learning hacks

How to be consistent.

How to be consistent.

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“Your life is determined by the actions you take consistently.” - Unknown

The quote above is plain and simple, yet so many of us take it for granted. Want to be fit? Are you eating well and working out on a consistent basis? Want to play an instrument? How often do you practice? What else do you want to have in your life? Have you consistently been taking the necessary actions?

I’ve pretty much summed up what is required of you in order to have the life that you want. You can now stop reading this article and contemplate what you need to do consistently. However, if you want to understand the power of consistency and how to manage it in your life, read on.

The power of consistency.

“Long-term consistency trumps short-term intensity.” - Bruce Lee

If you were given the choice of £1,000,000 or a penny that would double its value every day for a month, which one would you go for? If you chose the former you would’ve missed out on an extra £4,368,709.12. This is the power of compound interest, that Albert Einstein famously stated as ‘the eighth wonder of the world.’ In finance, compound interest is when you earn interest income on top of your interest income, which results in exponential growth. This is why after a month your 1 pence turns into £5,368,709.12. Of course, finding a penny that’ll double its value every day is far-fetched (or is it?), but the compounding effect is far from absurd.

When we adopt the compounding effect on your personal development, the key to unlocking the effect is through small improvements over a consistent amount of time. Similar to the chart above, your small daily disciplines will feel minuscule and you won’t be able to tell a difference, but those small improvements will pile up on top of each other and eventually you will unlock the compounding effect.

In his book, ‘The Slight Edge’ Jeff Olson explains it best,

Consistently repeated daily actions + time = unconquerable results.

If you want to unlock the power of consistency, it’ll take a lot of patience and discipline, but eventually, you will reap extraordinary rewards. If you have no idea where to begin, read on and hopefully you’ll have a better idea on how to start.

Accept failure.

“It’s never my intention to make a mistake, but if I do, I have given myself permission to view my progress over a longer timeline than a single day or an individual event.” - James Clear

Staying consistent is such a simple rule for life, yet it can be the most difficult to accomplish. Life takes over and you're forced to miss a day of consistency. It happens. There is no one on this planet that is consistent for every waking moment of their life. Even my track record can be a little sporadic at times, and I pride myself on my consistency.

One of the most important mindsets to adopt when you begin your journey is that you will inevitably fail. Sounds a bit dire but it’s important that you realise this early on. Otherwise, when you do miss a day you may be disheartened by the ‘failure’ and remove yourself from the process entirely. So what if you had a minor set back? Who cares? What’s important is how you react from it. Pick yourself up and commit to remaining consistent again. The more you do this, the more successful you will be in all aspects of life.

How to stay consistent.

“Don’t break the chain!” - Jerry Seinfeld

If you’re in the millennial bracket, you probably have no clue who Jerry Seinfeld is, if you do, you probably know him as the host for ‘Comedians in Cars’, but before that, he was hailed as a comic genius that created the popular American TV show, ‘Seinfeld.’ He credited his success to one simple phrase, “don’t break the chain.” When asked what his writing habits were, he mentioned a process of marking an ‘X’ in his calendar on the days he completed his writing assignments. After doing this for a few days he noticed a chain of X’s appearing on his calendar. It got to a point where the chain became so long that the idea of breaking it motivated him to continue his tasks.

‘Breaking the chain’ incorporates the theory of loss aversion, where individuals are more focused on avoiding making a loss than acquiring equivalent gains. Instead of marking a complete day on a paper calendar I’ve opted for the more modern approach - an app on the phone. Below are a few examples of apps that I’ve used in the past and would highly recommend.

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Habitbull - (Free & Premium Version)    

Works for both iOS and Android. This is the tracker that I’m currently using. If you upgrade to the premium version you’re able to track up to 100 habits. It incorporates inspirational images and discussion forums to keep you motivated.


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Streaks - (£4.99)

iOS only. Before Habitbull I was using Streaks. The reason I moved on was that it only worked on iOS and I could only track up to 12 habits max. It’s beautifully designed and I would recommend it if you’re only tracking a small number of tasks.


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Coach.me - (Free)

Works for both iOS and Android. Before Habitbull and Streaks, I was using Coach.me. I moved on because I was looking for a different interface. This app is heavy on the community side and if you’re in need of a personal coach you can easily find one here.

My track record.

You’ll notice in the images above that I’ve not remained consistent with all my tasks. As I mentioned before, life happens. There were days where I couldn’t find time to complete a specific task and I had to mark it down as an ‘X’. The time where I broke a chain of 200+ days was soul destroying, but I knew I had to pick myself up and start working on the chain again.

If you’re starting out and you’re finding it difficult to create a chain remember this - the intensity of your performance on a single day doesn’t matter so much. Even if you performed a tiny amount, don’t worry, what’s important is that you did the task. All of those tiny wins will accumulate and you’ll soon unlock the compounding effect.

Set yourself a schedule.

“Show me your calendar and I will tell you your priorities” - Unknown.

Tracking your consistency is all well and good, but I find the most important step to help you start is to schedule in advance a dedicated amount of time for your tasks. Want to read 30 pages a day? Why not schedule in 60 minutes of reading after you wake up? Want to practice an instrument for 1 hour? Why not dedicate every evening at 9 o’clock for an hour of learning a new instrument.

An example of how I schedule my time dedicated to learning a new skill.

Going through your calendar and scheduling your tasks will help you manage your time and understand how effectively you use it. You’ll soon realise where most of your attention goes to, and you’ll be able to see if there are any moments during the day where you are not spending your time wisely. If you want to know more information about how to effectively schedule your day you can read more here.

Embrace the mundane.

“Perhaps happiness is always to be found in the journey uphill, and not in the fleeting sense of satisfaction awaiting at the next peak.” - Jordan B. Peterson.

I hope by now you have begun to understand the importance of consistency and how to begin your journey. If there’s one thing I hope you take away, I hope you learn to enjoy the process. Having your eyes fixed on the prize and what you could be is inspirational, but don’t forget to appreciate what’s going on now. Remember, consistency coupled with time will unlock exponential results, but remind yourself that it’s not going to happen overnight. There will be occasions where it will get monotonous and perhaps even boring, but it’s important to persevere. Once you begin to fall in love with the process it’ll make everything easier.

If you’re looking for some inspiration to keep you consistent, sign up to my 1-minute report card.  I am on a mission to learn and document every practical skill to better my life, once a week I update you on my progress of learning something new and show you my entire process.

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Do you want to learn new skills to improve the quality of your life? Download the free 13 page e-book that teaches you the methods to approach every new skill you plan to learn. These same methods is what I've been using and it has helped me learn skills effectively in half the time. Click here to download the free e-book.

How I pay for my education.

How I pay for my education.

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Education can get expensive. Believe me, I know. I’ve spent just over £15,000 to graduate with a BA (Hons) degree in Graphic & Media Design, it was money well spent (I do hope you’re able to note the sarcastic undertone). Forget about formal education. What about learning a practical set of hard skills? From learning a new language to a new instrument, you’re going to need a few lessons and resource materials to make any progress. You could be frugal, go at it on your own and watch as many DIY tutorials on YouTube, but with so many videos contradicting each other, it’s difficult to know who to trust. Or you could speed up your learning curve and sign up to a few online courses, pay for a teacher and invest in yourself. I’m not saying one is better than the other, but I’ve managed to balance the two.

“That can get expensive, it all adds up!”

Sure it does, but as Benjamin Franklin said,

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”

I’ve managed to get on top of my finances so that whenever I need to spend money on anything related to learning I don’t bat an eyelid. How have I been able to get to this position? It took a lot of hard work and self-control and I’m going to share with you my process.

Continual growth is important, what better way to develop yourself than by learning a new skill? I am on a mission to learn and document every practical skill to better my life. Once a week I update you on what I’m currently learning and if you want to stay up-to-date and pick up a skill or two click here to sign up to the 1-minute report card.

 

Secrets of the millionaire mind.

I cannot take full credit of what I’m going to share with you. Everything I’ve learned regarding money management all comes from T. Harv Eker’s book, “Secrets of the Millionaire Mind.”

“It comes down to this: either you control money, or it will control you. To control money, you must manage it.”

Eker places great emphasis on managing your money wisely. What’s the best method for taking control over your money? Splitting it up into 6 different accounts.

This book helped manage my entire life!

This book helped manage my entire life!

Whether it’s money coming in from a steady salary or a one-off gift, you should try to split your income into the following accounts:

  • 50% into your Necessities Account - We all have bills to pay. Use this account for just that.

  • 10% into your Long-Term Savings Account - This should be dedicated to your future house, holidays and/or your ‘rainy day’ fund.

  • 10% into your Giving Account - It’s always good to give. Make sure you have enough for any charitable donations.

  • 10% into your Play Account - With all that saving and money management, it’s good to treat yourself every month. By using the money from this account you won’t feel guilty about going on a shopping spree.

  • 10% into your Financial Freedom Account - This account should only be spent on generating more money. Investing wisely will assure your financial freedom.

  • 10% into your Education Account - Use this account specifically for educational purposes. Whether I need to buy an online course, book or pay for someone’s time, this is where I take the money out from.

Although this article is focused on how I finance my learning, it also shows you how I finance my life. As you can see every account covers each aspect of my life. The important thing to take away is to live within the means of each fund. If I want to buy £50 worth of books and there’s only £5 left in the Education Account, I’ll have to wait until the account is topped up. The same goes for everything else.

 

What I’ve spent my money on.

As long as each purchase is justified I will go ahead with the sale with no buyers remorse. There have been times where I have spent £100 in one go whilst trying to learn a new language, in the last 3 months I’ve spent £60 on books alone. Just yesterday, I placed an order for 3 more books that equated to £30.

A bank statement from my Education Account.

A bank statement from my Education Account.

If I had kept all my money in one account, it would’ve been hard to know if I was going over my Education Fund and eating into my Long-Term Savings account. Splitting the money up makes everything easier to manage.

 

Why have an Education Account?

When I graduated from university with my degree in one hand and the other fist pumping the air (again, take note of the sarcastic undertone) I remember telling myself that I’m done with education. I no longer have to worry about exams, studying or learning something new. Shame on me! Eker said it best,

“If you're not continuously learning, you will be left behind.”

If you’re not taking the time out to learn new skills you’re not growing, you’ll be a one-trick pony that will eventually be phased out. If I had kept the mentality of no longer learning anything new I would’ve remained as a graphic designer making posters on Photoshop. Taking the leap and starting my own business, I was forced to learn new skills that helped me in my career. Soft skills like, public speaking, email etiquette, and time-management. To hard skills like, how to take good photographs, how to edit video, how to record audio and the list goes on.

Working on my business. This opportunity would have not been available if I didn't develop myself and learn new skills.

Although I was forced to learn all of these new skills to stay afloat in my industry, I soon realised the importance of continual growth. Eker goes on to add,

“The more you learn, the more you earn.”

Even if increasing your income isn’t on your radar, learning new skills to help you develop as an individual will open up new opportunities and experiences. This is why it’s important to have one account dedicated to your personal development, it’s the first step to taking continual growth seriously.

 

Make sure you live within your means.

In order for this system to work, I cannot stress to you how important it is to live within the means of each account. I know how tempting it can be to take a little bit from the Education Account and use it to pay off your bills, but you need to stay strong and stick to it. Eker adds,

Saying "I'll start managing my money as soon as I caught up" is like an overweight person saying "I'll start exercising and dieting as soon as I lose twenty pounds." It's putting the cart before the horse, which leads to going nowhere... or even backward! First you start properly handling the money you have, then you'll have more money to handle.

It’s important for you to remain consistent with your money management. It takes a lot of discipline and hard work to get to this level, but if you’re truly serious about growing as an individual these are the practices you’re going to need to take. It took me a while to grasp the concept of splitting my money up, especially when I had bills to pay, but I kept at it. Now, as soon as money comes in it’s almost second nature for me to move the money around. It’s a great feeling to know that when I want to spend money on a few books or online courses, there’s a little bit of money stashed away in a dedicated account.

If splitting up your money unsettles you I would start off slow. If you don’t want to manage your salary right now, buy 6 empty jars and split up any cash that you come across. One day when you least expect it, you may realise that you have a bit of money in your Education Account to buy a couple of resources that’ll help with your personal growth.

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Do you want to learn new skills to improve the quality of your life? Download the free 13 page e-book that teaches you the methods to approach every new skill you plan to learn. These same methods is what I've been using and it has helped me learn skills effectively in half the time. Click here to download the free e-book.

What is the Pomodoro technique?

What is the Pomodoro technique?

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A few years ago I was really embracing the role of a video editor. I had a total of 4 monitors glaring back at me, two of them were used for video editing. The one to my far right had a window opened for email, I was ready to immediately respond to anything that landed in my inbox. The last monitor placed above was mostly empty, but whenever I was doing something that didn’t require my full attention I would put on something on YouTube or Spotify to entertain me. Did I need all four to complete a video edit? Of course not, but it was pretty cool sitting in front of it all. I thought I was being productive, I thought I was focused. However, when I came across this one technique of improving my productivity, I realised the monitors had to go and it was time to downsize to one. What productivity hack did I come across might you ask? It was none other than the Pomodoro technique.


How the Pomodoro technique works.

It’s a pretty simple concept that is split into 4 rounds.

One complete round looks like this:

  1. Decide on the task you want to tackle.

  2. Set your timer for 25 minutes.

  3. With no distractions and 100% focus, work on your task until the timer ends.

  4. Set your timer for 5 minutes.

  5. Take a break.

You are to repeat this for another 3 rounds. At the end of your fourth round, you are to have a 15-minute break. This is to be repeated until your task is complete.

When translated into English the word ‘Pomodoro’ means ‘tomato’. It got its name from the tomato-shaped timer the inventor used to keep track of each cycle. Of course, you don’t need to use a tomato timer for your workflow, there are a plethora of apps and websites that can do the same job.

Skillful management of energy.

In his book, “The Power of Full Engagement” Loehr talks about the importance of managing your energy levels. One of the main methods to managing this is by taking regular breaks, 

“At the most practical level, our capacity to be fully engaged depends on our ability to periodically disengage.”

Jim Loehr

Have you ever felt burnt out and your performance level slowly going south? The reason for your burnout isn’t always due to the intensity of work you put in, but rather the lack of rest you implement. Taking calculated breaks from your task is important for the mind. Not only does it allow you to take a step away from your work, it resets your focus levels for when you come back. Allowing you to be more productive in the long run.

That is why the Pomodoro technique incorporates the occasional break. It reminds you to stop. In our society, so many of us have embraced the culture of burning the candles at both ends. Not only is it detrimental to the body, but it halts your performance as well. Overworking has unhealthy consequences that include lack of concentration, sickness, anxiety and a loss of passion. It’s no wonder why so many people are burnt out after long periods of work.

Similar to a car, when we work we’re expending energy from our tank, taking calculated breaks allows us to recover and fill that tank back up. Loehr puts it nicely, “Performance is grounded in the skilful management of energy.”

How do I spend my 5-minute breaks? If I’ve been working at my desk I definitely take a step back and walk away from it. I highly recommend creating distance between your work space and your place of recovery time. Take a 5-minute walk, go to the toilet, have a conversation with a colleague, do anything to get your mind off work.

One of my favourite past times is something quite childish. I like to throw a ball at my wall and invent new exciting ways to catch it. One handed, 360° spins and whatever else I can come up with. You might think I’m being immature but being playful in your rest periods is quite important. Be adventurous in your breaks, wind down and make the most of it. 

Effectively manage your time.

Knowing how to effectively manage your time for each project is an important skill to have. There are so many occasions where we feel overwhelmed and not know where to begin, I know at times I have felt like that. There are times where I’ve been working on a particular task, I look at the clock and I think to myself, “where has the time gone?” Ever since I started incorporating the Pomodoro technique I’ve been able to keep an eye on the time and effectively manage it. 

Knowing that I am to work on a task for 25 minutes at a time, I am able to keep a tally of how many rounds that have gone by. This allows to me decide if I’m working on one task for too long or if I’ve been wasting my time. If you can take control of your time and not let the day go by, I’m positive that your productivity level will spike. 

Remove all distractions

Remaining in a high state of focus can be mentally taxing, it’s challenging to maintain it for several minutes, let alone hours. That is why the Pomodoro technique forces you to work in short bursts. It understands that the mind cannot keep up such a high level of concentration for so long.

In order for you to make full use of the benefits of the Pomodoro technique, it’s important to remove all distractions from your work space. For the next 25 minutes, it’s just you and whatever task you set out to complete. Keeping your phone next to you or allowing colleagues to interrupt you isn’t going to help you be productive. Leave your phone in a drawer, close your email window tab, turn off any desktop notifications. In that time you’re going to be uber creative, solve problems and come up with the next best thing. Allowing something or someone to take that away from you is a travesty, you owe it to yourself to get the work done. Time is precious, what’s more, is how you spend it.

Saying this, I can totally understand if you find it difficult to remove all distractions. If for some reason you need to take the dog out for a walk or if the water is boiling, deal with that first, especially the latter! If you do get distracted, don’t beat yourself up. Reset the timer and continue with doing what you set out to do.

There are times when I’m in a new environment and noise pollution becomes a distraction, what I like to do is put on some headphones and listen to instrumental music. Not only does it drown out the background noise, but it allows me to zone in on the work and reach a level of flow.

My Experience.

Maybe the Pomodoro technique isn’t for you, but before you decide to jump onto the next productivity craze give it a go for at least one of your tasks. Don’t be so strict with the way you approach it, give yourself some leniency and enjoy the process. If you only have 45 minutes to work on a task, mathematically speaking you won’t be able to complete 2 full Pomodoro’s. That doesn’t mean you should not start the task at all!

There are times where I have bent the rules. I added a few more minutes to my break or continue working when the timer went off. I use the Pomodoro technique as a rough guideline to help me manage my time and energy. Ever since I implemented the Pomodoro technique it has definitely streamlined my workflow, which has had a positive knock-on effect on other aspects of my life. I recommend you give it a go and see if it can benefit you too. Everyone has their own methods to be productive. What’s yours going to be?

Links & Apps

What you’re looking for is a way to keep track of each Pomodoro round. You can do this with the help of an app or you can do this with your own timer and notepad. Whatever you choose, make sure it suits your needs.

For the pen and paper enthusiast

Sometimes you can’t beat a good old pen and paper. These days, almost everything is digital, break the trend and go analog! Buy yourself a traditional Pomodoro Timer, a Moleskin Notepad, and a pen.

For the iOS lovers

Having a timer on your phone, tablet and desktop can help you keep in check and not get distracted. If you’re on an iOS device the Be Focused App is ideal

For the iOS haters

Hate everything Apple? No worries I’ve got you covered. The brain focus app will do the job for every Android phone.

For the desktop fanatic

As the majority of my work is done on a laptop, I knew I needed to install a Pomodoro timer on my computer. My go-to desktop application is Tomighty. It's available for both Windows and Mac, which is great as I work on a Dell laptop. Tomighty conveniently sits on your taskbar and notifies you when your break is due and when to get back to work. I’ve been using Tomighty for a while now and I can’t see myself switching over to anything else.

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Do you want to learn new skills to improve the quality of your life? Download the free 13 page e-book that teaches you the methods to approach every new skill you plan to learn. These same methods is what I've been using and it has helped me learn skills effectively in half the time. Click here to download the free e-book.