How many times have we heard sayings such as, “You snooze, you loose,” “Early bird gets the worm,” and “Sleep is for wimps”? These ridiculous expressions are part of a societal pressure to attempt to be more productive, by cutting into our under appreciated sleep time. However, often the opposite is true and this sort of thinking can actually work against us. When we are sleep deprived, we make poor decisions, have less energy, and waste time on unimportant tasks. Yes, time management can be tricky, but it’s pointless to get on top of our time, if we ignore energy management, such as when a task takes longer than it should because we can’t focus, or when we keep stopping to snack for a sugar boost, or when we need to backtrack because we’ve forgotten something. This is how we could easily be losing an hour in our day that would have been better spent sleeping. Getting enough sleep is very difficult for many of us. Yet, figuring out how to make it happen is certainly a better solution than walking around like a zombie, in an effort to be further productive. We can definitely make a more positive impression, when we are fully awake at a few key events, than half asleep in a lot of places.
Take action: Make sleep a priority. Make it just as important as eating healthily and getting exercise. A simple web search will give you ways to help improve your sleep, but you first need to make the time for it to happen. Try scheduling it in by marking your calendar for starting your bedtime routine, or if possible, plan for a nap.
Inspired by Arianna Huffington’s book, The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time
When we have a choice, we tend to surround ourselves with people we feel comfortable with, who we can be our true selves around. Our five closest friends, not our family, but the people we choose to spend our time with, say a lot about who we are. Here’s a fun experiment – average their approximate annual income, does it match your income? How about their average level of education? Or less tangible attributes like their average level of generosity, trustworthiness, reliability, or even fitness? Our friends are often a reflection of ourselves. They also support and encourage us, bring us up, or drop us down. It’s important to pay attention to the people we surround ourselves with, and since their character rubs off on us, make sure they are generally, who we want to be. We should consider spending more time with more people we respect and want to emulate, because their personalities and their influential opportunities affect us in ways we don’t anticipate. Our conversations with friends, the activities we do with them, how we act around them, and all aspects of our friendships, contribute to our own mindset.
Take action: Time with friends is valuable, so choose wisely who you want to socialize with. You may need to toughen up and limit being with people out of obligation or sympathy. On the flip side, you can also bring out the best in your friends, and reach new levels together.
Inspired by Scott Duffy’s book, Launch!: The Critical 90 Days from Idea to Market.
Most of us have limited funds and a lot of pressure for ways to spend them, not to mention some big purchases through life that may be expected of us. Many of us believe that once we get to a certain stage in our lives, there’s a logical next step, and it comes with the competitive desire to outdo our peers. We show off with unneeded acquisitions. This concept is worth taking the time to consider before jumping into a big financial commitment that may come out of expectations rather than necessity, or even personal want. Which do you think will be better for a marriage – a $30,000 wedding, or to elope and enjoy a $5,000 honeymoon annually for six years? Which comes with less stress through the year – paying for and maintaining 2 cars in a family, or having one car and when a second vehicle is needed, using Uber like a personal driver? By hiring Uber we could be able to have money left over for treating ourselves. Think about living in a home, which could be our biggest life expense, by contracting to 25 years of mortgage payments, maintenance, and property taxes. Is it wiser to spend that money on 25 years of investing while renting and taking on less responsibility? There’s no right answer for everyone. Of course each situation is different, but on the flip side, society’s expectations are not right for everyone either.
Take action: Especially for big expenses, consider all your options before following society’s expectations. Is an expensive fairytale wedding more important than spending money on your marriage and relationship? Is a car worth it’s convenience when you consider the driving and maintenance costs? A mortgage is debt, a house is not an asset until you’ve paid off the loan, so are there better investments for your lifestyle?
Inspired by Laura Vanderkam’s book, All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know about Wealth.
It’s been long thought that we smile because we’re happy, but the reverse can also be true. We can make ourselves happy by smiling. Controlling our emotions on demand is difficult compared to changing our physical position, but since the two are connected, we might as well take the easier approach. It is simpler to alter our posture and physical expressions in order to control our emotions. According to social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, body language has a positive effect on how we feel. She recommends taking two minutes to set ourself up, in advance of our next important event. For example, before going into an interview, where we want to appear confident, try this exercise: Find a private area, get into a power pose, such as, standing strong with the arms in a victory (“V”) shape above the head, or using a “Wonder Woman” stance with fists on hips. Keep this posture for about two minutes. Then feel the emotional energy transfer to match the self-assured posture.
Take action: A good experiment with this tip is to film yourself singing a simple song, such as, “Mary had a little lamb”. Do it twice: First time round, slouch into a slumped position, for two minutes, before singing. The second time, stand in a power pose for the two minutes before you start. Notice how that confidence transcends an upbeat energy to your performance.
Inspired by Amy Cuddy’s book, Presence: Bringing your boldest self to your biggest challenges.
As an underdog, it’s not likely we can win using conventional methods. If our competitors are already the best at what they do, we can either wait for them to move on, or find our own approach. Finding our own strength means going against what is expected and requires creative strategy. Many battles have been won by small armies (e.g. Trojan horse), new businesses have been revolutionary in a crowded market (e.g. Uber), and leading sports players have been outplayed by strategic underdogs (e.g. Michael Jordan). Often, finding our competitive edge relies on figuring out where our competition is weak, and then making that our strength. All giants have a weakness, it may be obvious or they may be hiding it well so will require some digging, but if we can find it and become strong in that area, it’s a huge advantage. In the case of Uber, the startup knew how frustrated customers were with unreliable taxi service, so made knowing where your ride is, and how long it will take to arrive, one of their key features.
Take action: Think of a winning goal you’d like to reach. What aspect of it do others not do well, and can you make that your strength? Perhaps you coach a kids’ softball team with average skills and you want them to win the championship this year. It’s not happening by traditional methods, so how else can you win? If you don’t have any home run hitters on the team, can you make your strength hitting consistent singles, advancing runners and scoring one run at a time?
Inspired by Malcolm Gladwell’s book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants
Auto-suggestion, self affirmation, and visualization are methods of tapping into our subconscious, and training it to be aligned with our goals, so that it can do some of the heavy-lifting for us. However, common methods to perform these actions, such as repeating what we want over and over, or writing it down, is only the start. The subconscious works with emotion, so we need to feel our goals, immerse our heart and soul in what it feels like to reach our goals, what we’ll do when we get there, and the path we’ll take to achieve it. This immersion needs to happen regularly, even daily, for us to truly have faith in it, to the point where our subconscious will take over and make it happen for us. External expressions of our plan will help our internal focus though, such as declaring our goal out loud to ourselves or a friend, and having a visualization board of what we want to achieve. We just need to be sure to connect with not just what it is, but also with how it feels, so that it can translate to our subconscious.
Take action: Start by knowing your goal specifically, and a path to reach it. For example, “I am going to make $100,000 by January 1st through selling consulting packages.” Then write it down, say it out loud, and visualize it in your head and make an image board of what it looks like. Then connect with how it feels, spend time with the emotion of it, and revisit this emotion every morning until your subconscious takes over.
Inspired by Napoleon Hill’s book, Think and Grow Rich
If we tell someone what to do, they might blindly trust us and do it, but maybe only once. If we tell them how to do it, they are more likely to comply, and we might get what we’re looking for, for a little while. If we explain why we believe in the importance of the task, and connect with the person so that they believe it too, we could be amazed at what can happen. Life is easiest when we work with people who believe what we believe. That is, why we do what we do. We know connecting through emotion works. However, we so often forget about the person or people we need to connect with, and let our own perspective get the better of us. We ask for what we want and ignore why the other person would want to give it to us. In Simon Sinek’s TEDx Talk he explains how Martin Luther King inspired so many people by connecting to their emotions, with words like, “I believe…” and “I have a dream.” Not instructions of what to do such as, “I have a plan.”
Take action: Next time you’re presenting or asking for something and want people to follow your lead, focus on why it’s important for them. Tap into their needs instead of your own.
Inspired by Simon Sinek’s TEDx Talk: How Great Leaders Inspire Action
You’re the only person who can truly control your thoughts so it makes sense to put some planning into it. Want to think more positively? Or maybe you want to be more present in the moment? More decisive? Or how about a stronger appreciation for what you have? It’s important to first know what you want your thoughts to be and why, then you have a goal to focus on. Next, make a plan for how you’ll achieve it. For some, meditation will work, for others it will be a matter of consciously checking in with your thoughts at scheduled times of the day, or a small reward for when you find yourself thinking in line with your goal. You may need someone close to you to help monitor your actions, body language and words since those things are telling signs of what’s happening in your mind.
Take action: At various times through today, note what kind of personal thoughts you have, write them down and before you go to sleep, review what thoughts you like, and those you want to change. Then figure out what you want to change them to, and why.
Inspired by Carrie Green’s TEDx Talk, Programming Your Mind for Success
Thought starter (no pun intended): Share with us what new sorts of thoughts do you want to start thinking?
The phrase “Do what you love, the money will follow” has sent many people chasing unrealistic dreams and feeling lost when they don’t come true. Maybe you love playing baseball, but there are very few of us who have the ability to actually turn that passion into a successful career. On the flip side, finding something that you are good at, and that you enjoy well enough, has a better chance of turning into something great. As you develop your ability and become more skillful, you are likely to enjoy it more and more, you may even become passionate about it.
Take action: Make a list of about 20 things that you are good at, such as analytical thinking, socializing, planning, or creating. Ask people who know you to help – they may see strengths in you that you under appreciate. Then circle the ones that you enjoy doing long term, as in you could happily do it daily, for years. Take what stands out and think about what project you could work on with these skills. Start small and grow your ability in that area, if your passion starts to follow, keep going. If you don’t like it, tweak it and try again, and again until you feel you’re on a good path.
Inspired by Cal Newport’s book: So Good They Can’t Ignore You
Thought starter: Are you doing what you love? Did you love it from the start?
Finding efficiencies is important to enhance your productivity, but will only enhance your life if they are also effective. Getting a lot done is worthwhile if those things are in line with your goals, otherwise you may just be busy for reasons that are not very important. Before you put your energy into accomplishing a task, question what that task is for, and if it really needs to be done (done by you or done at all). So many people run around trying to get on top of everything they need to do, and it’s possible that many things they accomplish aren’t very important.
Take action: The next time you go through your emails, put thought into which ones align with your goals. Instead of reacting to everything in front of you and trying to get through it all as efficiently as possible, focus only on what will be effective for your future.
Inspired by Stephen Covey’s book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Thought starter: Have you focused on being efficient and accomplished tasks, that in hindsight, aren’t very important? Where should you be putting your efforts instead?