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Lockdown Favourites

The UK (and most of the world at some point) has now been in lockdown for over 8 weeks. Although some restrictions have been eased and we are finally starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel, we are all still urged to stay within our households if possible and keep to the guidelines.

Many will have hated lockdown, felt unproductive and bored. But some people might have benefited from being in lockdown and away from work; maybe they’ve learnt a new skill, or rekindled a past hobby. It is important to know that quarantine effects people differently, and that is completely understandable. The main thing is we are all in this together, and although it may be harder for others, it is for the greater good – and for all our future.

A good proportion of you (myself included) may be starting to go back to their workplace over the coming weeks, but under strict guidelines and rules. No matter how eager (or the opposite) you are to return to the workplace we don’t want to look back on all the free time we have had during lockdown and regret not taking advantage of the time. One of my previous posts ‘How to stay productive during the lockdown‘ advocated the notion of using the free time wisely by reading, learning and experiencing more. So that when you go back to work and normality resumes you have this newfound knowledge and skill.

As much as it is hard now during the uncertain and fearful times we have to keep positive and use the free time to better ourselves, becoming ultimately stronger people. I have been putting this into practice over the last 8 weeks and have compiled a list of my lockdown favourites; the things that have benefited me most during these tough times.

What I’ve been reading:

  • Rich Dad Poor Dad – My second time reading this book and I still gained a huge amount of new insights, there’s a reason why this book has spent 20 years as the #1 Personal Finance best seller. I urge everyone to read this at least once.
  • Shoe Dog – One of my favourites books I have ever read, so much that I wrote its own review on this blog – which you can check out here.
  • Fitness Mindset – A short but really effective book, fitness plays a huge part of my life and this books forms a base of essential knowledge in both the fitness aspect and mindset. Perfect for a new enthusiast to hit the ground running and delve into the fitness world.

What I’ve been watching:

  • Yes Theory – Youtube channel in which they try and encourage individuals to ‘seek discomfort’ and face their fears. They help people overcome adversity and go on some crazy adventures, I have probably binged most of their videos over the past 8 weeks.
  • Binging with Babish – Another Youtube channel where a chef aesthetically recreates weird & wonderful dishes from famous movies and TV shows, oddly very pleasant and calming to watch. My personal favourite was ‘Recreating the Krabby Patty from Spongebob‘.

What I’ve been learning:

  • Wim Hof Technique – A breathing technique which has been shown to reduce stress, increase cardiovascular function, improve sleep, improve mental clarity and many more. It only takes around 10 minutes to do and I have been trying it at least once a day – it’s still early days but I can definitely vouch for the sleep improvement!
  • Not Overthinking Podcast – Came across this podcast a few weeks back and have listened to most of the episodes. Two guys take a deep dive into happiness, creativity and the human condition. Really easy listen and provokes some great thoughts to expand on.

Favourite quotes:

“Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors”.

African Proverb

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek”.

Billie Jean King

These are just some of my favourites that have got me through the lockdown and will stick with me even when restricts alleviate and normality slowly resumes. It is important to use this time wisely and come out of the lockdown all guns blazing, with newfound skills and confidence – appreciating the little things.

Please do stay safe though and stick to the guidelines. It would be great to hear other insights and some of your favourites that have benefited you during this time. As always you can reach me via Instagram or email – both of which are linked on the website header.

Analysis Paralysis

When stuck or in doubt; Google it.

When faced with a problem that I don’t know how to solve this is usually my first instinct. With high-quality and reliable information so readily available at our fingertips, it helps us to solve problems fairly quickly. I can’t even imagine a life without Google now.

But, there is a dark side to this void of instant information. What might have thought to have been a quick and simple search could easily spiral into a black hole of searching through the thousands of pages of Google results. This can lead you coming out of the query even more confused that you were to start!

The psychologist Barry Schwartz delved deeper into this and coined the term ‘Paradox of Choice‘, explaining that an increased choice of information allows us to achieve objectively better results, but also leading to an increase in anxiety, indecision and paralysis by over-analysis. When we have so much information and choices this often leads to a greater fear in making the wrong decision, eventually leading into an out of control, inescapable spiral of analysis paralysis – hindering us from completing tasks.

Ironically, Googling ‘Paradox of Choice’ or ‘Analysis Paralysis’ brings up thousands of results, but the below diagram can better help to visualise how sometimes less is better when it comes to decision making.

Analysis paralysis is the notion of overthinking and over-analysing a situation which leads to the decision making to be ‘paralysed’, meaning that no solution can be decided upon. This takes a massive toll on productivity and time, lowering your overall performance. A study from 2010 found that on average, employees spend more than half their workdays receiving and managing information rather than using it to do their jobs!

Analysis paralysis and overthinking can be really detrimental to performance, below are some of the main negative aspects that can occur:

  • Overthinking lowers your performance on mentally-demanding tasks.
  • Overthinking kills your creativity.
  • Overthinking eats up your willpower.
  • Overthinking makes you less happy.

We are all guilty of over-analysing at some point and we can relate to the feeling of being stuck in this paralysis of decision making. But what can we do about it?

Below are some proven methods that will break you free from analysis paralysis and bring you clarity when it comes to decision making.

  • Prioritise your decisions: Differentiate decisions that require your immediate attention and those you can act on later.
  • Determine the goal in each decision: Defining goals for making a decision will make it easier to pick from available alternatives.
  • Forget perfection: Every decision you make will have its downsides. Don’t let this fact keep you from moving forward.
  • Break decisions into smaller steps: Instead of trying to make a decision in one step, consider breaking it into smaller actions.
  • Put (healthy) pressure on yourself to make decisions: Enforce a deadline by which you must make the decision and make yourself accountable.

In short, we all suffer from analysis paralysis and its hard to break away. With masses of information readily available on nearly every device around us we are spoilt for choice with information, but we must play this to our advantage and not let it hinder performance.

If you are a strong culprit of analysis paralysis and you want to go a bit more in depth into the topic then I would recommend this article, also it is worth checking out Barry Schwartz’s book on ‘Paradox of Choice’ which is linked above in the post.

Do you have any tips on how to break the analysis paralysis? Do you have any topics that you would like me to cover? Let me know! You can contact me via Instagram or email, both of which are linked on the website header.

BLM Movement: Ways you can help.

It has now been over two weeks since the brutal killing of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis, US. It is near enough impossible for many of us to comprehend the pain and anger that many in the Black community are feeling right now, and this is not just in the US – this is around the world. For many, this does not represent a one-off basis, this instead is something that is dealt with on a daily basis.

There nothing I can say that hasn’t already been conveyed poignantly by countless others who are first hand fighting this battle. So, I am going to do my bit and use this platform to try and make people more educated and supply resources in ways people can help. Below you can find a list of links, which are divided into books, documentaries, articles, organisations, and petitions you can sign.

Let’s not just pretend this is a just a US issue, the UK is not innocent too but we can stand together to change things and make people more and more aware. Please take some time to use the resources below and benefit in the long term with education, learning how you can support, become better allies or just generally further the cause. I hope the list below provides a useful initial start point, but, this is just a starting point of wide spread, vast ongoing issue.

This doesn’t just go away once this topic isn’t trending anymore.

Books

Documentaries

  • 13th; Netflix
  • When They See Us; Netflix
  • American Son; Netflix
  • Moonlight; Available to rent
  • Just Mercy; Available to rent

Articles

  • 75 things white people can do for racial injustice (via Medium)
  • Your Kids Aren’t Too Young to Talk About Race (Resource Roundup via Pretty Good)
  • Ways to help (via Black Lives Matter)
  • UK-based charities, organisations and platforms whose work aims to eradicate racial injustice (via Black Ballad)
  • IG: George Floyd: How can I help from the UK? (via Das Penman)

Petitions

Justice for George Floyd

Organisations

For even more resources there is a publicly available doc available here which provides an extensive and actively updated list.

Meditation – Does it work?

When you mention to most people about meditation they automatically think of the typical cross legged pose or even a Buddhist monk murmuring “ommm”. But recently, meditation has taken the 21st century by storm, with many high performers and high profile individuals swearing by the technique for increases in mental health, wellbeing, happiness and contentment.

But does it really work?

Meditation has been around for thousands of years and originated from India. Although many people still have the conception that you have to be a certain ‘hippy’ type of person to do it, there are many different ways to meditate which can be done at any time during the day to fit your schedule – you just have to find what works best for you.

Not that many decades ago there was a stigma around exercise, and it was unheard of to just go for a run around a park. The same stigma goes for meditation currently, albeit this is changing to more of a norm. A decade ago it would have been deemed strange to ‘meditate’ – sit in the garden, focusing on the breath and watching the world go by doing nothing. The stigma around mediation is starting to break however, as so many successful individuals are attributing some of their success and positivity solely to practising meditation.

Meditation is the practice of “using a technique – such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity – to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state.” There has been countless scientific studies into meditation and its effects, here are a number of some of them:

  • Sharpened attention
  • Increased resiliency to stress
  • Increase in compassion
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Increased overall focus and attentiveness

The list goes on, and all it takes is a quick Google search to find supporting articles and scientific studies which back up the effects. But if it is so great then why isn’t everyone doing it? Meditation is a practice, just like exercise you have to train your body and mind and will reap the benefits over a long period of time. It’s unfortunately not just a case of sitting down and taking some time for 5 minutes which will suddenly eradicate all of your life’s worries. Although, it is proven that just a minute of breathing can dramatically improve focus.

So now we have found out that meditation does hold its benefits, the next question is how can you get started?

I would first start off with researching different techniques of meditation and in particular looking at Mindfullness. There are also now many free apps you can use which offer you a guided peaceful meditation. All you have to do is find 5-10 minutes during the day, stick in your headphones and zone out. I personally use the app Headspace, but I also have heard that Calm is really good too. If you’re not an app person than you can also find guided meditation sessions on Youtube.

There is also hundreds of books which cover meditation techniques, I personally recommend these:
The Power of Now – Eckhart Tolle
10% Happier – Dan Harris

So go on, take some time out of your day today and focus on the breath and your surroundings. You will be surprised at how quick your mind starts to focus and your wellbeing increases. Find a technique that works for you and integrate it as part of your daily routine.

I would love to hear your opinion and methods of meditation that work for you. You can reach me as normal on Instagram or via email – both of which are linked in the website header.

Efficiency vs Effectiveness

Think of these two analogies and decide if they are more efficient or effective – and see what you think is best.

An experienced kayaker is paddling really fast against a current of a short stream heading north, they can’t see the end but are making progress as they paddle. Next to them is a much longer, calmer stream also heading north but on the horizon they can see the end. Are they being effective or efficient?

You’re climbing a ladder high up an old, decrepit wall. You are half way up but next to you there is a much newer wall which is considerably higher but safer. Are you being efficient or effective?

Is your ladder against the right wall?

There is always a misconception between efficient and effectiveness. Many people spend their time working towards goals that do not really matter to them, because they never stopped to define them properly – they just kept going and pushing on, just like the climber and kayaker.

Being efficient means getting the maximum done in the shortest amount of time. But this is pointless if you do not know what you are striving for and why exactly you are doing it. Think of the kayaker; they are paddling really fast, making progress and moving up the stream, but there is a perfectly calm stream next to them. Albeit the other stream might be longer, they know the direction and are not wasting energy getting to an unknown end unlike the shorter faster stream. Now turn to the climber, although they are half way up the older wall the direction is not where they want to be and they could fall at any time. The newer wall to the side may seem more intimidating due to the height but this is the right direction.

In both cases the kayaker and climber are being efficient and not effective. Being effective, means having your ladder on the right wall and knowing what your destination in life is, despite taking what might seem the long route. Effective people do not just thoughtlessly pursue the quick and easy things that will get them to the top, like money and fame, they instead focus on what is important to them.

“If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.”

Stephen R. Covey

While efficiency is not always a bad thing, it can distract you from your real goals. It’s all very well to do something efficiently, but if it’s not furthering you or your organisation’s purpose, then it doesn’t really matter. Efficient refers to how fast something is done, effectiveness refers to how useful something is.

You can however be both efficient and effective, but it is important to first set your goals and have a clear direction of where you want to be. If you spend time doing tasks quickly and efficiently this is super effective, but only if the tasks align with your end goals – if they don’t then they are not worth the effort. It is all about the battle of the ‘eff’s’ and balancing them to fit your agenda.

There’s a great book by Stephen R. Covey calls The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People which covers the above in a lot more detail, his habits are pivotal for lasting effectiveness and I would definitely recommended you pick up a copy!

Would be great to hear your thoughts and opinions on this topic, and ideas for other topics I should cover. You can contact me via Instagram or via email, both of which are located on the website header.

Book Review: Shoe Dog

Most books I have read about big successful businesses and CEO’s mostly follow the same trend. A revolutionary idea and a devoted team who eventually go from zero to hero in what seems to be a unattainable way. Normally followed by business checklists, tips & tricks and a ‘5 step’ programme to get you to the top. Although some of these tips can be useful; Shoe Dog has a completely different approach in telling the story of creating a successful business.

Shoe Dog is raw and realistic, with a roller-coaster of fails, mistakes and struggles. Phil Knight brilliantly conveys his story in a relatable and empathetic way – after reading about all the fails and mistakes you would even think the business would have ended up as a flop! But Nike, is the total opposite, the proclaimed king of the trainer world and arguably one of the most famous logos the world has ever seen. I could probably bet everyone reading has a pair of Nike’s somewhere in their house.

It is refreshing to have a book on a business’s success so relatable and transparent with all the angst, conveying a reminder of what the path to success is really like – no strings attached. Although not written in the standard business development biography format, there are still some really key insights that you can gain from this book. One of the standout quotes from the book for me is below:

“Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with the results.”

Phil Knight

Knight was a very ‘hands-off’ leader and allowed people to solve problems by themselves. Some of his past employees say he took this strategy a bit too far when he didn’t reply to many of their letters and memos, making them want to pull their hair out. But it worked. The strategy made people more passionate and accomplished in their projects and in Nike’s overall mission.

Another main insight that Knight advocates is the notion of “starting before you are ready”. If you have a crazy idea or envision a big opportunity then start it, or someone else will. Knight was just finishing college at the point of his crazy idea of selling Japanese trainers in America, by this time Adidas and Puma were already giant market leading companies.

Have faith in yourself, but also have faith in faith. Not faith as others define it. Faith as you define it. Faith as faith defines itself in your heart.

Phil Knight

Phil Knight had a deep faith in himself with his crazy idea, even though all his friends and classmates immediately dismissed it. Knight took the risk and ordered a batch of shoes from Japan, even though he hadn’t yet fully planned out the strategy of what he would do next. Once he got the shoes, Knight asked his former running coach Bill Bowerman to be his business partner, which was the stepping stone into starting the $40 billion company.

Unlike a lot of other business biography books, you don’t have to be a budding entrepreneur to enjoy this book or even a running enthusiast at that matter. The story that is explained is suitable for anyone and will be sure to trigger an array of emotions. Although an easy read, Shoe Dog is equally filled with many insights beneficial to all – so go have a read yourself. Shoe Dog has most definitely secured a place in my top 5 books i have ever read.

Pick the book up here.

Would be great to get your thoughts on the book when you have finished reading, or if you have already read. You can reach me on Instagram or direct email – both of which are linked on the website header.

Productive Procrastination

The new year is in full flow and what a year it has been already. With many of us now working from home due to the lockdown, the day becomes a battle to fight off distractions and keep focused on the tasks ahead. In such a productivity-obsessed culture, the idea of procrastination seems a sin and is thought to have a negative impact on work-rate. Whilst this can be true for being distracted by pure inefficiencies like autonomously scrolling on your phone, as oxymoron as it sounds; there is such a thing as productive procrastination…

Whilst I am all for to-do lists and completing the project I am working on, I do believe that the mindset whilst procrastinating can be beneficial and creative, helping to generate more productive ideas if used correctly. Not every task has to be done today. Prioritisation is important, as is breaking down a task into smaller, more manageable pieces.

Some of my best light-bulb moments don’t come when I am sat at a computer looking at a blank document, they come when I am reading articles when two concepts add up in my mind, or even when doing something completely unrelated to the task like trying to sleep. Giving yourself the opportunity to generate these ideas sometimes means putting the main task off for a bit.

Having options of what you can do besides your main task helps you stay on top of many things at once and keep your creative wheels turning.

To-do or not to-do?

Procrastination stems from behavioural psychology and it has been defined that procrastination can be a positive force. What you do during procrastination matters and defines the entire practice. It drills down to how you use your time, while procrastinating and even when you’re on-task. Procrastination can then become a long brainstorm, instead of a stress-inducing behaviour.

Steve Jobs was a major procrastinator, allowing inspiration to strike instead of forcing it out, so even the most successful do it. Whilst we are in lockdown we might be faced with more distractions and feel ourselves procrastinating more. Make sure if you are delaying the main task, you are procrastination productively and looking for research and inspiration, instead of completely giving up. After all, Isaac Newton developed the the theory of gravity whilst in lockdown.

However, back in Newton’s time there was no Instagram, Twitter or Slack. In an ever growing technological world we are constantly surrounded by pings and buzzes from our devices that can inhibit our productivity. Productive procrastination requires a good amount of self control to take on an alternate task that helps you in the long run, instead of falling victim to the pings and buzzes getting you completely off track. So maybe the real lesson here is to break down big projects into a number of different sub-tasks. When one part seems particularly overwhelming, there will always be another piece of the puzzle you can work on.

It would be great to hear your thoughts on productive procrastination, does it work for you? You can reach me on Instagram or via email – both of which are linked on the site header.

Show Your Work!

“Forget about being an expert or a professional, and wear your amateurism (your heart, your love) on your sleeve. Share what you love, and the people who love the same things will find you.”

Austin Kleon

Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon has been proven pivotal in my life and propelled me to start writing. Before I read the book I was toying with the idea of starting Quieten the mind for the best part of 6 months. I wanted to write about some of the lessons that I’ve gained or offer some advice from my own experiences, but I had never been able to get over the fear of self-promotion. I kept having negative thoughts around how people would judge me if I set up a ‘blog’.

After I read Show Your Work! it really changed the game for me. Kleon advocates that even if you are not an expert in anything, the fact that you have done anything at all means that you can write about that experience and there will be people somewhere in the world that will find that helpful.

The main aim of the book is that by sharing your work with the world, you are working towards helping people and providing value to people across the globe. This could be in the form of a huge variety of things; writing, art, music, videos or even making cakes. Any piece of work that you enjoy doing is made to be showed off, and like-minded people will find you and gain value from your work.

The book provides ten rules for being open, generous, brave and productive. Which in turn completely changed my perspective and gave me the confidence to overcome that hurdle of fear and start writing.

The book is short, easy to read and full of fun diagrams which will inspire you to share your content. If you are a content creator in any paradigm at all then I urge you to pick up this book and attain the confidence to show your work and inspires others. Every single one of us has something to contribute – teach what you know and try everyday to share something small.

How to Read Better

“My reading strategy is to start as many books as I can but finish few of them. Most books I don’t read past the first chapter, I am not burdened by bad books.”

Charlie Munger

When I first started reading I was always under the impression that once I started a book I had to finish it cover to cover, and it was almost a sin if you didn’t. Reading should not be a chore and every book does not need to be read cover to cover. The majority of books are either a) summarised in the first quarter (or less), b) not for you, c) not for anyone. So do not feel guilty if you put a book down and never touch it again after reading the first chapter.

Think of these contexts; those annoying boring work meetings that last the whole day but could of been summarised in one email. Or, enduring a 2 hour long lecture on a subject you already know about. It’s the same with books, don’t put yourself through the monotony just because you feel you have to finish the book.

Most books don’t have to be read cover to cover, especially non-fiction, but some books can change your life regardless. As long as you at least get one or two main insights from a book then it is worthwhile, finished or non finished. I am a big fan of skim reading, and drilling down to the topics that I have more of an interest.

By just reading parts of books and not feeling guilty when you don’t finish them opens up way more opportunities to gain insights and knowledge. If you only pick up books you know with certainty you’re going to like, you’ll confine yourself to reading the same authors on the same topics. It’s ideal to have a low bar in what books you’re willing to try, and even the slightest murmur of interest should be enough to make the cut – Amazon offers samples on books so excuses are minimal.

Similar to dating; a book you’re not into after 10 minutes of attention has little chance of a happy ending. Close it and move on. You’re not a failure if you quit a book after three pages anymore than if you reject the offer of a 10-hour date with someone you just met who annoys you. There is plenty more fish in the sea…

Recently I have started using the app Blinkest. Blinkest is a service which summarises books with the key insights in an easy to digest manner, usually taking only 15 minutes to read. You can also get the summaries in audio too. For those long winded books you don’t want to commit to right now, you can use Blinkest to see if the book is worth picking up, or if the key insights are all that you need. During the lockdown they are offering free premium subscription to all subscribers – perfect to keep you busy during these times.

The Power of a Morning Routine

“It’s been said that the first hour is the rudder of the day. If I’m lazy or haphazard in my actions during the first hour after I wake up, I tend to have a fairly lazy and unfocused day.”

Hal Elrod

The above quote is from Hal Elrod’s book The Miracle Morning, tagline ‘The 6 Habits That Will Transform Your Life Before 8AM’. And, I have to say; this book was a game changer for me.

Hal talks about six practices to integrate as part of your morning routine, he uses the acronym SAVERS to highlight the six, which in turn can improve our physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing.

  • S – Silence; Meditation, breathing techniques, calmness.
  • A – Affirmations; Encouraging words to achieve goals or overcome fears.
  • V – Visualisation; Picture yourself progressing and achieving your goals.
  • E – Exercise; Any exercise for 5 minutes to get the blood flowing.
  • R – Reading; Fill the mind with positive thoughts and insights in the morning.
  • S – Scribing; Writing/journalling first thing to get your thoughts out on paper.

Now, I am not saying to suddenly integrate all of these into your morning and get up at the crack of dawn every day. Take baby steps. Pick one or two that you can see yourself picking up quickly, then gradually add the others. Maybe you even already do some? Find out what works best for you.

Like many of us; I always used to wake up, laze in bed scrolling mindlessly on Twitter and Instagram, whilst time was swept under my feet. This started off my morning very unproductive and low energy which in turn transitioned to my whole day.

Whilst I don’t do all of the SAVERS practices (yet), I have integrated the majority as part of my morning routine and it has massively had an impact on productivity and wellbeing throughout the day. My favourites are silence, reading and exercise – in that order of routine.

I use the app Headspace for mindfulness and silence in the morning (and before bed), a quick 5 minute session dramatically sets me up for the day. I try and read a few pages of a book in the morning on my Kindle, at the moment I am reading Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. Then when i get up out of bed I make sure to do some stretches and body weight exercises.

It takes around 21 days to form a habit, and around 66 days for it to become an automatic behaviour. Find the aspects of SAVERS that suit you well and you will reap the benefits of a productive morning productive day.