Best Practices
Mitigate “Stressful” Events

Mitigate “Stressful” Events

Life events that cause "stress" include both marriage and divorce, both losing a job and getting promoted, both the birth of a child and the death of a loved one. What is in common among these? All such “stressful” events cause a sudden shift in your priorities. That...

Recovering a Benevolent Universe Perspective

Recovering a Benevolent Universe Perspective

Emotional resilience is your ability to recover a benevolent universe perspective after experiencing distressing emotions. After an incident that draws your attention to threats, problems, and difficulties, can you get back to seeing the world as filled with your...

On Choosing Expert Help

On Choosing Expert Help

Doctors disagree on when to prescribe medication. Sleep experts disagree on whether you should take naps. Time-management experts disagree on whether you should schedule all of your time. Therapists disagree on whether you should trace issues back to childhood...

The Power of a Virtuous Cycle to Motivate Long-Term Goals

The Power of a Virtuous Cycle to Motivate Long-Term Goals

To achieve a long-term goal, you will need to put in effort across weeks, months, and even years. That requires motivation for the long haul. If your motivation flags, you need to get strategic. You need to create a virtuous cycle of effort so that you are naturally...

Tame Email with the 2-Minute Rule

Tame Email with the 2-Minute Rule

There is a productivity tool that I've been using faithfully for 20 years that I've never written up: the 2-Minute Rule, which I got from David Allen's book, Getting Things Done.  He explains it in the context of processing a paper inbox: If the next action [on an...

The Value of Daily Thought Work

The Value of Daily Thought Work

In the Launch Program and in my Thinking Lab courses on "Developing a Central Purpose" and "Evolving a Scheduling Infrastructure," I advocate doing "daily thought work." This means that you schedule 15-30 minutes every day to "think on paper" about a specific topic,...

Stop Those Circular Conversations in Your Head and Get Some Sleep

Stop Those Circular Conversations in Your Head and Get Some Sleep

Here's a common problem: you wake up at night, working through a difficult conversation you are going to have. You find yourself wide awake, in a loop where you keep trying out the conversation in different ways. Or maybe it's not a conversation, it's a tricky...

How to Be Decisive to Avoid Churn

How to Be Decisive to Avoid Churn

One of the problems of having many projects at once is that there's a tendency to churn — to work a little on one, then a little on another, without making good progress on any. The general solution is to prioritize: to choose one project (or one chunk of a project)...

Sometimes Concentrated Thinking Is Not the Answer

Sometimes Concentrated Thinking Is Not the Answer

I like to quote Voltaire, who said, "No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking." And true to that idea and my calling, whenever I have a problem, I think about it. A lot. In depth. Until I have a solution. This is a virtue. It is my willingness...

Don’t Make Concentration Harder Than It Is

Don’t Make Concentration Harder Than It Is

When Thinking Lab members tell me their task is hard, I hear alarm bells in my mind. Invariably, I find they are making a difficult task harder than it has to be. A difficult task is one that requires a special mental effort to complete. It may require all your...

Snap Out of It: The Mental Importance of a Physical Pause

Snap Out of It: The Mental Importance of a Physical Pause

"Snap out of it" is pretty useless as a piece of advice. Typically, when you tell someone to "snap out of it," he is overreacting emotionally, or obsessing about something, or letting himself be distracted. Your advice won't be welcome if he disagrees with your...

Think Your Way to Better Time Management

Think Your Way to Better Time Management

I didn't set out to teach time management, but I sure talk about it a lot in my programs. That's because each aspect of a time-management system takes firsthand thinking to make it work.  Consider the first basic problem in time management: keeping track of what you...

How to Take Advantage of Low-Quality Time

How to Take Advantage of Low-Quality Time

To concentrate on a mentally demanding task, you typically need at least one full hour of free time when you can ignore everything and everyone else. At that time, you focus all of your energy on that one task. I teach many tactics for concentrating effectively during...

Should You Use “Should”?

Should You Use “Should”?

In a call on "How to Get Results Now on Your Long-Term Objective,” I was asked whether I thought "should" should be eschewed. I don't. I think "should" should be reclaimed. However, for many people, this will involve automatizing a new meaning for the word "should."...

How to Make Yourself Do Something…or Not

How to Make Yourself Do Something…or Not

People often ask me how to make themselves do something they think they're supposed to do. As a public service, I will answer that question. To make yourself do something, you need to shut out any thoughts that conflict with taking the action. That includes any...

What It Means to Be “Present”

What It Means to Be “Present”

What does it mean to be "present" or "in the moment"? This concept comes up often in acting and communication classes, but it was never explained to my satisfaction. I could tell it was something good: those who were "present" seemed more authentic. They created an...

Celebration and Mourning

Celebration and Mourning

Paradoxically, celebration and mourning* are similar processes. They involve similar steps and achieve similar purposes. And they are similarly misunderstood and neglected, despite their critical importance to a joyful life. Neither celebration nor mourning concerns...

Plan to Be Surprised

Plan to Be Surprised

I've had a love/hate relationship with planning, and I've finally figured out why. Although I love the clarity I get from planning, and I see that planning helps me in the long run, I had always been distressed when a project didn't go as planned. This is crazy. Most...

Happiness is the Fuel of Achievement

Happiness is the Fuel of Achievement

Happiness is not a prize you get sometime in the future, after you achieve a goal, or pass a test, or become worthy. If you believe that it is a prize you have to wait for, I guarantee that you are struggling to achieve your goals. You are sabotaging your own...

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