Self-improvement and productivity

In recent weeks I’ve been brainstorming ideas and projects that could help broaden my horizons and revitalise my trading efforts. However, I realised today that I had lost myself in an endless sea of post-it notes and to-do lists and that I wasn’t really moving forward. What I needed to move to the next stage of prioritising tasks, breaking projects down in to manageable chunks and taking action, but there was an invisible force holding me back. To help get over this mental block, I have referred back to my trusty archive of motivational notes on productivity. I’m sharing a selection of this material below; most of it is derived from the excellent “Getting Things Done” by Edwin C.Bliss:



Decision Making: Remember, every decision in your life will be made in one of three ways:

1) You will make it yourself
2) Other people will make it for you
3) Time will make it for you

The first way is best.

Indecision: The Paralysis of Analysis. Solve it quickly. Solve it right or wrong. If you solve it wrong, it will come back and slap you in the face, and then you can solve it right.

Speed Reading: Keep in mind these words of the British critic F.L.Lucas: “It is mere common sense never to undertake a book without asking, ‘Is it worth the amount of my life it will cost?’”. That simple question can save you more time than all the speed-reading courses ever devised.

Velleity: …means wanting something but not wanting it badly enough to pay the price for it. Every time you list your goals there’s a temptation to include a lot of valleity: things you’d love to have if they could just be dropped in your lap; things you’d love to do if they didn’t involve sacrifice. Trouble is, nothing worthwhile falls in to that category. …it’s just indulging in a flight of fantasy. Examine your list and ask of each item, “Is this something I am really willing to pay the price for?”. If not, cross it off. Then having eliminated the valleity, you will have transformed your “wish list” in to an “action plan”.

Workaholic: People can be addicted to work, just as they can become addicted to alcohol. …a person in this situation is concerned with activities (staying busy) rather than achieving (getting things done).

Yesterday Trap: Many people…they spend too much time recording and analysing what has happened and not enough on what should happen now. In avoiding the Yesterday Trap it is especially important not to spend precious time regretting mistakes you may have made. Don’t wallow in a sea of regret, with “What if’s”. Substitute the words “Next time”.


“No amount of time in lectures or reading, can in itself, produce a skill-full doctor, artist, or trader. Practice. ” – unknown

“If you don’t know what you’re trying to do, it’s going to be hard to do it.” – unknown

“My greatest strength lies in my tenacity” – Louis Pasteur

“I hear and I forget, I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” – Confucius

“The weakest creature, by concentrating his powers on a single object, can accomplish something; whereas the strongest, by dispersing his power over many, may fail to accomplish anything.” – Thomas Carlyle.


8 responses to “Self-improvement and productivity

  1. Great stuff here, I especially like the 3 types of decisions. Whether right or wrong I attempt to chose point 1 as often as I can. This helps in my trading. Establish the risk, and take the trade, don’t talk myself out of it, just do it as long as risk levels are sufficient. Make that decision, let it fly.

  2. Pingback: Good To Go on a Road Trip Posts . . . « Trading for the Masses

  3. Great post, everyone no matter what you are doing can learn from it.

  4. some really unique insights. thanks for creating a great blog and great fortune to you as you continue to increase your stash!

  5. Good stuff. Just a small correction, Confucius quote should read: “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”

    P.S. I used to drown in those to do lists as well. Something I adopted into personal life from my work as a project manager is to start putting things into a project plan (M$ Project usually) which then forces me to brain dump tasks, then group them into logical phases, then decide on the right sequence, show dependencies, estimate duration, work out a target date etc. etc. You can also take it to the next level of tracking progress, although I get a bit lazy on that 🙂

  6. Great post again…


  7. A harmony between the present and the past is what I consider the most crucial for success. With this I mean that the goals you set are from the past, but it’s what you do in the present that determines if you succeed.

    For instance, if you told yourself you were going to study tonight, but you find excuses when the nigh comes, then there’s room for improvement. I find that if my present screws my past once, then it’s easier to do it twice, three times etc. Finding a “harmony” where the past pushes the present, but not so much that the present does a mutiny is the clue.

  8. Thanks for the compliments and comments everyone.

    I’ve updated the typo in the Confucius quote Eyal, well spotted. Also, I like your idea about using project management software to manage the flow of ideas. There appears to be some good free software available, so I’ll try a couple of packages out and report back if I find anything truly effective.

    JP – Thanks for the insightful comment. I think I find myself on the border of mutiny all too often. Better organisation should allow for more harmony between past and present, and for more clarity in goal setting. Personally, I love letting ideas bubble away in my head, but these need some kind of structure to be executed.

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