As a person that has over 900 books on his Amazon wish list, finding time to consume all the books that I want to seems daunting at times. I’m not a fast reader either. With the current list, if I stopped adding to it and read only one book a month, it would take me 75 years to read all of the books. If I read 4 a month, it would only take 18 years. Only. So, with that being said, I do have to prioritize my reading list.
How do I do that? Trello.
Previously, I’ve mentioned how I keep motivation at the forefront of my mind with Trello. I’m really leaning into organizing, doubling down on focus, defining my goals, and establishing a routine to sustain it all. Trello has been the perfect tool to do that with.
I have a few Trello boards set up. One for daily tasks, one for overall goals, and one for a backlog. The backlog gives a place to quickly store ideas, categorize tasks by project, and line them up to be pulled into the task board. Every Monday, I groom ( review and prioritize ) the task board bringing in action items for the week.
Yep, an agile life.
At the moment I’m reading about 2-3 books at a time. Two audiobooks and one Kindle/paper book.
Personally, I use Trello all the time. It’s a great tool for planning out projects, keeping track of a to-do list, or organizing your thoughts into actionable tasks.
Lately, I’ve been doing some goal setting and deep diving into some areas that I want to see growth in. With setting goals, I’ve decided to also create guideposts.
Guideposts are the physical reminders of goals and the set direction that I want to go in.
Examples? Visual reminders on a cork board. Custom made signs around my living space. Notes to myself.
For instance, if I wanted to consistently eat healthy every day during the week. Keeping in mind “the why” or the value behind the goal, which in this example would be “I want to eat healthy to lengthen my life.” The visual counterpart, or guidepost, would perhaps be a picture of some great food that I made, and then printed under that photo would be “Eat healthy. Lengthen life.”
How’s that for a headline? Rolls right off the tongue. Let’s dive into creating solutions, getting rid of clouded thinking, and making forward progress.
There are times where I find myself being Artfully Frustrated, again. I have to remind myself that others experience this, it’s a sign that I’m still growing, and to push on forward.
That frustration comes from a drive to constantly be improving. As with all things in life, there is a balance. When that drive escalates to perfectionism, then it can be a problem. Dysfunctional perfectionism is at the heart of depression, anxiety, workaholism, procrastination, and suicide.
How do we change for the better? By focusing on what we do have, being thankful, expressing gratitude, and being authentic.
Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we really are.
When we are focused so hard on expectations, even those that are imposed by our own self, it leads to anxiety.
Instead, we should trade those expectations for appreciations.
The best way to get rid of that worry is to express gratitude. The two can not coexist.
In the book Flourish, author Martin E. P. Seligman suggests keeping a gratitude journal or the Three Blessings Journal. At the end of every day write down three things that went well and why they went well.
When I worked at the Apple Store for a summer in 2010, we were trained to ask customers open-ended probing questions. It gets at the heart of why a customer is shopping and how best to meet their needs. This Forbes article paints a clear picture:
Probe politely to understand all the customer’s needs. This simply means to ask a series of closed and open-ended question so you can match the customer with the right product, not the most expensive product. In the Apple Store, a closed-ended question elicits a simple yes or no such as, “Will this be your first Mac?” An open-ended question is more general and gives the sales associate (specialist) more information to guide the conversation. For example, “What will you be using the iPad for?”
Asking why probes further and gives clarity. That’s why we do it in the gratitude journal. I’m thankful for my brother. Why? He is always there to talk with me when life seems overwhelming. Even further…Why? It’s great to have someone to talk to when you feel alone in your experience.
In an interview, Neil deGrasse Tyson talks about science boosting the economy. He goes on to say, most companies and politicians don’t have the tolerance for the long term view.
You don’t motivate a group of kids, saying “Who wants to be a mechanical engineer and help improve flight efficiency by 15% compared to the airplane your father flew?”
But instead, ask “Who wants to be an engineer and help develop airfoils to help fly in the atmosphere of Mars?” With the latter, you get the best students in the class.
Flow is the intersection of what you are good at and what challenges you— where difficulty and competency meet.
When your competency exceeds the difficulty of a task, you are bored. And when the difficulty exceeds your competency, you are anxious. That was my problem: I was bored.
— Jeff Goins, The Art of Work
There are times where the day job requires me to do the mundane. That’s fine. We can’t always have constant excitement. It’s called work for a reason.
For inspiration, this is one of the reasons that I have side projects. To keep pushing my limits. It allows me to play. To find out how to make user interfaces for VR, tinker with implementing the Acelerated Mobile Pages Project on content, create a landing page for Snapchat, write books, and so much more.
These all funnel back into the collective of who I am. When you hire me, you get a wide variety of experiences. All of which have added something to my career over the years.
A common theme that I see reoccurring in success stories is:
“I stuck it out. I didn’t quit early.”
That extra mile, that commitment, that desire, the action of pushing on when everyone else says you are crazy.
That’s what it takes to succeed.
Finding just one hour a day to work on what you love adds up. It ends up being 7 hours a week or roughly 28 hours a month. Have weekends off? Great, more pockets of time.
It’s budgeting your time. Like Amy Hoy said in her Year of Hustle course, “Time isn’t money. Time is an opportunity cost.”
This one concept has meant so much to me over the years. I continue to share it with friends and family members to this day. The reaction is always the same, “Wow. I do that!”
Yak Shaving is the last step of a series of steps that occurs when you find something you need to do. “I want to wax the car today.”
“Oops, the hose is still broken from the winter. I’ll need to buy a new one at Home Depot.”
“But Home Depot is on the other side of the Tappan Zee bridge and getting there without my EZPass is miserable because of the tolls.”
“But, wait! I could borrow my neighbor’s EZPass…”
“Bob won’t lend me his EZPass until I return the mooshi pillow my son borrowed, though.”
“And we haven’t returned it because some of the stuffing fell out and we need to get some yak hair to restuff it.”
And the next thing you know, you’re at the zoo, shaving a yak, all so you can wax your car.
This happens all the time.
It even happened while writing this post. My internal dialog: “I am going to write a post on Yak Shaving. [ Writes two sentences. ] I should try and find a featured image that has a yak in it. [ Google ] Wait! Back to writing!”
In an environment where many things are on demand and distraction is at an all-time high, this is a technique to be mindful — pause — and place focus back on the task at hand.
Push through Resistance.
Taking a few small steps is better than taking no steps at all.
Anxiety tends to result in a negative feedback loop.
Having anxiety on an issue, which causes more anxiety for having anxiety, and then thoughts spiral from there.
In her book Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert says,
Find something to do— anything, even a different sort of creative work altogether— just to take your mind off your anxiety and pressure.
Going for a walk, taking a new class, or even trying a new hobby can alleviate pressure.
One of the stories that really stuck out at me in the book Flourish, by Martin E. P. Seligman, was that of how snipers are trained by the government.
It can take about twenty-four hours for a sniper to get into position. And then it can take another thirty-six hours to get off the shot. This means that snipers often haven’t slept for two days before they shoot. They’re dead tired.
Instead of medication to keep them awake, he goes on to say,
…you keep them up for three days and have them practice shooting when they are dead tired. That is, you teach snipers to deal with the negative state they’re in: to function well even in the presence of fatigue.
When you are feeling tired, push ahead. Do it anyway. Do it tired.
You may be surprised to realize that this too is temporary. It ebbs and flows. Don’t give in.
He describes gratitude in the following manner:
Gratitude can make your life happier and more satisfying. When we feel gratitude, we benefit from the pleasant memory of a positive event in our life. Also, when we express our gratitude to others, we strengthen our relationship with them.
In a second exercise to express gratitude, he prescribes the following:
We instruct the students to write down daily three good things that happened each day for a week. The three things can be small in importance (“ I answered a really hard question right in language arts today”) or big (“ The guy I’ve liked for months asked me out!!!”).
Next to each positive event, they write about one of the following: “Why did this good thing happen?” “What does this mean to you?” “How can you have more of this good thing in the future?”
I’ve been doing this now for a month. At the end of every day, I open Evernote, and create a new note titled “Gratitude [Date]”. At first, this proved to be rather difficult.
However, the more I practiced it, the more I became mindful of it during the day. I would find myself pulling up Evernote on my phone and jotting down something I’m grateful for — in the moment.
It conditioned me, in a great way, to continually be mindful of the positive in life.
One morning on the way into work, halfway to the door, I realized that I had forgotten my badge in the car. Normally I would grumble and say something like, “Ugh. I forgot my stupid badge again.”
However, this time, I caught myself. I said internally, “I’m sorry, brain. Thank you for reminding me that I left my badge in the car. I did remember. I didn’t forget.” Immediately, I relaxed and felt at ease. Any sense of anger or irritation washed away.
That’s when it hit me. This had happened in other circumstances.
I was creating, at a sub-conscious level, anxiety about forgetting.
This then fed back in and perpetuated feelings of anxiety.
That anxiety made it difficult to retrieve the information.
It took some practice to catch myself again when this would happen. However, the lapse between “forgetting” and then recall grew shorter. As I relaxed, mindfully thanked my brain for remembering, recall became easier.
Being creative and making Art is one of the most satisfying feelings that I experience.
However, having to create or own a business, draft up the perfect plan, and all, just before you can “get started” can be putting the cart before the horse. You don’t need to be an entrepreneur to be a maker.
Enjoy making jewelry by hand? Great. Make it for you. Don’t feel as if you have to set up shop on Etsy just because you are good at it. “But my friends all suggest I should!”
Make it for you.
Just make it.
Over time, if you find that it’s right, a business will grow around your Art. It will shift from being something you do in your free time to something that can sustain you.
However, if you try to start something a business for the sake of starting a business, it won’t grow. It’s like trying to chase love. You have to be a whole person first. As with finding your niche, you have to scratch your own itch first.
Businesses give structure to something bigger than you. Once your Art grows bigger than you, then it is time to give it the means to grow; the framework.
In the mean time, enjoy creating.