This is too much. Where do I begin…?

This is too much. Where do I begin…?

Cultivate Good Habits.

 

Improve Your Mindset.

 

Create a Vision.

 

Hustle.

 

Be Disciplined.

 

Set Goals.

 

Be Productive.

 

Wake up Early.

 

Do this, don’t do that…

 

A bit overwhelming, right?

 

All the above concepts are touted in the areas of personal and professional development. In some ways, it’s almost a vicious cycle. People seek help in order to take the next step—to overcome a problem or to improve a particular area, but it can be paralyzing.

 

In the process of trying to take the next step to improve, you hear all these things you are supposed to be doing, and in doing so, you deepen your state of inaction—because you don’t know where to start. You may think, “Well I don’t have a vision, so I’d better create that, but then I have to improve my productivity, and then I have to improve my mindset…so I can’t really improve anything until I fix all those,” and in the end, you wind up doing nothing—because you need to return to your survival mode. How can anyone improve all those at the same time and see a difference in their lives the next day?

 

And in many cases, people actually feel worse about themselves, because they start taking inventory of all the things they are not doing. And that certainly doesn’t lead to individuals overcoming their challenges or achieving their dreams more easily!

 

One of the most common questions I hear is with regard to not knowing how to take the next step.  It’s very easy to get caught up in realizing everything you’re not doing as described above, and that can be justification for not making expected progress in your life. This is why I am focused on resources that can help you take action. It’s even one of the reasons I use the word “optimize” because it’s like what we do in engineering—let’s yield a high quality product with minimal cost (i.e. yielding an even higher quality product for 100x the cost, in time/money, may not be profitable nor will it provide you the supply you need for your customers tomorrow!).

 

If we’re looking to improve something, we don’t necessarily want to take a year to get our systems in place; we typically need a different result as soon as possible and need to “optimize” the current situation for the better. And while it’s important to have good systems in place, realistically people need to see improvement more quickly. Therefore, I suggest taking action as soon as possible (while keeping in mind the overall system you’re aiming for in the future). I’m concerned that if you work on the system and don’t take action immediately, you’ll get so focused on perfecting the system that nothing will actually get done in the process!

 

Over time, you’ll find that the small improvements will compound, which is often discussed in the Kaizen approach. And if you do this intentionally, knowing the overall system or place you want to wind up, you’ll find that life helps you “course correct” along the way. But you can’t “course correct” unless you start taking action.

 

Therefore, if you’re in the boat of not knowing what to do next, check out my baby steps article for reference, and also keep the following in mind:

  1. Just start working on what makes sense. While it’s important to take time to reflect and take a step back, don’t do that for days on end while waiting for an epiphany. Take a break and then get back to the task at hand.

  2. If you’re not happy with your current situation and want a change in your life, keep doing #1 while also investing in yourself: take a few minutes each day to think about your overall system.

Sometimes when I present the above two points, an individual will respond to me and say, “Yes, but what makes sense for the next step?”

 

Naturally this is something best discussed in person. It’s very personal, but it may help for you to use some of the tools discussed in Success Blueprint or Design Your Success Academy. It’s hard to cover all the iterations of where you could be in your life or imagine what your situation is. But my quick, general advice would be:

 

  1. Continue what you’re currently doing and just keep trying to do your best at it until you’re clear on your new goals. For instance, if you’re in a career you don’t like, keep working at it while you start preparing for a new one (taking online courses to increase your skills, posting your resume, etc.)

  2. If you’re stuck not necessarily in terms of wanting a career change, but you want to feel better about  yourself in terms of discipline or productivity, try to implement one small change while you continue to invest in yourself (described above). For instance, if you can’t bring yourself to start something you don’t want to do, create a spreadsheet (described in Optimize for Victory) and track your progress on simply working on it, with no expectation to how much time you spend on it. Your goal is to ensure the time you spent on it each day is simply not zero (0).

 

To wrap up, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s understandable. It’s easy to “go down the rabbit hole” so-to-speak when you’re looking to make a change. Start small and enjoy the compound effect of small improvements each day as you keep your intention about the new person you want to be (or new career, or whatever it is your heart desires!).

 

And one final note: I’ve noticed that as hard as it is to start something I don’t feel keen on doing, it typically doesn’t seem as bad once I’ve begun it, and I often feel a sense of relief and a release of tension for at least finally starting it!

 

Additional Resources:

Books:

Optimize for Victory: A Simple Approach to Overcome Challenges and Achieve Your Dreams

Success Blueprint: Get Out of Survival Mode, Regain Control of Your Life, and Get Ahead at Work and in Life

 

Course: Design Your Success Academy

Lisa’s Review: Hustle: The Life Changing Effects of Constant Motion

Lisa’s Review: Hustle: The Life Changing Effects of Constant Motion

Last week I had the pleasure of reading Hustle: The Life Changing Effects of Constant Motion on my Kindle by Jesse Warren Tevelow. If you’re stuck in a rut, or want to read something motivational to “get you going,” this might be a good read for you. Currently, it’s only $0.99 on Kindle. Read more below:

 

Hustle Kindle Book

 

Title: Hustle: The Life Changing Effects of Constant Motion

 

Author: Jesse Warren Tevelow

 

Formats: Kindle, Paperback, Audible (side note for Audible — you may want to save your free book or credit for a more expensive title as it’s currently only $4.87; be sure to check the price in case it’s changed, especially if you want to purchase directly)

 

Reviews: 4.6/5 Stars (Amazon)

 

Why I Recommend: Many people have “analysis paralysis.” They may have trouble moving forward and may stay “settled” because they have fear, are uncomfortable, or simply over-analyze before moving forward. This book will get you in the mindset of gaining momentum so that you can instead reap the benefits of gaining insights as you make significant progress in your endeavors.

 

Warnings: For those who want to take action and move forward. It’s not a long text, but just long enough to get you in the spirit of moving forward.

 

Structure of the Book (and highlights): The book is divided into 15 chapters:

 

Chapter 1: Introduction

  • Author cites examples of well-known people who have demonstrated what “hustling” really means.
  • Key: “Constant motion delivers life-changing results.”
  • There is value in creating momentum.

Chapter 2:  Where Does Hustle Come From?

  • Boils down to aversion to settling — you want more.
  • Discusses how to improve confidence due to whom you surround yourself with.

 

Chapter 3:  Hustler’s Diary – Day 1

Author chronicles his progress on writing the book quickly as an example of hustling; his diary entries are insightful as he is faced with common issues we may be faced with as we try to hustle.

 

Chapter 4:  What Does Hustle Require?

  • Adjusted mindset.
  • Facing your fears.

 

Chapter 5:  Hustler’s Diary – Day 2

Author chronicles his progress on writing the book quickly as an example of hustling; his diary entries are insightful as he is faced with common issues we may be faced with as we try to hustle.

 

Chapter 6:  Hustler’s Habits and Tricks

  • Discusses taking the leap from mindset to action.
  • Question everything.
  • Gather inspiration.
  • Focus and productivity tips.
  • Manage your physical energy (this is something I addressed in my own book, Optimize Your Productivity).

 

Chapter 7:  Hustler’s Diary – Day 3

Author chronicles his progress on writing the book quickly as an example of hustling; his diary entries are insightful as he is faced with common issues we may be faced with as we try to hustle.

 

Chapter 8:  Hustler’s Traits

  • Idiosyncrasies of hustlers.
  • Emphasizes focus on a goal and disregard for forced convention.
  • Ignore Doubters
  • Think Different.

 

Chapter 9:  The Lifestyle of a Hustler

  • Getting things done.
  • “Ship Product.”
  • Expect detours but keep on hustling!

 

Chapter 10:  Thirty-six Hours of Pure Focus

  • Rules can be rewritten.
  • Not overwhelming.
  • “Working faster = more focus, passion and output.”

 

Chapter 11:  Hustler’s Diary – Day 4

Author chronicles his progress on writing the book quickly as an example of hustling; his diary entries are insightful as he is faced with common issues we may be faced with as we try to hustle.

 

Chapter 12:  From Concept to Launch in Seven Days

  • How the author planned the book.
  • Authors discusses how he organized himself, tracked process, and pursued the publishing process.

 

Chapter 13:  Hustler’s Diary – Day 5

Author chronicles his progress on writing the book quickly as an example of hustling; his diary entries are insightful as he is faced with common issues we may be faced with as we try to hustle.

 

Chapter 14:  So You Want to Be a Hustler?

  • Discusses steps you can take.
  • “Live your life as a hustler.”

 

Chapter 15:  Who Are the Hustlers?

  • More examples and wrap-up.

 

Closing Comments: Overall, a good book to get the idea of moving forward ingrained in your mind. This does not mean rushing through projects without creating things of high-quality. The focus is more on the idea of moving forward at all, since many people will stay settled in their ways and they struggle to make progress.

 

Want to get this book for free? You can get two free books when you start a free trial with Audible.

How to Be More Productive When Your Days are Unpredictable

How to Be More Productive When Your Days are Unpredictable

Some of the leading productivity experts discuss having a system to capture your thoughts and tasks, and then scheduling those tasks accordingly in your calendar based on priority. I also include that approach (as well as other tips) in the overall framework and system I present in Optimize Your Productivity.

When this process is utilized, it is an efficient way to get things done, and it does seem to make productivity easier. The problem, however, is that this process depends on two very important conditions, otherwise it won’t work.

These conditions are:

  1. Having a very predictable calendar so that tasks can be scheduled
  2. Having sufficient health and energy to get things done.

While I worked in high-intensity environments in the past, where there could be constant interruptions (especially for crises, manufacturing issues, etc.), I felt that the productivity system described in my book would work for the most part, especially if you can account for and accept that sometimes only the highest priority items can get done.

But what if you do not have a relatively predictable calendar, or you are suffering from health issues that make your days quite uncertain? I personally experienced these issues earlier this year, especially the past seven months while I was not feeling well in my pregnancy.

As many of you know, I’m expecting a baby girl in the New Year! My pregnancy was much more difficult this time — from feeling very sick to having to limit my mobility due to back and leg issues. On top of that, I take care of my son (a toddler) most of the time, so between not feeling well and having a mostly unpredictable calendar, my own productivity systems were challenged!

The good news is, I was able to adapt my systems in the event someone has a similar situation — where days are quite unpredictable in terms of schedule or energy level. I was still able to write and publish another book, after all (my second this year!) and I had a number of clients in my online programs this year.

The following slides highlight some tips you can utilize if you are in a similar position, or you can keep reading this article to see the tips explained.

1. Use a notebook or a “non dated” productivity planner.

While I previously used a blank notebook and then scheduled my tasks, I adjusted my system to use an actual productivity planner (this is the one I bought and personally recommend). Previously, my system required a certain amount of discipline to stay on track. With the planner, I was able to use it as a tool to keep me on track for the next few steps, primarily utilizing it as a means to stay organized and monitor my progress on tasks.

2. Identify and write down the most important tasks for the week.

By prioritizing my tasks and having that identified list readily available, I was able to have tasks ready to “pick from” when the individual days would arrive (step 3). This approach ensured I minimized wasting time once an open window did present itself. Instead of jumping all over the place saying, “What should I do next?” I was ready to tackle the most important items I had identified.

3. Review tasks and identify 1-3 tasks to accomplish the next day.

Once you have your priorities written for the week, it’s a good idea to pick the most important 1-3 items to accomplish the very next day. Again, building on step 2, you will be ready once that open window of energy and time presents itself the next day. Also, starting with a realistic number of tasks will help you focus and will minimize overwhelm.

4. Review your planner in the morning and use it to track your progress.

At this point, you will not have to make any decisions. You simply need to work on the 1-3 tasks you identified the night before. This will help you be more efficient and reduce the need to spend energy on decision-making. Further, the planner is set up to focus not necessarily on calendar days, but individual days, and it presents tools to help you monitor your progress for the day.

5. Evaluate your progress at the end of each day.

At the end of each day, you can use the tools inside the planner to assess if there could have been any improvements in terms of how you managed your day.

Once you have implemented these 5 steps, you can repeat the cycle! You will get better and better about knowing yourself, what you can handle and what you can’t, and your productivity will improve, despite the challenging conditions of time or energy.

In summary, I hope this article and presentation help, especially for those who are dealing with unpredictable calendars, caring for dependents, and/or managing health issues.

If you’d like more productivity tips, claim your free Optimize Your Productivity ebook at this link: http://productivity.lisakardos.com.  

 

5 Steps to Optimize Your Shopping this Holiday Season

5 Steps to Optimize Your Shopping this Holiday Season

Deals! Deals! Deals!

 

Chances are, prior to reading this, you have been exposed to many “Cyber Monday” advertisements today. In fact, if you rewind the clock, you probably saw “Black Friday” ads rolling into “Cyber Monday” ads over the weekend, and before that, “Black Friday Preview” sales earlier in November.

 

Naturally it’s great to get discounts for holiday shopping, but it can be overwhelming, especially if you set foot inside the stores, though combing through all the web deals can be dizzying as well!

 

In today’s post, we’re going to review 5 Steps to Optimize Your Shopping this Holiday Season; we’ll focus on how to minimize overwhelm in the holiday shopping process while maximizing not only your discounts, but also the amount of cash back you receive.

 

(1) Determine the shopping style that works best for you

 

Determining the shopping approach that works best for you — whether that’s in person or online (or a combination of the two) is surprisingly a good first step. It gets back to the idea of self-awareness: Know what works for you. For instance, personally I do not like large crowds. In the past, if I went to an overly crowded store, I was actually more apt to leave early and give up on shopping (foregoing some deals) because it was just too much for me. Now that you can buy a lot online, doing a significant amount of online shopping is a legitimate option.

 

Therefore, it’s good to get a rough idea of how you need to allot your time — will you set a time to go to the store, or carve out some time to comb through stores on the computer? It’s good to ask yourself what you can physically (and mentally) handle.

 

The step of understanding how to carve out your time (so that you’re not panicking last-minute as the holidays approach) helps with the process of organizing yourself and being more efficient.

 

(2) Organize Yourself with a Shared List

 

My next recommendation is to organize yourself with a list. Taking a few minutes to write the names of everyone you need to shop for, and writing out the status update and possible gift ideas can help tremendously. Further, even if your spouse does not get too involved with the shopping, just sharing the list can help you feel less alone in the process.

 

This year, I decided to make a simple Google Spreadsheet to organize my holiday shopping, and I set it up so that it’s shared with my husband’s Google account. I made significant progress over the weekend once I organized the list (and it feels great to mark off “ordered” or “completed”)!

 

This list worked hand-in-hand with step one for me, because I was able to figure out who I could shop for online, leaving just a couple gifts for in-person shopping (which I plan to do when it’s a bit less crowded)!

 

(3) Discuss Expectations with Family

 

Sometimes part of the stress of holiday shopping includes not knowing what to get people. More recently I have tried the approach of actually talking with family members to get a sense of what they might need, or if they prefer to be surprised. If someone identifies a few items they might need, then it’s easier to keep an eye on those types of items for deals, and it eliminates the overwhelm of not knowing what to purchase.

 

(4) Learn how to Maximize Your Discounts

 

Sometimes holiday shopping can be stressful if you find out you didn’t get the best deal possible. To ensure I do not miss out on deals, I carry coupons in my purse (I have a big bag…) and I regularly purge the ones that expire. I used to keep coupons for department stores separately, and then I wouldn’t have them with me when I needed them. Carrying the most current ones has helped ensure I get deals if I do set foot in a store.

 

Another way to ensure you get the best deals, particularly if you’re shopping online, is to do an email search. If I think I’m about to purchase something in a particular store online, I search the store name in my email account to make sure I didn’t miss any coupon codes that are relevant.

 

(5) Get Cash Back

 

More recently, “cash back” credit cards seem to be very popular (I see tv commercials for them all the time). In other cases, you can get points, rewards, or airline miles for your credit card purchases. It’s a personal decision on what kind of rewards or cash back you’d like, but it’s important to consider which card you want to use (if you use one) in order to get the benefits that are the most meaningful for you. Don’t forget that using your department store card can also mean extra discounts sometimes, too!

 

Interestingly, there is actually another way you can get cash back, that can potentially multiply the benefits from using your reward-based credit cards, and that’s through online cash back services. The one that I’m very familiar with is Ebates. Basically, before I shop, I log into my Ebates.com account (free to create, and sometimes they give you a $10 credit just for signing up — check the current details). From there, I click on the store that I want to shop in, and it tracks my shopping trip from there. If I purchase something from that store, and Ebates says “10%” cash back, that means I get 10% back for my purchases (on top of any other discounts I might have gotten through my cards, etc.)

 

It’s easy to forget to shop through Ebates, but it’s worth it. It’s also important to mention they have a convenient button for your browser now so that you don’t necessarily have to login if you install it. So far I have generated over $200 in cash back from them, (over $170 in 2016 alone!) Every quarter, they mail a check to my house with the cash back I received, and I simply cash it or deposit in my account.

 

Today, on Cyber Monday, the cash back is double in some cases. Be sure to check Ebates as you shop today (Macy’s has 12% cash back as an example).

 

Naturally it can be overwhelming to prepare for the holiday season, especially in terms of holiday shopping, but I hope these five steps about organizing and maximizing your discounts will help you! Good luck out there 🙂

 

*Note that if you join Ebates through the Ebates link inside this article, I may receive a small credit since it is my referral link. However, I recommend their service regardless based on my experience with them.
Ebates Coupons and Cash Back

Update: 10/28/2017

To find out more about other ways to earn cash back, please check out the “Lisa Recommends” page!

Slideshare on Productivity

Slideshare on Productivity

I just published a new presentation on Slideshare about optimizing your productivity (based on my latest book). To view my presentation for free, please click below.

Details:

Learn how to “optimize your productivity” in this presentation. ***Includes a free productivity worksheet bundle.***

This presentation defines productivity, and breaks down how we can apply simple engineering principles to ourselves to improve our productivity. It presents a unique approach, in that a framework is presented, as opposed to dictums for you to follow. This framework enables you to customize and work with your individual traits. By working with your individuality, you improve your chances for making actual change in the area of productivity.

For more info, please visit http://optimizebooks.com/productivity.

Optimizing Time on The Zone Show

Optimizing Time on The Zone Show

I had the honor and pleasure of being interviewed by Tom Evans of The Zone Show podcast in April. It was a wonderful experience being on Tom’s show, where he features experts and authors, as well as his own work, on how to stay in “The Zone,” perform at our peak levels and live life to the fullest.

As explained on The Zone Show site, we explored the following topics during our conversation:

  • Crossing the bridge from ‘hard’ science to the ‘gentler’ side
  • Taking an engineering approach to personal development
  • How to go about ‘re-‘engineering yourself
  • Where to start with productivity?
  • Using your own victory as a driving force
  • The value of actively chilling out
  • The power of anticipatory thinking
  • Manage your efficiency and you manage your time
  • Engineering emotions
  • What else can be optimized?

Feel free to listen to our conversation (embedded at the bottom of this post) or visit the podcast site to hear interesting and thought-provoking episodes with other guests at http://www.thezoneshow.com/.

In addition to being a great host, Tom is a very productive author, educator, mentor, creator — someone who provides a lot of value to the world. He has a number of self-study programs and offers help to his clients in numerous ways through his programs, meditations, books, and more. To learn more about Tom and his resources, please visit: http://www.tomevans.co/.