Ending Relationships: When and Why You Should Burn Bridges

They say, “don’t burn bridges.” But some relationships are better ended. Understanding when and why to burn a bridge is not the only key to your well-being but fulfilling your potential.

Cutting off people is one of the most difficult things to do. Saying “no” is already hard enough especially for me (this article may help).

I have repeatedly run into the wrong crowd because I did not have the gumption to just turn them down. Likewise, I ended up in bad relationships that left me with nothing but painful lessons.

Most recently, I met an amazing person through the Tinder dating app. We had fun that night and I asked for her number and we continued to text.

She wanted me to visit her before she left for overseas and I was unsure mainly because I did not want to start anything that I knew would have to be cut eventually. I was already in that situation before.

The tension reached a boiling point when I made a scathing tweet about a lady at a gym and she blew up on me.

It came out of nowhere, but I interpreted this as her venting due to her disappointment with my fickleness.

I enjoyed the few moments we spent but this was an example of a bridge that needed to be burned.

The Three Questions Everyone Needs to Ask Before Burning Bridges

My short-lived relationship with my Tinder encounter isn’t exactly the typical type of relationship that needed ending. It’s a bit more complex sometimes and is almost like cutting off your ex-flames.

I usually ask myself three questions to determine if my relationship with someone is worth keeping:

  • Do we make each other happy?

  • Do we help each other grow?

  • Does spending time together lead to something beneficial for both of you?

If the answer is “yes” to all three, this is the type of relationship that shouldn’t just be kept but cherished. Keep strengthening it. Fight for it. These are the friends we need.

If the answer is “yes” to two of the three, the relationship is worth keeping but also needs work. There are likely areas that are stagnating between the friendship. With a little work, we can make each other even better.

If the answer is “yes” to one of three, the relationship is stagnating. Spending time with these “friends” may start incurring just as many costs as benefits. I might be getting tired or missing the point of why we even hang out. These relationships need plenty of work or they will fall to the next category.

If the answer is “yes” to NONE, then this is the relationship that needs to be cut. Pronto.

This is the bridge that gets burned. Hell, in some cases, the bridge needs to be bombed. Obliterated.

Breaking it down this way makes it seem easy to determine which friends are worth keeping and which aren’t. But often I just go on living my life and being an ENFP, I have a high tolerance for people’s bullsh*t.

This list helps me determine who to spend time with and who to start avoiding.

Ex-flames tend to be wild cards because there are a lot of personal feelings that skew the questions. That is the one exception here.

But with everyone else, these questions must be asked.

As I get older, my tolerance for crap gets lower. And I assume it’s the same for almost everyone.

The closer we get to our inevitable demise, the more valuable our time becomes. That’s why it’s best to get rid of “friends” and people whose relationships may only be hurting more than helping.

If you have people in your network and they only cover one of the questions, they could fall into one of the following categories of people.

Enablers & Bad Influencers

These are friends who make us happy but don’t help us grow and spending time with them doesn’t always lead to anything beneficial outside cheap thrills.

Popular examples of these types of people are drinking and smoking friends or any friend you hang out with mainly because of a vice or a trivial activity.

While they aren’t necessarily bad people, spending too much time with them can be counterproductive and won’t lead to much growth or positive outcomes.

Why You Should Burn the Bridge: because most of the time you spend with these “friends” is spent on vices, the friendship will lack any real value. Continuously hanging out with them will also worsen bad habits and be detrimental to your overall health.

How to Grow the Relationship: find other things to do with them outside of boozing or doing drugs, if possible; you may already have other things in common like a hobby. Start here and develop a relationship that goes beyond simple vices.

Secret Manipulators & Fake Friends

These types of “friends” are difficult to. Hanging out with these people may lead to something beneficial on the surface but isn’t helping you grow and you don’t feel that deep sense of happiness.

People who fit this category may be secretly using you for their own ends. If you have “friends” who you don’t know on a personal level despite how long you’ve been together, that is a red flag.

They aren’t completely fake because they like something about you whether it’s your status or wealth or abilities. But the moment you lose that which they want, they will disappear.

These people may be “social climbers” or people who ride on others’ coattails. They are likely not new at this game. They will make themselves useful, so it will be hard for you dispose of them.

Maybe they’ll offer their own services or introduce you to other people. They will offer something back in return.

Why You Should Burn the Bridge: because these people care more about themselves than they do about you. The moment things go sour, they are likely to vanish. They are the type to love you when times are going well but ignore you once it isn’t. You deserve better treatment than this.

How to Grow the Relationship: this is a difficult relationship to grow because it comes from something superficial; maybe these people don’t really care about you and are just using you. But if they have some shred of decency within them, you may be able to appeal to their human side.

Get to know them personally. Make sure they open up to you and share their own vulnerabilities and personal stories. Once you learn this part, you may develop a genuine relationship.

Controllers and Judgers.

These friends are the ones who you don’t always get along with, but feel is still out for your best interest.

We all have that friend who thinks they know what’s best for us. They can’t help it.

Maybe they see you as a little sibling and constantly undermine you. They make decisions for you, ignore your ideas, and always judge you and your choices.

These friends are invaluable because they are the most likely to give us different viewpoints and challenge our lifestyle. They can also do what’s best for us when we don’t know it.

They are opposite to the fake friends and enablers because they care about you (even if they aren’t fully aware of it). What can make a relationship with them troublesome is the stress they bring.

Why You Should Burn the Bridge: because they kill the joy out of everything. They don’t respect you and continuing the relationship will be bad for your self-esteem and mental health.

How to Grow the Relationship: stand your ground and assert yourself but do it without appearing too belligerent. Have faith that these friends really do care about you but need to be shown the way. Find out what they need help with and help them. The sooner they can see you as an equal, the better.

Toxic People: Burn these Bridges ASAP

Now for the people in your life who don’t make you happy, don’t help you grow, and don’t lead to anything beneficial, cut them out immediately.

While none of us wants to be that friend who abandons a friend, it’s unhealthy for both parties if you continued.

There are many types of people like this but the most obnoxious is the Negative Nigel/Nancy. They are constantly critical, angry, and are the biggest buzz-kills.

If you are forced to deal with them (because of work or unavoidable circumstances), there are strategies for that. But if you don't, cut them out.

Just a few days earlier, a Facebook friend and former co-worker unfriended me because I told him off on my page.

This guy was the prototypical “Angry Atheist” and a complete Nazi towards religion. He only shows up, coincidentally, when I make a post about religion.

It could be something light-hearted like an interesting tidbit about Bible history.

In comes Angry Atheist shutting it down essentially saying “why bother talking about it? It’s religion. It shouldn’t exist. Don’t encourage discussions about make believe sh*t.”

And get this: he accuses me of being close-minded and not wanting to talk with people who have opposing views.

I enjoy listening to other people’s views unless they are shouting it in my face  or they have already made up their mind and are just listening so they can say something back.

Do not bother reasoning with these types of people. You’ll have better luck achieving world peace.

It is never easy to end relationships, but it is necessary.

Doing so not only frees you from people who hold you back but also allows you to spend more time with the people who help you become better.

Four Life Lessons Learned from Covering Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)

There’s nothing quite like the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) and in my three years covering the sport, I picked up a few life lessons.

For those who don’t know what that is, think UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship), Georges St-Pierre and Ronda Rousey. Ring a bell now?

By definition, mixed martial arts is a full-contact combat sport that combines different forms of martial arts from wrestling to boxing to Muay Thai to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and many more.

I covered MMA for about three years. Despite not being a full-time “journalist”, I saw my fair share of fights, met media members and spoken to a couple of MMA fighters and personalities. I’ve learned quite a lot not just from the sport but lessons that are transferrable with regular life.

Unfortunately, my future was away from the sport, but I look back time-to-time with fond memories and valuable lessons it’s time to think back and reflect on the many lessons I learned from this sport.

In theory, the idea of watching two adults physically assault each other for money and entertainment seems like an ostentatious way to gain “wisdom”, but you learn a lot especially on business, human psychology, and how us savages treat each other.

Here are five life lessons I picked up from the covering the sport:

Our Instincts are in Constant Conflict

No sport makes you question your character more than MMA.

This highly entertaining sport delivers unbridled exhilaration driven by the literal blood, sweat, and tears of horrendously underpaid athletes making you feel like a junkie sh*thead for supporting such “violence”!

But at the same time, this is still a sport. It evolves every week. We’ve gone from utter savages swinging meat hammers senselessly to the most intricate martial artists playing a game of human chess. The sport’s superstars range from well-spoken role models like St-Pierre to vivacious hooligans like Conor McGregor.

The "Notorious" Conor McGregor at a press conference

I use the term “instinct” because it’s something that is innate in us. In combat, the “fight versus flight instinct” is eternally present and fighters who master the art of choosing the right instinct prevail.

As a spectator, our instinct to seek pleasure can and will conflict with our instinct to feel sympathy for others. These are feelings that just happen. And as an MMA fan, you will be dealing with these all the time.

The Highs are the Highest and the Lows are the Lowest

In MMA, almost every fight is high-stakes.

Winners have looked like a million bucks while losers have broken down. Consider the sharp contrast between the careers of two superstars: McGregor and Rousey.

McGregor won all but one of his UFC fights and became the sport’s most lucrative fighter even managing to get the second-most expensive boxing match against Floyd Mayweather. He became the sport’s biggest star and a worldwide icon.

His loss humbled him, and he went dark for an entire season. But his subsequent wins propelled him to the stratosphere.

The fame and success got to his head and he transitioned from being a comical character who razed press conferences at the expense of every poor fighter there to throwing dollies at buses and getting arrested.

Rousey won all but two of her UFC fights, but those two losses permanently scarred her. She quit the UFC after consecutive knockout losses to Holly Holm and Amanda Nunes.

She went from the most intimidating female fighter, a juggernaut, and a destroyer to a seemingly weak-minded sore loser who can’t even muster the poise to face questions about her losses.

Ronda Rousey at an interview

Winning and losing has never been more polarizing than in MMA. A fighter’s profession, reputation, and mental state are all drastically affected by the outcome more so than any other sport.

The winners not only get extra cash, they also move on with their careers and get the admiration of fans (for the most part). While the losers take a step back and face the jeers of all the “keyboard warriors”.

Seeing as most MMA fighters are barely just getting by in life, a win or loss affects their careers a lot more significantly than a lost game for a sports team.

If you factor in their pride, months of hard work and physical damage, the elation of a victory juxtaposed with the misery of a loss speaks volumes.

The Mind Beats the Heart

This is the most painful lesson I’ve learned: the cold calculating individual usually succeeds more than the passionate yet emotional person.

I’m not suggesting that either trait are absent from each side. The former isn’t an automaton and the latter isn’t a dummy either. But, individuals who approach life with a more technical approach tend to accomplish things more successfully than one who is fueled by passion and emotion.

In MMA, this is obvious when the most dominant champions like St-Pierre and Jon Jones destroyed the opposition thanks to their cerebral and exacting approach.

In fiction we often see the protagonist overcome the obstacle with the sheer force of will. And while that may happen in MMA, it’s mostly the efficient fighter who prevails in the end.

It is rooted to the fundamentals of martial arts.

Emotion won’t drive you because it is less controllable, and it can hinder you. And most importantly, it is a finite resource.

People don’t stay happy constantly. They don’t stay angry all the time. It’s not physically possible.

Instead, rely on the power of the mind: the ability to control thoughts when it matters most.

Memories Don’t Last Because Life Moves Too Fast

It’s like being in a bullet train speeding through everything. All you can make out are glimpses of what appear to be shapes and colours. You can’t really make out what they are.

MMA is a fast-moving sport. It’s the perfect sport for some short attention span millennials.

There is an event every weekend almost from the big promotions.

UFC fighter Yoshiyuki Yoshida kicks his opponent, Josh Koscheck, during the UFC's Fight for the Troops event held at the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville, N.C. Kosheck won the match by knocking out Yoshida 30 seconds into the first round. More than 9,000 Fort Bragg troops attended the charity event which benefitted veterans.

The UFC almost held more events in the last five years than they have for the first 20 years. It’s great to have so many events but it comes at the expense of leaving lasting memories.

A significant event lasts 24 hours if it’s big enough but it quickly gets buried or shoved to the backseat in favour of the next coming event.

This is terrible for the sport’s marketing. Even the most hardcore fans have such a short window to fully let an event sink in and truly comprehend how much it means.

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Sometimes I get caught up in just doing, doing, doing, and the next thing I know five years have gone by. Where did the time go?

It’s why I make more of an effort to “slow things down” a bit and enjoy life a little bit more. What is the rush? What am I racing towards?

I want to make the most out of my life but is it worth not enjoying what is going on because I have to move on to the next thing?

It’s why a lot of movements like minimalism re-popularized by the likes of Joshua Becker are gaining steam.

Less action, more examination could mean better life satisfaction the same way fewer fights in a calendar year would make fight fans appreciate each event more.

Pros and Cons of Turning Your Writing Passion into a Profession

Turning your writing passion into a profession sounds like a dream come true. But once you take off the rose-tinted shades, you’ll come to realize it isn’t as idyllic as you envisioned. There are plenty of pros and cons that come with the process.

It was late one night when I had another argument with my mom. She kept telling me to pursue my writing to which I yelled at her, “I hate that God chose to give me such a useless talent.”

But I wasn’t angry at her or God. I was angry at myself.

I looked to the people I knew who had more “practical skills”. My brother was gifted with computers, my friend fixed cars, and my uncles were doctors and financial gurus.

And here I was. A “writer”.

I was born in the wrong era, I thought. As a creative writer, my ideas had already been written.

My prose was nothing extraordinary. And people today are too obsessed with their YouTube and Facebook videos to give a damn about opening a book much less read one.

Most of the articles online are either clickbait trash or dumbed down lists for people with the attention span of a goldfish.

The world of freelance writing, like most industries with an art base, is oversaturated. Too many writers peddle their services for free or write for peanuts (reasons why you shouldn't).

I didn’t have an optimistic view of a career in writing. But I pursued my passion anyhow. I decided to give it a shot.

What it Felt Like Going from Hobbyist to Pro: The Good and Bad

After doing some content writing for free for small websites, I managed to land a few gigs that paid well enough for me to be self-employed.

It didn’t last long, and I took a non-writing side job just to supplement my income. On the plus side, it felt good to have consistent human interaction again.

They always tell you to “do what you love”. So, I did.

I’m not as stupid as I once was.

I didn’t think it would be easy. In fact, I didn’t think of anything. I would just write.

It was depressing, painful, eye-opening, discouraging, head-banging-on-wall, and screaming into a pillow kind of frustrating all rolled into one.

The moment you take something you enjoy and try to make money out of it a little bit of joy comes out.

Writing Volume

I had to work under deadlines. This meant writing when I didn’t feel like it and writing to the point I got tired of it. I couldn’t take all the time in the world to polish my writing either. I had to get it done.

It was about volume more than quality. And it took me a while to learn (hacks to write faster). But I needed to get used to constantly writing.

Sometimes it’s quantity that matters more than quality especially if you write for content mills and pay-by-the-article clients.

As a beginning freelancer, I wrote for several content mills. These are sites that pay you per article and depending on the site, require you to produce an exact number of articles per day or week.

Since the pay isn’t that great, I wrote for up to three content mills simultaneously. I was doing over 3,000 words a day easily and this isn’t even counting writing for fun on the side (if I had the time).

The topics I covered ranged anywhere from general business to lifestyle to sports. And I had no problem pounding the keyboard. At the beginning.

About three months in, fatigue sunk in.

There were days where I would dread writing or even think about it. At some point, I didn’t even bother writing for fun because I started getting headaches. I felt burnt out.

But once I landed better-paying gigs, it left me with more breathing room.

I stopped writing for several clients because the pay just didn’t justify what I was putting out. Which brings me to the next point.

Making Money as a Writer

You don’t have to be a “starving artist” as a writer though you’ll often hear several freelancers, not just writers, struggle to keep the lights on in their basement apartments.

Being a freelance writer can be lucrative depending on what you do but writing in content mills is not one of them. Even if you wrote like a machine and put out six 500-word articles per day at $20 apiece, that’s $120. If you write six times a week, that’s $720.

That’s just under $2,880 a month and under $35,000 per annum.

And that’s only if you’re able to consistently do that many articles at that rate. Some clients pay a lot less than that if they pay at all.

It all depends on what industry you write in (top-paying writing jobs). It helps to have a background in finance, business, or STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Math). If you do, you’ll kill it, easily.

But unfortunately, I didn’t. I was underqualified to do the high-paying writing gigs like technical writing or copywriting.

Some more growth and personal development were needed. I had to evolve.

Mentorship and Personal Growth

Growing in your career is entirely up to you. But certain industries make seeking out mentors and growth opportunities more easily accessible.

Working in a big box retail, everything gets lost in the shuffle. But I could still talk to superiors personally, network with them, and directly show and tell them I want to move up the ladder.

That’s not how it works in a lot of writing especially as a freelancer.

Content mills are among the worst to help you grow as a writer. It’s a mill for a reason: they’re in the business of producing content like a factory. You’re putting articles out on a conveyor belt then off to the next one.

You can look to move up for better-paying positions like being an editor, or in my case, a social media coordinator, which is professional growth. But if you want to grow your writing skills, look for it elsewhere.

If you develop a great relationship with your editors, which I did to an extent, you can spot better writing opportunities and even use them as awesome references.

There are plenty of growth opportunities as a freelance writer, but you’ll have to work for them. And a lot of these opportunities may not be so much writing-related.

Growing and Picking up New Skills

One of the biggest growths I’ve had writing professionally is learning about all the non-writing matters that come with the territory.

If you haven’t learned about search engine optimization (SEO), learn about it immediately. Most, if not all writing positions require you to have at least basic knowledge of it.

Watch YouTube videos on it. Or take cheap courses online like Udemy.

Other skills I picked up or learned about were:

  • Social media marketing
  • Image design
  • Analytics (social media and Google)
  • Google Adwords

Again, you can find courses for any of these all over the Internet along with these other skills that will come in handy:

  • Coding
  • Web Design
  • Video production
  • Advanced research skills
  • Verbal communication
  • Networking

If it were up to me, I’d just write.

That’s what I’m here for. To turn thoughts into words. To put words on paper.

But we live in an age where the Internet controls everything. You must adapt, or you’ll be left behind dangerously fast.

I’m still a beginner in most of the skills I put but now dedicate at least 40 per cent of my time to growing these skills and using them.

I use social media marketing to promote my works and my brand as a writer, SEO to figure out what people online are interested in, and image design because they make or break articles.

They are all non-writing skills, but they are writing-related. And if you happen to become great at one of them, you can even land a side gig or a full-time job doing it.

But this part is the fun part when it comes to non-writing stuff. There are still a lot of other things I had to deal with.

Dealing with “Adult Stuff” and Non-Writing Matters

I might eventually master the art of writing for a living, but I’ll never master the art of “adulting”.

As a freelance writer, I’ve had to deal with finances a lot more than when I worked a regular office job (budgeting as a freelancer).

With an office job, I could expect a paycheque every two weeks. But as a freelancer, getting paid was different.

I had to personally do invoices and hand them in just before the deadline or I’d have to wait until the next payment period. Depending on where I wrote, payment came every two weeks, every month, or when the clients felt like it.

Budgeting became a bigger part of my life. I had to be thriftier. I couldn’t splurge as often. The prospect of losing a paycheque or more every month also stressed me out.

At any moment, a client or two could simply stop giving work. Or they’ll “restructure” and change the pay structure.

I wrote for a content mill where we went from being paid $25 per 500 words plus royalties to $40 per 1,000 words, flat.

Then there comes self-management: the biggest bane of my existence.

As a freelancer, managing yourself is half the battle (tips for effective self-management). If you can master going to bed and waking up a certain time, you’re already ahead more than half your peers.

The flexibility of being a freelance writer is great but the price for self-management is steep.

I turned into a night owl because I’d wake up late and work all the way past 2:00 AM. That can’t be good for my health or my networking opportunities.

And of course, there’s the everyday stuff like eating, exercising, socializing etc.

All these things don’t seem important but trust me. If you neglect them, you will suffer a slow horrible descent into madness.

Killing Your Darlings: Lessons in Turning Writing from Hobby to Business

Writing is art. It’s self-expression.

You can get as wacky with your prose as you want and add the f-bomb before every adjective. It's like baking a cake and throwing in all kinds of decoration and toppings that challenge your sanity.

But writing is also a business. It’s for a purpose.

You can add a carnival of colours in your cake all you want but if nobody eats it or even finds it appealing, all that work, despite being fun was all for nought.

As much as I’d like to just sit down and write and let my mind go without worrying about consequence, readership, or practicality, I can’t.

There needs to be a purpose to what I write. And that’s what the professional side of writing has taught me.

The artist part of me weeps going through the articles I’ve written with my plain prose and lack of voice. But they were what got me paid and got me jobs.

I could pursue a career in creative writing, producing short fiction or novels. But I haven’t. And it’s because I value it too much. I don’t want to turn this into business. Not yet.

Writing isn’t always fun. I don’t always love it. I will never be the best at it and God knows how much longer I can do it.

But I know one thing: this is the only thing I want to do. Whether I’m writing for money, writing for others, or writing for the hell of it, I’ll keep doing it.

Embrace writing as both an art form and a profession. If you’re an amateur and you love writing, turn it into a profession. Make money out of it. But don’t be afraid to change or “kill your darlings”.

Improve These Three Bad Productivity Habits to Increase Focus

Steve Jobs said, “focus is about saying no to many good ideas” and that means improving bad productivity habits to increase focus.

What separates the successful from the lot is their ability to say no. We have so many distractions today and multitasking has become such a norm for most people.

But studies show multitasking is not only ineffective but also distracts us from the tasks that matter.

I’m a progressive person but when it comes to working, I am of the philosophy that “one thing at a time” is generally better than doing many things at once.

Some of us don’t get this luxury especially if you’re working in a smaller company and must wear many hats. Multitasking becomes not just a professional “skillset” but starts becoming a habit.

That’s what’s happened to me.

Doing the NOBNOM challenge, I became more aware of myself and my bad habits.

I found three bad habits I’ve started to take actionable steps against:

Eating in Front of Screens

This is probably one of the most common bad habits especially with how many screens we have: smartphones, computer monitors, television. The list goes on.

Eating is one of our basic human needs and living in developed nations, it’s often the one we take the most for granted. Even foodies can be guilty of swapping bites for bytes as they head to Instagram or Snapchat to take photos of their meals.

But what this does is create a bad habit where eating by itself isn’t satisfying anymore. It also distracts us from eating. It makes us eat longer than intended, lowers our metabolic rate, and leads to more bad habits.

I had a bad habit of going through social media while eating. I end up chatting with people or watching videos. When in front of the TV, I channel surf.

The next thing I know, my food is cold, and I must reheat it.

I’ve also lost my appetite and lost track of time.

Not only did I not fully enjoy my meal, but I wasted time and effort “entertaining” myself as well as some electricity having to nuke my half-eaten food.

Actionable Step: I started a “no screen on dinner tables” policy (that I find myself breaking occasionally); this includes anything from a smartphone to a tablet to a laptop. I avoid using the remote to turn on the TV and just eat in complete silence.

Results: I started eating faster and enjoyed my food more. Eating and finishing my food actually felt more satisfying and energized me.

Compulsively Checking Social Media

This is my worst habit and if you’re one of 2 of every 5 millennials (aged 18 to 34), it's the first thing you do when you wake up.

Social media paired with smartphones is a deadly one-two punch. It has a lot of benefits but has plenty of side effects including shortening people’s attention spans to the point everyone’s constantly on it.

But to beat this addiction, I had to find out why I’m constantly on social media and I found three reasons and developed three solutions for each:

When hitting writer’s block:

Since I’m almost always in front of a monitor writing, the temptation to go on social media is intense. It usually happens when I have trouble writing.

I instinctively go to Facebook or twitter to write there and maybe the flow will come to me. It’s a slippery slope because I end up spending more time than I intended.

What I did instead: I’d stop writing if I hit a block but not for long periods. I adapted the writing bursts tip: write in bursts of 10-15 minutes then take a five-minute break.

Alternatively, I set time limits. This added pressure can jolt creativity and get you going.

Result: I feel less drained writing and I became more efficient; instead of going through my timeline, my eyes get a much-needed rest from the screen and that’s beneficial to my health as a bonus.

When waiting for something:

This seems like the most excusable way to use social A lot of waiting happens in life particularly in my case because I don’t drive. I have to ride the train, the bus, and wait in line often times.

Going on social media seems like a solid way to pass the time. But it’s not the only way.

What I did instead: I read. Going back to Stephen King’s advice, read whenever and wherever possible. If there’s a long line at the grocery, I use Amazon Kindle or downloaded PDFs to read.

Result: it passes the time just as effectively and refreshes my perspective. I learn more things and get to make progress on my reading lists.

To avoid awkward silences

This happens in public or in parties; I’m a shy extrovert, which means I’m no better than an introvert.

As much as I enjoy meeting new people, I’m not entirely sold on my social skills.

Going on my phone has been a panic button in case I find myself in situations where I don’t know anyone and don’t want to look like a total wallflower just standing there.

What I did instead: I either left the party or talked to someone. There is no point in being in a “party” if I’m just going to stick my face in my phone for the duration. I either learn to be a part of the group or I leave.

Result: I developed my social skills and now feel more comfortable conversing with people. It’s still a work in progress and I have taken the first route a lot more. But it also helps me spend my time wisely and helps me say “no” if I feel I won’t be having a fun time.

Putting off Projects

I try not to procrastinate but it happens a lot.

It took me several months to get this website up in its current format and it’s still not 100%. It took me a while to start publishing on Medium. And don’t even get me started on my other projects that are drying up in red font on Asana task manager.

Most of us procrastinate. Even the most iron-willed busy bee will put off certain tasks. Perceiving a task to be difficult is the main reason.

study suggests the less confident we are, the more likely we are to procrastinate.

It’s like studying for a major exam. The “keeners” will be on it from the get-go but procrastinators will likely wait until the final hours to cram everything.

Procrastinating only prevents us from accomplishing our goals. It kills our sense of urgency and leads to even more procrastination.

When you put off one thing, you’ll put off another until you have an accumulation of tasks to complete and you never get to doing it because you’ve built a mountain.

Actionable Step: break apart the project into smaller pieces. This is called “chunking” and has been psychologically proven to make it easier into getting work done.

Once I started dividing projects into smaller tasks, it became simpler to complete each. And completing tasks has a similar effect as procrastinating but in a good way: you build momentum.

Results: I started working on my projects almost immediately. There was little procrastination and I felt more accomplished with each task I completed, no matter how small.

The momentum helped me complete even more tasks. Soon, I was rolling and getting things done.

Focus is About the Small Things

To achieve goals, we have to keep our eyes on the prize. That’s focus.

When it comes to big dreams, the little things matter. Our daily habits make or break whether we succeed or not.

Those who consistently improve their habits have the focus necessary to achieve their goals.

Since I’ve started improving on these, I’ve become more focused. And because I’ve become more focused, I’ve become more productive. And because I’ve become more productive, I’ve become…

You get the picture.

Bad habits can lead to more bad habits and if we don’t control them, we’ll be in their power. Soon, we could be in an unhealthy cycle filled with distractions that only hinder us from what truly matters.

But good productivity habits also lead to more good habits.

Improving bad habits and maintaining focus is an ongoing process. This is also called discipline.

I sometimes still falter and go back to doing the same bad habits. Just a few days ago I started eating in front of my tablet again. I’ve been binging on social media. And I’ve procrastinated.

Nobody’s perfect. But failing is a part of the process.

Keep in mind your bad habits and your solutions for them. Write them down and take notes. If you relapse and start doing them again, find out why.

A lot of our habits are deeply connected to something inside of us. The sooner you understand why you keep doing these bad productivity habits, the sooner you can find the correct solution.

Once you’ve mastered your bad habits, it will be easier to focus. And once you’re focused, the path to your goals only becomes clearer.