Featured Blog

Productivity 501

By Mark Shead

20 Simple Ways to Become a Bookworm

Written by Leo of Zen Habits

20 ways to become a bookworm

A top goal for many people is reading more books. And while it seems like an easy enough goal, it seems that it can be difficult with all of life's distractions.

Reading can be a pleasure like no other, especially when you discover a fantastic author or an imaginative new world. You can cuddle up with a good book on a weekend or rainy day, become life-long friends with a great character, lose yourself in the worlds created by books.

If reading more books is a goal of yours, there are some easy and simple things you can do to encourage a life-long reading habit. Follow these tips, and you'll soon have a list of books you've read that goes on forever.

  1. Make it a habit. If you can install a new habit to read at certain times of the day, no matter what, even if it's just for 10 minutes at a time, you'll end up reading a ton of books over the course of a year. For example, make it a habit to read with breakfast and lunch, when you use the bathroom, and when you go to bed. If you do 10 minutes at a time, you'll have 40 minutes a day, or nearly 5 hours a week. If you ride public transit, read while you're waiting and while you're on the bus or train. Make it a daily habit, and it will add up. This is the surest way to read more books.
  2. Keep a reading list. Either in a notebook, on a wiki, or some other document on your computer, keep a simple list of books you want to read. Add to it every time you hear of a good book, or read a good review. This running list will keep you motivated keep reading more.
  3. Keep a book log. Along those lines, also keep a log of all the books you read. If you want to be detailed, write the book title, author, the date you started and the date you completed it. Even more, you can write a short note about how you liked the book. If all of that's too much trouble, just keep a list of the books you read and maybe the date you finished them.
  4. Set a challenge. Make a challenge for yourself -- say one book a week, or 40 books in a year. Something achievable, but a challenge. Make it a public challenge, announcing it on your blog or to friends and family, and give everyone your weekly progress report. You'll push yourself to meet the challenge, and find ways to do it.
  5. Cut back on online reading. If you're reading a lot of stuff online, you probably don't have enough time to read books. If you cut your online reading by just 30 minutes (I'm not saying to ditch it completely), you'll have time to read for half an hour a day. That adds up.
  6. Join a book club. Most areas have some sort of book club -- look online, in your local newspaper, or at your local library for a book club near you. If you can't find one, organize one with friends, family and neighbors who are interested in books. A book club will get you motivated to read, and help you find recommendations for great books, and perhaps an easy way to swap good books with people in your area.
  7. Join an online forum. Along those lines, there are many online forums for book lovers -- just do a Google search. Join one, participate, list your favorite books and authors, read those of others, talk books. It's a lot of fun, and you'll get support to form your reading habit.
  8. Limit TV watching. If you watch hours of television every day, you won't be able to read many books. Cut your TV time in half (for example), to free up time for reading.
  9. Join Bookmooch. Try Bookmooch for a great way to swap books. List the books you're willing to mail to people, and then list the books you want. If someone requests a book, you mail it at your cost. If someone has a book you want, you get it mailed to you for free.
  10. Carry your book always. This is one of the most important tips if you want to read more books: anywhere you go, bring your book with you. If you leave the house, put your book in the car. That way, if you have any waiting time, you've got your book to keep you company.
  11. Find inspiration. Read blogs by book lovers. There are many. These book lovers will describe books in such as way as to make you want to read them. They'll talk about their favorite authors. It's inspiring, and it'll motivate you to read.
  12. Get great recommendations. Find others who love the books you love, and see what else they recommend. A great way to do that is through Library Thing, a service where you list the books you own, give them ratings and reviews, and get recommendations for other books.
  13. Read books you can't put down. While you may be ambitious and want to tackle all of the classics, if those go a little too slowly for you, put them down and come back to them later. Instead, find a real page-turner. It doesn't matter what kind of book it is, as long as it's a book you love to read and can't put down. For me, that's writers like Stephen King and John Grisham and Tom Clancy or Robert Ludlum or Sue Grafton. I'll stay up all night reading one of their books.
  14. Always have books to read. You should never finish a book and not have another book lined up. I like to have at least 5 lined up, so I don't have to worry about it. Have your lineup of books stacked to one side of your bookshelf, so you always know what's on deck.
  15. Read books that make you laugh. Humorous books are good books, in my opinion. They're fun, and they can poke fun at some of the things we normally take seriously. And they make you want to read them. Find a funny author and go with him. My favorites are Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett and Mark Twain and David Sedaris.
  16. Connect with your passions. What do you love, and what do you love to do? If you read about it online, it's probably something you love to read about. Think about what those topics are, and find a good fiction novel about it. You're more likely to keep reading if you love the topic.
  17. Get into a series. Once I hit on a book I love, if it's part of a series, I try to read the whole series (if I can find all the books). Start to finish is best, but sometimes it doesn't matter. Series are a great way to keep reading.
  18. Finish your book before starting another. One bad habit I broke a few years ago was starting one book, putting it down, and then starting another, thinking I'll read them both at the same time. It doesn't usually work. I often don't come back to the first book, and usually don't finish it. If you start a book and it's a dud, go ahead and abandon it. But if it's a keeper, try to finish it before moving on.
  19. Become a library lover. There's no better resource for book lovers than the local public library. It's full of great books, new and old, and it's free. It's free! Go there, and enjoy the time you spend there.
  20. Get to love used book stores. Second best, next to the library, are your local used bookstores. There aren't a lot of them in my area (just one, actually, not counting a thrift shop), so it is one of my favorite places to go. I usually take a stack (or a box) of my old books, sell them, and use the credit to get a bunch of new ones.

24 Tips To Becoming An Early Riser

Written by Glen Stansberry of LifeDev.

24 tips to becoming an early riser

Since I've become a full-time freelancer, I've found one of the hardest things to do is to get up early. Without the threat of being fired, there just hasn't been a whole lot of motivation to get out of bed in a timely fashion.

I've quickly learned that getting up is crucial to success as an entrepreneur. And better yet: waking up early is really just a habit. You don't need any skill to do it. You just need to wake up consistently to condition your body to the routine. Here are some tips I've picked up along the way to ease the process of developing the habit of getting up early.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that you have to be motivated to get out of bed. Motivation is the only thing keeping us homo sapiens from lying in bed all day eating twinkies.

1. Create a conducive environment to wake up to. It may sound strange, but how messy my room is greatly affects how easy it is to wake up in the morning. I've found that if I have an orderly room to wake up in, I'm more inclined to bypass the snooze and start my day.

2. Get enough sleep. This one isn't a mind-bending concept, yet it's still the number one reason most people struggle with early rising. Aside from all the health benefits to getting enough sleep, it makes it a jillion times easier to wake up early. (A jillion folks. I had to use a fake number to show the importance.)

This probably means that you'll have to make some sacrifices in order to go to bed at a proper time. Don't worry, you won't even miss the late hours once you start seeing the benefits of waking up early.

3. Plan your day the night before. Writing down all the big, important things you'll be doing the next day give you the extra spring in your step to wake up early and quickly. If you've got a purpose, you've got a big reason to wake up.

4. Don't read in bed. Spending as little time as possible in bed will actually help your body realize that the bed is for sleeping, and not lying awake for hours. The goal is to fall asleep within 10 minutes of getting into bed.

5. Don't eat directly before bed. If you eat more than two hours before you go to bed, your body will have to digest the food, keeping you awake.

6. Eliminate stress. Stress is one of the main causes of poor sleep. Relax yourself before getting into bed. Try controlled breathing exercises, yoga, or any other tactic to lower your stress level. This is good for you anyway.

7. Reward yourself. Don't think for a second that the reasons for getting up have to be totally work-related. Remember waking up really early on Saturday mornings to watch cartoons? That's right: motivation. Occasionally give yourself rewards to anticipate the next day. A favorite show, ice cream, your favorite breakfast... anything for you to look forward to.

8. Exercise. Early morning exercise is great for waking a body up. It gets the blood flowing, raises levels of serotonin (happy chemicals), and will start your day off on the right foot. Exercise ultimately makes you feel better about yourself, and if you do it in the morning, will also help you wake up.

9. Don't lie in bed awake. The goal is to almost literally jump out of bed. The longer you stay in your bed, the more tempting it is to hit the snooze. And getting 10-20 minutes extra sleep after you've already woken doesn't really help you. It sends you back into a restless sleep that drains your energy before repeating the torturous process of waking up... again.

10. Sleep with windows open. The fresh air is better for you, and allows you to sleep more deeply.

11. Try to get up with the sun. Sunlight has many benefits to waking up. It raises that blessed serotonin level, regulates your circadian cycle, and keeps you up. But any sort of light will do for waking up before dawn (you overachiever, you).

12. Be Consistent. Make sure that you go to bed and wake up every day at the same time. Consistency develops habits, and waking up early is only a habit.

13. Listen to your body. Your body does a pretty good job of telling you what it needs. If you're still feeling tired, go to bed earlier. Your body will find a suitable sleeping pattern soon enough.

14. Go outside I've found that going outside and reading or exercising first thing in the morning is great for waking up. Feeling the breeze and sunlight on your skin, hearing the sounds of morning, all these things together stimulate just about every sense in your body.

15. Change alarm sounds often. Don't let your body get used to hearing the same alarm every day. Drudgery never motivates, my friends. Use alarms that are pleasant, and change them often so they stay pleasant. There's nothing worse than waking up to something that sounds like a horn on a Chevy.

16. Lay everything out the night before. Collect and lay out all your clothes and any other peripherals you'll need the night before, so you don't have to make those decisions in a sleepy state. Having to make decisions in the morning can make you not want to wake up.

17. A.M. Radio Associating waking up with fun things like music can train your mind to think that, "Hey, waking up isn't so bad after all!"

18. Use the extra time productively. - What's the point of getting up a few hours earlier if you don't do anything productive with the time? Your brain is pretty smart, and if it figures out that waking up earlier doesn't really have any benefits, game over. There has to be a reason for getting up.

19. Write down why you're getting up. What will you be doing when you wake up? If you write down the actions that you'll be doing the next morning with your extra time, you're giving yourself incentive to wake up.

20. Plan important events in the morning. This, if anything, will force you to get out of bed and moving. Schedule meetings, interviews, anything that requires you to get up and moving by a certain time.

21. Find an accountability partner. If you're having trouble sticking to early rising, find someone who will hold you accountable to early rising. This should preferably be someone who is also trying to wake up early, so you can help each other in your quest for early morning dominance.

22. Tell people about your early rising. Letting the world know about your early morning prowess is yet another way to keep yourself accountable. Nobody wants to live a lie, right?

23. Avoid Naps. It's a proven fact that nappers sleep worse at night. Naps break critical sleep cycles that keep us from getting the proper types of sleep we need.

24. Track your progress. Use a goal tracker like Joe's Goals to simply track how you're doing. Visually seeing your progress is a great way to stay motivated and focused on the goal.

These are just a few ways that you can improve your ability to wake up earlier. Finding the best routine for you is the most critical, and requires some experimentation. The key thing to remember is that waking up should be a pleasant experience. If you can make waking up something you look forward to, you're already halfway on your journey to becoming an early riser.


8 Tools That Ensure You'll Never Lose An Idea

By Glen Stansberry of LifeDev

8 tools to ensure you never lose an ideaThere are plenty of tools for people wanting to improve their productivity. Planners, lists, calendars... all these tools are awesome helpers for getting stuff done.

However, many people overlook one very important aspect of productivity: The Capture. It doesn't matter how well a list of todo's is organized if the list isn't complete. How fast you can complete tasks doesn't really matter if some fall through the cracks and never get done. Ideas don't matter if they're never recorded. The capture of these ideas and tasks is all-too crucial when it comes to becoming more efficient.

It's been my experience that good ideas never come at a convenient time. Never. In the shower, on the way to the store, mowing the lawn. These are when ideas really happen.

We're going to look at 8 tools that help ensure our important ideas and tasks are recorded properly, and never forgotten.

1. iGTD with Quicksilver (mac only). I recently converted from the dark side from a PC to a Mac, and quickly found there is a wide selection of GTD-style task management software available. iGTD quickly became my central hub of productivity, thanks to integration with an equally-impressive piece of Mac goodness, Quicksilver.

In a nutshell, I can use these two pieces of software to effortlessly and quickly add ideas as I'm working on the computer. I just hit a keyboard command, type my idea/todo into quicksilver, save, and all the sudden I'm back to whatever I was working on.

The integration of Quicksilver into iGTD really deserves a whole post dedicated to the topic, so I'll point you to the excellent guide on using iGTD with Quicksilver at 43Folders.

2. Freemind. Mind mapping is a great way to have a visual layout for your ideas. You can retrace your steps and thought processes with mind maps, and can make visual connections that allow for great amounts of detail. Plus, it's a great way to get those creative juices flowing and think "outside the box". This helps with preserving the entire idea, from start to finish.

Freemind is mind mapping software that is free and open to most computer platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux) and works pretty darn well. If you're looking for a web-based mind mapper, check out Bubbl.us.

3. Water-proof paper for shower ideas. Showers are great (but not very convenient) times for having ideas. If you're serious about jotting something down, keep a wax pencil handy to mark on your tile. If you want to get a little more fancy, buy a waterproof notebook to scribble in while you're bathing.

4. Jott. On the go and nowhere to put your idea? Try Jott. Jott is a phone service that allows you to "jott" down ideas via voicemail, which the service transcribes into email, and delivers to your inbox. This can be a lifesaver when you're moving around or don't have any paper handy.

5. Cheap voice recorder. While this may not be as elegant and streamlined as Jott, it can still be a lifesaver. Any recorder will do, but the digital recorders are very handy.

6. Backpack. Backpack is an incredible web-based collection system that allows you to easily capture your thoughts or todo's from any computer with internet access. Set up notes, reminders, and todos, plus collaborate with other people.

If you're a Mac user you can sweeten the deal even more by installing the Backpack dashboard widget. Now you can hit F12 and update your existing Backpack pages.

7. Behance. The Behance team truly understands creative types. Designed specifically for dreamers like you and I, Behance has developed a whole product line of note-taking and various "collecting" products, ranging from note cards to moleskines.

Paper is my weapon of choice for collecting ideas and tasks, and Behance products do it well.

8. Hipster PDA. For those of you DIY'ers who like to roll their own productivity tools, the HPDA is for you.

The Hipster PDA consists of 2 main components: cheap notecards and a binder clip. This nifty little gadget can then clip to your belt or pocket, and is always nearby when ideas happen. It's saved me from many a lost thought in the past, and will no doubt continue to in the future.

These 8 tools cover nearly every scenario where a thought might be lost. Effectively working these tools into your collection and productivity system will enable you to have piece of mind that you'll never have the regret of forgetting that one great task, idea, or date.

Remember: Our productivity systems are only as good as our collection buckets.


Minimalism Isn't So Minimal

by Jerry Brito of Unclutterer

Minimalism Isn't so minimalAt Unclutterer we often get the same exasperated question from readers: "How little is little enough?" We offer advice on how to trim away every last ounce of clutter and redundancy and useless ornamentation, and I imagine that some readers think, "But I like my ornamentation!" It might seem sometimes that the "minimalism" our site and other sites advocate entails living a barefoot monastic life of want. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Wikipedia tells us that the term "minimalism" has very specific meanings as it describes movements in the arts, including music and literature. When people call themselves minimalists, however, they're probably not referring to how much they like Philip Glass. Instead, they mean they consciously choose to do with less things than they could otherwise have, usually because it brings them peace of mind. To this point, Wikipedia only has one sentence: "The term 'minimalist' is often applied colloquially to designate anything which is spare or stripped to its essentials." That colloquial meaning deserves exploration.

Being a minimalist is not about monasticism. If you are an audiophile and love your collection of hundreds of vinyl records, then an article about decluttering your space by digitizing all your music probably won't have much appeal to you. Much less will the suggestion that you really don't need all those LPs. Demurring that advice is fine because there is nothing incompatible between minimalism and consumerism. If you love your LPs, getting rid of them in the name of minimalism and simplicity would be wrong, and we would never ask you to do that.

To me, consumerism -- defined as consumption beyond one's basic needs -- is not an evil in and of itself. I don't need all the clothes I have, and I certainly don't need a DVD player and movie collection to live a satisfied life, but those things make me happy and give me enjoyment, so I think that they're fine to have. Living beyond one's basic needs becomes a problem only when the accumulation of property becomes a source of stress rather than enjoyment. Unfortunately, I think finding balance is difficult for many because purchasing and accumulating can be effortless, while planning ahead and organizing takes effort.

Choosing to live simply is trying to find balance in order to enjoy what one does have and to avoid becoming overwhelmed by clutter. It means consciously choosing to have fewer things, but knowing that what you do have will be of high quality and truly worth cherishing.

The minimalism we espouse, therefore, does not require monasticism, but rather advocates getting rid of (or preferably avoiding) distractions that prevent us from enjoying a modern, luxurious life. It's about smart consumption, not no consumption.

Clutter happens when you have too much stuff. We're all guilty of acquiring more possessions than we need simply because we can. Sometimes a deal is just too good to pass up. Sometimes we buy something to make us feel better. And sometimes that new knick-knack just seemed like a very good idea at the time -- but in retrospect, what were we thinking?

Connie Cox and Cris Evatt in 30 Days to a Simpler Life share a simple maxim that was a revelation when I first read it. Never let anything cross the threshold of your home unless it's something that you know you need or that you know you will love and cherish for a long time to come. That bobble-head you got for free for filing up your gas tank doesn't count. Neither do pasta machines, breadmakers, or ice cream makers in most cases. Before you buy anything, ask yourself, do you really need it? Is it a replacement for something you're throwing out? Is it another black sweater? Or is it something you don't already have?

If you're just buying yourself a treat to reward yourself or cheer yourself up, consider a consumable, such as a nice meal. Or, if you're watching your figure, how about a movie or a concert? How about downloading some music or getting a massage or manicure? You get the picture. The idea is to not let anything into your home that won't serve a purpose while nonetheless avoiding a monastic life. It takes some conscious effort, but it's rewarding when you come home to a serene space.


You can subscribe to the LifeRemix blog by two methods:

RSS LifeRemix feed

Email










ZTD- Zen to Done