Book Attention Deficit Disorder

Electronic books (or eBooks for fellow nerds) are an awesome thing aren’t they? Except for the fact that I’ve now become a regular reader of something to the effect of 10-20 books at a time. It’s no laughing matter when I look at my Goodreads profile and see how pitiful life has become. With more pressure to be the best we can in our respective fields there’s lots of content to consume with no one to steer you in the right direction.

Historically books were primary sources of information. With the dawn of the Information Age it’s nothing new to find answers for your deepest problems shoved in your face through “15 Surprising Ways To” blog posts, advertisements or you name it. Successful people read all the time but slowly we see traditional books replaced by the ever changing condensed forms of media we consume by the minute. And I do mean by the minute. There’s a reason I read so many non-fiction books at once.

attention span of a 5 year old

Being an information addict has it’s disadvantages. Trying to intelligently sift through different forms of media leaves me to the wolves by robbing any focused moment with another opportunity to read about a new area of study. Intoxicating as it is, this can be an advantageous thing for reasons I’ll explain later.

books used to be about quotas

Almost every print book that is out on the market today is designed for an outdated system. Books needed to justify their size with a minimum page count eliciting long extraneous rants and examples. When I catch onto their overuse of case studies in a book I’ll immediately speed through the paragraphs searching only for anecdotal quotes to save in my writing journal. Storytelling is a beautiful art form but in my experience few non-fiction books get the hint. Send me a few quotes from the book or download a summary to get the gist. You don’t always have to dive in head first to get the benefit of the author’s research.

Blame it on social media

I get lazy sometimes. Facebook and Twitter have me bug eyed looking for the next article or topic to read. It gets unproductive but in the grand scheme of things a concentrated effort to intake a variety of content gives me unexpected advantage. With Google turning into an externalization of consciousness for our age it is important to learn the associations on where information is easily accessed. Tearing through short blasts of articles leaves me at least with the recollection of where it was first seen.

Interactions build strong connections

Reading multiple books on a similar subject interact to make a concept concrete in my mind. At least that’s what I tell myself as I pick up a new book. When trying to regain my footing in a theory I’ll often read the first paragraph of each chapter to dissect where the author will focus. “What’s possible” changes quickly in the business, psychology and hacking world so in order to stay abreast of human behavior patterns it takes the combination of long form and tweet form for career longevity.

If you open a book and follow through to the end every time then bravo. If you’re like me, then feel comfort in knowing you’re not alone and speed reading a library full of books is the way the cookie has to crumble in our fast paced society. Utilize a writing journal and all of your naughty reading habits will not be in vain.

Achieve Superhuman Focus

These days college isn’t the only place you need to dive in to projects face first. Getting down and dirty with attention marathons are common now with computer based careers. In the new Global Economy knowledge work has been booming since the early 21st century. According to Practices for Engaging the 21st Century Workforce, its impact has left most of us with desk jobs making 61% less than the medium household income ten years earlier. Ouch. Now we are all struggling to keep up with the job market changes by being linchpins. Working remotely has presented some interesting challenges this year that I’ve learned to kill with these strategies below.

TIME TO STEP UP YOUR GAME

Tea & Coffee – Mmm. Not only delicious but gets you to rock star status. I brew my own fresh ground coffee at the house and drink it black to avoid sugar crash. When strapping the rocket propulsion of coffee to your back it helps to include your new best friend, green tea. Throw back a cup to enjoy L-theanine. Ever heard of it? The caffeine in coffee has a tendency to give about anyone the jitters until your green tea comes to the rescue. Sipping tea throughout the afternoon keeps you relaxed and happy.

Exercise – Figured you’d turn up your nose at this one but the critics don’t lie. Falling in love with my Apple Watch was a huge help in providing a platform to measure progress. It is a reminder when my activity levels are lower than usual which inevitably affect productivity. Use your Fitbit or (cringe) some archaic method to keep a record of active calorie burn. Accountability helped me to maintain 45 minutes of cardio per day to hack my brain’s tendency to go sedentary. Sitting at a computer for hours at a time destroys will power. PS: Tracking fitness figures on a spreadsheet helped keep me motivated even for a previous non-believer.1-3-5 Task Strategy – A lot of GTD experts recommend writing in a task diary to keep track of things you’d like to get done during the week. This helps keep focus on the big picture if you can stick to it. Months ago I ran across an iPhone app that sports the 1-3-5 Method. Almost instantly I deleted the app because it was more effective for me to write it down on a sticky every day. You’ll be an expert in no time: choose 1 big task to crush, 3 medium ones and 5 minuscule. Make sure the big one is a massive high level gorilla. It’s easy to lose track of time during the day, feel mega productive and have nothing to show for. Break the cycle.

Pomodoro Technique – A good friend of mine became addicted to the digital ticking sound this thing makes. He says, “It reminds me there’s work to finish. If anyone or anything interrupts me; I reset it religiously and give them a dirty look.” It’s powerful when you have to punish yourself with another 25 minutes of work. By taking 5 minutes breaks between mini crush sessions it helps me sustain long bouts of work when I need it most. Eat the frog first thing in the morning by tackling the most disgusting task on your list with this timer.

Meditation – This helps most in small bursts for me since I’m not a big meditation nut. When focus starts to wane mid-day I do simple breathing exercises like ones you can find on Headspace or guided meditations from The Power Of Now. Take short breaks from whipping your play starved mind into submission. When boot camp isn’t working to focus I step away from my work; everyone tells you this but have you tried it?

Diet – Listing this last because for most including me finds this least enjoyable. In the absence of exercise the introduction of good fat to your diet will act as great brain fuel. I cook with coconut oil and sprinkle meals with MCT, nuts and vegetables. Stay away from the whites: sugar, salt, dairy and flour. Later in the evening bananas help by adding tryptophan to my sleepy noggin. My meals are small and frequent. Working from home increased my health because these habits are easier to maintain. Don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t perfect it. Give it your best shot.

Being Remembered for What Counts

The old saying goes something like, “People will not remember you for what you did or said, but how you made them feel.” How are you impacting every person around you? Do you take the time to truly connect with friends? Family members? Coworkers?

A few years ago I attended a funeral and listened carefully to what was said about the gentleman who had passed. Tears of joy, anger and sadness swept across the room with a series of stories that took place. This got me to thinking about my own life and what others will say about me when I pass on.

To the drawing board. This year I’ve compiled a 2013 goals list. In this list I have reminded myself to not wait to start living. When weaving my life story I’d like to leave back a positive impact on others but also see how best I can stick to my mission statement throughout the year. Over the course of life it is not what you do in a single moment but that which you do consistently that will bring the happiness and success you seek.

Have you ever thought about writing your own eulogy? A mission statement in many ways is similar, except of course used under very different circumstances. Think about taking some time to be intentional about asking yourself questions that will inspire your growth. It’s painful to think that we will not always be remembered for what counts if we are too involved in our own situations that we cannot be outwardly focusing on creating positive feelings in others.

Humans are hard wired to be social beings. Interdependence is an important part of survival even though we seem more disconnected than ever lately with the wave of technology. Stand out and make a difference to someone new, one soul at a time.

Little Things

Last week I was traveling to a conference and was forced to valet my car at the hotel that was hosting our event. As I surrendered my keys the gentleman sped off in my car and I went inside without thinking much of it. A few hours later, when it was time to leave, the same person parked the car in front of the large double doors entering the lobby. Reaching down into my pocket there was hardly a ball of lint to be found.

“I’m terribly sorry, but I do not have any money with me now.” I stated regretfully. The man looked a apathetic, “Tell you what, tomorrow I’m coming back again for the conference and I will make good on my word to tip you when I return.”

The valet attendant nodded his head but didn’t make solid eye contact with me as he shut the door behind me and ran off to the next car.

Next morning I arrived at the same location but a different attendant was at the entrance. Since I wrote down the name of the gentleman who had served me yesterday, I asked for his whereabouts.

Spotting him I headed in his direction with my hand extended toward him, “Thank you for your understanding. It’s a day late.”

He took the money and instantly lit up, “No one ever comes back. Dozens of people make that promise and never follow through. Thank you.”

The entire mood change of the man indicated to me how much the little things in life are often forgotten. When you are able to make a positive change in someone else’s life simply by holding to your word, it’s clear we as a civilization have a long way to go before reaching “enlightenment”.

Today’s challenge is to step outside of the normal boundaries of habit and try to make a small impact in a strangers life. It will pay forward exponentially.