Category Archives: advice

It’s Monday. You need to start writing better emails. This can help


It’s Monday. Most of you need to write better emails. Want to know how to do that? Read this: How to Write Less Terrible Emails If Writing Doesn’t Come Easy to You. You will learn several good things from that article, including how to structure your email. Essentially your emails should be in this form:

1. Greeting
2. Ask or action requested
3. Concise description of context and impact
4. Closing

Now some of you may say: I don’t need email, I have Slack. Trust me: you still need email and you need to know how to construct good emails. Read that and you will.

If you don’t have to send email, then don’t. That’s the best option. But if you do, send a good one.

On what you can learn from the obituaries of the not quite famous


What can we learn from the obituaries of the not quite famous? I thought of that when I was reading the sad fate of Hash Halper, here: Hash Halper, Street Artist Who Adorned New York With Hearts, Dies at 41 – The New York Times.

Obituaries in big newspapers tend to be for the rich and famous and powerful and great. Mainly. But sometimes you read about someone who was none of those things, who was struggling, yet who affected people in a positive way. Someone like Hash Halper.

What we learn, perhaps, is that it doesn’t matter if you were rich and powerful.  Bernie Madoff was rich and powerful. It didn’t make his life better or more worthwhile. Hash Halper did more good with his chalk hearts than Madoff did with all he had. In the end, it all washes away, save for the things you did to affect the lives of others.

We can learn many things from the obituaries of the not quite famous. Maybe we can learn/be reminded of what it is we want to do in the world, while we are here. That’s a very fine thing to learn indeed.

Rest in peace, Hash Halper.

(Image Kholood Eid for The New York Times, link)

It’s Monday. Time to rewrite those S.M.A.R.T. goals. Here’s why

If you’ve done any work on goal setting, you’ve likely heard of SMART goals. You may even have used them to achieve an outcome you wanted. That’s good. Before you do that again, read this good argument on why you need to critically rethink the use of them: SMART Goals Are Overrated.

For example do you do this? Do you say: S.M.A.R.T. stands for…

Specific, Measurable, something, something, Time-bound. There’s disagreement on what some of the letters stand for, which is our first hint that maybe they’re not that important.

Yep, I do that too. I usually get the R (realistic), but then I get tripped up on the A (if it’s Achievable, how is that different than Realistic?).

Ok, you say, fine…it’s a weak acronym, but it still works. True, it can work. It can help you define your goal and get it done.  But as the article says, you can end up getting “tunnel vision”.  Instead of aiming on achieving your utmost, you settle for something smaller that you can measure and achieve in a set time. That’s less than ideal.

The article goes on and promotes the idea that you should…

Deliberately remove one or more of those SMART parameters and push yourself to see what you can achieve when it’s no longer a pass/fail test.

I like that. Essentially use the SMART goal as a stepping stone to a much large goal that may not be achievable or timely but it’s a goal that gets you excited.

Because here’s the thing: SMART goals may be achievable but they might not be the thing that gets you up early in the morning to do the thing you have to do to achieve your goal. Sometimes you need that big goal, that vision of something great, that …that is the thing that gets you out of bed in the morning.

So yes, SMART goals are good. But tweak them and stretch them and build upon them and make something better. You may find that you not only achieve more goals, but you achieve bigger goals too.

(Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash )

If you think you are suffering from complex PTSD

If you think you might be suffering from PTSD, I recommend you review this checklist: Signs You Might Be Suffering from Complex PTSD.

As someone who suffered from PTSD, I found it useful. If too many of them ring a bell for you, what should you do? First,

… stop being brave. We should allow ourselves to feel compassion for who we were; that might not be easy, given how hard we tend to be with ourselves. The next step is to try to identify a therapist or counsellor trained in how to handle Complex PTSD

There is nothing wrong with being brave. It’s admirable in many ways. Just don’t let it get in the way of getting help.

.(Photo by Finn on Unsplash )

It’s Monday. The best time management tool you have is the word “No”

I was reading this piece, Time Management Won’t Save You, and thinking about it a lot. Some of it I agreed with, other parts of it I thought dumb. However, I did do some thinking after I read this:

In all of these instances, the solution isn’t to become more efficient to accommodate more tasks, more decisions, and more distractions. The imperative is clear: simplify. Reduce the number of tasks you take on, replace decisions with principles, and put structure in place to eliminate distractions.

He is arguing that the goal is simplifying. I agree. But I would be more assertive: if you have too much to do, the goal is to say “no”. You have to say “no” to many things in order to say “yes” to the things that matter. Saying “no” gives you more time to do the things you need to do.

You might find saying “no” hard, but you are doing it all the time. If you choose one task to work on over another, you are saying yes to one and no to the other. If you interview 5 people for a job, you have to say no to the others. It goes on and on.

Part of the reason we think saying “no” is hard is because it implies a judgment on what you said no to. For example, if I hire one person over 4 others, it doesn’t mean the people I don’t hire are bad. It means the person I hired is the best fit for this particular job. If I buy a medium size shirt, it doesn’t mean the large shirt and the small shirt are bad: it means the medium fit best. That’s all.

Likewise sometimes we say “no” when we really mean “not now”. For example, I love chocolate cake, but I might say “no” to it because I am full. I still love the cake, it just isn’t the right time for it.

Indeed, if you find say “no” hard, try “not right now” or  “not this week ” or “not until my next review period”.

Saying “no” is like weeding your garden. Weeds aren’t bad: some are beautiful. But your focus is on what you are trying to grow. That’s all you are saying with the weeding you do. Likewise, that is all you are doing when you are saying “no”. You are maintaining your focus in order to have the best outcome.

Go through all the things taking up your focus. Dump most of them into your “no/not now” list. Enjoy the time you now have to do the things that matter most.

(Photo by Daniel Herron on Unsplash )

Work is not good for working parents. The pandemic exposed that.


If you are parenting small kids (or in my case, single parenting a large teen), you know how hard it has been during the pandemic to be a good worker. You know it was very hard to be a good parent, and it was basically impossible to take over the job of support staff for your kid’s teacher. Yet even before the pandemic it was hard to do all those things.

If you agree, I highly recommend this article.

If you are young and planning to have a career and have children, you should especially read it. At many firms, you should expect your career to take a hit if you have to beg off to do parental thing. Plan according.

(Photo by Alexander Dummer on Unsplash )

S.A.D. – not just for winter


If you think Seasonal Affective Disorder is something that only affects people in winter, read this. In some ways, it can be worse in the summer. People think: you should be happy with all the nice weather. There’s all kinds of sunlight too, they might add. But people can struggle in the dog days as much as any other time….I know I do. I find August as difficult as February. The reasons are different, but the challenges are similar.

If you find your mood goes poorly in the summer, read that piece.

(Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash )

Does work leave you feeling exploited, exhausted, and alone?

Do you look to work to love you back? To make you feel valued, energized, part of a big family? Instead, do you feel “exploited, exhausted, and alone”? If so, you will want to read this.

It is a piece aimed at creative workers, but really, it can apply to anyone.

There is a lot to be gained from work besides a paycheque. But sometimes the expectations set are well beyond what work can do. If you feel your expectations are too hard, read that.

It’s Monday. Why are you working more than five hours a day?


It’s Monday. You are only working five hours today, right? I bring this up because I recently read this piece in Wired on how that is the right amount of hours to work each day, and how people who worked that way were more productive.

Of course there are a few caveats. For one thing, many jobs are not mainly focused on being productive. Anyone who has a job that requires many meetings can tell you that. But if you have a job that is largely focused on producing things, then try and limit yourself to five hours.

(Photo by ANIRUDH on Unsplash )

If you ever have that feeling of not wanting to be here

If you ever have that feeling of not wanting to be her, these article might be of some help:

If they don’t help or they don’t help enough, consult with a professional right away.

(Photo by John Baker on Unsplash )

On the difficulty with being stuck on a local maximum

In math there is the concept of a local maximum. It is a point on a curve that is higher than the area around it, but not the highest point on the entire curve.

This happens in life too. You can be at a point in your life where you know life could be better, but to make a move from that point leads to life getting worse. Now if this high point is good, you can feel pretty good about it. Sure you could try and go for the higher point, but you may decide the tradeoff isn’t worth it.

The problem is when the high point isn’t good. Here you are stuck between choosing bad or worse. You could decide to move from bad to worse on the hope of getting to a much better life, but what if you don’t have the resources to do so? What if you move off the local maximum and fall into the valley of the a local minimum and never move off of there?

When you ask yourself those questions and you don’t have good answers, you will get stuck. You will be unhappy with the thought of staying, and unhappy with the thought of leaving. It’s hard. Here’s some things to consider.

First off, this is just a model. A diagram. It’s not the real world. It’s just a way of analyzing your situation. Your life is not just one point on a curve, not one score (like an IQ) that says your life is good or bad. Mathematically speaking, your life is more like a set of numbers, all different values on different curves, and these values are changing all the time. Indeed, if you only focus on one number, you may find you life painful and shallow. Some people devote their life to one measure: an award, a championship, a job title, and find themselves disappointed and even bitter when they achieve it and realize they gave up everything just for that.

Second, it is hard to measure things even at the best of times. That job title you wished so hard for suddenly means nothing when the company suddenly goes bankrupt. Or the limited domestic life you have suddenly looks good when a pandemic lands on everyone.  Measurements change all the time as the ground shifts all the time, and all measurements are relative.

That said, it is no reason to be complacent. Have more faith in yourself. Look back at all the difficulty you have had in the past that you survived and prospered in. If you do move off your local maximum, you may get stuck in a rut for awhile. But only for awhile. Keep moving. Keep remembering that you life is more than one measure, and if you are in a rut workwise, for example, your life may be at a high point in other aspects. You are not measured by one number: you are measured by a set of numbers. Better still, you can decide on some of those numbers yourself. Don’t let others dictate the numbers.

What curves you use to measure yourself, and how you measure them, are up to you. Choose wisely, and you may find your life is closer to the maximum point than you thought.

Have a good life.

It’s Monday. You want to stop procrastinating. You need to use your brain (better)


It’s Monday. If you are struggling with procrastinating, here is a good article on how to finally stop procrastinating for real this time. Basically in order to understand why you are procrastinating, you need to understand there are two parts of your brain that are influencing your behaviour. Knowing this can help you change. Here’s a key quote:

…there’s a part of the brain that accurately weighs the benefits of a behavior against its costs. This is your neocortex, and it’s one of the newest and shiniest parts of our brains. Very often, the neocortex comes to quite reasonable conclusions—that, for instance, the benefits of exercising outweigh the costs. But there’s another part of your brain that’s been around for millions of years—the limbic system—and it only seems to care about what’s happening right now. So if a behavior incurs more upfront hassles than upfront benefits, the limbic system isn’t interested in participating.

For more on this, read the article. It will help you get your neocortex and your limbic system working together. If you do that, you will definitely procrastinate less.

(Photo by Jason Strull on Unsplash )

Two hacks for cleaning your oven

Sure, you can go out and buy oven cleaner and deal with all that. Or you can try one of these two hacks to clean your oven:

  1. Clean Oven with a Dishwasher Tablet | Kitchn
  2. Use Shaving Cream to Clean an Oven | Kitchn

I haven’t tried them, so I can verify they are good. But if they work as well as the articles say, it could be a nice alternative way to have a sparkling oven.

Let me know if you try them and if it works.

What do you do if you want to keep working from home

While many of us have been forced to work from home during the pandemic, that time may be ending some time this year. Many people will be delighted to go back. If this is not the case for you, then read this article.

That article contains good advice for either finding a new job that is full time remote, or finding a job that can be a hybrid. Either way, if you want to continue to work from home, I recommend you start thinking of how to achieve that now.

(Photo by Collov Home Design on Unsplash )

 

It’s Monday. Here’s how to link your days together to make for a more productive week


Often times we start the week productive, but then things unravel midweek, until we are saying thank god it’s Friday and we are left wondering how things went so off track.

To avoid this, build bridges from one day to the next. To do this, at the end of your work day, leave aside a task or an activity that you can start on immediately the next day. This task bridges the days. Hemingway did it and Tharp did it and you can too.

By bridging like this, you already know what your work looks like tomorrow. This helps give you focus when you start your day and it will make you productive for the rest of the day. If you do this daily, it will propel you effectively through the work week too.

Bridging can be hard to do that on some teams. Some team leaders will not let go of a problem on any given day because they are worried that it won’t get done tomorrow. But here too, a bridge can be good. At the end of the day, summarize what was done today and what the next step is and how you plan to tackle it first thing on the next work day. This will give them confidence it will be done, and it will give you assurance you know what your priority on the next day.

For more on this, read this article: The Super Simple End-of-the-Day Hack That Makes Every Morning More Productive | Apartment Therapy

(Photo by kyler trautner on Unsplash)

More help for people who hate chores


For those of us who suffer through household chores, I have two links for you. I can’t say they will help. Lord knows I have posted many such links and I still hate chores. But I keep trying. No doubt you do too.

  1. Making chores more joyful
  2. Housework as meditation

 

You need a better way to change. Here you go….


Setting goals, making plans, those are all good things. But if you find that you are not changing despite all that, read this and put it into practice: How to motivate yourself to change | Psyche Guides.

Lots of good tools and techniques in there to help you get to where you need to get where you want to be.

(Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash )

 

On what not to do when you are moving apartments


I thought this was great: The Decorating Lessons I’ve Learned From Moving 12 Times in 12 Years

I’ve made many of these mistakes the last time I moved (e.g. waiting too long to decorate). I’ll review this list the next time I am getting ready to move.

If you are planning to move, you owe it to yourself to read that piece.

Good luck with your move!

(Photo by Michal Balog on Unsplash)

It’s Monday. You have a stressful week ahead. Here’s how to better deal with it

Stress in life is unavoidable (despite how much you are trying to avoid it). The question is: what is the best way of dealing with it when it occurs? If you do not have any strategies to deal with it (other than run away), then read this: How to Turn Off Harmful Stress Like a Switch.

Sometimes just knowing you have one or more tools available to you can automatically reduce your stress. Read that and load up your stress toolbox.

P.S. If you need more tools, see this piece in the New York Times.

Getting out of your comfort zone gives you a new and better comfort zone

During the pandemic I have found myself retreating into my comfort zone. It makes sense to some degree: life is hard enough with the lockdowns and worse that this stupid disease has brought us: why make things harder?

What I have realized now though is my comfort zone has shrunk as I retreated to it more and more. This has led to a bad downward spiral. Take exercise, for example. A 30 minute run used to be in my comfort zone while a 60 minute run was not. But as I exercised less during the pandemic, now even a 5 minute run is barely in my comfort zone anymore.

This made me realize that to have a larger comfort zone, you need to regularly go outside your old comfort zone and get uncomfortable. Staying in your comfort zone only shrinks it. But by going outside it more, you expand it. Having a larger comfort zone means you feel more comfortable and in control more often.

I’m going to start pushing on the boundaries of my comfort zone not because it is fun, but because I want a bigger one. I believe life is better when you do that.

One provision I would add is to make sure that when you go outside your boundaries it is in the direction of growth, not harm. Some people avoid going outside their comfort zone because they are afraid of getting hurt. Other people go too hard (eg runners) and end up returning to their old comfort zone and get stuck. Don’t do those things. Be gradual and be consistent as you stretch yourself: that’s the best way to expand your comfort zone.

The best book to learn calculus from

This may be the best book to learn calculus from: Calculus Made Easy.

I like it for two reasons. One, it’s free. Two, it does not take itself seriously nor does it take calculus seriously. To see what I mean, here’s a clip from the beginning of the e-book:

Considering how many fools can calculate, it is surprising that it should be thought either a difficult or a tedious task for any other fool to learn how to master the same tricks. Some calculus-tricks are quite easy. Some are enormously difficult.

The fools who write the textbooks of advanced mathematics—and they are mostly clever fools—seldom take the trouble to show you how easy
the easy calculations are. On the contrary, they seem to desire to impress you with their tremendous cleverness by going about it in the most difficult way.

Being myself a remarkably stupid fellow, I have had to unteach myself the difficulties, and now beg to present to my fellow fools the parts that are not hard. Master these thoroughly, and the rest will follow. What one fool can do, another can.

So if you want to learn calculus but are struggling, give that book a look. Sure it’s an old book, but calculus is an old subject. It may suit you just fine.

(Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Unsplash)

DBT is one way to deal with strong emotions

As this piece argues, if you need help or struggle with your emotions, approaches from dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) may be helpful. Consider the article as a bit of emotional first aid.

First aid may not be sufficient for everyone and you may need to see a therapist. But try the piece first and see if it is for you.

P.S. Another good piece on managing your moods is here.

It’s Monday. You have some difficult tasks in front of you this week. Here’s some help with that.

It’s always hard to deal with difficult tasks. If you are struggling, read this: Getting Good at Just Starting a Difficult Task – zen habits zen habits.

I especially liked the idea of making it meaningful and joyful. Sometimes just thinking about how you will feel when it is done brings joy. Focus on that.

Also shrink it down. I sometimes make a difficult task more difficult by imagining all the follow on activities. That’s wrong. Stay focused, break down the task, make it easier to do the next thing.

Good luck!

(Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash )

In praise of katas and other forms of motion


Reading this great piece by John DeMont on how he finds calm while doing katas made me think that I often forget that motion is a good way to deal with a too active mind. Sure, mindfulness and meditation are great, but there are days when my brain resists that. Moving, whether it is katas or tai chi or simply  walking, all help the mind in finding a place to center and calm down. I believe involved movement such as katas help with that even more.

If you have a discipline such as martial arts, then you can tap into that. You can also do workouts, even workouts that approach tai chi, such as this. Or just go for an engaging walk where you push yourself not only to walk a bit faster but to really observe and take in the world as you go.

You’ll be glad you did.

(Photo by Jason Briscoe on Unsplash)

On taking time off on your birthday

Since I started work, decades ago, I have always taken the day off from work for my birthday. There are two good reasons for this:

  1. You get to celebrate and do things special things. I would often go to the Senator in downtown Toronto and have the fantastic breakfast they serve. Then I would roam around downtown and shop for things I love. I’d meet friends for lunch. Perhaps go to an afternoon movie or just go home and have a nap before the evening festivities. Whatever makes a great day, having the day off means you get to indulge in it.
  2. You get to avoid difficult things. Work is often difficult, and difficult things can spoil your birthday. If you have a great job then this isn’t such a problem. But if you have a demanding job, it’s hard to enjoy your birthday with all that. Best to take the day off!

The next time your birthday rolls around, I recommend you do the same. Tell people in advance, book off the time, and plan your own idea of a great day. You’ll be glad you did. It’s like a gift you give yourself.

This year I am celebrating a milestone birthday and am taking off the entire week! How old am I? The dog photo contains a hint. 🙂

Happy birthday for whenever your day is!

(Top photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash. Dog Photo by Glenn Han also on Unsplash)

It’s Monday. Here’s some links on moving from being resilient to being successful


Here’s two pieces on being resilient. The first one argues that to be more resilient, it pays to journal. That’s certainly a good thing to do. To move from being resilient to being successful, consider taking an active role in shaping your story, as this piece argues. If you are unsure of how to do that, consider examining role models who have struggled with similar difficulty and succeeded. Look at what they did and how they thought and felt during their struggle. Take all of that which applies to you and use to change your story.

(Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash)

Good advice for any age can be found here


Do you wish you could give someone (or yourself) good advice at a particular age? Well now you can, if you go here: Select An Age – Hey From The Future

Good advice, whether you are 16 or 60.

(Photo by Frame Harirak on Unsplash)

John Stuart Mill on why you should not argue with people on the Internet (and especially twitter)

I have long tried to not get into arguments with people on the Internet*. This has served me well. If you are struggling with that, I recommend this piece:
150 Years Ago, a Philosopher Showed Why It’s Pointless to Start Arguments on the Internet

Mill makes the case for why trying to argue with people won’t get anywhere.

Read it. Practice it. Enjoy a better Internet.

(*Especially Twitter. Even debating with reasonable people is awful on Twitter due to the format of the medium.)

 

It’s Monday. A good time to remember there is something better than willpower to succeed


It’s Monday. You might be thinking: I could be more successful if only I had more willpower. I am here to challenge that with this article: Willpower Isn’t the Key to Success.

In a nutshell, set yourself up so that the thing you need least of all is willpower. It’s easier said than done, I know. But it is true: the easier it is to start something, the less effort is required, the easier it is to succeed. Easier, but not necessarily easy.

Focus on setting yourself up for success. Once you start making progress, you may find your willpower is increasing along with everything else.

It’s the weekend. Time to clean house. And you hate cleaning house. So read this.

Some people love cleaning their house. I envy them. I hate it, and only the thought of a dirty and mess place gets me through it.

If you are like me, I highly recommend this: The Lazy Person’s Guide to a Happy Home: Tips for People Who (Really) Hate Cleaning | Apartment Therapy

You will find some tips to make the process less painful. Will you enjoy it? Please. Let’s not get carried away. But you will not mind it so much.

(Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash )

 

On using your comfort zone effectively


When people use the term “comfort zone”, they are talking  about  getting out of it. They say you need to get out of your comfort zone to grow. The problem with that is it implies the comfort zone is a bad place. And it isn’t.

It is true you need to leave it to grow. But you don’t always need to be growing. Sometimes you need to care for yourself. You need to recharge, repair, recover. During those times finding your comfort zone and staying in it is the right thing to do.

I recommend you be aware of your comfort zone and leave it when you want to grow and improve yourself. And stay in it when you need to get yourself back to where you need to be. This is the best way to use your comfort zone.

(Photo by Luca Dugaro on Unsplash)

There is no perfect body for an athlete, and anyone can be fit

It can be a problem: people who are fat or whose bodies don’t fit a stereotype of an athlete don’t think they can be fit without changing their body. So they give up or focus on losing weight rather than trying to get fit. That’s too bad. Fitness leads to a better life, regardless of your age or sex or body size.

What I love about this piece is that it clearly shows there is no perfect body shape for an athlete and you can be fit and athletic regardless: The Body Shapes Of The World’s Best Athletes Compared Side By Side | Bored Panda

For more on this, I recommend you read this: In Obesity Research, Fatphobia Is Always the X Factor – Scientific American.

(Image from the Bored Panda site. I recommend you go through it. It is amazing to see just how different are the bodies of athletes in different sports.)

On How to Do What you Love


This piece, How to Do What You Love by Paul Graham, should be something we all read from time to time. It’s especially good to read if you aren’t happy with your job and you are about to make a career change. It will give you the necessary perspective you need to make the right and difficult choice. For example, it is tempting at times to take on a new role because of the prestige that comes with it. Graham outlines the dangers of that. He’s also realistic about the fact that work is still work, and there are times when you won’t love it. But if you are rarely loving what you are doing, I highly recommend you read Graham.

(Photo by Johnson Wang on Unsplash )

It’s Monday. You need a positive and uplifting goal to achieve this week. Here’s one

Do you want a weekly challenge that is easy to do but also satisfying? Then you want to read this and then start giving out one compliment a day: I Challenged Myself to Give One Compliment a Day – PureWow

You may think: that’s easy, why do I need to read an article on it. Well there are good and not so good ways to go about it. After you read it, you’ll see what I mean.

Good luck with that this week. I hope you feel much better about yourself after the week is done.

(Photo by Trung Thanh on Unsplash )

 

When you don’t know what to create, record what you know

When you don’t know what to create, record what you know. I was reminded of that rule when admiring the paintings of Rachel Campbell, here:  Colorful Oil Paintings Depict Give a Glimpse into the Life of the Artist.

If you are trying to write or draw or paint, you may be stuck with two problems: being able to make things look “nice” and not knowing what to make. Recording what you know solves those two problems. You know what you are going to make: a recording of what is in front of you. And even if you don’t make a good recording (i.e. it isn’t “nice”), I can assure you years from now you will look at it and say “oh that! I forgot all about that, but I am glad I have a recording of it now!”

Here’s another tip: ask yourself what is something you know that you Love or think is Beautiful. Whether it’s a place or a person or a thing or even a time of day, record that. When you see it, you won’t think the lines aren’t great or the colour is wonky: you will see the Thing you Love or think is Beautiful. Others will think it too.

Here’s a final tip: record something of your era. Include something fashionable, or technology, or anything that is not long lasting. Years from now it will be fascinating to your or others. “Look at that old phone”,  they’ll say. Or “look how cheap everything is”, or “look at that dress”.  You get the idea.

Sure you can take a photo, and it may be a good photo. But put some creative thought and effort into it. Your art will get better, and the work you produce will be better.

(Image is a link to the article in My Modern Met.)

It’s Friday. You need a to-don’t list

Ok, that’s a cute name, but what do I mean by “to don’t” list? Chances are, you have a long list of todos. Worse, you don’t even have a list: you just have a foggy anxious stew in your head of many things you feel you need to do.

Here’s what to do. Write out everything. You can use paper, you can use post-it notes. You can use workflowy like I do. But get down those todos. If you already have a long list, then great. I mean…”great”. 🙂

Once you have your list, go through the four questions here: Multiply your time by asking 4 questions about the stuff on your to-do list

Take all those items you are going to eliminate and put them in one list. The items you are going to automate in another, the items you plan to delegate in a third, and the items you can put off in a fourth. Then remove them from your list. Tada!  You’ve decluttered your todo list and separated it into a To-do List and a To-don’t List.

If you find this difficult — and decluttering is difficult — ask a friend to come in and help you. They can be much more objective about things that you can. Don’t dither: if you can’t decide, put an item into the Put Off list.

As for automation, don’t just think of the one time you do something, think of the many times a year you have to do something. It adds up. A little bit of time automating might add up to hours of effort in the next year or two.

The point of a todo list is not to accumulate a list: it’s to get things done. Get the unnecessary things off of it so you can focus on the necessary ones.

(Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash )

It’s Monday. Your web site needs a tune up. You need this checklist


Most organizations and many people have web sites. Some of us have several. No matter how many you own, I highly recommend you study this checklist and review your own with it: Website Content Checklist: 200+ Checkpoints to Make Your Prospects Love You.

I would be willing to bet there’s at least one idea in here that you can adopt to make your web site better. In fact, I bet there are several.

If you have no web site, go through this before you start building your own. It’s a great resource if you are a small business  needing to design your web site. In today’s world, we are all small businesses.

(Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash)

There are four ways to fail. Here’s how to fix three of them.


In this good piece by James Clear, he talks about three ways we fail and how we can fix it.  The three types of failure are:

.. a Failure of Tactics. These are HOW mistakes. They occur when you fail to build robust systems, forget to measure carefully, and get lazy with the details. A Failure of Tactics is a failure to execute on a good plan and a clear vision.
… Failure of Strategy. These are WHAT mistakes. They occur when you follow a strategy that fails to deliver the results you want. You can know why you do the things you do and you can know how to do the work, but still choose the wrong what to make it happen.
…Failure of Vision. These are WHY mistakes. They occur when you don’t set a clear direction for yourself, follow a vision that doesn’t fulfill you, or otherwise fail to understand why you do the things you do.

Really good piece. I recommend it as something you schedule yourself to read at least once a year to help you do better both at work and elsewhere.

In the piece he doesn’t focus on failure of opportunity, but it is huge. For people living in the right place and born into the right segment of society, success is much easier because opportunities abound.  Sometimes you can change that (e.g. emigrate) and sometimes you cannot.

Despite that, read the piece and reflect on how you can address the things that cause you to fail.

 

On Anger

It is natural to feel angry at times. As the Mayo Clinic explains, anger is a natural response to perceived threats. What you do with your anger is what is important.

For some, stopping your anger is what is important. Some but not all. This piece argues that anger can be a public good. On the other hand, this article compares it to a form of madness that needs to be curbed. Certainly if you have kids, especially kids with severe difficulties of their own, knowing how to regain your sense of calm (as this pieces shows) is important.

My personal view is that anger is like a fire, and while fire has its uses, it is generally someone you want to contain if you don’t want to cause major damage to yourself and others. It is worthwhile to examine what you perceive to be a threat and try and break it down and determine if it really is a threat. Often the things we fear are not as threatening as we imagine. Plus sometimes we feel that way because we are tired or feeling isolated.

The last piece I want to recommend on anger is this piece in Zenhabits.

(Photo by Yaoqi LAI on Unsplash)

An important flow chart you need to keep in mind this week

The twitter account lizandmollie (@lizandmollie) tweeted this last week and I think we all need to read it

Only do important stuff that may be urgent.

Original tweet: @lizandmollie