Thursday, April 25, 2013

Breaking the Habit of Multi-Tasking

I have been focused on cultivating new habits that benefit me. Over the course of the past week I have discovered a habit that it would benefit me to break: that of multi-tasking. It is slowing me down, breaking my focus and interrupting my ability to stay present. Who wants that? I don't. I didn't even realize how often I am doing it though. Start project A ... and an hour later realize I'm midway through three different things with absolutely nothing completed. Where did the time go?

This realization stems from watching a video on how how to succeed in taking a course. Any course. The points made are:
  1. Cultivate a growth mindset - When studying or learning anything there will eventually be setbacks, stumbling blocks, confusion or some form of speed bump. How you look at these influences how well you proceed. If you adopt a fixed mindset and assume you just are not good at the subject matter and cannot succeed, you won't. If you adopt a growth mindset and understand that your brain is not fixed, you can persevere and learn and grow new brain cells, get better at something ... then you will simply do better. 
  2. Knowledge is constructed not received - Knowledge is a process you build, from the ground up so to speak. Lay a foundation and then build upon it. Don't start on the 10th floor when learning. Learning is a process from the bottom up. When you look at it that way, it seems so simple and makes a lot of sense. I'm guilty of wanting to make progress and learn something immediately, myself, and this is a great reminder to take baby steps.
  3. Embrace the struggle - The professor shared a great quote from Einstein here: "It is not the result of scientific research that ennobles humans and enriches their nature, but the struggle to understand while performing creative and open-minded intellectual work." Acquiring new knowledge is not always easy, be it a new dance step or a new concept. Accept the challenge and enjoy it as you go. The alternative is to feel defeated. I prefer to feel empowered, don't you?
  4.  Practical Tips - No how-to video or list is complete without practical steps to apply.
    1. Take notes: The process of writing words down enables them to stick and get into our brains.
    2. Visualize: Create pictures in your mind. Personally I find this very challenging, though I am making progress here.
    3. Repeat: Watch video clips over again within 24 hours and your retention is increased by 40%. I should think this applies with reading as well. Not sure I always have time to do that but it definitely explains why I learn a line dance and don't have a clue what I am doing the next time I go out. More than 24 hours has always elapsed by then ...
    4. Test yourself: Rehearing is not as effective as testing because it does not engage the brain as much. In the past I have spent more time re-reading my highlighted material to study and going forward I will look for ways to take quizzes as an alternative.
    5. Do not multi-task: Here it is ... the habit to break. To achieve this, it is going to require putting my phone in another room, I am almost incapable of not looking at it when it vibrates or dings or pings or chirps or whatever. I can make a decision to not check email, it is not a challenge for me to stay off of Facebook. The phone is my downfall even as it is my personal assistant in so many ways. The Pomodoro Technique was suggested as a way to manage multi-tasking as well. Set a timer for 20 minutes, dedicate your focus to your topic, task, whatever for the 20 minutes. Then take a 5 minute break. Resume. I have been doing this and I do find it to be successful. As long as my phone is not in close proximity.
  5.  Festina Lente - Last thing was a quote, Latin, that translates to "Make haste slowly". That sounds a bit like a contradiction. The spirit of the phrase is not to get ahead of yourself (remember to build knowledge from the ground up...) and to practice what you are learning.
This taught me a lot and gave me some great food for thought. Now where is my phone? Just kidding!

-Nicola Byrne

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Aging Backwards

It is interesting to experience what it feels like to get younger. Most people lament aging, they simply hate getting older. If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say getting old sucks I think I would be driving a Mercedes instead of a Mini.

I am overjoyed that at the age of 44 I feel more like 24 than I think I did at 24. And 24 is a random number, I could have just as easily have chosen 23 or 22 ... but you get the point.

We seem to have this mindset that with age comes pain, discomfort, loss of looks, health, energy and motivation. That the good times are behind us. I have never believed this to be written in stone. I'm fortunate to posses a liberal amount of know how involving the importance of food, nutrition, exercise, positive thinking and gratitude. Some of it is newly acquired, some I have been working on for a long time. As with everyone, I am most assuredly a work in progress.

I believe I look younger now than I did five or ten years ago. I know I feel younger, I am stronger and can do things I couldn't do years ago. I move better. I think happier, more optimistic thoughts effortlessly. My skin is better. I can see each day is filled with opportunity and I am much less prone to look at my day as a long list of must do's and rushing around.

Things I do to feel my best:
  • Eat Clean - I eat a Paleo diet which in short means to avoid grains, processed foods, sugars and focus mainly on eating healthy fats, lean animal protein, and lots of vegetables.
  • Exercise Wisely - Shorter, higher intensity workouts with ample recovery time, lots of walking, stretching and even bouncing on a trampoline. We don't need to work out more as we age, we need to work out smarter.
  • Focus on Gratitude Every Day - Every day is a gift after all. If things do not go right or smoothly, find the lesson. It is there. Ask questions, evaluate ...
  • Keep Learning - Turn off the TV, close Facebook and get out and learn something new. I take dance lessons and keep my brain working. Think of standing water ... it needs some fresh flowing water to prevent it from becoming stagnant. If you aren't out making new memories, learning new things ... you end up sitting on the porch reliving your glory days. I want to keep stacking those memories up. My best days are ahead of me, they are most certainly not behind me.
  • Challenge your Limits - There is no greater feeling of accomplishment than the one after overcoming a fear. I am afraid of heights, or I was, and I am learning to rock climb and scramble. My fear of heights is evolving as a result. What once would have made me tremble I barely notice now.
  • Do Things for Other People - I like to look for opportunities to pay it forward. It has begun to feel like my own little selfish guilty pleasure because I get so much out of doing something nice just to do it, with absolutely no agenda or desire for reward or acknowledgement.
  • Take Care of Your Body - Oil pulling, dry skin brushing, rebounding, flossing are a few other ways I nurture my body and keep it feeling its best.
The end result is I feel younger, look younger and enjoy life so much more than I ever did. This is enough positive reinforcement to make everything worthwhile.

-Nicola Byrne

Friday, April 19, 2013


There is an amazing app for the iPhone I have been using since approximately March 10th. It is called Lift and there will be a web version available soon for those that do not have an iPhone. 

This is an application that allows you to create habits, change habits, track habits, and receive feedback and motivation from others for your progress. You can also encourage others and leave them feedback as well! This little app is enabling me to be more productive and has had a real snowball effect in achieving new and more consistent habits. I have even resurrected some old habits I wanted to cultivate and dropped the ball on. It is a free app!

The habits I am currently tracking on Lift are:
  • Blog More (ta-da!)
  • Meditate (ok I have zero entries here but it is still on the list and I will begin meditating again, I know it)
  • Stretch
  • Wash Face Before Bed (I have been so much more consistent now that I'm logging it)
  • Weigh Yourself (I still average once a week or less and I am ok with that)
  • Be Grateful for Someone or Something (it pays to be grateful, every single day)
  • Dance
  • Floss
  • Oil Pulling
  • Pay it Forward (it feels so good to do something for another person just to make their day better)
  • Rebounding
  • Set Priorities for your Day (goal setting ... a great idea)
  • Skin Brushing
  • Write Three Positive Things About Today (this is one of my favorites)
My days feel more productive, more meaningful and I appreciate the things I am doing. One great aspect of Lift is that it takes what may seem like an arduous task and makes it fun. There is a tremendous sense of accomplishment in ticking off habits and adding notes about them. The feedback from others is a great pat on the back too. There is a sense of camaraderie from it.

Great job to the makers of Lift!

-Nicola Byrne

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Education at my Fingertips

When I was a child my family had encyclopedias. I remember sitting on the floor opening them one at time, A through Z, and reading about all kinds of topics. Little bits of information and learning new things right there at my fingertips. It was exciting and fascinating.

It is so much simpler now because we have the internet. Google. Bing. Wikipedia. Smartphones. I can look something up immediately. Instant gratification. With a computer you can even find free courses online. I just signed up for one at Coursera. I will be taking this course:

Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence

It begins May 1st and will run for 6 weeks. The workload is about 3-4 hours a week. That is very little time invested for learning something new! Time I will invest in myself.

As a personal trainer I feel developing leadership skills is important. I seek to lead by example, always, however understanding my clients better through expanding my own emotional intelligence will help me help them.

I have selected my next course as well:

Understanding Einstein: The Special Theory of Relativity

I look forward to learning new things!

-Nicola Byrne

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Asking Questions

I have been asking myself lots of questions lately … what should I write about comes up frequently and there is no resounding answer. Waiting for the perfect topic to reach out and bite me in the butt is just another form of procrastination. It is so simple to be good at procrastinating, however it is a skill I would rather forget.

As I work in stimulating new thoughts and experiences I am going out and dancing more. I am learning to Two Step. I am learning to advance my West Coast Swing. I have even jumped in and started learning line dances. One of them is called … Asking Questions. Of course. Just one of those little hints from the Universe to reign me back in and call attention to what I want to be doing. I appreciate the reminders, especially when they pop up out of the blue.

  • What do I want to change about myself?
  • What is holding me back?
  • What new way of being would I like to visualize?
  • What habits do I want to let go of?
  • What would a great person do in "this" situation?
  • What would it be like to …?
  • What is a better way to be …?
  • What if I was this person, living in this reality? 
  • Who do I want to emulate?
  • What does it mean to be successful?
  • What would a financially independent person do?

Instead of sitting and watching TV and becoming mindless … I am choosing to go out and learn some new skills, read more, and ponder new ways of being. It feels good.

-Nicola Byrne