Archive for the ‘productivity’ Category

The 60 000 words threshold

May 1, 2009

A little more than a week ago, I crossed an important threshold : I passed the bar of 60 000 words on my novel.

When I started writing it in August 2008, I started to tell some people about it, and the common question was: “how far are you?” and I didn’t know what to answer, because I don’t know where my story is going. I’ve let complete freedom to my characters and to improvisation.

So I used some MBA skills and I googled “average number of books in a novel” and I found the number 60 000. So after I wrote 6000, I told people: “I’m 10% through”, and “half-way through” after I wrote 30 000 words.

“When do you think you’ll be finished?” people ask me often. And I said: 1st draft cmopleted around mid-April, because this is when I thought I would hit the 60 000 words; and indeed, I hit that number according to my prediction. I’ve got one problem though: the story is not finished at all ! So I don’t know what to tell people anymore.

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Paul McKenna “I can make you thin” review – Take 2 – Day 26

April 7, 2009

This is my second attempt to follow the 4 principles of Paul McKenna “I can make you thin”. These are:

  1. When you are hungry, EAT
  2. EAT WHAT YOU WANT
  3. Eat CONSCIOUSLY and enjoy every mouthful
  4. When You Think You Are Full, STOP Eating

This relates a 30-day-trial experiment of the method.

***

4 more days after tomorrow.

Hightlight of my day : getting shampooed at the hairdresser. As the water with mild-temperature flowed over my scalp, it grabbed all the stress and the anxieties of the day, and took them down the sink hole. The long and thin fingers of the hairdresser made the shampoo foam in my hair, as they gently massaged the sides of my head and my entire scalp from back to front. Work has been very fulfilling lately, but I’m also working a lot, putting in long hours, clearing off many tasks of my todo list and getting my different projects moving. The consequence of this is that I need to make moments for myself to wind down in the evening. Last night, I found out that one can watch entire episodes of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and the Colbert Report, on the Comedy Central website. But tonight, the 2 minutes of physical contact of the hands of the hairdresser while she shampooed me, totally succeeded in relaxing me.

That makes me think that the body is the gate to relaxing, not necessarily the mind. Actually, now that I think about it, a class on psychology at the work place that I took during the MBA specifically taught us that getting a massage is one of the most efficient ways to deal with pressure.

I’ve said that, lately, I’ve had a hard time coping with the fact that I don’t use overeating food as a response to stress any longer. This makes it hard to deal with my stress. If you think about it, overeating has an immediate impact on the body. But so does laughter… and so does another person’s hands on your body. A few days ago, someone told me that sports is also used as a stress relief.

I am realizing that I am not likely to be a superheroe whose mental strength can chase all the stress away, because there will always be situations and people around me that suck and make me go through a hard time. Therefore I want to be able to find those coping mechanisms that inspires me and that I look forward to doing everyday. I can’t possibly get a haircut everyday. Nor can I afford a massage everyday. So I am now facing that open question : what is it that I can realistically and happily do as often as possible to relieve myself from stress ?

Free Web based G.T.D. (Getting Things Done) with iGoogle

March 30, 2009

Do you want a completely free one-stop site where you can at the same time manage your context lists, store your documents, and add items to your calendar, so that you can fully implement G.T.D. online ? It is possible with iGoogle.

G.T.D., context lists, what the heck ? These terms will only make sense to you if you are familiar with David Allen’s workflow management system: “Getting Things Done”. If you need to learn more about it, then visit G.T.D.’s official website.

There is no need to pay for a monthly subscription to a service to get all you need to implement a web-based version of GTD. There is no need either to have 4 browser windows open, so that you can work with your lists, tasks, calendars, etc. You need one thing, though: a google account. And it helps if you also have a gmail account. If you have a pop3 account, you can ask Gmail to go and get your mail for you. If you have hotmail or Yahoomail, it will also work… you’ll see. So  your first step is to open your Google account.

Once you do have your google account, sign in to iGoogle. Delete all the gadgets, except for the gmail one. Click on “Add Stuff”, and add the following gadgets: Google Docs, Google Tasks, Google Calendar. Now, if you have hotmail or Yahoo mail, search gadgets that allow you to retrieve these emails. They exist, and I am using one.

Your iGoogle desktop should look like this:

gtd-implement

As you can see, I have added the Hotmail module.

On Google tasks, I created new lists that I named after my contexts: @office, @home, @shopping, @calls, etc. Google tasks is still a Labs application, so it’s a work in progress. Right now, it doesn’t allow you to see all your lists at the same time, but only seperately.

Google Docs allows you to store documents, classify them by folders, and search through them.

Google Calendars has all the functionalities of an Outlook Calendar.

Gmail allows you to create labels, and to label your emails. I’ve created labels after the names of my projects. This allows me to retrieve in one click all the emails associated to a specific project.

100% Success trial – Day 25

September 18, 2008

For 30 days, I have decided to only undertake tasks that I know I can successfully accomplish, in order to bring success in my life, and see if the common sense saying: “Success breeds more success” is true.

Had a very disenchating conversation about advertising with the contact I was given yesterday. The reasons why I never looked for a job in advertising all came back to me: bad pay, aggressive behaviours and creativity at the service of soaps, cars and insurance… Is this really why muses whisper ideas in our heads? I lost my motivation to look further down this path.

I’ve been studying whether the entrepreneur opportunity in London could be viable- maybe it is worth taking the risk, because if I do well, I could make a much better living than all the job postings can offer. More to follow.

All right, the blog is starting to turn about my thoughts on making career decisions, but the truth is, after 25 days, this 100% success method has become a second nature. The way I formulate my goals to myself, in ways that I cannot fail, have triggered me to step into action. There is no procrastination, because there is no possibility of failure. Of course, there is the possibility of rejection, but there is nothing I can do.

I’ve been unemployed 2,5 months, but since the past 25 days, I’ve never worked so much in my life. Even when I was employed, I didn’t work as much. I might have shown up my face during long working hours, but I never accomplished so much. I am actually very eager to start working again, to see how this new methodology holds in the business world. I am curious to experiment with a sales team: can you motivate a salesteam by presenting work to them in a way that they cannot fail it? Would it improve their performance? somebody give me a job managing a salesteam please!!!

Anyway, thanks to all the readers ! traffic steadily increases… Keep coming back.

100% Success trial – Day 24

September 17, 2008

For 30 days, I have decided to only undertake tasks that I know I can successfully accomplish, in order to bring success in my life, and see if the common sense saying: “Success breeds more success” is true.

Went for a breakfast today with a friend who used to work in recruitment, and who has a gift for counselling people with their careers. She’s helped many friends who didn’t know what they wanted to do, who knew what they wanted but couldn’t find their dream positions, who didn’t like their current job, etc. She does something completely different today, but does give the help just for fun! She’s also a person whom I would call an influencer; having her adopt something is enough to have it adopted by her whole network of acquaintances… Anyway, since I’m looking for a job, I went to see her.

She asked me a lot of questions about professional experience, then she starts to tell me that she could see me in two areas very well. First as a manager of a salesteam, as she thinks I have the strength to communicate and motivate people. Second, she said I would really have fun in advertising.

Concerning managing a salesteam, the funny thing is that I have been thinking about applying this 100% success trial to the management of people. How do you allow your employees to let go of what is not under their control, your own control, or the control of the company, and make them focus on things they can achieve to let organic success happen ? I’ve been thinking of making something of those ideas, but I don’t want to call it “100% success method” because it sounds extremely cheesy. Maybe “organic success”? Anyway, she made me willing to explore that path and I could see myself doing that.

In regards to advertising, she gave me a contact of a girl with a good position just above account manager at a top 5 advertising agency in London (can’t give the name just yet)… she was at the wedding where I gave my speech. I contacted her, she’s very positive about talking to me tomorrow!

The company I interviewed with in London came back with an offer that had a low basic salary, but the potential for high earnings if I manage to bring good results to the business. It’s a bit like an entrepreneurial risk (with some security nonetheless), but I don’t know if I’m ready to take it today. I’ve worked in start ups and small structures; and I was hoping to bank on my MBA diploma to get a bit more financial security (for 2-3 years at least), until taking new risks. I’m temporarily risk-tired.

Mind you, we looked up to the guys who got jobs at Lehman brothers as the people who got the best and most secured offers (on a financial standpoint)… I guess 100% security is a myth.

***

One thing I ought to mention is that this trial doesn’t completely remove the pain of rejection. I don’t focus on it when I work, I don’t fear it when I write a cover letter, or prepare for an interview, because I know it is out of my control, but I still don’t like it when it hits me.

Both this and Lehman brothers made me think about a little thought I’ve had lately. In microeconomics class, we’re told about Adam Smith’s theories and the concept of the invisible hand that adjusts the economy and that is moved by the rules of the free market. The invisible hand adjusts the supply and demand curves when one moves. I love this concept of looking at the economy as curves adjusting (and I’m being ironic here). Read Grapes of Wrath, and now you’ve got a great description of an adjustment of the labor market supply curve to the left! Economics just ignores all this. Same with the Lehman Brothers ex-employees; I guess they’re feeling the invisible hand slapping them around a bit…

100% Success trial – Day 23

September 16, 2008

For 30 days, I have decided to only undertake tasks that I know I can successfully accomplish, in order to bring success in my life, and see if the common sense saying: “Success breeds more success” is true.

Day 23, I got an email from a woman with whom I did a bit of career coaching. Her company is called Amphi A (in tribute to the largest amphi of the MBA school I just attended). I gave her the address of the blog, she liked it and asked if she could send the link to some of her clients. Awesome! I’m not sure in what capacity I’m able to help these people, but if it’s inspirational enough for them, I guess those messages in a bottle were not sent for nothing!

Spoke with the recruitment agency, and apparently, the company I interviewed with yesterday is keen to make an offer. I don’t have the details, I hope it’ll be good! Went for a networking lunch with a guy working in a Paris marketing consultancy. Interesting stuff… Again, I created a list of achievable stuff to accomplish (very similar to the one I used for the interview), and we had an interesting conversation. To be continued.

100% Success trial – Days 21 and 22

September 16, 2008

For 30 days, I have decided to only undertake tasks that I know I can successfully accomplish, in order to bring success in my life, and see if the common sense saying: “Success breeds more success” is true.

I mentioned earlier that my sending cover letters ended up in booking a few interview and I just had my first one.

On day 21, I had a task that said: “Spend 1/2 hour thinking about what could be 100% successful at the interview”. After the 1st session, I wasn’t completely satisfied, so I did another session later, and was happy with it.

As usual with this trial, I came up with a list of things I couldn’t possibly screw up. It included:

  • show up at the interview
  • say hello
  • introduce myself
  • take out a notepad to take notes
  • talk about 3 specific points (I’m not gonna disclose them here), that are selling points about myself
  • ask the following 3 questions (same)
  • be ready to answer the 3 stupid interview questions (what are your strengths, weaknesses, how do you see yourself in 5 years), but only talk about it if sollicited
  • say good bye

I thought I could manage to succeed in this.

Day 22, I go to the interview, with only one mission: make sure the above goals are fulfilled; that’s it. I don’t care whether they give me a job, whether they like me, etc… Of course, I want them to like me, but I don’t go in with the objective: “I’m going to try and have them like me”. I consider that only the above list is my responsibility.

The interview went very well. I mean, it was one of the greatest interviews I’ve ever had. First of all, I was relaxed. Second, even though they were a lot of unexpected questions, my relaxation attitude allowed me to handle them well. Third, the job description exceeded my expectations. I thought I was going in for something really technical (follow up on search engine marketing campaigns), but it actually involves setting up a whole new section for the company. It is entrepreneurial, but still hedged by a company. It looks like I may get an offer that includes a base salary and some shares of the company. So I get to work for myself, but I also get a bit of security. Really, it was a perfect balance. I really hope we can agree on an offer, as it would be a nice way to finish this job search. If not, i’ll just continue what I’ve been doing for 3 weeks!

On the writing front, I’m at 7,400 words! Can’t believe I’ve achieved that already…

100% Success trial – Day 18 and 19

September 12, 2008

For 30 days, I have decided to only undertake tasks that I know I can successfully accomplish, in order to bring success in my life, and see if the common sense saying: “Success breeds more success” is true.

On day 18, I had a bit of a ‘down’ day, hence the reason why I didn’t post a blog, I didn’t really feel like it. I didn’t feel like doing anything. Ok, I actually failed at something! It wasn’t that big of a deal, but it made me very negative, and then wasn’t inspired at all. It kind of made me realize that the spiral of failure can go much faster than the spirale of success. Indeed, it takes me a bit of effort to launch the success spiral, and then each success brings a little more motivation for another success. On the other hand, one failure just created in me a demotivation that led me to not do much yesterday.

Fortunately, I was able to do my “strict minimum”, i.e. anything related to job search and writing my novel. So that’s ok, it wasn’t such a big thing.

On Day 19, however, I managed to get back on track straight away, and to my level of productivity. I was talking about this experiment to an American friend at a bar last night, and she said: “that’s just rewording what you do, it’s all about putting a positive spin…” I agree to an extent: it’s creating a different vision to look at thing, but it’s a bit more powerful in my mind, than just have a positive outlook: it’s about creating actions for yourself that you know you can complete and to force yourself to let go of what you cannot control. It’s great, because completion of tasks gives me a sense of accomplishment that allows me to enjoy myself fully and without guilt when I socialize with people- and letting go of things that I cannot control (I can influence, but not have 100% control on them) gives me a sense of serenity that makes me happier.

Voilà for today!

100% Success trial – Day 17

September 10, 2008

For 30 days, I have decided to only undertake tasks that I know I can successfully accomplish, in order to bring success in my life, and see if the common sense saying: “Success breeds more success” is true.

I mentioned earlier in this experiment that when it comes to writing, I would only set myself a target to write a certain number of words of fiction that I was sure to succeed to attain. I started with 100 words a day, then I increased to 150, then to 200.

I’ve really enjoyed writing this way, as it gives me a lot of freedom, while making me productive. Indeed, I have the freedom to stop if I’m not inspired, to carry on if I am, and it assures a minimum of daily writing. It also gives the story a fast rythm, as it is paced by short events happening one after the other.

Anyway, I checked the word count today, and I have reached 6000 words in 17 days. If I look at it from a statistical point of view, this is 10% of the number of words for an average adult book. I read this for what it is, only a statistical figure. I know there is a lot of variance in the number of words in an adult book, and that quantity of words have nothing to do with quality of story and style. But still, it’s some sort of achievement, don’t you think?

Moreover, I am satisfied with what I write. I mean, for a first draft. To me, a first draft has always been about digging some core matter of emotions and events to work with, and not to worry about structure and style just yet. For the first time, I am not really in control of what’s happening in my story, it’s more the characters who decide what to do, and where to go… (it sounds SO cliché, but it had never happened to me before, so I’ve got to speak about it). It’s as if my characters could BREATHE, as if they were FREE… and therefore, I’m getting surprises everyday.

I think that maybe if I become a professional fiction writer one day, I will probably have to write more than 200 words a day, but at this stage, I like it the way it is, and I won’t attempt to write more unless I am 100% sure to succeed!

100% Success trial – Day 12, 13, 14 and 15

September 8, 2008

For 30 days, I have decided to only undertake tasks that I know I can successfully accomplish, in order to bring success in my life, and see if the common sense saying: “Success breeds more success” is true.

I am starting to witness evidence that “success breeds more success” is true! I have been enjoying a really happy two weeks and some good results are showing up.

First of all, I finally have a couple of job interviews booked, so it’s going well on that front.

Second, for the past 4 days I was travelling for a wedding and for those of you who were following this blog, I delivered a speech as one of the best men (in France, the groom has 4 to 5 best men). I related here how I prepared the speech, by setting myself goals that I was sure to succeed. So several times I told myself: “Work 1/2 hour on the speech”. I wrote on this blog how doing so, allowed to evacuate the stress and really relax while writing.

I delivered the speech last Saturday. We were really stressed while waiting, because they made us wait until dessert. Indeed, there are always many speeches at French weddings (from the fathers, the family, then the best men and maids of honour). We were scheduled last. At one point, I thought to myself: “ok, what can I be sure to succeed?” I can’t be sure of the audience’s reaction, I can’t be sure of their attention, so here is the list of things I was sure to succeed:

  • Show up on stage
  • Glance at the groom before I start the speech
  • Say the first sentence really slowly
  • Deliver the whole speech

When I took the mic that’s the mission I had, and I completely let go of everything else that wasn’t within my control. Very soon, the relaxed attitude helped me to be cheecky and really enjoy myself when giving the speech; the audience related to that, and laughed hard at the jokes I made; many people congratulated me after. I’m not saying this to show off, I’m saying this to illustrate how this experiment gives great results by adopting a stressless approach to success.

I played football (soccer) the day after with some lads, and often I embarrass myself at this game, because I can’t control the ball for my life. Anyway, before getting on the pitch, I told myself: “ok, just stay on the pitch and play”. There was nothing else I was sure to succeed. I scored the only goal of our team, tying at the last minute!

I have noticed that this experiment is making me much more focused on the things that work and the successes rather than the failures. For example, I sent quite a few letters for jobs, and a good number of them get rejected. Does it matter? No, because at the end of the day, I’m not in control of the other party’s decision and I succeeded in what I wanted to do.

In the analytic tools of this blog, I saw that somebody landed here by typing in a search engine “I need to have success in my life”. I can totally relate to this, but what I want to say to that person is that you can already bring success in your life by attempting things you are sure to succeed, and then the bigger picture success will come into place.

15 more days to go! But I don’t think I’ll ever go back the other way!! We shall see.