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How to Say No, Better

Another James Clear pick today.

How do you make it easier on yourself to say no?
To stick to that diet?
To stop goofing off and buckle down and study or work?

Because,

The ability to overcome temptation and effectively say no is critical not only to your physical health, but also to maintaining a sense of well–being and control in your mental health.

We do this, by assertion rather than denying ourselves day in and day out.
Not that I can’t do this. Just that I don’t. I am a person who eats good food. So I don’t eat junk food.
I am a person who wants to be a programmer. So I don’t browse the web aimlessly all day.
I am a person who wants his mind in his control all the time. So I don’t drink.

When you decide ‘who’ you want to be, it becomes easier to decide, ‘what’ you don’t want to do.

Here’s an anecdote, James shares,

Group 1 was told that anytime they felt tempted to lapse on their goals they should “just say no.” This group was the control group because they were given no specific strategy.

Group 2 was told that anytime they felt tempted to lapse on their goals, they should implement the “can't” strategy. For example, “I can't miss my workout today.”

Group 3 was told that anytime they felt tempted to lapse on their goals, they should implement the “don't” strategy. For example, “I don't miss workouts.”

For the next 10 days, each woman received an email asking to report her progress. They were specifically told, “During the 10–day window you will receive emails to remind you to use the strategy and to report instances in which it worked or did not work. If the strategy is not working for you, just drop us a line and say so and you can stop responding to the emails.”

Here's what the results looked like 10 days later…

  • Group 1 (the “just say no” group) had 3 out of 10 members who persisted with their goals for the entire 10 days.
  • Group 2 (the “can't” group) had 1 out of 10 members who persisted with her goal for the entire 10 days.
  • Group 3 (the “don't” group) had an incredible 8 out of 10 members who persisted with their goals for the entire 10 days.

The words that you use not only help you to make better choices on an individual basis, but also make it easier to stay on track with your long–term goals.

So, say, I don’t, and you’ll say no more effectively :)

Why does this work better than I can’t?
How do I apply this to my life?
Read James’ article to find out.

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How Do You Keep Keep Going?

Or how do you actually go do anything else you committed to do for yourself?
I always got confused on what to do when the going got tough and life happened and my goals then got waylaid.
Other than feeling lost and giving up on projects and promising to do better tomorrow, or next time?
(which took a looooooong time to come)
What could I do?

James Clear offers a lovely heuristic, that I have been applying to my writing since the year began.
(along with Seth’s advice to queue things up)

3. Reduce the scope, but stick to the schedule.

I've written previously about the importance of holding yourself to a schedule and not a deadline.
There might be occasions when deadlines make sense, but I'm convinced that when it comes to doing important work over the long–term, following a schedule is much more effective.

When it comes to the day-to-day grind, however, following a schedule is easier said than done.
Ask anyone who plans to workout every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and they can tell you how hard it is to actually stick to their schedule every time without fail.

To counteract the unplanned distractions that occur and overcome the tendency to be pulled off track, I've made a small shift in how I approach my schedule.

My goal is to put the schedule first and not the scope, which is the opposite of how we usually approach our goals.

For example, let's say you woke up today with the intention of running 3 miles this afternoon.
During the day, your schedule got crazy and time started to get away from you.
Now you only have 20 minutes to workout.

At this point, you have two options.

The first is to say, “I don't have enough time to workout today,” and spend the little time you have left working on something else.
This is what I would usually have done in the past.

The second option is to reduce the scope, but stick to the schedule. Instead of running 3 miles, you run 1 mile or do five sprints or 30 jumping jacks.
But you stick to the schedule and get a workout in no matter what.
I have found far more long-term success using the this approach than the first.

On a daily basis, the impact of doing five sprints isn't that significant, especially when you had planned to run 3 miles.
But the cumulative impact of always staying on schedule is huge. No matter what the circumstance and no matter how small the workout, you know you're going to finish today's task.
That's how little goals become lifetime habits.

Finish something today, even if the scope is smaller than you anticipated.

If you like this tip the whole post is even more awesome.
Go find out Time Management Tips That Actually Work on his blog.

P.S. You should subscribe to the mailing list, you know. :)
P.P.S I haven’t missed a single week since I started doing this!


Books I’ve Read, June Edition

’Twas a good month for reading :)

June

  • The Song of the Bird, Anthony de Mello
    (absolutely read. buy and give people copies.
    this book for me, goes beyond a quake book.
    it has shaped my life, and thoughts, since boyhood, subconsciously then and with intent now.)

  • The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Poirot #1), Agatha Christie
    (re-reading my way through the Poirot canon.
    these books take me to the age I think I belong to, the late 1800s, early 1900s absolutely delightful)

  • Epigrams on Men, Women and Love, Honoré de Balzac
    (beautiful set of quotes)

  • Mother American Night, John Perry Barlow
    (a man who lived life. founder of the EFF and the FSF.
    and more importantly (to me), lyricist for the Grateful Dead)

  • Word by Word, Anne Lamott
    (must listen (it’s an old audiobook.)
    excellent companion to Bird by Bird.
    imagine Anne teaching you how to write using BbB as a text book.
    she’s awesome.
    the book’s awesome.)

  • Indian Love Poems, Peter Pauper Press
    (absolutely loved it)

  • Love Poems and Love Letters for All the Year, Peter Pauper Press

  • Flower Thoughts, Peter Pauper Press

  • Thoughts for a Good Life, Peter Pauper Press

  • Epigrams by Oscar Wilde, Peter Pauper Press

  • Murder on the Links (Poirot #2), Agatha Christie
    (need i say, you ought to read it :))

More lists of books to read? Subscribe!


What Makes the Desert Beautiful …

Click the pic for a bigger photo

“The stars are beautiful, because of a flower that cannot be seen.”

I replied, “Yes, that is so.’
And, without saying anything more, I looked across the ridges of sand that were stretched out before us in the moonlight.

“The desert is beautiful,” the little prince added.

“What makes the desert beautiful,” said the little prince, “is that somewhere it hides a well …”

— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

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Absolutely Make Time for Reading

From the Writing Routines1 pdf that is available on signing up to their mailing list…

“If I had a nickel for every person who ever told me he/she wanted to become a writer but “didn’t have time to read,” I could buy myself a pretty good steak dinner. Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
Stephen King, On Writing

“I write two pages. And then I read and read and read.”
José Saramago, recipient of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Literature

“I can’t begin to tell you the things I discovered while I was looking for something else.”
Shelby Foote, The Civil War: A Narrative

“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.”
Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language

“...EVENINGS: See friends. Read in cafés....”
Henry Miller author of Tropic of Cancer, Black Spring, Tropic of Capricorn, and more.

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  1. I love the site and its interviews. Go visit and see if you like their stuff. 

Books I’ve Read, May Edition

If you are looking for something to read, you might find something interesting here.

May

  • The Great Mental Models, Shane Parrish
    (the first of a soon to be multivolume work.
    must read times a hundred.
    this book teaches you how to think.
    and how to do it well.
    have i said it’s a must read? you must read it.)

  • Coraline, Neil Gaiman
    (must read. scarily charming.)

April

  • Keep Going, Austin Kleon
    (must read. new annual read. timely. beautiful quotes. hugely inspirational)

  • Chocolate Wars, Deborah Cadbury
    (must read. as a child growing up in the shadow of the large Cadbury factory, near home, Cadbury has always fascinated me. i still remember their school tours where we could go see how the chocolate was made and come home with a couple of bars of Dairy Milk. the factory is now shutdown, and the tempting aroma of chocolate no longer fills the air. this book delves into nearly 200 years of Cadbury’s (as well as its contemporaries) history. a lovely nostalgic throwback to a more innocent, more generous age.)

March

  • Titan’s Wrath, Rhett C Bruno

  • Never Grow Up, Jackie Chan
    (charmingly mistitled, because it is all about Jackie growing up, albeit a little too late. beautiful notes of apology and gratitude to the people in his life and of course, being Jackie, loads of hilarious stories)

  • Company of One, Paul Jarvis

  • Titan’s Son, Rhett C Bruno
    (something to get my mind off studies. the series is still fun)

  • Digital Minimalism, Cal Newport
    (must read. short. an in-depth practical treatise on getting out of the clicky, clicky, swipe, swipe circle of digital death i was in. found it really helpful)

  • Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi & Tal Raz
    (good read. if you’re an introvert like me, this is a good stepping stone to help you get out there.)

  • Thinking in Bets, Annie Duke
    (must read. short treatise on how you need to think probabilistically and divorce your efforts and your work, Arjun-like, from their results)

  • Titanborn, Rhett C Bruno
    (short fun read. in the vein of Asimov’s detective stories)

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Your Very Own Superpower, Saying No

If you haven’t read James Clear’s blockbuster book on habits, you owe it to yourself to. It’s the best way to build habits and routines that are an intrinsic part of you.

One of the best ways to a super productive you is, as James describes in this excerpted post, saying No.

Ever think about the events you set in action when you just say yes as a reactive reflex?

The Difference Between Yes and No

The words “yes” and “no” get used in comparison to each other so often that it feels like they carry equal weight in conversation. In reality, they are not just opposite in meaning, but of entirely different magnitudes in commitment.

When you say no, you are only saying no to one option. When you say yes, you are saying no to every other option. Once you have committed to something, you have already decided how that future hour will be spent.

Saying no gains you time in the future. Saying yes costs you time in the future. No is a form of time credit. You retain the ability to spend your time however you want. Yes is a form of time debt. You have to pay it back at some point.

In short: No is a decision. Yes is a responsibility.

But you can’t just go willy-nilly saying no, nope, nada now, can you?

Earning the Right to Say No

In most fields, you have to go through a period where you say yes to nearly every opportunity before you can earn the right to say no to nearly every opportunity.

Learning to make this switch is hard.

So this week, learn how to say no, and then get better at saying no.
Like James concludes, Say no, more. Say yes, carefully.

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Being Wrong

Shane Parrish’s highlights from this gem of a Ted Talk by Kahthryn Schulz.

… The first thing we usually do when someone disagrees with us is that we just assume they are ignorant. You know, they don’t have access to the same information we do and when we generously share that information with them, they are going to see the light and come on over to our team.

When that doesn’t work. When it turns out those people have all the same information and they still don’t agree with us we move onto a second assumption. They’re idiots. They have all the right pieces of the puzzle and they are too moronic to put them together.

And when that doesn’t work. When it turns out that people have all the same facts that we do and they are pretty smart we move onto a third assumption. They know the truth and they are deliberately distorting it for their own malevolent purposes.

So this is a catastrophe: our attachment to our own rightness. It prevents us from preventing mistakes when we need to and causes us to treat each other terribly.

You can watch the whole talk below or click here. It’s twenty minutes well spent.



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