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5 Counterintuitive Ways to Make the Most Out of Your Time

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Do you think you’ll accomplish everything you want to before you die? Do you sometimes worry you won’t reach your goals? Do you have a plan to get what you want? If you’re like most people, you often have trouble squeezing in everything you want to do during the day, week or month, let alone everything you might want to accomplish in a lifetime. Updates from friends on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat come in to your phone at all hours of the day and night. Invites to activities, events, festivals, etc. blow up your phone on a regular basis.

At the office, things aren’t much better. Your Outlook inbox explodes with messages from clients, colleagues, or your boss, and everyone wants something different. You use multiple tools for managing your tasks, and every month something new seems to come out which promises to save you time and reduce the number of distractions in your life. Let me break the bad news, it won’t.

The truth is, you have more time than you think to accomplish what you want out of life. As of 2016, men tend to live on average 69 years, versus 72 years for women. If most people start work at 18 and continue on until retirement around 65, this means you spend 47 years of your life working. You have, most likely, more time than you think to accomplish all that you want to do in this life. I urge you to slow down and take a few of these suggestions to heart as you think about how to get the most out of your days in the future.

Here are 5 ways to make the most out of your time here on earth:

1. Take personal days

The idea of taking a personal day has been around for a long time, but few people really consider the value of taking one on a regular basis. Whether this means leaving work early on the third Friday of every month to do some “life-admin” or taking an entire day off in the middle of the week once a month to rigorously outline your plans and objectives for the future, the value of a personal day dedicated to reflection and personal development is completely underrated in today’s go-go society. I would urge you to set aside an entire day (half-days won’t work, as they are likely to be encroached upon) and make a concerted effort to spend that time reflecting about what you want to accomplish and the steps you will take to get there.

 “A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that other throw at him.” – David Brinkley

2. Structure in blank space for distraction free work

While taking time off to plan out your life and checking your personal progress is great, it is also important to structure small blocks of personal “switch off” time to let your mind wander during the typical work week. This may mean structuring in “strategic blocks” of one to two hours as suggested by Brian Moran and Michael Lennington in their book The 12 Week Year, or it may mean making a regular habit of doing “30 before 7:30” (30 minutes of concentrated work before 7:30am each morning) as suggested by Mel Robbins in her book The 5 Second Rule. Whatever you do, make sure you allow yourself some distraction free work time so that you can get into the flow.

3. Leave technology behind

We are tethered to our devices like never before, and we are rarely out of arm’s reach of something that can connect us to anyone (or any piece of information) in the world. I say this with some trepidation, because I am not entirely pleased about it. Sure, it is fantastic to have access to a device that can allow us to order food, call a car, create a professional looking video clip or photo, and post updates online all in the space of a few seconds, but it comes at a price.

Despite having the freedom to connect with anyone and do nearly anything from behind a touch screen device, we have effectively become servants for the same network of interconnected apps and platforms. So, at the risk of having you stop reading this article, I urge you to put down your device for at least 1 day a week and connect with people in more humanistic (face to face) ways.

4. Spend time with others not like you

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Think hard about that, because it will help define how you spend the rest of your life. If you believe that you become the average of the five people you spend the most time with, you will need to be careful that you spend time with people that add to your life, rather than detract from it.

The more time you spend with people that come from similar backgrounds and share similar views as you, the more you will become closed off to the world around you. This is an easy habit to fall into, but it is one that can have dire consequences if you are serious about stretching yourself and reaching lofty goals. Go out and explore, and spend time with people that push you in new and exciting ways.

“I never dreamed about success, I worked for it.” – Estee Lauder

5. Have more fun

I have noticed more and more that people tend to take pride in how stressed out they are and how much they work when they’re in the office. They then swing to the opposite extreme during the weekends, getting belligerently drunk and partying or staying in and watching Netflix for 48 hours straight. This is no way to live. It’s easy for me to call out because, truth be told, I used to be this way.

Too often, people find themselves caught up in a world that promotes stress, anxiety and long-hours as a badge of honor. Rather than promote and support this type of behavior by falling into the trap of stress and anxiety caused by overwork, look for ways to have fun in the moment. Talk to colleagues, give compliments, make connections, learn new things, and just try to connect with others.

Remember, you’ve likely got around 65-80 years on this planet, you don’t want to spend the majority of that time stressed out, waiting for the weekend. Instead, take to heart a few of these counterintuitive tricks and embrace every day with newfound appreciation. You won’t regret it, I promise.

How do you maximize your time? Comment below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

McVal is the founder of WeWriteForGrowth, a platform for businesses to connect with talented writers and researchers and growth hackers. He is also the author of How to Make $2,000 a Month Online and Start Up your Life: Why we don’t know what we want, and how to set goals that really matter. McVal writes about motivation, decision making, and strategic thinking. He graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 2011 with a degree in Spanish, and has since worked as a market researcher and business consultant in Washington D.C., New York City and London. You can reach him on Twitter @mcval or on IG @mcvaliant. 

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. rajuram

    Jun 11, 2018 at 3:45 am

    This is exactly why it’s so powerful to engage children in positive, creative and meaningful media! Great selection of quotes!

  2. Gian-Carlo Remini

    Jun 10, 2018 at 11:06 pm

    Great stuff. the Steps are really simple and easy to achieve. I found making goals and sticking to them very helpful. As many I lacked time and motivation. I started balancing my work, play and personal life and starting to feel much less stressed out.

  3. Gianna LaMaina

    May 31, 2018 at 1:19 pm

    I am so glad you called this out, why are people more inclined to “brag” about how stressed they are rather than what they did over the weekend with their families. It is so important to put mental health first above anything, and to not glorify the workaholic lifestyle. Great read, thank you.

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Life

How One Small Step Back Backwards Is One Giant Leap Forwards

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For me, this conjures up a scene in Monty Python’s Holy Grail where the king is explaining about how he built his castle on a swamp, each castle sank into the swamp until the fourth one stood firm.

It’s so incredibly important to have solid foundations on which to build your life or business. There are times though where we think we have a rock-solid foundation and ignore the holes forming in it. Just like we think we’re invincible and nothing can hurt us or affect us, we think our foundations are too.

There are times when we need to fix those holes and cracks but that means taking a step backwards and many see it as a weakness. Their ego will tell them they’re going in the wrong direction. Their ego will tell them they’re letting themselves down and they’ve become as weak as a little field mouse. I disagree though. I see the act of taking a step backwards to be one of the strongest and most powerful things we can do!

We begin these journeys whether in life or in business with big plans. We’re excited, our emotions are running high and just like a kid on Christmas day, we forget about most things because our focus is on the prize (or the presents). Maybe we forget to put the battery door back onto one of our gifts properly.

At first, everything is amazing. We spend hours playing with the new toy, it seems like only surgery will remove the smile from our face. Then it happens, the toy stops working because the batteries have fallen out (remember the door?), the smile weakens, the tears begin, the special day is filled with wails of sadness. All because you’d missed something at the beginning.

“When things go wrong, go back to the basics” –Urvi Mistry

Tame our ego

One of the most powerful things that stop us taking that step backwards is our ego. It would be like asking a NASA rocket scientist if they would like to read “Rocket Science for Dummies”, they just wouldn’t do it because they would see it as belittling their existing knowledge. I’ll be honest, I would have felt the same if someone had handed me an “Archery for Dummies” book just as I’d won my second British championship title.

These are the times when we have to suspend our ego. It can be difficult and many times we have to force ourselves to do it, but when we do we massively grow. It’s like when we go to a workshop or conference. The speaker lineup is awesome, you’re excited to see them. The event begins, the house lights dim and the stage is spotlit.

The first speaker comes on stage, begins talking and your first thoughts are “But I already know that”. The mental walls shoot up and you miss all of the golden nuggets available because your ego shut off your mind to any new information.

This is exactly the same process that happens when someone suggests to us that maybe we should take a few steps backwards to strengthen our foundation. The mental walls go up and our mind goes into lockdown. It’s like sticking fingers in our ears and loudly shouting “La La La La La La” so we don’t hear someone saying things.

So what can you do?

The first step is to slap your ego around the face with a wet trout. Your ego is used to being in control so doing something to disrupt that situation gives your conscious mind the control back long enough to jump in and begin reasoning and questioning the situation.

Start asking yourself “What do I REALLY need to do to fix things?”. The solution won’t be to stick a band-aid on, it’s to fix the core issues which can be anything from lack of systems/procedures, lack of academic knowledge or lack of experience. All of these fall into the realms of your foundations and that’s where your focus should be.

All too often we complicate things to the point where we stop seeing the solution. To stop your pizza from sticking to the box lid, you wouldn’t start to develop a non-stick cardboard coating so the cheese doesn’t stick to the lid when it gets dumped around by the delivery driver. You’d keep it simple and put the little plastic thing in the centre of the pizza instead.

“It’s very satisfying to take a problem we thought difficult and find a simple solution. The best solutions are always simple.” – Ivan Sutherland

When we complicate things, not only do we lose sight of the end goal, but we forget about the simple solutions. Those simple solutions reside in the realm of the basic, that place you get to when you take this valuable but sometimes difficult steps backwards. Yes, it’s going to be hard at first, yes it’s going to give you those feelings of failure and going back to school, but believe me when I tell you they will be the best, strongest and most powerful steps you take, on a par with Neil Armstrong’s small step for man.

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Life

2 Simple Steps to Help You Break Through Your Fears

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If you are addicted to success you most certainly are addicted to fear too. Why? Because they are a direct consequence of each other. When you achieve success, it’s because you have taken actions and broken through fears that were holding you back. Every success you have comes from breaking a fear you held onto.

It is incredible to think how much energy and time entrepreneurs waste looking after their fears, making sure they are listened to. It is much harder to feed the energy of fear than feed the energy of success. I want you to think about the mental dilemma you face every single day, the battle you will probably have in your mind when it comes to taking certain actions in your business.

Shall I take that risk?

What if I’m rejected? What if I’m not good enough? What if I’ll be ridiculed in front of others? What if I fail? Just think of how hard it is to constantly listen and obey these thoughts.

The battle in your head is real and challenging. The good thing is you can win it, and the bad thing is there will always be a battle going on in your head. However, you can become a more consistent winner.

Success will always require a new level of expansion which will result in a new level of fears needed to be broken. Imagine this like an elastic band. Every time you face a fear, the elastic will stretch more and more, and the tension will be greater. When you become brave and take the action, the tension will be released and the elastic band will fly further creating a bigger expansion.

“The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” – Mark Zuckerberg

Fears are normal and essentials to your success

If there are no fears, there’ll be no stretch and no expansion from you. If you want to succeed, you must break through some fears, and this is obvious. But how can you break through fears with ease? I personally used all the possible solutions available in the world to win my fears: meditation, counseling, talking therapies, exercises and many more.

Although those helped, the ultimate way to conquer your fears is to go straight through them. I won some of my biggest fears since starting my entrepreneurial journey that no one else and nothing could help me break. This seems better said than done, but by following a few simple steps, you can do it too.

Here are 2 simple steps to help you breakthrough those fears:

1. Becoming aware of what your fears are

Often they’re very well camouflaged, and they’ll appear in your life as if on autopilot, in the same way electricity comes when you flip a light switch. They’re often triggered by someone else’s actions or words, or by your idea on what the consequence of a certain action will bring to you.

Fears contain so much energy on their own, so imagine what you could do with that energy if you could use it to your advantage. Imagine fear being a close wrist. Every time you activate the fear, you give more energy to it. Every time you think of the fear, you feed the wrist with more power.

As you live your life controlled by fears, the wrists will get more and more powerful. Picture that. Then you try to take certain actions in your business like going live for the first time, proposing a deal to a certain client, writing an article where you express your very own controversial opinion about something, or invest money you currently do not have.

Fears will come in, fully charged. You try to win by punching towards the wall of action. You want to break through, and you know that on the other side of the wall there’s success.

You punch and keep punching but nothing happens. Then, imagine you taking the leap, pointing the wrist towards the wall and BANG! You break through.

Now, the energy of fear has been released and is now ready to be used to your advantage.

The energy will disperse and free itself and it will transmute into freedom and power to take further actions.

“If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.” – Jim Rohn

2. Figure out why you fear that certain thing

After you realise what the fear is, ask yourself, “Why do I fear to take this action?” Explore the consequences that breaking that specific fear will bring you. “What will happen if I break this and I achieve the results I desire?

These questions are vital, as you’ll realize your fears are just trying to keep you safe. Humans are not wired for success, they are wired for survival. So anything to do with success will be filtered through your lens of fear.

Once you realize WHAT will happen if you achieve the success you desire, which usually are negative scenarios, calm your mind and imagine a positive scenario instead. Write this down for each negative scenario your mind will create.

One of my biggest fears is the fear of being successful as I believe (my scenario) that people won’t like me anymore, and that I won’t be able to spend time with my family. So once I detected the fear, I changed the scenario. Instead of thinking people will not like me anymore, I create a new reality I desire which could look something like this: I will be able to help and impact more people and I will make sure I take lots of days off and delegate stuff to my team so to spend time with my family.

It is that simple. Once your subconscious mind is reassured with the new positive outcome, it will become easier for you to take action. In the end, always remember you’re in charge of your life, no one else, let alone your fears.

How do you conquer your fears? Let us know your advice and thoughts below!

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Life

Being Alone With Yourself Is the Most Important Skill We Have Lost

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We live in a world where we’re always around people either at work, in the store, and on our phones through social media. In fact, our society tends to label anybody who wants to be or is alone, as a lonely person or even more terribly, a depressed person. We have forgotten how to enjoy our own company.

This is particularly surprising since some of the admired and highly celebrated icons in human history are well known to be “loners.” We have mastered a lot of skills from society, but perhaps we have neglected the most important skill of all. The ability to learn alone, to learn about your strengths and weaknesses, to reflect on the way forward in life, to just sit and appreciate nature, is invaluable.

Here are 4 ways to make being alone fun and productive:

1. Change scenery

You don’t have to do this all the time, but one way to enjoy your time alone is to take a trip or a very long drive or run. It can be difficult to spend time alone when you’re around familiar faces. It’s one of the reasons why people go on vacations away from home. Just get out and spend some time alone reflecting and enjoying your own company.

2. Switch off everything

We live in a world of digital communication. If you truly want to be alone for a while, it would be better if you didn’t login to Facebook and Twitter at all. Better yet, turn off your phone.

3. Reflect

Now that you are alone, it is time to reflect on what you want, what you have done, what you want to be doing. Silence or cool music might be good here. Whichever way, one of the things that make being alone rewarding is the fact that it affords you the opportunity to reflect.

“I’m reflective only in the sense that I learn to move forward. I reflect with a purpose.” – Kobe Bryant

4. Give yourself a treat

Go see a movie, buy a plate of food or a cup of ice-cream. Being alone is not only a time to think, it is also a time to pamper yourself. Treat yourself to the best things that you can afford and be happy and proud about it.

Now that you know how to make being alone fun and productive, it’s time to see the benefits of being alone. Here are 6 benefits you can expect from embracing being alone:

1. It aids personal growth

Apart from all the skills we get from self-development books, being alone helps build us. Through it, we are able to make plans, to ask critical questions and put our lives in the proper perspective. To grow, it is important that you take yourself out and properly assess your life alone, away from friends, families and colleagues.

2. It energizes

There are times when we’re stressed out by work, family, and friends, so being alone is a wonderful way to renew yourself with extra energy. This is the time to give yourself treats and plenty of rest and leisure, away from the stress of the world.

3. It increases the value you place on relationship

When you come to a point where you love being alone, it makes it so that you’re very intentional about your relationship with others. Being alone can also help you properly evaluate and see all there is to love and enjoy about your relationship with others.

4. It increases self-confidence

Another wonderful benefit of being alone is that it helps to boost your self- confidence and self esteem. The more time you spend alone with yourself, the more comfortable you are with your skill and with your strengths and weaknesses.

“You have to expect things of yourself before you can do them.” – Michael Jordan

5. It helps you become more empathetic

One thing about having friends and those we relate with very often is that we unconsciously develop a mentality that makes us empathetic towards them rather than others. Findings have shown that the more time you spend alone, the more compassion you’re able to show to a wider range of people.

6. The difference between being alone and being lonely

The desire to be alone is quite different from loneliness and sometimes, we do not take the required time to be alone because we don’t want to be perceived as “lonely” by others. To be lonely is to deeply want to relate and have communication with someone or some people but to be unable to.

It’s an ache that you carry around throughout the day, and it seriously affects all you do. It could make the entire world seem frustrating. The death of a loved one can lead to loneliness after a while.

Being alone on the other hand, as seen earlier, is intentionally deciding to get away from everybody and enjoying being with yourself as you reflect on your life and all that’s to come.

Taking time to be alone is very productive and it can be a wonderful thing for you. Take time away from social media and friends and find a nice spot to relax with yourself and analyze your habits and see how they affect your life.

Do you enjoy spending time by yourself? Share your thoughts below on if you think it benefits you and helps you recharge!

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Life

Simple Meditation Techniques To Enhance Your Productivity

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At times, the workplace can be a stressful place to be. Whether you are faced with demanding clients, even more demanding colleagues, or just the incessant activity of the environment itself, the workplace can at times feel like it is exerting a pressure down upon your shoulders that is difficult to extricate yourself from.

Not only is this unhealthy and detrimental to your wellbeing, it is also highly counterproductive for your organization. A stressed or unhappy employee is, for the most part, an unproductive employee who you do not necessarily want interacting with valuable clients, while its difficult to forge fruitful relationships with co-workers.

However, with these easy-to-use techniques, you can help turn your business space into an oasis of calm, boosting your work productivity at the same time.

At-desk meditations

It may be that you want to invoke some form of meditative state, but the last thing you want to do is draw attention to yourself from wide-eyed colleagues. If this sounds like you, then there are a number of at-desk meditations you can perform which will not only assist in destressing and boosting performance, but will do so without attracting unwelcome glances.

Here are a few of the most easy to use:

1. Tap your fingers to the rhythm of time

Put both of your hands on your thighs or on your desk, and proceed to start tapping each finger individually, starting with your pinky finger. It is important that you use a sequence, and time it effectively to a slow rhythm. The last part is to then recite a five-word mantra that relates to time.

There is an infinity of options here, but you could go with ‘I do have enough time’ or ‘Time is my best friend’. The idea is to create a zen-like state where you are breathing regularly and focussing on the small activity at hand (literally). Continue until your breathing has become regular and the repeated-mantra has eased though you to your core.

This is an immensely achievable meditative process that I love to utilize in any number of situations because it is so private.

“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

2. Shake it off

Now is the time to focus on exactly what or who is causing your stress. Take some time out, sit quietly on your chair, and take a few deep breaths while you think about the origin of your stress. Next, start to recite to yourself a mantra along the lines of ‘It’s OK and I can move on from this.’ Then, start to take a few deeper breaths and use the time you breathe out to really sigh away your frustration.

Finally, shake your body to release the tension from you. There is no need to make any deep noises or draw unwanted attention to yourself, but that really shouldn’t be a consideration anyway, and will only exacerbate your stress in the process. This is about breathing and release.

3. Eyes to the flame

If you are feeling a little braver, and you understand that an open flame will not cause any undue disquiet in the workplace around you (or that you are breaking any health and safety regulations), using a candle can be a wonderful tool to help create a meditative state. Start by switching off your computer. In fact, this is a good place to begin with any meditative activity as the glare from the screen will distract your attention.

Light the candle and then bring the flame towards your eye level, holding it approximately 20 inches away, or into a position that is comfortable. Then, stare into the flame for up to 2 minutes, remembering to breathe regularly as you do so.

“Calm mind brings inner strength and self-confidence, so that’s very important for good health.” – Dalai Lama

Meditations for a private space

If you have access to a private space in the workplace, there are other types of meditative positions which you can undertake, including, lying on the floor. Lying down immediately helps to put you in an unfamiliar position for work, which is helpful in itself, but a familiar position for feeling comforted and relaxed.

Close your eyes and then once again, start to breathe in a rhythmic manner. It is essential that your breathing becomes your primary focus, so you breathe in and out with a deep concentration on what you are doing.

When starting out, five minutes is more than apt, as long as that’s five minutes of a concentrated nature. You can then start to push out those times, and there is no reason why before long you shouldn’t be able to manage 20 minutes of perfect meditative calm. This can easily be done during a lunch break or even a mid-morning break.

There are also walking meditations for more adventurous types, which involves focusing on your steps and breaths simultaneously, concentrating always on a forward motion, both literally and figuratively. Emotional calmness and wellbeing in the workplace is just around the corner.

Have you tried meditation? If so, do you like it? Let us know your thoughts about meditation below!

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