Productivity

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must have travel apps

Traveling can be stressful. There’s planning to be done, pictures to be taken, social media to be shared, and relaxation to be had.

Here’s a list of the apps I use to make that all easier:

Travel Planning

The most important travel app for me Google Maps, followed closely by the combo of Foursquare / Swarm (though I’m still not entirely sure why they separated the two).

Foursquare allows me to check out what’s good in a new city and gives me personalized recommendations based on what I like, and Swarm allows me to remember where I’ve actually been.

The full list of travel apps include:

  1. Google Maps – For figuring out how to get to where I want to go. (Android | iOS)
  2. Foursquare – For personalized recommendations of what to see / eat in a new city. (Android | iOS)
  3. Swarm – For checking in so I can remember all of the places I’ve been. (Android | iOS)
  4. Trip Advisor – For finding the super popular things to do and get some tips on how to make it better. (Android | iOS)
  5. Orbitz – For checking out the prices and availability of hotels and booking flights. (Android | iOS)
  6. AirBNB – For finding a local spot to stay in. (Android | iOS)
  7. Budget – For getting a rental car when needed. (Android | iOS)

Social Connectedness

Even if you are anti-social websites, social apps are vital to staying connected with friends and family while traveling the world. Facebook is still probably the top dog (mostly because the majority of my friends and family are connected there) but I only use the mobile site and not the app. Instagram has also been a lot of fun for me.

The full list of Social Apps include:

  1. Facebook – For staying connected with people and serving as a hub for all of my other social media. (Android | iOS)
  2. Whatsapp – For chatting with people from other countries and avoiding texting fees. (Android | iOS)
  3. Twitter – For making jokes and reaching out to people I wouldn’t otherwise be able to contact. (Android | iOS)
  4. Instagram – For sharing “1,000 words” in a single image of what I’m up to. (Android | iOS)
  5. LinkedIn – For making business connections and finding additional engagements while I’m traveling. (Android | iOS)
  6. Snapchat – For silly quick jokes with friends. (Android | iOS)

Productivity

Being on the move means that you have to learn to be productive on your phone as you won’t always have the luxury of your laptop right in front of you. Evernote is the supreme king when it comes to Productivity Apps because it basically serves as my memory.

The full list of Productivity Apps include:

  1. Evernote – For capturing all of my thoughts, including training outlines, meeting notes, and blog post drafts (like this one!). (Android | iOS)
  2. Perfct Day – For tracking my daily habits. (Perfct Day is currently private beta, launching soon!)
  3. Tasker – For automating certain tasks to free me from unnecessary key strokes and app selection. A future post will share some of my top automations. (Android | iOS not available)
  4. Gmail – For getting through the slog of the minimally productive business necessity of eletronic mail. (Android | iOS)
  5. Trello – For capturing todo lists in a Agile-like method (I’m still working on using this well). (Android | iOS)
  6. Dropbox – For accessing presentations and proposals on my phone for review. (Android | iOS)
  7. 7M Workout – For a “it’s better than nothing” workout when you’re short on time and space. (Android | iOS)

Fun and Relaxation

All work and no play made me very stressed out. There are some great apps for strategically disengaging, including my favorite, Word Mix, a fun word game that makes you feel like you’re maybe-kinda-learning something?

The full list of Fun and Relaxation Apps include:

  1. Word Mix – A scrambled letter game where you find all the words. (Android | iOS)
  2. Quora – For reading / answering questions that make you feel semi-productive. (Android | iOS)
  3. Amazon Kindle – For catching up on business books or the occasional fictional tale. (Android | iOS)
  4. Pocket – For reading long-form articles that sometimes make you feel smart. (Android | iOS)
  5. Dots – For mindless creation of squares to try to get points. (Android | iOS)

I’m sure there are a few other apps that I use but none on a regular basis. Have an app you enjoy? Let me know so I can check it out!

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If you’re wondering, yes I’m still doing that Quality Day thing. Have no idea what I’m talking about? Here’s the write up from last year:

As some of you may know, I’ve developed my own productivity system where I shoot to do 5 habits every single day. I track whether or not I complete each goal; if I complete 3 of the 5, I consider it a “Quality Day”; if I complete all 5, I consider it a “Perfect Day.”

(Read more about the system here: How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions).

My 5 goals for 2013 are shared below, along with the number of days I completed them.

  1. Wake up without hitting snooze. 283 days (77.3%)
  2. Publish something for HTW. 289 days (79.0%)
  3. Exercise for at least 20 minutes. 305 days (83.3%)
  4. Eat at least 4 servings of fruits or vegetables. 290 days (79.2%)
  5. Reconnect with someone. 360 days (98.4%)

I finished with 365 Quality Days (100%!), with 183 of them being Perfect Days (just over 50%). That said, I dropped in each of the categories except snooze and reconnecting, so there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

I’ll be continuing the system in 2014 but switching up the daily habits. More on that to come (maybe).

If you’re interested in trying this system out yourself, check out How to Set Up Your Quality Day System or send me a message and I’d be happy to help you out.

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Note: I’ve shared some of these things with people before. Some people think it’s cool and give it a try themselves. Others learn how truly devoted I am to my planning / productivity. And a handful consider me somewhat of a psychopath (in a good way I think?). So I guess read at your own risk of your opinion of me.

As some of you may know, I’ve developed my own productivity system where I shoot to do 5 habits every single day. I track whether or not I complete each goal; if I complete 3 of the 5, I consider it a “Quality Day”; if I complete all 5, I consider it a “Perfect Day.”

(Read more about the system here: How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions).

My 5 goals this year are shared below, along with number of days I completed them:

  1. Wake up without hitting snooze. 273 days (74.6%)
  2. Write at least 100 words. 358 days (97.8%)
  3. Exercise for at least 20 minutes. 298 days (81.4%)
  4. Eat at least 3 servings of fruits or vegetables. 313 days (85.5%)
  5. Monthly Focus (See below). 303 days (82.8%)

The last one I gave myself the option to switch it up every month. Towards the middle of the year I found a habit that I wanted to stick with for most of the rest of the year.

  • January = Exercise voice at least 5 minutes. (23 days / 74.2%)
  • February = Play guitar at least 10 minutes. (22 days / 75.9%)
  • March = Improvise a song. (18 days / 58.1%)
  • April = Exercise voice at least 5 minutes. (15 days / 50%)
  • May to July = Reconnect with a friend / family member. (87 days / 94.6%)
  • August to September = Connect with someone old or new. (61 days / 100%)
  • October to November = Connect with someone new. (47 days / 77%)
  • December = Connect with someone old or new. (30 days / 96.8%)

As I share in the write-up, my goal really is to just hit a Quality Day (aka it’s ok if I don’t do something). Ideally these 5 habits are challenging enough that it’s not easy to do (my thinking being that if it was easy, then I wouldn’t need a system to help me do it).

Even though there were days that I missed individual habits, I did succeed at reaching a Quality Day for all 366 days of 2012 (for those wondering, I hit 193 Perfect Days, or 52.7%).

All in all, I was proud of 2012, and thanks to this system, I accomplished many of my goals. Here’s to an even more productive 2013 with renewed habits and motivation.

If you’re interested in trying this system out yourself, check out How to Set Up Your Quality Day System or send me a message and I’d be happy to help you out.

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defining success

The title for this category in Personal Development Week is an interesting one, because I’m sure many of you were wondering, “What do you mean by success?” The irony is that in order to be successful, you have to answer that exact question for yourself.

Everybody’s definition of success is going to be different – one person’s success may be another person’s failure.  In order for you to achieve success in your life, you have to know what it is you’re shooting for (hmm, sounds kind of like what I talked about with regard to goals and discipline yesterday…).

The Difference Between Goals and Success

However, unlike our goals from yesterday, it’s more acceptable to describe success in less defined terms (so long as you have goals that get you to where you want to be), because success is much more “spiritual” (not in the sense of religion, but more along the lines of your purpose or meaning in life).

To some people, success is raising a family and seeing their children grow up to become successful in their own right.   To others, it’s to achieve fame and fortune in the public eye.  Regardless of what it is, it has to be true for you – someone else can’t tell you what success is, it’s up for you to decide.

It’s amazing how seemingly simple concepts can be extrapolated into momentous declarations, but that’s exactly what defining success is.  When you are on your deathbed, recounting your life, and determining if you were in fact successful, it’s going to ultimately come down to comparing what you wanted to do with/in your life, and what you actually did.

Life as a Gift

I don’t want to get to involved in the “meaning of life” discussion because it often leads to religions arguments from ignorant people who are too naive to step outside of their sheltered world created for them by their parents, BUT, I will say Steve Pavlina made an interesting observation in one of his podcasts that asking “What is the meaning of life?”, as in what is life supposed to offer me, is the wrong approach.  Rather, ask, “What do I have to offer life?” (think “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”)

When you start to think about life as a gift, you start to shift your mentality.  “What is the meaning of life?” is passive, it’s saying, “Someone tell me this, what is life giving me?”  When you ask what you have to offer your life, you are being active, you are being the force of change – which brings me to my final, and possibly most important point.

Success Means Starting

You can’t achieve success in life without initiative.  Success comes to those who are willing to go out and take it.  The over-infatuation of all things Hollywood has given people the perception that they don’t have to work for something, that they will be “discovered.”

What people don’t realize is how much work goes into becoming an overnight success.  You have to be willing to put up with the sweat and tears to achieve what it is you’ve defined as success.  If you want to become a stand-up comedian, then go out there and get on stage as often as possible, network with everyone you can, put in the hours it takes to hone your craft.

If you want to be a stay-at-home Mom, work hard to find a job that will allow to take a sabbatical from work, or find a way to help your husband advance his career to a point that he can support the entire family.

What do you mean by success?

If you truly take the time to answer that question, take the initiative to go out and work towards that definition, set goals and follow them through with discipline, you will be successful – no matter what it is you wish to achieve.

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goals and discipline

When it came down to choosing the first topic to talk about in Personal Development Week, discipline was an easy choice. Without the discipline to follow through with anything, you’ll have a difficult time achieving any of the other categories.

The biggest misconception about discipline is that if you don’t have it, than you don’t have it. Discipline is a skill, and just like any other skill, it can be learned over time.

The Importance of Goals

Before I get ahead of myself, it should be understood that discipline goes hand-in-hand with goal-setting. If you don’t set any goals, then it’s pretty easy to have the discipline to follow them. Setting goals is absolutely critical to achieving success in life. Sure you might fall into some success by wandering aimlessly, but good luck sustaining that throughout your entire life.

The problem is that, many times, people set the wrong type of goals – “I want to lose weight” is fine and dandy, except it’s not well defined. How much weight do you want to lose? An ounce? 100 pounds? How much time will you give yourself? 10 seconds? 10 years? A good goal is quantifiable AND has a deadline. “I want to lose 10 pounds by the end of August.” Now you have something you can work towards, and something that you can measure success against.

Achieving Goals Through Discipline

Ok, so now that we understand a little bit more about goals, discipline is about achieving them. Just how it’s easy to have discipline if you have no goals, it’s pretty easy to have goals but no discipline. You create a to-do list for yourself, or make a New Year’s Resolution (“Yay I started something”) but then you never follow through and achieve it (“Well at least I ‘tried’ right?”).

The problem with mentality is that re-inforces failure. Failure itself is not a negative, in fact failing can often be the greatest teachers of all – the key is that you have to learn something from them, and then it’s not really failure, it’s experience.

So if your goal is to wake up at 6am every day for a month, then discipline is ignoring the extreme desire to hit the snooze button when the alarm clock rings. It’s getting up despite your brain and body telling you otherwise. It’s not skimping on the weekends because you were up late the night before. It’s waking up at 6am, day in, day out, for that entire month.

But what if you don’t have discipline? What if you can’t force yourself to wake up at 6am, or to eat healthy to lose 10 pounds, or save money for retirement? Well there are often two main problems that are preventing your success: the goal itself and reward/punishment.

Setting Goals

When you are setting your goals, they have to be attainable. And that may be the hardest part, because it requires you to be completely honest with yourself.

While it might be great to think that your going to de-clutter your entire life in an afternoon, be honest with yourself – will it really happen? Have you achieved success that way before? Probably not.

Humans only have a certain capacity for which they can do the same activity before they must take a break (and some can go longer than others, but everyone has to eventually stop). That’s why your goals must be actionable and ideally broken down into sub-goals.

If your overall goal is to de-clutter your life, create smaller sub-goals or tasks that can help you achieve that. Start by throwing away something you don’t need away, every day. Just one thing. You don’t have to go through your entire closet, or finish an entire room – just throw one thing away today, and then another tomorrow, and then another the day after, etc. By the end of the year you’ll have removed 365 things from your life by taking just a couple minutes out of each day.

A goal broken into tasks like that is attainable, it’s easier to have that type of discipline. Once you start to achieve success with those smaller goals, create more involved ones. Over time you’ll create the habit of achieving your goal, and you’ll want to continue that streak, even though your goals are more stretching.

Rewards and Punishment

One of the keys to building that habit is to have rewards for when you succeed, and punishment when you fail. This can be easy to do when your goal deals with a third party (there’s a reason so many people learn discipline in the military: you have someone there you will not let you fail, and if you do, you will be punished till you succeed).

But for more intrinsic goals, you don’t always have someone there, to be in your ear about just having that one piece of cake that falls outside your diet, or those mere 15 minutes you slept in today – you have to be your own punisher. You have to accept that if you sleep in now, you won’t be getting that SleepComfort bed at the end of the year.

The other important part to this is that you should reward yourself. Just like dogs/kids/co-workers learn via a reward/punishment system, so do you. So if you drop those 3 pounds in the first week, reward yourself with something (not food, as that would be contradictory, but maybe a trip to the spa, or purchase of a new DVD).

Creating Accountability

Many of you may be wondering though, what if you don’t have the discipline to discipline yourself for lack of discipline? (Great question, you’re really paying attention.) That’s where your friends and family can help, as can remembering to always start small.

Friends and family can help by simply letting them know what it is you are trying to achieve. Hell, this blog is great for that. Once I state I’m going to do something on here, I feel like I have to, otherwise, in a way, I’m letting people down, and worse, somebody could call me out on my failures.

Too embarrassed to tell your close ones about a certain goal? Join a group that has a similar interest and make it public to them, or try a site like http://www.43things.com where you can post what it is you want to try to do and you can find others trying to achieve the same thing.

The other part is so important that it bears repeating yet again: start small. Remember: discipline is learned, and once it becomes learned, it becomes a habit, and once it’s a habit, it’s a sure-fire way to success in all other aspects of life.

A Process to Build Discipline

If you really have trouble with discipline, try this:

  1. Set the goal that every day for a week, you are simply going to clap 5 times. That’s it: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Done.
  2. For each day you achieve this goal, reward yourself with something small (bubblegum from the store, and extra 2 minutes in the shower, whatever, just some type of reward, something small).
  3. The next week, set the goal to do 10 jumping jacks every day.
  4. Again reward yourself for the days that you make, and this time punish yourself for the days that you miss (each day missed = 10 situps the next day).
  5. For the third week, write out the word “discipline” 15 times.
  6. Repeat the reward/punishment for each day of success/failure.
  7. Now for the final week, simply say “I will succeed” (or any other cheesy phrase you want), 20 times a day.
  8. Reward yourself for the successes, punish for the failures.

By the time you are done, it will have been 28 days – coincidentally the number of days (it is believed) to establish a habit. If you succeeded every day for 28 days, you’ve just learned the habit of success.

Now take that, and apply it to something slightly bigger, but still a relatively easy goal. Over time you will be able to keep increasing the stakes of your goals, while achieving success.

So now that we’ve learned some of basics of goals and discipline, tomorrow we’ll talk about achieving success. The two topics are closely intertwined, but tomorrow, we’ll get more into the definition of success as well as talk more about the grand scheme of life.

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