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atolemdro

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life rewind 2014: music

01/05/15 1 Comment

my 2014 playlist.  share some of your personal favorite songs from the past year in the comments.

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why everything you learned about success may be wrong

08/30/14 1 Comment

written by vanessa loder for forbes:

Our education system and society at large reward the idea of striving for perfection: getting an “A” on an exam, flawlessly executing a project, looking like the super fit people on the cover of most magazines; and yet, in the world of entrepreneurship, perfection is more of a liability than an asset.

I’ve seen the need for perfection stop many entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs dead in their tracks. Perfection paralyzes people. If you believe that you need to be perfect, you are less likely to take risks, and more likely to be afraid to take a single step because you don’t want to move in the “wrong” direction.

Because it’s easy to confuse perfection with success, figuring out how to navigate the perfection trap involves wading through some of the murkiest waters of entrepreneurship. True success involves more failure than most people realize, it also involves unlearning much of what we’ve spent our lives believing is “right.”

I believe the need for perfection is also deeply entrenched with the desire to avoid shame. We believe that if we are perfect, if we do everything right, then we are good people. Unfortunately, playing the perfection game is like trying to hit a moving target. And the target just keeps moving. You get good grades, get into a great school, get the most prestigious job, receive a promotion, find the ideal partner, buy the nice house, up and up you climb – trying to justify your existence through outward validation. Believing if you “succeed,” you’ll be happy and you’ll feel like enough. But it’s never enough.

From what I’ve seen, chasing external accolades often leads to a lack of fulfillment and a yearning that there must be more to life. And in the world of entrepreneurship, chasing external validation can cause collapse very quickly. Think about what it takes to “succeed” in most schools and traditional jobs today. You must follow the rules, avoid experimentation or classes you know you can’t get an “A” in, avoid risks, play it safe, and you’ll keep being rewarded. In the world of entrepreneurship, however, the rules are almost entirely reversed. Successful entrepreneurs are able to fail quickly, learn from their mistakes, and move on. “Prototype, prototype, prototype” is what one of our Stanford professors would always say. Trial and error and the classic ‘drunken walk’ – when your idea sways one way and then another before finding steady ground – are well known, and important, aspects of the entrepreneurial journey.

How can we reconcile these two seemingly contradictory ideas? We can’t. This is why many perfectionists avoid entrepreneurship, and those perfectionists who do give it a shot quickly learn that they must un-learn many of their current beliefs to survive as an entrepreneur.

Successful entrepreneurs are the ones who are willing to raise their hand and say, “I don’t get it,” or “I’m confused” rather than needing to look smart. These same people are open to getting it wrong. Rather than viewing failure as a setback, they view it as feedback and simply another step towards their future success.

Sheryl Sandberg has a large sign in her office that says, “Perfection is the enemy of the good,” a quote from Voltaire, and I couldn’t agree more. Here are 5 tips to let go of perfection and leverage your failures to create even more success.

1. Disentangle perfection and self-worth. To let go of the need to be perfect, we need to value ourselves for our intrinsic worth rather than our external success. Start to notice when you take failure personally, or when criticism feels like an attack on your character rather than feedback. Ask yourself “What is the gift or opportunity in this situation?” Focus on the positive rather than viewing it as a verdict on your inherent lack of worth. We need to believe we are enough. Brene Brown, PhD is a best-selling author who’s been studying shame and vulnerability for the last twelve years. She suggests printing a photo of yourself with the sentence “I’m imperfect and I am enough” as a caption and placing the photo in a prominent place – forcing you to see it every day – which will re-program your thoughts around perfection.

2. Create a Commitment Statement. Commitment Statements are great at getting people unstuck and, therefore, extremely helpful when you are paralyzed by perfection. A great statement to use to combat the perfection trap is “I commit to learning from my mistakes and moving on.” For full instructions on how to create a Commitment Statement, click here.

3. Take action. The most important thing you can do when you are paralyzed by perfection is to act. As soon as you do, you are no longer paralyzed. Start off small. Find a very simple and easy first step you can take to move yourself forward. I took almost two years before posting a single blog because I thought my first blog had to be “perfect” and go viral (no pressure, or anything). I finally decided to take action and wrote my first blog (ironically, or rather inspirationally, about perfectionism). The blog didn’t go viral, but less than six months later I’m writing for Forbes and that only happened because I forced myself to write something.

4. Find examples of people you admire who have failed. Think of someone right now who you look up to who had a big failure along his or her path to success. Everyone I know who is successful has failed many times. Kathy Ireland, who runs a multi-billion dollar company, recently said at the Forbes Women’s Summit, “I view failure as education, and I am very well educated!”

5. Play the flash forward game. Another way to get out of the perfection trap is to think of yourself at the end of your life looking back. If you were to say “I’m most proud that I….” how would you fill in that sentence? Chances are, you would rather try and fail then not try at all when you consider the big picture.

The truth is, no one is perfect. Deep down we know this and yet we continue to chase an ideal. Once you acknowledge this truth – instead of beating yourself up – you can live in a place of acceptance and empowerment. Choosing to learn from your mistakes and move on is the path to innovation, creativity, and successful entrepreneurship. So get out there and be perfectly imperfect!

related: the psychological origins of waiting (… and waiting, and waiting) to work | failing and flying100% life: muoyo okome

ten gifts you deserve to give yourself

12/29/13 1 Comment

10-gifts-yourself

another great piece by marc of marc & angel hack life:

1.  An open mind in full acceptance of life’s changes.

You’re not the same person you were a year ago, a month ago, or a week ago.  You’re always growing.  Experiences don’t stop.  That’s life.

Sometimes there are things in our lives that aren’t meant to stay.  Sometimes the changes we don’t want are the changes we need to grow.  Growth and change may be painful sometimes, but nothing in life is as painful as staying stuck where you don’t belong.  The bottom line is that you can’t reach for anything new if you’re holding onto yesterday.  You may think holding on makes you strong, but often it is letting go and starting anew in the present.

2.  A meaningful path and purpose.

If your life is going to mean anything, you have to live it yourself.  You have to choose the path that feels right to YOU, not the one that looks right to everyone else.  It’s always better to be at the bottom of the ladder you want to climb, than the top of the one you don’t.  So don’t wait until you’re halfway up the wrong ladder to listen to your intuition.  Every morning, ask yourself what is really important, and then find the courage, wisdom and willpower to build your day around your answer.

In the end, it’s not what you say, but how you spend your time that counts.  If you want to do something, you’ll find a way; if you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.  (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Goals and Success” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)

3.  The time to do what truly matters.

Identify what’s most important to you.  Prune nonessential commitments.  Eliminate as much as you possibly can of everything else.  No wasted time, no fluff, no regrets.

The mark of a successful person is the ability to set aside the “somewhat important” things in order to accomplish the vital ones first.  When you’re crystal clear about your priorities, you can painlessly arrange them in the right order and discard the activities and commitments that do not support the ones at the top of your list.

4.  The space to BE, without needless worry.

If you think and you think and you think, you will think yourself right out of happiness a thousand times over, and never once into it.  Worrying doesn’t take away tomorrow’s troubles, it takes away today’s peace and potential.  Stop over-thinking everything.  Life is too short.

Your biggest limitations are the ones you make up in your mind.  The biggest causes of your unhappiness are the false beliefs you refuse to let go of.  You are capable of far more than you are presently thinking, imagining, doing or being.  You will, however, become what you habitually contemplate, so clear your mind and let your hopes, not your fears, shape your future.  How?  Meditate.  Run.  Set your mind free.

5.  Permission to be imperfect as you grow.

You may not be where you want to be yet, but if you think about it, you’re no longer where you once were either.  You have good reason to believe that you can trust yourself going forward.  Not because you’ve always made the right choices, but because you survived the bad ones, and taken small steps in the right direction.

Focus on the right things and just do the best you can.  Don’t allow yourself to be crippled by stress and self-loathing.  Everything is only as it is.  There’s no reason to let it destroy you.  Breathe.  Let every moment be what it’s going to be.  What’s meant to be will come your way, what’s not will fall away.  And remember that a great gift may not always be wrapped as you expect.  (Read The Last Lecture.)

6.  Reassurance of being ENOUGH.

Tell yourself, “I am ENOUGH.”  Accept your flaws.  Admit your mistakes.  Don’t hide and don’t lie.  Deal with the truth, learn the lessons, endure the consequences of reality, and move on.  Your truth won’t penalize you.  The mistakes won’t hurt you. The denial and cover-up will.  Flawed and vulnerable people are beautiful and likable.  Liars and phonies are not.  Every beautiful human being is made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions and finished with unique edges.

You are YOU for a reason.  Ignore the distractions.  Listen to your own inner voice.  Mind your own business.  Keep your best wishes and your biggest goals close to your heart and dedicate time to them every day.  Don’t be scared to walk alone, and don’t be scared to enjoy it.  Don’t let anyone’s ignorance, drama, or negativity derail you from your truth.

7.  The right relationships.

Not everyone will appreciate what you do for them.  You have to figure out who’s worth your attention and who’s just taking advantage of you.  If your time and energy is misspent on the wrong relationships, or on too many activities that force you to neglect your good relationships, you can end up in a tedious cycle of fleeting friendships, superficial romances that are as thrilling as they are meaningless, and a general sense of wondering why you always seem to be running in place, chasing affection.

Choose yourself rather than settle for those who treat you as ordinary.  YOU certainly aren’t.  Never settle for being someone’s “option” when you have the potential to be someone’s “first choice.”  You are the sum of the people you spend the most time with.  If you hang with the wrong people, they will bring you down, but if you hang with the right people, they will help you grow into your best self.  The RIGHT people for you will love all the things about you that the WRONG people are intimidated by – that’s what you need to look out for.

8.  Self-education.

As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow.  Learn as if you were to live forever.”  Life is a book and those who do not educate themselves read only a few pages.  When you know better you live better.  Period.

All education is self-education.  It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting in a college classroom or a coffee shop.  We don’t learn anything we don’t want to learn.  Those who take the time and initiative to pursue knowledge on their own time are the only ones who earn a real education in this world.  Take a look at any widely acclaimed scholar, entrepreneur or historical figure you can think of.  Formal education or not, you’ll find that he or she is a product of continuous self-education.

9.  A chance to touch your dreams.

Everyone dreams, but not equally.  Too many people dream only at night in the quiet of their own minds, and then awake to find it was all an illusion.  Don’t be one of them.  Dream by the day instead.  Be one of the people who dream with their eyes wide open, and who works to make them come true.

Rest when you are tired, but don’t give up.  You never know what’s just around the corner.  It could be everything you’ve been working for, or it might be just another mile marker on your journey.  Either way, when you keep putting one foot in front of the other, one day the next step you take will be the one that carries you to your goal.  (Read Tuesdays with Morrie.)

10.  The freedom to express your whole truth.

The greatest and most gratifying experiences in life cannot be seen or touched.  They must be felt with the heart from the inside out.  There’s nothing more inspiring than the complexity and beauty of human, heartfelt feelings.  Sadly though, many people let the fear of judgment numb and silence them.  Their deepest thoughts and feelings often go unspoken, and thus barely understood.

Do NOT let people invalidate or minimize how you feel.  If you feel something, you feel it and it’s real to you. Nothing anyone says has the power to invalidate that, ever.  No one else lives in your body, or sees life through your eyes.  No one else has lived through your exact experiences.  And so, no one else has the right to dictate or judge how you feel.  Your feelings are important.  Don’t let anyone lead you to believe otherwise.

related: 7 questions you are too scared to ask | 7 reasons why you’re not maxing out your potential

10 life skills we could all learn from professional chefs

10/11/13 1 Comment

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written by alison cayne for huffpost:

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about why I believe every able teenager in America should work as a server before entering the world of adulthood. It’s been wonderful to hear echoes of support and concurrence and to the seven of you who made positive comments, thank you! But since then, I’ve had this little inkling of guilt that perhaps I focused a bit too much on the Front of House. I have too many friends who cook professionally and too much respect to not give proper love to the kitchen as an amazing place to learn life skills. In my defense, it is much more difficult to get kitchen jobs because most of them require some form of training. That being said, if I had my druthers, everyone would know what it’s like to work in a commercial kitchen. Here are the top 10 invaluable skills they would learn:

1. PERSONAL APPEARANCE:
I’ve never met a chef whose hair wasn’t clean and off her face. I’ve never seen a chef with dirty nails or schmutz on his clothes (except food). Enough said.

2. RESPECT:
Professional cooks learn day one that their jobs depend on a certain amount of respect. Respect goes beyond people. It extends to the kitchen, the equipment and the ingredients. Cooks learn early on to clean and store equipment properly and keep their heads down and their stations clean. Our chef at Haven’s Kitchen, David, carries on the Thomas Keller torch with the constant reminder that “ingredients don’t come from the walk in. They come from the farmer.” It’s not just a piece of meat or a potato; it’s someone’s hard work. Or in the case of the meat, a cow’s life.

3. SUSTAINABILTITY:
Owing in part to that respect, professional cooks learned ages ago how to use the entire vegetable, or pig, or what have you. They’ve known forever how to manage waste by thoughtfully planning, storing and utilizing. On top of the fundamental understanding of what went into those ingredients, chefs know more than anyone how expensive those ingredients get. And restaurants need as close to zero waste to be close to economically viable.

4. APPRECIATION OF LEARNING:
Chefs know better than anyone that we learn by doing. But when there are paying customers out in the dining room, there can’t be any mistakes. So the kitchen is a veritable hotbed of education. Line cooks build on the technical skills they’ve learned in a real time environment. It’s what separates the cooks from the chefs. And while the chefs who work at Haven’s are actually teaching classes, all chefs learn from other chefs, and all chefs teach other chefs. Chef David phrased it this way “We’re all constantly learning and constantly teaching.” It’s a beautiful system and one that has remained mostly untouched.

5. APPRECIATION OF PROCESS:
Building on #4, no young cook eager for a career in the food world would dream of opening a restaurant before working her way up the ranks at other restaurants. In the chef world you start at A and maybe, with a ton of hard work, burns, cuts and blisters, maybe get to C. Or G. Or whatever. But if you’ve ever heard a 20-something question why he shouldn’t just be hired as a CEO, you may agree that the idea of working one’s way through the ranks seems like an anachronism to many of our young people. I see that as a problem and it’s virtually non-existent in the restaurant community.

6. BE PREPARED and CLEAN AS YOU GO:
This goes back to neatness and respect, but watching the pros work is like watching a beautiful ballet. It’s passionate and full of talent, but the technical piece is critical to a truly special end result. Chefs learn to make their mis en place, which literally means, “putting in place” before they turn on a burner. Everything is cleaned, measured, chopped, and then laid out on the prep station, making the process smoother and easier, not to mention less vulnerable to mistakes. For the most part, chefs are trained to clean their workspaces and tidy up after each step of the preparation. I’ve adopted both techniques in my home cooking and it’s made a world of difference (plus I feel cool).

7. MAKE THE BEST OF THINGS:
If you’ve ever been in a professional kitchen, it’s most definitely not smooth sailing all the time. Things get messed up. It just happens. And there’s no ordering take out if the main course burns. So chefs learn to improvise, use what they have and make it work. I wish we could all do that… instead of hitting a brick wall and breaking down crying, chefs say, “Huh. A brick wall. Let’s see how I can get over, under, around or through it.” Admirable.

8. TEAMWORK:
While we see a lot of big egos on television food shows, the world of restaurant chefs is all about mutual respect, admiration and working together to make beautiful food. For every component on the plate at your next restaurant meal, there was probably at least one cook responsible for the dicing, slicing, par boiling, shocking, pickling… you get it. It takes a village to make a restaurant meal.

9. APPRECIATION of SCIENCE AND NATURE:
I’ve covered the appreciation and respect of ingredients, and this is a bit of an extension of all that. Jonathan Benno, who trained David at Per Se and was trained by Thomas Keller, has a famous quote in the chef world that is something along the lines of, “show me how to use NaCl and then I’ll show you the rest.” Molecular is great, foams are fabulous, but good cooking is already all about chemistry and alchemy. The fundamental understanding of natural laws and reactions is a part of a chef’s daily work. Wouldn’t it be amazing if that was how they taught high school science?

10. DO WHAT YOU LOVE, LOVE WHAT YOU DO:
The most wonderful part of working with professional cooks and chefs is the absolute love they have for feeding and nurturing people. Some are quieter than others. Most I know are somewhat introverted. But watching them work and transform their ingredients to create the food we eat is a privilege I enjoy every day. Even if its as simple as olive oil, salt and some acid, chefs touch their food with a certain magic, and as I watch, I’m struck by how lucky these people are to have figured out what gives them pleasure. And then they figured out how to make a living doing it. That’s a skill more of us need. I know perfectly well that not all cooks are in the kitchen out of love, but I bet if you asked the vast majority of them if it’s just a job, they would say no. It’s too challenging, too hot, too intense to be just a job. It’s a labor of love.

related: jay-z and 5 lessons artists teach entrepreneurs

mug shots from banned books

09/28/13

Harry Potter (Harry Potter)

Harry Potter (Harry Potter)

Books won’t stay banned. They won’t burn. Ideas won’t go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas. —Alfred Whitney Griswald

kate of jubilant antics created some great mug shots inspired by banned books week.  featured are the protagonists from their eyes were watching god, the catcher in the rye, the scarlet letter, looking for alaska and the harry potter series.

check out her art below (order the prints here).  you’ll also find a list of banned classics after the jump:

as promised, out of radcliffe’s top 100 novels list, here are the ones that have been banned at some point (via ala):

(more…)

13 complicated ideas simplified

03/03/13 1 Comment

158997004the strongest evidence of retained knowledge is the ability to teach it to someone else.  sometimes, this requires breaking down complex concepts into words/ideas simple enough to be grasped by a broad audience.

recently, mental floss featured people trying to do just that.  see how they explain complicated things like paleomagnatism and cognitive science in ways that a child could understand:

1. OLFACTORY BIOLOGY

“I watch boy flies try to do it with girl flies to see if they really like to do it, or they like boys flies more. This happens when they can’t smell something the girl flies have that makes them want to do it with girl flies or something the boy flies have that makes them not want to do it with boy flies.” Jennifer Wang, research technician in a lab studying fruit fly olfactory behavior

2. WEB DEVELOPMENT

“Computers are used to share pictures, words, and movies (usually of cats) with other computers. The computers need to show the cats on boxes with tiny lights in them, but don’t know how. People like me tell the computer many words so that it knows how to change the tiny lights to look like a cat. We try to make the lights change very fast so that you don’t have to wait for your cats. Some days the lights are all wrong, and we have to tell the computer more words to make them look like cats again.” Brandon Jones, Google Chrome GPU Team

3. POLITICAL ECONOMY

“I try to see if bad people with power let bad people in business do bad things for easy money. Also I try to see if this hurts good people and their money.” Warren Durrett, political economist

4. PALEOMAGNETISM

“Deep inside our world is a huge ball of hot stuff. This is the stuff that turns the black rock we use to find our way when we go far away. I used to study tiny bits of the same black rock, inside real rocks, to know the pull of the deep hot under world ball long, long ago—before people, or animals, or trees, or almost any living things were here. I studied bits of the black rock, like the pieces we use to find our way, inside other rocks that formed in fire under the ground. The hot under ground ball gave these black rock pieces a direction long ago, and they did not forget.” Peter Selkin, paleo/rock-magnetist

5. BIOLOGICAL ANTHROPOLOGY

“I study old human stuff. We look at the old stuff to see when and where humans came from and why we look and act so funny instead of acting like other animals.” Meagan Sobel, Biological Anthropology student

6. ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE

“I look at how water from the sky reaches the ground when there are trees in the way. Especially trees that are burned or dying. I try to figure out if the trees change: (1) how much water gets to the ground, and (2) what happens to the water when it’s on the ground. I also try to figure out what will happen to this water in the next tens of years. This is important for things growing on the ground and living in the water, and for the water we use and drink.”Sarah Boon, environmental scientist

7. PARTICLE PHYSICS

“Where I work, we slam together small things to break them into even smaller things until we have the smallest things possible. This is how we know what matter is made of.” Paul Sorenson, Physicist studying Quark-Gluon Plasma with the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory

8. PLANETARY SCIENCE

“I tell space buses on a big, cold red rock in space to take pictures of the rocks and the sky. I look at the small rocks that go around the big red rock. The small rocks tell us about what it is like inside the big red rock. I like to look for ice water in the sky. I also take pictures of the Sun to learn about how much ice water and other stuff is in the sky. My favorite thing to do with the space buses is look at the stars in the night sky to look for ice water in the sky.” Keri Bean, planetary scientist

9. LINGUISTICS

“I look at how numbers play with other words when we speak. I think a lot about the way we mark words (like marking ‘eats’ different from ‘eat’), and what that tells us about what they mean, and what other words around them mean (I show that it tells a lot). I also think a lot about whether the things we say allow more than one meaning. Like if someone says ‘twenty boys ate a hot dog,’ if it means they all shared one hot dog or if it means each one ate a hot dog, or if it means both.” Sarah Ouwayda, Linguist (syntax, semantics, Arabic, Semitic languages)

10. INFORMATION SECURITY

“There are bad people who want to make the things you see on the computer go away. Sometimes it is for money and sometimes it is a game. The simple way of making computer stuff go away is like shouting very loud so no one can hear. This makes it so you can not see the things on the computer you want until they stop shouting. I try to make them be quiet.”Christian Ternus, information security researcher

11. COGNITIVE SCIENCE

“If we want to know how the brain makes memory and uses memory, we need to make people do things like learn stuff and then remember it. I want to know how we imagine things, and how memory makes this possible. So, I ask people to imagine things, and see how good they are with different words. Then, we look at their brains at work using a big noise box that takes pictures inside the head. We also ask people who are missing a piece of brain to also do stuff to see what they can and can’t do. Then we’ll know what different brain pieces do, and one day put all the pieces together to understand the mind.” Kristoffer Romero, PhD student at the University of Toronto

12. IMMUNOLOGY

“Our body doesn’t like to have visits from other things that don’t look like friends. When they come inside us, our cells look at them with many different types of eyes. Different eyes see different figures and forms, so they can find out what they are and what to do with them. They are not usual eyes, they work like little hands too and grab things. I am studying one of these eyes that sees weird stuff, like those things that grow on your food when it goes off. But this eye doesn’t do it alone. And that makes it exciting. It has some other friends helping; the more eyes the better! All-in-one they catch the stranger and they eat it. Once eaten, they show the left-over little pieces to their cell-friends. So that they know what kind of bad guys to fight. They also call more friends in if there is a lot of it to eat. This is how our body keep us free from being sick and stay happy, isn’t it amazing?” @Analobpas, talking about C-type lectins

13. NUMBER THEORY

“People ask how many of a kind of thing there are; the thing might be a kind of number, or something like a number. I, together with others, work out how many of those things there are by understanding the way some kinds of spaces look; these spaces are, in a way, the same as the things about which we ask, ‘how many,’ but in another way they are different. This allows us to use different ideas when we think about them, and answer some questions about numbers which could not be answered before.”
Jordan Ellenberg, number theorist. (Blogprofessional homepage.)

can you break down complicated ideas into simple terms?  try to explain your job/field using the up-goer five text editor, which only accepts the 1,000 most used words in the dictionary.  share your results in the comments.

6 tips for breaking bad habits

02/27/13

written by jeff haden for time.com:

book-cover

Want to change an old habit? You probably should: One study determined that over 40% of the “decisions” we make every day aren’t really decisions.

They’re habits.

Much of the time we don’t really make decisions. We do what we’ve done before, and that makes us less productive, less effective, less healthy and fit—less everything—than we could be.

So what can we do? Change an old habit into a new habit.

While changing a habit isn’t easy, it is simple—especially if you follow the process described by Charles Duhigg, the author of the bestselling book The Power of Habit. (Definitely worth a read, especially if you want to harness the power of habits to improve not just yourself but also your team or business.)

The key is to understand that you can’t extinguish a bad habit, but you can change that habit—and still get the same “reward” you currently get from your old habit.

Here’s how:

1. Redefine “must.”

Think about your typical day. Very little of what you think you “have” to do actually must be done that way.

Think you need that cup of coffee? You don’t. Somewhere along the line you started drinking coffee, decided you like it, decided you liked the caffeine kick… and now it’s an “indispensable” habit. But it’s not—you do need to drink liquids but you don’t need to drink coffee. (Don’t feel bad; I have a huge Diet Mountain Dew habit.)

The same is true with almost everything you do during your workday. Maybe you call distribution to “check in” every day even though you already get incredibly detailed reports. Maybe you send an email instead of making a call when you’re afraid of a confrontation. Everything you do is based on some amount of reasoning…but how often is what you’re doing the best way to accomplish the goal?

Rarely, if you’re like the average person—otherwise we’d all be extremely healthy, wealthy, and wise.

“Must” is a feeling that results from a habit. The only way to change a habit is to first decide that “must” can actually be negotiated or even eliminated.

As an example, let’s assume your habit is to check your email first thing. You want to change that habit because you tend to get bogged down by a flood of correspondence and you would prefer to hit your workday running in a different direction.

2. Determine the cue.

Every habit is based on a simple loop: cue, routine, and reward. The cue is the trigger that, based on some craving, shifts your brain into autopilot and initiates the routine.

Since your habit is to check your email first, you may be craving a sense of immediate control, to know what fires may have started, what issues may have popped up, or even what good things occurred overnight. Or you may be craving a reconnection with employees, customers, or even friends.

Whenever you feel an urge for a habit, that urge is the cue.

3. Determine the routine.

The routine is easy to determine. Your routine is the manifestation of the habit. It’s the cookie at break time or the Web surfing at lunch or, in this case, checking email right away.

4. Determine the reward.

The reward isn’t always so easy to determine. Maybe the reward you get from your habit is a feeling of control. Maybe it’s an, “Oh good… nothing awful happened overnight,” feeling of relief. Maybe it’s the, “I’m the captain of my universe and it feels good to mobilize the troops,” feeling you get from firing off a bunch of emails to your staff.

Think about what craving your habit is really satisfying. Going to the break room for a cup of coffee might not really be satisfying a coffee urge; what you really may be craving is the chance to hang out with other people and getting coffee is just an excuse.

Work hard to identify the reward, because to change a habit the reward has to stay the same. You won’t deny yourself the reward—you’ll just make the way you get that reward a lot more productive or positive..

5. Change the routine.

Now that you know your cue and your reward, “all” you have to do is insert a new routine—one that is triggered by your cue and that also satisfies your current reward.

Say you check email right away because of an urge to immediately know about any overnight disasters… but you also don’t want to get bogged down by all the less than critical emails.

Simply find another way to accomplish your status check. Walk the floor instead. Make a couple quick phone calls. Check in with key employees. Get your status-check fix the old-fashioned way: in person.

Of course that doesn’t work if you manage remote employees. In that case, you could do what a friend does. He set up a separate email account, critical@hiscompanyname.com. Employees only send emails to that account if an issue is truly an emergency. He checks that account when he gets to work (and a bunch of times at night, since he’s admittedly a worrier) and saves his “regular” email for later in the morning.

6. Write it down.

According to Duhigg, studies show that the easiest way to implement a new habit is to write a plan. The format is simple:

When (cue), I will (routine) because it provides me with (reward).

In this example, the plan is:

When I get to work, I will check in with key employees first because that lets me take care of any urgent issues right away.

Do that enough times, and eventually your new habit will be automatic—and you’ll be more productive.

Then move on to another habit!

related: why stress makes it tough to break a habit (and what you can do about it) | an approach to ending chronic procrastination

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