Everyone has the intentions of following through on their 2018 resolutions, but what if you have trouble keeping focus or don’t think you’re skilled in areas you want to get better? Your doubts may be kicking your ambitions out of reach. I know this has kept me from thinking I had a chance really at any worthy endeavor. But after reading the books below, they are beginning to shape how I work in 2018.
In February, millions of people will tune into the NFL’s Super Bowl. The players on each team have almost reached the summit of success in their professional careers. It’s easy to think that these warriors of turf and grass are natural talents, or they have an uncanny ability to see the field differently. But as they’ll admit, they are normal human beings possessing an insatiable work ethic and the thirst to learn their craft even better. There’s even a story within Mindset explaining why Marhall Faulk became one of the best running backs in the NFL. And while he was a talented running back, something else with his developed athletic ability set him apart and drove him to become a Hall of Fame running back.
On an equivalent, being a huge hockey fan, I’m impressed, while I dislike to say this, Sydney Crosby’s work ethic to become better every day. His edge work, stick handling, speed, and ability to protect the puck set him apart from other players in the National Hockey League and world. Check out his video of his work among other NHL players battling for puck protection.
Athletes are a different animal, and some of us may actually have physical limitations that would push to become professionals, as fun as it looks. But Mindset, helps shed light if you’re feeling stuck, limited, dumb, or in a fixed position in life, school, parenting, or your marriage. You’re not stuck at dumb or with limitations. Limitations you put on yourself are an excuse to remain constant, stagnant, and bitchy. People did not learn through a lack of effort or osmosis from falling asleep on a text book. Mindset conveys a message that any of us can grow in any field we want through a bit of effort and humility.
“Limitations you put on yourself are an excuse to remain constant, stagnant, and bitchy.”
A common story that’s seems to work around the calendar year is the high school valedictorian goes off to college. Having never met adversity, because they were labeled as smart, under the pressures of college, they soon fail a test, were critiqued, and the yarn of security wrapped tightly around them began to unravel. Mindset asks a couple of questions in this instance. Who do I blame for this? And if the answer isn’t themselves, growth is all but halted. The second, what can I learn from this? Without some persistence and realization you can persevere and the institution is meant as a service to their customers, will the individual grow. The view of failure changes where the person will view it as an experience to grow or has grown from the failure itself through it’s experiences.
So at this point what have I done? I created a reading list to sharpen some of the skills I should’ve gained more in college that would’ve aligned more to my area of focus. Initially I started out in mechanical engineering and switched over to business, ending up with a degree in Management Information Systems. Looking back with the skillset I have gained, I might’ve been better suited for the Computer Science degree. With that in mind, I’ve started picking up different books to help guide my understanding to topics such as algorithms analysis. Stuck at the point, I couldn’t quite comprehend Big-O Visualization. So after watching numerous YouTube videos, and reading through many Stack Overflow answers, I reached out to a friend to provide some help (btw, he described Big-O as his kryptonite and he has a masters degree in computer science). At this point, I was trying to understand a particular solution in the book I was reading and how they came to the conclusion. Just looking at it made no sense, so after reaching out, I was finally able to understand a very small slice of Big-O analysis.
Mindset has helped me put my pride aside and ask for help when I needed it. As the old saying goes, “You can’t know everything.” Similarly, when I don’t understand something fully, I just ask questions for clarity. I understand I’ll never be an expert in everything, nor do I want to be. But what I can take away from this, I have the ability and capacity to learn anything I want. You just have to conclude that there’s ALWAYS room for improvement. Everyone has to start somewhere. If there’s something you’ve always wanted to learn or do, start now.
Deep Work explains that we are not super human. Each person has twenty-four hours a day and the work done in each session of your working day needs to be concentrated, deliberate, and in the end producing or working toward your end result.
What’s Your Distraction
Email, social media, open work environments, smart phone push notifications, the constant want to be entertained, phone calls, and text messaging leave us vulnerable to distraction. My personal work environment is one that’s constantly on the internet, in an open work collaboration environment, my smart phone within an arms length reach, Outlook and Skype open, while others talk on the phone in their virtual meetings. I mention all of these things because as I sit here and think about it, these are all things vying for my attention, and it seems absolutely overwhelming. I suggest you take an account of possible things that could distract you and write them down as well.
Deep Work would ask you simply what do you believe you’ve accomplished to meet your goal by the end of the day? After all of those things listed that grabbed your attention, would you say they were absolutely needed at the time. An example is, I’m a manager for development at my company occasionally I’ll have to field questions from a developer on my team. Should I be in a state of my time to produce, I’ll turn my email notifications off, Skype status is marked as do not disturb, and I’ve moved to one of the phone rooms in my office because it’s pretty quiet. Doing this allowed me to put my thoughts together on architecture for a system that allows Facebook like notifications in the user interface and email.
Set Aggressive Deadlines
While the distraction strategy helps keep one focused, have you ever procrastinated so much on a project that you’re focus nearing the deadline increased significantly? Another suggestion made is to make aggressive deadlines. While I haven’t employed this strategy yet, by the end of February, I will set my deadline to have my Swoll Bro App for testing in Ionic View by February 28th (let me know if you’d like to be notified firstname.lastname@example.org). I will hold myself accountable for this, and for those reading I hope you do as well. Seriously, give me constant shit until I get it working.
Quit Social Media
My social personal social media presence has also been lacking on Facebook. Facebook has had me figured out for years. I constantly get drawn into my friends’ virtual lives. There’s that fear of missing out or #fomo. I’d become so drawn into Facebook that at times while working, I’d check Facebook while my programs were compiling. Which compilation typically isn’t that long. While I haven’t totally quit all social media, I have spent significantly less time on it because Deep Work suggests that you take an assessment of the kind of value you’re REALLY receiving. Or, you could simply schedule these times for use at home.
Create a Rhythm
This goes along with the power of creating habits, but if you do something enough you’re going to get better and produce more in a given time. One habit employed by famous comedian Jerry Seinfeld was writing jokes each day and marking on a calendar each day where time was spent writing a joke. Eventually you’ll create a string of these sort of days and become more deeply focused in your craft. As you can see in my image below, I decided a few things to do in the month of January to employ this strategy. I started it on January 7th.
- Blue – Meet my diet goals because I’ve been lacking – IIFYM
- Orange – Stay off of Facebook
- Green – Work on the Swoll Bro App
Cut the Shallows
Shallow work is simply defined as work that a bright college graduate could do or be trained to do in a matter of weeks. These types of activities include sending email, doing expenses, filling time sheets, or attending meetings. Basic administrative tasks truly take away from your ability to do what you’re hired. Again, my skillset for programming requires astute attention to detail. So when I have a longer time to focus on problems my team and I are looking to resolve without the mundane administrative shallow tasks, the better quality the product. To employ this, I’ve been scheduling all my time for each work day leaving these tasks for the end of the day, except to answer my team’s email every hour.
What Have I Done So Far
As seen, I’ve put some things to practice. My calendar of accountability has been created. I’m honing my skills as a developer, recently finished my Programming in C# book, reading more in depth about algorithm analysis, and keeping my diet in check.
2018 may be by far the most productive and promising year in my life.
* Recommended By Bill Gates
** Recommended By Mike Matthews of Legion Athletics