‘I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.’ Joan Didion
Creating legacy and time management
Creating legacy is often about how you organise your time, so that on top of the daily activities we all need to do to attend to short-term demands, there is some time left to do the things that matter long-term.
Of course, there are many examples of terribly disorganised people creating legacy. But you will often find that this is because these people have someone in their lives to tidy up after them, take care of the short-term stuff, so they can focus on their legacy work. Unless are in this extremely lucky situation, the way to free up enough time for creating legacy is by becoming an expert at time management.
The importance of creating a buffer before stimulus and response
If you are like most people, you often assign more urgency to matters than they really deserve. For example, you may find yourself replying to an email you’ve just received, one that could have easily waited until tomorrow or until more emails had accumulated into your inbox. Or you just think of asking Jane about how she managed to get that stain out of the carpet, and immediately pick up the phone to call her, even though the stain has been in the carpet for a week and could certainly wait until you need to speak to Jane anyway about something else.
This annoying habit most of us have, of taking action on small things straight away instead of scheduling them into our diary, ends up taking a huge chunk out of our day.
If you want to test this out for yourself, try this: every time you end up doing a task, pre-scheduled or not, write it down. Provided you have the discipline to do this for an entire day, you will see just how many little things you ended up doing; and will also see how many of these weren’t really necessary, or even if they needed to be done anyway they were not time-critical.
So what I’m saying here is that creating a buffer between stimuli related to tasks (‘have to ask Jane about removing stain on carpet’) and action (phoning Jane) will free up a generous chunk in your day, which you can assign to creating legacy. This is because a buffer gives your brain time to consider whether the task you were going to do is really necessary, could be done more efficiently some other way, or how urgent it is.
Writing tasks down
One of the best ways to give yourself a buffer is to write down what you intend to do. Being a higher-level activity, writing automatically switches you into a rational mode, instead of leaving you at the mercy of your impulses. The act of writing tasks down will help you decide whether the item really does require a quick response or whether it can be left until later without damage.
Here’s another little exercise for you to try out: watch your mind and wait for an impulse to arrive. It could be something like ‘I need to email Peter’ or ‘that link looks interesting’. Then, instead of emailing Peter or clicking on that link, write down what you are going to do.
Observe what happens when you do this. If you then email Peter or investigate the link, you are no longer doing it out of impulse but as a more rational considered decision. More likely you will decide that it’s not worth interrupting your work for, so you will defer it.
Advantages of writing tasks down
You need to make a rule for yourself: whenever something comes up that you think needs a quick response, write it down. Making a habit of this is crucial and will greatly help with managing your time, so you have enough left for creating legacy. Here are just three advantages to writing tasks down:
1. In the act of writing tasks down you are forced to make a conscious decision about whether the action needs to be done at all, so you may end up deciding it isn’t actually necessary.
2. Writing tasks down also forces you to decide when is the most appropriate time to do them, rather than treating them as if they were time-critical if in fact they aren’t.
3. At the end of the day you can look over the items that you wrote below the line to check that they really justified being done the same day. This means you can gradually become better at deciding whether a task is time-critical or not.
What about you?
What techniques do you use to manage your time? How do you ensure you have enough time in your day for creating legacy? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section.
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‘So many fail because they don’t get started – they don’t go. They don’t overcome inertia. They don’t begin.’ W. Clement Stone
Creating legacy and taking action
Creating legacy is very much about taking action. It’s fine to spend a few days, weeks, or months planning, but eventually you have to start working on your legacy projects. You have to begin.
Where should you begin?
With some projects, where to begin is very obvious. If you’re writing a book, you may want to decide on its structure, maybe plan out the different chapters, start with the chapter that you feel the most comfortable writing etc.
But with other legacy projects, there is no obvious beginning point. If you’re writing a blog, for example, or choreographing a dance, where should you begin?
Choreographer Twyla Tharp had this problem of where to begin when asked to choregraph her first professional dance. She solved the problem by stamping her foot on the ground, alone in the middle of a large empty room, and shouting ‘begin!’ – and the stamping of the foot is how she decided to begin her piece.
When the area you are working on is as fluid as creating a dance piece, it is best not to let yourself too paralysed about where to begin – just do something, and that will be your beginning. Don’t let lack of constraints become a problem – set your own constraints – arbitrarily if you must.
Tips for beginning
The beginning is often extremely hard, because you are so terrified of messing up – so as soon as you got that done, just think of having gotten over a really hard bit. You’ve just gotten over your first milestone.
At the beginning, the most important thing is to build up momentum. So don’t worry too much about the quality of what you are doing – you can fix the quality later, at the moment just focus on getting things going. If your initial ‘beginning’ is really bad, you can even scrap it altogether; that happens a lot, so don’t feel bad about it, and certainly don’t feel like you are wasting time. Even if you end up scrapping it, the beginning will set everything else in motion, so it will still have served a crucial function even if you later replace it with something different.
And finally – don’t set yourself too high a target for your beginning. If you’re beginning your book, don’t set too high a word count to start off with; it’s better to meet your target really quickly and then be really excited about the next day, rather than draining yourself of energy and motivation from the very start.
What about you?
How do you begin your legacy projects? What constraints do you set yourself to get started? Let us know by writing in the comments section.
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‘Whoever wants to reach a distant goal must take small steps.’ Saul Bellow
Creating legacy is done chunk-by-chunk
There is a secret that experienced legacy creators know and novices don’t: creating legacy is accomplished by chunking things up. What to write the next Lord of the Rings trilogy? Chunk things up. Want to compose the next No. 1 music album? Chunk things up. Want to…? You get the idea.
Whenever you want to accomplish anything big, anything so remarkable and daring it seems impossible for one human to achieve, chunk it up, then start by working on the first chunk; keep going at it; and hey presto – a few years down the line, or a few decades down the line, it’s done.
The problem with big projects
Our brains are pre-programmed to avoid getting started on anything that feels really big. It’s a common-sense survival mechanism. If it feels big, it will most likely take years to complete; you’re therefore likely not to complete it; so all the time you’ve invested into it up until the point of abandoning it has been wasted.
The result is that whenever the brain is faced with a big project, it resists getting started. But while it makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, creating legacy is mostly done through taking on big, daring projects. Because these projects take forever, they are also rare – hence more valuable, remarkable, and most of all memorable. People can’t stop talking about them, because they can’t understand how one person could achieve something so grand.
How chunking provides the solution
The answer, of course, is chunking. Our brains resist if you tell them ‘today I’m going to start writing the next Lord of the Rings trilogy’. But if you tell them ‘today I’m going to write two pages’, i.e. today I’m going to complete one tiny chunk, you’ll find your brain being a whole lot more cooperative.
This is how I wrote my PhD thesis, for example. The thought of writing 80,000 words was really scary, so I postponed starting for as long as I possibly could. But one day, I realised that the time was flying by and I was getting nothing done. And then I realised why I was having such big problems starting: because I hadn’t chunked things up.
So instead of thinking of the total number of words I had to write, I decided on the chapters I wanted to have in the thesis. Then I thought in-depth about each chapter, and came up with a list of sections. Then I matched the data I had to the appropriate section; and gave myself a target of writing one section per day. I ended up finishing the first draft of the thesis in about 6 weeks. Magic!
The sections of course didn’t stay the same and nor did the chapters, but after I had my first draft it became a whole lot easier to get the thesis completed. Had I constantly thought of the thesis as this big monster, as I did at the beginning, I would never have been able to get started. But focusing on small chunks provided the solution: it helped push myself out of panic and denial into building up a healthy momentum.
Chunking can help with other tasks too
Chunking, by the way, is really helpful with all sorts of tasks. I use it for example to memorise lines for acting class; a lengthy monologue is a lot quicker to memorise once you split it into chunks of 1-2 sentences. Boring admin tasks such as doing accounts or filling in grant applications are also done a lot more efficiently through chunking.
As a rule of thumb, whenever you are faced with something that feels big to you but that you have to get done, see if you can chunk it up. No task is too boring if you think you will only have to work on it for five minutes, until the first tiny chunk is complete. And once you get the first chunk done, the rest tends to come a lot easier.
What about you?
How do you get started on big projects? Do you use chunking to get your projects off the ground? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section.
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‘Some people hear their own inner voices with great clearness. And they live by what they hear. Such people become crazy… or they become legend.’ Jim Harrison
Creating legacy and hearing voices
Creating legacy makes you hear voices. It’s a well-kept secret (for obvious reasons), but it’s absolutely true. Even before starting a legacy project, you will begin hearing them. The trick is to realise that there are two kinds of voices – and to be able to tell them apart.
At the beginning, it will feel like lots of voices, and listening to them will pull you in all sorts of direction. But gradually, you will come to realise that there are really only two voices.
The destructive voice
The first voice belongs to the destructive forces within you. The voice may sound like a person who used to be part of your life or still is, and was particularly critical of you; or it may sound like your own voice; or it may sound like a generic voice. Sometimes, it will change its sound, or it may sound like different people, just to confuse you.
But whatever its sound, this voice will generally say things that prevent you from creating legacy. Things like ‘who do you think you are, trying to create legacy?’; ‘you’ve always been a failure, and you’ll fail at this legacy project too’; ‘you’re not as talented as XYZ, you’ll never make it’; ‘this is too hard for you’; ‘you’re tired, no need to work on your legacy project today’; ‘your legacy project sucks!’ and so on and so on.
Every single legacy creator has had to listen to this voice, over and over again. I hear it every day. I hear it every time I write a blog post, or work on my creative writing, or do anything related to creating legacy.
And if you like reading biographies of successful legacy creators, you already know that they heard this even while they were creating their most lasting masterpieces. For example, right now I’m reading John Steinbeck’s Working Days, the diary he kept while writing Grapes of Wrath – one of the greatest works of American Literature. You can tell with every single diary entry that he was hearing this voice all the time.
The voice of the one who knows
But then there’s the second voice. It’s usually a lot fainter than the first voice, and initially it will be so faint you will have to listen really hard to hear it.
I’m not sure where this voice comes from, but we all have it deep within us. It usually sounds calm and soothing, although I’ve also heard it become extremely authoritative on a few occasions when I was straying from my path.
This voice is magical; it seems to know not only about your past and present, but also about your future. It seems to know when a place is not the right environment for you, or when a person is not as trustworthy as they seem at first glance. It even knows about strenghts within yourself you never knew you had, and it is particularly good at telling you what makes your heart sing and guides you towards those things.
Children are really good at hearing this voice, but then they are sent off to school and asked to do things they don’t feel like doing, and made to obey teachers who have long lost touch with their own voice of the one who knows. And gradually, the voice that can tell what makes their heart sing gets fainter and fainter, as they learn to become obedient sheep doing what they are told.
Because you see, the voice of the one who knows thrives on being listened to and followed. And the more you ignore it, the fainter it gets. It never completely disappears, you understand – it’s always there to be reignited, always waiting for you to listen to it. But the more you have allowed others to rule over your life, the more you have doubted your own abilities and let others lead the way, the harder you have to listen for the voice of the one who knows to make itself audible to you again.
The two voices
The destructive voice and the voice of the one who knows will always be in competition with each other. Unfortunately, the voice of the one who knows will never manage to drown out the other voice, especially if you’ve ‘benefited’ from the traditional schooling system that through demanding obedience, makes us doubt our own potential to achieve great things.
But there are many things you can do to make the voice of the one who knows fully audible to you, so at least you are not fully at the mercy of the destructive voice.
How to bring the voice of the one who knows back into your life
Here are some of the things you can do:
1. Continuously ask yourself the big questions. Every day, ask yourself things such as: what is my life’s purpose? why am I here? what do I want my life to be like? am I really doing what I want, or am I only doing this so as not to disappoint others, or so as to scrape a living? what would I do if I had just three more months to live? what happens after I die? how would I like to be remembered?
2. Watch children play, and learn from them. Have you ever watched children play? They’re not too bothered about what will happen tomorrow, how will they get food, they’re usually fully absorbed in their playtime, and they seem to know exactly what they like and don’t like. Of course, full regression back to childhood is not the answer – but observing children play, seeing their sense of wonder at things we normally take for granted, can really help in making that voice of the one who knows stronger. Children know what makes their heart sing – and we can relearn this skill through observing them.
3. Write a blog. Writing is a high-level activity that is tremendously helpful in clarifying ideas. For example, many of the things I’ve blogged about have only become clearer to me while writing about them. Very often, I will start a blog post with only a very vague idea of what it is about – and then it changes as I’m writing.
4. Keep a diary or put together a scrapbook. Keeping a diary or putting together a scrapbook are particularly good if you’ve come to a crossroads in your life and are trying to get the voice of the one who knows to tell you in which direction you should go next. Elizabeth Gilbert for example kept a diary for a few months before deciding on what later became the year she documented in ‘Eat, Pray, Love’. The diary helped her see patterns in what excited her – for example, looking over previous entries made her realise she really wanted to learn Italian, so it became clear to hear that at least part of her year away would have to be spent in Italy. Scrapbooks are also fantastic at showing you patterns in what catches your eye, if you are more visually enclined. Putting together a scrapbook is a really therapeutic activity and helps you literally piece together what excites you.
5. Meditate. Getting your mind to keep quiet can be extremely helpful in strengthening the voice of the one who knows, because it keeps the destructive voice at bay and allows you to find balance. Try to get into a meditation routine, so you do it in the same place and at the same time every day – very quickly, it will become a daily habit, so you will strenghten the voice of the one who knows bit by bit every day.
6. Get off the beaten track. By that I mean do something you would normally never do. This can be very different for different people, e.g. take a painting class; go for a walk in the woods; spend some time in an elderly people’s home etc. Getting out of the daily routine is really good for strenghtening the voice of the one who knows, because suddenly you have to rely on your spontaneity in order to deal with situations you are not used to.
What about you?
What are the voices you are hearing as you are creating legacy? How are you strenghtening the voice of the one who knows? I’d love to read about your ideas in the comments section.
‘Idleness is the only refuge of weak minds, and the holiday of fools.’ Lord Chesterfield
Creating legacy and finding balance
Creating legacy often depends on finding balance in your life. Take too much time off your legacy projects, and you will soon see the momentum fade away. Push yourself too hard on your legacy projects, and your body will soon start sending you worrying messages.
But here is the problem: taking time off your legacy projects because the old brain needs a rest often looks the same as taking time off because you’re being lazy. How do you tell the difference?
Giving yourself a break vs. being lazy
I’ve written before about how creating legacy is something you should think of doing every day, and how feeling down is not an excuse for taking a day off. It is important, however, to occasionally take time off your legacy projects.
You can tell whether you are taking time off your legacy project due to laziness vs. due to needing a break based on how taking time off makes you feel.
When you are being lazy, taking the time off makes you feel guilty; the more time off you take, the guiltier you feel, and also the more difficult it is to get back to work.
On the other hand, when you genuinely need some time off, taking it feels good. In a sense, you feel like you are being more productive by taking this time off, than by sitting aimlessly at your legacy project HQ trying wrecking your brains for little progress.
If you’ve ever been on a diet, you’ll know what I mean. While you’re keeping to the diet, you may be occasionally hungry and craving all sorts of stuff, but as long as you don’t give in to temptation you are feeling virtuous; every day you stick to your diet feels like a new record. Eating according to the diet plan feels all the better for having battled with your hunger in the periods between meal times; this is the equivalent of taking time off when you really need it.
If you give in to temptation and go for that delicious cupcake, on the other hand, eating it gives you a sense of emptiness while your taste buds are going crazy with wanting more and more and more. You don’t just feel the sense of emptiness after you’ve eaten it, the feeling begins the moment you take the first bite, and lasts long after the cupcake has been digested. This is the equivalent of slacking off your legacy project on days when you are being lazy rather than genuinely needing a day off.
When chores become tempting
There is also another way to tell when you really need time off your legacy project: when you feel tempted to do a chore instead, something you usually hate doing.
It happened to me yesterday. It was getting close to my legacy project time allotment for blogging, and I suddenly felt the urge to clean my bathroom. Now – let’s be clear – I would normally never prioritise cleaning over working on my legacy project.
While I do value cleanliness, I also know that it doesn’t take long for something to get dirty again – whereas the time I spend writing something is a very long-term investment. Quentin Crisp used to say that after the first four years, the dust doesn’t get any worse – an interesting hypothesis I’ve always been tempted to test out for myself.
But when I felt a craving for cleaning my bathroom – which, may I add, I hadn’t cleaned for about four months – I realised that this was my brain pleading for a bit of time off my blogging legacy project. What my brain was basically saying was ‘please, I’ll do anything, anything, I’ll even help you clean the bathroom, just give me a break’.
So I decided to grant my brain’s wish and clean the bathroom instead of writing my blog post. The result was that it took me less than a third of the time it normally takes me to clean the bathroom, because I was perceiving it as a mini-holiday from my legacy project rather than a chore; and cleaning gave me the time to think about writing this blog post. It also means now I don’t have to schedule ‘clean bathroom’ into my diary for another four months – only joking 🙂
If you’re ever in this situation, and feel like doing a chore instead of working on your legacy project, I’d advise you to give in your urge to do the chore. As long as this is a once-in-a-while thing and not a weekly occurence, you’re doing the right thing – you’re doing something you’d have to do anyway at some other time but in a more effective way, because your brain sees it as a mini-break from routine. So go for it, and enjoy it!
What about you?
How do you distinguish between being lazy and needing a break? Do you think it’s a good idea to take an unscheduled break every once in a while? I’d love to read about your thoughts in the comments section.
‘Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.’ Aristotle
Creating legacy and the Happiness Project
Creating legacy is in many ways about finding happiness – not just short-term, forgettable fun, but the kind of long-term happiness that comes with working towards turning your dreams into reality.
A few months ago, I came across Gretchen Rubin’s fabulous Happiness Project – the book and the blog. The blog is full of great daily inspiration and tips. And the book is one of those rare reads that makes you take stock of your life and reconsider your values. In my case, the book made me think a lot about the relationship between happiness and creating legacy.
Creating legacy and happiness go hand in hand
We are all aware of the myth of the creative genius leading a life of sacrifice and gloom while amazing the world with their legacy.
But you don’t have to conform to this image to be a legacy creator. In fact, it makes more sense to see happiness as making it more likely to create legacy.
When you are happy, you are more likely to find the energy within yourself to tackle obstacles or difficult problems. You are also in a more positive state of mind, so are more likely to look forward to challenges rather than avoiding them. Happy people are easier to work with, so feeling happy will also help with your leadership skills as well as make you someone others will want to collaborate with or help out.
I’m certainly finding that when I feel happy, I am in a greater state of balance, and therefore my decisions tend to be more measured and less likely led by obsession with the success of my legacy project. Sometimes what looks like a great opportunity may lead to a disastruous turn of events for the legacy project, and being in a state of balance allows me to pass on such ‘opportunities’ more easily and recognise them for what they are.
Creating legacy and finding fulfillment
Apart from everything else, creating legacy is about finding fulfillment in your life. It does not mean sacrificing everything that is dear to you for the sake of your legacy project; it simply means being aware of the opportunities to create legacy that are open to you, and taking advantage of these opportunities as much as possible.
Thinking of the progress I am making on my legacy projects makes me feel happy. Even on really bad days, when I don’t feel like working on my projects but nevertheless do so, I find that once I get going I start enjoying it.
I don’t understand people to always go on and on about how much they suffer for their art, and I can’t help thinking that if they keep going the way the are going, their art will soon begin to suffer too. It is important to create legacy in a way that makes us feel whole, rather than as an excuse for moaning to others about how difficult our life is.
Creating legacy is in many ways about nourishing that part of ourselves that yearns for the transcendental, that wants to do more than do the boring 9 to 5 job for fourty years to pay off the mortgage, with the occasional holiday abroad every once in a while – and then retiring an empty shell. We have so much potential within us, and it is important that we allow this potential to flourish so the world can benefit from what we have within us that is unique. This means creating legacy, but not in a ‘I am a marty’ kind of way – rather, in a way that feels right to us, that fills our life with meaning.
Giving up short-term for long-term happiness
It is true that sometimes you will have to sacrifice some things that give you short-term happiness so you keep making good progress on your legacy project. But this is because our legacy projects are a source of long-term happiness, whereas some of the things we have to give up to work on them only lead to happiness that is short-lived and often forgettable.
For example, I’m always considering carefully whether to accept invitations to social events while working on a project, because I know that going to such events on top of my daily activities leaves me tired and less able to stay on top of my workload the next day. This seemed inconsistent with the Happiness Project, so I thought about it some more.
What I came to realise is that in fact, the real reason I don’t take part in many social events is that I don’t actually enjoy them. My legacy project commitments therefore make it easier for me to refuse, because the prospect of having to say ‘no’ to a party invite feels less bad than falling behind on my projects. By contrast, I know many people who only attend particular events out of feeling obliged to the host – this to me feels like a total waste of time. Giving up precious hours of your life so as not to make yourself unpopular with someone you don’t even care about seems like complete nonsense.
What I tend to do instead, consistent with the Happiness Project, is to schedule regular times for fun. For example, I go to a weekly dance class, purely for fun. Having this fun activity scheduled in my calendar rather than as a one-off, like a party, means that I can have fun and therefore boost my happiness without disrupting my legacy routine.
I also make time to paint, another activity I do purely for fun. This activity is not firmly scheduled, but it’s easy to integrate with my legacy project commitments as I can paint in my room, as a way of giving my brain a rest after activities that require heavy thinking.
What about you?
How are you integrating creating legacy with happiness in your life? What kinds of things do you do to boost your happiness? I’d love to read about your ideas in the comments section.
‘Keep your dreams alive. Understand to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember all things are possible for those who believe.’ Gail Devers
Creating legacy and the power of thought
Creating legacy requires that you do not see yourself as limited, but rather as having a huge potential for growth in any area you set your sights upon. Legacy creators have long understood that what you believe about your own ability to improve shapes what you achieve.
Without believing that it is within your power to improve yourself and the world around you, you are condemning yourself to a life of thinking ‘if only I had [insert desired abilitiy here e.g. intelligence, imagination etc.]’. This is no way to live a fulfilling life, and certainly no way to create legacy.
Insights from psychological research
Legacy creators often intuitively understand things that research takes years to provide evidence of. For example, psychological research gathered over the past decade shows that people can hold two different views of their own abilities (e.g. intelligence).
In particular, some people are ‘entity theorists’, in that they any human abilities as entities, i.e. they exist within us in a finite supply that we cannot increase. Others, on the other hand, are ‘incremental theorists’. They believe that while particular abilities vary from person to person, we can also improve upon them, as long as we are prepared to put in the necessary effort.
The implications of being an entity vs. incremental theorist for creating legacy
Which of the two (admitedly ‘boxy’) categories you fall into has important implications for your belief that you can create legacy, and also for the way in which you handle any obstacles that invariably get in the way of completing any legacy project.
Entity theorists perceive their abilities as something they have to demonstrate in the course of working on a legacy project. Incremental theorists, on the other hand, believe that legacy projects provide an opportunity to develop these abilities.
Working on a legacy project: Entity vs. incremental theorists
If you are an entity theorists, believing your abilities only come in a fixed quantity that cannot be changed, then every attempt to complete a legacy project becomes a measure of how much of a particular ability you have: how smart you are, how resourceful you are, how charismatic etc.
As you can imagine, this won’t get you very far. If you have difficulties overcoming an obstacle, you will automatically think that this is because you are lacking a particular ability and give up quickly. Also, if one your legacy projects fail, you will tend to attribute that to your lack of specific abilities and decide creating legacy is simply not something you are suited to; it is something that only people who are smarter/more resourceful/more charismatic than you can do, but not you.
If, on the other hand, you belong to the incremental theorists camp, then the same problems along the way become opportunities for growth.
If as an incremental theorists you are having difficulties overcoming a particular obstacle, and decide that this is because you are not resourceful enough, you will aim to find ways to improve your resourcefulness so you can get better at getting past this type of obstacle.
Or if your legacy project fails, you will review all the things you have learned from working on it, make a list of the things you fell short, and resolve to address these so you can complete your next project. In other words, you will not give up on creating legacy just because you have failed at one, or two, or more legacy projects; you will simply see each failure as a learning experience getting you one step closer to success.
You are not ‘stuck’ with your category
As I’m sure you can tell by now, incremental theorists are more likely to create legacy than entity theorists, because of the way in which they approach and interpret the problems that invariably arise along the way.
But what if you realise you are an entity theorist who wants to create legacy? Simple – you have to work on changing your mindset day by day, to think more like an incremental theorist.
In fact, even accepting the possibility that you can change from being an entity theorist to an incremental theorist is a major step forward – because this means you are starting to see your own mindset as capable of changing, just like incremental theorists do.
You should also bear in mind that these two categories are ‘guides’ only – devised by psychologists to explain results they have found in the course of their studies. Of course, you are more likely to find that the way in which you perceive your abilities falls somewhere in-between these two categories.
Just remember that the closer you can get to the ‘incremental theorist’ mindset, the easier it will be for you to create legacy in the long run. So try to move in that direction day by day.
Every time you think to yourself ‘I can’t possibly achieve this – I’m not [insert ability] enough’, ask yourself why you are thinking that, and what you can do to change thinking this way. It will take time, but you will see that eventually you will start to automatically think ‘yes, I can do this! I just need to work on X, Y, and Z, and then I’m all set to go for it’, and this will make it a whole lot easier to contemplate starting legacy projects that are bold, imaginative, and remarkable.
What’s your take?
Are you finding the distinction between ‘entity’ vs ‘incremental’ theorists helpful? Do you have any suggestions for thinking more like an incremental theorist? I’d love to read about your ideas in the comments section.
‘Clear thinking requires courage rather than intelligence.’ Thomas S. Szasz
Creating legacy and taking time to think
To create legacy, you need to frequently set time aside for thinking. Just thinking. It doesn’t feel like you’re doing anything. But in fact, it can save you a lot of unnecessary ‘doing’.
Take advantage of unwanted ‘off’ time
I admit I find it really difficult to take time off from working on my legacy projects, aside from the ocasional Saturday spent painting or watching TV.
In a way, this is good – it shows I enjoy my work so much I don’t really see it as work at all, more like productive playtime. But the body and the mind do need rest, even from activities that are enjoyable. Scheduling and enjoying time off is something I have to work on.
But a few days ago, I was forced to take a few days off by a lingering cold that came back with a vengeance. The come-back was awful – so much worse than the initial cold. For two days, I felt trapped in my own body – not being able to do anything, not even reading or scribbling on my notepad.
The only thing I could do was lie on the bed and think. I was getting really worried about getting really behind on my work, but it turns out that these two days of forced exclusive ‘thinking time’ are now saving me a lot of unnecessary work.
For example, one of the things I realised was that actually I didn’t feel at all comfortable participating in a group project I had recently taken on. If it wasn’t for the forced thinking time, I would have ignored my niggling doubts about the project and continued investing time into something I didn’t really want to do. But the two days thinking time allowed me to fully acknowledge my doubts and to therefore abandon the project at an early stage, before having invested lots of time into it.
Time to think is time well-spent
I’m sure you’ve got your own examples of instances when time spent thinking actually saved you a lot of time in the long run. So don’t feel guilty about taking time out to think.
It’s also important you’re not too stingy with how much time you allocate to thinking. For example, I would have never spent two entire days just thinking, under normal circumstances. But it turns out I needed two whole days to get to the bottom of how I really felt about the group project; and those two days have saved me about two weeks of solid work, just on that one project.
I’m as guilty as anyone for only allocating small chunks of time during the day to thinking – rarely one whole day, or even two. But we’ve all got to start changing that if we want to improve our decision-making process in relation to the legacy projects we take on.
I guess a long-term goal such as creating legacy requires long-term thinking. And cutting your thinking time short is therefore false economy. Let’s be generous, and spend out on thinking time; I’m sure our legacy endeavours will greatly benefit.
What’s your take?
Do you set aside time exclusively dedicated to thinking? How do you protect your thinking time from being allocated to other activities that seem more urgent? I’d love to read about your suggestions in the comments section.
‘Don’t wait until everything is just right. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles and less than perfect conditions. So what. Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident and more and more successful.‘ Mark Victor Hansen
Creating legacy is about motivation
Creating legacy depends very much on motivation. If you are highly motivated, you will find it easier to keep working on your legacy projects day after day for a long time.
So how do you generate motivation? Well, there are few things more motivating than success. And as we all know, success leads to success?
How to bring success into your legacy endeavours
Legacy projects take a lot of time until completion, and even after that there is no guarantee that they will be popular with others – so success may sometimes seem like a very long time away. But you can still bring success into your legacy endeavours in a small way.
The trick is to induce small feelings of success into every single one of your days. How? Easy. By starting your day with completing small tasks that give you a sense of achievement to kick-start your day.
Tasks that give you a feeling of success
Here are a few examples of tasks you can do: writing a blog post; writing a diary entry about the day before; complete a mini-project, such as tidying up the bookshelves or your desk.
If you take a long time to get your brain to wake up properly in the morning, you can start your day with an even easier task to give you that sense of achievement: make your bed. It’s a great little activity that takes virtually no processing power, perfect for those of us with sleepy brains in the morning. Try it for a week and let me know how it goes.
Your morning ritual and small tasks both give you success feeling
Remember how a while ago we were talking about kick-starting your day with a ritual? This ritual is great to give you a sense of success, and it works wonders in combination with small tasks you can complete straight off.
The morning ritual is great for giving you a sense of continuity across your legacy project. The small tasks complement the morning ritual by giving you a quick sense of success that you can then leverage into much bigger tasks relating directly to your legacy projects.
It’s your turn
How do you bring in success into your day? What are some of the strategies you use? I’d love it if you would share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section.
‘The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.’ Albert Einstein
Creating legacy needs a time commitment
Creating legacy is unlikely to happen if you do not set time aside for it; our lives are just too fast-paced and complicated for that. In particular, it is important that you set aside a specific time allotment during your day for each of your legacy projects.
What exactly is a legacy project time allotment?
The legacy project time allotment is a time in your day you dedicate to your legacy project e.g. Monday to Friday, 9.00 am till 10 am; or Monday to Sunday, 7.30 am till 8.00 am.
How long should your legacy project time allotment be?
It can be as long as you need it to be – five minutes, twenty minutes, one hour. The important thing is not so much how long it is. The important thing is that you schedule it so you work on your legacy project every day.
It is better to schedule it for twenty minutes every day, than one hour every three days. This is because our brain not only does work on the legacy project during the time allotment while you are working on it; it also works on it in the times in-between each session.
Every time you work for twenty minutes on something, take a break, and then come back to it, you will find that you will have moved on a little. This works particularly well with tasks that require creativity, such as your legacy project.
Should you also work on your legacy project at the week-end?
This depends on your other commitments, and also on the specific legacy project. For example, for one of my legacy projects I work seven days a week; for the other one I work only six days a week.
It’s probably a good idea to have at least one day off from working on a legacy project; but some projects do require the seven-days-a-week treatment. Try sheduling your legacy project time allotment five days, six days, and seven days a week, and see what works best for you.
When should you schedule your legacy project time allotment?
Of course, this depends again on your other commitments and when you tend to work best. But my personal experience is that it is easiest to stick to your legacy project time allotment every day if you schedule it first thing every morning, or as closely as possible to the first thing every morning; after that, life takes over and often crowds the opportunity.
What if you are working on more than one legacy project?
This makes things a tad trickier, but not impossible – I’m in this situation at the moment. My advice is that if this is the first time you have taken on a legacy project, it is probably best if you only work on legacy project, bring it to completion, and then think about running two in parallel.
In terms of the legacy project time allotment – if you are working on more than one legacy project, just make sure you keep the times for the two projects separate. For example, I work on one of my projects first thing after finishing my morning ritual; whereas my time allotment for my other legacy project is in the evenings, towards the end of my day.
The reason why it’s a good idea to keep the times separate is that working on a legacy project takes a lot of energy; so it’s best to schedule something easy to do after each session of working on your legacy project. Following up a session of legacy project work with another session for another project is likely to leave you drained and not looking forward to doing this again the next day, and the day after, and the day after that etc. for the next few months.
So try to keep the two times apart as much as possible, and do more routine tasks in-between, to give your brain enough time to recover.
What are your thoughts?
How do you make sure you create legacy every day? Would you find having a legacy project time allotment useful? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section.
I am a social entrepreneur, blogger, and talent scout, interested in helping people who want to create legacy. I have recently completed my PhD thesis in social psychology at the University of Edinburgh, and am originally from Romania. I am writing a daily blog on creating legacy, which you can find at www.alexaispas.com