It Takes Time to be a Finisher

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Have you ever been out walking, suddenly spotted a landmark and thought “Great, I’m nearly there!”, only to find that an hour later you’re still walking towards it?

 

Well the same can be said for finishing a task.

I like to consider myself a successful person; and because that’s how I choose to define myself I recognise that, in order to make that my reality, I have to adopt the habits of a successful person.

One of those habits is “Successful people do the things that need to be done – and here’s the important bit – even when they don’t feel like it.”

I’m also practising the important discipline of finishing a task completely before moving on to the next one.

Tonight I came in and decided to tidy the kitchen, even though I didn’t feel like it; and by 8:22pm I felt I had done enough to leave the rest. But then my resolve kicked in and I said to myself “You know what, I’m going to spend 10 more minutes on this and get the kitchen completely finished.”

FORTY MINUTES LATER, I finished!

Now had I left that until tomorrow, that would have been another 40 minutes out of my day, PLUS any cleaning and tidying from tomorrow’s kitchen activities.

So, the main lesson here is not to stop when you think you’ve nearly finished a task, because:

  1. You may be further from finishing than you think, and
  2. Finishing a task gives you closure, gets it out of your head and releases motivational energy.

Is Clarkson Like Savile?

1-savile

1-clarksonSo apparently Jeremy Clarkson is ‘furious’ over someone from the BBC comparing him to Jimmy Savile.

Was that person implying that Clarkson is a sexual predator ‚Äď no; were they implying that he believes he has the power and influence to do or say what he likes without recrimination or negative consequences? Probably.

Jumping to his defense over his recent ‘fracas’, we have the likes of David Cameron and Kirsty Allsopp, who would hate to see Clarkson taken off our screens because their kids love Top Gear.

Like or or not, people in the public eye have a responsibility to be good role models; especially for our children.

My message to Clarkson would be the same message I’ve shared with others who are happy to freely give their opinions on matters with no regard to any offence or upset they may cause:

If you can’t take it, don’t dish it out.

Consistency is Key

Legendary salesman and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar often told the story of how he used to have one of the worst sales records in the cookware company he worked for.

Then one day a supervisor, PC Merrell, told him that if he believed in himself and went to work on a regular schedule, he could do some truly great things. Inspired by these words, Zig began to make sure, rain or shine, that he left the house at the same time every morning, ready to knock on a prospect’s door at exactly 9am.

As a result, he finished the year as the number two salesman in America out of over 7,000 – but here’s the thing – he didn’t once make salesman of the month; BUT – he¬†always made at least one sale every month.

There have been some amazing examples in sport where a champion gets tested by someone who, on paper at least, shouldn’t have even been in the running. Sometimes the challenger wins, leading to lessons being drawn from these events from the underdog’s point of view; things like, ‘believe in yourself’, ‘don’t listen to the nay sayers’, or ‘never give up’.

But here I want to look at things from the champion’s perspective. Most of the time the underdog doesn’t win, because their opponent, even when their back is to the wall and they seem to be pushed to the limits of their ability, somehow find another gear.

So often, whereas good players can beat the average person just through their natural ability and show occasional flashes of brilliance, great players become champions by being consistent; by being able to produce a solid performance match after match. And consistent performance is borne out of consistent practice, dedication and focus.

If you’re struggling with something that other people around you appear to be ‘naturals’ at, take heart in this –¬†hard work and consistent action will beat raw natural talent every time. So stick with it.

It’s been said that an author is only as good as their latest book and an actor, their latest performance. Such a phrase can be applied to pretty much any profession. The best in their profession have¬†become successful by honing their skills, carrying out consistent daily actions that move them towards their goals.

So how about you? How would you describe the state of your mind, financial situation, health, career; or the quality of your relationships or leisure time? Average? Good with occasional flashes of brilliance? Or consistently great?

If you feel there is something lacking in any area of your life, consider setting some clear goals in those areas and take regular consistent action towards them. You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve when you do.

A Lesson on How to Live

This little gem appeared on my Facebook feed one day and I couldn’t have wished for a better example of how we should all look to embrace life; to live as small children do – with no fears, no cares and no self-consciousness, amazed and amused at the simplest things in life and fully enjoying those experiences with other people, whom they love unconditionally. ¬†Thank you Chris Horton (and a very special thank you to your boys).

 

No Ice for Me Thanks

ice bucketI always find it amazing to see what some people are prepared to do for charity – or, in the case of the original ‘ALS Ice Challenge’ rules, what they’re prepared to do to avoid making a donation.

The MacMillan Cancer version has been cleverer still, asking people to donate ¬£3 for the ‘privalege’ of getting a soaking from a freezing cold bucket of iced water.

In my opinion there’s something deeply cruel in a setup where one person is nominated by another to do something they would probably rather not do. It’s brilliant for the charities since, potentially, they can earn millions for their cause before people run out of other people to nominate (although it’s more likely that the viral novelty will wear off first).

But those who are nominated can leave themselves open to ridicule and guilt if they don’t comply; and those who aren’t can end up feeling unpopular and unimportant.

So why are people putting themselves through this? Is it because they’re gagging to give their money away to a particular charity? Unlikely – they could do that without getting soaked. I suspect most people are doing it for at least one of the following reasons:

1) They’ve seen videos of ‘celebrities’ doing it and want to feel like they’re one of them
2) They want to see people they know look stupid or feel uncomfortable
3) They don’t want to be accused of being a ‘tight arse’ or a ‘boring killjoy’ for not doing it

Let me be clear on this – if anyone refuses to take part it doesn’t make them a tight arse, or a boring killjoy, or unfeeling, or any other cited reason to try and lay a guilt trip onto them. If anything it makes them rational human beings in control of their own destinies, who will not be swayed by the masses into doing something that makes them look stupid or feel uncomfortable.

Some people might argue that anything that helps raise money for a good cause is justified, but I disagree; being coerced to give (however gently) is, in my opinion, just wrong.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe wholeheartedly in charitable giving and I love to support people I know and local kids when they ask for sponsorship. But, as a rule, I prefer to give to causes of my choosing because I have a heart for them and, when I do give, I prefer to do it anonymously. And sometimes I prefer to give of my time, rather than my money.

For all those who have already participated in the ice bucket challenge, well done, I genuinely applaud you and your generosity in giving to the charity associated with your particular soaking. I respect your decision to take part – and trust you will respect my decision and reasoning not to.

For anyone who is yet to participate, please don’t bother nominating me. I’ll only disappoint you – and leave you cold.

 

Getting My Axe Together

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When it comes to managing emails…

I’m pretty good at keeping my inboxes clear (I have two email accounts, one for personal stuff and another for work). A little while ago I had the great idea of creating folders where I could place emails that needed action taken on them; this way I could then deal with those at my leisure and keep my inbox clear.

Since implementing my master plan I now have a total of 834 emails across my two accounts which need some kind of action.

Genius.

I may as well have just created a new folder called ‘out of sight out of mind’ and just set up an auto-redirect into it from my inbox. It’s the digital equivalent of spending a day sorting a room, only to find that, eight hours later, all you’ve actually done is transferred the contents of one room into another without actually dealing with any of it.

Now I’m a great believer in focussing on what’s most important; but if you’re doing that at the expense of everything else, all you’re doing is creating backlogs elsewhere in your life which take longer and get harder to deal with the longer you leave them.

This is a dangerous habit to have – the less of a handle you have on how much genuine, worthwhile work there is for you to do, the more likely you are to take on other things, which give you even less time to work on your tasks effectively and can lead to massive feelings of overwhem and despair.

And ultimately, the more things you have to do, the more often you are likely to end up having to compromise on time, quality or price.

Striking a Balance

As I’ve mentioned before in my SIMPLE philosophy, I believe the secret to a happy and successful life is balance; which leads me to a quote, much overused and often associated with Abraham Lincoln…

If I had 8 hours to chop down a tree, I would spend 6 of those hours sharpening my axe.

Really? Six hours? If it were me I probably wouldn’t use an axe in the first-place – I’d use a chain saw, get the job done in a fraction of the time and probably spend the rest of it playing my guitar.

Better still I’d hire somebody else to do the job for me and spend the time working on something I enjoy far more, and am much better at, in order to pay them.

Another version of this rather overused quote refers to having five minutes to cut down a tree and spending three minutes of that sharpening one’s tool. Now that’s more like it ūüôā

So keeping things in balance is important; and the less time we have to spend doing that, the better. As for my email disaster my intentions were good, but they didn’t work, so now it’s time to try another approach.

My 4 Step Solution

Here’s how I intend to tackle my 834 emails.

Step 1 – tackle them in the order most recent to least recent – this is because the more recent ones are likely to be the most relevant. Older emails may contain information or links that are now out of date and can just be ditched. Also dealing with the most recent messages first may help me avoid OS moments; like reading an email I received a week ago from a potential client asking if I might be free for coffee tomorrow (Oh S**t!).

Step 2 – apply one of the following ‘D’ rules to each mail:

– Do it
– Diarise it (for a SPECIFIC date)
– Delegate it
– Ditch it

…and, whatever I do, I WILL NOT make new folders called these to put the mails into and deal with later!

Step 3 – for each message I will seriously consider applying the 4th, and by far most effective ‘D’ rule:

– Discontinue it.

Did the email come from a shopping site or a person I bought a product from a year ago and haven’t since; or worse, have I been enticed by them to buy other stuff I’ve never got round to using? If so, I will unsubscribe from their emails, reduce my incoming clutter and get rid of any future temptation.

Step 4 – Going forward, apply the ‘D’ rules to each message straight out of my inbox and not waste time reading them and moving them to another folder, only to have to read them again to deal with them later.

If I had to define ‘sharpening the axe’ I would say it would be sharpening my awareness of the need to maintain balance in my life. Doing this often, for a short period of time is the key. That way, the saplings don’t grow into trees in the first place and I can spend a few minutes pulling them out by hand. No hired help to pay for and no chainsaw required; in fact, no tool at all…

…not even an axe.

Now where did I put that guitar???

Death of a Legend

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Image Source – Collider.com

The world is a little poorer today for the loss of the great Robin Williams – a man whose talent I have admired ever since first seeing him in the TV show Mork and Mindy when I was a child.

Like his character in the film Dead Poets Society, Williams ‘seized the day’ and ‘sucked the marrow out of life’.

And yet, at 63 he was suffering from crippling depression to the point where, allegedly, he didn’t want to live any more.

So many of us, who have lived lesser lives, would look at this man and wonder why he wasn’t happy.¬†He was worth millions, he was adored by millions, he had a beautiful wife and daughter and a legacy any actor or comedian would be proud to have emulated. Maybe he thought he’d seen it and done it all; maybe he felt his best was behind him and there was nothing left worth living for. Whatever his reasons for leaving this world prematurely, they will never have been compelling enough for the people who loved and admired him and his work to understand.

In the words of Braveheart (not one of Robin’s films) “Every man dies – but not every man really lives”. Robin Williams’s life may have been cut short and there is no doubt he would have blessed us with even more incredible achievements; but, even as it stands, the life he lived and legacy he leaves are both far greater than the majority of us would be happy to have accomplished if we lived to be one hundred.

My SIMPLE Philosophy

I’ve invented my own S.I.M.P.L.E. philosophy in an attempt to keep growing and organised in all of the key areas of my life – and I’m choosing to share it with you in case you find it helpful to use yourself. ¬†The sections below explain what each letter stands for and what each category relates to.

I believe a focus in all of these areas is essential for anyone who wants to enjoy a truly fulfilling life. Not feeling at peace in any one of these areas can affect all of the others. But equally, as you deal with any issues in each of these areas, it can have a positive effect on the rest. A rising tide, as the saying goes, lifts all boats.

The Myth of the ‘Balanced Life’

I believe there is such a thing as a ‘balanced life’, but the myth perpetuated is that each category deserves equal weight in terms of time and attention. We’re all different (thank goodness!), which means that ‘balance’ means something different to us all. For example, if you love your work and you’re happy being single, you can feel totally balanced spending 80% of your time focused on your work; whereas someone in a committed relationship may work as few hours as possible because they derive more fulfilment from spending time with their family.

There are no ‘Right Answers’ here.

As you read the explanations below, you’ll notice I’ve asked a number of questions. This is to help you get clear about what each category means to you right now. Each of us is different and our situations change over time so there are no right answers to these questions. The ultimate goal, as I mentioned above, is simply for you to do what it takes to feel at peace in each of these areas.

S is for…

Spirit or Sense – our connection with nature and/or the supernatural

I see this as how we connect to the world; how we relate to planet Earth and the universe that surrounds us. Do you feel you’re here by design and have (or are looking for) a sense of purpose or mission – or do you feel you’re just here by random chance?

Whatever you believe will determine how you engage with this category. You may have a particular religious belief, or you may consider yourself a highly spiritual person with no connection to a single religion, or you may believe in nothing beyond your own human existence and simply engage with the world through your 5 senses, science and reason.

Are you at peace with your current beliefs, or do you feel a need to explore this area of your life more?

I is for…

Interpersonal – the quality of our relationships with others

This is about how we relate to other human beings. Does being around lots of people energise or drain you? What makes you feel more fulfilled – the variety and peace of mind of having an address book bursting with names of people you can call upon to socialise with, do business with or help you at any time – or the intimacy of having a few choice friends who you could share anything with and whom you would trust with your life?

Do you have any unresolved issues with people or toxic relationships in your life that you need to deal with before you can feel at peace in this area?

M is for…

Material Рanything relating to our possessions and finances

When it comes to possessions and finances, most people find it hard to pin down exactly what would give them peace in this area. It’s easy for people to say ‘the more the better’, but in reality that’s just not true.

How much income is ‘enough’ for you? Some people would feel totally out of their depth earning way more money than they feel they need for the lifestyle they want.

Do you prefer to pay out regularly for insurance against possible bigger unforeseen life events, or build up a savings pot that you may or may not have to use?

Do you prefer to keep any savings in low or zero interest bank accounts, where your funds are protected, or risk investing some of that money in the hope of a better return?

Do you enjoy DIY and prefer to maintain your house, garden and other possessions yourself, or would you rather earn the money to get someone else to do those jobs?

Do you want more and/or better material possessions in your life? Or do you feel overwhelmed by too much ‘stuff’ cluttering up your home?

Do you feel that what you have already is neat, organised and well maintained – or do you never seem to find the time to keep up with everything?

Getting to ‘at peace’ in this area can be down to a good declutter and better time management, rather than more income.

P is for…

Personal – developing our mind and body

Whereas ‘S’ is about your relationship with the world and ‘Interpersonal’ is about your relationships with others, ‘P’ is about your physical and your mental health.

Are you the weight you want to be right now? Do you wake up every day feeling refreshed and energised? Do you look the way you want to look right now? Are there some quick changes you could make to make you feel instantly more at peace, such as a haircut or better fitting clothes?

Is there anything you would like to learn, which you believe would enhance the quality of your life, but isn’t really a leisure activity – for example, learning a foreign language or life skill?

L is for…

Leisure – what we do for fun, or to relax, or de-stress

If you’re a spiritual person, what ‘feeds your soul’ (or if you’re not, you can ask the ‘Marie Kondo’ question “what brings you joy”)?

Do you have a hobby that is so absorbing that you lose all sense of time when you engage with it?

Does it recharge your batteries to go somewhere quiet and read a good book, go for a walk, soak in a warm bath or watch your favourite movie?

Do whatever works for you. It’s good to try new things from time to time too, to see if you can add to your ‘leisure list’.

E is for…

Employment – work we get paid to do

Do you find your work fulfilling? Do you need to, or are you happy with it to just be a source of income to allow you to feel fulfilled elsewhere?

Are there any changes you could make in your current work that would make you feel more fulfilled than you currently are?

Do you see yourself doing what you’re doing now in 3, 5 or 10 years’ time? If not, what do you see yourself doing and how are you planning to make that happen?

An Invitation

I hope you’ve found this blog post useful, or at least thought-provoking. I invite you to explore my other blog posts to see how I use my SIMPLE philosophy to stay organised and improve my life.

To see my journey in each category since I started this blog in March 2012, click on the relevant category in the right-hand sidebar on this blog.