Book Reviews

Bullet Journal Method Book Review

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What should I be doing with my life?

How the Bullet Journal Method book by Ryder Carrol got me to think about my life’s purpose and direction.

For those of us that use the Bullet Journal system, we fill our books up with daily and weekly tasks and tread a fine line between being productive and being busy. After reading the Bullet Journal Method book (twice!) it has helped me reevaluate my whole outlook on life, and working towards a direction I want to be moving.

Two months ago I looked back at my completed daily tasks and there wasn’t a single item on the list that made any impact on the following day. I caught up on laundry, cleaned the bathrooms, prepped all the meals, etc, and I would need to be repeat everything the following day. It felt like my days were being compartmentalized and I would never get the chance to move forward.

Stepping back for a minute, if you haven’t started bullet journaling, here is a quick summary of the process:

The official tagline of the book and the system as a whole is, “track the past, order the present so that you can design your future.” When I read this book the first time, it felt like these tag lines and others like it throughout the book were simple passages. I didn’t give them any thought and moved through the text to the more interesting stories about Ryder and other artists he mentions. It was upon my own reflection that these simple quotes started to make sense.

Leading an intentional life is about keeping your actions aligned with your beliefs. It’s about penning a story that you believe in and that you can be proud of.
— Ryder Carroll

The term ‘intentional life’ is not new to Ryder’s writing as he had a TED talk on this very subject and it is well worth the time if you haven’t seen it yet.

This book is expertly written and it includes so many references to scientific resources that it does an incredible job at explaining how and why the system works. While parts of it can be dry, it avoids adding unrealistic promises or hooey to the book which I prefer. As you work though the steps you find yourself and the book acts as a wise mentor showing you the way, without getting in the way.

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The section that surprised me the most was toward the end of the book when Ryder talks about putting the system into practice. He wants the best for all of us and his writing is at times, inspiring. When he writes, “If you don’t do, if you don’t dare, then you rob the world-and yourself-of the chance to contribute something meaningful.” The time used for reflection in our journals is key to the purpose of the system. While it takes time to do this, it is one reason why it works so well and keeps us all on task at the greater life purpose. I like the Bullet Journal App as a gentle reminder to take some time each day.

BuJo App

If you don’t have time to read the hardback book, the audio version is a perfect substitute and is read by Ryder himself. He is a great narrator and to hear him tell the story about his apartment flooding and losing his portfolio, you can hear the pain in his voice. You can find the audio version HERE.

Book Elements

Now that you know why I think you should read this book, here is how Ryder laid it out.

I. Preparation

  • Introduction into the BuJo system and the tools you will need to begin (i.e. a notebook and pen)

II. The System

  • Beginners guide to the BuJo layouts (Index, Future log, Monthly log, Daily log, Rapid logging, Collections and Migration)

III. The Practice

  • Learn what you are in control of, the meaning of each thing, what is worth your attention, and why.

IV. The Art

  • Custom collections to fit specific needs

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Moving Forward

As I mentioned in the beginning that my daily tasks were dominating my time, I have made great progress in looking forward and using my future log more to work towards future goals. I found that by creating more time in my day for personal development I am happier, even when working on the same mundane tasks. By waking up at 4:30am each day and running while it is just about light outside, I have taken control of my life and feel amazing for it.

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I can’t recommend this book enough as it brings together some incredible ideas and science behind getting organized and leading a better life.

If you are interested to start reading, Ryder has recently launched a huge book giveaway. Read more and enter HERE.

You can also find the book on Amazon HERE.

NOTEBOOK GIVEAWAY!

To help you get started on your own Bullet Journal, I would like to host a giveaway of four Leuchtturm1917 notebooks as seen in the image below. Please enter the contest below for your chance to win!

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Giveaway Signup

Drawing will be on June 21 at 12pm EST. (US entries only)

Write Your Book in a Flash Book Review

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Even if you have never thought about writing your own book, after reading this book, I believe you will begin writing one.  This book makes the whole process from start to end so simple that it is hard to get stuck.  The subtitle of the book “The Paint-By-Numbers System to Write the Book of your Dreams-Fast!” is a bit corny, but after you get into the system, it starts to make sense. Below is a personal review I have done on this book (which I received for free) and would like to share with you why this is a book worth reading.

The best part about this book is the layout and delivery method. Everything is broken up into short, easy to read, and quickly understand sub-sections. Short stories and examples help move the process along and after a brief intro into how the system works, the book begins actively engaging with you to help start you out.

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The direction provided by Dan Janal is backed up by his work career starting with his being part of the initial AOL public relations team, followed up as an award winning journalist, and also from the thirteen books he has written on business and coaching. 

 

To help pick the topic of your book, Mr. Janal asks what format and style your book will have.  Will it be a summary of blog posts, or a large thought leadership novel? This helps set the stage that your book will stand on when you get into what the book topic will be.

 

Personally, I decided to use the ‘Blog Post’ book style, and to model the ‘How To’ genre. This was even before I knew what my topic was going to be! By picking these two options I was directed into topics that I knew about and have already written about to get moving forward. I have been working on a side project for a few years to make folios and notebooks. It has been a struggle to find US manufacturers that will work with startup companies, and I want to help other people locate and pitch their idea to manufacturers so they can start working on a prototype right away.

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From here, the Mr. Janal helps take all the proper next steps to push you through writing out a great book.  The book itself even acts as an example for how something should look when it describes what you need to focus on.  If you ever get stuck, there are also lots of reference pages on the website www.writeyourbookinaflash.com/worksheets       

 

For my book, the chapter outline worksheet was the most exciting. I felt like I could start writing my book right away after I did this exercise. Mr. Janal recommends using 10 chapters to start with and name a theme for each one to get a solid working structure. His point in doing this is very clear,

Your book could have 10 chapters or 20 chapters. It could have 2,000 words or 65,000. So many choices! That’s where a lot of would-be authors get stalled. They don’t know how many words, how many chapters, or how many “anythings” they need to put in their books. They don’t even know when they are done!

One last item I will mention is that we have all heard of the importance of storytelling, with anything we write or talk about.  This book actually goes into the mechanics of becoming a storyteller so you don’t even need to be good at it.  This is a relief for me, as I have never thought of myself as a good storyteller and it is a great help to have this guidance.

 In summary, this book is short, it is only 175 pages, but it is a must have item if you ever need to write a book.  I highly recommend it and I have already decided that this year in November I plan on writing my book for National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo.  I also have been hesitant in the past to write a book because of how few people actually read books.  The upside I recently discovered is that it is easier than ever to have self-published books turned into audio books.  On ACX.com and Upwork.com you can find professional readers, and they will do all the production work.  

I wish you the best of luck if you are planning on writing your own book and let me know if you have any questions!

I received this book free of charge from the kind folks at http://www.tckpublishing.com/ but all the above are my honest thoughts and hope they help.

Cheers,

Mike

 

Willpower - Book Review

“One of the most common reasons for the self-control problem is overconfidence in willpower.”

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Willpower is a resource that we need to spend time exercising and using wisely to avoid overwhelming ourselves and failing to achieve personal goals.  This book helps explain what willpower really is, what it can do for us, and the limits of willpower.  Supported by scientific studies and research, this is a self-help book without any of the fluff.

1. Willpower is a limited resource.  You only have one source of willpower for all the needs of the day and the willpower to resist sweets uses up the same reserve of willpower for dealing with annoying coworkers.  Each is using self-control and the studies outlined throughout the book show that these take a toll on us throughout the day. 

2. Our environment can either help or hurt our willpower.  After working hard to be patient and kind to everyone around us, it is vital to construct an environment that does not tempt us too much when our self-control is depleted.

You may not care if your bed is made or your room is clean, but these environmental cues subtly influence your brain and your behavior, making it ultimately less of a strain to maintain self-discipline.
— Page 252

3. Take on one big thing at a time. When trying to lose weight, it is best to focus your energy solely on this. This will require a lot of willpower and as this is a precious and limited resource, it will increase your odds of success.  Further, at the end of the year, be sure to only make one New Year’s resolution.

No-one has enough willpower for that list…Each time you try to follow one, you reduce your capacity for all the others.
— Page 38

4. Willpower is directly connected to Glucose levels.  If your body runs out of glucose it will affect your decision-making ability and cause you to make bad choices. Our bodies will crave sugary foods to replenish the glucose levels and will make it harder to stick with diet goals.

5. Avoid conflicting goals. For example, setting a goal to be promoted and spending more time playing golf will likely result in failure in one or both goals. There are three outcomes in conflicting goals as demonstrated in a study published in 1988:

1.     You worry a lot

2.     You get less done

3.     Your health suffers, physically as well as mentally

6. Willpower can be strengthened with exercise.  Like any muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it will get. By choosing things to exercise self control, like sitting up straight, overall willpower increases not only in posture, but in other tests as well. 

7. There is something called 'Decision Fatigue'. The more decisions we need to make in a day, the more it will affect how we make the choices at the end of the day. This concept is demonstrated through multiple studies but the main point is this, if you are forced to make a lot of decisions in a short time, be prepared for the fatigue that sets in and know that you will need to work harder to make positive choices. 

To learn more about this concept click Here.

8. Know your limits – We overestimate our ability to control ourselves.  The odds are against us, but we can proactively set ourselves up for a better outcome with a little planning.  (For this reason, I decided to use M&M's in the photo above rather than a donut!)

9. Pre-commitment is the ultimate offensive weapon for self-control. “Buy junk food in small packages or keep them out of the kitchen altogether. Plan meals by the week, rather than on the spur of the moment when it’s already past dinnertime and you’re starving.”

10. Self-control is the most underappreciated character trait.  After reading this book it is clear that we need to put a higher importance in controlling ourselves. As shown in the Values in Action Inventory of Strengths study, self-regulation is typically last place when personally rating the list of character strengths. 

Self-control is ultimately about much more than self-help. It’s essential for savoring your time on earth and sharing joy with the people you love.
— Page 260

In summary, I wouldn’t say this is a must read, but it is a must listen to.  The audio version is very well done with the intro done by the authors, and the main reader doesn’t add that typical self-help soft voice. You can find it Here.

Triggers Book Review

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This book is perfect for anyone that wants to get their professional and personal life back on track. 

I first heard about this book from Myke Hurley and CGP Grey on the Cortex Podcast and they both gave it very positive reviews.  The author, Marshall Goldsmith is a professional coach and has a unique method of getting his message across.  He is also only paid after the people around the individual he is coaching agree that the subject has changed for the better.

Here he is in a TED Talk from 2005

 

There is so much to unpack in this book as it is full of useful examples so to keep this review short, I’ll focus on a few of the main topics as to why you should read it.

I. TRIGGERS

As the book’s name identifies, the first step in working to better yourself, is identify the triggers that are causing you to feel stressed, upset, regretful, and resentful.  The paragraph that I personally identified with was right at the beginning: 

Regret is the emotion we experience when we assess our own present circumstances and reconsider how we got here. We replay what we actually did against what we should have done-and find ourselves wanting in some way. Regret can hurt.

Once identifying the triggers that effect us, the book goes into how we react and process the impacts on us.

We seldom recognize that self-control is a limited resource. As we become tired our self-control begins to waiver and may eventually disappear.

By acknowledging we all have a mental “leader role’ in the morning, but by the afternoon we should take more of an ‘employee role’ and stick to what we set out to do by following a guiding system.  The system to use is laid out in the second section of the book.

II. The 6 Questions to Kick-Start Change

  1. Did I do my best to set clear goals?
  2. Did I do my best to make progress toward my goals?
  3. Did I do my best to find meaning?
  4. Did I do my best to be happy?
  5. Did I do my best to build positive relationships?
  6. Did I do my best to be fully engaged?

While these are all very general, this is only the starting point for the questions that matter the most to you and your goals.  Specific questions are encouraged once you identify what you want to work on, like eating fewer carbs.  The transformative substance of the book explains that focusing on effort, rather than results, is the main objective in the short term.  Each day if you asked yourself how well you tried, it makes you much more accountable.

The daily questions are scored on a number system 1-10 on how well you tried to do something.  Here are my own questions I came up with and so far after starting this program I have lost 5 lbs after 2 weeks.

Active Questions

III. Structure

For my personal goals, the structure is what I had been missing in the past.  Once you have the data from the daily questions, or that you already know you would like to improve, the structure is there to help. The examples in this section provide evidence to show that by setting up things for yourself ahead of time, you will be able to achieve the goals you set out for yourself.

This section also shows where you may suffer and how to get avoid failing. One of the main points made in this section deals with something called Emotional Depletion. 

Basically, all the natural urges we try to rein in during the day have the potential to rush toward center stage as the day progresses and our depletion increases. It doesn’t mean they will materialize, but they’re lurking within us, waiting for the right trigger.

SUMMARY

I would say that this book is geared more to the professional life, but it has many personal aspects that make it a well rounded read.  You can find it on Amazon here.  I also recommend the audio book version as it is shorter than most books at about 6hrs.

Here is a longer list of questions to get you started.

Here is a longer list of questions to get you started.

To get you started on your own list of questions, I would like to host a giveaway for a free copy of Triggers, as well as a Leuchtturm1917 notebook with matching pen loop!  Simply comment on this blog or on the social site about one thing you are working on to better yourself or want to work on.  Drawing will be made on Friday, June 29 at 12pm EDT. Good Luck!

Giveaway!