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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.

How to Delete Email Addiction

Photo by Stock Photo

I have a secret: I am an email-holic, and I am addicted to email.

Despite persistent drive to improve my productivity and personal efficiency, I am hooked on email, and occasionally social networking sites like facebook. I have read countless articles on the topic, including Tim’s 4HWW. Each time, I would get inspired, follow it for a few days, and eventually fall back on my routine of checking email, every spare moment.

I would be writing an article or in the middle of work, my mind would wander and my hands would automatically fire-up my email inbox. If my inbox was full, I’d spend the next hour answering emails or reading links from emails. But, even if I didn’t get any emails, I would start visiting another site I frequent, or I’d check my web stats. Thirty minutes or an hour would go by. I would realize how much time I’ve just wasted and I’d think to myself, “Ahhh! Crap! Shoot me! Okay, I better get back to what I was doing.”

Does this sound familiar? Can you feel my pain?

If not, then perhaps you’ve already mastered the art and self-discipline of email productivity. In which case, please help a girl out and share your tips. Some of the best tips show up in the comments :)

The 9 Step Television Diet

Photo by Confused Vision

Over the holiday break, I traveled back to Canada to visit my parents. Since I don’t watch TV at home, I decided I would indulge my senses and watch a little. “Hey, it’s the break. Relax, let it loose and watch all those shows I miss out on.” At the end of two weeks, I was an addict. I sat and watched so many random shows that I’m embarrassed just thinking about it.

Coming from a life where the TV never gets used, I found that the change in me was swift and noticeable. My holiday daily routine went something like this: sleep in, lazily walk into the kitchen looking for food, turn on the TV to see what’s on while I eat, watch TV for several hours, spend some time with my family, eventually return to the TV and watch for several more hours.

At the end, I felt so drained and tired. Even with knowing how it made me feel, I continued to repeat this each day until the day I left. Like I was under a magical spell. What’s worst, after coming home, I downloaded all the missed episodes of Tila Tequila’s ‘Shot at Love’ and watched them. Even knowing that it was trash for my mind, I did it anyway.

Yikes! Now, I needed to do something about it.

How to Reduce Information Overload

We live in a world full of information being thrown at us, every moment of the day, constantly demanding our attention. In our everyday lives, we are being constantly hit with streams of incoming information. I recall days where I just felt so ‘full’ from information that my mind feels numb, and I’m sure you can relate.

Information overload occurs when we try to receive more information than can be processed. The noise this effort creates in our minds and our lives can be overwhelming. Here are the reasons that I decided to consciously reduce my information appetite:

  • Productivity Loss – In the face of too much information, we can easily get lost in the details. We waste time focusing on unimportant information and lose sight of our goal and purpose. The extra data distracts away from our major tasks for the day. How often have you turned on your computer to check email, and ended up surfing the net for hours?
  • Mind Clutter – The noise created by media, and other sources of information, clutters our mind and takes away from our inner peace.
  • Lack of Time – Rich or poor, young or old, we all have the same limited amount of time in a day. And instead of spending a good chunk of my day filtering through incoming information, I’d rather spend the energy on bringing more enjoyment and fulfillment into my life. I want less time catching information and more time to live life.
  • Lack of Personal Reflection – I found that if I am constantly consuming information, then I forget to connect with myself. I have found that valuable personal reflection comes when we create a ‘space’ for it in our lives. An example is the person who constantly has the radio on. If there is always noise, then we won’t have the mental capacity to reflect within.
  • Stress & Anxiety – Information inflow creates the illusion that we have more tasks to fill our lives, than we have time for. Often, we might suddenly feel nervous without understanding why. Every piece of information carries with it energy, which demands our time. Even if we consciously ignore it, part of us saw that data and recorded it within our subconscious. So, we feel that we have lots and lots to do. This can create stress.

Too much of a good thing is never good, and this is especially true of information. We can’t live without a certain amount of information, and much of it is unavoidable anyway.

The following are ways to reduce your consumption to diminish the chaos and bring peace of mind:

Cleaning Out Your Life: One Closet at a Time

Photo by jamelah

A clean and organized closet provides many benefits: better space utilization, your items are organized and accessible, not to mention the biggest gains: an organized closet space adds to the harmony of your home, as well as your mental wellbeing. Our outer world is a reflection of our inner world, and because everything carries with it energy, the mess in our environment can affect how we feel subconsciously. We might suddenly feel very irritable without knowing why. Your closet and the surface spaces of your home are good places to start this cleaning process. This will result in a deeply therapeutic and fulfilling experience.

I did a deep closet cleaning a year ago, and let me tell you, such heavy ‘mental bags’ were lifted off my shoulders. I gave away 11 bags worth of clothing and shoes (see picture) and I felt like a new person: empowered, organized, light and a new beginning.

Here are some strategies for cleaning out your closet space…

7 Hacks to Remember Any Name

Photo by Hamed Saber

Our name is one of those hard wired words in our subconscious (like “Free” and “Sex”), which has the intrinsic trigger to get our attention. You are more likely to react and respond to the sound of your name than say the word “apple”.

The ability to remember people’s names is an incredibly useful skill, in business and social interactions. Do you remember how impressed or surprised you were the last time someone remembered your name? I still get impressed, and I tend to remember these people in an especially warm and friendly light.

I have a distinct, short and easy to remember name (“Tina Su”). I often fall victim to the embarrassment of not remembering names of people who approach me with “Hi Tina, how are you?” My mind would go into panic, thinking “Oh crap! What’s her name again?”

I have developed the following techniques to help myself remember names. I’ve used each one extensively and they have proven to be effective in my experience. I want to share these with you, and hope that you will find them as valuable as I have.

How to Capture Ideas

Photo by Sofia Katariina

My work requires me to interact with many types of people. And, during the course of my meeting them I have come up with three categories of people so far, based on my observations on how people manage their work:

  1. People who rely one-hundred-percent on their memory. These people remember each and every detail of what has been discussed.
  1. People who do not rely on their memory, and always carry a small notebook with them. Such people are meticulous, highly efficient, steadfast, and always well-organized.
  1. People who rely one-hundred-percent on their memory, but do not have the capability to afterwards remember the details of the discussion. This reduces their productivity.

Writing things down helps in collecting and organizing your thoughts. Your thoughts seem more concrete when you can see them in front of you. I like thinking on paper, because it forces me to be specific with my thoughts. Plus, I have my thinking process written down so that I have a way of recollecting my thoughts.

I also find that writing my ideas down tend to lighten my mental load. Once written down, I can let that thought bubble burst. By letting one thought subside, I can easily move on to another with a blank slate.

4 Steps to Banish Email Clutter

Photo by Katey Nicosia

Banishing clutter from your email with just a few proven tweaks can add a whole new dimension of smooth flow to your workday. If you’ve got 3,045 emails in your inbox, it can weigh on your subconscious and steal your momentum. The reminder that you’ve got this many unread emails can create noise and clutter your inner psychological space, not to mention be a source of distraction.

In just the way that a clean room or a clean desk can be energizing, banishing that email clutter will energize you as well. This creates a clean open space in your mind, which was taken up by the constant reminder of the number of emails still needing your attention.

I use Gmail to help organize messages, keep my inbox light and uncluttered. It’s an excellent productivity tool. Click here to read why.

I love the Archive option (I feel it’s one of the most underused, productivity tool), because it clears emails and reminders of unanswered emails out of your visual field. You can focus on one thing at a time. It’s like that calm and pleasant feeling of having nothing on your clean desk, yet you know where your all your files are kept.

Simple Steps to keeping an uncluttered inbox:

1. Create four labels: *Note: Putting the number in the label will make it stay in consecutive order, which is helpful as you organize tasks to do.

  • “1. Reply”
  • “2. Read”
  • “3. Todo”
  • “4. Wait”
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