I know...I know. It's January 31st and I'm WAY too late for any resolutions.
Better late than never though, so here we go!
Goals for 2016
Have your goals gotten bigger or smaller as you get older? I feel like my goals are a lot smaller than previous years...but I also feel like I've been redlining for so long that I need to step back and recalibrate without burning out. There's no sense in being busy for the sake of being busy.
What are your goals for 2016?
How are you tracking them?
Building the perfect schedule has been a constant process of refinement for me.
Although I use the word 'constant', you could also interchange that with 'addictive', 'zealous', or 'maniacal'. Also, when I use the word "refinement', you can also replace that with 'throwing everything I love doing at the wall and assuming it all will stick'.
Have you ever complained about being too busy? Found yourself wistfully dreaming about better 'balance in life"? Tell me about it.
Wise words have been swapped and challenged amidst my social circles about how one should answer the question "What do you do?" There has been much discussion about how the majority of people answer that question by describing their job title or position. For instance, "I work at X", or "I'm a banker" or "I teach yoga" satisfies the type of typical response that the asker is seeking. Of course, this standardized response makes sense based on the fact that we spend 40+ hours of our week at work.
Instead of answering in that fashion, however, our group of friends decided that a better way of describing what we do is by providing a more personal response, a glimpse into our personal lives.
This would look like "I love reading" or "I love playing volleyball on Thursdays".
However, this discussion brought me to utter confusion, because I have no idea how to answer the very simple question of "What do you do?"
I've built my schedule over the last few years on 6 main pillars:
1. Spirituality aka my relationship with God.
2. Romance aka my relationship with Teresa
3. Health aka my relationship with my body (personal fitness, sleep, eating habits, hygiene)
4. Work/Finances aka my relationship with earning/investing my money and perfecting my craft
5. Social aka my relationship with people (friends)
6. Education, aka my relationship with books, podcasts, and structured learning
How do you even begin to answer that question on what you do if you're like me, and you try to do everything?!
I set out to create the perfect schedule that balanced all 6 pillars.
For most of 2015, I had it down pat. My tightly-monitored schedule enabled me to run my first full marathon, become the top producer in Canada, double my net-worth, continue to learn, elevate my personal relationships, and explore spirituality deeper.
Then, in December, as a fun exercise, I recently tabulated how much time I spend on each area in an average week.
Seeing flawless time-management as operating at 100% capacity for a fully-realized life, I figured out the following, based on our starting benchmark of 168 hours/week.
This is, of course, because 7 days/week X 24 hours/day = 168 hours/week.
(Yay - multiplication!)
Sleep: 7 days/week X 7 hours/day: 49 hours/week
Work: 7 days/week X 8 hours/day: 56 hours/week, includes lunchtime.
Hold up. Sleep and work account for 105 hours? That's 62.5%, or 2/3s, of my life. o.O
That's okay, sleep is a non-negotiable for me.
Okay, let's keep going.
Driving: 21 hours - broken down by 3 hours of commuting a day (1 hour to and from work, 1 hour to my sports game or evening event
Eating: ~8 hours - broken down by 15 minutes for breakfast, 45 minutes for dinner
Time w/ God: 9 hours - broken down by 1 hour for worship team rehearsal, 2 hours in Church, 2 hours for bible study, 4 hours if there's LEAD (leadership discipleship class)
Relationship: 8 hours - broken down by 3-4 hour date nights, like movies, dining out, cooking at home, watching Netflix, etc.
Exercise: 6 hours - broken down by 1 hour for Dodgeball, 2 hours for Squash, 2 hours for Volleyball, 1 hour for Floor Hockey
Education: 2 (4) hours - broken down by 2 hours spent on reading, 2 hours on podcasts while driving.
Relaxation: ~6 hours - this is normally invested with friends, grabbing food/catching up/watching TV/board game nights
Total allocated time: 165/168 hours
So when people ask me what I do, when you look at my schedule, how would you answer that?
What's both really impressive (self high-five) and really terrifying is my inability to react to spontaneous events. Stephen Covey re-defines responsibility by breaking it up into two words: Response + Ability. At a recent church retreat, the pastor shared how some of us (read: me) were primarily DO-ERs. We execute really well, we get things done, and we always prefer action over humming and hawing. However, we lack the ability to respond to unscheduled events. This really hurts us when we come across people in need and we can't help them.
For example, a friend of mine got sick recently. However, being completely booked up, I was unable to support that friend when they needed it the most (definitely not my proudest moment).
This was a wake-up call, especially considering the fact that I thought that I nailed my schedule down to the perfect balance.
So there you have it, a template for the 'perfect'/'balanced' schedule. Accompanied, of course, with the pitfalls of trying to be too perfect.
Ironically, the time-tabulation exercise has led me to focus this year on saying "No" more often, which is my biggest weakness (Huge case of FOMO). It has also made me prioritize more frequently and choose my big rocks over the smaller ones. I might completely throw a fully-scheduled Saturday out the window if I just want to spend an entire day at home with a cup of tea and a bag of Ruffles All-Dressed chips. (These "Do-Nothing" Saturdays allow me to avoid burnout and I do them once a month).
Next up on my list: Figure out what else I can delete from my life!
I know what you're thinking.
This New Years Resolution-type post is coming in a month late. That's because I wanted to wait until all the cliquey "10 ways to start your New Year off right" articles were gone! Shall we dive in?
I've always been a goal-setting geek. Setting clearly defined goals has paved the way for me to accomplish more each week, regardless of the outcomes. Whenever I create a new goal, I have always tried to find a way to visually represent that.
For instance, because I committed to running a marathon on May 2, 2015, I wrote that commitment out and stuck it in my security badge for work. Now, every time I go in and out of the office, I'm reminded that my actions this week should correlate with that goal: running. (Even if I don't feel like it!)
Similarly, many people have taken a liking to creating a vision board as a bird's eye view of their goals. Being able to see what they are aiming towards, it provides them guidance and acts as an inspirational or gentle reminder of what they said they wanted in their life. Oftentimes, you may see these goals of accomplishment actualized through pictures of a dream house, car, or spankin' new suit.
Sample Vision Board
This year, I revolutionized my vision board by taking a different approach.
If you notice, my vision board is entirely packed with people.
Because I spend so much time with people, I almost can't help but notice how amazing people are! And I don't mean that in a fluffy "let's love everybody for their entire being" type of way. I mean that everybody has that one character trait or attitude that I could only dream of one day exemplifying.
That being said, I've gone through all my favourite people in the world (friends, mentors, pastors, colleagues, authors, artists, etc.) and picked out the one thing I respect most about them, the one thing they do better than anyone else I know.
As time progresses, my vision is to be more like the greatest parts of my community.
To give you a quick glimpse...
Here is my invitation.
1. Take a few minutes this weekend and think about who you look up to the most in your life. What do you respect most about them? What are their best attributes? Where can you learn from them?
2. Go crazy making a collage! I combined words, phrases, ideas and concepts and took their coolest FB profile picture.
There was a time when I used to...
- nap on my roof in the summertime
- learn a new song on piano and sing my lungs out at 1:00am
- shoot baskets in my driveway until 9:00 at night, without thinking of the time or the weather
- hang out with my dog and enjoy his company
- practice tricks on my BMX for hours... getting up, falling down, and injuring myself past reason
- write passionately about making a difference, whether it was an article, or a rap song.
- rap out loud everywhere I went, no matter who stared at me. It was dope.
- lie on my bed, stare at the ceiling, and just get lost in thought with my favourite bands in the background.
- disappear into the pages of a fiction novel and experience adventures across time and the world.
- kick a hackey sack around for hours anywhere, whether it was at an airport or a shopping mall.
- speak frequently at Toastmasters and give my time to helping others improve their speaking skills
- pick a random pasta dish that I wanted to try cooking, and cook it.
- explore construction sites at night without thinking of the consequences.
- spin a random person around in dance class and feel not just the music but the connection of a fellow human being.
More often than not, the most fulfilling things in the world don't cost a thing.
What will you pick up today that you haven't done in a while?
Let me know!
Ps. We should start a '5-Year-Old Club' where you can join at any age, but you HAVE to act like a 5-year old.
Happy New Year!
If you’ve made New Years resolutions in the past, you know how hard it can be to stick to them.
The biggest problem is often figuring out how to balance your priorities. If you have had trouble balancing work, family, spirituality, health, wealth, then you know what it feels like when you put more than you can handle on your plate.
Because of that, I’ve always been an avid fan of setting goals regularly and recalibrating them throughout the year.
Over the past 3 months, I started using a whiteboard to tackle goal setting for my 5 top Priorities.
Using something I call 'The Backtracker Exercise’, it helps me take a quick birds eye view of the foreseeable future, along with what’s important today.
The Backtracker Exercise
When I was studying in Singapore (Primary 3), I would love visiting my great uncle Chee. I was always fascinated how he had such a strong command of the English language like my dad. Back then, I still had a Singlish accent ^.^
Walking along the bungalow terrace, I was captivated as he would speak with sage wisdom. Always, without fail, he would give me a gift before I left his house. A book. At that age, I was reading slightly above my age, but nothing spectacular.
The books he would give me would range from Kungfu to Politics. I would struggle to read them because they were rather theoretical and consequentially dense, but I knew he would ask me if I read it and what I thought of them. The next time I saw him, I would have some form of an answer ready. It was not the greatest, mind you, but an answer nonetheless. He probably pushed my reading level better than anyone. The questions he asked I didn't understand, they went way over the head of an 8 year old kid. In an effort to not feel stupid, I'd have to ask him to explain what he meant in numerous ways before I got it. His love of reading and curiosity ended up being passed onto me.
Uncle Chee was a journalist. The books he gave me have vanished with the uncountable moves, but the impact he's had on my life is immeasurable.
By grade 5, my favorite book was Bitter Grounds, a 500+ page beast of a historical fiction novel. My parents restricted me from TV as much as possible, so each library visit was like bonus stockpiling in my war against boredom.
I used to love reading. In fact, in many ways, I still do. Though my reading preferences have changed over the years, you can still occasionally catch a glimpse of me running around Vancouver with a book in my hand. Thanks Uncle Chee :)
1. ALWAYS be grateful for EVERYTHING you have. (Cambodia)
After hearing about the tourist traps and witnessing people beg and lie to me to make a living, it seemed like anything goes. Most of the locals were making $50-100USD per month. That's less than $2/day. Yet Cambodians seemed to be the happiest people on Earth, in the simplest living conditions. Limited hot water and electricity in some places made even the worst conditions in Vancouver seem like a fairy tale.
Sinac, my Tuk-Tuk driver for a day, showed so much appreciation and joy from GETTING to work, I was extremely humbled. Could you imagine being that appreciative of where you're at, wherever you're at?
2. Work your ass off and never settle for being mediocre. (Philippines)
While I was enjoying what seemed like luxury because of the currency exchange differences, I also realized the huge opportunity in earning capacity back home. Though life seemed simpler in Manila, it's also a lot harder. With long days and long hours, brutal pollution and working conditions, Canadian employers seemed like guardian angels.
... Yeah, you're right. Maybe that's going too far. But putting my head down and going to work seems like a mighty fine idea.
3. In unknown territory, go explore. (Thailand)
The best feeling in the world wasn't getting lost in Bangkok for 10 hours and absorbing everything the city had to offer. It was unexpectedly finding my way back home after that. Not only did I see tons, but it felt amazing discovering familiarity. There's nothing quite like activating your internal GPS and independence and rushing off on an adventure.
I went through an emotional roller coaster of feeling exhausted, grumpy and judged to feeling confident, exhilarated and at home in the span of the day. I wouldn't trade those tougher emotions for anything else. In facing them, I grew immensely.
Oh, and if I didn't go explore, I probably wouldn't have had the best meal of my life. (LINK)
4. Writing is the best outlet for clarity. (China)
Want the cheapest and most uplifting cure to stress and worry? It's writing.
Because I was traveling by myself for the majority of my trip; I often had a lot of time alone with my thoughts. Personal questions about work, relationships, and life constantly barraged my conscious mind and in effort to maintain my sanity, I would write to clear the air. Sometimes I didn't have any answers, but I would just jot down questions. As the day passed, I would monitor my thoughts and find probable answers. Ranging from mildly retarded to highly genius, I would constantly be throwing poor ideas out and storing the better ones for later use. Creativity soared as I searched for better ways to describe or invent stories. Reading other books was great too, not only to increase knowledge about new topics but also to explore different forms of prose.
5. There's always a party. (Vietnam)
Singing and dancing like no one else is watching is the funnest thing I know to do. Completely disregarding judgement, I found that I could pick my mood up instantly by singing dumb ass songs or bobbing my head on a train. It's cool to be different. Trust me, everyone else on the MRT was jealous I was having more fun than they were.
Self-talk played a huge part in keeping myself company as well, as I entertained and chased laughter in self-amusement. In gloomier moods, I would begin talking out loud to myself and narrating play-by-plays. Nothing better for attitude management.
6. Asking for advice is the quickest route to success. (Singapore)
Everybody has different problems in life. The good news is that my relatives have gone through most of my problems already. It turns out that the dilemmas that I'm currently dealing with seem trivial compared to the stuff they've dealt with. Got relationship problems? Family issues? Strapped for cash? Career in suspense?
It's not that bad.
In one instance, I spent 5 hours listening to how my aunt raised my cousins. I found out what the hardest thing was for her and how she balanced raising kids as a mom with her work as a professional. Without sharing my problems, I just asked her what obstacles and challenges she overcame and then I shut up and listened.
Because she had raised such amazing kids, I knew her advice was solid. Through her perspective, I was better fit to deal with my own life. I find that more people are willing to give advice than to take it. Shoot, give it to me! I'll take it all!
Through this trip, I learnt to follow examples of success in problem areas and ask how to emulate it. It's not often you get to mentor someone younger, and when you do, most people jump at the chance to instill wisdom.
Turning this to you, what lessons have you learnt from traveling?
PS. When traveling, you're never really alone ;)
When I landed back in Vancouver last week, I was coming off the laziest trip ever.
That included 40 days and 40 nights of waking up, adventuring through a random Asian country for 10-12 hours, while eating the best food ALL the time. There was no exercise, not much work, and not much reading (though I did read Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath. However, I did write a ton and create extremely positive relationships with everybody back home in Singapore.
Being back, I struggled with my schedule for almost a week. Struggling with personal maintenance, I wasn’t doing all the things I knew I needed to do. Of course, my self-esteem shot down, knowing that I was continuing down my lazy path. By Saturday night, I realized I had to get it together, so I decided to start by controlling my bookends.
Controlling the bookends
Controlling the bookends is a great concept that I learnt from… (I forget who), but here’s the concept.
We generally have no idea what is going to happen throughout the majority of our day (8:00am to 8:00pm). Therefore, to maintain control and balance, you control the things you do right after you wake up and the things you do right before you go to sleep.
While we have different priorities, here’s what my morning and evenings look like.
The Morning (5:00am-8:00am)
When the alarm goes off, the mental requirement I have is that before I can shut it off, I have to get out of the bed and be on the floor. The thought “Just get it over with” helps a lot. Here’s what the routine looks like so far.
The Evening (9:00pm – 10:00pm)
Do you like to relax in the evenings? Here’s how I unwind from the day.
If you’re just getting started, slowly add in 1 thing a day, while pushing your wake-up time earlier and earlier as you fill it with activities. As long as you get 7 hours of sleep, you’re good. ;) If I'm heading out for the night with friends, then the night schedule adapts accordingly to what time I get back. I might just head straight to bed when I get home past 2:00am.
Setting up this simple schedule results in 5 HOURS of productivity and personal fulfillment! So, there’s 1 simple tip to not only waking up with purpose, but also finishing your day with purpose: CONTROL YOUR BOOKENDS! =D
Play around with it and let me know how it goes!
We were deep into the lush forest. Electricity was absent from the wooden huts that made up the resident's dwelling. Everything was ruled by nature here. Fires smoked the air as the locals burned piles of paper. Not exactly the best clean air practice, but if you headed a bit further into the middle of nowhere, away from it all, you could inhale and fill your lungs with the purest air possible.
We were about 3 hours into our hike through Bantad, having just walked along the Ifugao Rice Terraces, a UNESCO Heritage Site. The simplistic beauty of the land set the tone for a day of good exercise and good company.
Eric, our tour guide, was a local Batad resident and made this trek regularly as his job. Ella and Inbal were cousins, Israeli tourists who had decided that the Philippines would be a better destination than Thailand.
We continued pushing ourselves up and down steps, around different sides of the mountain, til we heard it: the constant whoosh of the waterfall.
In our excitement of freedom, Jeff and I ran down to the rocks to go swim. Water effortlessly free-falled off the cliff and collided with the emerald-teal surface, creating bubbling waves. Standing in the water looking up, the mist seemed to be suspended in the air in slow motion. Truly cool refreshment.
In the moment, I let out a triumphant roar. The sweat, the aches and the heat were all worth it.
An oasis paradise far from civilization, so beautiful it was humbling.
In the land of machetes and shotguns, God was still king.
The Republic of Philippines
I couldn't breathe.
Weight was pressing against me from all sides and things were jamming into the most inappropriate places.
I looked over the sea of people and grinned at Jeff. This was awesome.
'I've never felt so close to so many people at once!'
Half an hour before, I had landed in Manila. After hopping on a bus, Jeff and I were now part of the human sandwich that was the public MRT.
People aggressively pushed their way in to pack each carriage, there was no space between me and anyone else.
'Haha, welcome to Manila baby!' Jeff laughed.
Since I hadn't eaten yet, our first stop was SM Mega Mall. We then spent the next three hours devouring as much food as possible, no stall vendor was a stranger after that. From pork skewers to sisig (pig's ear) to puto (Filipino dessert), I was in heaven. There was so much good food!
As Jeff and I strolled through the mall, we caught up on each other's trips. Jeff was making his way though Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, Korea and Taiwan, over the course of 2 months. He had climbed Mt. Fuji and had relaxed on the beaches of Boracay.
We met up with his cousins afterwards and hung out for a bit before heading home.
'There's no hot water here, and you have to dump a bucket of water to flush the toilet,' Jeff informed me. 'I hope you're okay with that.'
'Nice! It's still that way in some parts of Singapore, no sweat man.' I was secretly looking forward to the cold water. With temperatures at a humid 32 degrees, it was hard to want a hot shower.
A blog on my continuing journey through life, covering self-development and success strategies, but also personal reflection.