Archive for the ‘Productivity’ Category

This amazing article was written by Alex Fayle of the Someday Syndrome blog.  I found it on the always helpful site ZenHabits.

  • Someday Syndrome: not doing what you want to because you don’t know what it is, because you’re procrastinating about it, or because you have too much stuff getting in your way.

Everyone suffers from Someday Syndrome at some point in their lives, often catching it repeatedly. For me, most recently, I’d been saying that I really should give running a try without doing anything about it.

You probably have something similar going on in your life – a project, a task, a goal – that you just haven’t got around to doing yet. Right?

I could quote Nike and say: Just Do It, but if it were that simple Someday Syndrome wouldn’t exist. In my own case, it wasn’t until my body rebelled and refused to sleep from lack of exercise that I finally got started.

I decided that here had to be an easier way than waiting for pain to push me into getting over myself and getting on with my goals. So I came up with this: 11 ways to cure Someday Syndrome so that others don’t need to suffer through a cure.

1. Be you. This is The Happiness Project’s number one Happiness Commandment. I hate team sports, so there’s no way I’d play football (soccer). Running allows me to exercise when I want and I can do it on my own or with a friend. Perfectly me.

Maybe you’re not doing something because in reality, it doesn’t fit with who you are. If so, dump the idea and the expectations that likely came along with it, and go find something that suits you better.

2. Clear out the junk. If you don’t know what would suit you better, it could be because your mind and emotions are all cluttered up. I mean, seriously, if your mind’s in chaos, how could you possibly make a clear decision on getting rid of your somedays? The clutter I’m talking about includes the negative thoughts (like me thinking that I’d never be able to run more than 30 seconds without dying), or negative attitudes (I’m too lazy to run).

3. Know what you want. And why you want it. If you are going cure Someday Syndrome, you’ll need to know details about that desire and the reasons behind it.

And if you don’t know what that is, the blogosphere is full of blogs ready to help you figure out your dreams – Someday Syndrome and ZenHabits are two examples, but you can find others on the PluginID website on Glen’s Personal Development page.

4. Make a grand plan. I say “grand” because this is the big picture plan. Don’t get carried away. Planning can feel like action, but really it’s no different than talking. Until you actually do something, you’re still procrastinating.

I have a goal of running 20K next November. That’s enough for now. Starting is more important than getting into detailed plans.

5. Take one step at a time. The only details you need to choose at this point is first steps. I get overwhelmed by details. When I look past the big picture I don’t just see a few details – I see all of them, therefore I focus on just the next two or three things that I’m going to do.

I know what I need to do to get started (the first two months of training). That’s enough.

6. Ignore the rest. That’s right. Ignore everything else in the goal except what you’re working on. We often use comparisons of where we are now to where we want to be as a form of procrastination. While checking in is always a good thing, we can do it when each small task is completed, and not in the middle of a task.

On my running days, when I’m in the middle of my current workout, I don’t think about what’s coming up next week. Why would I want to freak myself out?

7. Get help. Daniel Gilbert in his book Stumbling on Happiness, says that the best route to figuring out if our goals will actually make us happy is to talk to others who have done it.

I also try to be lazy when I can be, so if someone else has done the work (like this Couch-to-5K Running Plan), then there’s no need to waste my time coming up with something new, now is there?

8. Don’t compare. Be careful when you get help, because the dream-shattering tendency to compare lurks nearby. Leo talks about the bad side to comparisons in his post: Life’s Enough. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others.

Enough said. (Yes, I’m taking my own advice about Getting Help and moving on.)

9. Be uncomfortable. Judith Sills in her book The Comfort Trap, or What If You’re Riding a Dead Horse? talks about how we might be terribly unhappy, but we’re comfortable so we don’t do anything about the unhappiness. Happiness is a risk, but the current situation even if it’s painful is safe.

Which would you prefer? Comfortably in pain and unhappy or uncomfortably blissful? I live my life the second way and would recommend that you always choose the uncomfortable option.

10. Celebrate the process as well as the end. I don’t mean celebrations like Dash’s Grade 3 “graduation ceremony” from The Incredibles. I mean acknowledge your progress. I Tweet my runs and mention them on my Facebook status. I also talk with other runners and we talk progress and tips.

And in turn this sharing inspires others and helps them move past their own Somedays and toward achieving their goals.

11. Don’t stop at the easy point. Wait a second. Most lists are only ten points. Why does this one have eleven?

Because it’s important to push yourself just a little bit further than you think you can go. Although my big goal is running 20K within a year, I’ve committed to running 7K on December 31st.

So, while you’re celebrating and taking it one step at a time, come up with one unexpected action you can take that’ll add energy, excitement and a bit of fear to your goal.

Believe me, that bit of fear will probably be the best motivator you’ve ever found.

Find more inspirational articles at Life Lists by clicking on the Categories to the right that fit what you are looking for.  A good place to start is with, well, Inspiration. =)


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This article was originally published at ZenHabits.

For those who are overwhelmed by their clutter, here are some great ways to get started, five minutes at a time.

  1. Designate a spot for incoming papers. Papers often account for a lot of our clutter. This is because we put them in different spots — on the counter, on the table, on our desk, in a drawer, on top of our dresser, in our car. No wonder we can’t find anything! Designate an in-box tray or spot in your home (or at your office, for that matter) and don’t put down papers anywhere but that spot. Got mail? Put it in the inbox. Got school papers? Put it in the inbox. Receipts, warranties, manuals, notices, flyers? In the inbox! This one little change can really transform your paperwork.
  2. Start clearing a starting zone. What you want to do is clear one area. This is your no-clutter zone. It can be a counter, or your kitchen table, or the three-foot perimeter around your couch. Wherever you start, make a rule: nothing can be placed there that’s not actually in use. Everything must be put away. Once you have that clutter-free zone, keep it that way! Now, each day, slowly expand your no-clutter zone until it envelopes the whole house! Unfortunately, the neighbors don’t seem to like it when you try to expand the no-clutter zone to their house, and start hauling away their unused exercise equipment and torn underwear when they’re not at home. Some people don’t appreciate simplicity, I guess.
  3. Clear off a counter. You want to get your house so that all flat spaces are clear of clutter. Maybe they have a toaster on them, maybe a decorative candle, but not a lot of clutter. So start with one counter. Clear off everything possible, except maybe one or two essential things. Have a blender you haven’t used since jazzercise was all the rage? Put it in the cupboard! Clear off all papers and all the other junk you’ve been tossing on the counter too.
  4. Pick a shelf. Now that you’ve done a counter, try a shelf. It doesn’t matter what shelf. Could be a shelf in a closet, or on a bookshelf. Don’t tackle the whole bookshelf — just one shelf. Clear all non-essential things and leave it looking neat and clutter-free.
  5. Schedule a decluttering weekend. Maybe you don’t feel like doing a huge decluttering session right now. But if you take the time to schedule it for later this month, you can clear your schedule, and if you have a family, get them involved too. The more hands pitching in, the better. Get boxes and trash bags ready, and plan a trip to a charity to drop off donated items. You might not get the entire house decluttered during the weekend, but you’ll probably make great progress.
  6. Pick up 5 things, and find places for them. These should be things that you actually use, but that you just seem to put anywhere, because they don’t have good places. If you don’t know exactly where things belong, you have to designate a good spot. Take a minute to think it through — where would be a good spot? Then always put those things in those spots when you’re done using them. Do this for everything in your home, a few things at a time.
  7. Spend a few minutes visualizing the room. When I’m decluttering, I like to take a moment to take a look at a room, and think about how I want it to look. What are the most essential pieces of furniture? What doesn’t belong in the room but has just gravitated there? What is on the floor (hint: only furniture and rugs belong there) and what is on the other flat surfaces? Once I’ve visualized how the room will look uncluttered, and figured out what is essential, I get rid of the rest.
  8. Create a “maybe” box. Sometimes when you’re going through a pile of stuff, you know exactly what to keep (the stuff you love and use) and what to trash or donate. But then there’s the stuff you don’t use, but think you might want it or need it someday. You can’t bear to get rid of that stuff! So create a “maybe” box, and put this stuff there. Then store the box somewhere hidden, out of the way. Put a note on your calendar six months from now to look in the box. Then pull it out, six months later, and see if it’s anything you really needed. Usually, you can just dump the whole box, because you never needed that stuff.
  9. Put a load in your car for charity. If you’ve decluttered a bunch of stuff, you might have a “to donate” pile that’s just taking up space in a corner of your room. Take a few minutes to box it up and put it in your trunk. Then tomorrow, drop it off.
  10. Create a 30-day list. The problem with decluttering is that we can declutter our butts off (don’t actually try that — it’s painful) but it just comes back because we buy more stuff. So fight that tendency by nipping it in the bud: don’t buy the stuff in the first place. Take a minute to create a 30-day list, and every time you want to buy something that’s not absolutely necessary (and no, that new Macbook Air isn’t absolutely necessary), put it on the list with the date it was added to the list. Make a rule never to buy anything (except necessities) unless they’ve been on the list for 30 days. Often you’ll lose the urge to buy the stuff and you’ll save yourself a lot of money and clutter.
  11. Teach your kids where things belong. This only applies to the parents among us, of course, but if you teach your kids where things go, and start teaching them the habit of putting them there, you’ll go a long way to keeping your house uncluttered. Of course, they won’t learn the habit overnight, so you’ll have to be very very patient with them and just keep teaching them until they’ve got it. And better yet, set the example for them and get into the habit yourself.
  12. Set up some simple folders. Sometimes our papers pile up high because we don’t have good places to put them. Create some simple folders with labels for your major bills and similar paperwork. Put them in one spot. Your system doesn’t have to be complete, but keep some extra folders and labels in case you need to quickly create a new file.
  13. Learn to file quickly. Once you’ve created your simple filing system, you just need to learn to use it regularly. Take a handful of papers from your pile, or your inbox, and go through them one at a time, starting from the top paper and working down. Make quick decisions: trash them, file them immediately, or make a note of the action required and put them in an “action” file. Don’t put anything back on the pile, and don’t put them anywhere but in a folder (and no cheating “to be filed” folders!) or in the trash/recycling bin.
  14. Pull out some clothes you don’t wear. As you’re getting ready for work, and going through your closet for something to wear, spend a few minutes pulling out ones you haven’t worn in a few months. If they’re seasonal clothes, store them in a box. Get rid of the rest. Do this a little at a time until your closet (and then your drawers) only contains stuff you actually wear.
  15. Clear out your medicine cabinet. If you don’t have one spot for medicines, create one now. Go through everything for the outdated medicines, the stuff you’ll never use again, the dirty-looking bandages, the creams that you’ve found you’re allergic to, the ointments that never had an effect on your energy or your eye wrinkles. Simplify to the essential.
  16. Pull everything out of a drawer. Just take the drawer out and empty it on a table. Then sort the drawer into three piles: 1) stuff that really should go in the drawer; 2) stuff that belongs elsewhere; 3) stuff to get rid of. Clean the drawer out nice, then put the stuff in the first pile back neatly and orderly. Deal with the other piles immediately!
  17. Learn to love the uncluttered look. Once you’ve gotten an area decluttered, you should take the time to enjoy that look. It’s a lovely look. Make that your standard! Learn to hate clutter! Then catch clutter and kill it wherever it crops up.
  18. Have a conversation with your SO or roommate. Sometimes the problem isn’t just with us, it’s with the person or people we live with. An uncluttered home is the result of a shared philosophy of simplicity of all the people living in the house. If you take a few minutes to explain that you really want to have an uncluttered house, and that you could use their help, you can go a long way to getting to that point. Try to be persuasive and encouraging rather than nagging and negative.

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This article was written by Henrik Edberg at The Positivity Blog.

With a twist to the common list of habits that are useful to establish, here are 7 habits that you do best to avoid.

Just like finding habits that can be useful for you it’s important to find habits that are holding you back.

Most of these 7 habits can easily become such a normal, everyday part of life that you hardly notice it (or how it’s affecting you).

I’ve dabbled with all of them quite a bit. Not surprisingly I didn’t get much of the important stuff done.

I´d also like to add that these are just 7 broad habits you can establish to become highly ineffective in most parts of your life. I pretty sure there are several more.

1. Not showing up.

Maybe you’ve heard this quote by Woody Allen:

“Eighty percent of success is showing up”

One of the biggest and simplest thing you can do to ensure more success in your life – whether it be in your social life, your career or with your health – is simply to show up more. If you want to improve your health then one of the most important and effective things you can do is just to show up at the gym every time you should be there.

The weather might be bad, you might not feel like going and you find yourself having all these other things you just must do. If you still go, if you show up at the gym when motivation is low you will improve a whole lot faster than if you just stayed at home relaxing on the sofa.

I think this applies to most areas of life. If you write or paint more, each day perhaps, you will improve quickly. If you get out more you can meet more new friends. If you go on more dates you chances of meeting someone special increases. Just showing up more can really make a big difference. Not showing up will not get you anywhere.

2. Procrastinating half the day. To keep it short, my 3 favourite ways to get out of a procrastinating state are:

Swallow that frog. What´s this means is simply to do the hardest and most important task of the day first thing in the morning. A good start in the morning lifts your spirits and creates a positive momentum for the rest of the day. That often creates a pretty productive day.

– How do you eat an elephant? Don´t try to take it all in one big bite. It becomes overwhelming which leads to procrastination. Split a task into small actionable steps. Then just focus on the first step and nothing else. Just do that one until it’s done. Then move on to the next step.

The Get around to It Paraliminal. I find this guided mediation to be very useful. After 20 minutes of mostly just lying on my bed and listening I’m far more productive for a few days. I don´t feel the urge to sink into that procrastinating state or the need to find out what’s new over at one or five of my favourite websites.

3. When actually doing something, doing something that isn’t the most important thing right now.

One of the easiest habits to get stuck in, besides procrastinating, is to keep yourself busy with unimportant tasks.

To be effective you probably need some kind of time management-system. It might be something really simple, like using the 80/20-rule at the beginning of each day. The 80/20 rule, or the Pareto Principle as it´s also known, says that you´ll get 80 percent of your results from only 20 percent of your tasks and activities. So you need to focus most of your energy on those few important tasks to be effective.

When you have prioritized using this rule just write down the top 3 most important things you need to do that day. Then, from the top, start doing them. Even if you just get one of the things done, you have still done the most important thing you could do today. You may perhaps prefer some other system, such as GTD. But however you organise your work it’s still of highest priority to find the most important tasks so you don’t spend days, weeks or months doing busywork that isn’t that essential anyway. Just getting things done faster isn’t that useful if the things you get done are unimportant to you.

4. Thinking too much.

And thereby seldom taking action. Paralysis by analysis can waste years of your life. There is nothing wrong with thinking before you do something. Do some research, make a plan, explore potential upsides and problems.

But compulsively thinking and thinking and thinking is just another way to waste your time. You don’t have to examine everything from every angle before you try it. And you can’t wait for the perfect time to do something. That time never comes. And if you keep thinking you’ll just dig yourself down deeper and deeper and taking action will become more and more difficult. Instead you just need to stop thinking. Shut of your mind – it just helps you up to a point – and go do whatever you need to do.

5. Seeing the negative and downsides in just about anything.

When you see everything from a negative perspective you quickly punch a hole in your own motivation. You find faults everywhere and problems where there are really none. You cling to details. If you want to find a reason to not do something then that’s no problem. From a negative viewpoint you can find ten reasons every time.

And so very little gets done, you whine to anyone who wants to hear – and many who don’t – about how crappy your job, life and boss is. Which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as you create the life that is appropriate considering how think and see your world.

A solution is to realise the limits of a negative perspective. And that your perspective isn’t some kind of 100% true picture of the world. Then try other perspectives. For instance, trying to establish a habit of seeing things in a more positive and optimistic light can be quite useful. In that vein, you may want to try the Positivity Challenge. It´s not easy, but if you do the challenge and try to only think positive thoughts for 7 days it can give you an insight in how much your perspective and beliefs changes how you interpret your world. And what results you get.

6. Clinging to your own thoughts and being closed to outside influences.

It can be hard to admit that what you thought or believed was not the best alternative. So you cling to your thoughts harder and harder and keep your mind closed. This makes it hard to improve and for instance to become more effective. Even really considering the possibility that you can change your life can be difficult in this position.

One solution, obviously, is to open up more. To open up and learn from the mistakes of others, from your own mistakes and from other sources like books. This is easy to say though. It can, as almost anything, be harder to do. One suggestion I have is to, like I said about the previous habit, realise the limits of what you know and the way you going about things. And then just try something new.

Another tip is to read A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle and especially look at the chapters about the Ego. If you stop identifying so much with your thoughts and your Ego, as Tolle prescribes, it becomes a whole a lot easier to let new ideas and thoughts come into your life. And to let go of old thoughts that aren’t useful to you anymore. On the other hand I’d like to add and counter-balance with these tips: don’t get stuck in reading, in just taking in new information either or you might become a self-help junkie. Use the new information, put what you have learned in to action and try it out.

7. Constantly on information overload.

With information overload I don’t just mean that you read a lot. I pretty much mean an overload in all input. If you just let all information flow into your mind it will be hard to think clearly. It’s just too much stimulation. A few more potential downsides to this habit are:

– Some of the input you receive will be negative. The media and your surroundings often put a negative spin on things for various reasons. If you aren´t selective in what input you want in your life then you’ll be dragged into this negativity too. This affects how you think, feel and act.

– It creates an urge to keep up with what’s happening but there are always ten more things happening so you can’t keep up. This makes life stressful.

– It becomes hard to make decisions and take action if your mind is constantly bombarded with information or trying to sort through it all. Personally I find that if I get too much information it leads to a sort of paralysis. Not much get´s done. Or you get stuck in habit #3 and keep busy, busy, busy at high speed with low priority activities.

To be able to focus, think more clearly and take action it´s useful to be more selective in what you let into your mind. When you work shut out as much distractions as possible. Shut off the phone, internet and shut the door. It is strange how much you can get done when you aren´t interrupted every fifth minute or have the opportunity to procrastinate by checking your RSS-feeds or favourite websites.

Now I´m not suggesting that you should stop reading all blogs or newspapers. But think about what you really want to read and what you read just read to fill your time. And have a look at other areas of input where the doors are wide-open.

For instance, you don´t have to let in all the negative emotions from your surroundings. If everyone else are procrastinating or are anxiously keeping themselves busy by doing low-priority tasks at warp speed it´s easy to be influenced by that mood. If you have a door, then it might be good idea to shut it and focus on doing more important things.

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This article was originally published at The Pro Ana Mia Fight.


1. Cottage cheese “It’s the perfect breakfast because it keeps me full until lunch,” says Melody Abedinejad, 22, of Weston, Massachusetts. “I lost 40 pounds in 10 weeks!”  Why it works Cottage cheese has whey protein, which releases hormones that tell your brain when you’ve had enough to eat, says Dave Grotto, R.D., of Chicago. Look for lowfat versions, which have 80 calories and 1 gram of fat per 1/2 cup.

2. Egg whites “I eat them every day,” says Jennifer Ruff, 36, of New York City. “I throw in a little cheese for flavor.” Why they works The amino acids in egg whites help build lean muscle that may in turn help rev metabolism. Low-fat cheese will curb calorie creep.

3. Oatmeal “I’d often pour a second bowl of cold cereal. So now I cook oatmeal—if I want more, it’s not as easy,” says Ana Mantica, 24, of New York City. “In six months, I lost two dress sizes.”  Why it works Plain oatmeal has no added sugar and keeps blood sugar steady. Make it tastier with a dash of cinnamon and chopped nuts.


4. Sushi “It’s low-calorie, filling and something I can order on a date that doesn’t scream ‘I’m watching my figure,'” says Shira Kallus, 29, of New York City.  Why it works A piece of sushi has 30 to 40 calories and plenty of satiating protein. Skip rolls that are fried or are made with mayo.

5. Peanut butter “I spread it on light bread, and it sticks with me until dinner,” says Christina Sarracino, 30, of San Francisco. “This lunch helped me lose 90 pounds.”  Why it works “Peanut butter has satisfying healthy fats,” says Kathy McManus, R.D., director of nutrition at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Watch portions, though: Two tablespoons have 190 calories.

6. Beans I started eating beans to replace red meat. They’re great when you’re craving something with substance,” says Amy Balestier, 34, of Hoboken, New Jersey.  Why it works You can’t beat beans—they’re only about 150 calories per 1/2 cup and full of protein, fiber and antioxidants. Toss your faves into soups, salads and chili.

7. Fat-free plain yogurt “I stir it into tuna salad instead of mayonnaise. It tastes and feels similar,” says Ashley Liu, 26, of New York City.  Why it works The yogurt has fewer than 10 calories per tablespoon, versus 90 in regular mayo. Mix in mustard to create a spicy Dijonaise.

8. Lemon “Whenever my pants are tight, I use lemon to help me drop a couple of pounds,” says Alonna Friedman, 32, of New York City. “I squeeze it on spinach salad, grilled chicken, fish and veggies.”  Why it works Citrus is so fresh and tangy that you may come to prefer it to fatty butter and dressings that mask foods’ natural flavors.

9. Snack Energy bars “I love small energy bars like Pria, which, at around 110 calories, are my chocolate fix,” says Kelly Winter, 33, of New York City. “I snacked on one every afternoon instead of a candy bar, and I lost 5 pounds in four weeks.”  Why it works You get a treat for less than half the fat and calories of a regular candy bar. Other choices we love include Kashi TLC Chewy granola bars (120 to 140 calories) and Barbara’s Puffins Cereal & Milk Bars (130 to 140 calories).

10. Carrots “When I was on Weight Watchers, I ate a ton of baby carrots because you’re allowed to have as many as you want. And they’re sweet enough to eat plain,” says Carol Sciotto, 31, of Wantagh, New York.  Why it works Carrots are a classic diet food because they’re low in calories (52 per 1 cup chopped) and a good source of fiber, Grotto says. They’re the ideal snack if you like to nibble.

11. Soy chips “I eat them instead of Doritos,” says Randi Walz, 45, of New York City. “I dropped eight dress sizes!”  Why it works A 1.3-ounce bag of soy chips has about 140 calories, 55 fewer than most regular chips. You also get 9 grams of protein.

12. Part-skim string cheese “It’s great for an energy boost before or after the gym,” says Sara Newman, 31, of New York City. “I pull the cheese apart. I lost 17 pounds in 10 months.”  Why it works For only 80 calories per stick, you get a decent dose of protein and some calcium. Adding a few whole-grain crackers would hold off hunger even longer.

13. Hummus “I put hummus on celery, broccoli and mushrooms, and I lost 10 pounds,” says Leigh-Anne Kent, 37, of Golden, Colorado. “It tides me over between meals.”  Why it works Hummus is high in healthy fat and supplies protein as well. Many dieters are fatphobes, but “a little fat can help you feel satisfied, so you end up eating less overall,” McManus says.

14. Edamame “I reach for edamame whenever I want something salty, like pretzels,” says Shira Enstrom, 36, of Vienna, Virginia.  Why it works You get nearly 6 grams of fiber for 190 calories in a 3/4-cup serving, plus protein, says Samantha Heller, R.D., senior clinical nutritionist at New York University Medical Center in New York City. “If you buy them in the pod, you also have to shell them, which slows down the eating process.”

15. Dried fruit “I started snacking on it seven years ago and lost 40 pounds. I’d have it in the afternoon instead of candy,” says Suzanne Reisman, 30, of New York City.  Why it works Dried fruit is loaded with fiber and has barely any fat. But calories are concentrated, so “limit portions to 1/4 cup,” says Dawn Blatner, R.D., a spokeswoman in Chicago for the American Dietetic Association.

16. Shrimp “I sauté them with a little olive oil, snow peas, bell peppers, mushrooms, carrots and teriyaki sauce,” says Laura Egbert, 24, of Philadelphia. “In three months, I lost 15 pounds.”  Why it works At 84 calories per 3-ounce serving, shrimp has about two thirds of the calories of chicken and about half that of sirloin.

17. Homemade Pizza “I sprinkle a teaspoon of olive oil across a Boboli pizza crust and top it with fresh spinach, mushrooms, black olives, red onions and a little cheese,” says Shannon Reid, 29, of Chandler, Arizona. “I ate it three times a week and lost 12 pounds in six months.”  Why it works Making your own meals is a smart way to trim calories because you control the ingredients. Using lowfat cheese will also cut saturated fat. And the veggies are loaded with fiber.

18. Tofu “I lost a lot of weight when I made healthier food choices and took up Ashtanga yoga,” says Ruthanne Feinberg, 34, of New York City. She opts for a simple meal of tofu and spinach with soy sauce.  Why it works Tofu has only about 50 calories per 3-ounce slice, and you can barbecue it, stir-fry it, even use it in dishes like lasagna, Blatner says. Not a fan? Freeze slices before defrosting and cooking. That gives it the chewier texture of beef or chicken.

19. Salsa “I put salsa on everything: baked potatoes, omelets, even salmon,” says Kathleen Robinson, 43, of New York City. “After a month, I took off 5 pounds!”  Why it works Use 2 tablespoons of salsa instead of sour cream and you’ll slash about 50 calories and 5 grams of fat. “Even the bottled salsas are usually lean and a rich source of the cancer-fighting substance lycopene,” Heller says.

20. Poached chicken “It’s my standby speedy, healthy dinner,” says Liz Baker, 27, of Chicago.  Why it works Skip sauteing and you save more than 240 calories. Liven up the taste with fresh herbs and spices.

21. Sweet potatoes “I eat them for dinner topped with a little bit of Smart Balance Omega Plus spread, along with a serving of chicken or fish,” says Beth Janes, 28, of New York City. “It helped me lose 3 pounds in a month.”  Why it works A medium sweet potato has about 115 calories and won’t raise your blood sugar as much as eating a white potato will. Try slicing and baking with a brush of olive oil for low-cal “fries.”


22. Baked apples “I core a Rome apple, pour diet cherry soda over it, sprinkle on Splenda and cinnamon, and then microwave it for eight minutes. It tastes just like apple pie,” says Amy Levy, 38, of Los Angeles. “I lost 12 pounds eating this!”  Why it works “Apples are rich in fiber, which may aid in weight loss,” Blatner says.

23. Fat-free Cool Whip “I freeze it and spread 2 tablespoons between two chocolate graham crackers,” says Joy Rowland, 35, of Atlanta. “It’s helped me shed 40 pounds.”  Why it works At 15 calories per serving, this tasty topping is truly a guiltless goody.

24. Frozen fruit “I microwave a cup of frozen berries for dessert with a little cocoa on top,” says Jennifer Worrell, 34, of Bedford, Texas. “In 15 months, I’ve lost 35 pounds.”  Why it works These nutrient-packed bites are naturally sweet, low in calories and filled with fiber and water to keep you full and satisfied.

25. Fudgesicles “When I was trying to lose 20 pounds after having a baby, I turned to no-sugar-added Fudgesicles,” says Jennifer Weiss, 34, of Napa, California. “They’re only 40 calories each, so even if I want seconds, I’m still eating less than 100 calories.”  Why it works Fudgesicles are creamy, so they feel like a treat. No deprivation!

26. Fat-free, sugar-free pudding “I’m a chocolate addict!” says Melissa Aiello, 26, of Rutherford, New Jersey. “But I lost 10 pounds, mainly by eating pudding instead of ice cream.”  Why it works One half cup is a big treat for only 80 calories, Grotto says.

27. Angel food cake “I have it with fat-free Cool Whip and fruit,” says Erin O’Leary, 24, of New York City. “It does the trick when I want a sweet.”  Why it works Have your (angel food) cake and eat it, too—it has only 72 calories and no fat per 3/4-inch slice. Fruit makes it more filling.

28. Fat-free hot chocolate “I blend a packet with ice and a cup of skim milk for an amazing and filling milk shake,” says Lindsay Bradshaw, 24, of Atlanta.  Why it works Cocoa mix gives the taste of chocolate for only 50 calories. And a whipped drink may feel more indulgent than a thinner beverage.

29. Virgin mimosa “When I’m out, I ask the bartender to mix orange juice with diet ginger ale. It has 55 calories, so I get less than half the calories of most mixed drinks,” says Hayley Lattman, 30, of New York City. “I’ve been doing this for four years, and I’ve lost 15 pounds!”  Why it works You save calories (about 125 over a standard juice-and-vodka screwdriver) and bypass alcohol, which can reduce your inhibitions and lead to overeating.

30. Herbal tea “Sweets are my downfall, so I drink vanilla tea when I’m not really hungry but am craving something sugary,” says Mara Clarke, 33, of London.  Why it works A cup of tea can soothe stress, preventing overeating, McManus says. The flavor makes it more satisfying—and isn’t that the point?

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This was found on The Abundance Blog at Marelisa Online.

1.  Pause and allow the muse to whisper in your ear.  To quote the poet Doug King: “Learn to pause . . . or nothing worthwhile will ever catch up to you.”  Don’t underestimate the role of play and leisure in creativity.

2.  Forget everything you learned in school. Much of our educational system is an elaborate game of “guess what the teacher is thinking”.  In his article, “The Plural of Leaf is Tree”, Michael Meyerhoff explains that there’s a significant difference between doing well in school and learning. There are kids for whom the thrill is not in acquiring knowledge, but in manipulating that knowledge in an interesting manner. However, the “right answer” is often preferred over the creative answer in schools.

Consider this quote from Beatrix Potter: “Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality.”

3. Don’t fall in love with your conclusions. If you become too enamored of your conclusions you’ll fail to see any evidence that contradicts your hypothesis and can miss a truly revolutionary idea.

4. Stop waiting for inspiration, get up and grab it by the horns. In the words of Peter de Vries: “I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at 9:00 o’clock every morning.”

5. Follow Roger van Oeck’s advice from his book “A Kick in the Seat of the Pants” and adopt the four roles of the creative process: Explorer, Artist, Judge, and Warrior.

  • The Explorer. When it’s time to seek out new information, adopt the mindset of an Explorer. Get off the beaten path, poke around everywhere, be curious, and pay attention to unusual patterns.
  • The Artist. When you need to create a new idea, let the Artist come out. Ask what-if questions and look for hidden analogies. Break the rules and look at things backwards. Apply creativity techniques. Exaggerate. Look at things from many different perspectives.
  • The Judge. When it’s time to decide if your idea is worth implementing, or if there is anything that needs to be added or subtracted from your idea, see yourself as a Judge. Ask what’s wrong and if the timing is right. Question your assumptions and make a decision.
  • The Warrior. When you carry your idea into action, be a Warrior. Get excited about implementing your idea, eliminate all excuses, and do what needs to be done to reach your objective.

6. Realize that the mind’s default state is to be uncreative. The following quote by Edward de Bono illustrates this point: “…the mind is habitually uncreative – it is usually preoccupied with organizing masses of incoming data into convenient patterns. Once this pattern is established, then the mind tends to rely upon that pattern in future situations, in order to facilitate decision making and action in an otherwise complex world…” Therefore, you have to be proactive when it comes to being creative.

7. In “Expect the Unexpected (or You Won’t Find It): A Creativity Tool Based on the Ancient Wisdom of Heraclitus” Roger Von Oech uses 30 of the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus’ epigrams to approach problems in a fresh manner. One of the epigrams he lists is the following: “A wonderful harmony is created when you join together the seemingly unconnected.”

Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press is considered one of the world’s greatest inventions. Before the printing press, all books were laboriously copied out by hand or stamped out with woodblocks. Around 1450 Gutenberg combined two ideas to invent a mode of printing with moveable type. He coupled the flexibility of a coin punch with the power of a wine press. His invention enabled the production of books and the spread of knowledge and ideas.

Here are two more interesting combinations:

  • Someone put a copier and a telephone together and got a fax machine.
  • Someone put a bell and a clock together and got an alarm clock.

8. Keep in mind the following epigram, also from taken from Von Oech’s book “Expect the Unexpected (or You Won’t Find It)”, when someone criticizes your work: “Dogs bark at what they don’t understand.”

9. Create a habit of completion. The amazingly creative author SARK explains in her book “Creative Companion: How to Free Your Creative Spirit” that you have to make your ideas “real”. She wanted to make some cards to guide and help people in their spiritual journeys, so she invented their form. By tearing French rag paper into small squares, and hand-coloring the edges, she created a canvas on which she could write her messages. She then folded an envelope out of the same paper, dyed some cotton string to tie it shut with, and wrote a simple instruction guide. And voilá . . . these became spirit cards and she sold thousands of them.

10.  Exaggerate. Think big: what if you had to create your recipe for 50,000 people?  Think small: take a look at Adele Lack’s incredible micropaintings.

11. Go Back to Basics. Pick up a pen or pencil and paper. There’s something about a good old-fashioned pen and a stack of papers, or a brand new notebook, that gets the creative juices flowing.

12.  Concede that there are all kinds of ways to live a creative life, from arranging flowers in a vase, to cooking a meal from scratch, to finding a creative way to market your blog, to painting the walls of your home office in a color you mixed yourself at the paint shop, and so on.

13.  Borrow ideas from others but make the end product your own. Michael de Meng has the following to say about creativity: “In my view, creativity is a rampant thievery mixed with reinterpretation . . . I see the act [of creativity] as being like a martini shaker, in which you add all those ingredients that you like or admire.  Three parts Picasso, two parts Joseph Cornell, seven parts Mexican Folk Art, a splash of abstract expressionism, and garnish with a twist of Daidism.”

14. Focus. Great creative breakthroughs usually happen only after we have focused sufficient attention on our subject matter. That is, AHA! moments normally come only after much intense conscious effort. The answer may come to you in the shower or in a dream, but it comes as a culmination of the effort that you put into studying the issue at hand.

15. Practice being in a receptive state of mind. Instead of constantly having the television on, listening to your ipod, and surrounding yourself with noise and other distractions, practice being in a relaxed, contemplative state of mind. This state of mind is the one most conducive to allowing creative thoughts to slip into your mind.

16.  Don’t be afraid of asking ridiculous questions. On November 2nd, 2000, Scott Ginsberg was wearing a nametag for a seminar and thought to himself: “What if I just kept this thing on my shirt every day?” He started to wear the nametag every single day, which so far has led to two published books, over eighty articles, more than 100 speeches, and countless interviews. It’s how he makes his living.

17.  Always look for a multiplicity of ways to approach a subject. Most people stop looking for solutions to a problem once they’ve found a solution that works. Don’t stop at one solution: entertain different perspectives and alternative approaches. This will broaden your thinking and keep you open to new, and perhaps better, possibilities.

18.  Think vertically and horizontally. Thinking vertically is basically looking for ways to improve the product or service that already exists.  It’s about finding ways to drill oil while reducing the impact on the environment.  Thinking horizontally is going off in a completely different direction.  It’s creating alternative energy sources such as sugar ethanol and solar power.

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This was first published at ZenHabits.

  1. Know what’s important. If your task list is just a list of everything you need to do, you haven’t distinguished between the high-impact tasks and the busy-work. Mark down your top three priorities for the day. Everything else should be secondary.
  2. Make it prominent. Either on your computer or on your wall or right smack in the middle of your desk, have some kind of prominent reminder of what you’re supposed to be doing today
  3. Single-task. I wrote recently about the power of single-tasking, and that’s important here, because if you multi-task, you tend to switch between what you should be doing and what you shouldn’t — the important vs. the useless tasks.
  4. Identify your time-wasters. What are the things that you do most often? For some, it’s email, for others, it’s the phone, for others, it’s a certain website or three. If you aren’t sure, track it for a couple days. Know your time-wasters and you can beat them.
  5. Log them. Sometimes just the act of keeping track of something for a week or two will make you more conscious of things. You could use a service such as pageaddict, or just use paper and pen.
  6. Change your habits. If your biggest time-waster is email (for example), make a conscious, dedicated effort to change that specific habit, from checking email every 5 minutes to checking it at two or three designated times of day (for example). (Read more tips on changing habits: the no-fail method, 5 things you need to know, 13 things to avoid.)
  7. Be accountable. Tell people you’re going to change. Be accountable to them so they can see how many times you succeeded and failed. Daily email updates to your friends is a good method, as is using an online forum, or posting a big tally sheet in your office where everyone can see it. The positive public pressure will help.
  8. Have good reasons to save time. Why do you want to kill your time-wasters? If you don’t have a good reason, it won’t matter much. But if you want to finish work early in order to spend time with your family, or you want to make time for exercise or relaxation or reading or whatever, or you really want to achieve a certain goal or complete a big project … these reasons will motivate you to change. Remember your motivation at all times.
  9. Reward yourself. Each time you resist the urge, give yourself a reward. It could be a treat, or points that earn bigger rewards, or something relaxing.
  10. Unplug. If your biggest time-wasters are online (or email), consider disconnecting for certain key periods of the day. I get my best writing done when I disconnect from the Internet, for example.
  11. Know your key times. When do you have the most energy and get the most work done? Identify those times of the day and make them your “distraction-free” times. Only allow yourself to do the important tasks in those times.
  12. Get rid of distractions. Turn off the phones, plug in your headphones (to block out sound), put up a “do not disturb” sign, turn off your email notifiers, maybe put your email in vacation mode. Get rid of visual clutter around you as well.
  13. Go cold turkey. Sometimes, if an addiction is really strong, you just have to cut it out completely and weather the tough times. If your addiction is email, for example, don’t do email for several days. It’ll be very hard. Pretend you’re on vacation. Then, when you return to email, set certain times and start with new habits.
  14. Block them. Technology is great, and you can use technology to beat technology time-wasters. Stealth Kiwi and LeechBlock are two good ones, among many others.
  15. Batch them. Keep a list of things you need to do that aren’t on your list of three priorities. Then do them all at once, when you have some extra time. That’ll keep you from doing things throughout the day.
  16. Schedule them. Designate certain times of day to do your batch processing of email, phone calls, meetings, whatever. Then, when you’re not at the scheduled time for those things, you know you’re not supposed to be doing them.
  17. Always rethink. Periodically examine the way you do things, and think about whether there’s a better way. That doesn’t mean you need to change things all the time, but sometimes we keep doing something a certain way just because that’s what we’re used to doing. Instead, see if there are things you can eliminate, streamline, do more effectively.
  18. Change your location. If the above strategies don’t work, sometimes it’s good to get away and try a new location. Take a laptop to a coffee shop, work out of a library, work at home (if you don’t already), or otherwise find some quiet spot where you can work without distractions, and perhaps without an Internet connection if you don’t need it.
  19. Focus on results. What do you want to achieve today? Have that achievement be the focus of your entire day. Try to complete that project or major task or goal … and at the end of the day, be sure to assess whether you were successful or not.
  20. Celebrate! If you were able to complete your goal for the day, be sure to bask in the glory of your victory. That good feeling of accomplishment will help motivate you to keep doing that — it’s a satisfaction that is rewarding in itself, but you need to put special focus on it at the end of each day. Do that, and you won’t want to fail at your goal the next day.

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This article was originally published at The Art of Manliness.  Of course, it can apply to both genders.

We all lead at some point in our life. We serve as leaders in our jobs, in our communities, and in our families. For many, being a leader means having the power to control others. Those who take this view eventually find that the more they try to control people, the less influence they have over them. For others, leadership means being in a position of authority. Yet, a man can be a leader even if he’s on the bottom of the totem pole. When a man sees that something must be done, he won’t let his lack of position limit him from taking charge; he steps into the gap and assumes responsibility. True leadership is not about superiority, position, or prestige. It’s about revealing and releasing the potential of those around you. Leadership is not about the power of one, but facilitating the greatness of many.

Unfortunately, many men today are sloughing off leadership responsibilities either because of laziness or apathy. They would rather live a life of ignoble ease and have others shoulder the responsibility for them. But the world needs the leadership of virtuous men more than ever. When you’re called to serve as a leader, will you be ready to take on the challenge?

In 1950, the United States Military printed a small book for all armed forces officers on how to become better leaders and men. In it, five traits are set forth on what makes an effective leader. We’ve taken these traits and explored their meaning and application for every man whether an officer or a civilian.

1. Quiet resolution. An effective leader has the resolve to see every task through to the end. Resolve is easy to have in the quiet before the storm comes. Resolve is a breeze when one’s commitment has never been tested. It is when the fear, chaos, and stress of a crisis hits that true resolve is revealed. In any situation, there will be an opportunity for retreat, an escape hatch, the chance to shirk responsibility and choose safety and defeat over risk and greater reward. At that moment, the man with quiet resolve does not waffle, he does not doubt the choice that he knows is right. Without the terrible grip of indecision seizing him, he is cool and levelheaded, unflappable in the face of challenge. He is not loud, yelling and frenetically scurrying about in an attempt to cover his lack of grit with useless action. The man with quiet resolution is a man others can feel supremely confident in. While the world around him goes to pot, he knows what his mission is and he calmly fulfills it. He is the anchor in the storm.

How to become a leader with quiet resolution:

Do not wait for a crisis to emerge to make a decision. Inventory your values and goals, and set a plan for how you will react when certain crises arise and important decisions need to be made. DO NOT wait to make you choice until the heat of the moment, when you will be most tempted to surrender your values. Set a course for yourself, and when trials come, and you are sorely tested, you will not panic, you will not waver, you will simply remember your plan and follow it through.

2. The hardihood to take risks. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Great achievements come to those who are willing to take risks. A leader who continually plays it safe will never put themselves or the people they lead in a position to experience success. A life without risks is surely alluring; its sweet lullaby of safety and comfort has lulled many a man into the trap of mediocrity and apathy. The weak man stands at the crossroads of decision, tempted by the possible reward and yet paralyzed by the fear of defeat. He is blinded to the fact that even failure brings its own rewards. Without failure a man never comes to know himself, his limits, his potential, and what he is truly capable of. A man who never dares greatly fails to see that he has taken the greatest risk of all: the risk that he will never progress, never refine his soul, never amount to anything worthwhile.

How to become a leader that takes risks:

The fear of taking risks can be very real. You cannot expect to have the courage to take a large risk when you have had no experience taking small ones. So find opportunities in your daily life to take little risks. It could be as small as approaching a stranger and striking up a conversation. Find an activity that frightens you, like public speaking and go for it. As you venture more risks, you develop the capacity to overcome your fear and gain the wisdom to know when a risk is worth taking. You will achieve the mettle to take the big risk when your leadership abilities are truly called upon.

3. The readiness to share in rewards with subordinates. A great leader, although supremely confident, humbly acknowledges that no success, no matter how large of a role he personally played in bringing it to fruition, is a wholly solo effort. He is deeply grateful for all those, even those with small roles, who played a part in the achievement. And he understands human nature. He understands that people love to be recognized for their contributions. When a group or organization succeeds, a true leader makes it a priority to recognize both in public and private the contributions of those he led. When a person sees that a leader is humble and will share in success, they’ll be more willing to follow that person.

How to become a leader that shares rewards with subordinates:

Sharing success with the people who follow you can be as easy as offering public recognition or increasing their compensation. A simple thank you card expressing your gratitude for an employee’s effort in completing a project can go a long ways in building loyalty to you and your organization. When offering thanks or giving praise, try to be as specific as possible. It shows the person you lead that you are keenly aware of what they do and makes the thanks or praise more personal and sincere.

4. An equal readiness to take the blame when things go adversely. It is when things go wrong that true leaders are separated from the pretenders. The weasel leader will gladly accept the accolades when he and his team succeeds, but will find another individual to take the fall when things get tough. When followers see this, it completely demolishes any confidence and allegiance to that leader. True leaders will take responsibility for all consequences of their decisions, even the bad ones. Even when the results were the fault of a subordinate, a true leader will still take all the blame. Perhaps the leader failed to communicate clearly what the subordinate’s duty was, or maybe the leader failed to match the right man with the right job. After taking responsibility for the results, an effective leader will immediately take action to correct the situation.

How to be a leader by taking the blame when things go adversely:

When taking the blame, you must do so sincerely. Your confession must spring from a genuine belief that you were at fault. To accept blame, but to do so grudgingly, makes you a boy, not a man. Never play the part of the martyr and seek glory for taking the fall. Likewise, don’t take the blame publically, but then tell your subordinates that the only reason you took responsibility was to save their asses. You’ll look like a phony and deteriorate their trust in you.

5. The nerve to survive storm and disappointment and to face each new day with the score sheet wiped clean; neither dwelling on one’s successes, nor accepting discouragement from one’s failures. All of history’s great leaders had moments of supreme success and moments of devastating defeat. Great leaders focus on the things they can change and influence, and the past is not one of those things. If you fail, learn from it and then immediately cease to dwell on it. Rehashing the past will not do anything for you. Moreover, the people a man leads will lose confidence in their leader if they continually brood over their failures.

When you succeed, celebrate with your followers, and move on. A leader who continually dwells on past success shows that he has not set his eye on greater things. Additionally, as we learn from the Greeks, a leader’s hubris can quikcly become their downfall. Always stay humble and hungry.

How to become a leader by not living in the past:

Read biographies of great leaders from history. By reading about the lives of these great men, you’ll learn that even the best leaders faced enormous setbacks. You’ll gain perspective and come to see that one failure does not mean the death of a man’s capacity to lead. And the amazing feats of the great men of history will inspire you to believe in the powerful influence on history a true leader can wield.

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