Category: Book Reviews

Book Review, and yes I think I need to reboot my life

So one of the books that I’ve finished reading this month is “Reboot your life: Energize your career and life by taking a break” by Catherine Allen, Nancy Bearg, Rita Foley, & Jaye Smith. I actually bought this book sometime last year (I think because the title of the book grabbed my attention), but I actually sat down and read it over the past few weeks.

I’m starting to think that once we start listening and trying to tune into the flow of the universe, little things start to happen for a reason (picking up the book last year, but actually sitting down to read it this year). This is one book that I will be going back to over the years, as I take reboot breaks as needed.

The authors call these breaks, reboot breaks but they can also be referred to as gap months (or gap year) or a sabbatical. During the time I read the book, I’ve realized that since earning my PhD back in 2010 there have only been about eight and a half months (in total) that I wasn’t working. But I also realized that I never really spent a large amount of time during those times to try to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I’d started to do that a little with the last “break”, but was also still caught up in the “need a job/need to earn money/need to get off unemployment” mindset.

The authors walk you through the steps that are necessary for planning and taking a reboot break in one’s life—and with the way society is going, we all need to unplug and reboot to make sure that we are actually doing what makes us happy and not just what is earning us a paycheck.

The book talks about everything from planning your reboot break, to how to fund it, talking with others about your break (current employer, family, friends, and others), and what they consider the different stages of the reboot break; as well as a few other things. I also didn’t realize how many different companies were actually on board with their employees doing a reboot break (and some of them might even still pay you while you’re “rebooting” your life).

I’ve realized over the past few weeks that I probably really need to do a reboot break—I’m not happy in my current position (it’s a dead end position, limited pay raises, and slightly limited opportunities for personal/professional development. Noticed I said limited—there are opportunities, but one has to make sure that they don’t take away from the main job—which may mean having to do “overtime” but without the benefit of earning the overtime pay).

Job searching is difficult right now, when I’m still undecided on the path(s) I should be investigating. Also I’ve realized it’s hard to search, when I feel like I’m living in a fog—therefore I also need to be focusing on my physical and mental health as well.

One thing the book does try to stress is that one should try to plan out their reboot break about a year in advance (though they claim that you can condense the timescale if you need to). If I decide to do a reboot break, I’d be doing it in roughly seven to eight months (more or less when my current contract is up), though I’ve also thought of possibly trying to find a part-time job during the holidays for money and then starting my reboot break at the start of the new year.  So far I’ve only gotten as far as acknowledging the fact that I need to take a reboot break—how long it will be, or when I still haven’t decided—but the break will happen within the next eighteen months.

I strongly recommend this book for anyone who is burnt out, beginning to burnout, or ones who have no idea of what they actually want to do in life. I wish I’d found this book sooner (or actually read it when I originally bought it), that way I possibly could have already done a reboot break and have figured out part of my life.

I will keep you posted on how my reboot journey goes (from the planning, to execution of the break, to then finding the type of industry position that I really want) over the next (let’s say) eighteen to twenty-four months.

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Book Review and list of different 30-day challenges together in one post.

So one of the books that I finished in February was “The 30 Day Challenge Book: 500 ideas to inspire your life” by Clare Hudson. This book was divided in to different areas such as intellectual & educational 30 day challenges, social, relationship & kindness 30 day challenges and then self improvement, inner life and meditation 30 day challenges (just to name a few chapters).

So one thing I decided was that I’d go back through the book and list the different 30 day challenges that either I found interesting or would be helpful to try. I know that there are certain ones that I currently won’t be doing (such as running, following a specific eating trend [vegan or vegetarian], or going to a religious service), or that I’ve already been doing (hitting 10K steps/day, watching the sun rise, or bird watching). But the following is a long list of different challenges that I will slowly start incorporating into my life:

Dance every day (for 10 minutes); I can do this in the privacy of my room. Just turn on the ipod and dance freely without anyone watching or judging.

Celebrate small accomplishments. I use to do this with my fitness/nutrition—I’d break things down and once I reached a milestone there would be a certain reward. I need to get back in the habit of doing it again (will probably work wonders for the fitness/nutrition and also the job searching/transition).

Keep a general diary or journal. Again this is something that I use to be good at doing, but feel out of habit doing daily. This will probably help with the anxiety and stress more if I plan to sit and write at least once or twice a day in a journal (either paper & pen or digital).

Create a new daily routine for yourself.

Give up waiting around for the ‘right’ time. I know that I’m guilty of this (especially in terms of the job search/transition). So this is something that I need to continuously work on.

Doodle.

Try free drawing.

Spend 15 minutes a day coloring. I actually started this one a couple of months ago, but then got busy with life and quit. But I do enjoy coloring, so I may pick this one back up again.

Design tattoos.

Keep an idea book for 30 days.

Write a blog post daily (and it doesn’t always have to be published right away).

Teach yourself photography.

Photograph one beautiful thing a day

Photography theme for a month

Create an online course

Film the progress of your 30-day challenge

Make jewelry

Make rubbing of interesting surfaces & textures

Make a sculpture from random objects

Bucket list of 30 things in 30 days

Revamp your garden

Learn copywriting

Recycle your stuff

Read a poem a day

Learn how to say common phrases in different languages

Learn a new word a day

Research prominent women throughout history

Learn about a different historical person each day

Learn about politics

Learn about a new country a day

Put a pin on the world map & learn about that place

Find out how different cultures express themselves through art

Use the Khan Academy

Teach yourself economics

Learn about prominent scientists throughout history

Learn the periodic table (I had at one point memorized most of it as an undergrad—but that has been quite a few years ago). J

Learn computer programming (I’ve actually bought several different little e-course bundles to learn how to do programming—I just haven’t gotten around to sitting down and going through them yet).

Do Sudoku or crosswords. I use to do the Sudoku puzzles all the time, but haven’t done one in awhile. This is something else to get back in the habit of doing.

Read an article on a different subject (or different articles on the same subject but with different points of views).

Pick a subject you’re interested in & develop really niche knowledge within that subject

So these were the ideas from the book that I’m going to slowly start working on (probably just one challenge here and there), in addition to the ones that I’m already doing (steps, bird watching, working out at home).

So in terms of 30-day challenges—I am slowly teaching myself photography. I am trying to get out on the weekends to take new pictures, and if I spot something during the week, which catches my attention I’m going to snap a picture of it with my iPhone. I’m coming to the realization that photography today means more than just using a camera—it means using both a camera (can be either digital or one that actually uses film), and the camera on the phone. It also means learning how to use different programs to process and edit the pictures as well. In other words—it is a challenge that will take longer than 30 days to master—it will take years. Luckily it is something that I’m really enjoying doing.

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Book Review: The Big Book of 30-Day Challenges: 60 Habit Forming programs to live an infinitely better life by Rosanna Casper

So the books that I’ve finished so far this month all have had one thing in common: they focus on creating new habits or breaking bad habits. I’ve recently reviewed the two volumes of the 30-Day Productivity Plan by Damon Zahariades. Here I’m going to focus on the one of the books that focused on creating new habits.

The first book is “The Big book of 30-Day Challenges: 60 Habit Forming Programs to live an Infinitely Better Life” by Rosanna Casper.

The book contained seven different chapters that basically had seven to ten different 30-day challenges within them. If someone really is ambitious they could do all sixty challenges—it would take at least five years to do the entire book.

The seven chapters include: Fitness, Food, Self-Care, Mindfulness, Organization & Productivity, Networking & Relationships, & finally Creativity and Learning.

Reading through the book, I’ve realized that there are some challenges that I’m already doing, for example the step challenge.  The American Heart Association has a recommendation that you try to get at least 10,000 steps a day, which depending on your stride length should be somewhere around 4 to 5 miles of walking a day. My current challenge for myself is trying to get to 14,000 steps a day. The reason for that number is that if I manage it all year—I would end up with a little over 5 million steps for the year. This year, I’ve already had several days where I’ve been below 10K. This is usually because I haven’t had the greatest night sleep, it’s the weekend/holiday/snow day and I just don’t feel like getting the steps in. I am trying to break myself of that bad habit this year.

But out of all the exercise challenges, there are two that I know I probably won’t be doing—the run every day (I have never enjoyed running, and while at times I picture myself running a 5K—I don’t actually see that happening any time soon), and the stairs workout. With the stair workout, the only time that I would have access to stairs would be at work currently, and I’m not going to go in even earlier just to make use of the stairs for this challenge. I do try to take the stairs when I remember (but I will admit that I’m lazy and I usually head towards the elevator).

But the three challenges that I am going to be putting on a list include: the 30 days of exercise, 30 days of yoga (for me this could mean actually doing the PiYo workouts from Beachbody which combine yoga & Pilates), and 10 minutes of stretching.

While I read through the different food challenges, the only two that I’m currently doing include: drink 8 to 10 glasses of water a day, and eat a healthy breakfast every morning. There were other challenges that included fasting, eliminating sugar, and keeping a food journal. Since I’m trying to re-establish a good relationship with food, I’m only going to focus on the types of challenges that would work with that major goal. Those would be the two challenges I mention above, plus trying to eat more fruits and vegetables.

The third chapter dealt with self-care. I am trying to get better sleep (the fitbit alta does track sleep somewhat—it tells me how often I’m tossing and turning, or having to get up to go to the bathroom; but doesn’t tell me if I’ve reached REM sleep). I really don’t like cold showers (unless it’s a really hot and humid day or I’m slightly overheated & I need to cool off). Currently I don’t “dress up” daily—mainly because I work in the lab, and I don’t want to be having to put on a lab coat to ensure that nothing is spilt on my clothes (though technically I should be wearing a lab coat anyway—I just sweat way to much and therefore only put on the lab coat when it is absolutely necessary). I’m not sure how well I would do on a no complaining challenge (mainly because of the state of the world and everything in it)—though I do try to make it through the day without complaining, gossiping, or judging other people. I also try to spend some time outdoors (though it may not be a half hour, but I do try for at least a total of 20-30 minutes if not more a day). Also at times I find it difficult to think of things that make me laugh (so this is something that I could work on improving as well).

The fourth chapter dealt with mindfulness. This is something that I have been trying to get better at over the past year or so. When I was initially laid off from my job last fall, I realized that I really need to do a lot of self reflection, and I realized that one thing that I didn’t do nearly enough of was taking care of my mental health. So the goals that are included in this chapter include: meditating for 10 minutes, writing down affirmations, 10 minutes of visualization, seeking daily awe, higher power challenge, daily journaling, keeping a gratitude journal, keeping a dream journal, and practicing lucid dreaming.

Out of those challenges, I do try to meditate nightly (though it may only be for two to five minutes; sometimes I can get closer to 10). In addition I do try to journal daily, though sometimes I’m so tired at the end of the day that I forget to do it—so this is something that I know that I need to work on. I haven’t tried keeping a gratitude journal or a dream journal, nor have I tried lucid dreaming. So if I were to pick two challenges, I think I’d stick with the ones that I’m currently trying to do: the daily meditation & journaling. At some point I will work in the gratitude & dream journaling and even writing down the daily affirmations—but baby steps first.

The fifth chapter dealt with organization and productivity. So these challenges have more to do with doing digital “detoxes”, cleaning out the email in-boxes (if you have more than one account), tracking your spending, and just general things to help make your life a little more streamlined.

I am in the slow process of trying to get rid of clutter in both my room and storage unit (this is slow because I don’t have a lot of time to focus on the storage unit right now & at the same time I’m not sure of what I would need that I have packed away in there). I have been trying to track my expenses and aiming for no spend days to expand into no spend weeks and then expand into a no spend month (so far I’ve managed to almost have a no spend week this year so far). Making my bed daily is something that I manage about 10% of the time, and getting up at 5am is difficult when you have a poor night sleep anyway. But there are challenges that I am working on.

Chapter six has to deal with networking & relationships. Challenges include: 30 minutes of family time, love through everyday interactions, reach out to friends, have lunch with someone new, create daily delight for others & the rejection challenge.

            I have been trying to reach out to friends that I haven’t talked to in years via social media. I also spend time with both my parents and younger brother (when he comes to town), in terms of spending time with other family members, that will require planning a trip out to visit people (since other than my parents & younger brother—no other relative lives in the state). Having lunch with someone new will probably be a challenge for me once I move—since I take my lunch to work daily, there is seldom a chance to sit down with someone new at lunch.

Chapter seven has to deal with creativity and learning. The challenges in this chapter include: learning or brushing up on a musical instrument, learning a foreign language, take a photo every day, learn a brand new skill, write down 10 ideas every day, cook one new recipe per day, read 20 pages a day, watch a TED talk every day, write a novel in 30 days, listen to audiobooks or podcasts, perfect your pitch: videotape yourself, and exercise your brain.

           At some point I may try to brush up on my skills in terms of playing the flute (that way I can banish the bad memories of playing it in school and build better memories of me learning for the fun of it). I am also going to be trying to refresh my memory of both my Spanish & German skills (I’ve figured that it would be a good thing to be able to speak at least one foreign language). I’m also in the middle of a photo challenge already. I’m also trying to keep up on my reading at least 10-20 pages of a non-fiction book (in addition to reading (or re-reading) fiction books as well). As much as I would love to cook more—this is something that I’ve fallen behind on and will pick up more on once I’m back on my own.

So there are literally five years worth of 30 day challenges presented in this book. I’ve realized that I’m currently working on a number of them already (trying to turn them into daily habits). But there are several others that I’m going to slowly start working in my daily routine as well:

Writing down 5 to 10 ideas a day (I know the original challenge was 10 ideas—but sometimes you need to work up to the challenge).

Watching a TED talk every day.

Listening to podcasts (I use to do this daily, but I’ve fallen out of the habit—so it’s something I’d like to get back into doing).

Working suduko puzzles (again this is something that I use to do daily, but have again fallen out habit on).

Getting better at keeping a daily journal (and start to incorporate gratitude & dream journaling as well).

Try to spend more time outdoors

Eat more fruits & veggies

Start practicing more yoga

Work on perfecting my plank

Spend more time stretching.

I do recommend this book if you’re looking for ideas on different 30 day challenges. It covers different areas of life, and with the number of challenges per area–you can pick and choose the ones that you think will be most beneficial to your life.

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Book Review: The 30-Day Productivity Plan Vol. II: 30 More bad habits that are sabotaging your time management & how to overcome them one day at a time! by Damon Zahariades

So to continue the theme from yesterday, today’s book review centers on the second volume of the 30-Day Productivity Plan: 30 more bad habits that are sabotaging your time management and how to overcome them one day at a time by Damon Zahariades.

The second volume continues in the same light as the first volume, it talks about another thirty bad habits that people may (or may not have), and then gives several tips on how to slowly start over coming the bad habits. The additional 30 bad habits that are included in this book are:

  1. Letting Clutter Accumulate in Your Life
  2. Being receptive to others’ negativity
  3. Allowing negative self talk to kill your momentum
  4. Overlooking weekly reviews
  5. Neglecting to unplug for extended periods of time
  6. Waking up late
  7. Responding immediately to email, texts, and voice mails
  8. Allowing yourself to be easily distracted
  9. Being emotionally dependent on others
  10.  Letting money stress consume you
  11.  Spending time with toxic people
  12.  Being satisfied with mediocre performances
  13.  Fearing failure
  14.  Fearing success
  15.  Neglecting to prioritize tasks, projects, and relationships
  16.  Taking too long to make a decision
  17.  Quitting bad habits cold turkey
  18.  Trying to make too many changes at once
  19.  Letting a lack of motivation prevent you from taking action
  20.  Refusing to commit to your goals
  21.  Seeking instant gratification
  22.  Constantly switching between tasks
  23.  Drowning yourself in information
  24.  Working without clearly defined goals
  25.  Waiting for the perfect time to act
  26.  Using unnecessary productivity apps
  27.  Trying to keep everything in your head
  28.  Letting nonessential tasks creep onto your daily to-do lists
  29.  Assigning too much gravity to email
  30.  Allowing yourself to get derailed from your goals

So if I had to list the number of bad habits from this book that I have, I would have to say that I’m guilty of the following: 1,2,3,4,5,7,8,9 (to a slight extent), 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, 20, 22, 23, 24, 25, 27, 28, and 30. So it would seem that I have more of these bad habits (25 out of 30) compared to the first book, which was 21 out 30. So in total of basically 60 different habits that can limit one’s productivity I would say that I’m more or less guilty of 46 out of 60. Not good, but at least there are a few that I’m not guilty of doing.

So in terms of the twenty-five bad habits from book two, what in theory is my issue with each of the habits?

I will admit that I have way too much stuff (bad habit number one), but I am trying to slowly get rid of some of it. I am trying to go through and par down on things that I don’t need. This will take time, since most of my stuff is still in storage, but I’m going to try to par down what I have at my parents so that I’m not adding a large number of additional boxes to what is already in my storage unit.

In terms of negative energy, negative self talk, and being around toxic people—these are all things that I am trying to work on. I’m trying to limit the interactions with people who either have negative energy or are toxic—but it’s difficult when it’s people you work with. The negative self talk will take longer to deal with, as those thoughts are the extremely quiet ones that you don’t really hear and have to work harder at identifying so that you can start to correct them.

I am trying to do weekly reviews, but at the same time I will admit that I not really prioritizing tasks, projects, or relationships that well right now. These are two things that go hand in hand, if I can get better at doing one, I will probably get better at doing the second.

I do respond immediately to emails (at least work wise), but that is part of my job so it required, but at the same time I only get a small number of emails that requires an almost immediate response. Other emails I may respond too within a few hours. I respond to text messages as soon as I can (but if I’m busy it may be twenty or thirty minutes before I respond). In terms of voice mails, that is really only again at work, and I get only a few that I need to do that with.

I will admit that I allow myself to get distracted from certain tasks (and that is because I really haven’t developed a liking for that task or I consider to be a repetitive one). Mainly this is with cleaning, and at times working out, or trying to sit down and write.

I don’t consider myself to be overly emotionally dependent on other people. Everyone wants people to like them, and we also want to make sure that at times we have family support for certain things (such as career changes, moves, and so forth). So I have more or less reached a point, where if people don’t like me fine—I’m not rude, but at the same time I’m no longer hiding who I am (liberal, wicca/pagan/atheist, firm believer in science, and so forth). People can either take me for who I am or not, but I’m no longer going to lose sleep over it. Family approval is something we all strive for, and I think since I had to move back in with my parents, I’m probably striving for it a little more than normal just so that hopefully when I make the next move I don’t have to worry about moving back in with them.

Currently money is only a stress issue in terms of the following: 1) making sure that I have enough to cover a move to wherever my new job is, 2) making sure that I have enough to cover getting a lease on an apartment; and 3) making sure that I have that 6-12 month emergency fund saved up. At the same time I want to make sure that I also have money that I can travel if I want (and travel, especially international travel isn’t cheap). 

In terms of being satisfied with mediocre performances, fearing failure, and fearing success—yes I have issues with all of them. I’ve already had one job end on a bad note, which has made me probably a little too cautious in job searching (but it’s that once burned, twice shy attitude). Therefore I’ve allowed myself to become somewhat complacent and being satisfied with the status quo of my current situation (even though I’m not happy in my current position). In terms of fearing success—I think that is one reason why my weight loss journey has been so up and down, and why it has been hard for me at times to commit to a program—I know that I can be successful in it, but at the same time I’m worried about what close friends and family will say and act.

In terms of neglecting to prioritize tasks, projects, and relationships; taking too long to make a decision, and trying to make too many changes at once—yep, again.  I know that I’ve been taking too long in terms of trying to figure out the next job direction, and that I’ve also been neglecting to prioritize the tasks within job searching to make it a little easier to handle on the day to day basis. In terms of prioritizing projects—I have so many personal projects that I would like to start doing, that I usually look at everything and go “there is always tomorrow”. I’m trying to spend more time with friends, and getting in touch with ones that I haven’ talked to in awhile. Then in terms of trying to make too many changes at once—I’m guilty of this as well (namely in terms of fitness and nutrition). I will ideas of things that I would like to get better at (or start learning more on in terms of the business side of industry) that I get overwhelmed and I then neglect everything.

So, one thing that probably is hard for anyone to admit to is refusing to commit to your goals. The human mind is a wondrous thing, and there are parts of it that fear change, and if they can convince us that the path is foolish—we change directions and leave the goal. Also there is the problem of setting too many goals at once, and the problem of making goals that really aren’t for us, but we make them based on societal ideals and standards. For example, I had it as a goal over the years to take up jogging and then run a 5K—the only problem is that 1) I’ve never really been a jogger or a runner; and 2) it isn’t something that I’m not sure I’d enjoy (mainly because I’ve never tried to)—but I made it a goal, as it’s stated that jogging or running is one of the better ways of losing weight. Also the fear of committing to one’s goals can also be linked to the fear of both failure and success. So at times it’s easier to stay with the status quo than it is to try to do something that you may or may not be good at or enjoy.

Switching between tasks is another problem with today’s society—we’re expected to juggle everything all the time and that is the only way to get ahead in the world. I do try to limit doing that at work when ever possible (as I’ve learned that it’s better to wait until something is in a “waiting stage” (i.e. the reaction is going for a specific time period) before trying to do something else. Though at home I will admit to switching between things on a fairly regular basis. This is especially true when it comes to try to write something for the blog, or working on a book review. My mind will think of something else, and then I’ll put what I’m currently doing on hold and try to start something new.

We are in a world of massive information. As technology advances, and more and more information is available at the click of a button it can become easy to get swept away with all the information. Currently I only find it a problem in terms of job searching and trying to narrow down exactly what it is I possibly want to do within industry. I will admit that I am a very curious person by nature (I think that is one of the many reasons why I went into a science field for both my undergraduate and graduate degrees), so I can usually navigate the massive amounts of information fairly easily. Though when trying to figure out what it is I want to do life—that is where I find myself cast adrift in the massive amounts of information.

So to go along with some of the above issues—there is also the problem of working without clearly defined goals. I know that I want to transition into industry—but until I have at least one or two basic titles (or companies) chosen it will be difficult to figure out the best course of action. So this is something that I’ve been slowly trying to work on getting better at.

I’ve also realized that at times I have been trying to “wait for the perfect time” before doing something. While it is basic common sense to realize that the perfect time will really never fully materialize—it doesn’t stop the human race from waiting for it. This along with other issues is something that I’m going to be addressing this year, especially in terms of my industry transition.

So as far as the last three items (trying to keep everything in your head; letting nonessential tasks creep onto your daily to-do list & allowing yourself to get derailed from your goals), I’d have to say I’m guilty from time to time of trying to keep things in my head (especially when I was tracking what I was eating) and not writing it down right away. I do try to write things down as soon as possible for certain areas, but I need to work on trying to do that for everything. In terms of letting nonessential tasks to creep onto my daily to-do list, this is again occasionally (and only because at times I’ve forgotten to write a to-do for the next day before I leave). The biggest thing that I think I need to work on this year, is not allowing myself to get derailed from my goals. In that aspect, I know that I need to have a short list of goals, and an equal list of anti-goals (see my previous book review on Anti-goals: Find Success by Knowing what to Avoid by Kevin Wagonfoot).

Over all these are both extremely good books to read, if for no other reason to see how simple things that we do on a daily basis can impact your productivity both in your personal and professional life. The more we aim at being conscious of how we spend our days, and focusing on things that truly matter to us, we can find more enjoyment and pleasure in life. Work is a necessity, but at the same time so is enjoying life—because if we don’t enjoy it, we just struggle to get by. It’s time that each of us figures out what is best for ourselves (and family if necessary), and realize that we can only live life for ourselves and not for others. I highly recommend both books, as they have made me realize that there are still numerous things that I can strive to be better at, and that by working on certain things, it will also help me achieve my goals and dreams.

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Book Review: 30 Day Productivity Plan: Break the 30 Bad Habits that are sabotaging your time management one day at a time by Damon Zahariades

So I’ve realized that with the books that I’ve managed to finish this month–they all have had a central theme of thirty days. Either talking about bad habits (such as this particular book and the second volume) daily, or as thirty day challenges.

The first two book reviews are covering the aspect of learning about different habits that could be sabotaging our daily productivity and how to go about correcting those habits, and the other two books are filled with different 30-day challenges.

So this is the start of a two part book review series. One of the books that I’ve had on my electronic to-be read pile was “The 30-Day Productivity Plan: Break the 30 Bad Habits that are Sabotaging Your Time Management One Day at a Time” by Damon Zahariades. Then a few weeks ago I noticed that there was a second book out, and I went ahead and purchased that one as well. The basis of both books is to read them, and then pick a “bad habit” to break, and slowly work on increasing our productivity again by not doing (or limiting) certain things.

So with the first volume, the “30 bad habits” that were covered in the this book included:

1) Checking your email more than twice a day;

2) Trying to be perfect;

3) Creating overly ambitious to-do lists;

4) Giving yourself too much time to complete tasks;

5) Kicking yourself over past mistakes and failures;

6) Saying “yes” to everyone;

7) Working overtime;

8) Being a control freak;

9) Eating unhealthy foods;

10) Procrastinating;

11) Postponing taking action on hard tasks;

12) Checking social media throughout the day;

13) Neglecting to take breaks;

14) Binge-watching television shows;

15) Neglecting to create systems for recurring tasks;

16) Multitasking;

17) Refusing to take responsibility for your choices;

18) Telling yourself you’re not ready;

19) Neglecting to organize your day;

20) Feeling sorry for yourself;

21) Working against your body’s natural rhythm;

22) Refusing to get enough exercise;

23) Worrying about what others think of you;

24) Keeping up with current events;

25) Focusing on the 80% that doesn’t matter;

26) Getting caught up in unnecessary drama;

27) Working without concrete goals;

28) Letting your phone run your life;

29) Working until you burn out;

30) Allowing stress into your life.

I would have to say that I’m guilty of the following: 1, 2 (in certain circumstances), 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 27, 29, and 30. I almost added in #7, but with being told that I have to “ask permission” to go over 40 hours a week, this makes sure that I don’t go over the hours. So in theory I have 21 “bad habits”, and I’m trying to correct the following already: 9 & 22. I will admit that I do check my different email accounts several times a day (but at least for two of those, I delete more than I read) and with my work email, part of my job is responding to clients so I need to do that in a timely manner.

I will admit that at times I create overly ambitious to-do lists, though they probably wouldn’t be so overly ambitious if I had them separated into the different aspects (work, home, personal development) of my life instead of as one (or two) major lists that seem to be never ending.

I probably also give myself way to much time for certain tasks (say writing a blog post), or finishing a personal assessment project/assignment. There are times when I realize that I don’t feel like doing an introspective task, so instead of putting it on a different to-do list or calendar, I’ll just tell myself that I’ll complete the task tomorrow (and then repeat that story the next day….).

I know that both my nutrition and fitness routine need to polished. Right now it is actually easier to focus on my fitness routine then trying to totally change my eating routines. I’m trying to be more mindful of what I’m eating, and also not eating as much processed sweets as I usually have done in the past—but at the same time I’m not going to devoid my life any treats either; it all about balance.

10, 11, 18, and 27 all go hand in hand right now. These could all refer to how slow I’ve been going in my job search & transition. I want to move from academia to industry, but at the same time there is the fear that I could be making the wrong move (i.e. choosing the wrong company to work for). These are all things that I have been working at over coming (though it has been slow going).

In terms of keeping up with current events, I think that one should keep up with current events in order to be a well-informed person, but one doesn’t need to be checking the news constantly. I look at BBC news several times a day (but that is also to see if there are any new science stories up; if there doesn’t look to be any I get off the page). I also only check the news to make sure that there isn’t some huge catastrophe happening somewhere in the world.

In terms of number 23, I have slowly started to care less about what others think of me—yes I know it’s important to have a good personal and professional brand, but at the same time I know that there are people who don’t like me and there is little I can do about it. If others judge me based on other people’s opinions without getting to know me—that is their problem not mine. I’ve realized that I’ve spent too much of my life trying not to rock various “boats” that I’d almost forgotten that the only opinion that really matters at the end of the day is mine (as long as I can look at myself in the mirror & I’ve tried to be a good person that day, that’s all that matters).

I’m still trying to figure out the different twenty percent that yield eighty percent results for different areas of life. I know that in terms of my job transition—I need to spend more time networking & setting up informational interviews (those will hopefully lead to an actual job interview and possible job offer); changing my eating habits will yield larger results in terms of getting into shape and getting healthy & fit. Areas that I’m probably still focusing on the wrong things could include personal and professional development (I need to narrow down what I want to focus on this year that can lead to my goals quicker), and this can also tie in with #27 as well.

In terms of working until I’m burnt out and allowing stress into my life—these are two areas that I’ve always struggled with.

In terms of working until I’m burnt out—I’d almost say that I’m there. I do show up to work, and try my best daily (though at the same time, if something is going slightly wrong I now have the tendency of shrugging it off. An example is when I have to repeat a sequencing run & it works the second time but not the first, now (and actually before as well) I’m like well at least it worked; whereas others claim that I’d made a mistake previously and I need to pay more attention to detail so that it doesn’t happen again).

This is one reason why I want to move from academia to industry and at the same time going to plan at least one (if not more) trips this year (both personal & professional). I’ve also gotten to the point where I’m willing to take time off without pay just to have a break.

In terms of stress, I’m still working on different ways of trying to manage it. I meditate at night, use an acupuncture mat & pillow, journal, and will start taking walks at work as well when I feel the need.

This is a good book for introducing things that we all do on a daily basis, but showing how they can negatively impact our productivity in everything that we do. Reading it has helped open my eyes to the ways I have been harming my productivity, and now that I know things that I’m guilty of doing—I can slowly start correcting those habits and start having more productive days.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is curious to know if they are unconsciously sabotaging their daily productivity and how they can go about correcting some of their habits. Bad habits can’t be changed over night, and admitting that there could be numerous ones is a step in the right direction, and all one has to be is willing to start making a little progress in different areas. Once it starts to get easier, one can go to another habit and so forth. Stay tune for my review on volume II of the 30-Day Productivity Plan.

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What I’ve learned from reading “Anti-Goals: Find Success by Knowing What to Avoid” by Kevin Wagonfoot

So I just finished reading “Anti-Goals: Find Success by Knowing What to Avoid” by Kevin Wagonfoot as part of my big push again into reading more personal/professional development books in 2019. This book struck several chords with me, and therefore I want to share with you.

So anti-goals are basically things that you want to avoid (and we’re talking things other than death, taxes, and getting sick—because really those are three things that no one can avoid forever). But the book also informs “you cannot know what you want, until you know exactly what it is you don’t want”.

That quote right there basically sums up my life for the past eight years for different areas of my life—namely in terms of work and health. I’ve been slightly struggling with my job search/transition because I don’t know exactly what I want to do—though I have some ideas of the type of jobs I don’t want to do (now I just need to narrow it down in terms of company culture to determine the companies that I don’t want to work for).

Another two line from the book that resonated with me were “You’re not going to know what you want until you taste it. You might not even know your own preferences yet, even if you’re 30+ years old”. All I have to say is—Yes, yes, yes—I have no idea of what all my own preferences are yet. Right now I’m still learning the things I want to avoid (mainly in terms of personalities of people to try to avoid being around).

Also there was the addition of phrases to avoid, which mainly leads to self-doubt, negative self-talk, and procrastination. Those phrases include: “I’ll start on it tomorrow”—I will admit guilt to using this phrase. I am now going to try to be better at starting projects on time (even if they’re something I rather not be doing). “We’ve never done it like that before”—if I’ve used this phrase it usually is in a lab setting and would be followed by ‘how is different from our current method’ or something similar. “I don’t know what to do”—I’ve only said this to myself when I’m in the middle of an anxiety attack thinking about all the different possible job directions I could go and the ways I could get there. I will try to get better at not thinking (or saying out loud) as I work on transitioning into industry. The phrase that is suggested that you also avoid using is “this is in my way”. Now that particular phrase can be mentally thought when looking at anything or anyone; while I probably do mentally use the phrase—it is so subconsciously that I truthfully can’t remember the last time I thought it in a negative way against someone. I probably mentally say it around things at home or when looking at a calendar and wanting the next break.

So getting back to the setting of the anti-goals, you can pick as many different parts of your life to look at and list out the things you dislike and would like to avoid in each area, and then list ways that you could possibly avoid doing those things (while realizing that some anti-goals may still crop up in life and you will then just have to face them head on).

I then realized that this could almost blend in with the Level 10 life—here you always want to raise the level of different areas of your life, and with the anti-goals you want to avoid hitting zero. I think that they could almost be a balance of each other (in certain areas).

So if I were to list out different areas of life and the things I would like to avoid they would probably look something like this:

Work

            Continuously long work days.

            Working on the weekends

            Not getting paid what I’m worth

Finances

            Large amount of credit card debt

            Not enough in the retirement account

            Struggling to survive month to month

Health and Fitness

            Being overweight and out of shape

            Not getting good night sleep

Physical Environment

            Having more stuff than I need

            Feeling “cluttered and disorganized”

Friends & Family

            Losing touch and not staying connected

So my anti-goals would then be for each area:

Work:

            Position that would only require occasional long day (or weekend) but with compensation (days off in return)

            Move into a job sector that will pay people with high level of scientific training what they are worth

Finances:

            Avoid using credit cards when ever possible & keep the debt low enough to be paid off monthly

            Figure out different ways of being able to get more money into a retirement account (safe alternatives to the stock market)

            Have a job with a company that pays what you are worth, and also one that takes into account the cost of living in that particular city/area

            Being financial responsible and realizing that less is actually more.

Heath and fitness:

            Starting to workout at least three days a week.

            Aiming for at least 14,000 steps/day

            Cooking more at home, and trying to cook healthier versions of different meals

            Aiming for 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night

            Meditating before bed

            Not checking the news/social media before bed

            Not counting calories/macros & giving up the word “diet”

Physical environment

            Selling back movies that I haven’t watched in years (this should be fun, since I technically haven’t watched any of the movies in my storage unit in the past 6 years)

            Donating clothes that I don’t wear that often

            Start to realize that less is actually more and get rid of stuff that I don’t need (or really want)

            Set up a cleaning schedule and actually try to stick with it for once

Friends & Family

            Keeping in touch via social media (if I don’t have their telephone number or email address)

            Trying to get together for coffee, or a walk, or something sort of social event

            Actually accepting invitations to social events and then actually showing up to them.

            Let friends/family know when I’m in the area on vacation/work so that maybe can get together for coffee or dinner

All in all, this was a good book with some very good points (and the sad thing is—is that all the points were basic, common sense points that as a society we’ve seem to have lost connections to). I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking to figure out why they’re stuck where they are in life, but also remember that change doesn’t happen over night and that like anything in life slow, sustainable progress is better than quick, fast changes that you might not be able to maintain over the years.

While the anti-goal list seems lofty and extensive-I’m not going to be doing all of them every day of the week. I may try to focus on one area one week, and then maybe another area the next week, while still incorporating some of the previous week. Small steps will still get you to the finish line–and life shouldn’t be a race, we will all get to our own finish lines at the correct time.

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Book Review: The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

 

So I just finished reading The Four Tendencies, and all I have to say is that I wish I’d known about this book years ago.

The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin. Image (c) amazon.com

have been on a journey of intense personal/professional development for a little over a year, and with reading this book I’ve managed to find the answer to a question that has been eluding me for over a decade—“why I work better with some people than others and why I never figured it out sooner”. This book goes over “Four Tendencies” or broad personality types (and if you’ve taken other personality quizzes you can work those results in and fine tune your tendency even more).

The Four Tendencies. Image (c) The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

With this book I’ve realized that I’m a questioner (someone who can honor personal expectations/obligations but resists outside [external] expectations/obligations) that leans more towards a rebel (someone who has the tendency to resist both internal and external expectations/obligations) tendency at times. I’m in a science discipline, and other than my undergraduate years I’ve ended up working under upholders and by the end of the job period—ending up clashing with them. I would find the work in the lab to be fascinating (or at least somewhat challenging), and that would be the main reason for me joining the lab. Then problems would start creeping up—my hours, my writing, my interpretations of my results, and so forth. With reading The Four Tendencies, I can see now that most of my former supervisors fell within the Upholder tendency (with some leaning towards the Obliger and maybe one leaning towards the questioner). Now I don’t have a problem with rules—if they make sense, but being told that basically that I have to change my writing voice because it doesn’t sound like “a scientist” has always propelled me towards not caring (or as I see it now the rebel tendency). After awhile I never cared if a proposal was turned down (because they weren’t critiquing “my writing voice” but someone else’s voice).

I’ve also realized that my tendency has the tendency of getting me into a little bit of trouble as well. This is due mainly to the fact that after awhile of not getting either a clear answer to a question, being overly questioned for how I do things, or how I respond to things—I quit asking questions and tend to do things as I think they should be done.

One thing I wish is that somehow this book becomes required reading for high school and college students, and that once someone gets into a manager type position (no matter the industry or field) they have to read this book at least every other year. I think that if more people read this book, it would help mediate a lot of the problems that we currently have within both school systems (students not doing work, so forth) and as adults (different tendencies tend to work better with one or two tendencies but not all). I know that if I had read this book years ago, I might not have accepted my first postdoctoral position (as I can clearly see know that the professor was an upholder, probably leaning toward the obliger; and at least this particular questioner doesn’t seem to work very well with upholders (at least those who don’t take the time to try to explain things).

 

Highly recommended book for anyone on personal/professional development journey or anyone who just wants to learn a little more about the subject.

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Review: Mini Habits for Weight Loss by Stephen Guise; and what I got out of it.

I have always struggled with my weight, and have probably bounced between the “overweight” and “mild obese” weight-range my entire life. I’ve tried numerous different diets (from slim shakes for lunch/snacks) to following an plan that told me exactly how much and what to eat daily (this one I remember that on day seven all you were allowed was ½ a grapefruit and a cup of yogurt for your meals—it was the most restricted calorie day). Now I’m just trying to be sensible—more fruits and veggies, less processed foods (sausages, fries, things like that), and more water. I’ve been getting better over the past couple of years (though my weight has gone from the “overweight” category back to the “mild obese” category), so I decided that I would also start reading a few books on different aspects of weight loss, to try to find some additional “tools” that I could add/use when it comes to trying to lose weight sensibly.

“Mini Habits for Weight Loss: Stop Dieting. Form New Habits. Change Your Lifestyle without suffering” by Stephen Guise is a wonderful tool to add to your “tool belt” when it comes to sensible weight loss. This book gives both a history of the weight loss industry (including a good background on the low fat vs. low sugar diets), and then goes into sensible ways of slowly changing both nutrition and fitness habits to make them long lasting. There are now quick and easy fixes, but ideas and suggestions for how to make changes to your nutrition and fitness routines that one can actually stick with.

Mini Habits for Weight Loss by Stephen Guise. Image (c) Amazon.com

There were numerous different parts of the book that stood out to me, but one in particular: “Calorie restriction has been shown to drop your metabiolism and make your body prone to store fat” (pg. 50_kindle edition). This is opposite of everything that you see and hear in the news (where you’re told to lower the calories to force your body to start burning fat), but at the same time it makes sense due to how the human species has evolved over tens of thousands of years. I use to try to restrict my calories, but then I started to pay attention to how it made me feel—I was usually in a fairly bad mood (and it was all due to the fact that while I thought I was losing “fat” I was in fact starving myself and now we know that there is a direct correlation between our gut flora and our mental health—so my gut flora was sending signals to my brain that they were stressing, and in turn my mood was usually bouncing between grumpy, tired, and irritable. Read More

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An book review and what I got out if: Small Talk “An Introvert’s Guide to Small Talk” by Gary Allman

So I’m still trying to find balance between reading different personal and professional development books, with other books. So far this month I’ve managed to finish a book that I think falls into both categories: “Small Talk: An Introvert’s Guide to Small Talk—Talk to Anyone & Be Instantly Likeable (How to small talk, Talk to anyone, Lasting relationship, People Skills) by Gary Allman.

Small Talk by Gary Allman. Image (c) Amazon.com

I bought this book for a couple of reasons: 1) the title caught my attention, and I figured that as an introvert, it wouldn’t hurt to see what an “introvert’s guide to small talk” looked liked; and 2) this is an area that I know I need to work on. I know for a fact that some people either think I’m extremely shy or standoffish—and I will admit to being shy, but for the most part I have trouble striking up conversations with other people, but once I’m past that problem—I can almost be considered too talkative.

The book really focuses on overall communication, not just small talk. The author mentions the fact that you should also be caring about your appearance (whether its on a date, or a job interview); that you should be on time (even a little early—but not too early), do your research (if it’s a job interview or networking event), and be mindful of your body language. Another thing the author mentions is not to be staring at your phone all the time. So how am I doing in these areas: dressing, timing, doing research, being mindful of my body language and staying off my phone? Read More

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Book Review and what is my definition of passion?

So one of the books that I just finished reading was “Find Your Passion: 25 Questions you must ask yourself” by Henri Juttila. This is a book that I considered to fit in both the personal and professional development areas. One reason is that, trying to figure out what type of industry position that I want—I’ve been told to figure out what I’m passionate about science wise and go from there. I’ve also been told to try to go outside my comfort zone, and go for the job that I really want. The only problem with both of those suggestions, is that I’m not sure what I’m absolutely passionate about science wise, and I’m not absolutely sure what position outside of research I really want either. So I’m slowly going through different books (some have these exercises, and some don’t) to try to get a firmer grasp on what I’m passionate about (science wise) and what type of job outside of research I’d be happy in. This is a book that I highly recommend. While it is a short read, if you take the time to answer the questions as you go through it, or come back to them as I’m doing–you will probably be surprised about what you learn about yourself. So there are going to be several posts over the next few weeks that might seem slightly rambling, but they are all around a central theme: “What am I passionate about within science, and what other jobs does that relate to outside of research”.

Find Your Passion. Image (c) Amazon.com

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