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7 Keys to Reading Faster

Photo by Nathiya Prathnadi

Want to read faster?

In this article, I’m going to share the lessons I learned that doubled my reading rate, allowed me to consume over 70 books in a year and made me a smarter reader. I’m also going to destroy some speed-reading myths, to show you it isn’t magic but a skill anyone can learn.

How I Started Speed Reading

My first introduction to the concept of speed reading was from a book, Breakthrough Rapid Reading. I’ve since moved away from a few of the concepts taught in the book, but the core ideas were transformative. In only a few weeks, my average reading speed went from roughly 450 words per minute, to over 900.

How to Learn Without Memorizing

Photo by Edwin Stemp

Rote memorization is an inefficient way to learn. Just retaining a single formula can mean pounding the same information into your skull dozens of times. If your computer hard drive had this accuracy, you’d probably throw it out.

Unfortunately, you’re stuck with your brain. The good news is that you don’t need to learn by memorization. The vast majority of information is better stored in your head using a completely different system – learning through connecting ideas together.

A few years ago, I noticed that smart people seemed to learn differently than most other people. While most people would review the same information dozens of times, smart people only needed to review once or twice. While most people would apply ideas to problems in the ways that they had been taught, smart people used the ideas in many different contexts.

While there are undoubtedly some genetic advantages that allow some people to learn effortlessly, I think part of this difference in success comes down to strategy. While most people were trying to memorize, smart people were coming up with creative connections between ideas. These connections made the ideas easier to remember, so less memorizing was required. Additionally, the new connections made the ideas easier to understand, so learning itself was faster.

Personal Change You Can Measure

As we approach mid-year, are there any goals you had set at the start of this year that you want to make progress on? Here is a simple tool that can help you in becoming more productive and effective.

There is an old business adage, “what is measured, improves.” I believe that lesson applies, to not just your business, but also your life. If you measure something, you gain conscious awareness of it. If you gain conscious awareness, you increase your ability to control it.

Today is the third day of a week-long diet log I’m running. My diet log is simply recording everything that I eat for an entire week. Recently, I set a few fitness goals, and I wanted to ensure that my eating habits were matching my plan of action.

I measure more than just what I eat. I record personal expenses, how I use my time, what books I read and many other personal metrics. This may seem a tad obsessive, but I’ve found it greatly helps me in staying productive and reaching my goals. Besides, a little obsessiveness isn’t always a bad thing when it comes to reaching your personal targets.

The 4 Hour Workday

Photo by Stock Photo

How to complete a full workday by noon? Sounds impossible, right? But on many days, by 12 o’clock, I have completed work that should normally take eight hours. And I don’t wake up at 4 a.m. to achieve this.

Actually, finishing everything by noon isn’t too difficult. If you add up all the time you spend procrastinating, distracted, or tired at work, it would probably make up half of your day. If you eliminated this wasted time, ending your day at noon wouldn’t be hard.

The problem, of course, is in the actual elimination of all that wasted time. A lot of productivity advice looks like simplistic dieting advice (“Eat less!”). Unfortunately cutting that wasted time is the tricky part. However, by making a few simple changes in your approach, you can make it far easier to cut the fat.

 

Don’t Pay Yourself by The Hour

If you view work as something that starts at 9 and ends at 5, you won’t be able to finish everything by noon. When you evaluate yourself for time spent working, rather than work completed, procrastination is often the result.

Feeling Overwhelmed?

Photo: Akasha Rabut (flickr stream)

Have you ever found yourself in a scenario where you had multiple deadlines, a long list of unfinished tasks, past due bills coming in the mail because you had forgotten to pay them, a rented copy of The Office Season 4 DVD that was due 9 days ago, and family, friends, and bosses asking you to do more? What can we do to gain back control of these chaotic and stressful situations?

We live in a world that is becoming increasingly busier. Things are moving at a faster pace and we are forced to move right along with it. More is required out of the average person than ever before. The benefit of our advancing society is that we are able to reap abundantly more than our grandparents would’ve ever imagined was possible. The downside is that we are often overwhelmed by the number of things that we are responsible for and that are required of us.

Sometimes the feeling of being overwhelmed doesn’t come from the actual tasks and responsibilities we have but from the mental clutter that occupies our minds. For example, if you are at work and you start to mentally run through all of the things that need to get done once you leave the office; you need to get on the phone to reschedule a dentist appointment, pick up your kids from daycare, pay the electric bill, and then take your car to the auto shop, then you’ve already added to the pressure of those events by running them over and over in your head.

Another example would be a person who is nervous about giving a 15 minute presentation. The hours and hours spent anticipating and worrying for days beforehand adds to the stress level, which may inevitably cause the feeling of being overwhelmed.

So, how are we supposed to handle these overpowering situations? I believe that we start by asking ourselves some very important questions, then answering those questions honestly.

15 Tips for Writing Effective Email

Photo by Lucia Holm

Have you ever needed to email someone – a stranger, asking them for a favor? How can one compose email such that they will be read and responded to? How do we effectively email someone who gets a lot of email?

Whether personal or business, the ability to compose efficient and effective email is super useful – both in terms of productivity and responsiveness.

We’re all busy, and we’ve all received long, ambiguous and rambling email. Ironically, most of us have also been guilty of writing such verbose email while requesting for someone else’s time.

Now that I’ve had a little taste, on the receiving end of such email, it quickly became obvious which kind of email works and which do not. I have made some interesting and useful observations on effective email – particularly,

  • What not to do when emailing someone (ie. a stranger).
  • How to write email that people will actually (want to) read.

The point of this article is to share tips on how to approach people via email in the most efficient way possible, along with some common pitfalls on why some emails do not work.

How to Organize Mental Clutter

Photo by Lucia Holm

Do you ever feel like you have a hundred things to get done and not enough time to do half of them? We are all busy people, but sometimes we get so caught up with ‘catching all the falling plates’ that we sacrifice doing the things we really want to be doing, the things that align with our desires and contribute most to our personal wellbeing.

We sometimes make the mistake in thinking that we are ‘super human’ and will be able to juggle it all with great success. “No need to write it down. I can handle it!” As more tasks get piled on, soon we become bombarded by the thoughts of tasks yet to be completed. And this added pressure will distract us in ways that are counterproductive to our goals.

Not writing these tasks down is just part of the problem; even if we wrote it all down, what if several tasks are equally important or dependant on one another? How do we prioritize conflicting to-do’s? After all, we only have so many hours in a day.

How do we break out of this cycle helplessness caused by an overwhelming number of priorities waiting to get done? How can we better manage and execute the activities that matter to us, such that we feel empowered and in control?

Power of Focused Attention

Photo by Simón Pais-Thomas

I recently sat down with several highly enthusiastic achievers, all of whom have many ambitions. These casual chats revolved around the theme of, “How do I turn my ambitions into reality?”

I deeply admired their energy and drive, but it became clear as to why they were not seeing their desired results: Trying to do too much at once.

Despite the social illusion that we can have it all, we only have a limited amount of energy and time. Even if we think we can achieve it all during our heightened state of enthusiasm and inspiration, when reality hits, we’ll find that striving to achieve it all at once will result in exhaustion and disconnection with our inner selves.

Instead of striving to achieve it all, how about striving to achieve what’s most important to us? How about striving to be fulfilled and happy? How about striving for personal wellbeing and meaning?

Dream to Reality: How I Quit My Day Job

Photo by g2slp
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking, and don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. ~Steve Jobs

Ever since I learned about the concept of financial independence five years ago, the seed of a dream had been planted. My dream: Having the freedom to deliberately choose how I spend every day – to have complete freedom of time.

As of last week, my dream became a reality.

I left my job at Amazon to start this new life chapter. I have three goals:

  • To complete a triathlon
  • To learn French
  • To live everyday fully, as if my last

My answer to the question “What do you do?” will now be “I spend fulltime pursuing my passions.”

The Panacea for Putting Things Off

Photo by Cindy Loughridge

Can you recall a time when you wanted to do something important, yet you’ve managed to make enough excuses to leave it for a later date? Putting something off once makes it easier to put it off again, and before you know it, several weeks have past and you still haven’t done it?

I just cleaned my entire apartment and it’s almost time for bed, again. Another day has gone by, and I still haven’t written a blog post for this week. Two thoughts conflictingly popped up in my head:

  • Yes! I’ve successfully put it off for another day.
  • Crap! I feel guilty for putting it off yet another day. I really should get that done soon.

I’ve got a lot going on in my life. But, it’s just became clear to me that I have spent the past five days unconsciously avoiding writing, while spending mental energy coming up with excuses. Each time when I’m about to start writing, I would magically feel hungry, tired, sleepy, thirsty, grumpy, dehydrated, or needing to go ‘potty’. Or I would suddenly have the desire to read, watch TV, browse the Internet, finish random low-priority tasks, clear out my email inbox, go jogging, sleep early and clean the house. As you can see, my box of excuses is infinite.

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