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More time than I thought!

For the past week, I’ve been exploring some new techniques to rearrange my time so that it is used most effectively. This follows my realization in What’s Most Important? (my previous entry) that time will become my most valuable resource.

I have several goals:
1) Make my time at the office of maximum effectiveness, as I want to be in the office no more than 8-9 hours a day. (No more 12-hour days every day, please.) Putting the same amount of work into an 8-hour day as I had in a 12-hour day seemed hard, but I’ll tell you how I successfully managed to do it.
2) Free up some time to exercise for 1/2 hour or more at least 3 times a week.
3) Get rid of side projects that were taking up my weekends so I could have weekends free to read, brainstorm, hang out with friends, go shopping, and catch up on TV and movies.

I started reading The 4-Hour Workweek, which is an interesting book that I’ve seen mentioned on several blogs lately. I expected a bit of an ego trip from the author, Timothy Ferriss, and there was a bit of ego there, but what I found most interesting were the radical changes he made in his life that simply weren’t obvious to most people (including me). For instance, he sets aside 1 hour every day to read and respond to email, and keeps his email client shut off the rest of the time.

I implemented a variant of this, deciding to keep my email client off during the day except for predefined times that I would have it on. I was moderately successful: I immediately noticed my productivity spiked, but since I didn’t set aside a time to respond to email, some emails did not get responded to. I’m going through this weekend and responding to them, but that is obviously sub-optimal. Next week, I intend to set aside a time every day to respond to emails and ensure that all emails from that day are responded to on the same day, as well as just reading them and sorting my inbox.

The biggest change I made was inspired by Timothy’s book, however, and this improved productivity dramatically: I stopped reading blogs at work. That was a huge difference. I didn’t realize how much time reading blogs took. Timothy points out in his book that “batching” saves an incredible amount of time. That is, instead of taking 5 minutes 20 times a day to read email, you can “batch” and do the same amount of email reading and responding for 1 hour. 5×20=100 minutes; 1 hour=60 minutes.

Reading blogs, for me, turned out to be the same way. I typically now read them at night when I get home — I can read them more effectively once a day instead of 10 times a day. Plus, most blog posts aren’t that time-sensitive. I sorted my RSS reader into two categories: Daily and Occasional. I put all the blogs I wanted to read on a regular basis under Daily. I put everything else (mostly news aggregators like TechCrunch) under Occasional. I stopped reading blogs at all when I was in the office, and also asked my friends to email non-work-related blog entries to me on my Gmail account instead of IM’ing them to me. I read the Occasional blogs only when I have plenty of extra time.

Those 2 changes allowed me to squeeze about 2 extra hours out of my day. I’ll continue to work on other time-saving changes. But 2 hours was enough for me to move on to the next phase of my plan…

Today I signed up for a gym membership at a local gym. I’ve listened to lots of friends who talk about gym memberships and the most common reason the memberships fail is that the people sign up for a gym membership with no set plan of action. I didn’t want me to be a gym membership failure, so by the time I walked in to the local gym today, I knew what I wanted: a reasonable monthly rate; to do Pilates; and to have a personal trainer do several sessions with me to get me up to speed on all the machines and design a workout plan that I could do effectively. I also committed to myself to pay for additional personal training if at any point I felt like I was falling off my goal of exercising at least 3 times a week. Finally, I know that gyms are fairly negotiable up front, but once you sign, you’re in — so I went in knowing I wanted to negotiate.

The gym I went to offered a free month of Pilates training (cool!) and 4 free personal trainer sessions if I signed up for a 1-year commitment and paid $65 monthly and a $75 signup fee. They also offered free daycare, and I didn’t need free daycare, so I negotiated another 4 free personal trainer sessions instead (that’s about $265 according to their list prices, by the way.) Included in the monthly fee is unlimited use of the gym and nice pool, plus free group workouts every day. I looked at the group workout calendar and immediately determined that I would be best served by signing up for the “core strengthening” session twice a week. I figure the 3rd time every week will be what the personal trainer wants me to work on solo; if that doesn’t work, I’ll reassess later.

I have just allocated $855 for fitness over the next year (plus any workshops I decide to do, like continuing Pilates, tennis, or dancing lessons), so I need to be committed to this. I am open and flexible to design a fitness plan that works for me, but I also know I’ve spent some money now, so I must follow through and work diligently on achieving my fitness goals for the next 12 months. I plan to go in at 9 or 9:30AM 3x a week (this means getting up earlier than I am used to.) I’m pretty sure this will work. I’ll keep you all posted. ๐Ÿ™‚

I talked about goal #3, eliminating side projects, at length in my previous blog entry, so I don’t have anything new to report there. I’ll keep posting more time-saving tips as I find them.

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What's most important?

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking lately, and reading, and certainly a lot of “doing”. I haven’t been spending much time writing, however. My thoughts flit incessantly from one item to the next, in a manner that would give me whiplash were I to try to watch them all whiz by. work-personal-life-guilt-pleasure-should-could-whatever — these thoughts often take over my mind.

The self, however, is not composed solely of thoughts, but is expressed by taking action and doing the things it most wants to do. For me, there are a breathtaking number of things I want to do. There are so many that I tend to pick up things to do at a much higher pace than I can actually process and do them well. This problem of overcommitment has plagued me my entire life.

When I meditate and settle my thoughts, I often come back to “What’s most important?” For me, “most important” cannot be defined simply as “things I am good at.” There are far too many things that I’m decent at, or “good enough” at, that were I to attempt to do something in every realm where I am “good enough”, that I would spend my entire life doing mediocre tasks and being bored by them. Thus, I had to take a step back even farther, and define what is most important to me, not simply to everyone else in the room at the time when I am making a decision.

In other words, I must simplify my life, and whittle down what I do to the things that I am absolutely the most passionate about, or else I risk being stuck in mediocrity and futile labor and being unable to pull myself out of that quagmire.

The purpose of this blog, in part, is to attempt to define who I am in a series of posts, each outlining a tiny part of my personal character. Grief, sorrow, and forgiveness have been a big part of this blog, but so have joy, excitement, and acknowledgment of those who have been there for me, and the answers I have sought.

That brought up another train of thought, and one which I’ve been very attached to lately, but which has also (sadly) been the one that has been preventing me from writing for the past 6 weeks. You see, instead of writing to ask something, I started reading, meditating, and thinking to answer the questions I had — and I had many. For a while, I had to take a hiatus and stop writing in order to listen, to form opinions based on the writings and teachings of others who seek enlightenment of the Self and Whole.

I’m back, and ready to share what I’ve learned so far.

First, I defined what was most important to me (personally.) These things included writing, the Internet, reading (books as well as blogs, and newspapers), finding patterns, and solving problems. I also enjoy being in charge and being my own boss…I’d find it difficult to work for anyone else. But most importantly, overall, I found I enjoy helping other people. Thus the crux of my current predicament — I love helping people and solving problems, but the quality of the problems I volunteered to solve was low (web development, for instance.)

I turned my attention to a slightly different focus. Knowing, then, what my motivations were and what was most important to me, what did I want to do? I know that one of my large purposes in this life is to help other people eliminate fear and overcome obstacles…to obtain goals previously thought of as impossible, and to influence people to change in a positive manner and thus leave a lasting impact on the world. Instead of a series of small, relatively unimportant tasks, then, I needed to focus my objectives and only say “yes” to those things that aligned properly with my Big Goals.

I started to clear things out in my head. I realized what my unimportant tasks were. A lot of volunteer work that I had previously performed needed to be completed and then filed away. A lot of previous things that I had said “Yes” to needed to be turned into a “No” or “Not any more” due to my changing life circumstances. I don’t doubt that this left a few hurt feelings, but I did apologize and made what was the most important step — the realization that I can never again say “yes” to these sorts of things, that if the request for help does not completely align with my Big Goals, that I have a duty to myself (and to the world at large) to say “No, I’m sorry.”

And life goes on… either the task gets done by someone capable, or it does not get done. In neither case, though, does it rest on my shoulders.

This may sound facetious to some of you. “How can you turn away people who ask for your help — especially if your skills align with their needs?” And the answer is simple — my life involves a call to action to help millions of other people. I can’t spend time doing web design or volunteer work for a small group if I could instead be turning my focus to things that help thousands or millions of others. If that still sounds bad to you, I recommend that you set bigger goals. There’s no reason you, too, can’t go out there and help millions of other people. But to do it, your life must be keenly focused so that every resource you have is turned toward that goal. Your most valuable resource becomes your time — so much so that you’ll need to hire layers of other people just to help you out. If you succeed, your success will be breathtaking. And if you fail… is there really such a thing as failure if you set out with a goal to help millions of other people, and only succeed in helping hundreds or thousands of others instead? Really? Here’s the worst that could happen — you only improve 1 person’s life. Your own. If you’ve put happiness in your own life, you haven’t failed.

So…now what? I have a couple more volunteer projects that I need to stop. I have a series of blog entries I need to write. But most importantly, what I must find is time. From having someone clean my house to having a personal assistant who can help me/Simpli do the tasks I don’t have time to do (such as filing papers), I must clear out my time so that I have time to do what matters most to me. Once those repetitive, menial tasks start disappearing from my horizon, I can start achieving bigger goals. As I do this, I expect to write more (after all, that was one of my Big Goals for 2007 — “blog more often.”) I expect to work less. And I expect that I will feel happier and more fulfilled, because instead of energy-draining labor, I will be spending time living my dreams and fulfilling my passions.

If this sounds too frou-frou to you, just wait…you’re going to see it unfold week by week in my life, and be able to change decisions about what you want to do with your life. Hopefully, this setting and meeting of Big Goals will encourage you to set bigger goals and be more motivated to live your dreams. That is, after all, why I am here.

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This one's for FG

This is a blog entry I’ve needed to write for a long time.

I generally try to avoid writing blog entries when I’m emotional. This time, I am emotional. In fact, the emotions started out as me being really upset at someone I’m close to not acknowledging me (or even acknowledging my existence.) Normally, when this happens, I go into this spiraling depression. I’m proud to say this time that’s not the case. In my anger and frustration, I (finally!) realized who I really am and what I want out of life.

As to FG (update: FG is part of his initials, in case you’re wondering why I call him that) Seth told me you’re still reading this blog. I hope you’re reading this entry. I have something to tell you, and I’m doing it via way of this blog because it’s important for me to put this out in the world. I’m ready to tell you that I’ve forgiven myself.

You see, a long time ago I really hurt FG — who loved me more than anyone ever has before. I did a bunch of shitty things because I was angry at how the world had treated me, and I was a kid who had not ever been acknowledged by my parents (or acknowledged in that awful “constructive criticism” way that was what my mom thought was love). I was so upset and so miserable from how I had been treated that I thought the only way to handle things was to treat everyone else like crap, too. And boy, FG, I did a number on you. I fucked you over big time.

It took me years to figure out who I really was. Now I know who I am, and I can tell what’s different. What’s different is that when shitty things happen in my life, I don’t feel a black hole in my heart any more. When I’m not acknowledged in the way I want to be, I don’t get destructive and lash out. I don’t feel this huge emptiness in my heart. Instead — and this is totally weird and not what I expected — I am initially angry, and then I feel a strong love. I feel love for those who acknowledge me and those who are there for me, and I can actually thank them. I pull them in for hugs and kisses and reassurance, and I know they are there for me.

Similarly, I hope to be the best friend for them and there for them when they are in need. I find myself listening a lot more. I find people GET IT. They are drawn to me because they know they can tell me things and I’ll listen, and offer advice perhaps, but mostly it is just that people are comfortable with me. Our clients tell me Simpli is a hugely different company than any other hosting company out there. On the phone with a client the other day, the client remarked “You know, Simpli sticks out like a sore thumb in this industry. We stick with you because of you. I have been in the business many years and I used to buy only on tech specs. Now I realize the importance of building relationships. That’s why I chose Simpli.”

In other words, I’ve moved my heart out into the open. I acknowledge that this has its risks. This blog and anything else I post can be used by those who are negative to construe me, or my company, as something negative because I put myself out there and make myself a target. But I take that risk because I realize the huge, HUGE importance of letting people know that there are real people out there is so much bigger than the potshots people take. I used to take potshots when my anger got the best of me. I used to snarl at people who were so nice. I made “nice” mean “fake” in my mind because I couldn’t understand how people could be nice without wanting something or having ulterior motives.

I’ve totally changed that perception inside myself. I’ve found that you create your world. If you want to create a world where most people are nice, and those who aren’t can be safely ignored, you can do that. That’s what I’ve done. I’ve ripped down my company and totally rebuilt it in the past 6 months. New routers, new switches, all new employees, new client portal, new IP addresses, new bandwidth providers. This absolutely parallels the evolution of my heart and my own personal journey to find myself. I’ve found that I define myself by how I help other people. Helping other people is my “heart goal” — that overriding value, above everything else, that makes me tick. What upsets me so greatly is lack of acknowledgment. I want to be acknowledged for what I’ve done in this life, both personally and professionally. I know I’m destined to make a huge mark on this world, and I’m not afraid of that destiny like I used to be. I just want to make sure those around me see it in me and really get it. It’s a tall order for someone to really get how much I want to change the world…not just change those around me, but to actually go out and help millions of people…personally.

It is these “down” moments I have, precipitated by those around me who can’t see that shining flame in my heart, where I find that my heart grows ever stronger, and my goals ever larger. It is incredibly frustrating to me that I can’t seem to find a partner who really “gets it”… but then again, my goals probably would overwhelm most people. *smiles*

Anyway, FG, since this post is for you, here’s what I want you to know. I know who I am now. My heart is filled with love and I love even in dark moments. You can look into my eyes now and see that I am that person you saw a glimpse of so long ago, and now I’m an amazingly strong version of that person. You know that I’m sorry for what I did, but what’s just as important is that you needed to see that I really have become what you saw — that what you saw in my heart was real. You also needed to know that the scared/angry part of my persona was gone.

It’s gone.

A long time ago, I described myself as having a 70/30 split between a vulnerable “inner side” of my personality and a hard outer shell. Those two sides have merged to form something unique. I’m still strong and aggressive. I have to be to accomplish all that I want. But even the strong and aggressive part is guided by an equally strong heart and desire to improve the lives of everyone I meet in this world. When things are going well, I am strong in ensuring that I am constantly moving forward, and when things aren’t going so well, I am strong in figuring out what went wrong and where I want to go next…guided by my heart goal of helping others, at all times.

I had to forgive myself for all of that crap I did in order to get to this point. I did, and while I’m still not proud of the things I did in my past, I know that my future is unmistakably bright. As long as I remember the love in my heart and continue to be guided by that, there is no limit to the things I can accomplish.

I wrote the other night, “Whatever it is you want out of your life, find it and commit to it and bring love and joy and passion to it…and be happy in those moments.” That is the way I live my life now. I know what I want, I’m committed to achieving it, and I’m not scared any more. FG, I think that’s what you saw in me so long ago. Now everyone else can see it too. ๐Ÿ™‚

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How dominant belief systems affect our lives

I have been suffering from a series of painful boils since late December. Having tried several natural cures such as turmeric and tea tree oil, I finally gave in and went to the doctor this morning. An incredibly painful 15 minutes ensued, with the doctor giving me several shots to numb me and then going in and scraping out all of the infected tissue with a knife. When she was (finally!) done, there was a pile of bloody gauze pads next to me and I felt weak and dizzy. I am now on antibiotics and have another doctor’s appointment scheduled for tomorrow morning.

This entire health issue has led me to a deeper realization, which I wrote in an email to S this morning, and after some thought, decided to post here. This is what I wrote to him, verbatim (except that names have been shortened.) I hope that it will bring some of you to a deeper understanding as well.


As I understand it, we are not much more healthy than we were as a culture thousands of years ago. Sure, we may live longer, as a consequence mainly of better nutrition and recognition of certain cause->effect relationships (washing hands regularly->fewer contagions enter the body). But we are not, as a whole, healthier on a day-to-day basis.

There is a deeply ingrained belief system in our culture that we must go to a doctor (a professional) to cure all ills. You and I now know this to be just one of many paths. For instance, there are many ills that can be cured simply by realigning Self with Nature and Source. In particular, those “common” afflictions such as colds and infections can be cured without the need for a doctor.

Yet our culture, this one, the one that we live in now, insists to us that we must see a doctor to cure these common problems. We are constantly being reinforced by TV ads for medications, our own parents who have the same belief system, and by friends who think they are just telling us to “do the right thing” and go see a doctor to get “cured.”

I was not aware how deeply ingrained my belief system about doctors was until today.

There were several things I could have done to not make these boils as bad as they were. I needed to realign myself in even a deeper way than I had already tried to. I needed to ask for healing on a daily basis and receive it. I needed to do simple utilitarian chores like changing my sheets and washing my clothes. But none of this did I do until today, when I finally saw a doctor, and realized that subtle changes after the doctor visit had taken place. In particular, I felt that I was healed. This, more than anything else, will cure the boil.

Now you and I will recognize a very important lesson, albeit not without a significant amount of discomfort and pain that I have been through in the past several weeks: that those people who claim that alternative medicines do not work, who believe that the natural cures so well-researched and in use for thousands of years are lies, have such an ingrained dominant belief that doctors will cure them that truly, only doctors are able to cure them. The fact that I was not aware of this ingrained belief system in myself until today shows how far beneath the surface it lies; so far that most, when reading what I have just typed, will write me off as a quack.

This system was reinforced by my parents, who see doctors on a regular basis, by M, because his belief is so far dominant that he can’t even think of doing anything else, and even by you, L, and others who said “You might want to see a doctor about that.” And, in the mindset that I had and have, that is correct. It was the only thing that cured me.

I fought the doctor visit not for true root belief, but for fear of visiting the doctor, which is the wrong approach and an excellent way of treating myself to more misery when I finally did go to the doctor.

Now I have two choices: I can either wipe out the entire ingrained belief system that doctors will cure me, and I will not need to see them; or I can embrace my belief system, understand that it is a belief, but not a totally bad one, given the options, and go to the doctor quickly and get things cured instead of letting them sit around in me for weeks. No other path will work, because any other path is simply rejection of one of the two above paths.

It is an interesting dilemma, with each having its own rewards: the main reward of the first path being that I will feel more in control of myself and have more harmony, but will be difficult to fully embrace given our culture; or the second path, an acceptance of the primary belief system in our culture and tacit acknowledgment and nod to those who have created this culture. The second one will put me in better harmony with those I choose to help, since they are here in this culture; the first will put me more in tune with myself and better able to regain health quickly so I can help more people. The first, of course, is a much longer road than the second, because tearing down an ingrained belief and then rebuilding it from scratch, especially with the poor documentation of alternative cures that this society has, will be difficult and time-consuming.

This was an excellent realization for me and one, I hope, that I will not have to realize again in the way that I did this time around.

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I'm Erica Douglass.
After selling my online business at age 26 for over $1 million, I created this blog to help you grow your own business quickly.

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