Motion theory

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I have been silent for the past couple of weeks because I have been testing a certain theory called motion. The motion is a state of action that fuels itself further into more action.  It helps one focus on many things that require repeated performance. Take for example, a business launch. In the event that you want to start a new business you need to gain a significant amount of momentum early enough. So you know what you need to accomplish first.

The idea of motion theory is to set up your activities so that whatever you do will have results that will trigger further action in one way or the other. For instance, if you are torn between a choice of business cards, you can decide to make a few samples and let the final decision of which business card to go with be made by a random friend. Tell the random friend in advance. The choice to include someone else’s decision making skills in the process enables you to avoid time wasting situation which can cause analysis paralysis. You simply want to do and not think. So before you do, you decide on how to avoid thinking situations by providing predetermined formulas for decision making.

But then all the right steps may not  be available at once. You might not have all the moves planned till your twentieth sale. As you move on with your plans you need to look around for innovative clues that will help you solve future problems. While you are at the wholesale shop you might want to ask the wholesalers how the established a good distribution network for their product and so forth.

Motion theory should also make use of experimentation. When the choices you make do not bring results, you need to try out other new moves for which the results can be positive. For example a sales offer that allows the first 10 customers to pick a product for free might reveal real demand for your product. The main idea is to have as many results as possible with which to base your future decision making.

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It’s Game time! Stop Overplanning

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Analysis is Paralysis

Analysis is Paralysis (Photo credit: Poldavo (Alex))

I have heard that there are three people in the world.

Those that make things happen, those that watch things happen and those that don’t know whats happening. I have also heard that there are two kinds of people in the world. Those that believe that there are two kinds of people in the world that those who don’t.

I might not agree with the latter but there is definitely some evidence for the former. Sometimes we are a bit of all three. We are at some point shaping the universe, consuming it or simply assuming it.

I honestly believe the most dangerous position is to strictly be one kind of person. You don’t need to be a watcher all the time and neither do you need to be a game changer constantly.

I personally have a greater leaning towards being the guy who makes things happen. But at the same time I have always felt that if I don’t watch things happen then I might impair my ability to make things happen. You need to observe in order to act, to learn in order to work. There are crucial lessons to be gathered once we open our eyes once in  a while to what is happening around us each day.

At the same time there is a need to ignore what you see once in a while. Too much information flow can blind you. Switching off is the term that is sometimes used.It pays to not know what else is happening especially when you are needed to make things happen. That’s usually what is referred to as analysis paralysis. We see it happen all the time. Big corporates have this tendency to search for more and more information in order to act. Sometimes the wait is in vain and the value added for the data presented in the end turns out to be insignificant. In fact at times it only produces a loss.

 

Waiting for game time is a balancing act that the mind needs to master. To be a real game changer, you need to:

Think at the right time

Act at the right time

Switch off at the right time

… else you will end up in a deep dark maze.

3 methods to get your lifestyle oozing with productivity

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Being more productive is important if you have dreams or desires in life.

We are in an age where competition has grown to incomprehensible standards. The more we stagnate in life, the faster we are erased from the sea of relevance. And in this day and age, you have to be relevant one way or the other in order to survive.

But productivity is not strictly about doing more. Its also about being more. As soon as you build something, that something becomes a part of you whether its a relationship, a business, a career… and so on.

At the beginning of this year, I found myself reading a lot of books mainly because I was looking for answers on being more and not just doing more.

What I found was a whole maze of techniques to help me achieve what I wanted. A lot of them had fluff and by fluff I mean too much focus on details that may not apply to everyone’s situation. I was simply looking for a one – off formula to take me from little to big in the fastest possible way.  Just when all this information was starting to overwhelm my neurons…

I read the action method

The action method is a practical approach by one James Altucher. Altucher is an author, investor, I.T professional and trader. He has seen the launch of over 20 successful start up companies one of which was a social networking site for stock traders. After many failed attempts at becoming an established writer he finally broke away from his day job as an IT wiz and started trading in money markets. In time, he got back to writing and this time he made it big pretty quick. He came up with this daily practice that is bound to uplift your state of mind instantaneously. It is does not exactly tell you how to stay focused but it helps you exercise your focus muscle.

James Altucher

The action method has a 4 step approach.

Physical – You need to do something everyday that will improve your health and fitness – exercise, yoga, sports.. name it. Altucher believes that health preceeds happiness in our everyday lives. You are less likely to be happy if you have some pain, condition, infection or tumour of some sort interfering with your state of mind. The idea here is to be as healthy and fit as you can in the long haul. You might not not be completely and perfectly healthy but its important to try getting there. This will keep your body is the best shape to pursue anything else.

Spiritual – Stepping away from the exterior, you need to take care of your inner self. For James, this refers to your soul. You need to believe in something as a human being. You need to believe in something that is beyond scientific proof and something that is greater than you. This could be a higher diety or a higher power that will keep you in the race when you have lost control. Its a habit that keeps you at peace with yourself. It keeps you from laying every burden on yourself in the hope of keeping everything under control and hence becoming responsible for it all.

Mental – We have the ability to create value with our minds. Exercising the mental helps you find solutions to problems everyday. It helps you create value for people and for yourself. Altucher recommends coming up with new ideas each and everyday. The fastest way to go about this is to create lists. For instance a list of 50 blog post ideas for your blog…or for someone else’s blog. Or a list of 15 favours you can do to your clients that wont cost much. Or 20 party ideas. Its healthy for your intelligence and it creates opportunities. If done consistently it can turn you into a perceived genius.

Emotional

Lastly we have some emotional practice. In other books this would be described as ‘developing emotional intelligence’. Its a tough part of the method but its still quite crucial. Generally, Altucher states that one should draw closer to those people who lift you up and stay away from or tell off people who drain your emotional energy or your happiness. Some people do a bit of both but at the end of the day the list of folks at either end of the divide is usually quite clear in our minds.
I read Jenny Shih’s Idea flight kit

Jenny ShihI have to admit at first glance, I felt like I was at the wrong place on Jenny Shih’s home page. It was too pink for my taste and I had the feeling the site had been designed specifically to help women. But given that I had been directed to it by a man, I decided to give it a shot. At her site, Jenna offers two kits to help get any project or dream you have off the ground. These are the idea flight kit and the system flight kit. I took greater interest in the idea flight kit since it is where the whole dream actualization process kicks off.

If you have gone through some of my posts explaining task scheduling as a key to learning how to stay focused, then this method is quite similar. In a nutshell the process is as follows. First you write your idea (dream) down. Secondly, you define what you want to do about it, why you want to do it, who the whole idea will help, where, when and how its going to work and finally how much it will cost. That second stage is pretty much what in project management is termed as scope definition. Thirdly, you now need to break down every single activity that will take you from point A (now) to point B (dream achieved). Some may not be clear but those will be ignored and listed later. The essence of this stage is to have the steps broken down to their simplest forms. For instance, if you are planning on becoming a photographer, you shouldn’t just write “buy a camera”. You should first find out which camera, find the best price for that camera, the best place to buy it and decide how you will buy it (online, physically..). After this has been clearly outlined, it is not yet time to jump. You will need to mark each activity with a timeline. When will you do each of them?

As soon as stage three is done, you will have stage 4 to jump into. This is the implementation stage. During the implementation stage it is important to mark your progress so as to find insights on what better routes can be taken on the road map for achieving your chosen idea.

I read Tim Ferriss’s dreamlining technique

This is the method outlined in his famous bestseller book The Four hour work week.

You first need to define your dreams or goals in three categories. What you want to be, what you want to do and what you want to have. For example you might want to become an expert programmer (be), you may also want to learn a language (do) and you may want a new car (have). You then give this set of dreams six or 12 months (depending on which you can work with) to be realized. The next step is to assimilate them into your daily lifestyle. This means picking three of the simplest activities you can do towards achieving each goal each day (precisely 24 hours).
Eventually you should be able to gain the results you want.

Your choice of method will depend on how specific your goals. If you simply want to find more balance in life, the Altucher’s method will work perfectly but if you are reaching out for something very specific, Jenny’s flight plan will work wonders and train on how to stay focused on one thing at a time. If you want something that offers both of these then you can easily apply Feriss’s dreamlining strategy like I did. Or even better you can use all three in a integrated approach.

Freedom

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No I am not going to write a 1000 word essay on self discipline. I believe that my post on focus should do a better job for that. Freedom is my concern today. What exactly is it?

If you look around at the world today, it’s very likely that everyone is looking for some form of freedom. If they are not looking then they just wish they had it. How do you explain ultra successful individuals who quit their day jobs to start their own ventures. Its purely a search for true freedom. But then what is true freedom?

Freedom from the world

It is essentially what we all recognize as real freedom. Most of us have grown up our whole lives struggling to get what we want in one way or another. Only a few individuals from the entire human race can say they’ve honestly had it easy. When we are born we are told not to cry too much. We want to play instead but we are told that we will bruise ourselves. There are just so many chains all around. French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau once said “Man is born free and yet everywhere he is in chains.” He had a valid point. Pink Floyd even sang a song to express it , “We don’t need no education..” Its true education helps us a lot but there has been a lot of argument to the structure of institutions that are meant to distribute it. We want to be free from these structures. That is why even holidays exist in schools. We all know that its a struggle to go through an entire semester sitting in small rooms in order to understand stuff. Our natural selves are always looking outside the window because we long to explore whats on the other side. If we did not bring ourselves willingly and gladly into those classrooms then it will suffice to say we have been imprisoned. We are not free.

The scenario is even made worse once one becomes an adult and joins the league of the 9-5 trotters. No holidays there (meaningful ones that is). You either love what you do or quit and let someone who does get on board. No one has time to teach you how to stay focused on what you are hired to do. Again, the captivity of the office cubicle can slowly kill you. That is how important freedom is to the human soul. But then, comes the question, What if you had it all? What if everything you think you have been deprived of is generously placed in your hands – money, time, social circles.. What will you do then?

Man is born free

Freedom from self

For freelance workers, it is time that is unlimited. For entrepreneurs, the money can be scarce. But in a way it truly isn’t. It is always just enough. The goal remains the same, to make the best use of your time and money. The challenge is learning how to stay focused on priorities. In the office place you might have felt like you were dying by doing so many things that you didn’t really give a damn about. Outside in the real world, you realize that you might be underachieving. The bait that was used to lure the productive side of you into action is no longer there – no fancy salary or threats of getting fired here. You are a lone ranger trekking your own path to success and stability. What will you do to get motivated? You are free but limited at the same time. I have now come to honestly believe that if you cant find inner strength to motivate yourself toward anything you want then you are still a prisoner inside – a prisoner of yourself. Weak character cannot be bought off with any kind of resource. In fact to the contrary it takes some kind of sacrifice.

Earlier on, I said that the resources are always just enough. So what is really holding you back is you. How do you free yourself from you? If you are weak when you start how can you expect a heavy amount of resources to be handed over to you? As a freelancer, if you got a client who is willing to pay you  7000 dollars for some web design work would you provide him with a 7000 dollar website? Not if you haven’t the slightest clue how to. If you are used to making hundred buck sites then that is precisely what you will throw at him. And if you really feel you need many clients at a go but cant organize your time well to serve 2 within the same period, how will you handle twenty?

The greatest freedom

The greatest freedom you can have is freedom from your self. The bad bits in you that is. if you can figure out how to stay focused on the strengths  and not your weaknesses you can be surprised at the progress you will make. You are not a constant that cannot be improved unless you subscribe to the motion that you are. I always say nothing is absolute. Adidas will tell you impossible is nothing. Tomato/tomayto. Sure, freeing yourself from things that do not add value to your life like a super shitty boss is necessary but what if the experience has made you rebellious to any sort of authority? You need to find out how to free yourself from that.

Some of the people who grew up in an affluent environments often wind up with the most decayed characters because no one bought them some good values to live by. Whilst most of them get by and find something interesting to make of their lives, it takes much longer than necessary. A whole load of resources ends up wasted in the hands of people who don’t really need that much. You have to ask – Have we become so alienated to our core values that when given the tools to realize them we appear completely clueless? Is society constantly suffocating us with false ideologies of what we really need? We are flashed with images of affluent lives that make it seem cool to be idle and lazy. Does it mean we should be idle and lazy. You need to free yourself from such ideologies in order to truly be free in your own eyes. Free yourself from fear, laziness, greed, hate, selfishness and such like stains if they make you feel chained inside even after every chain outside you has been let lose.

Focusing on Focusing

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Turning away from social media sites can be a daunting task. Its always a riddle finding out how to stay focused with all the informational distractions. The effort it takes to lift that finger and click on that little x button at the top right corner of your browser or the bottom right corner of your phone’s screen is ginormous. You just cant seem to focus your mental energy on such a small thing. It goes to shows just how powerful mental agility is when compared to physical strength. Most of the time we give the excuse that we are too tired to do something while referring to actual physical energy but truly half the time it isn’t the muscle it’s the nerve that’s involved. The first battle in focusing on a task is always some stubborn idea that works against your intention to start something else. For instance if your glued to Facebook, the reasons to stay on your homepage pour in second after second in the form of status updates. But why do such trivial things become so important at these moments when more realistically urgent matters await to be attended to elsewhere. The reason is simple. They entertain the irrational mind.

The Lizard Brain

This is what Seth Godin refers to as the lizard brain. The lizard brain wont tell you exactly how to stay focused but it works both ways – negative and positive. Negative is when you have a new client to meet and somehow you feel its going to be a bit different this time so you’re really afraid of screwing up. You probably don’t have a solid reason to be scared. Solid meaning, you don’t have evidence of anything that will surely go wrong but still you’ll find yourself fretting your hairs off because the lizard brain tells you so. The lizard brain will keep millions of people from ever taking a chance and starting on big business ideas they come up with ever year. They more they hold back, the more supporting proof they offer the lizard to feed on. It will keep them from trying again when they face challenges that they were at first unable to take on. It could be a marketing deal you couldn’t close that convinced you that every other prospect will turn you down the same way. We are all breeding lizard brains each and every day of our lives because we are afraid of failure and losing control.

Lizard brain trying to figure out how to stay focused

“They more we hold back, the more supporting proof we offer the lizard to feed on.”

Sometimes we are distracted positively from focusing on stuff. What this means is that we always find something else that grabs onto our attention and keeps us locked onto it. The lizard brain always awakens swiftly to the inviting odour of a relatively new and entertaining distraction. “Uuu! its a new friend request on Facebook” or “Wow, a new trend on twitter”, or maybe its your iPod and you’re thinking, “Let this song end then I’ll get down to work.”Personally I’ve been guilty of accommodating such on so many occasions. I tend to get distracted by new ideas and just find myself thrilled with each new development of the idea in my mind that it can take hours to switch back to action mode. The obvious and smart thing to do is to simply write the idea down and carry on with it later when I’m free. These fast hand innovative breakaways can save you an enormous chunk of your most valuable resource- Time.

Procastination

The truth is your goal in finding out how to stay focused is to find out how to keep your time well utilized. The problem we face, in a simple overview, is somewhat like this. We always define some new goals we wish to achieve then we’ll have an idea of how soon we’d want that to happen. We then figure out the stuff we need to do to get there. Problem is we don’t get very specific on how long each small nitty gritty detail will take. Its easy to feel like we’re experts on the subject so compromises on time schedules are easily welcomed. You pick off 5 minutes here and 10 there and you lose 15 in an hour. The importance of keeping time is only best understood once someone really understand what value is lost by compromising those 15 minutes. How much further away from a goal are you when you take time outs to watch random stuff on T.V. Are you in time? If so, you deserve those 15 but if you are lagging it’s good to either know how to make up or just quit and get back to work.The problem with taking your eyes away from the prize for a little harmless distraction is that you make the distraction appear more important and consequently devalue your attraction to your goals. Alternatively you can some of the tricks I’ve utilized myself in the past

How to stay focused while multitasking

Then there’s the whole twist about multitasking. I once heard somehow say its not really multitasking its shifting back and forth from a host of activities. This is the best recipe for destroying focus. If you really want to gets stuff done and done well its utterly important to keep your focus on one thing at a time for a reasonable span of time. Some things are harder to focus on than others. To be categorical, its much easier to focus on the smaller details than on the big picture. But its the small details that make the big picture. That’s why we have millions of dreamers in society wishing to live like millionaires but only a handful who actually are millionaires. Making millions is the big picture and it comprises of a million tiny little frames of work. What millionaires do is they ensure that they have as many people focusing on the small frames of work in order to build the big ship for him. But for them it all started from that same point and they’re biggest asset eventually became being able to expand their focus zone to accommodate projects and actions on a much larger scale. To do this you need to be able to focus on running all those smaller portions of work as a one single unit which takes skill. A skill that is built over time. Its the skill that makes rich people rich and famous leaders great.

Frames of a Billionaire

Science vs Art

Our minds naturally come with both a scientific and artistic make up. The scientist in us is always out to philosophically reason out stuff before doing anything. It will ask for a million reasons in order to justify any action. Finally it will settle for whichever reasons match their moods. Its a very subconscious process because we normally end up at a conclusion that we believe ws built on very rational judgments. In reality we just stuck to what our mood or conditioned ideas or reality told us to stick to. Quiting a job is really hard because most people assume the worst will come out. The idea that you will end up starved and homeless is what we refer to as solid argument. We obviously don’t have complete proof for that. The best way to take on a task and keep your focus is to accept the reasons that encourage it . Trusting in your reasons is the only absolute you will ever find.

The artistic mind on the other hand is drawn to anything it enjoys doing. It’s the creative part in us and it does not demand any rational thinking, it just flows. Painting, writing, singing, socializing, video games and so on. The problem with the artistic mind is that it gets easily addicted. If your loving it why should you stop. Just because your scientific mind tells you your spending too much time doing stuff that wont get you paid doesn’t mean you want to stop. So there is always that conflict between the artistic mind and the scientific minds. Switching between tasks that need you to exercise either can be a horror of a challenge in your plight to focus. The key however is to include both parts of our minds in each activity.

What if you could put in a bit of critical thought into what you do when you’re acting. The result would be recording yourself so that you can see where to improve on. Science rides on assessment, but art thrives on response. If you want to perfect your art you need to critique it. The artist in you will just want to act on and on until it hears someone clap. But the scientist in you will tell you those claps will come a lot faster if they first come from you. So, in general our mission for greater focus is to:

  • Recognize and contain the lizard brain
  • Be aware of the value of time
  • Build focus from the ground up by starting on the small things one at a time.
  • Involve both the scientific and artistic selves

How to Stay Focused

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If you’re employed staying focused is as easy as pie. It’s not voluntary though, because there’s a system to keep you in ‘the zone’. The system is called Bosses. Yes, any time you wander off for a period of longer than one minute to play Angry Birds on your phone or Solitaire on your P.C you run the risk of getting caught. And if you do get caught you create a reputation that, if consistently nurtured, can lead to your procedural exit from the company. So with this in mind you can easily stay focused through the fear of getting fired. Again, if you do get caught, your boss is there to make you get back on gear by simply howling ‘What are you doing there?’  So you see, it’s pretty easy to stay focused in the workplace. You rarely have to ask yourself how to stay focused. Your boss is even paid a lot more than you because the big man on top knows what’s more valuable – actual work or keeping people focused on doing actual work. But what if someone didn’t go through the pains of hiring someone and paying them a lot more than you to keep you in the game. What would you do then? What would keep you focused?

Marshall’s technique on how to stay focused

After I quit my day job last year, I had to face that very problem. I asked myself why on earth it was so hard to stay focused on what I needed to do to get ahead if I wanted it so badly. It was very clear that I wanted to achieve A and B but after some time I found myself wondering into the abyss of personal freedom doing the other things that I had missed doing. And everyone out there who’s ever worked on their own terms faces the same problem every now and again. I remember searching relentlessly on the internet for resources on finding your focus zone and how to stay focused once your in that zone. I ended up coming across a book by Lucy Jo Palladino called ‘Finding your focus zone’. “Perfect!” I thought. Unfortunately, I couldn’t buy the book at the time. Afterwards, I came across one Sebastian Marshall’s blog. Marshall is all about the art of self discipline and this is exactly what I needed. I remember reading one particular post where, and I quote, he says,

“99% of people you interact with in life are fucking jokers. You’re used to joker behavior..

What’s a joker? A joker is someone who says they’re going to do something, and then doesn’t.

A joker always has excuses. “Oh well, I tried…”

Did you do it or not?

DID YOU DO WHAT YOU SAID YOU’D DO OR NOT?

If not, you’re a fucking joker and we’ve got problems.”

With those harsh but true words, it dawned on me that I was being a joker and if I had to prove I was right in pursuing my dreams. I had to stop fooling around and accomplish whatever I set out to do.

Marshall’s method of staying effective was based on periodical assessments. He would calculate how much he has accomplished in one day as a percentage of the number of tasks he had written on his to do list for the day. The problem with this method was that it dwelled on maximizing efficiency rather than effectiveness. It may take longer to do some things and one may not really know how long beforehand so in effect failing to complete one of two things in 24 hours doesn’t necessarily constitute a lack of effectiveness. Again some things are more important than others so doing all the less important ones faster doesn’t mean you’re the most effective guy on the planet. Also, this method certainly does not account for quality. Sometimes using more time on something is bound to get you better results.

Task Scheduling

Later  on, I came across a method of scheduling tasks throughout a day (something most people do with their diaries but not me) to accomplish something bigger. So if you have a couple of things you hope to achieve you pick out starting points with small bits for each goal and schedule them out in one day. The advantage of this method over Marshall’s was that it allowed you to level out the importance of stuff when planning on how to do them. If you pick out a very small bit of everything to do each day then every activity seems just as important as the other. For example if you have to work on a web site that takes 2 weeks to build and you still need to send emails, what amount of each will you do in one day? You might want to start by making half of the CSS template for the site and sending one of your emails on day 1. This way they both become equally easy. This method worked for a week till I realized it that it still didn’t get me to my desired focus level. There was still something lacking.

An example of a task list

Dean Jackson’s 50 minute focus finder

That’s when I came across Dean Jackson’s method of finding immediate focus. It’s way too simple. You simply list everything you need to do in terms of single item activities again. For me, I incorporated Jenny Shih’s project management techniques. Simply break down a goal from the general objective to the smallest single tasks. You want to be a millionaire? You need to break it down to the level of making a call to a supplier if you chose to start a business. How much time will that take? 10 minutes? – more or less. So essentially with a rough idea of how much each listed task will take (and you will need a big paper if you are handling loads of tasks in like 7 days), you then proceed to batch them up into blocks of 2 hours. In these two hours you have a bunch of stuff to do and possibly even one task only. You take 50 minutes and start on the first half of your batch. Allow yourself a 20 minute break then finish off the rest within the remaining 50 minutes. Easy as that. I was dubious at first till I tried it. Since then I can only say Dean’s method has been more than superb in helping me maintain focus. The reason why Dean’s method works so well is because it allows you to work for what may seem like a small time frame and get the most value for your time. That way you don’t have to stress about working for too long. With the 24 hour system I hadn’t realized just how valuable 5 minutes of your day can be. Also the 20 minutes of rest seem like an interruption once you get into the zone (the actual zone this time). It’s important that you take the break because it keeps your mind fresh for what’s left. It also keeps you eager to get back and continue working which thus provides extra fuel for staying focused. So Dean’s method gave me what everyone else was lacking; a way of accounting for the time value of everything. I wasn’t looking to be the most efficient guy in terms of finishing nominal tasks. I was looking for the most value for my time so that at the end of the day I can sleep with a sense of actual accomplishment. In fact I’m using the method to write this very blog. There isn’t a simpler procedure for figuring out how to stay focused.