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create systems

One of the best ways to save time is to create systems.

If you want to gain back time—to exercise, work on your goals, spend more time with loved ones, and so on–, one way to do it is to create systems that can be automated and streamlined as much as possible.

A system is a method, procedure, or routine which is created to carry out a repetitive activity in a strategic way. Systems can help you run your work and home life more efficiently and effectively. Here are some ideas of things you can create systems for:

  • onehouradayformula banner longSystematize Your Finances. Paying bills, depositing money in your savings and retirement accounts, investing, and so on are activities that need to be carried out on a regular basis. By creating a system to handle your finances you’ll save time and increase your peace of mind.
  • Systematize Your Meals. Food shopping and meal preparation can use up a lot of your time. In addition, if you don’t have a system for these activities you could end up eating unhealthy foods and spending a lot more money than necessary.
  • Systematize Your Blogging Tasks. If you’re a blogger, then you know that blogging can take up a lot of your time. However, by creating systems—for writing your blog posts, marketing your blog, creating eBooks, launching your products, and so on–you can dramatically reduce the amount of time that you devote to your blog.
  • Systematize Housecleaning Chores. If you dislike housecleaning—like I do—and/or you’re not very good at it—again, like me—you should really consider systematizing your housecleaning chores.
  • Systematize Your Mornings and Nights. By systematizing your morning routine, you can ensure that you start each day the right way. In addition, by systematizing your nighttime routine you’ll be able to end each day in a calm and relaxed manner.
  • Systematize Your Handling of Email. Many people suffer from email overload. The good news is that you can be much more productive when it comes to handling your email by adopting a systematic approach to email processing.
  • Systematize Routine Work Tasks. If you’re an employee, or an entrepreneur, there are probably lots of activities that you have to carry out over and over again. By creating systems to deal with these activities, you’ll start getting much better results.

Below you’ll find a 5-step process to help you create systems in your life.

Create Systems – A 5 Step Process

Here are the 5 steps you need to take in order to create systems in your home and work life so that you can gain back time, be more effective and efficient, and increase your productivity.

1. Take Inventory.

Start by identifying the actions that you take on a regular basis, both at home and at work. That is, dissect your day and take a look at all of the different parts that make up what you get done each day. Some of these activities could be the following:

  • Getting ready in the morning.
  • Getting the kids ready for school.
  • Commuting to work.
  • Answering emails.
  • Responding to phone calls.
  • Writing reports.
  • Managing your company’s social media accounts.
  • Going out for a run.
  • Making dinner.
  • Writing a blog post.
  • Marketing your eBook or Ecourse.
  • Getting ready for bed.

Go through the list of activities that you came up with and ask yourself the following:

  • How are you currently getting these things done?
  • Do you feel that you’re being as efficient and effective as you can be?
  • Where are you losing lots of time?
  • Where are you losing money?
  • What activities frustrate you the most?
  • What is not currently getting done as fast or as well as it should be?
  • What’s falling through the cracks?
  • What needs to be streamlined?

On the basis of your review, choose one activity to systematize.

2. Analyze What You’re Currently Doing.

Carry out the activity that you want to systematize using your normal procedure–that is, as you’re currently doing it. Document the process by writing down all of the following:

  • What steps are you taking?
  • What tools are you using?
  • Where are the bottlenecks?
  • What’s frustrating you?
  • How much time does it take for you to complete the activity?
  • How much does it cost to complete the activity?
  • What types of results are you getting?

Once you’ve written down how you currently carry out the activity, sit down with the document you created and look through it.

3. Plan Your New Process.

A system—as was previously stated–is a process that you create in order to streamline tasks and improve efficiency. Take a look at how you’re currently carrying out the activity that you want to systematize and ask yourself questions like the following:

  • What is the result that you’re looking for when you carry out the activity? What is the goal that you’re trying to achieve? What’s the ideal outcome?
  • Are all of the steps that you’re currently taking necessary? Can some of those steps be eliminated?
  • Are you taking the steps in the most effective sequence? Would you get better results if you changed the order of the steps?
  • How can this be done faster?
  • Can you create a checklist?
  • Would a chart be helpful?
  • Would a mindmap make things clearer?
  • Can you create scripts (such as a script for welcoming new clients, a script for answering questions that you get on a regular basis, a script for following up with clients, and so on)?
  • Can some steps, or the entire process, be automated? Is there a machine or a software program you can use? If so, what machine or what software?
  • Can someone else do this — can this activity be outsourced or delegated?
  • If the entire activity can’t be assigned to someone else, are there certain steps of the process that someone else could take care of (for example, hire someone to edit your blog posts; get the kids to make their own beds; or have your groceries delivered)?
  • Do you need to upgrade the tools that you’re currently using?

Write down the new process that you come up with by enumerating each step. Make sure that each step is well-documented and clearly explained.

4. Execute Your Plan.

Once you have a plan—that is, once you’ve created a system–you need to put your plan into action. This can include hiring people, purchasing software, upgrading the tools that you’re currently using, and so on.

It’s now time for the dry run of your new process. Carry out the activity that you’ve systematized by applying the  process that you’ve created, and notice the results that you get.  Ask yourself questions like the following:

  • Did you get the desired results?
  • What’s working?
  • What’s not working?
  • How much time are you saving?
  • How much is it costing you, and, given the results that you’re getting, is the cost acceptable?
  • Are you achieving your goal in the simplest way possible?
  • Are there any gaps in the process?
  • Can the process be optimized even further?

Make any necessary adjustments and modifications. Tweak your new system until you start getting the results that you want.

5. Continuously Improve the System.

Although in theory the idea of creating a system is to create it and forget about it, the reality is that every so often you should take a close look at the systems that you’ve set in place and make sure that everything is working as it should.

In addition, ask yourself if you can make any further improvements. Take a look at the following:

  • Is the system still working as it should?
  • Can you lower the cost of the system?
  • Can you make the system even more efficient and effective?
  • Can you improve the system so that you start getting even better results?

Also, it’s very likely that, at first, you’ll be the person carrying out all the steps of each of your systems. However, you’ll almost certainly get to a point where you can hire others.

That is, sooner or later you’ll be able to focus exclusively on the core activities that create the most value for your home life, work life, or business, and hire other people to carry out all the other steps of the systems that you have in place.

In the book “De-Mithify: How to create systems in your small business with free online tools!”, Korbett Miller says the following about systems:

“It’s almost like creating a perfect recipe. You must be able to measure the results, change the process when needed, and always be on the lookout for better ideas.”


Setting up a system on the front end can be a big time investment. In the long run, however, you’re saving yourself hundreds of hours of frustration and stress. In order to live your best life, create systems.


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benefits of doodling

The need to draw may be hardwired into the human brain.

When I worked for the Panama Canal Commission–the US agency that ran the Panama Canal before it was transferred back to Panama in the year 2000–I would often glance over at the general counsel’s legal pad and notice that the margins were filled with doodles.

As he took notes during meetings or phone calls, or as he strategized on how to handle a legal case, he would also doodle. Since he painted during his free time, his doodles were quite good.

onehouradayformula banner longIt turns out that he was on to something. While doodling tends to get a bad rap–in school teachers often reprimand students who are doodling and exhort them to stop goofing off and pay attention–recent studies have found that doodling has many benefits. Among other things, doodling is associated with more effective learning, increased productivity, and better performance. In addition, you don’t have to be an accomplished painter–or even know how to draw–in order to start doodling.

Below you’ll find several benefits of doodling, and some tips on how to get started making your own doodles.

Seven Benefits of Doodling

Doodles are spontaneous uncensored marks that are made quickly and can take many forms, from abstract patterns or designs to images of concrete objects. However, these marks are far being the mindless scribbles of a distracted mind. Doodling has cognitive and emotional benefits.

Here are seven benefits of doodling:

1. Doodling Helps You Concentrate.

In a study published in 2009 in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology, psychologist Jackie Andrade of the University of Plymouth in southern England showed that, after a lecture or a meeting, those who doodled remembered more information than the non-doodlers. In the study, Andrade separated 40 participants into two groups of 20 each.

All 40 participants had just finished an unrelated psychological experiment, and they were tired and wanted to go home. However, they were asked to  spend five more minutes on another experiment.

As part of this additional experiment they were asked to listen to a 2½-minute voicemail in which the speaker rambled on about several different topics, and also spoke about a birthday party and who was invited. The voicemail was extremely boring and monotonous, by design.

Twenty of the experiment participants were asked to quickly shade in some little squares and circles on a piece of paper while they listened. The other 20 didn’t doodle. All of the participants were asked to write down the names of those coming to the party as they listened to the voicemail. This meant that the doodlers were switching between doodling and writing down the names of the guests.

Afterwards, the papers were removed and the 40 volunteers were asked to recall the names of the people attending the party, as well as some of the other information included in the voicemail. The doodlers recalled 7.5 pieces of information (out of 16 total) on average, which was 29% more than the average of 5.8 recalled by the nondoodlers. In other words, doodling helps you to concentrate.

Andrade theorizes that doodling helps you to concentrate because it requires enough cognitive effort to keep you from daydreaming, and yet not enough to prevent you from paying attention to what is going on around you. In other words, one of the benefits of doodling is that it helps you to anchor your attention and stay engaged instead of zoning out.

2. Doodling Can Help Spur Creative Insight.

According to Sunni Brown, author of “The Doodle Revolution: Unlock the Power to Think Differently“, doodling is thought to stimulate areas of the brain which normally remain dormant when you’re just in linguistic mode. This can help you to analyze information differently.

According to Brown, when you doodle “you are lighting up different networks in the brain” and “engaging different information.” This can lead to “ah-ha” moments when the solution to a problem you’ve been struggling with suddenly becomes evident.

In fact, Brown’s professional work includes training company managers to translate ideas and concepts into doodles–or visual language– in order to spark ideas and improve communication.

Doodling is thinking in pictures. The next time you’re stuck on a problem, try expressing the problem as a doodle and notice what ideas pop up into your mind.

3. Doodling Can Help Process Emotions.

Emerging studies show that art expression may help individuals reconnect thinking and feeling. While journaling is a great way to get in touch with your thoughts and feelings, you can get even better results if you add doodles to your journal entries. After all, doodles can help you to recognize and express your emotions.

4. Doodling Alleviates Stress.

In my post on ways to play more and have more fun as adults, I encourage you to get a coloring book for adults. But coloring books aren’t just for fun. The stress-busting benefits of coloring books have been proven to calm the amygdala, the part of the brain that controls our fight or flight response.

However, doodling might be even better than coloring books for getting stress under control because of its simplicity.

In the book Chilling Out: The Psychology of Relaxation, psychologist Christine Selby recommends drawing a continuous line across the page that curves and crosses itself many times as a technique to help you unwind. You can then use a different color to fill in the blank spaces created by the lines.

The repetitive motion of moving the pen across the page making the same shape over and over again is relaxing. In addition, a lot of stress comes from the fear of making a mistake, and, when you’re just drawing a continuous line and shading in wherever the mood strikes you, there are no mistakes.

5. Doodling Can Be A Creative Outlet.

Creativity is proven to boost relaxation, happiness and even problem-solving skills. However, few of us have a creative outlet that we engage in consistently. Doodling is the answer to this dilemma. It can be done anywhere and at any time, and all you need is a piece of paper and a pen.

If you’re looking for a simple creative outlet without a steep learning curve, start doodling for five minutes a day. Doodling is fun and can be very satisfying.

6. Doodling Can Help You Learn Better.

As I’ve written previously, I’m currently working on an eBook on rapid learning. During my research I came across the concepts of focused thinking and diffused thinking. Both forms of thinking are important for effective learning.

Focused thinking, as the name implies, is when you’re concentrating on the information that you’re trying to learn, analyze, or understand. Diffused thinking, on the other hand, is a more relaxed thinking state, one the brain settles into at resting. It allows for the subconscious incubation of ideas and information.

After a while of focusing intently on a subject that you’re trying to learn, sit back with a pen and paper and relax your mind–that is, enter the diffused mode of thinking–by doodling. You’ll learn better.

In addition, as was mentioned in the first point above, doodling helps you to concentrate. So, if you find your mind wandering during a lecture, start doodling in the margins of your notes in order to bring your mind back to the attention sweet-spot so you can listen to the lecture, and learn.

7. Doodling Helps Big-Picture Thinking.

Philosopher Jesse Prinz, a professor at City University of New York, explains that when you’re too focused on something you tend to overthink. This can lead you to focus on details that aren’t particularly important and miss the big picture. Think of the saying, “miss the forest for the trees”.

When you doodle you tend to focus on the overarching ideas and concepts, which is paramount to big-picture thinking. Therefore, the next time you feel yourself drowning in details, stop for a moment and create a doodle that represents whatever it is that you’re working on. It’s highly likely that you’ll find yourself regaining perspective.

How to Start Doodling

One of the best things about doodling is how easy it is to do. In fact, you can get started doodling even if all you know how to draw are stick figures. In addition, you’ll still get all the benefits of doodling even if your doodles are “ugly”. Here are five ways to get started with doodling:

1. Learn the 12 Basic Shapes.

Brown, who has already been mentioned, teaches her clients 12 basic shapes so that they can start doodling as fast as possible. The shapes consist of  dots, lines, angles, spirals, and triangles. It’s a visual alphabet, if you will, which will allow you to draw anything. Here are the 12 shapes:


2. Use Stencils.

If you’re not ready to draw your own shapes yet, use stencils. Get yourself some nice stencils, such as these or these. Then, just trace the shapes and add your own doodles inside or outside the stencil shapes.

3. Follow Along With a YouTube Video.

There are lots of good doodling tutorials on YouTube which you can easily follow along with, even if you’re a beginner. Here’s a good one:

4. Get a Doodling How-to Book.

Whatever you want to learn how to do, you can bet there’s a book for it, and doodling is no exception. In fact, since doodling has become very popular recently, there are now several great doodling books available for you to choose from. Here are four good ones:

5. Doodle Freestyle.

Just grab a pen or a pencil, and paper, and allow your mind to take over. Think of a journal entry in which you allow yourself to ramble, except that you’re using lines and shapes instead of words. Don’t get hung up on trying to draw any particular image–images will start to take shape as you move the pen over the paper.

In addition, don’t allow your inner critic to get in the way. Nobody has to see your doodle, and you can just crumple it up and throw it away when you’re done. Give your mind and hand free rein. You can even try doodling in the dark.


As you can see from the explanation above, doodling has many benefits, and you can get started right away. Live your best life by doodling. Now, go doodle and begin to experience the many benefits of doodling right away!


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Halloween Bucket List

October is here, with all of its simple pleasures.

Happiness is in the little things, and each month, each season, and each holiday comes with its own simple pleasures. I’m always going on and on about laughing more, playing more, and having more fun. So that’s what this post is all about: it’s about enjoying the month of October.

onehouradayformula banner longMost people associate October with Halloween, and that’s the focus of this list. It’s a Halloween Bucket List, but you can use it as a list of ideas to countdown to the 31st of October. The first step, then, is to get yourself a a Halloween countdown calendar. Here are two options:

  • Make your own.
  • Download a printable a crafty person has made and is sharing with others. This is the option I went with (here’s the one I downloaded).

Then, count down to the 31st with the ideas below.

31 Ideas For Your Halloween Bucket List

1. Choose your Halloween Costume.

When choosing a Halloween costume one option is to choose something that’s relevant to the current year. For example, you could go dressed as a character in a trendy movie or a book that’s in vogue. Another option is to wear a costume that’s related to a news story everyone’s talking about.

You may want to dress up in a costume that complements the costume your partner is wearing. Some ideas include the following:

  • Sonny and Cher.
  • Adam and Eve.
  • Fred and Wilma Flintstone.
  • A bull and a bullfighter.
  • You can also try funny costumes like bacon and eggs, or peanut butter and jam.

It’s also fun to have your entire family dress up in outfits that complement each other. Here are some examples:

  • Dress up as The Incredibles—a family of superheroes created by Pixar.
  • Dress up in Star Wars costumes.
  • Dress up as S’mores. Mom and dad can be graham crackers, one child can be chocolate, and another child can be a marshmallow.

If all else fails, just go for the tried-and-true: witch, ghost, devil, or vampire.

The key here is to have fun: enjoy the process of picking out the costume; savor the anticipation of wearing it; and then take pleasure in putting it on and watching other people’s reactions to it.

2. Get One New Halloween Decoration.

One of my Christmas traditions is to get one new ornament for the tree each year. A few years back I decided to extend this tradition to Halloween by getting one new Halloween decoration each year.

It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. In fact, this year I think I’m going to get a small candy dish shaped like Frankenstein’s head which I saw at the drugstore. Get something that will make you smile every time you look at it.

3. Visit a Pumpkin Patch.

Go to a pumpkin patch and pick out the pumpkins you’ll be decorating and eating throughout the month of October. In addition to the traditional pumpkins, many pumpkin patches also grow white pumpkins and other gourds, such as squash.


4. Make a Pumpkin Treat.

Now that you’ve been to the pumpkin patch and you’ve returned with your bounty, it’s time to put those pumpkins to good use. You can make pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cupcakes, pumpkin cheesecake, and so on. You can even make pumpkin dog treats!

5. Decorate the House for Halloween.

Decorating for Halloween is just as much fun as decorating for Christmas. Of course, your Christmas decor should be jolly and full of cheer, while your Halloween decor should be creepy and maybe a little ghastly.

Decorate your fireplace mantle for Halloween with spooky  signage, bats, rats, skulls, and white candles. You can even go all out and create a cemetery or graveyard on your front lawn for Halloween.

Put up a Halloween Tree and hang up ornaments shaped like Frankenstein, Dracula, skulls, and orange and black glass balls. You can also add some orange Halloween light stringers.

You can even create a Halloween Village filled with creepy, scary Halloween themed houses, figurines and accessories.

6. Create Your Halloween Soundtrack.

You need a Halloween soundtrack to listen to throughout the month of October. Include favorites such as the following:

And, of course, J.S. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor:

7. Have a Hot Halloween Beverage.

Get every member of your household a Halloween themed mug. Then, fill the mugs with hot cocoa and Peeps Marshmallow Ghosts; hot apple cider; pumpkin spice tea or coffee; or a witches’ brew (just make something warm and delicious and call it witches’ brew).

8. Put Together a Halloween Puzzle.

Get a puzzle with the classic Halloween theme of a spooky run-down mansion at night, complete with a full moon, a rickety fence, and  strange creatures lurking behind the trees. Spend an evening putting the puzzle together as you listen to a soundtrack of Halloween sound effects: screeches, doors creaking, chains rattling, and so on.

9. BOO! Your Neighbors

Start a Halloween Boo game in your neighborhood. Neighbors leave one another anonymous goody bags in celebration of the holiday with a note like the following:

Just a friendly little Boo from bet you never guess who’. I have just one thing to say to you on Halloween…BOO!.

The receivers then secretly Boo other neighbors. When a house gets booed they hang a ghost from the front door.

10. Make Caramel Apples.

Making delicious caramel apples is very easy. You just need apples (take off the stem and wash all the wax off the surface); Popsicle sticks; a bag of Kraft Caramels; wax paper; a stick of butter; water; and toppings such as Oreo cookies or peanuts.

Then, just follow along with this video.


11. Read a Classic Halloween Story.

Choose a classic Halloween short story and read it out loud. Here are three to choose from:

  • Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell Tale Heart
  • William Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily
  • Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

12. Watch a Halloween Movie.

I deeply dislike movies like Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street, but some people enjoy watching these movies during the days leading up to Halloween. I prefer movies like “Young Frankenstein”, “The Addams Family”, and “Ghostbusters”.

13. Make Halloween Cookies.

To make Halloween cookies, just do the following:

14. Do Something Zombie-Related.

Zombie-related activities include the following:

  • Dance to Michael Jackson’s Thriller (there are lots of tutorials on YouTube).
  • You can go on a Zombie walk.
  • Watch a Zombie movie.

Of course, if you’re really into zombies that can be your Halloween costume.

15. Go On a Halloween Scavenger Hunt.

Just as you go out during Christmas time to look at your neighbors’ Christmas decorations, do the same for Halloween. You can even turn it into a Scavenger Hunt. Before you set out, decide what you’re going to be specifically looking for. Here are some ideas:

  • Witch On a Broomstick
  • A Mummy
  • A Cauldron
  • A Headstone with RIP Written on It
  • A Skeleton
  • A Cobweb
  • An Owl
  • A Monster
  • A “Happy Halloween” Sign
  • A Toad

Instead of driving around, you could also just grab a flashlight and do the Scavenger Hunt at night, on foot (to make it eerie, of course).

16. Play a Halloween-Themed Board-game.

I love board-games. They’re educational, fun, and a great way to bond with friends and loved ones. Here are four Halloween-themed board-games you can choose from:

17. Make a Halloween Craft.

Head to the dollar store and stock up on supplies to make Halloween crafts. You can make Lolly Pop Ghosts, Mini-Halloween Piñatas, or Mason Jar Luminaries.

If you’re ambitious, you can even make a scarecrow.

18. Have Dinner In Your Costumes.

It’s a shame to only wear your Halloween costume once. Designate a night–such as the 18th of October–and have  a wear-your-costume dinner. Make it a spooky night with Halloween-themed food and drinks. You can even eat by candlelight and have everyone eat with their hands.

Another option is to make Paprika Hendl, a recipe taken from Bram Stoker’s Dracula (which I’m in the process of reading).

19. Make a Halloween Gingerbread House.

Gingerbread houses aren’t just for Christmas anymore. Here are some ideas for your Halloween Gingerbread House:

20. Visit a Haunted House.

Haunted houses pop up all over the place at this time of year. Find the scariest one near you and go for a visit. If you want to do something a little bit different, go on a haunted hayride.


21. Give Someone a Friendly Fright.

Pranks aren’t just for April Fools’. Play a funny Halloween prank on someone. However, keep in mind that the idea is to have some fun, not to shame or embarrass other people. You want to give people what is known as “a pleasurable fright”.

22. Read a Halloween Poem.

Every October I read “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe. And I still get a little bit scared each time I read it. The man was a genius. And what could be better than Poe’s creepy poem read by James Earl Jones? Here it is:

24. Tell Ghost Stories.

Gather around a bonfire and tell ghost stories. Be sure to use a scary flashlight face for greater effect. M.R. James is one of the greatest ghost story authors of the past 200 years– look for one of his stories.

25. Write Your Own Ghost Story.

Here are some tips for writing your own ghost story:

  • Set your story in the present and in a location that your audience is familiar with (make them think it could happen to them).
  • Make the characters seem real–a normal person just going about their business. In fact, you could say this was something that happened to you.
  • Hint at the terror, instead of filling your story with gratuitous bloodshed. You’re trying to guide your audience’s imagination down a certain path.
  • Don’t be afraid to leave some questions unanswered. This will create doubt in your audience’s mind and will ensure that they’ll continue thinking about your story well after you’ve told it.

23. Watch An Alfred Hitchcock Movie.

Alfred Hitchcock was known as “The Master of Suspense”, and he pioneered many elements of the psychological thriller. You can watch one of his movies–such as “The Birds” or “Psycho”–or watch and episode of his TV series, “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”.


26. Get Ready for Trick-or Treaters.

Are you one of those people who turns out all the lights on the 31st and pretends not to be home? That’s not fun! Plus, it could get you egged. Do the following:

  • Decide what you’re going to hand-out to the trick-or-treaters. It could be traditional Halloween candy, stickers, or even cans of fun-sized Play-Doh or small boxes of crayons.
  • Once you’ve decided on your treats, go out and buy them.
  • Your door should be decorated so the kids know it’s a Halloween-friendly house. You could also put up a sign in the window that says “Trick-or-Treaters Welcome!”

27. Carve a Jack-o’-lantern.

Carve Jack o’ lanterns, or just decorate pumpkins. You can get a pumpkin carving kit, make glitter pumpkins (apply glue and cover the pumpkin with glitter in autumn colors), get a jar of black buttons and use them to write “BOO” on the pumpkin, or glue rhinestones on a pumpkin to create a faux spider web.

28. Have an Orange-and-Black Day.

Orange and black are the traditional Halloween colors, so wear those colors for a day in October. Add some Halloween jewelry, a Halloween-themed tie, or some other accessory.

Another option is to just wear a Halloween sweater.

29. Watch a Halloween Cartoon or Animation.

There are so many Halloween cartoons and animations to choose from. Here are my favorites:

  • The Corpse Bride
  • It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown
  • The Nightmare Before Chrismtas
  • Frankenweenie
  • Hotel Transylvania
  • Hotel Transylvania 2

30. Tell Halloween Jokes and Riddles.

Look for Halloween jokes and riddles online. Here’s one I like:

Q: What do you do when 50 zombies surround your house?

A: Hope it’s Halloween!!

31. Go Trick-or-Treating.

This is it! The big day has arrived. Dress up, have a photo shoot with everyone in their costumes, and then head out with your trick-or-treat bags.


There you have it: everything you need to have a fun-filled October. Live your best life by filling your October with simple pleasures.


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grow new brain cells

Growing new brain cells—or neurogenesis–is possible for adults.

For a long time the established dogma was that the adult brain couldn’t generate any new brain cells. That is, it was believed that you were born with a certain amount of brain cells, and that was it. And since you naturally lose brain cells as you age, after age 25 it was all downhill for your brain function.

onehouradayformula banner longThe good news is that scientists have now discovered that you can grow new brain cells throughout your entire life. The process is called neurogenesis. Specifically, new brain cells–which are called neurons–grow in the hippocampus. This is the region of the brain that is responsible for learning information, storing long-term memories, and regulating emotions. This has many different positive implications. Here are some of the most important ways in which taking action to encourage neurogenesis can help you:

  • As Dr. Amar Sahay–a neuroscientist with Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital–explains, developing new brain cells can help enhance cognitive functions. New neurons enhance your ability to learn.
  • Growing new neurons can help you stave off Alzheimer’s.
  • Neurogenesis will help you to keep your memory sharp.
  • The growth of new brain cells can both treat and prevent depression, as well as help to reduce anxiety.

In order to make the most of your brain you need to do the following:

  • Take Care of Your Brain Cells
  • Grow New Brain Cells
  • Keep the New Neurons From Dying

These three points are explained below.

Take Care of Your Brain Cells

Before we get into how to grown new brain cells, it’s important to note that you should take steps to take care of the brain cells you already have. Right now it’s very likely that there are things you’re doing which are damaging your brain cells. These include the following:

  • Leaving Stress Unchecked. Stress can damage brain cells over time. Protect your brain cells by managing stress. Do things such as simplifying, meditating, and prioritizing your to-do list.
  • Not Getting Enough Sleep. To begin with, scientists now believe that sleep “detoxes” the brain, flushing out waste products linked to Alzheimer’s and dementia. In addition, there is evidence to suggest that sleep deprivation kills a particular type of brain cell called locus ceruleus (LC) neurons, which play an important role in keeping us alert and awake.
  • Following a Poor Diet. Eating a poor diet that’s loaded with industrial fats, refined grains, and sugar-sweetened treats is shrinking your brain. Data shows that the more junk food a person reports eating, the smaller their hippocampus tends to be.

If you’re doing any of the things above–leading a high-stress life, being sleep deprived, and eating a poor diet–, stop it. Your brain cells will thank you.

How to Grow New Brain Cells

This is where things get good. In a TED Talk, Doctor Sandrine Thuret, a neuroscientist at King’s College London, explains that until the 1990s people thought that adults couldn’t generate new brain cells. But now we know that they do.

Here, then, are 10 ways to grow new brain cells:

  • Eat Blueberries.  Blueberries are blue due to anthocyanin dye, a flavonoid which research has linked to neurogenesis.
  • Indulge in Dark Chocolate. I’ve already encouraged you to eat dark chocolate in my post about longevity, as well as in my post about giving your mood a boost. Well, now it turns out that those delicious morsels of chocolaty goodness will also help you grow new neurons. This is because dark chocolate, like blueberries, contains flavonoids.
  • Keep Yourself Engaged. Cognitive stimulation increases hippocampal neurogenesis. What does this mean? It means that you need to keep your brain engaged: learn new skills, interact with other people, travel, try new things, and keep stepping outside of your comfort zone.
  • Eat Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Foods that are rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids — avocados and fatty fish like tuna, salmon, herring, and sardines —promote the growth of neurons. You can also opt for flaxseeds or flaxseed oil, chia seeds, and walnuts.
  • Exercise. We can foster new brain cell growth through regular endurance exercise, such as jogging. Here’s how it works: jogging stimulates the production of a protein called FNDC5. In turn, FNDC5 stimulates the production of another protein in the brain called Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), which stimulates the growth of new nerves and synapses. If jogging is not your thing, try walking briskly.
  • Eat Turmeric. Not only does the yellow spice turmeric help with neurogenesis, but a study conducted relatively recently found that turmeric may contribute to the regeneration of a ‘damaged brain’ and help with neurological disorders. One thing you can try is to add a teaspoon of turmeric to your morning or afternoon smoothie.
  • Have Sex. Having frequent sex can help you to repopulate your brain (pardon the pun).
  • Drink Green Tea. Specifically, the compound epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) found in green tea is the element which has been linked to the growth of new brain cells.
  • Expose Yourself to Sunlight. When your body is exposed to natural sunlight, it produces Vitamin D. Vitamin D increases levels of BDNF in the brain — as was previously mentioned, BDNF promotes neurogenesis.
  • Intermittent Fasting. Dr. Thuret explains that she eats every other day. On the days in which she fasts she’ll grab a big latte and then maybe later an apple and a cereal bar. The other days she eats normally. She explains that when you fast intermittently you’re mildly stressing your brain, and it’s likely that this leads to an increase in neurons so you can search for food more efficiently.

As you can see from the list above, there are lots of simple things you can do to grown new brain cells. Once you’ve grown new brain cells, you need to maintain them. You’ll discover how in the next section of this blog post.

How to Keep the New Brain Cells Alive

Everything mentioned in the section above will help you to grow new brain cells. But growing new neurons is not enough. You also have to keep the new neurons alive.

Studies show that new neurons are kept alive by learning that requires effort; this means a process that involves concentration in the present moment over an extended period of time.

In last week’s post I encouraged you to use the last 100 days of the year wisely by working on one of your most important goals for the year. The goal that I’m going to be working on is finishing my eBook on how to learn any skill fast. It’s tentatively titled:

“Learn Any Skill Fast – How to Quickly Learn to Draw, Code, Play the Piano, Create Video Courses, Weight Lift, Speak French, Play Chess, or Anything Else”.

So, be on the look out for it before the end of the year. You can use it to learn new skills so you can keep all of those new neurons you’ll be growing alive and well. 🙂


I, on the one hand, feel very optimistic about the fact that I can grow new brain cells. I hope you do too. And now I’m going to have some green tea with two squares of dark chocolate, and then spend some time on my chess game. After all, I have to put my new brain cells to good use. 🙂

Live your best life by growing new brain cells with the tips explained above. You’re in charge of your neurogenesis!


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100 days left of the year

There are 100 days left of 2016 –make the most of them.

Remember all those goals you set at the start of the year? Chances are, there are at least a couple of those resolutions that you haven’t gotten around to. And time is running out. On September 23rd the countdown begins: it’s day number 1 of the last 100 days of the year (I can hear a few gasps).

onehouradayformula banner longWhat’s still on your “this year I will” list? Maybe one or more of the following:

Whatever goals you haven’t gotten around to yet, the most likely culprit is procrastination. Not to worry — in this post I’m going to tell you what to do so that you can overcome procrastination and make the most of the 100 days left of the year.

Let’s get started with a fantastic TED Talk given by Tim Urban, a person who didn’t begin writing his 90-page senior thesis until 72 hours before it was due. It’s titled, “Inside the Brain of a Master Procrastinator“. Below you’ll discover what Tim has to say.

Inside the Brain of A Master Procrastinator

A while back, Tim decided that he wanted to explain to non-procrastinators what goes on inside the head of a procrastinator. In order to do so he made a drawing of a non-procrastinator’s brain, as well as a drawing of a procrastinator’s brain. Here is the brain of a non-procrastinator:



Now, here’s the brain of a procrastinator:



As you can see, both brains have a Rational Decision-Maker standing at the helm. However, the procrastinator’s brain also comes equipped with an “Instant Gratification Monkey”. When the procrastinator wants to get to work on an important goal, the monkey–almost invariably–grabs hold of the wheel.

This means that, instead of working on the task at hand, the procrastinator ends up doing some, or all, of the following:

  • Reading about Albert Pierrepoint, a hangman in England who executed at least 400 people.
  • Dusting the ceiling fan.
  • Brushing up on the Spanish Civil War.
  • Walking to the corner drug store to pick out a new shade of nail polish.
  • Watching the best of late night comedy on YouTube.
  • Going through Pinterest to see what great DIY projects have been pinned by others lately.

Why does the monkey do this? Because the task that the rational brain wants to work on fills the monkey with dread and/or anxiety. This could be for any of the following reasons:

  • The monkey perceives the task is going to be difficult.
  • The monkey feels overwhelmed by the enormity of the task and doesn’t know how to get started.
  • The monkey knows that there’s a lot riding on doing well on the task and gets performance anxiety.
  • The monkey thinks the task is going to be really boring (and the monkey hates being bored).

Therefore, the monkey copes with these negative feelings by finding something else to do. That is, by procrastinating. Here’s an illustration of what this looks like:


So, with the Instant Gratification Monkey at the wheel, how does the procrastinator ever get anything done? The procrastinator finally manages to get things done when a third character enters the picture: the Panic Monster.

The Panic Monster is dormant most of the time. However, he wakes up whenever any of the following starts getting close:

  • A looming deadline;
  • A career disaster; or
  • Some other scary consequence.


The Panic Monster is the only thing that the Instant Gratification Monkey is scared of.  When the monster appears, the monkey runs for the hills. With the monkey out of the way, the Rational Decision-Maker can finally take back control of the wheel and get to work on the task at hand.

This is how procrastinators tend to get things done. This is their system. It’s not a particularly good system, but, in the end, things get done.

The problem is that, once you become an adult, most of your goals won’t come with a preset deadline. Here are some examples:

  • You decide to learn a new skill.
  • There’s a MOOC that caught your eye and you decide you want to take it.
  • You want to write a novel.
  • You would like to lose 15 pounds so that you can look more fit and trim.

These are all things you would like to do, but there are no dire consequences–like failing a test or getting fired from your job–if you haven’t achieved these goals by “X” date.

Therefore, the Panic Monster–aka, your savior–doesn’t get involved. Which means that these goals never get achieved.

Tim’s solution to this quandary is something which he calls “The Life Calendar”. The calendar contains one box for every week of a 90-year life. It allows you to see–very clearly–that there is a deadline for the achievement of your goals. It looks like this:

the life caendar

I took Tim’s idea and applied it to the situation that we currently find ourselves in: starting on September 23rd, there are 100 days left of the year. Here’s the calendar that I came up with to illustrate this:


In the next section you’ll discover what to do with the 100-day calendar.

Make the Most of the 100 Days Left of the Year

In order to make the most of the 100 days left of the year, do the following:

1. Look back at the resolutions you set at the start of the year. Which are still unfinished? Pick one of your unfinished resolutions. You should be able to finish the resolution that you choose in the next 100 days.

If your chosen resolution can’t be completed in the next 100 days, pick a different goal or make it smaller so that it can be completed in 100 days.

2. Make sure your resolution is written down as a specific goal and not as a vague wish. Here’s an example:

  • Vague wish: “I want to write an eBook”.
  • Specific goal: “In the next 100 days I’m going to write a 160-page eBook on how to learn any skill fast. I’m going to break down the process of learning a skill into 15 steps, and write one chapter for each step.”

3. Set December 31st as the deadline for achieving your goal.

4. Resolve to work on your goal for one-hour-a-day from September 23rd until December 31st. Make sure that you pencil your one-hour-a-day into your schedule.

5. Print out this 100-day calendar and put it somewhere visible. Every day that you work on your goal put a little check mark, an “X”, or a star in the box for that day. As Jerry Seinfeld would say, don’t break the chain.

6. To make it more likely that you’ll achieve your December 31st deadline, do the following:

  • Make sure that the goal that you’re going to be working on is meaningful to you.
  • Make the process of goal-achievement as much fun as possible.
  • Find a way to hold yourself accountable.


The other day I mentioned to someone that soon there would be just 100 days left of 2016. That person said to me, in a tone of voice filled with regret, “Yes, the year is almost over.” I answered, “There’s still time to get things done”. And there is, as long as you stop procrastinating and get to it.


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When you fall in love with yourself you gain a deep appreciation of your own worth and capabilities. Falling in love with yourself also means that you genuinely like yourself, and you enjoy spending time alone.

fall in love with yourself

“To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance.” – Oscar Wilde

There’s a lot of emphasis in our culture on romantic love. A lot of people think that finding the right partner will somehow make them “whole”, fill an inner void, and solve all of their problems.

However, another person can never do all of these things for you. You have to do them for yourself. That is, you have to fall in love with yourself. Falling in love with yourself will allow you to do all of the following:

onehouradayformula banner long

  • Give yourself what you need, instead of waiting for others to do so.
  • Embrace both your strengths and your weaknesses.
  • Be gentle with yourself when you make a mistake or fail.
  • Be comfortable with doing things alone.
  • Know you’re in your corner, even if nobody else is.
  • Know that you’re enough.
  • Have the confidence to go after what you really want.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? So, how does one fall in love with oneself? I’ll tell you. Below you’ll find 10 ways to fall in love with yourself.

1. Make a List Your Accomplishments

We all have to-do list filled with all of the things that we need to get done. How about creating a list of all the things we’ve already accomplished?

Everyone should keep a running list of their accomplishments. This has numerous benefits, including the following:

  • It will remind you of how much you’ve achieved.
  • It will keep how capable and valuable you are at the forefront of your awareness.
  • It will help you to feel pride and admiration for yourself.

Feeling good about yourself will certainly help you to love yourself more.

2. Talk to Yourself How You Talk to People You Care About

I have two young nephews. When they were very small I discovered that if I softened my voice when I spoke to them, and I spoke sweetly, they were more likely to pay attention to what I was saying. In addition, they would soften their own demeanor toward me and I was more likely to get smiles, hugs, and kisses from them.

Lately I’ve been making it a point to make my inner voice use the same “tone of voice” that I use with my nephews. That is, I speak to myself—in my head—in a sweet, tender tone. And I can’t tell you how nice it is to have a soft-spoken person inside your head.

Of course, it’s not just the tone of voice that you use with yourself that’s important, but also the kinds of things that you say to yourself. Fall in love with yourself by saying positive, uplifting things to yourself and speaking sweetly to yourself.

3. See Yourself Through the Eyes of Someone Who Loves You

Think of someone who loves you—this can be your spouse, your child, your best friend, or an admirer. Picture that person standing there, looking at you.

  • What do they see?
  • How would they describe you?
  • What would they say they appreciate about you?
  • What would they say makes you a great friend, romantic partner, parent, and so on?
  • Why do they love you?

This exercise will allow you to focus on your good points, instead of dismissing them or taking them from granted. It will also help you realize how much there is in you to love.

4. If There’s Something You Don’t Like About Yourself, Change It

If there’s something you don’t like about somebody else, there’s very little you can do about it. However, if there’s something you don’t like about yourself, you can change it.

I grew up with a very critical father, so I have a tendency to be critical myself. A couple of years ago I decided that I didn’t like this about myself. Therefore, I decided to change it. I began monitoring what I was thinking and I stopped myself every time I realized that I was judging someone.

In addition, when I was talking to others I started being more careful with what I said to them, and how I said it, so that it wouldn’t sound critical. As a result of this effort, I am now much less critical than I used to be.

That is, I’m much closer to the kind of person I want to be, which makes me love myself more. Fall in love with yourself by working on yourself.

5. Fall in Love With Yourself by Working on Your Self-Trust

If you’re with someone and that person is constantly lying to you and letting you down, how much love would you feel toward that person? Probably not much. However, we do these things to ourselves all the time.

To be able to fully love yourself you have to know that you can trust yourself. You can increase your self-trust by doing the following:

  • Remember past instances when you’ve come through for yourself. Have retrievable memories of experiences where you were able to rely on yourself to handle a difficult situation.
  • Keep your promises to yourself. When you set a goal, follow through with it.
  • Trust your own judgment. When you have a decision to make, you can ask others for their input. However, at the end of the day do what you think is right, even if it goes against what others think you should do.
  • Stop arguing against yourself. Stop highlighting your flaws and limitations. Stop selling yourself short.
  • Bet on yourself. Back your own plan.

The more you trust yourself—the more you realize that you will always have your back–the more you can love yourself. Fall in love with yourself by making sure you can rely on yourself.

6. Take Yourself Out On Dates

My favorite food in the whole world is Indian food. There’s an Indian restaurant here in Panama that I always ask to be taken to on special occasions, and the other day I decided to go alone.

Lately I’ve become obsessed with Shakespeare, so I picked up my copy of Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part I, along with Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare, and headed over to the Indian restaurant.

When I was done having lunch—which was fantastic–I went to a different place to have chocolate crepes for dessert (topped with strawberries and accompanied with a cappuccino, of course). I then went home and watched “The Hollow Crown”, a film adaptation of Henry IV Part I.

I had a lovely time, and it reminded me of what great company I am.  🙂

7. Treat Yo’ Self

I love giving gifts to people I care about. When I was living in Florence, Italy, my mother sent me money so that I could buy some things for myself. I used the money to get gifts for everyone back home.

When I decided that I was going to add myself to the list of people whom I love, I started getting gifts for myself. Not all the time, of course, and not extravagant gifts, but if there’s something that I really want, I treat myself.

The last time that I treated myself was about three weeks ago. I bought an acupressure mat called Spoonk. I lie down on my Spoonk for about twenty or thirty minutes every night before falling asleep. As I lie down on it and feel myself relaxing almost immediately, I invariably think:

“I’m so glad I got this for myself!”

Pampering yourself is a great way to show yourself some love.

8. Develop Positive Habits

I’ve developed many positive habits over the years. Here are some of them:

How can I not love myself when I take such good care of myself? Love yourself more by developing positive habits.

9. Listen to Yourself

We tend to be so outwardly focused—listening to other people, watching the news, reading, and so on—that a lot of the time we fail to stop and turn inward. That is, we fail to listen to ourselves. Yet one of the best ways to make ourselves feel loved is to listen to what we have to say.

One of the best ways to listen to yourself is to journal. Two journaling methods you may want to try are proprioceptive writing—a method for exploring the mind through writing–and morning pages, three pages of stream of consciousness writing which is done first thing in the morning.

Build a better relationship with yourself—and fall in love with yourself—by listening to yourself.

10. Ask Yourself What You Need

Ask yourself the following:

  • What do I need right now?
  • Do I need some alone time?
  • Do I need a creative outlet?
  • Do I need to explore different career opportunities?
  • Do I need to simplify?
  • Do I need to have more fun?
  • Do I need more play and laughter in my life?
  • Do I need to move more?
  • Do I need to get myself out of a rut by learning something new?
  • Do I need to have an adventure?

How would you feel about someone who’s attuned to your needs, and then does their best to fill those needs? I don’t know about you, but I’d have an easy time falling in love with that person. Find out what you need, and then give it to yourself. Fall in love with yourself by fulfilling your needs.


Doesn’t the person above sound wonderful? They’re accomplished, they speak kindly to you, they listen to you, they’re attuned to your needs, they take good care of you, they take you out on fun dates, they’re trustworthy, and they even give you great gifts!

Wouldn’t you fall in love with that person? Of course you would. But, wait a minute . . . it’s you! Live your best life by falling in love with yourself.

If you enjoyed this post, please share it on the social media network of your choice, or email it to your friends and family. Upon doing so you will immediately receive a virtual hug–or handshake, if you prefer–from me. 🙂


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An autodidact is a self-taught person. In today’s world it’s vital to be one of those people who’s capable of engaging in self-directed learning. In addition, being a self-learner will add zest to your life.

autodidact manifesto

Today, being an autodidact is a must.

Throughout the ages there have been many successful people who have been autodidacts. Some of the world’s most famous autodidacts include the following:

  • Leonardo da Vinci
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Thomas Edison
  • Walt Disney
  • Frida Kahlo
  • Bill Gates

onehouradayformula banner longCurrently, being an autodidact is both easier and more important than ever. In fact, there are those who claim that we live in the golden age of self-directed learning, or the golden age of the autodidact. After all, the internet is packed with self-learning resources. These include online courses from the world’s top universities, online academies, blogs devoted to teaching practically any subject you can think of, online book collections, and documentaries.

I have a lot of formal education, but I’m constantly learning new things through self-directed study. I proudly consider myself to be an autodidact. And if you want to succeed in the Knowledge Age, and live life to the fullest, you also need to hop on the self-directed learning wagon.

To help you get started, I’ve created a manifesto which you’ll find below.

The Autodidact Manifesto

1. I’m passionate about being a lifelong learner.

2. I’m insatiably curious.

3. I believe that knowledge is power.

4. I know that if I’m truly invested in learning something, there’s no need to go back to school to learn it.

5. I believe I can teach myself any subject if I have a serious interest in it.

6. I’m 100% responsible for my learning – I take full ownership of the process of improving myself.

7. Being an autodidact gives me the freedom to learn what I want, when I want.

8. I can be my own coach, mentor, and teacher.

9. If there’s something that I want to learn, I can figure out how to learn it. I know I can learn anything I set my mind to.

10. I make the time to learn. I include learning in my schedule.

11. I overcome inner obstacles to learning such as procrastination, fear, and perfectionism.

12. I ignore the naysayers who say that you can’t teach yourself.

13. My diploma is the project that I complete with my newly-acquired knowledge.

14. I constantly push myself to step out of my comfort zone. Instead of constantly doing what I already know how to do, I stretch myself in order to learn more.

15. I’m self-directed and I work well on my own – I don’t need someone looking over my shoulder telling me what to do.

16. I’m good at goal setting and set S.M.A.R.T. learning goals.

17. I’m good at plan creation, implementation, and iteration. When I want to learn something new I create a plan for learning it and I follow through with my plan.

18. I know that all of the information that I need is at my fingertips.

19. I have the discipline necessary to accomplish my learning goals.

20. I have the necessary grit to persist until I achieve my learning objectives.

21. I’m self-motivated — I can keep my motivation and enthusiasm for learning high.

22. I see obstacles to my learning as challenges to be overcome, not as stopping points.

23. I’m willing to put in the necessary time and effort to learn what I want.

24. I’m committed to self-learning.

25. I learn something new every day, even it’s just a new vocabulary word.

26. I move quickly from learning to doing.

27. I’m invested in learning how to learn.

28. I know that making mistakes is simply part of the learning process.

29. I can deal with the frustration and confusion that are integral components of learning.

30. I’m willing to be a beginner.

31. If one learning strategy doesn’t work, I look for a different strategy.

32. As I learn I make careful self-assessments and adjustments.

33. Those who have the most success with learning are those who try the hardest.

34. I learn actively, not passively.

35. I share what I learn with others.


You can achieve anything you want by acquiring the necessary skills. And if you don’t have the necessary skills, you can acquire them through self-learning. Live your best life by becoming an autodidact.


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setting limits

Setting limits will help you to achieve your goals.

We live in a society that scoffs at setting limits. You often hear phrases like the following:

  • The sky’s the limit.
  • Aim to have it all.
  • Don’t limit yourself.

onehouradayformula banner longI would argue that you should definitely dream big and examine any subconscious limits that may be holding you back. However, an important step in achieving your goals and turning your dreams into reality is to set carefully chosen limits. After all, limits help to define, give shape, and add substance to your dreams. During the past few years I’ve set several limits for myself that have been of great use in helping me to achieve my goals. I’m going to share nine of them with you so that you can consider applying these limits in your own life.

Below you’ll find 9 limits that will drastically improve your quality of life.

1. Limit the Amount of Food You Eat.

We all have strengths and weaknesses. One of my strengths is that I’m very consistent when it comes to exercising. I’ve shared on this blog that I’m a runner and a weightlifter. I carry out both of these activities on a regular basis and seldom miss one of my workout sessions.

One of my weaknesses is food. I love eating. You may have heard that you can’t outrun food, and I can attest to the truth of this statement. A while back I was in great shape because of all the exercise I was getting, but I also weighed more than I should because I was overeating.

For me, the solution to the problem of overeating was portion control. That is, to limit the amount of food that I was ingesting.

There are many ways to do this. One way is to simply use the size of your hand to gauge portion sizes. For example, one serving of protein is the size of the palm of your hand. In addition, women should have one serving of protein with each meal, while men should have two.

I use containers that come in different sizes and colors for proteins, fruits, vegetables, carbohydrates, fats, and seeds and dressings. This blog post explains how many containers of food to eat each day.

A third option is to limit your portions by using smaller plates. However you decide to do it, limiting your food intake will help you to lose weight, be healthier, and live longer.

2. Limit Your Yearly Goals

In my post, The Garden as A Metaphor For Life – 10 Life Lessons From Gardening, I explain how you need to prioritize when it comes time to decide what to plant in your garden.

After all, you can’t possibly grow pumpkins, watermelons, cucumbers, lavender, roses, tomatoes, sweet peppers, spinach, snow peas, red cabbage, chrysanthemums, pansies, hydrangeas, and so on, all at the same time.

In much the same way, you can’t achieve all of your life goals at once. Instead, you need to choose a few life goals to work on each year. That is, limit your New Years’ Resolutions, or yearly goals, to 5 or 7.

If you try to work on too many goals at the same time, you won’t be able to give any of them the time, energy, and attention that they need. This means that you won’t make any real progress on any of them.

Look at the two situations below:

  • Ann sets 10 goals at the start of the year and spends the next 12 months trying to move all of them forward. They’re ambitious goals, ranging from learning French to writing a novel. By the 31st of December she’s made a little progress with each goal, but she hasn’t succeeded in achieving any of them.
  • Billy sets 5 goals at the start of the year: to spend more time with his family; to start a blog; to lose 15 pounds; to travel with his family to Spain for summer vacation; and to run a 10K. By the end of the year he’s accomplished all of them.

By limiting the number of goals that you work on in any given year, you’ll make it much more likely that you’ll be able to achieve your goals.

3. Limit Yourself to One Important Thing for the Day

For each day you should identify one important thing that you’re going to achieve that day. That is, your highest priority for the day. It could be something like the following:

  • Write a 1500-word blog post;
  • Create a 10-minute video;
  • Prepare the slides for the presentation for the Board of Directors;
  • Learn to conjugate French “er” verbs in the present tense; and so on.

Try to get your most important thing done first thing in the morning—start each day by eating a live frog. That way, even if your plans for the rest of the day go astray, at least you’ll have gotten the most important thing done. Imagine a whole year in which you got one high priority item done each day!

4. Limit Your To-Do List to Important Tasks

We’re all familiar with Stephen Covey’s time management matrix. The matrix uses four different quadrants to help you determine the priority of a task. In turn, the four quadrants are organized by importance and urgency. Here’s the matrix:

time management matrix

As you can see, the items in the top two quadrants are important, while the items in the bottom two quadrants are not. You should try to limit the tasks that you include in your to-do list for each day to those that fall into one of the top two quadrants.

Avoid tasks that fall into the Quadrant of Deception, and eliminate the tasks that fall into the Quadrant of Waste.

5. Limit the Amount of Time You Allot to Each Task

Once you have your to-do list ready for the day, calculate the amount of time that you’re going to need to complete each task.

Then, when you’re working on the task, make sure that you don’t exceed the time that you’ve set aside for it. After all, as the famous Parkinson’s Law states, work expands to fit the amount of time that is allotted to it.

This limit will do two things for you:

  • It will help you to focus on the task at hand since you know it has to be completed within a specific time frame.
  • It helps you to deal with perfectionism. Your goal isn’t to produce something perfect, but to do the best that you can within the time that you have available.

6. Limit the Items You Add to Your Schedule

When you’ve assigned a time limit to each task on your to-do list, add the tasks to your schedule. That way, you’ll know when to work on what task.

As an added benefit, having a full schedule will help you to limit your to-do list. After all, if a new task comes in during the day—unless it’s something really urgent—you’ll have to set it aside to be done on another day because your schedule is already full.

7. Limit Yourself to Working on the Task at Hand

There are some instances in which you can multitask. For example, you can listen to an audiotape while you go for a run, you can cook dinner while you do the laundry (which is what I’m going to do as soon as I finish this blog post), or you can answer the phone while responding to a run-of-the-mill email.

However, for tasks that require deep, uninterrupted thought, you need to unitask. That is, you need to limit yourself to working on the task at hand to the exclusion of everything else.

8. Limit Your Work Hours

Limit the amount of time that you spend working.  There’s a correlation between working hours and output. With higher work hours, labor output falls. Knowing that there’s a cap on your work hours will make you more productive and it will help you to stave off procrastination.

In addition, working too many hours has been linked to all of the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Relationship problems
  • Health risks
  • Weight gain

While a lot of people think that the more that you work the more you’ll be able  to get done—I used to be one of those people—this is simply not the case. To do more, limit the number of hours that you work.

9. Limit Your Belongings

A few years back I considered renting a storage unit. Then, thankfully, I came to my senses and started decluttering instead. One way to limit your belongings is to choose a specific quantity that you’re going to limit yourself to for each category of items that you own.

For example, I only allow myself to own one perfume at a time. I choose the perfume that I’m going to buy very carefully, and then I stick to it until the bottle is empty. At that point I decide whether to try a different perfume or buy another bottle of the same one.

The only category of items I haven’t been able to stick to a limit for is books. 🙂


In order to achieve your goals, set limits. You can get started by setting the 9 limits I’ve explained above.  Live your best life by setting limits.


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gardening as a life metaphor

A garden is a great metaphor for life.

I love gardens. Although I currently live in an apartment building, I grew up in a house—in Costa Rica–that was surrounded by a large garden. The garden had mango trees, blackberry shrubs, rows of corn stalks, a lemon tree, and all kinds of flowers. In addition, my father had hired a landscape architect who had created a tiny creek complete with a waterfall and a small pond.

onehouradayformula banner longI spent many hours out in that garden, climbing trees, picking fruit, playing with my brother and sister, lying on the grass, hiding when I had misbehaved, and chasing our German Shepherd dogs around. Today I was thinking about that garden and it occurred to me that gardening is a great metaphor for life. After all, nature is a great teacher and there are many life lessons that can be learned by spending time out in the natural world.

I sat down to write and came up with this post on the garden as a metaphor for life. Below you’ll find 10 life lessons you can learn from gardening.

1. Have a Vision for Your Garden.

When you’re going to plant a garden you have to create a vision for it. You don’t just grab whatever seeds you can get your hands on, throw them around willy-nilly, and hope for the best. Instead, you have to ask yourself what type of garden you want, the purpose you want your garden to serve, what you want to grow in your garden, and how you want your garden laid out.

Just as you should have a vision for your garden, you should have a vision for your life. What kind of life do you want to have? What’s your life’s mission? What do you want to achieve? What do you want to do, have, and experience?

Imagine walking out your back door into a garden that doesn’t look anything like your dream garden. Maybe it’s overgrown, it’s decorated with garden paraphernalia you can’t stand to look at, it has no fruits or vegetables, and you can only find one or two of your favorite flowers. That’s what your life will look like if you don’t create a vision for it.

2. You Need to Prioritize.

When you’re planning your garden you can start by creating a wish list of everything you want to grow there: tomatoes; geraniums; pumpkins, watermelons, strawberries, green beans, sweet corn, cucumbers, forget-me-not flowers, zucchini, sunflowers, and on and on.

However, you then need to trim down your list to the plants that you feel are the most important for you to grow. Keep in mind that your garden is a limited space, and you can’t possibly grow everything at once. If you try, you’ll end up with a huge mess that will soon be unmanageable.

In much the same way, when you’re planning your dream life you can start out by creating a list of everything you want to do. Then, you need to prioritize your list and get to work on the things you want most. After all, you can’t train for a marathon, learn to play an instrument, start a business, and write a novel all at once.

Plant the seeds that will bear the fruit that are most important to you. Then, the next year–if you wish–, you can try planting different seeds. You just can’t plant too many things at the same time.

3. You Need Good Soil.

Whatever it is that you decide to plant in your garden, it won’t grow well unless you have healthy soil. A gardener spends a lot of time, energy, and expense to improve the soil of their garden and create a strong, rich, durable soil.

They do this by adding compost, manure, and other nutrients to the soil in order to create an environment that is conducive to vibrant growth. Creating a truly great soil can take years. But by laying down this strong foundation it will be much more likely that the garden will yield a beautiful, strong crop.

In the same way, you need to build a strong foundation for your dreams. You achieve this by doing the following:

  • Getting the education that you need and learning the skills that will allow you to achieve your goals.
  • Creating spatial order – decluttering and getting organized.
  • Getting your financial life in order – creating and following a budget, getting out of debt, and starting an emergency fund.
  • Creating cornerstone habits: exercising, eating clean, getting enough sleep, and meditating.

When you’ve made your soil fertile—when you’ve laid out a strong foundation for your dreams–you can dramatically improve its productivity.

4. You Reap What You Sow.

Gardeners know that they reap what they sow. If they want tomatoes, they plant tomato seeds. They don’t plant hemlock seeds and then wonder why there’s a poisonous plant growing in their garden instead of delicious, bright red tomatoes.

Many people take a look at their lives, they don’t like what they see, and they wonder what went wrong. The answer is that they planted the wrong seeds. Look at the following:

  • Instead of eating well and exercising, they overate and watched too much TV.
  • Instead of spending time bonding with their spouse, they spent too many hours at the office.
  • Instead of saving and investing their money, they bought things they didn’t need to impress other people.

When I was in law school I had a friend who came from a very humble background. Nonetheless, he was very bright, he was studious, and he was constantly looking for ways to better himself. That’s how he had made his way into one of the top law schools in the United States. His brother, on the other hand, was a high school drop-out who was always looking for an easy way out.

Today my friend is a highly successful lawyer, while his brother has been in trouble with the law a few times and can barely make ends meet. It’s clear that since each brother planted different seeds, they each got very different results.

Ask yourself what you want, and then make sure that you’re planting the seeds that will get you those results.

5. Assess Your Garden’s Conditions.

Different plants need different environments to thrive. How well a plant will do in your garden depends on many different factors, including the following:

  • Climate and temperature.
  • Amount of sunlight.
  • Amount of water.
  • The pH levels of the soil – how acid or alkaline the soil is.
  • Exposure to wind.
  • The other plants and animals in the environment.

In life, when you set goals you need to take into account things such as the following:

  • Your strengths.
  • Your weaknesses.
  • Your likes and dislikes.
  • Your character and temperament.
  • The people who surround you.

Depending on what these factors are, some goals will be much easier for you to achieve than others. So make sure that you choose goals that are a good fit for you.

In addition, the environment that you find yourself in will have an enormous impact on whether or not you’ll be able to achieve your goals. I recently read an anecdote about a woman who had gorgeous yellow Texas climbing roses that grew up along a fence. Her neighbors had a young pine tree.

One year the pine tree had grown large enough to cast a shadow over the roses for most of the day. As a result, the roses withered and died. The woman spent three or four summers trying to salvage the roses, to no avail. The circumstances in her garden were now such that roses couldn’t possibly thrive there, no matter what she did.

This anecdote made me think of the time that I spent working at the Panama Canal Authority—the Panamanian government agency that runs the Panama Canal. It’s an incredibly bureaucratic entity, but I simply didn’t fully comprehend that while I was there.

I would work overtime; take responsibility for projects that were not part of my position description; take the courses—on my own time—that were important to management; try to institute change; and so on. In the end, I had nothing to show for my efforts. The environment I was in was simply not conducive to change or improvement.

When setting your goals, take inventory of who you are, and analyze the environment and the circumstances you find yourself in.

6. Build a Fence Around Your Garden.

If you want a pest-free garden, you need to build a fence around it.  The last thing you want is to look out at your garden and spot a furry creature munching away at your carefully planted crops. In much the same way, you should build a fence around your goals. That is, set boundaries.

Here’s what you should do:

  • Keep naysayers and toxic people at arm’s length.
  • Say “no” to unwanted commitments.
  • Block out time to work on your goals and refuse to allow interruptions or distractions to take your attention away from the task at hand.

7. A Garden Needs Constant Tending.

After you’ve prepared your soil and planted your seeds, there’s still lots of work to do in your garden. A garden requires constant care and attention. You need to do all of the following:

  • Set a watering schedule.
  • Pull weeds regularly, or crabgrass and all kinds of unwelcome weeds will sprout up.
  • Prune trees, shrubs, and bushes—cut away dead or overgrown branches or stems.
  • Add fertilizer.
  • Check to see how the plants are growing and take corrective action if necessary.

Just as a garden needs constant tending, so do your goals and dreams. Make sure that you take the action necessary to achieve your goals on a continuous basis. It’s the only way you’ll get your goals to bear fruit.

As an example, suppose that your goal is to write a novel. You have to do all of the following:

  • Set a writing schedule and stick to it.
  • Beware of “weeds” such as mindless internet surfing and other forms of procrastination; self-doubt; perfectionism; and so on. When you come across one of these weeds, immediately pull it out.
  • Prune away tasks and projects that are not as important to you as writing a novel.
  • If you need some inspiration, read a book on writing or read writing quotes.
  • Ask someone you trust to read each chapter as you finish it and give you constructive feedback that you can apply to make your novel even better.

Devote one-hour-a-day to tending your most important goal so that it can grow nice and strong.

8. Have Patience and Trust the Process.

There’s a quote by John Wenger that states, “You can’t pull on the plants and expect them to grow faster.” That is, you can’t force a seed to grow faster than nature intended it to, and you can’t make trees bear fruit on demand.

All you can do is create the best possible conditions in your garden, plant the right seeds, and give those seeds the care and attention they need. Then, trust that nature will take care of the rest.

When it comes to your goals, you also have to be patient and trust the process. Maybe you want your blog to have 10,000 subscribers; or you want your business to generate a million dollars in sales; or there’s a particular award that you want to win. You can’t force these things to happen.

All you can do is take the action that is most likely to produce the results that you want, and then patiently await the results.

9. Learn to Deal with Things Outside of Your Control

Gardeners know that sometimes it doesn’t rain as much as it should, so the plants don’t get the amount of water that they need and their growth is stunted or they die. Or it rains too much and the roots drown. In addition, there are many other things which are not within their control that can damage the garden—the climate, diseases, a bug infestation, and so on.

In much the same way, as you’re working on your goals it’s almost certain that you’ll run into obstacles and that you’ll suffer some unforeseen setbacks. That’s just the way it is. Be flexible and look for ways to keep moving forward.

10. Reap Your Harvest.

After all your hard work, your garden should start producing a bountiful crop, ready to be picked. Similarly, if properly executed, a good life plan will produce bountiful rewards: you’ll have a career you love, financial security, good relationships, fond memories of trips and adventures, and so on.

On the other hand, if the harvest wasn’t as bountiful as you would have liked it to be, or if some plants failed to bear fruit, analyze went wrong. Then, come up with a different strategy and try again!


So, what do you want your garden to look like? What seeds will you plant? What steps will you take to tend your garden? Live your best life by being a good life gardener.


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happy brain

Imagine waking up every morning with an indefinable feeling of happiness and contentment.

onehouradayformula banner longHarvard-trained positive psychologist Shawn Achor–author of the New York Times bestseller “The Happiness Advantage“–has made a career out of studying the science of happiness. His TED talk on happiness is one of the most popular of all time with over 13 million views. Achor argues that, as a society, our focus is on productivity, and we’ve ignored happiness and meaning. And we’ve done this to our detriment. After all,  studies show that having a happy brain gives us a competitive advantage at work, and in life.

Here are some of these advantages:

  • When the human brain is positive, intelligence rises. This is because we stop diverting resources to worry and to feeling anxious.
  • Happiness triples our creativity.
  • When we’re happy our productive energy rises by 31 percent.
  • Being happy makes you more effective — happy workers make less errors than their unhappy counterparts.

Achor explains that the traditional formula of “I’ll strive to be successful so that I can be happy once I’ve achieved my goals” is wrong. Instead, you have to flip it around. Invest in becoming happy now, so that you can be successful in the future.

In order to help his students and clients apply the principles that he teaches, Achor set out to identify small, simple habits that can be done every day that will increase happiness levels. He uncovered six habits that can be done by anyone–regardless of age–in order to rewire their brain for happiness.

Below you’ll find Achor’s six happiness habits, as well as a method that I developed for making sure that you follow through on the six habits.

The Six Habits that Will Rewire Your Brain For Happiness

Here are the six habits that Achor came up with:

1. Gratitude List.

Every night, spend two minutes writing down three things you’re grateful for that occurred during the last 24 hours. It doesn’t have to be anything profound, but it does have to be specific. For instance, instead of being grateful for your child, be grateful for the big smile and sticky hug that your child gave you that morning.

Due to your brain’s innate negativity bias, you’re usually scanning the environment for threats. However, when your brain knows that it has to come up with three things to be grateful for each night, it will start to do the opposite. It will start scanning the environment for positives.

This brings your brain into better balance. It also retrains your brain so that it will start seeing more possibilities.

Keep in mind that you shouldn’t write down the same three things every night. You want to get your brain to scan the world and notice new things to be happy about. Therefore, make it a rule not to repeat something you’ve already written about.

2. The Doubler.

Take one positive experience from the past 24 hours and spend two minutes writing about the experience. Aim to write down at least four details about the experience.

This is helpful because when you take a moment to remember a positive experience, your brain labels it as meaningful, which deepens the imprint. In addition, it allows you to relive the positive experience–along with the positive feelings that came with it (hence the name, the doubler).

3. The Fun Fifteen.

The effects of daily cardio can be as effective as taking an antidepressant. Hence, one of the six happiness habits is to engage in 15 minutes of a fun cardio activity every day. This includes activities such as gardening, rebounding on a mini-trampoline, and briskly walking your dog.

Achor adds that your brain records exercise as a victory, and this feeling of accomplishment transfers to other tasks throughout the day. It also teaches your brain to believe, “My behavior matters”, which also enhances happiness.

4. Meditation.

Every day take two minutes to stop whatever you’re doing and concentrate on your breathing. Just focus on your breath moving in and out. Even a short mindful break can lower stress and result in a calmer, happier you.

When Achor got Google employees to stop what they were doing for two minutes a day and just focus on their breath, here’s what happened 21 days later:

  • Their accuracy rates improved by 10%;
  • Their levels of happiness rose; and
  • Their engagement scores rose significantly.

Meditation will rewire your brain and allow it to work more optimistically and successfully.

5. Conscious Act of Kindness.

Being kind to others feels good, and carrying out an act of kindness each day is a great happiness booster.

Achor recommends that at the start of every day you send a short email or text praising someone you know. An added bonus is that it’s very likely that the other person will respond with an appreciate comment about you.

Nonetheless, your act of kindness can be anything:

  • Hold the elevator door open for someone.
  • When you go on a coffee run ask a co-worker if you can get a coffee for him as well.
  • Let someone who seems to be in a hurry cut ahead of you in line.

Even something small and simple like giving someone a smile works.

6. Deepen Social Connections.

Our social connections affect our success and health, and even our life expectancy. In addition, having a feeling of social support is vital for happiness.  In fact, Achor’s studies show that social connection is the greatest predictor of happiness.

Have some contact with family and friends each day, even if it’s just calling them to chat for two or three minutes, or texting them to meet up for brunch on Sunday.

The Happiness Journal (Free)

Achor explains that if you follow the six habits explained above daily, for 21 days, you’ll be transformed from a pessimist to an optimist. In addition, within 30 days, following these habits will change the neuropathways of your brain and turn you into a lifelong optimist. That’s quite an assertion.

Let’s try it and see if it works, shall we? How? By filling out the Happiness Journal that I’ve created based on Achor’s six habits. I’m going to share it with you, because I’m just that awesome. 🙂 The journal will allow you to record your practice of the six happiness habits for thirty days.

Here’s what the journal contains:

  • A cover page.
  • An instructions page — basically, what you already read above.
  • Thirty journal pages — write down the date at the top of each page and read the happiness quote for the day.  Then, write down three things you’re grateful for, a positive experience for the day, and your act of kindess for the day. At the bottom of the page there’s space for you to check off if you exercised, meditated, and connected with someone.

Here’s what each journal page looks like:

happiness journal

You can download the Happiness Journal, for free, here. And if you’re not currently subscribed to Daring to Live Fully, you can subscribe by clicking here.


Go ahead and rate your current happiness level on a scale from 1 to 10. Then, download the Happiness Journal, print it out, and spend the next 30 days filling it out. At the end of that time, rate your happiness level again.

Did your happiness level go up? If all the scientific data collected by Achor is correct, your answer will a resounding “Yes!”.

Live your best life by adopting the six happiness habits explained above.


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