First Successful 30 Day Challenge

My first successful 30 day challenge is almost through. I deem it a success. This one was simple enough. Stay away from time wasters. My main two were Twitter and Google Plus. There were also some message boards that I avoided too. I confirmed the suspicion that I get nothing valuable from them. All they serve to do is use up valuable idle time.

I’m reading a book now, Find Your Focus Zone, to deal with my self-diagnosed scatter brain. I’ve been trying to pinpoint the source of my frustration in not being able to accomplish more (personally and professionally). I think the source is a lack of concentration at important (yet not so obvious) times. I’ll get more into the assessment and the book in another post, but the gist I took away so far is that you can program the brain negatively when constantly checking up on things like twitter. A good and fitting quote so far is “the brain influences behavior, AND behavior influences the brain.” Bad habits and behavior can snowball. Also, these distractions can serve as fodder for avoidance and procrastination. Again, more to come in another post.

My next step is to drop Twitter and Google Plus almost entirely. I might check in once a week or so (there are really interesting people I can gain valuable information from). I know for sure I’m not going to miss anything at all by not checking in on them every hour. Same for the message boards. I’m also going to drop/reduce other non-productive habits. The key of course is to be mindful and identify them.

My next 30 day challenge is going to be hard. 30 days without hitting snooze on the alarm clock. Also I’m going to have a set wake-up time each day. Although the current one isn’t quite at 30 days (I’ll keep it up), I’m starting this one {gulp} tomorrow. This means getting to bed at a more set hour, which I’ve been sort of slacking off on.

2012 Resolutions

For the first time ever in my life, I thought I’d give new year’s resolutions a try. I’ve been compiling a list for a few weeks leading up to today. I think I came up with great goals for personal development. One thing stood out–the list seemed daunting and unstructured. I’m a big believer of adopting small changes one at a time. It’s worked wonders in my healthy living pursuit. So I have to temper the enthusiasm of embarking on all of these endeavors in favor of a long term (and more manageable) roll-out. Dates will be reviewed as I go. The ultimate goal is to have everything polished off or in full steam by September.

So rather than come up with a list, and say GO!, my one and only resolution is to adhere to one personal development plan, which has several items (which were originally separate resolutions). It sounds like I’m building in an excuse to procrastinate, but really it’s so the plan is more manageable and flexible. And so I don’t feel the need to put everything in motion at once. It will require discipline for sure.

Without further ado, here is my plan:

  1. Join and attend Toastmasters.
    • Time frame: Join a club by mid-January and attend scheduled meetings thereafter.
    • I had this on a “someday” list for over a year. I really want to develop my public speaking skills and verbal communication skills on the whole. I already attended one meeting as a guest. I just need to finalize on a club location (still deciding on several).
  1. Come up with and follow weekly meal plans (including my 3 1/2 year old son).
    • Time frame: Compile meals starting 1/1/12. Finish and adopt schedule by 2/1/12.
    • This will help with shopping and stocking up too, which can use a lot of improvement.
    • It will help with sticking to healthy eating habits and squash the “what’s for dinner” daily question. I also want to get my son to eat healthier too, so there will be a sub-plan for him (e.g. introduce a new vegetable a week).
    • As an app/convenience/innovation lover, I’m going to try out Food on the Table (or something similar) to help with the management.
    • Hopefully it will help save money, but that’s not the primary or even secondary goal.
  1. Set up and adhere to a household budget.
    • Time frame: Have a clear budget for adherence by 3/1/12.
    • I’ve been tinkering with Money and Quicken for years. I have a TON of data, but never took the next step and seriously PLANNED anything financially. Instead they were used for tracking, which is still important.
    • Luckily we’re not horrible spenders. I just want to enforce more control and see how flexible we are with the goal of saving much more.
  1. Start up an IRA.
    • Time frame: Get ball rolling by contacting service providers starting 1/2/12.
    • Seems simple, but yet never got done. I’m going to start out small while we polish off the last of our debt (besides home and low interest car). So once debt done, that money will be divided up with some going into an IRA.
  1. Finish one thing a week.
    • Time frame: 1/1/12 and ongoing.
    • There are a TON of unfinished things to do around the house. I’m going to commit to finish one thing a week. Some are very small. GTD practitioners know the mental energy they can suck up (even though they are on my “someday” list).
    • Multi-step things can be broken up and “completed” separately (e.g. if I have to buy something and install it can be 2 separate things).
    • Like GTD can bring to light, sometimes a barrier is not focusing on the steps involved in a project.
    • There will be 52 things on the list. I won’t limit myself to just one thing a week. If I finish 3 things in one week, I can either move up the next scheduled item or take some weeks off.
    • In developing the list, I can imagine many things getting doubled/tripled/etc up.
    • I’ll try to keep new to-do’s off that list and handle them separately.
  1. Identify and eliminate distractions and replace them with something productive and report.
    • Time frame: Ongoing. Report on the first of each month.
    • I already got a head start on this one. I already committed to quit twitter and other social networks and message boards for 30 days. So far it’s pretty noticeable how much time I completely wasted by scanning twitter constantly (with very little benefit).
    • I need to take that and take the next step and replace that time with something enriching. It could be something as simple as brainstorming or meditation. It’s pretty amazing how valuable seemingly idle time can be.
    • The reporting part will be through this blog. I just need to be mindful of what’s wasting time and energy. Hopefully identifying, replacing, and writing about it will help adopt some of what I identify and change for the long term.
  1. Develop skills needed for all above.
    • Time frame: As needed to support above.
    • Originally I wanted to read one book a month in pesuit of developing a skill I want to acquire. After further thought, I decided to first focus on the tasks on hand and concentrate on developing/mastering the skills to succeed at them.
    • If other needs develop through this entire pursuit,  I will detail it and see how I can work it in.
    • Here are some of the items to develop through blog reading, book reading, videos, etc:
      • Public speaking, speech, presentations (to support Toastmasters).
      • Memory (to support Toastmasters and in general).
        • I feel GTD helped with this tremendously, but I want to see if I can see why I forget names, restaurants, etc.
      • Mind mapping with project management (to support the 52 items list and in general). I’m already tinkering with XMind and MindJet.
      • Budgeting (to support household budgeting).
      • Others as they present themselves.
    • Similar to the distraction project, I will “report” on the progress on this blog.

Truth be told, I might have attempted these things anyway. But I found the days leading up to this “announcement” extremely valuable in accessing needs, areas of need of growth, and feasibility of getting the things accomplished. I’m already going to adopt periodic assessments, reviews, and goal planning instead of waiting for a new year each year.

Lets see how it goes!

30 Day Challenge Update – Time Wasters

I’m a week into giving up Twitter, Google+, and some other social media and message boards.

So far so good. So far, I confirmed my suspicion that none of the above were providing me with anything valuable. I get my information from other sources (e.g. blogs through Google Reader), which are probably more reliable anyway.

The time gained really hasn’t been put to any real good use yet. But I do notice that I’m less dependent on my phone. Or more accurately, I don’t need to constantly check my phone. And if I put it down for an hour or more, I’m not compelled to check anything other than for new message icons.

It bothered my wife that my head was always on the phone, and I don’t blame her. This has cut that down tremendously. It was all needless. At least for me anyway.

Now for one of my new year’s resolutions, I’m going to try to identify less obvious time wasters and chop away. And replace that time with more enriching activities.

New 30 Day Challenge – Time Wasters

I haven’t forgotten about 30 day challenges. My first one ended up to be a failure in the sense it only lasted 4 days. But it emphasized something that’s been bubbling up inside my head.

The task then was to write a stream on consciousness writing for 30 minutes every night. It turned out to be too much of a task. Plus the upside of doing it wasn’t really clear to me even though I chose to do it. I read that it helps with focusing the train of thought and with writing, but perhaps I didn’t really believe it or even know what a success would look or feel like. There are probably a million reasons why I abandoned… Bottom line, it was probably a waste of time.

I wanted to do 30 day challenges at the start of each month. But this next one can’t wait. Or better, I don’t want to wait. It starts right… right…. riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight…………. now.

For the first time ever, I’ve come up with some rock solid new year’s resolutions. I’ll get to them in detail in another post. But one of them will be along the lines of identifying distractions and both eliminating them and substituting something constructive in their place. So this 30 day challenge is part of a test run and/or momentum builder for that resolution.

This 30 day challenge is 30 days without Twitter, Google+, or other social media and message boards. All except Facebook.

The logic is simple. I want to eliminate distractions and time wasters, but not cut out social interaction all together. I find Facebook valuable in keeping connected with people, and I don’t spend/waste a lot of time on there. Twitter, Google+, and the others, however, I find I spend way more time just browsing and not connecting with anything or anyone in any valuable way. It’s more of a boredom filler than anything else.

I do have a few caveats though. If someone DMs (or @’s me) me, I will respond–I set notifications accordingly so I don’t have to go Twitter, etc. to look for those messages. Again, I don’t want to abandon real social connections. I also can’t abandon the usage for my company, which is minimal anyway.

Now that I’ve gotten those distractions out of the way, it’s time to button up and finalize my new year’s resolutions.

First 30 day challenge ends in a tap out

Well that one didn’t last long at all. I started my first 30 day challenge last week. And it only lasted 4 days. I wanted to do a stream of consciousness writing every night for 30 days. I may go back to the drawing board though and try to salvage it for another try (another month). I tried 30 minutes each. That may have been too long for each night. Maybe 15 minutes is enough??? I had to fight to get myself to do the last one, then threw in the towel the next day. To be honest I didn’t know what would come out of it. I did get to write down a lot of what was floating in my head (2 hours worth). There are some things I want to get done because of the writing. So maybe it was valuable in some way… Anyway my next 30 day challenge will be something easier/faster so I can get some momentum going with this concept.