Regret is no stranger us. Almost everyone has experienced that burning feeling of regret. We all have several things in our past we wish we had done, not done or done differently. Some are minor, involving decisions that can be rectified. But the serious and most heartbreaking ones are those realized at the end of life. You certainly wouldn’t want to grow old lamenting about the things you should have done when you still had the ability, opportunity and time.

Joyce Meyer defines regret as “Distress over a desire unfulfilled or an action performed or not performed”. It can either be productive or unproductive. Productive regret has a positive outcome where you learn to change your behavior for the future. Unproductive regret however may cause chronic stress as a result blaming oneself. As mentioned above regret can be due to things done or not done. Below are steps you should take to reduce regrets in your life.

Use Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

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You can beat regrets by changing your habits and your patterns of thinks, thanks to CBT exercises. According Dr. Bruce Hubbard, Cognitive Behavior Therapy:

 “Rather than frustrating you with the unrealistic goal of stopping the thoughts, cognitive-behavior therapy helps by weakening the connection between obsessive thinking and the rest of your working life.”

CBT helps you to focus on emotional healing and how to kill unproductive thoughts that drag you into regrets. You will change your feelings of shame, guilt and anger, and ultimately end up reducing or replacing your feelings of regret.

Listen to your voice

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To avoid regret and disappointment, listen to your inner voice. According to the magazine, Psychology Today:

“A well-trained intuition is almost always right—though whether or not it is can, of course, only be known in retrospect…Mistrusting your inner voice chips away at his general sense of confidence and that… is a worse thing to happen than being wrong.”

If you fear being criticized you probably don’t voice your opinions as often as you should. In no time you’ll find yourself living the life others want for you. Not what you want for yourself. You may wear a façade that shows contentment just to please others. But deep down you’ll beat yourself up endlessly for not following your dream. It is good to listen to others, but it is best to stay true to self. If you feel alive behind a microphone but look forward to the accounting class with dread, spend more time holding the microphone. It is more rewarding. The bottom line is, do not ignore your inner voice. Y our inner voice will guide you to a life of abundance and fulfillment.

 

Seek and accept change

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“Do we really want to get rid of your resentments, your anger, and your fear? Many of us cling to our fears, doubts, self-loathing or hatred because there is a certain distorted security in familiar pain. It seems safer to embrace what we know than to let go of it for fear of the unknown.” Narcotics Anonymous Book/page 33

Open yourself to change, however scary it is. A certain security and assurance comes with familiarity making it utterly impossible to step out of your comfort zone. How many opportunities have you passed up due to fear of change? Remember that you can only grow by finding new possibilities. Do not be afraid to try new things nor should you be reluctant to break traditions. So staying where you are will certainly get you nowhere.

Think positive. Think better. See the bigger picture. Work for what you can change and change it. If you can’t change anything, just let it be and change the way you think about it. Being miserable is always your choice. Make your mind believe you can do it, before actually doing it. If you think negatively, you will produce negative results. The reverse is true. Period.

Take failures as lessons

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Failure is not the best feeling. There is no doubt about it. The fear of the possibility of failing is worse than fear itself. The upside to failure is that at least you’ll have had firsthand experience on how not to go about a task. We’ve all had our fair share of failures. Ironically, iconic people are the ones with the most failures of all. Lovers of John Grisham books should know that he was rejected by twelve publishing houses and sixteen agents, before his first novel was accepted. Walt Disney was fired once because his boss found that he ‘lacked imagination’. We all know how he turned out. What these incidences tell us? There is no success without failure. So, take it as your personal responsibility to think positively and act different. See failure in a better light. It is better having a life full of small failures that you learned from than having a lifetime full of regrets of never trying. Instead of beating yourself up for failing, learn from it. It is a natural part of life. Adopting a good attitude about it will save you a great deal of regrets that may haunt you in the future.

You need to be loved, but not at the cost of yourself

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A research by Mike Morrison and Neal J. Roese found out that:

“Romance was the number one regret. People crave strong, stable social relationships and are unhappy when they lack them.”

We fear loneliness. Everyone fears being left alone. Such fears may drive you to settle with the wrong person, to become second best. Even though you may feel unhappy in your relationship, you may mistakenly trick yourself into believing that you are happy. You tend to think that you can never find a better person to love. As the years roll by, the endless bickering and withdrawal turn into hatred, and you’ll find yourself wishing you had made different choices back in the day. So make the choices now. If they haven’t changed after a year and still sneers at your dreams, make derogatory comments about how you dress and talk, think twice. If your partner looks down on your friends and relatives, chances are they will never change. Run for the hills. Don’t settle for less, it will only serve to belittle you and ultimately, you will end up regretting.

Be honest

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“The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” Grouch Marx

Honesty is indeed everything, whether it’s with regards to businesses or personal interactions. And if you didn’t know, honesty can lead you to wealth. You have to be credible and trustworthy to attract investors and to build relationships. Without honesty you’ll spend the better part of your life second guessing other peoples intentions, thereby losing golden friendships. It is important you realize that most things may not work out. And in most of the time it could be your fault not the other person’s fault. So be honest with oneself. Kill the ugly habit of blaming the other people. Take full responsibility. Be honest with yourself. That is the blunt truth.

Don’t be afraid to reach your full potential

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Everyone questions their capability. Even though it may seem unlikely most of us deliberately ruin our chances of success. Majorly because we believe that we are neither good enough nor smart enough or simply fear. According to Dan Schawbel, a contributor at Forbes Magazine, the most common impediment to reaching our full potential is fear. Dan says:

“The most common trap is fear. I’ve never met a 20 year old or a 50 year old who says, “I’ve never had a single passion, dream, hope or desire.”We all have them, but a lot of us give in to fear as soon as we get close to them. The reason is that fear only gets loud when you do things that matter. Fear never bothers you if you’re average but the second you dare to be more than ordinary, fear awakens.”

Once you work up the nerve to try someone else will have already done it, and you’ll live wishing you had tried sooner. Perfection can never be met. If you have a life-long dream, do not fear going for it. Go for it. It is your responsibility to make concrete steps to achieve your full potential. The biggest step you’ll ever take in life is the first one. So don’t be afraid to try, after all you’ll never know how high you’ll soar if you don’t spread your wings.

Own up to your mistakes

mistakes

We hate making mistakes. Owning up to our mistakes is even worse. If we don’t admit to our mistakes, we’ll most probably end up repeating them. Not forgetting the guilt that comes with cover-ups. It is human to make a wrong move, make a bad choice or rub someone the wrong way. You can keep regretting about it. It will drain you of the energy you need to execute other important tasks. Learn from your mistakes. Learn to move on rather than living in the past, regretting your mistakes. Why should you torment yourself when you can clear up the air and be at peace? The sooner you own up to your mistakes the faster you can learn from it and shift your focus to other, better things.

Forgiveness

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You may be haunted by something that happened in your past. It could be a terrible decision that you regret making or someone wronged you. Learn to forgive. Forgiveness absolves the wrong doer, but more importantly it liberates you by freeing your conscience and thus allowing you to focus on other things that make you happy. Harboring resentment gives other people power over you. Forgiveness is not just for the other person. Learn to forgive yourself too. Forgiving yourself reduces your feelings of guilt and boosts your confidence. This will impact greatly on different areas of your life and therefore improve how you relate with others.

 

The choice about the life you want to live rests solely in your hands. Do not let fear dictate the kind of life you will lead. Your happiness is depended on how you choose to respond to your feelings of fear or guilt. If you can’t change a situation, see it as an opportunity to learn from. If you have the energy and a second chance, chase your dreams. Better you to such a point that when asked if you’d have done things differently, your answer would be a resounding no, as it should be. Learn from your regrets and remember them, so that you can evade the next window for regret. There are lots of ways of avoiding regrets in life. I have just highlighted a few. Do you know of other ways of avoiding regrets?

“You don’t understand me.”

Have you ever felt this way? Misunderstood? It happens often in our places of work, in our relationships or at our homes where most of day to day interactions lack deeper sense of connection, understanding, emotional identification, compassion or feel.

In fact very few of us are confident that people they live with or work with can testify that they are good listeners- whether in routine conversations or in very tense situations. Instead of listening to what the other person has to say, we may find ourselves contemplating our next reply. As a result, the other person feels misunderstood and neglected. The hard truth is that few interactions qualify as perfectly empathetic. According to Dr. Bookbinder:

“Only 2% of interactions include acknowledgement of the other, the foundation of all human interactions.”

To understand the other person, you not only need to listen actively but also emphatically. Perfecting the art of emphatic listening is not easy. You may get sloppy if you don’t try hard or get derailed when tense situations show up. The question is how can we listen emphatically?

Read more »

How many times did you find yourself postponing a task? Everyone struggles every now and then with procrastination, according to the magazine, Psychology Today:

“Everyone procrastinates sometimes, but 20 percent of people chronically avoid difficult tasks and deliberately look for distractions—which, unfortunately, are increasingly available”

The question is, how can you re-adjust yourself and harness your mental energy to enable yourself overcome procrastination? Here are few suggestions:

Establish what causes you to procrastinate

There are many reasons that make us enjoy short-term pleasure of putting off certain activities. We need to establish exactly why we procrastinate. The following are number reasons that may make us procrastinate:

  •  General disorganization.
  •  Feeling overwhelmed by the task at hand.
  • Doubting your capabilities.
  • Having a perfectionist mentality
  • Having underdeveloped decision-making capabilities
  • Failure to enjoying the task you’re involved in.

 

Have someone to check up on you.

image1You should never underestimate the power of peer pressure. It works.

After all, you can’t let down your expectant audience. We need to declare your intentions to friends, family members or colleagues. Avoid taking onboard someone you can easily manipulate. Go for someone you will work hard not to disappoint.

 

Shun distractions and time wasters.

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Just imagine you are goring a project that requires a lot of attention. You are brainstorming hard. Then you get a phone call that snaps you out if your flow. You talk for about thirty seconds, you hung up. Then you start checking what’s happening on your email, twitter and Facebook. Your attention starts to wander and your focus slowly dies off.

Sounds terrible?

To make it harder for yourself to procrastinate, make it your habit to reduce the available distractions. Know how to break bad habits. Keep your phone off and disconnect Internet connection. Schedule when to check your mails, perhaps three times a day. Isolate yourself as much as possible until the task at hand is done, and done satisfactorily. For instance, you cannot work at home because you have too many distractions, try a coffee shop.

Organize yourself

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When you are disorganized, you tend get lost on what task to tackle, at what time and for how long. If disorganization is your problem,

  •  Ensure that you have kept a TO-DO list that allocates time for all of your activities-including the ones that overwhelm you
  •  Use techniques like Pomodoro to instantly increase your productivity.
  • Set yourself time-bound goals.
  • Be a pro in scheduling and planning your project so that no important task is left out.

Break the project down into smaller tasks.

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The manner in which a task is presented to the brain has an impact on how motivated you will be to take action.

A big project can be overwhelming to the mind.

So trick your brain into the task by breaking the project down to smaller easy tasks.

To prevent your brain from building up resistance to start the project, define which task should start and the order in which subsequent tasks should be executed.

Where possible, execute the smaller tasks then proceed to large ones. Smaller tasks are easy to complete. Every time a task is down, the rewarding feeling you develop gives you the much needed momentum to proceed to the next task. On and on until you complete the project.

 

Make the most of the willpower muscle.

 

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Will power is like a muscle.

What you might not know is that the muscle can exhaust more quickly than you might imagine. That means you have lost your ability to self-regulate. If you suspect your will power is fast slipping away, reminding yourself of your values can help invigorate it.

Work out your will power muscle to make it stronger.
Just like resisting the weights of barbells makes your muscles stronger, so is your will power muscle.

Carrying out actions that you would rather avoid doing strengthens your will power despite the inner resistance your body is giving.

However, don’t overdo it as overworking muscles weakens them. Do one thing at a time.

Give your body and mind time to rest.

Take healthy meals that keep your mind energized.

Remind yourself why you needed to do the task. The why is great motivator and helps to boost your will power to proceed with doing the task.

Besides, doing a mindful meditation will go a long way in regulating your mood and restoring your mental energy.

More importantly, always keep your full attention on your activities.

Adopt ‘Time travel’ technique

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Engaging yourself on a task when you are not motivated may lead to procrastination. If you can’t’ get yourself on a task, adopting ‘time-travel’ technique can go a great way in unleashing the inner power that gets you productive.

Fast forward the task to the point where you have satisfactorily completed it. Build a vivid mental picture of your fully completed project. Immerse yourself completely into that state. Don’t you experience a surge in mental energy? Well, now that you know, enjoy the perks that come with getting it done. So next time you find yourself stuck in “don’t feel like it’, try time traveling in your imagination. It works big time.

 

Procrastination is not a cognitive disorder but a learned mental disposition that makes people postpone tasks. Overcoming procrastination is not a one-day affair. It takes time for the habit to die off. So if you find yourself putting off tasks, don’t sit down and wish that it will end soon. Start the fight. Learn how to manage your time properly. Use the power of time travel. Shun distractions. Win gracefully. What other ideas do you have for overcoming procrastination? We would like to hear from you.

As part of my work on WeekPlan, I constantly try to find ways to help people be more effective.

Being more effective comes from identifying what matter most and working on it. But what should you do with the things that are not that important and yet still need to get done?

Before working on WeekPlan, I created the outsourcing marketplace TaskArmy (http://taskarmy.com) to help people leverage the world of outsourcing.

I have always been passionate about finding ways to use my time meaningfully and I think that outsourcing can help tremendously.

But I understand that starting outsourcing from scratch can seem daunting.

  • What can a personal assistant do?
  • How to find the right person?
  • How much should you pay?
  • How can you collaborate with that person effectively?

I am going to answer these questions.

What a personal assistant can do for you

First of all, please understand that you can outsource almost anything (web development, cooking, cleaning, shopping, delivery, etc…). Today I am going to focus on helping you find an online personal assistant: someone who can do general admin tasks and support you everyday.

If you are an entrepreneur, I have already discussed the various ways you can use an assistant in your business in this blog post: http://aymeric.gaurat.net/2012/tasks-a-virtual-assistant-can-do-for-an-online-entrepreneur/

If you are a busy individual, you will need to work out why you are so busy. Usually busy individuals tend to overcommit, even to things that aren’t that important to them. To avoid being busy, the first step is to be picky with what you commit to.

Second, you need to identify which tasks you find taxing. The tasks that you have a hard time doing and procrastinate the most. These tasks will drain your energy and are great candidates for elimination, automation or delegation.

Third, once you have a list of wasteful activities, you can try to solve these problems with three actions: elimination (just stop doing them, remove yourself from the commitment of doing them), automation (automate the payment of your bills, ask for home delivery of your groceries, etc…), and delegation.

Delegation is where your personal assistant can help. Anything that cannot be automated may be outsourced. For example, finding the cheapest flight ticket is hard to automate but if you can express your needs clearly, someone can spend the time finding the right flights for you.

You need to see your personal assistant as an building block in your productivity system. Look at the tasks you do, which one should be eliminated / automated / delegated?

How to find the right person

In today’s world, finding a personal assistant is very easy. Dozens of websites will help you find one.

Some of my favourites are http://taskarmy.com/virtual-assistance-outsourcing (of course) and http://odesk.com Why I recommend you to check TaskArmy out is because the personal assistants there are manually screened before being listed on the website. Some have actually been screened by me directly! So the quality of the work you will receive should be higher than on oDesk but oDesk has the largest numbers of assistants listed (= more choices).

When I was looking for a personal assistant, I would look favorably for people from the Philippines. Most can speak English, they are generally trustworthy, and have very competitive rates (starting at $2 per hour!).

How much does it cost?

A general admin virtual assistant from the Philippines or India costs around $5 an hour.

If you need to outsource software development, it starts at around $12 per hour (look for freelancers in Eastern Europe).

I like paying per hour because I only pay for what I need. A month, you might only need 10 hours worth of work ($50), and some other months, you might need more. It is great to know that you have a personal assistant available to take some work off your list.

How can you collaborate with your assistant effectively?

This is where people fail when outsourcing for the first time. Outsourcing is learned skill.

People get outsourcing wrong for many reasons: they give tasks as if their assistants could read their mind (not clear enough). They lack cultural sensitivity (certain cultures will resist telling you that something is wrong. Or they expect their personal assistant to be excellent at everything for $5 per hour.

Outsourcing is a learned skill, and you need to start small to reduce the risks involved in outsourcing (time wasted, money spent, etc…).

Start with tasks that have no deadline or quality requirements grow from there.

I would like to give you a few tips that have worked wonders for me.

My #1 tip comes from the IT industry: ask your assistant to send you a daily update of what was worked on and what is coming next.

I found these emails were a great opportunity for me to ask questions, clarify certains requirements and identify issues.

My second tip is to build the relationship with your assistant. Some people see their assistant as nothing more than just an email address you send stuff to. A good way to not fall in the trap is by having weekly Skype video calls.

Last tip: train your assistant by recording videos. Videos are a great way to show something and they often take less time to record than the equivalent text page with images. On Windows, I use Open Broadcaster Software (https://obsproject.com/) and I hear that Screenflow is great for Mac users (not free though).

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I hope this article gave you enough information and motivation to start outsourcing. If you have any question regarding this topic, just leave a comment.

Thanks! 

Weekly Status Report

 

Summary

I finished writing a 30 pages ebook that explains the methodology behind WeekPlan. I am currently asking for feedback to polish the ebook. The goal is to send the ebook to people who signed up on the mailing list a long time ago to “warm up” the relationship with WeekPlan a bit.

We welcomed a new team member in the development team. Khurram has started helping us by writing more automated tests.

I spent some time clarifying some of the incoming work. Having three developers helping me means that things should go faster and I don’t want the requirements to be the bottleneck.

Lots of bugs have been squashed and some usability issues have been ironed out.

A new feature that has been added is the ability to @mention someone in a task notes or comment. The @mention will add that person to the task.

I have decided to start a new experiment. I will document what has been worked on this week in a weekly status blog post.

The idea is to show the progress made, and to document how we use WeekPlan to manage WeekPlan.

 

Weekly Status for WeekPlan

 

Summary

The biggest focus was killing usability issues and publishing the app to multiple appstores.

WeekPlan can be found on the Windows Phone store, the Windows store, the Opera marketplace, the Firefox marketplace and the Amazon appstore.

Work has continued on new features for teams, like allowing @mentions and showing the time in the local time of the user.

When I was a student, I was too lazy to write entire journal entries but I still wanted to develop my self awareness.

In my journal, I would write just a few keywords that best described what was on my mind at the time instead of writing a full blown entry.

That’s how the concept of Cogitorama was born.

The name Cogitorama comes from the latin “cogito” (thought) and the greek “-orama” (see).

I guess you could see it a bit like the Twitter of journaling, you keep the essential of journaling.

Let me give you an example, my cogitorama for today would be:

+australia +weekplan -bangkok -tired -hot

(As you can see, I am not a big fan of Bangkok…)

I prefix the positive keywords with a +, and the negative ones with a –.

 

The Cogitorama extension for Week Plan

In WeekPlan, you can enable an extension to be able to use the Cogitorama concept, it looks like that:

Cogitorama

Positive keywords are in green, negative in red.

The keywords that are used more regularly get shown bigger. Also, there is a global positivity score for the day to show you how you are feeling over time.

 

I hope some of you will find it useful!