Archive for the ‘Setting Goals’ Category

January 19th, 2012 No Comments

Launched Evolve Your Life: Mini-Books For Finding Happiness

Evolve Your Life: Mini-Books For Finding HappinessThis week, I launched a series of mini-books titled Evolve Your Life: Mini-Books For Finding Happiness at EvolveHappiness.Com.

Here are details for each mini-book:

Evolve Your Life Happiness Handbook
You’ve heard the advice, “Go to school, get a good job, get promoted, climb the corporate ladder, and you will eventually find happiness.” All too often, people follow this society-prescribed path to success, falsely believing that it will lead them to happiness. This mini-book teaches an alternative blueprint for happiness, based on research from numerous books and scientific studies, along with Derek’s personal experience. This mini-book is free, just enter your e-mail address at the top of this page.

Money and Happiness: Why Winning the Lottery Is Not the Answer
Are you happier when you have more money? According to happiness research, no. This mini-book teaches you how to let go of your false beliefs about money and learn research-proven ways to become happier.

Escape the Rat Race: Change Your Mind or Take the Emergency Exit
How can you escape the rat race? Should you change your job? Or can you keep it, while making smaller changes to your daily habits and ways of thinking? This mini-book explores both options, and teaches you when each is appropriate for escaping the rat race.

Your Comfort Zone: Step Outside It, Face Your Fears and Grow
How can you face your fears, take risks, and change your daily routines to grow? This mini-book teaches you how to become knowledgeable about your fears and overcome them by taking small steps outside of your comfort zone.

Modern Moonlighting: Keep Your Day Job, Make Extra Money, Do What You Love
How can you create alternative sources of income while keeping your day job? This mini-book teaches you how to start moonlighting and gain more independence from your job.

Quit Your Job: Decide When to Leave and What to Do After
How do you decide if you should quit your job or take a sabbatical? This mini-book guides you through making the decision to quit, and what to research before quitting.

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December 20th, 2010 No Comments

5 Great Ideas for New Year’s Resolutions

New Year's Eve 2010 - Valzer
New Year’s Eve is a great time to reflect on your past year, and changes you would like to make for the coming year. As New Year’s resolutions are highly personal, I won’t be providing specific resolutions. Instead, here are five ideas for you to come up with your own New Year’s resolutions.

1. Focus More on Something You Love

Is there a hobby that you love to do and are passionate about, but have been neglecting? This year, make the change. When you’re doing what you love, you are in a more passionate state of mind, and always doing your best because you enjoy what you do. You’ll often find yourself in “the flow”, a state where you lose track of time as your focus is solely on your passion. You’ll be better able to handle obstacles that come into your path because you enjoy the day-to-day activity of doing what you love.

2. Quit Something That Isn’t Working

Remember the old advice, “Winners never quit, quitters never win”? It’s wrong. In fact, winners quit often- as entrepreneur and marketing guru Seth Godin explains, “to stick with something in an absence of further progress is a waste.” Reflect on your past year. Is there something that you have put a lot of time and energy into, but still don’t end up anywhere (ex. Dead-end job)? This upcoming year, consider creating a New Year’s resolution to quit something that isn’t working.

3. Spend More Time Living in the Present

Reflect on the most enjoyable moment of your past year. Did this moment involve thinking, or were you completely focused on an activity? Chances are, you were completely focused on an activity. When you become intensely conscious of the present moment, you create a gap in thinking, in which you are highly alert and aware. Make a resolution to spend more time in the present for this upcoming year.

4. Break a Bad Habit

Do you have bad habits and behaviors that have become an automatic part of your daily routine? Over the past year, maybe some of these have even become automatic. For example, you may often wake up in the morning thinking negative thoughts, which puts you in a bad mood each morning. Or maybe you’ve created a habit or smoking on all of your work breaks. For this upcoming year, make a resolution to break a bad habit.

5. Become Happier and Stay That Way

How can you be happier and sustain it next year? Hint: Getting a raise at work or winning the lottery won’t make you happier for the long-term, as you will adapt quickly to your new circumstances. Studies have found that recent lottery winners are temporarily happier, but soon after, they adjust and are no happier than others. If we are constantly adapting to positive change in our lives, then how can we sustain an increased level of happiness over the long-term? This upcoming year, make a New Year’s resolution to become happier and stay that way.

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November 11th, 2010 No Comments

Running the NYC Marathon

Map of the NYC Marathon, which starts in Staten Island, continues north through Brooklyn, then Queens, through Manhattan, the Bronx, and finishes back in Manhattan
“I think I bit off more than I could chew, I thought the marathon would be easier. For the level of condition that I have now, that was without a doubt the hardest physical thing I have ever done.”
-Lance Armstrong, after finishing the New York City Marathon

After training for the last four months, on November 7th 2010, I finished the NYC marathon with a final time of 4:04:46. This was my first time to run a marathon. I had a modest goal of finishing in under four hours, and I consider this time close enough. Running the NYC marathon was one of the most unique and rewarding experiences I have had in my life.

The Pre-Marathon Marathon

From the start, the pre-marathon is a marathon within itself. I leave my Upper East Side Manhattan apartment at 4:45 AM to make my scheduled ferry to Staten Island, although my race does not start until 10:10 AM. I spend the morning with a couple of other local NYC runners. They had both ran the marathon previously, and provide friendly company and race tips. It is much colder than expected, and I should have dressed warmer. Luckily, there is live music and excitement in the air, keeping us warm as we wait for our scheduled race waves to be called.

The enormity of this event cannot be expressed in words, it’s one of those things you need to experience for yourself. There are 45,000 participants split into three starting waves, and two million spectators to cheer us on. While there are hundreds of porta potties in the race waiting area on Staten Island, the wait is still long to use the bathroom. It probably doesn’t help that Dunkin Donuts is offering all 45,000 of us free coffee as we wait!

The Marathon Start

2010 ING NYC MarathonAt 10:10 AM, my wave begins. Although I start the marathon on Staten Island, just minutes after, I cross the bridge to Brooklyn. Heading towards the streets of Brooklyn, I start to hear a low, muffled roaring sound, which gets louder and more distinguishable as I continue on. This is the sound of the energetic crowds cheering us on, at either side of the road, sometimes 10-deep.

After the first water stop, I see the marathon’s first casualty. A runner trying to drink his water and run full-speed at the same time stumbles, and it looks to be a bad fall. Another runner helps him back up, and he continues moving at full pace. Apparently his fall wasn’t as bad as it looked, or he is so high on adrenaline that he does not feel any pain.

Running close to the crowd on the right side of the road, I notice they reach out to high-five the runners. I high-five with about 10 of them, and feel pretty good about myself… I never got this kind of treatment during my long-runs through Central Park during training! But I start to realize that being so close to the crowd is a little overwhelming, and decide to limit myself to a couple high-fives in each burrow. The crowd will cheer you on by your first name if it’s written on your running shirt, but being the marathon novice that I am, mine is not. My shirt does say “NF”, which is the charity organization I am running for, so some crowd members cheer me on as “NF.”

Half Way Point

I continue north through the streets of Brooklyn for the first half (~13 miles) of the race. At the half way point, I am at 1:55, so five minutes ahead of my final goal time. But my senses are too overwhelmed to focus much on my time. There is an eclectic mix of bands playing all along the way. Some play the theme from “Rocky”, others play covers of old rock and roll tunes, others rap, and a few even play bagpipes. I see some of the marathoners running with headphones on and wonder “Why?!”… The variety of live music and crowd cheering along the run is more than enough to keep me pumped up through the first half of the race.

After Brooklyn, I cross the bridge into Queens, racing there for two miles. There are a total of five bridges to cross during the marathon. Crossing bridges is the loneliest part of the race, but also provides the most beautiful views of the city. There are no spectators or bands playing, just hundreds of determined runners. At one point, a marathoner starts cheering, as a way to replace the cheers of the spectators. This causes a sort of echo from other marathoners, but it only lasts a few seconds.

Finishing Queens, I make my way to Manhattan, and head north for the Bronx. At mile 17, there is a water stop handing out wet sponges. I take one and wipe off the salt and sweat that has accumulated on my face. By mile 20, I am in the Bronx, and my stomach is churning. The mixture of Gatorade, Power Gel, and Dunkin Donuts coffee is not sitting too well in there.

The stretch through the Bronx only lasts for a mile, and we are back in Manhattan for the last five miles of the race. My stomach churns and gets worse, and I need to use the bathroom badly, but there is nothing to do at this point. There are no porta potties until the end of the race. I also start to feel very weak, but don’t dare add more Power Gel or Gatorade to the mix in my stomach at this point.

New york city marathon 2010My pace slows down as we enter Central Park at mile 23, and I start to get passed. I have a couple of second-wind moments, but these don’t last long. After what seems like eons later, I cross the finish line. While I lost my five minute lead from the halfway point, and added four minutes to my goal time, at this point I am just happy to have completed the marathon.

The Post-Marathon Marathon

After finishing, I begin to realize I am in for a post-marathon marathon. They give us a medal and goody bag, and herd us along a path for half a mile, which seems like an eternity. I feel like I am going to die. I spot a porta potty along the way, but it is blockaded behind the first aid station, and they don’t allow me to use it. Luckily, towards the Central Park exit, I finally find a porta potty. Afterwards, I make my way from the Upper West Side back down to public transportation which will get me back to my Upper East Side apartment while bypassing the marathon path and crowds in Central Park.

After letting my body heal up for a couple days, I feel like I am ready to run again. Most running books recommend to not run for 1-2 weeks, and instead do cross-training, so I will try to abide. The NYC marathon was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never forget. Will I run a marathon again? It’s to early for me to say at this point. But no matter what, I will definitely keep running.

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August 30th, 2010 2 Comments

Solo Training for My First Marathon

World Class Athlete Program - WCAP - Best Of - United States Army - FMWRC

Hi everyone- Long time no see! I haven’t written a post on Life Evolver in quite a while (11/08), so my writing might be a little rusty. But I’m going to give this a try. I’d like to start posting more regularly here. To start back up, this post will cover my training for the NYC marathon (11/7/10).

What triggered my decision to run a marathon?

Last year, I ran my first half marathon in Santa Cruz, with a final time of just under 2 hours. Immediately after finishing the half marathon, I felt like I could still keep running. I told myself that adding 13.1 miles for the full marathon wouldn’t be that difficult. I didn’t think of it much after that. Fast forward to February of this year, when I moved from San Francisco to New York City. I started running a lot in Central Park, as I live a couple blocks away. Again, I started thinking about running a full marathon. Mostly, my interest in running a marathon seemed to stem from my enjoyment of running and need for a challenge.

I picked up the book Four Months to a Four-hour Marathon, which is a short, basic guide for training, including detailed weekly workout schedules. After reading this, it seemed very doable. I decided to start training for 4 months, with a race time goal in under 4 hours. I would need an average pace of 9:09 minutes per mile to meet this goal.

Choosing a Marathon and a Charity Organization to Run For

The marathon book I read suggested a smaller (less popular), flat-course race for a first-time marathoner. But being new to NYC, and always hearing about the NYC Marathon, I was determined to run in it, even though it is the world’s largest marathon. I looked for a charity to sponsor, which would guarantee my marathon entry, and give me a good cause to run for. I decided on the Children’s Tumor Foundation, whose mission is to find a cure for Neurofibramatosis (NF). NF is a genetic disorder usually diagnosed in childhood that causes tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body.

This is by far the largest charity fundraising activity I have ever been involved with. My goal is to raise $2,500. If I get 100 supporters to each give $25, I will meet this goal. So far I have raised $455 from friends/family/coworkers, so I am 18% toward my goal (thanks to everyone who has donated!). I have to reach this goal by October 20th in preparation for the November 7th marathon. If you would like to help out and support a great cause, simply make a donation. You can also read my last post for more details on the Children’s Tumor Foundation.

Marathon Training Solo

During my half marathon training last year, I had some friends I trained with once per week for long runs. This year, I am training completely solo. I feel like this suits my personality, and I enjoy the time alone when I am running. And although the long runs can get a little lonesome, I feel like they are good for me. Each long run I go on now, I am pushing my boundaries, running several miles longer than I ever did before. Doing this alone provides me with more self-knowledge. I am able to more accurately see my own limits as I push myself.

Running Form

While I was training for the half marathon last year, I injured my left knee. This injury carried on in to the half marathon, and made a portion of the run very painful. I was determined not to do this again during my marathon training.

Four weeks in to my marathon training, I noticed the same knee started feeling very tight, like it did before I injured it the previous year. I knew that my current running form was not working for me. At that point, I decided to get some help and met with a running instructor at The Balanced Runner in NYC. I have had two sessions with them so far, and noticed an incredible improvement in my running form. I finished a 15 mile long run yesterday, injury free, which was a great accomplishment for me.

Running Mantra

On the first week of my marathon training, I read the book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, a memoir about running and writing by Haruki Murakami. It’s a very good read- so good that I’m reading it a second time now. In one chapter, Murakami writes about mantras that long distance runners use to keep themselves going. One mantra stood out in particular- Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. When I several hours in to my long runs, and start to feel the pain, I repeat this mantra in my mind, and keep going.

Training Gear

Getting the right training gear has been a process of trial and error for me. I am hoping that this post will be of benefit to other people that have decided to train for a marathon.

Clothing: Since  I started training this summer, I wear running shirts and shorts that are sweat proof. As the weather starts to cool down, I will need to start wearing layers, especially on my long runs.

Shoes: I have been running with the Brooks Adrenaline Gts model shoe for the last few years. They were originally recommended to me by a professional at a running store. When I started training for the marathon, I purchased two pairs of these, and have been trading them off every day. This gives my each pair a rest. They are able to decompress and dry out for a day, and last longer this way. One month before the marathon, I will purchase and break in a third pair. My running instructor at The Balanced Runner recommends that I switch to a shoe with neutral support, so I plan to do that after I finish the NYC marathon.

Music Player: I use an Apple iPod nano with a wrist band. I find that the screen and extra space of the Nano better-serve long-distance running than my shuffle.

Headphones: I had problems with using headphones while running for quite a while. Sometimes they would fall out. Or they would get too sweaty and stop working. After checking Amazon.Com, I found Innovelis BudFits. These are little rubber adapters that you connect to your existing iPod headphones. The rubber adapters fit snugly on your ear. Your headphones hang upside down, being held by the rubber adapters. Since your headphones aren’t wedged deep into your ear, it feels better and allows your sweat to dry around your ear canal naturally. While the headphones take a few seconds longer to put on than normal earbuds, they never fall off and work great on long runs.

Music: When I first started training, I used my regular gym workout playlists. But with the amount of time that goes into marathon training, those soon got old. I also found out that the kind of music I listen to at the gym to pump me up didn’t really do the trick on my long runs. It just got old. So I went through my music library, and created a new playlist with more variety. I have rock, alternative, techno, rap, and reggae music on my current playlist. This way, when I am on a long three hour Saturday run, I have something to give me an extra boost of energy, and I don’ t tired of the tracks. I will probably add a few more playlists as well throughout my 4 month training plan.

Time/distance/pace tracker: Initially, I started tracking my runs with the iPhone RunTracker application. But the iPhone is really too bulky for long runs, and not convenient for long-distance running. So instead, I purchased the  Nike Ipod Sport Kit, to use with my Nano. It has been working out great for me, I really wish I had purchased it earlier. It allows me to track my running over time, and I can easily choose a goal (distance / time / pace), pick a playlist, and get started with my run. Since I switch out between two pairs of running shoes, I bought an easy-to-remove Nike sensor holder Shoe Pouch.

Chafing Prevention: When I did my first long run in my training, I came back home and noticed my skin was very sore / raw around my nipples. I researched this, and it is very common for men during long-distance running. Running for a long distance causes friction between your skin and shirt. Not so much for women, as they wear a sports bra. I purchased Bodyglide Anti Chafing Lubricant and no longer have this problem.

Water Bottle Holder: On my long runs, I started to get dehydrated unless I was lucky enough to be near a water fountain. My running book mentioned that I should be staying hydrated at least every three miles. I ended up buying the Ultimate Direction Access Waist Pack, and the first couple times I used it, I didn’t like it at all. I wore the pack around my waist, over my running shirt. Every few miles, it would start to slide up, and I’d have to readjust it. Finally, I tried wearing it under my shirt (duh!), with the waist band / buckle around the top part of my shorts. This has proven to be much more effective. I still have to readjust it, but not nearly as often.

Food for long runs: When I first started training, I used Power Gel packs to use on my long runs. But those are pretty expensive and don’t taste very good. More recently, I will cut up a banana, put it in a plastic bag, and carry it in the zipper compartment of my water bottle holder. Not only is this more affordable, but it tastes better, and it gives me more energy without upsetting my stomach.

Your Experiences with Running

What have your experiences been with running? Have you ever training for a long-distance or speed race? Do you have any running tips? Please post a comment below!

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August 18th, 2010 No Comments

NYC Marathon, Fundraiser for the Children’s Tumor Foundation

I am raising money for the Children’s Tumor Foundation as a participant in the NYC Marathon, and I’m asking you to help by making a contribution to this very important cause. Each donation helps accelerate finding a cure for Neurofibromatosis, and brings hope to the patients and families who are in the front line of the battle against this disease.

Neurofibromatosis (NF) is a genetic disorder usually diagnosed in childhood that causes tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body. The NF endurance team is focused on raising awareness for this disease through running, biking, swimming or whatever it takes to pull together the ultimate team who will find a cure for NF.

Children's Tumor Foundation Fundraiser Marathon

You can learn more about my efforts and make a donation here. Please use this webpage to donate online quickly and securely. You will receive a confirmation by email of your payment and I will be notified as soon as you make your donation.

In preparation for the November 7th marathon, my fundraising goal needs to be met by October 20th, so make sure you visit my site before then.

On behalf of Children’s Tumor Foundation, thank you very much for your support. I really appreciate your generosity!

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August 7th, 2008 2 Comments

Move Your Village: Challenge Yourself to Bring Meaning into Your Life

Walking along the boardwalk

Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life, and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.

-Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Ultimate Meaning

Have you answered the ultimate question in your own life? Or are you sleepwalking through each day in autopilot mode? One way to find meaning is by challenging yourself each day, and continuing to grow as an individual.

Move Your Village

An Indian tribe of British Columbia believed that without challenge, life had no meaning. The tribe lived in a very resource-plentiful area, with plenty of salmon and game, and below-ground food- tubers and roots. They had elaborate technologies for using their plentiful environment effectively, and perceived their lives as being good and rich. But at times, the tribe elders said that the world became too predictable and there was no challenge in their life. Canadian ethnographer Richard Kool describes the tribe’s solution:

So the elders, in their wisdom, would decide that the entire village should move, those moves occurring every 25 to 30 years. The entire population would move to a different part of the Shushwap land and there, they found challenge. There were new streams to figure out, new game trails to learn, new areas where the balsamroot would be plentiful. Now life would regain its meaning and be worth living. Everyone would feel rejuvenated and healthy. Incidentally, it also allowed exploited resources in one area to recover after years of harvesting.

Like the tribe, you may be ready for a new challenge. What can you change to “move your village” and bring meaning into your life?

Ways to Move Your Village

Most jobs and leisure activities are not meant to challenge us and help us grow- their intent is to make someone else money. If we are to be challenged and grow from these activities, we must take matters into our own hands.

Challenge Yourself In Your Free Time

Do: Fill your free time with activities that require concentration, increase skills, and lead to personal growth.

Examples: Play tennis, join a band, become a wine connoisseur, learn to swing dance

Don’t: Fill your free time with mindless activities that do not challenge you or lead to personal growth.

Examples: Watching a sitcom on television, watching a sporting event or concert, taking recreational drugs

Note: Some people may take offense that I put “watching a sporting event or concert” in the Don’t category. But living vicariously through musicians, actors, and sports athletes does not challenge you- actually performing the activity does challenge you.

Challenge Yourself At Work

Do: As much as possible, make your work into a game- add variety, appropriate challenges, clear goals, and constant feedback. This will make it more enjoyable and challenging.

Examples: Your manager gives you a challenging assignment, with a clear goal, and provides feedback on the results. For less difficult tasks such as organizing paperwork in file cabinets, you can challenge yourself by setting a time goal for finishing the task, and listen to some energetic music to help you along the way.

Don’t: Cope through your day at work, with no enjoyment or challenges from your job.

Examples: You are assigned work, and you complete the bare minimum of what is required, not challenging yourself or improving your own skills/technique.

How to Move Your Village in the Most Bleak/Boring/Monotonous Situations

Even the least enjoyable of situations can be turned into growth opportunities:

Richard Logan, who has studied the accounts of many people in difficult situations, concludes that they survived by finding ways to turn the bleak objective conditions into subjectively controllable experience . . . First, they paid close attention to the most minute details of their environment, discovering in it hidden opportunities for action that matched what little they were capable of doing, given the circumstances. Then they set goals appropriate to their precarious situation, and closely monitored progress through the feedback they received. Whenever they reached their goal, they upped the ante, setting increasingly complex challenges for themselves.

-Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow

To create growth out of a bleak, boring, or monotonous situation-

1) Find hidden opportunities for action

2) Set goals appropriate to the difficult situation

3) Whenever you reach your goal, up the ante, creating an increasingly more complex challenge

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August 4th, 2008 No Comments

Defeat the Multitasking Virus: The Power of Finishing 2 Mission-Critical Tasks Each Day

Not enough computers to work

When we feel jittery, or worried, or anxious in thinking of the great amount of work that lies before us, the jittery feelings are not caused by the work, but by our mental attitude- which is “I ought to be able to do this all at once.” The truth is: We can only do one thing at a time. When we work with this attitude, we are able to concentrate and think our best.

-Maxwell Maltz, Psycho-Cybernetics

A few weeks ago, I realized that my multitasking habits on the computer were starting to impact my productivity. As I became more active in reading blogs/RSS feeds, Digg, Facebook, Twitter, and Plurk, I became less effective at actually getting things done that matter to me. So what did I do? I asked Timothy Ferriss (not literally- I re-read a chapter of The 4-Hour Workweek).

Ferriss recommends that each evening, you think about what task needs to be completed, and ask yourself about the next day, “If this is the only thing I accomplish tomorrow, will I be satisfied with my day?”. Then, write down 2 mission-critical tasks that you’d like to get done the next day. Instead of using computerized to-do lists, Ferriss recommends that we revert to paper, to limit the amount of information we put on our list:

I use a standard piece of paper folded three times to about 2″ x 3 1/2″, which fits perfectly in the pocket and limits you to noting only a few items. There should never be more than two mission-critical items to complete each day. Never. It just isn’t necessary if they’re actually high-impact.

-Timothy Ferriss, The 4-Hour Workweek

The next day, you perform these two tasks separately from start to finish without distraction. I have implemented Ferriss’ simple productivity strategy in my own life, limiting my multi-tasking habits, and focusing on 2 mission-critical tasks each day. After trying this for a few weeks, I have found that his solution works great- my productivity skyrocketed, am I am also happier and feel more gratified with my work.

What makes it work?

Parkinson’s Law– Work expands to fill the time available. This is the magic of the imminent deadline, and works well for completing 2 daily mission-critical tasks.

80/20 Rule (The Pareto Principle)– For many events, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. In relation to 2 mission-critical tasks, your 2 tasks should be part of the 20% that results in your desired outcome (e.g. increased income, productivity, happiness). Again, make sure you ask yourself “If this is the only thing I accomplish today, will I be satisfied with my day?”

Before you get started using Ferriss’ approach to productivity, please be aware of these 2 challenges with the approach:

Challenges with the 2 Mission-Critical Tasks Approach

1) 80/20 optimizations can sometimes cut out critical tasks

This is what’s wrong with a lot of 80/20 optimizations- the belief that truncating the system at the head will optimize its effectiveness; in many cases it actually cuts off a critical piece of the overall ecosystem.

-Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody

Solution: When you define your daily mission-critical tasks, be careful not to cut out/stop doing anything that is critical to your long-term success.

2) You may have a bunch of smaller tasks you need to complete in a day

Solution: Bundle your tasks into 2 larger mission-critical tasks. For example, if I want to write three blog posts in a day, I would consider this one of my mission-critical tasks: “Write 3 Blog Posts for Life Evolver”.

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