accountability

Personal Development for Busy People

One of the number one reasons we don’t follow through on something is because of the time commitment it takes to get it done. We’re all busy people, so when it comes to working out, reading that book the internet is raving about, or starting up a new hobby that you think looks interesting, the number one justification is “I don’t have time for that!”

I consider myself “busy people.” Until recently I was working 2 jobs (1 full/1 part time), helping my dad with housework at his place once a week, working out regularly, and trying to have a healthy pregnancy. When I was juggling all of those things, I did still manage to find time to incorporate personal development in my schedule. Here’s how:



Listening to podcasts. Podcasts are a great way for on-the-goers to work some personal development into their day. You can listen on your commute if you’re driving, taking the bus/train, or even walking. I also like to catch up on podcasts when I’m doing chores like dishes or folding laundry. Listening to a few episodes of “Side Hustle School” makes things feel less tedious.

Reading. Probably one of the most difficult personal development mediums for me to follow through with is a book. It’s the easiest one for me to bail out on at the end of the day when I start winding down. Do I really want to read this book that’s going to make me think more after a day of thinking, or should I just watch South Park and completely veg out? Knowing that this is the easiest way for me to self-sabotage, I started bringing my book to the gym after work and reading on the elliptical. Some days I will set my alarm 15 minutes early and spend that time reading before doing my morning routine. If audio books are your thing, you can also listen to personal development books using the same tips from the podcast section above.

Please appreciate that it was very difficult to snap a picture of me reading while also maintaining balance on the elliptical.



Online Learning. To me, online learning is anything from signing up for a 30 day course of some sort, following a certain blog/topic, or enrolling in an online class. These all have varying levels of commitment, but regardless you’ll want to have an internet connection and a computer/tablet/phone so you can participate. The next is creating the time to get online solely for personal development reasons (i.e. not Facebook). For an online course, you’ll obviously need more time than reading someone else’s blog posts, which you can do standing in line for groceries or on the bike at the gym.

Asking Other People. If you’re at a loss for what podcast to listen to or what book to read next, ask someone you know who is into that sort of thing. All of the podcasts I listen to were recommended to me by someone else. When I was looking into things like personal fitness certification and starting a blog for fun/just because, I asked for recommendations for books to read and started paying more attention to different techniques/plugins used on my favorite bloggers’ websites.



What do all of these things have in common?

No matter how you decide to get your personal development fix, there are a few things you can do to set yourself up for success.

  • Know your weaknesses. For me, that’s the desire to wind down at the end of the day and watch something brainless on t.v. Knowing this, I incorporate personal development time into a workout, while I’m doing chores, or by setting my alarm earlier in the morning.
  • Find something you’re genuinely interested in. If you’re already a busy person, it’s going to be even harder to motivate when you’re dedicating time to something you have “meh” feelings about. Find something that you want to pursue and it’s amazing how much harder you’ll work to make time for it.
  • Make the time. Speaking of making time, one of my favorite time related quotes is “You have just as many hours in the day as Beyonce.” Even if it’s not an ideal amount of time, spending 10 minutes on something every day is better than spending no minutes. You can also think of personal development as a way of shortcutting your learning time because you’re learning from an expert and that will save you time and money in the long run.
  • Be Organized. One of the best tips I’ve heard from Side Hustle School was that if you’re a busy person trying to work a side hustle, organization is key. If you only have half an hour of time set aside to work on a project, have an agenda before you sit down so you can get right to it instead of spending 5-10 of those minutes hemming and hawing about where to start. Making lists at the end of a work day or as you go to bed can be a great way to have ‘what’s next’ ready to go for next time.
  • Make yourself accountable. When you’re busy, it can be easy to just say “Eh, there’s always tomorrow.” The problem is when you keep pushing things to tomorrow you’ll never get them done. Find a way to make yourself accountable for personal development- if it’s a matter of paying for something because that makes you feel accountable, then consider signing up for an online course. If you’re more accountable when it comes to other people, find a friend who also needs some accountability help and make it a weekly check-in. Click here for the blog we wrote about accountability partners if this is going to be part of your lifestyle.

More reading when I couldn’t fall back to sleep on Saturday morning. Great way to start the day!

No matter what type of personal development you’re trying to pursue, there is always a way to fit it into your schedule! Try some of the tips mentioned above and find out what motivates you.

If you have any tricks for fitting personal development into a busy schedule, or recommendations for books/podcasts/etc, please comment or send us a message!

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Note-Taking: The Follow Through

So you have great ideas. You write them down. But…then what? What’s the point of generating ideas if you aren’t going to do something with them? The last step in the process of note-taking is the follow-through. Before you jump into action mode, a good first step is getting organized. Here are some quick tips on setting yourself up for success with follow-through:



Sort it out. So, you have ideas and you’ve recorded them in a place that works best for you. If you aren’t organizing as you go, the first step in following through is reviewing things you’ve written down. For me, there’s usually 3 categories I can place things under: Things I have to do, Things I want to do, and Things that sound cool but realistically I’m not going to do. Everyone has their own way of sorting, and it can be done as frequently or infrequently as you’d like (I like to make a point of it once a week/month). I also don’t throw away the ideas that fall in the third category, but file them away. After all, you never know what might change and those ideas could shift into a different category.

sort

Sorting can be rough work.

Prioritize. In a perfect world, we would have all the time in the world to pursue every idea that popped into our minds. Time and other obligations are unfortunate restraints that must be worked around, and that’s where step 2 comes in. Prioritizing takes two things into account: time constraints and personal interest. The things on our list that have a time limit/some sort of expiration get moved up on the list (otherwise, you risk losing out on the idea altogether). The second is more subjective- if we’re excited about an idea in particular, it’s likely we’ll place it higher up on our priority list.




Break it Down. As a big-picture thinker, I often fail to consider the in-between steps of where I am now to where I hope to be in terms of goal setting. Breaking down the idea into small, actionable steps sets you up for success and gives a sense of progress along the way. When making this list, it’s also important to keep it within the bounds of what’s reasonable. I tend to get over-excited about new projects and lose sight of other commitments/things that need to get done. In other words, I set myself up for failure. Although it’s great to be excited about a new project, try to stay grounded during the planning part of the process to avoid this level of over-committing. progressBe Accountable. Some people are propelled by self motivation and have no problem getting things done. In my experience, my personal goals that fall under the “Things I want to do” category tend to take the backburner. Unfortunately, these things take a long time to get done (if they get done at all) as a result. One way to push these ideas up to the front burner is adding accountability, namely, to another person/thing. For example, if I have a specific running-related goal in mind, there are a couple ways to make myself accountable. To make sure I hit my action steps of training, throwing in a couple group or partner runs usually gets me out the door on tough days. I’ll also sign up for a particular race in advance, which gives me a bit more skin in the game (i.e. registration fee). I’m much less likely to flake out if I’ve already made the monetary investment (and have been known to flake out on races I didn’t pre-register for). A third idea that I haven’t utilized is a coach (because I’m not that serious of a runner). The coach idea is similar to having an accountability partner, who checks in with you about ongoing goals and projects at regular intervals. For more on accountability partners, check out this blog post from a couple years ago.



Incentivize. Adding an incentive, either once you’ve reached your goal or for reaching certain milestones along the way, helps a lot of people stay motivated. This article shares a story about a guy who got to the gym everyday (well, pretty close) by leaving his only deodorant there. If he didn’t want b.o. for the day, he’d have to head to the gym to get it. This probably seems a bit extreme, it did to me, anyway- but it got the job done. Think about some ways you can bait yourself into following through with your plans, even if they don’t make sense to anyone else.

Following through on the ideas you’ve collected is ultimately a personal journey. Some of these tips might be helpful, and you might not be the type of person who needs any help with it at all! You might also have some methods that we haven’t mentioned here.

What helps you with following through?

For more posts about note-taking, don’t miss these posts:

Four Noteworthy Apps (for Taking Notes)

Take Note: Tips on Having (and Keeping) Your Ideas

For more about reaching goals and goal setting, check out these posts:

Tech Thursday: All About Goal Setting



Finding Time vs. Making Time

Lately I’ve been feeling exhausted, as if I could close my eyes at any given moment and bam, be fast asleep. Granted, I’ve never had a great track record for getting a good night’s sleep, but this recent stretch has made it incredibly hard to do all the things I would like to in a day: finish writing snail mail to my grandparents, get quilting tutorials from Gram, carve out some creative writing time, relearn the saxophone, learn how to play the ukulele, spend more time baking, do more yoga, take any sort of new class, read something challenging, get the oil change my car desperately needs, go to the track and workout…I have a lot of ambitions lately. This past weekend, I disconnected from this list (except item 2- my Gram gave me a brief quilting intro and hilarity ensued), and complained to a relative about my lack of time. Her response: “‘I don’t have time’ is just another way of saying ‘I don’t want to.’ The time is in there, somewhere, it’s up to you to make it happen.” Not the answer I wanted, but it was definitely the answer I needed. Funny how that happens.



We can’t ever find time, not like the way we find a $10 bill in a pair of jeans during laundry. Time is happening here and now. So, as I wail about never “having” or “finding” time for my various projects, I should really be shifting my attitude to “I already have the time, I just need to use it differently.” Here are some general ideas I’ve gathered to start putting into practice:

Well, would you look at the time…If you have to set an alarm to remember something, no matter how trivial or ridiculous, set it. Having an external reminder reroutes your attention so you can get in a new routine for doing things (the key is remembering to set the alarm). I tend to lose track of time generally, so having an alarm keeps me focused. Well, maybe just less distracted.

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 9.16.50 AM

If you have ever seen Disney’s “Mulan,” this will make sense. If not, well…it’s still kinda funny.

Another trick that a friend has shared with me: first thing in the day, do the most pressing and/or most dreaded thing on your to-do list. This starts the day off with a fist-in-the-air, “I’ve totally got this!” vibe, and you won’t spend the rest of the day with this task looming over you (seriously, it’s a gross feeling). Almost every article and blog post on productivity recommends this,  in some shape or form.

Crossing off that one thing on your to do list feels like this.

Crossing off that one thing on your to do list feels like this.

In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun” -Mary Poppins. As an adult, I’ve noticed that a lot of what I need to accomplish in a day isn’t exactly “fun,” like getting an oil change or spending time on the phone with a health insurance provider. These tasks have to get done, and unless you’re rich, famous, or in possession of a super advanced robot, you have to take care of it yourself.

To tie-in my Mary Poppins reference, when I have to clean my room or run on a treadmill, it seems to go by faster if I listen to Walt Disney on Pandora. It would go by even faster if the woodland creatures actually helped instead of staring blankly from the backyard. Disney music might not be your…jam…but there’s always a way to make the necessary, ho-hum tasks more exciting, from grocery shopping to the DMV.



Coffee is not the answer. I’ve always enjoyed the morning coffee. And afternoon coffee. Well…coffee became something I ingested throughout the day without tracking (like water or air). Vaguely aware that beyond 4 cups before noon borders on the excessive, I felt like I was able to accomplish so much more. My brain was ON! A couple weekends ago, I’d run out of coffee at home but was too lazy to go to the store. By 10 a.m. I had a splitting headache. That moment was a bit of a wake up call. It turns out, excessive caffeine can wreak havoc on your body and emotional state.

Scaling back on coffee huge for me, but other people have various things that help push them through (I was an avid Diet Coke drinker for years, too). The issue was not so my body needing coffee as much as the belief that it was going to make me more productive/energetic. Motivation, much like happiness or anything in that vein, is an inside job. Coffee does not equal motivation.

Maybe someday, I'll be down to just one.

Still counts…

Be Accountable. Sometimes, being accountable to yourself just isn’t enough (it definitely isn’t for me). Nicole has shared her accountability buddy experience before, and I’ve realized that 90% of my life isn’t strictly accountable. Most of the time, this is amazing, but it also means I require a lot of internal motivation. What I lack in accountability I try to make up for in self-awareness (or good friends who make constructive observations).

pinocchio

An example: speed work with running is one of my least favorite activities, but necessary in order to get faster. Since I haven’t had a coach since high school, am running purely for personal benefit, and don’t run with other people, I had to find ways to hold myself accountable for these workouts. Trick 1: Reward: even if it’s something little like watching an episode of It’s Always Sunny, it’s amazing how well this works for me. Trick 2: Visualization-this may sound weird, but here me out. If I go to bed picturing the hard workout (or other activity) that I’m dreading, it’s more likely to get done. Once I allow that little voice to say “Well, maybe you don’t have to…,” it’s game over.

If you aren’t accountable to another person (boss, friend, running buddy, etc), find a way to hold yourself accountable. Some tips on that here.



Chill Out. In the frenzy of “do all the things” this summer, I ignored the cues from my body to take a breather. Breathers were not on my to-do list. Even when my body slowed down, my brain was still tying itself into impossible knots. In other words: my stress skyrocketed and I had zero chill. After only a few months, I dissolved into the fatigued, frazzled, and ultimately useless puddle that started this blog post. Even though I don’t have some high stakes job that forces me to work ridiculous hours, or really anything on the surface that would explain it, my body had been coping with high levels of stress for months on end. Much like the aforementioned coffee-intake, dealing with this amount of stress over a long period of time has serious consequences for one’s health.

In other words, I was able to accomplish the bare minimum of what I needed to in a day, and none of the extra stuff. If you have an ambitious to-do list or feel generally stressed out, remember to slow down and take cues from your body. Making time for hobbies and side-projects is important, but you have to factor in some down-time.

As we head into holiday season, keep in mind that finding time shouldn’t feel like squeezing water from a stone. Making time is a reasonable way to approach the tasks at hand, whatever they may be. Prioritize, find the fun, and maintain sanity! And have a Disney music dance party if it helps.



Masterminds, Forums, and One-Man Wolfpacks

When in doubt, many people turn to Google for answers (most recently because we couldn’t remember the name of the town in The Iron Giant). But what about bigger questions or ongoing issues? These require a discussion that can’t be encapsulated in a Wikipedia/IMDB article. For those who seek improvement, personally and/or professionally, having some sort of support group can make all the difference. I’ve been known to strike out on my own, and as a result, under- or over-shoot my goals, and flounder when I inevitably encounter an obstacle.

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Support comes in all shapes and sizes, so I thought I’d share a couple that I’ve encountered recently, and the elements of each that seem unique (and actually helpful).

Forums & Discussions. I started the Whole30 (finally committing after reading the book 3 years ago and a couple half-hearted attempts this summer) with a group of friends. There is an immense amount of online support that comes with this diet, but, being me, I only consulted the shopping list convinced I could wing the rest. By Day 3, I felt miserable. I hadn’t considered the effect this diet may have in other areas of my life. The next 30 days also happens to be my heaviest training for the MDI Marathon. My protein sources are down to eggs, fish, and a limited amount of nuts. One of my friends suggested I consult the Forum, and it was like a light switch flicked on in my head. I probably wasn’t the first person to have this issue. And, after looking at the forum, my issues are really common. If I hadn’t read through the forum, I’m not sure I would have made it through (even just 30 days).



Mastermind Groups: defined as “The coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony.” This type of group has been around for awhile, one popular example being Walt Disney’s early team of animators. Napoleon Hill gave it the formal title of “Mastermind group” in the 60s. Basically, you can make a Mastermind Group for any topic, personal or professional. The goal is what’s important.

These groups don’t have a coach or facilitator and there’s no monetary or networking component. Members of the group are seeking improvement with the help of likeminded individuals. The idea is to discuss current obstacles, set up short term and long term goals, and participate in brainstorming exercises to assist others.

Why do these sorts of support groups work? While everyone is coming from a different background or set of experiences, they have a common purpose, and are looking for a challenge. They also have structure and format (yes, even the more casual ones). It may mean a weekly, hour long meeting, daily check-ins, whatever works for the group. Checkins could even be via Facebook chat, Skype, or Google Hangouts if that’s what the group decides.

Personally, I’m a fan of the open-minded groups that understand a cookie-cutter method doesn’t always cut it. There’s no one fitness regimen or diet or business model that reigns supreme. Some people flourish in a cardio setting, others prefer weight lifting. Whatever works. So, I seek out groups that have a common idea about an issue but are tolerant and inviting of other opinions. Although the Whole30 appears strict in many ways, it encourages people to experiment and find what works for them (i.e. all fruits are Whole30 compliant, but maybe you find that your body is happier sans fruit).

Remember, whatever “it” is, you don’t have to go it alone. There’s power in having a support group, and it’s actually kind of fun to share ideas with other people.