Brain Farts (& the return of Bob)

brainfartLast week – ish – I introduced you to Bob and his wish list which was, I don’t think he’ll mind me telling you, made up of quite a lot of stuff you wouldn’t ‘wish’ on your worst enemy.

Actually that’s not quite true. You probably would wish quite a lot of this stuff on your worst enemy. In fact viewed in this context, Bob’s list makes a lot more sense. I can see my enemy’s now, miserably cleaning their cookers, painting their wardrobes, and spending long hours on the phone to various banking institutions, all whilst I sit in the sun…

Anyway. After giving Bob the benefit of my advice I received the following chirpy response:

Not long after I’d sent you the email I was reading your book again and got to the page about Wish List items leading to Happiness and thought – oh my that’s it.  Lots of things on that list aren’t wish list stuff at all.  But I’d already sent the email.  I think what I presented to you isn’t my Wish List, its my list of Brain Farts.  Another book calls them pop-corn thoughts because they POP into your head.  I prefer Brain Farts.  I am a master list writer and I write all these brain farts down.  This leads to a big list that I don’t know what to do with.  Which is what I sent to you.  Its actioning the items on those lists that’s a problem.  I think what would make me happier (I’m not unhappy) is to become someone that can get those nagging jobs just done to make more space for Live Life Now Lists and Wish List stuff.

Ah Bob. I feel your pain. I’ve been there. Making endless lists of chores which if I can just get some of them completed, will free up so much time, and relieve me of all those niggles I feel through out the day.

So let me spare you some torment and make life considerably easier for you. It ain’t ever gonna happen. You’re never, ever, going to clear your brain fart list. Ever.

Have you ever noticed how it doesn’t matter how big that suitcase is, when it comes to holiday packing it’s never quite big enough?  Or how your wife manages to fill her handbag with all kinds of rubbish regardless of whether it’s the size of a small purse or large enough to comfortably hold a small child and a three volume novel. So it is with brain farts, and chores, and all those annoying things that seem to stand between you and a smile. They fill up whatever space you allow them to have. And therein is your solution. Take back control and give those farts no space whatsoever!

Now I’m not saying ignore them. That won’t work for you. Not unless you’re one of those people who are blessed with the amazing ability to live life totally in the moment, never worrying about what might happen next week, or tomorrow, or in the next five minutes, and instantly forgetting anything that happened longer than a moment ago. But chances are if you were one of those people you wouldn’t be reading this now. No – you need a way to manage those brain farts. I accept that.

Here then, is what I do.

1. When I get a brain fart I text/email myself, or write it on a scrap of paper. Anything, just to capture it and get it out of my head.

2. I have a text file on my computer desktop. You could use a pad or something equally low tech, but you need a dumping ground. As a new brain farts arrives (or you come across the ones you captured at stage one) transfer them here.

3. Once a month review this document, and group the farts together into subject matter – WRITING, FUN, NOW LIST, CHORES, FINANCES, BUSINESS TASKS, COMMITMENTS.. things like that.

4. Transfer all these items to a master to-do list, and then review it – deciding which THREE of all the brain farts under that section (including the ones from previous months) should get your attention, which can be dumped, and which should just stay in pending. Picking just three farts focuses me on what’s actually important. Often I check to see how the three things I’ve chosen relate to my Goals.

5. Having decided which three items (they’re not farts any more) I’m going to work on I then decide what the next action is for each of them (do I need to call someone? Do some research? Read a book? Buy a widget? Talk to my assistant?) and when I’m going to do that (take a look at the Advanced Diary Tips at the end of the book for more on that).

And that’s it. It’s actually a lot less onerous than it might seem, and in doing this I  prevent brain farts from taking over my life. True my oven could still do with a clean. True my wardrobe could also do with a lick of paint. True, at some point I still need to call the bank and have my sanity gradually erased by someone who has no intention of actually helping me, but… not today. Today I’m busy being happy.


Hot news! Today ‘How To Do Everything And Be Happy’ is available, in paperback, from selected US bookstores and from US cover with drop shadowamazon.COM – hurrah! 

To mark this auspicious occasion, my US publishers (Harper 360) have decided to give the US-printed paperback a brand new, all-yellow cover.

Of course the inside of the book remains exactly the same – this isn’t a new edition – so there’s no need to rush out and buy a new copy of the book if you already have one. Although I would certainly understand if that were the case. And can one ever have too many copies? Plus – one imagines – there might be those amongst you who might see a market for importing the US branded copy of the book, and selling it here in the UK as a collectors edition. I’m just saying.

Taming The Beast

lists

I’ve been having a very interesting email exchange with a reader (let’s call him ‘Bob’) about the lists mentioned in the book, and what should or shouldn’t go on them.  Here’s an extract from Bob’s opening email…

I’ve been re-reading the Wish List bit of the book and wonder whether things like ‘get boiler serviced’ are just plain old To-do lists stuff whereas having a baby is definitely Wish List stuff.  Have I got that right?  Here’s my wish list:

1.      We’re (me and Mrs) going to have a baby
2.      I’ve transferred my pension
3.      Make some money by selling our “holiday” photos
4.      Work out details of student loan
5.      Make an excel “balance sheet” and update it monthly
6.      Develop the habit of regular exercise (6 x 30 mins per week)
7.      Book – never eat alone by Keith ferrazzi
8.      Organize a new tenancy agreement
9.      The paint chip on car has been repaired free of charge
10.     Work out an annual bills saving schedule to make sure we have enough funds
11.     Get the cahoot account closed down
12.     Get the NS&I account closed down
13.     Setup an ISA for £5,000 emergency fund
14.     Get Halifax account closed down
15.     Thought = pay-off student loan or mortgage????
16.     Can we get the telephone (and television) cheaper
17.     Can we get electricity and gas cheaper
18.     Organize myself for tennis team
19.     Get the water pipe noise gone
20.     Get the boiler serviced
21.     Get the toilet repaired
22.     The doors + handles have been replaced
23.     The oven has been cleaned and is almost as good as new
24.     The road outside the house has been fixed by the council
25.     The wardrobe is painted
26.     The shelves are painted
27.     The TV cabinet is painted
28.     The gutters have been cleaned out
29.     The hole through to the bathroom has been filled
30.     The tiles, grout and sealant have the mouldy stuff removed
31.     We’ve purchased a new vacuum cleaner
32.     The mortar around the outside of the house is better (no window drafts)
33.     The damp in the kitchen is a thing of the past
34.     The front-door has been painted
35.     The doors in the bathroom have been painted
36.     We’ve fitted a shelf in the bathroom cupboard
37.     plant the seed of selling the flat
38.     The car has been thoroughly cleaned
39.     The under the stairs cupboard is more user friendly
40.     I would like metal things for my shirts
41.     We want a lamp for the lounge
42.     Cancel my subscription to men’s health magazine
43.     Cancel my subscription to wired magazine
44.     Work out how to get page counts from the printer
45.     Buy new brush heads
46.     Change address for pension
47.     Ask pension people if can have contribution back
48.     Go climbing
49.     Enter lots and lots of competitions
50.     The gambling to pay off the mortgage idea
51.     Clay pigeon shooting
52.     Water heater idea
53.     Glasses
54.     Shirts
55.     Cooking
56.     Clothes
57.     Look into getting a credit card (enjoy the benefits)
58.     Club card (enjoy the benefits)
59.     Nectar card (enjoy the benefits)
60.     Tidy wardrobe shelf
61.     Wardrobe boxes
62.     Tidy under spare bed
63.     Box to keep watches in
64.     Watch collection?….
65.     My own collection of portraits (self portraits) in a book or website
66.     Have my own website

That’s an impressive list of 66 assorted items. And Bob’s right, there are quite a few items on here that seem a tad dull and more like day-to-day to-do list items.

Let’s back up for a moment and consider what should and shouldn’t make your wish list. You’ll remember from the book that your wish-list is is basically a list of items that pop into your head when faced with the question ‘what do you want’. But I can see a number of items on Bob’s list that don’t appear to be an answer to that question. Numbers 16 and 17 for instance. They seem to be answers to a slightly different question (‘how do we reduce our outgoings?’). Number 49 is quite interesting too. Does Bob like doing lots and lots of competitions? Is that what he really wants to do?

But a wish list is more than ‘things that you want’ – if you look on page 130 of the book (the final part of the section entitled ‘Making a Wish List’) you’ll notice that items on your wish list should also be there because getting that thing would make you HAPPY!

I’m wondering just how happy Bob would be if his printer could give him page counts.

Finally, remember the idea of a wish list is to feed into your Goals. You take the top three wishes, turn them into goals, then put away the wish list until a goal slot becomes available. With this in mind, he might never get to learn about page counts.

Now I don’t mean to tease Bob, because I don’t know, maybe page counts really is a big deal for him! I have another reader for whom learning to touch type is one of her three GOALS. One of the three things she wants more than anything else in the world. She’d honestly be that happy if she could type really really fast.

What I think’s happened here is that Bob’s jumped a stage and started to do some of the GOAL related work – that of identifying the Next Action – here on his wish list. For instance, he seems to have a lot of items that are related to reducing outgoings, or increasing income. With this in mind, what I would expect to see an item on his wish list like this:

‘to be able to pay all the bills, every month, and still have enough for fun’

Then, if this item gets chosen as one of his three Goals, it might be reworded as follows…

‘Me & the Mrs manage our money effectively (pay all the bills each month) and have plenty left over for fun. December 31st 2013.’

Having written the goal he might start brainstorming ways to achieve that, at which point you’ll come up with ideas that are currently items 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 42, 43, 46, 47, 49, 50, 58, and 59 of his wish list. (Incidentally, I wouldn’t recommend 57. Having worked for credit card companies for many years I can tell you now, credit cards are evil, and no way to manage your money. Get a debit card. Enjoy those benefits.)

Likewise, he might have an item on your wish list along the lines of…

‘we live in a nice home that works!’

..and when he’s re-written it as a goal, all those house-repair jobs that are currently on his wish list (but shouldn’t be) will miraculously become possible next actions to achieving his goal.

Anyway, here’s hoping this helps Bob, and you too if you’re still struggling with your wish lists or goals. I’d really like to know your thoughts. You can post them in the comments below.

(PS. Bob gave me permission to reproduce part of our email exchange. You can email me without fear of being made into a blog post)

(PPS. That said, I am a busy bloke – free one-to-one coaching isn’t something I can necessarily offer to everyone)