Building a Second Brain – The Podcast!

Just a quick post to share news about a new podcast from a thinker who has been featured on the Efficient Librarian. Tiago Forte has created a podcast series based on his signature work, Building a Second Brain. In the podcast, Tiago summarizes and explains important aspects of his work. Even better, the episodes are purposefully kept short for easy listening.

Here’s the official description:

Overwhelmed by consumption? The Building a Second Brain Podcast gives you the tools to thrive in the Information Age. Tiago Forte teaches you how to turn your notes, bookmarks and unread articles into completed creative works. Learn how to build your own “Second Brain” – a trusted place outside your head where you can collect your most important ideas and insights, and use them to do your best work. You’ll discover why many myths about the creative process hold us back, and how replacing them with a modern approach can unlock our true creative potential. You’ll be amazed at what you can create with the right frame of mind.

Listen to the Building a Second Brain podcast by downloading it on your favorite device.

Productivity Guilt

I have come to realize that this is a pandemic is a strange time to evaluate productivity. Our society is in a weird space were many people are over worked due to the essential nature of their jobs. Conversely, many people are now under worked due to being laid off or furloughed. It is the very few whose work continues unaffected by the disaster.

No matter where your work lies on this continuum, the changes in the world around us have an impact on our mental state. With so much of the future unknown a new definition of productive is needed. With this in mind I came across an article by Scott Young titled, “What is Productivity Guilt? (And How Can You Prevent It?)” In the piece he provides advice on how to be easier on yourself to avoid productivity guilt. For example:

Accept that you’ll always be imperfect. That’s okay. Everyone is. Nobody, including me, does everything perfectly all the time. … I go through phases where my habits evolve. Old ideas I wrote about get replaced with new ones. Not always because the new is better than the old, but because I’m always changing (as will you). If you see, instead, that everything I’ve written about is a static and permanent part of who I am, when you sum it all up, you’ll get to something that’s probably unmanageable as a whole.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Young goes on to provide the following advice when facing the specter of productivity guilt:

The real source of the guilt, however, isn’t because the standards imposed are too unrealistic or even undesirable, but because there’s always a gap between how we see ourselves and how we would like to be. The right move to make is always one that pushes you a little, but takes where you are as a starting point. That also includes your psychological strengths and weaknesses.

The rest of the article is available here.

How to Stay Positive in Stressful Times

With the daily onslaught of tough news in the midst of the pandemic, is it possible to stay positive in these down times?

Last month our regional library cooperative SEFLIN offered an answer with the help of Positivity expert Shola Richards. I had the good fortune of meeting Shola in person at the Florida Library Director’s meeting in Tallahassee. His energy and enthusiasm for making our workplaces better is refreshing and inspiring. In his webinar, Shola laid out the keys to staying positive in the face of adverse conditions. Below is my understanding of two important keys to achieve peace in this crazy world.

Shola Richards

Focus on What You Can Control

Shola suggested we let go of the things outside of our control and recognize all the things we can control. Whether it is helping others, being kind, cleaning, talking a walk, or starting a new hobby, we can always shift ourselves with the right intention. Specifically, he identified three things we have power over:

  • Our Actions – What can I do to make a difference?
  • Our Effort – Am I doing my best?
  • Our Attitude – Is what I am doing filling me up or draining me?

Practice Self Compassion

Shola encouraged participants to recognize that life is hard right now. So it is okay to lower your expectations and celebrate small wins. We simply cannot do all the things we use to do. Slowing down provides us time to be kind to ourselves and others. We can enjoy small indulgences, like that extra piece of chocolate or another episode of your favorite show, knowing that it is helping us get through another day. Self-compassion not only helps you, but also everyone you are living with as it creates a less stressful environment.

To learn more about Shola and the Positivity Solution, I encourage you to visit his web site and sign up for his weekly newsletter. While there, you can also view his TEDx Talk.

Living Through Strange Times

On my list of all-time favorite films and books is the Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. The core of the story is about a Hobbit named Frodo Baggins who is tasked with destroying the dangerous One Ring to prevent it from falling into the hands of the dark lord Sauron. During the first book/movie, The Fellowship of the Ring, while traveling through the dark and dismal Mines of Moria, Frodo confides his despair to the wizard Gandalf. (Watch the clip.)

Frodo: “I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.”

Gandalf: “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

I find myself revisiting Gandalf’s advice as we move deeper into these strange times. Often I find it easy to be like Frodo and wish this invisible enemy would go away so that we can resume life as normal. But Gandalf’s words remind us that while we all must endure bad times, the best way to get through them is to decide how we will respond to them.

Recall the formula, E+R=O from our friends at Focus 3. It stands for: Event plus Response equals Outcome. It acknowledges that we are always impacted by external events beyond our control. However, we can mindfully take control of our response to those events in order to get a better outcome. This is essentially what Gandalf is sharing in that moment and it is a wisdom that has profound implications.

Across the world we see normal people stepping up to make a difference in seemingly small but amazingly meaningful ways. Whether it is shopping for those who are home bound, sewing masks for first responders, or giving free food to those out of work, the ways to contribute are endless. For me, an amazing example came out of Spain where a fitness instructor lead quarantined residents of the neighboring apartment buildings through an exercise routine from their balconies. Everyone has the capacity to impact lives. As with Frodo, the small Hobbit in a big and dangerous world, it is ultimately through his perseverance and his friendships that he succeeds. As we walk this path together (in a socially distanced way of course) we can commit to make small differences that will have profound positive impacts on all of us.

So I invite you to consider what you will do with the time that is given you to make the world a better place.

Tips to Relax

Staying productive and calm are challenging in normal times. This past week the country saw a health care crisis kick into a higher gear, deepening our sense of stress. There is no doubt it is very important to take the situation seriously. However, since we do not know for certain how long the COVID-19 threat will affect us, it serves no purpose to burn out early.

Therefore, this week, I bring to you a couple of simple relaxation tips from our friends at WebMD.

1. Meditate

A few minutes of practice per day can help ease anxiety. “Research suggests that daily meditation may alter the brain’s neural pathways, making you more resilient to stress,” says psychologist Robbie Maller Hartman, PhD, a Chicago health and wellness coach.

It’s simple. Sit up straight with both feet on the floor. Close your eyes. Focus your attention on reciting — out loud or silently — a positive mantra such as “I feel at peace” or “I love myself.” Place one hand on your belly to sync the mantra with your breaths. Let any distracting thoughts float by like clouds.

Photo by Elly Fairytale on Pexels.com

2. Breathe Deeply

Take a 5-minute break and focus on your breathing. Sit up straight, eyes closed, with a hand on your belly. Slowly inhale through your nose, feeling the breath start in your abdomen and work its way to the top of your head. Reverse the process as you exhale through your mouth.

“Deep breathing counters the effects of stress by slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure,” psychologist Judith Tutin, PhD, says. She’s a certified life coach in Rome, GA.

WebMD offers eight more easy tips to reduce stress. I invite you to review the rest of them.

Above all, I wish you all safety and good health in these trying times.

Is Your World Outrunning You?

Are your ready for the next surprise? Did you know there is a surprise coming? It is inevitable that something will occur in the next week or so that you were not expecting to happen. It could be a pleasant surprise, or a shocking and jarring one, but it will happen. So, how will you handle it?

David Allen built his GTD system with the understanding that life moves quickly and we can not possibly anticipate everything that is going to happen. In a recent blog post called “Is Your World Outrunning You?” he considers how we came to this point and why systems like GTD help us navigate these fast-changing times:

David Allen – Founder of GTD

There is nothing new in the world, except how frequently things are new, and the number of people having to accept and adapt consistently to that reality. The difference between your world and that of your parents is in how much less you can count on anything providing stability in your life and work, for any significant length of time. Perhaps your father and mother had to totally reconfigure their worlds two or three times in their adult life, if that. You might have to do that two or three times this year.

(Why is GTD successful?) Quite simply, the need people have to create more room in their heads, less stress in their lives, and more control over all the facets of life and work that now impinge on most all of us.

Read the rest of his article on the GTD web site.

The Zen of Bridgewater

“The traditional relationship between “leaders” and “followers” is the opposite of what I believe is needed to be most effective, and being maximally effective is the most important thing a “leader” must do.” – Ray Dalio

Although I have been a librarian for over twenty-two years, it still amazes me that certain books can have a deep impact on our view of the world and ourselves.  This is happening to me right now with a remarkable book called Principles by Ray Dalio.  

Ray Dalio founder, co-chairman and co-chief investment officer of Bridgewater Associates, has written a book that seeks to encapsulate the amazing culture that he built in his company.  Bridgewater is designed as an idea meritocracy, where seeking the truth is paramount to all else. It is believed that a culture which prizes openness and vigorous debate above authoritarian structures is the key to success.

Dalio’s views on leadership were so intriguing to me that I wrote an article to explore them deeper. The excerpt below discusses why Dalio believes that leaders should not be afraid to ask questions.

Dalio places a high premium on asking questions.  While some leaders may hesitate to ask questions out of concern that they may look ignorant or uninformed, Dalio believes that asking questions is, “necessary in order to become wise and it is a prerequisite for being strong and decisive.”  Taking it even a step further, he believes that leaders should not hesitate to seek out those who are smarter and wiser then themselves, and even let staff who are better equipped in an area take the lead.  Ego and self promotion have no place in a true meritocracy.  As Dalio states, “The objective is to have the best understanding to make the best possible leadership decisions.”

Read the entire article and let me know your thoughts on this challenging approach to leadership.