• Why create legacy?

    ‘Our obligation is to give meaning to life and in doing so to overcome the passive, indifferent life.’  Elie Wiesel

    Creating legacy because…

    …we don’t know what happens after death. You may have faith in an afterlife, or you may be agnostic, but the truth is that we do not know, and no one can tell us for sure. What you do know though is that you have this life, this opportunity, to make a difference in this world. Take this opportunity now, don’t waste time waiting for the perfect circumstances to arise, find out what it is you want to do as your legacy and get started.

    …we all need to give meaning to our lives, and creating legacy is a way to do so without harming ourselves, without falling under others’ harmful spell, and without deluding ourselves that we are living when in fact we are only puppets in others’ corporate game. Don’t get caught into the game of chasing after more wealth, more promotions, more pats on the back for running, running, running, with nowhere to go but the grave. Don’t join an extremist group that tells you who you are by asking you to see everyone who is not part of that group as the enemy. Focus your search for meaning on something that makes a positive difference in this world, and something that is likely to keep your memory alive long after you are gone.

    …our time on this earth is finite, and the day will come when you will be lying on your deathbed and reflecting on your life, with only moments left to live. What images do you want to see at that moment? What will you be likely to regret you haven’t done? Don’t wait until that moment to reflect on your life. Do it now. And whatever it is you want to see then, do it now. Whatever you think you will regret not having done, do it now. Don’t wait. None of us knows when that moment will come, all we know is that it will come one day. Take action now. Dedicating your life to creating legacy, with all the risks and disappointments that this entails, will mean that when the moment comes you will see images of yourself fighting against the odds, trying, hoping. Not images of a rat in a maze doing others’ bidding. Bring what you want to see then into your life now.

    …future generations need your help, need your experience, need your strenght. Don’t rob them of your contribution. Share what you have learned with the world with every opportunity, and be a role model, an agent of positive change. Be the change you want to see, and don’t let a single day pass by when you are not in some way working towards the long-term sustainability of our world.

    What about you?

    What are your reasons for creating legacy? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section.

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  • How to do a legacy audit

    ‘Accountability breeds response-ability.’  Steven R. Covey

    Creating legacy and keeping yourself accountable

    Creating legacy is deeply connected to our ability to hold ourselves accountable for the way in which we use our daily time allowance. I know that whenever I forget to hold myself accountable for the way in which I am using my time, I fall back into short-term thinking and start neglecting my legacy projects.

    Over time, to make sure I no longer forget about keeping myself accountable, I have started using something called a legacy audit. I schedule the legacy audit into my diary, as if it was a meeting with someone else – in fact, it is a meeting with myself. By scheduling this audit into my diary on a regular basis, I ensure that I have enough time left in my day for my legacy projects, no matter what else is happening in my life.

    What the legacy audit consists of

    The audit consists of asking yourself  the following three questions below:

    1) Am I working efficiently? (I ask this question separately for my legacy projects, and then for anything else I have to take care of)

    2) Have I got too much work outside of my legacy projects?

    3) Have I allowed myself enough time and resources to complete  each of my legacy projects? If not, what steps should I take to remedy this?

    The importance of doing the legacy audit regularly

    By asking myself the audit questions on a regular basis, I am able to address most problems as they arise, instead of waiting for them to escalate to the point where I have to stop everything else I am doing in order to resolve them. Of course, there are times when I miss something during the legacy audit, or when the questions uncover certain unncessary things I am doing on a daily basis but I enjoy them too much to give up on them etc.

    For example, I have developed the bad habit of checking my web stats on this blog on a daily basis, instead of every two weeks as originally planned. I know checking the stats every day leads to extra work that is simply redundant, but it’s one of these little things that gives me pleasure so I am finding it difficult to let go.

    But overall, undertaking the legacy audit helps me see the big picture, and allows me to address any problems as they arise.

    How to introduce the legacy audit procedure into your life

    It is probably best if you start off by doing the legacy audit every month, so you allow yourself enough time to see patterns in your use of time while not leaving it too long. If you are using a task diary, you can just schedule in a legacy audit one month from now and see how it goes.

    I also started doing the legacy audit every month, but I am now finding that every two weeks is more appropriate, as I have more things happening and need to keep track.

    My legacy audits usually take just under half an hour, but I am sure they can be a lot shorter than that if necessary.

    It doesn’t really matter how long you take answering the audit questions for yourself – what matters is that you try to answer them as truthfully as possible, and that you do the legacy audit on a regular basis.

    What about you?

    What systems do you have in place to keep yourself accountable? How do you ensure that you don’t schedule too much work into your day? I’d love to read about your ideas in the comments section.

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  • Setting limits to fuel your creativity

    ‘Like a great poet, Nature knows how to produce the greatest effects with the most limited means.’  Heinrich Heine

    Creating legacy as a creative endeavour

    Creating legacy is about taking an idea that is in your head and making something tangible out of it, something that can be accessible to others and that will keep your memory alive for a long time to come. Creating legacy is therefore, as the first part of the term suggests, a creative act. You are giving birth to something that would not have existed without your focus and determination to bring it into this world.

    This means that legacy creators have the same kind of problem that creative people across all areas have: how to fuel creativity on days when things just aren’t happening, when the brain seems dead and uncooperative? How to tempt the muse into a visit on days when she is resolute not to come?

    Setting limits as a way to trick the muse

    Here’s the secret: the muse likes to visit a clearly defined space; she does not like to arrive into nothingness.

    So the best way to be creative is not to try to think without limits, but in fact to set limits for yourself even when you are completely free to do what you like, and to very carefully define what those limits are. Setting limits will help you focus your energies on something concrete, rather than staring blankly at an infinity of possibilities.

    If you have the feeling that you are getting nowhere or that you can’t keep your impetus going, the reason is very likely to be poorly defined limits. The cure is to narrow your boundaries down and define them more closely. You will find paradoxically that you are able to exercise far more freedom within your narrow boundaries, than the deceptive ‘freedom’ that has no focus, no boundaries and is ultimately unsatisfying because it is going nowhere.

    What kind of limits?

    1. Limiting criteria.

    Even if you are completely free to do whatever you like, set criteria that you have to meet. For example, if you are writing a poem, you could decide on the number of syllables in each stanza, or the number of letter a’s, or the number of words etc.

    After drafting something and struggling to meet those criteria you have set yourself you may decide not to follow those criteria entirely – that is fine, the whole point is that setting the criteria helped you create something in the first place. Remember that the limits are there to help you, to fuel your creativity, they are not there to make you lose sleep over them.

    2. Limiting resources.

    Unlimited resources are never good for creativity. Instead, set limits for yourself even when you don’t need to. Set a limit on your time, your budget, the materials you can work with etc. I have found that setting strict deadlines for myself is particularly useful even if I then end up allowing myself an extra day or two after the deadline for finishing touches.

    As with limiting criteria, the point about limiting your resources is to help your brain get into creative gear quickly and effectively, rather than endlessly agonising about what to do without actually getting much done.

    What about you?

    How do you fuel your creativity? What techniques do you use to create even on days when you feel decidedly uncreative? Please jot down your ideas in the comments section.

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  • 5 principles of taking effective breaks

    ‘A perpetual holiday is a good working definition of hell.’  George Bernard Shaw

    Creating legacy and pacing yourself

    Creating legacy benefits from knowing how to pace yourself. Personally, I find this one of the hardest parts about working on legacy projects. Especially in the honeymoon phase when things are going so well, I used to devote my last ounces of energy to the project, only to have to come to a complete halt once my body had decided enough is enough.

    I’m still finding this hard, but over time I’ve started monitoring myself more closely, experimenting with taking breaks at different times, and combining this with knowledge from psychology books and other sources.  I’ve come up with five principles of taking effective breaks, which I hope will help you in your own legacy endeavours.

    How to take effective breaks while creating legacy

    1. If you have a definite start time and a definite finish time for your breaks you will find they are much more refreshing than if you start the break and finish the break at an indeterminate time.

    2. The length of your breaks isn’t as important as the fact that you start and finish it at an exact time.

    3. Stop dead in the middle of a task at the time you’ve decided to take the break. Our instinctive reaction when we decide to take a break is to work to the next natural finishing point – the end of the next chapter or section – and then take a break. This seems a very natural thing to do. But the mind likes completion, so getting it to start again on the next section can be an effort. On the other hand, if you stop dead in the middle of something, then your mind is saying ‘but we haven’t finished yet!’. Getting going again is much easier because your mind wants to get back to the task to finish it.

    4. The best time to take an unscheduled break is when you have just started something new. My rule is: never take a break until you have started the next thing.

    5. It is usually better to do a task that will take you one hour in three 20-minute sessions, with short breaks in-between, than in one sitting. If you come back to a subject after a break – no matter how short – you will find that you have moved on a little. If you don’t take the breaks, you don’t get this effect. Breaks don’t just refresh you and improve your concentration; they also help you to produce higher-quality work.

    What about you?

    Do you have any tips on how to take effective breaks? How do you make sure you pace yourself while working on a legacy project? I’d love to read about your suggestions in the comments section.

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  • Closed lists vs. open lists

    ‘It’s all about time management. You can actually do a lot of things if you work out your schedule.’  Amanda Izatt

    Creating legacy and organising your tasks

    Creating legacy is much easier once you have good systems in place to take care of your tasks. In today’s blog post, I want to talk about the distinction between using closed lists vs. open lists to keep track of tasks you need to take care of. A closed list is one way of applying limits to our work in order to increase our efficiency. It is much easier to work off a closed list than an open list.

    The problem with open lists

    Most people use very few closed lists to control their work. Instead they rely on open lists. You are probably already familiar with the most frequently used type of open list – the to-do list. What makes the to-do list into an open list is that anything can be added to it. There is no line drawn at the bottom.

    The open list is one of the worst systems to rely on if you are trying to get organised, as it is virtually impossible to get through your work if you have a constant stream of new stuff coming in. What usually happens is that you cherry-pick whatever happens to be making the most noise at the time and leave the rest ‘for later’. The result is inevitably that the unactioned items tend to build up into a backlog.

    Working with closed lists

    You are probably also familiar with one frequently used type of closed list – the checklist. For example, you probably already know that in order to carry out a new task it’s often a good idea to break the task down into smaller tasks and make a checklist.

     A good example of closed list versus open list is what happens when you come back from holiday and find you have a computer full of hundreds of emails that have come in while you have been away.

    If you deal with these in an open list fashion, you deal with the ones that seem particularly urgent and leave the rest ‘for later’. New emails will start to come in and the result is you never quite catch up. Instead, you should deal with the emails in a closed list fashion. Download all the emails that have come in, go offline and clear the lot in one batch. Then you are free to deal with the new stuff.

    In what order should you do closed list items in?

    As long as you are going to finish the items of closed list, it doesn’t matter which order to do them in. If you draw a line at the bottom of your closed list and add new items below the line so they get cleared last, then the original list is still a closed list.

    What about you?

    What are your experiences with closed lists vs. open lists? How do you keep track of the tasks you need to do on any given day? I’d love to read about your ideas in the comments section.

    Did you enjoy this blog post? If so, consider subscribing to receive new blog posts by email. Thanks for reading.


     

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  • 5 ways your task diary can help

    ‘The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.’  Albert Einstein

    Creating legacy and your task diary

    Creating legacy is strongly helped when you have good systems in place to organise your time. A couple of months ago I’ve discovered a handy little tool I like to call my ‘task diary’; it is now one of the main ways in which I manage my time.

    The task diary is different from a pocket diary in that we don’t just use it for scheduling things like meetings etc. My task diary is A5 size, so much bigger (and thicker) than my pocket diary. Another big difference is that my task diary has one page for each day, whereas my pocket diary has the whole week spread over only two pages.

    How to use your task diary

    Here are five ways in which you can use your task diary to keep on top of your legacy projects:

    1. Set yourself reminders. You can remind yourself to take some action on a particular date. This can be very useful for buying birthday presents etc. Most people have birthdays in their calendar, but what they don’t have is a reminder a couple of weeks beforehand to do something about buying a present or a card.

    2. Follow up on other people’s promises. Helps you systematically follow up on work you have asked others to do. Whenever you send an email, leave a message, or ask someone to do something, make sure you put a note in your task diary to follow up after a couple of days. Do the same is someone promises to do something for you. Follow-up is essential because you will never get anyone to attach a higher priority to your work than they perceive that you are giving it yourself.

    3. Follow up on yourself. Schedule regular checks for your projects to ensure that they are developing in the way you want them to. If you don’t pay attention to a project, it will either die or come back and bite you.

    4. Plan thinking times. When you have an idea, schedule it into your task diary for whatever seems like an appropriate interval a review; the idea might look quite different by then.

    5. Schedule small tasks. If you are beginning to build a backlog of actions, one way you can deal with them is to schedule a few of them each day over a period. That will mean that you no longer have a huge weight of unactioned things handing over the current day.

    What about you?

    Do you have a task diary? How do you use it? Do you find it effective? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

    Did you enjoy this blog post? If so, consider subscribing to receive new blog posts by email. Thanks for reading.


     

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  • How to trick yourself into action

    ‘Little by little does the trick.’  Aesop

    Creating legacy and battling Resistance

    Creating legacy depends very much on our ability to battle our Resistance and to take action when necessary. Especially when it comes to long-term and large-scale projects, as legacy projects often are, we have to be able to trick ourselves into action.

    The reactive side of our brain is trick-able

    I’ve already blogged about the two sides of the brain – one rational, the other reactive. In findings ways to trick ourselves into action, an interesting fact to bear in mind is that the reactive mind is not able to tell when the rational mind is lying to it.

    This may sound crazy – how can one side of your brain lie to the other side of your brain and make it work? But to understand that it may help to know that lying is an attribute of the rational side of the brain. The reactive mind doesn’t have the concept-making ability that is necessary to tell a lie. This also means that it doesn’t have the ability to recognise a lie when it comes across one.

    How to trick the reactive side of your brain into action

    As a result of this interesting biological attribute, a highly effective trick to get your reactive mind to switch off its Resistance is to pretend that you are not in fact going to take the action you know you must take.

    Instead, you should tell the reactive side of your brain that you are only going to do a relatively innocuous action. To do so, you can use the phrase ‘I’m not really going to [the task] now, but I’ll just do [its first step]’. For example, ‘I’m not really doing to write that blog post now, but I’ll just log into my site.’

    When the rational mind tells the reactive mind that it’s not really going to do the dreded task now, the reactive mind breathes a metaphorical sigh of relief and lifts the Resistance.

    Tricking troubleshooting tips

    If you have a major task which you are resisting a lot, you may need to use the sentence several times over as you get to each new phase of action, modifying it each time to take you to the next step.

    Once you have used this sentence for a bit you will probably find that you don’t need the second half. In fact you may even find yourself saying, ‘I’m not going to write the report’ and then find yourself writing it. This can be a very powerful way of doing a series of small actions that would provoke a large amount of Resistance if done as a whole.

    What about you?

    How do you battle Resistance? What strategies do you use to trick the reactive side of your brain into action? Share your ideas with us in the comments section.

    Did you enjoy this blog post? If so, consider subscribing to receive new blog posts by email. Thanks for reading.


     

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  • How to minimise time commitments

    ‘Your only obligation in any lifetime is to be true to yourself.’  Richard Bach

    Creating legacy and managing your diary

    Creating legacy is strongly dependent on your ability to free up time in your diary. For most of us, it seems that we already have so many urgent appointments, deadlines etc. that we couldn’t possibly take the time for something as long-term as working on a legacy project.

    I have already blogged about how to minimise emergencies by working on tasks in reverse order of urgency. I have previously also argued that one way to free up time for creating legacy is to decrease the number of commitments we take on. Today I’d like to take this idea further and look at ways to free up time by minimising commitments relating to other people.

    Two types of time commitments

    In the big scheme of things, there are two kinds of commitments we take on: commitments that relate to other people and commitments we take on ourselves (legacy projects fall into this category).

    The commitments that relate to other people consist of things such as meetings, deadlines for taking particular actions, and small duties such as replying to emails and other paperwork that come our way.

    Commitments relating to other people may take longer than expected

    One of the problems with such commitments is that we usually underestimate the time required to fulfil them properly. For example, when scheduling a one-hour meeting we usually think in our heads ‘this means I’ve got another 7 hours left in the day to do other work’ (if you happen to work 8-hour days). But this is totally misleading.

    For instance, the ‘one hour meeting equals one hour of my time’ does not take into account the time it takes you to get to the meeting and back. For example, it may take you half an hour to get to the meeting and another half hour to get back.

    You also need to take into account the time you waste just before leaving and just after returning. It is often the case that at least a quarter of an hour before you are due to leave for the meeting you may start getting fidgety about the time, and it will take you at least another quarter of an hour when you return to settle back into work.

    This means that in practical terms, that one hour meeting has actually taken at least 2.5 hours out of your 8 hours that day. If you’ve got two one-hour meetings that day – you do the maths.  

    Similar problems apply to other types of commitments relating to others. Emails take longer to write than you think, phonecalls extend beyond what you thought, reports take longer to write etc.

    Commitments relating to other people are ‘anchored’ in your diary

    Another big problem relating to commitments relating to other people is that once taken on, you cannot easily shift them to suit your particular circumstances at any particular time. If you haven’t slept well that night and are therefore feeling unproductive, but realise you have two meetings that day plus your legacy project time allotment, you will go to the meetings and postpone your legacy work.

    Doing it the other way around would cause lots of friction with other people and would soon lead to being branded unreliable; so you prefer to be unreliable with something that only you know about. This makes sense in terms of social etiquette etc., but it does mean that you are attending to short-term at the expense of the long-term.

    How do you solve these problems?

    Based on the above, there are two steps you can take:

    1. Be careful when taking on any form of commitment that relates to someone else. Especially when it comes to meetings, always ask yourself things like ‘is this meeting really necessary?’ and see if you can find an alternative whenever possible. Also, do not readily accept admin and other such tasks without asking ‘why is it me that has to deal with this?’ if this isn’t immediately obvious. It is  often to your advantage to establish yourself as difficult when it comes to agreeing to take on extra work; this means you will be able to provide better quality on the work that you do agree to take on.

    2. Be realistic about how long a commitment relating to other people will take. When you schedule a meeting in your diary, immediately put in a generous estimate of the time you will need to get there and back, plus the fidgety time before and after travel, so you do not count on that time in your day for doing other work. Being aware of how long something takes will also give you extra ammunition should someone try to question you on why you are not taking on a particular commitment in step 1; you will be able to give them a very accurate estimate of what you already have taken on and therefore justify why you cannot possibly take on more commitments. Providing a valid justification is more socially acceptable than a blunt ‘no’, so go for that whenever you can.

    What about you?

    How do you deal with commitments relating to other people? How do you make sure you have enough time in your diary for creating legacy? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section.

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  • 10 structure elements for creating legacy

    ‘We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.’  Aristotle

    Creating legacy and the need for good structures

    Creating legacy is largely accomplished through setting up structures that make it easier for us to keep working on our legacy-related tasks, one bit at a time. These structures take time to design and set up, and you might have to revise them every once in a while.

    But taking time to set up the initial structures in the first place is really worth it, because once they are in place they will make it much easier for you to make daily choices that are focused on fulfilling your long-term plans, not just on putting out short-term fires.

    An example of an effective structure

    To give a non-legacy related example, last summer I decided I needed to shed a few pounds, so I made a plan of what I could and could not eat, how much exercise I needed etc. But I didn’t just rely on being iron-willed and sticking to my diet; I got rid of any non-healthy food in my food cupboard.

    So when I was hungry for a snack, I had two options: I could either eat a healthy snack that I could find in my cupboard; or I could go to the shops and buy myself something less healthy. This meant that either I would eat something healthy or I would get some exercise – both of which were in line with my dieting and fitness plans.

    Examples of structure elements for creating legacy

    You may think that setting up good structures for creating legacy is more complicated than a slimming regime; but we have already talked about a number of structure elements over the past few weeks. Here are ten structure elements you can use to design an effective structure for working on your legacy projects:

    1. Kick-start your day with a ritual.

    2. Introduce success into your daily life.

    3. Have a legacy project HQ for each legacy project.

    4. Assign a time allotment for each legacy project.

    5. Set and celebrate reaching milestones.

    6. Give yourself time to think before taking on new commitments. 

    7. Have a supportive network. Avoid parasites and leeches, and if necessary use unconventional ways to gather a supportive network.

    8. Chunk things up.

    9. Set yourself realistic resolutions.

    10. Make yourself accountable for creating legacy.

    What about you?

    What kind of structures do you put in place to keep you focused on creating legacy? How do you enforce those structures in your daily life? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments section.

    Did you enjoy this blog post? If so, consider subscribing to receive new blog posts by email. Thanks for reading.


     

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  • The two sides of the brain

    ‘There is a foolish corner in the brain of the wisest man.’  Aristotle

    Creating legacy and biological structures

    Creating legacy cannot happen if we ignore the way our bodies and minds function biologically. While it is tempting to think that as humans, we can be fully in control of our impulses, this is not very realistic. But knowing more about our impulses can help us set up structures that make the best use of our impulses.

    The reactive and the rational sides of the brain

    There are two sides to our brain: a reactive side, and a rational side. Okay, I don’t want you to take this literally – it’s not like half is reactive and the other half rational. But in very broad terms, for the sake of simplicity, there are bits in our brain that help us react to outside stimuli, and other bits that help us deal with things calmly and rationally.

    As you can imagine, the reactive side of our brain – given its focus on short-term stimuli – often gets in the way of creating legacy. But in terms of our survival, we are extremely lucky to have it. For example, can you imagine using the rational side of the brain to avoid running into a car that cuts your path? In situations such as this one, you need an instantaneous reaction to an immediate threat.

    And no matter how much the reactive side of your brain gets in the way of you creating legacy – you can’t create legacy once you’re dead, can you? So what we need to do is to keep this side of the brain under control while trying to create legacy, and being grateful that it ensures our survival.

    The rational side of our brain, of course, is the one that we can get to focus on the long-term, and therefore on creating legacy. But we need to make sure we do so in a way that takes into account the reactive side of our brain.

    While the rational side of our brain is like a government agency drawing up plans and regulations (e.g. our legacy project time allotment; our morning ritual; healthy eating habits), our reactive side of the brain is like a lizard baking in the sun, snapping up tasty bugs as they pass by while scuttling away if it sees any sign of a predator.

    In other words, the reactive side of our brain only worries about whether it is encountering a tasty bug or a nasty predator. If we therefore try to create legacy by only relying on the strength of our will, we will sooner or later face the obstacle of the reactive brain: an unexpected threat, or a lucky fluke will happen at some point, and all our carefully planned routine for creating legacy goes out the window as our reactive brain is reacting to the tasty or threatening stimuli.

    What we need to do therefore is to set up structures that do not solely rely on the strenght of our will to keep to our routine. I will blog about how to set up such structures in tomorrow’s blog post.

    What about you?

    Do you have trouble as the two sides of the brain take you in different directions? How do you reconcile the two sides of the brain? Share your ideas in the comments section.

    Did you enjoy this blog post? If so, consider subscribing to receive new blog posts by email. Thanks for reading.


     

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