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Declutter Your Mind will teach you the habits, actions, and mindsets you can use to clean up the mental clutter that might be holding you back from being more focused and mindful in your daily life. Let’s discover how to get a simplified, calm mental life – and how to reclaim the time and emotional energy we give up to overthinking and anxiety!

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INTRODUCTION Who is this book for?

Do you feel overwhelmed by your thoughts, struggle with stress or anxiety about the tasks you need to complete, or simply want to stop worrying about life in general? If you’ve answered yes to at least one of these question, then this book & summary is definitely for you!

About the authors

Barrie Davenport is the founder of the award-winning personal development site Live Bold and Bloom, a certified personal coach and online course creator, and the author of a series of self-improvement books on positive habits, life passion, confidence building, mindfulness and simplicity.

S.J. Scott is a Wall Street Journal bestselling author, with over 30 books in the “self-improvement” genre, translated in 12 different languages. His books provide daily action plans that can be immediately implemented, in key areas such as health, fitness, work and personal relationships.

In this summary

Declutter Your Mind will teach you the habits, actions, and mindsets you can use to clean up the mental clutter that might be holding you back from being more focused and mindful in your daily life. Let’s discover how to get a simplified, calm mental life – and how to reclaim the time and emotional energy we give up to overthinking and anxiety!

BOOK SUMMARY 1. DECLUTTERING YOUR THOUGHTS

Thoughts form what we perceive to be reality and impact your mental well-being. However, having too many thoughts can clutter our mind. We’re especially affected by our negative thoughts, because they tend to come back, right after we slap them down. To manage our thoughts, detach from the negative ones, and declutter our mind, we need to work on our mindfulness.

Focused Deep Breathing

When we feel overwhelmed or stressed, we tend to experience rapid breathing or shortness of breath. Slow, deep, rhythmic breathing can help us regain control of our mind. Try practising 5-10 minutes of deep abdominal breathing every day.

Meditation

Most meditation practices begin with sitting quietly, focusing on your breath, and ignoring any distractions that come your way. It increases productivity, promotes focus, decreases stress, boosts your overall brainpower, and promotes divergent thinking. Get started with a 10-minute daily meditation practice.

“Meditation is a way of entering into the quiet that’s already in your mind, buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day.”

Reframe ALL Negative Thoughts.

The authors express this brilliantly:

“Critical thinking gives us the ability to solve problems quickly and effectively. Creative thinking allows us to develop original, diverse, and elaborate ideas and connections. But it’s the uninvited negative thinking that clutters our minds and often drains our enthusiasm for life.”

To change this tendency and build the reframing habit:

  • Be the watcher – Become aware of your thoughts. Separate your “self” from your thoughts, and just observe what is going on in your mind.
  • Name that thought – Mentally acknowledge that thoughts are not your reality. Say “I’m having the thought that ‘I’ll never get all of this done.’ ”
  • Just say no – Visualise pushing negative thoughts into a deep hole or putting them into a balloon that floats away.
  • Try the rubber band trick – When stuck in negative thinking, gently snap the rubber band on your wrist. This physical action will interrupt the flow of negative thoughts.
  • Know your triggers – Nearly every negative thought triggered by a person, situation, or physical state. Write down the triggers, so you’re aware when they happen.
  • Distract yourself – Break the cycle using distraction – immerse yourself in a project that involves focus and brainpower.
Teach Your Old Mind New Tricks
  • Challenge the thought and replace it – Remind yourself of a positive event or previous “win”.
  • Practice acceptance – “I accept this struggle is happening.” Take a deep breath and try to stop fighting mentally. Ask yourself: Can I take any actions right now to improve the situation? Is there anything positive to learn from it? How can I get support as I’m enduring this?
  • Take mindful action – Do something positive that requires focus and mental challenge to prevent yourself from falling back into overthinking or worry. Such activities include: Writing, painting or drawing, practicing an instrument, building something by hand, working on a complex problem
  • Set a worry timer – Set a timer for 10-15 mins and allow yourself to stress over whatever enters your mind. Get it all out! Write down your thoughts in a journal to process your thoughts or find solutions.
DECLUTTERING YOUR LIFE OBLIGATIONS

Instead of carefully evaluating what is best for us, many of us simply react to what life throws at us.

A simple solution to assess the information overload in our life: defining our core values that endure through time, difficulties, and major changes.

Here’s a 4-step strategy to define your values, or life might feel unbalanced and directionless, often leading to anxiety and depression.

1. Identify YOUR Core Values

Go through this list of values and write down every word that feels important for your personal and professional life (two columns). Pick the top-5 value from each columns and write them down on two separate sheets of paper.

Finally, list under each value all of the ways it manifests in your current life, but also think about specific actions to fix the out-of-alignment values.

Which actions are doable now or in the near future? Break them down into smaller, manageable steps.

2. Clarify Your Life Priorities

Priorities show you how to spend your time, energy, and money.

According to the authors, there are 7 key life areas: career – family – marriage (or love partnership) – spiritual/personal growth – leisure/social – life management (home tasks, financial planning, budgeting, etc.) – health/fitness

Excluding sleep, eating, and hygiene, we all have 100 waking hours per week. How many hours will you devote to each area, according to your values? Is your current life deviating from your ‘ideal’ allocation? How could you rebalance this with specific actions?

3. Focus Mindfully on Quarterly S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Contentment with the present and planning of the future can co-exist. The key is to enjoy every moment, while creating your future mindfully and celebrating enjoy every step along the path.

To achieve this, set quarterly S.M.A.R.T. goals – instead of yearlong ones that take you out of the present moment.

S.M.A.R.T. stands for: Specific – answering 6 questions: who, what, where, when, which, why. Measurable – measuring with precise times, amounts, or other units your progress toward the goal. Attainable – stretching the limits of what you think is possible. Relevant – in harmony with what you truly desire. Time-bound – with specific deadlines for your goal.

Here’s how to turn S.M.A.R.T. goals into action:

  1. Identify what’s important to you – Focus on 3-4 areas of your life.
  2. Focus on three-month goals – Life is constantly shifting and lengthy goals are often demotivating.
  3. Use a weekly review to create a schedule – Create a daily action plan for your week, considering your obligations, priorities, & available time.
  4. Take action on your goals – Turn your goal into a project by starting from the target date and working your way backwards, schedule time to work on goals by assessing how much time you have to spend on each goal, turn goals into priority tasks by working on your priority goals first thing in the morning (or when you feel the most energetic), and schedule time for single actions by bundling them all together.
  5. Review your goals daily – Keep them at the forefront of your mind.
  6. Evaluate your quarterly goals – Ask yourself: Have I attained the desired outcome? What were the successful and unsuccessful strategies? Did I put 100% of my effort toward completing these goals?
CONNECT GOALS TO YOURPASSIONS

When you work on something you love, you feel energised in all areas of your life, attracting like-minded people, with self-confidence and empowerment.

To find your passion, follow the next steps:

  • Write a vision of what you want in every area of your life,
  • Investigate yourself with online personality assessments,
  • Start reading about your interests or ideas for potential passions,
  • Narrow your search to find training needed, successful people, salary figures, and time estimates for proficiency in these areas,
  • Take a test drive through volunteering, a part-time job, or shadowing someone for a few days,
  • Put money in a savings account to make your transition smoother,
  • Deal with your current job by discussing with your employer, and
  • Stay motivated with daily action, focused towards your big goal!
DECLUTTERING YOUR RELATIONSHIPS

Our close relationships (a romantic partner, friend, family member, or even co-worker) contribute to long-term happiness in life.

A high-quality relationship involves: prioritising the relationship, open communication, healthy conflict resolution, mutual trust and respect, shared interests, a level of emotional and/or intellectual intimacy, acceptance and forgiveness, and finally physical touch (for personal relationships)

Here are 4 ways to improve & maintain your relationships, which can have a direct, positive impact on your mindset:

1. Be More Present

Being present and less emotionally reactive can help more quickly overcome stressful situations in a relationship. To achieve this:

  • Practice empathic listening – Step outside of your distracted mind and listen to their words in a non-judgmental way, making them feel safe, validated, and understood.
  • Speak mindfully – Pay close attention to your words during a conversation and resist the temptation to simply react to someone’s words or actions.
  • Meditate loving kindness – Focus on developing feelings of warmth towards other human beings, who deserve compassion and love.
  • Stop comparing to others – To stop such mental turmoil & emotional suffering, practice radical self-acceptance, change what you can, and express gratitude constantly.
2. Getting Unstuck from the Past

Many of your thoughts about the past relate to encounters with the current people in your life, so you often identify with them. To clean the clutter of negative thoughts about the past:

  • Resolve what you can – Share your feelings & pain, listen to their perspective, offer/ask for forgiveness, and discuss the future of the relationship.
  • Challenge your story – Challenge your own point of view.
3. Mindfulness with Your Partner

Mindfulness isn’t about denying or burying your emotions; it’s about taking control and acknowledging your feelings and experiences.

It can strengthen your intimate connection with your partner, while reducing stress and angst in your life. To achieve this:

  • Make & communicate the commitment – Talk with your spouse about your plan to practise the mindfulness habit on a daily basis.
  • Be emotionally present – Remain emotionally open to pain, show empathy, and reflect back your partner’s body language and words.
  • Listen without defensiveness – Listen actively, without preparing your response or defense, and be aware of your own reactive emotions – but don’t act on them.
  • Look for lessons within conflict.
4. Let Go of Certain People
“Sometimes the only course of action is to say goodbye to those who continue to undermine your mental and emotional health.”Click To Tweet

Universal themes that reveal it’s time to say goodbye:

  • Verbal, emotional, or physical abuse.
  • Consistent dishonesty, disloyalty, or toxicity.
  • Divergent core values, questionable integrity, or incompatibility.
  • Ongoing immaturity, emotional manipulation, harmful irresponsibility.
  • Unresolved or untreated mental health issues.
  • Addictions (drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, pornography).
  • Refusal to communicate, address problems, or invest in the relationship

To remove yourself from a draining or painful relationship:

  • Consider the positives of life without this person – What if you didn’t have to cope with the issues caused by the friction with this person?
  • Consider the fallout of saying goodbye – They may try to sabotage you or wound you. How can you handle the fallout? You might need to talk about your plan with common friends, family, or a therapist.
  • Define what “goodbye” really means – What type of communication (if at all) do you wish to have with them, and how often? What will you no longer tolerate from them?
  • Communicate your intentions without blame – Keep it short and focus on your own feelings rather than their faults.
  • Accept that it can be a process – It is rarely easy or pain-free. Give yourself permission to do it slowly, if that’s the best way for you.
  • Allow yourself to grieve – Grief is confusing, if you view it as a normal part of the process of letting go, it will pass through you more quickly.

DOWNLOAD THE DECLUTTER YOUR MIND PDF FOR FREE!

DOWNLOAD PDF DECLUTTERING YOUR SURROUNDINGS

Our surroundings contribute to the quality of our life; often we’re cluttered with mindless tasks because we simply react to what’s in front of us. To declutter and free up mental space:

Simplify Your Home

Set aside just 10 mins a day, and within a few weeks your house will be in order. Let go of the past and release the physical objects that weigh you down.

Simplify Your Digital Life

Monitor your digital activities throughout the day. Where and how can you begin cutting back? Also take 10 minutes a day to declutter your email inbox, icons on your desktop, and organise your files and documents.

Simplify Your Activities

Busyness is contributing to your mental clutter; accept that less really can be more. To declutter your schedule:

  • Prioritise your daily priorities rather than trying to fit them all in.
  • Purge the commitments you can drop without serious consequence. Alternatively, delegate, delay, or shorten them.
  • Focus on three important daily goals, but with more intention, time, and focus.
  • Build in sacred time to do absolutely nothing. Just be.
  • Leave work on time; try gradually cutting back your overworking habit, starting with one day a week.
  • Take a digital sabbatical (no access to any Internet-connected device) for one full day a week or a weekend.
  • Harness the power of flow and focus by working on a challenge, or honing a skill. Set enough time aside and monitor your emotional state.
Simplify Your Distractions

Distractions steal our time & motivation, trapping us in self-loathing and anxiety. To get more done:

  • Before bed or first thing in the morning, determine your three most important tasks of the day, and ask why they are important.
  • Break each task down into sub-tasks, prioritise them, and estimate how much time they will take.
  • Schedule these prioritised sub-tasks into the most productive part of your day to maximise output.
  • Make sure you have everything you need before you sit down for your work (coffee, water, snacks, an organised desk, etc.)
  • Work in a space without interruptions, turn off your phone. Block unnecessary websites, turn notifications off, and put a “do not disturb” sign on your door.
  • Set a timer for 25 minutes and start working diligently. When the timer goes off, allow yourself a short break, but don’t do anything that will steal your focus (calls, email, etc.) from the tasks at hand.
  • Between your three most important tasks of the day, get larger breaks (15-25 mins) to exercise, meditate, or have a non-stressful conversation.
  • Mindless tasks (easy paperwork, organising, etc.) should be scheduled at your least productive times of day.
Simplify Your Actions

To become present and aware, even during the most mundane activities, follow the next steps mindfully:

  • Eat meals – Savour the experience of eating, with proper digestion and absorption of nutrients.
  • Clean your house – Focus on the doing rather than the getting it done.
  • Walk – Pay attention along the way and let walking be the destination.
  • Experience nature – Focus on your surroundings with all of your senses.
  • Exercise – Pay attention to your body, posture, discomfort, and movements.
CONCLUSION Key takeaways
  • Your mind is the basis of everything you experience – train it daily!
  • Focused breathing and meditation can help detach from intrusive thoughts and emotions.
  • Interrupt, reframe, and challenge your thoughts to take charge and diminish their power over you.
  • Set goals based on your core values and priorities to set the stage for focused action and self-esteem that keeps you energised.
  • Be present and mindful in your relationships to prevent many of the conflicts and mental distress that come with human interaction.
  • Keep your home & digital world organised to remove distractions that pull you away from your values, priorities, and goals.
Further reading

Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett & Dave Evans. This book is packed with actionable exercises on how to design, calibrate, and reinvent your life, debunking dysfunctional beliefs and reframing common failures into lessons.

Atomic Habits by James Clear. This book reveals practical strategies that will teach you exactly how to form good habits, break bad ones, and master the tiny behaviors that lead to remarkable results.

Guidelines is my eBook that summarises the main lessons from 33 of the best-selling self-help books in one place. It is the ultimate book summary; Available as a 80-page ebook and 115-minute audio book. Guidelines lists 31 rules (or guidelines) that you should follow to improve your productivity, become a better leader, do better in business, improve your health, succeed in life and become a happier person.

Action Steps
  1. Breathe deeply & meditate, becoming aware of your thoughts.
  2. Identify your core values, life priorities, and set quarterly S.M.A.R.T. goals.
  3. Be more mindful in your high-quality relationships and let go of people that drag you down.
  4. Download the complete book on Amazon.

This summary is not intended as a replacement for the original book and all quotes are credited to the above mentioned author and publisher.

DOWNLOAD THE DECLUTTER YOUR MIND PDF FOR FREE!

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Earning an income online is quickly becoming the #1 goal of everyday people. Whether it’s earning a little side income to supplement your day job or going full-time on your own business, earning an income online can lead to loads of exciting opportunities.

Don't want to read this post, listen to the podcast instead:

PMP #129: How you can make money online this month - SoundCloud
(1092 secs long, 322 plays)Play in SoundCloud

This episode of the Paul Minors Podcast is sponsored by TextExpander.

With an online income, you can work from anywhere, giving you the option to work and travel (I am literally writing this on a plane while we're travelling Canada). And you have the flexibility to work on your terms, across time zones with people all over the world. And if you have the ability to earn more than a fixed annual salary.

But getting started earning an income online isn’t easy. In this post, I’d like to discuss the different ways you can make money online and at the end, explain how you can earn your first few hundred dollars within the next 30 days.

If you'd like to learn my system for making money as a consultant, click here to learn more about my How to become a “Virtual Consultant” program.

Different ways of earning money online

Today, I’m able to earn an income from a few different sources. This diversity helps lower your risk as you’re not putting all your eggs into one basket. In other words, if income from one source dries up, you’re still earning from other places.

But when you’re getting started, it’s important to pick one primary source of income, focus on this before you diversify and grow other sources later.

Let’s look at a few ways you can earn money online (and this list is far from exhaustive):

Digital products

Creating a digital product like an ebook or an online course is probably the most appealing way to make money online. The idea is that you can make a high-margin product that costs very little to manufacture (mostly just your time) and sell it thousands of times all over the world with little to no distribution cost. Sounds awesome right! No inventory or manufacturing to worry about. Just make something once and sell it as much as you can.

When I started my website, I spent years trying to build an audience and sell digital products so that I could replace my salary. What I came to realise later is that it takes a long time to build an audience and learn about selling digital products to earn money in a reasonable amount of time. When I was getting started, my goal was to replace my salary. In hindsight, I should have been more adaptable and looked at other ways of making money sooner so that I could achieve this goal.

Today, I earn money from the sale of digital products like my Personal Productivity Toolkit and How to become a “virtual consultant” program. It’s a fairly passive way to make money which is great but it’s taken a while to get to the stage where I’m earning a sustainable income this way.

I think selling digital products is great but if you’re just getting started, I think there are quicker ways you can earn income online. Once you’re earning a sustainable income from other sources, can then divert some energy to digital product sales later when you’re more established.

Affiliate marketing

Another great way to make money online is from affiliate marketing. This is where you earn a commission for selling other people’s products. One of the most popular ways you can do this is by promoting products on Amazon.

For example, let’s say you have a photography blog. You could write a blog post or make a video about the gear that you use and link to these products on Amazon. The great thing about Amazon is you’ll earn a commission on anything that the user then purchases, even if it’s not the initial photography product you linked to.

The benefit of affiliate marketing is you don’t have to make a product yourself. You can promote other people’s products and services that are already proven to be popular. And, you don’t have to worry about shipping or refunds which means you have no customer service cost.

Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income (who I highly recommend you check out when getting started) earned the bulk of his income in the early days from referring people to purchase hosting services from Bluehost (affiliate link).

To be successful with affiliate marketing, you need to produce good quality content that helps people to learn about the benefits of whatever product or service you’re referring. For example, I make videos showing people how to use Pipedrive. Below these videos are details of how you can sign up and get an extended trial (affiliate link). I then earn a commission when these users become paid Pipedrive users.

However, like digital product sales, it can take a while to produce enough content and get the audience numbers needed to earn a decent income this way.

Display advertising and sponsorships

Another great way of earning an income online is from display advertising or sponsorships.

Display advertising refers to the banner ads you see on websites. I used to do this, but not any more. You can also earn display income from pre-roll ads that show before YouTube videos. I’ve been doing this for a little while and earn a few hundred dollars a month. It’s not exactly life-changing money but it helps pay for a few bills.

You can earn money from sponsorships if you partner with a brand that wants you to talk about their product or service as part of your content. Sponsored videos and podcasts tend to be the most common methods of earning sponsorship income. For example, if you’ve listened to my podcast, you’ll have likely heard mid-rolls ads that are about a minute long that run halfway through an episode.

To be successful with sponsorships, you need to produce good quality and frequent content that attracts a regular audience (nobody will sponsor your videos or podcast if there’s no one listening). You also need the sponsors to align with the content you’re producing. Because I talk about productivity, sponsors like TextExpander (affiliate link) are a great fit and it’s highly likely that my podcast listeners will be interested in a product like this.

Just like with digital product sales and affiliate marketing, you need a decent audience side to be able to earn a half-decent income from display advertising or sponsorships, so it’s not the quickest means of making money online.

Consulting or freelancing

And finally, we get to consulting and freelancing. I’m using these terms to describe any kind of service where you sell your expertise to a client or a small group of people.

A lot of people immediately assume they could never do any kind of freelancing or consulting as they don’t have a skill that people will pay for. Let me just say that you’d be surprised and the things you find easy are the exact type of thing other people will pay to learn. Take me for example, I never thought people would pay to learn about Asana, but here I am.

The benefit of consulting or freelancing compared to the previously described models is that you can earn an income by selling your expertise very quickly. In fact, during my first month of consulting, I earned a little over $1,400 by teaching people how to use Asana (affiliate link). Another great benefit is that by providing a service, you can lot about what customers value which will help you later if you do decide to create and sell digital products.

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How to make your first few hundred dollars this month

To get started with consulting, start by brainstorming the skills or expertise that you have that other people need help with. It could be anything: design, web development or software training (like me). And it doesn't just have to be a professional service. I’ve met people who help with baby sleep training, personal training and even teaching French impressionist art. Also, think about the type of customer you’d like to work with who would benefit from your service.

Once you have an idea, you can list your expertise on directory websites like Upwork, Freelancer or Clarity. Doing this, you can start selling your expertise without having to create a website and it’s a great way of testing your ideas quickly without having to invest a lot of time upfront.

To help build some initial traction, reach out to your professional and personal network. When I started I listed a few tools like Asana and Mailchimp that I know how to use on Clarity. I then emailed my newsletter list and shared links on social networks giving away free calls to people who needed help. I did about 5-10 free calls and this was a great way to get a few reviews and practice what it would be like to help someone via the internet. It didn’t take long before I started getting discovered naturally and real business owners started booking paid calls with me. I can’t begin to tell you how eye opening this was!

When you’ve tested your service ideas and done a few paid calls, you can work on putting together a website, making YouTube videos or networking to get more of your ideal type of client.

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I recently read this post by Darius Foroux where he lists 14 things to remind himself each day and it really got me thinking. I decided to write my own list to see if I could identify any interesting patterns. I would highly recommend you take 10 minutes after reading this post to list any thoughts you find yourself repeating on a regular basis.

You’ll notice that a lot of the things on this list address negative emotions and sources of anxiety. I’m a firm believer that happiness is 100% controlled by you and I try not to blame other people or external factors if I feel unhappy or frustrated. That’s why so many of these daily reminders revolve around eliminating negative thoughts that only I can control.

Don't want to read this post, listen to the podcast instead:

PMP #128: 10 Things I need to remind myself each day - SoundCloud
(913 secs long, 643 plays)Play in SoundCloud

1. Slow down

As I mentioned in last week’s blog post, I have a tendency to rush and do things quickly in the sake of progress. This can result in me not being 100% happy with my work or having to redo things later. I have to remind myself to slow down so I can achieve the right balance between output and quality.

2. You don’t have to do everything right now

This leads me to the next point, you don’t have to do everything right now. It’s okay to delay projects or ideas until the future when you can give it the focus it needs. This is similar to the ideas talked about in Essentialism. It’s better to do one thing really well rather than 10 average things. Think of your life in seasons where you completely reinvent yourself, change jobs or do something completely different.

Think of your life as a collection of seasons and you'll realise you don't have to do everything right nowClick To Tweet 3. Remember how far you’ve come

As our life’s change on a micro scale each and every day, we often forget just how far we’ve come over the long-term.

Hedonic adaptation, is the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes.

If you think about any time you’ve received a pay rise, at the time it felt great. But your lifestyle slowly adapts to the new level of income and over time we no longer appreciate the additional benefit.

Whenever I feel frustrated with my current situation or lack of progress, I think back to where I was 3-4 years ago working a full-time job. Back then, all I wanted to do was be working for myself. And here I am now, actually doing it. It’s easy to forget as the change has been gradual but I’ve come a long way and this is worth remembering.

4. One day you’ll be dead. Live life NOW

You’ve likely heard me talk about this idea on the blog or podcast before. This is a principle from the Stoic school of philosophy. The idea here isn’t to be morbid but to remember that life is fragile and your life could end tomorrow. It’s a powerful way of remembering to live life now. Stop putting things off until “one day”. Stop waiting for the perfect moment before you start a business, go travelling or have a baby. As Steve Jobs famously said, remembering that you’re going to die is the best way to get the most out of your life now (or words to that effect).

5. Remember what’s really important

Along this same vein, remember what really matters. In our day to day lives, it’s easy to get caught up worrying about money, our jobs and material possessions. These things pale in comparison to what’s really important: our friends, our family, our health, our free time, our beliefs and doing what makes us happy.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this on the blog before. But when my grandmother was nearing the end of her life, we were fortunate to be able to visit her at her home in North Wales before she died. My brother, Hayley and I were on holiday in the UK at the time. When we visited her, we knew this would almost definitely be the last time we saw her and when we were saying goodbye for the final time she said two words to me that I will never forget:

“Be happy”.

This was a real gift. Her parting words were the perfect reminder about what’s really important.

6. Happiness is a choice

As I mentioned at the start, happiness is a choice. External factors and people can lead us astray but we get to decide how to react to these things. I know this is easy to say and much harder to practice in reality. But when you remind yourself that happiness is something only you can control, you begin to take ownership of your own happiness. If you feel frustrated or angry, you’ve done that to yourself. Forget about the person who may have triggered this emotion. It’s your choice to get upset. So instead, choose to be happy.

Being happy is a choice. External factors may upset us, but we're the ones that get to choose how we reactClick To Tweet 7. Respond to hostility with kindness

On a weekly basis, I come across hostility and negativity. I’ve literally had people subscribe to my email newsletter and then tell me to fuck off and threaten to go to the police because they start getting emails from me. While I could respond by pointing out their stupidity, I choose to be really polite and respond with kindness. That doesn't mean I let this go. I’ll often point it out if someone is being unnecessarily rude but I do it in a very civil way.

The way I see it, responding to aggression with aggression only adds fuel to the fire. By contrast, when you respond with kindness, people often backtrack on their words as they become aware of just how hostile they’re being.

8. Everything will be okay

It’s funny how often the things we worry will happen usually never come to fruition. One of the biggest lessons I learned from The 4-Hour Workweek is the benefit of “fear setting”. In the book, Tim talks about defining the thing you are worrying about and describing what the worst case scenario would look like. Then he gets you to think about how likely this scenario is.

The example he gives is starting a business. The worst case scenario is you quit your job, lose 6 months and some savings. But the reality is you could recover from this very quickly if you need to.

I’ve done similar exercises a number of times in the past when contemplating a big decision. In my experience, even if something does go wrong, it’s almost never as bad as you think (because we naturally think about the worst case scenario in our head). Everything is usually okay.

9. Be present and don’t use your phone to fill idle time

In our fast-paced world, very rarely do we get time to be present. Every minute of idle time is spent playing on our phones. This means we never get a chance to just sit and be alone with our thoughts, to explore ideas and let our minds wander. It also means we get addicted to the stimulation.

So whenever I’m standing in line at the supermarket, sitting in a waiting room or simply on the toilet, I try not to reach for my phone to fill this idle time.

10. People aren’t really looking at you

If you think about it, it’s crazy how often we make decisions about what to wear, what to buy, what to say or how to act based on what other people will think about it. We continually worry about what other people might think.

But think about it some more and you’ll realise that all the time you worry about other people, these people are equally concerned about the opinions of others and aren’t really looking at you at all. So whatever it is you’re worried about, get on with it. The chances are the people you’re worried about are too distracted to notice.

Stop worrying about what other people think. Chances are they're equally worried and aren't really looking at you anyway.Click To Tweet
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Recently, the members in my VIP Slack group and I were on a group call. We were talking about this idea of where you lie on the “execution «» perfectionism” spectrum. In other words, do you focus more on executing on ideas and getting work done or do you often get stuck in a state of paralysis due to a need to make everything perfect?

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It’s an interesting idea because it doesn't matter which end of the spectrum you’re at, if you’re too far one way, it’s generally not good. You really want to try and find a sweet spot somewhere in the middle.

Are you a perfectionist? Or do you just want to get stuff done? Learn how to find a happy middle.Click To Tweet

Let me explain.

First off, let me define the two ends of the spectrum:

  • Execution » On this end of the spectrum, you tend to favour getting stuff done (i.e. quantity of work). Your goal is to make progress on projects and tasks as efficiently as possible. This sounds great, like the end you’d want to be at. However, if you’re too focused on execution, you can end up rushing work and sacrificing quality for progress.
  • Perfectionism » On the other end of the spectrum, you favour doing high-quality work and making sure you do everything to the best of your ability. Again, this is a very favourable trait. But if you’re too focused on perfection, you often spend more time on a project or idea than it deserves. Or worse, maybe you don’t do the work at all because you’d rather do nothing than do a less than perfect job.

At various times in the past, I’ve found myself at both ends of the spectrum. What I’ve found through my own experiences and by talking to members of my Slack group is that when you’re starting something new, we tend to be perfectionists. Fear and anxiety about this new thing slow us down and we use perfectionism as an excuse to procrastinate. For example, when I was first starting my website, I would waste huge amounts of time playing with button colours and fonts on my website. These things really had no impact but were a way I could procrastinate from doing the real work.

Later on, we end up the other way executing very quickly but often rushing. Now that I have an established business, I have loads of clients, projects and ideas I’m always working on. Now, I’m orientated too close to the “execution” side of the spectrum and sometimes rush an idea to get it done. Now I have to tell myself to slow down or spend a bit more time planning or working on an idea before I begin working on it.

Let me illustrate this further with an example.

On our group call, we were talking about making YouTube videos. Now I’ve made a tonne of videos about Asana and Pipedrive to market my business. My approach when making a video is to keep it simple. I usually hit record and talk on top of a screencast as if I’m talking to a client. No script, just a few bullet points for my notes. I don’t have an intro screen or anything like that. This way I can editing to a minimum making it a lot quicker and easier to produce new videos. Now, this is all well and good, but I’ve often looked back and though my videos lack a bit of polish compared to other YouTube videos.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have David. David is one of the members of my VIP community and has been talking about doing YouTube videos for a while. One of the things that’s held him back is concerns about quality. Often, when it’s your first time doing something like this, thoughts like “What if it’s not good enough” or “What if people don’t like me” get stuck in your head and lead to procrastination. My advice to David was to keep it simple, get the first video published and the rest will flow much easier after that.

My advice to you, dear reader, is to think about which end of the spectrum you favour.

Signs you are too much of a perfectionist:

  • When you think things like: “I can’t share this yet, it’s not ready” or “I’m scared to get feedback on this”.
  • When you use perfectionism as an excuse to procrastinate on what you really should be doing.
  • When you spend large amounts of time tweaking small things that don’t really have an impact on your project or outcome. For example, the colours of buttons on a website.
  • Or worst of all, when you don’t make any progress on an idea or project because if you can’t do it right, you’d rather not do it at all.

If this sounds like you, you need to be more honest with yourself about what you really should be spending time on. You also need to get more comfortable with accepting “good enough” instead of chasing constant perfection.

Signs you might be focussing too much on execution:

  • When you think things like: “I wish I’d spent a bit more time on that” or “that really could have been better”.
  • When you feel doubt about your ability.
  • When you’re not completely happy with the work you’ve done.
  • If you end up going back to fix or update work you thought was finished.
  • Or if you often realise you’ve spent time on something you shouldn’t have done in the first place.

If this sounds like you, trying slowing down. Use a to-do list or notebook to record ideas and plan out projects in detail before you start doing any work. Let everything stew a bit longer (this is what I’ve been doing). Take time to define what a successful outcome would look like for you.

Whichever end you tend to favour, recognise this and try to find a nice balance somewhere in the middle. This means you're working on the right things, doing them well (without going overboard) in an efficient and timely manner. That’s the sweet spot!

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Digital Minimalism​ is an ideal read for entrepreneurs who have a hard time focusing on producing their best work because of distracting technology. It’s a wake-up call for the younger generation, who have grown up in the anxiety caused by the digital world. If you want to hold long conversations and enjoy life without checking your phone every minute, then this book is for you, too.

DOWNLOAD THE DIGITAL MINIMALISM PDF FOR FREE!

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INTRODUCTION Who is this book for?

Digital Minimalism​ is an ideal read for entrepreneurs who have a hard time focusing on producing their best work because of distracting technology. It’s a wake-up call for the younger generation, who have grown up in the anxiety caused by the digital world. If you want to hold long conversations and enjoy life without checking your phone every minute, then this book is for you, too.

About the author

Cal Newport​ is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University, the author of ​Deep Work​ and ​So Good They Can’t Ignore You​. He has also written three popular books of unconventional advice for students. His ideas and writing are frequently featured in major publications and on TV and radio.

In this summary

This book is truly exceptional. It showcases how our attention is being hijacked and exploited by new technologies, how the philosophy of digital minimalism can optimise the way we use our personal technology, and how to embrace all new innovations in a way that can support what we deeply value in life. One of the most life-changing books I’ve ever read. Let’s go!

BOOK SUMMARY THE PHILOSOPHY OF DIGITAL MINIMALISM

Our current relationship with technology is broken. Yes, the Internet has significantly improved our lives. In isolation, no website or app can be considered as ‘bad’.

Overall, however, all these ‘shiny baubles’ draining our attention, addicting us to use them constantly (often at the expense of other activities we find more valuable), and manipulating our mood, can lead to exhaustion.

We Didn’t Sign Up For This

We signed up on social media to stay in touch with friends, and we read the news on blogs to stay up-to-date. Yet, we’ve ended up compulsively checking our pocket device 85 times a day!

How did we end up there? Is it because we’re lazy? No, this frantic use of technology has been engineered by tech conglomerates who make their fortunes exploiting your attention, with billions of dollars invested to make this outcome inevitable.

In other words:​ you signed up for usefulness, not for this loss of autonomy.

How Your Addiction Is Engineered

Tech companies encourage behavioral addiction in two ways:

  1. Intermittent positive reinforcement
  2. The drive for social approval
Intermittent Positive Reinforcement

Every time you post something on social media, you’re gambling: “Will I get likes (or hearts or retweets or comments), or will I get no feedback?”

The outcome is hard to predict, which makes the whole activity of posting and checking extremely appealing. Similarly, going to a news website to check the weather may lead you to still mindlessly skip from one headline to another 30 minutes later.

Most articles are rubbish, but occasionally you’ll land on a great one. With every appealing headline clicked or intriguing link tabbed, you pull the slot machine handle again. Add in the mix notification badges, finger swipes, and never-ending feeds, and you’ve got yourself an addiction formula that keeps you glued on the screen.

The Drive For Social Approval

Comments and heart and likes feel like the “tribe” is showing us approval, while a lack of positive feedback creates a sense of distress.

That explains the streak of daily posts on social media and the universal urge to immediately answer an incoming text: it is a satisfying confirmation that the relationship with a person or an audience is strong.

However, we miss an important detail: social-validation feedback loops have been crafted in boardrooms to serve the interests of technology investors, exploiting vulnerabilities in our human psychology.

A Solution: Digital Minimalism

Retreating to an earlier technological age is not the solution, of course.

Neither is small tweaks, like switching off the notifications from your phone. Cal Newport proposes a fully-fledged philosophy of technology use, rooted in our deep values, that prioritises long-term meaning over short-term

satisfaction.

In other words, ​Digital Minimalism​.

“A philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimised activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else.”

To transform technological innovations from a source of distraction into tools that support a life well-lived, digital minimalists must work backward from their deep values to technology choices – not the other way around.

PRINCIPLES OF DIGITAL MINIMALISM 1. Clutter is costly

How much of your time and attention must be sacrificed to earn the small profit of occasional connections and new ideas through an active presence on Twitter?

Cluttering time and attention with too many devices, apps, and services compounds to an overall negative cost that overwrites the small benefits that each item provides in isolation.

Explained brilliantly in Thoreau’s “new economics” in ​Walden​:

“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.”

2. Optimisation is important

Decide that a particular technology supports something you value, and then think carefully about ​ how​ you’ll use this technology – not in the ‘default way’. For example: if your goal is to stay informed about current events, you can:

  • Keep an eye on the links that pop up in your social media feeds (default, not the best way to support your initial goal)
  • Identify and follow a set of trustworthy news sites (optimised, big returns, still room for improvement)
  • Collecting these articles on an app like Instapaper and reading them all on a Saturday morning over coffee, distraction-free (very optimised, more optimisation won’t bring additional value)
3. Intentionality is satisfying

Intentional engagement with new technologies is one of the biggest reasons why minimalism tends to be immensely meaningful to its practitioners. Approaching decisions intentionally, with the end goal in mind (not the tool) can be more important than the impact of the actual decisions themselves.

BECOMING A MINIMALIST

As we mentioned before, gradually changing your habits one at a time against the engineered attraction of the attention economy won’t work well. The author recommends a rapid transformation, called “the digital declutter”. The 3-step process goes like this:

  1. During a thirty-day period, take a break from ​ all ​ optional technologies in your life.
  2. In this break, explore and rediscover activities and behaviours that you find satisfying and meaningful.
  3. At the end of the break, reintroduce optional technologies into your life, asking yourself what value they serve and how you could use them so as to maximise their value.
1. DEFINE YOUR TECHNOLOGY RULES

‘Which technologies are ‘optional’?’ This is your first question to answer before you start the 30-day break. Examples of optional technology could include:

  • Apps, websites, and digital tools, delivered through a computer screen or a mobile phone, meant to entertain, inform, or connect you.
  • Text messaging
  • Video games
  • TV & video streaming
  • NOT​ your microwave, radio, or electric toothbrush

The author considers ​ all​ technology optional unless its temporary removal would ​ harm​ or ​ significantly disrupt​ his daily professional or personal life. In other words, if removing certain technology just makes things ‘inconvenient’, then it’s definitely optional.

In some instances, you might have to specify a set of operating procedures that dictate exactly when and how you use the technology during the 30-day break (any exceptions etc.).

Write this list of banned technologies and operating procedures and put it somewhere where you’ll see it every day.

2. TAKE A 30 DAY BREAK

Fight the urge to use banned technologies; the discomfort will fade after a week or two. The goal of the 30-day break is not just to detox you from technology; you must also rediscover what’s important to you and what you enjoy outside the digital world. Figuring this out ​ before​ you reintroduce technology is crucial.

Cultivate high-quality, enriching alternatives to the easy distraction that the optional technologies provide. Go out, get your hands dirty, experiment!

At the end, you’ll have discovered activities that generate real satisfaction, leading to a better life, where technology serves only a supporting role.

3. RE-INTRODUCE TECHNOLOGY

After your 30-day break, reintroduce optional technologies back into your life. Only allow technology that passes the following strict standards:

  1. Does this technology directly support something that I deeply value?​ This is the only condition on which you should let one of these tools into your life – be happy missing out on everything else!
  2. Is this technology the best way to support this value?​ If not, replace it with something better. If yes, then you move on to the final question.
  3. How am I going to use this technology going forward to maximise its value and minimise its harms?​ In other words, how do you optimise the use of this technology? Use only features that serve you, nothing else.

Operating procedures should also still be in place. Instead of: ​ “I use Facebook because it helps my social life.” Be specific: ​ “I check Facebook each Saturday on my computer to see what my close friends and family are up to; I don’t have the app on my phone; I culled my list of friends down to just meaningful relationships.”

HOW TO PRACTICE DIGITAL MINIMALISM Spend Time Alone

“Everyone benefits from regular doses of solitude and anyone who avoids this state for an extended period of time will suffer.”

Solitude is a subjective state in which your mind is ​free from input from other minds​ – it requires you to avoid reacting to information created by others and focus on your own thoughts and experiences. Influential poets, novelists, and composers practised solitude, which was important for both their happiness and productivity, with 3 crucial benefits: new ideas, an understanding of the self and closeness to others

However, new technology undermines time alone with our thoughts.

“Everyone benefits from regular doses of solitude and anyone who avoids this state for an extended period of time will suffer.”Click To Tweet Solitude Deprivation

“A state in which you spend close to zero time alone with your own thoughts and free from input from other minds.”

Without solitude, you miss the ability to clarify hard problems, regulate your emotions, build moral courage, and strengthen relationships. It started with the iPod: it provided for the first time the ability to be continuously distracted from your own mind!

However, it reached its full potential with the spread of modern Internet-connected smartphones. At the slightest hint of boredom, you can now quickly glance at a huge number of apps and mobile-adapted websites optimised to provide an immediate and satisfying dose of input from other minds.

People born after 1995 (iGen), using their devices constantly, are especially prone to the worst effects of solitude deprivation: anxiety and depression. As the author says: ​

“Humans are not wired to be constantly wired.”

Practice: Leave Your Phone At Home

The phone has transformed from an occasionally useful tool to something we can’t live without:

  • Young people worry that they’ll miss out on something better to do,
  • Travellers need directions and recommendations for places to eat,
  • Workers fear the idea of being both needed and unreachable, and
  • Everyone secretly fears being bored.

The truth is: this urgency to always have a phone with us is exaggerated. You don’t need to banish your phone forever, just spend more time away from your phone & expose yourself to solitude.

Practice: Take Long Walks

Taking long walks is a high-quality source of solitude. The author cites different reasons why he walks regularly:

  • To make progress on a professional problem
  • Self-reflection on some particular aspect of life
  • “Gratitude walks,” where he just enjoys particularly good weather
  • Or just to let his mind wander

Of course, taking a solitude walk requires not checking your phone, wearing headphones, or having company.

Practice: Write Letters To Yourself

Writing a letter to yourself not only frees you from outside inputs but also provides a platform to organise your thinking when faced with demanding or uncertain circumstances.

By the time you’re done composing your thoughts, you’ll often have gained clarity. It’s easy to deploy, but also incredibly effective.

Don’t Click “Like”

We are hardly ever actually thinking about nothing. Even without a specific task to complete, our default network (the one that thinks about our social world – other people, ourselves, or both) remains highly active. Aristotle was right when he famously noted that “man is by nature a social animal”: our brains have evolved to be sophisticated social computers, performing social navigation and mind reading every day.

However, in the past two decades, the rich, face-to-face interactions (a cup of coffee with a friend) have been replaced by short, text-based messages and approval clicks (‘likes’ on a post). Why? Online interaction is both easier and faster than old-fashioned conversation, and many of these tools are engineered to hijack our behaviours and get us addicted.

This trade-off is detrimental to our well-being. Offline interactions require processing large amounts of information about body language, facial expressions, and voice tone, while the low-bandwidth online chatter leaves our high-performance social processing underused.

More importantly, there is a zero-sum relationship between online and offline interaction – the more you spend time on social media, the less time there is available for slower, real-life conversations.

Conversation > Connection

The book draws a distinction between ​ connection​ (online interactions) and conversation​ (high-bandwidth offline communication between humans).

Online ​ connection​ (a series of asynchronous tweets) doesn’t add up to a real conversation​, where we’re fully present, listen actively, develop empathy, experience the joy of being heard and understood, learn patience, and respond to tone & nuance.

To help digital minimalists rebalance, the author suggests the philosophy of conversation-centric communication​.

Conversation​ involving nuanced analog cues (a face-to-face meeting, a video chat or a phone call) is the ​ only​ form of interaction that counts toward maintaining a relationship. Anything textual or non-interactive (social media, email, text, instant messaging) should be categorised as mere ​connection​.

In this philosophy, ​connection​ has merely a logistical role:

  1. To help arrange conversation​, or
  2. To ask/transfer practical information (ie. a meeting location or time).

In other words, connection​ is not an alternative to ​conversation​; it’s a supporter. So long open-ended, ongoing text-based chats!

As the author beautifully (and brutally) highlights:

“Our sociality is simply too complex to be outsourced to a social network or reduced to instant messages and emojis.”

“Our sociality is simply too complex to be outsourced to a social network or reduced to instant messages and emojis.”Click To Tweet
Practice: Don’t Click “Like”

To replace rich social interactions with ‘likes’ is the ultimate insult to the social processing powerhouse within us. “It’s like towing a Ferrari behind a mule.”

“Likes” have turned social networks into digital slot machines dominating the users’ time and attention, and your information, preferences, and humanity into statistical slivers, mined to target you with better ads and stickier content.

For the sake of your social well-being, ​don’t click and don’t comment. Some people – those whose relationship with you exists only over social media – will inevitably fall out of your social orbit. Let them go.

Practice: Consolidate Texting

Nowadays, being a friend means always being “on call”, attentive, online. A compromise that respects both your obligation to be “on call” and your human need for real conversation: ​consolidate texting​.

  • Keep your phone in ​ Do Not Disturb​ mode by default (no notifications),
  • Adjust the settings so calls from a selected list (your spouse, your kid’s school) do come through, and
  • Schedule your phone to turn notifications on during predetermined times, consolidating sessions in which you go through texts you’ve received and respond as needed.

This way, you can be more present, because you’re not ‘on call’ by default, and you can upgrade your real-life relationships with people that really matter.

Practice: Hold Conversation Office Hours

Finally, put aside set times on set days, during which you’re always available for conversation – real-life (ie. in a coffee shop or office), on the phone or online (ie. during commute time). Then, promote them to the people you care about.

No more bothersome, unsolicited calls that disturb your productivity and attentiveness to what you really value.

Reclaim Lesiure

“How does one live a good life?” According to the MIT philosopher Kieran Setiya, if your life consists only of actions whose ​ “worth depends on the existence of problems, difficulties, needs, which these activities aim to solve,”​ you’re vulnerable to existential despair: ​“Is this all there is to life?” For Aristotle, ​

“A life well-lived also requires activities that serve no other purpose than the satisfaction that the activity itself generates.”

The author calls these joyful activities “high-quality leisure”. However, as work and life blend, jobs become more demanding, and community traditions degrade, people fail to cultivate the high-quality leisure lives that Aristotle identifies as crucial for human happiness.

This void is now easy to fill by pulling out a smartphone or tablet, and numbing yourself with mindless swiping and tapping. Digital minimalists, therefore, start by cultivating high-quality leisure, before cutting off their worst digital habits.

To escape the passive interaction with your screen as your primary leisure, use the Internet against itself: find communities related to your interests and access obscure information needed to support your real-life high-quality leisure.

Soon you will no longer need distractions to pass time.

Leisure Lesson #1

Prioritise demanding activity over passive consumption. Expending more energy in your leisure, The Bennett Principle tells us, can end up energising you more.

Leisure Lesson #2

Use skills to produce valuable things in the physical world. Craft, any activity where you apply skill to create something valuable, is a good source of such high-quality, energising leisure. Craft makes us human, and in doing so, it can provide deep satisfactions that are hard to replicate.

If you want to ​ fully​ extract the benefits of craft, seek it in its analog forms.

Leisure Lesson #3

Seek activities that require real-world, structured social interactions. The best social leisure activities require you to spend time with other people in person and the activity provides structure for the social interaction (rules to follow, insider terminology or rituals, or a shared goal).

Such examples include board & card games, recreational sports leagues, volunteer activities, working on a group project, or social work-outs.

Practice: Fix Or Build Something Every Week

To become more handy, learn a new skill, apply it to repair, learn, or build something, and then repeat. Learn and apply a new skill every week for six weeks. This will tap into our strong instinct for manipulating objects in the physical world. For quick how-to videos, use YouTube!

Practice: Schedule In Advance Your Low-Quality Leisure

Arrange specific times during which you’ll indulge in web surfing, social media checking, and entertainment streaming. This way, by confining the use of attention-capturing services to well-defined periods, your remaining leisure time is left protected for more substantial activities and you don’t have to completely abandon low-quality diversions.

Practice: Join Something

Join groups, associations, lodges, and volunteer companies. Few things can replicate the benefits of connecting with your fellow citizens – get up, get out, and start reaping these benefits in your own community.

Join The Attention Resistance

The compulsive use of our mobile phones is not an accident; it’s instead a fundamental chapter in the digital attention economy playbook.

In the “attention economy”, businesses make money gathering consumers’ attention, and then repackaging and selling it to advertisers.

To sustain this type of compulsive use, however, tech conglomerates cannot have people thinking too critically about how they use their phone.

They don’t want you, for example, to see their products as a variety of different free services that you can carefully sift through and use in a manner that optimises the value you receive. No, that would be too disastrous for them.

This is, yet, what pure digital minimalism suggests below!

Practice: Delete Social Media From Your Phone

If you always have the phone with you, every occasion becomes an opportunity to check your feeds. That’s because the social media apps are great at hijacking your attention. It’s no accident that almost 90% of Facebook’s revenue comes through mobile. Remove all social media apps from your phone.

You don’t have to quit these services; you just have to quit accessing them on the go. Through a web browser, after all, you can use specific features of these services, optimised to serve what you value (such as bookmarking the events page on Facebook, by-passing the distracting feed).

Practice: Turn Your Devices Into Single-Purpose Computers

To do that, block by default all distracting services and apps, only making them available on an intentional schedule.

Make a list of apps and websites that usually..

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When we think ways to improve our productivity, we usually think about things like which tools and apps to use or better ways of managing our time and prioritising tasks.

This stuff is all well and good. But there are three things you can optimise to improve your productivity that often get overlooked. In fact, I view these three variables as “productivity multipliers”. In other words, if you keep everything else unchanged, these three things, if optimised, will drastically increase your output with no other changes to your routine or systems required.

The three “productivity multiples” are diet, exercise and sleep.

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You’ve probably read about the importance of sleep, diet and exercise before. Even so, a lot of people still sacrifice sleep or don’t get enough exercise. It’s very easy to develop bad habits and in this post, I’d like to share some tips for optimising your sleep, diet and exercise so you can multiply your productivity!

Keeping everything else unchanged, optimising these three “productivity multipliers”, will drastically increase your focus, efficiency and output with no other changes to your routine or productivity systems required.Click To Tweet

If you’ve tried everything to be more productive and you’re still struggling, perhaps take another look at your sleep, diet and exercise.

For me, sleep, diet and exercise are non-negotiable parts of my life. They’re not things that I’ll try to get right if it’s convenient of if I have enough time. Just like going to work is non-negotiable, so is my sleep, diet and exercise. That’s how seriously you need to take this.

The multiplication effect

First off, let’s look at what can happen when you start to pay more attention to your sleep, diet and exercise.

When optimised, you’ll notice the biggest change to your focus, attention and energy. This means:

  • You’ll be less distracted by other people, notifications and temptations. This is because a lack of sleep and a poor diet can literally reduce your willpower and make you less disciplined.
  • You’ll be able to focus for longer without taking breaks. I’m not saying breaks aren’t necessary, but you will be able to work in longer sprints. Personally, I’m not a fan of the Pomodoro technique or working in 25 minute bursts because after 25 minutes I’m just getting into a deep work state. I’ll often work for multiple hours before taking a break and this is made possible through better sleep, diet and exercise.
  • You are less likely to experience a mid-afternoon lull in energy. This means you can operate at a higher level for much longer.
  • You are less likely to make mistakes. Author Shawn Stevenson makes this abundantly clear in his book, Sleep Smarter. A lack of sleep has been shown to directly impact your reaction time and increases the likelihood of making mistakes.
  • You’ll notice an improvement in your creative and critical thinking. Your brain requires energy to think and process information. But if your body is prioritising its available energy to digest a carb and protein rich meal, then your ability to focus will suffer.
  • You are less likely to get sick. Think about how much your productivity suffers when you’re ill. Not just because you might need to take a few days off, but even as you’re recovering you tend to be less focussed and have less energy. When you get more sleep, exercise and have a healthy diet, you are far less likely to get ill. In the last few years, I’ve only been ill a few times and it’s usually just a mild cold in the winter. I can’t even remember the last time I had to take a day off.

As you can see, even if you made no changes to your work habits or systems, by prioritising sleep, diet and exercise you can drastically improve your output and efficiency.

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So, what can you do to improve your sleep, diet and exercise?

How to get a good nights sleep

First off, let me say that I have found no better resource out there for learning about the importance of sleep than Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson (you can also read my book summary). The book contains 21 highly practical tips you can follow to get a better night’s sleep. Shawn’s book is well researched and he does a great job of breaking down the science behind his tips.

You’ve probably heard the standard advice about sleep: make the room dark, no devices before bed, take a bath etc. In my personal experience, here are some things I’ve done that have had the biggest impact on my sleep:

  • Track your sleep. This is key because it supports everything else. There are loads of apps and devices you can use to do this. I personally use the Sleep Watch app and the Apple Watch. The app automatically detects what time I fall asleep and when I wake up during the night. And because it tracks sleep using the Apple Watch, it can measure things like heart rate dip which is an important indicator of sleep quality. It also goes without saying that what gets measured gets managed and if you track your sleep, you’ll be more aware of your habits and more likely to take steps to improve your sleep.
  • Be as consistent as possible. You’ll get a much better night’s sleep and it’s easier to maintain good habits if you are consistent. This means going to sleep at the same time each night. For me, that’s about 10-10:30pm. When you’re more consistent I find it’s easier to go to sleep as your body recognises it’s time to sleep. You also wake up feeling more refreshed and recharged. This is why tracking sleep is so important as it helps to measure consistency.
  • Set a sleep goal. I like to have a sleep goal to aim for. Mine is 7.5 hours. Setting this goal gives me something to aim for and measure so I can more easily recognise if I’m getting into a bad routine. It’s interesting because my wife, Hayley, recently started tracking her sleep. Now that she has a sleep goal she’s finding she’s much more likely to go to bed earlier so she can get a good nights sleep,

The Sleep Watch app display these important metrics so you can see how consistent you’re being and whether you’re hitting your sleep goals over time.

A report showing sleep phases and heart rate during the night.

A dashboard of sleep stats including consistency and overall sleep time.

Optimising your diet

Diet is a massive topic and I’m not a doctor or nutritionist. So let me summarise the rules that I’ve always tried to live by:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.Click To Tweet

I love this little rule because of how simple it is. This is the phrase that Michael Pollen coined after years of research and writing about food. The phrase summarises everything he’d learned and all the best practices into a simple and easy to remember framework. You can learn more about Michael’s rules in his book Food Rules.

  • “Eat Food” means eating real food. That means no processed food with a long ingredients list and large amounts of sugar. Instead, eating whole foods and healthy fats.
  • “Not too much” means not always eating until you are full and reducing portion sizes.
  • And finally, “Mostly plants” means making fruits and vegetables a bigger part of your diet. I really like that Michael uses the word “mostly” and he’s even said a bit of meat and the occasional sweet treat is okay. We’ve made a conscious effort to reduce our meat consumption and it’s actually a lot easier than you’d expect.

As well as Michael’s rules, I always try to drink enough water and keep a bottle at my desk. I limit coffee to two cups a day. I NEVER drink fizzy drinks. I TRY to only drink alcohol at the weekend and it’s usually only a beer or two per night.

Getting consistent exercise

Finally, let’s talk about exercise. When you get into a good exercise routine, you can really take your energy to another level.

Getting exercise doesn't have to be hard. If you’re not a very active person the easiest thing to do is to start by taking a few walks during the week. Often people fail to maintain fitness goals because they try and do too much too soon and it’s unsustainable. Instead, you should focus on slowly building up your exercise routine.

  • The key to exercise, just as it is with sleep, is to make it consistent. I’ve always found time blocking has helped me to achieve this. By scheduling time for going to the gym or for walks at lunch, I’m more likely to hold myself accountable.
  • Accountability is often an issue for people. If this sounds like you, then find a gym buddy or do a team sport. One of the reasons I love CrossFit is for the community and the social side of it. It’s almost as if I’m going to hang out with friends and the exercise is a bonus.
  • Instead of walking on a treadmill for an hour or doing sets of 10 on various pieces of gym equipment, try doing something physical that’s also fun. You could play a sport, go for a hike or walk to work. Exercising doesn't have to feel like a chore. When you exercise has a sense of purpose, you’re more likely to sustain the habit.
Summary

As I said at the start, these things have to be non-negotiable. It’s easy to make excuses like you don’t have time to exercise or it’s more convenient to buy an unhealthy lunch. But it’s not just your productivity you are sacrificing. It’s your health, your well-being, your ability to support your family.

When you prioritise sleep, diet and exercise you’ll notice improvements in every aspect of your life, not just your productivity. This article could have been titled: “lifestyle multipliers”.

I hope I’ve helped you to think about your own health routines. If you have any questions or feedback, please let me know in the comments below.

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Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill examines the psychological power of thought and the brain in the process of furthering your career for both monetary and personal satisfaction. Originally published in 1937, this is one of the all-time self-help classics and a must read for investors and entrepreneurial types.

DOWNLOAD THINK AND GROW RICH PDF FOR FREE!

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INTRODUCTION Who is this book for?

Despite the book’s title, this book is not about how to increase your income and become rich. The author’s philosophy can help just about anyone succeed in their professional life, achieve their aspirations, and attract success in their life, but it’s definitely a must-read for investors and entrepreneurs.

About the author

Napoleon Hill was an American author in the area of the new thought movement, who was one of the earliest producers of the modern genre of personal-success literature and is widely considered to be one of the great writers on success. Hill's works examined the power of personal beliefs, and the role they play in personal success. He became an advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt from 1933 to 1936.

In this summary

Think And Grow Rich (1937) is one of the best-selling books of all time. It examines the psychological power of thought and the brain in the process of furthering your career for both monetary and personal satisfaction. Enjoy the summary of this all-time self-help classic!

BOOK SUMMARY Towards Success Consciousness
“You are the master of your fate, the captain of your soul.”Click To Tweet

Think And Grow Rich is a state of mind. It exploits the power of thought to manifest strong desires and a definite purpose into reality. Turning your all-consuming obsession (definite purpose) into a reality is not an easy task. However, if the desire is strong and you’re willing to raise the stakes, you will win. The author projects the following formula:

Desire + Ideas + Plans + Massive Action = Success

Start with your goal. What do you really want? A better job? To succeed in your current career? To work for a business leader who inspires you?

To achieve that goal, shifting your thinking from failure consciousness to success consciousness is the key. For this to happen, the question ‘how do I get a job?’ needs to change into ‘what can I give to a job?’, and ‘how do I get more dollars per hour?’ into ‘how do I give more energy, desire, focus?’

To get from where you are to where you want to be, the author highlights:

“Never quit. Never give up. Focus. Seek help. Make new connections. Take different approaches. Seek additional resources to help you improve your job search skills. Persist and find people who can help you to achieve your goals.”

1. DESIRE The Turning Point Of Achievement

What do you desire above everything else? A powerful desire towards achieving a goal uses a combination of two types of motivation:

  1. Pull motivations (the outcome of the goal is so favourable, that it pulls you towards the goal)
  2. Push motivations (you are pushed to action because of the negative consequences of not taking action)

The author provides the mindset for 5 key areas of Desire:

Career

Going from ‘what do I get?’ to ‘how will I grow?’ requires shifting from ego-driven concerns (title, salary, benefits etc.) to growth opportunities within the company and position.

Leading

To lead, first, you need to follow and learn from an existing leader. How would it affect your career if you became an apprentice to someone at the top of your field that you admire?

Money

This is a series of steps that the author suggests for money-based desires.

  1. Be definite as to the amount of money or type of job.
  2. Determine exactly what you intend to give in return for the money you desire.
  3. Establish a definite date when you intend to attain the money you desire.
  4. Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire and begin at once.
  5. Write out a clear, concise statement of the amount of money you intend to acquire, name the time limit, state what you intend to give in return, and describe the plan through which you plan to accumulate it.
  6. Read your written statement aloud, twice daily.
Failure

Look for lessons within failure and examine them without the emotional attachment of why something has failed. Use failure as a growth opportunity towards greater accomplishments.

“Every failure brings with it the seed of an equivalent success.”Click To Tweet
Others People’s Desires

By helping the owner of a company or a manager achieve their goals (as an employee or freelancer), you also advance your own goals, because you progressively start excelling at the area of interest (provided this area is aligned with your own goals).

2. FAITH Visualisation & Belief In Attainment Of Desire

“Your own success or failure is based largely on your self-belief, and a mind-set of positive expectancy is the foundation of which your success can be achieved.”

Faith is the starting point of success and the glue that holds it all together. As a state of mind, faith can be induced or created through affirmations or repeated instructions to the subconscious mind. By encouraging positive emotions and eliminating negative emotions (such as doubt, denial, and fear), faith can be a useful tool in various ways:

  • It is an antidote for failure.
  • By believing in yourself, others will believe in you, too.
  • Employers seek successful, confident people who can make a positive impact.

To summon faith in the form of self-confidence, the author suggests that you sign your name to a statement, which you should be repeating daily towards subconsciously influencing your thoughts and actions. This statement should include affirmations that acknowledge certain things about yourself:

  • That you have the ability to achieve your purpose.
  • That you promise to take action.
  • That you understand that your thoughts will gradually transform into a physical reality.
  • That you promise to dedicate time to ensuring that these thoughts become real.
  • That you understand the importance of self-confidence and promise to spend 10 minutes a day working on this.
  • That you will never stop trying to achieve your goals.
  • That you are willing to serve others, and in turn will get others to serve you.

Find examples of people who are where you want to be (career-, money-, influence-wise, you name it), use their examples as a way to keep your faith strong, and remind yourself that your desire is possible to attain.

3. AUTO-SUGGESTION The Medium For Influencing The Subconscious

The principle of auto-suggestion communicates our desires directly to the subconscious mind in a spirit of unshakable faith.

Through routine repetition of our conscious thoughts and desires (as mentioned in the ritual of the “Faith” section above) to ourselves, we can regain absolute control over the material which reaches our subconscious mind, exercising control over our decisions, feelings, and actions.

4. SPECIALISED KNOWLEDGE Personal Experience Or Observations

For our desires to translate into monetary, career, or another kind of success (which we’ve picked in the “Desire” step), we are first required to have specialised knowledge of the service, product, or profession of which we intend to offer in return for fortune.

Notably, this specialised knowledge doesn’t have to be in your possession already. Knowing how to purchase or rent knowledge is a popular way of fulfilling this step. Courses, seminars, books (or summaries!), industry conferences, they all improve your odds of acquiring the much-needed specialised knowledge for yourself.

Working with knowledgeable people (“renting knowledge”) is the other – equally powerful – side of the spectrum. Lifelong learning is obviously necessary for an ambitious person to keep up with all the latest developments in their field.

5. IMAGINATION The Workshop Of The Mind

Ideas are products of and given a shape or form through imagination.

“Humans can create anything they can imagine.”

The author mentions two types of imagination. Synthetic imagination:

this faculty includes arranging old concepts, ideas or plans into new combinations. And creative imagination: this faculty is where ideas come from (“infinite intelligence”) and “hunches” and “inspirations are received.

To make the best use of your imagination towards achieving your big goal, come up with a list of ideas that will both inspire you and allow you to best utilise your talents.

6. ORGANISED PLANNING The Crystallisation Of Desire Into Action

Simply hoping to succeed at your goal is not the answer. Every achievement starts with a strong desire, workshopped to reality through imagination, followed by an organised plan.

No plan is perfect. When you execute your plan, you will likely experience a temporary defeat. The best way to approach defeat is to simply accept it as a signal that your plans are not sound. Rebuild your plans and keep pursuing your goal, armed with the knowledge of your previous failures.

Don’t give up before you reach your goal, because quitters do not get to see their long-term plans come to fruition.

7. DECISION The Mastery Of Procrastination

“Tell the world what you intend to do, but first show it freedom or death on a decision.”

People who fail to succeed, without exception, reach decisions, if at all, very slowly, and change their minds quickly and often. Successful people reach decisions promptly and definitely, changing their mind slowly. They know what they want and, generally, get it. Definiteness of decision always requires courage. Procrastination, the opposite of decision, is a common enemy which practically every person must conquer.

8. PERSISTENCE The Sustained Effort Necessary To Induce Faith

Lack of persistence is one of the major causes of failure. It can be conquered but this depends entirely upon the intensity of one’s desire – weak desires bring weak results. The basis of persistence is the power of will, and it’s also influenced by other factors, such as:

  • Definiteness of purpose
  • Self-reliance
  • Definiteness of plans
  • Accurate knowledge
  • Co-operation
  • Habits

Which of the aforementioned factors are you lacking, which might be hindering your persistence? On the contrary, lack of persistence begets the following symptoms:

  • Procrastination
  • Lack of interest
  • Indecision
  • Self-satisfaction
  • Indifference
  • Weakness of desire
  • Willingness to quit
  • Lack of organised plans
  • Wishing instead of willing
  • Searching for shortcuts
  • Fear of criticism

So, how does one develop persistence?

The author suggests the following 4 steps:

  1. Develop a definite purpose, backed by a burning desire for its fulfillment.
  2. Build a definite plan, expressed in continuous action.
  3. Keep out all negative and discouraging influences.
  4. Stay accountable to people who will encourage you to follow through your plan and purpose.
9. POWER OF THE MASTERMIND The Driving Force

A mastermind is having a team of people in place, whose job it is to help you succeed and carry out your plans. Who could be in your team and how could you form one in the next 30 days? Nobody can acquire great power and succeed without the power of a mastermind. According to the author:

“No two minds ever come together without, thereby, creating a third, invisible, intangible force which may be likened to a third mind”.

The goal of a mastermind is to convert knowledge into power, by organising it into definite plans, and then translating plans into action.

10. TRANSMUTATION OF SEX Converting Sex Into A Highly Creative Outlet

Sex has three constructive potentialities:

  1. Perpetuation of mankind
  2. Maintenance of health
  3. Transformation of mediocrity into genius through transmuting

The desire for sex is the most powerful of human desires. Its motivating force brings keenness of imagination, courage, will-power, persistence and creative ability unknown to people at other times.

Sexual drive (the thoughts of physical expression) can be transmuted into highly creative and productive outlets, used as a powerful force for success, or, of course, the accumulation of riches. It requires the exercise of will-power, but the reward is worth the effort.

11. SUBCONSCIOUS MIND The Connecting Link

The subconscious mind is the connecting link between the finite mind of a human and infinite intelligence.

The subconscious mind can be used as a medium for transmuting your desires into their physical or monetary equivalent. However, if you fail to plant your own desires into it, as a result of your neglect, it will feed upon any thoughts that reach it.

To gain control over your subconscious mind, form the habit of applying and using to your advantage the following 7 major positive emotions: Desire, Faith, Love, Sex, Enthusiasm, Romance, Hope.

The mere presence of a single negative emotion in your conscious mind might be sufficient to destroy all chances of constructive aid from your subconscious mind. The 7 major negative emotions to avoid are; Fear, Jealousy, Hatred, Revenge, Greed, Superstition, Anger.

Eventually, the positive emotions will dominate your mind completely, so that the negative ones cannot enter.

12. THE BRAIN A Broadcasting And Receiving Station For Thought

Every human brain is both a broadcasting and receiving station for the vibration of thought.

The subconscious mind is the “sending station” of the brain, through which vibrations of thought are broadcast.

The creative imagination is the “receiving set,” through which the vibrations of thought are picked up from the ether.

When stimulated (“stepped up”) to a high rate of vibration, the mind becomes more receptive to the vibration of thought. This “stepping up” takes place through positive or negative emotions.

Vibrations of an exceedingly high rate are the only vibrations picked up and carried, by the ether, from one brain to another.

13. THE SIXTH SENSE The Door To The Temple Of Wisdom

The understanding of the sixth sense comes only by meditation, through mind development from within.

Once you’ve mastered the sixth sense, you will be able to receive warnings about impending dangers in time to avoid them and get notified of opportunities in time to embrace them.

However, the sixth sense will never function if indecision, doubt, and fear remain in your mind. They are closely related: indecision crystallises into doubt, and the two blend to become the end result, fear.

The 6 basic fears are; Poverty, Criticism, Ill Health, Loss of love, Old age, Death. However, there’s also a 7th ‘enemy’: susceptibility to negative influences.

To shield yourself from this enemy, like all people who accumulate great riches, you have to:

  • Put your willpower into constant use, until you build immunity against negative influences in your own mind,
  • Deliberately seek the company of people who influence you to think and act from a positive standpoint, and
  • Use your willpower to gain control over your thoughts and influence your subconscious mind.

Fear is just a state of mind. It is subject to control and direction. Use this knowledge to your advantage.

“Man’s thought impulses begin immediately to translate themselves into their physical equivalent, whether those thoughts are voluntary or involuntary.”

CONCLUSION Key takeaways
  • The book exploits the power of thought to manifest strong desires and a definite purpose into reality.
  • Faith is the glue that holds it all together.
  • Every achievement starts with a strong desire, workshopped to reality through imagination, followed by an organised plan.
  • Successful people reach decisions promptly and definitely, changing their mind slowly.
  • Lack of persistence is one of the major causes of failure.
  • To acquire great power & succeed, you need the help of a mastermind.
  • Sexual drive, transmuted into creative and productive outlets, can be a powerful force for success.
  • Fear is just a state of mind. It is subject to control and direction.
Further reading

How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie. As relevant as ever before, Dale Carnegie's principles endure and will help you achieve your maximum potential in the complex and competitive modern age.

If you are interested in the money side of things, Rich Dad Poor Dad is a really interesting perspective on lessons learned from a Rich Man and a Poor Man. This book by Robert T Kiyosaki includes helpful tips on how to translate these lessons into real life and become rich yourself!

Guidelines is my eBook that summarises the main lessons from 33 of the best-selling self-help books in one place. It is the ultimate book summary; Available as an 80-page ebook and 115-minute audiobook. Guidelines lists 31 rules (or guidelines) that you should follow to improve your productivity, become a better leader, do better in business, improve your health, succeed in life and become a happier person.

Action Steps
  1. Think about your burning desire you seek to accomplish.
  2. Create a definite plan to carry out and set a deadline for it.
  3. Form a mastermind of people to hold you accountable.
  4. Download the complete book on Amazon.

This summary is not intended as a replacement for the original book and all quotes are credited to the above-mentioned author and publisher.

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The life of a digital nomad sounds great. Working and travelling simultaneously sounds awesome (and it is) but it’s not without its challenges.

PMP #125: The challenges of work and travel - SoundCloud
(874 secs long, 294 plays)Play in SoundCloud

This episode of the Paul Minors Podcast is sponsored by TextExpander.

I’m writing this post from our Airbnb in Brooklyn, New York. We’ve been here for about a week and it’s great to be working in another country again. In preparation for this trip, it’s been challenging working out how I will balance work on my business with taking time out to enjoy the trip.

There's a common perception out there that you aren't successful unless you're working from a beach somewhere. In this post, I’d like to share my thoughts to give you an accurate idea of what it’s like working for yourself while travelling. And down below I’ve listed some tips that I’ve picked up along the way.

The life of a digital nomad is fun but not without it's challenges. Here are some tips to help balance work and travelClick To Tweet Work and travel

Work and travel is a lot of fun. It takes you out of your comfort zone and is very different to your normal routine. In a way, it forces you to be more productive.

It was actually during a 6-month trip a few years ago that I transitioned from salaried employment to working on my own business full-time. You can read the full story here. When I look back at my life, I think of time in terms of before and after this trip, as it was such a pivotal moment for both Hayley and me.

So here we are, in New York for just under 3 weeks. We then plan on heading up to Montreal and Toronto. Then a quick stop in Calgary and finally a week in San Francisco before flying home. We’ll be away for about 6-7 weeks in total.

Except this time, it’s different. Now, instead of travelling while starting a business where I had only a few commitments and clients. Now I’m running an established business. I have numerous clients and big projects on the go and I have 17 people sitting in my pipeline waiting to engage me for work. Not to mention, this time we have a 6-month old baby with us.

So the challenge I’m facing is, how do we travel for 7 weeks while balancing all this work and still having enough downtime to enjoy the trip?

I can’t just stop everything for a few reasons:

  1. I don’t get paid for time off. When you receive a salary, you can take time off with certainty that you’ll get your normal salary paid to your account like you normally would. For freelancers and consultants, if you stop working, so does the money. Fortunately, I receive revenue from the sale of my products and some affiliate deals which definitely helps to reduce the pressure.
  2. I have an obligation to my existing clients. These are projects I’ve been working on for a few months and I can’t just disappear for 7 weeks.
  3. If I didn’t start any new projects during our time away, I would get back home in 7 weeks and have nothing to do. Due to the nature of my work, it can take a few weeks (and often longer) to drum up business. My business is like a machine. If I turn it all off now, it can take a while to get going again.

And regardless of all the above reasons, I wouldn’t just stop working because I enjoy my work. If I literally did nothing for 7 weeks, I think I’d get bored after a week and start to go crazy. The stimulation keeps me sane.

But it does means I have to be smart with how I plan my time.

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Tips for a more productive trip

Here are some things I’ve picked up along the way to have a successful working trip:

Establish your routine. Before you go, work out what sort of hours you need to work. To do this, you’ll need to take stock of all the projects you have in progress right now and determine what you need to do during the trip and what can wait. I’ve set aside time each afternoon to work on necessary projects and clients. I decided on afternoons as the time works well for clients in Pacific time, Australia and New Zealand. I’m working less than my normal hours but have tried to find a few hours each day to keep things ticking over.

Be flexible to change. Regardless of the routine you decide on, be open to change. You want to enjoy your trip and take time off to relax, so don’t hold yourself to too high a standard. During our stay in New York we decided to leave early as there was a measles outbreak in the suburb of Brooklyn where we were staying. Because our boy Jay is only 6 months old he was at risk so we decided to change our flights and leave early. Having the flexibility to move my work around (see time blocking) was incredibly useful.

Set expectations. Before you go, talk to any colleagues or clients you need to about what they can expect in terms of response times and availability. That way there are no surprises.

Prioritise your most important projects. Because you’re probably not going to do a normal workload, you need to decide which projects to pursue and which ones can wait until later. I’m a people pleaser and always try and find a way to work with everyone (this isn’t always a good thing). I work with clients for as little as a few hours up to a few months. Now that we’re away, rather than trying to accommodate everyone, I’ve chosen to prioritise projects that are more worth my time. Some of the projects and ideas I’ve come up with I’ve decided to defer until I’m home in New Zealand when I have more capacity to do them right.

Use automation and systems. Keep yourself organised by using a task list, calendar and any other necessary tools to keep track of all your work. Even though we’re on holiday, I’m still using my calendar on a daily basis to plan work and when we’re going to go off and do things. Using a combination of Pipedrive and Asana, I’m able to keep a clear track of where I’m at with all projects and prospects. I really couldn’t live without these tools as it means I can easily pick up on a project where I left off a week or two later without having to go back over hundreds of emails to work out what to do next. And finally, using Zapier, I have automated mundane and tedious tasks saving me massive amounts of time.

Check out my How to become a “virtual consultant” program to learn more about how to systemise your virtual business.

In closing

If you haven’t yet experienced a working trip, I highly recommend giving it a go. Obviously, not everyone can just take 6 weeks out to go overseas. But if you can negotiate a remote work arrangement with your employer or if you’re self-employed, consider taking a working holiday.

It’s a nice way of getting out of your normal routine, experiencing a new place and testing your productivity skills.

If you have any work/travel tips, please let me know in the comments!

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I recently had the pleasure of interviewing fellow Kiwi, Dr Mike Ashby all about how to balance business growth and lifestyle. This is a topic I'm incredibly passionate about as I'm always looking for ways to optimise my business to fit with my lifestyle.

PMP #124: How to balance business growth with lifestyle & happiness - SoundCloud
(3178 secs long, 435 plays)Play in SoundCloud

Mike comes from a corporate background which he quit to pursue his life works at The Breakthrough Company. Normally business courses and coaches help you to grow a business and assume you'll have a great lifestyle. Mike's approach is different and focuses on lifestyle from the very start.

In this conversation, we talk about:

  • Why you need to prioritise health, relationships and then work (in that order).
  • How to plan what you want your life to look like.
  • How to set limitations to help avoid working long hours and burning out.

If you'd like to learn more about Mike's work on business and lifestyle management, check out his mini video course “The 7 Mistakes Business Owners Make“. The course is normally $497 but he's given access to PMP listeners for FREE!

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Why do some products capture widespread attention while others flop? What makes us engage with certain products out of sheer habit? Is there a pattern underlying how technologies hook us? Hooked breaks down the 4-step Hook Model, discusses the morality of manipulation and uncovers opportunities for innovation.

DOWNLOAD THE HOOKED PDF FOR FREE!

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INTRODUCTION Who is this book for?

This playbook is ideal for businesses that build products that require ongoing, unprompted user engagement, and therefore need to build user habits within the product to thrive. It is a perfect read for startup founders, visionaries, innovators, but also established corporations who aim to understand how products influence our behavior and use habits for good.

About the author

Nir Eyal has distilled years of research, consulting and practical experience, has taught at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, and his writing on technology, psychology, and business appears in the Harvard Business Review, The Atlantic, TechCrunch, and Psychology Today. He blogs regularly at nirandfar.com.

In this summary

Why do some products capture widespread attention while others flop? What makes us engage with certain products out of sheer habit? Is there a pattern underlying how technologies hook us? Hooked breaks down the 4-step Hook Model, discusses the morality of manipulation and uncovers opportunities for innovation.

BOOK SUMMARY THE HOOK MODEL

We’re hooked! Most smartphone owners check their phone within 15 minutes of waking up. Such an automatic behaviour, done with little or no conscious effort, is called a habit. Habitual actions include brushing your teeth – or checking with Google when you have a question. Our world is becoming a habit-forming place, mainly due to 3 factors:

  1. The increased online connectivity
  2. The ability to collect, mine, and process customer data
  3. The faster & more reliable Internet connection speed

Companies that create strong customer habits gain a significant advantage against their competition, as well as other business benefits:

  • Higher Customer Lifetime Value (customers stay around longer)
  • Pricing plasticity (users become dependent and less price-sensitive)
  • Increased usage (people use the product or app multiple times a day)
  • Reduced promotion costs (users return to the product on their own)
  • Viral growth (a happy customer/user is likely to spark word-of-mouth) Habits can only be formed inside the Habit Zone, where a behaviour occurs with frequency and a high degree of perceived utility.

To provide a deeper understanding of how certain products get us hooked, the author has created the Hook Model, a four-phase process companies use to forms habits through the services we use daily. The 4 phases of this model are:

  1. Trigger
  2. Action
  3. Variable Reward
  4. Investment

The Hook Model describes an experience designed to connect the user's problem to a solution frequently enough to form a habit. In the next chapters, we’ll break down this model, as well as the ethics and opportunities around it.

1. TRIGGER

This is the first step of the Hook Model. Triggers move the user to take action. They come in two types: external & internal.

External triggers

They tell the user what to do next by placing information within the user’s environment. There are 4 types of external triggers:

  1. Paid Triggers (advertising through various channels, mainly used to acquire new users)
  2. Earned Triggers (press mentions and features, usually acquired through media relations built overtime)
  3. Relationship Triggers (the audience sharing the benefit of the product with others – virality, in one word)
  4. Owned Triggers (newsletters and notifications that the user has opted in to receive)

Owned triggers are the most important ones because they occur more often and prompt repeat engagement until a habit is formed.

Internal Triggers

They tell the user what to do next through associations stored in the user’s mind. Products coupled with negative emotions (boredom, loneliness, frustration, confusion, indecisiveness), thoughts, or pre-existing routines usually leverage internal triggers.

To scratch the nagging itch that negative emotion brings, we resort mindlessly to the top-of-mind solution: googling is a click away every time we feel unsure or logging on Facebook promises validation every time we feel alone. To build better habit-forming products, companies need to understand deeply their users’ behaviours, needs, fears, and desires.

As Evan Williams (Twitter, Medium) said:

“We often think the Internet enables you to do new things… But people just want to do the same things they’ve always done.”

Actionable Takeaways

Who is your product’s user? Come up with 3 internal triggers that could cue your user to action (emotions, thoughts, or routines). Finish this brief narrative: “Every time the user (internal trigger), he/she (first action of intended habit).”

How can you couple an external trigger as closely as possible to when the user’s internal trigger fires? Think of at least 3 conventional ways to trigger your user with current technology (emails, notifications, text messages, etc.)

2. ACTION

This is the second step of the Hook Model. If the user doesn’t take action, the trigger is useless.bThe action is doing something with little or no barriers, in anticipation of a reward. According to Dr. BJ Fogg’s Behavior Model:

“For any behaviour to occur, a trigger must be present at the same time as the user has sufficient ​ability​ and ​motivation​ to take action.”

Motivation = the level of desire to take that action. Ability = the number of obstacles that stand in the user’s way

To increase the motivation of the user to take action, keep in mind the 3 Core Motivators. All humans seek pleasure to avoid pain, seek hope to avoid fear and seek social acceptance to avoid rejection.

To increase the ability of the user, consider the 6 factors of simplicity:

  1. Is the user short on time? (Time)
  2. Is the behaviour too expensive? (Money)
  3. Is the action too labour-intensive? (Physical Effort)
  4. Is the product too difficult to understand? (Brain Cycles)
  5. Is the action perceived as socially inappropriate? (Social Deviance)
  6. Is the action outside of the user’s normal routine? (Non-Routineness)

In the question “should I increase first the motivation or the ability?” the author answers “always start with ability”. Simplify what it takes for the user to take action – increasing motivation is expensive and time-consuming.

DOWNLOAD THE HOOKED PDF FOR FREE!

DOWNLOAD PDF 3. VARIABLE REWARD

This is the third phase of the Hook Model. You reward the users for taking action by solving their problem or – many times – by simply satisfying the craving for that reward. There are 3 types of variable rewards.

Rewards of the tribe

Social (tribe) rewards are driven by our need for connectedness with other people, making us feel accepted, attractive, important, and included. Tweets, likes, upvotes, re-pins, comments, emails, they all fuel our needs for social validation.

Rewards of the hunt

We used to hunt for food, now we ‘hunt’ for money and information. Working hard for a bonus at work or scrolling through our endless Twitter feed for valuable information are included in this category.

Rewards of the self

The intrinsic rewards of self can make people continue taking action, even on tasks they don’t appear to enjoy. Such rewards address our desire for mastery, competence, and completion.

Infinite Variability

Without infinite variability or novelty in the rewards, however, we tend to lose interest and excitement quickly. Finite variability makes rewards increasingly predictable after use and their appeal is lost over time.

”Businesses nowadays must constantly churn out new content and experiences to cater to their consumers’ insatiable desire for novelty.”

Understand what triggers and motivates the users, and what brings them back, and you’ll get the opportunity to build better habit-forming products.

”Businesses nowadays must constantly churn out new content and experiences to cater to their consumers’ insatiable desire for novelty.”Click To Tweet 4. INVESTMENT

This is the fourth and last step in the Hook Model. Before users create habits and automatic behaviours, they must first invest in the product, anticipating longer-term rewards (not immediate gratification).

“Small investments change our perception, turning unfamiliar actions into everyday habits”

This happens because of 3 human tendencies:

  1. The more we invest time & effort into a product, the more we value it,
  2. We seek to be consistent with our past behaviours, and,
  3. We tend to change our preferences to avoid cognitive dissonance.

How can a product keep its users coming back until it becomes a habit? They start by doing small bits of work, like following a user or liking a photo. They gradually move into storing value in the product, such as content (music, photos, posts, etc.), data (about themselves or their behaviours), reputation (followers, upvotes), or skills (investing time to learn the product). Finally, they form the understanding that the service gets better with use.

This makes switching services, difficult, because it means abandoning years of investment and starting over. By loading the next external trigger right after the investment phase, habit-forming technologies get the opportunity to re-engage the user into another cycle of the Hook Model.

“Small investments change our perception, turning unfamiliar actions into everyday habits”Click To Tweet Consider this…
  • What “bit of work” are your users doing in your product?
  • Brainstorm 3 ways to add small investments into your product to store value as data, content, followers, reputation and skill.
  • How long does it take for a “loaded trigger” to re-engage your users and how can you reduce the delay?
MORALITY, TESTING AND OPPORTUNITIES Morality

The Hook Model is fundamentally about changing people’s behaviours. However, although creating habits can be a force for good, it can also be addictive and destructive for users.

By answering the two questions “Would I use the product myself?” and “Will the product help users materially improve their lives?” , the makers can assess the morality of a habit-forming product through the Manipulation Matrix.

Facilitators use their own product and believe it can materially improve people’s lives. They facilitate healthy habits and have the highest chance of success because they most closely understand the needs of their users.

Peddlers believe their product can materially improve people’s lives, but do not use it themselves. There’s nothing immoral here, but the odds of designing successful products for a customer they don’t fully understand is low.

Entertainers use their product, but do not believe it can improve people’s lives. Although entertainment does provide joy and connects us with the human condition, building a successful business requires keeping up with the demand for continuous novelty and content.

Dealers neither use the product nor believe it can improve people’s lives. This is the definition of exploitation and they have the lowest chance of finding long-term success.

Testing

As the author highlights…

“Running your idea through the four phases of the model will help you discover potential weaknesses in your product’s habit-forming potential.”

Habit Testing helps uncover product devotees, which product elements are habit-forming (if any), and why those aspects of your product change user behaviour. It includes three steps.

  1. Identify

“Who are my product’s habitual users? How often should they use my product?” To find out, use publicly available data from similar products or make realistic and educated assumptions.

  1. Codify

Next, study the steps your habitual users took to understand what hooked them into your product. Look for a “Habit Path” – a series of similar actions shared by your most loyal users.

  1. Modify

Lastly, modify the product to influence more users to follow the same path as your habitual users, and then continue to optimise your processes, content, features, and funnels.

Opportunities
”The first place for the entrepreneur or designer to look for new opportunities is in the mirror.”Click To Tweet

Facilitators start with introspection: instead of asking ‘What problem should I solve?’ , they ask ‘What problem do I wish someone else would solve for me?’ New technology is also a source of opportunities for revolutionary habit-building products:

  • Nascent behaviours – New behaviors that few innovators identify, and yet ultimately fulfill a mainstream need.
  • Enabling technologies – Technologies that suddenly make a behaviour much simpler, faster or more rewarding.
  • New interfaces – Changes in interface suddenly make all sorts of behaviours easier and usage tends to explode.

DOWNLOAD THE HOOKED PDF FOR FREE!

DOWNLOAD PDF CONCLUSION Key takeaways

  • The Hook Model describes an experience designed to connect the user's problem to a solution frequently enough to form a habit.
  • The 4-step process of the Hook Model is: Trigger, Action, Variable Reward, Investment.
  • Habit-forming products influence the everyday lives and engineer the actions of billions of people.
  • When harnessed correctly, technology can enhance lives through healthful behaviors that improve our relationships, make us smarter, and increase productivity.
Further reading

Sprint by Jake Knapp. A practical guide to answering business questions, Sprint is for anyone with a big opportunity, problem, or idea who needs to get answers today.

The Dip, by Seth Godin, is a quick and easy little ready that teaches you when to quit on ideas, and when to stick with them. If something is worth doing, there will be a dip and you need to learn how to navigate it successfully if you're going to come out the other side.

Guidelines is my eBook that summarises the main lessons from 33 of the best-selling self-help books in one place. It is the ultimate book summary; Available as a 80-page ebook and 115-minute audio book. Guidelines lists 31 rules (or guidelines) that you should follow to improve your productivity, become a better leader, do better in business, improve your health, succeed in life and become a happier person.

Action steps
  1. Go to https://www.nirandfar.com , read the author’s insights on behaviour and business, and subscribe to his weekly newsletter.
  2. Implement the Hook Model on your business and discover how to build positive habit-forming products.
  3. Answer the questions at the end of each chapter.
  4. Download the complete book on Amazon.

This summary is not intended as a replacement for the original book and all quotes are credited to the above mentioned author and publisher.

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