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Category Archives: Smart Habits

Peter Szanto with Kevin Kelly

Kevin Kelly’s 2×3 steps to find your unique strength and become great at them

So I have this ongoing thing with Tim’s book and I try to meet w people featured in it and ask them to sign it. Turns out Kevin Kelly was with Tim in Uzbekistan just before he came to Budapest. As he describes, they went to crazy places there.

It all starts with ego. I asked Kevin Kelly about how we should go beyond our ego. It has many aspects and I knew he tried LSD once. But also other practices can be applied, but what I really loved in Kevin’s answer was that he admitted he cannot give that much advice on it. Being open about what you know and don’t and not trying to know everything.

This just connects to another thought Kevin highlighted: getting feedback is very important. As well as asking for help. In order to be good at this, you have to leave your ego out of it.

I had to ask him about the 1,000 true fans. Based on his thoughts I could draw similarities between going beyond your ego and focusing down to the 1,000 true fans. Kevin says that real success is finding and doing what you love. Find your own nieche, finding what you are good at and love. And find connecting skills to it. Find what you are better at than other people.

The simple 3 step process of Kevin Kelly

  • Create a world where you can try as many new things as you can and figure out what you are good at. It can be more things!
  • Figure out which one(s) you love the most.
    • Once you already have bunch of things you are good at, pay attention to the parts that are easy to do and the ones you are trying to avoid.
  • Choose the one(s) where there is not much competition and create your own category
    • Is there anybody else in the world doing this. If there are, why would people want to do that?
    • Also, if everybody thinks it’s a good idea, then that’s probably not a good idea for me.
    • This last phase requires the longest time

So if you can say that I could do this really well and I would probably enjoy doing this and you cannot say no to it and there is no one else doing it, than you found it.

There is an important side note to step 1: don’t do premature optimization. Don’t settle too soon. Meaning people drift from one thing to another before they could really tell how good they are.

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So once you have an idea, how to get started? We dig deeper and use another 3 step process

  • Try to give things away first, try to give these ideas away
    • Say something like, ‘Hey, it’s a great idea. You should do it.
  • Then try to kill everything
  • It’s the ones that keep coming back that I can’t kill and I can’t give away, that make me think, ‘Hmmm, maybe that’s the one I’m supposed to do.

To me it all comes down to the law of category. Kevin Kelly haven’t heard the term, but he actually applies it. The way he puts it is that you have to create your own slot. “The great temptation that people have is they want to be someone else, they want to be in someone else’s movie. They want to be the best rock star, and there are so many of those already that you can only wind up imitating somebody in that slot. To me, success is you make your own slot. You have a new slot that didn’t exist before. That’s, of course, what Jesus and many others were doing. That’s really hard to do, but I think that’s what I chalk up as success. You shouldn’t be afraid to be niche. Actually it has a lot of similarities w the 1000 true fans and what it says is that — you don’t necessarily need to be the best in one thing like be Michael Jordan but trying to be like in the top 20-25% in several things, 2-3 stuff, figure it out and then combine it and then you are creating your own category.

I recommended Kevin to write a follow up article on the 1,000 True Fans, where he explains the distribution part. Meaning how to reach them. He gave the best answer: he doesn’t know. Because the formula for finding and funnelling the fans in hasn’t been discovered, actually you have an advantage over the large companies. Because if there were a formula to gradually steer them in, then large corporations would use it and people like you and me wouldn’t have a chance. This way, it is up to us to figure it out – with the phenomenon of Youtube for example – and it is an open race. One thing for sure is that they won’t come if you are passive. You have to be proactive and just be out there trying.

So no new special secret here, but a good food for thought to know that we live in a time where we have a real shot achieving greatness in our own slot.

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Beginner’s Guide to Mindfulness Meditation

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

– Albert Einstein

Meditation has a surprisingly large number of benefits. Among other things it can reduce stress levels, improve your memory, and make you a more creative and compassionate individual.

In the last 10 years, hundreds of studies have been released about the effects of meditation, and they show that it changes in our brain for the better.

One of the greatest benefits of meditation is that it improves our focus. As most of us are constantly bombarded with messages on our smartphones and laptops, the ability to avoid distractions and concentrate on our work is more important than ever.

Many people are afraid to start meditating because they think it would be too complicated for them or that they could ruin it. The truth is, most of these fears are groundless. To prove this I’m going to show you a very simple meditation technique that you can start practicing right away, without further preparations.*

There are many different forms of meditation. What I’m about to introduce is most often referred to as mindfulness meditation, or focused attention.

I’ve chosen this technique as it is relatively easy to get into, and it is proven to boost concentration. Although, while practicing this method you’re going to have to direct your attention toward one thought, it will also allow you to observe your wandering thoughts as they drift through your mind.

Going through the steps I describe will allow you to experience the impacts of this method to some degree. But meditation is the most effective when done regularly, so if you feel this practice useful and you would like to take advantage of the mindfulness techniques completely, you should try to build a habit and meditate once or twice every day at the same time.

This post is just a brief introduction to meditation, and I encourage you to read further about this topic, discover other techniques, and find the ones that are the most appropriate for you. To make this easier, I’ve collected several links to informative and helpful articles about meditation that you can find at the end of this post.

Training your mind to sustain attention, and gently directing your thoughts in the long run will help you to tap into your most creative and innovative self. Meditation allows you to stop time, decompress all the things around you and escape into an “inner oasis.” Reaching it opens a new way of thinking: a different state of mind, where your perspectives change. I believe this is the state of mind that Einstein referred to.

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Mindfulness meditation in seven steps

  1. First of all, find a quiet place to meditate. It doesn’t need to be a hermetically sealed room, unless the noise is really loud, background noises won’t disturb your meditation. Close the windows, dim the lights, and turn off or mute your gadgets. Scented candles or flowers might enhance the experience, but they are not really necessary, so don’t worry about them.
  2. Set a timer. At first, I don’t recommend you to meditate longer than 10 to 15 minutes, but later when you’re used to it, you can gradually increase this time to 20 or 30 minutes, or even longer.
  3. Sit down on a chair. At a later time you might consider acquiring a meditation cushion (called “zafu”), but at first a simple chair will work just fine. Not an armchair, though, try to find a chair with a flat seat that allows you to sit comfortably with both of your feet on the ground.
  4. Straighten your back and rest your hands on your thighs. Don’t rest your back against the chair, try to maintain an upright but not rigid position. Imagine that your spine is a tree and lean against it.
  5. Close your eyes (or not). The goal of mindfulness meditation is to help you concentrate and turn your attention inward. If you can do it better while your eyes are closed, do so. If it’s uncomfortable for you for some reason, keep them half open and try to slightly focus your gaze on whatever is in front of you. Don’t try to stare at the various things in your room, just let your gaze rest wherever it lands.
  6. Concentrate on breathing. Breathe naturally and pay attention to the process of inhaling and exhaling. You can focus on how your lungs expand, or how air leaves your nose.

When your mind wanders during the meditation, gently bring your attention back to breathing. In the beginning of the meditation breathing in through the nose out through the mouth could help you to focus, but you shouldn’t breathe this way throughout the whole practice. Counting your breaths is also a great way to refocus your attention.

  1. And that’s it. Once your timer signals, stretch your muscles, rest a little bit, and let your mind wander.  

If you repeat this every morning, it will make you calmer and help you focus on your work throughout the day.

Our mind is like a feather in the wind once we let it flow, it will fly into various directions, and there is a very tiny chance that it would not quickly get back to our hands. If we don’t pay attention to our wandering, the mind can travel very far and stumble upon places that are better left unexplored. Thus, we could become anxious or negligent. A simple 10-minute meditation is not a too big price to pay to keep things under control and have a more comfortable day.  

 

Additional resources:

Meditation apps, guided meditations:

Headspace

The Mindfulness App

OMG! I Can Meditate

Free guided meditations from the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center

 

Meditation guides:

How to practice mindfulness meditation

Everything you need to start meditating

How to meditate – for beginners

How to sit for meditation

 

The effects of meditation:

The science behind meditation and why it makes you feel better

20 scientific reasons to start meditating today

7 ways meditation can actually change the brain

Forever Young(er): potential age-defying effects of long-term meditation on gray matter atrophy
*On very rare occasions mindfulness meditation may lead to bad experiences. If you’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness, or you are struggling with very serious problems right now, don’t go through these steps alone. In these cases, it’s better to start meditation with the help of a teacher.

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1,637 Days with Sleep Cycle

I used to be a snoozer. I almost always stayed in bed for a long time after my alarm clock rang. But with an app called Sleep Cycle I was able to change this habit and use my mornings more effectively.

Several years ago, I had a very important exam. It was the first test at the university that I had to take, and I prepared for it for a long time. In the morning of the test I snoozed the alarm and overslept. My parents weren’t at home that morning so there was no one to wake me up. When I did get out of bed it was so late that I literally had to run to the university to arrive on time.

During that period of my life, I used to stay in bed for a long time, sometimes for half an hour after the clock rang, and I hit the snooze button. But then I discovered an app called Sleep Cycle. With it, I was able to reduce this time to five minutes and wake up feeling fresh most of the time.

Instead of an exact time, Sleep Cycle wakes you up during a 30-minute period, which ends with your desired alarm time.

While you are sleeping, you go through repeating cycles of sleep states. There are three of them: light sleep, slow-wave or deep sleep, and the dream phase, also known as the REM period.

Interrupting your sleep during the deep or the REM stage may lead to grogginess upon awakening. In order to avoid this, the app wakes you up in your lightest sleep phase, which it determines with the accelerometer and the microphone of your smartphone.

I’ve been using Sleep Cycle for more than seven years, and I believe it is something that you should absolutely try out if you have similar problems with oversleeping to the one I’ve just described.  

I don’t know how accurate the measurements of the app are, but one thing is certain: it has worked for me. With this app, I was able to get rid of a bad habit, wake more naturally, and make the most of my days right from the start.

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Data from 1,637 nights

Besides defining the right time to wake up, the app also measures the length of sleep and allows its users to access statistics about their sleeping habits.

I woke up with Sleep Cycle on 1,637 mornings. Here are a few interesting statistics about the previous nights:

– On average I spend eight hours and 21 minutes in bed. Usually, it takes me around 25 to 35 minutes to fall asleep.

– My sleep quality decreases with four to five percent if I drink alcohol. Surprisingly, it also decreases if I work out.

– My sleep quality increases in foggy weather by 9 percent, and it is the best after full moon.

It’s still not entirely clear how I could take advantage of these statistics, but it seems drinking even less alcohol and going to bed early on foggy nights could be a good idea.

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Integrations

You can connect Sleep Cycle with several apps and devices.

What I strongly advise you to try out is using the app with a set of Philips Hue smart light bulbs.

The dark winter mornings have a very negative effect on my productivity. But by connecting the app to the Hue bulbs and instructing them to create a Mediterranean sunrise when Sleep Cycle wakes me up, I was able to make these mornings a bit more bearable.

I also sync the data from Sleep Cycle with Apple Health. This is the place where I store health-related data from the various gadgets and applications that I use. Besides the sleep patterns, it gives me an overview of my daily movement, sports activities, and weight changes.

Currently to reach this level of transparency about your health and well-being requires you to use and connect several apps and tools, like My Fitness Pal, Jawbone, the Apple Watch, and some kind of smart weight scale. But it’s something that I advise you to do, as the information you can collect this way can help you become more conscious about your health and change your habits.

Of course, in itself, no application can make you a great sleeper or a healthy person, you also have to work for these things, and, for example, try to go to sleep and get out of bed around the same time every day. But finding great apps like Sleep Cycle can make it much easier for you to achieve results and make the most of your days.

To anyone who is wondering about the end of my story, the university ultimately let me in, and I passed that important test. Looking back, I am quite relieved that something like this is never going to happen again! Thanks, Sleep Cycle!

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Warren Buffett’s 5/25 Rule Will Help You Focus On What Really Matters

I’d like to share with you a simple method that can help to prioritize your goals and move your career forward.

Why prioritizing is so important?

Here’s an example. I am the CEO of a SaaS startup. We help companies increase conversion rates by creating different versions of their website.

If you’d like to optimize the performance of an e-commerce site, there are a lot of elements that you should pay attention to, and they all require a different skill set.

You need to understand how Google operates, and how to rank for important keywords. You have to be familiar with every social media site that your potential customers are using. Web development, copywriting, and photo editing skills can also help you in achieving outstanding results.

You might think that learning as much as you can about each of those fields is your best chance to become a great marketer.

Well, that’s obviously not going to work. It could take years to master any one of them. On top of that, every area in online marketing is changing rapidly, and if you don’t keep your knowledge up to date about a certain topic, it’s going to be worthless in a couple of years.

You can get much further by prioritizing and finding out which career fields are the most promising for you.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that you should pursue only one goal, but having too many can discourage you from doing what is necessary to become truly successful. Sooner or later you will feel like there are just too many skills that you need to improve, which will most certainly hold back your progress.

To avoid a situation like this, you need to decide where to focus your energies.

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Warren Buffett’s 5/25 Rule

Warren Buffett, the American investor, is regularly ranked among the world’s most influential and wealthiest people. Mike Flint, who has piloted for several U.S. presidents, was his personal airplane pilot for 10 years. Once they talked about setting career goals, and Buffett advised Flint to go through the following two steps:

  1.  Write down 25 goals that you’d like to accomplish in your career.
  2.  Review your list and circle five goals, the ones that are the most important to you.

If you think deeply about the things that matter to you the most and create a list like this, you’ll be able to see clearly what your top five priorities and 20 secondary goals are.

But what’s really interesting about this story is Buffett’s advice about the secondary goals. He didn’t tell the pilot to concentrate less on them, or to only pay attention to them when he has more free time for some reason. He told him to avoid them at all costs and don’t even think about them until he achieved his most important goals.

 

What are your top five priorities?

Going through these steps and creating a list of my 25 goals has helped me to find out what to concentrate on and which direction to take. And it seems I’m not alone with this. With a quick search, you can find investors, developers, and entrepreneurs writing about the benefits of this method.  

So, if you haven’t heard of it before, and feel like you need to make decisions that can seriously impact your career, I advise you to give it a try.

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Blinkist and Other Timesaving Tools: How to Finish a Book in 30 Minutes

Are you busy and knowledge-hungry as well? We’re in the same boat. Podcasts, Blinkist, and the YouTube app might be the right tools for you. Let me show you how I ended up “reading” a book every day in the last couple of months.

Spoiler alert: this is a teaser article of an upcoming piece where I will share one year with Blinkist.

 

I don’t like to read. There, I said it. Yes, I know that it’s a huge problem. Especially, since I truly believe in self-education.

It is a scientific fact that reading both fiction and nonfiction has numerous benefits. Spending time with books can reduce your stress level, expand your vocabulary, improve your concentration and analytical skills, and increase your knowledge in countless areas.

But how can I do it if I find it hard to focus for a long time on some piece of paper?

To overcome this problem, at first I decided to try audiobooks. Using tools like Audible.com seemed like a good solution, but I have two problems with listening to the unabridged version of the books that I’m interested in:

  1. A) I also want to read the important parts, and B) I don’t want to spend too much time with a book without knowing if it is actually useful for me.

Luckily I’ve found a tool that could solve both problems.

It is called Blinkist, and it is a beautifully designed app that provides written and audio summaries of nonfiction books. It has the short versions of more than a 1,000 titles about economics, psychology, productivity, and other topics that you can read or listen to after downloading it from Google Play or iTunes.

The audio summaries, or “blinks,” are 15 minutes long. They are created by editors and not an algorithm and are generally well-written.

Pro tip: You can listen to them on faster speed.

One downside is that I like to listen to audio at twice the speed, and Blinkist can only do one and half times the speed. Still, with this application, I can “finish” a book in less than 30 minutes, which is great! I listen to the summary for 10 minutes and write down what is important. Then I get the e-book and search for those parts and read them.

Of course, using Blinkist is not the same as reading or listening to a full book, but it provides a very time-effective way of understanding the main ideas in a title and learning about new concepts. Actually, I got hooked on it so much that I challenged myself a few months ago to “read” a book with the app every day.

So far I’m doing great. I only missed a few days, but I made up for them on the next day.

Here are some books that I would recommend to you if you’d also like to try out the app:

Getting Things Done by David Allen

The technique described in this book is of my favorite productivity methods that can help you to get rid of distractions and focus on what’s really important.

The Lean Startup from Eric Ries

The Lean Startup is one of the most influential books about business and product development. A recommended read for anyone in the tech industry.

Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

In this book, Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi outlines his theory that people are happiest when they are in a state of flow a state of complete absorption with the activity at hand. Listen to this if you’d like to improve your concentration.

The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss

Would you like escape your nine-to-five job and achieve great things while working only a few hours every week? In this case, you should also download  this one.

Now go ahead and read them, and in two hours you’ll have “read” four books!

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Podcasts and YouTube

There are two more things that I recommend you do if you’d like to improve yourself and learn about new things in a time-efficient manner.

I know it sounds old school, but podcasts and YouTube videos still rock! You can listen to them at double speed, and this way you can finish some great episodes while you do your jogging.

I’ve also collected a couple channels and shows that I advise you to check out, if you, like me, are interested in productivity methods, innovative companies, and web marketing:

 

YouTube channels:

Tony Robbins

Tony Robbins is an American motivational speaker and author. He is also one of the top 200 business gurus, according to Harvard Business Press. If you’re looking for strategies that can help to become successful in entrepreneurship, then this is your channel.

HubSpot Inbound

If you are more interested in email marketing, content strategies, and new ways of generating leads, then start with this one.

Simon Sinek

Simon Sinek is a leadership and management expert you should listen to. His first TEDx Talk on “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” is the third-most viewed video on TED.com. Which leads us to…

TED

With more than 2,000 videos of TED talks, this is the channel that you can always navigate to if you’re looking for new ideas or a deeper understanding of topics that you are interested in. And finally:

The Secret

The Secret is a motivational video that has helped me a lot, and I believe you will find it useful as well.

 

Podcasts:

http://thestartupchat.com/

Get startup advice from Steli Efti, one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent sales hustlers, and Hiten Shah, the co-founder of Quick Sprout.

http://fourhourworkweek.com/podcast/

Here you can find podcasts from Tim Ferris, the author of The 4-Hour Workweek.

http://itunes.stanford.edu/

And here is a free collection of course lectures and faculty presentations from Stanford University, Stanford, California.

 

I hope I could show you some new ways to improve yourself and tell you about books that you’ll find beneficial.

Did you find my collections useful? Would you like to see more posts like this on my blog? Let me know!

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My worst self

Our self-knowledge and personality develops over time, but not in every aspect.

Most people sooner or later understand what they are good at. They know which skills and abilities moved their career forward and how they got to where they are.

But facing our weaknesses is a much more difficult task. One of the reasons for this is simple. We recall our success stories and occasions more easily, and we triggered positive reactions more often than our failures. Just think about how much time you spend remembering people who turned you down. How easily you answered the questions about your weaknesses at job interviews.

I bet you had a much easier time talking about your achievements, which is okay. Especially if things are going well, there’s no reason to mull over past failures.

But if we feel like our career is moving in the wrong direction, or we’re making the same mistakes again and again and want to understand the reasons, studying our darker side could help. At these times, if instead of avoiding the uncomfortable questions, we try to understand what our worst self is, or what makes our worst self come out, we can learn a lot about ourselves. And improving self-knowledge in the long run will help us to overcome things that are holding us back.

Even though currently I’m not in any kind of crisis, and in many aspects, I’m closer to reaching my goals than I used to be a few years ago, there are still many things in my life that I’m not satisfied with. And reading about the advantages of studying our worst self got me thinking.

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I’ve created a list of the things that I believe I should try to change in the near future. I was aware of these problems before writing them down, so I wouldn’t say that I’ve discovered an entirely new perspective, but thinking about them deeply did help.

This is why I decided to share my results with you. This is what I believe constitutes my worst self, and these are the things that can bring it out:

– I’m a goal-oriented person, and I don’t think it is a bad thing. But there are some downsides of this mentality, and I have a few personality traits that could put me at a disadvantage in certain situations.

– I’m impatient and a bit selfish.

– Sometimes I’m also stressed out and inattentive. This happens most often when I know that I’m right but others don’t see it that way.

– I could also get very tense when people can’t understand why I ask them for certain things, and as a result they don’t complete their tasks.

– Things that are out of my control can also bring out the worst of me. When what should be done is obvious, but for some irrational human factor operations don’t work effectively and I feel like I can’t impact things, I try to solve problems with force. Which is probably not the best solution.

Looking through this list I concluded that paying more attention to the details, being more patient with certain projects, and trying new approaches when things don’t work out would help me in many ways, and I will have to pay attention to these things in the future.

So what do you think? Could studying your worst self help you as well?

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How Can Economic Theories Help You Live a Fulfilling Life?

I’m going to write about two concepts: Gossen’s first law and the Giffen paradox. I believe that these theories could explain more than the relations between utility, price, and demand. They could be applied to other aspects of life as well.

A few weeks ago I had a nice chat with my girlfriend about the balance between my relationships and professional life. I used to be a big fan of microeconomics, and we discovered that these two old principles might show us a way to become more productive and satisfied. Let me share it with you.

Gossen’s First Law states that the utility derived from each successive unit of a commodity diminishes. If an individual consumes more of a commodity, the total utility will increase at a decreasing rate. Then, after a certain amount of consumption, the marginal utility or the personal gain will become negative, and the total utility will start to decrease too.

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In plain English, this means after a certain number of occasions, spending more time with an activity or buying more of a product won’t make you happier.

For example, kids love chocolate cake. If you give a piece of cake to a little boy, it will make him happy. If you give him two pieces, it will make him even more delighted. But around the sixth piece, he will have enough. The seventh piece won’t make him any more satisfied. He will start to play with the food, and in the end, you will have to wash the whole thing of the wall.

The Giffen paradox refers to exceptional products that could violate the law of demand when a product’s price increases, people consume more.

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“As Mr. Giffen has pointed out, a rise in the price of bread makes so large a drain on the resources of the poorer labouring families and raises so much the marginal utility of money to them, that they are forced to curtail their consumption of meat and the more expensive farinaceous foods: and, bread being still the cheapest food which they can get and will take, they consume more, and not less of it,” wrote Alfred Marshall in 1895 about this phenomenon, in the third edition of his book the “Principles of Economics.”

 

The sixth piece of the cake

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We can view the different stages of a relationship as the pieces of the chocolate cake that I used to explain Gossen’s First Law. In this case, the first piece of the cake is the romance stage when everything seems perfect, and the sixth piece is the foundation of a mutually beneficial, long-term relationship.

The question is what happens after this. According to Gossen’s First Law, the partners will start to profit less from staying together after this stage, and this will lead to a divorce. But the Giffen paradox could change that if they are able to find a way to benefit from consuming more of the same.

When I talked with my girlfriend about these theories, we concluded that there must be a way to remain on the sixth level. A method that will take you there and allow you to improve indefinitely. Not only in your relationships, but at your profession and other aspects of your life as well.

Now, I wouldn’t say that we’ve found the perfect solution for the problem of diminishing marginal utility, but maybe what I’m about to write next could help.

Finding balance

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The second law of Gossen tells that unlike our resources, our wants are unlimited, and in order to attain maximum satisfaction, we need to optimize the use of our scarce resources. Instead of consuming more of the same, we should look for the most pleasing mix of commodities.

In terms of a relationship, we shouldn’t interpret the second law as a theory on the advantages of polygamy. It is about the importance of finding balance.

We need to find balance in every aspect of our life.

A relationship can last only if it works on different levels. If sex is great, but you don’t have common interests, or can’t stand each other’s friends, it’s not going to work.

Similarly, concentrating only on one activity won’t make you more productive.

I used to be a man of the extremes, and failed to find balance in my life. For example, if I focused on math, I couldn’t memorize a single line of a poem. I knew it had to change, so I started an experience.

I tried to form habits and do certain tasks, like writing, consulting with clients, or going to the gym at the same time each week. This returning pattern helped me a lot. You could read about it here if you’re interested.

Of course, the same is not going to work for everyone. But anybody can increase productivity by finding the right combination of activities, relationships, and goals.

I guess our objective should be to use the right rituals, ones that could keep us steady and productive.

This could mean that instead of having an amazing sex life, but lack of intellectual discussion, we should thrive for both on an above-average level so the total utility will be higher than just one’s peak.

We need to look for the intersection of sets, and aspire to a balanced state that will allow us to remain at the sixth piece of the cake forever.

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How to build habit-forming products

Almost every enterprise tries to build long-lasting relationships with its clients.

As it could be four to 10 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it does to keep an existing one, business owners have every reason to make their old clients happy. With that said, some internet companies rely on return visits and an active user base more than others.

An e-commerce site that sells products that people replace once a decade can get by without constant communication with its customers. On the other hand, an SAAS company or a social media start-up will fail without regular users.

We use the services of the most successful internet companies several times a day. When we’d like to know more about a topic, we Google it. When we’re bored, we pick up our phone and scroll down our Facebook wall. When in the morning we wonder what’s going on with the world, we launch Twitter or navigate to our favorite news site.

We use these services more than we should and not because we don’t realize that in many cases it’s a waste of time and we won’t remember anything from the most trending stories of the day five seconds after we’ve read them.

We use these services constantly because up to a certain level, we’re addicted to them. We have to find the answers instantly and we need to be continually connected to what others are doing.

Facebook and Google became what they are now because they were able to convince users to form new habits. In certain situations, some of their features come to our mind and we launch them without thinking.

 

Hooked

hooked

 

Nir Eyal spent most of his career in the gaming and advertising industries. He applied, and in some cases rejected, techniques that are used to motivate and manipulate users. He believes that designers can create habit-forming products that will help people live healthier, happier, and more connected lives.

After studying the deeper psychology behind habits and how online services change our behavior, he decided to write a book. He wanted to show the designers how to build such products and help consumers break away from the hooks that don’t serve their life.

In his book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, he describes the habit-forming mechanism of online services in four steps:

– The initial step is the trigger. At first, the trigger is external, we see a post on Facebook, or arrive at a landing page and click on a link that will allow us to use the service.

– It is followed by the action. Starting to use habit-forming products is simple, and they are able to motivate us to perform the action that their designer planned.

– The third step is the reward. The user is rewarded for the action. For example, the user feels a bit of relief after opening Facebook’s app and would like to use it some more.

– The final step is the investment. The user has to invest time and energy into the product, as it increases the chances of returning.

If these steps are repeated frequently enough, the user will form a habit around the product. The triggers will become internal and the user will associate the service with a problem or a certain situation.

 

Simplify the way!

simplify-the-way

I’m the founder of a SAAS company and reading about the Hooked model was extremely useful for me. My company, SpringTab, helps business owners find out more about the personal and professional interests of those visitors who use social log-ins on their sites. We also help them in personalizing the experience of their users according to the collected information.

Of course, we are trying to hook our subscribers and convince them to use our service regularly. Consciously or not, we apply many of the steps Nir Eyal described.

We try to make onboarding as simple as possible for newcomers. The hook is our social analytics tool. It can help website owners understand what type of people use their sites, what kind of traits their most loyal customers have, or what could motivate people who choose certain products. It is a rewarding experience.

Once they see the value of our software, it is much easier to convince them to use more complex features and create different versions of their website for the various groups of their users.

I completely agree with Nir Eyal in that online services need to be able to form new habits in order to become truly successful. Now at SpringTab, we are working on automatic notifications for our users that will regularly remind them to visit their dashboard.

So, what do you think? Do you find the Hooked model useful as well? Does your product have features or do you plan to develop ones that can form user habits?

calendly-featured

Calendly Can Help You Save Time and Schedule Meetings Easily

I would like to show you one of my favorite tools. It is called Calendly and it saves me at least one or two hours per week.

This tool is about scheduling meetings. I’m sure you also had trouble with finding a mutually agreeable time with your clients, or co-workers. It’s a hassle. You send emails back and fourth, or maybe use a Gmail extension to add options to your emails. Sometimes you end up calling each other, and you’re still unable to find the right time.

According to Bloomberg, an average appointment takes five e-mails to schedule. A few years ago Doodle surveyed a sample of 1,500 managers and administrative staff members in Germany, France and the United States.

They were asked about their scheduling habits. It turned out that the vast majority of them were still using old school tools, like the tabletop calendar, or telephone calls to coordinate meetings. On average they wasted nearly five hours per week on this task.

 

How to get back valuable time and focus on more important tasks?

 

The constant calls and emails about the appointments are distractive. If you use Calendly, next to saving time, you’ll also be able to eliminate most of these distractions, and stay focused. Let me show you how.

 

https-%2f%2fcalendly-com%2fszanto

 

It’s pretty easy to create a profile, this is mine. Although I’m using the free version it has a unique URL, which is: https://calendly.com/szanto

 

Let’s say one of my partners or clients calls me and wants to have a meeting. I don’t remember anything. Without this app I would have to check my calendar, find an appropriate period and do the things I described above. Now I just send a link and tell my clients to select the time, which is suitable for them.

 

The link, of course, will take them to my Calenly page, where they can find the dates, which are good for me.

https-%2f%2fcalendly-com%2fszanto%2f25min%2f06-28-2016-back1-napok

 

 

If they click on a date, they will also be able to see, when I am available, on the chosen day.

 

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Once they picked the time, all they need to do to schedule a meeting is to enter their name and email address. If you want, you can add any compulsory questions here. For example, I also ask my clients and partners to describe the topic of the meeting briefly, so I can prepare for it.

 

enter-details

After they schedule an event they can save it into Outlook or their Google Calendar. They can also download a file, wich when clicked on, will automatically add it to iCall and other apps.

 

I won’t need to save the event in my Google Calendar, Calendly will do this job for me. Every detail of the meeting is synced with Google’s app, which will notify me about it, just like it does with every other appointment. Calendly will also send a reminder into my inbox while my partners will receive a different one, which allows them to reschedule or cancel the meetings.

 

Event types in Calendly

 

From the questions your clients have to answer to different notification types, you can configure many aspects of your events in Calendly. You could also change their appearance and embed them in your website.

 

 

calendly

If you subscribe for the app you’ll be able to create different event types for the various meetings you have every week, and for example, send different types of invites for your colleagues and clients.

 

It has a dashboard too, which lists all the booked events, but if you connect the app with Google Calendar, like I did, you won’t really need it.
I can only encourage you to start using it, and save valuable time every week.

kanban-method

Make The Change with The Kanban Method

Chaos, inconsistency and workflow problems in your everyday? You would never dream about how much better it can become by applying The Kanban Method. Having full control over your work processes is just priceless.

 

Incremental change in your workflow

Imagine having everything on post-it and as you get closer to finishing them, you move to further stages. It has three basic sections:

 

  1.     To do – Make the full list of things you want to get done.
  2.     Doing – When you start progressing on one of them, move it into this section.
  3.     Done – Put those task here that are completely finalized.  

 

Different color-coded post- its can function as categories or tags by project, or any other differentiator. If necessary, you can always add notes like a certain task for example is “on hold”, or extra information, detail about the process. You can also attach documents or images.

Of course, you are able to develop your own work process based on the Kanban method and find out new stages in between the three sections that I mentioned above.

 

Kanban is a perfect solution is you would like to see a broad picture of ongoing projects. You can see in one glance all the tasks, approaching deadlines and progress of your work.

 

  • Pros: You have a broad picture always in front of you
  • Cons: Always be careful about the details that can be overlooked, if using this method.

team-working-and-kanban

Team working and Kanban

Kanban method is the best technique for team working as well. Your fellows will know everything that is going on with a project. What is more, they can address themselves or can be tagged by someone for a certain task to do.

 

Check out these some apps that function based on the Kanban method. They will help you to see the big picture and facilitate you to always keep an eye on every stage of the work you are progressing on.

 

Trello vs. LeanKit

Stay posted by these applications that are available from your mobile device, as well. While you are out of office, you can check status updates, comments, and make changes anytime. You will have the feeling of control over your job easily with these apps.

 

 

The difference is not too much between these two, they are very similar tools. I have done a little research on them and found out that Trello is supported by all kind of platforms; web based, IPhone, Android and Windows Phone app, LeanKit can’t go with Windows Phone. While Trello typically serves freelancers and SME-s, LeanKit is also for enterprises. Apparently, Trello has less features, but allows integrations with more platforms. According to social media preference, Trello has been more popular, but it is worth to check both of them out, they develop fast according to customer needs. LeanKit even offers a free trial.

kanban-method

Implementation

It can take some time to get accustomed to these applications, especially, if you have a whole team working with you. However, it is simply about that you and your people will need to change your working habits a little. It’s kind of making a documentation of each step you are planning to do, you are doing, and what you have done.

 

It may seem as a sisyphean work in the beginning, but soon everyone will realize, how much you can ease your work. In fact, you can become addicted to the kind of working method. But this will be a good kind of addiction.
Let the Kanban boards define of your whole workflow. Combine this method with the GTD and Pomodoro Technique and take over the reins.

find-your-mantra-and-do-it

Find Your Mantra and Do It!

There is one really tough thing in being an entrepreneur- there are millions of things you simply don’t know and you always feel like you need to test the ground. It can be paralyzing and scary, giving you a perfect reason not to start working right away. I had to learn that not focusing on the things that create real value, faking business or just simply procrastinating is actually a bigger effort then doing something meaningful. So why not do so?

 

How, you ask?

“Shut the fuck up, get over yourself and do it anyway”

– Steli Efti’s Get Over Mantra:

 

Subconscious mind setting

 

Don’t get threatened by this, it’s pure science. Interestingly, it’s evident that nerve connections are changed and strengthened by even imagining practicing musical pieces (this study was carried out among musicians). It means that you can leverage your brain more than you would have ever thought.

set-your-main-focus

 

Set your main focus

 

Find 5-10 minutes before you start your day, when you figure out what you want to get down, what your main focuses are for the day. Don’t think of too many at the same time, otherwise you can easily lose control over your tasks and end up being inefficient by the end of the day.

Stop procrastinating

 

You can stop procrastinating by programming your subconscious mind. (Also, read NLP chapter). Perhaps the most powerful words you can use to increase your productivity are the words; “Do it now!  Do it now!  Do it now!” Whenever you find yourself procrastinating on an important task, repeat to yourself, with energy and enthusiasm, the words, “Do it now! Do it now! Do it now!”

The amazing discovery is that after you have repeated these words 10, 20, or even 100 times, you will find yourself programming your subconscious mind into starting on your most important task and completing that job before you do anything else.

Throughout the day, when you are distracted by people, emails, telephone calls and other factors, and you find yourself drifting away from your most important tasks, take control of yourself by repeating the words, “Back to work! Back to work! Back to work!”

 

Success and Positivism

 

“Positive emotions help speed recovery from negative emotions,” Barbara Fredrickson (author of Positivity and a professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill).

A study shows that entrepreneurs are a group of exceptionally positive people. Apparently, for them, it’s easier to face repeated failures, while others would never get of their bums, or just simply run away from certain situations saying, “this is not for them”.

No matter what, when it comes to action, it can be terribly hard to do it. But bear it in mind: the more you fight, the greater chance you have to fly.

Here are some quotes that motivated me today. They will give you a little push, when you have to keep going.

“Don’t watch the clock; do what it does. Keep going.” Sam Levenson

” You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else” Albert Einstein

” If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door. Milton Berle

So again, just do it! How? First, try with little steps. Trick your mind and start smiling when you are down. If you keep smiling and laughing, it is impossible to stay sad.

Watch and smile:

How did you enjoy this tip? Please share your thoughts here or drop me an email. I would love to know if you guys want me to write more articles like this or not!

assertive-writing-1

Assertive writing

“What you most want to write is what you should be writing”

 

One of the best tools I have ever encountered. If you only do one challenge this year, do this!

 

Your task is simple and you only have one: WRITE FOR TWO HOURS.

 

There is no guidance on topics, no rule, except you cannot stop writing for two hours. The important thing is that within those 2 hours, you cannot have any external disturbance. Turn your phone off, no music, no TV in the background and no people bothering you; just you and your thoughts.

 

It doesn’t matter what you write about, you can literally start like, ‘Okay, I’m writing this and there is nothing on my mind, but this wall is white…”. The first 10-15 minutes will feel pretty weird, then you start writing about things in your mind, then an hour goes by and the magic happens. Your mind or hand or something will start writing things that you never thought of from that perspective. You will discover issues that you had and connect with your personality on a deeper level.

The Story

My mentor, who told me about this technique, is leading projects that can take years to complete. He found out about himself that he doesn’t like things that he can’t see the end of, so if there is an ongoing project with no end goal, he gets frustrated. Ever since then, he’s cut off those projects or cut them into parts with ends, his efficiency and mood raised.

 

In my late 20s, I went through something we could call a crisis.

 

That was the time when I did this exercise. It seemed like I almost had everything. I had a profitable venture, an amazing downtown office in my hometown Budapest (literally, my dream office), cool people to work with, nice projects, we ended a relationship that wasn’t going anywhere, even if there was deep love; I was building up my dream startup and basically I could do whatever I wanted. But I felt sad, I felt demotivated. It was Christmas when I did this exercise and thanks to that I figured that I had been in the same spot for too long, had some toxic people in my life and I’d just become unhappy if there was no change, even of location, in my life. This was late December. I decided I wanted to move somewhere else, but have the freedom to visit Budapest whenever I felt like.

 

In the space of three months, I closed the downtown office, cut off all the poisonous people and projects, moved to Germany, managed to work on international projects, got to travel all across Europe, from Bratislava, to Amsterdam and Paris, and started exercising at a level that I had always wanted. Most importantly, I now feel way happier, satisfied and confident in my life.

I owe my thanks to this exercise and to my mentor.

the-story

 

The philosophy behind asserive writing

 

Let’s get back to the beginning. How does this technique work actually? My first thought about this was that it must be fricking hard to do; it requires so much concentration. Just the fact that you can’t do anything else when you are exercising is tiring. And anyways, isn’t it a waste of time dealing with this?

 

Someone might not need this at all. But I think often we just live our life like machines. We are so busy getting our jobs down each day that we don’t even have time for thinking of any kind of other perspectives in life.

 

Then I thought, why couldn’t I allocate some time for this after all? This is just kind of a deep talk with myself that improves my self-awareness. That might be handy for me and my future. With these thoughts in my mind, I finally dedicated two hours from my life to this exercise and I didn’t regret it.  
I believe that this is something that is worth experimenting with, only for having the experience of being lost in your thoughts. Yes, it’s a bit hard and feels weird in the beginning, but once you start it, you will realize that you have much more inside of you that you have ever thought of. It helped me a lot in moving forward and finding new ways. You can give it a try too.

the-philosophy-behind-assertive-writing

 

Finally, let’s see 5 interesting facts about writing, you might get a little motivation:

 

1)   Everyone has the capacity for creativity and being innovative, it is scientifically evidenced.

2)   While you need skills for craft, creativity is intuitive. for writing both of them are required

3)   There are many misconceptions about writing e.g. people are either creative by nature, or they aren’t. / Writing is easy, for people meant to write.

4)   Believing in limitless abilities enables you to work harder

5)   The “right” way of doing things is very subjective, look for your own way.

Read more here: http://www.writingcycle.com/the-writing-process/10-rules-for-creative-writing/

 

Did you enjoy this tip? YES or No. I would love to know if you want me to write articles like this or not!

calendar-automatization

How to Save Time with Google Calendar Automation?

As we all know, time is money.

If you are an entrepreneur, you are probably familiar with this saying. Managing weekly events, meetings, etc. is one of the most important skills  you had to master. Google Calendar Automation can save a lot of time if used correctly, so it’s more important to know all the tricks. Today, I would like to show you a hack for that I’ve been using to make time management easier. Follow my guide and you will never forget to schedule the events that take place at a different time each week.

Create an event

This is the bread and butter of everything we will talk about. You will need to do the following things, to create a new event:

calendar-automation-1

 

  1. Open Google Calendar.
  2. In the top left corner, click Create, or click any time on the calendar that doesn’t already have an event scheduled.
  3. Add a title to the event, and any event details.
  4. For an all-day event check the box next to All day.
  5. For adding a video call for the event click Add video call in the “Video call” section,
  6. If you have multiple calendars, choose the calendar where you want to add the event from the “Calendar” dropdown menu.
  7. At the top of the page, click Save.

Create a recurring event

When you create an event in Google Calendar, you can make it repeat on certain days. It’s useful if you have group meetings at the same time every week or if you want to add the time of the gym to your calendar as well. What you have to do is:

calendar-automation-2

 

  1. Open Google Calendar.
  2. In the top left corner, click Create.
  3. Add the event title, date, and time.
  4. Under the date and time, check the box next to Repeat.
  5. Choose how often you want the event to repeat, and when you want the repeating event to end.
  6. Click Done.
  7. When you’re done creating your event, click Save at the top of the page.

If you want to make a recurring event out of an existing event, just open it and check the box next to Repeat as well. And check this deeper guide on ssw as well.

Make changes to repeating events

No matter how punctual your plan is, you are going to want to change it at some point in the future. Luckily, there are many editing options for repeating events. Now, I will show you how to manage them.

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  1. Open Google Calendar.
  2. Click the event you want to update > More details.
  3. Make changes to the event.
  4. At the top of the page, click Save.
  5. Choose which events in the series you want to update:
    1. Only this event: This event will be updated, but the details of all the other recurring events will stay the same.
    2. Following events: This event, and all events moving forward will be updated. Any events from the past won’t be updated.
    3. All events: All events from the past and the future will be updated.

If you are interested in more, check this article about importing from interesting calendars, and my video below about recurring events.

smart-habits-of-work-you-only-need-one

Smart habit of work: You only Need One! Be smart and don’t work more than 4 hours a day

Most people identify entrepreneurship, with 12 hour workdays and high levels of stress. Apparently, there’s another way.  If you ignore difficult tasks, and focus on the ones that you can work on with confidence you will constantly feel like the right person at the right time. The founders of Heroku made millions of dollars operating this way. Some of the tips in this post could help you, follow their footsteps…

 

Do you work more than 4 hours a day? The founders of the cloud based platform, Heroku didn’t and they made a 200 million dollar exit. They must know something about the smart habits of work

I heard this story many times from Steli Efti at conferences and blogs. You can just listen to it in Episode 56 of TheStartUpChat.com.

The Heroku guys told Steli, that   “If something is too hard, we don’t do it.”.

This doesn’t make sense. As an entrepreneur, you crave challenge, and feel competent to deal with the hardest tasks. Then why on earth would true entrepreneurs, who made 8-digit exit before, say something like this?

smart-habits-of-work

 

Here is why.

 

If something feels too hard or can’t be fixed easily, it’s a good idea to ignore it for a while. Just keep focusing on what you are good at! If you are a GTD fan, put these projects into the Someday box. If you are not familiar with this method, just set up a reminder, which will alarm you 6 months later.By that time, two possible scenarios will arise. Either 1) you will have the knowledge or the team to execute. Or… 2) The problem will not be important anymore.

 

Look at difficult things as red flags. They seem hard, because either you are not the right person for the job, or it is not the right time for you to work on it. In these scenarios, be honest with yourself and say, I don’t have  a suitable  approach or tactic right now.

 

Sometimes it’s the best to just push aside the unresolved situations. Admit that it seems to hard – yet. Later down the road when you encounter with it again, it might be either easier.  

It’s possible, that next time you will have a better team, more experience or a deeper knowledge about the topic. It’s also imaginable, that you will realize, that it wasn’t the right challenge and you should never have bothered with it in the first place.

 

This approach is mind blowing. This philosophy simplifies life on so many levels!

You are more inspired and productive, if your projects are doable, and you feel competent at your job. Basically, you will feel that you are the right person at the right time, and you will be able to get so many awesome things done.

Does it seem like that everything you thought about life – like word hard and stuff – was just wrong and it turned upside down?

 

Well, there are many ways to do things, and I’m sure that the Heroku guys didn’t intend to say that this is the only aproach that could work. That being said, it is good to see an example like this. No matter if you are in a rock bottom position or rising high, let’s do the homework and just think about it. I’d love to hear your take on it!  Comment on my Facebook page or just send an email to peter@szanto.co!
My recommendation is to cut the clutter out of your life and focus on what you love.

productivity-habits-of-successful-people-part-2-the-pomodoro-technique

Productivity Habits of Successful People Part 2: The Pomodoro Technique

Pomodoro Technique. The Pomodoro Technique advocates breaking big projects or tasks into smaller, more achievable tasks distributed throughout the course of your day and — notably — separated by frequent breaks. Each task should take no longer than 25 minutes and breaks should be approximately 5 – 30 minutes (depending on how long you need to recharge before the next task). The technique’s name comes from a tomato kitchen timer, used to time 25 minute increments. If you want a more modern solution, there are many timers available online.

 

Pomodoro Technique

Pomodoro is about setting short intervals and having a few minute- long breaks. It is repeated throughout the day and helps in simplifying project and being more productive.

Here is an easy 6-step instruction how to use it:

  1. Choose a task to work on
  2. Set your timer (pomodoro) to 25 minutes or whatever works for you
  3. Work on it until the timer rings
  4. Take a 5 minute break
  5. After three pomodoros, take a longer break for like a half an hour
  6. Repeat until necessary

Using it you will become a way better planner who tracks results and efficiency. It goes pretty well with GTD, since you divide projects into small tasks anyways.

Once you formed a habit out of it, you will rarely finish earlier. If that happens – congrats and – it is time to set more difficult tasks or put more into one set. In short breaks you shouldn’t focus on that work. Go a take a short walk, exercise, call a friend, read a nice or funny post.

The whole point is to force yourself into the flow and keep a sharp focus. Never let yourself get interrupted!

 

Pomodoro (tomato) technique is a study method that helps avoiding procrastination using a kitchen timer

Pomodoro (tomato) technique is a study method that helps avoiding procrastination using a kitchen timer

Habit trick:  Create a framework (read Pomodoro and Get Things Done sections)

 

It is a very good technique for learning. Schedule the tasks and set goals. The best way to think about is as about habits in general. The more repetitive method you create, the easier it will get to do something. Combine what you have learned so far and use the Pomodoro technique with GTD. Make it something that you can stick to and form to a habit. It is like what Ernst Hemingway said: write 5 pages every day and you will have a book in 3 months. It is even more important if you are part of a project group or study group. Lastly here, setting up expectations on why you are doing something will keep your passion’s drive.

 

About the 80/20 rule aka Pareto Principle. One thing worth mentioning here is Parkinson’s Law. It’s about putting ourselves in a difficult time frame and magically we are still able to manage a nice job, if not even better than what we would have produce in twice as much time. All we need to do is limit ourselves in terms of tasks per hour let’s say. A good technique to use is Pomodoro. It uses a timer like those ugly kitchen tomatoes to break down work into intervals. You should test what works for you the best but it usually is 25 minutes long, separated by 5 minutes breaks. After 3 pomodoro, you take a half an hour break. If we do it right, the results and lift in efficiency is pretty amazing.