Monthly Archives

June 2017

Conquer Your Day with Mini-Missions

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By Leo Babauta

You haven’t been very productive lately, admit it.

You’ve been watching too many videos, cruising your favorite social media, haven’t exercised in too long … you’re slipping, my friend.

I’ve got the fix for you. Mini-missions.

Here’s how it works:

  1. You set yourself a few mini-missions for the day. For example: 1) Write Zen Habits post, 2) Workout, 3) Shoot video lesson for Sea Change Simplify Your Life course. Ideally, they don’t last for more than 15 minutes, but you could do mini-missions of 20-30 minutes if you’re feeling strong.
  2. Pick one mission, and get yourself ready. Stand up, stretch, move your body, psyche yourself up to conquer the mission. Play some pump-up music. Clear your computer or work area. Dive in.
  3. Stay focused, power through, kick some butt.
  4. Reward yourself when you’re done. Raise your fist in victory, then allow yourself a treat. For example: you get to check your favorite social media or watch a Youtube video, or eat that cookie you’ve been craving after your workout.

You can repeat this several times each day, up to five times. If you accomplish five mini-missions in a day, that’s amazing! Give yourself an extra reward.

If it helps, tell someone about your next mission, ask them to hold you accountable.

But even without accountability, you can get yourself psyched up and focused on one mini-mission at a time. Why does this work? Because you’re setting something accomplishable but important in front of yourself, and getting yourself motivated for 10-20 minutes. This is doable. And you’re making it fun, playing a game, not making it drudgery. Play is an amazing way to get things done.

If you can set yourself mini-missions every day, you’re going to see some amazing results.

OK, I’m done with this mini-mission, time for a cookie!

The Clean-as-You-Go Principle

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By Leo Babauta

I’m not obsessive about neatness, but I’ve learned ways of keeping my house neat and clean in a simple, stress-free way.

I call it the “Clean-as-You-Go Principle.”

That’s pretty self-explanatory, but of course I can’t resist going into the details. And also, I’ve found this principle to be great for other areas of my life: finances, email, work tasks, etc.

The basic idea is that, instead of waiting for the house to get really dirty and then having to spend a lot of time cleaning it, you just clean a little bit at a time.

Here are some of the ways I apply it (most of the time, not perfectly of course):

  1. When I’m done eating, I (usually) wash my dishes instead of leaving them in the sink. I’ll also often put away any food that’s leftover, wash cooking dishes like the pan, knife and cutting board, and wipe up the counters. It just takes a few minutes, actually.
  2. When I’m done brushing my teeth, I wipe the bathroom sink and counter to keep it clean. Having a washcloth nearby makes this easy.
  3. When I use the bathroom, I will use the toilet brush to clean it if it’s getting a little dirty. So my toilet is usually fairly clean.
  4. If I see a mess as I walk through the house, I’ll usually put a few things away. Takes just a minute, and no more mess!
  5. I’ll often sweep up the kitchen if I see some crumbs on the floor. Not every day, maybe every other day.
  6. If I see dust on the floor, I’ll wipe it up or get the broom and sweep it up.
  7. If I lift weights in the garage, I use my rest periods to clean the garage, a little at a time.
  8. When I cook, if something has to simmer for a minute, I clean up my cooking area as I wait, in between stirring the food. So when I’m done cooking, there’s not a big mess.

You get the idea. None of these takes more than a minute or three, but by doing it as I go, it takes very little effort and I never have a really messy house.

Of course, a deeper cleaning is still required sometimes, but not as often, and it’s not as hard. Overall, this is an easy system that works really well for me. (Note: My kids don’t always follow it, but I either pick up after them or ask them to clean their messes whenever I see them.)

Applying the Principle to Other Areas of Life

OK, so a clean house — big deal, Leo! Give me something important to try out.

Alright, I like your attitude!

So let’s apply this to other areas of our lives:

  1. Emails: Every time you go into your inbox, clear out a batch. Like, archive/delete the ones you don’t need (or better yet, unsubscribe), then do some quick replies. Put ones that require longer tasks into a folder and add the tasks to your to-do list. You can do all of that in 5 minutes. Then get out of the inbox. Repeat later.
  2. Work tasks: As you go through your day, in between the important tasks of checking social media, watching videos and playing games … why not take care of mini-tasks for work? Just take care of them a little at a time. Break bigger tasks into things you can do in a few minutes (write just the outline of a blog post!). Scrub things a little at a time, and they don’t require huge commitments. Again, there are things that require longer focuses, but clean-as-you-go can be very helpful for keeping things in order.
  3. Finances: I like to put my bills, savings and investments on auto-pay, for the most part … but I will very often check them (using online software like Mint.com to have all the info in one place) and make payments or adjustments if needed. Basically, if I see something that needs fixing, I (usually) take the few minutes and take care of it, rather than leaving it for later.
  4. Health & fitness: I’m not training for a marathon or anything else right now, so I don’t dedicate large amounts of time to fitness. I just do a little bit every day. Do some pushups and chinups today, some barbell squats tomorrow, go for a run or bike ride the day after that, do some yoga for 20 minutes or so the next day, play basketball or go for a walk with the kids, etc. The idea is that if I do a bit every day, I don’t need to deal with health problems later.

I’m not perfect at any of this, by any means. But I’ve found that this principle can help me in so many ways, making lots of areas of my life a lot less stressful, a lot less messy, and a lot easier.

Headshots for kids

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We love taking headshots for kids. And today, you can’t get away with just some cute vacation snapshots anymore. The entertainment business, also for kids, is very competitive.

The energy when shooting with kids is always different then when shooting adults, they have a shorter attention span and are easily distracted. The hardest thing is to get them to sit still! On the other hand, they are not as self conscious as most adults and feel more free in front of the camera; it really is all about just clicking at the right time. With little direction you can get them to change facial expressions fast. And very important with kids to capture their youthfulness, so steer clear of make up (at least until their over 13) or very mature looking clothes.

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A few important things when shooting headshots for kids;
  • Make sure you bring different outfits that they are most comfortable in.
  • Bring something they can play with while we set up lights or when we take short breaks, to keep them from getting bored.
  • If your child has long hair, there’s many things you can do with that to create a different look; period piece, all American, best student; many of these depend on how the hair is styled. If you are not comfortable with that; you can watch a youtube tutorial or hire a hair stylist. 
  • Inform the photographer beforehand what they can expect, wardrobe and different looks. What types the child fits and the photographer can advise what color or shirt can work with that look. A little girl could play a tomboy or an period piece.
    know which colors work well with the skin tone of your child.

Most importantly is to capture their personality! Does you child need a new headshot? Click here to make an appointment.

The importance of corporate headshots

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Online handshake

Your corporate headshot is your online handshake, most likely the first impression someone that wants to do business with you is from seeing your picture online. Having a personable photo online helps people connect and relate with you. On your LinkedIn profile, your website, blog or next to a column you wrote. Having a great corporate headshot is important and quite the challenge. Its the mixture of light, posing, chemistry between the photographer and client, wardrobe and the environment. It is important to have clear what industry the headshot will represent to get the look and feel right so the picture reflects exactly that. Is the picture that you have up there now, representing your business? Choosing professional make up and solid colors will help bring the attention to the face. 

Business expense 

It’s not only a good investment you are also able to write them of as a business expense. having a professional headshot will help you stand out against your competition. It shapes your professional brand and image. To figure out the right look and feel of your business you can make a list of words that you would like people to associate with your business and how you want your customers to perceive you professionally. 

A recent study has made it clear that people love pictures of other people. If there is a picture of a person on the website they engage far longer on that site and its where the eyes go first. And the photo should not be a glamour shot or an outdated vacation picture. Post a clear and professional photo of what you look like now; so they see who it is they are dealing with. Having a picture on your website will help you get business. 

For your website there are several things you can do to give people a clear image of who you are and what you represent. First and most important a close-up headshot of you, where you look friendly and approachable. Another photo of you interacting with someone, this could be you giving a speech at a conference, shaking someone’s hand, talking with a client. Something else you can add to your website is a introduction video. Introducing yourself and explaining what your business is about. The setting for this can be in your office or sitting behind your desk. And lastly, a photo of your office so people can see where you work and that your workspace looks professional. 

Tips when posing for a business headshot

And because you’re probably more comfortable being in front of your computer instead of a camera, here some tips to relax when you get your corporate headshot taken.

Relax, really this is the best you can do. Take a deep breath in and slowly breath out through your mouth. You can tell the photographer when you need to take a moment. Have some water and then get back into it. 

Make sure you wear something that you look and feel your best in. This really helps. Keep your hair and make up natural. Looking your best will give you that natural confidence and that shines through in your pictures. 

Don’t be shy and ask the photographer what side works or which facial expression looks good. They see a lot of people in front of their camera and can give you some great tips if you aren’t sure. 

How to Love Your Dark Side

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By Leo Babauta

We all have a side of ourselves (or multiple sides) that we don’t want others to see. You might think of this as your “dark side,” or the Gollum in you (as my friend Adam calls it).

It might be that you procrastinate, waste inordinate amounts of time on a certain site or game, drink or smoke too much, are jealous, ungenerous, critical of others, depressed or lonely.

These are not usually things we want others to see. But what if we tried to embrace our inner Gollum? What if we learned to love our dark side?

This is so against our usual approach that it might seem impossible. Love our inner Gollum? Absurd! We normally want to hide it, get rid of it, cure ourselves and forget everything about it.

But what if, instead, you tried:

  1. Telling someone else about your dark side, allowing some sunshine into this dark area of your life.
  2. Being gentler with yourself, and seeing this side of you through loving eyes. For example, maybe you are tired and are craving a rest, maybe you’re sad and want relief from that sadness. In this way, our dark side is not bad, but a (misguided) loving way to relieve our difficulties.
  3. Try giving yourself some compassion rather than being harsh on yourself about it. If you can wish for an end to your difficulties, and give yourself some love, maybe your dark side doesn’t have to be such a bad thing, just another experience in your life to love.
  4. When you start going to your dark side, pause here and allow yourself to just feel whatever pain you’re feeling, rather than going down your usual path of numbing or running away. Stay in the pain, and feel it fully. Immerse yourself in it, with curiosity and love.
  5. Laugh about your inner Gollum, telling others about it with some humor. It’s just another part of you, nothing to be ashamed of. And admitting it to others helps them connect to you in a more intimate way. Own it, and embrace it.

This won’t “cure” us of anything, but it is a gentler, more loving way of seeing ourselves, and dealing with the difficulties we face. I encourage you to try to love this side of yourself, as I’m trying to do with myself.

How to Be Happy When You’re in an Unhappy Situation

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By Leo Babauta

Sometimes life throws you into a miserable situation, and it can seem pretty dark.

Just a few examples of unhappy situations:

  • You lost a loved one
  • You received bad news
  • Your finances are messed up
  • You’re having a bad day at work
  • Your partner is mad at you or has broken up with you
  • You’re sick or really tired
  • You’re in pain
  • Someone has hurt you emotionally

These are terrible, and it’s normal to be pretty unhappy when things like this happen. You might wonder why life sucks so hard. Why can’t things be better?

Often things are out of our control, and we can’t always fix these situations, at least not easily or right away. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find happiness somewhere in that miserable situation.

Happiness is possible, if you learn a few simple techniques:

  1. Allow yourself to be unhappy. When we’re feeling bad, feeling in pain, all we want is to get away from it. Ignore it, pretend you’re fine, comfort yourself from the pain, shield yourself, lash out in defensiveness, numb it with drugs, distract yourself. This is a very human response. But actually, wanting to get away from the unhappiness doesn’t make it better. It usually just prolongs the pain, makes problems worse. Instead, tell yourself that it’s OK to feel unhappy, it’s OK to feel pain. Pause and allow yourself to feel it, to fully be immerse in that unhappiness. See that it’s OK, and be curious about it, explore it, become intimate with it. It’s not pleasant, but it doesn’t kill you. And in fact, it’s where the healing starts, where growth happens.
  2. See the pain as aliveness. Now that you’re face-to-face with the pain and misery, now that you’re touching it and intimate with it … see that in fact, it is a tender feeling of being alive. Life isn’t numbness and avoidance (at least, not exclusively), and it’s not all butterflies and sunshine. Being alive means feeling pain, feeling fear, feeling disconnected sometimes. Allow yourself to feel it, and imagine that this is what living feels like. Yeah, you could say, “That sucks,” or you could say, “What an interesting experience, being alive.” It’s like bungie jumping or how I imagine it would feel if you discovered you could fly: full of fear, excitement, shock and joy. That is an incredible experience. You’re having one of those right now.
  3. Find gratitude somewhere. Being fully alive, being fully immersed in this experience of this moment … what is there to be grateful for? Even small things, like the sight of leaves outside trembling in the wind or someone laughing nearby. Or things we take for granted, like eyesight and music. Having relationships. Being supported by millions of people. Being able to do all the things you can do. The taste of a strawberry or the smell of food being cooked. Your breath. You can find gratitude for any of these things, at any time, including right now. Find three happy things in this moment to be grateful for.
  4. Find joy in being alive. You are alive! You should be singing from the hilltops. Even in our worst moments, we can find some joy in this not-small fact, that we are alive. Your heart is pumping. How freakin’ awesome is that?

Yeah, I know. It’s hard. I’m not saying that doing this will magically make everything better. But there’s always joy to be found in every moment, if we dare to look.

Develop Resiliency: How to Move Towards Your Fears

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By Leo Babauta

One of the things we tend to do habitually is move away from things we’re afraid of. How very human, how very loving, to protect ourselves!

Unfortunately that tendency to avoid fears is exactly what limits us.

We avoid our fear of pain, humiliation, anxiety, looking stupid, failing … and we develop all kinds of ways to protect ourselves, from walling ourselves off from danger and being overwhelmed, to avoiding difficult conversations, difficult projects, and any situations where we might flop on our faces.

But how can we connect with others in an intimate way if we avoid being vulnerable? How can we become more loving in our relationships if we avoid putting our pride aside and having those scary conversations?

How can we ever push into a new project, start a new business, pursue what we love … if we constantly put it off for fear of looking like an idiot?

How can we learn anything if we look for certainty and avoid uncertainty? You can’t learn chess (for example) without playing a bunch of games and losing them … so we avoid real learning and just read about it. Real learning is postponed while we shirk from uncertainty.

We want someone to give us the magic answer, when the real answer is that we have to become uncomfortable, we have to work hard, we have to allow ourselves to feel fear.

So the answer is to stop running. Instead, move towards the fear.

When you are feeling afraid of going to a social event, move towards that fear. Do it, and don’t allow yourself to run.

When you notice yourself wanting to avoid a conversation, steel yourself up and freakin’ initiate it.

When you are procrastinating on the hard stuff, open your hear to it and move towards it.

The fear you feel, the anxiety … it is your beacon. It is the place you should go to, instead of moving away from.

The fear is the place where you’ll grow. It’s where you’ll learn, and love, and connect, and become free of all your old limitations.

The fear sucks. And yet it is the most beautiful place in the world. Learn to love the beautiful suck, and be in that place whenever you can possibly stand it.

A Few Notes

I want to share a few things with you guys:

The Building Self-Discipline Challenge

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By Leo Babauta

I’m issuing a challenge, to anyone who’d like to work out their self-discipline muscle, who’d like some mental training:

Pick one self-discipline task to do for five minutes, every day this month.

Commit to doing it publicly, or at least to a few friends or loved ones. Report to them weekly.

If you’d like to join me, I’m offering a video course called Building Self-Discipline in my Sea Change Program. I’ll have two video lessons a week, forum discussions on each lesson, a weekly challenge reporting thread, and a live video webinar, all on the topic of building self-discipline. Join the program today to start taking the course.

Or you can do the challenge on your own — commit on Facebook or Twitter, for example, and report every week to hold yourself accountable. The self-discipline muscle can get stronger with daily workouts, or weaker with disuse.

Why This Challenge is Important

So many of us suffer from problems that are caused by a lack of self-discipline:

  • Procrastinating on work and falling behind, which causes us to be overwhelmed and stressed out, unhappy at work, doing less-than-stellar work
  • Putting off exercise and eating right, which can cause all kinds of long-term health problems
  • Putting off dealing with our finances, which just makes the financial problems worse and worse
  • Putting off dealing with our relationships, having difficult conversations, which can lead to all kinds of difficulties
  • Getting into a funk of distraction, laziness, guilt, depression, loneliness, and self-hatred
  • Putting off writing that novel, creating a business, working on a dream project

Not fun stuff. If those are our problems, then it’s helpful to stop and really feel the pain that we’re causing ourselves. Feel the difficulties, the struggles, the piling up of problems. When we stop and consider all of this, then taking five minutes a day to help ourselves build a muscle that will make our lives better is not too much to ask. It’s actually a loving act.

How to Succeed at the Challenge

It’s easy to commit to a challenge, and then fail. That doesn’t feel so great. It just reinforces your belief that you don’t have self-discipline.

So, because I like you, I’d like to share some tips for succeeding at the challenge:

  1. Understand your Why. Are you doing it so you can start turning your life around? To improve your health? To finally pursue your dream? You have to want it, dude.
  2. Have reminders around you so you don’t forget. Put up a note somewhere, or several places. Put a reminder on your computer or phone.
  3. Ask for someone in your life to support you. Could be a roommate, spouse, best friend, your kids, a parent. Ask them to remind you, to ask you about it regularly, to encourage you when you feel like quitting.
  4. Make the task really easy. In fact, you could challenge yourself just to start every day. If you want to meditate, for example, then your challenge might be to just get your butt on the cushion. Make it so easy you can’t say no.
  5. Trick yourself into doing it. When we procrastinate, we often talk ourselves out of doing something: “Oh, just one more video on Youtube won’t hurt!” But for this challenge, talk yourself into doing it: “Just one pushup, then I can watch that video.”
  6. See this as a way to build a good relationship with yourself. You’re building trust, after ruining that trust for so long. Each time you are about to do your challenge for the day, just tell yourself, “I keep promises to myself. I am worthy of my own trust.”
  7. If you do mess up or are forced to miss a day (or two), don’t let it ruin the challenge. It’s a bump in the road. How sucky would cars be if they crashed with every bump in the road? Instead, just hit the bump and keep going. Learn from it. Do whatever it takes to get back on track.

I’ll share many more tips for success in my Sea Change course, Building Self-Discipline. Sign up today and become an absolute discipline maniac!