General Topic: > Mind

Summary: When things get difficult, make it easier by just focusing on what matters: Do Your Job! (Tweet This!)

Those three words is the slogan of the New England Patriots. In their run to becoming World Champions this year, those words became got an awful lot of wear. There's a whole clothing line with the phrase.

If you are familiar with the phrase as it applies to the New England Patriots, you probably thought it was something new for this year. Nope. It's been plastered for seasons as the last thing that players see when they head onto the field. Back in 2003, Bill Belichick even worked it into an article in the NY Times.*

do your job

Even the ducks in Boston know to do their job.

Those are 9 powerful letters. Whenever things get difficult, I think back them and things get a lot easier. All I have to do is what I've always done, what I know how to do. There's no rocket science behind to it.

Recently, I invested in a "Do Your Job!" shirt myself. I call it an investment, because when I'm wearing the shirt, I'm unstoppable. You simply do not want to mess with me with frivolous crap. I'm a locomotive and nothing is going to derail me.

About the Last Few Weeks Here...

You have probably noticed a few tumbleweeds around this blog. A case could be made that I haven't been doing my job. If this blog were my job, it would be a strong case.

I have a number of other jobs. I have another business that is exploding, unprecedented growth in last 10 years. I'm the family CFO and one of our big projects was to get solar power installed. In addition, a huge stomach bug went through the family leaving me as a nurse or patient for the better part of a week.

All of these things are my job. I think most everyone would put family and money-earning high up on their priority list.

Things are starting to calm down. The solar power is installed and running. The stomach bug has left the family. My other business is still growing, but I've become accustomed to the new workflow.

There will always be more interruptions coming around the corner, but hopefully things will return to the pace at the beginning of the year when this website launched.

* As a Patriots fan, this phrase in that article still hurts: "Maybe next season you'll finish tied for first place in the division, but you'll go home anyway because you lost the third tie-breaker."

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Summary: Want to create a lasting change? Build habits by taking baby steps. (Tweet This!)
Baby steps:  Start small - keep improving

Baby steps: Start small... keep improving

For the last two and a half months, I've been trying to subtly nudge you in the direction of "being better." You may have noticed it in my monthly goal reports. If that was a little subtle, you might have also noticed it in such places as the website's name and logo.

If it wasn't completely obvious in either of those places, I'd like to formally write about it today. Many times people make grand, sweeping changes and expect them to stick. Yet, we know that most New Year's resolutions fail. We know that fad diets don't stick.

What does work? Baby steps

Here's a story from James Altucher's Newsletter about Tony Robbins training members of the military to shoot better:

"Specifically, for every student he had them bring the target only a few feet away. Everyone shot bullseyes. Then he moved the target back a foot. Bullseyes. Then another foot. And so on.

This is true for everything in life. I look at the example Mark Cuban told me. He didn't just start and make a billion. First he started a bar. Then he started a computer business. Then a hedge fund."

For years, I would joke around that I'd simply just get rich picking up a baseball and throwing a knuckleball like Tim Wakefield. Throwing a knuckleball doesn't require one to be in the physical condition of a top athlete. Obviously, I couldn't just pick up a ball and throw a knuckleball like Tim Wakefield. It took him years of practice. It took him years of study from a previous generation of knuckleballers.

I should have started with baby steps. In reality, I had other priorities and didn't see devoting years of my life to throwing a knuckleball as a risk worth taking.

Baby steps often mean going back to making SMART Goals. You want to break them down and make them attainable. As you achieve success, make it a little more difficult, do something a little bigger. Suddenly you are buying up NBA teams and financing businesses on Shark Tank.

Stanford University research BJ Fogg is one of the world's leading experts on taking baby steps. He likes to call them "tiny habits." A few years back, he had a TED talk that covered how to make lasting change. The concept starts with... you guessed it... baby steps. However, he goes further than just baby steps:

As you can see he covers developing habits, the role of motivation, and triggering change in general. These are all things I'll cover in other articles.

This website itself is an experiment in baby steps. Each day, I'm trying to capture a little bit of knowledge and share it with people. The idea is that in just 5-10 minutes a day, you can learn something. Each day I get a little better at writing. Each day, I go back and rework some piece of writing that I've done in the past to try to make it better. Over time and many iterations, the quality of the website improves. This improvement means it can help more people.

Everything gets a little better... one small step at a time.

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Summary: Knowing is half the battle, doing is the other half. These motivation tips will help with the "doing." (Tweet This!)

There's always been a wide gap between knowing what to do and actually going out and doing it. When I was a young tike, I had G.I. Joe reminding me every day that knowing is half the battle. Whose with me for a 6-second trip down memory lane:

This website, and all the information on the internet in general, can help you win the "knowing" half of the battle.

The problem is usually the "doing" half of the battle. There's limited time, energy, and even willpower to get it all done.

I think half of the "doing" half of the battle is simply to get yourself motivated. If you are mentally engaged to go and know what you want to do, you almost have it done.

To help get and keep me motivated, I've compiled some motivation tips. This way, whenever I need a boost, I can come back here. This is one of the articles on Be Better Now that will get updated over time as I learn new motivation tips and tricks.

Stay Hungry

If you have to work hard every day to put food on the table, you have built-in motivation. On the other hand, if you have $3 million dollars in a trust fund that your Daddy set up for you, perhaps you'd be a little more tempted to kick up your heals and relax a bit.

One way to stay hungry is to...

Make Yourself the Underdog (Even If You Aren't)

Former New England Patriot Rodney Harrison is famous for playing the "no respect" card. It kept him and the defense motivated even as the Patriots dominated opponents for years.

They'd use any and every media sound bite from the other team's locker room to twist it into, "They don't respect us. We'll show them how wrong they are!" When they focused on that, it took attention away from the fact that sometimes the opponents were terrible teams. This prevented any kind of let down.

Motivating Media

I always like to keep a bunch of motivation media around. Here are some of the movies and music and scenes that got me motivated.

Find an Inspirational Speaker

It kills me to write this. Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis has put together some great motivational speeches. Here’s an example of one such speech:

(As a side note, I think Ray Lewis is a nut based on some of things he’s said as a broadcaster and his checkered history.)

In a future post we'll get into both music and movies that are inspiring. For now, I'll leave you with Rocky, which is a rare motivating movie with motivating music.

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Summary: When you turn a chore into a game, it becomes fun. What if you did it for everything important in your life? (Tweet This!)

We've all been there. We've struggled with our productivity. I've been there. Let me tell you, when you build a website around a central tenant of being more productive this qualifies as "A Very Bad Thing."

When this happens, I realize that I have two choices. I could go through the list of the list of excuses or man up. Admittedly, I usually do both, go through the list of excuses and then man up.

Living the Video Game Life

Living the Video Game Life

It's one thing to know that I have to be more productive. Doing it is a horse of a different color. I need a way to stay motivated and accountable. The first thought that came to my mind is that I should take a commitment contract out against myself. This would help ensure that I stick to my plan. I was in the process of doing just that when I realized that would have to quantify my productivity. Remember that "Measurable" from our SMART Goals?

Fortunately, I happen to have a handy tool to quantify my productivity. I can simply refer to my prioritized to-do list. Each day, I will keep track how many points I've completed in a spreadsheet. I could even run some statistics on the data and create some graphs. The possibilities are endless.

Rate My Life

All problems are solved, right? Well not exactly. As we all known life intervenes with work sometimes. Last week, we had two feet of snow. Between shoveling and taking care of the kids, I didn't get nearly as much work done as I hoped. On my conventional business to-do list, this would have scored low. On my, "I'd like to not slip, fall, and spend a month in traction" to-do list, it ranked very high.

I have a lot of items like this. Walking my dog comes to mind immediately. I don't get any work done, but we both get exercise and he gets a fun trip. There are the times where I take some extra time make a healthy meal. This lowers my "work" productivity, but it is also a worthwhile trade off.

The last thing that I want to do is to become a slave to my productivity charts and graphs. I needed to do a little tweak. I created a spreadsheet for several areas that I want to be better in. I'd love to share it with you, but it really is far too rough, right now.

The categories were ones that were just off the top of my head - most of them pulled from the goals of this site: Money, Health, Productivity, Social good, and Family / Fun. The idea here is to rate myself each day on this criteria. If I eat tons of fast food and don't exercise, I'm going to get a low health score. If go crazy and buy a bunch of tablets for every room in the house, I'm going to get a low score in the money category (and perhaps an increased score in the "likelihood of getting divorced" column).

Currently, I have a Max Score, Today's Rating, and Today's Score column. As I've explained it thus far, I could just put a number from 1 to 10 for each day of the month, and have the same result.

My Life as a Video Game

My spreadsheet attempts to break down categories into specific tasks. So walking the dog gets points in both family/fun and health. I have exercise and diet tasks in the health category. If I have the best workout, I can earn 10 points there. If I have an excellent diet, that's another 10 points. I often forget to floss, so I'm giving myself an extra point. What I have now is a Health Category with a Max Score of 21. If I put in above average workout (6) with above average diet (6) and floss (1), I will earn 13 of 21 possible points. When I skip the gym, I likely won't get out of the single digits.

This is where living your life as a video game comes in. I want to score as many points as I can. In general, the more points I've score, the more productive my day is. There's even a word for it, Gamification.

As long as I keep the system in balance, this has been a great way to stay motivated throughout the day. Scoring points allows me to set measurable goals.

Perhaps best of all, I can put a reward system in place. Maybe scoring so many points earns me a beer or scotch at night. Maybe scoring so many points a month earns me $100 to buy some kind of technology toy. This is the next natural step, but I'm not there yet. We'll save that for another post for another day.

Photo Credit: Raja Nicholas Fletcher

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Summary: Have a project that just never gets done? Use a strongly enforced commitment contract to keep motivated (Tweet This)

On one of my favorite blogs, I recently read the following quote:


Get a Referee to Enforce the Commitment Contract

"If I read this post in December 2014 and it is not done – then future Evan – you owe The Wife $200+ Shoes" - My Journey to Millions

The author, Evan, had written a set of goals for the year. Like most goals set at the beginning of the year he has varying levels of success with them.

Do you think Evan completed this goal? Of course he did. (Hopefully his wife wasn't counting on the shoes.)

If you read the tips in my article last week, SMART Goals: Goal Setting Made Easy, I mentioned the concept of making a commitment contract with yourself to achieve your goal.

The idea is that you make a deal that if you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding. In that case, you are denying yourself of a reward.

However, it can work with the threat of doing something that you really don't want to do. Maybe you pledge that you'll donate money to the political party that opposes your views. Or if you are a Red Sox fan, you threaten to buy a Yankees hat and put the picture of you in it all over Instagram. The idea is to pick something that hurts a bit...

Make Your Commitment Contract Accountable

Ray Romano's character on Men of a Certain Age makes what he calls "mind bets." He'll bet himself that if he doesn't accomplish his goal (usually related to his performance in his golf game), he'll go without television or something else he was looking forward to. Making a mind bet has its problems. Do you have the discipline to follow through with it? His character occasionally found loopholes in his bets. A commitment contract where the commitment can be broken and the contract isn't binding may not be very effective.

If mind bets aren't every good, what's better? How about a website - StickK (yes there is an extra "K" in there) was created by a pair of Yale professors. The idea is that you pick a set a goal and sign a legally binding contract to send money to other people or organizations if you don't reach it.

One common trick is to donate money towards an organization that you don't believe in. That way you'll work extra hard to keep your money out of their hands. You also want assign a referee. According to a Wikipedia citation of Stickk, "... users who put money on the line and have a referee tend to do best. 78% of these users achieve their goals, as compared to only 35% who put no money down." (The source is premium content available to Boston Globe subscribers).

Another website looking to capitalize on the concept of a commitment contract is Healthy Wage. The idea here is very similar to StickK, but it's focused entirely on those looking to lose weight. Healthy Wage it is more strict with its requirements, which makes it tougher (well nearly impossible) to cheat. Unlike StickK where you can avoid the referee, Healthy Wage users are required to have their physician call in the results of their weigh-ins.

What can you take away from this? A commitment contract is powerful motivation, but it is only as good as the enforcement you create. Have you set up a commitment contract? If not, what are you waiting for? Let me know in the comments.

Further Reading:

Photo Credit: Pure Costumes

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