Thursday, July 19, 2012

10 Best Tricks of Fooling Myself to Work

From Dextronet:

In order to be successful, we have to work hard, no matter what. We can’t always be at the mercy of our motivation.

I am lazy. But that’s okay, because I have some tricks for fooling myself into working, every single day. Actually, I’m quite productive thanks to these tricks. I’m going to share the tricks with you now.

I will mention my own software, a task and notes organizer Swift To-Do List, in 2 of these tricks, but these tricks can be done with other programs (or pen and paper) too.

1. The ultimate trick

When I really don’t feel like working, and it would take a superhuman force to get me working, this saves me. Every time.

Actually, I think what follows is the best way of fooling yourself to work, because it works so well. It’s scary-effective.

So what’s the trick? Well, when I have a “Task X”, and I don’t feel like doing it, and I would much rather do anything else, but I know that doing this particular task is the best choice, I do this:

I tell myself that I will merely write down the steps needed to complete the task. Just a rough draft, at first, and that’s it. Maybe just 3 steps. I then add more steps, breaking the 3 steps into smaller sub-tasks. I then add some details, and thoughts, notes of things that I shouldn’t forget when doing this task. I just think the task through and write everything down. After a little while, I will be a proud author of “The Complete Guide To Finishing Task X for Dummies”.

(The actual way I do this is that I open my Swift To-Do List and fill the notes of the task I want to accomplish with all the steps and thoughts.)

Now, for some unknown reason, when there is nothing else to think about, and there is no way to screw this task up, because everything is laid out in front of me, I just start working on the task automatically. I might do just the first baby micro-step at first, but that’s OK. It follows to the next, and to the next, and before I know it, the task is finished.

When I am thinking about how to accomplish the task, I am already actually accomplishing it. And once I think it through, it seems ridiculously easy.

2. Not eating at the computer

I don’t know about you, but I have never accomplished *anything* while eating at my desk. I usually just read articles, or gaze at the code in Visual Studio while day-dreaming, at best. What’s worse, I even don’t enjoy the food that much this way, as my mind is split among 5 different things.

Oh, and did I mention that my keyboard used to be a huge mess? I swear that there was a delicate living ecosystem inside it. Even if I am really trying to be super-neat, some of the foodstuff will fall into the keyboard. It happens to the best of us.

So what I do now is that I always sit to an actual table, like a civilized man, and enjoy my meal without staring at the addictive hypnotic evils of my computer screen.

Now, while I am enjoying my food at the table, I also kinda miss the computer. I’m eager to return to it and do some real work. The fake feeling of productivity while eating at my computer is eliminated.

3. Rudder of the day

When I sit down to my computer for the first time in the morning, I immediately start working. Because my brain is still half asleep, he doesn’t fully realize that I’m actually working, so he won’t protest. Poor little bugger.

Whenever I begin the day this way, the whole day flows in the productive-tone. But if I start by messing around on the social networks and reading news and articles, the whole day seems lazy and I accomplish a lot less in the end.

This trick has probably the biggest ROI (return on investment) of all of these. What’s the investment? Well, it takes just a little spark of my willpower to start working in the morning. This little morning-spark can ignite an enormous day-fire of productivity.

Being the navigator behind the rudder is easy in the morning. Much harder during the day.

Whatever you do, start working when you sit at your computer for the first time. Even if just for a couple of minutes.

In my opinion, any work done “first thing in the morning” counts triple.

4. Real relaxation

Fake relaxation sucks. When I need a break, I do not eagerly launch Facebook, ICQ or solitaire, but I actually get up and get away from the computer! :-) I can go for a walk, read a book, prepare myself a fruit snack/smoothie/juice, take a nap, do some yoga, chat with a co-worker, or just generally chill out without looking at the darn computer screen.

When I return, I don’t do some random thing on “The Internets”. Oh no. I open my Swift To-Do List, see what’s next, and immediately start working.

5. “Back to work” mantra

I’ve learned this one from Brian Tracy’s Time Management and Maximum Achievement programs. I just keep saying “back to work”, whenever appropriate, until it starts humming in my mind automatically whenever something distracts me.

Completed a small task? “Back to work.” Someone interrupted me? “Back to work.” Answered a call? “Back to work.” Had to reboot my computer? “Back to work.” Velociraptor looking at me behind the window, then leaving? “Back to work.”

“Back to work” is my Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. I just feel great every time I tell myself “Back to work” and resume working.

6. Always knowing what to do next

Whenever I finish a task of any size, and I do not know what to do next, my productivity goes to the drain. So, I’ve come up with an easy way how to avoid this.

Whenever I need to know what to do next, I just bring Swift To-Do List up using a system-wide hotkey and I immediately see what’s next.

Not having some productivity software associated to a system-wide hotkey is like riding without a steering wheel. You will get somewhere, but not where you want to go.

I have many separate to-do lists (a couple for each project), and I’ve created a new Priority called “Next”, highlighted by a bright green color. I assign this priority to tasks that I want to accomplish next.

View modes, filters, sorting etc make this really easy. I can also manually reorder the tasks (see a video) to decide the exact order of my tasks.

7. Sheet of paper with the most important task

Although Swift To-Do List is awesome ;-), good old physical paper has an intricate quality that no software can offer: It exists outside of your computer.

When I have 1-3 super-important tasks, I often write them down on an actual physical paper, and put the paper in front of me. It will be a constant physical reminder of what I want to do. Works like a charm.

And don’t forget the exquisite pleasure of physically checking the tasks off, and joyously manufacturing a paper-ball as a token of your greatness.

This has the biggest effect when you prepare such a paper before leaving work or going to bed, because it will be the first thing you see when you get back to work the next day.

8. Eliminating distractions

It’s a fact of this age that focusing is nearly impossible if you do not have some personal distraction-management strategy. I’ve ellaborated on this topic in one of my previous posts Create more productive environment at your desk (10 tips).

9. When falling asleep…

When you are falling asleep, think about the most important task for the next day. Your subconscious mind will do half the job for you during the night.

This might sound bananas to you, but I swear that it works. Your mind is busy during the whole night anyway (we all have dreams), so why not give it something productive to ponder on?

What’s your trick?

I lied. There are only 9 tricks. However, here is the Captain You to save the day!

See that comment box below? I would love to hear your tricks of fooling yourself to work, or any other comments.

Bring it on. How do you fool yourself into work?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

How To Reduce Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms

From LiveStrong:

Caffeine is a stimulant found in many foods and drinks that increases energy and alertness. Unfortunately, caffeine is addicting, and stopping caffeine, especially if you go cold turkey, can cause withdrawal effects ranging from mild headache and fatigue to severe head pain, drowsiness and inability to function effectively. You can reduce caffeine withdrawal symptoms by gradually cutting back on the stimulant and taking it easy for several days after quitting. Consult your doctor if you suffer from anxiety, depression, heart disease or another condition before stopping caffeine cold turkey.

Step 1

Determine how much caffeine you take in each day by recording your intake for several days in a notebook. Include caffeine from drinks as well as less obvious sources, such as medications, chocolate and other foods. Knowing how much you take in enables you to create a plan for gradual withdrawal to minimize withdrawal symptoms.

Step 2

Eliminate one caffeinated beverage per day for a few days before cutting out additional caffeine. Gradually reducing your caffeine intake will reduce the severity of your withdrawal effects. After several days, eliminate a second drink or other source of caffeine.

Step 3

Drink herbal tea, fruit juice, hot apple cider or other drinks in place of caffeinated drinks. These will soothe you and ensure that you remain hydrated. Becoming dehydrated can worsen headache and other withdrawal symptoms.

Step 4

Switch to decaffeinated tea or coffee if you truly must have that first cup in the morning, or brew your coffee or tea for a shorter length of time to reduce the caffeine content of the beverage.

Step 5

Allow yourself extra rest while going through caffeine withdrawal. This will help combat the fatigue associated with stopping caffeine.

Step 6

Eat smaller meals more frequently and increase your activity level to counteract the temporary slowing of your metabolism that may occur during caffeine withdrawal. Eating more often also helps increase your energy and stabilize your blood sugar levels.

Step 7

Read food and medicine labels to check for hidden sources of caffeine. Accidentally taking in caffeine will prolong your withdrawal.

Step 8

Take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to deal with withdrawal headaches. Be careful when using headache formulas sold over the counter, especially those that contain aspirin. Many of these also contain caffeine.

Things You'll Need

  • Notebook
  • Over-the-counter pain reliever


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Relax Like a Pro: 5 Steps to Hacking Your Sleep

From The 4-Hour Workweek:
I once went almost five days without sleep in 1996 just to see 1) if I could make a week (I couldn't), and 2) what the side-effects would be.

I was a new neuroscience major at Princeton at the time and hoped to do research with famed serotonin pioneer, Barry Jacobs.

Hallucinations cut my sleep deprivation trial short, but I've continued to experiment with sleep optimization and variation as a means of improving performance.

Here are a few effective techniques and hacks I've picked up over the last five years from sources ranging from biochemistry PhDs to biologists at Stanford University.

1. Consume 150-250 calories of low-glycemic index foods in small quantities (low glycemic load) prior to bed.

Morning fatigue and headache isn't just from sleep debt or poor sleep. Low blood sugar following overnight fasting is often a contributing factor. Just prior to bed, have a small snack such as: a few sticks of celery with almond butter, a mandarin orange and 5-8 almonds, or plain low-fat (not fat-free) yogurt and an apple. Ever wonder how you can sleep 8-10 hours and feel tired? This is part of the explanation. Make a pre-bed snack part of your nutritional program.

1-2 tablespoons of flaxseed oil (120-240 calories) can be used in combination with the above to further increase cell repair during sleep and thus decrease fatigue. It tastes like a mixture of cat urine and asparagus, so I recommend pinching your nose while consuming it -- thanks Seth Roberts, PhD. for this tip -- or using capsules.

2. Use ice baths to provoke sleep

Japanese have longer lifespans that do most other ethnicities. One theory has been that regular ofuro or hot baths at bedtime increase melatonin release, which extends lifespan. Paradoxically, according to the Stanford professors who taught Bio 50, cold is actually a more effective signaler for sleep onset, but it could have no relation to melatonin production.

I decided to test the effect of combining 10-minute ice baths, timed with a countdown kitchen timer, one hour prior to bed (closer to bed and the adrenergic response of noradrenalin, etc. won't allow you to sleep) with low-dose melatonin (1.5 - 3 mg) on regulating both sleep regularity and speed to sleep. The icebath is simple: 2-3 bags of ice from a convenience store ($3-6 USD) put into a half-full bath until the ice is about 80% melted. Beginners should start with immersing the lower body only and progress to spending the second five minutes with the upper torso submerged (fold your legs Indian-style at the end of the tub if you don't have room). I'll talk about the fat-loss and sperm-count benefits of this in future post.

The result: it's like getting hit with an elephant tranquilizer. Don't expect it to be pleasant at first.

3. Eating your meals at set times can be as important as sleeping on a schedule

People talk a lot about circadian (circa dia = approximately one day) rhythms and establishing a regular sleep schedule, but bedtime timing is just one "zeitgeber" (lit: time giver), or stimulus that synchronizes this biorhythm (like pheromones and menstrual cycle). Eating meals at set times helps regulate melatonin, ghrelin, leptin, and other hormones that affect sleep cycles. Other "zeitgebers" for sleep include melatonin, light, and temperature. Parting suggestion: Get a sleep mask if you have any degree of light in your bedroom.

4. Embrace 20-minute caffeine naps and ultradian multiples

Test "caffeine naps" between 1-3 pm. Down an espresso and set your alarm for no more than 20 minutes, which prevents awakening in the middle of a restorative sleep cycle. Interrupting cycles often leaves you feeling worse than no sleep (though some researchers assert your performance will still improve in comparison with deprivation).

For longer naps, test multiples of 90 minutes, which is called an "ultradian" rhythm in some papers, though the proper term should be "infradian" since it's less than 24 hours. Thomas Edison, despite his vocal disdain for sleep and claim to sleep only four hours per night, is reported to have taken two three-hour naps daily.

Don't forget to factor in your time-to-sleep. It often takes me up to an hour to fall asleep, so I'll set my alarm for seven hours ((4 x 90 minutes) + 60-minute time-to-sleep).

5. Turn off preoccupation with afternoon closure and present-state training.

I have -- as do most males in my family -- what is called "onset insomnia." I don't have trouble staying asleep, but I have a difficult time falling asleep, sometime laying awake in bed for 1-2 hours. There are two approaches that I've used with good effect without medications to address this: 1) Determine and set a top priorities to-do list that afternoon for the following day to avoid late-night planning, 2) Do not read non-fiction prior to bed, which encourages projection into the future and preoccupation/planning. Read fiction that engages the imagination and demands present-state attention. Recommendations for compulsive non-fiction readers include Motherless Brooklyn and Stranger in a Strange Land.

From fat-loss (leptin release decreases with sleep debt) to memory consolidation, sleep is the currency of high-performance living.

Have you taken time to master it like a skill?

Sweet dreams.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

My Gym-Free Exercise Routine

Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays

  • Squats
  • Side Grip Pull Ups
  • Standing Calf Raises
  • Wide Grip Push Ups
  • Sit Ups
  • Superman Stretches

Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays

  • Side Lateral Raises
  • Front Lateral Raises
  • Shoulder Presses
  • Rear Deltoid Raises
I also walk for half an hour every day.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Meals and Drinks That Improve My Concentration

  • Eggs, Spinach and Black Beans
  • Chicken, Lentils and Cauliflower
  • Beef, Red Beans and Broccoli
  • Pork, Carrots and Sweet Potato

  • Black Coffee
  • Green Tea

Thursday, July 12, 2012

How to Teach Your Child or Teen to Stop Making Excuses and Start Taking Responsibility for their Behavior

From EmpoweringParents:
Sit down with your child and point out that whatever it is you’re doing now isn’t working any more. Gauge your remarks based upon the age and developmental level of your child. The younger the child, the more simplistic the conversation has to be. In any case, the conversation should be brief and to the point. I can’t stress enough the importance of not making a lot of justifications or giving in to emotionalism. Don’t say, “I’m sorry we let you down.” A simple, “This isn’t helping you,” is fine. Explanations longer than that invite arguments which we like to avoid when we can.

This is your chance to make a fresh start. You can say, “Our relationship with the school hasn’t really been working, and how we’ve been handling things hasn’t been working.  We don’t think it’s giving you what you really need. So from now on, when you don’t do your homework, this is how we’re going to handle it. If you’re abusive with our neighbors or friends or schoolmates, this is how we’ll handle it.” Spell out what will happen if they don’t follow the rules: “From now on, if you don’t do your homework, you won’t be allowed to watch TV until it’s done. If we see you abusing people, you won’t be allowed to play your video games for the rest of the day.” The best method is to have a short conversation, and then say, “I have something else I have to do now,” and go do it. Don’t make it a long, drawn-out affair.

Later on, follow through on the consequences you’ve laid out. You should expect a response that includes a wide range of acting out behavior, from verbal abuse to threats of non-performance, to sullen silence. Nonetheless, if you stick with this, in the long run, you’re doing your child a big favor. Accountability for basic responsibility creates change. ... Full text