Finding balance when its hard to stay focused

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We are always seeking balance in our lives.

Everyone one else seemed so contended, sure of what they want and assertive. But after some time, it came to my realization that this was not entirely true. In fact, most people are pretty ok in one aspect of their lives and pretty messed up in another. They nurture the ability to conceal the messed up portion of their lives and allow the organized one to flourish. They seem to have mastered how to stay focused on these single dimensions of their lives. But in the end they know they still need to keep stuff in balance in other dimensions. The ultimate question is:

Do you settle or do you change?

I honestly believe its all about balance. Maybe you’re doing too much of one thing that you forget the importance of what’s left to be accomplished. You want to make your new business flourish as quick as possible but you don’t want to spend less time with your family. In many cases, you will find that it’s either one or the other. But there is a way of finding balance amongst the various faces of life.

You need to be realistic about the limits you will accept. I have often found myself trying too hard to make something happen or to complete a task only to realize how much better it feels to take a break and do something else first. We live in an age where so much has been proven possible. Success is now more imminent than ever for a greater number of people . Because of this we are always seeking to achieve as much as we can with the new windows of opportunity that have been revealed to us. The end result is a burnout or a matrix of confused goals.  There is one simple way to avoid losing it in the quest of discovering how to stay focused. I call it task scheduling.
Task Scheduling involves starting bits and pieces of each piece of work. Developing efficiency is a gradually acquired skill, you cant just leap furiously into becoming the fastest web designer or article writer in an hour. What you can however do is start being effective. Everyone has an effectiveness index. This is the amount of work within a certain project (see my definition of project here) that you can do with limited know how or experience. For instance, if I was to tell you to write a financial report for a company. where would you start? If you really aim to master writing financial reports then you can start with whatever you know constitutes a financial report, say, profits, sales, dates (period ending XXX) for instance. then the next thing is to read a bit. And then you come back and try apply what you’ve learnt.. Compare what you have so far with other financial reports.. Each problem encountered is a bug that solves the puzzle.

The real issue however that comes up is – “what if we have a whole bunch of goals? Where the hell do we start and where do we end?” That’s easy. We start with everything. 15 minutes of this, 15 minutes of that and 15 minutes and back again. It becomes a self refreshing system of accomplishing goals. Making phone calls to clients after writing a report can be a form of relaxation because of the sharp contrast between each of the two tasks. In one you need to follow formal rules and methodologies while in the other  you are free to be yourself and bring in your people skills. I have often found myself a tad bit more motivated to write an article after playing my guitar. I think it’s the hard work and perseverance that it takes to learn to play a new song that spills over to the article creation process.

How to use action to gain focus

Getting into the action mode can actually be entertaining if you assess problems in a creative perspective. So you have writer’s block and you don’t know how to stay focused on the topic your writing on. What if you wrote out a really good title at the top of your article before you research? Better yet add sub topics under the title. Instantaneously, you will begin to see what it is that you should actually look for to include in your article. Looking for relevant info wont be so hard after this. Look for something for 10 minutes then move on to something else like cooking. The notion that you left something hanging will steer you to want to come back and finish it as soon as possible. You’d be amazed just how you can exploit the human mind’s need to assert itself. In time, you will transform your day to day habits into an action oriented lifestyle; what I call the short code. It’s what we could term as a proactive lifestyle instead of a reactive one.

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Beware the Mind Fuck. 1

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I recently found myself dabbling with a statement made by famous 20th Century scientist Albert Einstein. It states “Reality is but an illusion albeit a very persistent one” Being the meticulous analyst I am, I had to take the statement inside and out and probe its correctness. What ensued was a maze of intertwining and self replicating thoughts. At the end of it all, the maze boiled down to two ideas.
First, the statement is true, because it negates its own validity. If the statement is but an illusion and simply isn’t true, then it is already correct. If however it is true, then by every right is also an illusion but this then brings us back to point number one which justifies its correctness. The concept encapsulated by Einstein’s statement is simply the concept of faith. Science is in itself a form of religion – a faith. Art as well. Why? Because it is limited to our accepted receptors of reality. When you are in elementary school, they tell you that scientific inference is made by simply using the five common sense. We use our senses to shape our lives through sciences which are bodies of knowledge we create from physical perception.Skills like management science, engineering…name it. They all derive meaning from our physical perceptions.
illusionAnything beyond that is not provable. This is the simple reason as to why so many people believe in emotions such as love. Emotions and abstract ideas can be induced through the senses. Without seeing or hearing or reading something from a potential lover, you cannot fall in love. That is where our faith lies, intepretions of what we gather from the universe through our senses.
Once we have that, a whole new universe of realities is formed in our minds and it carries us through each day. We are connected to it and it is connected to us. We have a resolute picture of who we are (to some rough extent) and we have a resolute picture of what the world is (to some adjustable extent) and we are content. Or are we?

Love your blog

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Love your blog or abandon ship. That’s the rule of the game. The secret commandment of the blogosphere. It’s the rule of anything we do in life. If your passion ain’t in it then its somewhere else. How many bloggers do you come across who publish posts in random spurts over some long period. I must admit I have been guilty of this myself. I have started a number of blogs which fizzled out. This is actually my fourth blog. Two of my previous blogs simply died because either I wasn’t really sure of what I wanted to appear on the blog or I lost interest in what I had started. The latter is a sadder way of ending things but it happens to a lot of us. Fortunately, I don’t plan on having the same happen to this one. Besides, what’s stopping me from writing till eternity?

At the end of the day whether you’re a blogger, author, journalist, scriptwriter or poet whatever you write must reflect you. You have to put yourself in there. Sometimes I write stuff that sounds a bit complex hoping that some complex mind out there will read it. Sometimes they do, sometimes they do not. For me its the ones that do that count.

Holding back your writing voice, is the quickest way to killing your blog. I recall a time when I would cancel an entire blog post just because I was afraid what people might think. You don’t wanna do that unless you’re Stephen King or J.K Rowling. At that point, you’re probably in a better position to judge what flies and what doesn’t. When you start out and you are trying to build your audience any feedback is good feedback. So any writing is good writing as long as it captures your talent and showcases the best you could have put into the post. If there isn’t any feedback, then the feedback is that you are not really giving it your best shot. That’s what you need to focus on. Rewrite something, try something new like a photo post, an interview or even a poem, connect with other bloggers…

Artists crave attention. Sometimes its your own attention that you might enjoy. Reading through a recently published post can tell you a lot about your writing. As they say, you are your own best critic. Eventually, it could become boring and redundant to write for your own pleasure only. You want to express yourself to others and not just yourself. That’s where relationships come in. How can you relate to what people want to know. What’s your take on it? There is always an angle. Could be you don’t have any stand on a matter. That’s a stand. Write about it. Why don’t you have a stand on something. I have personally always wanted to write about how reclusive most tech blogs can be. Controversial? Maybe, but if you have a very objective way of laying out your opinion, you’re more likely to win the audience.

At the end of the day, successful blogs are a result of passion. With passion, you do it coz it’s what you WANT to do. Without it, you do it coz it’s what you MUST do, which leaves out a lot of useful activity.

The Art of Work (for Works of Art)

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Don’t you sometimes wish you had a button on your spine that you could hit anytime you needed to focus and get something done. There are so many situations where we all find ourselves facing that lazy Monday attitude that keeps us from getting started on a task. Recently, I did a post on effectiveness and its importance but I never really got into how to maintain an effective character. I therefore hope this post will help drive in some momentum on the matter.

I talked about excuses in my last post. Excuses are always useless if they don’t encourage improvement. That’s the true and candid bottom line. Most of the time we’ll end up dabbling back and forth with questions like “Why must I do it?” or  “Why must I do it now?” or ” Is it really worth it?” and “Then what?” The truth is if we asked ourselves these questions about everything we would probably never do anything in life. But how do we evade these questions?

Most of the things we do in life without thinking twice about are things we don’t reflect about later in these terms so the questions really are meaningless. You want to go play video games, you wont ask, ‘then what?’ Its really about the fun experience. Fortunately when we do manage to do the tougher stuff there’s that sense of accomplishment that makes you feel much stronger, much greater than you were. It lets you think ” Wow, that wasn’t even tough at all.” You slowly evolve into a pro. The real questions we should thus be asking is “How quickly can I do this?” and “How much do I want to get done today?” We should also ask “How perfectly can I hack that?” Quantity, Quality.

So maybe that;’s the start button we need. The feeling of accomplishment. Just seeing how far you can go can make it count. You don’t want to write that letter. Maybe what you really want to do is prove that you CAN write that letter. You cant contact that client. Maybe what you really wanna do is find out how well you can deal with clients. Or what’s even more fun is finding out how bad you are with clients, pastors, doctors, respected personalities, hot babes. The list is endless. What we really want to do is find a new adventure in life. Just like the video, be in it for the fun experience. People who laugh about the misfortunes of life experience the best of it. Go somewhere you have never been before. If you are unhappy with your current lifestyle, its simply because you have never attempted going beyond it. Have you ever imagined what life would be if you were a billionaire? You would probably need to meet with big CEOs everyday. If having a meeting with one today totally creeps the life out of you, then you have a journey to begin. Step one – meet big people. You might get to hear stuff you have never been told before.

Shadow cityAnd what if you fail? Well, It might entertain someone later on when you tell the story. But more importantly, you’ll know what works and what doesn’t. Ultimately, the only reason we always drag ourselves to do certain tasks is because they aren’t so easy to do successfully. We haven’t figured out how to do them like pros. So again its a learning opportunity. Or maybe we haven’t found which part of doing them we like the most. Discover the art behind that task. If you are not familiar with the art, discover it. Maybe there are better ways of making a web page. Invent it. Make art.

On the other hand somethings are simply mundane. There is simply nothing arty about them. Errands, like paying bills or doing laundry. True. These are probably the best tasks. They require little to no thought at all which means you don’t have to put your mind in it. And that’s where automation comes in. A computer program could probably be invented to do them. And there are computers and machines that let you do them. Washing machines are there to do your laundry, consider getting one. Nowadays, you don’t really have to cue to pay bills. There are online systems for that. Alternatively get someone who enjoys doing stuff that involves minimal thinking to do it.

Henry Ford once said that thinking is the toughest job there is. In our day and age, it could as well be the best job there is if we put a bit of art into it.

Communication and Effectiveness

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Communication and effectiveness are the two traits that anyone needs to be successful.

How do I know? Its only rational. In all the things I have deliberately been able to become successful in, I could either attribute my success to my ability to talk and listen or my ability to deliver; to ship.

If you think about all the people out there in the world who are considered achievers, you’ll see its the same scenario all around.

Take for instance the Google dudes, Serge and Page. They are always perfect in delivering what it is that people want. Google maps was totally user compatible upon its launch and it just keeps getting better. Who would have thought that such a simple idea would land on the laps of people who had already swept the world with another simpler and important product.

Effectiveness.

People often grapple with the concept of effectiveness. They read books to understand the ‘strategy’ of being effective. They consult life coaches and speakers. Not bad at all. But we need to ask in a summation of all these ideas we hear; What is effectiveness? In not so many words or chapters, its the ability to focus and work on what needs production and actually produce it. How do we focus? Focusing simply means filtering out tasks that don’t have any meaning to the end product and sticking to those that do. Does checking out new cars at the parking lot during office hours help you get a raise? Maybe if your doing with your boss and your trying to expound on how you’d want one of those if you had a better pay. Yeah maybe then but if its with your just as poverty stricken colleague at the office, you better get your head back in the game or you’ll be checking them out till kingdom come.

We all need to take a cue on this and stop effectively producing excuses. Excuses justify our inability to be effective. The better we get at coping out excuses, the better we get at being ineffective. As soon as we realize that its not the much we can justify failing in but the much we can demonstrate succeeding in that counts, the more successful we will become. My former boss used to give me tasks and upon checking on my progress he would tell me to do it no matter what it took. Back then i thought he was a rude immature and irritating prick but now as I take on the world business alone I realize that he was totally right. You have to do it no matter what it takes and more often than not what it takes is really not that  much if we use a bit of creativity.

Communication

For a while I had thought that communication can be substituted with effectiveness; that you could reel in customers by simply offering better prices or better speed in delivery. To some extent you obviously can but nobody likes being served by a ghost. Sooner or later, they will want a working relationship with their vendor. I used to think that you could excuse your inability to deliver the whole package by simply delivering the little you could in good time. Turns out I was very wrong. Communication can mean everything. Communication plants ideas in people. When these ideas are conveyed and understood they could prevent a lot of negative reaction and also induce a lot of positive ones too. You could be amazed, how easily effectiveness can be optimized by communicating well.

Communication may at times not even mean anything. For instance, stating the obvious like most mass media advertisements are fond of doing. The very repetition of that information can kills any minute shreds of doubt that were beginning to form in someone’s mind. Its simply subconscious. Calling a client to tell them that a job is going on well while at the same time informing them of the difficulties so far could prepare them for any sudden setbacks that may arise. At the same time communication can be a source of solutions. You might find that the person whose problem you are trying to solve already has parts of the answer to the solution. That’s why many firms have now chosen to intensely invest in customer feedback systems to help them give the best they can to their clientele. As effective as you desire to become, certain limitations may hinder your performance. These limitations cannot be excused if there is a way to find solutions through communication.

The bottom line

As much as these two forces are critical in the success of anything, they are to be steadily acquired. Success as i have always believed is a skill. Brian Tracy,a  renowned motivational speaker on the topic once said ‘Success is a habit’ Succeeding once in something is a huge factor in succeeding in that thing again in future. That’s how professions are learned. That’s why the best soccer teams maintain top position so many times in a row. That’s why the richest billionaires make billions every year without slipping to the millionaires club. Like, how long has Warren Buffet of Bill Gates been a billionaire? The chances that either of them will ever revert to becoming millionaires are pretty slim if you ask me. It’s because they turned it into a skill. They know precisely how to become billionaires. In fact anyone who knows how to make money at a rate dependent on any factor can become a billionaire. You just need to know how to work that factor to produce the money.  In this case for me, the universal factors are effectiveness and communication. Everything else be it, education, capital, professional skill set, a good staff or a good marketing strategy are just going to come from those two factors.

One things to note however is that communication should never be substituted by effectiveness and vice versa. If you wanna talk yourself out of an exam you were supposed to be prepared for then you might as well talk yourself out of attending class and even graduating. Preparing for and passing the exam is a task that demands effectiveness alone, no talk just do. If you on the other hand cant talk your employees into sharing their problems then you’ll just fire them so that you can get better employees and avoid losing clients. But one things for sure. You’ll be in for a loss making roller coaster ride.