30 Days of Positive Affirmations - Repost

Back in November of 2005, I decided to try using positive affirmations for a 30 day trial. I wrote a series of articles for it on my other blog, and rather than repost the whole series here I'll link to the originals.

The whole experiment was an interesting experience, and I recommend trying out affirmations to see if they work for you.

Posted in: Success Strategies | Comments (0)


Keeping a progress log, part II

Note: This was originally posted on the Sodaware Blog on November 17th, 2005.

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In the last thrilling instalment, I briefly covered my progress log, a book which I use to keep track of how close I am to achieving my major goals, as well as my overall level of productivity. In this entry I'll be describing:

  1. Creating my 90 day goals
  2. Tracking my progress
  3. The "b-Alert" system

Creating my 90 day goals

As mentioned in my last entry, I have a total of 21 goals to achieve in 90 days, divided equally into seven categories. I got this idea from "The Power of Focus", and I've found it helpful for making sure I have balance in my goals. I use the following categories:

  • Financial – This covers how much money I want to earn and how much I want to save.
  • Business – This concentrates on what I want to achieve with my business, and where I want it to be once the 90 days are up. If you don't run your own business, this area would cover work instead, and may include goals for promotions, raises or important tasks you want to achieve.
  • Fun – Sometimes it's easy to forget the fun side of life, so I use this section to note any fun things I want to do, as well as how many days I want to take off work.
  • Health – This makes sure I'm thinking about my exercise and diet plans.
  • Relationships – This includes family and friends, as well as work relationships. It's important to nurture your most important relationships, and to make time for the people in your life that matter.
  • Contribution – I like to do my bit for others. My contribution goals tend to focus on my work with the Scout Association, as well as helping people on software development forums and producing material for when the rest of this website goes live.
  • Personal – The last section contains any goals that don't quite fit anywhere else.

I use mind-mapping to create goals for each area, and then decide on the time span for each goal. I may wish to achieve some in less than 90 days, and others may be longer term goals. It's important to note that I usually have more than 21 goals at this point, so I pick the three most important goals from each category, and these become my 90 day goals. I keep a note of the other goals, and these will usually become integrated into my weekly goal setting session.

Tracking my progress

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I use a modified version of "The Printable CEO" for my daily tracking, and although it doesn't look as good as the original, it gets the job done. I keep the list of activities that are worth points on a seperate piece of card, which also acts as a bookmark. The list itself is modified from the original, and it now reflects my interests and line of work.

Even though I've only been using this part of my system for a few weeks, I've already spotted a few patterns. It's a great way to identify which areas need improving, and also which days are least productive. So far Monday is my worst day, and Thursday my best. Curious.

The "b-Alert" system

I read about the "b-*A*lert" system in the book “The Power of Focus”, and I really liked it. It's not particulary complex, and it only takes a few seconds to update it at the end of the day. The idea is to make sure you have balance in your daily activities (much like creating balance in your goals). "b-*A*lert" stands for:

  • Blueprint - This might consist of a few "to-do" items, or it might be something more complex. Either way, it's good to have an idea of what you want to achieve during the day.
  • Action - Action is the most important activity, hence the bold letter. Not action = no results.
  • Learning - A daily dose of learning helps you increase your own knowledge, and stimulates your mind. You don't need to devote hours of study in the library, and what you learn doesn't have to be profound. Don't limit yourself to a single source either. Books, journals, and magazinesare all good sources, but what about blogs, podcasts, audio tapes and even interviews?
  • Exercise - It only takes thirty minutes a day. I always exercise for 20 minutes every morning, and although some days I really don't want to, it's made such an improvement to how I feel that I really wouldn't want to give it up. As with learning, vary your sources of exercise. It doesn't have to be a fourty minute session in the gym thrashing your biceps, it can be a nice walk or a bicycle ride.
  • Relaxing - If you've worked hard, you deserve time to relax. Spend time with your loved ones, admire nature or have a nap! The break will do you good, and leave you feeling recharged and ready to face whatever challenges life decides to throw at you. Remember - you deserve the break, so don't feel guilty for not working. If you work for yourself, this can sometimes be hard to do but it's important that you don't let yourself get burnt out.
  • Thinking - A little reflection can go a long way. This is what I use the "What went right/wrong" sections in my progress book for.

My book has a grid for tracking this, and once I've worked on a particular section I circle the letter. At the end of the week it's quite easy to see which areas aren't getting the attention they need. You don't need to work through the letters in order, you simply use them as a guide for planning your day.

Posted in: Time Management | Comments (0)


Keeping a progress log

Note: This was originally posted on the Sodaware Blog on November 14th, 2005.

Keeping a Progress Log

I've been keeping a progress log since the end of August, and although it's still far from perfect, it's been a great help on my self improvement odyssey. Recently I've modified it slightly to use a version of "The Printable CEO", and although I've not been using it for very long, I do feel like it's made an improvement.

Even though I use computers most of the time, I prefer to keep my log on paper as it means I can review it when I'm not in my office. I also think it gives it some character, although that's entirely down to personal preference. I also do everything by hand - no printing here. Perhaps "The Drawable CEO" would be a good name for it.

The basics

Using both sides of a single page for each week, I keep track of the following:

  • Weekly goals
  • My points monitor
  • My "b-Alert" tracker
  • What went right
  • What went wrong

I added a transparent pocket to the inside of the book, which I keep my 90 day goals in. I have 21 goals, divided into seven sections. In part two I'll explain these sections in more detail.

image-0008.jpg Each page starts with the date, and then the top three goals I wish to achieve for the week. I put checkboxes in front of each goal so I can tick them off when they're complete. The original system had me setting three goals for each day, but I felt this crowded the page a little too much and also distracted me if I had goals from the previous day that I hadn't completed.

Underneath this is my points tracker, and then underneath that is my "b-Alert" tracker. I took the b-Alert system from "The Power of Focus" (reviewed here). I also use the goal setting tips from the same book to make sure I'm covering the important aspects of my life. This will be covered in more detail in part two.

image-0009.jpg The back of the page is divided into two sections. The top two-thirds is "What went right", where I note anything important that was achieved. Reading over this gives me a boost, and helps remind me of what I've achieved during the week.

The remaining third is "What went wrong", which allows some analysis of where the week could have been improved. I deliberately kept it to a third to prevent myself from being overly critical, and also to focus myself on the major issues.

Where possible I use bullet points, as it makes it easier to scan for a quick overview. It's useful to look over this during my weekly review, as it helps me find areas for improvement.

In part two, I'll cover the trackers in detail, and also explain how I ensure I have balance in my goals.

Posted in: Time Management | Comments (3)


Productivity Toolbox - The Mind Dump

What is it?

The "mind dump" is a way of getting a lot of information out of your head and into your organisational system. It's a simple process that doesn't take particularly long, although it may take longer if you haven't done it for a while. It's a great way of clearing your mind, and it allows you to get a good view of your projects, commitments and tasks.

When do you use it?

A good time to perform a mind dump is at the end of every week, just before your weekly review. Another good time to use it is when you're feeling overwhelmed with work, or when your brain is swimming with ideas and you can't concentrate.

How do you do it?

Make sure you have at least twenty minutes of uninterrupted time, sit down and relax. Take a sheet of paper and write down a task you want to do. This can be something simple like making a phone call, to something larger like setting up a blog or starting a business. Absolutely anything goes, so write as much as you can. I generally write down at least a hundred items if I haven't done it for a while, but you may find you only write down fifty. The important thing is to get as much out of your head as possible.

You can either write every item on a separate sheet of paper, or write them all on to the same sheet. I prefer to write it all on one long list, but you may find separate sheets are easier to process.

How do you process the list?

This all depends on your organisational system, but a rough GTD method is as follows:

Go through each item on the list. If it's something that will require more than one task to complete, it's a project so it gets added to a "projects" list. If it's a single action that will take less than two minutes to complete, do it immediately. If not, add it to the appropriate "to-do" list.

If it's something you want to do, but don't know when (such as taking a holiday), write it on your "Someday/maybe" list. As soon as you process each item, cross it off the list or dispose of the sheet it was written on.

What are the benefits?

The main benefit of this technique is that it gives you a clear mind and helps you concentrate. Once you've processed the list, you know everything you were thinking of will be taken care of, and your mind can rest at ease.

Posted in: Productivity Toolbox | Comments (4)


How I overcame my fear of flying

I thought I'd share a personal story about my fear of flying, and how I managed to get over it. Over time, I've gone from having an almost paralysing fear about flying to actually enjoying the experience.

A little bit of history

My fear of flying really came about from a fear of heights that I've had for as long as I can remember. My first flight was in 1999, when my family and I travelled to Egypt. I don't remember much about the flight, apart from the fact that I hated it.

I didn't fly again until 2003, and since then I've made over 15 flights of varying lengths. My most recent flight was over nine hours, and it was the most relaxed travel experience I've had in a long time.

The most regular problem I had was having nightmares about planes crashing. They either involved me being a passenger on a plane that was crashing, or being an observer to a plane crash. Sometimes I would have these as often as once a night, but I generally had one at least once a week. They ranged in clarity, but the most vivid dreams felt completely real and often led to me waking up in a cold sweat.

Where did the fear come from?

Why are we so scared of flying? What factors make it scarier than something like taking a bus or a train?

Even though there's a much larger chance of being killed in a car accident, the fear of being killed on a flight seems to be much greater. It might be because plane crashes are always given a high media profile, or because they're often much larger than a road accident.

I think the main fear comes from the lack of control people have when they're flying. At least if you're driving you can swerve to avoid an accident, but if something goes wrong on a flight there's nothing you can do. That's quite a scary thought.

How I beat it

I didn't solve the problem in one go, but I took several smaller actions that all added up.

Beating the bad dreams

I used a technique I learnt from lucid dreaming, called the “reality check”. The idea is that whenever you perform a common action, you consciously ask yourself if you're dreaming. A good reality check to perform is closing your nose with your fingers and trying to breath through it. If you're dreaming, you'll be able to breath, which will induce a lucid state.

Because my nightmares involved planes, every time I saw a plane I would perform a reality check. This enabled me to become lucid in any dream that involved planes, and I could change the outcome to something more pleasant. It takes practice and discipline, but this really helped with the bad dreams.

Changing the visions of death

I used to associate flying with visions of death, which didn't exactly help the fear. I made a conscious effort to stop myself whenever these thoughts came up, and to think about a more peaceful situation. For example, I changed these visions so that instead of the plane plummeting into the ground, it would crash land and everyone would make it off unharmed. Instead of seeing myself paralysed in terror, I transformed the image of myself into someone calm who offered help to the other passengers.

It sounds simple, but it made a big difference to my general attitude about flying.

Educating myself

To put my mind at ease, I looked around to learn about the safety checks that are performed, and how safe various airliners are. These few pieces of information made a huge impact, mostly because they appealed to the logical side of my brain. Flying is safe. Really safe.

Learning to enjoy it!

I've found that getting a window seat makes the flight much more enjoyable. Some of the views can be absolutely breathtaking, especially around takeoff and landing. Take some time to reflect on how amazing it is, and it will help you relax. Alternatively, watch every single film they show to take your mind off things.

Future flights

Since I started using these techniques, I've been able to enjoy the experience of flying. It takes time and a proactive approach, but beating the fear of flying is within everybody's grasp.

Posted in: Overcoming Fear | Comments (3)