The Lifelong Learner :: Do what you can, with what you have, where you are -Roosevelt ::

Archive for the 'Self Improvement' Category

Hooked on Email June 2nd, 2010
My Journal March 12th, 2010
On my radar: Bible March 4th, 2010
Are you a Lawn Mower? January 26th, 2010
Marriage Test January 13th, 2010
Pleasing Everybody January 3rd, 2010
Be happy with what you have November 24th, 2009
Expect progress, not perfection September 30th, 2009
Summary of How to Win Friends and Influence People January 16th, 2009
Going on Information Diet August 22nd, 2007

Hooked on Email

When you’re trying to get something done, checking email is a distraction. A big one. It disturbs your focus. Still, it’s very easy to get into a habit where you keep checking it. Constantly. Every couple of minutes. Maybe even more often.

I’ve done it.

Don’t you think it’s a time waster?

I do. I know you do as well.

It’s a habit that “creeps” on me from time to time. I have ways to manage it, but it’s easily broken when I’m expecting something. Or for some other, X, reason. Or when I don’t feel like doing work. Whatever. You know what I mean. :)

But I found something intersting today. It turns out there are some very effective ways to manage this constant email checking.

In this article, Why You’re Hooked on Email – And Five Ways to Stop, Ali Hale describes some very effective ways to cope with the “email checking” problem.

Yes, it’s a problem. It kills your productivity. And I think that’s a big issue.

She presents some very good ways. If you have or ever had this issue (most of us do, actually), at least at some point, you owe to yourself to read this article. Hey, it might help you in other ways.

I’m not going to summarize the article here. It’s better if you read it in full. But I learned a few things from the article. I discovered two new services that I think are really cool.

AwayFind.com – Instead of checking your email constantly, why not set up a “checker” for that important email you’re expecting? Yes, that’s how AwayFind.com works. You sign up. Install a Firefox plugin and then in your Gmail account, you can setup these filters. I think this is really cool. I signed up today so I have not really tested it yet, but I hope to use it in cases where I know I”m waiting for an email from somebody.

e.ggtimer.com – It’s an online timer, counting down. The nice thing about it is that it’s really simple. You go to a url, say http://e.ggtimer.com/2 minutes (go head, click it), and you have just set a 2-minute countdown! Nice, right? I know. If you ever used keywords in Firefox, you can make it even smarter and easier to use. I setup a keyword “timer x” where x is the amount of minutes I use. So I type “timer 10″ and I get a 10-minute timer. This is great. I know I’ll use it all the time. Oooops. I just heard the 2 minute timer I setup earlier. Works really great.

Once again, constant email checking is a problem. Recognize it. And then deal with it effectively.

My Journal

A lot of self-help books recommend keeping a journal. They also
recommend writing in the journal whenever you find the time.

I’ve kept a journal for over 4 years now.

Has it helped me?

I think my writing has improved. I have converted a few of my journal entries into actual blog posts (like this one). I have resolved a few personal issues. I have come up with a few clever ideas. Just by writing it out!

It helping me see who I really am.

But I want more!

I am not sure how exactly to accomplish that. I think, to really do that,
I need to spend at least 5 minutes and closer to 10 every day. I don’t
write in it on a weekend. I should. I usually rush it before I leave
work. I shouldn’t. I should also write some random notes as they come, throughout the day.

I should also read my journal. More often. I’m thinking… why should I read it since I know what I wrote. It’s still true, to some extent. When I read it a while ago, everything was still “fresh” in my mind. I guess that will change after a few years. We’ll see.

I do see a great value in reading my journal, let’s say, after 10 years.
I’m sure I will think differently. It’s going to be cool to “go back in
time.” That’s the nice thing about a journal. You can “track” your
progress. You can “track” yourself. It’s a beautiful thing. :-)

How do I do it? I have a personal (private) blog. It works best for me but
whether you use a notebook, Word doc, etc, it doesn’t really matter.
The important thing is the actual writing.

Do you keep a journal? What’s your story? How is it helping you?

On my radar: Bible

I thought the bible is way overrated. I never thought I could get myself to read it. It’s an old book. I had a feeling that it belongs to church reading. No longer. I am slowly being attached to it. It’s starting to catch my attention.

How?

Why?

Recently it got referred to quite heavily in Love Life for Every Couple, a book I just finished reading. That book was in turn recommended in The Takeaway, where the author also recommended the Bible.

I have a New Testament Bible at home. It’s written in Polish, but I could not find the passages that were referenced to in the books. So I started searching. I  found an easy to read Bible, The Book. I just saw it at Barnes & Noble yesterday. It’s easy to read as it’s written in a modern language. I should say, translated to the modern, easy to understand language.

But how am I going to use it? Or, how is it going to help me?

I’m not sure. Yet.

It looks like The Book is loaded with great advice. It’s has a lot of great information on how to lead a married life. I think it also has some great information on how to become a better person.

Is it an ultimate self-help book? Could be. I think there is a reason that it’s considered the most influential book of all times. A lot of people recommend it. A lot.

I guess I was never ready for it. I think I’m starting to be ready now. I have that feeling now.

Are you a Lawn Mower?

Provocative statement, don’t you think?

Before I expand, remember, choose your friends carefully. Who you hang out with, that’s who you’ll become.

There are a lot of great life tips that I found in the book by Karen Williams. This one has had the biggest impact. I’ve extracted the important excerpts to make this post.

“Walt Disney used to say, there are three kinds of people in this world: Well Poisoners, Lawn Movers, and Life Enhancers. Hang with the Life Enhancers.”

1. Well Poisoners

“They’re the people who have something negative to say about everything. There’s no joy in their lives or in their words. They’re miserable inside, and they want you to be miserable, too.”

2. Life Enhancers

These “are the people who build you up. Everyone loves being around Life Enhancers, and you know it when you’re with one. They glow, they smile, they laugh — there’s a joy that comes from within. They’re quick to hand out compliments because they’re secure in themselves.  These are the people who are always feeding into your life, investing something of themselves in you. You feel good when you hang with Life Enhancers.”

3. Lawn Mowers

They “are tricky. They’re the people who get up every morning, get their mower out, and mow their lawn. They work to maintain their lawn, trimming and mowing only what’s required on their side of the fence — nothing more, nothing less. They don’t bother their neighbors. They’re living their lives, doing only what needs to be done, and leaving everything and everyone else alone. They’re perfectly happy with the status quo.”

Good stuff, right?

Yeah, I thought so too.

Let’s reflect a little.

“There is nothing wrong with hanging out with the Lawn Mowers, except that they don’t enhance your life,” said Pat Williams to Karen in the book.

I learned a lot from these three definitions. Most of all, I now have good names for the different types of people in the world.

Some Questions For You
: Question One
Let’s start with a question about yourself: Which category do you put yourself in?

Think about it for a while.

I think most of us have been all three at some point in our lives. Consciously or not, when you complain a lot, talk bad about your friends behind their back, gossip, etc.: you are a Well Poisoner. At work, you try to do all that’s required of you. You do it well. Same with your families and friends. You just enjoy being around them. You are a Lawn Mower. Whether you like it or not. It’s when you step outside the “circle,” and do something extra that is not required of you; when you inspire others; when you put pressure on others to improve. That’s when you can call yourself a Life Enhancer.

So which one are you now?

Or perhaps a better question: which one of the above actions do you do the most?

OK, you figured out which category you belong to. Are you going to do anything about it? You don’t have to be a Lawn Mover the whole life. There are always ways you can improve. Even if you are a Life Enhancer — but I’m sure you already know that.

We all mow lawns at some point. But do you really want to do that for the rest of your life? Be a lifetime mower?

Hmm… that does not sound good.

Question Two

Let’s move on to the second aspect: Who do you hang out with?

I’m sure we know people in all three categories. But with whom do you like to spend your time with? Who’s your first choice?

Do you remember what I said at the beginning of this post?

“Who you hang out with, that’s who you’ll become.”

My wife tells me that I shouldn’t group people. I think what she really means is that I shouldn’t reject any of them. True. I think we should respect every human being. Even the Well Poisoners. But choosing who you hang out is different. You make a choice.

Tell me what you think about this.

Reference
, Karyn Williams (p. 167-169)

Marriage Test

When reading by Pat Williams, I found a few really good life lessons. One of them is a set of questions that you should answer about the person you are about to marry. Sort of a marriage test.

I think these questions are really interesting.

If you are already married, though, you’re stuck with what you have. There is nothing you can do.

Wrong!

If you are already married, read these questions. Try to do some of the things for your spouse. Try to make him/her better! Have fun together. Loving is hard work. And both of us have to work hard to make it happen!

Here is the marriage test:

Does he/she make you a better person?

Do you make him/her a better person?

Is this person growing in their faith (on their own, without your prompting)?

Are you ready to have 15,000 dinners with this person over a period of fifty years?

Does he/she challenge you physically? Spiritually? Mentally?

Do you have fun together?

Can you drive for ten hours on a trip and talk non-stop?

Does he/she recognise your dreams and give you wings to fly?

Reference
, Pat Williams, page 212

Pleasing Everybody

Just the other day, on a way from a bookstore, that quote appeared in my mind. Who said that? I’m sure I read it somewhere! A simple search on the web did not bring anything. But I did find something very related by Bill Cosby.

Does this affect me in any way?

Yes it does.

In a big way!

It stops me. It limits me. I don’t do things because of it!

Sometimes I hesitate, or don’t do something because I am not sure of how somebody else will receive it. I wonder, what will somebody think of me. Is this good enough for them?

Is it good enough for me?!

That should be the question I ask myself. If I like it, that’s a good enough reason for doing it.

Try to please yourself. To like yourself. To have faith in yourself.

When I start thinking about others and their reaction to what I do, that limits me, that puts pressure on me that I have to overcome.

I know. I should be stronger. But sometimes I am not. Or sometimes I give in to that “external” influence.

And that’s what’s wrong with trying to please everybody.

Trying to please everybody might stop you from doing anything!

So what’s better?

If something that you do pleases yourself, then that’s enough.

For instance, when you write a blog, this type of thinking comes up a lot. Especially when you gain some readership. What should I write about? What if I write about “something” and this and that is not going to like it. What will they think of me? I am going to look foolish/silly/stupid. Hmm.. Maybe I should write about something else. And on and on.

This loop is very dangerous.

Stop.

You’re not in the business of pleasing others. You want to learn. You want to grow. You want to move ahead.

You see. It’s about YOU!

Why don’t you write about something that you like and you feel satisfied? And if somebody else does not like it? It’s your blog! The power of choice! He or she can choose to read something else!

Plus, if that somebody else will feel strongly about it, or see something really bad, then they will let you know about it.

I think we become too attached to something that we don’t really have. Something that we don’t really control. And that “thing” controls us! Don’t let that happen to you.

But it did.

It did to me.

But you can change it!

You want to be happy, right? You control your actions. Don’t be afraid to be yourself! And try to please yourself. (Others will like it!)

Be happy with what you have

Don’t complain. Just do it. Be happy with what you have. We all have our own talents. Let’s use them to the fullest potential. My advice: find your talents, and utilize them to the fullest potential.

Each one of us is unique. We all have our own talents. You might be second guessing yourself. Don’t. You might be bad in some things, but great with others. I know that’s how I am. And I don’t really care.

Sure, my wife would like me to be somebody else. I would love to be like somebody else sometimes. But I am not. I am who I am. I accept that and I’m happy with it. I spend time on things I like to do.

Expect progress, not perfection

I love this quote. Too many times we focus on the end result. Too many times we think we are a failure because we’re not like somebody else. Too many times we stop because we have not achieved our goal. Instead, if we focus on progress and perseverance, I think we’d move ahead further.

Am I making progress? Am I better today than I was 6 months ago? If yes, then you are on a right track! Keep going!

One great example for this is Toastmasters. I attend meetings because I want to improve my communication skills. It’s a long term process. Sure, I would love to have the skills of somebody else that I admire. But that’s not the point. I have my own talents and skills, and the most important question for me is, am I making progress. It’s really a great feeling to see progress. Yes, I’d love to have excellent eye contact, vocal variety, body movement and other skills. But I am happy to see improvement in these areas. I am happy to see results from the changes that I try. And that’s what keeps me going. I don’t get discouraged.

Focus on making progress and you’ll reach excellence.

Reference
Speak and Lead Toastmasters — the club I belong to (currently serving as President)

Summary of How to Win Friends and Influence People

I just StumbledUpon a very good self-improvement site: Dale Carnegie’s summary of How to Win Friends and Influence People book. It’s a great refresher of the classic rules for becoming a better person. (If you have not read the book, I highly recommend it. And hundreds other people.)

Here’s just a glimpse:

Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

1. Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.2. Give honest and sincere appreciation.3. Arouse in the other person an eager want.

Reference

Summary of How to Win Friends and Influence People

Related

Summaries of Dale Carnegie’s other books

Going on Information Diet

We are constantly being overloaded with information. It seems like we live in an Information Overload age. In any day, I receive more than a dozen emails, subscribe to over 50 rss feeds, read several daily news, read other less-frequent periodicals, and read other material. Isn’t that too much? I think so. It takes time to do all of that. Plus, a lot of it is not really that useful.

I have been changing a lot of my habits in this area lately. My desire is to be more productive and not be overloaded with information. Reading blogs like lifehack.org really helps – they’re loaded with good information. Other books, 4-hour workweek also had some good points in this regard. But it all comes down to “Information Diet” – having the discipline to cut the not-needed material.

In this article, Eight Tips to Find Your Information Oasis, which appeared on lifehack.org, the author gives 8 excellent tips on how to go on such an information diet. I am already doing a lot of them and I’m trying to get into a habit of doing most.

An information oasis – where you can get only the gems of the information without the noise – is the dream land of Information Age. It is the place where the information you consume boost your personal effectiveness rather than decrease it.

But how do you get there? How can you find your information oasis in the midst of information desert? Here are eight tips:

1. Minimize your news consumption

News is probably the most noisy kind of information you could get. The reason is simple: 99% of what you read in the news today would not make it to the history 100 years from now. That implies that 99% of what you read in the news is actually not that important. There are simply too many details than you need. Reading the headlines is more than enough in most situations.

2. Read history in place of news

Rather than reading news, I believe it’s a good idea to read another kind of information which has much less noise: history. History has filtered 99% or more of the unimportant details to give you only the important. Furthermore, history also allows you to see the contexts of the events that happened.

Why is it important? Because contexts allows you to find patterns which in turn give you invaluable lessons of what to do and what not to do. Why should you repeat the same mistakes made by others throughout the history if you can just avoid it in the first place? News, on the other hand, gives you just details without contexts. You may read hundreds of pages of news without ever capturing the big picture.

3. Unsubscribe the feeds and magazines which are not essential

To find your information oasis, it’s important to reduce your information intake. Besides minimizing your news consumption, you should also unsubscribe the feeds and magazines which are not essential. Check your magazine and feed subscriptions, and assess the value you get from each. Is it really worth your time? Does it help you do the important? Or maybe it actually distract you away from the important?

4. Read quotes from the great thinkers

I love quotes because they are the kind of information that has the highest density of wisdom. In the same amount of time, you can get much more insights by reading quotes than by reading other kinds of information. Just go to quote sites like ThinkExist or BrainyQuote, browse the quotes by topics or authors, and internalize what you read there. This is among the purest kinds of information you could get.

5. For each reading, read no more than what is necessary

It is an important key to effective reading. Why should you let all the noise get into your mind if you can just get the gems? So whenever you read something, just read what is necessary and no more. That’s why it’s important to have a clear purpose before you read, especially for readings which require longer time commitments like books. Clear purpose helps you distinguish the necessary from the rest.

6. While reading, focus on getting actionable ideas

Another key to effective reading is focusing on getting actionable ideas. Actionable ideas are ideas you can act upon to improve your life. If it’s not actionable, the information might just take up space in your memory without doing anything useful for you. In other words, it might actually be noise.

7. Check your email no more than twice per day

Email is one of the main sources of information noise in the Internet Age. If you check your inbox again and again during your day, not only it introduces a lot of noise into your brain, it also distracts you from actually doing the important. It’s better if you allocate certain periods of time (at most two) during the day to deal with it so that the noise is isolated and the distractions are minimized.

8. Ruthlessly stop consuming information whenever the value you get is no longer worth it

Whenever you consume information, don’t forget that diminishing returns applies. Over time, the value you get from consuming the information is decreasing. Eventually it will reach a point where you can get more value by doing other activities than by consuming the information. To minimize noise, you should ruthlessly stop at this point. More than that and you are introducing noise into your life.

ReferenceEight Tips to Find Your Information Oasis, Donald Latumahina, posted on lifehack.org

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