Posts Tagged ‘productivity’

Set the Bar Low -and Win!

Written by Kate • April 24, 2012 •
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Image thanks to Marsmet544

I know that common wisdom, or what is thought as common wisdom, recommends that we set the bar for what we want to achieve extremely high and then proceed to go for it.  In one way, this is exactly right. In another, this is exactly wrong. Lemme ‘esplain.

Set the Bar High- Shoot for the Moon

It’s true that setting the bar high, shooting for the moon, going for it are all good. In fact, this type of goal is inspiring and stirring to the soul. It’s highly motivating. It engages the spirit and gives you the will to act on this goal, despite our innate aversion to change.

What’s Your Path?

The problem with setting the bar high is that there are often hundreds and hundreds of steps between here and that goal.  And without having an understanding of the path, without a clear sense of the way forward, without envisioning what happens when you have a setback and how you power through it, without mini goals along the way, your ability to achieve your awesome goal becomes compromised. Your short term self wants to abandon your long term future for a little comfort now. And then one day, when you’re at your lowest ebb or that voice that says “I don’t feel like” is particularly strong, you give up on your goal.

No Can Do

Do this often enough and you start to lose faith in your ability to follow through on your dreams, your goals, and your word.

Set the Bar Low

The way to get out of the “no can do” mindset is to set the bar low. This helps you get some wins under your belt  and gives you faith again in yourself and your ability to follow through. So set an easy to achieve goal and along with it, create brain dead simple steps on the path to achieving this easy goal. Know your path. Envision a setback and how you’ll respond to it. And then acknowledge and celebrate when you’ve achieved that goal.  This creates a new habit of winning and of following through on your word.

Keep at these easier, do-able goals and build on your new habit and confidence. But go slowly and don’t shoot for the moon until you’re really comfortable with your ability to understand what it is that you want, how to create the path to get there, and the unshakable belief that you will get there.

Become someone who can do what you set out to do, in your own mind, the only place that matters.

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Top 5 Lessons I’ve Learned about Making Changes

Written by Kate • December 27, 2011 •
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Northern Lights

Northern Lights

For the first time, I’m reviewing the past year of my life with an eye towards what worked more than what didn’t work.  In the past, if I was inclined to consider how my year went, I usually went through the motions of a hasty review of the past year about what I still hadn’t been able to accomplish without ever looking at all the great things I was able to accomplish.  Harsh recriminations followed by militant new rules for the following year used to result in New Year’s Resolutions.

Although I have long ago given up on New Year Resolutions, harshly reviewing my failings and ignoring my successes was my M.O. for far too long.

This year, as I’ll post about on Friday, I am reviewing my year more to celebrate my strengths and to jettison unhelpful or unprofitable actions and attitudes. I’m using Chris Guillebeau’s Annual Review post as a general guide. It’s a kinder and more productive way to generate real, positive change and to feel great in the process.

And in case you’re still into the harsh, shaming, recriminations-type annual review mode that seems to be pervasive in our culture, I wanted to give you my top 5 lessons on what I’ve learned about making changes. so you can put down your weapons against yourself to take a real look at all you’ve done.

Take away message: start really small and celebrate your successes.

The top 5 lessons I’ve learned about implementing a change to my behavior are as follows:

1.  Too much too soon equals failure. Or said in another way, start with small, achievable goals that seem ridiculously easy to achieve. By starting small, with easy to achieve goals, you can start to accomplish bite size pieces of success. These little steps forward begin to rebuild your trust in yourself and to show it can be done without killing yourself and or making you totally miserable in the process.  To help explain this, I’m going to use weight loss since it involves easy to measure yardsticks for momentum and success.

Let’s say the goal is lose 70 pounds. You’ve been trying to lose 40, then 50, then 60 pounds, and now 70 pounds for as long as you can remember. You’re always on a diet.  And it feels like it’s just getting harder.   [If you’re in the mental place of DIET OR ELSE, PLEASE find another book or approach or mentor to help you put down the diet and pick up the fun and pleasure as a means to slim down.]  There are a lot of really great self help books and programs out there to help you with your mindset and this post isn’t trying to teach you how to diet.

But as an example -in the past 10 years, you’ve set yourself a goal to try to lose between 8 and 12 or more pounds per month so that the weight could be gone now now now! You’ve chosen at least 8 pounds, because that’s what the experts say is the healthy range, even though this means a huge drop in calories and a huge daily change for you. As a result of the loss of pleasure and the increasing sense of deprivation in your life, you’ve been unable to maintain such a huge change in your daily eating habits; you’ve thrown in the towel; and binged on a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. Now, over the course of the year, you’ve gained 5 pounds this year rather than lost the 70 pounds.

Looked at in a different way: If you had chosen small, easily achievable goals, like 12 pounds per year [yes- 1 pound per month], this means just 3500 few calories per month, or 875 per week, or 125 calories per day. 125 calories per day is 10 minutes or so of a walk or a few pushups or one less soda- which means no sense of deprivation at all. 12 pounds this year and 12 pounds next year means that you can easily and relatively painlessly have lost all of your weight in less than 6 years.  Maybe you’re rolling your eyes at 6 years of delay but again, this is plan requires very little change on your part. And rather than struggle unsuccessfully for 10 years, you would be 12 pounds thinner per year and would have achieved your goal 4 year ago.

When I look back at all of the changes I tried to implement in my life on huge scale so I could see results NOW rather than taken the long view that there is no rush, that slow and steady really works, I have to laugh.

2. Small actions taken each day equal huge results.  This clearly follows my first point since it’s only through the small daily actions can we achieve a huge success. It seems to me that overnight success appears to happen all the time but the fine print shows that the person who has been deemed an overnight success has toiled in the fields of their profession for the past 3, 5, even 7 years.  You’ll get there.

As an example of this, if your goal is to get three blogs out per year, considering writing each morning for just 30 minutes, whether you feel like it or not. By writing each day, making it a new routine, you’ll get thousands of words out each week and can more easily achieve your 3 blogs per week goal than sitting in front of your computer for more than an hour every other day with a looming deadline to get ‘er done. And will probably be much more prolific in the process.

By taking small actions each day, the routine and new habits will slowly become cemented as a foundation of your life, leading to bigger successes as the effects of your actions pile into huge steps forward.

3. Celebrate your success everyday. Rather than beating yourself up for what you didn’t achieve each day, consider starting to notice and celebrate all that you did achieve today. You’re just like everyone else in that no one likes to work without some praise and loving attention. And by kicking yourself day in and day out for not getting everything done, you’re trying to get yourself motivated by hating yourself successful.

Instead, each day at either the end of your work day or just before you go to bed, write down 3 to 5 things you accomplished that day.  It can be anything from signed a new client to flossing your teeth to trying a new recipe. As you continue to notice all that you’ve accomplished, you’ll probably find yourself surprised at all that you were able to get done that you had never taken the time to notice. Write it down. Congratulate yourself on successes and feel the energy that loving yourself successful feels like.

4. Limiting beliefs are your only blocks to success. Underneath it all, the only thing between success and you is you. Limiting beliefs, such as I’m too fat, too untalented, too poor, not good enough, not smart enough, etc are running through your head. If you can, try to catch a few of these beliefs as they surface and notice the thoughts that are associated with them.

For example, if there is a promotion at work that you’d like to try for, if you have the belief “I’m not good enough” playing in the background, you might have the following chain of thoughts: “I’d love that new position. It’s exactly what I’m looking for at this time in my life”. [Softly]. “But am I really good enough”.  “It may be wired to Maggie [or John or Sue or whoever]”. “My resume isn’t updated and I’m not sure how much time I have to update it”. “I probably wouldn’t get it anyway” “Oh well, I’ve got so many other things to do and my job isn’t that bad”.  And BOOM, within the course of 30 seconds, you’ve walked away from a great opportunity because of a barely noticeable limiting belief and the subsequent thought chain.

To counteract your limiting beliefs, and to out them to your conscious mind, commit to a course of action and see what comes up immediately and over the next few days.  I will take a trip to Paris. I will increase my income by 30% this year. I will start a daily meditation practice. Plan your course of action and start implementing -of course in small achievable steps. And when your limiting belief raises it’s head, try to notice it and counter the thoughts that arise in response to the belief.

Limiting Belief: I’ll never lose this weight.  Resulting thoughts: I should give up. I’ve never been successful before. New Belief: I can lose this weight. I just haven’t yet found the way that works for me. Resulting thought: I’ll research a new plan and start to make changes in ways that will almost guarantee success- slow, steady action.

Limiting Belief: I’m not good enough to start my own business. Resulting thought: I’ll just stay in this job that makes me miserable. At least Ihave a job. New Belief: I have enough passion and desire to start my own business. Resulting thoughts: I may not know how but I can learn. I can being with slow, steady action.

Get the idea?

5. Being compassionate to yourself is the only way forward.  All of the previous steps lessons end in Point #5. Be compassionate to yourself. Stop the hating. Stop the crazy expectations. Stop the rules about what you have to do, by when, and how well.  Love yourself. And when you’ve dropped the drama, the judgement, the hate, and start with the love and the compassion, you’ll be amazed at what arises in you. Creative thoughts, loving thoughts, new ways of being. It all begins and ends here.

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Are You Afraid of the Quiet?

Written by Kate • December 10, 2011 •

Morning silence

Image Thanks to Mara ~earth light~

While I was at the Uplevel Live conference in Atlanta, with Christine Kane, I was speaking to a fellow attendee. She and I were discussing how to meditate, or more importantly, how to be still so that you can hear your inner voice speak to you. She shared with me that she was never able to stand the quiet, that if she was home, the music or the TV was always on.  Do you know this feeling? I hear often enough from other people that they feel uncomfortable unless the TV or the radio is on.

This is not my current experience. Over the past several years, I have slowly learned to include more and more silence in my day. It has been a very gradual process, with lots of steps forward and many steps back. But it’s been a steady progression as I move to gently root out all the different distractions my ego craves to keep me occupied and out of the present moment.

I long ago moved my TV into a totally separate room from my living space and I now rarely have it on. I used to listen to NPR almost all day but I have also unplugged from all news.  [It’s pretty cool to unplug from all the drama and still laws and initiatives all get implemented. I just don’t have to get caught up in the hype prior to “vote”]. I also have found myself listening to less and less music. I have learned to enjoy silence. Thanks for the idea, Tim Ferris!

To be clear, we’re talking about silence not meditation. Meditation is a separate act in which one sits for a length of time and the focus of meditation is to begin the process of identifying one’s thoughts to begin realizing that we’re not our thoughts and much more. But for our purposes today,  this post is focused on being able to stand being in silence, either while doing something or while sitting. No need to try to meditate, silence your mind, or do anything else while learning to enjoy the silence. Silence is its own reward.

I’ve heard from many sources that it’s important to have silence in your life. “God’s voice is found in the silence” is a common theme in the spirituality community and I have found this to be absolutely true. Eckhart Tolle, Wayne Dyer, Caroline Myss, to name a few, all extol the virtues of silence.

So what can you do to begin to experience silence? First, no matter what has happened in your life or how fast you want to accomplish this, go about this gently and lovingly. You have the rest of your life to accomplish long periods of silence and there is no need to turn this beautiful tool into a weapon against yourself, yet one more thing you’re not doing well or that you’re failing at doing. Respect yourself and the process by taking it slow.

Second, if you’ve experienced trauma and you know there is something that is ready to come up, get some help from a trained professional while you work through this, if at all possible. And if that isn’t possible, go even slower and at the first time of the trauma coming up again, distract yourself from the silence until you’re feeling better. As they say, Rome was not built in a day! Don’t re-engage with your trauma until you’re truly ready, with all the support you need.

Start your relationship with silence in really really small doses. Sit or lie still and try to be silent for one minute. 60 seconds and you’re done for today. For those of you who find the 60 seconds still too difficult, try going for a short walk around the driveway in silence for those 60 seconds. The movement, combined with the silence, may make it more acceptable.

Once you’ve gotten about 60 seconds down, where you can be in silence for just 60 seconds, keep it up once a day for 7 days. Do NOT be discouraged if you find yourself resisting this new habit. First, it’s a new habit and all new habits are difficult to stay with. Second, it’s a new habit that will bring about a profound change in your relationship with your ego and your ego will resist this with all its might- that’s what it was designed to do after all!

But once you’re able to sit [or walk] with silence for 60 seconds for a week,  extend your session by 15 to 30 seconds for the next week.  And build from there. Perhaps you think that that 1 to 2 minutes is too easy.  All I have to say is try it for a week and then tell me that.  As Steve Pavlina advocates, take the 30 day trial and see what you can accomplish in creating a new habit in 30 days. You’ll know if you love or not at the end of the 30 days and the 30 days will help cement the new habit as a daily one.

I know how hard this is. I’ve tried it. But it’s worth it. From 1 minute to a goal of at 15 or 20 minutes per day, sitting in silence will help ground you, help you begin to be more present throughout your day, and to connect to the Divine.

Go for it today!

Have you learned to sit in silence? What has been your experience?


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How To Succeed at Getting Things Accomplished

Written by Kate • August 15, 2011 •
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For some people, it’s comparatively easy to accomplish whatever they’ve set their mind to. They’ve learned, practiced, and implemented high productivity habits. And for others, it can seem like their list is so long, their need to great, that they’ll never get it all done in this life time. And so they give up. Only to try again. Only to give up. And then try again. But it’s often because they shoot too high, with a too aggressive time frame, and without consistent action. I’m here to tell tell you that, in fact, it’s absolutely possible to break this cycle as well as to actually accomplish whatever it is you’re looking to do.

The way to success is through focus and consistent action.

Focus- First you must focus on only one or two intentions at a time. If you’re trying to accomplish too many intentions at anyone time, you’re going to spend too much time, action and mental energy trying to keep everything in the air but too little time on each intention to ensure it is accomplished. Instead, with an unwavering focus on the one [or two] intentions that are the most important to you right now, you can not only devote the necessary time and mental energy to get a top priority for you done, but the sense of action and completion will sustain you in the time to come- when your energy or gusto temporarily abandons you.

Consistent Action – This is an equally important factor in accomplishing anything. Sailing through in the first few days or week is easy with the original energy and enthusiasm helping you to focus on the top priorities.  But by creating space, perhaps 30 minutes three evenings a week, to action and getting something definitive done will help create a new habit of productivity that will help you knock down each task along the way.

I know you want to get everything done right now and have it all accomplished. But that kind of all or nothing thinking keeps the tasks unaccomplished and your ability to get things done diminished.  Get clear and break it down to do-able steps, and STRETCH out your time frame for accomplishing it. Hey, you haven’t been able to accomplish it..what’s another 2 or 3 months to actually accomplishing what you’ve been trying to…for years maybe?

Once you’ve gotten an internal commitment to focus on just one thing and outlined the time you’re going to devote to taking consistent action without excuses, then the following 10 steps are a great action plan.

1. Identify Accomplishment/Destination. Write out the accomplishment you’re ready to tackle. Writing it out on a piece of paper [or laptop] is important for both clarity in understanding what you’re trying to achieve and for claiming your accomplishment, even before it’s achieved.

2. Identify the 10 most important tasks. Write out the 10 most important tasks that you need to take to get this accomplished. There may be more but focus on just the 10 most important tasks to get done right now for that task.

3. Prioritize. Prioritize the next three tasks, of the 10 listed in Point 2, that should be done first. By trying to get all 10 important tasks done, before you built your up your productivity habits, you will probably end up with another failed effort because the list is just too huge for you now.

4.  Break it down to bite-size pieces/do-able tasks. Break out each of these three tasks into three little tasks, so that you have a total of 9 tasks to accomplish. By taking the most important three tasks and breaking them down further, you’re teaching yourself about what it really takes to get big goals accomplished. It also creates a do-able action plan that allows you to both actually get lots accomplished and get a sense of accomplishment.

5. Map it out on a 30-day plan. Create a new document called your 30-day plan, with 2 columns. In this document, put the nine tasks down in the left hand column and the dates by which you want to have each task accomplished- in a realistic timeframe.

6. Stay focused. Work just these 9 tasks. Don’t try to start new tasks. Don’t add to your list. When you feel like you could be doing more or different tasks, come back to this list and remember this is the plan.

7. Knock’em each down. Take consistent action. Work each of the 9 tasks, one after the other. Remember the time you set aside and respect the intention and commitment. Work for the 30 minutes on the nights you said would.

8. Enjoy the accomplishment.  One of the most important parts of getting anything done is to acknowledge how far you’ve come. Step back to enjoy the sense of both moving forward to your goal, as well as the sense of accomplishment. What can you do to notice what you’ve gotten accomplished? A daily accomplishment list? A weekly one? No matter what it is, be sure to take in the smell of success!

9. What are the 10 next tasks? Now that you’ve gone the three most important higher level tasks accomplished, what are now the 10 most important tasks? [Hint: they may have changed now that you’re down the road a bit].  Return to Step 2 and continue down the following steps.

10. Rinse and Repeat until done. Continue getting 9 tasks per done as your focus. Keep your focus like a laser on just this month’s 9 steps. IF, and that’s a really important IF and quite a conditional one, you’ve truly respected your 30 minutes, three times a week [or whatever time you committed to set aside], and you’ve found it relatively easy to set it aside, you can also consider expanding the time devoted to this task by 5 or 10 minutes.  But be sure to drop back if you find yourself less willing to devote 40 minutes rather than 30.

Productivity, like weight training, is a habit and one that takes practice, in small chunks, to get used to and to make effortless. By getting clear about the one thing you want to accomplish, the concrete next 9 tasks to work on in the next month, and taking consistent action, you will soon be a productive champ!

What methods have you used to successfully get something accomplished?


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