30 Day Blogging Challenge – Day 27


Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

In today’s article, I wanted to flesh out the feelings we have when trying to learn a new skill. After a relatively short period of time, we feel demotivated and procrastination sets in and ultimately we give up.

Often we want to learn a new skill and in our initial thoughts, we think to ourselves that we will pick up the skill fairly quickly. However, our minds are pretty good at deluding us.

After a few attempts, we realise its a bit harder than we anticipated and it is taking longer to learn than we thought. So we give up, we blame other factors or tell ourselves this just wasn’t for me.

But taking a step back and really thinking about it, what it boils down to is the lack of perseverance. We just needed to keep putting in the effort and be a little more gentle with ourselves on our self-talk in the beginning stages when we are learning.

What we also need to realise is that we will make many mistakes in the beginning and therefore shouldn’t judge ourselves too harshly and allow ourselves time to get into the groove.

By asking ourselves a few basic questions like how long did I try the new skill for? When was the last time I tried? What did I accomplish this training session? And what can I focus on for next time? By asking these questions and tracking the inputs one can figure out where one is going wrong. Let’s examine the questions below

How long did I try the new skill for?

By allowing enough time for you to get to grips with the new skill will help your mind to focus. Remember we are used to doing 95% of the things in our life with relative ease and without too much friction and thinking of what exactly what happens next.

This fools us into thinking that we need a short amount of time to learn a new skill, so we dedicate small pockets of time here or there. This doesn’t help us as after a while it feels like we have been working for a long time on this new skill and we are not making progress.

In reality, we haven’t really allocated enough time to try and allow ourselves to learn. What we should do is dedicate at least an hour initially maybe even two until we understand the fundamentals of the skill we are learning. We also need to make sure we can focus without any distractions.

As we improve we can shorten the periods of learning and start to enjoy the benefits of the new skill or hobby. This brings me to my next question.

When was the last time I tried?

If you have large gaps between your learning sessions you will find what you learnt the previous time will have been forgotten and then you will have to relearn that again, causing you much frustration as it feels you are not making progress and then the negative self-talk starts and you give up.

To set yourself up for winning at honing this new craft or skill try and schedule dedicated time to do it at least 2-3 times a week initially. Feelings of procrastination will be normal as we don’t like to do things were not good at yet.

Therefore by making dedicated time to work on our skill, we can fight the feelings of procrastination because we are not relying on inspiration but just get on with it.

What did I accomplish this training session?

By keeping a list of wins you can help the negative self-talk and can look at this list of wins when you are feeling demotivated. Sometimes we feel like we have slogged for hours or days and have nothing to show for it but by keeping a list of wins we can see that we are making progress slowly but steadily and keep ourselves motivated.

This comes in especially handy on the days we are feeling demotivated, heavy procrastination has set in and now we need to work on that new skill as it is scheduled. To help combat these feelings we look at our next question.

What can I focus on for next time? 

By having a list of things to work on will make it much easier to start your learning sessions, especially on hard days when you are experiencing heavy procrastination and feeling extremely demotivated.

By examining your list of wins and now looking at what you want to work on in the new training session will help you focus and even if you just knock one item off your list of things to focus on you would have added another win to your wins list and have made progress. The funny thing is once you started you generally can keep going.

How to do it.

If you are using a journal it’s very easy, just create a blank spread where you can track the dates and the time duration on one page and then record the dates and how long you are working on the new skill. On the second and third page keep your list of wins and what to focus on the next training section.

If you are using a digital note taker Like Evernote/Onenote/Notion you can easily create a table to help you track the dates and time duration. On the same page under the table, you can keep your list of wins and things to focus on in bullet form and then it can easily be moved between the sections.

If you are battling to keep track of your learning on new tasks maybe try this method out and you may be surprised to see how much time you are actually dedicating to learning this new skill and craft.

let me know in the comments below your thoughts on this.

30 Day Blogging Challenge – Day 26

In today’s article, I wanted to talk about my process of bullet journaling. For many, bullet journaling or “bujo” as they call it is done in a normal hard or a softcover book with either lined, dotted, quadrille or blank pages.

Another form of planning is the ring binders. Think of the classic Filofax and the Gillio’s. There are disc planners as well.

However, for me, the perfect balance between a normal bujo and a ring binder planner is the Filofax Notebook. It gives you the best of both worlds.

A normal bujo type book and the benefit of adding, removing and reordering pages like a ring or disc planner. The Notebook spiral is smaller and therefore less frustrating compared to the discs and rings of the other planners that always seem to get in the way.

Another great idea would be if Filofax could do a partnership with Rocketbook. It would be amazing if you could buy Rocketbook pages made for the Filofax Notebook. This would easily allow quick scanning to your various services and digital note apps like a normal Rocketbook but this time using normal paper pages.

Until that happens though guess one will have to be content with apps like CamScanner and manually upload.

The paper in the Filofax Notebook is very good quality, 100gsm so its great for fountain and gel pens.

My pen of choice though is the Pilot Acroball 4 colour pen. The colours and the writing is just great for me.

I used to use the Pilot Frixion 4 colour pen but I find the colours are a bit muted and dull compared to the Acroball. Also because the Frixion is a gel-type pen they don’t last as long as the Acroball which is an oil-based pen.

The great thing with using the Filofax Notebook is that it comes with 4 dividers and it’s really easy to remove and add pages to your sections.

From the bujo methodology, I have created a monthly page which takes up both sides of the sheet of paper. Each day takes up two line spaces on the page resulting in 15 days per page. This I keep right in front after I open the cover so it’s really easy to see what’s coming up.

I use a GTD methodology and keep my projects pages after the first tab. Journal writing, like morning pages, notes I make for meetings, notes for articles I read and youtube videos I watch are kept here. If I am working with a specific page at the time I can move it to the top of the list so it’s immediately visible after I flip the tab. Super easy!

Under tab two is where I keep notes on my daily bible reading, and other interesting scriptures I come across for me to revisit later.

Tab three is where I keep the daily pages I work on, those I usually set up on Sunday for the rest of the week. This has my block scheduling system and the habits I want to track, next to the habits section is where I put any appointments for the day, giving me a birds-eye view of what’s coming up.

After the block scheduling and habits section is where I record my todos. In the morning I check my todo list and write down any tasks I want to work on for the day. Once this is done, I then create alarms on my phone for the meetings coming up for the day. If I need to drive somewhere I set the alarm for 30-60 minutes ahead of the starting time of the meeting. If the meeting is in the office then I usually make it 5 minutes beforehand.

Doing it this way makes sure I don’t miss those little notification sounds that come from the calendar app.

Under tab four is where I keep my collections or lists like in bujo. Very easy to find as they all live here. No more threading and linking in the index like a physical notebook.

The bonus part is that if a collection or list needs more paper I can just add it in. It helps to keep things together more easily. Also if you severely mess up a page you can just remove it and add a new page and redo. No more messed up spreads, Yippee!

Also, the great thing is you have flexibility. Let’s say your collection needs lined, quadrille, dotted or blank paper you can have that or all four depending. It becomes very customisable, depending on what you want to do.

There is even a punch you can get so that if you want to print and punch your own pages and add to your Notebook planner you can. I haven’t tried that yet as the punches were difficult to come by but recently I have found a local supplier that has it and its not too expensive so I am planning on getting one soon.

Normal printer paper should be good enough as it is 85gsm but will see if I can get thicker paper and then print my stuff on that and punch and insert into the Notebook planner.

If you are looking for a bujo style planner that’s still customisable like the ring or disc planners I would definitely recommend the Filofax Notebook. They come in A4, A5 and personal size. Pretty much covers the most popular sizes for notebooks.

Let me know in the comments below if you have or use a Filofax Notebook!

30 Day Blogging Challenge – Day 25

Thanks to @andrewtneel for making this photo available freely on @unsplash 🎁

In today’s article, I wanted to speak about how or what your style of writing is.

The idea came to mind after reading Toms article about his writing style. He writes on average 750-1000 words for his blog posts and it takes him about an hour to put together and send out to the world.

Mostly my process is the same except my articles are a bit shorter. 500-750 words per article.

I also have a similar writing experience with my articles taking about an hour to write. Sometimes depending on the device, my editing process may be a bit longer.

Using my PC and typing on the WordPress web app using Grammarly it goes quite quick. However, like today I am typing on my iPhone and it may take a bit longer to run stuff through the Grammarly keyboard and make the necessary changes.

I agree with Tom in the sense it’s better to write many shorter articles than one long piece. Maybe later on in my career as a writer, I will go deeper into the higher-level articles I write.

I imposed a 30-day challenge on myself back in December and for the 1st week, it went pretty well but then procrastination and other factors beyond my control allowed me to skip days here and there. But rather than just giving up, I decided to keep the challenge going. We are almost done in the series as I am on blog post 25 as of writing this one.

I guess some of the things I have learned along the way is to have a content calendar, recently I started to use Notion for this and actively trying to make time to write each day. Doesn’t matter what’s at your disposal whether it’s your phone, PC or journal. It’s good to just get into the habit of writing daily.

One doesn’t have to publish what you write immediately, just get your thoughts and ideas down into whatever you decide to use. Then later when you are in front of your big screen you can then edit and make the necessary changes and then upload your blog post.

In the past, I have been held back by wanting the perfect or best-writing experience from beginning to end. However, putting all these weird restrictions on myself allowed more procrastination to set in and what I have realised is that inspiration comes at very weird times, definitely not in sync with ones writing schedule.

When inspiration does strike at random time use what you have to capture the ideas and thoughts. then when you are sitting down to write your blog post you have thoughts and ideas you can draw on, will make the writing experience much easier.

By trying to write every day then it becomes normal to type up or write out blog posts while waiting in queues or on public transport or even during your lunch hour.

The more we practice the easier it becomes for us to formulate ideas and put them down on paper or whatever app we use to create our posts.

This process might be better than imposing this huge task on yourself where you now sit in front of the pc after a week or two since the last blog post and now you have to brainstorm and think of what to write, edit and upload.

If you have various articles you have started to write over many days and various other notes to draw on when you had moments of inspiration then you will have less procrastination getting into the task of writing your blog post for the week.

I find that reading many different sources of information will help stimulate ideas that you can start writing about or add to existing articles that you have started but haven’t finished.

I use WordPress to host my blog and I find their mobile app quiet useful to start developing my content on my various mobile devices depending which I have on hand when the inspiration strikes.

Often I find leaving the article for a day or two and then re-reading it before uploading I find better ways to explain my thoughts and pick up silly little errors that auto text caused using a mobile device.

My current writing process has changed from that daunting sit-down, brainstorm article, write, edit and then publish all in one sitting. I find I am enjoying writing more by working daily or every second day to build up a back catalogue of articles for me to draw on when I want to publish.

I am sure this process is going to change going forward as time and circumstances change and I look forward to the progression.

Be interesting to know what your routine or process is of writing, let me know in the comments below.

30 Day Blogging Challenge – Day 24

Thanks to @halgatewood for making this photo available freely on @unsplash 🎁

In today’s article, I wanted to explore cognitive load. Cognitive load in layman’s terms can be likened to RAM in a computer. It is the working memory we have to do our tasks.

A simple example, we are in the office and need to go to the supply room to get paper. Halfway down the corridor, we get stopped by a colleague who relates a customer query that’s gone pear-shaped and now you need to action ASAP. After your colleague leaves you are now standing in the corridor wondering why you are standing there.

That’s cognitive load. That’s why trying to keep all your tasks and worries in your mind or working memory just adds to the load and ultimately failure. The more load you have the less working memory you have to use and various things start to happen in this case.

Limited or distracted attention. Forgetfulness as your mind releases what it’s holding onto in order to take on that new piece of information. Limited or incorrect learning as your mind can’t process the new information correctly and you end up drawing wrong conclusions.

Understanding this, how do we then free up our cognitive load. Like a computer that writes back the information to a hard drive to be later retrieved when needed we to need to have a hard drive of sorts to do the same.

I am old school and would advocate a paper planner or journal. This will allow your mind to offload the information through writing it down for later retrieval thus allowing your mind to take on that new piece of information and be able to tackle it with full power.

Others may advocate using digital systems as superior but this actually adds to your cognitive load as you have to navigate a piece of software to save your thought, idea or whatever is on your mind. When using the aforementioned software you get confronted with a myriad of options and this adds to your immediate cognitive load. Once you have finally finished what you were trying to quickly do you have already forgotten the original task, ie pointless then.

Using a paper planner or journal is much easier. Fewer distractions and thinking is required and therefore less cognitive load. Simply open to a blank page and write. No guesswork on finding the software on your device, navigating within the software, deciding where to save your note or task in the software with whatever tags, settings etc.

Later on when you have more free time and your cognitive load is less and not full up with work and other worries you can then transpose any of these notes and tasks in your journal or planner into your relevant digital or software systems and tag, set due dates and assign to your heart’s content.

This will prevent the all too familiar feeling of knowing you saved that note in your notes app but now it’s “missing” and you have to try to remember what it was about so you can try search keywords or manually go through your recent entries to try and find it.

This is especially true for email. Once it’s read there is no visual cue that something still needs to happen and often we get caught off-guard and forget to get back to an email party because of other distractions.

These are just some of the examples of cognitive load and how it can hamper us if we are not careful or diligent on how we do things.

Knowing this shortcoming can help us plan better and not leave things in our working memory for later as our cognitive load will be overloaded and we will invariably forget.

Let me know your thoughts on this and if you have experienced it.

30 Day Blogging Challenge – Day 23

Thanks to Zac Durant for making this photo available freely on @unsplash 🎁

Today I wanted to talk about the seemingly strange thing of inspiration. It’s awesome when it hits you like a lightning bolt and your mind and fingers are just pumping out the words like a thick torrent.

And inspiration comes in the weirdest places. Today I am sitting at unemployment and usually, it’s a soul-sucking and mind-numbing experience. This time around I decided to bring my earphones and listen to a bit of music while I waited and maybe binge watch some planner videos.

However, something struck me and thought to myself let me finish that article I was writing on a word document about starting a blog.

Once I got that post done it got me thinking about the article I read on Carl Pullein blog about simplifying your system.

Typing the article on my phone using MS Word was a bit more painful than on my PC and it got me thinking that my system is getting a bit complex and definitely not mobile-friendly. Today I am working solely on my phone.

MS Word works like a bomb on PC and to a certain degree on the mobile platform. But the doc I was working on was a template for posting to a blog, in this case, WordPress. Typing up blog posts is definitely much easier on the WordPress app using your phone vs using a blogging template designed for Word on a PC and then trying to edit it on your phone.

Anyway, article after article, ideas came to mind and I have been smashing out the words without too much effort. It’s really nice when this happens as other days it’s a hard slog.

You sit down and start typing but whatever comes out feels forced or not great. However one just needs to keep hacking away.

Other day’s like today you feel like your on fire and the thoughts and words come like a torrent. Thick and fast.

Experiencing this got me thinking of how this happens? Have other bloggers experienced it? How often does it happen?

For me, it has felt like a while since I have been inspired like this to write. Feels good.

Guess tomorrow we go back to a hard slog lol.

Let me know your thoughts on inspiration and if it visits you more frequently vs myself.

30 Day Blogging Challenge – Day 22

Thanks to taha ajmi for making this photo available freely on @unsplash 🎁

Today I wanted to talk about decision fatigue. In many of the articles, I write about decision fatigue.

What is decision fatigue? It can be described as the deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual after a long session of decision making.

Having experienced this myself and trying to understand it I came up with systems and processes unbeknown to myself that helped alleviate this fatigue. Hence minimalism is starting to gain traction now as this frees you up from many non-important decisions that help you make bigger decisions.

For the brain a decision of what outfit am I going to wear uses much of the same processes as the decision are we going to file for bankruptcy.

There is much research around highly trained and skilled people making poorer decisions at the end of the day vs early in the day. Therefore it’s not about mental intelligence. It’s a human trait.

Understanding this we can start to uncover how we can improve our productivity by removing seemingly insignificant decisions and plan better to avoid having to decide between trade-offs like eating breakfast before work, will I have enough time to make breakfast, what will I make, will I have enough time to clean before going to work etc. A seemingly simple example but these are the exact things that suck your brainpower even before getting to work.

Removing these simple decisions the night before leaves you in a much stronger position the next morning and with correct planning your not wasting decision power on trying to balance things with the time you have.

This ties into another article I wrote on block timing and how to put things in blocks of time to help you plan better.

How then can we set ourselves up for a better day, if we know that by the end of the day our decision-making process is diminished, won’t this affect how we plan?

The good news is this skill or process can be replenished but it takes time and an environment that is free from decision making and allows us to get back to a neutral state of mind. This can be achieved by taking a walk, drinking some tea or coffee and just letting all the things go that’s on one’s mind. Distract the mind a bit by doing something that helps you wind down like watching an episode of your favourite series, read a book or binge watch some planner videos on youtube, ok cat videos for the normal people, whatever helps you.

Once you are at this relaxed state then plan your morning, write it down if you have to, become a mindless robot basically in the morning, you know what outfit to wear (check the weather otherwise…) plan your breakfast, meal prep to help with time. Plan your morning so when you get to the office you know what to do first.

This is another area where we get trapped and our time gets wasted on non-important things and then crisis mode hits and then we are forced into making decisions in out of control situations leaving us sapped at the end of the day.

If you can practice planning your day like this you will find you are less exhausted by the end of the day, leaving you enough decision power to finally think of what to make for supper.

Your buying decisions will also improve at the store because you have a list and have planned your trip and have a budget. Fewer trade-offs on the price of goods to buy, what to buy, what will you need for lunch tomorrow. All this has been planned out and you simply walk in, buy the items you KNOW you need and leave.

This, in turn, leads to a less frustrated and anxious life which makes your whole experience of things around you better.

Decision fatigue = more stressful life who could have thought.

Anyway, let me know your thoughts on this and if you have experienced this.

30 Day Blogging Challenge – Day 21

Thanks to Philipp Mandler for making this photo available freely on @unsplash 🎁

In my previous post, I was speaking about simplifying your system and processes.

In this article, I wanted to explore the processes side more. As an efficiency-driven individual with a type 1 perfectionist personality, I am always looking for the most effective and perfect way to do things.

This has led me to look at how I do things on a daily basis and adopt strategies and ideas and methodologies from various disciplines to help achieve this.

Over my work career, I have always been drawn to the chaos and trying to make sense of it. What I have noticed is that most people don’t really adopt any sort of strategy on how to do things. On a bigger level, they might have a basic or simple process to do things but on the countless many smaller things they just ignore it or do whatever at that moment in time not thinking of the knock-on effects.

This I have found Leeds too much frustration, time wastage and general unproductivity on the individual. No one wants to be outright unproductive but sometimes in life, we become a victim of circumstance. What we don’t sort out today comes back and bites us on the proverbial ass later.

This happens with many things like having a billion emails in the inbox and not having a way to sort them and filter out the junk.

Not saving our files in any sort of coherent way or place and not renaming the attachments we save. Eventually, we just have massive piles of digital junk to try and sift through.

By creating processes for ourselves, even on the smaller levels, we can start to maximise our efficiency in various ways.

Some of the benefits, for example, our email. If we are regularly unsubscribing from newsletters coming to our work email we won’t have 30 unread emails a day that’s junk or irrelevant.

If we have rules set up that emails from groups of people go to a folder it’s easier to see what’s important. Emails in the exec or direct management team are more urgent than emails from suppliers. However, if everything is sitting in your inbox how do you discern the difference?

That’s just one area we can build processes, but what about how we save our tasks. Do we write them down, keep them in our head, have a myriad of systems? When do we check these, when do we weed out the tasks that were urgent yesterday but today is no longer relevant.

This is where most go wrong and their lists just grow till the tipping point of giving up and just going back to attend the most urgent and fighting fires.

Problem with that ideology is you never get ahead of the curve and you stuck in this mire of stress and decision fatigue. Ultimately leading to a decline in productivity and poor decision making causing you more problems tomorrow and leaving you utterly exhausted at the end of the day.

how does one then go about building these processes? The best advice is to find a productive person you may work with or know as a family member, ask them questions around how they keep track of stuff and if you can’t find someone, have a look online as there many productivity experts that can help you build systems and also have coaching classes.

Two that come to mind is Carl Pullein and Francesca Paschetta. They have some freebies to get you started on your journey and if you would like more intensive help they both offer coaching and 1on1 support.

Hopefully, this helps you to start thinking about your processes and by making small adjustments it will allow you to get more productive.

Let me know in the comments below your experiences around tweaking your processes.