I've just added a new guide to the site: Personal Development Blogs List. It's
a list of popular personal development blogs, ordered by their Alexa rank. I've
been pretty liberal with what can go on the list, and any blog that focuses on
helping other people to achieve more is a good fit.
At the moment there are just under 30 blogs on the list, but I hope to grow that
If you have a blog you'd like added to the list, just leave a comment and I'll
I've been using Beeminder for about 3 weeks, and I finally fell off the road for
my "writing" goal last night. I still have two other goals, so it's not all doom
One thing I've learnt is that quantifying creative goals by time does not work
well for me. I originally set up the goal because I wanted to write more, but it
didn't really have the desired effect. I'd find myself rewriting things just to
meet the time quota, which wasn't really productive.
I usually only write when I'm in the mood, and it can be a couple of days before
inspiration hits. Forcing myself to write for 30 minutes every day seemed like a
good idea at the time, but in the end just led to me scrambling for ideas and
producing very little of value.
Still, Beeminder itself works really well. It's encouraged me to keep my email
under control, and I've spent way more time working on personal projects than I
used to. I'm still trying to come up with a good system for tracking personal &
work goals, but I'll probably go with a points-based approach.
The 30th of March, 2012 saw the biggest lottery jackpot in World history. The
pre-tax total was approximately 640 million dollars, and despite the odds of
winning being rather narrow, nearly 1.4 billion dollars was spent on lottery
Whenever there is a large lottery jackpot, the same crop of articles always
appear, such as:
What you could buy with $X million
How to pick your numbers
10 things more likely to happen than winning
I'm going to focus on the last one, because the statistics are usually wrong (or
rather, used incorrectly).
The odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot are 1 in 179 million. That means
that there are 179 million different number combinations that can occur. If you
buy one ticket, there us a 1 in 179 million chance your numbers will come
up. Buy two tickets (with different numbers), and the odds are halved. Nothing
Normally there's something about how much more likely it is that you'll be
struck by lightning than win the jackpot. The odds of being hit by a lightning
strike in the US are 1 in 10,000 2. This makes it sound much more likely,
but these odds are spread over an average lifetime (80 years) rather than a
single event (a lottery drawing).
A slightly more realistic set of odds would be: if you buy a lottery ticket,
what are the chances of you being struck by lightning before the draw compared
to winning the jackpot?
Assuming you buy a ticket as soon as the previous draw ends, you have nearly a 1
in 71 million chance of being hit by lightning. Of course, this doesn't take
into account the current season or state you live in (people in Florida are
twice as likely to be killed or injured than people in Michigan 4).
So, in order to be more likely to win the jackpot than being zapped by Zeus,
just buy two tickets.
Task lists are the cornerstone of many organisational systems. They're easy to
set up, but after a while they can take on a life of their own and become more
of a hindrance than a help.
How can task lists be improved without adding too much administrative bloat?
Here are a few things you can add to your task list to make them (and you) more
effective. You don't have to add all of them, just use what works and toss out
Estimate how long a task will take
It's much easier to set time aside for a task when you have a rough idea of how
long it will take to complete. Setting a time limit for a task also gives you a
deadline to aim for, which can stop you from losing focus. Tasks without any
sort of estimate have a habit of taking longer to complete.
Another advantage is that thinking through how long things will take will help
you spot tasks that haven't been broken down into small enough chunks.
If you have a lot of tasks that will take less than 5 minutes, they probably
belong on their own "shrapnel task" list. Same goes for things like phone calls
and other errands.
Track the time spent on a task
This ties in with the above point. If you're anything like me, you'll probably
find that estimating the time something will take is difficult. When you track
the actual time, you gather evidence that can really help in the future. Not
everything needs to be tracked (there's not much point in tracking the length of
phone calls for example), but other important tasks are wroth tracking.
The better you get at estimating, the easier it is to plan your day and to make
decisions on incoming tasks.
Make it interesting
If you encounter resistance when using your list, you'll avoid using
it. Granted, it's almost impossible to make a todo list the most fun thing on
Earth, but tweaking things can make it less painful to use.
Experiment with different ideas. Give yourself "points" for achieving certain
tasks that you can spend on rewards, or set yourself a target for the day &
week. Use an online task tracker that lets you share your results, and compare
Keep a someday/maybe list
The someday/maybe list is an integral part of the Getting Things Done system,
and it's well worth integrating into other systems. Someday/maybe lists are
particularly useful if you do a lot of creative work and gets lots of ideas
during the day. Just jot them on your someday/maybe list, and review it at least
once a month.
By writing down all your ideas, you give yourself permission to be creative but
still gain the benefit of keeping things in a trusted system.
Keep your lists organised
This is the hard part. A single list works well, but once it fills up things can
A setup that works for me is to have a separate list for each project, a master
list of non-project tasks, such as topics to research, and then a list of
context-sensitive items like phone calls to make or emails to send. I also keep
a list of any books that people recommend so I can keep any eye out for them
when I'm out.
Keep a "done" list
A "done" list might seem like a strange thing to keep, but I've found it very
helpful. It's less about keeping organised, and more about keeping a positive
outlook on things. It's easy to work long hours and feel like you've achieved
nothing, but by keeping a record of important tasks you've completed you get a
better picture of what's going on.