Listen To Your Heart

Hanging up my cleats and calling it a career for soccer is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Many were supportive of my decision, but there were also some that questioned it. I even questioned myself at times.

When you do something for a long time it starts to become a part of you, and it’s difficult to let go. When you try to let go of who you are for who you can become you’ll find yourself on the emotional roller coaster of your life. You’ll second guess yourself and wonder if you’re really making the right decision.

You’ll look longingly back at your past and attempt to justify sticking around just a little longer, but deep down you’ll know it’s time to move on. It’s at this point you have two choices. You can listen to your heart or pretend not to hear it.

Listening to your heart may be the most difficult thing you’ll ever do, but it’ll also be the most rewarding. It may require great courage to pursue this path, but it’s the only real choice you have.

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Hanging Up The Cleats (When Is It Time To Let Go?)

I’ve played soccer for almost as long as I can remember. It’s been the most consistent thing in my life over the past decade. Aside from video games (which I used merely as an escape from reality), soccer was my first love.

Over the last year or so, however, my love for soccer has slowly faded. Soccer started to become a chore. It became something I had to do rather than wanted to do. I found myself going through the motions, and feeling indifferent to my future in the game and whether my team won or lost.

I made a promise to myself long ago that I’d quit playing soccer the day I stopped loving it. Well, that day is long overdue.

Initially I thought I was just suffering burnout from the sport, but these feelings have persisted for well over a year now. I’m confident in my decision and I’d like to announce my retirement. I’m hanging up the cleats.

At this point there’s several reasons I’m calling it a career. I’ll list my specific reasons for quitting the sport below, but I’ll also offer some advice to help you determine when it may be time to let something go from your own life. (Feel free to read only the bold if in a hurry.)

Enjoyment

One of the main reasons I’m hanging up my cleats is I just don’t enjoy soccer anymore. Whether it’s because I found more enjoyable hobbies, or can’t have fun playing it because I see it as pointless is irrelevant. The important thing is it’s just not fun anymore.

Although I understand not everything in the world is fun, if something’s not contributing to my personal development or the improvement of society it better be REALLY enjoyable. If not, I’m going to drop it from my life without a second thought.

Too many people do things simply because they’ve always done them. If one of your hobbies is no longer fulfilling for you there’s nothing wrong with replacing it. There’s no point in trying to live someone else’s dream, because even if you succeed you’ll still be unhappy with yourself. Why? Because you’ll know you could’ve done better.

Time

One of the biggest reasons I can no longer afford to play soccer is time. This school year I expect to have literally zero free time. Between juggling and writing I already have 3-4 hours reserved for hobbies per day.

Also taking into consideration the fact that I spend a fair amount of time promoting my blog, as well as my juggling, and it’s not hard to see that I simply can’t afford to spend significantly more time on other hobbies.

Even showing up and doing just the bare minimum for soccer eats about 10 hours a week. I don’t care to be the mediocre player that everyone takes for granted, however. If I was to continue playing I would need to dedicate at least 15-20 hours per week to the sport and it’s simply not a good payoff at this point in my life.

If you can’t be the best at something, AND you’re not doing it for either enjoyment (or personal growth), it’s probably not a good investment of your time.

When one door closes another one opens. However, if you’re not willing to close the first door you’ll never see the second one open. If you’re not satisfied with what you’ve got now, but you’re not willing to let go, you’ll never be able to get anything better.

Energy

From a physical perspective soccer is an extremely demanding activity. When you start to reach high school, and other higher levels of the sport it’s not uncommon to get burnt out and overtrain from soccer alone.

Now consider the fact that I lift weights three times per week and juggle for two hours a day (which at high levels is strenuous cardio). Looking back it’s no wonder I never felt like doing anything during soccer season. I was averaging nearly four hours of exercise per day!

Of course, while my extreme example above may not be applicable to most people here’s something to think about. Every single thing you do has an energy cost and once you use your daily allowance you’re essentially done for the day.

You only have so much energy to exercise each day. You only have so much energy to write or make videos each day. You only have so much energy to listen to depressed people vent each day.

If you want to create the best life possible for yourself it’s absolutely crucial you relentlessly remove unfulfilling activities from your life. Happiness and fulfillment are derived from living in accordance with your values which are essentially the things you channel your limited energy into. If you’re not channeling your energy effectively into pursuits you deem to be worthwhile you’ll be neither happy nor fulfilled.

Purpose

If you want to be successful at anything you need a why. Unfortunately, (or fortunately depending how you look at it) I just don’t care about soccer anymore. I see nothing wrong with playing it for fun, but if I’m unable to enjoy myself while playing I see no reason to do so.

I certainly don’t see any other big purpose for playing soccer. I’m not passionate enough (about soccer) to ever play at the professional level where I could leverage my skills to motivate others like Messi, Ronaldo, and countless others do.

My team may lose a a couple extra games this year without me, but although I love my teammates (and coaches) that just doesn’t mean much to me anymore. I’m a competitive person, but pouring my heart into something that benefits me (or others) in no way whatsoever for the sole purpose of winning at someone else’s expense seems rather pointless to me.

But alas, I fear I’m getting too much into the nitty gritty at this point. I think the main thing is that at this point in my life I’d much rather spend my time and energy investing in myself as well as doing things that’ll help others improve their lives.

Opinions differ, but I consider this the most noble pursuit of all and am able to draw constant motivation from it.

Each time I write a post on my blog it’s essentially a snapshot of who I was and what I thought about a particular topic at that point in time. Formulating my thoughts, articulating them, and then receiving feedback from others and looking back at them in the future has been an amazing activity that’s factored heavily into my personal growth this year. An activity I’d expect to continue having a heavy influence on me for years to come.

Of course, my writing is also useful to others. Through this blog I’m helping several hundred people improve their lives in some way each month and that number is only continuing to grow. I’ve only been at this for six months, but I’ve never done anything nearly as fulfilling, and I think that’s key.

Once you find things that are truly important to you whether they’re hobbies, relationships, etc., it’s only natural to want to introduce more of them into you’re life. When you find something you really love and realize just how much fulfillment is possible it’s amazing.

Once you have this experience you’ll want to introduce more similarly fulfilling things into your life, but until you let go of the partial matches you’ll never be able to.

If you have a girlfriend that you like, but aren’t in love with break up. If you continue to stay in the relationship other girls who are potentially better matches for you won’t even give you a second look. It’s the same with everything else in life as well.

As long as you hold on to things or relationships you just kind of like you resist the manifestation of things (and relationships) you’ll love and find truly fulfilling. I think in one sentence that perfectly explains how I feel right now.

Instead of forcing myself to continue reading a book I have no interest in I’d rather pick up a new one. Reading two books at a time isn’t possible so I’ve made the decision to return the first in exchange for another book I’m finding much more enjoyable and fulfilling than the first.

I pray that if you find yourself in a similar situation you have the courage to do the same.

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Huge shout out to Gary Mandli, Sean Jung, and Mike Jaworski. You all mean the world to me and I hope my retirement from the game hasn’t burned any bridges between us. You guys have been father figures to me and have helped mold me into the mature young man I am today.

I can’t express my limitless gratitude for all you’ve done. The endless hours you have invested in me mean the world to me. I wish only the best for all of you. You all have touched my soul, and I hope I was able to do the same for you. God bless.

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Only Begin Counting When It Hurts

Someone once asked Muhammad Ali, “How many sit-ups can you do?” His answer?

“I don’t count my sit-ups. I only start counting when it starts hurting. When I feel pain, that’s when I start counting, because that’s when it really counts.

If you want to be successful you need to be comfortable with getting uncomfortable. Growth only occurs when you step outside your comfort zone, so it’s important you stop going through the motions and begin challenging yourself everyday.

Regardless of what you’re trying to improve at I recommend using the rule of five. Whenever your want to give up, make the commitment to do five more of whatever you’re working on.

When your arms are exhausted do five more pushups. When you feel restless at your desk, make five more calls. When you have writer’s block spend five more minutes trying to write.

There’s several reasons you need to implement this rule in your life.

1. You’ll Produce Better Results. Calling an extra five people may not seem like a lot, but if you make a sale or book a gig it’s HUGE. Doing an extra five pushups may seem insignificant, but when your used to doing 20 pushups an extra five is HUGE.

2. You’ll Expand Your Comfort Zone. If you’re constantly challenging yourself and pushing your limits your comfort zone WILL expand. It would be impossible for it not to. Eventually doing 25 pushups will no longer be such an accomplishment for you. It’ll effectively become your new comfort zone.

3. You’ll Occasionally Surprise Yourself. In addition to doing an extra five of whatever you’re working on sometimes you’ll surprise yourself. I spent 30 minutes writing paragraphs and then deleting them because I couldn’t properly express what I was trying to say in this post.

At one point I felt like quitting because I just didn’t think I’d be able to put my thoughts into words, but through sheer persistence I managed to flip my creative switch. Instead of spending just five more minutes writing about random gibberish I’m now almost 400 words into a publishable post that’ll be live on my blog within the hour.

Stop worrying about doing “x” amount of work everyday. Our energy levels, and hormones are different everyday so it’s difficult to assign ourselves a certain amount we need to be doing. If you just pulled an all nighter finishing a project you can’t expect yourself to be producing at the same level you typically do.

The important thing is you make the most of what you are in control of, your level of effort. Make the commitment to get comfortable with being uncomfortable everyday and you’ll see your results skyrocket in everything you do.

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Connections Are Everywhere

I’ve spent the last couple days up north camping with my extended family. In previous years I’d been extremely bored there, but this year was different. This year I made the decision to take advantage of all the unique people, and experiences I don’t normally have access to in my typical daily routine.

In the last 24 hours I’ve picked the brains of a performing magician, financial advisor, hardcore KISS collector, and a random couple who travel in their RV. The Kiss collector, and financial advisor are part of my family, but the magician and couple I talked to were random strangers I approached and talked to.

Because of my willingness to talk with them I was able to hear a firsthand account of what being a full-time performing magician is actually like, was given a business card and told to contact him if I ever had questions, and was given the opportunity to chat with and explore the inside of a random couple’s RV.

Maybe this isn’t a big deal to other people, but as someone who’s just beginning to shed the title of lifelong introvert it’s been absolutely incredible for me.

I’ve always known people loved to talk about themselves, but because of my extreme shyness I was always too scared to approach random people and pick their brains.

Although I’ve still got a long way to go before earning the title of social butterfly, I’ve really focused on this area of my life this summer. If you consider yourself shy, or talking to strangers makes you feel uncomfortable don’t let that stop you.

There’s tons of interesting people you’ve never met before who’d love to share their knowledge with you, but if you aren’t willing to initiate conversations with them they’ll never know you’re interested.

I’m not a master of social dynamics by any means, but picking the brains of strangers isn’t exactly rocket science. From seeing someone you’re interested in meeting, to being deep in conversation with them, and possibly collecting their contact information afterwards requires the following of only a few simple steps.

If you’re struggling with talking to strangers because you think it’s weird, realize and accept that it’s not. It’s only be weird if you make it weird. People love talking about themselves, so if you’re willing to listen it’s a win/win situation.

Once you see someone you’re interested in meeting approach them immediately. For one this’ll prevent you from making justifications on how you don’t want to bother them, or why you don’t “really” want to talk with them. In addition it prevents you from hovering around them and putting off a massively creepy vibe.

Tell them you’re really interested in “x” subject, compliment them, then ask if they’d be willing to answer a few questions about “x.” For example, earlier today I told the couple I was really interested in RV living, told them I though it was super cool that they traveled in it, then politely asked if they’d be willing to show me the inside and answer a few of my questions. My logic for the above procedure is simple.

Telling them you’re interested in “x” shows them your intentions aren’t creepy, and that you’re simply curious.

Complimenting them (though only complimenting if it’s genuine) is great because it shows you care about them enough to notice “y” characteristic of them, and makes them feel better about themselves.

Once you’ve done the above two steps, asking them if they’d be willing to answer a few of your questions on “x” is the next logical step as it allows for a natural progression of the conversation.

If it seems appropriate and you’d like to keep in contact with them just ask at the end of the conversation. Something as simple as: It was super interesting talking with you and I’d love to keep in touch. Where can I contact you? The worst thing they can do is say no.

I think the important thing to realize is that although there’s interesting people and potential connections to be found almost everywhere, it doesn’t matter if you’re not willing to initiate conversations and make the connections.

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My sleep schedule has been erratic lately because of camping so I apologize if the wording or structure of the post is somewhat funky. I hope you were able to take something from this regardless! 🙂

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The Path

Imagine success as a horizontal line with a gravitational pull. When we’re born we start near this line. Every baby lives their life on purpose, without worrying about what the rest of society thinks.

Unfortunately, as we get older we pick up negative beliefs, and we’re conditioned to believe things that simply aren’t true. We’re taught to follow money instead of passion. We’re told that settling for unfulfilling jobs, and relationships is fine and dandy. We’re conditioned to believe that if everyone else is 50 pounds overweight then being just 15 pounds overweight is perfectly fine.

Now if success is a horizontal line with a gravitational pull, I want you to imagine social conditioning and mediocrity as another horizontal line with a gravitational pull, though at the opposite end of the spectrum. Really picture this in your head as it’s an important analogy. Alright, got it?

The reason most people are stupid, and lazy is because they’ve fallen so far off the path of success the only thing they know is the socially conditioned path of mediocrity. In other words, the socially conditioned path is their comfort zone and it’s gravitational pull makes it extremely difficult to escape.

The problem with this, is every time you allow yourself to be socially conditioned you fall further off the path of success. Unfortunately, the further you fall off the path off the path of success, the less likely you are to ever return to it.

Each action you take trends your life either slightly towards the path of success, or slightly toward the path of mediocrity. That’s why every day is so crucial. Everything you do sets yourself up for either future success, or future mediocrity.

Every time you skip a workout you become a little softer. Every day you fail to write you become a little less disciplined. Fortunately, it works the other way as well. Every time you put in 100% it becomes a little bit easier to do so the next day.

Realize, that today is the most important day of your life. Everything you do today will have a runoff effect on the rest of your life. You can choose to set yourself up for either future success or future mediocrity. Make the choice consciously and remember one thing, actions speak louder than words.

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How Can I Tell If Someone Is Giving Me Good Advice?

Over the years I’ve picked the brains of a ton of people and spent thousands of hours doing research in an effort to improve my life. In the process I’ve developed a few rules for sorting through bad advice.

You’re Asking The Wrong Person. My advice may be gold for someone who’s trying to start a business and live an interesting life, but it would likely get someone working a 9-5 fired.

Before you take someone’s advice, look at the results they’ve gotten in their own life. If you’re trying to become better with girls don’t take advice from your friends who sit at home playing Xbox every night.

If you’re trying to improve your fitness don’t seek out advice from random people in the gym. They may or may not know what they’re talking about. Instead, ask someone who’s been there before.

You’re Failing To Consider Their Circumstances. A common example of this is in internet marketing. If you started a blog 10 years ago it was fairly easy to rise to the top. Now the market’s completely saturated.

If you take advice from someone who started a blog at that time it’s going to be somewhat irrelevant at this point. They’ll have some good advice for you no doubt, but if you try to use the marketing techniques and link building strategies they once did you’ll quickly find yourself banned from google.

You’re Asking Someone With Different Values. If someone asked for my advice on the ideal diet, I’d recommend veganism to them as I consider the fair treatment of animal’s very important.

However, even if I’m someone’s role model they shouldn’t blindly follow my advice. They should do whatever’s in alignment with their values. If they consider a more flexible diet more important than the ethical treatment of animals then my advice isn’t “good” for them.

Above all, remember the golden rule of advice. Even if something worked for someone else, that doesn’t mean it’ll work for you. Advice is always good for the people giving it. Unfortunately you’re not them, so it may or may not be good for you. Fortunately, through consciously evaluating the advice you’re given, you’ll be able to maximize your gains and minimize your losses.

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Show Up

Everybody has off-days, even the most successful people. What then is the difference between successful people and average people? Successful people show up regardless of how they feel.

As a rookie in 1978 Cal Ripken Jr. committed a minor league-leading 33 errors. Lots of people felt that Cal was always going to be a defensive liability and wasn’t ever going to deserve a spot in the everyday roster.

However, through an amazing dedication to show up, and work on the fundamentals he became one of the greatest shortstops of all time. He set a major league record, starting 2,632 consecutive games, and once went 95 straight games without committing a defensive error (a major league record at the shortstop position).

He was able to overcome his defensive struggles and become one of the greatest shortstops of all time through what? Showing up. Whether he felt like it or not. And regardless of how much he loved baseball, you better believe there were some days during that streak he didn’t feel like going to the ballpark.

Another example of this is Tyler of Real Social Dynamics. He used to be a socially clueless loser, but he made the commitment to going out 7x a week (for several years) and became arguably the best pick up artist in the world.

I’m not comparing myself to the greats, but when I started this post I was uninspired and didn’t feel like writing. But you know what? I showed up. Maybe this post is the best I’ve ever written, or maybe people are going to unsubscribe because it’s just that bad.

I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter. I showed up. And because I showed up I’ve got another post in my archive and took advantage of today’s opportunity to improve my writing skills and hopefully help others in the process.

Regardless of how you feel, make the commitment to show up. You may not produce your best work, but that’s ok. The important thing is that by showing up you’ll maintain your positive habits, and momentum. And who knows, you may be surprised by how much you’re capable of even on your worst days.

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How Do I Make People Like Me?

You don’t. This is a terrible goal. Here’s the two issues with trying to make people like you.

1. Nobody will want to hang out with you if you broadcast neediness because they’ll see you as inferior and expect that you’d leech value from them if you were to develop a relationship. Seeking approval from other people comes off as needy. The problem with that, is when people see you can’t meet you own needs they’ll immediately run away from you because they won’t expect you to contribute anything to the relationship.

2. Even if you’re able to hide your neediness and “make” people like you it won’t matter. Why? Because your relationships will be unfulfilling. If you can’t be yourself around other people you’re not going to get any fulfillment from relationships with them.

So What Should I Do?

Don’t try to force relationships with people that aren’t compatible with you. If someone’s not a good fit for you drop them from your life. When one door closes another one opens.

We only have enough time, and energy to maintain “x” number of relationships. If the relationships you’re currently experiencing aren’t a good fit let go. You’ll be unable to manifest more fulfilling relationships until you’re willing to do so.

More than that, however, you can’t just let go of all your relationships and expect better ones to magically appear. You’ll never make friends if you wait for others to befriend you. Put yourself in positions where you’re likely to meet the type of people you’d like to build relationships with.

If you’re trying to meet people who eat healthy go to vegan, or raw food potlucks. If you’re trying to meet people who will help you improve your social skills join Toastmaster’s or go to a RSD Hotseat or bootcamp. If you want to meet active people join a yoga class, or sports team.

Once you start meeting people who are a good fit for you then and only then is it time to start worrying about building relationships. Fortunately, once you meet someone who’s compatible with you it’s neither difficult, nor complicated to build a relationship with them. The secret? Don’t be a value seeking leech.

If it’s a business relationship you’re trying to build help the other person get closer to reaching their goals. If it’s a friendship, provide them with cool experiences, and fun. If it’s a romance provide them with positive emotions, and show that although you want them, you don’t need them.

Regardless of the type of relationship you’re trying to build, if you provide value before expecting the same in return you will develop fulfilling relationships. To answer your original question, if you want people to like you, be a likable person.

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The Secret To Building Relationships

About a month ago I couldn’t even tell you who Huan Nguyen was. He may have been a subscriber to my blog, but more or less he was just a guy with a funny name behind some computer screen to me.

Now I subscribe to his blog, follow him on Twitter, and he’s my closest fellow blogger. How did our friendship develop so quickly? Huan’s a marketing genius. He understands relationships are important and he knows how to build them.

I’ll be using the rest of this post to talk about why relationships are important as well as the secret Huan used to build a relationship with me. This powerful secret can be used to build a relationship with ANYONE you want, but first let’s talk about the importance of relationships.

Why Are Relationships Important?

  1. They’re the most fulfilling aspect of life. Life is meaningless without them. Material possessions are worthless if you don’t have anyone to share them with. Hobbies and passions are important, but you can’t get a deep sense of fulfillment from them alone.
  2. You’re going to need relationships to achieve your goals. You can’t do everything yourself. I can write the most epic blog posts in the world, but if I haven’t built a strong enough relationship with my readers it doesn’t matter. If you don’t trust me you’re not going to take my advice and you’re definitely not going to share my posts.

What Kind Of Relationships Can This Secret Be Used To Develop?

Initially I planned to write about how to build relationships with other bloggers, but I quickly realized this secret could be used for any type of relationship. It’s relevant whether you want a blogging buddy, a new best friend, or a significant other.

The Secret To Building Relationships… Give Value First

No matter what kind of relationship you’re trying to develop you need to realize your give/take ratio is going to be a bit lopsided at first. Huan spent time leaving daily comments on my blog for a week or two before I ever decided to give his blog a chance.

Since then, however, I’ve read every blog post he’s made and commented on most of them as well. I’ve enjoyed reading his blog, recommending it to several other bloggers in the process, and am now dedicating a whole post to him. The thing is, if he wouldn’t have taken the initial interest in me I never would have done any of these things.

If Huan would’ve sent me a spammy email begging me to read his blog without ever getting to know me I wouldn’t have bothered to check it out. Why?

Because when someone asks us to provide value for them without knowing if they’ll provide value in return we immediately run the other way. Nobody wants to be leeched off of. Fortunately, you can hack your relationships by becoming an anti-leech.

Because of human nature, when you provide value to someone else they feel inclined to reciprocate. Some people are value sucking leeches of course, but the majority of us like to pay others back when they do us favors.

It’s important to realize, however, that although most people will reciprocate your favors, most will not initiate favors. The worst way to make friends is to wait for others to befriend you. If you want rewarding relationships you need to be consciously creating them.

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Time Gaps

I want to lift weights, but my brother was at Country Thunder all weekend and is now exhausted and passed out in the basement. He’s been downstairs sleeping all day, but fortunately my father said if he’s not up in an hour I can go work out anyway.

It’s now 1:19 and I still have 41 minutes before I can begin my workout. Normally I’d have spent this hour of downtime reading, or watching youtube videos, but not anymore. Instead I’m sitting here writing my second blog post of the day.

I’ve noticed something people don’t give nearly enough attention is the downtime spent between things. Often when I ask people what they did yesterday they’ll say something along the lines of “I went to soccer practice in the morning, and then went and saw a movie at night.”

“Something about that seems fishy to me though… If soccer practice is two hours long, and the movies were two hours long, where did your other 12 hours go?” And almost none of them know how to respond. They always say something like “Honestly, that’s a good question… I spent another hour or two on my morning routine and eating through out the day, but other than that I really don’t know.”

The problem with letting ourselves go on autopilot during these times, however, is that they take up a lot more of our day than we think. If we don’t consciously assign ourselves an activity to do between committments, we’ll usually default to doing something mindless like browsing Facebook, or watching television.

Because of human nature we never want to do more than we have to. Think of time gaps between activities as being similar to a breakfast buffet. If you don’t consciously make the decision to put healthy foods on your plate, you’re probably going to pick whatever sounds best in the moment. If you don’t make a conscious effort to train yourself to make healthier choices you’re going to be instant gratification’s slave the rest of your life.

How To Make The Most Of Your Time Gaps

1. The first thing you need to do is look at your schedule and identify where you typically have down time. (My example: After I got home from school last year I’d typically have about an hour before I needed to start getting ready for soccer.)

2. You need to determine how you typically use that downtime. (My example: I’d usually spend that hour taking a nap, eating a snack, and reading personal development material)

3. Determine if and how you could be spending that time more efficiently. (My example: Back then I usually couldn’t write a blog post within an hour so I decided to get half of my daily juggling practice in at that time instead.)

4. Implement the change. This is easier said than done, but it’s the most important part of the process. Knowing your wasting time does you no good if you’re not willing to change your habits. You’ll likely slip up at times, but that’s part of the process as well. Remember, success isn’t linear. There’s lots of ups and downs along the way. The important thing is you’re always putting forth your best effort to improve.

5. Realize there is no finish line. You’ll never get to a point where you’re able to be 100% productive all the time. It’s just not possible. Ocassionally you’re going to slack off. That’s ok. The important thing is to minimize these moments of laziness. Another important thing to realize is there’s no such thing as insurance on your gains. If you lose your sense of urgency you’ll end once again find yourself spending all your downtime on television re-runs. Being productive is something you do, not something you are.

6. Understand productivity. Being productive doesn’t mean answering an endless amount of emails or managing a profile on every social networking site. It’s about using your time wisely. Things like exercising, spending time with your family, and meditating may not fit under the bill of “getting things done,” but they’re still important. Using your time efficiently isn’t about seeing who can check the most things off their todo list. It’s about getting the most out of life and doing the things that are truly important to you.

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I actually did write this post from about 1:00-2:00 today, but I delayed publishing it until now so my other post could get some time on the front page as well.

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