Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Can You Magically Up Your Productivity By 400% With One Stupid Trick?

 Can You Magically Up Your Productivity By 400% With One Stupid Trick?

"Never go to sleep without a request for your subconscious." – Thomas Eddison. (Assuming he didn't steal that too.)

I was inspired to write this blog post after watching this video by Michelle B, which you can watch here.

The Basic Hypothesis: Sleeping on a problem makes it easier to solve, so reading your synopsis before bed should make writing in the morning easier.

Studies (mentioned in Michelle's video) show that complicated problems are best solved if you look at them in the evening, then try and solve them first thing the next morning, after you have slept.

This suggests your brain will continue to work on the problem while you are sleep, even though you aren't consciously aware of it. Theoretically, this is a process that can be utilised by writers who write first thing in the morning (like me) to improve their overall productivity and the quality of their work.

My plan is, to test this theory for a week, and write journal entries each day after writing. Her are my seven journal entries:

Journal One: 3 Scenes of POS.

When I first woke up, I had no ideas for the scenes I planned to write for POS, despite having read the synopsises for the night before. I did, however, have an idea for a truly terrifying short horror story. It was so terrifying, that as I woke up at 4am in the pitch dark of a winter morning, I lay in bed for about twenty minutes before I did anything.

While getting ready to write, I still had no brilliant ideas. Well, I thought, this was a complete failure. Should I blog about a complete failure? Maybe its not worth finishing the blog post at all. Still, I thought, I might as well wait until I give writing a go.

Now it's only 11am and I have written 3500 words on POS. I've written that much on other days this week too, but its taken me all day—starting at 7am and stopping at 8pm. Its been a painful struggle. This has been comparatively fast and quite painless. Though I am developing a headache.

I'd still like to write another 1.5k today. However, I didn't read the synopsis for those chapters last night. I am hopeful I will still get it done. So far, I am impressed. However, I want to finish this novel tomorrow, which means tomorrow will be another 4.5k day.

Let's see how that plays out.

Journal Two: 5 scenes of POS

Yesterday, I ended up not being able to finish, or even really start, the chapter I hadn't read the synopsis of the night before. Which meant if I was going to finish POS on time (today) I would have to write four chapters in one day, or around 6,000 words.

I read the synopsises for all four chapters before bed—though when I got up and re-read them, I realised there was a plot hole that was going to need to be fixed. So, I had to do some re-jiggering of the synopsis on the fly.

Did I end up writing over 6k and finishing the novel? Yes, I did. Was it much easier than usual? Yes, it was. I didn't actually finish up until 8:30pm, which is very late for me to still be working, but I did finish, and the last few thousand words were not the painful pulling of teeth I expected.

So far, I am impressed.

Journal Three: Edit a nonfiction book.

I had been putting off some editing a nonfiction for a few weeks, so right before bed I told myself: 'The first thing I do tomorrow morning, will be to complete that editing.' Despite that being the plan MANY mornings prior, the 'thinking about it right before sleep' trick seemed to work and today, I got up, and edited it very easily and reasonably quickly.

I should have planned to do more last night, because I was done with the editing before 9am.

Tonight/tomorrow, I think I will test a slightly more complicated idea. I am going to ask my brain to write a synopsis. Actually, I am going to ask it to write TWO synopsises, one after the other.

The first thing I am going to do tomorrow is get up and write the synopsis for AS, immediately followed by the synopsis for ABAB. I think my brain could do one easily, but two? We'll see how it plays out.

Journal Four: Write synopses for AS and ABAB

Today did not go well. I was out very late last night and woke up with a headache that progressed into a migraine and a sore throat that feels suspiciously like the start of a cold. I did not leap out of bed and complete the two synopsis I wanted to work on. I spent most of the day wasting time and then late in the evening I did the one of the synopsises, but it was hard work.

The other days were clear successes, but today wasn't. I don't know if asking my brain to do TWO synopsises for completely different novels was just too many things for it to focus on at one time. Or if the flu/migraine/tiredness negated the effects.

My goal tomorrow is to complete quite a few very physical tasks and I am hoping going to sleep, thinking about them will make them easy and fast tomorrow. Plus, I am going to have to get up early and the second synopsis before I do the physical things.

The experiment continues.

Journal Five: Write Synopsis for ABAB and yard work.

I sat down early to try and write the second synopsis and it came quite easily. I was then able to go and do all the yard work without any problems. I should note again, I don't wake up overflowing with ideas, its not until I sit down to write that they flow out.

Lesson learned. Sleeping on an idea works well. Sleeping on TWO ideas doesn't. Apparently, your brain can only solve one big cognitive problem at a time. However, one big cognitive problem and some physical, non-cognitive tasks is fine.

I should mention, while the synopsis backbone came very easily, as soon as I finished writing it, I noticed there were some plot holes and loose ends that needed to be patched up. Because it is a co-authored story, I can't be quite as detailed as I would writing a solo book. However, I still plan to have another go at filling in some of the gaps. Perhaps tomorrow.

Tomorrow, my intention is to write an opening scene, and write up notes and scores for ten of the Aurealis books I have read (I'm judging Fantasy Novels this year). If I have time, I may also look at the second synopsis again.

Journal Six: Patch holes in ABAS Synopsis, Aurealis Scoring, Opening scene of SP.

The first thing I did was get up and patch up a few of the holes in the second synopsis. Its now ready to go. So clearly sitting on it another night was a good tactic. Maybe not every complex problem can be solved in a single night—particularly if you are giving your brain several complex problems at a time.

I did most of my Aurealis scoring and reading for the day, however I had things on in afternoon and ran out of time to write the opening scene. I did read through the synopsis notes for the book though, and I was unhappy with the world building. In the evening, right before bed, I suddenly had a huge cascade of awesome ideas for the world and am excited to write it in the morning.

Tomorrow, I am going to read a novel of mine I am about to start editing. The goal of the read through is to comment all through the text on any problems I see, any thoughts I have and anything I want fixed. These comments will form the editing notes I use when I begin the editing process. I feel like this system would be better utilised if I read the book, then slept on it, then did the comments the next day. So that is what I am going to do, making this an eight-day journal instead of seven days.

Journal Seven: Opening scene of SP, read POS.

I woke up reasonably early, sat down at the computer and wrote the first scene of SP. Then I remembered I wanted to write it in first person present, not third person past, so I will have to edit it. However, it is written and after my world building epiphany last night, I am very happy with it. And I finished with it before 8:30am.

Now I am going to madly read POS in its entirety in the hope that tomorrow I can go through it again and write brilliant editing/feedback comments for myself.

Journal Eight: Write editing notes in POS.

I got half the editing notes done, not all. This was due largely to the TERRIBLE migraine I had, that left me virtually unable to function as a person. I think the comments would have come quite easily, if I had been able to see the screen to write them. As it was, the still came pretty easily, but staring at the screen was just too much. I didn't struggle as much with thinking as I normally would with a terrible migraine. The comments were there, in my brain, ready to go. So, I am still calling today a success. Sort of.


Well, over eight days I have achieved the following:

1. Written 3,500 words on POS
2. Written 6, 000 words and completed POS.
3. Edited an entire non-fiction project.
4. Written a synopsis for AS.
5. Written a synopsis for ABAB.
6. Patched holes in ABAB synopsis, and scored some Aurealis books.
7. Written the opening for SP and read POS.
8. Written half the editing notes for POS.

Honestly, at the start of the week, looking at that workload would have made me cry. It’s the sort of load I WANT to achieve every week, but rarely do. So over all, for me, I consider this test a huge success.

I don't think there is any magic to it. Its just a matter of intention really. Planning what you want to do the night before, then getting up and actually doing it first thing. However, I do believe my brain worked on problems while I was asleep, and I also believe my test showed it could only work on one cognitive project at a time.

Going forward, I will continue to use this technique.

1. Read the synopsis/notes for what I want to do the next day right before bed.
2. Sleep on it.
3. Work on it first thing when I get up in the morning when possible.

I hope you decide to give this one a try too. Please let me know how it works for you! I always love hearing from you.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Happiness Series: 16 - Happiness Exercise 6: What Didn't You Include?

Do You Want To Abandon Your Life And Start Over?

Do you look around and just feel overwhelmed by all your stuff and responsibilities and commitment and just want to abandon it all and go on holiday or even buy a van, change your name and never look back?

Do you ever look at some of the things that surround you and feel guilty and overwhelmed? Do you feel like that about the things you do with your time? Like you don’t want to examine them too closely, because thinking about it feels bad?

You’re not supposed to feel like that. You’re not supposed to want a holiday from your life. Avoiding most aspects of your life because they hurt to think about is not healthy and it shouldn’t be normal.

It doesn’t have to be normal.

What Don’t You Want?

Now you’ve done a few exercises examining all the wonderful things you do want in your life, it should be clearer to you what doesn’t fit. What you no longer need or have time for.

Now is the time to clean out your closet of all the bad decisions and dead fashions that aren’t you anymore (and limit what you bring back in! Clothes waste is a massive issue.), clean out the gadgets and appliances that don’t work or that you never use, either take all the clean laundry off the exercise equipment and move it somewhere you will use it, or sell it. All that junk in your garage you haven’t been able to get to, let alone use in three years? Do you even know what it is? Can it really be that important? Read ‘The Magic Art of Tidying Up’ by Marie Kondo and purge all of that useless shit.

What about the time wasters? The websites and apps you would prefer not to go on, but always end up at? Delete them. Use browsers apps to block or limit them. You can set up blockers so you can only access facebook or twitter for a set amount of time each day. Do it. Free yourself.

What about the people? Who have you decided to take a break from? Who stresses you out? Regardless of how much you love them, who would you be happier without?

What about those niggling things you’ve been meaning to do that just sit around unfinished. They’re not negative, exactly, they’re not hurting you, but when you remember them, they give you a negative feeling. Frustration, guilt, etc. Maybe some things you have been meaning to donate or sell? Little household repairs and chores that have been waiting for months? The random detritus that slips between the cracks of day to day life?

What about the bad things that are a part of good things? Like, maybe you love your job, but you wish you had a shorter commute? Maybe you love the suburb you live in, but wish you had a garden instead of just a balcony.

What tasks do you wish you could outsource? What tasks do you wish you could find a more efficient way of getting done?

What about things in YOU you don’t want? Mental and physical health issues? Feelings, behaviors, attitudes, beliefs, negative thought patterns, bad habits, etc. Do you want to be less angry? Snap at the kids less? Get fitter? Do something about your dry skin? Get rid of your boring haircut? Stop feeling like you have no idea what you’re doing when putting on make up? Stop procrastinating? Let go of those off-putting thoughts that stop you finishing your novel?

Now you’ve had some time to think about it, its time to make a list.

Exercise: The Do Not Want Pile:

Open up a word document (or Scrivener, or whatever you prefer, but its better to do this computer than on paper) and start writing a list. List all the things that are currently in your life that you don’t want.

You might want to break it into categories:

- Self/Personal/Internal
- Objects/Things/Possessions
- Tasks/Responsibilities
- Unfinished Jobs/Repairs
- People
- Time Wasters
- Miscellaneous

Under those headings, put in every single thing you can think of. Everything you would wish away, if there were no consequences. Everything you could fix, heal, mend, remove, cleanse and complete.

Once you have listed every single thing there is that makes your life hard, unpleasant or difficult, you are going to go through and look at each item. You are going to come up with a question that will help you come up with a strategy to fix this problem once and for all.

Some things will be easy. Lets say you have a huge collection of clothes you don’t want, or that don’t fit you anymore. Your question might be: “How can I get rid of all these unwanted clothes?”

The answer is probably pretty straight forward. You sort out the ones you don’t want, then sell or donate them. You could probably do it all in a single afternoon.

Sometimes, you might have to get creative. Maybe you hate your commute and you think: ‘I can’t do anything about that, I love my job, I can’t quit.’

However you could move house if you are renting. You could stay with the same company, but move to a closer branch, you could find a way you can work some days from home, you could car pool with others, so at least you aren’t always the one driving, you could catch public transport, so you can read, write or play video games during the commute. You could start using the time you commute by listening to audio books or using dictation to write a novel, and that alone might turn it from something you hate into something you look forward to.

The right question can make a world of difference to the answer, and thus, the solution. Get creative, go through you list. If you can’t find an answer that solves or at least improves the problem, ASK A DIFFERENT QUESTION. Keep asking questions until you find the right question. The right question will give you the right answer.

When you have gone through the entire list, and you have questions and solutions or improvements to every single problem, you come to the third part of the exercise.

You need to plan how you are going to start to IMPLEMENT all those great ideas.

Hopefully some of them (like clothes sorting and small home repairs) you can implement very quickly and easily. You might want to aim to do one a day, for a few weeks, until all the easy stuff is done. It will give you a great sense of achievement and make a huge difference in your day to day living.

Some things might be huge and require months of work and planning, but they will be worth it in the long run: moving house, for example. Or finding a new job. Or any other big life changing changes that will have a huge impact on your long term health and happiness.

Many things will require sustained effort to have their desired benefits. EG: new exercise or eating plans, changes to behavior and personal development. That’s okay. Small steps every day will add up over the long term and you will be so happy you started taking those steps toward the life you want.

However you can’t make those changes without a plan. You wouldn’t just buy a block of land and start building, would you? No, you’d design the house first! Get council approval. Buy all the supplies you needed. Get insurance.

The more you prepared and set up plans to deal with problems, the less likely you are to fail. So plan. Organize. Then have a wonderful life.

Moving Forward

Next week is the final post in this series! I really hope it has made some small difference to your life. I have loved writing it. Its very long though, so I am also excited to finish it and move on to new topics!

So tune in next week for our summaries and goodbyes to the Happiness Series.

Jake, In Summary:

This making a list of things that make me unhappy and making solutions has been something I have done for years. I call it the ‘Things Stressing Jake List’ and I like to check in on it once a month or so. I delete the things I have fixed, and I add new problems as the arise or as I become aware of them.

For me, one of the really therapeutic parts is knowing ALL my problems are written down, and there are solutions ready. I don’t have to keep thinking about them, the computer will remember them for me.

This lets me focus on one thing at a time, and greatly improves my quality of life.

I hope it does the same for you, let me know. I’m always happy to hear from you!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Happiness Series: 15 - Happiness Exercise 5: Your Perfect Week

The Perfect Week

These exercises can be a bit of a double edged sword. I love them, and they help me a lot. However there is a way to do them very badly. We all know comparison is the key to unhappiness, so when you do these exercises, you have to prime yourself to focus on the right things.

If you find yourself comparing what you want, to what you have, and feeling a sense of despair, then you’re hurting yourself, not helping yourself.

However the first time I did this exercise, I realized a lot of the things I wanted to be doing, I could already do. Things like gardening more, learning an instrument and doing more art. They were things I kept putting off until ‘everything else in my life was under control’. But there was no reason to put them off, and honestly, my idea of ‘under control’ is usually me working more and more.

So remember, the goal of these exercises is not to compare what you want to what you have and feel bad. Its to look at all the ways you can make what you already have a bit more like what you want.

Your Perfect Working Day

When I first heard about this exercise, the instructions were to imagine that money wasn’t a factor, but you still had to work. You were to design your house and workspaces, as if you had unlimited funds. And you could pick any career you wanted.

There are two glaring problems with this. Firstly, what you want may be so far from what you have, it could be depressing. And secondly, you might imagine a career you don’t have is fantastic, while if you actually tried it, you might hate it.

I’m going to let you decide how big you want to dream. Its really not about the size of the dream, or how different it is. Its about the details and the things you want, and how you can bring those into your current life without winning the lottery.

Lets imagine, very quickly, that you say your perfect working day is working on a luxury yacht, that you own, surrounded by models. How could you bring that into your life? You could start taking your laptop to the wharf, to be around the ocean and the boats. And you could take lessons to drive a boat. However you might find you hate the sun, hate the sounds of seagulls, hate the smell of brine and get seasick when you try and drive a boat. What about the models? Well, quite frankly, I’ve never found anyone who wants to be surrounded by models who really understands what its like to be surrounded by 10 bored, hungry young women all day.

So if you don’t really want to be on a yacht surrounded by models, what did you want? Probably to feel rich and adored. You’re more likely to feel rich and adored if you 1) work out your finances and set up a fantastic system of savings and investments and 2) work on cultivating stronger friendships and relationship skills.

So, with all that in mind, on to the exercise.

I want you to write out your perfect working day. From the instant you open your eyes in the morning, to the instant you close them in the evening. What sort of work are you doing? What are the nitty-gritty details of that kind of work? What sort of breakfast do you eat? Lunch? Dinner? What is your recreation time like? What is your workspace like? What is your house like? What are your interactions with family and friends like? Who do you interact with as part of your work? What are those interactions like? Do you work alone or in a team? What is your boss like? Do you even have a boss? What is your commute like?

Aim to make this as detailed as possible, a few pages long at least.

Now, I want you to sit down and really think about how you can make your dream and reality closer together. If you really hate cleaning, can you find $80 a week to have a cleaner come twice, for a few hours? Is it worth it to get that time back? If you hate cooking, can you get all your food through a meal delivery service? If you imagine your houses is minimalist and tidy, can you do a purge of your possessions and set things up the way you dream? You might not be able to move into a mansion (or a cabin 100’s of kms from civilisation), but you CAN take steps to bring the day to day minutia of your life closer to what you wish it was.

Your Week Divided

This exercise was only introduced to me recently, but it made me feel a lot more relaxed and in control of my time.

We tend to think of what we need to do on a day by day basis. We try and cram a lot into every day, because we have a lot of things we are interested in and want to do. But you can’t do everything in a day.

However you probably can do everything in a week. There are 168 hours in a week. If you sleep eight hours a night, which you should, you take away 56 hours and leave yourself with 112 hours.

For this exercise, I want you to take this 112 hours and work out how much time you want to spend on things over the course of a week. For example, if you are a writer, how many thousand words do you want to write in a week? How long does it take you to write that? That’s your weekly writing chunk.

In my case, I wanted to write 10k, which takes me about 7 hours. So if I do 5k on Monday, then 2.5k each on Wednesday and Thursday, I have reached my writing goal for the week. So instead of writing every day, I now have four whole days I can devote to other things.

Don’t forget basic things, like eating, cleaning, commuting and basic hygiene. And don’t think you can fill every second of every day with productivity. Leave some down time for TV, reading or whatever you do when you are exhausted.

Your Perfect Working Week

In truth, exercise one and two were preparing us for this! This is the big one, that will probably take a few hours, or even a few days, to complete. Its very similar to the first one, however instead of a single, perfect day, you are going to map out an entire week. And, if like me, your perfect working day was about 2000 words, then your entire perfect week is going to run somewhere around the 10k to 14k mark.

Don’t feel bad if yours isn’t that long. We all know I am a bit… obsessive. Still, if it isn’t up around 5k, I’d be suspicious you were skipping over some details.

Using your week divided exercise, and your perfect working day exercise, map out an entire perfect working week, including your days off. From the instant you open your eyes, to when you close them, on all seven days.

This is going to show you what you wish you were making time for, and the things that aren’t in your perfect week, are going to show you what you need to cut out of your life.

If you have a long commute, and hate it, its time to start job searching closer to home. Don’t quit before you find a new job, wait until you find the perfect job, or you could end up desperate and with a longer commute. If finding a perfect job means doing some courses and updating your resume, do that first.

If spending 4 hours a day on social media isn’t on your list, then its time to uninstall those social media apps on your phone, and put blockers on your browser, so you can only access them for 1 hour a day. Or less.


No excuses, no guilt. Do them. See if you can actually organize your perfect week. Start to finish, see if you can line it all up so you can actually live it. What was as good as you thought it was going to be? What was better? What was less good?

Moving Forward

Next week, we’re going to talk about the things that are part of your life, that you didn’t include in this exercise. Sometimes what we choose to discard is even more important that what we choose to keep.

Only two more weeks of happiness project to go!

Jake, In Summary:

I love these exercises. I probably re-do them about once a year, and I love looking back through the old versions to see what has changed, how my goals have shifted, and what has stayed the same. I find the consistency very reassuring.

One of the things I find hard, I suppose, is that there is a few things in my life that could be very different, but where I would be equally happy. Do I write a version of the perfect week where I am engaged? Where I am married with kids? Or do I continue to write them for myself while I am single? I am equally happy with all three of these scenarios, though they each look very different.

As most of you know, in February I will have a new little person under my care. I would like to do a new perfect working week for next year, but its a bit hard. I am sure whatever I am imagining being a dad is like, reality will be quite different! I can’t plan a week by ‘guessing’ how much time he will take up—because no one will know until he is here.

The one thing I do know is I want to get a yearly pass to Australia Zoo and take him a few times a month. I also want to talk him on bushwalks and to the beach. I am looking forward to these little adventures, and to showing him the world. So any new plan will involve those things.

How about you? Want to come to the zoo with me? Or are you too busy with a whole new, very exciting plan for your life?

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Happiness Series: 14 - Happiness Exercise 4: Relationship Exercises

Romantic Relationships

In modern days, romantic relationships are more important than they have ever been. The social and family networks we used to rely on are fading out. Community is giving way to friends we see once a week, or once a fortnight. Our romantic partner can easily become our primary support network in every aspect of our life.

Honestly, I think this is a huge problem. Particularly for men, who are often now in a position where the only physical contact and support they can receive is a romantic partner. Its not fair to expect your wife to do all that emotional labor. Get friends you can hug and talk to, for fuck’s sake.

Anyway, my personal feelings on toxic masculinity aside, your romantic partner is often you partner in every way. Financial, parental, they help you with problems, be they logistical or emotional, you are tethered together in every way people can be.

So it is important to have a healthy, happy, successful romantic relationship.

How To Fix What You Have

Maybe last week you did the exercise and you realized you aren’t in the relationship you want to be in. Maybe your partner doesn’t meet your needs and you’re wondering if there is something, or someone, out there who is better.

I’m not here to end relationships. I am here to strengthen the good ones, to make them better. So before you make a decision, I want you to do something for me… and, for you.

You want thinks from your partner you aren’t getting. I want you to think really hard about the things they want from you they aren’t getting. Would they like you to be happier? More attentive? Sexier? More helpful around the house?

For two months, I want you to throw EVERYTHING YOU HAVE into being the best partner you can be. No nagging, no arguing, be an enthusiastic, welcoming, giving lover, do more than your share of the housework, let them have their way, be considerate, give everything you have to being THEIR perfect partner. No matter how they act, no matter how little appreciation they show. Give them the best two months of their entire lives.

That is the exercise, but to facilitate it, take a moment to write down your goals for those two months. Make a list of all the things you think your partner wishes you did/said/didn’t do/didn’t say, then make a game plan for how you are going to avoid those things. EG:

‘Ravi hates it when I nag about dirty clothes on the floor, when I see clothes on the floor, even if they aren’t mine, I will just put them in the wash basket and say nothing.’

If at the end of two months, they haven’t changed, you can make the decision to end it. But don’t make that call before you have given 100%, until you have down everything in your power to meet THEIR needs, so they can meet yours.

This is a great exercise, even if you are in a happy relationship. You might find you can be in an even better one, with just a little more effort, love and understanding.

(And if it still isn’t working out, well, don’t be afraid. You have just proved how awesome you can be to a partner, how much you have to give when you really put the effort in, and now you can find someone willing to put in the same.)

How To Find What You’re Looking For

Maybe you are single. Maybe you don’t want to be single. Maybe you are struggling to find the sort of relationship you want to be in. If this is the case, I believe there are three possible reasons for this.

1. You aren’t prioritizing dating, time wise.
2. You are dismissing people before getting to know them.
3. You are presenting yourself very poorly.

Lets talk about 1. If you are bemoaning not being able to meet someone, but you haven’t gone anywhere it would be possible for you to meet anyone that week, you’re a moron. Its like complaining you didn’t win a prize when you didn’t enter the competition.

Personally, I am not a huge fan of online dating. The pros are that everyone is looking for a date, so it would SEEM you are talking to more eligible people than, say, at a party where most people may already be married. However people are hard to read online. There is very little information, so we tend to place too high of a value on the information at hand. Maybe you want someone who loves dogs, but not every dog lover is going to put it on their profile. They might fear it is a turn off. Or, someone who says they love dogs might just be trying to look more friendly. However if you are out with someone and they point out every damn dog and talk about their dog and show you a photo of their dog, they probably like dogs.

Plus, body language is important. Confidence, openness, expressions, interest, or lack their of in what you as saying. None of this can be assessed online.

So if you spent two hours swiping on tinder, don’t tell me you spent two hours trying to meet people. It doesn’t count.

You are better going to events and, *gasp* talking to people. There are thousands of things you can attend, often for free, where there are like minded people. Rallies, music festivals, food markets, dog walks, church, art events, book launches, exercise classes, choirs, dancing classes, library events and classes, sporting groups, friend’s parties, etc, etc.

The trick is, not just to talk to people you think are hot. Talk to everyone, make friends, connect. Please just connect.

Exercise: Commit to spending X number of hours a week meeting new people. Use those hours in situations where you can meet and talk to people face to face. If you don’t make conversation with new people at those events, you don’t get to count them toward your hours for the week. And when deciding on the number of hours, make sure it reflects how important you SAY finding a partner is. If it is your number one priority, I expect you to put in 10+ hours a week, not two.

Back to the list, 2. You are dismissing people too quickly. It takes time to get to know someone. Hopefully, if you met someone at a class or group, you can keep meeting them there. But if you go on a date with someone, and it didn’t go well, they might have been super nervous. If someone was a bit dull, give them a few more chances. Let them come out of their shell.

Exercise: Get to know people, don’t just compare them to some mythical person in your head, then decide they’re not close enough and move on. If they aren’t a creep, and are interested in you, give them at least three dates to prove themselves.

And number 3, you’re coming across poorly. This could be a lot of things, from how you dress and your personal grooming, to the things you talk about, or it could be your body language (no one is attracted to anxious, needy or insecure body language).

If you think: “Well, people should like me for me!” but you have pit stains and bad breath…, no they shouldn’t. Its disrespectful to show up looking like a slob. Its also disrespectful to bore the other person stupid talking about yourself for an hour.

Exercise: Identify your weaknesses. If you can find someone of the gender you want to date who is willing to be very honest, they may be able to give you a list of your flaws. DO NOT ask someone you are attracted to, the blow to your ego will take a long time to heal. Look for the sort of person you want to date, and listen (genuinely listen) when they describe the sort of things they want in a partner.

PRO TIP: Its not as much about looks or money as you think. Men tend to want people who are kind, fun, generous and who think they are sexy. Women tend to look for people who are confident, kind, fun, generous and who treat them with respect. Ask yourself how you can demonstrate those traits with your actions. Don’t be that idiot who goes around trying to tell people how ‘nice’ or ‘smart’ you are. No one believes you.

Exercise: When you have identified your weaknesses, go on youtube, and learn about personal grooming and fashion. Go on youtube and learn how to be a more interesting, engaging conversationalist. Go to acting classes and toastmasters to learn how to have more confidence. There is no single thing on the planet that you can’t be taught if you are willing to put the effort in. You are never going to be happy or find someone by moaning.

Stop bitching and improve.

Family Relationships

This is the hardest one of all. We can’t choose family. They are family regardless of if we estrange ourselves. And, often, that fact seems to make some people think they are entitled to things from you, and that they should be able to act however they like and still be forgiven.

Oddly, we often don’t want to be vulnerable to family. We don’t want to tell them how we feel—we expect them to know. Sometimes the solution to family problems is communication.

1. Make a list of the problems you have with family, big to small.
2. Write down how those behaviors or words make you feel.
3. Craft a short, self focused statement you can say the next time it comes up, that explains how it makes you feel. Try and use ‘I’ statements and don’t accuse or go on too long. Say something like: “When people make jokes about my weight, it makes me feel very sad. Often I go home and I cry about it. It makes me not want to socialize.”
Likely, they will say something in their defense, like: “I just say it because I’m worried about your health.”
Stick with the same accusing tone and self focus: “I don’t feel motivated when I hear those things, I just feel sad and hurt and unloved.”

Then, once you have expressed those feelings, it may be best to walk away, distance yourself and give them time to think about it. Don’t lash out, stay calm, be honest. You may have to have this conversation several times with the same person. If they mock you, or are intentionally cruel, it may be worth estranging yourself from that person permanently. However its worth being vulnerable first. You don’t loose anything, it doesn’t make you weak—sharing your feelings makes you strong, and braver than them.

Friends And Connections

Friends can be the best thing that happened to us, or the worst. Friendship is dangerously devalued in our society. Divorce is seen as a life-changing, devastation, but you could end a twenty year friendship and have people shrug and changed the conversation.

Friendships can have the same problems as romantic relationships—friends can abuse you, hurt you, betray you, damage you—just as deeply as a romantic partner. They can also lift you up, support you, and be as important to you as a romantic partner.

The difference between friends and partners or family, is you can have lots of friends, you can make new friends all the time, and you can often adjust the intensity of friendships, leaning in or pulling back as life dictates.

Friends should be a lot more important than they are. Your friends should be the bulk of your emotional support, possibly even your physical contact. Spreading your emotional needs over many people, takes pressure off your partner and kids to be sole support for your needs.

So it is important we have good friends, and it is much MORE important that we ARE good friends.

1. Write down ten traits you want your close friends to have. (EG: Loves animals, believes in equality for everyone, loves books, kind, relaxed, passionate, supportive)
2. Write down ten traits you want to have as a friend to others.
3. Write down at least two ways you can demonstrate each trait to your friends.
4. Add all your close friends birthdays to your yearly planner, and stop relying on facebook to remind you.
5. Write down ten ways you can be a better friend to your friends. You might get some ideas from the demonstrating trait’s list.
6. Look objectively at your close friends and identify the friendships that are doing you harm. The friendships you are putting all the work into. The friendships you are chasing, with no reciprocation. The friendships where you are being dragged into drama and bad behavior you don’t want to be part of. First, stop chasing people who aren’t willing to put the same effort into you. Secondly, think about how to disengage from the bad behaviors. If a friend always wants to drink and you end up doing things you regret with them, see if you can arrange to do non drinking things, like going to the beach. Or if a friend is constantly negative, tell them you love them and you think they are great, but you don’t want to engage in negativity and gently prompt them to talk about positive things around you.
7. If you realize all your friends are toxic and ditch them all, go out on a mission to find the sort of friends who have the traits you want in a friend. Be the friend you want to be with them. Enjoy new, awesome friendships!

Moving Forward

Wow, that was a long post. Are you still here, reading this? I am so impressed with you! Next week we’re going to talk about the perfect week. Its an exercise I love talking about, and I hope you love reading about it.

Jake, In Summary:

A few years ago I realize I had let myself focus on toxic friendships. This was mostly because I was so ill, I thought I had to be friends with whoever would tolerate me. Some of them had to go, and some of them had to change.

I stopped chasing people who didn’t care about me. (If I stopped messaging you all the time, now you know why. Shoulda picked up the damn phone, peeps.) I addressed some problems, and I let some people go entirely.

There were, of course, lots of friendships that remained untouched. I have a lot of awesome people in my life. But what really surprised me, was when I cut out the bad stuff, so much good stuff flowed in. I thought making new friends would be hard, but over the past two years I have met so many fantastic, lovely, wonderful, supportive people. I am honored to be friends with them and love and support them. And now I am open to it, I see potential new friends everywhere I go.

Toxic people stain you, and they scare away the good people. If you clear them out, and are committed to being good yourself, you won’t be lonely, I promise!