Category Archives: Slacker

The Slacker Life – Doing the Bare Minimum

When Is It Time Enough?

When is it time enough?

When is it time enough to say that’s it.

I will have it.  I will make it.  I will do it.  I will be it.

When is it time enough to say it’s alright to have what I want.

It’s probably already too late but it’s never too early.  Getting started means making the decision and going now.  It’s not about hedging your bets and feeling out the course before you go.  It’s about running headfirst at the wall so you can make it all the way up.

Take a vote of confidence from your resident free runners. Sometimes the best way over an obstacle is to bounce around it.

I have had many instances where I’ve hedged my bets, taken my time, waxed philosophic, and yet never gotten down to the nitty-gritty and really said what I wanted.  Really done what I wanted or taken initiative.

Reaction is too late.

Response is too meditated.

Initiative is creativity coupled with action.  It is innovation.

It is breaking the pull of static.

Break the pull.

Time expired.  Get over it and get it done.

Pick something today that you want to do, want to make, want to be.

Feel a bit like Mike.

Just do it.

GO!

Reclaim Your Dreams – Slacker Promotion (10% off)

I reviewed Jonathan Mead’s e-book Reclaim Your Dreams last week and I wanted to give my readers a chance to purchase this excellent e-book.

If you want a good start into reclaiming your life and making your passions your reality (which you should) then take it by the horns and Buy It.

Use the coupon code Slacker and you’ll get 10% off of Reclaim Your Dreams.

So check out Jonathan on Illuminated Mind or on Twitter.

If you haven’t Subscribe to Slacker Reform for more updates on the Slacker Revolution and life as  a Liberation Artist.

Reclaim Your Dreams – A Review

Reclaim Your Dreams CoverReclaim Your Dreams is an ebook by Jonathan Mead who is a liberation artist I’ve seen taking this field by storm lately.  He runs his own website Illuminated Mind as well as writing for Zen Habits and Lateral Action, two prominent blogs in the field of simplicity, creativity and productivity.  All of this while still working a normal job, having a wife and occasionally (I bet) a life offline.

Jonathan put out a call for reviews of his ebook and I took the opportunity after reading about it on Mind the Beginner and a few other sites.

One thing you’ll notice in almost all of Jonathan’s writing is he doesn’t stick to the normal productivity, life hack ideas that get pushed around all the time.  He doesn’t let the standards of even the unconventional community dictate his words.  He stays true to his values.

On to the book.

The opening pages kick right off with five hitting statements.  My favorite two lines are “this is …. a call to live deliberately” and “this is a permission slip to be ridiculous”.  Deliberate ridiculousness is the name of the game in lifestyle design.  We have to choose to look like fools in the eyes of our friends and family because often they won’t understand the radical choices we choose to undertake to become the dreamers who create life on their own terms.

One of the root notions that Jonathan uses throughout the eBook is a contrast between heart and mind.  Whether it is seeing with the mind vs. the heart or thinking with the mind vs. the heart, it is a constant dichotomy that he uses.  The mind is often associated with the conventional, the conditioned, the practical and secure while the heart is associated with the free, the unconventional, the passionate, and the frivolous.

However, when I read a book for review the trained philosopher in me comes out and I start breaking things down.  Why use such a typical dichotomy, perhaps it’s for the ease of understanding or that’s how Mead truly feels where the difference is and in the land of life it’s hard to argue with a persons feelings.  In any case it’s a superfluous detail for most people but one that I noted.

Mead aims to help readers forge a bond between mind and heart.  He begins with a simple question: Why do you live?

Why do we live?  It’s easy enough to misplace our life by setting into autopilot.  We graduate from school, get a job, get a partner, get married, buy a house, have a couple kids, a car garage… blah blah blah.  It goes on into conventional style so overdone that it makes my brain hurt.  It has gotten to the point where saying 2.5 kids in a judging tone has gone from being a critique of convention to becoming the convention.

Mead answers it in a broad stroke.  If you don’t wake up happy what’s the point.  Because you’ve missed it.

He redefines the notion of success as: the person that’s most alive.

Part 1: Unbrainwashing.

Here is where Mead starts to dive into the meat of reclaiming your dreams.  First though you have to clear out all of that dredge holding you back.  This is the unbrainwashing.  The breaking down of the conventions that we have been domesticated with.  There are three chapters in Part 1 each with a different intention.

The first calls for you to reclaim ownership of your mind.  To get out of your own way and let yourself believe that you can do it.  Often times our harshest critics are ourselves and we often ask permission and then deny ourselves rather than apologizing to ourselves when things don’t work out.  Mead wants you to get around that.

The next calling is to stop caring.  To stop preparing for what is coming up.  To forget about the titles and statuses that define us in society as successful and go with living our life.  “Sometimes the smartest way to solve a problem [e.g. caring too much] is to stop participating in the problem.”  If you just let that care slip it liberates you to do with life as you will instead of getting the next level of life.

The last call for action in Part 1 is to undomesticate yourself.  This chapter focuses on removing the limits we place on ourselves.  If we want to do something in life we most likely can.  I may not be a world famous musician if I’m 25 and have never picked up an instrument before but I can definitely learn to play a few songs on a guitar if I take the time to do it.  To be interested in life rather than seeking out interesting things.  This is a lot like my notion of engagement.  You can’t live if you aren’t in your life.

Part 2: Manifestation

Now that Mead has helped you clear out the debris holding you back Part 2 is there to help you create your dreams.

My favorite part of Part 2 is right at the beginning.  Mead gives you three exercises to do.  Realize your dreams.  Find your purpose.  Understand your values.  These become the tools and guidelines for liberating yourself from the conventional life that has held you from your dreams.  I would recommend this book for this section alone, but even more so for the exercise that follows.

With the dreams, purpose and values in place Mead challenges you to write a personal manifesto and this is something I have taken to heart and started crafting.  This personal manifesto becomes like your mission statement, what you can look to help guide you through your decisions and actions.  I’ve read about personal statements or manifestos before and I think they are an excellent idea for anyone hoping to create change in their life.

One portion of the manifestation exercises I had not heard of before is the creation of a dream sanctuary.  This is where you can keep your dreams safe and where you can go to immerse yourself in them.  This is where you can find inspiration in times of drought or to go to when you feel your dreams are challenged by the world of circumstance.  You can do this in a variety of ways which he details and I recommend it highly.

The last three chapters in Part 2 revolve around 3 Keys to Success in Reclaiming Your Dreams, but rather than extolling on each one I will offer a brief list.

Key Number 1: Give Up (or overcoming uncertainty).

Key Number 2: Quit (or reclaiming ownership of your time)

Key Number 3: Skills (or creating love money)

In conclusion Mead’s Reclaim Your Dreams dives into the basics of creating the vision for action.  It is a way to blueprint your dreams into reality.  While it leans towards belonging in the self help section of a Borders it provides some interesting tools to start you on your way into living your life on your terms.

Buy Reclaim Your Dreams and Subscribe to Illuminated Mind.

Maintaining Momentum: It's Our Time and Our Focus

Time management and focus are two key factors to maintaining momentum in any creative process.

Every day I have to battle the urge to put something off; whether it’s writing, exercise, choreographing, or some other endeavor. I am a slacker and it is my internal battle to overcome; to count down and do it.

These are a few things I do to try to keep myself on track and going.

3 Steps to Better Time Management

1) Learn to Batch Process

Batching ProcessesBatching is a phrase used in production which has been adopted by the productivity community.

Typically batching involves setting aside a specific amount of time for a single process.  This is often for repetitive processes such as e-mail, bills, photo processing, reading Twitter messages, and so on.

If I step out of my writing process for five minutes to check my Twitter account it will often take me ten or fifteen minutes to get back in the writing groove.  Add in a couple times checking e-mail, Facebook, etc. and I’ve slowed down my writing process by an hour or more.

Batching out a block of time to check e-mail, read or respond to Twitter messages, etc. keeps me from interrupting my regular work flow by going back and forth between different activities.

2) List 3 Important Tasks

I find this one particularly helpful and one that I’m most often to lapse on.

It takes only a few minutes to write out these tasks the night before in my notebook but when I wake up the next day I have a manageable and effective list of activities to perform in my day.

These tasks should be ones that are going to (a) make you feel fulfilled having accomplished them; (b) produce major results; and (c) be reasonable in a days time frame.

With this list written down I’m much more likely to commit segments of my day to following through on these actions.  Without a list my commitments are amorphous and it is hard to block my time.

3) Plan for Downtime

Lastly make sure you are reasonable with your time.  Plan in some down time, whether it’s with family, friends or by yourself.

Free time and leisure time is essential to the creative process.  Our brains work in the background when we take time to relax so don’t micro-manage your time.  Give yourself some leeway in your schedule so you can take fifteen minutes to sip your cup of tea and decompress.

I am a huge fan of downtime, perhaps because I’m a slacker or perhaps because I just like enjoying my cup of tea, but it is essential to my day to have it.  The challenge is just to make sure that my entire day doesn’t become downtime.

3 Steps to Better Focus

1) Minimize Distractions

Zen Pond - Not All Zen MastersWe are not all zen masters capable of performing in perfect focus while being surrounding by all the distractions of the world.

Especially with the number of devices and services vying for your attention at any given moment (phone, e-mail, twitter, facebook, youtube, etc.) when it is time to focus let them go.  They’ll be there when you are done.

So don’t have fifteen browser windows open with e-mail, facebook, and twitter all in clicking distance.  Close those browser windows, turn off widgets which pop-up notifications, and turn off Outlook reminders.

The one that gets me all the time is my phone.  I text a great deal with my friends.  Yet when I need to focus and a text comes in I’m lost for fifteen minutes fiddling with my fancy iPhone.  Turn it off, put it out of sight.

Lastly, be in control of your creative environment.  Wear headphones.  Close doors.  Get in your zone and don’t leave it.

2) Be Prepared

At least the boy scouts had something right.  Be prepared for when you need to focus.

If you need a piping hot cup of coffee at hand (like me) make sure you have a carafe sitting next to you so you can top up that mug as you drain it between paragraphs.

Take the time to setup your creative environment with the materials you need.  It’ll pay off to have a few extra things on hand that you might need instead of interrupting your flow and leaving your workspace.

For some people this means having a particular mug, a special pen, their favorite kind of notepad, or other ritual devices.  Make sure you have them with you.

3) The 5 Minute Rule

If you find yourself losing focus, use the 5 Minute Rule.

Say to yourself, “another five minutes,” and keep at it for another five minutes.

Often I’ll find that by the time five minutes has passed I’ve worked through that momentary disconnect and have gotten back on track.

Sometimes you’ll work another five minutes and still be losing focus.  Then, maybe it’s time for a little break and some downtime to recoup.  But usually pushing through that wall will open you up to a whole new field to run in.

You’re Not Alonehammock 300x225 Maintaining Momentum: It's Our Time and Our Focus

Time management is my greatest struggle.

I don’t like having a set schedule most of the time, I’ve lived on my own terms time wise for a long time and it has been enjoyable yet detrimental to my effectiveness in various ventures.  Using a few guidelines to keep me in check help me focus energies.

What are some of your time management and focus hacks or tricks to keep you on track?

Nonconformists – We Merry Followers

If there is anything the nonconformist hates worse than a conformist, it’s another nonconformist who doesn’t conform to the prevailing standard of nonconformity.

~Bill Vaughn

I’m a fan of getting out of the traditional lifestyle.

Quit the 9 to 5

Escape payday

Work from anywhere

Liberate yourself

Finance your freedom

But when does all this freedom and liberation become it’s own band of merry followers?

Are you a follower?

In our nonconformist bubble it’s easy to fall into a Guru follower mentality where we find our savior in nonconformity and fall in line behind them.  Whether it’s Timothy Ferriss, Leo Babauta, Chris Guillebeau, Clay Collins or others (there are many possible gurus to pick and choose from).

Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.

~Buddha

Three artists of nonconformity who stand out from the crowd for me are Clay Collins, Jonathan Mead and Chris Guillebeau.  They cut to the chase and don’t let you run blindly behind them.

Chris runs The Art of Nonconformity and is a world traveler who has always been self-employed.  He has become a full time writer in less than a year and the products he sells are accessibly priced and genuinely designed to help. He offers two exceptional e-books free, the latest documenting his transition to becoming a full time writer in 279 Days to Overnight Success.

Jonathan Mead is a name that I see coming up over and over again recently.  His own blog, Illuminated Mind, runs counter to a lot of lifestyle and unconventional life blogs.  My favorite post of his lately is Non-Conformity, My Ass; or Why We’re All A Bunch of Posers.  Read Jonathan.  He’s bursting the bubble for us.

Clay Collins is one person that has been great to interact with and learn from.  One thing that sets Clay apart from other liberation artists and internet marketers is the directness of his advice.  It is occasionally harsh but it is advice from the right place.  Latest kick in the ass: It IS Your Fault.  Clay works hard and expects you to do the same.

Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government!

~Monty Python

Make sure you aren’t just collecting swords.

When you undertake a lifestyle choice make sure you take the time to examine it in the context of your own life.  What may work for Tim Ferriss in automation might not work with your particular ethic in life.

The most successful liberation artists spend a time analyzing their lives and systems, deconstructing methodologies and finding the roots from which to grow their own process.

A follower accepts systems blindly and without question.

A liberation artist deconstructs systems and uses what works for them.

It’s easy to follow someone you respect.

It’s hard to say no to someone you respect.

Make sure you know what you’re getting into when you start down a deliberate life.  Make sure that each step is deliberate and chosen by you.

The 3-2-1 Method

The 3-2-1 Method of getting things done is perhaps quicker and more effective than any other system I’ve come across.

It’s not for complex tasks but the simple ones that confront you in your daily life which you put off over and over even if they’d only take a minute.

My friend Gina familiarized this method with me back in January and all credit goes to her.

It goes like this:

When confronted with an issue which will only take a moment to resolve yet which you are reluctant to do get in your head for a few seconds.

Count down.

3

2

1

Then do it. Say it. Write it down. Type it. Send it.

At the beginning you might have to count down a few times or maybe count down from ten but I’ve found when I’m stuck on something 3-2-1 gets it done.

What methods do you have to get things done that aren’t to do listing or high setup productivity systems?

How To Lose A Scarf (or all of it)

My advice to you today is:

Cut out the crap that holds you back.

I was in Montreal a few weeks ago and I lost one of the most important things I owned. It wasn’t much in terms of money but to replace it emotionally is nearly impossible.

It was a scarf. More precisely a pashmina that I folded over and over into a scarf which faded from light pink to mauve. It was given to me by an ex-girlfriend as a reminder of her when I got kicked out of Canada. I wore it nearly everyday (minus the scorchers in NYC) and it became a sort of signature for me amongst my friends.

Carl and his mauve scarf.

While I was in Montreal someone (mistakenly I hope) took it.

I scoured the dance studio, the bar I had been at, the restaurant I had been at before that, and I couldn’t find it. I became incredibly upset. I would use the word fuming.

In honest opinion I felt naked without it. It had become as much a part of me as my tattoo.

I have recently written on overcoming adversity and sometimes it’s hard to follow your own advice on these things. The easiest thing to follow was to allow myself to actually feel that disconnect from a part of me. It hurt and made me angry.

The next day, a friend handed me a different scarf, orange and sans emotional attachment, and I felt warm again.  It is still winter in Montreal till May sometimes.

In addition to the comfort of having a scarf wrapped around my neck, the loss of this emotionally laden object finally cut me free from a year of guilt. I had held on to the scarf as I had held on to the relationship.  With the scarf gone the residual pain and resentment I held over myself dissipated.

So my advice to you again:

Let go of the objects which hold you back from fully living today. Whether it was a mauve scarf like mine or something else, let it go, feel the pain and become free.

How Twitter Helped Me Connect and Why You Should Follow Me

I have been a sluggish adopter of Twitter.  While I had an account for quite a long time the notion to use Twitter in a productive, conversational and outreach manner wasn’t there.

Why would you use Twitter to post up useful bits of information about your day?  Let’s see what that looks like:

Let’s not do that.

The more I reach out into the Twittersphere and connect with other like-minded individuals the more resources I have at my disposal.  Some of my favorite bloggers are on Twitter (Chris Guillebeau, Clay Collins, Problogger) and I enjoy reading what they read and I’ve managed to find other excellent bloggers through them in this way.

Throughout the day I get a feed of interesting links that some of the most creative and off-the-wall people are reading or looking at.  I re-tweet (lingo for repost) the ones I find useful or inspirational in hopes that others I am connected to can find something valuable as well.

So, you should follow me on Twitter.  If you don’t use Twitter, I don’t necessarily advocate starting unless you are going to get involved with it.  It is easy to over-reach in the social networking world and if you can’t keep on top of your Facebook or even your e-mail, twitter might not be for you.

If you want to learn more about Twitter there a number of resources out there but one of my favorites is Twitip also by Darren Rowse over at Problogger.

Accepting Adversity – Making the Difficult Look Easy

Wrecked Car - AccidentOne of the things I’ve had in the past few years is a variety of personal setbacks or struggles which most people are amazed at.  (This is in context of being from a 1st world country and not having the hardships of war, extreme poverty, famine, etc.)

I’ve been excluded (for a year) from the country I called home where my entire life revolved.

I’ve moved to the biggest city in the U.S. without a job or place to live and found work within two days.

I’ve had more relationship difficulties than I would care to expound upon (people have said it would make a decent hollywood movie).

Despite all of this I’ve turned this into one of the most productive and creative periods in my life.  I take setbacks relatively lightly and consider most of my struggles and difficulties ahead as a learning experience.

How have I managed all of this?  Here are some things I keep in mind.

Smile

When you smile there are actual reactions which will improve your mood. Your body is wired in a particular way that when you smile you’ll often feel happier.  So when they’re out of your favorite ice cream smile and try something else instead.

Laugh

In my opinion even better than smiling.  When the world hands me a downpour and I’m out for a walk I’ll probably laugh rather than cringe and run for cover.  When my luggage doesn’t show up or my bicycle gets stolen I’ll often chuckle or laugh at the sheer nonsensical nature of things.  It takes the weight of the situation off.

Plus laughter is a good workout (who hasn’t pulled a side-stitch cause they laughed too hard) and has positive health effects mentally, physically and emotionally.

Appearance vs. Reality

Does it appear worse or feel worse than it actually is?

Taking a moment to step back and evaluate the consequences of the situation or why you are feeling the way you are will give you a bit of perspective.  Losing your job can feel worse or appear worse than it actually is, perhaps it is just the catalyst you needed for you to change out of the boring 9 to 5 you’ve been enduring for the past four years (that’s what it was for me).

This is a recurring theme in literature, philosophy and is often the focus of a large body of humor.

Focus

When you always look at the end point you’re living in a mode of expectation rather than a mode of action.  When things don’t necessarily work out like you had expected you are doubly hurt by the event itself and by your failure of expectations.

When you are focused on acting or doing the result is just another part of that process.

Feel

The worst experiences I’ve had with adversity are when I bury my reactions to them with distractions (work, alcohol, women, or dancing).

When I take the time by myself without distractions and understand that I’ve been hurt or disappointed I can come to terms with it. Being honest with myself and admitting my pain and understanding my part in the issues at hand help me take the weight of a situation off.

Fail

Always taking the easy route in life is a sure fire way to be exceptionally disappointed when you don’t succeed.  Sometimes making the hard choice, whether it is painful or uncomfortable, is the better choice even if it means we admit to failure.

Failure is the key to learning and growth in a lot of ways.

Nonattachment

The Buddhist in me advises me to live in a manner which lets me smile, laugh, focus, feel and fail.

This is living in a mode of nonattachment.  Simply speaking, don’t attach your personal esteem to the things around you.  When they are out of soy milk it is not a slight against your lactose-intolerant person, it’s just the way things are.

How to Be Eccentric: Engage

Part of living an unconventional, or as I like to call it eccentric, life is to culture habits that stand out and shape your world view.  This is a mini-series on habits of eccentricity, the second is Engagement.  Check out the first part in this series on Awareness.

Be Engaged

Engagement in the world is important to being eccentric.  It is a commitment to each moment that we live, the actions that we take and the responsibility that comes with the freedoms we create.

love life, engage in it, give it all you’ve got. love it with a passion, because life truly does give back, many times over, what you put into it

Maya Angelou

Being engaged is taking an interest in people.

Ask about their interests, their life, their work – take a moment and actually listen and inquire on topics they are excited about.  Ask for peoples names who help you out or provide a service and give thanks for their assistance.

Engaging in our relationships requires time and devotion.  We may have to cut down on the amount of time we spend on casual relationships, but in terms of the 80/20 rule having a small core of close friends enriches our lives far more than a flighty network of acquaintances.

Taking an interest in casual acquaintances introduces us to new people, develops broad social networks, and enriches our own personality.  Reaching out to others, even if only for a moment, teaches us far more about ourselves than engaging ourselves only with those who are like us.

Being engaged is having focus.

Cultivate intensity in your interests and activities.  When you commit to a class, arrive and be aware of what is going on, give feedback and ask questions.  When you subscribe to a hobby immerse yourself in it: seek out exemplars to learn from, carry it with you and practice constantly.

Developing focus empowers us, teaches us discipline, and often leads to a more productive existence.  Our goals and aspirations become clear and attainable when we focus our energies.  With focus you can cut through the fog of distractions and minutiae that sap our energy and time and make a visible difference.

Being engaged is taking responsibility.

Your actions and choices are yours alone.  Scapegoating or blaming other people and circumstances disengages you from reality.  While your actions may not always have the outcome you desire and the world may not present the best for you, it is still you acting and being in the world.

In my own life I have often taken my freedom for granted.  While the freedoms I have, whether financially, in relationships, or educationally, have benefited me – taking those opportunities without taking on the responsibility that comes with them has taken more from me than I gained.  Understanding that my spending, my friends, my actions, and decisions are my responsibility to engage with is a frightening yet empowering aspect of life.

The weight of freedom is responsibility.

Being engaged is being present.

Imagination and daydreaming have their place but they should not take over your life.  Live now rather than for a dream of the future or a memory of the past.  Find immediacy. Waiting for the future to happen or trying to relive the past lead to disappointment.

Living now can be difficult when we have goals that we are striving for or pasts that haunt us.  When I get wrapped up in these things it is best that I take a moment and perform a physical action.  Whether it is practicing calligraphy, working out, dancing or going for a walk, engaging in a hands-on trade or activity takes me out of my head and forces me into the present.

The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.

The Buddha

Engagement

brings you closer to the world.  You have more investment in the things that are important to you.  Those activities give greater meaning to your life.  Live a richer experience, live now.