Tag Archives: Habits

Make Time for Creativity: Finding Space For Your Most Meaningful Work by Brandon Stosuy

Summary

  1. Focusing on work-life balance leads to daily rituals which feeds intentions and goals which helps with downtime and creativity. It is a beautiful, virtuous cycle. Schedule time for your creative projects, make creativity habitual by forming positive associations with it, deepen your ocmmitment by identify what you want to create, step back to take care of yourself and get perspective on your work 

Key Takeaways

  1. Although I like to remain receptive and flexible when it comes to the bigger picture, I show up daily for my creative projects. I focus on a “slow and steady” approach to write for an hour or two a day. I don’t fixate on how much I write during that period. I put in the time and don’t worry too much about the results, because I’ll be there again tomorrow. This sort of simmering has worked well for me because, practically speaking, there is only so much time I can spend on a specific project before burning out, and moving between things keeps me fresh. If I stock to one thing for too long, that’s when I start checking social media or reading the news, or otherwise lose focus. I lift weights with my friend John Sharian, who works as an actor. One day he pointed out that if you stop between repetitions, it’s harder to get going again because you’re beginning from a dead spot. He suggested creating a rhythm. I’ve thought of how this relates to my creative work: I do a lot of projects at once so I can move between things with fewer stops. Exercise offers a good metaphor for creativity. You get inspired one day and go for a run. The next day you shock yourself by shaking off the hesitation and getting off the couch again. Then you keep doing it, eventually without even thinking about it. You no longer need to psych yourself out; it just happens. You made it happen, and then you keep making it happen.

What I got out of it

  1. Beautiful book with some great exercises and questions to help you figure out a system and routine to improve your creativity 

The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles that Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor

Summary
  1. Most of us are taught from a young age that if you work hard you will become successful, and once you become successful, then you’ll be happy. The only problem is that this formula is flawed and we know today that happiness is the precursor to success, not merely the result
Key Takeaways
  1. The 7 Principles
    1. The Happiness Advantage – because positive brains have a biological advantage over brains that are neutral or negative, this principle teaches us how to retain our brains to capitalize on positivity and improve our productivity and performance
      1. Meditate
      2. Find something to look forward to
      3. Commit conscious acts of kindness
      4. Infuse positivity into your surroundings
      5. Exercise
      6. Spend money on other people and experiences (but not on stuff)
      7. Exercise a signature strength (do what you’re good at)
    2. The Fulcrum and the Lever – how we experience the world, and our ability to succeed within it, constantly changes based on our mindset. This principle teaches us how we can adjust our mindset (fulcrum) in a way that gives us the power (the lever) to be more fulfilled and successful
      1. The trick is to stop thinking of the world as fixed when reality is, in truth, relative.
      2. Have a growth rather than a fixed mindset
    3. The Tetris Effect – when our brains get stuck in a pattern that focuses on stress, negativity and failure, we set ourselves up to fail. This principle teaches us how to retrain our brains to spot patterns of possibility, so we can see – and seize – opportunity wherever we look
      1. When we train our brains to constantly look for and focus on the positive, we profit from three of the most important tools available to us – happiness, gratitude and optimism
      2. This habit, like any other habit, takes time and hard work to make second nature 
    4. Falling Up – in the midst of defeat, stress and crisis, our brains map different paths to help us cope. This principle is about finding the mental path that not only leads us up out of failure or suffering, but teaches us to be happier and more successful because of it 
      1. There is always a “third path upwards” and your only task is to find it. Success is not about never failing, it is about getting back up, using our downward momentum to propel ourselves in the opposite direction. With this skill, you can capitalize on setbacks and adversity to become even happier, even more motivated and even more successful
    5. The Zorro Circle – when challenges loom and we get overwhelmed, our rational brains can get hijacked by emotions. This principle teaches us how to regain control by focusing first on small, manageable goals, and then gradually expanding our circle to achieve bigger and bigger ones
      1. Small successes can add up to major achievements and they all begin with focusing on one small, manageable circle/goal/task at a time
    6. The 20 Second Rule – sustaining lasting change often feels impossible because our willpower is limited. And when willpower fails, we fall back on our old habits and succumb to the path of least resistance. This principle shows that by making small energy adjustments we can reroute the path of least resistance and replace bad habits with good ones
      1. Willpower is ineffective for sustaining change because it gets worn out as it is a limited resource. Humans are energy saving creatures and will always tend towards the path of least resistance. What you have to do is lower the “activation energy” for habits you want to adopt and raise it for habits you want to avoid. The easier, more visible, more palpable the habit, the more likely you are to follow through
      2. The key to creating good habits is ritual and repeated practice until the actions become ingrained in your brain’s neural chemistry. And the key to daily practice is to put your desired actions as close to the path of least resistance as possible. Identify the activation energy – the time, the choices, the mental and physical effort they require – and then reduce them as much as possible
    7. Social Investments – in the midst of challenges and stress, some people choose to hunker down and retreat within themselves. But the most successful people invest in their friends, peers and family members to propel themselves forward. This principle teaches us how to invest more in one of the greatest predictors of success and excellence – our social support network
      1. Spend quality time with a group of people you respect, who push you and who can anchor you during difficult times. These relationships must be fostered even during your most stressful, difficult times
    8. These 7 principles are not only great for you personally but become multiplicative when their ripples influence others to change and adopt happier, healthier habits and lifestyles.
What I got out of it
  1. A good, quick read on some basic principles to achieve happiness. The importance of investing in strong social ties, especially when you’re down and vulnerable and how perception is your reality

Smarter, Faster, Better by Charles Duhigg

Summary
  1. “Productivity is about recognizing choices that other people often overlook. It’s about making certain decisions in certain ways. The way we choose to see our own lives; the stories we tell ourselves, and the goals we push ourselves to spell out in detail; the ways we frame our choices and manage the information in our lives. Productive people and companies force themselves to make choices most other people are content to ignore. Productivity emerges when people push themselves to think differently. This is a book about how to become smarter, faster, and better at everything you do.”
Key Takeaways
  1. Productivity is the name we give our attempts to figure out the best uses of our energy, intellect and time as we try to seize the most meaningful rewards with the least wasted effort. It’s a process of learning how to succeed with less stress and struggle. It’s about getting things done without sacrificing everything we care about along the way
  2. One of goals is to reframe problems in order to notice the hidden opportunities and to open our minds to new, creative connections
  3. Motivation
    1. Motivation is a skill which can be learned and honed and the trick is realizing you have authority over your actions and surroundings. To motivate ourselves we must feel like we are in control. The specific choice we make matters less than the assertion of control
    2. To improve motivation in children, improve their internal locus of control – praise hard work over smarts or outcome
    3. Marines improved motivation of recruits by training them to have a ‘bias for action’ – leads to an internal locus of control. Praise people for doing things that are hard and make the compliment unexpected
    4. Motivation becomes easier when we transform a chore into a choice. Doing so gives us a sense of control
    5. Self-motivation becomes easier when we see our choices as affirmations of our deeper values and goals
      1. The author motivated himself by writing why it was important to him to finish the task at hand. Understanding the why makes it much easier to start and stay motivated
    6. A single-minded devotion to an idea can spur massive change (but this type of fanatical devotion can also backfire)
    7. Sometimes a misstep is the most important footfall along the path to success
  4. Teams
    1. Manage the how, not the who of teams. Psychological safety emerges when everyone feels like they can speak in roughly equal measure and when teammates show they are sensitive to how each other feel (empathy)
      1. How teams work often matters much more than who is on them. The desire for a superstar is a myth – totally average people with great group dynamics can do things superstars never could
    2. If you are leading a team, think about the message your choices reveal. Are you encouraging equality in speaking, or rewarding the loudest people? Are you showing you are listening by repeating what people say and replying to questions and thoughts? Are you demonstrating sensitivity by reacting when someone seems upset or flustered? Are you showcasing that sensitivity so other people will follow your lead?
    3. Good managers – are good coaches, empower others and do not micromanage, express interest and concern in subordinates’ success and well-being, are results oriented, listen and share information, help with career development, have a clear vision and strategy, have key technical skills
    4. Group norms play a critical role in shaping the emotional experience of participating in a team – freedom to speak up, free to expose vulnerabilities, suggest ideas without fear of retribution, no harsh judgments. All behaviors which create a sense of togetherness while also encouraging people to take a chance  (psychological safety)
      1. Allowing others to fail without repercussions, respecting divergent opinions, feeling free to question others’ choices but also trusting that people aren’t trying to undermine you
    5. Great leaders have the uncanny ability to make people feel like they are the most important people on earth
  5. Focus
    1. We aid our focus by building mental models – telling ourselves stories – about what we expect to see. Having a detailed picture in mind of how the plan is supposed to unfold helps you make choices and direct focus better
      1. The author would sit down Sunday nights and write down what he expected to happen the following day and week
        1. What will happen first? What distractions are likely to occur? How will you handle that distraction? How will you know you’ve succeeded? What is necessary for success? What will you do next?
    2. In the age of automation, knowing how to manage your focus is more critical than ever before (deep work – chunks of time where you focus on one task without interruption)
    3. Cognitive tunneling – mental glitch that sometimes happens when our brains have to quickly transition from relaxed automation to panicked attention. Brain focuses on the most obvious stimuli, even if it’s not the best choice
    4. Our attention span is guided by our intentions
    5. Superstars focus on fewer things at once (typically less than 5) – proactively seeking out new opportunities to work with new colleagues and hone new skills and take the ‘risk’ of joining projects in their infancy stage. They also tended to come up with a large amount of theories to try to explain why things were happening, trying to figure out how information fits together
    6. When we’re overly focused on being productive, we become blind to details that should give us pause
  6. Goal Setting
    1. You need a stretch goal, something to spark big ambitions and you need a SMART goal (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, (reasonable) timeline), to help you form a concrete plan
      1. At the top of to-do lists, write the overarching ambition, what you are working toward in the long-term and underneath describe a subgoal and all its SMART components, forcing self to come up with a plan and be more likely to achieve your goal
      2. Stretch goals are jolting events that disrupt complacency and promote new ways of thinking – fine line between a goal which is too big and crushes morale and one which inspires
  7. Managing Others
    1. Employees work smarter and better when they believe they have more decision making authority and when they believe their colleagues are committed to their success
    2. By pushing decision making to whoever is closest to a problem, managers take advantage of everyone’s expertise and unlock innovation – decentralize decision making
    3. People need to know their suggestions won’t be ignored and that their mistakes won’t be held against them
    4. A commitment culture, one which is totally committed to its employees, customers and other stakeholders outperformed every other type of management style in pretty much every meaningful way. This mindset establishes a sense of trust between workers, managers, customers and other stakeholders. They avoided layoffs. They invest heavily in training with higher levels of teamwork and psychological safety. Valued making employees happy over quick profits. Long-term thinking and decision making
  8. Decision Making
    1. Envision multiple futures and then force yourself to figure out which ones are most likely and why (probabilistic thinking). By anticipating futures, you are much better prepared to make wiser decisions
      1. At the heart of this is the importance of making decisions in a deliberate fashion
    2. Can hone our Bayesian instincts by seeking out different experiences, perspectives and other people’s ideas. By finding information and then letting ourselves sit with it, options become clearer
    3. Think of losses as experiments – experiences to be learned from
    4. Learning how to make better decisions via probabilistic thinking requires our developing a comfort with doubt
    5. Probabilistic thinking is the ability to hold multiple, conflicting outcomes in your mind and estimate their relative likelihoods. The most successful are most comfortable admitting to themselves what they don’t know
    6. Probabilities are the closest thing to fortune-telling but you have to be strong enough to live with what they tell you might occur
    7. One of the biggest secrets to learning to make better decisions is accurate forecasts and this means exposing yourself to as many successes and disappointments as possible
    8. The people who make the best choices are the ones who work the hardest to envision various futures, to write them down and think them through and then ask themselves, which ones do I think are most likely and why?
  9. Innovation
    1. Creativity often emerges by combining old ideas in new ways and “innovation brokers” are key. To become a broker yourself and encourage brokerage within your organization:
      1. Be sensitive to your own experiences. Paying attention to how things make you think and feel is how we distinguish cliches from real insights. Study your own emotional reactions
      2. Recognize that the stress that emerges amid the creative process isn’t a sign everything is falling apart. Rather, creative desperation is often critical – anxiety can be what often pushes us to see old ideas in new ways
      3. Remember that the relief accompanying a creative breakthrough, while sweet, can also blind us to alternatives. By forcing ourselves to critique what we’ve already done, by making ourselves look at it from different perspectives, by giving new authority to someone who didn’t have it before, we retain clear eyes
    2. Creativity is simply connecting things – taking old ideas but combining them in ways never thought of before
    3. So much of the creative process relies on achieving distance and not becoming overly attached to your creation
    4. When strong ideas take root, they can sometimes crowd out competing ideas so the best way to spark creativity is by disturbing things just enough to spur new ways of thinking
    5. The creative pain should be embraced. Feeling scared is a good sign and must learn how to trust yourself enough to let the creativity out
    6. Creativity is simply problem solving. Once it is viewed through this lens, people stop seeing it like magic
  10. Absorbing Data
    1. When we encounter new information, we should force ourselves to do something with it. Write yourself a note explaining what you just learned, or figure out a small way to test an idea, or graph a series of data points onto a piece of paper, or force yourself to explain an idea to a friend.
    2. Every choice we make in life is an experiment – the trick is getting ourselves to see the data embedded in those decisions and then to use it somehow so we learn from it
    3. There is a huge difference between finding an answer and understanding what it means
    4. Information blindness – inability to take advantage of data because it is so plentiful
    5. Ability to digest large amounts of information by breaking it into smaller pieces is how our brains turn information into knowledge
    6. Experimenting, although most of it will fail, forces you to think more, become more sensitive to patterns and more likely to pick up on valuable insights
    7. Creating mental, or even physical, “folders” in which to put information in helps people organize and absorb information
    8. Once a frame is established, it is very hard to see the other side and gain fresh vantage points. One of the best ways to solve this problem is to provide a formal decision-making system that denies our brains the easy answers it craves. It forces ourselves to make questions look unfamiliar
    9. By making information more disfluent, we paradoxically make it easier to understand because we force ourselves to truly think about it and understand it. Information easily obtained and read is easily forgotten
What I got out of it
  1. A good read on 8 key pillars to become more productive. By being more deliberate in your choices, in how you approach and think about problems, in how you interact with team members, in how you take notes, over time you can become a better and more productive thinker and decision maker

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey

Summary
  1. Studying some of the most prolific people in history to glean some of their patterns and daily routines to perhaps adopt into your own life
Key Takeaways
  1. “Sooner or later, the great men turn out to be all alike. They never stop working. They never lose a minute. It is very depressing.” – Pritchett
    1. Currey dispels this notion and gives examples of some great minds who were renowned procrastinators, full of self-doubt and prone to torturous blocks and insecurity
  2. “Inspiration is for amateurs” – Chuck Close
  3. “I think in the cracks all the time. I never stop.” – Woody Allen
  4. “I certainly have a routine, but the most important thing, when I look back over my career, has been the ability to change routines.” – Anne Rice
  5. Maria Popova at BrainPickings put together a great visual of many of these artists routines, habits and productivity
What I got out of it
  1. It is interesting to note that there are some major trends but the details differ. Chunks of time between 3-4 hours with no distractions to do deep work (whether morning or night) and addictions of some sort seem prevalent (coffee, food, women, drugs, etc.).

What the Most Successful People do Before Breakfast by Rhonda Byrne

Summary
  1. A practical guide into how you can tame your mornings and set yourself up for a productive day, all without losing your sanity
Key Takeaways
  1. In order to get the most out of your mornings:
    1. Track your time
    2. Picture/create the perfect morning
      1. Exercise, painting, good breakfast, meditation, prayer, sketching, practice a skill you want to acquire, work on a project that’s always being pushed back, playing with kids, studying, etc.
        1. Think of things you will literally want to jump out of bed for
    3. Think through the logistics
      1. Where can you save time, outsource, partner up, etc.
      2. Pretend you had all the money and time in the world, how would it look
    4. Build the habit
      1. First steps require the most willpower, once you turn it into a habit though you won’t even have to think about it
      2. Choose one habit at a time to incorporate
      3. Chart your progress
      4. Do things that put you in a good frame of mind – what you’re grateful for, appreciation e-mail, etc.
    5. Tune up as necessary
What I got out of it
  1. A very quick and good read. Vanderkam details how and why to make mornings the most productive part of your day.

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