Quarter end – time for a goal review

We are almost done with quarter on of 2013 it’s a good time to look back at the past three months and take a stock of what was accomplished, which goals are really coming to fruition and which were just a wishful thinking.

There is an excellent post over at Copyblogger which touches precisely on that point. To make progress on the projects, ideas, goals which you set for yourself they need to be reviewed and assessed on regular basis and end of quarter makes a perfect time for that.  There are four elements which can help you make this review process: 

  1. Thinking space to look at the plans and reality.
  2. Check the basics – see where you are at the moment
  3. Look back – review your goals, have things changed, are they still valid
  4. Look forward – define where to go, identify new projects, set the action steps 

Beware the Ideas of March

Flow

Flow

Since moving to a new domain a blog post about a flow was an overdue task. I’ve asked my wife Magdalena who normally writes about spirituality to share her thoughts on this very subject.

Hi All! It’s a great honour and pleasure to be guest starring on Rafal’s blog. It’s a challenge too as I normally address different readers. I would like to offer you a much different approach to life and productivity as a part of it. Rafal asked me to write about flow, my understanding of it anyway. Before I get into that, let me just lay a foundation for you. The premise of my philosophy is this: you are not a body who has a soul; you are a soul who chose to have this physical experience in a body.

You are an energy being and part of you vibrates on a much slower rate (that is your physical self). Everything that happens to you is a match to your vibrations. Your thoughts, words, feelings and actions are vibrations too and they very much add on to this vast vortex of energy that is your being. I hope you’re still with me.

So… what is flow in that case?

Flow is your natural state. It simply means you are in alignment with the vaster part of you – your soul. When you experience flow your body is relaxed, you breathe deeply, your mind is clear and you feel calm. All ’positive’ emotions which show up in this state are just indicating that you are still in alignment with your essence. Flow fundamentally is the absence of resistance. When resistance to what is shows up the flow ceases as your body and mind contract, tense up and you experience ’negative’ emotions. Note: emotions are like sign posts letting you know if you are in alignment (positive ones) or out of it (negative ones).

Back to earth…

I’m sure all of you experienced this state when you felt really well, alive and in the zone when working on something exciting or maybe while hiking or running. In that time you are fully focused and immersed in what you’re engaging with. There are no doubts, fears and not a shred of tension in your body. You felt vibrant, joyful and often elated by the experience.

The characteristics of the flow are openness and balance. Imagine that the flow is a stream of water, and you are on the boat floating in that water. If there’s flow you go downstream, there are no obstacles on your path (there’s no resistance) and your boat is in balance (not rocking). You are moving quite fast! It feels good too!

Now, let’s translate that into real life: openness means accepting what is and engaging with it happily. Balance means just the right amount of time spending visualizing/day dreaming/planning/tapping into the bigger picture and taking action. If you ever saw ying/yang symbol – it is exactly that – perfect balance.

When you’re engaged with a new exciting project you don’t object it – you love it you want to do it (openness) and you have spent time thinking about it and picturing it in your mind’s eye. When you have the clarity of what the broader picture is and how to make it happen, you get into action. You are also clear and sure of your steps. It is therefore easy and enjoyable to get to the desired outcome and you get there in nearly no time – the magic of the flow. There’s one more crucial component of the flow: it is trust. You need to trust yourself (trust that our ideas are fabulous) and trust life that indeed your project is going to be successful.

We all would ideally like to experience flow (or in my world – alignment) more often if not all the time. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t happen that often to you, huh? Don’t worry, there’s a way to practice the alignment/flow and be more in that fantastic state. How? By creating the right conditions for it… yes, you can create the flow it doesn’t happen only by fluke!

I suggest start with something that helps you calm your mind (meditation works for me), the body will follow in feeling relaxed; emotions will be very calm. And you’ll find yourself in the state of openness! Boom first condition! Also make peace with & accept what is – wherever you are in your life is perfect. You are just learning something important (everything that happens to you is a blessing – sometimes it’s in disguise). Boom more openness!

Thank for what is (even if you don’t like it), appreciate how great it is to be alive, to be you, to do and have all those things that work in your life.

Spend time connecting to the grand vision of your life or just a project… get clear on what you want and then visualize that as if it was already your reality (really picture it in full colour, feel how great it is… make the picture bigger and brighter). Then take action on it. Boom – condition two of the flow (balance).

Finally chose to trust, I know I know… easier said than done, but hey, trust is a choice. You can choose to trust yourself & life. If you feel resistance to that one (you know, the opposite of the flow), you might want to address your beliefs about life.

Now, you are experiencing the flow! Well done!

There’s a hack to flow… I’ll give you this hack… what the heck…

You consciously chose to feel good (vibrate high frequencies= being more of your vaster self= being in the flow).

If you feel crap just honour that feeling (by feeling it without the story attached to it, the feeling will pass in a matter of seconds) and when you’re ready move on, do something that would cheer you up (dancing and goofing around works for me). When you feel better, keep moving upwards and chose to feel even better than that.
You want to aim for LOVE, GRATITUDE, JOY and EMPOWERMENT. These feelings are the ultimate flow. Then you’re flowing and you’re flying and it feels amazing!

See you there, flying up in the sky!

With love & sparkly hugs

Text expansion and failure with Merlin Mann

5by5.tv podcast station is one of my favorite podcasting networks. Since they produce a lot very good content it’s not always possible to listen it all and keep up with all the shows. Last week I was catching up on two shows that were sitting in my queue both featured Merlin Mann who is a bit of a hero in the productivity sphere whether he accepts this title or not.

Lets start with Back to Work episode 108 was a great introduction to text expansion. If you haven’t heard about it before or you’ve heard about it before but don’t know where to go this episode is for you. Merlin’s advice is very simple every time you find yourself typing or accessing something more than two times set up a key phrase for that. Things that immediately spring to mind are signatures, email addresses, canned responses etc. Beyond that is launching common documents and websites. Merlin goes even further describing how he uses two three letter key phrases to search his gmail etc.

On Mac OS the default choice of software is Text Expander, on Windows there are few choices like TexterBreevy or my preffered tool PhraseExpress.

Second podcast worth listening to is Systematic where Merlin and Brett talk about failure and it’s place in the creation process. It’s a great conversation that goes in all kinds of directions and still gives a lot food for thought on failures that lead to success and seemingly perfect plans that end up as big flop  Do give it a go and think about your own failures and successes.

Life Tips 101 – Nicholas Bate

Nicholas Bate’s blog is great source of inspiration. He regularly posts links, graphics and his own take on the world of business, productivity and success. And it’s not what you may think. His approach is short and to the point no messing about.

He recently shared 101 life tips. Since I focus here on productivity I picked four examples for you to ponder on. 

98.Remember you can do anything but not everything.
99.It’s failure or feedback. Your choice.
100.Get a plan.
101.Work the plan.

 If you need more  head over to Life Tips 101

Update on RSS

As many of you have heard Google Reader is shutting down. As much as this is a regrettable decision this does not mean that RSS is going away. There are plenty of alternatives to choose from ( you can start your search here) and I’m sure most will find a suitable home. 

Over the last couple of weeks I was trying to figure out the issues with pushing latest posts to Feedburner feed that I created for this blog. Despite the effort put into this a reliable solutions could not be found. 

Also since Google stopped developing FeedBurner its future is foggy and remains undetermined hence making it difficult to rely on in the long term.

To make sure you’re still getting the updates from this blog please use the default RSS feed address:

http://creatingpersonalflow.com/blog?format=rss

Some thoughts on priorities

Instead of a link post today I’m sharing some random thoughts about priorities after listening to Enough Podcast.

Recently I was listening to episode 192 of Enough Podcast where Myke and Patrick Rhone discussed the nature of work and guarding your time. Myke mentioned that he makes sure that he leaves everyday at 5pm even though his colleagues are still at work. For him this is crucial he knows his priorities and that means he need to leave office on time to make sure he can record all the shows.

What I like about this approach is that it shows confidence on two levels. Firstly you’re clear and confident what you want from your life. For Myke it’s growing his podcasting empire, for you it might be family time, working out, writing or other hobbies.

On the second level it’s show the confidence of his own work i.e. the result will speak for themselves. Staying longer because his colleagues are does not make sense especially if you do this to show that you’re still in. Sure you can always claim that more hours at a desk means more work done but there is a point of diminishing returns where the more effort put does not equal to more output. French have been working 38h work weeks for a good number of years and somehow they manage alright. I would think that many are quite envious about their cafés, croissants, and other elements of their lifestyle. There is also a strong evidence suggesting that shorter hours contribute to better productivity as there is less time available. See Parkinson’s law

Perhaps there is no silver bullet on how to approach working hours whether to leave at 5pm or stay with other. Each of us will have to decide on their own yet one thing will help. If you know why you need to leave then it’s much easier, it’s much easier to see beyond the row of work colleagues staying late, beyond the awkward feeling that you’re the first to call it a day.

So what’s your priority in life, recording shows is something dear to Myke’s heart, writing this site is dear to me and you? What’s your priority?

Six keys to affecting a change

Change can be a hard pill to swallow, new habits and routines need to be setup. New behaviors need to be learned, tool accustomed to. In one word change is stressful.

This stress can cause that the change will not happen, we may see the obstacles first, the positive effects are not materialising quick enough. This again lead to a further stress.

Tony Schwartz shared couple steps which can make the change process a much easier and more manageable. These include things like:

  • being highly specific and precise in describing what you want to achieve
  • make only one change at time
  • strike a balance in the change you’re introducing 
  • remove the temptations
  • look out for thing that block your change
  • keep at it

You can read the full post on by following the link: six keys to changing almost anything

Climbing the GTD ladder

GTD as a productivity methodology seems very tactical down to earth you have your action lists, contexts, projects and your project files. There is a lot of focus put on this area, after all it’s a bottom up approach system. This means that you sort out the chaos of your day to day activities and then look at the higher perspectives.

Where does it lead? Is the direction right?

So having a good grip on day to day stuff is really just a beginning. Once the mess around you sorted you will look further and new things will pop up. Do I take on project A or project B but project D looks exciting too. That means you need to make choices. At the same time having everything neatly organised for the sake of if isn’t really the point. It’s actually quite absurd. So why then? This is one of the BIG questions?

Where am i going?
What do i want from life?
Is the direction right?

GTD levels

Finding satisfying answers isn’t quick and easy process and it’s usually effect of long self reflection and deep thinking. As you go through a process of figuring these answers GTD can help you with leveraging your discoveries and integrating them in to your life. GTD offers the latitude model with two levels focused on the tactical aspects and other three dedicated to more strategic views.

  • 30k feet is about 1-2 year goals and defining what you want to become true in the space of 12-24 months. This relatively short time frame allows for being quite specific and action/project orientated.
  • 40k feet is about 3-5 year goals which although specific are usually beyond the have or do aspects and touch more on experiences, quality or life.
  • 50k feet focuses on life purpose, perhaps the most difficult one to know fully, it’s centered around values, contribution, meaning.

The content of these latitudes takes time to develop which means that they are less likely to change from day to day. Once you’ve decided what they are then they should form part of regular review. Some like to look at these levels on weekly basis others prefer monthly or quarterly. The frequency depends on you and how often do you want to ensure you’re on course.

Why you need to know the answers

So you’ve established your higher levels but what are other benefits that just knowing the direction. Where else clarity around your vision comes handy?

  • dealing with opportunities – every now and then we’re presented with opportunities,moving to another country, taking up a new job etc. These are big decisions and not easy to make. Yet once they are done in the context of 30-50k feet views they come much easier. It’s easier to see whether things fit into what we want, whether this step or that opportunity brings us closer.
  • too much going on – trying to tackle too many projects at once isn’t a pleasant thing. At some point you need to choose where your time goes. The easiest way to do it simply to know which of the projects will actually take you closer to your goals and choose those.

  • no effects – you put effort into some projects but can’t see any results. It seems that you’re spinning your wheels. This is perfect opportunity to review the higher altitudes. Look where you want to get, what are you aiming at and the see what needs to change. There may be projects that need to be dropped and other that need to started. This is very much like checking you’re map while walking a trail.

To sum this up figuring out your goals and lives purpose is like closing a loop. Whether you look at projects that you want focus on or those that should be abandoned, clarity on top will make the decisions easier. The better the decision you make the closer you will be to achieving desired vision.

Why now?

To be honest, I haven’t been looking at the higher levels often enough eventhough I created my yearly strategy. Over the last few weeks I’ve been getting different prompts to change that. First my mentor (really starting too see the benefits) got me to think about 5 year vision, that spurred further thinking about the direction of this blog and then I wasn’t happy with the results of my efforts on various fronts. As consequence I’ve looked at my project list, I’ve assigned myself specific actions to take time and think about higher levels. The process isn’t finished and I expected it will take a while but so far I like what I see. The image is getting sharper and the direction is getting clearer.

Conquering your fear

Discussing fear is somewhat a new area that I haven’t covered on this blog before.

This week I wanted to share very informative how-to guide on conquering your fear by Brian Johson.

There are three steps to this process:

  1. Start by breathing and relaxing
  2. Think of the obstacles and then shift to the excitement that sits on the other end of fear
  3. Breath again imaging the awesome result you want

Then move into action.

Sounds simple and when you look from the distance it’s definitely is simple. The key is to remember these three little steps when you’re faced with some sort of fear.

Evernote with Jamie Todd Rubin

Evernote has been the center of my workflow for good number of months and as I continue to refine it I’m always on the look for people writing about it.

Fairly recently I came across Jamie Todd Rubin a science fiction writer who makes a massive use of Evernote.  

Over the last number of months he’s been sharing his experience with going paperless and leveraging Evernote for that purpose. He’s also Evernote’s Paperless Living Ambassador.

I’ve picked up some nice tips and reconsidered some elements of my workflow after reading some if his post hence I would recommend that you have a look at his blog. I will definitely make a good weekend read. 

You will find all of his Evernote tagged articles by following below link.

Evernote – Jamie Todd Rubin

Capturing on the go

Last week a wrote about having too many ideas that pull you in different directions and effectively block you form getting your work done. This week I wanted to have a brief look a capturing ideas on the go. Once we’re removed from the bustle of office, from the constant interruptions, emails, calls etc. and go for a walk, a run, have a shower it’s quite often that we find a stream of ideas coming, new project start to flow. What can you do to make sure that you don’t loose them?

There is a number of different ways you can capture your thoughts while out a about. I personally tend o rely on these three tools:

Smartphone

I have my smartphone nearby all the time, I rarely leave the house without it. This means I can use the likes of Evernote or Remember the Milk to capture my thoughts as soon as they appear. Whether it’s an idea for a blog post, something I would like to buy, check on the web or do, I can take a note or picture of it and send it straight into my inbox.
To speed things up and reduce navigating menus and apps I set up widgets to capture my ideas. I have one that opens up a new note in Evernote and one for new task in Remember the Milk. Just these two tools make it very quick and easy to take a note of almost anything. The stumbling block that I have from time to time is that I’m not able to type fast enough on my phone to grab that thought quickly and I lose parts of it. Custom keyboard like Swiftkey is something I need look at soon.

Notebook

If I’m going somewhere and I have a backpack with me I will make sure that my current notebook is in it. I tend to use one for couple of months and once it’s full pick another one. If I’m capturing something using a notebook it’s most likely a blog post idea that is nicely formed. I use to jot down some drawings, diagrams and sketches of mind maps. Quite often, once I’m done, I snap a picture of a page and send it straight to Evernote so I have a digital record of it. Why not use an app from the get go? I simply like to think this way and a combination of words, handwriting and simple drawing really works for me.

Once I’ve processed pages with notes and ideas I make sure that I mark them accordingly. I tend to cross off the whole page or draw a thick line on the bottom and write processed. This helps me focus only on those pages that are new and should be looked at the rest remains as reference or archive.

Scraps of paper

This is my least favorite method of capturing on the go. I only use it when the other two are not available which is very rare. The good thing about this tool is that it’s abundantly available. if all of a sudden you’re hit with a genius idea you can capture it whether it’s a restaurant, coffee shop (the proverbial napkins come to mind) your local garage, shop or other place. Even old receipts can be used for that just flip them on th back and start writing. The reason I don’t like it as it’s messy a messy solution. You need to make sure that you put those scraps of paper into your inbox that you check all 15 pockets of your winter jacket and your briefcase  Scraps are easy to lose or misplace and if you mind is chasing another thought chances are you will forget to empty your pockets and those brilliant moments will be forever forgotten.

I prefer to use less dramatic tools and always have my phone or notebook so there are only three places for me to review my Evernote inbox, Remember the Milk inbox and pages of my notebook.

What’s your favorite method of capturing ideas? Please share in the comments.

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Shawn Blanc’s plain text workflow

A while ago I relied on plain text to serve me as the database of everything. Simple reference notes, blog post ideas, project notes, research and reading notes etc. I was a good setup but it was lacking for me a little in terms of functionality. In the end I’ve settled on Evernote as the center of my reference information because it allows me to store any type and format of information. 

Now if your choice is plain text then I definitely recommend reading Shawn Blanc’s overview of his setup and the corresponding workflow. The post goes into a great depth explaining the role of Simplenote, NVAlt, use of individual files and the sync issues that may occur. Shawn also looks at the various alternatives to Simplenote based workflow and putting reliance on Dropbox to handle all the files.   

It’s definitely very good read with quite a few possible takeaways for yourself.

A Foray Into Simplenote Alternatives