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Friday, March 07, 2008

Time for a new book

This morning, whilst attempting to do more than 15 press-ups next in the park, I finally finished listening to the 13-hour audiobook version of Steven Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People. It's been a great listen, and I can understand why it has been received so well since its publication in 1989.

Naturally, much of what he writes about is covered in other success / personal development literature, and of course he makes no claims to have dreamed up these habits himself. It's just another way of putting them.

There was one tool that I picked up from this book that I have not seen elsewhere, and that is the Time Management Matrix (worth taking a look at). Whilst initially somewhat sceptical about its relevance for my life (and somewhat put off by what I perceived to be an attention-seeking title), looking back I can see I have actually referred to it and found it positively useful several times in the last couple of weeks. Specifically, I have felt myself motivated by the idea that those activities that are not urgent but important (they go into the top-right corner, that being quadrant 2), such as regular exercise, studying kanji etc, actually have a huge impact upon the quality of one's life.

So, for example, this morning I woke up at 6.30am and looked out of the window. It was raining. "Hmm, maybe I'll give exercise a miss today" was my natural reaction, but then recalling that this was a quadrant 2 activity (important but not urgent), I realised that I could say that same thing every single day - without penalty - and nothing would change.

OR, I could appreciate that as a quadrant 2 activity, all efforts put into it would in the long term reap enormous benefits , and it was worth the short-term 'pain'.

As it happened, despite getting a bit wet and despite being left outside for 15 minutes when I got home having forgotten to take my key, I really enjoyed it, and I feel energised for the day. And I got to stretch my self-discipline muscles too!

It was actually the Time Management Matrix that helped me reach the decision to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test too. There is something which will never be urgent, but boy-oh-boy is it important for me.

So what's next? I'm out of Audiobooks for now. I do re-listen to some of them every few months, but I want something fresh. Ah, yes, I know...

I've signed up to Audible.co.uk again, and for £7.99 have got Nelson Mandela's Long Walk To Freedom, and for a complete change, Michael Palin's Diaries, 1969 - 1979, as recommended by Andy Ihnatko. I'm really excited about listening to these! I can also feel good about my shopping-for-pleasure not having a big impact upon the environment, as all it is is data, data that makes me very happy!

A few weeks back I was talking to a friend of mine about spending time on self-development. They mentioned that although they would love to look into this realm, they just couldn't make the time for it.

I couldn't help but smile. "Didn't you just spend three years at university studying something which you now admit you have little interest in, and are unlikely to work in any industry where you can use the knowledge that you acquired through your course?"

My friend was silent for a while, and then smiled at their own logic.

I would argue, that when it comes to things that are Important but not Urgent, you can't afford to not have time at the moment, because unless you make time for them, today, they will never happen.

Just think, all those life-changing things you could do, whether it be studying your chosen language, exploring thought patterns, or learning how to communicate effectively with your spouse and children, these things could remain as ideas associated with some conceptual ideal life - unless you choose to make them your reality by acknowledging their importance today and acting upon them. Now.

By investing even a tiny fraction of the time that my friend had put into their university course in learning about themselves and their own potential, they could improve their levels of satisfaction, happiness and general well-being for the duration of their entire lives. And, as a bonus, they wouldn't be lumbered with another £24,000 debt either!

Of course, I'm not denying that the university experience is all about degrees. Far from it. It is also an amazing Life School, teaching all manner of skills that could never be learnt through, for example, an audiobook alone.

For a start, it teaches one when it's time to shut up, and get on writing that dissertation introduction..!

(and suddenly, he was gone).

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