB DDR4 Memory
  • 6 lbs
  • @ $1050

Laptop that's Portable

If you're looking for something light weight, check out the Surface Pro 4 (which is one model behind the newest one - during Black Friday, you'll see better discounts on the SP 4) - Full Disclosure: I work at Microsoft (but I don't have ties with anyone in the hardware team) - I've used my Surface 3 occasionally and find it very portable.

What about you?

Are there any productivity related tech items that you use on a daily basis?

Produce First – Why choosing before consuming will make you feel more accomplished

Choosing to Produce Before Consuming…

When you wake up, do you even think about what you do? Most people act on autopilot.

How many times have you woken up, then “quickly” checked your phone, then ended down a rat hole of email, news, Facebook, Reddit, YouTube, etc. ?

(These sites were made to have you keep consuming.)

The same thing probably happens when you sit at your desk with the intent to get some work done.

Next thing you know, you’ve wasted an hour (or way more) of your time with nothing to show for it. How does that make you feel?

When you consume first (and this is very easy to do), you cloud your mind with thoughts about random things that may not be top priority for you.

When this happens, you will feel as if life is outside of your control. And this is not a good feeling.

So what should you do instead?

Get up early. No kids, no phones, no email, no social media, no video, no audio, not even books.

Choose to make something.

This is very similar to the act of giving first. You might have noticed that it feels better to be the one that gave first.

Why would this make you feel better?

When you deliberately make a choice to wake up early and make something, when you make an effort to give, you are in control.

This is a different feeling you get when you consume (receive) other people’s content. The choice you make here is not as deliberate. When you give second, it feels more like an obligation than a choice.

 Action steps

It may differ for you, but the general idea is to deliberately choose to do something —

At first it can be choosing to get up early than usual…

then you can choose not to look at distracting apps/websites

then you can choose to produce. (Take it one step at a time)

For me, the easiest thing to produce is writing. You might want to produce something else if writing isn’t your thing. But give it a go before you dismiss it.

Here are some ideas:

  • What were some key ideas that stuck with you?
  • What are your plans for your project?
  • What is it that you are grateful for?

You can keep your thoughts private or publish them online — you’ve probably guessed that for me, it’s to use the Medium editor because I feel it keeps me very focused.

If you think writing is pointless and it isn’t worth your time, pretend that you are writing advice to make your parent’s/child’s/friend’s/a stranger’s life better. When you make something that will help someone else, that will make it all the more worthwhile.

Try it and let me know what happens.