Travel When You’re Young

Travel when youre young

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What’s important in your life changes. It will flip flop often. You will seek spirituality and self-existence and then something happens and you need more money. You will focus on your education and career and then someone you know leaves this planet too early and you re-evaluate your priorities. We get caught up in our daily lives, because we have to and then in a glimpse, we have a moment of clarity. It might be in a grocery line, taking your kid to school or driving to work. You take note, remind yourself you need to get out more, get outside, but then you quickly snap back into what you were doing. The good thing is that nag, never really goes away. It gets built on, thought about and organized. Your hope is that you will someday pull that trigger and do what you want to do, before it’s too late.

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Going all in on the web – Part 1

The following is a three part series of how I migrated from Apple to the Google ecosystem and completely changed how I work and thought about the web.

Chromebook Pixel 2
Chromebook Pixel 2

In a previous blog post I wrote about a “Leap Frog Move”, where you make particular decisions or take actions that will catapult you to a different place. For me, this has always been about seizing opportunities. Earlier in my career it was harder to identify, but as I have gotten older and more in tune with seeing the big picture, occasionally different paths pop up and you have to move quick. I describe this action in a little more detail in my post, Making the right big move. Little did I imagine that a few short months ago, I would ditch my Macbook Air and move to a Chromebook Pixel 2 full time.

Continue reading “Going all in on the web – Part 1”

Creating your work session warm up

Have you ever had the time where in just a couple of hours you were uber productive? All of the stars were aligned and something just clicked. You were able to get more done in just those few hours than you did the whole day! What if you could re-create that every day? What if you could design a magic formula to get the most out of those few precious hours you set aside to get work done?

Carving out a time for a work session is tough. Life has so many distractions, phone, email, friends, spouses, kids, pets, laundry, housework, that dirty spot on the wall…In my article When are you your best? I wrote about some strategies you can implement to get the best work out of yourself. For example, I am most creative in the mornings, so I save tasks where I need to be creative for that time. Years ago I realized that for me to be productive on demand certain things had to happen. As I researched myself even further, I was able to develop a small routine of steps that got me to focus when I sat down to work. Here are the steps that I follow to have a powerful work session.

  1. Set a time limit. – Matt Mullenweg commented in a recent article, Thirty one about using a Pomodoro Timer. The concept is that you work for 30 minute sprints with a few minutes off. There is much more detail on how people implement it that you can look up. I found that worked best in 2 hour sprints with 15 minutes off. I used the BreakTime App, which actually dims your screen to force you to take a break.

  2. Have a task list. – Don’t just go into this willy nilly, you have to have a plan. Your task list for your work session shouldn’t be your task list for the whole day, but should be prioritized by the main thing you want to get done, peppered with some additional smaller high priority items. Organize the list with some quick to do’s that you can knock out quickly to get momentum. It’s always satisfying to check off some tasks, right when you get started!

  3. Prepare your body and mind. – When you sit down for a work session, you want to commit. Make sure you have a snack, go to the bathroom, take a shower or even go for a walk if you are tired or anxious. Get the big distractions out of the way.

  4. Choose your work space and environment. – If you have to get some serious work done, sitting in a busy open area with a bunch of loud talking or screaming kids, may not be setting you up for success. Either choose that time to knock off tasks that don’t take a lot of brain power or find a quieter spot. Sometimes a coffee shop can provide just the amount of white noise you need, while being at home with TV on and a busy household doesn’t fit. It’s not the same.

  5. Stick to your rules. – I know a lot of people that turn off their phone, exit chat windows, turn off notifications and stay away from all social media. This is essential and does get easier. You don’t always have to respond. I don’t shut everything down anymore, because I’m pretty disciplined with my time, but if you need to create a cone of silence, then do it.

There are many many articles written about being productive with your time, but you really have to test and figure out what works for you. I found that creating a warm up routine helped me get the focus I needed for each time. Since my schedule varies from day to day, sometimes I can’t choose the optimal time to work on something, so I need to force myself into the “mood.” It gets easier as you go and you refine your routine to get to that focus point faster. What have you found that works for you?

(If you don’t have problems working when you sit down to work, share your strategies with the rest of us in the comments below!)

When are you your best?

When are you your best?

If I need to write, it has to be first thing in the morning. That is when my head is clear and distractions are minimal. If I need to solve a problem, I go for a walk. For some reason walking always puts me in the mode to sort things out. When I need to be creative, I go for a run or a bike ride. The ideas start pouring out. Not everyone solves problems or creates in the same way or at the same time, so you really have to figure out what works for you. The biggest mistake we’ve made with work, is thinking we are all productive in the same way.

It took me years to figure out what works for me. I think it was more of an unlearning process. I really struggled in elementary and high school. Not terrible, but it was forced. I could have done better. It wasn’t until I got into college that I became a straight A student. Even that was a process. Several teachers and courses will teach you how to study. The whole “Read, Write and Review” method was pretty standard. Sitting at your desk for hours on end and in the library earned you kudos from your parents and fellow students. A new Critical Thinking course introduced me to different ways of thinking and studying. The methods were unique, but the biggest takeaway was that there are no rules. You can learn any way that works for you.

It took a lot of trial and error to learn when I was my sharpest. From there I was able to figure out which tasks were best tackled at which times. For lack of a better phrase it was essentially, Resource Management. I wasn’t going to waste my most energetic and alert time in the morning doing bills. I can do that mundane task anytime. It really broke down that my most productive times were early in the morning and later in the evening, not surprisingly, when the phone wasn’t ringing. What did surprise me is when I would come up with solutions while I was doing other things. This was particularly evident when Building Websites. I started noticing that some of my most difficult solutions came to me while I was doing something less mentally demanding, like yardwork, sweeping, washing dishes and walking. Needless to say, the more demanding the Web Project, the cleaner my house became!

As I’ve gotten older and in the habit of maintaining a task list, I constantly go back and forth between my calendar of appointments and tasks. I prepare for the next day in the evening. To keep me on task, sometimes I will use the BreakTime timer to make sure I don’t drift off and spend too much time on email. Here’s an example of how I break things up. These are all approximate times. It will differ by appointments and workload.

  • 5:00AM Wake Up, Drink Water, Go to the bathroom
  • 5:15AM 30 Minutes of yoga
  • 5:45AM Get a cup of coffee and go through email
  • 6:15AM Write
  • 7:00AM Wake up my daughter for school
  • 7:15AM Make my daughter some tea and make her breakfast
  • 7:30AM Drink tea and talk with my daughter while she eats
  • 8:00AM Take my daughter to school
  • 9:00AM Eat, run or work (If I am scoping a project, I would do that now.)
  • 10:00AM Meetings start or I take my dog for a walk. (If I was working on scoping a project, I would review the scope in my head so far, as we walk. Often I will take notes on my phone along the way.)
  • 11:00AM Meetings or if I’m writing a scope, I sit back down with my notes and continue to write it out. (This is the time when I use BreakTime as well. I typically do 1 hour, with a 15 minute break. For my break time, I will do quick tasks around the house, trash, laundry, pick up, etc.)
  • 12:00PM or 12:15PM If I haven’t ran or biked and don’t have a meeting, then for my break I will go run/bike. Depending on my mileage goals, I’ll do a 30 min or 1 hour run/bike. (I will use my run time to flesh out a new feature, service or blog post.)
  • 12:45PM or 1:00PM Cool down from my run/bike and write down any notes that came up.
  • 1:15PM Shower (This is always a perfect time to sort through a problem Hot Water = Clarity.)
  • 1:30PM Review completed tasks, email and work on editorial calendar. (I know I have to pick up my daughter soon, so this is a great time for admin tasks that don’t take a lot of time.)
  • 2:30PM Pick my daughter up from school.
  • 3:30PM Meetings or light Web Development Tasks. (I typically get interrupted often during this time for homework help, so I save Web Dev tasks that are quick and don’t take a lot of deep thought during this time. This one took a long time to learn after years of setting my expectations too high.)
  • 4:30PM Take break. Try to do a task outside.
  • 4:45PM Light Web Dev tasks, email and work on editorial calendar.
  • 5:30PM Make my daughter dinner and talk with her about her homework.
  • 6:30PM Write, heavy web development or intensive focus tasks.
  • 7:30PM Make dinner for my wife and I.
  • 8:30PM Prepare and review all of my tasks and appointments for the next day.
  • 9:00PM to 11:00PM Read saved articles or a book or sleep (My favored time to sleep is 10:00PM, but if I need another intensive focus time to work, this next hour is it. It’s quiet and I can dwell on things without interruption.)

As you can imagine, the times and tasks I listed vary daily during the week. This is a real schedule and I have done it like this often. I have really tried to leverage when I am the most alert and put those tasks at the appropriate times. Of course all of this can be turned upside down by moved meeting times, deadlines, projects or the best part, my daughter.

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