How to stop wasting time on learning new stuff.

learning too muchIf I look back over the last 10 years, I can’t even imagine the number of things I have learned. For the sake of argument, let’s say I have learned 10,000 different things that might be useful to my work.

I have learned from articles and posts, from books I have read, from conversations I have had, and so on.

Now let’s say, out of those 10,000 things I have learned, I was smart enough to identify10 things which, if I applied them, could actually have a significant impact on my success. Those were 10 moments of learning that had the potential to transform my business in some meaningful way.

But out of those 10, how many did I actually apply? And of those lessons I have applied, did I work at them hard enough to achieve some positive change?

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Monday Spark: Try something new for 30 days. [VIDEO]

new for 30 days calendarThis is Matt Cutts’ idea, as you’ll see from the video below.

He talks for only a few minutes, because it doesn’t take long to share his simple but powerful idea.

Matt changed his life by giving himself a series of 30-day challenges. He went without sugar for 30 days. He cycled to work for 30 days. He wrote a novel in 30 days.

The idea is powerful, because he’s not trying to force himself to do something new for every day of the rest of his life. He is talking about just 30 days. That’s a much less threatening idea.

One of the things he described really stuck with me. He showed a picture he had taken during his 30-day challenge to take a photo every day. He made the point that he remembered exactly where he took that photo, and goes on to say that by doing these challenges he now has far more vivid memories of how each month passes.

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Monday Spark: Make yourself accountable to someone you would hate to disappoint.

sign of accountabilityWe have dreams. We make ourselves promises. We make resolutions.

And…all too often, absolutely nothing happens or changes.

When nothing changes, we are quick to find excuses. We find a way to make other people or circumstances the cause of our failure to take action and move forward. If all else fails, we can simply say something wooly like, “The time wasn’t right. Maybe next year.”

It’s easy to get away with this kind of non-action, because we keep our plans and promises to ourselves. In fact, if we hard work on it, we can even persuade ourselves that we didn’t really promise ourselves to do anything at all. (As humans we’ll go to almost any lengths to protect our self-esteem.)

One step forward is to make yourself accountable by letting other people know what you plan to change or achieve. In fact, there are whole websites devoted to sharing your goals with other people. At this time of year, people also share their resolutions on social media sites like Facebook.

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Monday Spark: How to avoid chronic pain as a writer [VIDEO]

freelancer with back painSitting at a desk for 8 hours a day is not very good for your health. In particular, it’s bad for your spine.

For years I used to suffer from back pain. Just too many hours sitting in front of a keyboard.

I tried a few things. Not pills, because I avoid those like the plague. But I went to a chiropractor, I tried scheduling times during the day when I would get up and do some walking around and stretching, and I even tried setting up my computer so I could work standing up.

There was nothing wrong with any of those approaches, but the solution that really worked for me was to throw away my regular chair and use a kneeling chair instead. Not every office supply store carries them, but some do. Failing that, you can find one online.

To go a step further, watch the video below. It contains some interesting information and some tips on strengthening your lower back.

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Monday Spark: Creating a projection spreadsheet will make you feel better.

hands on the wheelI’m not a big fan of paperwork. I don’t think most other freelancers much like it either.

But beyond the paperwork I have to do, there are one or two other things I choose to do.

Foremost among my voluntary pieces of paperwork is a spreadsheet that shows my income, month by month.

I fill in the months that have passed, and also make projections for three months to come.

Projections? That sounds like something that “real” companies do, not freelancers.

Well, I treat my freelance business like a real company. And I think you should too.

Here is what I do with my spreadsheet.

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Monday Spark: Tell me again…why can’t you get that done? [VIDEO]

get things doneThe reasons we come up with for not getting things done are pretty lame sometimes.

We set ourselves a task or a goal, and get started.

Then we find our goal is not as easy to achieve as we first thought.

Then we pause. We get distracted. We decide we need to do some more research.

Then we find reasons why the whole plan might not work. We lose confidence.

Then we find that some elements or components to our plan are not easy to find or develop.

Then we get scared of failing. We lose faith.

Then we abandon the plan.

Then we blame all kinds of outside circumstances for the failure of the plan.

Like I said, pretty lame.

Contrast this with the approach of William Kamkwamba of Malawi, Africa.

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