How I doubled work rate.

At work I have been trying to figure out how to speed up my work rate for some time. I used to be someone who was liberal with their level of tidiness. I would be ok with mess and could operate quite well in a messy environment or so I thought.

When I was walking to work, I was re listening to the audio-book time power by Brian Tracey. He has so many ideas for saving time that I couldn’t list them all here in this post. I have incorporated three of them and it has literally halved the time it takes for me to get things done.

I was sceptical about the effectiveness of these techniques. Let’s be honest, who hasn’t been suckered by outrageous claims by people trying to sell you a product? The difference with what Brian Tracey was advising is that he could explain the benefits behind the processes he would suggest and give real world examples of these strategies being executed. One such example sounded so much like me – The messy person who thought that he was saving time by leaving the tidy up until some day that never came. He was forced by Brian to use one of these strategies and found it to be revolutionary. OK. Enough hype. Here are the ideas that I have taken from Brian Tracey that have rapidly sped up my work rate.

End each day with a clear desk.

This one has been huge for me. It took a while to get the desk up to scratch because there was so much to sort out. However, once it was done, I challenged myself to maintain the same standard. Every night before you leave your office, make sure your desk is tidy.

This worked for me because tidying your desk means that everything is ordered so you can get to work straight away on your most important tasks without having to waste time looking for something you might need. It also means that I always have a clear desk so I never lose any paperwork anymore. There is something very productive about working in a space that is clear and uncluttered. It frees your mind to focus on the task.

The fab five

This is where you spend some time the night before the next work day, deciding what your five most high priority tasks are. Then you write those things done and they become your sole purpose for the next working day. This has been so good for me because of the nature of my job. I can work on my fab five before the children come to school and after they have left for the day. I realised that I had to be super focussed during those periods of time or I would not get everything done. Having a fab five list also means that you can politely but firmly say no to the jobs others have lined up for you when you arrive at work. Planning out the exact things you want to do with your day is proactive and effective. Anything that you do not complete gets added to the fab five for the next day. It also allows you to create a list of accomplishments that you can look back on to say you have completed them.

Have an effective filing system

Paper was the bane of my life. I had no idea what to do with it or where to put it. In short, the task of managing all my paper overwhelmed me until I was given this tip. I created a massive list categorising every piece of paper I could possibly get in alphabetical order. As soon as I receive a piece of paper from anybody, I then write on top of it where it’s going to go.

For example, I received a report about computing. I wrote computing on the top of it and filed it in C under computing. I have a file for A-E, F-J, K-O, P-T, and U-Z. Anything I’m given must be in the system by the end of the day because of rule one (*End with a tidy desk). So I leave work with all my papers in an order that has been personally organised in advance by me. This is great because I can find my work and any other paper I am given and access it within seconds. Another great tip with this system is to throw out anything that is not worth keeping. This means not being a hoarder (I was guilty of this) and making a decision on everything that is put in front of you. If you can find it somewhere else, or you will likely never look at it again, then don’t let it pile up. Throw it in the recycling bin and move on.

Fluid form.

I have been writing a journal now for a few months and it has brought up lots of lessons for me to go away and reflect on to help me lead a happier more effective life. One really damaging trait that I found was just how often I criticised myself. I have been aware of this for some time and I do better at times than at others. But I believe it is a vital aspect of my character that I want to change.

Let me describe what happens. Say for example, I want to stick to a diet to lose some fat. What I found I was doing was attaching my happiness and sense of success to whether I stuck to the diet or not. If something went wrong, which is inevitable because I am not perfect, I would attack myself and beat myself down. This thinking at it’s worst would spiral into a deep analysis of what I was doing wrong and lead to the conclusion that I will never be good enough to attain it. This would mean giving up or starting all over again. So I would get the first part right, because I was setting worthwhile goals for myself and that is important. However, I was emotionally attached to my goals so much that my self-worth was defined by attaining them. I was fixated on a future self and negatively comparing where I am to the future projection. Visualisation of the future is important, but I do not want to keep all my happiness waiting for me in the future as the future doesn’t physically exist. All we have and all we will ever have is the here and now. The present is where our attention should be.

 Letting go is an act of observation without emotional reaction or outburst. This allows you to be objective and see the truth behind your results.

Perception is everything. Should someone really be judged as a failure if they don’t reach a target?

The only person who can create the idea in your mind that you are a failure is you.  It is just an idea. Yet another story that we tell ourselves based on our interpretations of our circumstances. Imagine how empowering it is to go through your life with the belief that you are good enough in this present moment. You are good enough now and will always be. It’s a case of perspective.

I am a Manchester United fan, but I am passionate about all high performers in football. I like to study their philosophy and mentality. One person I studied was Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho. On the subject of failure he responded by saying I do not fail. On the surface, this seems to be an arrogant statement, but it is his reality. Therefore to him it is true. Our perceptions create our reality because there is no true ‘reality’. When someone says ‘the reality is’, what they should really say is ‘my reality is.’ Mourinho’s statement is empowering because it allows him to see every setback objectively and learn from it. He doesn’t get attached to it and carry it like a weight on his back. At the same time, this attitude would allow for someone to stay humble when things are going well and not attach their identity to their success or possessions.

Another powerful statement linked to this idea is the famous Bruce Lee quote where he describes the nature of water and the importance of replicating it:

“You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.”

My interpretation of this is that water is a close reflection to our true nature in that we are a mixture of things that are transient. Our beings flow and have the ability to transform and evolve. Within any given moment, you can become whatever you want to be. When you let go of the stories you tell yourself in your mind, you can become a shape shifter.

You have the ability to become strong.

You have the ability to become love.

You have the ability to become excited.

You have the ability to be (insert here)

I am by no means an expert in this field as this idea is quite new to me. But I see the value in reducing my attachment to the external parts of my life so that I can have more control over my emotions.

The next time I set a goal, I’m going to set it, create a time frame, and then get to work on the process. I will track my results, but will in no way identify who I am with the results I get. This will help in all areas of my life and should lead to me being in much better control of my state on a day to day basis. If I am to truly be like water, I should have the ability to choose the best way of being to deal with all of life’s challenges.

Don’t be so rigid in life.

Let go and be like water.

I wish you the best.

Why the E-Myth is a must read for those interested in business.

I just finished reading an excellent book that has been around for years. It’s called the E-Myth and starts by painting a picture of working in business that intimidated and scared me into thinking that I couldn’t possibly do it. More than that, I would always ponder why someone would go through so many intense challenges just for the sake of their business. 

Gerber attributes the failure of many small businesses not to a lack of skill, but to lack of knowledge about what the priorities are. The image of the small business owner as the lone crusader in a fight to keep the business going is a reality for some people. Someone close to me was having many very similar challenges quite recently with their business. Gerber then proceeds to describe an alternative way to establish, run and grow a business so that it achieves predictable results of success. Now obviously, that isn’t a guarantee, but the main ideas that I took away from the book were:

* Your business should become your vehicle and help you to live the life you want to, not become a burden and source of misery.

* In the words of Stephen Covey, beginning with the end in mind will ensure that you have a broader vision of what you want your company to eventually blossom into.

* The best businesses have create a culture that compels everyone connected to it to produce good work. This is down to creating an environment of purpose where each person feels their work is valued and important.

* Well thought out systems of operation go a long way to making sure that people who enter the business understand exactly what is required of them meaning that business owners can focus on strategy rather than technical work.

* Well planned systems means that your business can operate without you even being there. Thus creating the freedom that all business owners went into enterprise for in the first place.

* The organisational hierarchy of the company should be created at it’s inception, not when the company grows as that might be too late.

*Discovering your primary aim (The reason why you want to start a business) will help you make decisions about the company that allow it suit your needs and wants. 

If any of these ideas or concepts interest you, I would strongly encourage you read the book. I gained a huge amount from it, and will no doubt be referring back to it over and again once I start creating my own business.

I wish you the best

Shaun

Self-acceptance is more important than self-improvement?

I have always been very passionate about the role of self-improvement in my life. The name of my blog shows that I believe in a holistic way of life. Self- improvement has served me well in that capacity because I believe I am more effective now than I was in the past.
However, there was always an idea that puzzled me. It was a paradox in my thinking.
If I’m always striving towards new goals, when will I get the feeling of being successful? When will I enjoy the fruits of all the work I’ve done on self-improvement?
The missing piece between success and self-improvement is self-acceptance. I now realise that without self-acceptance, there is the danger that you will never be happy with your success. Success isn’t a tangible thing. It’s a feeling, and that feeling is relative. If you took two people with the exact same circumstances in life, one could be the happiest person alive and the other person the most miserable. The way they perceive what they have and their level of identification with those things, will determine whether they feel successful.
When I have felt successful in life has been when I have cultivated that state internally. It is the journey towards the goals as well as the end point that can create a feeling of success.
I am working on self- acceptance because I realised I was playing a dangerous game where I was losing the ability to be happy in the present moment because I was forever chasing goals. The goals were not the problem, it was my identification with the result of attaining them. In short, because I was obsessing over achievement, I would have been dissatisfied with my level of income, health, relationships or career. I was making the false assumption that those things are who I am. I cannot wait for the ideal of everything before I become happy. That is not true living.
Self-acceptance is the subtle art of knowing yourself internally so that you don’t have to rely on the external things around you for identity. I understand why people chase success symbols like cars, huge houses and other similar things. It is almost a way of measuring your level of success in the world. However, this measurement system is fundamentally flawed because it does not go deeply enough. It also cannot measure the intangible elements that really make us who we are. Here are some of them.
Our core values
Our purpose
Being happy
Having the ability to immerse fully in the present moment
Love.
A connection to a force that is greater than our-selves.
These things are the timeless.
Let go of the idea that your external possessions are who you really are. Become in tune with the concept, that everything you need for life you already have inside of you. Look within. Here is a resource to help with this.
http://www.oprah.com/spirit/How-Self-Acceptance-Can-Crack-Open-Your-Life This is a ten day programme of activities that are designed to help you start thinking about self acceptance. I have found some of them useful especially day one. It was really challenging to think that deeply about myself and it did give me some perspective on who I really am. I really liked this paragraph to explain what self-acceptance means:
Self-acceptance is the process of befriending the Unconditioned Self—the part of you that is more than just your name, your history, your story, your failures or your successes. You are more than just your experiences or how other people see you or the clothes you wear.
I wish you the best.

A different perspective on exercise.

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A different perspective on exercise.

I have been following a new exercise regime with my kettlebells over the past few months. In the past, I would have workouts that would incorporate lots of different movements. This made me feel productive as I would feel the burn. I would sweat a great deal and this made me feel like I was making progress. Also, because I was focussed on burning calories, it seemed like the best way to workout as I was obviously expending lots of energy.

My perspective on exercise has now changed. As a result, my approach to exercise has also changed.

I use exercise as a way to build myself up rather than break myself down.

Now this may seem paradoxical since exercise does in fact lead to muscle breakdown, but I’m talking about building myself up in different ways.

1: My level of skill: I focus on a few exercises at a time and try to develop in these areas through regular and persistent practice. Within that practice the variables change i.e reps, weight, intensity. However my new goal is to practice my movements as often as possible throughout the week without ever going smashing myself to pieces in the process.

2: My level of conditioning/tolerance.

A direct result of training this way is that my conditioning has improved considerably from where it started.

Two months ago, I started focussing on some bodyweight movements but my main exercise was the kettlebell snatch. Initially I was working in strength ladders that went no higher than 5 reps per side on the hardest day.

Now, I use the same weight of kettlebell, but I work in straight sets. On my heaviest day, I work in sets of 15.

I deliberately started with workouts that were easily within me. That gave me the chance to get better at the skill of kettlebell snatching. This then led to a nudge type effect where my reps are lots more, but the effort feels similar to what it was in those early workouts. This is real progress.

If I had started out, trying to perform at my maximum, then I would have injured my body and not reached the level I am now at. Developing patience and awareness were the lessons over the past few weeks of my training. I surprised myself at how quickly I am progressing now that I am thinking more holistically about my training.

 

3. The effect that exercise has on my state.

I work out hard in sessions and push myself, but I walk away from workouts feeling energised, invigorated and strong, not shattered injured and weak. Over time, the amount that you can cope with will increase. Don’t force it.

This certainly works for me, and might just be the way to go if you have been apprehensive about staring a workout regime, or have stopped soon after beginning.

This perspective on exercise works no matter what exercise you choose to do. It also addresses the mental aspects of exercise which many people ignore but is probably one of the most critical determinants to whether you will continue. Bottom line is, if something makes you feel good, you will do it. If something makes you feel rubbish you will eventually quit. We must change our perspective to be able to see the benefit in every session we take part in. When I have a workout that is not my best performance, I remember that keeping consistent is the most important aspect so that workout has helped to develop my consistency. In that respect, it has been a success, even if no progress was made with numbers or setting PRs.

Action steps

  1. Pick an exercise that feels almost too easy and focus on consistency. This allows you to just show up and train without the fear if failure or injury.
  2. Increase the amount or intensity when you feel ready to do so. Do not rush the process. Think long term perspective. You want to stay active all of your life. This isn’t possible if you are doing hard core sessions every time. High intensity has its place, but so do low and moderate intensity workouts. Think balance.

 

My insights from “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari.” by Robin Sharma

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I’m indebted to my good friend for this blog post. He was the one who bought this book for me as a gift on my birthday. He had told me how much he enjoyed it and so I looked forward to seeing what I could take from it. There are some major principles to be found in this book that will have a major impact on your life if you take the advice on board.

Principle 1: Control and cultivate positive thoughts at all times.

“Enlightened thinkers know that their thoughts form their world and the quality of one’s life comes down to the richness of one’s thoughts. If you want to live a more peaceful, meaningful life, you must think more peaceful, meaningful thoughts.” Pg 52

There are several quotes throughout the book that point to the power of the mind to create the world around you. This comes from the paradigm that your outer world is a reflection of your inner world. Therefore negative thoughts create a negative environment internally which creates negativity externally. One action point suggested is to replace any negative thought instantly with a positive one. I’ve found this to be challenge at times, but its getting easier and definitely helps with keeping things in perspective. A good example would be if I am fed up with a child in class, if I have a negative thought about that child, I then think about what good I could do for them if I maintain a positive attitude and focus only on helping them improve. I think the trick is to see the reality of the situation, but see it from a positive perspective. Kidding yourself with fake positivity doesn’t work.

Principle 2: Kaizen: Constant and never ending improvement.

“You practice the art of Kaizen by pushing yourself daily. Work hard to improve your mind and body. Nourish your spirit. Do the things you fear. …………………….. Do the things you have always wanted to do but tricked yourself into believing you were too old, too rich or too poor. Prepare to live a soaring, fully alive life. In the East they say that luck favours the prepared mind. I believe that life favours the prepared mind.” Pg 100

This is a powerful principle. It could be the most poignant within the whole book for me personally because it sums up beautifully the pursuit of personal development or progress in any area. We all long to improve and get better. This principle tells us that fear and doubt are the blockers of progress. If we are to truly progress, we must eliminate the bottleneck of fear that can stand in our way. I am now at war with my fears. I pick a fear, and will focus on trying my best to eliminate that fear from myself. For example, although I am a good singer, I developed a real fear of singing out and showing off my voice. I think that fear is linked to a host of other ideas such as fear of being humiliated in public, the fear of making a mistake in public and the fear of being rejected. What a list! To combat this, I am going to be singing the first dance song for my best friend’s wedding at the end of May. This will be in front of all my friends and family. Am I scared? Absolutely! But I now recognise that growth lies on the other side of fear. If we can master our fears and see them as obstacles to overcome, we can reach personal greatness far faster as nothing will be able to stop us.

Action point: Try to identify some of your fears and then go to work on eliminating them when you are ready. This is challenging and takes serious self-reflection but I believe the rewards are more than worth the initial effort.

“When you conquer your fears, you conquer your life.” Pg 101

Principle 3: The power of rituals.

“You sow a thought, you reap an action. Reap an action, you sow a habit. Sow a habit, you reap a character. Sow a character, you reap a destiny.”

Robin invites us to start cultivating certain actions into our lives that will help to improve the quality of your life experience. They are all powerful ideas. The synergy of these rituals is what makes this a highly effective book. Each idea flows well into each other. So when you read them, you will see that it wouldn’t be as challenging to incorporate all of these ideas into your daily life as it might sound. For the sake of brevity, I will just list the rituals very briefly.

1: Solitude – silence and peace

2: Physicality – movement and breathing

3: Nourishment – live healthy foods

4: Life-long learning – commitment to reading

5: Personal reflection

6: Wake up early

7: Music – raise your spirits

8: Using mantras

9: Congruence – when intent and action match up.

10: Simplicity – “Reduce your needs…… unless you reduce your needs you will never be fulfilled.” Pg 135

Action point: If you are interested in taking on some of these ideas, then do an audit on yourself and see where your biggest gap lies. The chances are, that you will be partaking in some of these rituals anyway, but there may be something missing that might just complete your wellbeing jigsaw. For me, I had never tried mantras before and I have started trying to use these in quiet moments of reflection. One mantra suggested in the book to try is: “ I am more than I appear to be, all the world’s strength and power rests in me.” Pg 153.

Principle 4: Live with discipline.

This concept isn’t new to anyone and is so simple to say, but challenging to do. Mastering our will and doing things that are important but not urgent is the cornerstone of this principle. Learning to delay gratification and keep the bigger picture in mind is something that I battle with daily. Just half an hour before writing this, I had been tempted to watch the T.V for an hour or so instead of finishing my blog post. What is helping with this is my raised level of awareness about what I am doing and the consequences it might have. I judge the value of my choices much more than I used to and this helps to develop my discipline. I have a long way to go with this, but I can see improvements.

Principle 5: Value your time. It is all you really have.

“ The most important moment is now. Learn to live in it and savour it fully.”

Another powerful concept and one that is persistent in many books I have read recently is the importance of time and understanding how important it is. Sharma talks about the need to keep life simple in the aims and goals that you set for yourself. He also talks about having the courage to say no when it is appropriate and people are trying to take your time away from you in a way you don’t like. I have been guilty of this in the past and now make a conscious effort to speak out when I feel my time is being wasted either by a person or an activity. I also try to stay conscious of when I am wasting my own time. I have developed a little mantra for this that I say to myself. Make each day memorable. I try and make sure that within each day I search for the things that make that day unique and special. Today it was taking some children after school for football training. We all had a great time and the children are developing their skills. Watching one of the children charge through some nettles to get one of the balls back was a memorable moment for me and a painful one for him! It’s the little things that count. It doesn’t have to be a grand Hollywood moment every day.

Living for the day used to have connotations of recklessness for me, and for some that may be how they choose to interpret it. For me it means being engaged and connected to the world around you. Taking time and energy to fully invest yourself into whatever it is you are doing, and making sure your life is full of awesome memories. I live for the day when I play fight with my son, or take a moment to just breathe and take in my surroundings. I appreciate where I am and who I am with. Living for the day means mind body heart and spirit are awake and engaged. It is the best way to live.

“ Today is the day to live fully, not when you win the lottery or when you retire. Never put off living.” Pg 184

Action point: I have started a journal that I write in for five minutes at night before bed. This action alone is powerful in helping you to remember key moments and insights from the day. It allows you to also learn from the lessons that are staring you right in the face. Try it for 20 days and see what you can learn about yourself.

Principal 6: Serve the world.

This was a powerful insight for me. This quote sums it up and there isn’t much more to say beyond that as it is perfect:

“The quality of your life will come down to the quality of your contribution.”

I am proud of the blog I have created because I made a conscious choice to share my thoughts with others and give them new things to ponder and think about. In my own little way, I am sending out a message and it feels good to do that. Therefore the quality of my life feels better. There are so many ways we can do this in our day to day lives.

Action point: Think about what you can contribute to others that is of value. Contribution adds to your sense of belonging to the world and massively benefits those who receive your kindness.

These are the powerful ideas that I took from the book, but there are many more in there as well. I would invite anybody to read the book who is looking for a refreshing way to view the world and our place in it. I would also suggest that people who seem out of balance or overwhelmed give this book a try. It could help them to see that they need to take the time to care for themselves before they burn out and forget how to enjoy life.

Choose success

 

 

Post 013: Let’s just be who we are

Inspiration can come from many sources.

I was just marking my class’s P.S.H.E work from last week. (Personal and emotional aspects of learning) The question we had tackled was ‘What makes me special?’ The responses that the children had come up with were fantastic and really made me appreciate just how creative and free thinking children can be when we ask the right questions. However, one response blew me away especially considering the child in question is 8 years old. After listing some things about what makes her special in her opinion, she then said. “I know that in the future I will learn lots of skills, but for now let’s just be who we are.”

Wow! I hope that she can stay true to herself and be who she is for the rest of her life. If she can, it will be one of the greatest blessings she ever has. I was amazed and humbled that someone so young could have such an insightful and beautiful view of the world. My job and the job of all teachers and mentors is to allow her and all children to keep their uniqueness alive.

It is a challenge, because for me I spent so long trying to be all things to all people that I forgot about being myself. Far too often in my job as a class teacher I feel the pressure to do this to the children as well. According to the powers that be, they should all progress at the same rate, get fantastic grades in all areas and basically be clones with different faces. At first, this overwhelming pressure was crushing to me. Then I realised that the problem wasn’t mine but the systems and that made the pressure ease massively.

The best thing I can do for the children I teach and my own children is to develop myself into the best person I am capable of and be an example for self improvement.

The spark that really ignited my passion for personal development was the birth of my son. I need him to know that he has no limits and that he can create whatever reality he wants for himself. In order for that message to be authentic, I have to live it myself and pass it on through example. I now visualise our family experiencing so much of what life has to offer. I imagine taking my family to seminars and talks with exceptional people who have positive messages.  I want to pass on the wisdom and knowledge I have gathered throughout my life to help them to get where they want to be. I want my children around adults who will allow them to ‘Be who they are’ by being in touch with their own unique voice. Surely this is true success. Not money, status, or fame. But satisfaction, development, progress and service.

I wish the girl who wrote this all the happiness in the world. I also hope that she comes to recognise that if she can be who she is and stay true to that, the world is hers for the taking.