Tuesday, April 10, 2018

4 Steps to Sharpen Your Focus

Do you want to make the most of your time? You can improve your ability to focus in just a few days by using a simple check list.

Better focus can be learned


  • Have a plan
  • Notice but don't react to distractions
  • Practice regularly
You need to prepare for completing a task. I like to envisage what "finished" looks like. That way I can do some quick reviews during the allotted time and adjust my speed or effort. Putting in more effort for a short period of time is not any harder than working slowly for longer.

I love the feeling of achievement I get when I finish a task in the time I set. If it is part of a bigger project I feel very positive about the project if I  know I am putting in lots of effort for each smaller task. I can see the finish line coming closer each day and I find that very rewarding.

When I have a big physical job to do I break it down and assign smaller tasks in 30 min blocks.  Cleaning and organising goals can be achieved this way. This is how I managed to transform my sewing room into a nice place to work and create.

See what Kathy Vines has to say about "The Keys to Completing Organising Projects"
Here is a bit more science on training your brain to focus

Constantly trying to focus can leave you fatigued

  • Forcing yourself to focus requires energy
  • The brain needs time to rest and recover



I am always amazed by the amount of energy that gets used up when you think. Somehow I think that thinking is just a passive task.

In this article on "The Two Brain Systems That Control Our Attention" it is clear that trying to block out the distractions around you requires lots of effort. I know I feel my mind wandering all the time and I have to bring myself back on task quite often.

I now know that this is normal and is the way our brain works. With practice you can reduce the time you are distracted and also increase the time that you can focus.

Three ways to let your brain "rest" after periods of focus are:

  1. Meditate
  2. Take a stroll in natural surroundings
  3. Spend time on an enjoyable task so you loose track of time. This means your brain is not struggling to focus and is recovering from forced focus.


Set a time interval to stay focused

  • Use the Pomodoro method
  • No shorter than 30 mins
  • Take a few minutes break
  • Have a clear start and finish time
  • Have a clear picture of what "finished' looks like.


When training yourself to focus it is best to set a fairly short time interval to practise your focus. 30 mins is easy to accomplish. At the end of that interval take a short break to relax then do another focus interval.

Having a start and end time for a task and having a clear picture of what finished looks like makes completing the task more likely.

Have a plan to stay on task for that time

Multitasking is the enemy of productivity. It is much better to focus on one task.
Don't believe me? Have a read of this article on "The Truth About Multitasking".

To help you do this I have drawn up a simple sheet that you can print two to a page and double sided so you have lots to get you started.



Each time you start a task just go through the checklist. When I first started doing this I found that I didn't even realise when I was being distracted. I was halfway through commenting on a facebook group before I pulled myself up and wrote on the check list what distracted me. 

The more you work on this the less time it takes for you to realise you have gone off task. If it is something that needs attending to just make a note of it and come back to it later.

Download my free printable called "Sharpen Your Focus". After using it 4 or 5 times I now find that I automatically remove distractions and just thinking about the check list helps me notice when I am going off task and I can reduce wandering time significantly.


Stay Organised and Happy,
Val




Saturday, March 24, 2018

Micro Task Magic

Have you set yourself a goal then pushed yourself to follow through only to give up without achieving your goal?

The easiest way to achieve your goals is to break them down into smaller and smaller tasks until you are able to complete the small task with enthusiasm.

Popularity of Micro Tasks

Did you know there is such a thing as micro task crowd sourcing? This involves one micro task and lots of people.
I thought it was a brilliant idea that NASA had when it posted it's planet finding data online for thousands of people to sift through. A four planet star system was discovered in the data!
Read more here if you didn't see it on the news.
Micro-task crowdsourcing is rapidly gaining popularity among research communities and businesses as a means to leverage Human Computation in their daily operations. Source
I love how things are evolving around the internet all the time!

How I use Micro Tasks to keep me On Task

Now lets get back to one person and lots of micro tasks.

I have recently realised that I was going about my To Do list the wrong way for me. I would put a seemingly ordinary task like "work on the newsletter" in my to do list and I would fit it between say breakfast and morning tea.

I would finish breakfast at varying times depending on when I finished my exercise routine for that day. So, at no specific time I would check my to do list and see "newsletter". I would then sit down at the computer and start work on the newsletter. After no set time I would think that I had done enough and go to have morning tea or lunch, depending on the time.

This is so ineffective for getting things done.

My strategy now is to:

  1. Write down 2 or 3 sections of my newsletter that I am going to finish
  2. I block out 2 hrs from 10am to 12pm
  3. I start work and during the 2 hours I will start pacing myself faster to make sure I finish the sections I have listed.
  4. If I finish early I can choose to relax or do another small business related task to fill the time.
I have created a Task List Printable to help me organise my larger procedures. It takes a while to work out exactly what are the micro tasks involved in a bigger goal or project. 

For Example:

Say you want to get the kids out to the bus on time but you are always struggling to get everything done. You can put 
  • "Get the kids out to the bus on time and completing all the morning chores" in your goal box.
  • Then break it down into "getting dressed",  "having breakfast", "making lunches", "checking school bags".
  • Then each macro task can be broken down again. "put school clothes on the bedside chair the night before", "kids follow the bathroom checklist", "kids put all the school bag items on the floor next to the bag".
  • Then you do micro tasks for having breakfast etc.
So now when the kids get out of bed you can say, 'Have you got your school clothes on?', 'Have you done your bathroom routine?', 'Have you laid out the school bag for packing?'. 'Now come and get breakfast' or list whatever the micro tasks where for getting breakfast.

It Works!

Since setting that specific time to start work I have been much more relaxed around breakfast time because I am not always thinking that I have to start work after breakfast, "I better finish breakfast quicker".

Now I am sitting at breakfast around 9 or 9.30 thinking, 'How nice, I have time to finish my second cup of tea'.

As I am writing this blog post it is just 11.30am. I set myself the tasks of designing a micro task check list printable and writing this blog post for my 2hr shift. I feel confident that I will finish in time. I have already designed the printable.

I now have 5 mins left to load my printable into Google Drive and put links in this post.

(It took me another 15 mins because I also had to preview and edit the blog post.)

You can DOWNLOAD my handy Micro Task List now.


Happy Organising,
Val




Friday, February 23, 2018

Mindset: it controls how we see the world

What is your mindset?

Basically it is what you believe and think. It affects how you react to various situations you encounter.
Experts agree that if you want to change your behaviour you have to change your beliefs. It is a bit like re-programming a computer.



Myrko Thum is an expert in that he has had a lot of success. You can read his post about Mindset for more details. It is well worth a look.
I followed the free tutorials by Myrko Thum. You have to sign up to get them but I found him very easy to understand and he had lots of practical advice.

Changing your mindset

Well, is it worth the effort? Does it work? I must say that based on my experience you can change your mindset gradually and begin to see the world through different eyes.
In order to change your mindset you have to uncover what it is that you believe deep down. I have many limiting beliefs that I am working on changing. How I viewed trying to lose weight was working against my goals. I hated the thought if not being able to eat all the foods I like.

This is what I saw when I thought about controlling what I eat

Before I learnt about limiting beliefs I had spent several months creating Positive Affirmations. I would do my morning walk and say positive things like "I deserve to be fit and healthy" or "I am fit and healthy". 

I wrote lots of short affirmations on cards and started to memorise them. I would then say them out loud as I walked each morning. 
This lead naturally to replacing my negative thoughts with positive thoughts. Things like 

"I'm never going to get any fitter" or "I can't stand up and talk on video" became 

"I will continue to walk every day. I have made a lot of progress increasing the distance I can walk" and "I will do my best at a video and upload it today" or "Every time I make a new video I improve".

How to discover your limiting beliefs

Once again I refer to Myrko Thum. Read what he writes about limiting beliefs. I don't have any affiliation with him but I like his stuff and it is easier to just go to one site and get as much out of it as possible.
He has a tip to find your limiting beliefs and change them around.



You write down 
I really want to do ________

But ___________________

Then you write the same goal.
I really want to do __________

Because __________________

I got lots of things for each section. 
The "BUT" list is your limiting beliefs relating to your goal or dream.
The "BECAUSE" list is your positive mindset thinking for that goal or dream.

What I did

Positive affirmations are future thoughts relating to how you want your life to be.
Positive mindset refers to how you respond to situations as they arise.



Some of my positive affirmations are:
  • I am successful and self-confident
  • I am fit and strong
  • I am healthy and good looking
  • I am a good role model for my daughters
  • I exercise and meditate everyday
  • I eat healthy food 80% of the time
  • I am a famous designer

Some of my positive mindset thoughts that I refer to when I doubt myself are:
  • I can do it
    (replacing "I can't do this, it is too complicated")
  • I can't please everyone
    (replacing "I have to do everything for everyone")
  • I have used my checklist to proof the file and done my best.
    (replacing "I hope there aren't any mistakes" or "What if there is a mistake?")
  • I enjoy hearing from my customers and interested people. They must want to ask a question. (replacing a physical flinch first then "Oh no, that's a convo. I hope it isn't a problem")
  • I have an eating plan in place. I will see results gradually the same as I do for my fitness. (replacing "I'll never lose weight")
I'm sure you can see that my limiting beliefs were almost paralysing me and I had to do something if I wanted to enjoy my pattern business and my life.

Start doing something today



It is easy to make excuses. One of my limiting beliefs was "People will think I am nuts trying to change who I am. I'll keep it a secret."

I think you can see that I have made some progress with the way I think about changing my mindset. I have had interest and encouragement from a few friends and family, showing me that what I thought before wasn't the reality, it was just what I believed.

To make it easier for you to do something positive I have created a Mindset Worksheet. You can print off one for each of the areas of life listed by Myrko Thum or use your own goals and dreams that you are struggling to achieve.
Download the worksheet

I know how it is when people say "Just write out your positive affirmations" or "Just write your positive thought for this situation" and you kind of think "What!"

So I have included the words and phrases that I have been using in a set of handy cards. There is a blank set so you can start collecting your own.

Download the handy cards
Create your happy life,
Val

Friday, February 9, 2018

Micro Tasks: An Easy way to Reach Those Goals

This is my desk after tidying. I can see my little foxy and I get more light.

A big goal I have set myself is to have a tidy sewing room in just over three months. The reward was there - space to work in and things in their place - but I didn't know where to fit the cleaning task time.

I thought about which habits are very strong now and here to stay. My morning routine is a series of tasks that are now like one big habit. I spent 3 months putting them in place. So what better way to create a 'room tidy habit' than to stack it inside my morning routine.

This is the journal desk before. The things I don't use every day went onto the book shelf
and I feel a lot less cramped.
I decided on just 30 mins a day and I have placed it directly after my morning walk and before my morning meditation. This has been working really well. Gentle tidying after my walk lets me cool down and the meditation after lets me relax after intense focusing.

I know exactly what has to be done. These free printables are from
the Business Bakery. I am keeping to track. The two I missed are
for the third wardrobe insert that I can't afford yet.

I broke every section of the room into micro tasks. I had to make them
even smaller to fit into the 30 mins. I spend 3 days at least on each task in this list.
I am doing the room tidy as a 100 days goal with some support from The Business Bakery. We are up to day 40 as I write this and I haven't missed a day. There is no pressure to work for hours making huge changes.


This second insert space had three boxes in it like the next space.

These are the boxes all emptied out. Well, they were all empty until I went to
Spotlight and bought several metres of fur. That box is stored under my desk now.

The second insert is in and starting to fill up.

I know that I will get pretty close to a perfect result at the end of the 100 days if I just stick to my 30 mins a day. Because I am not hurrying I take time to ponder where things need to be stored so I don't have to move them again.

I posted about my cutting table on Facebook. It is so nice to nearly have it back.

You can see that the top of the desk is my focus for now. The underneath is
a later task.
Day 1
Day 2

Day 3

Day 4. Emptied some drawers and put the stationery bits in little boxes in the wardrobe unit.

This is where I will keep the patterns I am working on instead of on the table.

This is a big job but I feel quite relaxed about it because it just seems easy to do a little bit at a time. I am so pleased with how the room is looking and I feel much better too.

I hope my successes will inspire you to do a big project a tiny bit at a time. It doesn't matter how long it takes, you just need to get started and do a bit at a time. You don't need fancy work sheets. Just get a lined pad and start writing tasks down.
What areas in your house could benefit from this type of makeover? Let me know in the comments.

Cheers,
Val

Thursday, October 12, 2017

100 Days Journal: Being 100% Committed to the Process

100 days journal
I am developing an instant download called 100 days journal: 1 goal at a time.

Failing is just a challenge

Several times I have attempted doing something for 100 days. I can't even remember if I finished the 100 days those times.
I have been doing a lot of reading in order to work out what I need to do to get the result I want at the end of the 100 days.


Keep your eye on the process

What I have learned is that I lost my way and failed to keep up the process. I am now 4 days into the 100 days process that will get the result I am after. I have not had a perfect run so far but I am 100% committed to the process. Just because my commitment slips one day doesn't mean the process is not working.



Affirmation Everyday

Everyday I read aloud my affirmation that I am 100% committed to doing what I have to in order to become the person I want to be.
Everyday I write in my 100 day journal that I am 100% committed to the journey.
I trust that the journey will lead to the desired result.


Slowly building a habit

By making my affirmation everyday I am gradually building up my resistance to my old habits. By writing about my resolve in my 100 day journal everyday I am learning a new way to behave.
On the backs of the pages I write about my resolve, my self discipline. I write in more detail about the temptations, why I gave in and how I can break the old habits.


Take Immediate Action to Change Something in Your Life?


  • I have been reading The Miracle Morning and even though I know of most of the ideas in the book I find that reading them printed in a book makes them more real to me. The order and structure of the book help me get all my ideas in an order that makes them workable.
  • I have also been reading 168 Hours. This book is way above any time organising I need for my part time business and my retired lifestyle but I have found the week master plan perfect for enabling me to move forward with my business goals and my Life Vision goals regarding health, family and social life.
  • I am just about at the end of my second Goal Journal from Kikki-K. I have found this simple month by month journal perfect for getting my mind set in the right place. I am now ready to focus my mind on 1 goal for a set amount of time. Be it a week or a month.

    I know that being 100% committed while I am 100% focused will get me the results I desire. Working through the goal journal allows you to easily get into the habit of setting goals by asking you to focus on 4 goals a month.

    I took some of my long term goals and broke then down into monthly sections and put these as my monthly goals. Some goals where just month long short term goals for small projects I wanted to finish.

    The main thing is - I was getting in the habit of setting goals and following through for the month. I used the notes page to make weekly updates and reviews.

I am developing a set of 100 day journal pages to sell as a digital download. They will be formatted for A5 paper and fit perfectly on Kikki-K personal planner pages.
Leave a comment if you would like to know when it is available.

My blog post clip art is from https://www.pixelscrapper.com/

Stay Organised,
Val

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Two Steps Forward One Step Back


I haven't been blogging about my goals and diary the last few months but I am still working on getting things down on paper.
I had a bit of a set back for October with almost no goal writing or daily Journal/ Diary organising but I am determined to get back on track for November.

I like to use different ways to organise myself just to keep it interesting. They all have the same priority of goal setting and journaling or diary keeping just with a new style.

Today I found a lovely blog called Adventures in Guided Journaling by Christie Zimmer. She does a great job of putting out daily journal prompts to download for free.

I have just printed out her Goal Setting pages and will be working on those for November. I will punch holes in one end and fold them into my A5 journal.




I did some planning and doodling and brain storming. I now have my November goals listed. I will choose 4 most important ones and write out a detailed plan for achieving them this month.

Stay Organised,
Val



Friday, June 17, 2016

Kiiki K Planner Pages with Flying Geese (Quilt Pattern)

I sat and made a quilty border for my planner pages the other night. In the free sample you can put your heading in plain text.



I then just couldn't help myself and coloured it in!


I planned how I could set it up as a weekly view then drew it up so it crossed two pages.



I have been thinking a lot about my planning this year and just this month I decided that I will work in 20 min blocks. I have found that this is enough time to get immersed in the task and forget the timer but it is also short enough so I can fit lots in during the day.

My weekly view days are divided into 4 sections vertically because I have also found that 12 x 20 min work blocks is just enough work for me to get done what I need to each day. The rest of the time is play time like reading, drawing, watching DVDs or Netflix, surfing the web, doodling ideas for all sorts of things.
Each division is 3 tasks or 1 hour of work.

I put all sorts of things in my daily 'To Do' list of 12 things. Half are related to my hobby pattern business some are related to well being and some are other hobbies, housework and gardening.

I have even started adding 'Walk to the beach' on my list each day just as a reminder to get off my but and go outside for a while.

There is quite a lot of work involved in drawing up planner page designs so I am working towards putting them in my Etsy shop soon.

Today I have put links to the blank notes pages as a free download. It has the flying geese around the border and comes as left and right pages in A5 size.
I put a text box on so you can put your own title on the page or leave it blank. The title looks best if you type two words.

It is best to print it on A5 paper even if you just make your own by cutting an A4 sheet in half.
Of course, if you have the Kikki K planner pages you can just print it onto them.



Flying Geese Border Left

Flying Geese Border Right

Stay Organised,
Val