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Personal Development

Speed reading and ‘showing up’

A recent podcast brought up two valuable lessons in one

By Steve W

I was recently listening to the latest episode of the Copywriter’s podcast. As somebody who consumes hours of podcasts per day, watching a new episode pop up on the RSS feed is a joyous experience. I’m not a copywriter but I do aspire to be able to write my own copy one day, capable of selling and promoting a message.

I’ve been following the host, Nathan Fraser, for a while now and am part of one of his online groups. Fraser acts as the foil for David Garfinkel, a former journalist and current author, described in the intro as the “world’s greatest copywriting coach”. I’m not clued up enough to dispute that. However, given the standard of guests and general quality of information, I’ve learned a ton off both men already.

The reason I am mentioning this is because, on the latest instalment, Fraser mentioned not one but two little nuggets that piqued my interest.

Speed reading, slow reading or something in between

I am an avid reader. Ever since I was small I’ve consumed books as quickly as possible, on a daily basis. Even though a as a society we are drifting towards a greater dependence on digital devices, the honest beauty of a physical book remains. A few years ago, with the bite of family commitments and less time in my life, I realised I was no longer piling through books as swiftly as I desired. Every New Year’s resolution contained something resembling “read more books” which required making more time and missing out on other activities.

Skillshare course on speed reading

It was at this point that I spotted a speed reading course on the Skillshare platform. The grand subtitle promised that I would read more books, get through them quicker, miss out unimportant words (seriously, it said that!). There were a variety of techniques to fly through text books, novels, short stories and more, in record time.

I took the course, implemented the techniques and it worked. I was indeed flying through books in record time as promised. However, I soon realised that I was hardly taking anything in. Whole books were consumed and I could barely recall a couple of major points. True, I’d already picked up the next one, but how beneficial was reading the book to me?

Makes notes and highlight your books

I know some people make copious amounts of notes, highlight whole paragraphs, use sticky notes and all sorts of colours to pick out important points. Books sit on shelves and are brought down multiple times to be read and re-read. I never got this. Why would you go back and read over and over something you’d already completed?

This is where speed reading had let me down, while teaching me an important lesson. I was wasting my time. If I could not take any value or knowledge from my books why was I even reading them at all?

Read one book or ten books?

This is where we return to the dulcet tones of copywriting king Garfinkel and his partner in crime Mr Fraser. “You’re better off reading one book ten times than ten books one time,” said Fraser. And suddenly it hit me. He’s right.

While Nathan may not have coined the phrase (see link above) when it comes to retention of information his advice stands to reason. After listening I immediately went back and re-uploaded my Kindle versions of Atomic Habits and many other titles I felt deserve at least a second chance. I’ll not be speed reading either. It might take longer to finish a book, but that’s probably the point.

80 per cent of success is showing up

The second chunk of wisdom thrown out in the Copywriter’s podcast was attributed to a quote by the film maker Woody Allen. “80 per cent of life is showing up,” said Allen. Naturally, it has since been debated as to whether Allen first came up with this quote. Others suggest he said 99 per cent. The numbers are largely irrelevant.

When Allen says “showing up” I doubt he means just literally showing up. Appearing somewhere doesn’t get things done. Rather, I expect he meant showing up, being consistent, doing the job to the best of your ability, over and over. It ties in with a less succinct phrase I use myself: “If you say you’re going to do something, then do it”.

80 percent of success in life is just showing up

Woody Allen

Be reliable, consistent and show up

Being reliable, offering quality work consistently is an important trait to have. People soon notice if you repeatedly promise the earth and fail to deliver. Everybody misses deadlines, makes mistakes and fails to do stuff they agreed upon at one time or another. We are all flawed human beings.

I’ve know a lot of genuinely good people over the years. They are skilled individuals, whom, with the best will in the world, would buzz with ideas and suggestions and then – just fail to show up. In a physical sense, or at the point of delivery. Nothing would happen. They talk big and deliver small, or in some cases absolutely zilch.

Being consistent, enhancing your reputation as a person who delivers and “shows up” time and again is an important behaviour to adopt and perfect.

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Categories
Personal Development

Dale Carnegie’s influential life lessons

Escape to a world of multiple friends

By Peter R

Once upon a time, I came across a dog eared book in a thrift store and, with curiosity piqued, I picked it up and began to leaf through. I have never forgotten the title of the book because, when I first read it, the initial thoughts that sprung to mind could not have been more off the mark.

Ordinarily, How to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie is a book I would’ve pushed straight back on to the shelves and relegated to the scammy self help niche with little relevance to me or my life.

But I didn’t put it back. I picked it up, leafed through and decided to buy it. As I sit here today, in front of my laptop with coffee by my side, that same book is one of a select few that sits in a crate behind me. As a minimalist I don’t covet or collect possessions. However, no matter where I’ve travelled, How to win friends has never left me.

influencial people

Timeless principles for life

The principles shared in this book are timeless, so shockingly simple, yet so often underutilised by many of us. Remembering a person’s name for example. It’s one of the things we all love to hear. It shows that we care, that we take notice, that we are interested enough to recall someone’s name and show they are important to us. 

Years ago I read an article in a newspaper by a man who had once suffered from depression and extreme suicidal thoughts. Thankfully, at the time of writing, he was doing much better. He recounted a story of how he was close to ending his life and while walking on the way to a bridge he intended to jump from he was met with the smile of a stranger that gave him second thoughts and literally saved his life.

woman smiling

Smiling at another person, or even talking to a person can have life-changing effects on their mood. Talking and conversing is a powerful way of getting to know another person. Listening can help you get to know them even more. Often we talk too much and listen nowhere near enough. Instead of actually taking in what a person is aying, we are merely waiting for them to finish talking as we eagerly stand by with our next point. 

Everyone should read this book, it is very educational however the style in what it was written is a little bit out of date because the book was written in 1936. It gives you really good tips that you can use in your private life and in your work life as well.

Amazon review

In How to win friends Carnegie implores us to listen properly (a skill that can and should be learned) and encourage others to talk more about themselves. Find their interests and talk about them. You can see even the most lacklustre conversationalist open up whenever he/she is discussing their favourite topic(s). Sincerity is key. We must make others feel important and interesting.

This Medium blog post contains an engaging and concise compilation of Carnegie’s thoughts and ideas.

In a previous life I was a stubborn man. I could not admit to being wrong. Neither could my ex-partner which, as you can imagine, pretty quickly led to the “ex” part of our relationship! We would spend days not talking to one another, angry and feeling wronged when a simple apology and the ability to let it go could’ve fixed the whole problem instantaneously.

There are many other life lessons to take from this old favourite of mine, many of which are centred around making the other person feel comfortable, important, listened to. We must empathise and see the other person’s point of view. Humans are emotional creatures. We love and laugh, throwing logic out of the window.

two women laughing

Flatter, don’t deceive

There is an old saying “flattery will get you everywhere” and whilst this is a coy cliche it rings true in much of Carnegie’s approach. Ultimately, the way we treat people determines the strength of our relationships and enhances or decreases our levels of success.

The old copy of How to win friends still sits behind me as I write. The pages are a slight tinge of brown and some are starting to come loose as the glue dries up. But the principals and lessons remain as fresh and relevant as ever.

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Categories
Personal Development

Boosting Productivity and why it is Important

Written by Monica C

Many people think that they need to do more to succeed in their careers and in life in general. This is not entirely true. Rather than just struggling to complete more tasks, it is more important to find ways to boost productivity. These days, technology has made it easier for people to be more productive in more ways than one.

Defining Productivity

In simple terms, productivity means getting results in the least amount of time and effort. It comes with being proficient and efficient in doing the things that you need to do. It can be applied to virtually everything that you do.

In the workplace, productivity can refer to your output per day – how many projects you are able to launch, the number of calls that you make, the number of products that roll out of your machine, etc.. The business owners, of course, would want to get the most out of each employee’s working hours.

Note that productivity is not about merely counting quantities. It also factors in the quality of your output. Your output should have a positive impact on the results that you are working for. It’s all about maximizing your resources (both tangible and intangible) in order to achieve your goals in the shortest possible time.    

The Need for Productivity

Everyone only has 24 hours a day, but not everyone makes good use of the time that he has on his hands. The difference between those who are successful in life and those who struggle day to day is how they use time. Successful people focus on more productive tasks rather than waste their time doing meaningless activities.

When you are more productive, you are able to move towards your goals faster and with less effort. There is no guarantee that you will not encounter challenges along the way. Part of boosting your productivity is improving your capabilities, enhancing your efficiencies, and getting the right tools to prepare you to achieve your goals even with all the challenges. In Millennial terms, these are collectively referred to as ‘life hacks.’

Productivity in Business

The importance of productivity in business is obviously linked with profitability. The more products the factories churn out, or the more productive they are, the more the profits the business will rake in.

Research studies have shown that long working hours and stress are among the most common causes of low productivity. When employee or worker productivity is low, it also means less sales and lower profits for the company. 

It makes sense for businesses to initiate training programs that help their employees integrate productivity systems into their daily routine. A highly productive workforce will result not only in financial gains, but also in better working relationships, timely completion of projects, and increased customer satisfaction.

Productivity systems to Add to Your Toolbox

Throughout the years, many successful people have shared their tricks and strategies to become more productive each day. Some do it within their own small exclusive circle, while some are more open to sharing their knowledge to everyone who wishes to learn from them. Among the most common productivity systems that are used in business include:

The Eisenhower Box

The Eisenhower Box – this is a system that was used by former US president Dwight Eisenhower. He was known to live a truly productive life. Experts studied his life from his early years to his years in the army right up to when he became a five-star general and a US president. His ways of managing his time and tasks were encapsulated in the Eisenhower Box or the Eisenhower Matrix productivity systems.

The Eisenhower Box is a simple decision-making tool that anyone can use and incorporate in his life at any time. It follows the former president’s strategy for organizing and doing his tasks. It involves listing and sorting tasks in bullets using four categories:

1. Urgent and Important – you need to do these tasks right away.

2. Important but Not Urgent – these tasks can be done at a later time.

3. Urgent but Not Important – you can ask someone else to do these tasks for you right away.

4. Neither Urgent nor Important – these tasks do not have to be done or do not have any effect on your results.

The Warren Buffett Strategy

The Warren Buffett Strategy – Warren Buffett is considered to be the most successful investor in the 20th century. His name has been on the list of the world’s wealthiest people every year. It is understandable how many people have taken a lot of interest in how he lives his life and how he spends his days.

Analysts have observed that Buffett manages his time better than anyone else around him. It follows too that everyone who works under him should practice the same productivity systems. This 3-step productivity strategy is used by Buffett’s staff to determine their priorities and consequently manage their actions to achieve their goals:

1. On a sheet of paper, write down your 25 career goals.

2. Review your list and choose the top 5 goals that you want to achieve.

3. Sort your goals into two lists: your top 5 goals (List A) and the 20 remaining goals (List B).

With this tool, you can focus all your attention and resources on List A. Tasks that have to do with achieving the goals on this list should be prioritized.

Avoid straying to your List B goals first so you won’t get distracted. You can move on to your List B when you’ve already succeeded with your List A goals.

The Warren Buffett productivity system is a brilliant tool to use to clear out the clutter, so to speak. By concentrating on and devoting all your resources to List A, you are more likely to achieve your goals sooner rather than later.

This strategy does not tell you to let go of your List B goals. You might feel that they are just as important to you as your List A. Don’t worry. You’ll get the chance to achieve them too once you are done with your List 5. You can actually go on and do the same steps to review your progress and refocus your list as you achieve your List 5 goals. 

The Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique – this time management life hack by Francisco Cirillio has grown in popularity since it was introduced in the 1980s. It’s taught in school and is practiced in all fields by people from all walks of life.

The Pomodoro productivity systems is meant to encourage people to work on their time rather than against it. Curiously, the name of this technique came from the tomato (Pomodoro in Italian)-shaped timer that Cirillio used to test his strategy. 

In this technique, you break your workday into 25-minute intervals with five-minute breaks in between. The 25-minute intervals are your Pomodoros. Aim to finish a task in Pomodoro.

Use a tracker to be more efficient in this technique. Mark every Pomodoro that you finish with an “X.” Indicate intervals when you procrastinate too. This way, you are more aware of how you use your time. It will also be easier for you to see how much progress you’ve already made.

David Allen: Getting Things Done

David Allen’s Getting Things Done – this is a brilliant work-life management system that was devised by management coach and consultant David Allen. Here, he talked about how people can put their ideas to action by bringing them out of the mind and breaking them into workable tasks.

Allen’s GTD directs attention and resources towards acting on your ideas instead of trying to remember them. Instead of getting overwhelmed with all the ideas running through your head, this productivity system gives you focus and clarity. In the process, it makes you more confident in doing your tasks and achieving your goals.

In his book, Allen shares how you can reduce stress using exercises that get rid of what he terms as ‘open loops’ or ‘incompletes.’ This process of decluttering the mind enhances your focus on more important tasks and frees your mind of unnecessary distractions so you can move through the GTD five-stage workflow more efficiently.

Cal Newport: Deep Work

Cal Newport’s Deep Work – Cal Newport is another big name these days as he comes out with rules that can change everyone’s lives in what he calls a ‘distracted world.’ According to him, mastering the ability to focus tasks without getting distracted will help you achieve ‘extraordinary results.’

His Deep Work concept is meant to boost your productivity and make you more competitive in whatever field you belong to.  In this productivity system, he teaches you to follow several rules to cultivate Deep Work. One of these rules is to remove distractions – specifically, social media.

People today spend more time than they should on social media. This translates to time away from the tasks that they need to finish. Productivity suffers even when they try to do their tasks while they are active and connected to social media.

You do not have to completely break away all social media connections or stop activities that are considered to be ‘distracting.’ You can implement Deep Work by dividing your time between deep pursuits and shallow pursuits. You can either allocate a number of hours (bimodal philosophy) or designate regular time periods (rhythmic philosophy) to cover both task ‘categories.’

Achieving Success with Life Hacks

The term ‘life hack’ is popular these days as a more ‘Millennial’ way of talking about practical productivity systems that allow you to do things better, with less resources, and in less time.

You do not always have to do things the same way or stick to the same old tried and tested practices in order to succeed. In fact, what’s common with the productivity systems above is how they shift your perspective and mindset from conventional beliefs.

The modern world is indeed a distracting and exciting world. You do not have to just go with the flow. You can decide to get the most out of life by managing your tasks and time efficiently using productivity systems.

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to share this article if you found it useful.