Activity Vs. Action – The First Step to Great Results

Whether you’re spending time studying hard, working, creating, or otherwise producing anything, you might sometimes feel like all your hard work goes to waste. This happens to virtually everyone, and is partially due to what I will refer to as Sticky Mind (if you’ve ever dealt with sticky keys you know what I mean).

This is commonly referred to as Einstellung, where you can become caught up in a way of thinking despite better options being right around the mental corner. I’m going to break down some ways to circumvent this and explain a bit about how you can use this to understand your own habits and improve your productivity, so sit down, relax, and open your mind!

Osho: Master of Action

Osho is a relatively famous spiritual teacher and philosopher who gained most of his attention during the 1970s. He has a few books, some of which I have read, and some of which I will read when I have time. This article is going to primarily focus on his understanding of creativity, and how to harness it to its fullest extent.

To begin, action is the focused, precision approach to problem-solving. It is the conscious effort of analyzing and existing problem in your life and using your full attention to find a solution. Action is the result of planning, which as I’ve said before is the cornerstone of success, you can read about it in full here. You must be prepared before you take action, or your actions simply become activities, aimless and ineffective.

Action is often your best bet when it comes to handling life’s difficulties, but as I will explain later, there is a crucial balance that I believe Osho was too reluctant to address.

Activity Vs. Action

Activity, as described by Osho, is a passive activity, one of habit that keeps us stationary in our thoughts and in our life. Activities are those things that do not require much thought and sort of take over for us when we are not using our focused thoughts to dictate action.

These activities can be benign or malicious depending on the habits we have formed. Some people prefer to chew gum, check their phones, find something to snack on, or otherwise distract themselves when they are not in total control of their actions. Checking your phone once or twice while waiting on a bus ride is most likely not the reason you are stuck in your habits. The problem I see most often is that people do not know when to change their behavior from activity to action, or how to make the most of their activities.

Not all activities are benign, heavy alcohol consumption and overeating will surely hamstring your success and create a mess of problems beyond the time spent indulging in those activities. The good news is that there are positive activities, which Osho either did not see the use for, or did not see a need to discuss. These activities will improve your life, and make your actions more effective.

Positive Activity

Positive activity might have sounded like an oxymoron after my initial definition, but this is only true in part. Activities are most often unplanned or require little thought to carry out, but when used properly can supplement your actions and even become useful in their own right.

If you’re looking to replace some of your counterproductive activities, I’ve drawn up a short list below, which is by NO means exhaustive:

  1. Showering: Taking a nice cold shower or bath can be a good way to unwind and recollect your thoughts from the day, and there are numerous benefits to cold showers alone, including boosts to immune system, focus, and reduction in anxiety.
  2. Meditation: Something I personally have fallen in love with as a method of readying myself for a long day of action, meditation and prayer are good ways to give your mind a break so that it can “reboot” for more focused thinking.
  3. Working Out: If you are still new to exercise, this may still be an action for you, but if you are comfortable with your routine and already have an idea of what your workout will consist of, exercise can be a great way to set your mind free, and reduce stress in the process.
  4. Music: Listening to music, especially music without lyrics, drowns out the world and lets your brain roam.
  5. Art: Any sort of relaxed art, such as freely drawing or painting, will put your brain into activity mode, and make it easier to form connections between other parts of your brain.

    These are good habits to start you off, and you can find plenty more that will give you the same benefits. Look for something that your are well practiced in, and does not require an excessive amount of focus to take part in.

 If you have trouble forming habits, you can read more on forming habits here, and some more about it here. 

If you feel like your schedule is strangling you, and that it would be impossible to find time to implement these into your life, I have created a handy article for that too. Here is an article I wrote to help you define the most important parts of your life and reduce unnessecary clutter in your schedule, and here is one that will allow you to power through even the toughest problems life can throw at you, and keep you on track to becoming great!

Balance: The Key to Great Action

With positive activity in mind, we have a great place to start building a strong backbone to carry our actions through. The key to efficiency and effectiveness is to find a balance between action and activity. If you spend too much time on activities, you will only move in the directions you’ve chosen, and leaving yourself little time to step back, analyze, and redirect your limited energy.

On the other side of the equation, if you spend all of your time focused on actions, you will find yourself losing your edge, becoming less effective in your ability to take actions. If you’ve ever gotten into regular excersise, too much action looks a lot like trying to only work out your arms, all day, every day. It is extremely important to take time to rest and recoupourate between action, just like shifting between groups of muscles, and allowing them to rebuild and become more powerful, you need to find time to step back from actions and let activity take over.

To me, this balance looks like an 20/80 split. I spend roughly 20% of my time on action, which includes writing articles, reading, researching and testing new methods to improve myself. 80%, which includes R&R, friends, family, creative writing, and games take up about 20 hours per week, out of 168 that comes out to around 12% of my time, and another 96 hours are split between work and sleep. Realistically, you can spend up to 40% of your time on action, but it will require a long time to build yourself up to that, and only for actions that you are experienced in. 

Conclusion

I really hope this gives some insight into the world of success-building, I will have another article with some more scientific points that will really help press out some of the wrinkles in this article and bring everything tohgether. In the meantime tell me what your schedule looks like down below, and if you want I will help you find time you might not know you had before. As always thanks for reading and be sure to check out some of the other articles, I have written them to be used with each other to offer multiple views into personal growth to maximize their effectiveness. Have a great future!

How to Manage Time – Become the Master of Chaos

Have you ever had to study for an exam, finish a project for work, or make time for an event, only to realize that you’ve spent triple the time you intended only to get halfway done with whatever you were working on?

Well, I’ve been there, and I still work every day to improve my time efficiency. Today, I’m going to show you some of my personal tricks for squeezing more effectiveness out of my days, courtesy of the most productive people I know.

Put a Wall Between You and the World!

    Everyone gets distracted once in a while, and most of us can be distracted very easily. I’ve lived with all sorts, from your classic party animals to human mice that you would never know lived with you if it weren’t for the extra dishes appearing out of nowhere.

    Sometimes we allow distractions into our lives. If I don’t lock my phone into a time-sealed reinforced-steel lock box buried in ten feet of cement, I will inevitably try to look at it, waste five minutes of my day, and then repeat it two minutes later.

    Being able to identify and remove distraction from your life while working is a great start to keeping yourself productive, and being more productive means more time doing what you enjoy!

    Here’s a handy guide for anyone who might be looking for better ways to keep themselves on task, even for those with rowdy roommates and noisy neighbors:

  •     Try to find an agreement with the people you live with, establishing hours and days of the week reserved for work. This might include days that the others regularly leave or are otherwise outside of your dorm/apartment. If you can find some peace in those few hours to get things done, it won’t bother you as much when they are distracting while you are relaxing.
  •      Alternatively, you can change your schedule to better utilize your time, waking up a few hours earlier than everyone else, and staying up later than others can be a good option as long as you maintain a roughly similar sleep schedule.
  •     Try putting away anything that you KNOW will distract you, even if you REALLY don’t want to. Keep you phone in the other room, if you work online, disable any applications that don’t need to be open, take them off your desktop if that helps.
  •      Find a way to get into the mood – music and meditation can help you block out unnecessary distractions and reduce wasted time.

 This list is absolutely NOT exhaustive, so if you’ve got any personal tricks you use to keep the distractions away let everyone know by putting it down in the comments, everyone will appreciate the help!

Set Goals AND Stick to Them!

    Goals are a great way to increase productivity. Having a clear idea of what needs to be done stops you from wasting time on things that are less than useful. Its like distraction repellent. Any time you see yourself doing something that you shouldn’t be, you can just tug yourself back into the mindset you were in before, because you know EXACTLY where you need to be. No ifs ands or buts about it.

    Something I’ve talked about before is the proper way to manage your schedule, which plays heavily into goal-setting and effective use of time. You can read the full bit here, but in general you want to be able to create a few “hard” goals, which MUST be finished by a certain date, going day by day is fine here. Anything that does not need to be done by a certain day but should be by the end of the week needs to have a rough sketch about the time you can work on it.

    This is where that time from before comes in handy. Your roommates take off for 2-3 hours for sports/parties/study groups and BAM, you’ve got an opening to work on weekly tasks. This is extremely useful, because it means that should something come up earlier in the week, for instance something fun or more important, you have wiggle room in your schedule that won’t lock you down to a certain time. Overall it is a great quality-of-life improvement.

Eating Your Frogs, Even the Extra Slimy Ones.

   Eating a frog sounds like one of the worst things you can imagine, which I guess is why that phrase has become so popular when referring to doing the thing you hate.

    Now, I’m not suggesting you go grab a little green friend and hork him down, but you might reconsider doing the things you hate after what I’m about to tell you. Typically, the best time to finish your worst problems is when you are at your full potential, which for some people will be early in the morning sometime between 4-6 A. M, while personally I only hit that sweet spot around 10. Figuring this out is a case-by-case experience, and should come pretty naturally to you.

     If you want to find your peak, it is probably hiding a few hours after your body normally wakes up, so for me that’s around 10, but some days I can be ready to go by 8-9 if I wake up especially early. Once you find this, you can use it to time your projects and hardest portion of work with the best time of day to tackle it.

It also helps to do things that are easy before you reach this point, this is a psychological trick I refer to as snowballing. Below I’ve written out a short checklist to get you on your way.

  1. Find your sweet spot of productivity, this is usually a few hours after naturally waking up, and will vary with your sleep schedule. Its best to find this when you are on vacation/break from school/work so that you are more likely to find that natural waking point.
  2. Once you’ve found this, set some easy goals for yourself early on, just something simple like fixing breakfast, playing a game, or working out is a great way to start out and prepare you for your prime-time!
  3. Use that sweet spot to burn through any tough problems you have that day, and make sure to block out distractions as much as possible to maximize your productivity.

The Mind-Killer – Multitasking

If you think about your brain as having multiple gears, forward, reverse, low, neutral, and parked, multitasking is like trying to shift between all of those as quickly as possible. Do that for a few hours and you will destroy your transmission.

The key to high productivity is having the end in mind before you even begin. No matter how many times you’ve been told that you are a great multi-tasker, or how much you think so yourself, I implore you to try shifting gears going top speed down the highway, and tell me how far you get before someone pulls you over.

So if you want to waste your own time, multitasking a great way to do that, but if you want to become the best you can be at literally ANYTHING you put your mind to, just stop putting your mind to other things while you’re doing it.

Conclusion

This is just part of my Project:Influence line-up which will be expanded on as I do more research into ways to become the best version of myself, which I will pass on to you guys. Any feedback is greatly appreciated, so tell me what you think down in the comments and if you have any ideas I would love to hear it!

If you have any questions for me personally I will answer them, usually within 12-24 hours via my email: alexb@projectedinfluence.com

Feel Like There’s Never Enough Time? – Use Priorities to Live More Fully!

Have you ever felt like you’re being pulled into a thousand tiny pieces by life? The dogs need a bath, someone needs to take out that two week old trash, mow the lawn, take the kids to practice, finish the dishes, do the laundry, and the next day it starts all over again!

If you haven’t had these experiences there’s a good chance that you’re either super rich, or I need to install higher grade anti-spamware to keep the robots out. One way or the other, I’m here to lend some personal and professional advice to keep yourself on track while building towards the life you want to live.

Let’s get started!

Don’t let time melt away! Learn to handle even the busiest schedule with a few simple tips!

First, Focus Your Energy

So you’re busy, like too busy to remember when you last ate, or where you left your keys and now you’re late for work and the whole day snowballs out of control very quickly.

The first thing to do is to take the following into consideration when making decisions. Take a quick moment to think about, and then write out the list in order from most important to least important, this will clear up some of the smog for creating your most effective schedule:

  • Work
  • Downtime (Reading, TV, Internet, Games)
  • Home Maintenance (Trash, Laundry, Dishes, etc.)
  • Children
  • Pets
  • Religion
  • Money
  • Friends
  • Family

Some of these will naturally rank higher than others, children and pets need constant attention, and depending on your religious/spiritual convictions it may seem pertinent to place them highly on the list. Keep in mind that this is only a rough draft and you can make changes to it as you grow and change yourself.

Keep these in mind or the paper you wrote handy in the next couple of steps!

Loafer Vs. Workaholic – Finding Balance

It’s easy to let things slip away when you are constantly rushing to finish the next chore in your list, and from my own personal accord, I can tell you that people fall into one of two categories, the loafer, and the workaholic. Here’s what you need to know before I move on:

1. Loafer: These are your typical procrastinators, the kind that will always “get to it tomorrow”, and believe it or not that mentality can be useful when tempered with some old fashioned diligence. If you fall into this category you might have made it here only because you were trying to forget about the other things you have to work on, which is possibly the best mistake you’ve ever made, so welcome.

2. Workaholic: On the COMPLETE opposite end of this spectrum are the workaholics, you know, the guy who has three jobs, drives a fantastic car, lives in a cardboard box, and hasn’t seen home for at least two weeks due to sleeping in the parking lot of his workplace. You might think this guy has it all, that this is the ideal for getting bread and making yourself into a success, but just like the loafer, too much of anything is bad.

The key to living an effective life is to find balance between your inner loafer devil and the workaholic angel on your shoulders, which can be very difficult if you’re too far to one side or the other.

Basically, you want to work on projects as long as you are being effective with your time, which means being at full capacity. To do this, take a few minutes to look over this checklist of self-maintenance to make sure that you have everything you need to function properly:

  1. Sleep: This is a big one, and in certain circumstances can be the biggest threat to your mental AND physical health, along with your ability to achieve greatness. There is a lot of talk about “hustle” in success communities nowadays and the honest truth is that there’s no sense in losing sleep just to run yourself into the ground. In worst cases, sleep deprivation will reduce your awareness, comprehension, learning and motor skills, which by the way are everything you need to obtain the excellence you deserve!
  2. Nutrition: Eating anything is better than eating nothing, but knowing what your body needs and being able to incorporate that into your lifestyle will let you get out of bed every morning ready to do what you need to. This includes drinking plenty of water throughout the day.
  3. Peace of Mind: Potentially the most important way to keep yourself on track is by keeping your mind clear and ready. Meditation is a great way to relax yourself and give you the perspective needed to change your thinking.

 

By making these into habits, you will spend less time working on them and still reap the benefits of their effects. Starting out it will be an investment but with time it will pay itself in dividends when you take less effort each day to finish simple chores, allowing greater effort to be placed towards your long-term goals.

 

 

The Right Way to Schedule:

There are three major schools of thought when it comes to scheduling:

  1. Chunking: This is the method that most spreadsheet maniacs will end up using. The soccer mom itinerary with minute-by-minute breakdowns of everything where the kids should be in the bathroom by 7:32 A.M. to be read for breakfast by 8:01 A.M. This is a good way to create a rough draft of everything that needs to be done in a day, but should be reserved for time sensitive tasks that have extremely strict limitations, such as a business meeting.
  2. Long-Term: Creating long-term goals with set-yet-flexible goals is a good way to keep yourself from going off the rails just because Timmy didn’t make it to breakfast until 8:02, but it falters when dealing with time-sensitive tasks and can make it easy to delay projects that would otherwise improve your life.
  3. Median Scheduling: This is the half-way point between chunking and Long-term planning, and is the style I have personally adopted. Every week I write out a list of non-time-sensitive tasks that need to be completed at some point within that week, and then fill the gaps around the fixed, time-sensitive tasks that MUST be completed at a certain day/time of the week, giving me the freedom to move things around if other more important things come up, such as making time for friends and family. The weekly schedule is only half of the equation. Outside of that week I am aligning my tasks with improving my life and moving myself closer to the success that I desire, which mostly involves education and deepening relationships with friends and family.

This is just a rough draft of my scheduling efforts, so be sure to tell me how you would write out your schedule down in the comments, and tell me what you think of the three types of time management I’ve mentioned here!

 

Never Forget To Take a BREAK!!!

It will always sound counter intuitive, but making the most of a few relatively short breaks, about 20 minutes each, can give you time to regain your strength and will while giving you the opportunity to step back from the problems you have long enough to find a better solution.

I typically wake up early to get a pre-work break in, something like an hour just to relax, eat, read, or work out before I have to start my day. This gives me the start I need to keep the ball rolling as I keep on task, usually once I’m done with work I take another 30 minutes for dinner, sometimes more if I decide that I need something other than reheated leftovers. And on days off from my day job I will take around 20 minutes ever hour or two just to read, listen to music, or get some fresh air.

This will vary from person to person as everyone has varied levels of busyness and some can find time to rest more often than others, but those 20 minutes you take to figure out how to get things done will potentially save you hours of fumbling around your house or office with too much to do.

If you’ve got a particularly busy schedule tell me about it in the comments and I’ll help you find that extra 20 minutes a day to relax, trust me, its worth the effort!

 

Conclusion

I hope you’ve learned a bit about keeping things on track, this is mostly just to bring a few future topics into focus for recurring readers, and I would love for you to become one of them. I’m going to dive into the best ways to relax and more effective methods of scheduling, so be sure to stick around.

Thanks for reading, and if you have any of your own tips and tricks for making life a bit easier, let others know by tossing them down in the comments!

 

 

 

 

How to motivate lazy workers – Whipping Peons Into Shape

You know the struggle, “I told Bill in accounting that I needed that report two days ago and he’s still slacking on it!” or “Why does nobody clean up after themselves?” if you’re on the other end of this, you’ve been called a “lazy millennial” at least a dozen times… and there’s like a 30% you’re not even a millennial.

You might think they’re just born lazy, or maybe they just do it in spite of you, but either way I’m going to show you what really goes on behind the scenes and answer the time old question of “How do I motivate these lazy workers?”

Step into my parlor shop…

Geese and Golden Eggs – The Price of Impatience

If you don’t already know what I mean when I say Golden eggs, I’ll paraphrase.

Farmer man, circa who cares B.C. finds himself in the possession of a goose that can lay eggs made of solid gold, and as anyone else would do, he sells them and makes a small fortune for himself. Now, like most of us, he’s not always as patient as he should be and decides one day that “hell, if I can make a small fortune getting just one egg per day, imagine if I had all the eggs at once!”. And thus the troubles of B.C. farmer man started again, he strangles the golden goose, splits it open, and finds that he now has no golden goose, and worse, there are no eggs from which to take.

There ends the tale of B.C. farmer man.

Now you might be wondering what mythical golden-egg-producing geese have to do with your “lazy” peons. Allow me to give you some reference in that I have trained many a coworker in my time and they range from gods among men to absolutely worthless. You as a manager will have to do a bit of triage when it comes to new workers, the earlier the better, and learn how to differentiate between those who are capable of recovery, and those who need to be read their last rites in the form of a pink slip. It is vitally important that you understand this, like most statistics, is a bell curve. There are a few great workers, who probably need to be doing something better with their life, and there are a few workers who will make your life hell and will likely end up in prison within the next year, but the vast majority are drifting comfortably in between, and ready for you to hammer them into the position you need to fill.

The process for vetting will need to be summed up in a new article for the sake of brevity, and I’ll link it here when that’s finished.

Production and Production Capacity

So now that I have successfully transmitted the required wisdom of ages through parable, I’m going to (re)introduce you to a simple but powerful method.

1. Production: The work done.

2. Production Capacity: The ability to do the work that needs to be done, this includes the necessary resources, willpower, and desire to accomplish a task.

The relation between these two are extremely simple, production is the work you want Peon #324 to complete, and Production capacity is a sum of many variables in their ability to complete that work.

I’ve seen one manager, parent, or supervisor after the other fall into this deadly trap. You think “why don’t they just do the work, it’s not that difficult, they must be lazy”. The reality could be a number of other factors/ Keeping in mind that there are people out there who will never become anything more than they are because they’ve turned their life into a game of who has it hardest (barring the 0.2% of the population who statistically go against this despite all odds).

Let me give you some examples:

1. Lack of Desire: You might see someone who is otherwise a well-rounded individual struggling to keep up with deadlines, quotas, etc. Always keep an eye out for special interests or abilities that would be useful elsewhere. Jim loves to talk and knows how to help others sort out conflicts, possessing a keen understanding of the workplace and the politics and an uncanny sense of the environment, but has been lacking lately in his accounting job. He might just be the world’s worst accountant, but with the right training he could be a world-class HR manager.

2. Resources: I’ve been on the receiving end of this one multiple times. Never having the tools for a job can feel like an impossible uphill battle for attention. Someone is always working against a budget, even if it means the whole office has one stapler that should have been thrown out two decades ago. Another reason to keep your ears open to your workers and really try to understand their needs. As my father has said a thousand times, if you work hard for your people, your people will work hard for you.

3. Communication: If I really wanted to stretch it, I would just toss this under the resource category as something you should check on regularly, but I think it is important enough to warrant it’s own position.

The key to the first two is to have a deep desire yourself to know everything that goes on in your workplace, which all comes from communication. You won’t be able to spot talent playing on your phones in your office, and you will look like an oblivious nincompoop to every single person you ask about their day, when they’re saying “Good, and you?” it should be obvious that they’re really saying “My desk has been on fire for three hours and the bathroom is flooded, how do YOU think my day has been, Shannon?”.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

And for the Love of God, Be Honest.

Just a quick one-two finisher before I roll credits. If you’re going to take this as “I should go undercover so I can sniff out those filthy rats” don’t bother.

The ONLY way communication and understanding works is if you can be genuine in it. If you can’t make an honest effort, fake it, fake it well, and keep faking it until you make it. As long as you make sure that your goals are solid, you should be fine. Also, you should note that any time you make a change people are gonna tell you that you are a “poser” or “not being yourself”, but that’s a barrel of crabs argument and you can pitch it to the side as long as you are making a good faith effort to become a better supervisor/parent/manager.

But if you do try to cheat people, if it’s not genuine. They will smell you a mile away, and I can GUARANTEE that you will not only fail in your dishonest efforts, but you will be made into more jokes than you would like to imagine.

Show Me What You’ve Got.

So if you like the article and you want everyone to know that you do, and you should love it because why wouldn’t you, drop a comment down below. You can tell me anything, but I would prefer to keep it to stories of how you handled bad bosses or how you as a boss have employed the simple method of P/PC to help your workers. Also, if you want my opinion or for me to research another topic you can drop it in my mailbox at nexttopic@projectedinfluence.com.

Before I go, it really helps with reach whenever you share this, tell your friends, your wife, post me on your Facebook. All the advice in the world is worthless if nobody gets to see it!