How to Create a Life Experiment (Design Your Life)

5 05 2009

 

testtube-10x75

      “Do not be too timid ot squeemish about your actions. Life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

      A life experiment is a project that we come up with to explore new horizons in our capacities and our experience. They are opportunities to consciously hone in on and learn from different aspects of our lives.

      I have recently been getting more into life experiments, with one of my current projects involving 4 or 5 hours of sleep every night without exceptions.

      I life project, however, might include any area of your life that you would like to dive into or gain a richer experience of.

  • You might decide to do creative writing every morning for an hour.
  • You might decide to work out at the gym every day for two months.
  • You might decide to redesign and reorganize every room in your house.
  • Maybe you’ll throw out your wardrobe and replace it.
  • Maybe you’ll aim to overcome social anxiety (karaoke, acting, etc…)

      The ideas are obviously endless, but how do you design a Life Experiment suited for you?

      Here I’ll dish out a few tips for coming up with a unique, personally-applicable Life Experiment, and how to make the most of it:

 

  1. Identify improvable areas: Before anything else, get some perspective on yourself in terms of  what you want to enhance in your life. A Life Experiment (or “lifex”) involves any kind of consciously aligned, purposefully altered change in your career, routine, behavior, eating habits, etc… 
  2. Understand the purpose: For instance, if your life experiment involves planning out your activities every day for a week, know why you are doing this. It is likely that your goal is to improve your productivity and bring you more time with your children, or to cultivate the habit of organization, or to accomplish more in a meaningful project (art, writing, community development, etc…).
  3. Make it compelling: If your “lifex” doesn’t get you juiced, come up with another on. This should be a genuine yearning for growth and a rich experience, something exciting and relevant to you. Hence, why it must be purposefully chosen. If you identify an area they you truly want to improve, and you know your purpose – the “why” for your action – you aught to be pumped!

 

      At this point, its really only logistics you have to concern yourself with. If a “lifex” is something you’re serious about getting yourself into, then you’ll find a way to alter your routine or alter your plan to fit it in and gain some awesome new skills and experience.

      So do you have an idea of some potential Life Experiments yet? Do you think it’ll be feasible for you? If your experiment passes this test there’s a good chance you’re on your way to something awesome:

 

      Here’s the real test:

      Ask yourself; “If I follow through on this, will I gain something valuable in my own development no matter what?”

 

      If your answer is “yes,” then I’m excited for you, because if you’ve got a compelling idea in mind, you’re probably going to be “lifex-ing” in the near future.

      Think about it, if you jog every morning religiously for a month, won’t you at least have learned more about your body in exercise, and gained some insight into the health effects of this change? 

      If you went out and talked to 20 members of the opposite sex per week, would you have at least expanded your capacities socially? Isn’t it possible that this would result in some fun times, and an awesome habit of social confidence?

      Find something for yourself, get clear on a few potential “lifex’s” and get out and make some enriching, life-changing memories.

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Champion Momentum

4 05 2009

champion

 

      Sometimes you’re not feeling it. We’ve all been in situations where we don’t feel as though we’re up for a certain task, and we find ourselve’s “loafing,” “dilly-dallying,” or whatever else your grandpa used to call it. Basically you’re not getting things done.

      It might be talking to a group of people at a networking event, it might be going for a run or a swim, it might be confronting someone on an important but unpleasant topic.

      When you’re in this state, you’re floundering – your physical and mental faculties are clouded and poorly used. In these instances, you only have access to the resourses of… well… floundering!

      You’re wondering if you should really be doing this, you’re thinking about the other things you could be doing, you’re focusing on how you aren’t in the appropriate state for this activity, et cetera.

      Time to snap out of it, how to get access to the resourses of your full, focused faculties:

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      Champion Momentum –

  •       Set yourself on a roll. This involves first understanding that the task at hand is what is best. Be conclusive about this, leave the fluttery mental space you found yourself in. You have a purpose, and this is it. If you don’t realize this then you won’t adequately be able to follow through with the rest of the process!
  •       Now think about a champion of your task. This might be a champion in the martial arts, a champion of writing, a champion of social situations – whatever your task might be. We all can come to understand what our ideals are.
  •       The last step in this brief little process involves living through this ideal for a set amount of time – I’d say 15 to 20 minutes to set your momentum. This could be 15 to 20 minutes of doing exactly what a champion would do – whether your task be cold-calling, studying, exercising, et cetera.

      After 15 to 20 minutes of rolling on this momentum of your ideal behaviors and thoughts, you’ll find yourself on the way to completing your task, and in a champion state, a state conducive to your goal specifically, a state thats letting you streamline your faculties.

      Plus, this habit will bring you past the initial hump of deciding and acting – it will take you out of “flounder-mode.” Once you’ve been sitting doing cold-calls for the last 15 minutes – at least with your ideal behavior and focus in mind – it won’t be remotely difficult to stay there for another 15 minutes and make all your calls. The same goes for any activity.

      Remember, this exercise is about getting outself into the most adaptive state possible and engaging yourself full-force on action – bringing you to focus and accomplish immediately. Give it a shot and tell me how you like it.





Record the “Keepers!”

26 04 2009
Trap all those poignant ideas you want to keep

Trap all those poignant ideas you want to keep

 

      Haven’t you made a point to remember something, and maybe you wrote it on a sticky note or the back of a receipt – but lost it.

      Maybe you read something and knew that you wanted that bit of knowledge, or that fact, or phrase – but the mental “want” didn’t translate to recording it?

      Here I’m going to go into a practice that I just began a few months ago for myself. I call it “Recording the Keepers.”

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      I recently began learning in a whole bunch of new realms, including personal finance and marketing, and at the same time I’m going to be graduating from the University of Rhode Island with a degree in Kinesiology (the study of human movement).

      I began thinking to myself “how am I going to keep track of all of this?” I knew that there were many facets of my education that I wanted to be able to retain forever – useful information about exercise regimens, treating injuries, understanding IRAs, et cetera.

      So, I started ARCHIVES on my mac book. I have one with all the poignant kinesiology information I always want to be able to reference, one for personal finance knowledge, one about sales and marketing, and today I just started one for cooking! (I have been “culinarily dabbling” recently)

       These lists will always be developing, some facts will change and new important information will be added.

      This gives me reference to core information in designated documents, so I won’t have to search the Internet for 30 minutes trying to find the American College of Sports Medicine’s flexibility recommendations.

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       The awesome part of this practical tip, is that you can record “keepers” in any area of life. Plus, recording things again, and typing / writing them out will further ingrain them into your head.

      Maybe you could record gardening information so you don’t have to flip throug your books every year.

      Maybe you could record some magic moments you have with friends or relatives – little memories you want to have for a lifetime.

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      Find some areas where you’d want to record keepers and start a log, computer is good so is paper. I prefer computer myself because I take my laptop everywhere anyway, but you do what would be best for you – you might have a lot of fun picking out a nice spiral bound notebook.

      Everyone can probably think of at least one area in their life where they have information that they’d like to record and have on hand. If this is something that resonates with you, identify a good one, and record a bit today.





Defeating “Student Syndrome” for Productivity

26 04 2009

women

 

      Last week we took a look at Parkinson’s Law, now we can turn our focus to another potential hindrance to our productivity – “Student Syndrome”.

      The good news is, with the understanding of these human tendencies comes a degree of freedom from them. When you come to see the effects of this “syndrome” on your life – you’ll probably want to understand this one well.

 

  • Student Syndrome – 

“We tend to only apply ourselves when we believe we have to.”

 

      This tendency is closely related to procrastination, but not synonymous. Procrastination deals with a series of habits and ways of avoidance, “Student Syndrome” is just one.

      How can we deal with this tendency and keep it from holding us back in important areas of our lives? It may not matter that we did our middle school geography project the night before, but continuing that habit forward isn’t likely to be the most direct route to our productivity.

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       Before understanding methods of dealing with “SS” (notice the abbreviation, I’m keeping you on your toes here), it will serve us to understand its origins:

      Reserving Energy– This may be argued to be part of our innate programming. We’d rather expend less energy if at all possible. As we know, this will often come back to bit us. It is much easier to come up with a happy little mental picture of us accomplishing the task in the future than it is to get it done now!

      Pain and Pleasure– Arguably the basis of any decision, this facet of “SS”‘s function is important to understand. Right now we do not accomplish a certain task because we associate more pleasure to NOT doing it, than to doing it. Alternatively, might we associate more pain to doing it, than to NOT doing it. It boils down to the fact that we do what we believe will be pleasurable – and we often neglect a long-term view.

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      Dealing with “SS” – like genuinely dealing with any challenge in our own conditioning – involves grabbing life by the horns.

      I do NOT aim to regurgitate traditional “procrastination buster” information here, though I have nothing against it. Ideas such as chucking large tasks into manageable smaller ones or writing definite to-do lists are not useless pieces of information, but you’ve heard it before.

      Here are some things that I find particularly useful for overcoming our habit of only applying ourselves when we feel as though we must:

      Unexciting Tasks First– I like this rule, I like it a lot. Here’s how it goes. If you have 10 tasks you want to accomplish in a given day, chase down the one’s you aren’t as excited about first.

      If you plan to work on some writing, visit a friend, do some research in an area of interest, and do the dishes – you’re likely to go to bed with a pile of dirty dishes in the sink if you don’t make a point to do them first. You will find reasons to drag out other tasks forever.

      Instead, understand that the dishes are a necessary task, and use the other exciting tasks as leverage to do the less exciting tasks swiftly and effectively. Don’t wait until the plates are growing mushrooms the size of a cocktail umbrella.

      Exemplify Excellence : Its almost ironic how effective we can be in the last minutes of accomplishing something. The thing is, it was not the external world that brought out our efficacy, it was our perception of what needed to be done.

      Make a habit of diving into your tasks at your best at all times. Take the time to look at yourself while working on any task – a homework assignment, house cleaning, studying, et cetera – and compare your efficacy to when you are at your absolute best.

      When you forgot about the test until the night before, you aren’t half studying, half surfing youtube. You’re (bleep)ing studying. Hopefully you’re taking notes, reviewing important chapters, and diving into the information. What if you studied like this all the time? That would be what I call ‘exemplifying excellence’.

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       Implement these ideas the next time you feel like you’re putting something off or vaguely puttering with it when you could be getting things done big time.





Defeating “Parkinson’s Law” for Productivity

24 04 2009

 

 

Whose "deadlines" drive us - ours or theirs? Its all perspective.

Whose "deadlines" drive us - ours or theirs? Its all perspective.

 

      Lets talk about a single idea that is PROFOUND in their relevance to human acheivement.  With a basic understanding of this principal, we can learn to structure our own lives towards optimal productivity – and (hopefully) we can bring about the best efforts from others.

 

  • Parkinson’s Law – (coined by C. N. Parkinson in his 1955 essay “The Economist”)

“Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” 

 

      Take a second to think about this one as I give you an example from my own life. I’ll bet that if I had 8 hours to take out the recycling, finish an essay, design a new website page, edit a video, and organize my room, then these tasks would take me 8 hours. If I only had 4 hours to get these things done, I’ll bet I would get them done in 4 hours – without a significant drop in the quality of the work.

      How is this possible?! To be frank, its borderline enlightening when you realize how much you can truly accomplish when they right kind of pressure is on – when you believe that you HAVE to dive into a task – you get it done!

      So, it may seem like the answer is to cram each of our days with so many tasks that we force ourselves to be productive. Though this might be a fun experiment, it would likely become overwhelming and certainly doesn’t seem to be how we want to experience ALL of our life.

      Here’s a tip to accomplish tasks and have fun, taking into account this funny little facet of our psychology:

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Control the Pressure –

      Instead of waiting for tasks to pile up an for a sense of anxiety and overwhelm, take the responsibility for the pressure, and apply it to yourself when you think its best!

      You might have no pressing tasks to do at work or home – but you’ve got a million fantastic things you could do. Maybe you could finish a project early, study and take notes on a book about personal finance, pick up supplies for next week’s party, and study a foreign language. Feel like getting things done? Apply the pressure!

      By this I do not mean become stressed and anxious, what I mean is to give yourself a little deadline, and set yourself up for a FUN CHALLENGE. I call it “driving tension.” Its the kind of subtle tension that keeps us moving, pushing to achieve and see how much we can do. This energy is not depressing, but exciting!

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      In controlling this “driving tension,” we can direct our own motivation and compell ourselves out of genuine expression (as opposed to percieved obligation) to accomplish and acieve – we can bring out the best in ourselves.

      Why wait until you feel as though your job, health, or relationships are on the line before being massively productive?

      In a sense, our lives are always on the line – we can always act in a way that expresses far less than our potential allows… but do we want to? Why not enjoy applying this kind of structural drive to our lives whenever we could use it? 

      Try it out on a “lazy day.” Set deadlines, line up some tasks, and let your excitement to accomplish (rather than your fear of loss) drive you to maximize your potential!

 

 

 

 

 





HONE IN and Get Things Done

24 04 2009

      Have you ever sat down to work on something, and hours later you realize that you hadn’t even “put a dent in it?” You find so many other little things that you could do – things that you think you can get out of the way, but they end up completely dominating your time. This could be checking emails, organizing your desk, or working on other little tasks that flitter your time away.

      We might “feel productive” while we accomplish these little pseudo-tasks, but when we fall asleep at night we know that what we needed to accomplish was not accomplished (see my post on “The Danger of the Tick List”).

      Dealing with this wishy-washy kind of action is a must if we want to get things done. Here’s a few tips on making the most of your time and resources:

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1) Designate Your Time – In my opinion, this is the single most important step involved (but it cannot be separated from the other steps!).  Set it in your mind that for a certain span of time – say from 12:00pm to 2:00pm – you will work on ONE task. Having this laser focus will hone you into a single activity and allow you to make headway.

      You get absolutely NOWHERE when you are texting, emailing, cleaning your workspace, putting cloths away, AND trying to get an important task done (say, doing your taxes, or finishing a writing project, or working on building that birdhouse you’ve been trying to make). For a specific amount of time, you will do ONE thing.

      Often when people don’t allocate time (what a great word “allocate” is), they can tinker with a hundred tasks and accomplish nothing – yet feel as though they have progressed!

2) Bring Your Mind With You – This is a funny little way I refer to involving all your resources in the task at hand. If your task is gardening, then for the time you designated you focus exclusively on gardening. There is a huge difference between going through the motions and thinking about your grocery list and FULLY focusing on what you’re doing.

      When you “bring your mind with you,” you bring your faculties to the table – you can move with purpose because you know what you’re doing in the present moment and you’re able to focus on it. Again people often will be able to do this for a brief amount of time, but they often flounder and switch to different tasks on a whim. Know when you’ve got to HONE IN and designate your body and mind within the allocated time.

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      These ideas are basic, but in practice they are fulfilling and envigorating. There’s nothing like entering that Flow state in a productive endeavor.

      Try these ideas out for yourself – weather it be schoolwork, a massive pile of laundry, or an exercise regimen. By having a concrete time frame, and by locking your mental and physical into that important task, have a merger of action and awareness.

      Plus… you GET THINGS DONE.

 





The Danger of the “Tick List”

20 04 2009

check_list      If you’re at all like me, you like blue jello and really warm showers. But thats not really relevant to this topic. If you’re REALLY like me, then you get pumped about a rich to-do list to accomplish over a day – or a week. Productivity rocks.

      Even if the activities aren’t tremendously exciting, its great to have our tasks in order and to understand their purpose and our reasons to accomplish them. For me its like being a kid in a candy shop.

      However, though this strategy of organizing our tasks can genuinely aide us in laying out the logistics for our days, it can bring with it a drawback – if we are not wary. The drawback involves neglecting real purpose for the sake of penciling the list. 

      Collecting ‘ticks’ can become more satisfying – in the moment – than actual accomplishment of our higher goals and development of our character.

      For instance, maybe we put our cloths away hastily just to get the ‘tick’ – neglecting our real reasoning: living in an organized home and improving the functionality and aesthetics of our space.

      We might have a visit with a friend on our to do list as well. Leaving after 10 minutes we might feel as though we accomplished something. We might think “hey, my to do list said ‘visit,’ and thats what I did!” In fact we might have neglected the richness of the interaction for another check mark.

      Maybe we spend 2 hours working on a writing project just because that 2 hours was the allotted time. When the time is up, we may get a kind of baseless satisfaction. We come to forget the REASON for allotting two hours to writing: getting the project done and done well. Instead we might fall into the trap of “feeling productive.” We might accomplish very little, and frankly not do our best work in this time – we just relish in the fact that we’re “doing.” We are being satiated by just checking off the little boxes of our to do list.

      What is this “feeling productive” that we are here referring to? You know it. Its the satisfaction that you get when you believe that your ACTIONS and your HIGHEST VALUES are aligned, that your behavior is channelling your resources towards what you deem to be best. Having this belief, and focusing upon it – we feel pleasant, we feel efficacious, we “feel productive.”

      This can be illusory, however – and this is where the trap sets in! This is commonly referred to as “mistaking movement for achievement.” If we make check marks an end in themselves, then we neglect our own development and the higher reasons for achieving the tasks.

      So what do we do? We must be mindful of our purpose for actions (IE: living in an organized space rather than putting cloths away – developing a deeper friendship rather than swinging in to ‘visit’ – finishing an assignment rather than working on it for a certain amount of time).

      The challenge is: its hard to write a to do list consisting of just purpose alone. We might as well walk around with a list of our highest values. Important… VITALLY important… but all too vague.

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      Here’s a few easy steps for avoiding the ‘tick list’ pitfall:

1) Analyze “Productive Feelings”:

      When you get that glorious efficacious feeling, reflect upon it. Think about the tasks you accomplished, or the one you are currently involved in – and determine if it is truly serving your higher ends or just your number of ‘ticks.’ Are you feeling alive from a day of genuinely aligning yourself with what is most import to you, or do you feel proud of a bunch of check marks what represent half-effort tasks which amount to very little in your life?

2) Affirm Purpose as You Compose Your List:

      When you write your to do list – be it before you go to bed (so that you have the “sugar plums” of exciting tasks dancing in your head as you doze off) or early in the morning – affirm to yourself the purpose behind your tasks. For instance, as we jot down “read 2 chapters of book on personal finance,” we might affirm to ourselves that the purpose of the reading is not to “feel productive” because we crossed a few chapters off our tick list, but to comprehend and apply knowledge that will better our financial well being. 

3) Use Measurable Tasks:

      Exhaustive detail is obviously not suitable here, but too little detail makes it easier for tasks to take on ‘tick list value’ only. For instance, if someone writes “morning bike ride” on their to do list, they might “feel productive” after 10 minutes of cycling. This is because their overly vague goal had lost its relevance to the purpose of the goal – which we will presume to be general health and fitness. Drawing out some easy specifics to measure our tasks can make them more in line with the real reasons we do them.

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      Can you think of some times where you may have derived satisfaction from an “accomplishment” that actually was not an “accomplishment” at all? Take a keen perspective on yourself in this regard, observe your tasks, and implement some of these basic ideas. Hopefully this will bring you make progress on more true terms, and will make a few tasks a bit more meaningful than a check mark on paper.