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What Skills/Tools Make You More Effective?

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Diane Kennedy

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I have a random bag of tricks that I use to be more effective with my time. It's funny no one ever asks me about how I can have 3 very active businesses going, two blogs, active on this forum, see 5-10 new clients a week (and keep all their information and strategies straight) saving them an average of $30,000/year in taxes, homeschool our son and read 2-3 new books a week.

No, it's not drugs.

I think it's funny that no one asks about that, because to be honest, I think that's way more interesting for someone who is building wealth. Of course, my whole business persona has been built around saving people taxes and protecting assets in practical ways.

But, I couldn't do any of that if I wasn't more effective with my time.

What makes you effective?

Some things I do:


I practice photoreading. It's not speedreading. And it's more effective with a higher retention rate than just sitting and reading a book the conventional way.

(1) Read the table of contents. Look at the appendices at the end of the book. Read the introduction.

(2) Next you'll need to use "soft eyes." This is the term that I use for the way you have to kind of "de-focus" your eyes to look at the hidden 3-D kind of pictures.

(3) With "soft eyes" look for 2-5 seconds at each page in the book.

(4) You're done. Go on with your day or go to bed...whenever you do your reading typically.

(5) You need to access the information the next morning. You could do this by talking about the book, explaining the concepts with a friend, perhaps. I prefer to do a mind-map. (another one of my skills that highly leverage my creativity)

It'll take a little practice. There are some books and courses on this - I was taught this by Van Tharp (stock trading author). He reads hundreds of books every month, many of them very technical, and this is how he does it. Over time, I've gotten much better at it. It's amazing how quickly you can go through books and retain so much.

I mindmap everything. There are a whole bunch of books on mind-mapping - go to Amazon and take a look. The basic concept is that it's an outline that is not the strictly linear fashion we've been taught. The main concept is in the middle, and then arms like an octupus take off from the middle. How you represent the ideas on the arms is up to you - artistic types frequently draw pictures. I use words, but use lots of colors.

I use mindmaps all the time. If I'm writing a book, a course, a talk or planning a seminar, I start with the basic concept and then create a mind map. It ALWAYS jumpstarts the creative process for me. It blows through writer's block. I can mindmap anything in less than 15 minutes. In the case of a book or a seminar, I'll then take the "arms" and combine or expand into another mindmap. And then from that mindmap, I may start the typical outline fashion to or I may mindmap it again for more clarity.

There are four things I ALWAYS carry with me:

(1) A bag of colored pens. I rarely use regular pens anymore. In fact, I am known for my colored pens! It's become a running joke for people who have been to a lot of my seminars. I encourage the use of colors when you make notes because it stimulates both sides of your brain and gets you out of the strictly logical side (which is a tendency when you're discussing financial and tax topics) and allows you to access the "How can I..." solution-oriented part of your brain.

By the way, I usually put out scented pens at tables at my seminars as well. I find that some people do well breaking out of overwhelm by stimulating another sense - in this case, they can play a little with the pens and then suddenly it's all okay and they can go on to learn more. (I'm not kidding - this works!)

(2) A bound journal with blank pages. This was actually a gift to me - it's very artistically decorated with fabric, sequins, ribbons (ok, I see that I've lost most of the guys right now). Anyway, this journal is what I use for all the initial mind maps of ideas. I now have 3 years of initial mind maps and it is so much fun to go back and look at the old mindmaps of things that became seminars, new businesses, books, etc..

(3) A spiral bound notebook with blank pages. I can't find the type of notebooks that I like in the US, so I typically buy them when I'm in MX. I like the size of paper (not traditional US sizes) and they are blank! Interesting that most US notebooks have lines. Anyway, this is where I do the 2nd,3rd, etc runs of mind maps. I also take notes from talks I hear in this notebook - again in the mindmap format.

(4) A bound journal with lines. This is where I keep track of "to do" - each day is a new page. (so I have the LHS of one page and the RHS of another page) I write the names of key people in my organization and under their name write notes for things to talk about, clarify, assign, check up on, etc... We then schedule times to meet either once or twice per week. (This method stops me from bugging them every 10 minutes with another one of my new ideas) I summarize all the previous notes on the page for the day i have a meeting. These turn into action steps that I just check in with at our next meeting.

Does anyone else have any more unusual skills or methods that they find make them more effective? (As another example, I know a CEO who has no chairs in his personal office. He has specially built tables that line the walls in his office and he just hops from project to project, never sitting down. )
 

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Venturer

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I use mindmapping regularly, but photoreading is a complete new concept for me. After reading your post I googled a bit and it really seems amazing.
I will order a book to help me better understand and apply photoreading. Diane, thank you for pointing us to this technique.
 
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Diane Kennedy

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Venturer, I just googled photoreading and ended up at an amazing article. Thank you for the comment that led to this.

You have to check this out: Which side of the brain is dominant for you?

http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,22556281-661,00.html

It'll take you to a picture of a dancer. She's either turning clockwise or counter-clockwise, depending on which side of your brain is dominant. Then the trick is to make her turn the other way. Whew...talk about mind control. Only it's your OWN mind you're controlling.

This is very cool.

EDIT: I think you'll have to copy and paste. I disabled the URL function because the forum software was shortening the link. Moderators, can you fix what is happening here in a more elegant fashion than I've done?
 
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SteveO

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I can clearly see it turning clockwise and so does everyone else in my house. The article states that most will see it turning counter clockwise. What do most others here see?
 

SteveO

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When I stare at the picture, it turns clockwise. Sometimes it changes direction while I am reading the text.

fun stuff.
 

yveskleinsky

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The first time I saw the dancer, (which was several months ago) I could only see her going in one direction- and actually didn't believe that she could turn in another direction! When I just went to look at her, I saw her go from counter-clockwise to clockwise to just half circles! Weird.

I am going to borrow your journal and pens idea and see how it works for me. Thanks so much for sharing- I know that there are lots of us on this site that are fascinated by what highly successful do on a daily basis to make themselves that way. If you have anymore tips- keep 'em comin'! ++rep
 
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Diane Kennedy

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When I stare at the picture, it turns clockwise. Sometimes it changes direction while I am reading the text.

fun stuff.
David looked at it just now and he saw clockwise. (I had only seen clockwise) Then I was explaining what the left brain did and as I was talking - she turned counter clockwise. I said something to the effect that I can't believe that just happened, what does that mean - and went to big picture - and she turned clockwise again.

I then started just saying words...and found depending on what words I said, she changed.

So....proof that the words we say will impact the outcome! Wow! I'm blown away by the implications of this. (In other words, if you need focus - left brain - there are certain words to say, questions to ask...)
 
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Diane Kennedy

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I am going to borrow your journal and pens idea nad see how it works for me. Thanks so much for sharing- I know that there are lots of us on this site that are fascinated by what highly successful do on a daily basis to make themselves that way. If you have anymore tips- keep 'em comin'! ++rep
Please let me know how that works. The biggest benefit for me is the way using the colored pens "unsticks" me when I get writer's or creator's block. It was always hard for me to schedule my day and say...Okay, here's your 2 hours to write, now write something! I'd just stare at the screen. Mindmapping with colored pens gets me creative immediately and makes me a lot more effective.
 

Venturer

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This is great.
I see her turning clockwise most of the time. When I keep watching, occasionally I see her making two or three counter-clockwise turns after which she returns to clockwise (in my perception).
 

SteveO

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I can make it switch back and forth at will now. Just for fun, I went and took a few of the tests for right/left brain dominance. The questions make it easy to manipulate if you desire. It was clear that I am right side dominated.

I came back to the picture and began logically reasoning the text again and was able to switch it to a counter clockwise rotation. If I clear my head, it goes back to clockwise. I also saw the switching back and forth that Yves saw.
 
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Diane Kennedy

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Well, this isn't where I thought the thread was going...it's even better!

I just practiced with what I was thinking and the question I was asking myself and was able to turn the dancer either clockwise or counter-clockwise.

It seems like this could be VERY useful for those of us on the forum who have trouble focussing. (And I'm one of them) Question to ask is: Which way is the dancer turning?

There is a time for right-brain brainstorming and possibilities and a time for left-brain strategizing. If we need to strategize, first make sure the dancer is turning the right way.
 

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Allthingznew

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When I first saw the dancer, she was turning clockwise. When I started to read the text she changed direction. She was quite the dancer, changing rotation back and forth as I read, pondered and stared.

As Steve mentioned, he saw her clockwise first and maybe predominately, and noted that was the opposite of the masses. Is this significant? Steve has also achieved different results than the majority. It could be interesting to learn more.

As to the time management tools/skills great stuff. I had done some mind mapping and was unaware that was what I was doing. It was only because trying to write the ideas in a linear fashion didn't make sense. I'll have to revisit your ideas after the dancer bunny trail, or wait, maybe it's just an arm in the big picture!
;-D

I would have assumed you achieved much of your results through people. Meaning, you put people in the right spot to maximize their talents/skills, not spending your own time on those things that detract from your goals, allowing you to focus more freely on those things which require your talents/skills to reach your goals. Like a liquid puzzle and you're the master strategist or a symphony you conduct. I guess that's what happens when you assume! Is that what the majority does?
 
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Diane Kennedy

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I would have assumed you achieved much of your results through people. Meaning, you put people in the right spot to maximize their talents/skills, not spending your own time on those things that detract from your goals, allowing you to focus more freely on those things which require your talents/skills to reach your goals.
For me, I consider myself a combo of high-level self-employed/business owner/real estate investor/business investor. I've just started back doing the tax strategy part of my business. Actually, it was prompted by a comment that Russ H made about missing working with super successful business people sometimes. I realized I missed it a lot. I learned a lot from the clients I worked one on one with. So, now I do big picture strategies (mainly tax-related, but also business/investment/asset protection) for new clients and hand off to one of my senior level associates.

Other than that, the rest of it is mainly management, but it's not completely passive. I meet with my ghost writer regularly (phone meet), meet with the in-house tech guy, outside programmers, and controller on a weekly basis, and meet with my assistant at least once/day. Plus I have regular meetings with various joint venture partners. So, it's not that passive.
 

Allthingznew

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Other than that, the rest of it is mainly management, but it's not completely passive. I meet with my ghost writer regularly (phone meet), meet with the in-house tech guy, outside programmers, and controller on a weekly basis, and meet with my assistant at least once/day. Plus I have regular meetings with various joint venture partners. So, it's not that passive.
Effective management never is passive. You have to keep in touch with your people and it takes time to get them to the point they don't require as much of your time. One of the best books I've ever read is Blanchard's Situational Leadership from the One Minute Manager series.

Bottom line- You're a multi-talented lady that I, and many others would do well to learn from.
 

andviv

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in my case, my iPod. I have long commutes every day so I have been buying or loaning from the library audiobooks. Instead of reading, I listen to them many many times. These are my "Personal Development" moments. Probably that was not the intention of Apple when they came up with the idea for the iPod, but hey, I can make a productive use of my time that way. I also tend to map in my brain the location I was when I heard something in the audiobook, for example, when I was driving by the intersection of constitution Avenue and 7th I remember hearing Anthony Robbins talking about making a list of empowering beliefs, so next time I drive by the same area I remember the list of empowering beliefs and make connections with things that are going on these days in my life that can be matched to some of those beliefs (kind of connecting the dots).

Another one, a big white board in the office. I like writing and making drawings to express my ideas. Even though I am a professional software engineer/manager (thus 'logical' by training at college), I prefer to express my ideas in a graphical way as visually I tend to retain better. If I explain an idea to others using the board then I can refer back to the drawing when talking about the topic a few days later and most people will remember the ugly drawing in more detail than what I said.

Yeah, we discussed the dancer some time ago in this thread. Pretty cool.
 
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Diane Kennedy

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Ah - earlier thread on the dancer was before my time.

I'm still astounded - everyone who has come by the house today has taken the "dancer" test. :)
 

andviv

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yeah, it is awesome. I noticed at the time that, when at work, she was going counter-clockwise, but at home and when thinking of investments or visiting this forum, she was going mostly clockwise. I guess the mood you are in affects the direction she takes.
 

Yankees338

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When I first looked at it, it was going clockwise. After that, I quickly tried to notice her going the other way. After a second or two, I got it. Naturally, I think she goes clockwise for myself, so I'm more right-brain dominant. Very, very interesting.
 

AlwaysCurious

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Regarding effectiveness I personally improved in my surfing habits with http://www.netvibes.com This saves me hours of restless surfing, reading, forum activity and mail checking because it´s all on one structured page. I read the headlines of nearly 100 newspapers, blogs etc two or three times a day and am quite well informed in no-time. No distractions, no advertisements, just condensed information.

This principle to keep everything in one place to save time for searching is extremely valuable and just needs some discipline. Right now I extend this to include to do lists, bookmarks, and adresses. No more cluttery paperwork. Just a little more discipline to really stick to your lists, to keep them up to date. Damn why is this discipline thing so hard?

At work people laughed at me when I refused to take written memos or printed out minutes any longer. I always keep my laptop with me with synchronized mails, documents, databases and so on, so I have all (really: ALL) I need for work always with me. No more paper, no more wasted time for printing, filing, searching. Of course you need a profound back up strategy. And there is one exception for me: There seems to be no substitute for written mindmaps when it comes to creative brainstorms. Sadly enough I practice this quite seldom these days... Of course you look like a nerd when always walking around with your laptop but most people have to admit that I am more organized than them. :p Another side effect is, that my desk is always clean which gives me a good feeling that no unfinished tasks are lurking anywhere beneath huge staples of paper. Keeping things simple is extremely valuable regarding effectiveness.

This dancer is awesome! First it turned counter-clockwise no matter how long I stared at it. Then, while reading the text, I glanced again and om now on no matter what I tried frit turned clockwise.
Photoreading seems quite unusual for me, but maybe I´ll give it a try...
 

David

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Venturer, I just googled photoreading and ended up at an amazing article. Thank you for the comment that led to this.

You have to check this out: Which side of the brain is dominant for you?

http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,22556281-661,00.html

It'll take you to a picture of a dancer. She's either turning clockwise or counter-clockwise, depending on which side of your brain is dominant. Then the trick is to make her turn the other way. Whew...talk about mind control. Only it's your OWN mind you're controlling.

This is very cool.

EDIT: I think you'll have to copy and paste. I disabled the URL function because the forum software was shortening the link. Moderators, can you fix what is happening here in a more elegant fashion than I've done?
At first glance it was clockwise for me, as I "focused" like they said I went anti-clockwise remarkably and maintained for like almost forever. Anyways I've found a solution to this dancer test.

If you stare at her leg thats pointing out, it changes the perception of the way the girl is spinning LOL. No joke. Only thing you really gotta focus of choosing which direction the leg should be moving! I dunno when I kinda choose both it was moving as if shes just moving side to side like a windscreen wiper. Anyways Great find diana
 
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Diane Kennedy

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On the photoreading:

I was skeptical at first as well. My thought was that I'd do it with books that I probably would never read anyway (no time). But the funny thing is that I'd find myself quoting them and then think, "Wait! Where did that come from?"
 

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CactusWren

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I hope I am not hijacking the thread by asking about how you are organized. The markers, notebooks etc is what I would like to know about. Do you allot time to the various projects that you are working on? Do you write out a daily to do list and prioritize? Weekly? Do you schedule out your day by having reading time, rest time, exercise, biz#1, biz#2, etc.

I remember a message from Yves mentioning she is newly organized and doing well. Would love to hear about that.

Thanks.
 

mtnman

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Awesome tips. Reps to Diane
 
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Diane Kennedy

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I hope I am not hijacking the thread by asking about how you are organized. The markers, notebooks etc is what I would like to know about. Do you allot time to the various projects that you are working on? Do you write out a daily to do list and prioritize? Weekly? Do you schedule out your day by having reading time, rest time, exercise, biz#1, biz#2, etc.
I follow a system I learned from Dan Sullivan. His company is Strategic Coach.

Every 24 hour period is one of three days: Focus, Buffer or Free.

Define what are the activities that get you highest return for your time. For me, that's creating strategies for clients. Writing qualifies for that as well.

Buffer is the admin stuff - the necessary meetings, etc..

Free is completely business free. Period. Nothing but free time for 24 hours (recharges your batteries)

Once you start to sort your days like that you'll likely find that you're lucky to get one focus day a week and one free day a week.

I currently do 3 focus days, 1 buffer day, 1 mixed use (goes back and forth between buffer and free) and 2 free days.

I also try to take 2-3 weeks off every quarter.

I have to do the free time to stay creative.
 

Russ H

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Wow- I'm late in tuning in to this thread (kinda like finding a book you love and then reading others by the same author).

Diane, let me say again that I am humbled and delighted that one of my comments had a positive effect on your life. It seems only fitting, considering how much your thoughts and writings have helped me over the years. :)

____________

In response to your first question, I'll share what happened to me about 10 years ago:

I was reading a book about self-awareness, and came across this exercise:

However old you are, pretend you are now 80 years old, looking *back* at your life.

1. What do you regret not doing? Or, what are things you would have done more often, or sooner in life? Make a list.

(the list is good practice, as it kinda opens a floodgate of ideas; one begats another)

2. You are 80 years old. What do you regret *doing*? That is, what did you spend time/energy/money on that, now that you are 80 and looking back, you would have *not* done? Make a list.

My "80 year old" lists:

1. What do you regret NOT doing?

a. Having a long-term love relationship
(I was a single guy, pretty much a loner),

b. Having a family/kids. This was based not on personal experience but on the observation that, whenever a great person was interviewed (Nobel prize winner, successful industrialist, astronaut, celebrity, etc) and asked "What accomplishment/achievement in your life are your most proud of?", virtually every single one said "My family, and the fulfillment I got raising my kids and keeping my marriage healthy."

At first this just kinda slipped by my radar, but after years of listening for the answer to this question and hearing the same thing, over and over, from so many successful-- and highly different people-- I came to only one conclusion:

Clearly my own experience with family was not what these people had experienced.

So I started asking my clients (the ones w/happy families) what was their secret. I got all kinds of answers-- which I treasure to this day. But for me, the one common denominator possessed by all of these people was that they were successful in their chosen path, and had long and successful marriages.

So I listened. And learned. And vowed, someday, to apply what I'd learned.

c. Having more fun/not feeling guilty about not working. This one I'd already conquered a few years earlier (in 1995), having survived a few very scary things happening in close succession. I was so shook up afterwards that, in my attempts to heal, I became a bit of a hedonist, and someone who truly celebrated every single day (that this coincides with my moving to the Napa Valley is no accident).

d. Staying fit and trim. This one continues to elude me. But I will persevere.

*****

The 80 year old asks himself, "What do I regret doing?"

a. Watching TV.
Looking at the number of hours each week I spent in mindless numbing passive watching, I realized that I could be doing so many other productive things with my life/hours.

So the next day, I disconnected my TV cable, and called the cable company to stop my service (this was in 1999). Keep in mind that what I did for a living was set up elaborate audi/video systems-- this is the equivalent of a librarian deciding to stop reading any books!

I still watch movies. And when I go on business trips or vacation, I watch some TV. If I really like a show, we purchase boxed sets of series (the 2 examples of this being Numb3rs, and the Sopranos). I just purchased several seasons of "24", but this is a bit of a gamble, as we've never ever seen an episode!

Still, my total watching of any video is less than an hour a day. And I average about 1 hour of TV (total) every 1-2 months.

Stopping TV has been, by far, the greatest thing I've ever done to make myself more effective.

b. Getting caught up in the drama of something, and being afraid/angry about it for days/years afterwards. And the drain on my life energy that this causes.

Looking back, I could see that I wasted a lot of good years doing this. It was how I was raised (to obsess and dwell on the negative). My wife will tell you that I still do this-- lots. But in all honesty, I can say that I have eliminated about 99.99% of this from my life. Where I used to dwell on things for weeks, and not forgive people for years, now I just let it go (most times). Sometimes (as in the case of having a long time mentor call me a 'f*cking loser'), I can't just shrug it off. But I start to work on letting go immediately-- so the healing process begins quickly.

c. Being afraid of girls/not understanding women (not being able to communicate).

This tied in to b above (fear). It also tied into ALL of my "wish I would haves" (love relationship, family, having fun, getting fit/trim). So I worked in earnest on this-- mostly online, as this allowed my writing skills to charm the ladies, whilst removing the hormonal distractions of meeting face-to-face. After writing to the ladies for a while, I came to fall in love with them from the inside out. Or, as I read recently, I stopped looking at how the gift was wrapped, and become more interested in what was inside.

Good stuff. It helped me meet the love of my life. :)

********

These are just a few of the biggies.

To recap, the things I've done that have made the biggest differences in living an effective life are:

1. Seeing what is really important.
2. Letting go of fear (or working at conquering it).
3. Removing TV watching from my life.
4. Learning to forgive/move on.

*********

I've saved the best for last.

Going through this process has brought me many wonderful things:

-A happy marriage.
-An incredible daughter.
-Less time spent worrying (and more time spent loving each minute I'm alive).

You get the idea.

Doing all of this has taken me to a level I never realized, or aspired to:

Gratitude.

I've talked about counting your blessings. I do. Each and every day.

Just before I go to sleep at night, I think about 3 things that I did that day that I'm happy about. They can be anything-- from getting building plans approved through a long series of governmental channels, to watching my 16 month old daughter fall asleep in my arms (I do the latter almost every night). Three new things from that day. Right before I go to sleep.

And when I wake up, I count my blessings. My family, my health, being able to do what I do (and love doing it). So many things.

These 2 things are a great way to frame my day.

This attitude of gratitude is the new framework that I'm building my life around--something I never anticipated when I started on the "80 year old" exercises.

It's effectiveness on a whole new level.

Fulfillment.

Feeding my soul.

Finding, and celebrating, my place in the great scheme of things.

-Russ H.
 

Allthingznew

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Great input, and honesty Russ. Makes one think. Rep+
 

Sparky

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It'll take you to a picture of a dancer.
Nice link! It started clockwise for me, but by looking at the shadow and thinking 'the other way' I could see the counter clockwise movement.:banana:

Thanks for the great topic (the effective skills/tools one) Diane. And Russ for your insightfull post!

:tiphat:
 

GoldenEggs

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I finally read The Secret and one thing that I really liked was the idea of replaying your day. If something happened that you did not want, recreate it with the desired result. I just started doing it and I'm in a much better frame of mind. And I started being more appreciative of what I do have in my life or what comes my way, even if it's something small like the ice cream worker made my scoop larger than normal.

I like using post its for mindmapping and different colored pens. But I have to be careful that I don't get too caught up in using the "right" color.

I will have to try photoreading. As a kid, I always wanted to learn Braille so I could still read even when it was pitch black. I would love to read more books!
 

Legacy Dad

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I looked at photoreading a few years back and never went further with it, my skepticism got the best of me.

These days I use audio books and podcasts as well as Soundview Executive Book Summaries

These allow me to read or listen to many more books per year and with the book summaries I get all sorts of great business books that I would have probably not picked up in the first place.

Like Russ said, I don't watch TV except the occasional football game and the most time consuming thing I do which could be seen as unproductive is getting on the internet.

Thanks for the review Diane, I'll have to give photoreading another look.

Lance
 

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