Do One Thing Everyday That Terrifies You

"Do one thing every day that scares you". That is a famous quote by Eleanor Roosevelt and it's as relevant today as ever. 

Comfort zones can be dangerous. Naturally, we can argue that a lower level of stress and risk in our lives is a good thing. However, it's important for us to step out of these zones occasionally and push ourselves in areas and directions that we may have previously deemed impossible. 

We're all scared of different things and fear can come in various forms. Myself, I can say that I am not a fan of confrontation. Social situations can bring on a sweat from time to time and I don't even want to talk about my feelings towards snakes. Some people shy away from public speaking, being alone, spiders, Donald Trump, the Internet, mortality - it's a never ending list. Yet these fears control us and if we don't have control over our feelings and emotions, we restrict our ability to take charge of that particular situation. I don't know about you, but I hate giving up control!

Fear can also prevent us from reaching our full potential. Human beings have an amazing 'fight or flight' mentality which comes into play when we perceive any threat to ourselves and it's this physiological reaction that stops us from stepping out of that comfort zone and taking any risks. If we don't take the risks, we will continue to tread the same path that we have been walking all our lives. For some of us, that's fine, yet for those who wish to grow into something more, this is where the comfort zone is dangerous. 

There are a whole host of things you can look at doing, every day, to help you grow and assume control. 

Talk to a Stranger

This is one I try to do daily now, so much so that it no longer holds any fear for me. It could be the person I sit next to on the commute, maybe the barista serving me at Starbucks. It doesn't matter who, but think of the maxim "A stranger is a friend you haven't made yet" and you'll realise that 99% of us out there are decent, warm human beings who love it when strangers say "Hello" in passing. 

This action can also help boost your confidence and self-esteem.

Disconnect From Your Phone

Guess what? You know how important and crucial to everything you think you are? Well, you're NOT. Next time you're away from the office, spending time with your family, just switch your phone off. Maybe even for an hour at first. You'll realise that no matter how scary this is, the world will still be turning when you switch it back on and you will have spent some quality time with the people that matter most to you, rather than just waiting for the 'ding' notification. 

Ask For Help

This has always been a tricky one for me but I'm getting there. I hate asking for help, having always seen it as a sign of weakness. Far from it - I now know it's a mark of true strength to know that in order to get to where I where I want to be, I'm going to need some help. I ask for help on certain projects daily and I know I'm in a far better position for it. 

Eat Something New

I find myself saying this to my kids so often. "Go on, you'll never know you like it until you try it". It's true though. Yes, they don't always take to the new food they are trying and may even go to spit it out at times, but each time they try, they step outside of their comfort zone and try a little. 

I'm not trying broccoli though. Ewwww. 

Say Sorry

Tough one for so many people, but being the bigger person and apologising when the situation merits it helps you grow. The scariest bit has been completed before we open our mouths - that's acknowledging the fact we are in the wrong. The rest should then be plain sailing. In fact, people's perception of us will largely increase because of our perceived humility. 

Change Your Hairstyle

I can put this one down safely because, given the rate my hair is going, I could do with a change! Do something radical, make a change, maybe even ask your hairdresser to recommend a style and just go with that. The results will surprise you and may even yield a lesson in having faith and letting go. 

Tell Someone How You Feel About Them

So what's the worse that can happen? You are positive, you tell that girl you've been mooning over for years that she makes your kettle boil and she runs away as fast as her legs can carry her. Well now you know, it won't be in your head anymore, interrupting your thought processes. You never know, she may feel the same way and boom! Life is good. Don't ask, don't know. 

Conversely, it can be a conversation of a negative nature. The confrontation you have been dreading. Well, until it's out there, it's in your head and you are picking away at it like a loose thread on a cushion. This is a horrible situation to be in and does nobody any good. The sooner the conversation is done, the sooner you can work on remedying the situation. 

Jump Out Of A Plane

Yeah, I hear you, this isn't exactly something you can do every day. What a marker to lay down though, at some point in the future, wouldn't you agree? The idea of jumping out of a plane terrifies me. All I have to do is look over the side from the top of a tall building and my legs start to feel numb as that cold shiver travels down my spine. In truth, I'd rather sit in the corner of a dark room bouncing bricks off of my head whilst waiting for Windows to update on a laptop I'm relying on for work. 

I'm going to do it though. Mainly because I'm an obstinate so and so who refuses to let this fear get the better of me. 

I know that if I can do this, I can do almost anything - and when I'm planning on cutting the cord on contract life and moving solely into freelance coaching and writing, that's an important thing to be sure of.

Open Safari Content in Chrome with TextExpander

 

Have you ever opened a web page in Safari and thought to yourself “Dammit, I was supposed to open that in Chrome”?

I do - far often than I’d like to admit!

Still, it’s not a problem for me, as thanks to a quick bit of searching, as well as a great post on the Smile Blog, I can use a TextExpander snippet to run an Apple Script that will take the current tab in Safari and open the contents in Chrome. Pretty handy!

All you need to do is create a new snippet with the settings as per the screenshot below. I’ve also added the code for the AppleScript separately underneath so that you can easily copy and paste whilst creating.

browse1.png
property theURL : ""
tell application "Safari"
	set theURL to URL of current tab of window 1
end tell
if appIsRunning("Google Chrome") then
	tell application "Google Chrome"
		make new window
		set URL of active tab of window 0 to theURL
		activate
	end tell
else
	tell application "Google Chrome"
		do shell script "open -a \"Google Chrome\""
		set URL of active tab of window 0 to theURL
		activate
	end tell
end if

on appIsRunning(appName)
	tell application "System Events" to (name of processes) contains appName
end appIsRunning

Thanks Smile for this tip. Oh, and for TextExpander as well. It’s still saving me a whole lot of time!

Hello Future Me

You know this situation well - I can almost guarantee it. 

It's time to go through your to-do list and start taking action against the tasks, or actions, you have decided are outstanding and need to be completed. You're pumped, ready to go and start owning the day. 

You've got your coffee next to you, the ambience is great because your pumping some appropriate tunes through your headphones - chill-out music if you need to concentrate or something more hardcore if that's your thing. 

You're in the zone, ready for the flow to start. 

You look at the first task. Looks pretty easy. 

Phone Dave

Erm...right. OK. I can do that but...why did I need to phone Dave again? 

Tell you what, I'll push that aside until I remember what I needed to speak to him about and move onto the next one. What have we got? 

Schedule Meeting with Marketing Team

Hmm, what was this meeting about? Was it about the issue I have with Project A? Hang on - didn't my line manager call me last week asking to arrange a meeting? Why did I need to do that?

Oh dear, this isn't going well. 

Sound familiar? I know this to be true because I've been there so many times in the past. Looking at entries in OmniFocus 2 (that meant something to me when I created them, yet mean absolutely nothing now!

My workaround for this is very simple, yet has multiple benefits at the same time. 

I create tasks by delegating them to my future self

I imagine that the future Lee knows nothing about the present Lee and I think about the information that he is going to need in order to be able to get this work completed. 

Let's take the first one - Phone Dave. The action title itself will be something along the lines of Phone Dave to discuss the testing that is required for 64-bit Office 2016 in our Head Office Procurement Department. That's a good start. Then, the notes section will have Dave's number or Skype name as well as some key bullet points that I need to cover. 

When I come across this on my Actions List, there is no need for deferment, I can action this straight away. 

If there are links to documentation that may need to be referred to, I'll add these in as well to save gathering them at the last minute and losing time. 

Even better than this, if for whatever reason I cannot make this call, I can delegate to someone else, safe in the knowledge they have all of the information they need. After all, when I created the action, I delegated it to my future self in the first place. 

Remember that the future, better version of you will have a lot going on in his/her head and will not be able to remember the context that the action was created in. You cannot be too detailed when creating an action and if helps you pass actions on to other people in your team, that can only benefit everyone.

Give Yourself A Break

Like all of you reading this post, I'm a human being. A human being that gets frustrated when I'm unable to achieve everything I set out in my todo list. One downside of being an incorrigible planner is the negative feelings that manifest when life gets in the way and things don't go to plan. 

The intentions are so great when you wake up. You bounce out of bed, ready to attack the day and make progress on the list you created the night before - after all, you're a Productivity person, you want to be the best version of yourself that you can be. 

Then that call or email comes in - the one you didn't expect, from a client, a colleague or a family member, that throws the plan you had meticulously created into disarray. All of a sudden, the commitments you had made to yourself need to be reviewed and shifted. You may have to let somebody down who is relying on you, or postpone an event that you were really looking forward to on a personal level. Some of the goals you had set yourself for the day may not now be achievable. If you are not careful, the day can slowly start to unravel and sure enough, as your attitude becomes negative, so too does your focus on the hours ahead. 

I know the above is a familiar scenario to you. I know this because I am just like all of you and, as I really am my own worst critic, I go through the above emotions more regularly than I would like. 

However, when I do, I think back to a phrase I was told by a former line manager when I was starting out in the world of Project Management. 

Life happens sonny - appreciate that and enjoy it because it's a lot better than the alternative

The fact is, he is so right. Tomorrow is a new day and if I'm lucky (and sensible), there will be a lot more of them to come. No day is going to be the same as today, so plan as normal and roll with the punches when they come. The chances of two days being disrupted to this extent are slim and, if they are, then the chances of three are slimmer still. 

So keep going. Remember that productivity is all about doing the right thing at the righttime. So you need to pick up your child from school because they are ill? Well yes, it throws your afternoon out, but when you make your decision on what needs to be done based on priority vs urgency, you go and pick up your child. Everything else can move. 

Give yourself a break. Life happens and that is such a good thing.

Scheduling Brain Dumps

 

I look forward to my Friday wind-down time. This is usually spent either travelling back from a client site or, if I'm working from home, stretched out on the sofa carrying out my weekly review. 

Why do I look forward to this so much? 

I love this time because part of my weekly review involves a scheduled brain dump - thirty or so minutes that are spent simply emptying my head of all thoughts and feelings. 

I open up Day One on one of my devices (often this is the iPad as it's great for this scenario) and create an entry within my Inspiration journal (with a tag named Brain Dump) and just...write. 

What do I put in there? 

Anything and everything that comes into my head. 

It could be thoughts about my day at work, worries about the weekend, reminiscing about conversations I've had that are, somehow, still playing on my mind. Maybe there is something you need to research in readiness for next week, or you've had an idea for a project you want to work on but seems ridiculous at this moment. 

Any of these things can lead to inspiration and forewarn you of situations that are not as they should be at this moment. 

Once everything has been extracted from your grey matter and displayed in front of you, magic can happen. 

  • You can review what you've written and make decisions about how/if to progress them. Is there a problem that needs to be resolved? Create a project in your task-manager of choice and work out what the very next action is that needs to be completed to edge you closer to resolving. This process alone lifts the pressure from yourself and allows you to wrestle control of the situation from your sub-conscious. Let's face it, your subconscious would have been happy to keep hold of that negative thought and let it pick away at you, slowly, over time, driving you nuts! Not anymore - take control. 
  • You can revel in the glory and take the time to feel good about things. That's right - we're allowed to do that sometimes! If you have achieved something great or were thinking about a special time you had with your family when you performed your brain dump, take the time to re-visit this thought and think about what it means to you. This could be the most productive thing you do all week as there is no greater motivator than positive thoughts. 
  • You have freed up your brain to have more ideas. I've lost count of a number of times I've created a project after a brain-dump and, as I'm working out the actions required to meet my objective, other ideas find their way into my mind and start knocking at the door, desperate to be let out. This often happens during the brain dump process itself. Creativity begets creativity. 

If you schedule a brain-dump at least once a week, you open yourself up to a lot of possibilities for self-improvement and focus. How long it takes is up to you. Sometimes, I'm done after fifteen minutes. Other times, I'm still there after two hours, ideas pouring out. 

Give it a try - let me know how you get on.

How I (Simply) Use OmniFocus and Launch Centre Pro - 1.0

I’ve not been using my iPhone to anywhere near it’s potential recently. I don’t know why this is - it’s certainly been a hectic twelve months in my life personally with lots of changes taking place - however, sometimes it’s important to step back and look at some of the barriers that you are facing with getting stuff done. One of mine was the efficient use of OmniFocus on the go.

Looking back, a reason for this was the friction involved in getting to the perspectives or contexts that I needed. There were a lot of screen presses needed and as my OmniFocus setup is fairly detailed, I looked for other ways to record important tasks on iOS. This CAN work for some people, however, my mindset is slightly different. If I’m not focusing on one application, or system, I’m not focusing on any and I lose trust. Once the trust in the system goes, then the whole system goes and this has been an issue for me.

Upon looking into ways to reduce this friction, I thought of Launch Centre Pro as a means to grant me easy access to frequently accessed lists within OmniFocus. It has made a huge difference.

My set-up is by no means extensive as I like to start simple and then build up as the need for more complex actions arises. I’d still like to present you my simplistic LCP and OF configuration and show you how it was created.

I’m going to assume a working knowledge of Launch Centre Pro for the purposes of this post!

 
 

As you can see, I have four LCP actions for OmniFocus configured. These are all accessible from the OmniFocus Group that I have setup on my Home Page for Launch Centre Pro. Creating the group is easy. Click the pencil icon in the top right-hand corner. Any spare grid spaces are converted into plus signs. Select one of the grid spaces and choose Group from the resulting pop-up. I’ve placed my OmniFocus group button directly above the Home Button of my iPhone, as this is easiest for my thumb to get to and I fully expect this to be my most used LCP button.

Dashboard

The Dashboard view is a list of Flagged and Due tasks that I have for today. It’s in the top left hand corner as I don’t use this view that often on my iPhone. My iPhone is rarely used for critical, must do tasks - that’s my MacBook Pro or iPad. 

Dashboard is a Perspective within OmniFocus and being able to view this from a button press is super handy. 

To setup any Perspective: 

1) Click the pencil icon once more, select your group and you’ll have a second grid of icons to select. 

2) Choose where you would like this Perspective to go and select Action from the pop-up. 

3) Select Action Composer

4) Select Apps with Actions

5) Scroll down to OmniFocus 2 and select

6) Press Open Perspective

7) In the Name field, type the Name you wish to see in the LCP icon. In the Perspective field, type the name of the Perspective you wish to open (I imagine you will want both of these fields to be the same)

8) Click Done. 

9) (Optional) Change the icon by clicking the Icon option and configuring the background, style and icon contents. 

10) Done! You have a new Perspective accessible from the touch of an LCP button. 

iPhone

I have a context called iPhone which is for those tasks that I can only complete when I’ve got my phone to hand. It’s not often that I’m not in front of my MacBook or iPad so if I ever have a task I can complete on any device, I usually go for the larger devices as it invariably makes the task quicker and easier. However in my quest to make more use of my iPhone, I’ve created a context (and Perspective) for tasks that are phone dependant. These could be calls, researching iPhone apps, checking App Store updates for iPhone. This list will grow I’m sure, but for now this works. 

Setting the icon is the same as the steps above, merely substituting the Dashboard in the Perspective field for iPhone.

Household

This is a perspective that contains the tasks that need to be completed around the house. At the weekend, the MacBook is either away or performing backups/maintenance so I want to be reliant on my phone for keeping me up to date with what I can be doing around the house or with the family, so I’ve created a perspective for just this purpose. 

Errands

This one speaks for itself. This perspective contains a list of all available items with the context of Errands and is great for when I’m out in the car and need to pick up groceries or other items for the family. 

As said, this is a rudimentary setup. I’m planning on adding new buttons in the near future. I’ve just watched a great video over at Learn OmniFocus that shows how to create a button for entering a range of New Items. There are workflows for adding in clipboard content and setting up templates for recurring tasks. I’m also planning on leveraging a one-button search in the near future. 

I’m hoping to present a version 2.0 of this post in six months time to see how my setup has progressed (I’ve just put it into OmniFocus now so no excuse for forgetting!). 

I’m opening the comments on this one so any hints and tips that you would like to share, feel free to pass them on!

Public Groups with TextExpander

 

Back in the days before TextExpander went all cloud-based on us, there was a feature called Predefined Groups . These were groups of snippets built into the software with their content pre-loaded. We had groups for AutoCorrectSymbolsInternet Productivity amongst others. 

Now that TextExpander has provided the ability to access our snippets from a web interface, the potential for these Predefined Groups has grown. Now, they have evolved into Public Groups, a far more scalable and accessible solution. 

Public Groups are, at their core, groups of snippets shared by TextExpander users. They have consciously made these groups publicly accessible and there are some great ones available. Here is the universal way to find them:

1) Log into your TextExpander account via a Web Browser

2) On the Snippet Groups page, select Add Public Group

3) Here, you can scroll through the page to find the groups that you wish to add. When you find the group that you wish to add, click Subscribe. A new page will appear with one further box - Subscribe To Group. Click this and you are off to the races. You can view the contents of this group from the web interface, or from your locally installed application. 

In this example, I’ve added the group Accented Words by Jean McDonald. While adding accents to characters is a relatively easy process on macOS (simply hold down the key for a second and a list of accents appears on screen), remembering which ones form the word correctly is not so easy. This is a great group to have!

 
 

It’s important to note that you cannot make changes to a Public Group, although you probably worked that one out already, being the astute reader that you are. You can, however, Duplicate the group so that a copy of the snippet group appears in your own personal snippet library. From here, you can use the Public Group as a base and add your own snippets as you wish. Any changes made to the Public Group by the owner won’t reflect in this duplicate you have created. 

Creating Your Own Public Group

You may have a set of snippets that you have lovingly curated and you wish to share with the wider public or members of your own team. This is an easy process, as you would expect. We’ll run this example from the web interface once more. 

1) Log into your TextExpander account via a Web Browser

2) Click on the Group that you wish to share

3) Click on the Sharing tab and towards the bottom of the screen you will see a section called Public Sharing. Check the radio button called URL Sharing and then click Publish In Public Groups.

4) The resulting window allows you to change the TitleAuthorCategory (General, AutoCorrect, Symbols, Internet or Medical) and specify whether you have the legal rights to publish the groups content. 

Once this is complete, the request is sent to the team at Smile Software for review. If rejected, contact them and ask what actions need to be completed to remedy this. They are a great team and will help all they can.

There we have it, a brief overview of Public Groups but certainly enough to get you started.

Multitasking Is Rubbish

I'm supposed to be good at this stuff, yet it's amazing how many times I'm guilty of failing to eat my own dog food. In fact, I wouldn't be offended if you said that I can be a real idiot at times when it comes to being productive. 

Hey, at least I can admit it and recognise where I've fallen down I guess! 

Just this morning, I fell under the "I can multitask" bus and this is how. (Hands up if you've done the same....)

I'm sat in an office with one other person, dialling into a conference call via Skype For Business. It's a call that doesn't need my attention for the entire forty-five minute duration, so I make the usual pleasantries at the beginning, mute the microphone and use this as an opportunity to process my email from the previous day. 

Mistake. 

In fact, count the 'productivity' mistakes through this sad tale as you read. 

I've got one ear listening to the content of the call whilst I'm looking at an important email that is going to take some serious troubleshooting over the course of the day. I'm reading through, and for some reason, I think I'll concentrate on the email a little easier if I take one of my earphones out and reduce the volume of the call I'm participating (!) in. 

My office mate then sees the removal of the earphone as a sign to ask a question he's been keen to ask for days. Being a quintessentially polite Brit, I have difficulty saying that I should concentrate on the call I'm on (as well as the important email I'm trying to process) and so I engage. 

We chat for a couple of minutes until I hear a voice in my ear.

"Lee, did you catch that? I think you're on Mute". 

Naturally, I have no idea what was asked, and so I abruptly cut off my office mate, apologise to the conference call lead for the network issues I just encountered (!) and ask them to repeat the question, wasting the time of everyone on that call while the events I missed are recanted. 

So I now have a call that is being extended unnecessarily, an email that is no further through being processed yet is now in the back of my mind due to its importance, tugging away at my attention like a puppy playfully trying to free a toy from the hands of it's owner, as well as a colleague who feels awkward having been cut off mid-sentence while I deal with something that is clearly 'more important'. 

All in the name of trying to do more than one thing at once. 

The brain is not designed to multi thread, like a modern day CPU. Multitasking is simply a myth. When you try and work on more than one thing at a time, all you end up doing is switching your attention multiple times - and all of that attention-switching takes energy as well as time. Each time you shift from watching TV to writing a text, to checking your Twitter timeline - your brain is initiating a stop/start process each time. It's fast, it's rapid and it can give the illusion that you are doing more than one thing at once, but have you ever been listening to a podcast whilst checking Twitter and found that you'd missed something that was said? Of course you did! You weren't listening whilst reading, you were listening then reading - your brain was switching rapidly between one task and the other. 

 Was I able to complete any of those tasks earlier to the best of my ability? Not a chance. Yet the example I've given above is repeated by people in both the workplace and domestically time and time again. Myself included! Admittedly, this morning was a rare occurrence and I'm usually highly focused and able to work on items singularly without an issue. This morning I just - fell off. I thought I could do it and was pleased, in the end, to see that I couldn't and the theorising we read about multitasking is indeed true. 

There is a great test you can do at the following site that tests this theory - I urge you to try it out.