Tag Archives: Monday

Read this when your motivation is still on summer vacation


Sometimes you come back from vacation, all rested, and you can dive back into work and be more productive than before you went away. Other times that productivity can be hard to find. If the latter is  you, I recommend you read this piece: Is Your Motivation Still on Vacation?

Get the most out of your vacations, including refilling the tank that your motivation comes from.

(Photo by Kelli McClintock on Unsplash)

It’s Monday. Aim to do more this week by doing less


I know that sounds contradictory, but if you think about it and read this you will see it makes sense: Want to Be More Productive? Try Doing Less.

If you are like me and a lot of people, you take on many (too many) assignments and tasks. You feel like you are getting a lot done but it may not seem satisfying or even worthwhile. If so, take the approach outlined in the article and focus on a few things and cut out the clutter.

More and more I find the secret of being successful is saying no to most things. You need to Marie Kondo your todo list and work on the tasks that bring you joy. It’s not always possible, but more possible than you think.

Good luck!

(Photo by Fernando Hernandez on Unsplash )

It’s Monday. Midsummer in the pandemic, WFH. You don’t want to do anything? This can help

Let’s face it: it can be hard at times to want to do anything, especially these days, the dog days of summer. You likely are getting tired from being at home all the time. The thought that the pandemic shows no sign of dying off doesn’t help. It’s also hot, and that can sap your morale too. What can you do?

Well, two things. First off, read this: How to Get Things Done When You Don’t Want to Do Anything – The New York Times. There’s some thoughtful advice on how to get enough motivation to do something. Don’t expect things to change overnight, but you can learn from it and get started.

If you are still struggling, maybe you need a better set up at home. If so, read this: 5 Habits of People Who Are Especially Productive Working from Home

Finally, maybe you need to create a short list of easy things to do to gain some momentum. I wrote about how you can do that, here.

We all fall into the doldrums from time to time. The quicksand of life, so to speak. Just stay positive and keep moving however slowly and you’ll get unstuck sooner than you think.

P.S. Finally grab one thing you love to do and do it. Don’t worry about being productive. Just focus on doing something.

(Photo by Christian Lambert on Unsplash)

It’s Monday. You need a better way to use the pomodoro technique. Read this


There are two things I struggle with when it comes to the pomodoro technique and maybe you struggle with them too. First thing is the length of the pomodoro: 25 minutes is a loooong stretch for me somedays. Sometimes I may not even be able to do 5 minutes at a time. Second thing is that the timer is a distraction: I keep checking the time versus focusing what I am supposed to be doing.

If you also struggle with that, then read this: I Created The Best-Ever Pomodoro Timer, Just For You by Clive Thompson. Clive has the same problems I have and he writes about them there. Better still, he made a better pomodoro timer. Go check it out.

Your week will be more focused and productive because of it.

(Photo by Veri Ivanova on Unsplash)

It’s Monday. You’re todo list isn’t working for you. Here’s what you should consider


It’s Monday. You are trying to plan your day, your week, and you are struggling. It may just be you, but chances are it is the act of writing out your todo list. To see what I mean, read this excellent piece by my online friend and great writer, Clive Thompson. Everyone struggles with todo lists and the tools used to work with them. I know I do. I have used many such tools over time and have never landed on the perfect one.

So here’s what I recommend:

  1. First, acknowledge todolist tools are blunt instruments at best. Don’t try too hard to do everything with one tool. Do the best you can.
  2. Second, acknowledge that it is easy to overwhelm todo list tools with data. When you do, you end up spending more time working with the tool then getting things done. Try to hold back.
  3. Third, understand the level of granularity to require. Start high level on your todo lists and then drill down only if you have to.
  4. Finally, separate planning and reporting from todo lists. Your plans should drive your todo lists. Focus on more on achieving your plans and your goals and less on your tasks. Then when you are done, report what is necessary.

Todo list tools are good to help you achieve your tasks. But focus less on your tasks and tools and more on what you are trying to achieve.

(Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash )

It’s Monday. Here’s some advice on how to work hard EFFECTIVELY. (Think Marathon training)

Marathon event

It’s Monday. You have a work week ahead of you. Here’s a good essay by Paul Graham on: How to Work Hard – Paul Graham

I often disagree with Graham on Twitter and you may too. However don’t be put off by that: his essays tend to be well thought out and worthy of a read and your consideration.

As for me, where I learned how to work hard effectively is during marathon training. Training for a marathon is a form of hard work. I would argue it is the best form of hard work. Here’s why.

For marathon training, you need:

  1. a clear goal. For many people, it is to finish the marathon. Or to finish it under a certain time. There are subgoals too: not get injured during the race, or to race easy, or to have a negative split. To work hard effectively, you need goals and subgoals
  2. a well thought out plan. People who train effectively for a marathon have a well thought out plan to achieve their goal. These plans can be anywhere from 12-20 weeks and describe what you are doing each day. The plan is often broken up into phase: a phase where you build up your mileage, a phase where you work to get faster, and a tapering phase. A good training plan gets you much closer to achieving your goal.
  3. A mix of hard and easy training. No one goes hard every day in marathon training. You will fail if you do. Overall the training is hard, but there are many days where it is easy. Days your body gets to recover. Some days you may not train at all. The most effective way to work hard over a long period of time is to mix in easy periods.
  4. A good amount of fun and variety. Yes, good marathon training has fun and variety mixed in. It’s not the same every day. It’s not all a grind. Good marathon runners will run fartleks for fun or run with friends to help keep their spirits up. They might mix in some cross training. They rarely run the same distance every day.
  5. Passion and vision. More than anything, you need these. You need to have a strong desire to get through the training. A desire that gets you out of bed for those long runs when you really don’t want to. You need to have a vision of where you will end up when you complete the training. Successful marathoners see themselves reaching that goal most days of their training. It’s the thing that gets them excited to run the same routes over and over again. It’s the thing that gets them pumped when they have to charge up hills. Preparing for a marathon can’t feel like a job if you are going to do it well.

Now ask yourself about hard work that you have to do? Do you have those things. That hard project you have in front of you: are you passionate about it? Do you have a vision of what completing it looks like? Do you have a clear goal and a well thought out plan? Do you have a practice of taking breaks, or is it full tilt all the time? Is it merely a grind, or do you have fun and variety in it? If you have all the features of marathon training in your plan, chances are you will be able to work hard, very hard, and be successful.

Do work hard poorly is to waste yourself, to waste your life. Don’t do that. Work hard effectively and  make the most of your life.  Good luck!

(Photo by Capstone Events on Unsplash )

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.

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 )

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 )

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 )

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)

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.

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 )

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 Monday. Here’s a guide for teens to cope with anxiety that you too should read

Sign with the word Emotions on it.
Wait a second, you say. I am not a teen with anxiety, and I don’t know any. Fine, read this anyway: How to cope with teen anxiety | Psyche Guides

We all have a mix of bad feelings at all stages of our lives. You are likely reading this on a Monday: don’t tell me you don’t have some bad feelings right now. 🙂 The good news is that techniques used in CBT can help you deal with those feelings, whether you are somewhat anxious or depressed.

Not only that, but I think CBT can help people with feelings like being bored, disappointed or frustrated. Feelings you may feel weighing on you that don’t make you feel good. You can use it to shake yourself our of your current mindset which may not be helpful to you and move you into a better mindset.

Take those emotions that don’t make you feel your good self and move towards some better ones. Hey, it’s Monday: a good day to take a crack at it.

All the best.

(Photo by Alexas_Fotos on Unsplash)

It’s Monday! You need help in keeping going. This can be the thing you need

Dontt give up sign

It’s Monday! The first of March! We’ve been doing this stupid pandemic thing for a year now. We’ve managed somehow, and we have to continue to manage.

If that sounds daunting to you, I highly recommend this article: An Ode to Low Expectations in The Atlantic. I think it could be just the thing to help you get through the week, the month, and the rest of the pandemic.

We talk about managing their expectations. It’s never more important to do that in turbulent times with feelings of great anticipation.

Good luck! Appreciate what you have. Things will get better.

(Photo by Rosie Kerr on Unsplash)

It’s Monday. How are you doing? Not sure? Here’s a checklist to help you find out


With the pandemic, it’s easy to get into a mindset of thinking things aren’t going well and you aren’t doing well. I get it. But guess what? Chances are you are doing well. To see what I am getting at, check out this checklist.

It won’t take more than 5 minutes to do, but after you do it, you will think:

  1. Hey, I’m doing more good things than I give myself credit for
  2. Oh dear, I really need to work on X and Y and Z

Ok. Great! You now know you are doing better than you thought (give yourself a pat on the back). You also have a list of items to work on improving. It’s Monday: make up a plan to work on them this week.

(Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash)

It’s Monday. Your brain is barely functioning. Great news! You don’t need it!

Damaged brain due to fluid

You might think I am joking but I am not.

Take a look at the photo above. This is a scan of a living man’s brain: the black part is fluid, while the part around the black part is his remaining brain. Essentially 90% of his brain has been displaced by the fluid. And yet he was considered a functioning person, despite only have 10% of a brain mass most people have.

The story behind the scan and the questions that it raises is in this article: A civil servant missing most of his brain challenges our most basic theories of consciousness.

Fascinating. Perhaps in a few years / centuries we will understand how the brain works. For now we are mostly clueless, much like you are while you wait for your coffee to kick in. 🙂

4 p.m. recipes: two updates on some classic pasta dishes

I got into a habit of making pasta on Mondays: there is so much happening on Mondays for me, and pasta dishes were a way to allow me to multi-task and make dinner, help with homework, clean-up, &c.

If you feel overwhelmed on Monday, or simply if you love pasta, then I recommend you try pasta Mondays. Worst case, just keep it simple and use pre-made sauces. If you would prefer to make  things from scratch, then here are two updates on  some classic pasta dishes:

Pasta Carbonara With Spicy Sausage Recipe from Real Simple

The Best Macaroni & Cheese You’ll Ever Have from a Cup of Jo blog

Enjoy!

It’s Monday. Your Windows computer sucks. Here’s how to make it less sucky!

First, take this list: 25 tricks to make working with Windows faster, better and more fun.

Second, apply as many as you can. Even if you aren’t technically savvy or comfortable with changing things, look through the long list and find some you are comfortable with and apply them.

Third, ask for help with the ones you can’t do (either because you aren’t comfortable or their are restrictions regarding what you can change on your computer).

There! Your computer is better and less sucky already. And a less sucky computer means a less sucky work week.

Good luck! Thank me later! 🙂 Also thank ITBusiness, which is where I found it.