Is it too early to think about 2015 personal goals?

Defining Goals for 2015

defining goals for 2015
As 2014 draws to a close, I have started to think about defining personal goals for 2015. I limited 2014 to just three areas of focus; writing, muscles and income, which in hindsight looks selfish. So in 2015 I want to add at least one area involving others.
[Read more…]

Two Must Have Steps to Achieve Any Goal

How to achieve any goal

Ideas are good, putting an idea into action is great.

What is an idea alone, but words on a paper or screen. It is when someone takes those words and accomplishes something with them that the tangible power of them is realized.

You can be an idea machine, creating thousands of ideas, but if you never bring any of them to fruition what good are they?

I’ve always had ideas. I have seen others with similar ideas become successful with them and thought to myself “That was my idea, I should be rich.”

It was only the past year that I have started to finish an idea. I had an idea to form a product based on what I know about personal finance and the struggles others have with it. I have spent the last five months developing it, creating bonus materials, writing training materials, writing marketing campaigns and setting up the web site and infrastructure.

It has been way more work then I originally anticipated. I have wanted to quit many times due to frustration, procrastination, fear and reluctance to work, but I push through each of these moments because I have the faith that it will all work out and I can celebrate my first sale.

I instead focus on doing some activity every day that helps get me there. At the end of every month, I review what I accomplished, and enjoy the thought that I am 30 steps closer to my end goal. Each step may be insignificant, but taken in whole, I can travel a great distance.

I have a wallpaper on my computer screen that has two spots on opposite sides of the screen. One spot shows “my comfort zone” and the other shows “where my dreams happen.” I heard this from someone else and thought it really captured the essence of going after your dreams. Dreams are sometimes so far away from where we are right now and even though where we are right now isn’t ideal, it is comfortable and we get scared to venture away from it because we fear to lose that comfort.

I read about a man that was over-weight and could not develop a routine to exercise. One day he got off the couch and walked to the front door and then walked back to the couch. Not a huge task but it was a start, and every day he went a little further; day two he opened the door and stepped on to his porch, day three down to the sidewalk, day four down to the corner and so on. These little steps got him to the point that he was walking several miles per day and he never missed his workout.

I like to climb mountains. It is tough for me as I live close to Chicago, which is only about six hundred feet above sea level and I like to climb mountains over 12,000 feet tall. My body is not acclimated to the altitude and every step above 10,000 feet is a chore. Many times I want to quit because my body says it can’t take it anymore. I can’t breathe, I’m exhausted, my legs are sore and I’m mentally wiped.

But two things keep me going; one, I know eventually I will get to the top and two, I keep telling myself “one more step”.

Continuous action on my goal combined with the faith that I will make it there.

It hasn’t failed me yet and I keep pictures of those moments to remind myself, pictures of me on top of the mountain with a big ‘ole smile. Even if no one else knows the struggles or the thrill, I know what it took to get there and the sheer joy I had at that moment.

SUMMARY

Want to achieve any goal? Take small steps every day and have the faith that you will achieve it and you will reach your goal. The steps can be tiny, really tiny, but do something every day.

What will you do this year and commit to seeing it through to the end?

Simplify Your Morning Routine

Morning Routine

Do you want to know one of the best things you can do to lead a more productive life? Start a morning routine.

You know the old saying, “early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”. This advice works well for me and countless others. I have talked about my routine on a previous blog post here LINK.

I have steadily increased the number of tasks I tackle each morning, in part due to waking up a little earlier each day. Lately, I have found that I am scrambling to get everything done before I head off to work and I feel like I am rushing so much that I am losing the benefit.

I decided to pare down what I do based on one principle I live by; focus on what is important. This ties in nicely with my OBG, or the One Big Goal of the day. In the case of the OBG, I make sure that I at least complete my most important goal each day and shoot for completing this task as early in the day as possible, keeping in mind to make the task small enough that I will tackle it and complete it.

[Read more…]

How to Read Twice as Fast

SpeedReading

SPEED READING

Technology changes all the time, but I still have the need to do some things the “old-school” way.

Reading is one of them. Yes, there are audio books, but I can not concentrate when I listen to audiobooks, I find myself drifting away with my thoughts or maybe one thing that was said starts a series of thoughts within my mind and before I know it, I haven’t listened to the last ten minutes of the book. Worse is when I fall asleep listening to the book, not good to do that while driving.

So I read books, blog posts, emails, company memos and so on, every day.

I have seen some blog posts where the writer explains that they read fairly large books in one week. I can read four to five books per month on average, but to do so, some of these books are short business books of around 200-250 pages. I am reading “The Count of Monte Cristo” right now and it must be close to 1000 pages and will take me a couple months to finish.

So I looked into speed reading. Could I learn some techniques to speed up my reading, while retaining my comprehension of what I just read?

Do you remember the commercials for the Evelyn Wood Speedreading course, where people would literally run their fingers down a page and read it in around one second?

I have been implementing some of these techiniques and they do work, but not to the extent of those commercials, at least not for me.

BASIC FACTS

The average person reads about 200-250 words per minute with about 60% comprehension. If someone were to ask you a question about what you just read, you would have about a 40% chance you couldn’t answer it. Seems like a waste of a lot of time to me.

Fast readers can read 800 or more words per minute with 80-90% comprehension. That is amazing to me.

There is a website where you can copy/paste a selection of text and then have it play back to you one word at a time at different speeds. Just moving the needle to 300 words per minute makes you think you’re at an auction house. LINK

By increasing my rate to about 300-400 words per minute with 80-85% comprehension I could get a lot more read with much better understanding.

ISSUES

1. Your eyes have a lot to do with how fast you read.Try and read some text and see how often your eyes backtrack and you reread or glance at text you’ve already read. This slows down your reading immensely.

2. How many times have you read a passage and started day dreaming, either about what you just read or something else that is on your mind? If you’re like me, this happens quite often. I used to read a page and frequently have no recollection about what I just read.

TECHNIQUES TO FIX THESE ISSUES

1. Follow the Finger – Keep your index finger on the page you’re reading and follow along with your eyes. This will keep you focused and prevent your from backtracking.

2. Learn to Move Your Finger at a Faster Pace – Use the LINK here to see how fast you currently read and get a feel for how fast you need to read to double that (say 200-400 words per minute). Once you know how fast a pace is needed for 400 words per minute, move your finger at that rate. It will be challenging at first so you may need to move towards that rate gradually. 400 words per minute is achievable.

3. Forget Reading the First and Last Few Words on a Line – Depending on the font size, a given line in a book may have ten to fifteen words on it. By eliminating four to six of those words you have effectively increased your reading speed by 25-40%. When you read the rest of the words your mind will naturally fill in the missing words so that you understand it. Your peripheral vision will also grab some of these words and allow you to see them.

4. Establish Your Baseline and Set a Goal – Use the LINK to find where you’re at right now and aim to double this number. Work on it daily and retest yourself every 30 days until you have achieved your goal.

5. Scan the Book Chapters, Headings and Sub-Headings – These give good clues into what you’re about to read. By knowing in advance what you will be reading/learning it will make understanding it easier. Some non-fiction books have summaries at the end of chapters. If so, I like to slow down a bit when reading these so I fully understand what I just read.

SUMMARY

If you’re like me, even with today’s technology you have to do a lot of reading. Time is precious so learning to read faster adds more to your productivity for the day. Use the techniques above to double your reading rate and increase your retention. I am very happy with the improvements I have made, especially with the comprehension levels. Why bother reading if you’re going to forget almost half of what you read? I hope you find this valuable and can implement it into your own life.

The 84 Hour Work Week

Hard work pays off

WORK – activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result.

I looked up the definition in Google and found the above.

What is Your Purpose? What Result Do You Want?

Depending on what your answers are to the two questions above, work can mean very different things.

If you hate your job then you probably only want to work there four hours per week, if that.

If the given purpose is to clean the garage, then yes you want the amount of time you spend on it to be as short as possible, or even better pay someone else to do it for you.

In both of these cases, you want to reduce the number of hours spent to avoid it or be more productive with your time.

[Read more…]

The Simplest Tool to Organize Your Life

AnOrganizedLife

Want one tool to help organize your whole life? Want it available with you at all times? Want it to be easy to use, compact, and comprehensive?

I did too. So I created my own.

[Read more…]

Winter Sucks, I’m Heading to Florida!

wintersucks2

By Namphuong Van

Spring is Here… I think.

Winters in Chicago require the ability to endure extremes, both in temperature and the hassles of snow. The winter of 2013-2014 was the fourth worst in Chicago history. If you have been alive since 1960 you have lived through all four of the worst. I have.

[Read more…]

My Top 14 Ways To Find Blog Topics

Top Ways to Find Blog Topics

What to Blog About?

In the previous post, I wrote about why we should start a blog LINK.

Here in this post I will talk about what to write about it and where to find ideas.

Start by asking yourself a few questions.

[Read more…]

Blogging Over 50. Only for the Young?

Am I too old to be blogging over 50?

Photo by MKHMarketing

Blogging Over 50 Can Be Done

If you’re like me, you hear about all the change in this world, especially in the world of technology and it seems overwhelming at times trying to keep up with it all. Younger people seem to adapt really well.

Even though blogging isn’t something new, I would guess the percentage of those blogging over 50 must be quite small. I work in IT, and I only started doing it last year.

[Read more…]

Seven Ideas for 2014 Resolutions

Seven Ideas for 2014 Resolutions – Your 2014 Makeover

Here are seven ideas for 2014 resolutions.

Photo by Amy Tripp Myers

Here are seven ideas for 2014 resolutions to make this a year that you will look back on 12 months from now with pride, fondness and a sense of accomplishment. Everything we will talk about in this post, the actual daily tasks are small and easy to do. But they are like puzzle pieces that put together a picture of a better life for you. Or a thread that weaves into a beautiful tapestry that depicts your life. A lot of what we talk about here only take seconds to do, some maybe ten minutes. But they are worth so much. Forget the past and start 2014 off with a bang.

1. One Big Goal (OBG) – Focus Follow One Course Until Successful.

It is easy to become distracted. What one BIG thing would you like to complete or start in 2014? Make a list of goals you’d like to accomplish over a lifetime and break them down into categories; health, relationships, money, spiritual, career, hobbies.

Identify those that are really big and will take you multiple years to complete. Break those goals down into yearly goals. For example, if you want to publish a book in ten years, where do you need to be in five years, two years, and the end of this year? Maybe this year you could start a daily journal, take a writing class, buy some good writing books and read five classic books.

After you have your list of goals for the year, by category, review them to determine which is the most important one – your OBG. Focus on that one daily. Schedule a task early each day and finish it first before anything else. You can still work on your other goals, but only after the work on your OBG is done. In our example, say you decide to work on your goal to have your book published. In 2014, your want to read five books. List out the books you want to read and buy or checkout from the library. Research how many pages they have. Then use a little math and figure out how many pages you have to read each day (five books x 350 pages = 1750 pages divided by 365 days = 5 pages a day to read).

Schedule a day to run up to the office supply store and buy a bound journal.

Set your alarm clock for five minutes earlier and use those five minutes to write in your journal. Increase the amount of time, a couple of minutes a week so that by the end of the year you’re writing for an hour per day.

Research online for a good writing class. Schedule 15 minutes a day to do this until you find a good one.

As you can see, you can break your BIG lifetime goal down to really small daily tasks that are easy to complete. Your day one tasks could be reading five pages from “Farewell to Arms”, write five minutes in my new journal, research 15 minutes online for a writing class, and brown-bag my lunch to save $7 towards my writing class. Simple. Anyone could do those tasks.

By the end of the year you will have read five good books, found a writing class and saved money for it, and developed a habit of writing for an hour per day. You could be very happy with a year like that. Keep that up for several years, and you will have the talent to complete your lifetime goal to publish a book. By focusing on this one big goal, you will be concentrating on what you are passionate about, what really motivates you and what drives you.

You will find that success in this one area will rub off into other areas. You will develop a different mindset with a confidence to know you can do it. But, FOCUS on your OBG, your One Big Goal this year, do it first thing in the morning, summarize it in one word and stick the word where you’ll see it every day; a post it note on the mirror, a reminder on your outlook calendar, take a sharpie and write it on your coffee mug. You will be surprised how big an impact this will have on your life.

2. Health – We all know our health is important. Neglect in this area impacts every other part of our life. Start your year by scheduling a physical exam with your doctor. I have previously written a post HERE on medical exams to schedule when you’re over 50.

Write out everything you would like to improve; lose weight, workout more, more flexibility, get rid of nagging back pain. Even if it seems impossible, put it down.

I lived with horrible pain in my left arm for months. It was so bad I couldn’t sleep or concentrate on work. My regular doctor said it was carpal tunnel, and it would need surgery. Instead, I researched other people who had the same pain, and they frequently cited problems with their neck. I checked on the best orthopedic surgeons in the area in Chicago magazine. I found one that happened to be five minutes from my house. He did an MRI and found a bulging disc in my neck that was squeezing a nerve that ran down my left arm, causing the pain. Six weeks of physical therapy and I was back to normal. Amazing!

Look at your list and determine which is the most important. If you’re over-weight or have high cholesterol, address those before deciding to run a marathon. And similar to the OBG, divide it up into small tasks that you can do daily and feel good about it.

If it is trying to lose weight, cut out one can of pop and do a ten minute walk when you get home each day. Make your goal to lose just one pound a month. By the end of the year, you will have dropped 12 pounds. If you achieve your goal before the end of the year, grab the next one on your list and go after it too. Remember that the goal of exercise is to change something. If it isn’t changing, then change what you are doing as it isn’t working.

3. Relationships – Relationships matter. Think about all the people you have in your life; your family, friends, neighbors, people you work with, and even the casual acquaintances like the people at the train station, or coffee shop.

Write down an assessment for all of them. Some people might be poisonous to you and you need to distance yourself from them. If it happens to be your spouse, then it will take a lot of work. People give up too easy in their marriage and forget that it does take work to make it a good one.

If somebody annoys you, what about them does? Start by forgiving them. Not necessarily to their face, but silently to yourself. Some things that bother you may actually be quite small and insignificant.

Laugh at the person who just cut you off in traffic. Smile at the person who complains all the time at work. Say, “I love you,” to yourself, at your neighbor who never waves back to you. Grab your wife and do a quick dance when she nags you.

Yes, some of these are ridiculous, but they work. Would your rather be miserable around everyone, or have a lot of fun? I’d rather have a good time.

Another area to look at is who are your friends. They saying goes, “you are the average of the five people you surround yourself with.” This year try to develop a friendship or mentorship with someone who can be a positive influence on your life. Eat lunch with the guy at work who has had two promotions in the last two years. Talk to the guy at the train station who always seems to be in a good mood. Email that author who wrote the book you love.

Above all, don’t neglect the family. Do something good for them every day. Little things like writing “I love you” on a napkin in the morning, or telling your kids you’re proud of them are huge and will have lasting benefits for them and you.

4. Money – Your goal here could be a simple one, like get a 2% raise, or it could be complex like start a new business.

Here are some ideas; start earning a side income to use during your retirement years, payoff your debt, start tracking all your spending, diversify your savings, start an emergency fund, move to a smaller home or to an area with a cheaper cost of living, cut back on some expenses like eating out or cable, increase the amount you save each month and have it transferred automatically so you can’t touch it, save each month for large expenses like Christmas or real estate taxes so you’ll have the money when the time comes.

That should be enough to get your creative juices flowing. The important thing is to make each year better than the year before. Start small and build. Make an extra payment towards the principal on your debt. Start with $50/month this year and increase it to $100/month next year, and so on. This one task will take you five minutes at the end of the month (set a reminder).

I’m also an advocate of tracking your money and assets. You do a better job of managing what you measure, just don’t make it complicated. Break your expenses down into broad categories, like housing, food, medical, fun, auto, and insurance. Enter the amounts once per week and review at the end of the month. Keep track of your net worth (assets minus debt) and watch it grow. Take two minutes to log into your retirement account and jot down your account totals. Keep them on a spreadsheet. This will give you a good feel for how you are doing, just don’t panic and buy and sell on a whim. Slow and steady wins. Subscribe to a good financial newsletter. I recommend the Palm Beach Letter.

5. Spiritual – This can mean different things to different people. For me, I want to work on my Christian walk of faith and my relationship with God. I do this by studying four books in the bible per year, memorizing 24 bible verses, attending a weekly men’s bible study and serving/supporting my local church.

For others, this can mean working on your mind with things like meditation, getting rid of negative thoughts, surrounding yourself with positive people, not regretting the past, or worrying about the future, but focusing on now and what is real. You have a mind, a body, a soul. Don’t neglect any of them, each needs attention. Look for some good books on Amazon.com for self-improvement. You will find that a better “you” will rub off on other areas of your life; your relationships, your health, your creativity, productivity. This area is probably the most neglected area for the majority of men.

6. Simplify/Declutter – I started a program in 2013 to simplify. Part of the process was to declutter. I use a spare bedroom in my home as a combo workout room, music room and office. There was stuff everywhere; on the floor, the closet was jammed, and my desk had so much stuff on it I couldn’t put my laptop on it. All of these piles smother you, each is a to do list, and subconsciously they are weights that drag you down. I had to get rid of it, and I did by starting small. I did one area each week. I would lay out the pile and sort it into three categories:
a. Don’t need it/Never use it/No value – throw it away
b. Don’t need it/Never use it/Could be used by someone else – Donate it or Sell it
c. I need it/I use it – Find a place for it and store it
Some of the projects were not easy. My closet was jammed with stuff. It required me to install shelves, both on the walls and units that sat on the floor.

I sold books and unused music gear and made over $300. Nice!

I bought an L-shaped desk from Staples, around Christmas, for $49 and threw the old one away. This new desk gives me plenty of room.

This process is far from over and I will continue it in 2014. I have clothes to get rid of and a crawlspace to thin out. And you know, it does feel better to walk in my office when it is all clean and organized.

You can do it too. Each week find one tiny area to declutter, maybe one square foot of space. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Once it becomes a habit (see below), it will be easy to do and you can tackle big projects like the garage or basement. We save so much stuff that we don’t need. Less stuff, less distractions, less worries, and you become more productive due to a clear mind.

7. Habit – This was another area that I worked on in 2013 that I will continue for a lifetime. I first read about this in a book called “The Greatest Salesman in the World” by Og Mandino. It’s only about 100 pages, and you can read it in one day. In it, a man learns ten things that changed his life. The first one was to develop good habits and become their slave. Most of us do the opposite, we develop bad habits and become their slaves. In 2013, I developed the following habits:
a. Wake up at 4:30am
b. Practice Spanish lessons daily
c. Practice my bass daily
d. Practice ear training every morning
e. Write for one hour before work
f. Great dental care (see this LINK)
g. Memorize bible verses
h. Learn new vocabulary words daily
i. Learn/review grammar lessons daily
j. Review my retirement fund and market performance daily
k. Track what food I eat and break down the grams of fat, carbs, protein and total calories (Free App)
l. Jot down anything I am grateful for that happened during the month
m. Keep a small notebook with me to note any ideas that come to me during the day

Most of these habits are done before I go to work, or before I go to sleep. They are routines that I have actually written out. For example, wake up at 4:30am, make breakfast and feed cat 4:45am…After a month of doing this, it just becomes habit.

I know that I will work on my Spanish next and log on to vocabulary.com to test myself on ten words after that. They’ve become habits, good habits. Each helps in areas I have down as lifetime goals. By making them habits, I do them daily and doing them daily improves me daily and gets me closer to my goals. It only really cost me getting up an hour and a half early each day.

Leo Babauta wrote about habits on his blog. He wanted the habit of flossing. Why is it so easy to brush your teeth each day and so hard to floss daily? Well, it becomes easy once it is a habit. Leo started by flossing just one tooth each day. Then two teeth, and so on. After a month, you’re flossing without even thinking about it. You just walk into the bathroom and grab the floss and go to it. And it works that way with all of the tasks you want to be habits. Do a small bit each day and at the end of the month…boom it’s a habit. The nice bonus is that the more good habits you develop, the less time you have for bad habits.

SUMMARY

Hopefully you have found this list helpful, and it has given you some ideas for 2014 resolutions. Make this year a great one, small changes done daily add up to huge changes later. Don’t regret your past or worry about the future. Focus on today and do your small tasks, making sure to do the OBG (One Big Goal) first. Do that and your future will take care of itself.

Please leave a comment letting me know what you’ll work in this year.