Thursday, December 22, 2011

How To Measure Your Mental Strength And How To Improve It

Tonight I wanted to talk about how to measure your mental strength and how to improve it. Mental toughness is something that a lot of people talk about but few people know how to measure. We know what it looks like when we see it. We know what it feels like when we have it. But really, how strong are you mentally? Do you even know? And once you do, how can you improve it.

In the daily review today, I talk about how it's easy to measure your physical strength. You go to the gym and pick up some weight and lift it. Either you can or you can't. To get stronger, you figure out how much you can lift and you slowly increase the weight.

For mental work, increasing mental strength also works the same way except for instead of lifting weight, you do tasks. How many tasks you can do determines how mentally strong you are.

The first step in defining your mental strength is starting to put together a checklist of your daily activities and see how far you can get each day. Once you figure out how far into your checklist that you can get well, that represents how mentally strong you are.

To build mental strength, you want to progressively add more tasks a little at a time. Once your brain adapts to being able to do that, then you add some more.

Each time you do that, you want to set the bar there that you will get that far every day. Start the bar low and slowly increase it.

Slow, progressive increases whether you are changing habits or trying to improve your productivity over long periods of time, make you mentally tougher.

I talk more about this in tonight's podcast which is free to all visitors.

Monday, December 19, 2011

What To Do When You Lose Momentum

If you have been stuck and started to do what I suggest and start doing thirty day challenges, then you will notice that after you do a few, you will start to create some momentum and be able to do each successive thirty day challenge a lot easier than the one before. This momentum is created once you start to see some successes no matter how small they are. Eventually, something might happen that disrupts your rhythm and slows or stops your momentum. When this happens, what do you do?

Losing momentum usually happens for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that you might encounter a roadblock you didn't expect. Once you run into it, you might not be able to overcome it for any number of reasons. The second most common reason is that you weren't mentally tough enough to keep the momentum going you started. Maybe this was because you thought you had more mental strength than you thought and tried to accomplish to much at once.

The second reason is a lot like going to the gym. You work out for a few weeks. Maybe you can bench press 100 pounds. One day you go to the gym and psych yourself up and convince yourself that from this point forward you will now bench 150 pounds. The first day in the gym, you get through about 5 reps of 150 and discover you can't go any farther. You weren't as strong as you thought.

The same goes for mental strength. When you attempt to challenge your brain with tasks that weighed more than your brain could lift, you'll experience failure and lose momentum.

That's why I am a big believer in progressive resistance. Each day or week or month, incorporate small changes by adding a small number of tasks to what you do every day. These small changes are more like adding one pound instead of fifty. They don't require  huge amounts of mental strength to complete yet over time, create a more mentally tougher you.

As far as the first reason goes. If you encounter a roadblock you didn't anticipate, start asking yourself what you could do to prevent or overcome that roadblock.

For example, this past week, I had a problem with internet access. In my routine, I couldn't complete my podcast because I didn't have it. So I asked myself what could I do to prevent a problem like that in the future, and the one thing I came up with is that I could work ahead a few days. If I did that, an occasional hiccup in internet access would go unnoticed by my readers.

In either case, once you lose momentum, make sure you have a pre-established "bar" or minimum number of tasks you will complete every day. Don't go below that as you add new tasks.

The very next day, start back up. If that proves to hard, then back off and add smaller amounts of additional tasks to your mental strength training.

I like to get right back at it the next possible change I get. If you aren't able to do that, then my fall back would be to restart at the beginning of a month a new push towards increasing your mental strength.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Daily Review #17 More Discussion On How To Become A White Belt Master

In today's daily review, I talk more about how to become a white belt master. A white belt master is a beginning student that understands the fundamentals of mastery and how to apply them. Just like I advocate to you, start getting those thoughts down and start working on constant improvement. Anything you do won't be perfect the first time. I am letting you see how the improvement process plays out and hope you see the value in that.

I've also continued the discussion in the forums. Please don't hesitate to add your thoughts there.

Daily Review #16 How To Use Checklists To Help You Avoid Mistakes

Today, I talk about how a checklist can help you avoid making mistakes. No matter how good we are, sometimes we don't make the best decisions. Maybe we get tired. Maybe we had something we didn't like happen to us or maybe we just have a bad day. As much as we would like to be perfect, sometimes it just doesn't happen that way.

I have found that one of the reasons I make mistakes is because I try and take a short cut or leave steps out of a proven process. Whenever I don't get the outcome I want, it's usually because of that. And a lot of times, it boils down to the fact that I might have forgot an important step.

There's a difference between forgetting a step and choosing not to do it. And the difference is in the checklist. A checklist provides you the road map to the best decision possible if you use it and helps you in the moment - remember to do the steps that are crucial to your success in the right order and at the right time.

In this daily review, I share with you some more details on why you have to get everything out of your head. Why I feel it is so important and encourage you to start right away at getting them down.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

How To Use Your Areas Of Focus To Start Projects And Identify Next Actions

In this weekly review I talk about how to start creating projects from your areas of focus list and then to identify the next actions for them. I also spend some time talking about some changes I've been making in the member area.

This week some of our members decided to start working on becoming a white belt master and I worked a lot on organizing and setting up the forum area of the membership section. Members are starting to visit the forum and get involved so it's pretty exciting.

Basically what I did tonight in this week's episode of the weekly review was take a couple of the belts and create some areas of focus. I then expanded on those areas by creating a few projects and finally began identifying next actions to move those projects forward.

My goal here is to show you a process behind what I am doing so that you can see how everything moves forward in small steps. Small steps can eventually take you a long way. Every journey starts with one small step and ours is no different here.

In my white belt area, I had a couple areas of focus. One was my checklists I am making to get everything out of my head. The other area of focus are the thirty day challenges I am doing.

For those, I decided upon two next actions. Those were:

  • Make a list of all of my inboxes and put them on my checklist.

  • Make a list of potential thirty day challenges to do in January.

For my red belt, my area of focus was getting the processing of my gtd inboxes mastered completely. My next action there was to:

  • Start working on my physical inbox

For my yellow belt, which is my physical health belt, I broke things down into three areas of focus. Diet, cardio and weightlifting. I then identified these next actions.

  • Figure out what to eat for breakfast each day.

  • Get my heart rate monitor out so I can start using it.

  • Re-read the weightlifting book from the master I have identified.

I didn't go through each belt and figured that was enough for this session. Next week, we'll expand on this a bit as I move things forward.

Start taking action and mastering your life one belt at a time.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Daily Review #15 Discussion From The Forums, Thirty Day Challenges And Checklists

In tonight's daily review, I spend some time talking about some ideas tossed around in the forums and also talk about creating a central repository for our work on thirty day challenges and the checklists that we all put together.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Daily Review #14 Creating The Foundation For The White Belt Master

I start discussing what I think is important for white belt beginning students to master. It's kind of late tonight and I don't have time to give you a full recap. The idea behind tonight's discussion is to begin the process of identifying what needs to be mastered and why it matters.

How To Set Up Your Gravatar

I had some questions about what an avatar is, what it does and how to set it up at I decided the best way to answer these questions was to do a video tutorial that answered these questions. While not required to be a member of the Black Belt Project, I think it will help provide a better environment to create a community of people who really can connect with each other. Set up your gravatar today.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Daily Review #12 How To Live In The Moment

One of the things that I have struggled with in the past is how to live in the moment - particularly when I am doing things that are important like spending time with family. During those times, I always feel like I should be doing the work I didn't get accomplished either because I wasn't productive enough when I was working or because the work that I do seems to have no definitive end.

Maybe like me you have experienced that nagging feeling as I have and wondered how to deal with it. How can you get rid of it?

I think the key to solving this problem is understanding one important concept. Work will always fill whatever time you allot to it. If you allow work to have an open ended commitment in your life, work will dominate your time.

The goal of a black belt is to increase free time and more importantly - stress free, free time.

As part of that process, ending the open ended commitment towards work has to be dealt with.

So what I decided to do was first of all, establish a schedule that clearly allowed for all of the activities that I wanted to do and all the activities that I have to do. Some of these things are pretty easy. It's easy to decide when to eat, when to sleep. Others were not as clear. When it came to work, I had to make some tough decisions about where to put things into my schedule. Fitting in family so that they are happy is an additional tough challenge that I had to figure out as well as time to take care of myself through exercise and mentally - time for myself to do the things I enjoyed as well.

What this did was give me a clear delineation of work time versus personal time. And it also gave me the next goal which was to figure out how to get the work to fit the time I had to allow for it.

This is really the most important component because if you don't do it right, you will still have that little voice telling you you need to be working on other stuff. If you don't address it, you will start to steal time from other areas.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Why You Must Get Everything Out Of Your Head

In the membership area today, I posted a video about how I am working on my daily review checklist. I view the checklist as the key component to a stress free life. Here's why. Most of the time, I spend time thinking about work, even when I am not working. The reason is because I work for myself for the most part.

But because I am responsible for a lot of different types of tasks, it's also a burden because I never ever quite felt like work was done. My solution to this problem was to take each day and figure out exactly what done would look like for a particular day if I got everything done that I wanted to.

The idea being that if I had the perfect day and got everything I wanted to do done, then when I had free time, I wouldn't feel guilty about not thinking about work.

Here's what I did. I started writing down everything that I did or that I wanted to do. All the tasks no matter how routine. I started putting them in order that optimized the energy it took to get them done. Because I did this, I found that I didn't have that nagging voice in my head reminding me to remember to do something.

It's important to realize that in order to focus on being in the moment, that you not focus on other parts of your day. Spend time studying all of the things you do and start putting them down on paper. Start with a daily checklist. Get that routine in the form of a checklist that you can start working on.

Once you do that, you'll find that you'll start defining your day and then before you know it, you will start defining your life.

Start taking action!

Daily Review #11 Learn How To Determine Your Black Belt GTD Level

In daily review #11, don't ask me why I called it daily review #12 in the video, I discuss how important the checklist is to your black belt gtd setup and how to figure out just what level of black belt that you are. I believe that it's important to get everything out of your head and into checklist.

Getting everything out of your head is the key to a stress free life. Why? Because if you get everything out of your head and put them into checklist, you are listing all of the activities that ultimately define what done looks like. When you know what done looks like, and have completed the tasks behind it, then when you have free time, you won't be worrying about what you didn't do.

I hope you enjoy today's daily review. I made it a video today and also added collection stuff to my list as well as fine tuned it a bit more.

You can see my actual daily review checklist. It's the one I am working with. It's time to start your own.

Here's the link to my daily review checklist.

[S3VIDEO file='video/dailyreview12.mp4']

Monday, December 5, 2011

Daily Review #10 Getting My Email Inbox To Empty

In today's review, I talk a little about the next step in getting my GTD system in shape. In the last episode, I got my voicemail to empty. Today, I got my email inbox to zero. I had nearly a 1000 emails in my inbox when I started as I had been neglected for the past week or two.

I updated my daily review checklist and tomorrow plan on getting my paper inbox into shape. I'll be adding the steps to do that when I do. I also fine tuned the list some by adding a few extra housekeeping items like printing out the list.

Getting your system to black belt is all about setting the bar at a certain point, reaching that bar daily and then adding a few more tasks. This progressive resistance adds to your mental strength.

Are you working on your daily review checklist? If not get started by getting one task out of your head.

Good luck!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

014 Use Your GTD Weekly Review To Get Your System In Shape

When I first started doing GTD, I didn't really do a weekly review. I just worked on getting my inboxes to zero. Over time, I ended up reaching that goal. Later, I made my first project list and then finally I started doing a weekly review. The clarity I had at that point was amazing and to be honest, it was a feeling that I never had before. It was a great feeling.

But I cheated a little in that I worked on the front end of my system first and worked to improve my GTD workflow one piece at a time. I got really good at collecting and then I focused on processing and organizing. I got really good at reviewing and then I focused more on doing.

I think that it's important that no matter how you do it, that you make continued progress each week on some phase of your system and think it's also important to give yourself permission to use your weekly review time to get that done.

While in an ideal world, you want to review your projects every week, when you first start and are overwhelmed at everything you have collected, use that hour or so that you would spend reviewing to work on it. It's time well spent.

As you improve, you will find that you don't need that time anymore and will find the ability to actually review.

In this podcast I talk a little bit about that and also touch on some membership information that you might also find interesting. For members, I have updated the white belt beginning student page with some information on how to start becoming a white belt master. The list on that page is for now a list of ideas that I will clarify over the next few week.

I hope if you are not doing a weekly review that you set aside time to start. I set aside time every Sunday evening. Do it consistently and over a long period of time you will find the improvement in your productivity. I know I did.

Well, it's late tonight, so until next time, keep working on your life one belt at a time.

Good luck!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Why It's Important To Visualize What You Want And Take Action Now

Whether you feel stuck in your current situation or are well on your way to mastering your life, an important component to getting what you want is to visualize your outcome. This visualization process doesn't have to be an all out formal process. For me, it's nearly enough to say what you want and take at least one action step towards it and a consistent review to take more actions later.

The reason I feel this is all that is necessary is because of how the brain works. Once you tell your brain that you want something, it is very powerful. It will start to figure out how to get it. Many of you may recognize this phenomenon from the fad book series called "The Secret" a while back.

But it's not enough to say you want something. The secret ingredient is the action step you take to start the process towards it. Your brain sees your actions and recognizes the need to figure out what the next step is and starts to do it subconsciously.

And once you review your progress towards a goal you have and take another consistent action, it reinforces the brains desire to make it come true.

This is the part of "The Secret" that as far as I know they left out. The action step.

So in a nutshell, start getting an idea of what you want your life to look like. Take a step towards it. Don't worry about how big the step is, just take a step towards it by taking action now. Then review your progress and take another small step. When you do this, your mind will start to find a way to do it.

Asking yourself questions like how can I get or how can I accomplish something will improve your life.

As an example, I have already visualized what I want the Black Belt Project to look like. I want it to be a community of doers. I want it to be helpful to members and I want it to provide a concrete path towards life mastery that anyone can do.

This idea in and of itself is pretty grand in my opinion. But without the second part, taking action towards it, the visualization doesn't make an imprint on your mind the same way with just the idea. It's almost as if the mind says, yeah, I know that you'd like that, but I'm not really sure that you REALLY want it.

Writing on this site everyday is the action that starts to make that visualization a reality. Each thing I write brings it into focus and tells my brain I am serious about the mental picture that I gave it. And since I am serious, it says hey, I better get to work on that!

By taking action on your goals it works the same way. You tell your brain you are indeed serious in your quest. And it starts working on clarifying the picture of it and figuring out a path to obtain it.

Visualize and then take action today.

Daily Review Checklist

I'm slowly building a daily review checklist. You can see the checklist as it is currently by visiting this google doc.

Click here to go to my: Daily Review Checklist

This is a live document and as I update it, you will have a current view of my daily review checklist.





Friday, December 2, 2011

How To Master Processing ALL Of Your Inboxes To Zero

When you are first starting out with GTD, it's easy to be a little excited that one day, you'll have an empty inbox. I remember the first time that I found the book Getting Things Done, I really didn't have any expectations. I found it in the bookstore and thought it seemed interesting. As I started to read it, it made a lot of sense to me, and I started to apply what I learned.

My implementation of GTD took a course of a few years. I can't believe that was in 2006. Now that my system is in place, it's almost hard to remember the exact steps that I took to get my inboxes all to zero. But as I remember it, I started working with my email. It seemed like a logical place to start. At the time, I had thousands of emails. I'd let emails stack up in my inbox. I'd always be searching for that email from someone who needed me to do something.

After a few weeks, I deleted and filed and acted on a ton of email. One day, the inbox was empty. I really couldn't believe it. It was an awesome feeling. Getting that email under control was really the success I needed to continue working on my system.

With that feather in my cap, I started tackling all of the paper in my life and over the next few months got it to empty as well.

When you reach this point in your gtd development and you see that it is indeed possible to get an inbox to zero and then another one, you realize that the system works.

Starting out though, it's easy to wonder how to get to that point. So if you are a beginniner, I'd recommend that you follow the steps below:

  1. Make a list of all of your inboxes so you can see where everything is coming into your system.

  2. Rank the inboxes in order from what you feel would be the easiest inbox to empty to the hardest.

  3. Start with the first inbox on the list and get it to empty.

  4. Make sure you do at least that everyday for awhile.

  5. Then start working on the next inbox on your list.

  6. I recommend putting your physical inbox last on the list.

  7. If something gets stuck in an inbox towards the top, push it down somehow to the physical inbox. For example, print out an email you can't decide what to do with to get your email empty.

  8. Have the GTD workflow diagram next to you while your process and take everything through the steps.

  9. Make sure that you have your whole system setup otherwise "stuff" won't have a place to go.

  10. Create two physical inboxes. One as a primary one for urgent and new stuff and one as a secondary one to keep the backlog in to work on in your spare time.

  11. At first, use your weekly review to process. Don't worry so much about reviewing when you first start. Get the front part of your system in good shape first.

For me, I put my text message inbox at the top of my list of inboxes. There is usually not a lot of actionable stuff in there. Then I move on to my voice mail which is easier than email and then onto email. Then I work on paper.

Get as far into your processing each day as you can. As usual I suggest a checklist to start the basis of your daily review. Once you reach a certain level, use progressive resistance to get a little farther each time.

Your mental strength will improve and you'll eventually get to the point where you will master all of your inboxes. Good luck and get started taking action today!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Daily Reviews

On this page, you’ll find a collection of all of the daily reviews posted here at the Black Belt Project. The majority of daily reviews are for members only while a few are available to all visitors of the Black Belt Project. The purpose of the daily review is to keep things moving forward and to give you and inside look at what I am doing to become a black belt at GTD and to master my life one step a time.