9 Tips on Reading Non-Fiction

For those who like to read, here are some tips reading non-fiction:

1 – Finishing the book is not the goal – Just b/c you started reading a book doesn’t mean you have to finish it. If you’re not into it, there’s no reason you should continue reading. The goal is to learn.
2 – Take Notes in the book – I had a hard time doing this for a while b/c you always feel that the book is sacred and you shouldn’t write in it. Go for it. You will retain a lot more info as well by simply writing your thoughts down.
3 – There’s no rule on reading one book at a time – This is up to you. You hear some people say you should only read one at a time, some say you can read more than one. I think you have to tinker with it. I prefer to read multiple books at once, usually no more than 2 or 3.
4 – You can buy a book even if you’re not going to read it right away – If you see something you like and you have the money to spend, go for it. It will look nice on your bookshelf as well.
5 – Keep a list of books you want to read – Great GTD habit. I have a checklist on my blackberry of all the books I want to read. It’s up to about 50. Maybe I will read them, maybe I won’t. It’s good to know they’re there.
6 – It’s OK to skim – Usually, you can get the meat of the content in the first paragraph of each chapter and a lot of times in the summary on each chapter. It’s not a bad way to get an overview and then you can dive in if you’re really interested. I’ve been to Barnes and Noble many times and have skimmed 2-3 books in an hour or two. Learned this from Frank Sopper, a GTD follower and expert in learning styles. You can read more about Frank and his company here. I did a coaching session with Frank and will share some thoughts on that in a future post.
7 – Be Open – There are a lot of experts out there that have gone through experiences that can help you out immensely.
8 – It’s OK to re-read – Many times, I will refer back to a book or even read it a second time. It’s amazing what you can reinforce or even pick up a second time around.
9 – Ask for recommendations – Find someone your respect and ask them what they’re reading. Most people have 2-3 favorites that they got a lot out of. I have a good friend and colleague who’s also a big reader and is very successful. Some of our best conversations are about books we’ve read. We have the same taste and it’s always good to hear about a book I may get something out of that I’m unaware of.

I’m a big fan of Levenger. Great tools for reading (and writing).

Be Bold and Visualize Success

If you had a chance to watch the NFL playoffs this weekend, you saw some interesting results. All four games ended up much different than expected and the Jets/Bengals game was no exception. I was watching the pre-game on Saturday and the NFL Network interviewed Jets coach, Rex Ryan, before the game. The reporter asked Ryan about an itinerary he gave his team during the week. Turns out, Ryan gave his entire team a detailed itinerary that included the Bengals game, the second round game next week, the AFC Championship game in two weeks and the Super Bowl two weeks after that. It didn’t end there, and this is the best part. Ryan had February 9th highlighted on the itinerary. If (or in Ryan’s case, when) the Jets win the Super Bowl, February 9th is the date the Champions parade would be held in New York City.

The Jets are the last seed in the AFC (6 out of 6) and 50 to 1 odds to win the Super Bowl. It doesn’t matter. Ryan has his team visualizing success. Not just today, but a drawn out plan that culminates in their optimal goal. Even if they don’t reach their ultimate goal, he has his team thinking the right way. He’s building a great foundation. If I’m a player, that’s the type of coach I want to play for.

This is a great lesson. When you start thinking about what you want to accomplish, be bold. Think about the ultimate goal. Plan out your itinerary. I’m a die hard Cleveland Browns fan, but I will be rooting for the Jets as long as they’re in the playoffs.

Goal Setting

The following are some thoughts on goal setting from Mario Giganti (my brother). He runs a very successful financial advisory firm in Northern Ohio and I believe his ‘true’ calling is coaching people. I may even talk him into starting his own blog! Some really great thoughts….enjoy.

Goal Setting

How does one set a goal and actually work to accomplish it? This time of year, many of us set goals that we plan to achieve over the next year. Things like lose weight, go to Church more often, increase profit, sales or customers, etc.

Ready, set go – we are all too eager to just jump in. We do jump in, but then realize the water is too cold or the distance too far and, one thing leads to another and we just stop. I read a quote once, “3% of all adults have written goals…. And they earn more than the other 97% put together”. In that same book, it said something to the effect that only 4% of goals are accomplished if they are not written down vs. 44% (1100 times more likely) achieve their goals if they are written down. People with written goals succeed because they know where they are going.

So, why do we not achieve success in reaching our goals? I believe it comes down to a couple of key components:

1. We have too many things (hopes and wishes) we want to do (not goals), so the real goals don’t seem meaningful.

2. Our goals are typically long term (even losing 20 lbs can take months) – we lose focus when we don’t see the immediate, tangible results that we have in mind.

You can only fit so many big rocks into a jar. The rest can be filled with small rocks, sand and dirt. You can truly only have a few (count on both hands) big goals or areas of focus. You must ask yourself, “Is this really what I want to work at day in and day out and, in the end, will it be worth it?” Speaking from experience, only the big rocks get priority.

What does all this mean to you? In a word: Discipline and Planning! Take a moment to write down your goals or what you wish to accomplish in the next year. Next, jot a few notes or sentences about what it will take to accomplish each. Next, cross off the ones that don’t seem important or won’t motivate you.

Grab the 5-10 that are most important and write them down separately. Write down a vision statement or what it will look like when you accomplish it, how it will feel – what it will do for you or your family. Now is the hard part: How long do you expect this to take? What steps can you start taking to accomplish your goal? Are there intermediate goals that you can achieve that will move you on your way to success? What do these look like?

Your goal of losing 20 lbs may be easy or hard. The more you breakdown this goal into smaller steps, the easier it will be to achieve and the more meaningful each day will be. You may say this will take 3 months, so break that down into each month – say, 7 lbs, 7lbs, 6lbs over January, February, March. Now break down into 4 week periods – now that is just over a 1-2 lbs per week – a much more attainable short term result that can be measured and modified along the way. Now, here’s a trick – you need to eat right and exercise – focus during the week on achieving each of these goals – write down what you plan to eat or how many calories and how much you plan to exercise and what exercises. During each day or at night after dinner – write down what you did and compare. Even though your goal is to lose weight – focus on the activities that will lose the weight, not the weight loss itself. This creates the habits necessary to accomplish the smaller and larger goals.

Now you’ve achieved your goal – what will it take to maintain it – now that is your challenge. This is why creating the habit is critical to not only achieving but maintaining your success!

Good luck,

Poll Results – What Time Do You Wake Up?

First off, thanks to all of you who contributed to the recent poll on what time you arise in the morning.

The results:

Highest Amount of Votes – 44% arise between 5:00am and 6:00am
2nd Most Votes – 34% arise between 6:00am and 7:00am
3rd Most Votes – 13% arise after 7:00am
4th Most Votes – 6% arise before 5:00am

I don’t think the results are too surprising. I teeter between the 2nd (between 6 and 7) and 3rd (after 7). I’d say on average I wake around 6:45am. I work from home (when I’m not traveling) and typically make some coffee, hang with the family for 20 minutes (if they’re up) and then get my work day started by 7:30 or 7:45. My goal, however, is to arise earlier than this. I’m impressed and jealous when I hear people talk about waking at 5:00am, working out, then getting a head start on their day. I think this is awesome.

My brother wakes up at 4:45am everyday. He starts his day with an intense workout and catches up on some work items. By 6:30am, he has a head start on his day and the confidence that comes from getting after it. I love this. Talk about getting in the zone and having “the edge” throughout your day. Some other successful people you may of heard about that awake early – John Gruden (when he was coaching used to wake at 3:17am everyday – ok, kind of crazy) and Jim Cramer (around 4:00am). I’m sure there are countless others.

One of my big intentions early this year is to wake earlier to get that “edge”. The key is to take this in small steps. It’s not to go from 6:45 to 5:00 in one day. That’s the New Year’s Resolution curse waiting to happen. My plan is to do this in 6 weeks. By Feb 15th, I will be waking by 5:00am everyday (Yep, I just threw that out there). The first step (or Next Action) is to wake everyday this week at 6:30am. Next week, I will move to 6:15. Look for some updates in the coming weeks.

I heard someone say a couple years ago that every hour of sleep before midnight is worth two and every hour of work before noon is worth two. Seems to make sense to me.

As always, would love to hear your thoughts. Have you ever changed your wake schedule? If so, what made you successful? What were your challenges?

Some links on this topic from other writers that may be of interest:



Baby Steps

“Change on a Large Scale Happens in Small Increments” – Jacob Marshall

As we get closer to the start of 2010 and the dreaded “New Year’s Resolution” phase, it’s so important to think on a smaller scale, rather than set big goals right off the bat. Too many people say they’re going to lose 20 lbs or workout 5 days a week, when they currently never workout. That’s a recipe for failure every time.

Keep it simple and small, then you can build on it. Instead of 5 days a week, start at 2 (if you were at zero), then after a couple weeks of success set another goal for 3 days/week. Then, you can build from there. This gives you little successes along the way and helps you build confidence.

As for now, enjoy the Holiday Season. Spend time with friends and family and disengage from your “work” as much as possible. You owe it to yourself and you’ll come back firing on all cylinders in 2010.

All the best. I thank you for all the kind words on the blog. I’m really excited about 2010 and taking the next step on this journey with you. Please don’t hesitate to send me any thoughts or suggestions on how I can make this better.

God Bless and Be Well,

What is GTD (from the GTD Website)

I’ve had a lot of questions since I started writing about what GTD is. I was going to write my own words and found the following on the GTD site. It does a much better job than I would’ve done. This was written from David Allen himself:

GTD® is the popular shorthand for “Getting Things Done®”, the groundbreaking work-life management system and book by David Allen that transforms personal overwhelm and overload into an integrated system of stress-free productivity.

Piloting a productivity seminar for a thousand managers at Lockheed in 1983, David has continued to test and refine the techniques and principles we now know as GTD – a powerful method to manage commitments, information, and communication. This pioneering and proven system is the result of those twenty plus years of David’s consulting, private coaching and organizational programs with over a half million people internationally. GTD has well earned its recognition as the gold standard in personal management and productivity for many of the world’s best and brightest people and companies.

Sophisticated without being confining, the subtle effectiveness of GTD lies in its radically common sense notion that with a complete and current inventory of all your commitments, organized and reviewed in a systematic way, you can focus clearly, view your world from optimal angles and make trusted choices about what to do (and not do) at any moment. GTD embodies an easy, step-by-step and highly efficient method for achieving this relaxed, productive state. It includes:

* Capturing anything and everything that has your attention
* Defining actionable things discretely into outcomes and concrete next steps
* Organizing reminders and information in the most streamlined way, in appropriate categories, based on how and when you need to access them
* Keeping current and “on your game” with appropriately frequent reviews of the six horizons of your commitments (purpose, vision, goals, areas of focus, projects, and actions)

Implementing GTD alleviates the feeling of overwhelm, instills confidence, and releases a flood of creative energy. It provides structure without constraint, managing details with maximum flexibility. The system rigorously adheres to the core principles of productivity, while allowing tremendous freedom in the “how.” The only “right” way to do GTD is getting meaningful things done with truly the least amount of invested attention and energy. Coaching thousands of people, where they work, about their work, has informed the GTD method with the best practices of how to work (and live), in that most efficient and productive way.

GTD’s simplicity, flexibility, and immediacy are its attraction. Its ability to enliven, enlighten, and empower is its magic. What, indeed, is GTD? More than meets the eye…

A Couple Thoughts on the Importance of Giving

One of my favorite quotes in the world is from former tennis great and humanitarian, Arthur Ashe.

“From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.”

It’s a pretty famous quote and I don’t think you can say it any better. We get so wrapped up in our jobs and sometimes forget about what’s truly important. I’m not just talking about giving money, although I believe that’s important too. Giving your time to someone or to a cause is even better than simply giving money. If you’ve done this, and I’m sure most of you have, you know how it makes you feel. The person on the receiving end of your giving is getting a special gift from you, however, you’re the one that’s really getting the special gift.

If you live by this “giving” virtue, there is no doubt you will be better off for it and so will a lot of other people.

I typically write about ways to be more productive and make the most out of your day, but I think this is one of those things that, if done consistently and sincerely, will give you such meaning and positive energy. When you have both of those, you’re well on your way to rocking your 1440.

A Message On Perspective

My family received a Christmas card today from one of my mother-in-law’s best friends. The husband in the family had a stroke last year and is truly blessed to be alive. Although he’s had many obstacles along the way, they are taking the glass half-full approach. There’s a quote in the Christmas letter that I’d like to share with you.

“The burden of suffering can seem like a tomb stone hung about one’s neck, while in reality it is only the weight which is necessary to hold down the diver while he is diving for pearls.”

How about that for perspective.

3 Ways to Listen More Effectively

I had a colleague say to me once, “you have 2 ears and one mouth for a reason.” I’ve never forgotten that. Have you ever noticed yourself drifting off when someone’s talking to you or found yourself not being able to hold back b/c you want to say something. I know I have. This is one of the hardest things to change. The first step is to be conscious of it. Let me first make a confession. I’m not very good at this. If you ask my wife, Michelle, what the one thing she would change about me, she would say that she would want me to listen more and better. I guess the first step is admitting your shortcoming, right?

I believe there are three keys to listening more effectively in your professional life and at home:

1 – Single Task
2 – Minimize Distractions
3 – Pay Attention

Here are my thoughts on these three:

1 – Single Task:
There used to be a lot of people that talked about how much you needed to multi-task. We’ve seen that change. The more you multi-task, the less you will really get accomplished. Pick a task and see it through. I guarantee you will be more productive (and you will get that sense of accomplishment with each completion). This goes for listening. Be fully engaged. If someone’s talking to you, really pay attention to what they’re saying. Don’t cut them off. Try to minimize the 500 thoughts that are going through your head. Look them in the eye and give them your full attention. Make them feel like you are in tune to what they’re saying.

2 – Minimize Distractions:
If you’re working and in a meeting put your blackberry or other device away. You can check it every once in a while, but don’t keep it out. If it’s out, you’re going to look at (a lot). And, please, turn off the vibrate notification for emails. I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve been in where someone’s phone is vibrating every 2 minutes. This is very distracting.

If you’re on a conference call, minimize or shut down your computer as much as possible. Of course, there needs to be some flexibility here. If you’re not an active participant but simply need to be on the call, it’s ok to get some other things done. However, if the call is an important one, do what you can to stay offline and off your computer.

The same goes for regular phone calls. I used to be guilty of this a lot. You’re on the phone with someone and you’re surfing the net or sending emails out. Do you think you’re giving that call it’s rightful attention? Definitely not.

3 – Pay Attention:
I want you to start to think about listening the next time you’re talking to your colleague, your client, your wife, your children, etc. The more you’re aware of it, the better you will get.

“A good listener tries to understand what the other person is saying. In the end he may disagree sharply, but because he disagrees, he wants to know exactly what it is he is disagreeing with.” – Kenneth A. Wells

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. What works for you? Is an improvement area at work, at home? If you start paying attention, really paying attention, and you’re noticing an improvement, I’d love to hear about it.

Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time

If you’re looking for a great read, pick up “The Power of Full Engagement” by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz. It was recommended to me last year by Julie Ireland of the David Allen Company and Mike Williams (Zone By Zone Blog – great read, by the way), as I engaged in some tele-coaching and conversations. This book is a great complement to Getting Things Done.

The core message is that you have to manage your energy and not your time to achieve results. We get so caught up in “time management” and ABC prioritizing, etc., that we many times fail to look at what really drives performance.

Think of yourself like an athlete. If you’ve played any sport, you know that you go through periods of intense activity followed by periods of rest and recovery. Look at boxing or wrestling. Two to three minute periods, followed by a minute or so of a break. Do you really think a boxer or wrestler can perform at their peak if they didn’t get that rest/recovery time? Same for a basketball player, hockey player, football player, soccer player, weight lifter. The list goes on and on.

I plan on writing a lot about this topic, as I find it the most important part of being productive. How many of you find yourself going down internet rabbit trails throughout the day, and your mentally exhausted? The reason is you lose your focus after a certain amount of time if you don’t allow yourself to recover.

Loehr says that you should take a break at least every 90 minutes. I believe this is different for everyone, although 90 is a good starting point. For me, I actually try and break my day into what I call Sprints. I work in 25-30 minute intervals typically and do focused work for that time. Then, I take a break. I highly recommend getting away from whatever you’re doing and getting some fresh air if you can. This can be 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, whatever you need to recover. Another key aspect of this is to track your time. I actually set my blackberry alarm for 25 minutes. For example if it’s 1:40pm, I will set me alarm for 2:05pm and then get after it. As soon as 2:05 hits, I take a break. The reason you need to set an alarm is that time will get away from you.

Remember, this is unique for everyone, so tinker with your “Go times” and “rest/recovery.” I’d love hear feedback on what you find works for you and if you try any of these tips.

Stay tuned for more on managing your energy. There’s an awful lot to talk about.