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Personal Development Techniques

Personal development is a process. Is not a single task that you do once, and then forget about it. It's a continuous hunt for your next crossroad, your next challenge that you need to take, the next obstacle that you have to overcome. It's personal, so you do have an original approach. You use only tools and techniques that are working for you. You experience what's the best and then refine it. Use it and refine it. Here's my personal list of my most used techniques for personal development. As things will evolve I will come back with more and more informations for each specific technique. In chronological, Last In First Out, order:
  1. GTD = Getting Things Done.

    Getting Things Done is a methodlogy created by David Alled. It is one of the latest techniques that I tried, liked and implemented it. At the first level, GTD is focused toward business people, managers and busy persons. But it can be used for anybody that just wants to clarify its life and enjoy it more. GTD has several concepts:

    • You are an information processing machine. You process stuff. So, you must establish a consistent way to deal with it. The process of GTD is to analyse stuff and do the following: is it actionable? if YES, you move to the next step, if NO, you just chose from one of the three options: toss it (no loner needed, garbage), put it in a Someday/Maybe list (you want to action on this sometime), or file it (in a reference system, to be used lately).
    • If you answered YES at the first question, is it actionable, you have to decide "what's the next action": if there are more, you create a project, if the action is less than 2 minutes, you are doing it now, if the action does not involves you directly, you delegate it, and if it can't be done right now, you just defer it for later, in your calendar.
    • You repeat this every day, and, most important, every week. The actual repetition, or implementation of the process, is the most juicy part of GTD. And most difficult.
    • Another key concept is "mind like water", meaning one's capacity to react to some stimulus with the exact quantity of energy needed, and then regain the initial, quiet status, much like a water surface after launching a rock in it. You achieve that by constantly learning how to "empty your RAM", which is another key concept.

    I am using GTD for about three months now and the benefits are extremely visible. I benefited the most by the "empty your RAM" exercise, and the daily/weekly review.

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My OmniFocus experience is ThinkingRock

Now, that was mean, I admit. For the people that are not so into GTD, or productivity, OmniFocus is one of the most hyped GTD applications for Mac OS, and ThinkingRock is a Java application that closely follows the GTD methodology. And being Java is cross-platform, obviously. OmniFocus is not launched yet, but has had is share of buzzwords allready.

The guys at Omni just started a discussion related to their upcoming product, which is not even in beta for now, and, hey, I was a little provoked by this. Why not trying to clarify my own techniques and processes. For that, I only have one piece of software and that is ThinkingRock, so far.

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Rewire Your Brain!

Neuroplasticity is kind of a difficult word to write. It’s also kind of difficult to actually speak it out loud. But it’s one of my favorite words in the last few years. And that because it confirms one of the most important things about a human being: the fact that your brain can actually be modified by your consciousness. Your biological tissues will follow your immaterial thoughts and desires. If you think bad, you will develop and grow bad connections in your brain, in your cells, to be more precise, and you will also obfuscate the growth of other zones or tissues that could help you overcome the difficulties.

I knew about that for some time, as a personal assumption, and, one or two years ago, I had – let’s call it like this – a confirmation, after watching a Discovery documentary. It was about the taxi drivers in London, and what they have to do in order to receive their license. London is one of the most difficult cities for a taxi driver, because their street numbering and naming is quite insane. They even have a street that is called one name on one sidewalk, and another name on the other sidewalk? And, of course, with all that confusion and constant modifications of the street names (GPS doesn’t really help here) getting a taxi license is extremely difficult.

The documentary, besides the normal spectacular part, when the apprentices were awaken in the middle of the night, and imposed quizzes about some strange street names and addresses, was focused on a collateral experiment too: at the beginning of the observation of the first group of apprentices, they measured, using ultrasounds, their memory center, in the brain: dimension and weight. After two years – yes, it takes that long to get a taxi license in London – after an intense training and exercises sessions, they did the measurement again. Surprise! The center was completely modified: increased in size, and also weight. It’s like taking your brain to the gym. You exercise your brains muscles and grow them.

Last week I read a very interesting article on Time. It basically stated the same, but in a more formalized and verified form. I encourage you the read the article, won’t take you more than 5-7 minutes, and it will give you a very interesting, if not revolutionary, perspective on your own capabilities.

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Astrology And Getting Things Done

Astrology is a system that tries to explain how our existence is influenced by the whole cosmos, especially by the planets in our solar system. Each planet represents several key symbols or actions: the Sun represents our general characteristics, Venus represents relationships, Mars our energy, Jupiter our sense of expansion, and so on. There are several branches of astrology, most known being natal astrology, karmic astrology and previsional astrology. Wether you believe or not in the astrology is not the point of this. Wether it is working or not for you, is a matter of how much do you actually believe in it. If you don’t, it probably doesn’t mean a thing. If you do, then chances are that your experience and vision are much broader now. If you want a quick grasp of how you can use astrology for personal development, you can start here.

Getting Things Done, or GTD, is a methodology created by David Allen which, by applying some sort of actions to our day to day activities, helps us to enjoy life more. The traditional viewpoint about GTD is that is a technique for enhancing productivity, and, at its basics, it can be considered like this. But the real outcome of GTD is that it helps you to enjoy life more, wether you are a manager or not, wether you want to enhance your productivity or not. There are several key concepts in GTD, like: emptying the RAM, daily and weekly review, processing actions and so on. GTD is very popular among computer oriented people.

What can be the connection between such different approaches? The first one is that both are trying to enhance our general life meaning. Both are free to try by everyone. Both have a rather coach-centric approach: they are better taught, understand and applied if there is a much experienced tutor, or coach, around you to guide.

But if you are a practitioner of both, like me, there are many more connections between those techniques. I will try to outline some of the few tips that I learned by applying some astrological approaches to the GTD methodology.

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Early success – is that bad?

Success is a key concept in our world. It’s a key concept in our life, to be more precise. It’s the measure of all our actions, attitudes and thoughts. Each and every second in our life is dedicated to success, in one of its forms: from having a succesful relationship, to obtaining a success in a business contract, or to finish a personal task exactly as planned. Everything we do is planned with a positive scenario in mind, meaning we always intend to do only the best for us. And success is the most important fuel for our future actions: if we do have a high quality fuel, we will tend to have more and more successful actions. If our fuel decrease in quality, we will act in a more and more confused an ineffective way.

But what is early success? Is the retirement at the age of 30, after exploding with a dot com venture? Is the rock star that shined for one year and then sinked in the sea of depression? Is the young CEO that in the last 5 years of his thirties had never had a day of relaxation? And instead he has to manage 24 hours a day a huge multi-national company with more employees that he’ll be able to meet in this life?

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Digital Cults: Reboot Your Epiphanies

In the 19th century, the populations from Melanesia saw a bunch of ships, with white people on board, carrying a lot of goods, called, generically, cargos. In their culture, white was also the colour of the dead people, so they assumed that those ships were the ships of the dead, returning their deserved goods. So the colonists quickly realised that they were treated like mithological characters. And so was born one of the most recent religions, called cargo-cult. A religious movement doesn't necessarily have to be old. It can be as effective as an old one, if it correctly replaces and enhances (sometimes) the need for catharsis. An epiphany can be a momentarily lost of conscience at a rock concert, or even a happiness boost from a family reunion. As long as it touches your inner chords and make them sing, it does the job. In a world where the actual spiritual connection has lost its privileged space - the church - the epiphanies are held in a digital space and form. On the internet, at the computer, by holding your BlackBerry or Palm. As long as it touches your inner chords and make them sing. I am not talking about those well-known cults that are using the digital media to gather sustainers, featuring tv shows of priests and so on. They are traditionals religions. I am talking about movements or so-called organisations that most of the time doesn't even know that they are acting on a religious field. The Open Source fans. The Linux movement. The Apple fans. The GTD followers. To name only a few.
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Personal and Software development: Paid model vs Open Source model

My last try to write about something related to OS’s was somehow a flamer on digg. Myabe I haven’t stated enough during the article that I was only interested in listening to opinions from the guys that actually switched from one OS to another, and that I didn’t try make any comparison between those two OS’s. So, if I would like to talk about something far more inflamable thant that, meaning paid model development vs open source model development, I thought I’d better put up first a

Disclaimer

This article represents my personal opinions only and is not endorsed by any company or foundation. Also, my intentions is, foremost, to just express my ideas about the values that each model could have, and not to accuse, adhere to or specifically endorse any of them.

Wow, it’s cool to be relaxed, so let’s start our little walk on the park of the personal and software development.

First of all, yest, it’s an odd pair: personal and software development. But I told you from the beginning: you wouldn’t find usual stuff here. Not because usual is not good, but because new connections and standpoints can always shed some new light and reveal new thinking paths on any topic you can imagine.

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When and why I broke up with… linux

Linux is a great thing. It had one of the longest hype period on the digital media, and still gather evangelists all over the world. It was the beginning of a new era. It was the sign of the liberty of software rising against the chains of proprieatry model and corporate giants. It was a chance for millions of programmers to make a decent living.

But all of that doesn’t necessarily make Linux a great choice for desktop productivity. Also, for the middle to top managers, I don’t really think it will make his entry. In my series of “When and why I broke up with…” posts, I will try to outline below my reasons for switching from Linux to Mac OS on my day to day work.

First of all, for all of you that are asking: “but why Mac OS, and not Windows?”, I will simply answer: because I needed something that actually works. Period.

Second, I will tell you what I think about Linux as a day to day OS from a manager standpoint:

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MAC OS X – Quicksilver: instantly create text files and prepend or append text to them

Suppose you are in the middle of something, reading a post on a blog, or writing a fine article in your editor of choice, or even writing some code for your ground breaking web 2.0 application. And ka-boum: you have an idea! Something so interesting, so juicy and fun to think about crosses your mind, than you feel you can’t live anymore until you actually write down that piece of thought. Somewhere, somehow. So there you go:

  1. leave your current activity/application
  2. open Finder (or some other program menu containing an outliner application shortcut, for instance)
  3. open that outliner application
  4. open a new file in it
  5. start writing the marvelous idea
  6. hit save as menu item
  7. chose location and save
  8. close the outliner application
  9. return to your current activity/application

But here’s how it would look like, if you would use Quicksilver:

  1. type CTRL + spacebar to invoke Quicksilver window (while having the current activity/application still in front of you)
  2. type “.” and start writing your marvelous idea
  3. hit TAB and type “cre..” meaning the first letters of your “Create file” action of Quicksilver, and then enter (this really counts like a single action)
  4. chose location and save
  5. hit escape to hide Quicksilver window

Huh! We are four steps shorter than the original approach. That counts for less physical work, and less time, almost half, right? Nice, isn’t it? But that’s not the only advantage: you actually remain in the flow, while your thoughts are free to fly. Isn’t that really nice?

So, how we actually do that?

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