Time Management Made Simple

A lot of books have been written about how to manage your time by eliminating wasted motion and saving seconds where you can. But that’s how you make a factory more efficient, not a human being.

People have one main source of inefficiency: We’re prone to get sidetracked or distracted from the important things that need to be done and somewhat lost in the numerous unimportant things we also want to do. So the secret of becoming more efficient is first, know what’s important, and second, avoid getting off track. These can both be accomplished with a single technique.

Of all the words written about time management, the most valuable technique can be stated in one sentence: MAKE A LIST AND PUT IT IN ORDER.

There are always things to do. Since none of us can hold much in our minds while busy doing other things, we need to write things down or we forget — or have the uneasy feeling that we might be forgetting. So you need to make a list.

Write down only the important things you need to do. This should be a small list, no more than six items. Don’t clutter up your list with trivial or obvious things. This isn’t a schedule book, it’s a To Do List, and its purpose is to keep you focused.

You’ve made your list. Now, put the tasks in the order of their importance. Putting the list in order makes your decisions smooth and effective. You’ll know what to do first (the most important), and you’ll always know what to do next. You also know you’re making the best use of your time because at any given moment you’re doing the most important thing you need to do.

There’s no need to rush around or feel stressed to be efficient. Feeling tense or pressured makes you less efficient in the long run by causing unnecessary conflicts with people, mistakes, illness, and burnout. You are in more control of your life when you are calm. Make a list and put it in order. This puts your mind in order and puts your day in order. It’s a good investment of your time because you’ll get more done that really matters.

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

Make it Happen

In the remote jungles of Southeast Asia on the Malay Peninsula, aboriginal tribes were studied in the 1930s and ‘40s. Two of the tribes — the Negritos and the Temiar — were very similar. They both paid a lot of attention to their dreams.

The Negritos’ attitude was passive. They felt they were the victims of evil forces. If they had a bad dream about a tree, for example, from that point on they would be afraid of the tree and its evil spirit.

But the Temiar taught their children that aggression in dreams was good. The child should not turn away from dream monsters, but attack them. They were taught that if they run away, the monsters or evil spirits will plague them until they turn and fight.

The two tribes were similar in many ways, but this one difference made the Temiar psychologically healthy, according to Kilton Stewart and Pat Noone, a psychologist and an anthropologist who studied them, and it made the Negritos psychologically unhealthy.

In any situation, you can have the attitude of reaching, of trying to accomplish what you want, or by default you will become a victim, the effect of circumstances and other people’s goals. If you aren’t actively trying to cause an effect you want, you will be forced by the aggression of others to respond, to react, to be the effect of their initiations. It isn’t the perfect design by my standards, but that is the way it works out, whether we like it or not.

So make it a practice to think about what you want, what you think would be good, and then try to make that happen. You’ll run into resistance sometimes. That’s okay. No need to resist the resistance. It’s just someone else trying to make something happen too (or trying to prevent themselves from being a victim). Don’t get caught up in it. Keep in mind what you want and continue taking steps toward it.

In other words, become less passive and more aggressive in your attitude. Aggression can be a good thing. If it’s aggression without anger or judgement, it can create a lot of good in the world. In fact, it has already.

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

Speedy Reading—One Chunk at a Time

The ability to read fast is made up of lots of little skills. You can use as many or as few of those skills as you want. The more of those individual skills you use, the faster you’ll be able to read. Add all the skills together, and sure, it’s dramatic. But who needs dramatics? A small improvement is cool enough.

Of course, when you learn to read faster, you can read more. But there’s another benefit that’s not so obvious: Reading will become more interesting. You find the same difference between hearing a lecturer who speaks too slowly versus one who speaks at a comfortable but lively pace. It’s more interesting. It’s more fun. It keeps you awake. And by reading faster, you’re making the process more challenging in a controlled way. And a challenge that is under your control is enjoyable.

Below are three basic techniques for increasing your speed. Pick one and try it in the spirit of fun. When you’ve got that one going pretty well, come back and add another one. After awhile, you’ll have increased your speed...and probably your comprehension too (studies show speed alone can increase your comprehension).

Here are the techniques:

Don’t let your eyes regress. Keep them moving forward. They will have a tendency to go back a few words occasionally. That continual little movement backwards adds up. If you stop doing it, your speed will increase a little. Studies indicate that rereading words like that doesn’t increase comprehension anyway.

Constantly practice “picking up speed” as you read. Reading is a skill, and like any other skill, the constant effort to do it a little better keeps you getting better and better at it as time goes on.

Take in more words at a time. If you normally see two words at a time when you read, your eyes look at two words, move to the next two and stop to look at those, move to the next two, etc. Begin taking in three words at a time so your eyes make fewer stops, increasing your speed. Increase your challenge only as your skill increases. Keep it fun. Don’t push yourself so hard it becomes stressful.

When you first practice a technique, you’ll be conscious of using it and that may very well distract you a little from comprehending what you’re reading. But keep practicing and the technique will become automatic, no longer requiring your conscious attention, allowing you to put your full attention on the content of the written material. At that point, you will have gained an increase in reading skill to enjoy for the rest of your life.

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

How to Solve Problems Easier

A question that naturally comes to mind when something goes wrong is “Why?” But it’s a question fraught with danger. Research has repeatedly shown that the human brain is designed to answer a question with whatever knowledge it has (no matter how little) and come up with a plausible answer (however wrong). Self-blame or victimhood is a frequent side effect.

For example, you can ask why you’re overweight and, without any problem at all, your mind will come up with answers. But all it can give you are theories. What’s the “real” answer? Is it because you weren’t loved as a child? Is it a genetic weakness in your family? Is it an evolutionary holdover precaution against famine? Is your mouth simply bored?

The problem with a WHY question is that you get too many answers you can do nothing about. You can’t change your childhood or a genetic weakness.

There is only one good thing about asking WHY: It can be entertaining. It’s intriguing. It’s like a mystery and mysteries capture our attention like nothing else. But if what you want is to handle the situation well or solve the problem and get on with the business of living, ask HOW not WHY. It’s more efficient.

Since your mind will try to answer any question you put to it, the kind of question you ask makes a big difference. So ask what you really want to know: “How could I get slimmer?” Or “How can I avoid this problem in the future?” Or “How can I solve this problem now?” Or “How can I make things a little better?” Let your mind go wild on one of those questions. The answers will be more productive.

With HOW, you go straight for a useful answer. You avoid getting sidetracked into what can become an endless search for “understanding.” With HOW your answers lead to actions. And it is actions that solve problems and produce real change.

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

What Day-Off Activities Will Make You the Happiest and Most Satisfied?

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has been doing some fascinating research into creativity and enjoyment at the University of Chicago for over thirty years now. He invented a new way to study enjoyment. It’s called the Experience Sampling Method.

Basically, subjects are given a pager and a booklet, and then they go about their normal lives. At random intervals eight times each day, the pager goes off. The subjects immediately stop what they’re doing and fill out the questionnaire in the booklet.

Each questionnaire is identical. It asks what they’re doing, where they are, and who they’re with. Then it asks them to mark where they are on several scales of experience, such as one to seven to indicate where they are from “happy” to “very sad.”

After collecting over a hundred thousand of these samples, Csikszentmihalyi had a huge fund of raw information. He began to wonder, “Are people happier when they use more material resources in their leisure activities? Or are they happier when they invest more of themselves?” In other words his question was, “If I spend my day off going to a movie and out to dinner (or using resources and electricity in some way), will I have a more enjoyable day off than I would if I spent the day gardening or reading or talking or doing something requiring just my own effort?”

Which is ultimately more enjoyable? Using energy outside yourself, or using your own energy?

What would you guess? To answer the question, Csikszentmihalyi and his colleagues went back through the data and sorted each experience sample by the amount of energy being used. They measured the material resources in units of energy called BTUs (British Thermal Units, the energy it takes to raise one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit) and sifted the data in search of an answer.

What they found surprised everyone. The fewer BTUs a person used in his leisure, the more he enjoyed it. Those time-off activities like watching TV, driving, boating, or anything that used electricity or expensive equipment were less enjoyable than self-powered activities like conversing with a friend, working on a hobby, training a dog, or gardening. This goes against the prevailing notions of what’s enjoyable. “Everybody knows” it would be more fun cruising on a yacht drinking margaritas than building a bookshelf in your basement. “Everybody knows” it would be more fun to go to the movies than it would to sit home and read a book. But according to the research, that’s not the case. Certainly those high-BTU activities are easier and more immediately appealing. But not more enjoyable.

When the pager went off and the participants stopped and checked how much they were enjoying what they were doing, they discovered something truly illuminating: The most fun things don’t cost much.

Is this true for you? Test it. On your next two days off, do something that uses up material resources the first day, and the next day, have a friend over and converse or do something powered by your own energy. You’ll see a difference. The activity might not be as titillating at the moment, but when your day is done, you’ll be more satisfied with the self-powered day.

Do you want some first-class leisure? Find an interest and pursue it. Turn off the TV and use your own energy. You may be surprised to find it doesn’t wear you out but fully refreshes you. This is extremely good news. It’s good for your pocketbook, it’s good for the planet, and it’s good for your own enjoyment. Use more of your own BTUs on your time off and the world will be a better place.

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

How to Increase Your Chances of Getting a Job Promotion

Here's an odd suggestion: When you’re working, try to burn calories. Be useful, helpful, and as productive as you can. Even if your job is sitting at a keyboard all day, try to do it energetically and with enthusiasm. It may seem stupid, but give it a try before you decide. Blast out your effort like a thousand-watt bulb and here’s what you’ll get in return:

1. You’ll be more energetic, not less. You’d think it would wear you out, but that’s not the case, as you can find out for yourself by trying it. You may have a pleasant sense of relaxation at the end of the day, as you would from some good exercise, but it won’t make you tired. Holding back makes you tired. Going through the motions makes you tired. Just trying to get through the day makes you tired.

2. You’ll advance faster. Of course, when opportunities come around, the person putting their all into the work (you, for instance) is going to be chosen over the people who are getting by doing as little as possible. Obviously.

3. Your job will be more secure. Giving your all will make you feel more secure in a sometimes insecure world. And you’ll not only feel more secure, your feeling will be an accurate perception of the reality.

4. You’ll feel better about yourself. It feels good to do well. And you can look your boss in the eye and know s/he’s getting a good deal. You can see that there are very few people you work with (or none at all) who give their all. The comparison between you and the rest of the pack will make it very clear in your mind you can stand tall and proud when your supervisor is around.

5. You’ll improve your abilities faster. Whatever skills your job requires will be honed more quickly when you’re giving it your all.

The human brain and body has a default setting: Conserve energy. You know this from personal experience. It’s probably hardwired genetically and kicks in with the onset of adulthood. You and I have a natural tendency to try to be conservative with our energy output. That’s there naturally, but you’re not stuck with it. You can override that default setting with a simple decision: Put out as much effort as you can.

Put the decision into action and before long, you’ll forget. You’ll be back to your default setting. When you notice you’ve gone back to the conserve energy mode, decide again to try to burn calories. Remake your decision again and again. Blasting out the energy won’t wear you out or make you tired. But it will make you feel proud, secure, and confident.

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

Envision it Done

Here's a rule all know we ought to follow: Do the important things first. You and I know if we’re doing something of secondary importance while we still have something of primary importance to do, we’re essentially wasting our time — even if what we’re doing is constructive, productive, positive, loving, or any other worthwhile description. If it isn’t one of the few things that are important to us, then it’s a waste of time.

Of course that’s a rather extreme and absolute thing to say, and there are always mitigating circumstances and perfectly valid reasons why the rule can’t be followed all the time, but doing important things first is a rule few would argue with.

Important tasks are usually more difficult than unimportant tasks, so we tend to put them off. But listen: That’s because we’re thinking about what it will be like to do the task. And that’s where we go wrong. Don’t think about that. Think about what it will be like to have the task done. There’s a big difference — a difference that can make a difference. It takes your attention off the part you don’t like and puts your focus on something you really want: the result. That subtle difference will make the task more appealing, so you’ll be less likely to put it off.

Instead of looking at the bills to be paid and thinking about all the time and frustration and neck-hurting hassle, imagine the feeling you’ll get when you finish, when all the bills are stacked up there, paid, stamped and ready to mail. What a great feeling! Keep that image in mind when you look at the stack of bills. You’ll get to it sooner.

And when you get to something sooner, you suffer less because you spend less psychological effort avoiding the task. You get to spend more of your time on the other side — satisfied that the job is finished. That’s it. It’s a simple change that makes things better. Vividly anticipate the completion of important tasks and you will get more of them done.

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.