Life / Can Do

Helpful tips to living a better life

Posts Tagged ‘Learning

In Just 15 Minutes Per Day You Can …

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In just 15 minutes per day, you can learn a new skill or become an expert on a particular subject. The catch is that you have to do it everyday for as long as it takes to reach the level of competency you desire.

If you do this, it is unlikely you will limit your learning to just 15 minutes every day. There will be days when you become inspired and decide to spend several hours learning. Still, it is more important to remain consistent and continue to do 15 minutes per day.

It would be a mistake to think that you can cram and replace several short learning sessions with an extended session. The brain doesn’t work that way. You need to have a consistent pattern of learning over a long period of time to retain the knowledge or skill.

I used this technique to learn how to type. When I was at my peak, I was able to type over 70 word per minute and I achieved this by practicing everyday for at least 15 minutes. I would rarely practice more than an hour but I always practiced at least 15 minutes.

If 15 minutes is too much time to commit to, you can try 10 or even just 5 minutes. If you do it everyday, you will see progress. In my opinion, if you are going to spend 5 minutes on something, it would be a missed opportunity to not continue for at least 15 minutes, but that’s just my experience – it may fit your lifestyle.

There’s a bunch of brain science to back this up but why not simply try it. There may be skills that require too much prep time for 15 minutes to be realistic (scuba diving, flying a plane) but even then once your are actively engaged in the learning process, 15 minutes will produce results.

 

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Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

March 24, 2014 at 7:54 am

Become Who You Were Meant To Be

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When getting assistance from a mentor or a coach, one may will take offense that they are being told to change who they are. But they are mistaken to feel that way.

Each of us is born with a blueprint of the person we are supposed to be. When we are young, it is obvious that we need to grow into that person. Children accept that learning and growth is part of their lives. But at some arbitrary age, society labels us as “adults”. We are considered matured and done with learning and  growing.

The truth is that we are is defined by the entirety of lives and the legacy we leave. We are not simply who we are when we reach a certain age. When we,  even as adults, continue to learn and grow, we are striving to become the person we were meant to be.

Even though I am over 40, I continue to find new ways to learn and grow. My behaviors and habits are not the same as they were twenty years ago or even just a year ago. However, I feel more at ease with who I am with the new behaviors and I’m excited to learn more about myself as I try new things.

When people reject opportunities to learn and grown, they are not defending who they are, but rather stopping themselves from being the person they were meant to be.

 

 

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

March 23, 2014 at 1:15 pm

To Begin Anything, First Know The Purpose

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It doesn’t matter what you are trying to accomplish, the first thing you need to do on any project or action is to determine the purpose. Want to lose weight? Why? What’s the benefit? Would the benefit outweigh the cost?

Without knowing the purpose, it is easy to get sidetracked and that goal ends up on the stack of unfulfilled expectations.

Don’t just verbalize the purpose. Write it down. Write it down. Write it down. Did I mention that you need to write it down? Writing down the purpose is extremely important. This action tells your brain that this is not just some flight of fancy and that you are really serious about accomplishing this goal. If writing down the purpose seems like a waste of time then you don’t really want to accomplish it.

With the purpose written down, you can refer to as needed. When you are about to commit to an action or decision you can then ask yourself if this would serve the purpose. Once you determine that an action serves a purpose you can move forward with confidence.

It is also important to determine your purpose in life. Your purpose in life drives all your other purposes. My purpose in life is simply: To Help Others. That may seem like a very broad purpose but I’ve broken that down into more direct goals with their own purposes. Everything I do has to in someway align with my greater purpose in life. Knowing that I’m working towards that purpose assures me that my contribution to the world is valuable and that I am valuable.

For help discovering your purpose, I found an interesting technique at: How to Discover Your Life Purpose in About 20 Minutes

Once you know your life purpose and have a good inventory of goals that work toward that purpose, you should then audit the things in your life right now and remove all those things that don’t contribute to your life purpose.  Trust me, when I say that this is an extremely difficult step to fully commit to.  You may need to wean yourself off the habits that you find are holding you back from your purpose. In my case, I found I was spending too much time watching TV, reading fiction, playing video games … the list goes on.  I had also decided to stop drinking alcohol as I believed it worked against my purpose of helping others with substance abuse problems (I miss beer, sigh).

You don’t have to eliminate all the activities that you do just for fun. Whatever your life purpose is, you aren’t going to get far if you are not having a good time. I can’t help others feel better about themselves if I am miserable myself. As I write this I was considering amending my life purpose to be: To Help Others and Have Fun Doing It. I’m just afraid that could be used as justification to fall back into bad habits.

As I was writing this I had to stop several times to discuss charity work we have planned for the Epilepsy Foundation. That is just one of the charities that we contribute to but it’s all part of our greater purpose. This living for a purpose is not something you do once in a while. It has to drive you on a daily basis.

Once you give yourself over to a purpose, life is better. It’s as simple as that.

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

February 5, 2012 at 11:47 am

Responsibility

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The group I work with had a bad quarter financially and it was my fault. We had lost an important client and failed to bring in enough new business to cover that loss. I am not a director or a manager and it is not in my job description to make the decisions that would directly affect the bottom line, but I still accept a share of the responsibility for the loss. It would be easy to believe that the results were out of my control or to blame it on the current economic conditions. I could even argue that my projects were extremely successful and the work that I did reduced costs while increasing business value. However, the truth is that I am part of a team and when that team does not do well, I do not do well.

As individuals, we have to own our part in the success or failure of the teams we work with. I am proud that the work I did may have helped mitigate the negative numbers but I regret that I could not have done more to help others achieve the results we needed.

I asked my manager about what we did or did not do to cause us to lose that client. He didn’t know. How could he not know? How could something that was so significant not be communicated clearly and to everyone?

So I am taking responsibility for something executives at the company did not care to share with me. There was no lack of communication when we were all told that bonuses and raises were going to be reduced due to this unknown failing of ours.

I will not accept this lack of communication. I will not grumble, complain and blame the higher-ups for the lack of fairness. I will keep asking until I get an answer. When I do get that answer, I will ask another question: “What could I have done differently that would have helped prevent the loss of the client?”.

I believe we were not told because the executives believed it was their own fault and not that of the employees. I believe it is shame and not malice that makes them reluctant to share the information. They have a responsibility to make the right decisions but they should not take all the blame any more than they should take all the credit for the results we produce.

I decide how much I will contribute to the success of the business. I decide if I’m going to do just what is assigned to me and I decide if I’m going to go beyond what is expected. If I am treated unfairly and my pay does not reflect my contribution, it is my decision to accept it or to look elsewhere for work. The only thing my employer really has control over is whether or not to keep me on the payroll during a layoff. I do whatever I can to make keeping me on the right choice.

I blame not just myself but everyone in my group. I blame those who do only what they are told and don’t ask questions. I blame the employee who follows a process just because it has always been done that way. I blame the project manager who is only concerned with meeting his project’s deadlines. I blame the person who leaves early because their work is done while their peers are overwhelmed with work. I also forgive them because I have done the same in the past.

There is no doubt in my mind that we will come back from this setback. It isn’t the first time and it won’t be the last. A successful business is not one set of quarterly results or the loss of one client. A successful business is the cumulative success of the individuals working in it.

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

January 25, 2012 at 8:17 pm

Productivity Is For Everyone

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The concept of productivity is often associated with the workplace. It is not often discussed in the context of family or social life. I believe it is important to be productive in any aspect of life. Even when the goal is to just sit home and relax with the family it is important to maintain efficiency in your home life to maximize the opportunity to spend that time.

When viewing the popular topics in WordPress, I have yet to see productivity listed there. It is interesting to see “Fashion” as a popular topic but not “Productivity”. Not everyone has an interest in fashion but I would expect everyone has an interest in productivity. Who wouldn’t strive to achieve more in less time?

It doesn’t matter what you other interests are, be it bowling or bingo. We all want to spend more time doing those things that bring us pleasure. In a factory productivity is measured by how much product is produced using the least amount of resources. At home we want to produce as many quality moments with our family and friends at the lowest cost. Playing a game of Jenga with the family is much more productive than mere cohabitation.

Today I spent an hour outside in the snow with my wife and child. We laughed and knocked each other about. My wife aimed a snowball at my back but I turned and got it square in the face. It was worth it to see the two of them laughing. That was just one hour but it was extremely productive. My daughter got to see her parents letting loose and having fun. You can’t pay for that kind of child therapy.

So when you making you lists of things to do, make sure you put in those tasks that matter most.

At work, I don’t get paid by the hour. My boss could care less if I work 30 or 80 hours a week as long as I produce results. I do my best to stay as productive as possible so that I can have time for all the things that matter to me. I schedule time with family just like I would an important meeting at work. The agenda may not have been written down but I had a rough list in my head. If I had written it down I suppose it would have been the following:

Event: Snow Time With Family

Agenda

  • Knock Emma down in the snow.
  • Snow angels
  • Sled down the hill
  • Snowball fight
  • Drink hot chocolate while reviewing highlights

I didn’t set an official start and end time because it all depended on how everyone was feeling. If we were still having a great time it would have run longer but it started to get dark and the cold started to be exhausting. Plus we had that hot chocolate to look forward to.

I wonder if businesses could learn something by this and maybe schedule meetings based on the level of employee engagement (or lack of). It is almost taboo to consider how people are feeling when making business plans. Employee morale is almost always discussed after the fact and only after consultants have been brought in to advise about low numbers on our employee surveys.

With the recent snowfall and my daughter’s level of excitement, my wife and I planned our day to allow for this time. Each of us had tasks that we need to get done early so we kept the TV off and got those done. If we didn’t plan I’m afraid the day would have come and gone with the opportunity lost.

I’m suggesting that if you want to improve your family or social life you need to plan tasks that can help you achieve that. If you are single and want to have a better social life, you need to make an effort to set up outings with friends or join a book club or go dancing. If you have children you could schedule activities such as model building or art projects. Start yearly traditions like Superbowl parties or game nights. In our case, we have a traditional Chicken Soup get together where we eat bowls of my wife’s chicken soup (it’s really good soup).

Ask yourself if your family or social life is producing the results you want. If you have any troublesome friends it may be time to downsize. If your family is not getting along you need to spend time and resources on improving those relationships. Your life is a factory with the purpose of producing happiness for you and your loved ones. It is important that it run efficiently and effectively to best achieve that purpose.

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

January 21, 2012 at 8:54 pm

Aspects of a Successful Life

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How to improve the quality of your life?

We all desire a happier and more rewarding life. In that we often strive to improve specific details of our lives – get a better job, own a bigger home, spend more time with our friends and family, get in better shape, and so on. While it is important to work on these focused goals, it is important to take a step back and look at our lives as a whole and determine if our individual goals contribute to our long-term happiness. It is easy to assume that a goal such as striving to get a better paying job is something we want, but we may find that we are just following a pre-programmed path set by the expectations and influence of others or even the media. It would be a tragedy to struggle for years to achieve a goal only to find that is detracts from you happiness instead of contributing to it.

Big goals and small tasks

Once you take a step back and consider what you want to achieve in life, the complexity of the problem can be daunting. When faced with a large goal the best thing to do is attempt to break it down into smaller more manageable goals. You may need to establish another levels of goals below these as well if they are still too daunting. Once you have a list of goals, you will need to determine that actionable tasks you need to achieve those goals. Even then if there are tasks that appear too big to tackle, you can break those tasks down into smaller sub-tasks. There is no limitation on how small the tasks should be. They need to be small enough so that you feel that you can easily accomplish them. This is just a high level overview on the process of goal setting and tasks. We will expand upon the topic of goal setting in a future article.

Mind, Body and Spirit

The first step that I take when editing my life goals, is to consider the three main aspects of my being that I want to improve which are mind, body and spirit. While the more pragmatic may feel that this is little too “new-agey”, I want to assure you that I will strive for practical advice based on both quantitative and qualitative research as well as my own personal experience. The word “spirit” has religious connotations, but in this context this word encompasses the topics of passion, drive, motivation and purpose. The concepts of mind, body and spirit are very useful when setting goals. In practice, however,  most goals will address more than one of those. Though exercise is often considered a way to improve the body, it also improves the mind and spirit as well.

Maintain skepticism

Most of the advice I will provide on this site will be based on work done by others. For years, I have researched the fields of self-improvement, productivity, business and anything else that would help provide the answers I had been looking for. I will continue to research in my endless mission to improve my life and the lives of others. In those years my life has had many challenges and I attempted to apply what I’ve learned to those challenges. I’ve achieved great things as a result. I’ve also found that some of what I’ve learned was faulty or incomplete. I don’t begrudge those who shared that faulty information as I believe most offer the best that they know and it was up to me to find my own answers.

I will do my best to share what I’ve learned but it is important that you remain skeptical to my advice or the advice of anyone else. You have to find what works best for you, but to do that you need to consider what others have to share. If you figure out a better way of doing things, I ask that you share that with others.

Nobody has all the answers. We often see experts publish a book one year only to produce an expanded edition some time later. Were they holding out on us? I don’t think so. The publish a new edition because they’ve gained more knowledge, more insights and have had more time to apply their ideas in the real world. I’m sure they also get feedback from others about how their advice didn’t work as they expected and that they needed to make changes to meet their personal circumstances.

It’s up to you

Not only do I not have all the answers, I still have many more questions of my own to figure out. Still, I am absolutely certain that if you try some of the ideas I will share with you, you will learn ways to improve your life. When you do experience success, it won’t be because of anything I’ve shared, but rather due to your own efforts to apply what you’ve learned.

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

January 8, 2012 at 11:23 am

Productive Disagreements: Revisted

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In a recent article I discussed the value of a good argument that received an interesting response from another blogger who writes the excellent management blog, Manage Better Now. Here’s what that person wrote:

The best ideas that I have ever seen implemented were born out of conflict. Be polite and professional, but a passionate heated discussion gets the blood flowing and stimulates new ideas. I welcome conflict, but you have to make sure everyone leaves the meeting as friends (or at least as close to it as they were before the meeting).

I have to admit when I wrote the article it was intended to be somewhat of a lighthearted piece – a quick read intended to provide new insights. However, the comment above made me think and inspired me to add more to the topic.

The statement about making sure “everyone leaves the meeting as friends” is an important point that should have been part of the post. At the time I wrote the article, I felt that the value of maintaining mutual respect was implied, but upon reading it again I can see how it could appear to promote conflict for conflict’s sake, which is not what I intended. Conflict that does not produce value for one or both parties is just sadism.

An argument does not always involve direct conflict at least not in a personal sense. The word “argument” has a number of different connotations. I fear that most people normally associate the word with the ranting produced by dysfunctional relationships.

As a person who has worked for years as a software developer, I have many fond memories of arguments that produced great results. Some I “won” and some I “lost”, but in both scenarios, to the benefit of our clients.

An unproductive argument can occur when a participant is not given the opportunity to state their case. People with strong personalities have a unconscious tendency to overlook those who are more reserved and less outspoken. They may feel that if a person had something important to add, they would speak up load and clear. That would be a valid point, but there should be consideration toward encouraging others to share their ideas.

I had a boss, let’s call him Frank, who yelled at me during a meeting after what must have been my 5th attempt to jump into the conversation. “Tim! If you have something to say, speak up! Don’t wait for permission because you ain’t gonna get it.”

Years later, Frank and I were in another meeting where he was arguing against rewriting a piece of software that I believed was at the end of its life cycle. I had to make my arguments against his line of reasoning. He was saying the development costs would be too high and I argued that maintenance costs over time were much higher. I stood my ground and even had to talk over him to present the facts. In the end, I had the math to back me up so I won the argument.

After the meeting, I was having mixed emotions about standing up to a person who was my mentor for so many years. As I was sitting in my cubicle mulling this over, Frank came up to me and patted me on the back. He was proud of what I did.

A corporate environment is not, in and of itself, a cold, heartless place. It is the people in the organization that can make it cold. We must remember that a corporation is an intangible concept that requires people to make it tangible. When those who lead an organization, lead from a sense of purpose, with dignity and respect for others, they create an environment that builds employees who create value for the love of creating value.  I was not fearful of arguing with a person who had authority over me because I was arguing for the benefit of our company and our clients and not for my own selfish reasons. In the group that I work with, the person with the best ideas implicitly has the authority to promote those ideas, even if they conflict with others higher up in the organization.

This blows the minds of new recruits. They come in expecting the same old command and control mentality they’ve witnessed at other companies (or even in other departments within our company). But when they see themselves being asked for their opinions, and experience their ideas being taken seriously, it can be a little daunting. When you are person working in the trenches, you are not accustomed to being held accountable for your ideas or decisions. They may be thinking about what might happen if their idea fails or if they are called on to take on a bigger role than they were ready for. They should consider the consequences of their ideas because that is what leaders must do, but a leader must also have the courage to take risks for something they believe in. You build leadership skills by leading when you are not ready for the responsibility.

When an employee’s idea doesn’t pan out, the consequences are usually minor and mostly self inflicted. At most, they may need to face questions about why they didn’t consider all the possibilities before spending resources on something that wasn’t feasible. In general, most good companies will reward failure especially when it was an attempt to be innovative with a reasonable level of risk.

I have a motto that I’m sure I borrowed somewhere : “Fail early and fail often”. For every 5 great ideas, only 1 will live up to its potential, but that 1 great idea that does succeed, will more than compensate for the other 4. For this to be true, the person or team has to know when to call it quits on something that isn’t working. Even those that fail to pan out, may eventually turn into something if given time on the back-burner. But don’t waste effort on a lost cause hoping for that spark of insight sheds new light; it will only come when you have put the idea aside.

Some of my proudest moments are when I convinced management to cancel a project early on, before costs got to high to quit. Trust me when I say that arguing against your own idea, is one of the hardest arguments to win.

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

January 5, 2012 at 11:05 pm