Reset, Refocus, Restart

I took the entire month of August off.  I did absolutely nothing.  No, I did not burn through four weeks of vacation time from my duties with the Minnesota Timberwolves, after all, there was way to many exciting things happening there to miss out on.  However, besides my professional day job responsibilities, I shut everything else down during the month of August.

  • I put all personal projects and side hustles on hold
  • I stopped all Quantified Self tracking projects (tracking time, nutrition, exercise, etc.)
  • I stopped all normal routines
  • I rarely spent time meeting with others for breakfast, coffee, or drinks
  • I stopped blogging

Don't get me wrong, I still kept busy outside of work, just really slowed the tempo down considerably. I did travel some, read several books, watched some movies, went on long walks almost daily, and tried to catch up on sleep.  I lived a fairly simple life, at least simple compared to what I was use to.

Being an individual who is tracking-obsessed, and always has to have three dozen projects to juggle in my free time, August was a hard month, not gonna lie.  But coming back from vacation in July, I knew I had to do a little resetting of my life.  So given that I use September as my yearly starting point, August was the logical choice to do some re-evaluating.

So I spent the month of August refocusing on what happened the last 12 months, where I am today, and what the next year looks like.  On top of all of that, what the next five, ten, twenty-five years look like.  While I am not reaching any sort of "milestone" birthday this month (on September 6th I will turn 36 years old), time is ticking and I still feel like I have a lot I want to accomplish. So knowing that my process was going to need some dedicated time, I figured the best solution was to strip everything else down for one month so I could focus on my goals for the year(s) to come.

It felt awkward to let so many things go by without attempting to grab them and do something with them. I am sure some of what I chose not to do resulted in lost opportunities, and surely some that would have resulted in profit to my bottom line.  I know I pushed some people off and delayed get-togethers that would have been beneficial to me, but alone time was more important.  I know I consumed more than I created during the month, something that I try to normally keep more balanced.  But all of this was worth it.

Coming into this September, I feel better aligned with my goals and objectives.  I feel refocused and ready to restart the projects I temporarily put on hold, while at the same time, killing the ones that no longer make sense within my personal strategic plan.  I feel confident that moving forward I will only take on commitments that align with my vision and are true to the path that will get me where I want to be years from now.

August was one of the most productive months I have had in years, and not because I did a lot.  The difference was I spent my time on the one thing that was most important... getting realigned. It doesn't have to be a month, maybe not even a week, but no matter what, do yourself a favor and step back for a moment.  Reset your plans, refocus your goals, and restart.

What's the best way to develop a new daily/weekly routine?

Looking to develop a new habit or routine in your life?  One of the individuals I follow on the Q&A site, Quora, asked that very same question, looking for the best way to get started.  I took a brief moment to give my best answer on the post, but also wanted to share it here as well.

My recommendation was to check out the mobile app, Lift.  I used Lift briefly in the past when I worked at Life Time Fitness and was researching mobile applications that could help members build and maintain their workout routines.  Lift was a newcomer on the scene then, and has since enhanced their service by adding several community functions and a coaching element.  I may looking at giving Lift another try, but first have to work through a backlog of other apps I want to try first that offer a similar solution.

Do you use Lift, or any other habit-building/routine-building app or special technique?  I would love to hear about them in the comment section below.

LINKS TO CHECK OUT:

What's the best way to develop a new daily/weekly routine? [Quora]

Lift | Succeed at everything.

Book Review: Experience Curating by Joel Zaslofsky

In general, I do quite a bit of reading in my spare time.  Between my RSS feeds, Google Play magazines, and my Amazon Kindle books (not to mention my vast collection of audio books for my commute and workouts), it is fair to say that I fill quite a bit of my down time reading.  The amount I read increases quite a bit in mid-July each year when I head up to northern Minnesota for a week-long vacation.  Usually I go into vacation with a plan on what two or three books I want to get through, but this year I was less prepared!  Instead, I threw my Nexus 7 in my bag knowing that my Kindle app was loaded with some reads to choose from when I got to the beach.

Book image from Value Of Simple website

Book image from Value Of Simple website

One of those books on my Kindle was "Experience Curating" by Joel Zaslofsky from ValueOfSimple.com, which I had grabbed several months ago but had not even touched yet.  Given my experience in content strategy, I was excited by the title because of my interest in curation, but otherwise had no idea what to expect from the read.  Honestly, the reason I purchased the book was more of a personal commitment I have.  See, Joel is a fellow Minnesotan, and since I believe in supporting the strong local talent we have here in the great state of Minnesota, I wanted to support Joel, whom I had learned about through another friend of mine, Justin Piehowski.  I figured if anything, even if I didn't particularly enjoy the book, I was still helping a Minnesota guy out.

However, I can say that after finishing Experience Curating last night, there is nothing disappointing about the book at all (You can check out my Goodreads review here as well).  In fact, it opened my eyes to several opportunities to enhance my already existing practice around Quantified Self.

In a nutshell (and in my best personal opinion), Experience Curating is about capturing experiences in life, documenting them, and storing them in a place that best suits retrieval and sharing purposes.  Let me give you a couple of very simple examples...

As I stated above, I love reading.  For the most part, I don't keep track of all the books I read even though I really want to (this is a to-do list item for me, actually).  Sometimes, when time permits, I will log my reading on Goodreads, but I would prefer something a little more customizable.  This is where a spreadsheet might come in handy.  On top of that, my books are all over the place - some on my Kindle app, some in Google Play Books, some in audio format in Audible, etc.  I would love to be able to curate all of that in one place.  Joel's suggestions gave me some ideas for a starting point.  Secondly, I am currently looking into transforming an interest in donuts into a more organized information source for other donut enthusiasts, and I got some ideas for that as well through this book.

I already track a lot of my personal interactions through my Quantified Self practice, so Experience Curating made sense to me.  However, this book will not be enjoyed by all, which is okay. In my personal opinion, this book will be perfect for those who are interested in documenting their live experiences to better live in the moment and enjoy and share those moments later, but have not started yet.  I can best define this as putting your experiences into context with other experiences.

It is a quick read, and at $4.99 for the Kindle version, it is worth a look. Plus, no matter where you live, you can never go wrong supporting a Minnesotan.

How to activate Google Now's "Everywhere" feature

During my week-long voice command-only experiment, I am trying to find every trick in the book to become more effective using voice commands, and ultimately to become more productive.  My primary tool has been Google Now, which has proved to be very good.  Then yesterday, things got even better...

I activated the "Everywhere" setting in Google Now.

The "Everywhere" setting allows Google Now to recognize your "Ok Google" voice command from any screen on your device, including when it is charging or when the screen is off.  Below is a step-by-step guide to activating the Google Now "Everywhere" feature, which the latest Google Now app update makes available.

There are four slides in the gallery.  You start by opening the Google Now app, and go to the menu options.  From there, click on the options the yellow arrows are pointing to, and on the last slide make sure the two circled checkboxes are selected.

After you select the two boxes on the last screen, Google Now may ask you to do a three-step voice test. From there, I gave it a shot and have had pretty good luck.  Occassionally I have had some issues with it recognizing my "Ok Google" voice command when the screen is off, but in all those cases I may have had too much background noise.  Still testing, but overall, it works great from any screen I am on.

The Voice Command Experiment

I have decided to give my thumbs a break this week.

After having just about mastered the stock Android keyboard and several 3rd party keyboard apps on my various Android devices over the past several years, I am going voice command-exclusive this week.  From Google searches to composing text messages and emails to checking the weather forecast, every action I take on my smartphone or tablet will be conducted via voice command where applicable.  I started yesterday and so far, so good. I have found voice commands to be much better than I expected, but it is early yet!

For the most part, I am using Google Now as my main voice command service.  Occasionally I have used the stock Samsung voice command app, and definitely will try it out some more, but Google Now is available on both Google and Apple devices, so in order to give my best assessment to all my readers, I will primarily focus on Google Now.

Want to jump in and give Google Now voice commands a try before I complete my week-long experiment and share my feedback?  Below is a great infographic that can be used as a starting point for good commands to start with.  Would love to hear your feedback in the comment section below!