Category Archives: life hacks

Goal Setting – Designing A Life Plan In 2017

Photo: David Schap via Unsplash

One year ago I hired the talented Harper Sperro to help me find the time to complete a creative project. My life was action-packed and I needed to figure out how to make quality time and space for my craft in order to ultimately reach my writing goals for the year.

What Harper helped me to understand was that it was everything around the project that needed to shift first. This shift was necessary to bring my best self to the table as a creative professional and burgeoning business owner.

Let me explain.

The process began by optimizing first for health. Getting the proper nutrition, the right amount of sleep, and regular exercise were key to functioning at a high level.

After that, I needed a support system in place. It was critical to surround myself with a steady stream of quality individuals and communities.

After that, I needed to make sure that all of my work — creative and otherwise — had meaning.

A year ago, I knew that I wanted to branch out on my own at some point. I also wanted to help more people and dedicate more time towards creative projects.

Of course, there were other things too. I also wanted to get in better shape, start a regular meditation practice, and all of the things we aspire to be and do when the new year rolls around.

It was a lot. So with Harper’s help, I began measuring how I spent my time.

This enabled me to generate balance and see where I was (or was not) focusing the most.

First, I created five core areas of focus.

One year ago today, they were:

1. Health/Wellness/Fitness

2. Friendships

3. Community

4. Career Transition

5. Writing Projects

I had target units to hit each week per category. This gave me something to work for each week. For example, 2 units of community, 10 of health/wellness/fitness.

Every night I marked off the units that had been achieved for the day. One unit of meditation. One community event.

We put a running tally in place to see how I was performing week-over-week, month-over-month.

I am proud to say that after 12 months, I now meditate almost every evening and have successfully transitioned to take on freelance marketing work full-time, bringing in on other partners to work with in the process.

I am also close to completing a creative writing project that I’m eager to announce later in the year.

I have made some great friendships, been part of a happy romantic relationship, and have dipped in and out of several communities where I have found incredible camaraderie and support in my journey.

This in mind, my goals for 2017 have been slightly edited to the following:

1. Wellness/Fitness

2. Business Building

3. Craft/Writing

4. Relationships

5. Community

6.  Learning

7. Experiencing Joy

 

I wanted to make my goals productive and also enjoyable, keeping in mind the holistic model of incorporating all aspects of life into the plan.

The biggest challenge I noticed from last year have been showing up consistently for the units I have the most fear and/or apprehension about. For example, I’m not the best at sales, so I already know that business building will be a challenge.

I also get nervous about attending new community events for the first time — just another thing to be aware of.

I am willing to tackle these challenges head-on because 1.) each unit is driven by my core values and beliefs, and 2.) through other exercises undertaken in 2016 I have become increasingly risk-hungry (and therefore am willing to get uncomfortable).

With those goals in mind, alongside my core values and principles, I use this methodology as a means for taking action on my goals.

Some good working templates and resources for making this your best year ever can be found at the following:

Bullet Journaling

Hive Leaders – resources 

Technori – The Most Effective Goal-Setting Plan You’ll Ever Find

The 2017 Volt Planner

Becoming Antifragile – How To Gain From Disorder

 

Image Credit: Andre Faria Gomes

Image Credit: Andre Faria Gomes via Slideshare: Antifragile: Lessons Learned

“Wind extinguishes a candle and energizes fire. Likewise with randomness, uncertainty, chaos – you want to use them, not hide from them. You want to be the fire and wish for the wind.”

-Nassim Taleb

Last week I gave a talk at the monthly Catalysts Collective event here in San Francisco on the topic of antifragility. The following points are highlights from my talk.

To understand the premise of Antifragile – Things That Gain From Disorder there are three key areas to consider.

We know what it means to be fragile – to be easily broken. Another way to interpret it is to be damaged by disorder. The world’s banking system is a good example – something left vulnerable to chaos, randomness, and uncertainty.

After the state of fragility comes resiliency. Things that are resilient have the ability withstand disorder. Imagine a structure built to withstand earthquakes. When an actual earthquake occurs, the building (hopefully) remains standing. It does not change.

A great story of being resilient is the phoenix. The phoenix may rise from the ashes, but he rises only to become what he once was before. 

The final state Taleb focuses on is the state of being antifragile.

Antifragility is when something benefits from disorder. While startups are known to harbor an improbability of success, when viewed in increments success happens as a result of randomness, chance, volatility and instability. 

When viewed from the macro level, the startup economy benefits society as a whole. It creates room for opportunity and innovation. Things like volatility and instability are required in order for them to achieve the point of contribution at scale. This concept can be applied to the contribution of individuals too – organic things, like muscle mass, require some level of instability or challenge in order to grow.

I believe that being antifragile is essential for personal revolution.

Some benefits of being antifragile include:

  • Increased confidence
  • Welcomeness to change
  • The allowance of discomfort
  • Possessing a growth mindset versus a fixed one.

Here are  ways to become antifragile:

  • Think of perceived failure as opportunity
  • Lean into fear
  • Embrace community
  • Listen to yourself and to others
  • Seek opportunities
  • Build a strong baseline
  • Use the barbell strategy.

The barbell strategy is a method presented by Taleb. Consider the image of a barbell. The maximum amount of risk you’re willing to take goes on one side. It’s balanced by Maslov’s basic needs (food, water, safety) on the opposing end.

This is a very basic introduction to the basic concepts of Antifragility. If you’d like to learn more, I recommend checking out the book itself or visit the following blogs that present nice summaries and applicable tips for becoming antifragile.

Taylor Pearson – Antifragile Book Notes

StartupBros – How You Can Profit From The Unknown: Becoming Antifragile

Buy – Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder (Amazon)

Getting To Inbox Zero In 3 Hours Or Less

Photo Credit: Liane Metzler via Unsplash

Photo Credit: Liane Metzler via Unsplash

I always thought “inbox zero” was an urban myth. How is it possible that one’s inbox could have literally no emails in it whatsoever?

The last time I checked there were around twenty-thousand messages. Incoming ones starred for later, bookmarked newsletters going back to the beginning of time begging for acknowledgement — the dutiful read, watch, response, purchase or listen that may or may not make our lives slightly more whole.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a hoarder of information. I’m pretty much obsessed with emailing myself several times daily — links to recipes, lengthy thought pieces, cute shoes — never to be opened at the fabled moment for where there’s actually time. Let’s face it, emails generate more work than pleasure. And if the case was in fact pleasure, my pocketbook surely wouldn’t be pleased.

I also have a terrible habit of staring at my inbox for moments on end. I sit unblinking and motionless, eyeballs glossing over the never ending list. Whether starred, marked as “important and unread,” or falling within the categorical everything else, without moving a muscle the meter on my forehead goes from full to hovering near bone dry.

One Friday evening I decided to take matters into my own hands. It was time to part with these missives from the past. They were slogging things down, preventing crystal-clear clarity in order to have a more fulfilling, energized, and productive day.

Here’s how I finally reached the ever-so-elusive Inbox Zero in less than three hours.

1. I took to e-mail management tools.

Basically, if there’s a way to cheat through technology I’m going to do it. In this case the enablers were Sanebox and Boomerang.

I implemented Sanebox to filter out everything that wasn’t urgent. Most emails were automatically delivered to a new inbox called “SaneLater.” Urgent e-mails, as defined in this case, arrive directly in my main inbox from the fingertips of human beings I actually know. Anything and everything else goes to SaneLater.

I made use of Boomerang, which I’ve had installed for years and never actually noticed. I scheduled starred emails to return on the day an action item was due. The original message was then archived.

2. I took the plunge.

The great thing about Gmail is that all your archived emails are still searchable (via the nav bar at the top). They live in a far-off place you don’t need to visit unless absolutely necessary, far away from your actual inbox.

Sanebox offers a simple and useful methodology for e-mail management: Delegate, Defer, Delete, Respond, and Do.

After responding to, rescheduling, or filing away everything timely I could find, I did the unimaginable. I selected everything in my inbox — I mean everything — and *gulp* clicked Archive.

Sanebox has a tiny learning curve when it comes to additional features. Part of the fun is leveraging them for specific needs.

For example, I don’t always need a message to return if I don’t hear back from the recipient. I do, however, need constant reminders in order to follow up with people within a reasonably courteous timeframe and/or get things done by a specific date. Having the message go away then reappear when the timing is relevant is a hack that’s been working massively well for me so far.

After it was all said and done, my inbox looked like this!

IMG_4517

Day one went flawlessly. By removing the clutter I felt immeasurably energized and ready to do the deep work instead of staring at the screen in an overwhelmed stupor. I didn’t miss anything about the old e-mail workspace. I found myself attacking the “to dos” — the major bullseyes of the day that mattered most.

Email became secondary to workflow. Actual work came first. By using chunks of time specifically set aside for e-mail I now manage inbound communications tactically (while attempting to avoid becoming obsessed with the notion of persistent zero!). This week was noticeably more productive — my headspace has been clearer and I found that my mood was actually better.

All in all, the tedious effort was worth it in the end.  Inbox Zero for the win!

Now, does anyone have any tips for keeping it this way?!

8 Ways Minimalism Can Increase Your Productivity

I’ve moved a handful of times in the past few years. In order to make each transition go smoother than silk all efforts were made to donate or sell as much as humanly possible. (The word I used on repeat was “…catharsis!”)

In the end, it felt great to donate all those clothes I’d never wear again. I was initially sad to part with all the books I secretly knew I’d never read, knowing they’d find a better use in the end. The cooking supplies I’d barely use and stacks of house records I was holding onto for reasons only the vinyl gods know why — all of those things I simply didn’t need any more. They were a nice to have, but didn’t define or help me grow in any significant way within the present tense.

Change can be tough, but it has its silver linings. In the end, when I moved from New York to San Francisco my things were narrowed down to two suitcases and ten medium-to-large boxes. I could’ve pared it down even further but for some reason felt inclined to retain a shred of comfort found in the semblance of “stuff.”

After landing in San Francisco I moved into a studio apartment with only those two suitcases. I’d live there for two weeks as the boxes were in transit. On day 2, I realized that I’d packed a (mostly fabulous) wardrobe in those two suitcases but nothing more. So, I went to the store and purchased basic silverware, a cup, two plates and a french press. I then realized that if the boxes never arrived I’d be okay with that — there was something freeing about living with just the basics.

It was then I made the decision to bring new things into the apartment only when absolutely necessary. If something new was acquired, something old had to go. A year later, I’ve managed to keep my studio apartment fairly clean and relatively clutter free even after the boxes finally did arrive. This approach has done wonders for my head space too.

Here are eight ways that living a minimalist lifestyle has helped me to become better organized, slightly more focused and increasingly productive. I hope it helps you in some ways, too!

1. Your priorities are in clearer view.

When my space is very simple I am better able to focus on what needs to be accomplished in the present moment. Focusing on only the essential in the physical realm has helped me do the same in business. I pick two to three targets and use them as “bullseyes” to hit for the day. Like “stuff,” the challenge then becomes re-prioritizing the rest of the incoming noise trying to get in.

2. Less physical clutter = less mental cutter.

This sounds like a no-brainer but is truly revelatory when put into regular practice. You’ll be able to focus more when there’s less around you to visually and mentally take in.

3. You’ll spend less energy decision-making.

My diet is mostly vegan — on busier weeks I’ll order from a service like Hungry Root and other weeks cook simple dishes with slight variations at home. My closet consists of a  basic color palette of all neutral colors (black, white, gray, navy blue). I have go-to outfits for board meetings and other events for when it’s necessary to step it up a notch. Having quality pieces ready to go removes my mind from the details of getting ready, and instead puts me in the mindset of whatever it is I’m preparing for for the day.

4. Quality becomes a priority.

Back when I was buying things to satisfy a temporary need it was perfectly fine to buy cheap, throw-away items. Clothing that would fall apart in the wash, poorly made furniture, rickety kitchen appliances. I look at things now as more of an investment to buy only once.

5.  You’ll save tons of time.

I’ve been able to dedicate more time to the important things like investing in personal projects or in meaningful relationships with others. You’ll save time on housekeeping to-dos like cleaning and maintenance. Not to mention, the urge to “shop” or “run errands” completely goes away. All kinds of extra time opens up for the things that matter most to you.

6. Your pocketbook will thank you.

‘Nuff said!

7. There is literally nothing holding you back.

I have a home but don’t feel tied to it. I can comfortably travel, spend the weekend at my S/O’s, and feel happy and content knowing that if I need to move again at a moment’s notice — or have the opportunity to travel the world! —  I can easily do so. A tie no longer exists to  physical things that restrict me from moving around the world with ease.

8You will find yourself living a simpler, more conscious lifestyle with more intention and clarity than ever before. That’s the goal, at least! : )