How To Make Impossibly Large Tasks Easy

Imagine what you want to complete if you had all the time in the world. Do you want to write the next American novel? Start your own multi-million dollar business? Climb Mt. Everest?

Heck, some of us may dream of playing guitar at a venue with thousands of adoring fans, but do not even know how to play a single note.

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Whatever that dream may be, for one reason or another, you are not doing it. There could be a lot of reasons why this is the case, and some may have very valid reasons, but for the vast majority we tend to have the same excuse:

“I don’t have enough time”

But that’s just the trap a lot of us fall victim to. We are all thinking of these dreams as one large task that has to be done in a short amount of time. This only causes us to be intimidated by our long-term goals and put them off all together. Instead, I want you to start doing this:

Don’t Think About The End Result

When Computer Programmer, Matt Cutts took the challenge of doing something new every 30-days there is one thing he started doing to take on the more difficult task of writing  a novel:

Matt points that that a typical novel is about 50,000 words total. That may seem pretty big at first glance, but when Matt broke it down he found that he could write a novel if he spends every day, for 30 days, writing just 1,667 words.

That’s what it really comes down to when finishing large projects. If you really want to get that project done stop thinking about doing it all at once and instead:

Do a little bit each day

If you want to run a marathon you don’t do it by going out and running 20 miles(32km) a day. You start off a training plan months in advance and run just a few short miles each day than gradually build yourself up to that full distance.

However, it’s not enough just to do a small bit each day. If you do not set-up some rules for yourself beforehand “Doing a little bit each day” can end up giving you as much benefit as opening up Microsoft Word than watching television the rest of the day. If you truly want to make your work meaningful you will need to something more.

Make It A Habit

When web developer, Alexandar Kallaway, really wanted to commit to being a better programmer he invented a challenge known as 100 Days of Code. His rule for this challenge was simple:

“I will code for at least an hour every day for the next 100 days.”

That’s it. It’s a challenge that floats up often in the programming community and there are thousands of people who take it up. The result? People who never even picked up a programming language before are now writing fully functional applications and frameworks in just over three months.

While this has good intention, for some of us, 1 hour of doing a task for 100 consecutive days may be a bit much. Kallaway sure thought the same. Which is why he made an updated version of the challenge. He included some new rules like including a taking a break. If you miss a day, that’s fine, instead of tapping out of the challenge you simply continue it like normal trying not to miss two days in a row.

This is really smart because it’s difficult to commit to 100 days of a habit when every day of our lives is not the exact same. That is why when we want to commit to this challenge, it’s crucial to do one important thing.

Make It Work For You

Before taking up this challenge(or something similar to it), do not dive head first into it by immediately doing an hour a day. Instead, start small than build your way up to it.

This means just starting out with committing to as little as 5 minutes a day. This gives you plenty of time to write that one sentence for your novel or to learn a new word in a foreign language. Even if it’s just a little bit of progress, it’s still progress.

As you feel more comfortable start moving your commitment to 10 minutes, than 20, than 30. When you are feeling perfectly comfortable with 30 minutes a day, don’t just move straight to 1 hour a day. Instead, break it down to 2 Promodo Sessions a day.

What that entails is breaking your tasks into 2 25-minute sessions followed by a 5-minute break. Remember it’s about breaking down the larger tasks into small, more manageable ones.

There are at least 24 hours in the day, 168 hours in a week, and 672 hours in a month. You only need to spend a small portion of that time each day working towards your goal to make a meaningful impact. Remember, when you want to achieve your goals it’s not about the destination, but the journey towards it.

Note: If you’re looking for a good Promodo application I would recommend looking into Be Focused, Goodtime, or Mariana Timer. All three of these tools are free to use.

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Epic Quest of Awesome

It’s Day 5 now since I started questing at Nerd Fitness Academy, and I have to say, the experience has been very fun so far. As I battle Bosses and Gain XP I am working each day to try to implement Steve Kamb’s Level Up Your Life ideals into my own.

This of course, means making my own Epic Quest of Awesome(Which, in short is a gamified bucket list). I have overlooked my Impossible List carefully and followed suit to separated each item into it’s own Quest Category.

Each Quest is worth 20 XP. After every 100XP is hit(or 5 Quests total) I gain a level. In addition to regular quests there are also Master Quests, extremely difficult quests that automatically level you up once you hit them.

The one tweak I’m making to my EQA draws from my Runescape-playing days, and color code the quests. Each Quests will be colored as such:

  • Quest Completed
  • Quest Started
  • Quest Not Started

Russ’ Epic Quest of Awesome

Below you will find a list of what I want to accomplish over the years. My Epic Quest is a progress and is subjected to change over time.

Completed Quests

Level 2

Level 1

North America Quests

  • Rock Climb Devil’s Tower
  • 50 points in 50 States(2/50)
  • Snow Board in Jasper, Canada
  • See an Aurora Borealis
  • Hike the Ice Age Trail(More Info.)
  • Strawberry Hill(More Info.)
  • Corn Palace(Morn Info.)
  • Travel to Canada

Central/South America Quests

  • Backflip on top of Macchu Picchu

Europe Quests

  • Paraglide in Chamonix Europe
  • Step foot in Sweden
  • Hot Air Balloon Ride in Sweden
  • Marcle Aches Cave(More Info.)

Africa Quests

  • Surf in Killer Point Mocorro

Far East Quests

  • Go to a Japaense Hot Spring
  • Bunny Island, Japan
  • Fuji Mountain Race(More Info.)

South Pacific Quests

  • A Simple Walk Into Mordor(More Info.)
  • Scuba Dive Australia’s Coral Reef
  • Bungee Jump off Victoria Fall Ridge

Ninja/Strength Quests

  • 10 Years Martial Arts(1/10)
  • 10 Years Weaponry(0/10)
  • Complete All Fitocracy Quests(More Info.)
  • Run Alpha Warrior(Texas & California)(More Info.)
  • 5 No-Kip Muscle Ups
  • 15 Second Human Flag
  • Sign White Block at Fight or Flight Academy
  • Post a 5-Minute Parkour Montage
  • Pick a Master lock

Flips & Twists Quests

  • Front Flip
  • Back Flip
  • Aerial
  • Side Flip
  • Corkscrew
  • 540 Kick

Personal Level-Up Quests

  • Skinny Dipping
  • Cliff Swinging
  • Make Food(Cheese, Wine, Yogurt)
  • Visit A Sunken Ship
  • Take A Sniper’s Course
  • Get a Wax
  • 1,000 Photo Challenge[Progress]
  • 1,000 Geocaches
  • Spontaneous Vacation

Rock Star Quests

  • [PIANO] Piano Man By Billy Joel
  • [PIANO] Roses and Butterflies By Making April
  • [PIANO]  Guitar vs Piano By Goukisan
  • [GUITAR] Guitar vs Piano By Goukisan
  • [HARMONICA] The Times They Are Changing by Bob Dylan
  • [HARMONICA] Piano Man By Billy Joel

Education Quests

  • Get a Helicopter Pilot License
  • Become SCUBA Certified
  • Learn to Sail A Boat
  • Get a Motorcycle  License
  • Publish a Mobile App
  • Write a Novel
  • Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree
  • Obtain a Master’s Degree

Les Stroud/Survivalist Quests

  • Score 300 With Recurve Bow[More Info.]
  • Make Deer Jerky
  • Finish a Survival Adventure Race[More Info.]
  • Wilderness First Responder Certification
  • Waterfront Lifeguard Certification
  • Build and Shoot Arrows from Scratch
  • Take a NOLS semester Course[More Info.]
  • 7-Day Survival with BOB
  • 21-Day Survival, only Knife

Running & Races Quests

  • First Marathon
  • Barefoot Marathon
  • Minneapolis Ground Rounds(51 Miles)(More Info.)
  • 50-Ultra Marathon
  • 100-Ultra Marathon
  • Spartan Sprint
  • Spartan Super
  • Spartan Beast
  • Spartan Trifecta(Sprint + Super + Beast In 1 Year)
  • Triathlon Sprint(750m S/20K B/ 5K R)
  • Triathlon Olympic (1500m S/40K B/ 10K R)
  • Triathlon Half-Iron(1.2 mi S/90K B/21K  R)
  • Triathlon Iron(2.4 mi S/180K B/42K R)

Events/Conferences Quests

  • Eeyore’s Birthday
  • Room 13 San Antonia[More Info.]
  • Sundance Film Festival
  • Cirque De Loteil
  • Google Local Guides Summit
  • Red Bull Art of Motion

Financial Quests

  • Have $10,000+ in Saving before 2019
  • Adopt a Minnesota Highway
  • Earn 1,000 Subscribers on Challenge List

Master Quests

  • Get A Career Allowing Me to Live Anywhere
  • Completed a Barkley Marathon[More Info]
  • Obtain a PhD

Challenge List Mini-Quests

 

 

 

 

The 2016 Round-Up: Biggest Takeaways From A Year of Challenges

It’s that time of the year again!

It’s the end of the year, and that means it’s time to step back and reflect back on 2016’s Challenge List. This is where I take a step back to review the list and go over what went awesome, what didn’t go so great, and what was learned as a result.

So let’s take a look at total amount of challenges completed for 2016:

18/25

In total, I managed to complete 72% of all challenges on my list. Some of the more notable tasks included:

  • Running a Spartan Race
  • Publishing an Android App
  • Tripling my distance record for swimming
  • Taking a trip out of the country
  • Building and shooting an arrow from scratch
  • and many more

While this was a year for new experiences, it also had one of the most pivotal moments that changed how I view productivity. With many successes came many learning experiences. With these learning experiences I plan on taking on 2017 with these ideas in mind:

Better to Be SMART Instead of Busy

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If I had to pinpoint my biggest mistake for 2016 it would have to be doing my 20 Things A Month experiment. You see, back in early February I had an idea that would push me to get things done. In order to motivate me to focus on my yearly challenges, I would select several tasks each month and then draw them up on a list of 20 things to complete at the end of the month.

My initial thought was that if  I broke it down like this I can chip at each tasks little by little and complete almost all of it by the end of the year.

Instead, I ended up finding myself pulling out my hair each day constantly doing work but barely making any significant progress towards my Challenge List goals.

It wasn’t until I listened to a podcast interview of Smarter, Faster Better‘s author Charles Durhigg that I realized what I was doing.

I crafted my To-Do lists to make me busy, not productive. Sure I would be spending 15 hours a day, working my brain and body to mush, but all of that was pointless because I was tackling small, insignificant tasks on my list in attempt to cross more items off.

I was experiencing, what is known as a False Authentic Pride, where you working towards  feelings of the little dopamine effects you get from doing small accomplishments  instead of working towards the much grander feeling of accomplishing something worthwhile.

Now I’ll be tackling on my tasks with SMART Goals in order to handle the bigger, more difficult tasks on my list and get much more done.

After learning this it led to another way I need to tackle my goals

Work Towards The Long-Term Goals

As Steve Kamb said in his book, Level Up Your Life:
Think of each big quest on your list as a series of tiny, incremental quests. If we can create 10 steps to a mastery of a skill, then we can focus our energy on simply putting one foot in front of the other and the process will take of itself
After hearing reading this it sparked something in my mind: There are very different feelings between how I feel accomplishing each challenge.

Each challenge I’ve completed thus far has been no stroll in the park. If I wasn’t pushing myself to go beyond my physical and mental limits, I was pushing myself to do things that went beyond my comfortable zone.

The problem is, I found that the challenges that ended up going towards my overall goals(i.e. My Impossible List) were far more satisfying than those I wanted to do because I thought it would be “fun” or “look cool”.

This caused my focus to shift towards my long-term goals instead of short-term, spontaneous goals. As a result, I didn’t really work towards some of these items as hard as others. My energy and focus went towards my long term goals, and each one I crossed off ended up giving me a more deserved feeling of accomplishment as well as put me that much closer to being who I want to be.

With that being said, there is one last thing I will be doing for 2017

Do A Lot in A Little, Not A Little in A Lot

Probably the biggest thing I’ve been debating about these last two years has been the number of items I’ve used on my list. I’ve done 25 challenges for 2 years now and each year I only get close to finishing 20 of them. Each item I work on typically takes a long time and a lot of focus to complete, so trying to do an average of over 2 per month starts to look less realistic.

If I really want to buckle down and finish off my goals I need to shorten my list so I can give it my all. But than that begs the question, how many challenges do I do? 20 challenges, 15 challenges, 10 challenges?

Well… That’s still up to debate. Right now I have quite a few items already sorted out for 2017’s list.

The idea I’m leaning on most is to cap the limit on 20  items and attempt to do 5 extra if I finish my list with a lot of time to spare. There would be something more definitive in my post for 2017’s Challenge List.

All and all though, I have to say that this year proved to be a great year for experimentation and learning. I am looking forward to this upcoming year and cannot wait to see what’s to come.

For all of you out there, I hope you had a great 2016, and shoot hard for an even better 2017. Train hard, and I’ll see you next year!

10 Apps To Eliminate Distraction And Become Focus Driven

“Distraction destroys action. If it’s not moving you towards your purpose, leave it alone” ~Jermaine Riley

Whenever we work we often find ourselves battling one of our greatest enemies, distraction. It is that obstacle that keeps you from writing that essay, finishing that long-term project, or just stopping you from getting things done. It becomes even more difficult when we are living in an age where distractions are just a click away.

Despite how valuable the internet has become the endless cat videos and memes have made it far easier for us to procrastinate. Luckily, there are tools out there that work to combat against these distractions. Below are my picks for the top tools to make you the focus-driven worker you set out to be.

StayFocused

What Does It Do: Blocks Websites
Supported Software: Chrome

StayFocused has held it’s reign as one of the top contenders for website blocking, and for good reason. StayFocused is highly configurable, allowing you to block any websites in a domain or just specific sub-domains. You set the time for how long you want to block it when you want to block it. If you don’t want go cold turkey quite yet StayFocused also has the option to set how many times a day you can access a webpage before it blocks it.

Price: Free

BlockSite

What Does It Do: Blocks Websites
Supported Software: Chrome

BlockSite is the plug-in I am currently using to block distracting websites. While it may not be as configurable as StayFocused this plug-in is just as excellent for getting the job done. BlockSite allows you to create a blacklist of sites and provides a quick-add option to any site you wish to block.

One of the reasons I love this tool is the built-in search filter. Back when I was at the pinnacle of internet distraction I would go as far as Googling proxies to access my blacklisted sites. BlockList was just powerhouse tool I needed to help fully eliminate my distractions

Price: Free

LeechBlock

What Does It Do: Blocks Websites
Supported Software: Firefox

If you are a FireFox user, LeechBlock will be just the software you need to stay focus. This Firefox Add-On is quick and easy to install and takes seconds to set-up. Similar to StayFocused, this tool is very configurable, allowing you to set the times and days to block certain websites or redirect them to another site.

LeechBlock also features several customizable tabs to categorize how you want to block certain sites. If you want to go more hardcore you can change some of the advanced settings to make it impossible to unblock certain sites without reinstalling FireFox all together.

Price: Free

Focus Booster

What Does It Do: Blocks Apps, Distraction Websites
Supported Software: Mac, Windows

Focus Booster takes from the famous Promodoro Technique by allowing you to block applications for 25 minutes then gives you 5 minute breaks. Users will be able to set different types of tasks they want to focus on and what will need to be blocked during that time. Along with being able to block software, Focus Booster also allows you to track your sessions to see how you progress.

Price: Free for first 20 sessions, then costs $3-5/month

Self-Control

What Does It Do: Blocks Apps, E-mails, Distracting Websites
Supported Software: Mac

SelfControl is one of the more powerful software tools featured on this list. Mac users can download this program and set a timer to block E-mail Servers, Applications, and Websites. Once the software’s timer starts the blocker will not stop until time is up, even if you restart your machine.

Price: Free

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Time-Out

What Does It Do: Reminds You To Take Breaks
Supported Software: Mac

Unlike our previously software on the list, Time-Out doesn’t block distracting software. Users can set a time for how long they want to work on a task. Then, when the timer counts to 0, the screen will dim and a pop up notification will show up reminding you to take a break.During this break time, Time-Out users can type out anything on their mind while a progress bar appears below telling them how long the break will last. Time-Out’s break times can be configured to occur only on certain applications or during certain times.

Price: Free

FocusMe

What Does It Do: Blocks App, Distracting Websites
Supported Software:
Windows

FocusMe is an application similar to Self-Control. Users are able to make a list of different website and software they wish to block. A timer is then set making any of the listed items blocked until the timer reaches 0.

Price: 30-day free trial, Prices vary

Focus Lock

What Does It Do: Blocks Mobile Applications
Supported Software: Android

Focus Lock follows similar mechanics as Focus Booster. Once enabled, Focus Lock will block any applications for 25 minutes then provide 5 minute breaks. All you need is to add your applications to the black list and set your working times. If you try to open up the application during the block time you will see a App Locked screen.

Price: Free

Forest: Stay Focused

What Does It Do: Prevents You Using Your Phone
Supported Software: Android, iPhone

Recently release to the iTunes store, Forest: Stay Focused, has been an amazing game to help mobile users stay focused. The game’s mechanics are simple, you plant a seed and must wait 30 minutes for the seed to grow. Once the 30 minutes are up the plant will grow into a tree and can be planted in a plot of land. However, if you leave the app before the timer runs out the tree will wither away. A clever way to prevent users from touching their phones to check Facebook or play Games.

Price: Free

White Noise Free

What Does It Do: Provides White Noise
Supported Software: Android, iPhone

A lot of these items on the list have been software that is used to blocked distracting websites and software. White Noise Free works to block another distraction: A noisy workplace environment. This mobile app has over 40 different sounds that help mask any noises around you to create a quiet space. To get the best effect I would recommend using this application with headphones.

Price: Free

Have a favorite tool that wasn’t featured? Let me know in the comments!

The Photo Journal

Today I’ve been siting at home feeling sick. Since I’ve not been able to do work on some of my To-Do’s, I decided to take this opportunity to look on the bright side.

Being home bed-ridden opens me up to doing something I’ve been wanting to do for a long while. Since I created my second blog, 1k Photo Challenge it has been seeing a steady rise in growth.

It wasn’t not really my intention to separate this blog from my Photo Journal blog, but I felt that the two blogs had vastly inconsistent formats that would not work as one. Fortunately, today has given me the opportunity to keep these blogs separate but still merge them under one unity.

So now, under both sites you will find each one of them linking to the other blog. For the Challenge List you can go under:

Challenge Lists >> 1K Photo Challenge

If you are unaware of what the 1k Photo Journal is about, check over here for why it was started. You can also check out some of the top posts from the site:

Top Posts:

DSC00604Devil Lake State Park

As we begun our descent the sun started to blare down. We built up more of a sweat on our decline trip from the West Bluff Trail then we did during our incline. […]Read more

 

 

20160610_120055Minneapolis Diagonal Trail

It was a hot and sunny day today making the run especially sweaty […] Read More

 

 

20160624_105337Off On Holiday

Tomorrow I will be traveling north to run the Spartan Sprint then heading west to explore the area of Wisconsin.[…]Read More

Goal 22 Completed: Got a new Job!

Last February I was interviewed for a job at a different company. There was some miscommunication that went on, and I thought I got the job. I sent my 2-weeks noticed in to my previous job. I went in on the day I thought I started, only to find out that I was not offered a position. They had informed me that they were still in the selection process, and there were some issues with my paper work. In short, I was unemployed.

Now, 1 month, and many papers later, I was offered the job. I started last Wednesday and I couldn’t be more happier. This job fulfills nearly everything I’m looking for in my field-related career.

Challenge List:

22 Get a new job ACCOMPLISHED!