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You can’t increase the number of hours there are in a day, but you can increase the amount of energy you have.

Time is the resource we most often turn to in order to meet the demands of life. As an illustration, if your workload increases, your response is probably to put in more hours. However, there comes a point at which you can’t put in more hours because time is a finite resource.

The good news is that there’s a different resource you can turn to, and that resource is energy. Energy can be systematically expanded, and it can be regularly renewed.

Tony Schwartz and Jim Loehr explain in their book The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal that in order to be more effective throughout the day you need to start thinking about your energy instead of your time.

onehouradayformula banner longEnergy is your capacity to do work.  If you build the reservoir of energy that you have available to you–that is, if you put more fuel in your tank–, then you’ll have increased capacity. In addition, by creating rituals which regularly replenish your energy, you’ll be systematically refilling your tank and increasing your resilience.

Continue reading below to discover how to manage your energy to get more done.

The Four Sources of Energy

We need four sources of energy in order to be able to perform at our best: physical energy, emotional energy, mental energy, and spiritual energy.  Here’s an explanation of each:

Physical Energy

Physical capacity is the foundation on which everything else rests. If you don’t have enough physical energy it’s going to influence your ability to focus your attention, your ability to manage your emotions under pressure, and so on. Physical energy is about the quantity of energy that you have available to you.

Physical capacity has four components:

  1. Nutrition
  2. Fitness
  3. Sleep
  4. Recovery or Renewal (daytime equivalent of sleep)

Emotional Energy

Emotional energy is about how you feel, which dramatically influences how well you perform, how well you lead, and how well you interact with others. Emotional energy is about the quality of your energy.

In order to be fully engaged in an activity–that is, in order to be able to concentrate your energy completely on the task at hand–, you need to quiet your mind chatter and release negative emotions.

Mental Energy

Mental energy is about the focus of your attention. We do our most effective work when we focus on one thing at a time.

However, Shwartz explains that the average person in an organization in the U.S. stays on task for 11 minutes before moving on to another task. And it gets worse: during those 11 minutes they interrupt themselves with something else an average of every three minutes.

When we temporarily shift our attention from one task to another, it increases the amount of time necessary to finish the primary task by as much as 25%. This is known as the “switching time” phenomenon.

You can increase your mental energy by learning how to focus your attention.

Spiritual Energy

Spiritual energy is the energy derived from the sense of living on purpose, and from an alignment of how you say you want to live your life and how you actually live. The better that alignment, the more powerful the source of energy available to you. 

For example, if you say that your family is very important to you but you hardly spend any time with them, then your spiritual energy is going to be misaligned. Spiritual energy  is the “why” energy.

Audit Your Energy

This a test created by Tony Shwartz to help you audit your energy. For each statement below answer “true” or “false”. The statements for which you answer “true” are the ones you need to work on.

  1. I don’t regularly get 7 to 8 hours of sleep and I often wake up feeling tired.
  2. I frequently skip breakfast, or I settle for something that isn’t particularly healthy.
  3. I don’t work out enough, meaning cardiovascular training at least 3 times a week and strength training at least once a week.
  4. I don’t take regular breaks during the day to renew and recharge, and I often eat lunch at my desk.
  5. I frequently find myself feeling irritable, impatient or anxious at work, especially when demand is high.
  6. I don’t have enough time for my friends and family, and when I’m with them, I’m rarely “with them”.
  7. I take too little time for the activities that I most deeply enjoy.
  8. I rarely stop to express my appreciation to others, or to savor and celebrate my accomplishments and blessings.
  9. I have difficulty focusing on one thing at a time and I’m easily distracted during my day, especially by email.
  10. I spend much of my time reacting to immediate demands, rather than focusing on activities with long-term value and higher leverage.
  11. I don’t take enough time for reflection, strategizing and thinking creatively.
  12. I work in the evenings and/or the weekends and I rarely take a vacation free of work.
  13. I spend too little time at work doing what I do best and enjoy the most.
  14. There are significant gaps between what I say is important in my life and how I actually live.
  15. My decisions at work are more often influenced by external demands than by a strong, clear sense of my own purpose.
  16. I don’t invest enough time or energy in making a positive difference to others or in the world.

The Importance of Renewal

At night you go through the Basic Rest Activity Cycle. All through the night, over periods of 90 to 120 minutes, you move from a light stage of sleep (REM), down into deep delta sleep. A similar cycle exists during the day.

Human beings are rhythmic, and we’re designed to balance energy expenditure with intermittent energy renewal if we’re going to sustain energy at the highest level. When we’re awake, every 90 to 120 minutes we move from a high state of physiological arousal, slowly down into a physiological drop.

At the point of the drop your body is screaming at you: “Give me a break.” However, instead of taking a break, you probably reach for a diet coke or a cup of coffee and keep going. You also override your body’s need for a break with cortisol and adrenaline, the body’s own speed.

What you should do is build a rhythm throughout the day so that when you’re working you’re truly engaged, and after a period of  intense activity you take a break for renewal.

Energy renewal is vital if you want to sustain your energy at a high level. This is something Tony and his research team learned from athletes: they consistently found that athletes performed best when they respected the work-rest ratio.

Some of the things you can do during your renewal breaks are the following

  • Sit back in your chair and listen to music on your iPod.
  • Get up and walk up and down the stairs or take a short walk outside.
  • Do some stretching exercises.
  • Talk to a colleague about something other than work.

You don’t want to be a marathon runner. Marathon runners pace themselves instead of giving the race their all, because they know that they have a long race out ahead of them with no breaks in sight. They can’t push themselves to their full capacity because sooner or later they’d drop like a stone.

What you want is to be a sprinter. The sprinter brings 100 percent engagement to the 100, 200, 300, or 400 yards in front of them. There’s a finish line. They know they’re going to give it their all for a finite period of time, and then stop and recover.

Schwartz argues that most of us have lost the finish lines in our lives. We just keep going and going. However, it’s vital that we set stopping points for renewal or we’re going to burnout.

Build Positive Rituals

Tony explains in The Power of Full Engagement that in order to manage energy optimally, we have to build positive rituals into our lives. These positive rituals are highly specific behaviors that become automatic over time.

Relying on our pre-frontal cortex to adopt new behaviors–that is, relying on our will power–is not the best way to make changes. What we need to do instead is enlist the help of our automatic nervous system.  We need to get help from the part of our physiology that gets things done automatically.

How can we do this? By training ourselves through regular repetition. The idea is to get ourselves to act without having to think about it.

Look back at the energy audit that you took above to gather clues as to the behaviors that you need to turn into rituals in order to incorporate them permanently into your life. For example, you might realize that you need to start doing the following:

  • Start eating a healthy brekfast every morning instead of grabbing a coffee and donut on the run.
  • Begin a walking regime.
  • Set some time aside to plan your week every Sunday night.


Let’s imagine that there’s an important project that you need to work on. Look at the following two scenarions:

In the first scenario, you got little sleep the night before so you’re tire. While you’re working on the project you keep switching over to other tasks, such as checking your email. In addition, you keep thinking about the fight you had last night with your spouse. You keep working past the point of exhaustion and keep refueling with coffee.

In the second scenario, you got a good night’s sleep the night before. You get to work on the project before tackling anything else, you focus on it completely without allowing yourself to get distracted, and you take regular breaks to renew your energy.

In which of the two scenarios do you think you will get more done? Clearly, it’s the second one. Getting more done is not about investing more time; it’s about the proper management of your energy.

Did you take the energy audit? What do you need to work on? What behaviors are you going to turn into rituals?

Live your best life by learning to manage your energy.


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learning how to learn

The ability to learn faster than others will give you a competitive edge in the 21st century economy.

I write a lot about how to learn on this blog. That’s because acquiring this meta-skill is one of the best ways to leverage up your life. I take MOOCs on the best way to learn; I read books on the most effective ways to study and acquire skills; and I read blogs by experts on the topic. And, of course, I apply what I learn.

Here are five skills I’ve taught myself quickly and efficiently by learning how to learn:

  • Weightlifting
  • French
  • Piano
  • Drawing
  • Coding (in Python)

onehouradayformula banner longHow did I learn these skills? I took all the knowledge that I gathered while researching how to learn skills faster and more efficiently, and I created a learning system. I then tried out the learning system by learning weightlifting. The next step was to tweak and perfect the system by learning to code. Finally, I fine-tuned the system by learning French, piano, and drawing. Now I’m ready to share my system with you in a course titled: “Learn Any Skill Faster and Better: How to Learn to Code, Play the Piano, Lift Weights, Speak French, Draw, Or Anything Else”.

In the meantime, here are 10 ways in which learning how to learn will radically transform your life.

1. Learning How to Learn Will Allow You to Stay Current In Your Field.

You’ve probably heard it a thousand times before: the only constant is change. This adage applies to the modern world more than ever before. As business rules change, economic conditions shift, and new technologies make old ones obsolete, workplaces are being transformed faster the ever before.

Because success, and even survival, in today’s world requires constant growth and learning, lifelong learning must become a way of life for most of us. We need to be able to learn as rapidly as society progresses. By learning how to learn you’ll be able to keep abreast of changes in your field and ensure that your knowledge doesn’t become outdated.

2. You’ll Have the Flexibility to Change Careers.

Most people will change careers at least a few times throughout their lifetimes. This could be for a variety of reasons, such as the following:

  • Most people choose the profession that they’ll follow when they’re entering college at the age of 17 or 18, which is very young. A lot of people graduate from college and then discover later on that they chose the wrong career.
  • Automation is displacing a lot of workers.
  • For some people, one career for an entire lifetime is not enough. This is especially true now that—due to medical advances—people are living longer.
  • People who feel that they’re not making enough money may want to shift to a more lucrative career.

Changing careers means you’ll need to acquire new skills. If you know how to learn, you’ll be much more likely to succeed in your attempts to enter a new profession.

In addition, by being able to demonstrate that you know how to learn, you’ll make yourself more employable. Here’s a quote from an article published in the Harvard Business Review, which was written by Tomas Chamorro Premuzic:

“Unsurprisingly, there is now big demand for employees who can demonstrate high levels of “learnability,” the desire and ability to quickly grow and adapt one’s skill set to remain employable throughout their working life.”

Add the skill of “knowing how to learn” to your resume and include a link to your online portfolio in which you showcase evidence of your learnability. That’s guaranteed to make you shine at your next job interview.

3. Learning How to Learn Will Give You the Smarts Necessary to Achieve Your Goals.

We all know the acronym for goal achievement:

  • S – Specific
  • M – Measurable
  • A – Attainable
  • R – Relevant
  • T – Timely

I propose a new acronym: SMARTS. And what is the last “S” for? You guessed it: Skills!

One of the most important steps in planning how you will achieve a goal is to identify the skills that you’ll need in order to achieve that goal. As an illustration, if you want to start a blog that will earn you a side income, here are some of the skills that you’ll need to learn:

  • Learn how to write for the web.
  • Learn how to optimize your blog posts so that they’ll be found by the search engines.
  • Learn how to use social media.
  • Learn how to monetize your blog.

It will easier for you to learn these skills, and launch a successful blog, if you know how to learn. (Think of the blog you’re reading right now – I taught myself all the skills I needed to create this blog.)

Here’s a phrase you can use to remember this new acronym:

“To succeed you need to develop the SMARTS necessary to achieve your goals. You do this by learning how to learn.” – Marelisa Fábrega

learning how to learn

4. Learning How to Learn May Help You Slow Down Cognitive Decline.

A while back I read a study comparing levels of education obtained early in life with cognitive decline in old age. Researchers had concluded that those who had obtained a lot of education had built up a brain reserve which helped to slow down the harmful effects of cognitive decline that can occur later in life. This was good news for me because I have a lot of schooling.

However, new research shows that this may not be the case. Higher education can help to build more robust networks of cells, which seems to provide some protection against getting dementia.

But once the cognitive decline starts, that advantage disappears. This is probably because education occurs early on in life, and its effects may have worn off by the time a person hits old age.

The good news is that keeping the brain active by learning new skills—such as learning to speak a new language, learning to play a musical instrument, or learning new computer skills–can slow down rates of cognitive problems in a person’s later years.

I, for one, have chosen to learn to play the piano, and I’m going to share with you a quote on acquiring the skill of playing a musical instrument as an adult:

“Musical training seems to have a beneficial impact at whatever age you start. It contains all the components of a cognitive training program that sometimes are overlooked, and just as we work out our bodies, we should work out our minds.”

To help keep dementia at bay, learn new skills. Of course, you’ll be more likely to take on the challenge of learning new skills if you know how to learn.

5. Foster the Growth of New Brain Cells.

Although it was once believed that people are born with all the brain cells they’ll ever have, scientists have discovered that people can grow new brain cells throughout their entire life. The process is called neurogenesis. I wrote all about it in my post on how to grow new brain cells.

However, as I explain in that post, just because you’re growing new brain cells doesn’t necessarily mean those new brain cells will survive. You can help ensure that those brain cells stay alive by engaging in learning that requires effort.

One way to do this is by learning a complex skill, such as learning to play tennis, or learning to dance. And, once again, if you know how to learn you’ll be much more likely to try your hand at learning these complex skills.

6. It Will Help You Improve Your Health.

Everyone wants to be healthy, but a lot of people fail in their attempts to lead a healthy lifestyle. One of the main reasons why this happens is because most people don’t possess the skills that are necessary in order to maintain health. This includes skills such as the following:

  • Designing weekly menus that are healthy and balanced (as well as delicious).
  • Cooking healthy meals.
  • Using the workout equipment at the gym.
  • Performing flexibility and mobility exercises.

Learning these skills will go a long way toward the improvement of your health. One of the skills I chose to teach myself by following my learning system is weightlifting. I can already see and feel that I’m getting great results.

7. Learning How to Learn Will Allow You to Have More Fun!

One of the skills I decided to teach myself is drawing. Why? Because I wanted to be able to create something beautiful with my hands, have a creativity outlet, and find a way to de-stress. Drawing has done all of that for me.

What have you seen others doing that’s made you think: “That looks like fun! I wish I could do that.” Get out there and learn how to do it. Start by learning how to learn.

learning how to learn

8. You’ll Gain the Tools You Need to Become An Expert.

A while ago I wrote a blog post on how to become an expert. An expert is someone who has comprehensive and authoritative knowledge in a particular area, or of a specific skill. Being an expert comes with many benefits, such as the following:

  • People are more likely to trust experts.
  • Media outlets are constantly looking for experts they can interview.
  • Experts can charge more money for their services.
  • When someone is an expert, they can build a loyal customer base which will last for years and years.
  • Experts use more effective problem-solving strategies in their areas of expertise—that is, they’re better at solving problems that fall within their domain.
  • Being an expert will give you access to other experts.
  • In order to be able to innovate in your field, you need to have a lot of knowledge about your subject matter. The more expertise you have in an area, the more you know about that area.

In order to become an expert, you have to be really good at learning whatever it is that you want to be an expert in. That is, you have to know how to learn quickly and efficiently so that you can become an expert, and so that you can stay at the top of your field once you’re there.

The first step in becoming an expert is learning how to learn.

9. Learning How to Learn Will Make You Happier.

We all want to be happier. And learning new skills will help you with that. After all, learning is a core need for psychological wellbeing.

When you learn something new you do all of the following:

  • Increase your sense of self-efficacy.
  • Boost your self-confidence.
  • Feel that you’re in control of your life.
  • Your life will feel more meaningful when you learn skills that help to create a sense of purpose in your life.

All of these, in turn, will make you happier.

10. By Learning How to Learn You’ll Be Able to Reinvent Yourself.

Every so often we should all reinvent ourselves. As Bob Dylan says in a song: “If you’re not busy being born, you’re busy dying.”

One of the best ways to reinvent yourself is to learn a new skill. After all, every time you learn a new skill you become a slightly different person. Look at the following:

  • A person who knows how to code in Python and can immediately get to work implementing their ideas is not the same as someone who’s not even sure what the print function is.
  • Someone who knows proper squatting technique is not the same as someone who only uses the Smith Machines because they’re intimidated by the barbells.
  • A person who can sit down at the piano at a party and play a few songs is not the same as someone who has never played a chord in their life.

By learning new skills, you can reinvent yourself in any of the following ways:

  • Go from struggling to make ends meet to financial independence.
  • Go from a job that pays the bills to a career you love.
  • Go from having low self-esteem to having high self-confidence.
  • Go from seeing only obstacles to noticing opportunities.
  • Go from being overweight and out of shape to being thin and fit.
  • Go from being fearful to having faith.
  • Go from victimhood to empowerment.

The first step is to learn how to learn.


Learning shouldn’t stop when you leave school. It should be a life-long endeavor. I hope the ten reasons I gave you above for learning how to learn will encourage to acquire this vital meta-skill.

Live your best life by learning how to learn.


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Sometimes the best way forward isn’t by leaps and bounds, but by taking micro-steps.

What comes to mind when you hear the word “micro”? Probably the following: extremely small; minute quantities or variations; or tiny. Micro-steps are exactly what the name implies:

“Micro-steps are minute actions that move you a little bit closer toward the achievement of your goals. Their power lies in their simplicity and painlessness. They require little effort, are utterly undaunting, and offer few hurdles–psychological or otherwise.” — Marelisa Fábrega

In this post I’m going to explain to you how micro-steps can help you to achieve even your boldest and most audacious goals.

How to Harness the Power of Micro-Steps

When trying to achieve your goals, you’ve probably faced the following challenges:

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  • A lack of time.
  • Your willpower fails you.
  • That pesky inner critic keeps sabotaging your efforts.
  • You just can’t get started, no matter how hard you try.
  • Money is an issue.
  • You find yourself in the grips of procrastination.
  • The motivation that you need to get started is nowhere to be found.

All of these challenges can be overcome by taking micro-steps. The way to take micro-steps is to choose one of the following (or combine two or more of them):

  • Make your goals exceedingly doable by setting micro-goals.
  • Set money aside for your goals by microsaving.
  • Make progress on your goals with micro-progressions.
  • Build the habits that are necessary to achieve your goals by adopting micro-habits.

There’s more on each of these below.

Set Micro-Goals

The first way to use the power of micro-steps to your advantage is by setting micro-goals. You’ve probably heard about BHAGs — Big Hairy Audacious Goals. This is a term that was coined by James Collins and Jerry Porras. Although I’m a big proponent of setting BHAGs, trying to achieve a BHAG is hard–because they’re big, and they’re hairy.

That’s where micro-goals come in. Here are the benefits of setting micro-goals:

  • Because micro-goals are so small, they’re–by definition–realistic.
  • You can easily get yourself to believe that you can achieve a micro-goal. As an illustration, it may be hard for you to believe that you can make a full-time living online, but you can probably get yourself to believe that you can make $1 online.
  • Each time you achieve a micro-goal, you feel like you’re making progress. That motivates you to pursue the next micro-goal, and then the next, and then the next. In time, those micro-goals will add up and you’ll have achieved one of your important life goals (one of your BHAGs).
  • You’ll be happier if you set micro-goals. Harvard Business Review researchers found that taking small steps allows you to experience a sense of progress more frequently, and this has been linked to greater happiness.

How to Set Micro-Goals

How do you set micro-goals? Easy: choose one of your important life goals and break it down into the tiniest goals you can think of. Here are three examples:

  • Do you want to lose 30 pounds? Start off by setting the micro-goal of losing one pound. One, little, measly pound.
  • What if you currently wake up at 8:00 a.m. but you want to join the 5 AM Club? Instead of setting the goal of waking up at 5:00 a.m., set the micro-goal of waking up at 7:55 a.m.
  • Do you want to declutter your home? Set the micro-goal of decluttering your kitchen junk drawer.

A micro-goal is so small, you can easily trick your brain into getting started. In addition, it’s so insignificant, your inner critic is likely to let it slip by without even uttering a disapproving “hmpff”. Finally, it’s over so fast, an ounce of motivation is all your need to achieve your micro-goal.

The first micro-step you should take is to set a micro-goal.

Make Microsavings

Saving money is hard–the average person has many expenses, and there are just so many things you could buy (I almost bought some crunchy slime just now, which I would have used once or twice). In addition, many goals cost money, which means that you need to save for them.

Here are three examples of the costs that are associated with different goals:

  • If your goal is to build strength by lifting weights, you have to save up for a gym membership.
  • You could set the goal of taking great photos during your upcoming trip to Paris. If that’s the case, you have to buy a camera and the photography gear that you’ll need (the right lens, extra batteries, a case for your camera, and so on).
  • What if your goal is to participate in the most scenic 10-kilometer races in the country? Then you have to save up for travel expenses.

You can set aside the money that you need in order to achieve your goals by using the concept of microsaving.

How to Start Microsaving

Microsaving consists of saving a little bit of money here and there. So little, that you barely feel it. Over time, these little bits of money add up.

One way to microsave is by downloading a microsaving app. These apps use artificial intelligence to analyze your spending. Then, they starts taking a little bit of money from your checking account here and there, and depositing those amounts in a savings account. And they do this in a way that will have very little impact on you.

If you spend little one week, the app that you choose will take more money from your account that week and save it for you. But if you overspend on another week, no money will be saved by the app that week. Drop by drop, money will be saved for you, and you will barely realize that it’s happening.

Of course, another way to microsave is by using an old-fashioned glass jar. Every day when you get home at night, simply place any loose change you have in your pockets, or in your wallet, in the jar. Then, watch how the jar slowly fills up.

Microsaving is yet another way to take advantage of the power of micro-steps.

Create Micro-Habits

One of the best ways to achieve an important goal is by turning the actions you need to take in order to achieve that goal into habits. Here are three examples:

  • If you want to lose weight, you need to create the habit of exercising on a regular basis.
  • To start a blog, you need to create the habit of writing on a regular basis.
  • If you want to acquire a new skill, you need to practice consistently.

All those who have tried adopting a new habit and failed now how hard it can be to acquire good habits. That’s where micro-habits come in. A micro-habit is an action that requires minimal effort and may appear to be inconsequential, but which slowly builds up to something meaningful.

As an illustration, suppose that you want to adopt the habit of walking on your treadmill for half-an-hour before work. You can begin by creating the micro-habit of standing on your treadmill for a few minutes as you drink your morning coffee and watch the news.

This micro-habit may seem like a total waste. You’re not even moving. Ahh. . . but once you’ve been standing on the treadmill for a few mornings, you can adopt the micro-habit of walking for one minute.

A while later you can decide to create the micro-habit of walking for five minutes. Maybe two weeks after that you decide to create the micro-habit of walking for seven minutes. Each micro-habit brings you one step closer to the habit of walking for half-an-hour before work. Sweet!

Make Micro-Progressions

Making progress toward an important goal means that you’re moving closer to the achievement of that goal. You can progress quickly, or slowly. If you progress quickly, you’ll achieve your goal sooner. However, it’s not always possible to progress quickly. Here’s why:

  • It requires more effort to make quick progress.
  • You may not be able to muster the motivation and the willpower necessary to make great strides forward.
  • There may be other things competing for your time and attention.
  • Progressing at a fast pace may be seem scary.
  • It could be that you simply don’t have the physical or mental capacity to make fast progress.

If you find that you can’t make quick progress, make slow progress. In fact, you can even make micro-progressions; progress that is so slow, it’s almost effortless.

An Example of Micro-Progression: Weightlifting

I’m going to use myself as an example of how to use micro-progressions to achieve your goals. As I’ve said before on this blog, I’m a weightlifter. When you first start lifting weights, you begin with light weights–I started with the pink 5-pound dumbbells. However, you gradually progress by lifting heavier weights.

Lifting heavier weights is relatively easy, up to a certain point. Once you reach your genetic potential, lifting heavier weights gets harder. When that happens, it becomes more difficult to make progress.

That’s where micro-progression comes in. The smallest weightlifting plates at my gym weigh 2.5 pounds. This means that each time I want to make progress, I have to go up by 5 pounds (one 2.5 pound plate on each side of the bar). I’ve reached a weight at which this is really hard for me.

Therefore, I went on Amazon and bought myself 0.5 pound plates. Now, I simply put one 0.5 pound plate on each side of the bar and go up by one pound at a time. That’s a micro-progression. It’s progress that requires very little mental and/or physical effort on my part.

An added bonus of microprogressions is that you get a hit of dopamine each time you make progress on a goal. Here’s a tweet I sent out the other day:

In my post, How to Increase Dopamine to Skyrocket Your Motivation, I wrote that having high levels of dopamine in your brain leads to motivation. As I’ve already stated, each micro-progression increases the levels of dopamine in your brain, which will motivate you to make the next micro-progression.

If you’re having trouble making progress on an important goal, ask yourself what micro-progression you can make. Think of something that would be the equivalent of a 0.5 pound plate (seriously, they’re tiny and really light).

By making micro-progressions you’ll be moving toward your goal slowly, but you’ll be advancing, instead of standing still.


What do you think of the “micro” approach to achieving your goals? It requires little willpower, little motivation, and little effort. Try it! You may be amazed at what you achieve. Live your best life by taking micro-steps.



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overcome obstacles

Life is full of obstacles, but there are ways to overcome them.

Any time that you decide to make a change in your life, or to achieve some goal or objective, you’ll have to face obstacles. Some common obstacles include the following:

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  • Lack of time.
  • Lack of money.
  • You don’t have access to the necessary resources.
  • Fear.
  • Other people standing in your way.
  • Lack of the necessary knowledge, skills, or credentials.
  • Lack of expertise.
  • Lack of discipline or willpower.

Many people regard obstacles as dead-ends. When they come across one of these so-called dead-ends, they promptly give up on what they were trying to accomplish. At this point, the excuses begin:

  •  This is too hard.
  • I can’t do this.
  • I would have to be smarter, richer, more talented, better-looking, thinner, or younger to be able to do this.

However, instead of seeing obstacles as a dead-end, you should think of them as a brick wall. If you run into a brick wall, what can you do? You can do any of the following:

  • Remove the bricks one by one.
  • Build a ladder and climb over the wall.
  • Look for ways around the wall.
  • Find someone who will boost you over the wall.
  • Dig a tunnel that runs under the wall.

In this article you’ll find seven effective ways to overcome obstacles. That is, you’ll find seven ways to take down, climb over, or get around the brick walls that stand between you and what you want in life.

Change Your Mindset

To begin with, you need to stop looking at the word “obstacle” as being synonymous with hardship, bad luck, adversity, and so on. That is, stop labeling obstacles as “bad”. Instead, do the following:

  1. Recognize that obstacles are a natural part of the goal-achievement process.
  2. Realize that obstacles serve a purpose.

There’s more on these two points below.

Obstacles Are Part of the Process

Recognize that obstacles are a natural part of the process that you need to go through in order to get what you want. Expect obstacles and accept that they’re simply part of the goal-achievement process.

When you’re planning how to achieve a goal, take the perspective of a civil engineer. Before building a road, a civil engineer will survey the landscape across which the road will be built. In the same way, when you’re planning how to achieve a goal, survey the path that you need to follow to achieve said goal.

If the civil engineer notices that part of the landscape contains difficult terrain, they don’t get upset. The difficult terrain is not a bad thing. It’s just something that needs to be addressed in the construction plan.

In much the same way, when you survey the path to your goal, make note of any obstacles that you’re likely to come across. Then, simply address those obstacles in the plan that you will follow to achieve your goal.

Obstacles Serve a Purpose

You can even begin to look at obstacles as a tool for helping you to make choices. A few years ago the “Last Lecture” became an internet sensation. It was a lecture given by a Carnegie Mellon University professor in his forties who had been diagnosed with a terminal disease.

The professor’s name was Randy Pausch, and in his lecture, he said the following about obstacles:

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.”

overcome obstacles

When you really want something, you should be determined to achieve it, no matter who or what gets in your way.  If you lose your motivation to achieve something at the first sign of an obstacle, it’s very likely that it’s not something that you really want after all.

When you run into an obstacle, ask yourself the following:

  •  How badly do I want this?
  • Am I willing to do the work that it’s going to take in order to get it?
  • Would my time be better spent doing something else?

Then, if you decide that it’s something that you really do want, start looking for ways over, around, or under the obstacle. On the other hand, if you decide that your time, money, energy, and other resources would be better spent doing something else, go do that.

Overcome Obstacles by Changing Your Perception

Whatever it is that you’re perceiving as an obstacle might not even be an obstacle after all. As an example, suppose that there’s a position that you want to apply for. However, the advertisement for the position indicates that job applicants need to have an MBA, which you don’t have.

There are two approaches you can take. First, you can see the requirement of an MBA as an insurmountable obstacle and you can decide to forget about applying for the position.

The second approach you can take is to question whether the fact that you don’t have an MBA is a dealbreaker after all. It could be that you’re creating an obstacle where there really isn’t one.

After all, what companies are really looking for when they ask for candidates who have an MBA isn’t that they come in with a piece of paper that they can hang from a wall. What they want is the training and expertise that is associated with having an MBA.

If you can show that you have the level of training and expertise that is required–by showing them training certificates or concrete evidence of projects that you’ve worked on that are relevant to the expertise that the company needs– it may very well be that the company decides to hire you.

Therefore, the second strategy you can use to overcome obstacles is to question whether an obstacle even exists. That is, change your perception.

Do Research to Become Better Informed

You could be having trouble overcoming an obstacle because you don’t have enough information to go on. In that case, you need to set aside some time to go online and do some research. Gathering more information can help you with the following:

  • It can help you to reframe your problem.
  • It can help you to look at the obstacle from a different perspective.
  • It can help you to grasp nuances of the problem that you didn’t understand before.

By gathering more information you’re increasing the knowledge base which you’re going to pick through when you’re looking for solutions to your problem. In many cases, the right information will allow you to overcome obstacles.

Brainstorm a List of 100 Possible Solutions

Obstacles can be seen as problems that need to be solved. This approach allows you to overcome obstacles by applying problem solving methods.

Luciano Passuello from the blog Litemind indicates that a great way to come up with a solution to a problem is to create a list of 100 possible solutions. The process is as follows:

  • Write down the obstacle that you’re trying to overcome on a piece of paper.
  • Number the paper from one to a hundred.
  • Then, set aside a block of time—it can be anywhere from forty-five minutes to an hour—during which you won’t be interrupted.
  • During that time, you have to generate 100 ways to overcome the obstacle that you’re facing. Write down anything that comes to mind.

While you’re creating your list of 100 solutions, don’t do the following:

  • Judge or criticize what you’re writing down.
  • Worry about grammar or spelling mistakes.
  • Hesitate if some of your ideas are closely related to each other.

You’ll probably discover that the first thirty ideas or so are very safe, and that as you move further down the list you start thinking outside of the box.  As Luciano points out, it’s very likely that the gems will be at the very bottom of your list.

A variation of this idea is to generate 100 possible ways to overcome the obstacle that’s standing in your way by creating a mind map.  Do the following:

  1. Place an image in the center of the page that represents the obstacle that you need to overcome.
  2. From that image, start to radiate out every idea that comes into your mind on possible solutions. For a few minutes simply allow the ideas to flow as fast as possible.
  3. Then, look at each possible solution that you came up with and see if you can use it as a new starting off point to generate even more ideas.
  4. Keep going in this way until you’ve come up with 100 possible solutions.

Pivot to Overcome Obstacles

To pivot means to shift and try a new approach. If there’s an obstacle that’s obstructing the path to your goal –and you determine that it would take too many resources to overcome the obstacle–you can choose to do any of the following:

  • Modify your goal so that the obstacle is no longer an issue. For example, if you can’t compete in a running race because of knee issues, look for a swimming race. You’ll still be getting the benefits of exercising and the challenge of competing in a race, but by modifying the goal you remove the obstacle.
  • Make your goal smaller. If you notice an obstacle at mile 10, choose a goal that can be completed before getting to that point. You can always choose to make the goal larger once you have the necessary resources to overcome the obstacle at mile 10.
  • Plot a different path to your goal. Maybe you can’t achieve your goal by following the path you’re currently on because there’s a big ole obstacle in the way. However, it’s very likely that there are alternative paths to your goal that aren’t obstructed. Sit down and plan a different route (even if the new route is longer and on an incline).

Brainstorm Possible Solutions With Others – Have an Idea Party

When there’s an obstacle that you can’t find a solution for by yourself, it’s time to call on others for help. That is, it’s time for an Idea Party. The Idea Party is a concept which Barbara Sher introduces in her book “Wishcraft”.

Ask your friends, family members, and co-workers to come to your Idea Party. Aim for 15 to 20 people–the more varied their backgrounds, the better. You can make it a potluck dinner and have everyone bring something.

After everyone has a plate filled with food and is sitting down, start the brainstorming session. Have pads of paper and writing utensils available.

One by one each person gets a chance to ask the others for help in finding a solution to a problem that they’re having, or overcome an obstacle that’s in their way.  The person whose turn it is says the following:

“Here is my wish _____. And here is my obstacle ________.”

Then, everyone proceeds to offer up ideas on how the obstacle can be overcome for a period of about 10 minutes. When you break for coffee and dessert you can continue talking to anyone whose ideas you were particularly interested in.

As Sher explains, isolation is a dream killer. If you want to overcome obstacles, ask for help from friends who want to see you succeed.

Get Expert Advice

When the change that you’re trying to make, or the goal that you’re trying to achieve, is very important to you, and there’s an obstacle that you’re having trouble overcoming, it may be time to hire help from experts. You might need help from any of the following:

  • If you’re having trouble losing weight you may want to hire a nutritionist.
  • When the obstacle you’re facing involves legal matters, it’s often a good idea to hire a lawyer.
  • If the obstacle involves money issues, hiring an accountant or a financial planner could be helpful.

Hiring an expert could save you a lot of time and frustration. In addition, it could even help you save money in the long run.

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What obstacles are you currently facing? How can you use the tips above to overcome those obstacles? Live your best life by refusing to allow obstacles to get in your way.


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why you procrastinate

Procrastination has very real—and very negative–consequences.

Procrastinating is delaying the start or completion of tasks that are important for your well-being. Here are some examples:

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  • You know that being 45 pounds overweight is having a negative impact on your health and your quality of life, yet you keep putting off learning to cook a few healthy meals and joining a gym.
  • If you don’t hand in the budget report on time it will reflect negatively on your job performance and you’ll lose your chance to get a promotion at work, but you decide to watch “just one more” cat video on YouTube instead of getting to work.
  • Your unpaid bills are piling up and you know you should create a second source of income so you can pay them off, but you decide to spring clean your house, go to the shelter to adopt a dog, or finish the novel lying on your bedside table instead of getting to work.

If you’ve found yourself in any of the situations above, you may be asking yourself why you procrastinate. Is it poor time management? Were you cursed at birth by a wicked fairy godmother? Do you secretly hate yourself? Did you inherit some sort of procrastination gene? Are you lazy?

Allow me to end the suspense: the reason you procrastinate is because of poor mood management. Aha!

Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University, explains that procrastination happens for two reasons:

  • You feel like you’re not in the mood to carry out a particular task at the moment.
  • You think that you’ll be in a mood that’s more conducive to taking on said task at a later moment in time.

That is, we say things like the following to ourselves:

  • “I will definitely get a membership at the gym that’s two blocks away from my house, but I’ll do it tomorrow because right now I need a nap.”
  • “Finishing the budget report is my number one priority, and if I run down to Starbucks and get myself a latte and a scone, this will give me the willpower boost I need to get to it.”
  • “I know just the product to create and start selling online, but I’ve been feeling kind of gloomy, and I’m sure that re-watching Game of Thrones—starting from the very first episode of the series—will make me feel much better. Then I’ll be able to get started with my product creation.”

Now that you know why you procrastinate, what can you do to fix your procrastination problem? I’m going to give you some techniques you can use in this post.

Below you’ll find seven ways to control your mood so that you can stop procrastinating and get started with those important projects and tasks that you keep putting off.

Reframe the Task

If the mere thought of getting started on a task makes you wince—because it’s boring, difficult, or something you’ve never done before—it’s highly unlikely you’ll be in the mood to get started with it. Once you’ve framed something as “snooze-inducing”, the “task from hell”, or the “requires-genius-level-IQ” project, you can be sure you’ll be in full-on procrastination mode.

When you can’t get yourself to work on a task because of the way in which you’ve framed it, the solution is to reframe it. Be curious about the task. Ask yourself questions like the following:

  • What’s interesting about this?
  • How can I add an element of play to this?
  • How does completing this task help me to achieve an important goal?
  • Who can I ask for help?
  • How will I feel when this is done?
  • What part of the task can I get started on right away?
  • How have I completed a similar project?
  • How will working on this project help me grow?

Look for ways to see the task or project that you need to work on from a different perspective. You’ve heard politicians spin stories in a way that suits their narrative. Now you look for ways to spin the task that you need to get to work on so that it’s more appealing and, therefore, easier to get started on.

You Can Act Regardless of Your Mood

A mature person knows that if something needs to be done, they’ll get to it, even if they don’t feel like it. I’m a runner, and a weightlifter. Both activities involve putting up with some discomfort, and there are days when I simply don’t feel like doing them. But I do them, regardless of whether I feel like it.

My thoughts and emotions don’t make the final decision about what gets done. I do. And on those days when I feel down in the dumps, or a little voice in my head tells me to skip the gym, I override those thoughts and emotions, and I make myself exercise.

I do it because I’m an adult, and I’m in charge.

Deceive Yourself

Dr. Tim Pychyl, professor of psychology and member of the Procrastination Research Group at Carleton University in Ottawa, recommends that–to get started on a task that you’re procrastinating on–you do the following:

  • Look at the next action.
  • By focusing only on the next action, you’ll calm your nerves.
  • Then, you can deceive yourself.

Deceive yourself?! Yes. When it’s time to get started on a task, consider the next action, but just as if it were a possibility. You can tell yourself things like the following:

  • If I were to come up with a tentative title for a blog post, it would be something like. . .
  • I’m not going to get started on this right now, but if I were going to get started, I would. . .
  • I’m just going to open a Word document and maybe write the date at the top.
  • I’ll just take out a pad of paper and a pen and place it here in front of me.

Dr. Pychyl states that motivation follows action. Once you’ve deceived yourself into taking some action that’s related to the task that you need to work on, however small that action may be, it’s much easier to just keep going.

Time Travel

Suppose you’re about to get started on a complicated task, and you feel some anxiety as a result. You know it’s going to take a lot of focused effort. To lessen this anxiety, you feel yourself clicking over to Twitter to see what your online friends are up to. That’s when you should stop yourself and time travel.

Think of yourself an hour from now. There are two possible scenarios you’ll find yourself in:

  • In Scenario One you got started on the task right away. You felt some anxiety and discomfort at first, but you kept going. Then you realized that the task wasn’t that bad after all and you worked on it for an hour.
  • In Scenario Two you clicked over to Twitter. You found a funny meme that was going around, and you got a good laugh out of it. Then you retweeted a few inspirational quotes, clicked over to read a couple of articles that looked interesting, and participated in a poll. Sixty minutes later, you realize that you’ve spent an hour on Twitter and haven’t even gotten started on the task.

How do you feel when you think of Scenario One? You probably feel pretty good about yourself.

How do you feel when you think of Scenario Two? Probably awful. In fact, the feeling of knowing that you just wasted an hour is probably worse than the anxiety that you feel when you think of getting started on the task at hand. A quick cost-benefit analysis will reveal that you’ll be much better off mood-wise if you get started on the task.

Use the Science of Habits

The best way to beat procrastination is by turning whatever it is that you’re procrastinating on into a habit. Do you want to start exercising? Turn it into a habit. Do you want to “eat the frog” first thing in the morning? Turn it into a habit. Do you want to start meditating? Turn it into a habit.

We now know that habits are repeated behaviors that consist of three parts:

  • A trigger — the event that kicks off the urge to complete a habit.
  • The routine, or the habit itself.
  • A reward – something that tells your brain: “That was great! Make sure to do this again!”

Here’s an example of how to stop procrastinating when it comes to meditating by turning it into a habit:

  • Trigger: Putting your toothbrush away after brushing your teeth in the morning.
  • Action – Walk to the living room, place a sofa cushion on the floor and sit on it, and meditate for five minutes.
  • Reward – Have some flavored coffee.

Since habits are something you do pretty much on automatic, whether you’re “in the mood” is a question you don’t even ask yourself. The trigger sets off the action, you perform the action, and then you reward yourself.

Show Yourself Self-Compassion

One of the reasons that people procrastinate is because they fall into a negative loop, which looks like the following:

  • There’s something important that they need to do, but they’re not in the mood to do it.
  • They distract themselves from the task they don’t want to do by doing other things: going on social media; reading articles online that aren’t conducive to the achievement of their goals; engaging in busy work; and so on.
  • They feel bad about themselves because they just wasted a bunch of time instead of getting to work on the important task. This makes their mood even worse, so they’re even less likely to get to work on the task.

Get yourself out of this loop by showing yourself self-compassion. Once you realize that you’ve wasted 45 minutes, instead of berating yourself, forgive yourself. Accept that you messed up, acknowledge that you failed to self-regulate—which happens–, and resolve to do better moving forward.

Then, give yourself a re-do. You didn’t get to work on the task 45 minutes ago like you should have, but you’re going to get started now.

Enjoy Small Victories

There’s nothing worse than trying to get yourself to work on a task when the reward for that task is far off in the future. The solution is to look for ways to reward yourself as soon as possible by breaking the task down into small parts and rewarding yourself after each of the parts is achieved.

Let’s take a look at the task of writing a blog post as an illustration. My posts tend to be on the long side—this one is about 2000 words long—and I do a lot of research for them. This means that they take a long time to write.

Often, when I’m about to start writing an article, I think to myself something like the following: “Oh, no. This is going to take forever.” That immediately makes me want to go do something else.

What I do at this point is take out my blogging checklist which details every single step that I need to take in order to write a blog post. Then, I simply start going down the list. Every time I complete one of the items on the checklist, I think to myself: “Check!”. Then I do one of the following:

  • Mentally congratulate myself.
  • Give myself a sudoku break (I love sudokus).
  • Go to the kitchen and get myself a quick snack.
  • Put on a song I love and sing along.
  • Stop to acknowledge how much of the blog post I’ve completed.
  • Put on a Shakira song and dance along (if you don’t listen to Shakira, you’re missing out).
  • Encourage myself to keep going and knock off the few remaining tasks.

Rewarding yourself is a great way to regulate your mood.


I hope this post helps you to knock out an important task that you’ve been procrastinating on. If you need more help overcoming procrastination, get my eBook, “Make It Happen! A Workbook for Overcoming Procrastination and Getting the Right Things Done”.

Live your best life by taking charge of your mood so you can overcome procrastination.


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solo date

Spend some time with yourself by setting up solo dates.

A couple of years ago I wrote a post on falling in love with yourself, and it got a lot of positive feedback. I think it’s an important topic because when you love yourself you do all of the following:

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  • You respect yourself.
  • You honor your commitments to yourself.
  • You show yourself self-compassion.
  • You’re kind to yourself.
  • You honor your own worth.
  • You rely on yourself.
  • You believe in yourself and what you’re capable of.
  • You have less self-doubt.
  • You don’t allow others to disrespect you or treat you poorly.
  • You’re a better friend.
  • You’re a better significant other.

One of the ways you can start loving yourself more is by taking yourself out on dates–solo dates, if you will. I’m going to help you with that by giving you 12 ideas for self or solo dates you can go on. But before getting to those date ideas, I’m going to do the following:

  • Share with you the best date I’ve ever taken myself on;
  • Set forth the requirements of a good solo date; and
  • Point out when you should go on a solo date.

Let’s get on with it.

A Solo Date to Verona

I don’t know if I’ve shared this with you before, but I finished college in three years instead of four, so I took a year off before gong to law school to travel. Specifically, I spent a year living and studying in Florence, Italy.

One day while in Florence I saw that the opera Aida was going to be playing in the Arena di Verona—a Roman amphitheater in the city of Verona. Verona, of course, is the setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. It’s also just an hour-and-a-half away from Florence by train.

I decided then and there that I was going to take myself to see Aida in Verona. On the day the opera would be playing I did the following:

  • I walked to Santa Maria Novella—Florence’s train station—and took a train to Verona.
  • I arrived about an hour before the opera’s starting time and had a quick bite to eat at a café (coffee and panino).
  • Then, I walked to the amphitheater, bought a ticket, and watched Aida.
  • When the opera was over I followed the crowd back to the train station and returned to Florence.

Wasn’t that a fantastic date?! I think so. Of course, solo dates don’t need to be as glamorous as this one. I’ve taken myself on lots of simple, but great nonetheless, solo dates.

Requirements for a Good Solo Date

A good solo date has to meet at least one of the following requirements:

  • It has to be fun—do something that feels like play and makes you laugh.
  • It has to be relaxing.
  • It has to be interesting—you have to learn something new.
  • It has to push you outside of your comfort zone.
  • It has to give you an adrenaline rush.

Other than that, the conditions for a solo date are very flexible:

  • You can plan it ahead of time, or it can be a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing.
  • You can dress up, or you can choose to go casual.
  • It can be a stay-at-home solo date, or you can choose to go out.
  • Your solo date can be during the day, or at night.
  • It can last an hour, a day, a weekend. . . .you decide.

Lastly, look at the following:

  • Be fully present. If you’re out on a date with someone else, you don’t space out or stare at your phone all throughout date. You pay attention to the person you’re with. Show yourself the same courtesy: when you’re on a solo date give yourself and what you’re doing your full attention.
  • Don’t be self-conscious—if you choose to go out on your solo date and feel that other people are looking down at you because you’re alone, just ignore them. Whoever judges you for being alone is probably just not comfortable being by themselves, and that’s too bad for them.
  • Don’t overspend – stay within your budget.
  • If you’re not enjoying yourself, go do something else. When you’re on a date with someone else and things aren’t going well, it can be tricky to put an end to the date. However, if you’re on a solo date and you find that you’re not having a good time, you can just go home without having to come up with a semi-plausible excuse for ending the date. Nice!

Reasons to Go on A Solo-Date

Right now you may be thinking: “Wait. Doesn’t ‘date’ imply at least two people?” “Why would you want to go on a date alone?”

I’m certainly not advocating that you become anti-social and stop dating other people (or going out with your friends). I’m just saying that there are times when self-dates are the way to go. So, why would you want to go on a solo date?

First, there are times when you don’t have a significant other and your group of friends is busy with work, family, and so on. During those times you should still allow yourself to have fun, go out, and try new things. After all, your happiness shouldn’t depend on others.

Second, even if you are in a relationship, or if your friends are available, there may be things you want to try that they’re not interested in. When that’s the case, there’s always the option of doing it by yourself. It’s not a good idea to allow others to dictate the experiences you get to have.

Third, sometimes a person just wants some alone time. Compromising is generally a good thing, but there are times when you don’t want to compromise. Also, other people can be exhausting (wonderful, but exhausting), and sometimes you just need a break from everyone you know.

Finally, alone time gives you the opportunity to reflect, re-center, recharge, and show yourself some love. You can reconnect with yourself, remind yourself of how great you are, and just care for yourself.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, it’s time for you to go on a solo date. And in case you’re wondering what you should do on your solo date, below I’ll share with you 12 ideas for solo dates.

12 Solo Date Ideas

If you’ve decided to give self-dates a try, here are 12 ideas for solo dates:

1. Coffee And a Book

There’s nothing better than walking at a leisurely pace around a bookstore, leafing through books that catch your eye, and then sitting down in a comfortable leather chair to read a few pages of those books that look promising.

If the bookstore has a café attached, that’s even better. Once you’ve selected the book you want, you can make your purchase and head on over to the café.

After ordering the warm beverage of your choice, you get to lose yourself in the book’s pages and spend an hour or two fighting racial injustice with Atticus Finch, walking the streets of 1960s Paris with Horacio Oliveira, or falling down a rabbit hole with Alice in Wonderland. Bliss!

Another idea is to set up a standing book-and-a-coffee date with yourself by getting a Book Subscription Box. You can choose to receive a classic once a month, a mystery novel, a dystopian novel, or any genre you enjoy reading. Then, each month when you receive your subscription box, grab the goodies inside, sit in your reading nook (which I assume you have), and read away.

2. Take A Cooking Class

Recently I came across a site called Master Class. It’s an online platform that offers courses on various topics, but with a twist: the classes are taught by the best in the world. Here are some examples:

  • Take a photography class with Annie Leibovitz.
  • Steve Martin teaches a comedy course.
  • You can improve your writing with Margaret Atwood (I love her).

I’ve been toying with the idea of signing up, but haven’t taken the plunge yet. One of the classes that I’m really interested in is a cooking class with British cook Gordon Ramsay. In the class, Ramsay teaches you how to make several of the dishes he’s famous for, and one of those is lobster ravioli.

Just think about it: you serve yourself a glass of your favorite wine, and then you spend the evening learning how to make lobster ravioli. The coup de grace is getting to eat the meal you’ve prepared.

Of course, you don’t have to sign up for a Master Class to have a cooking solo date. You can get yourself a good cook book, find a recipe online that looks delicious, or ask a friend who knows their way around the kitchen to share a good recipe with you.

3. Go On An Active Date

I’ve written before on this blog about the importance of moving—movement is good for your mental, emotional, and physical health. A great idea for a date with someone else is to play a sport together, such as golf or tennis. You’re bonding and moving at the same time.

An active date is also a good idea for a solo date. One of the best activities you can do on your own is going for a bike ride. Go online and find a nice bike trail near your home, put on some comfortable workout clothes, grab your bike, head out to the great outdoors, and start pedaling.

4. Be a Tourist in Your Own Town

I spent a few years living in Costa Rica when I was growing up, and I remember that my mother had a close friend there who was going through a difficult divorce. Her kids were teenagers and on weekends they would go out and do their own thing, so she would often be left alone.

Instead of sitting around the house wallowing in self-pity, about once a month she would go to a tour operator and spend the day exploring a new part of the country. Riding around in a tour bus, or taking a walking tour of a section of your city that you’ve never been to before, is a great self-date.

5. Go to A Museum

Hanging out in an art museum for a couple of hours is an emotionally satisfying experience. Before going to the museum, visit their website and choose the area of the museum that interests you the most. Once you’re there, get an audio tour. With your headphones on it will be just you and the art work.

When you’re done contemplating the works of art, have lunch at the museum café. I always feel so chic when I sit at a museum café alone (I don’t know why).

Then, when you’re done having lunch, browse through the museum gift shop. Going home with a souvenir is optional, but highly recommended (even if it’s just a postcard of your favorite painting).

6. Go Street Combing

Street combing is a creativity technique that Dutch innovation consultant Richard Stomp came up with. It involves choosing an interesting street in your city and walking down that street with a camera taking photos of anything that catches your interest.

When you get home, look through the photographs and ask yourself questions like the following:

  • What is the concept behind this picture?
  • Why did I take it?
  • What makes it interesting?

Take any ideas that you come up with after asking yourself these questions and apply them to solve any problems you may be having.

7. Go On An Artist Date

Lots of people are familiar with the term “artist date”. It’s a term coined by Julia Cameron in her book, “The Artist’s Way”. An artist date consists of a block of time set aside once a week which is devoted to nurturing your creative consciousness.

Here are some ideas for artists dates:

  • Go to an art supply store and see what catches your fancy.
  • Get yourself a recorder and learn to play a simple song (there are lots of tutorials on YouTube).
  • Go to a flea market and see what treasures you can find.
  • Grab a sketchbook and head on over to the park.
  • Plant a container garden.

8. Go On A “Getting to Know You Date”

Just as one of the main purposes of going on a date with someone else is to get to know them better, you can use a solo date to get to know yourself better.

You can take personality tests, or you can ask yourself questions. Take out your journal and answer questions like the following:

  • What do you believe is possible for you?
  • What are your core values?
  • Who is the most important person in your life?
  • If you were told you will die in a week, what would you most regret not having done?
  • What would a “perfect day” look like?
  • What lies do you tell yourself?
  • What do you need to feel safe?
  • How happy are you, really?
  • How do you think other people perceive you?
  • What do you need to let go of?

9. Go On a Bucket List Solo Date

Here’s what you’ll be doing on this solo date:

  • Take out your bucket list.
  • If you don’t have a bucket list, make one.
  • Pick an item from your bucket list.
  • Go do it (because, YOLO).

10. Have a Hygge Solo Date

I’ve already written about hygge on this blog before. Hygge basically means to live cozily. A hygge solo date would consist of something like the following:

  • Make some comfort food for yourself.
  • Choose a film you really want to watch.
  • Light some candles.
  • Make your sofa as comfortable as you can: think cushions and soft blankets.
  • Slip into the most comfy loungewear you own.

Now turn on the film, eat your meal, and just sink into the sofa and relax.

11. Have a Game Night

I love board games and puzzles of all types. Games area a lot of fun to play in groups, with another person, or alone. Here are some ideas for your solo game night:

  • Get a jigsaw puzzle –choose a subject that you like (dogs, boats, castles, dragons, flowers, llamas. . .) and a level of difficulty that will be challenging but not overwhelming.
  • Get a book of sudokus or KenKen.
  • Get a book of chess puzzles, set out your chess board, and play the evening away.

12. Have a “My Favorite Things” Solo Date

What do you love to eat? What do you love to do? Have a solo date that involves devoting a whole day to eating your favorite foods and doing some of your favorite things. Look at the following:

  • Are tacos at the very top of your favorite foods list? Have tacos for lunch.
  • Do you consider eating ice cream to be heaven on earth? Stop by the ice cream parlor after lunch and get a cone of your favorite ice cream flavor.
  • Is visiting the zoo one of your favorite things to do? Go!
  • Catch a play, if that’s something you truly enjoy.
  • Do you love sangria? Go home, whip up a batch of sangria, and serve yourself a glass. Cheers!

Who else, but you, would be willing to devote a whole day to doing your favorite things? What a great date you are!


So, where are you taking yourself on your next solo date? You can start small, if you’d like, and take yourself on more elaborate solo dates as you get the handg of it. Live your best life by taking yourself on solo dates.


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smart people know

Smart is as smart does.

What does it mean to be “smart”? Many would argue that being smart depends on your brain properties and structure. Some of the brain properties that tend to correlate with intelligence include the following:

  • Overall brain volume;
  • Grey matter volume;
  • White matter volume;
  • White matter integrity;
  • Cortical thickness; and
  • Neural efficiency.

onehouradayformula banner longHowever, other people would argue that being smart depends on the quantity and the quality of the education a person has acquired. Still others would say that smart people are those who are good at solving problems, or making money, or adapting to change. I would argue that—to a large extent—being smart is about what you know, and about your ability to apply said knowledge. And that’s what this post is about: I’ve collected some of the things—30 to be exact—that really smart people know. You’ll find the 30 things that really smart people know, below.

1. Discomfort Is a Part of Life.

Achieving things that are important to you will require that you tolerate some discomfort, frustration, and psychological pain. For example, if you want to get in shape, you’ll have to exercise, which comes with its fair share of aches and pains.

As a second illustration, if you want to learn something new, you’ll have to tolerate the discomfort that comes from not knowing, struggling to do something that is foreign to you, and feeling like you’re not making the progress you wish you were making.

Smart people know that they need to tolerate discomfort in order to improve themselves and grow.

2. No One Is Coming to The Rescue.

What happens in your life is up to you.  You’re responsible for your life. If there’s something that you want to happen, you have to make it happen. No one is going to make things happen for you. You have to rescue yourself.

3. Stop Playing the Victim Role.

You’re the hero of your story. The hero sometimes gets stuck in a bad place for a while, but they don’t wallow in self-pity and give away their power.

Instead, they look for a way out: they crawl out through an air vent; they dig a tunnel; or they take an ax and break the door down. No matter what happens, it’s your life, and you’re at the helm.

4. Choose Your Friends Wisely.

Author and motivational speaker Jim Rohn once famously quipped: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Your friends will influence what you do and the habits that you develop. They’ll even impact your mood.

Surround yourself with a carefully curated group of people whom you respect, and with whom you share common values. As Darrah Brustein, founder of Network Under 40, says: “It’s important to consider the five people who are in your inner circle, because they are going to deeply and profoundly influence you.”

Choose a few people who will help you to become the best version of yourself, and then carefully maintain those friendships.

5. Conformity is For Suckers.

If you give in to society’s pressure to conform, you’ll never discover what you’re capable of. Think for yourself, make your own rules, step away from the well-trodden path, and do your own thing.

6. A Productive Day Starts the Night Before.

What you do at night has a huge impact on how the next day will go. Smart people know this, and they take advantage of this knowledge by following a nighttime routine.

People are different, and what works for one person may not work for another. However, a good nighttime routine should contain the following elements:

  • Reflection – Reflect on your day. Think of what you did right, what went wrong, and how you can do better the next day.
  • Planning – Write down the three most important things that you need to get done the next day.
  • Organization – Set out the clothes that you’ll be wearing the next day, make sure that everything you need is by the door, and do all the prepping for breakfast that you can.
  • Calming — include an activity in your nighttime ritual that will help you to relax (shut down your brain), such as drinking chamomile tea, doing some Tai Chi, or doing some breathwork.

Lastly, make sure that you go to sleep at a reasonable hour so that you’re well-rested the next day.

7. Start Your Day Off Right.

The first hour of the day is one of the most critical because it sets the tone for the rest of the day. You should try to do the following every morning in order to start your day the right way:

  • Drink water (preferably with lemon).
  • Move your body – stretch or do some sort of exercise.
  • Eat a healthy breakfast.
  • Review your goals for the day.
  • Say some affirmations, journal, watch a motivational video on YouTube, or do something else that will get you in the right frame of mind to face the day.

In addition, once you’ve gone through your morning routine, devote one-hour to your most important goal.

8. You Have to Make Time to Exercise.

Regular exercise improves memory and thinking skills, it boosts your mood, it helps to ward off disease, and it increases longevity. It even makes you more productive. Smart people know that making time to exercise is a no-brainer.

I do two types of exercise on a regular basis:

  • I lift weights; and
  • I run.

Also, I just recently started doing High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), and I’m loving it. It only takes 20 minutes, and you get a lot of bang for your buck.

9. Financial Literacy Is Vital.

Financial literacy is knowledge that allows an individual to make informed and effective decisions with their money. It’s about knowing how to budget, manage debt, pay for big ticket items, invest for the future, and be prepared for emergencies.

Smart people know that in order to have financial security, they need to understand how money works.

10. Read a Lot.

Smart people are readers. Successful CEOs, leaders, entrepreneurs, and politicians read frequently. Reading teaches you to focus, it keeps you informed, it stretches the mind, it exposes you to different perspectives, and it helps in the creation of new ideas.

If you want to be smarter, go out and get yourself books written by smart people and read them.

11. Learn How to Learn.

In order to keep up with the changes and advances in today’s fast-paced world, we need to have the ability to learn new things faster. Some even refer to the ability to learn quickly and efficiently as a superpower.

You can get started learning how to learn by reading my post, 30 Tips for Learning Any Skill Fast.

12. Constantly Stretch Out of Your Comfort Zone.

As Neale Donald Walsh once said, “Life begins outside of your comfort zone.” After all, the only way to grow, build your capabilities, and reach your full potential is by stepping outside of your comfort zone.

Some easy ways to stretch out of your comfort zone include the following: trying a new sport; having lunch in a new setting; or trying psychogeography dérive– an exploration of urban environments that emphasizes playfulness and “drifting” (basically it’s going for a walk and just allowing yourself to get “lost”).

13. Learn From Your Mistakes.

Instead of being afraid of making mistakes, take a trial and error approach to life. Try something new, analyze what you did right and what you did wrong, modify your approach accordingly, and try again. That is, see your mistakes not as failures, but as feedback.

Smart people know that it’s OK to make mistakes, as long as you’re learning from those mistakes.

14. Beware of Irrational Thinking.

Even smart people can fall victim to irrational thoughts, also known as cognitive distortions. This includes things such as the following:

  • Catastrophic Thoughts: Here’s an example: “My boyfriend left me, so I’m going to die alone”. The reality is that the fact that one man doesn’t want to be with you doesn’t mean that no man will ever want to be with you.
  • Personalization: As an illustration: “My boss is upset. I must have done something wrong.” The reality is that there are millions of reasons why your boss could be upset, none of which have anything to do with you.
  • All-or-Nothing Thinking: An example of this type of thinking is the following: “I had set the goal of exercising three times a week, but this week I only exercised once. I might as well just give up on this goal.” The reality is that you just fell off the wagon this week, but you can always get back on next week.

Smart people are aware of their thoughts, and they constantly question whether what they’re thinking is based on evidence, or if they’re distorting reality.

15. Practice Self-Care.

Smart people know that self-care isn’t about self-indulgence. Instead, it’s about the following:

  • Taking good care of yourself so that you can maintain your physical, mental, and emotional health;
  • Making sure that you’re not taking on more than you can handle;
  • Keeping a good balance between exertion and relaxation; and
  • Showing yourself self-compassion and self-love.

16. Carefully Curate Your Life.

I wrote above that you should curate your friends. However, it’s not just your friends who need to be carefully curated. Smart people curate everything in their lives: the books they read, the stuff they buy, the furniture in their home, their clothes and shoes, the TV shows they watch, and so on.

Smart people make sure that anything that comes into their lives has been carefully selected by them.

17. Develop Good Habits.

You’ve heard it a million times: first you make your habits, and then your habits make you. Ask yourself: “What do I want to achieve?” Then ask: “What habit will get me there?” If you manage to build those habits, then those habits will take you to where you want to go.

18. Take Time to Think.

Most of the time we’re on the go: answering phone calls; writing emails; picking up the dry cleaning; cooking dinner; and so on. However, it’s vital to stop and take the time to just think. Every day you should think about the following:

  • How do I want to feel today?
  • What do I need to do to feel that way?
  • What do I want my day to look like?
  • How can I best use my scarce resources today (time, money, attention) to achieve what I want?

At least quarterly you should stop and think about the following:

  • What projects am I working on?
  • Do these projects reflect who I am or who I want to become?
  • Am I on track to achieve these projects?
  • What do I need to do to move these projects forward?

At least once a year stop and think about things such as the following:

  • Am I happy with my life?
  • How am I doing in each life area (health, relationships, finances, and so on)? Where do I need a life reboot?
  • If I keep moving in the direction I’m currently moving in, where will I be in five years?

Smart people know that they need to stop and take time to think.

19. Pick Yourself.

Whatever it is that you want to accomplish or achieve, stop waiting for somebody else to pick you. Instead, pick yourself. Look at the following:

  • Can’t find a publisher for your novel? Self-publish it.
  • Can’t get a promotion at work? Start your own company and make yourself the CEO.
  • Can’t get any store to carry your handmade bracelets? Start an Etsy shop.

If you keep raising your hand and no one calls on you, call on yourself.

20. Ask the Right Questions.

Self-development guru Tony Robbins has said that the quality of your life is determined by the quality of the questions you ask. This is because the questions that you ask yourself frame the debate. As an illustration, if something goes wrong in your life, don’t ask questions like the following:

  • Why did this happen to me?
  • How could they have done this to me?
  • Why didn’t I get it (the promotion, the deal, the grant. . . )?

Questions like these keep you stuck in the past. Instead, ask yourself questions like the following:

  • What can I do now to move forward?
  • Is there something I can do to get a better outcome?
  • What lessons can I learn from this that will help me do better in the future?

21. Make Meditation a Daily Habit.

In his book, Get Some Headspace: How Mindfulness Can Change Your Life in Ten Minutes a Day, Puddicombe explains that meditation can be used for all of the following:

  • To treat a wide range of stress-related symptoms including anxiety, depression, anger, and insomnia.
  • To improve your focus and concentration.
  • To improve your emotional stability and your relationships with others.
  • To be happier. Unhappiness has been linked to a mind that’s constantly wandering. Meditation helps to cure you of wandering mind syndrome by increasing your mindfulness.

Smart people know that meditating is one of the best habits that they can adopt.

22. Practice Gratitude.

Simply by giving thanks for what you have–or counting your blessings–you can achieve all of the following:

Smart people are grateful people.

23. Make Yourself Lucky.

Whether we like it or not, luck plays a large role in life. Nonetheless, as I explain in my post, “How to Make Yourself Lucky”, there are steps you can take and mental attitudes you can adopt to make yourself lucky. Here are some things you can do to make yourself lucky:

    • Have a positive mental attitude.
    • Take the initiative instead of passively waiting for what you want to come to you.
    • Meet new people.
    • Put yourself out there: write articles on your subject of expertise; showcase your talent on YouTube; create an online portfolio; etc.
    • Be of service to others.
    • Craft a compelling story for yourself.

And, of course, be prepared. After all: “Readiness is the mother of luck”.

24. Know When to Say “No”.

The only way you can “yes” to the most important people and activities in your life is by saying “no” to everything else. Say “no” to the following:

  • Causes you’re not deeply committed to.
  • Networking events that will have a negligible impact on your career or sales prospects.
  • Taking on more work than you can handle.
  • Doing work that other people should be doing.

Follow Baltasar Gracian’s advice in  The Art of Worldly Wisdom: “Don’t belong so much to others that you stop belonging to yourself.

25. Include Play and Laughter in Your Life.

Many people think that play is for kids, and that adults should be serious all the time. But smart people know that it’s important for adults to play and have fun.

Playing and having fun can have all of the following benefits:

  • Relieve stress – play releases endorphins.
  • Strengthen relationships – play is a way to bond with others.
  • Stimulate creativity– play can encourage you to take risks, look at things from a different perspective, and notice new connections.
  • It provides novelty and pleasure.
  • It makes you more productive and helps you to overcome procrastination – it’s easier to get to work on a difficult task when you know you’ll get to do something fun later on in the day.

Smart people schedule play and fun into their day.

26. You Must Bounce Back Quickly from the Unexpected.

When people come across an obstacle in life, most will do the following:

  • Complain.
  • Blame others.
  • Give up.

However, smart people do the following:

  • They immediately acknowledge and accept that they’ve come across an obstacle;
  • Adapt with composure; and
  • Keep going.

Smart people know that the unexpected will happen, and—when it does—they don’t waste time bemoaning their luck. Instead, they bounce back quickly from the unexpected.

27. Let Go of the Need for Perfection.

Perfectionism steals your joy, your self-confidence, and your ability to get things done. Smart people know that the main causes of perfectionism are all-or-nothing thinking and fear of criticism, rejection, and disapproval.

They develop strategies for dealing with any perfectionist tendencies they may have, and they strive for excellence, not perfection.

28. Stop Worrying About What Others Think.

Humans are social creatures. We want to be part of a group. We want to be loved and accepted. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

However, smart people know that they need to strike a healthy balance between their need to belong and their ability to go after their goals and dreams. If they find that they’re worrying too much about what people may think, they do the following:

  • They work on trusting themselves more.
  • They put things in perspective by reminding themselves that one day they’ll die. After all, the last thing that they want is to be lying on their death beds regretting all the things they didn’t do because they were worried about the opinion of others.
  • They learn to be more selective about whose opinion really matters to them.

29. Conscientiousness Is a Vital Character Trait.

Some character traits are more conducive to success than others. There are studies that show that the most important personality trait for predicting success is conscientiousness. Therefore, smart people take steps to become more conscientious.

Here are some of the conscientiousness habits that smart people adopt:

  • They have a set date, time, and place to pay their bills to make sure that everything is paid on time.
  • They plan their meals each week, go grocery shopping, and prep their meals ahead of time so that they can eat healthy, home-cooked meals.
  • They organize their work space at the end of each work day to make sure they’ll be able to find everything they need the next day.

Smart people know that even if they’re not naturally conscientious, they can become more conscientious by adopting the habits of conscientious people.

30. You Must Not Quit.

Achieving your important goals won’t be easy. However, you’ll succeed if you refuse to quit. When a smart person is tempted to quit, they tell themselves things like the following:

  • I persist when things get tough.
  • I will either find a way or make one.
  • Every problem has a solution, and I have the perfect ability to find it.
  • Every day I gain more knowledge and insight about what works and what doesn’t, which means I’m getting stronger and wiser.
  • Setbacks are temporary.
  • I will find a way through this.
  • Think! What’s the best thing to do now?


There are many more things smart people know, of course, but I think the list above is a good starting point. Live your best life by reviewing the lessons that really smart people know (and apply them in your life).


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write your obituary

Why should you write your own obituary? Because it can give you a second chance at life.

Dr. Alfred Nobel–a Swedish engineer and inventor–was having breakfast one morning as he perused the newspaper. He turned the page and discovered, to his shock, that they had printed his obituary. It turns out that his brother had died, and the newspaper had published Alfred’s obituary by mistake.

The obituary read, “The merchant of death is dead”. This was in reference to the fact that Nobel was the inventor of dynamite. Although Nobel had created dynamite for the construction industry, it was being used as a weapon of war.

The rest of Nobel’s obituary read as follows:

“Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.”

Needless to say, Nobel was taken aback by the way in which he would be remembered after his death.

It’s believed that it was due to this shock that Nobel decided to set aside the bulk of his estate in order to establish the Nobel Foundation. This foundation annually bestows international awards in recognition of cultural and scientific advances.

Today, Nobel is not remembered as the merchant of death. Instead, he’s remembered as the creator of the Nobel Prizes, and as a great humanitarian. Having read his obituary while he was still alive gave him the opportunity to change his legacy.

Although it sounds a bit macabre, writing your own obituary—or asking a friend or a family member to do it for you—can be an excellent wake-up call that can help you make important changes in your life. It can give you a second chance at life.

There’s more on this below.

The Late Dr. Crane

onehouradayformula banner longYesterday I was watching a re-run of one of my favorite television shows: “Frasier”. It stars Kelsey Grammer as Seattle radio psychiatrist Dr. Frasier Crane.

One day, Frasier hurts his nose in a minor car accident and goes to the hospital to get it looked at. However, he gets tired of waiting and leaves before he’s treated.

When Frasier’s turn comes and the nurse calls out his name, another man pretends to be Frasier so he can cut to the front of the line. This man suddenly dies of a heart attack in the hospital, and the evening news reports that Frasier Crane had died.

The next day, Frasier has an experience very similar to the one that Alfred Nobel went through: the newspaper mistakenly published his obituary.  This makes Frasier reflect on his life and everything that he has yet to achieve.

Here’s the exchange that took place between Frasier and his producer, Roz Doyle, when they were talking about Frasier’s obituary:

  • Roz: Well, there’s something for your scrapbook, huh?  Your own obituary.
  • Frasier: Yes, well.  You know, frankly, still it’s a little upsetting. . . it’s just, seeing all my life in black and white, it just all looks a little incomplete.
  • Roz: What do you mean?
  • Frasier: Well, I was going to do so much with my life.  I was going to write a novel, run for public office, I was gonna do my own translation of Freud…
  • Roz: Well, what’s stopping you?  You’re not actually dead.
  • Frasier: I guess you’re right. I’m not dead, am I? You know, maybe that’s a good way of looking at this actually, more of a wake-up call.

After that exchange, Frasier goes home and, as a self-actualizing exercise, he writes his obituary as he would like it to appear years later, at the time of his actual death.  Here’s part of what he wrote:

“Dr. Crane came late to athletics, he became a fixture in the Seattle marathon, the America’s Cup yacht race, as well as the Kentucky Derby [as a stable owner].”

In addition, he included in his aspire-to-obituary that he had started a blog to teach children about psychiatry, that he had traveled to South America, that he had taken up rafting, and that he spoke Russian.

As he contemplates what’s missing from his life, Frasier also decides to take a risk by grabbing a bottle of wine and heading over to knock on the door of an attractive woman who lives a few doors down from him.

Write Your Obituary

Do the following: write an obituary as a true account of your life to date.  As an alternative, if you want to be more objective, you can ask a friend or family member who knows you well to do it for you. When it’s ready, look over your obituary and ask yourself questions such as the following:

  • If I died today, would I die happy?
  • Am I satisfied with the direction in which my life is headed?
  • Am I happy with the legacy that I’m creating?
  • Is there anything missing from my life?
  • What will I be remembered for?
  • What do I need to do in order for my obituary to be “complete”?
  • Do I need to reinvent myself?
  • What risks do I need to take?
  • Have I allowed myself to become confined to my comfort zone?
  • Is there any area of my life that needs a reboot?
  • What goals have I been putting off that I need to get to work on right away?
  • How can I start using one-hour-a-day to change the direction of my life?

Then, write a fantasy obituary in which you write down all of the things you wish you had done with your life.  Here’s a template for your fantasy obituary which you can download:

What does this exercise tell you? You’re not dead yet, so get out there and start making any changes that you need to so that you can “live up” to your fantasy obituary. Turn this into an opportunity to get a second chance at life.


Leopold Bloom–the protagonist in James Joyce’s novel “Ulysses”–said the following: “Read your own obituary notice; they say you live longer. Gives you second wind. New lease of life.” Live your best life by writing your obituary.


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Eisenhower Matrix

The key to making the best use of your time is to prioritize your tasks.

onehouradayformula banner longLots of people create to do lists; then, they get to work on the activities on the list in an indiscriminate order. As a result, they tend to be busy all day long but without achieving meaningful results. After all, not all tasks are created equal.

Enter the Eisenhower Matrix, a tool which will help you to prioritize tasks by urgency and importance. This matrix was first proposed by Dwight Eisenhower, the 34th president of the United States of America. President Eisenhower once said the following:

“I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”

This insight led him to come up with what is referred to as the Eisenhower Principle. He recognized that he needed to use his time in a way that was both efficient and effective. In addition, the way to do that was by not allowing the urgent to get in the way of what was most important.

In this post I’m going to explain what the Eisenhower Matrix is, and I’m going to give you strategies on how to start applying it in your own life in order to make the best use of your time.

The Eisenhower Matrix In a Nutshell

As I explained above, President Eisenhower planned his days along the dimensions of urgency and importance. Here’s the distinction between the two:

  • Important activities are those that will allow us to achieve our goals and dreams, as well as live in accordance with our values. One way to decide if a task is important is to ask yourself the following: “Can I reach my goals and stay true to my values if I skip this task?”
  • Urgent activities are those that have a looming deadline. One way to decide if a task is urgent is to ask yourself: “When is the deadline for this task?”  As I explain further down below, just because something is urgent doesn’t necessarily mean you should do it.

Given these two dimensions–important and urgent–, activities can fall into one of the four categories of the Eisenhower Matrix:

  • Category 1: Important and Urgent
  • Category 2: Important and Not Urgent
  • Category 3: Not Important and Urgent
  • Category 4: Not Important and Not Urgent

This gives us the following matrix:

Eisenhower matrix

You’ll find an explanation of each of these categories below.

Category 1: Important and Urgent

The first category of the Eisenhower Matrix–important and urgent–consists of firefighting. It’s where a lot of people spend most of their time.

eisenhower matrix

Tasks that fall into Category 1 require our immediate attention. When it comes time to decide which items on your to do list you should do first, start with these. If you don’t get to work on these items, one of two things will happen:

  • There will be a negative consequence–for example, your boss will yell at you for not handing in the financial report on time.
  • You’ll miss an important opportunity–as an illustration, if you fail to deliver the grant application on time, you won’t be able to compete for the grant prize.

If many of the tasks on your to do list fall into this category, you’re constantly in troubleshooting mode. This can be very stressful, and it will interfere with your ability to work on your long-term goals.

There are two main reasons why activities end up in this category:

  • You procrastinated on an important project or task.
  • Something unforeseen took place.

Category 1 Examples

Some examples of things that fall into this category include the following:

  • It’s Tuesday, you have a test on Friday, but you haven’t even started studying.
  • It rained heavily and now your basement is flooded.
  • You have to give a presentation to the board of directors in two days, but you haven’t gathered all of the necessary data.
  • Your website was hacked.
  • You get a call from your kid’s school saying that he’s sick and you need to go pick him up.

How to Reduce Category 1 Tasks

Your strategy when it comes to Category 1 should be to try to reduce the number of tasks that fall into this category, with the goal of keeping them to a bare minimum. Here are five things you can do to reduce the amount of time that you spend in this category:

  • Learn project management so that you can complete your projects in an efficient and timely manner.
  • Practice prevention: exercise; eat healthy meals; follow a schedule of regular maintenance for your car and important household appliances; and so on.
  • Set yearly, monthly, and weekly goals.
  • Plan each day the night before. Then, every morning, review your plan.
  • Take steps to overcome procrastination.

Category 2: Important and Not Urgent

This is the category where your values and your dreams live. Unfortunately, it’s often neglected because you allow tasks that fall into the other three categories to eat away at your time.

Eisenhower Matrix

When you’re prioritizing your to do list, make sure to schedule a time and place for Category 2 activities. Then, make an unbreakable commitment to yourself to work on these tasks, even if they don’t come with a sense of urgency.

This category is where the magic happens. Tasks that fall into this category are those that will allow you to achieve your long-term goals in all life areas, as well as prevent fires that you then have to put out in Category 1. In addition, it’s a pretty stress-free category.

Category 2 Examples

Some examples of things that fall into this category of the Eisenhower Matrix include the following:

  • Personal development–reading books on personal development, attending seminars, and taking online courses.
  • Strategizing sessions.
  • Learning new skills–learning to code, learning another language, or acquiring business skills.
  • Improving vital skills.
  • Exercising.
  • Meditating, doing yoga, or doing Tai Chi.
  • Taking scheduled breaks.
  • Spending time with your kids.
  • Going on dates with your spouse.
  • Creating a crisis management protocol for your business.
  • Improving systems.
  • Practicing self-care.
  • True recreation.
  • Working on a rewarding hobby.
  • Preparing to change careers.
  • Working on your novel.
  • Creating a second source of income.
  • Taking steps to prevent the crises that put you in Category 1.
  • Working on an important project in a timely manner.

If this category is so great, why don’t people spend most of their time here? Because these activities tend to be pushed to the side by tasks and activities that fall into the other three categories. In addition, the consequences of not doing Category 2 activities don’t appear right away.

How to Spend More Time in Category 2

If you want to spend more time in Category 2, you must do so deliberately. Here are five things you can do to spend more time on activities that fall in this category:

  • Set goals–set short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals.
  • Be clear on your values.
  • Set aside one-hour-a-day to work on your most important goals.
  • Create fake deadlines for Category 2 activities and look for ways to hold yourself accountable to those deadlines.
  • Follow the advice contained in this article for reducing the amount of time that you spend on activities that fall into Categories 1, 3, and 5. Apply that freed up time to Category 2 tasks.

Category 3: Not Important and Urgent

Tasks that fall into Category 3 of the Eisenhower Matrix can be very seductive, because they usually come with bells and whistles. The urgency of these tasks can make them feel important, even if they’re not.

Eisenhower Matrix

You probably spend a lot of time in this category if you often hear yourself saying things like the following:

  • “I was busy all day, but I didn’t accomplish anything of importance.”
  • “I’m exhausted, but I feel like I have nothing to show for it.”

To stop feeling this way, look for ways to limit the tasks that fall into this category as much as you can.

Category 3 Examples

Examples of tasks that fall into this category include the following:

  • Interruptions, such as the doorbell ringing or a notification popping up on your computer screen.
  • Other people’s emergencies.
  • Household chores.
  • Some phone calls and meetings.

The best way to deal with these activities is to postpone them, delegate them, outsource them, eliminate them, or give them a chunk of time and try to finish them as quickly as you can.

How to Reduce Category 3 Tasks

Here are five things you can do to spend less time in this category:

  • Set your own agenda and your own priorities so that you’re not constantly working on the agenda and priorities of others.
  • Learn to say “no” politely but firmly.
  • Delegate and outsource tasks that fall into this category.
  • Create systems to deal with tasks such as house cleaning and doing the laundry as efficiently and quickly as possible.
  • Find a quiet space to work where you won’t be interrupted and turn off all distractions.

Category 4: Not Important and Not Urgent

Tasks that fall into this category are simply a waste of time and should be avoided at all costs.

Eisenhower Matrix

Although tasks that fall into this category are simply time wasters, people engage in them for a variety of reasons. Here are some of them:

  • Lack of concentration–e.g., you lose your focus and find yourself reading articles on topics that are not related to the task you were working on.
  • Low levels of dopamine–if your levels of dopamine are low you may find yourself engaging in what you perceive to be pleasurable activities to try to raise your levels of this important neurotransmitter.
  • To avoid the discomfort of working on difficult tasks.
  • Negative habits — for example, you may have created a habit of clicking on the Instagram icon every so often, and now you do it on autopilot.
  • Burnout–you’re too stressed and tired to work on important things that require lots of brain power.

Category 4 Examples

Examples of tasks that fall into this category include the following:

  • Busywork, such as excessive formatting and creating unnecessary reports.
  • Checking your email constantly.
  • Going on social media countless times throughout the day.
  • Avoiding difficult tasks by aimlessly searching the web, mindlessly watching TV, playing video games for hours on end, or organizing your desk for the umpteenth time.
  • Some phone calls and meetings.
  • Gossiping around the water cooler.
  • Checking the news repeatedly throughout the day.

How to Reduce Category 4 Tasks

Here are five things you can do to spend less time in this category:

  • Designate a time for checking email and social media. If you feel the need to go on Twitter or open your inbox, remind yourself that you’ve set time aside for that later.
  • Block out chunks of time for important tasks. When it’s time to work on those tasks you only have two options: work on the task or stare at your thumbs.
  • Schedule time for fun and relaxation so that you’re less tempted to escape by spending time on Category 4 activities.
  • Make a list of the ways in which you waste time so that you can catch yourself when you’re engaging in any of these activities.
  • Create a clear structure for your day so that you don’t accidently wander into Category 4 (it happens).

Methodology to Follow

I hope that it’s clear from the explanations above of each of the four categories of the Eisenhower Matrix that prioritizing your tasks is vital for your success. Here’s a ten-step process you should follow:

1. Make a list of all the tasks that you have to complete throughout the day.

2. Go through each task and ask these two questions: “Is this important?” and “Is this urgent?” Your list could look something like the following:

tasks eisenhower matrix3. Depending on the answers to the two questions above, put each task in one of the four categories of the Eisenhower Matrix. You can download the PDF below and use that.

eisenhower matrix

4. Take out your agenda, day book, calendar, or whatever you use to organize your day. Schedule tasks that fall into Category 2.

5. Eliminate, postpone, or delegate any tasks that fall into Category 3. If you have to deal with these tasks, schedule a time to work on them as expeditiously as possible.

6. Delete all Category 4 tasks.

7- Now that your day is planned, get going. Eat the frog and get to work on Category 1 activities — start with the most urgent one.

8. Devise a strategy for spending as much time as possible on Category 2 activities by following the recommendations found in this article.

9. Apply the strategy that you come up with.

10 Reevaluate in a month’s time.


Organize your life in a way that will allow you to spend most of your time working on those things which are conducive to the achievement of your goals. The matrix created by President Eisenhower is a great tool for doing this. Live your best life by prioritizing your tasks with the Eisenhower Matrix.


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12 x 12 challenge

This year, take a 12 x 12 Challenge.

Every year I write a post on how to make the most of the new year. Here are some of the new year posts I’ve written in the past:

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And this year it will be no different. My recommendation for 2019 is that you try a 12 x 12 Challenge. A 12 x 12 Challenge is simply 12 mini-resolutions, one for each of the 12 months of the year. The 12 mini-resolutions can lead to the completion of one large resolution by the end of the year, but not necessarily.

I’ve designed several 12 x 12 Challenges for you to choose from, and you’ll get a better idea of what I’m talking about when you look through the challenges I’ve prepared. Of course, you can also use these challenges as inspiration to create your own.

You’ll find the 12 x 12 Challenges below. (At the end of the post there’s a 12 x 12 Challenge Sheet you can download to create your own 12 x 12 Challenge for 2019).

12 x 12 Reading Challenge

A popular New Year’s resolutions is to read more. If this is one of your resolutions, you can achieve it by taking a 12 x 12 Reading Challenge.  This challenge consists of reading one book a month, for a total of 12 books in a year. That’s doable.

So, what should you read for your 12 x 12 Reading Challenge? You can choose to read 12 books in your area of expertise, or you can begin the journey of becoming an expert in a whole new area by reading the 12 most important books in that subject.

You can also choose to read some of the classics you didn’t get to in high school or college. In fact, you can make things even more interesting by sticking to one author. As an illustration, you can make 2019 the Year of Charles Dickens. That challenge could look as follows:

  • January – A Tale of Two Cities
  • February – The Pickwick Papers
  • March – Oliver Twist
  • April – Nicholas Nickleby
  • May – The Old Curiosity Shop
  • June – Great Expectations
  • July – David Copperfield
  • August – Bleak House
  • September – Hard Times
  • October – Little Dorrit
  • November – Barnaby Rudge
  • December – A Christmas Carol

12 x 12 Challenge

I haven’t decided whether I’m going to take this challenge yet, but I am reading “A Tale of Two Cities” right now. (For anyone wondering, the two cities are London and Paris).

Here’s another 12 x 12 Reading Challenge you can try if you would like to read the classics:

  • January – A British Classic
  • February A Short Classic (less than 150 pages)
  • March – A French Classic
  • April – A Classic Written By a Woman
  • May – An American Classic
  • June – A Russian Classic
  • July – A Classic You Previously Started But Didn’t Finish
  • August – Re-read Your Favorite Classic
  • September – A Classic That’s More Than 200 Years Old
  • October – A Horror Classic
  • November – A Play That’s Considered a Classic
  • December – A German Classic

12 x 12 Learning New Skills Challenge

This year, learn a new skill. Better yet, learn 12 of them. It can be done. The trick is to keep it simple and aim to be “good enough”. Here are some ideas for the skills you could choose to learn:

  • January – Time Management
  • February – Drawing
  • March – Cooking
  • April – Singing
  • May – Salsa Dancing
  • June – Knitting
  • July – Photography
  • August – Weightlifting
  • September – Basic Car Repairs
  • October – Meditation
  • November – Power Point
  • December – Public Speaking

Your challenge can consist of twelve skills that are not related to each other, like the challenge above. However, an even better idea is to choose 12 sub-skills that will allow you to carry out a more complex skill.

For example, if you want to start a blog in 2019–which I highly recommend–you could set up the following 12 x 12 Learning New Skills Challenge:

  • January – How to Use and Manage WordPress
  • February: How to Write for the Web (Content Creation)
  • March: Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • April – Copywriting (craft compelling copy)
  • May – Grow and Convert Traffic
  • June – Online Marketing
  • July – Using Twitter effectively
  • August – Instagram Marketing
  • September – Using Pinterest to promote your brand
  • October – How to use Facebook
  • November – Branding
  • December – Using Visual Elements to Enhance Your Blog Posts

12 x 12 challenge

If you take on this challenge, by the end of the year you’ll have 12 new weapons in your arsenal of skills.

12 x 12 Microadventures Challenge

I think it’s safe to say we could all use more adventure in our lives. The good news is that adventures don’t have to be far away, expensive, dangerous, or complicated. Be more adventurous in 2019 by taking 12 microadventures.

A microadventure is any adventure that’s short, close to home, cheap, and simple. Therefore, it’s achievable.  The term was coined in the book Microadventures by British explorer Alastair Humphreys .

Here’s an example of a 12 x 12 Microadventures Challenge you can choose to take in 2019:

  • January – Eat a food you’ve never tried before.
  • February – Visit a nearby town–staying the weekend is optional.
  • March – Try a different way of getting to work – walking, cycling, taking the bus, or even skating.
  • April – Go geocaching – an outdoor recreational activity that involves hunting for hidden objects using GPS coordinates posted on a website.
  • May – Sleep under the moon (it can even be in your own backyard).
  • June – Swim in the wild – find a river or a lake, and jump in.
  • July – Go to a beach you’ve never been to before (bonus points if you try a new water sport).
  • August – Spend a day eating only what you catch or forage.
  • September – Climb a hill and have a picnic when you get to the top.
  • October – Get on the subway and go to the end of the line.
  • November – Attend a festival or fair.
  • December – Be a tourist in your own town – visit a place in your town you’ve never been to before, such as a historical site, museum, or gallery. You can even take a walking tour of your city.

Don’t the microadventures above sound like fun? I think so!

12 x 12 Passion Projects Challenge

A while back I wrote a blog post on 14 Reasons to Start a Passion Project.  Here’s how I define “passion project”:

“A passion project is an activity or enterprise that you decide to take on—usually in your spare time–in order to gain some benefit for yourself.”

This year, why not commit to 12 small passion projects? Here are some ideas:

  • Create 12 picture books in 12 months.
  • Write 12 short stories in 12 months.
  • Complete 12 Lego challenges — adults can play with Legos.
  • Paint 12 watercolors, one for each month of the year.
  • Design 12 websites to add to your portfolio.

This is another 12 x 12 Challenge I’m tempted to try this year.

12 x 12 Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Projects Challenge

Improve your home this year with 12 do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. Here are some ideas:

  • January – Turn a corner of a room into a small home office.
  • February – Give your kitchen cabinets a new finish.
  • March – Put up a bookshelf.
  • April – Turn a closet into a mudroom.
  • May – Turn a shabby cabinet into a bar cart (or a coffee cart).
  • June – Build swings in the backyard.
  • July – Build a chicken coop.
  • August – Transform an old file cabinet into garage storage.
  • September – Revamp your nightstands.
  • October – Upcycle an item from a thrift store.
  • November – Create a reading nook.
  • December – Create art for your living room wall.

12 x 12 Lifestyle Experiments Challenge

Become a better person in 2019 by conducting lifestyle experiments. Twelve of them, to be more precise. Through experimentation you’ll be stepping out of your comfort zone and you’ll discover practices you can adopt to become a better version of yourself.

Here’s an idea of what your 12 x 12 Lifestyle Experiments Challenge can look like:

  • January – Try daily brachial hanging (holding on to a horizontal bar and hanging relaxed with loose shoulders).
  • February – Wake up at 4:30 a.m. for a month.
  • March – Go vegan for a month.
  • April – Go without social media for a month.
  • May – Write 1000 words a day for 30 days.
  • June – Try the Paleo diet for a month – a dietary plan based on foods similar to what early humans ate.
  • July – Try a 30-day no spend challenge during which you don’t buy anything that isn’t necessary to live.
  • August – Do one simple exercise–like walking for twenty minutes–every day for a month.
  • September – Create something every day for a month.
  • October – Don’t watch any television for a month (this includes watching shows on your computer).
  • November – Don’t read or watch the news for 30 days.
  • December – Do yoga every day for a month.


Which of the 12 x 12 Challenges above peaked your interest? They all look good to me, and I’m going to have a hard time choosing one. But choose I must. Live your best life by taking a 12 x 12 Challenge.

You can download the 12 x 12 Challenge Sheet which you can use to design your 12 x 12 Challenge, below.


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