All posts tagged Time management

Finding Clarity in Simplicity. How to stop reacting and focus on what’s in your control.

By Brad Beckstrom

Have you noticed a big drop off in any part of your life?

I’ve been noticing a real drop off in the number of (non political) blog posts I’ve been seeing since November of 2016. At first I thought it was the election, the holidays etc. People have been distracted. I figured at some point we would stop discussing politics and get back to talking about anything but that. Well, the drop off has continued. You see, I don’t follow any political blogs or news publications in my feed reader. So, a lot of the blogs I do follow have dropped off, from maybe a post a week to less than one post per month. This is across a wide variety of blogs I follow, personal finance, photography, financial independence, minimalism, small business, creative writing etc. What’s going on? I feel like I already know the answer because my own writing has dropped off at about the same level, from once a week to once a month. It has a lot to do with many people, including myself, being totally distracted by all of the stuff outside of their circle of control.

The Circle of Concern vs. Circle of Control

A circle of concern is simply a big circle with all of the things you’re concerned about scribbled inside of it. Inside of that circle is a circle of control. The circle of control is things that you have direct control over, what you read, where you live, what you eat, essentially your actions and thoughts.

image credit

Focusing inside versus outside the circle of control

Stephen Covey, author of the 7 Habits series, said that people with a large circle of concern become reactive.  A person with a large circle of concern often spends a great deal of time and energy reacting to issues they can’t control. For example, the news, sex lives of celebrities and politicians, terrorist threats, the economy, political scandals. The list could go on and on. The one thing that all of these broad concerns have in common is that regardless of how much time we spend worrying about them or reacting to them, we cannot impact them directly.

When Stephen Covey created his version of the circles, the Internet was in its infancy and social media did not exist. While social media has been effective at building awareness of good and bad things around the world, it’s also greatly increased the number of things people think about, worry about, and naturally want to react to. For instance, if you looked at many social media feeds from a few years ago they look completely different than they do today. Funny videos, vacation pics, snarky comments have been replaced with a very large spoonful of politics and doom. Regardless of what side of the issues you are on most people would agree that this is a direct result of the actions of the 45th president and the U.S. Congress.

Reeling it back in

How do we keep from getting so distracted? How do we keep from clicking on and worrying about bad news, often things we have little or no control over?  I think it comes down to asking yourself a simple question: Is this something that I can control?  If it’s not then it’s in your circle of concern.

The good news is inside the circle of concern, there is a smaller circle called the circle of control. Inside the circle of control are things you have direct control over, what you’ve read, what you buy, where you work, people you interact with. The goal is to reduce the size of the circle of concern and focus on the circle of control. Many mistakenly think that this is a self-centered approach. Selfish in the sense that if you suddenly stop giving a shit about politics, wars, world hunger, then you’re only thinking only of yourself.  That’s not the goal here.

The goal is to focus only on things you can directly impact. In order to start moving in that direction we need to reduce our circle of concern.  Here are five steps to move in that direction.

  1. Write down everything you worry about, are angry or concerned about. Take a look at your social media feed for clues.
  2. After you created your giant circle of concerns, start putting lines through things you can’t control. This could be anything from the neighbor’s dog to North Korea.
  3. Identify things in this big circle that you could have an impact on. For instance, if you’re worried about healthcare you could decide to write your representative once a month.
  4. Put the important things in your circle of control, like what you read, how you treat people close to you, places you’d like to visit, a skill you’d like to learn.
  5. Put yourself on a high quality, low information diet.  We have the tendency to use social media and technology as a funnel to capture all kinds of things. Instead, we should be using it as a filter. You don’t need to unfriend people to hide (or mute) their posts on Twitter or Facebook. You can also use RSS feed apps like Feedly to only follow writers or subjects you enjoy versus visiting news websites and clicking on anything that catches your eye.
  6. Reduce the number of “things” in your circle of concern. If you can lighten the load and reduce the number of possessions you own, that’s less things to worry about. Travel light.
  7. When you’re done, your circle should look more like the one above on the right than the one on the left.  

If you take these steps, you’ll find that you’ve probably been wasting a good amount of time thinking, worrying, arguing about things that you have no control over.  Now you can take that time and spend it on something you have 100% control over, like going for a long walk daily, or finding something to read that will inspire you creatively, or improve your health.  All of a sudden your concerns start to look more like this.

  • Your personal economy versus “the economy”
  • Your personal health versus “healthcare”
  • Your personal political actions versus “politics”
  • Your personal relationships instead of “scandals and gossip” in the news
  • Expanding your mind versus the list of things you own

In the end, the ideal circle of control would simply focus on your thoughts and actions, Finally letting go of all those things in the world that you have no control over and realize that it’s not all on your shoulders.

The Frug

This post was originally published by Brad Beckstrom on the
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Tap into the power of habit. How to design your ideal day then duplicate it.

The working world has changed. The traditional thirty-year career, company loyalty, great health plans, company cars, and pension plans are all but gone. More people are working from home, pursuing side gigs. They are taking a more entrepreneurial approach to work. Entrepreneurial adventures have become the new pension plan.

There’s some great news here. For those of us who are stubborn, who refuse to live life by someone else’s rules, who are comfortable with uncertainty, lies opportunity. If you’re one of those people, it doesn’t matter if you’re 25 or 55: if you can do these things, you can redesign your life to take advantage of the current uncertain environment.

Reinvention, one day at a time

Yeah, that sounds easy, just redesign your life. No problem, right? As anybody who’s tried it knows, completely reinventing yourself is extremely hard. I’m recommending a different approach. In his book The Four Hour Workweek Tim Ferris talked about designing your week so that there were only four hours of work (that you didn’t enjoy). A lot of people misunderstood the title of the book to think that this meant only working four hours a week and sitting on the beach of the rest of the time. The book’s cover even had a guy on the beach in a hammock! The book’s actual premise is that If you’re doing something you really love then that is not work. Make no mistake, you will be doing something. A lot of something, often for less than you’d make in a traditional commuter/cubicle job. This doesn’t necessarily mean quitting your job, it means redesigning your entire workday to eliminate the distractions and poor use of time that are getting in the way of your perfect day.

Let’s look at a slightly different approach. Instead of trying to figure out what type of lifestyle, business, or new invention would be needed to support a four hour workweek, we should start smaller. Let’s start by simply designing a perfect day. Read more…

The Power of Slow. 8 things I started doing to slow the hell down.


By Brad Beckstrom.

“You are too close to the TV, back up, your going to ruin your eyes!” my mom would say. If I were still a kid today she’d be shouting “You’re too close to your phone, put that thing away.” It would be good to hear, as I sit here, flicking, clicking, responding, on my phone then picking up my iPad.

Like many, the problem for me isn’t the iPhone or iPad, it’s the massive flow of information, it’s the screen time. The sensation of being 4 inches from this screen or group of screens that bring this massive data dump into our lives. We often hop from one screen to the next from the laptop to the phone to the tablet to the TV.

I wanted to slow this down, significantly. I wanted to reboot, shut stuff down and spend more time stepping back and looking around. I wanted to go on a low information diet. I wanted to slow down to improve.

Here’s how I discovered the power of slow.

It’s your time, not theirs.

I stopped looking at notifications on my phone. I turned them off on lots of apps like Twitter and Facebook, many others. These apps were also sending me email notifications. I also shut those off. Twitter and Facebook and other apps will still be there, and I’ll still use them but it will be on my time versus the steady stream of interruptions many of these apps were creating. You can do this in settings on your phone or go to your settings page, example facebook/settings. If you still want some background notifications, just shut off email and change your notification settings to silent. With a little fiddling, you can even turn off the little red notification badges that pop up and attach themselves to the app icon. Then you can use social media on your schedule, and slow that stream of notifications to a trickle.

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The 3 Act Day – Why you should structure your day like a screenplay.

By Brad Beckstrom

What if every day were scripted like a great film?

the godfather act 1

Marlon Brando, The Godfather Act I

Whether you like it or not, they often are. Here’s a super abbreviated version of the classic three act structure in screenwriting.

3 act structure

Act I The Setup: Establish the main characters, their relationships, the world they live in, and what the story is all about?  Later in this act there is a “call to adventure” or “catalyst” that sets the plot in motion.

Act II Confrontation: Also referred to as “rising action,” this typically depicts the main characters attempt to resolve the problem initiated by the first turning point, only to find him or herself in ever more challenging situations.

Act III Resolution: Features the resolution of the story and its subplots. The climax is the scene or sequence in which the main tensions of the story are brought to their most intense point and the dramatic question answered, leaving the protagonist and other characters with a new sense of who they really are.

The Hero’s Journey

What if every day could follow the structure of the hero’s journey with a call to adventure, rising action and intense point where dramatic questions are answered and we have a sense of who we really are? That’s a hell of a lot more interesting than a to do list or a calendar.

Act I is the early part of the day, the setup.  If you’re in a foul mood, skipping the important stuff or feel like a rudderless ship, this day may end up not being a very good movie.

Act II  is the main part of the day. For our purposes here, let’s call this “rising action.” You can call it the workday, whatever you want. The main character – “you” – is attempting to resolve ever more challenging situations and sometimes, small or large confrontations.

Act III Finally, there is resolution, wrapping up our efforts for the day and hopefully bringing the day to a successful close.  Our hero, again “you,”  finishes out the day and rides off into the sunset.

Here’s how to script your day like a blockbuster.

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