Best Practices
Virtues: The How, not the What

Virtues: The How, not the What

Moral self-criticism doesn't need to be deeply painful, not if you interpret virtues as telling you how to be happy, not what kind of person you are. What??? I'm not saying moral self-criticism is going to be pleasant. If someone gets pleasure from seeing himself...

The First Choice of the Day

The First Choice of the Day

As part of improving my sleep, I'm on a campaign to jump out of bed at a standard wakeup time each morning. Although I'm pretty consistent at getting up, sometimes I resist getting out of bed. I have applied everything I know about motivation to creating a process for...

Are Patience, Humility, and/or Obsession Needed for Success?

Are Patience, Humility, and/or Obsession Needed for Success?

When you read self-help books, you can expect that you will need to analyze them carefully to separate the wheat from the chaff. Many such books can be very helpful if you look at the practical advice and rethink the validation of it for yourself. Too often, the...

Stopping and Starting: Why It Can Be Hard to Make Transitions

Stopping and Starting: Why It Can Be Hard to Make Transitions

Over the years, I have written several articles on how to do a mental cleanup when you need to stop a task prematurely to get started on something else. And I've also written about warming up your mental circuits to get started from a cold start. I reviewed how to...

The Weekly Review

The Weekly Review

The very first article I wrote for my newsletter was a book recommendation for David Allen's book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. That was 2004. Recently I realized that I had misunderstood the utility of a key tool from his system — the...

Your Reasons Matter

Your Reasons Matter

When you are committed to living by reason, contrary emotions can create all sorts of conundrums. For example, a Thinking Lab member recently reported some doubts about a decision he made to take a break and go for a walk. Based on our discussion, I would say that all...

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,...

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."...

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