To kick of 2010, Jurgen ponders a better way to deal with email, suggests a totally contrarian time management system, takes some ideas from the Wizard of Oz and offers some thoughts on how to loose weight more effectively.
1: A better way to get through your email
Like many of you, I am vulnerable to the distraction of email. Here's a method I've been trying out and finding helpful:
1) Figure out how much time you will spend catching up with your email. Let's say, for example, 30 minutes, and the number of emails you will process during that time. Let's say 30, on the assumption that some will require a few minutes to read and answer, and some will be instantly disposable or forwarded.
2) Set a timer for that period of time.
3) When the timer rings or buzzes, if you've reached your goal, congratulate yourself and move on to the next task. If you didn't, give yourself an additional five minutes (only!) to process however many emails you have left on your goal.
ACTION: Try this method and I think you'll be surprised by how much you can do in that final five minutes.
2: I don't want to! (Even though I did)
One of the people in my online coaching program wrote: "One slight problem I am having is that working on my book has started to feel too much like work. This is also true of research even when it is about a topic that I would normally read about for pleasure. As soon as I tend to think of something as being something that I have to do I tend to procrastinate. This has been true of hobbies, sports that I enjoy and academic subjects that I have studied."
I think this phenomenon - of things we normally enjoy starting to feel a bit of a burden - is very common with creative people. We like having a feeling of total freedom and as soon as something goes from being what we want to do to what we should do, part of us wants to rebel.
It reminds me of the opening scene of "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," where Sundance will leave only if the other guy invites him to stay...
ACTION: This feeling is kind of child-like (as are most aspects of being creative) so one solution is to use playful methods to make it more enjoyable again. Some options: create a competition with yourself; race the clock; if it's not distracting, listen to music at the same time as doing the task; give yourself points every time you complete part of a task and decide how many point you'll need in order to award yourself a prize.
3: The contrarian time management system
I'm a big fan of the "opposite technique" for finding new ways of doing things. Very simply, you look at the usual way of doing things and consider doing the opposite or a practical version of the opposite. If the usual approaches to time management don't work for you, I suggest dedicating one day to doing these opposites to the usual:
- Create a To-Don't-list
- Do what you feel like
- Lose track of time
- Keep finish dates open - no deadline
- Create interruptions
- Do big tasks all at once
- Check emails frequently
- Welcome the inner critic
ACTION: This may sound a bit mad, but give it a try: on one day start with a list of what you will NOT do and a menu of projects you might want to work on. Then just follow your feelings: work on whatever inspires you only for as long as it holds your interest, then switch.
Punctuate these switches by checking your email, getting some exercise, and other interruptions. Dare to take on a big task. Put off any aspects of the project you don't want to do. Listen to music while you do it (or use other ways of multi-tasking). Don't worry about the clock. It may be that removing all the usual pressures of time management gives you a huge boost of productivity.
4: Identify - and ignore - the man behind the curtain
Remember The Great Oz? Turns out he was just an old guy behind a curtain but everybody assumed he was all-knowing and they had to follow his instructions.
A good thing to do at the start of the year is to ask yourself whether there are any Great Oz people (or institutions) in your life. Sometimes the Great Oz is yourself, in the form of old habit patterns or "shoulds" that you don't question.
What would it feel like to free yourself from any Great Oz influences? What's the worst that could happen? What's the best?
ACTION: Sometime in the next day or so, take a blank piece of paper and draw a line down the middle - this is the curtain. To the left of the line, write down anything you're doing that no longer serves you but that some Oz is expecting of you (again, this could just be the Oz part of you). To the right, jot down what you'd rather do. If there's no serious downside, start making the changes.
5: If dropping a few pounds is on your agenda
This is the time of year when a lot of people decide to lose a few pounds. There are a few strategies that have been proven to be effective:
- Keep the tempting bad foods out of the house. If they're there, you'll probably eat them. If they're not, it's unlikely you'll make a trip to the store to fulfil a momentary craving.
- Jot down everything you eat - yes, everything! One study that included 1700 people showed that those who kept a food diary lost twice as much as those who didn't.
- Weigh yourself daily but don't freak out over daily variations. At the end of the week, add up the daily weights, and divide by seven. That's your average weight that week. Compare only the averages, week to week. If you've lost one to two pounds that week, keep on doing what you were doing. If not, make changes to what you're eating and how much you're exercising.
ACTION: Being creative requires energy and being overweight can sap it. If you want to lose some weight, start using these three tips today. If not, consider how the principles behind them might apply to other things you want to achieve.
6: And a quote to consider
"Don't ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who came alive." - Howard Thurman