Happy New Year to all! I genuinely hope that 2015 will be an amazing year for all of us and I will keep my proverbial fingers crossed till the very end to “help” make it so. However, call me a cynic or simply a realist, but considering the events of 2014 and the trend we’re on, hope is literally the only thing that keeps me imaginative of a brighter future. (And this should explain the attached cartoon). 🙂
One of my resolutions this year is to share a practical how-to or pragmatic tutorial, for every theoretical/philosophical article I’m planning to write. Considering I’ve still got two parts to finish writing on my “Imagination is more important than Knowledge” series, and this year I’m also planning to finally make public my “Trinity One” philosophy of life (and core system of thinking) which will take at least a dozen posts just to present the core elements, I better get started on writing a lot more practical tutorials.. Anyway, before we jump into pragmatism, I’d like to introduce you to the beautiful Resolutions video, wisely created by the School of Life team. And one of the main reasons why I’m posting this video here is because I want to remind myself of things that are actually important and worth remembering. I believe that the statements posted in this video, the wise advice, is well worth considering and actually following in our daily lives:
The inspiring intro: In his latest article called “The secret to successful new year’s resolutions is walking through doors“, Oliver Emberton wrote that the actual secret to making resolutions that actually work is also the secret to making a hit movie. If you read the article on his website (no affiliation btw, I’m only one of his subscribers), you will find a very interesting brief story involving disclosures of secret formulas that actually work, very witty cartoons and a spot-on creative process description which sums up to something like this: I totally agree with him. And not just because I like to use processes in almost everything I do (I even have a process on how to use randomness), but because I’ve tested and experienced what he described in his post and I know for a fact that it works. And actually, so should you. Because you tested it too but if you don’t know it yet is because you didn’t fully realised that you’ve done it and it worked for you. So get off your couch/comfy place, wherever that may be in your head, and after you read the man’s post, take some positive action (e.g. maybe get off facebook and all other silly social media networks, at least for a while..I sure did). Changing the macro-world requires a change in our micro (personal) world. That positive change always starts with a positive idea. Followed by a thought, then a statement, then a personal commitment, then (optionally) a public commitment, then mandatory a plan of action, then a personal “punishment” for failing to keep your word (promise to self), and finally the positive action itself. The result of your idea-thought-statement-commitment-plan-promise-action will be your fulfilled goal. Or you can follow another process. Just please don’t do this:
Now since this post is meant to be a practical “how to”, from now on I will keep the text waffle to a very minimum and will focus on the deliverables I’m referencing here:
1. Create & Innovate
The what: The first step to resolve anything is to state the concept or the problem, regardless of its nature. No no, not just with your mouth, you need to actually write it with your hand. But before you write anything, you need to focus on what you really want. If you don’t know what you really want, then focus on what you don’t want. OK, now that you got it, you can start creating your wants or don’t wants.
The how: Believe it or not this is the easy part. Once you sort-of figured out what you want and what you don’t want (they’re mutually exclusive and therefore easy to deduct one from the other), now you just need the medium to express yourself and visualise them and their interconnections. I recommend you start with different colour paper (i.e. post-it notes) and a blue pen, or with blank white paper and a set of colourful pens/markers. Here is a 4-page PDF cheat-sheet on how to use colours in human interaction.
We should make use of appropriate colours to express ourselves and communicate better with ourselves and with eachother, because human psychology thought us that we react to colours a lot faster and a lot better than we reacts to words. Despite the fact that I’m an IT geek and I’m always with a gadget near me, I still use post-it notes (my desk and my room are full of them actually) and on top of that I use 3 white boards, 1 cork board and a large number of magnets to stick notes on things or just make funny patterns with them.. I also write on my body, on the mirror in the bathroom, on and with everything I have at hand (once I even drew with goats cheese on a rock). So just use whatever you can from your environment to express your creativity in an instant moment. At the end of the day, what matters most is to materialise your thoughts, your wants and your don’t wants, so you can remind yourself of them and stay focused on your goals. If you are looking for inspiring ways to kick-start your creativity and get you going, then check out these 31 ways on How To Be Creative.
Finally the apps:
- The Mind Map is the absolute best digital tool I used for creative expression and focused thought management. If you’ve never come across mind maps before then I’d highly recommend you to watch this TED video: Tony Buzan on The Power of a Mind to Map.
- My favourite mind mapping application on my desktop and slate is FreePlane. As the name suggests, it is actually free (Open Source) and its also full of free features for which many competitors charge a high premium. FreePlane is a JAVA based application, it works on Macs and PCs (Windows and Linux) and its native file (.mm) can be imported by probably all other mind mapping applications.
- However since FreePlane doesn’t have a mobile version, I also use Mind42 which is a completely free cloud-based mind mapping app. Mind42 only requires a browser connected to the Internet to work, and for convenience it stores all data on the cloud with the option to export it locally as well. As a native app on Android, I sometimes draw basic diagrams in Mindomo (the free version) and when I’m back in front of my pc/slate, I transfer them in one of my main thought tracking maps in FreePlane or Mind42.
- If for some reason you don’t like mind maps and prefer a direct replacement for post-it notes, then I’d recommend you Google Keep (if you use Gmail and Android) or else Evernote or Wunderlist.
2. Organise, Budget and Plan
2.1 Organise yourself: OK so now that you created lots and lots of ideas, if you’re anything like me, then you probably lost yourself under a big pile of post it notes. Just kidding..sort of. However, trust me on this one, the hard part is already gone because writing anything meaningful on a blank sheet of paper (or a post it note) which is relevant to your goal, is the most difficult thing to do. Once you’ve done it, the easy part is in finishing up that creative spark of yours with a process.
Now here is where things get fun: if you used any of the methods or apps I recommended above at point 1, you already have your ideas and goals probably in different formats. All you have to do now is rank your statements based on their importance to you and to your goal. To help you rank them and prioritise them, I’d recommend you to use the Eisenhower Decision Matrix. You can use this Important-Urgent matrix for time management at home and at work (just don’t use the same one for both!). If this is not something you like then I’d recommend you an Excel spreadsheet with a few predefined columns:
Finally, I will recommend something so basic that I’m sure you’ve used them countless times in life, but if you’re still reading this then you probably haven’t used them often enough: checklists :)! I’m not a fan of repeating info already well compiled by smarter others (or better organised than me), so if you’d like to learn how to optimise the use of checklists and get very well organised, please read the following article: Use the power of check lists!
2.2 Budget your Finances: If you’re living on Earth then I’m sure one of the problems on your list must be either managing too little money or too much. I genuinely wish we wouldn’t use money at all and we’d replace this fiat system with a knowledge-based one where the richest man is the smartest (or most gifted in crafts/arts/skills etc), but that’s a story for another article and maybe another timeline all together. For now let me help you with some sound financial advice: Start Tracking your own Finances (income & spendings) and Learn how to Budget efficiently!
I know finance is one of the most boring and utterly uninteresting industries/subjects on the planet (for me at least) so I will not drag this for longer than it needs to be. The first thing I’d like to recommend you is a budgeting app which works on PC, Macs and mobiles. The absolute best personal budgeting and financial tracking app I found (which I’m also using myself) is called You Need A Budget (YNAB). I have no affiliation with YNAB whatsoever, I’m just a happy customer & user of their software. However, if you don’t want the app and you only want the knowledge, then check out their method and their free tutorials.
If you’re old school or simply wish something more..spreadsheety-like (pun intended somewhere in there), then feel free to use my Financial Tracker Template (click on below image to download it). The green cells are for you to fill in with your real values. I only put in some mock values in there so you can see how the sheet calculates totals and ratios for you. The purple cells are formula cells and I’d only recommend you to change them if you know what they do, otherwise let them be as they will calculate the total/average/intermediate values for you automatically. Here you go, have fun for both of us:
2.3 Plan ahead: If we clearly define our goals, then organise our tasks and finally create a sustainable action plan to reach our goals, we will end up having a lot more stress-free time to spend with our dear ones and doing what we love. However, in one of my previous posts called “A new beginning” I stated that: if our world is so complexly “engineered” to be in balance, all we have to do is stop messing it up and find our inner emotional and spiritual balance, because the physical is obviously taken care of since before we came into existence and will be taken care of long after we move on. – That’s if we don’t mess up this planet beyond repair.. So we need to follow our desires while taking into consideration those of our peers and our mother planet Earth. Its not enough to just discover what we want and go for it. Our complexity and higher intelligence demands from us to be responsible in our goals and actions.
Therefore the only thing we need to do after we organise our own life, is to make sure that our current and future actions are ethical and in balance with the laws of Nature. As a kind reminder, this is how I define an ethical action: an ethical action must respect two fundamental rules:
I. First rule: Respect human Life and act to protect Life, or act in a way which does not harm Life.
II. Second rule: Take positive action which is in favour of the individual, but only if:
- 2A: it doesn’t violate the 1st rule,
- 2B: it doesn’t hurt or disfavour other peer individuals,
- 2C: it doesn’t damage the environment which the individual and his/her peers belong to. (The environment in our case is: room-building-estate-city-county-country-continent-Planet Earth and the impact must be considered at our maximum reach which now is global level, not just personal and local.)
Some further reading material from FastCompany on productivity, planning, goal setting and success:
- The Trick To Actually Making Your Resolutions Stick This Year
- 14 Tips To Make 2015 Your Most Productive Year Yet
- 5 Habits Changes You Can Actually Make In 2015
- Why 90-Day Goals Are Better Than Year-Long Ones
- Free App Friday: 5 Tools For Healthier Living
3. Be Happy!
Personally, I believe that the foundation for happiness is a good heart, an open mind and a healthy, free body; but that’s just me. Happiness is something (or someone) we all need to find individually…but if I may, whatever you decide to do in your pursuit of happiness, please do it in an ethical way. Multumesc! 🙂
Once you find your happiness never let it go! Oh and wear sunscreen! 😉