5 Elements of a Good Gantt Chart

The Gantt chart is a powerful project planning and management tool. It helps you visualize your task progress over time, and can also be used as a way to report the overall progress of your project.
But it also confuses the heck out of some people.
All those tiny horizontal bars cascading down off into the horizon look pretty, but they get in the way of the spreadsheet columns. And then there are words like “baseline” and “critical path” that are useless to anyone who just wants to simply manage their tasks and team.
You might think that Gantt charts are only for experts, right?
Wrong! When you know the basics of a Gantt chart, you can save a lot of time and money managing and planning your projects.
And they’re really quite easy to use, now that they’re online. In fact, with an online Gantt, you simply add your tasks, and the Gantt magically appears to represent the rows of tasks and the deadlines you set.
The result is a visual of each task’s duration, which is really handy for getting clear on how long your project will actually take. But not all Gantt’s are alike.
Here are the 5 elements of a good Gantt chart:
1. Drag & Drop
As you fill out your tasks in the spreadsheet, you’ll see your Gantt populating to represent how long that task will take to complete. But it’s really handy if you want to change the date of the task delivery right on the Gantt.


Find a tool where you can just drag & drop the task bar to extend or shorten its date, and then have that data populate magically on your spreadsheet. It saves time and sanity.
2. Milestones
When you’re planning your project, it’s helpful to think of several key milestones to define either key project phases or just key dates in the life of the project, like the start of quality testing, for example. In some Gantt chart tools, a milestone can be represented as a little diamond over a key task.
This little diamond is your friend. It can help you see at-a-glance when key parts of your project are coming up. You might even want to plan meetings around those milestones. Just a suggestion.
3. Color-Coding
You can use colors to represent any number of things: the person the task is assigned to, different project phases like planning or QA, client-focused tasks, or anything else you can think of.
Look for a tool that allows you to set the colors as you see fit. It can actually be… fun!
4. Task Dependencies
Some tasks are dependent on others and can’t be started until one is complete. When that first task is running behind schedule, however, it’s vital to be able to accommodate changes to the downstream and dependent tasks to make sure they don’t start ahead of time. You can link tasks together in some online Gantt charts to help manage tasks when they become complex. It’s really simple to do.
5. Collaborative
This is probably the most important element of a good Gantt chart. Rather than have the project spreadsheet or Gantt on someone’s desktop (where no one can see it) look for an online Gantt that the whole team can participate in.
And they don’t actually need to know how to use the Gantt chart!
Amazingly, your team can simply update tasks in their simple task list, by adding photos, videos, notes or documents, and those are automatically added to the Gantt as an attachment on the task itself! In this way, the whole team is connected to the Gantt and your project is updated by the whole team.

Eight Steps to Use Projects to Close Organization Gaps

A project approval process is part of portfolio management. In many companies, the project approval process starts during a yearly business planning process. Projects are submitted, evaluated and approved for the following fiscal year. The following process represents a very simplified and high-level view of what is involved.


1. Complete Future State Analysis: Evaluate the future state of the organization and the marketplace. Questions include: What is the vision for the organization in three (to five) years? What will the marketplace be like? Where will the competitors be? What capabilities need to be in place?

2. Complete Current State Analysis: Evaluate where the organization is today. Questions include: What are the strengths and weaknesses? What is the primary mission and strategy? Are you winning or losing in the marketplace?

3. Create Gap Analysis: What has to happen to move the organization from where it is today to where it needs to be in the future? What skills need to be built? What capabilities need to be in place? What information systems need to be developed or purchased? What processes need to be implemented?

4. Propose projects to close the gap: What projects must be funded to get the organization from where it is to where it needs to be? This ends up being a wish list of work, including both IT and business initiatives.

5. Create a business case for each project: The business case provides enough preliminary information so that the projects can be prioritized later. This could include:

  • Assigning a sponsor.

  • High-level business requirements and major deliverables.

  • High-level estimated effort, cost, and duration.

  • High-level cost-benefit analysis. 

  • Describe how the project aligns to goals and strategies.

  • High-level risk analysis.

6. Prioritize the projects: Prioritize the projects based on business value and alignment to goals and strategies. This is not always an apples-to-apples comparison, since there are many reasons why a particular project might be of value. Even though all of the projects provide value to the business in some way, some projects may be rejected altogether while those remaining will end up on a prioritized list.

7. Determine which projects will be funded: The projects with the highest priority to the organization are put forward for funding. This could include the entire prioritized list, or some subset. For instance, the organization may have 20 prioritized projects, but may have funding for only 10. Projects that do not get funded go on a portfolio backlog.

8. Initiate the project: After the project is approved, at some point it will be ready for executing. The business sponsor should revalidate the business case to ensure the project is still viable. The organization must be prepared to commit the resources required to complete the project. If those items are all in place, and the organization is still in agreement to proceed, then you can start the project planning process.

Are You a Nervous Presenter?

It is said that all people fear two things – death and public speaking. Having to present in front of others can be nerve-racking – even for experienced speakers. You are not going to find the answers in your Communication Plan. Here are some tips to help you feel more confident.


1. Prepare.

Nothing gives you as much confidence as being prepared. Of course, you need to know the content, but you should also understand the structure of your presentation and how you will move from point to point. You don’t need (or want) to memorize the presentation, but you don’t want to forget things either. You should rehearse the presentation multiple times. This could be in front of a safe audience, or even saying the words to yourself. You don’t want to read content from a slide, but having the overall session framed by some slides with bullet points can keep you on topic and make the presentation more comfortable.

2. On the day of the presentation.

Get yourself mentally and physically prepared.

  • Get a good night’s sleep.
  • Eat a healthy meal.
  • Try to free your schedule, so you’re more relaxed.
  • Before you present, spend 15 minutes going over your presentation one last time. You should have a copy of your presentation that you can review.
  • Relax.

3. Use confident body language.

Much of your message is relayed through your body language.

  • Make eye contact with people.
  • Appear confident using an open stance. Stand tall.
  • Smile and let your personality shine.
  • Walk around a little.
  • Vary your voice and use slow, open hand gestures.
  • Speak slowly and carefully, but passionately. If you’re enthusiastic about the topic, then your listeners will be as well.

4. Look for opportunities for interaction.

Encourage interaction with others during your presentation. When others talk for a few seconds, it takes the focus off you and lets you clear your head and focus on the key points ahead. Interaction also keeps the audience engaged. Public speaking is one of the hardest things to master. If you prepare carefully, have a great mindset and are enthusiastic, you will deliver a great presentation.

Eight Less Obvious Ways to Find Project Success

There are many techniques and processes to help you be successful on a project. Some of them like better estimating and defining requirements are pretty standard and obvious. Here are some other ways to increase the likelihood of success on your project that are not so obvious.

big picture

Understand the big picture and the details

If the devil is in the details, there is nothing more devilish than the complex and intertwining dependencies of a project. You need to be aware of the details, even if you don’t react to each detail each time. At the same time, it’s just as important to see the big picture. Understanding the overall purpose and objectives of the project allows you to make decisions based on broader context. The big picture also allows you to see trends before problems emerge.

Make decisions quickly

Over analyzing and procrastination are a problem on many projects. Use the best information you have available to make decisions quickly. Even if it’s not the BEST decision, a GOOD decision suffices in nearly all cases.

Communication heavily

You can never have enough communication. If the worst thing is that somebody says they already know what you just told them, great. The discussion will be short. However, for every time you hear that, you will have five more instances where the person was not aware.

Manage risks proactively

This one might fall into the more obvious category. But it is surprising to me how many projects do not formally manage risks. Some projects identify risks but don’t put a plan in place to manage them. Risk management does not take so much time. All successful project managers do it.

Manage expectations

Many project managers communicate, but not effectively. The do not realize how to communicate what is happening now and the future looks like. If you have ever surprised a sponsor or customer, you probably were not managing expectations well.

Make sure you get major documents approved

Sometimes we are just too busy to get approvals for documents even if you know you need them. The result is often that there is a disagreement with the approver after the fact, causing rework and conflict.

Involve stakeholders throughout the project

We should all know it is important to understand project stakeholders. But often we focus on stakeholders at the beginning and the end of the projects. To be really successful you need to engage key stakeholders all the way through the project.

Cultivate excellent relationships with the Project Sponsor

Stakeholder management is important, but one stakeholder is more important then the rest – the sponsor. Go out of your way to develop a good relationship with the sponsor.

Use all the obvious techniques for project success, plus these eight that are a little less obvious. You will have a much better chance for success.

Stop Pushing Yourself: 10 Crucial Steps to Avoid Burnout


“I actually think burnout is the wrong description of it. I think it’s ‘burn up.’ Physiologically, that is what you are doing because of the chronic stress being placed on your body.” ~Richard Boyatzis

Some years ago, when my mother told me that a friend of hers had experienced burnout, I didn’t really listen. Actually, I didn’t want to hear about it. I even felt irritated because she felt sorry for people who got burned out.

My opinion was that they were just being ridiculous and exaggerating.

It was an excuse, supported by a medical certificate from some doctor they knew well, so that they could stay home, plant basil in the garden, drink tea, and read good books in front of the fire. They were simply lazy folks who just couldn’t be bothered working.

Some lessons are learned the hard way. Others, really hard. A last few change you for life.

For me, burnout was life-changing; it turned my aggressive skepticism into factual knowledge. Almost annihilated by the beast of burnout, I’ve recovered, humbled and grateful to be alive.

The other day I sat down and flipped through my journals from the past years. It was overwhelming. I felt so heartbreakingly sad for myself, for what I’ve put myself through.

There was page after page of me worrying about alarming issues and symptoms I was experiencing, for a period of several years. There were lists of points I raised with my doctor, trying to figure out what was wrong with me. He kept saying the same thing over and over, but it was impossible for me to take it in.

He said, “Be careful, Mrs. Torneryd. You have all the symptoms of a textbook burnout.” My answer was always the same: “I cannot get burned out. It can’t happen to me; I’m not that type of person.”

Some of the points from my diary:

  • When in bed, I can’t remember if I’ve brushed my teeth.
  • I feel panic while driving; other cars are getting too close to me.
  • My skin is a mess, and my hair looks dead.
  • I’ve experienced three double-sided pneumonias over the past eleven months.
  • I have constant ringing in my ears.
  • Even when I sleep, I don’t let my head rest on the pillow.
  • I wake up around twenty times per night (cramp, sweat, pee).
  • I feel pressure over my chest, and I can’t breathe properly.
  • My heart is very often offbeat.
  • My intestines are destroyed; I look eight months pregnant ten minutes after every meal. I even pooped myself in the super-market—with no premonition.
  • My gallstones are stuck in the bile duct, requiring surgery.

I was in a constant state of “I can’t do this anymore,” but there was nothing major I could change for instant relief. It was a combination of circumstances: the aftermath of bad choices, my workload, and my competitive character.

Every part of me—body, mind, and soul—was desperate to stop the life-drenching feeling of having nothing left in me to give or take from. I was wasted, worn-out, and destroyed.

Even so, I just kept going, repeating to myself, “When you’re down and out, there’s always 20 percent of your strength left” (a quote from martial art trainer). And I kept using my remaining strength over and over again.

People talk about “hitting the wall.” I hit that wall about five years ago—full speed, head first.

Since then, I’ve been forcing forward through concrete, screws, electric wires, and bricks. Then it happened: I made it through that thick wall, only to realize that on the other side was nothing but a fathomless, evil black hole. I fell until I crash landed, and then there was nothing left of me.

On the 17th of February 2014, my body collapsed. I had my first full-blown panic attack, immediately followed by a second one.

At first, it felt like my spine muscle cramped. I tried stretching and rubbing against a door post, in vain. I couldn’t breathe properly.

My lungs started pumping frenetically, and I could do nothing to stop it. It felt like I was suffocating. I seriously thought that I was having a heart attack and would die. Eventually, I passed out.

I finally accepted the message my body had been trying to communicate to me for years—I needed to make monumental changes in my situation, then and there, or I would lose my sanity, at the least.

For the first four weeks of my sick leave, I did nothing but sleep. It was not by choice. I simply collapsed—on the sofa, my bed, and even on the floor. I just couldn’t stay awake.

After the sleep marathon came sadness. I felt so incredibly sad, alone, and abandoned. I felt betrayed by society and my employer.

When I didn’t feel any more sadness, I started my healing journey to peace and acceptance and began reading self-help books. Every day I made an effort to rescue myself.

Eventually, a shift took place. Step-by-step, I built myself a ladder, careful not to go back to the wall I’d fallen out of, and I started to see the light at the top of that horrid black hole.


You don’t need to push yourself to this point—not if you follow these steps to avoid an imminent burnout:

1. Accept your limits.

It is not admirable to push yourself when your body and mind beg you to stop.

2. Clarify major energy thieves and avoid them.

Limit your contact with people who drain you, make hurtful comments, and complain. Pay your bills on time. Clean your home so you feel calm there, not stressed and surrounded by chaos. Eat fresh food and spend less time distracting yourself with technology.

3. Value yourself first.

Fear of rejection is also self-rejection; stop worrying about others’ opinions.

4. Get support and perspective.

Trust someone close with your feelings and challenges.

5. Ask for help.

It actually feels quite wonderful to receive.

6. Make choices that are good for you and make you happier, healthier, and stronger.

Get enough sleep to keep cortisol (the stress hormone) levels down, and don’t skip breakfast!

7. Get twenty minutes of sun every day.

This gives your body the Vitamin D it needs to function properly, though you can also get it from a supplement.

8. Get low-impact exercise three times per week.

When we exercise, the brain releases the “happy hormone” endorphin.

9. Don’t push yourself too far for the sake of progress.

Strive to improve, but never push yourself if you feel it’s hurting you.

10. Never ignore your intuition.

Listen to your body and do all you can to be kind to yourself.

Obviously, burnout is not some fake thing lazy folks pretend to have so they can stay home from work.

It is a force that can knock you out completely, making it difficult to deal with the simplest of tasks, like taking a shower or cooking a meal; and almost impossible to handle normal things, like leaving your home, shopping for food, and answering phone calls.

I officially apologize for all my previously judgmental thoughts on this area.

You don’t get burned out because you’re too weak. You get burned out because you’ve tried to stay strong for way too long!

What I Know at 40 That I’d Tell Myself at 20

by Skylar Liberty Rose 

Picture yourself in your mind’s eye twenty years ago. Who do you see? What shaped your world at that time? If you could go back to that instant, what would you say to your younger self?

I’ve been considering this very thing for the past few days as approaching the close of the year is often a time for reflection.


Here are some of the things my 40 year self would have liked to have told my 20 year self.

1) You are good enough. It’s important so I’ll say it again. You are good enough. Even when you think you’re not and especially when you’re told that you aren’t. You are. Hang on to that.

2) This too shall pass. It may sting, it may smart, it may hurt like hell but it will pass. In the depths of pain you will find a steely strength that you couldn’t have acquired any other way. Don’t tinge it with bitterness. Keep it pure and forge your way forward.

3) You will mess up. Sometimes it will be in small ways and sometimes things will blow up in your face. Learn to take responsibility for your own actions. Be accountable and look for the lesson. Then, move on.

4) Dream big. You don’t have to play small. You have a unique light that wants to shine and glow and guide. Don’t dim that light for anyone. Ever.

5) Your parents did the best they could with what they had. Just like you are now.

6) Love hard. Love with every ounce of your being. Love with every fibre of who you are. Don’t dilute it or avoid it because of fear. To know love you will also know hurt and loss at some point. Love anyway. Re-read number two.

7) Listen to your creative spirit. Your soul wants to sing to a song that only you can write the lyrics to. Nurture each creative calling. Allow yourself freedom of artistic expression without questioning it’s worth or acceptance.

8) Don’t stay stuck. You will change and you will learn and you will grow. Your fluidity is natural and necessary. Don’t try to contain your colours or restrict your movement. At different ages you will have different yearnings. Go with them. Trust the voice at your core. Explore and play. Let life show you it’s wonder.

9) Cherish the friendships that matter. The ones that withstand time and distance. The ones that survive obstacles and challenges. These are the friendships that will carry you through the darker times and elevate you higher during happy times.

10) Learn to let go. People and possessions will sometimes pass through your life. There will be times when you will want to hang on tightly. To secure what you think you cannot endure losing. The freedom you seek is found when you loosen your grip and let go.

11) Neither your bank balance nor your weight define you. Strive to stay well balanced with both but let your ultimate aim be health and happiness. Don’t get too hung up on figures of any kind. Your self worth is not a number.

12) Be grateful. Cultivate gratitude and give thanks for what you have. Do this daily and you will change your focus from what you think you lack to what you realise you are enriched with.

13) Be open to change. Nothing in this world is permanent. Change may frighten you but without it nothing new can occur. No new joy can be experienced. No amazing transformations can take place.

14) Remember you have a choice. Always. It may not be a desirable choice or an easy one but you do have the freedom to choose. Even when it comes to the actions of others, you have a choice on how to respond and how to process your thoughts. Choose wisely.

15) Blaze your own trail. Be yourself. Don’t compare yourself to others. You are your own unique, flawed, colourful, wonderful self. There is only one of you and there will only ever be one quite like you. Go out into the world and make your mark. Be proud to own who you are and what you do. Be courageous. Fly high. Create the life you want to live and be who you were born to be.

3 Tips to Embrace Imperfections and Bounce Back from Mistakes

by Jennifer Twardowski

“There is a kind of beauty in imperfection.” ~Conrad Hall

Back when I was a teenager, I was kind of a perfectionist. Or, well, I wasn’t really a perfectionist—I was actually a “fake” perfectionist.

Allow me to explain: I put on the perfectionist persona. I acted and behaved in a certain way so that everyone (including both my fellow classmates and teachers) thought and believed that I was the perfect student when I wasn’t.

Everybody thought I was the student who got straight A’s, was a bookworm, was involved in every extracurricular activity that ever existed, never got in trouble in school for anything ever, and was an overall stellar student.

Though some of those things were kind of true—I mean, I was involved in a lot of activities and I never did get a detention ever—I was very far from a stellar student.

I didn’t get A’s in middle and high school; I mostly got C’s. I certainly wasn’t a bookworm; I hated reading all this fiction stuff I was told to write book reports on.

The truth of it all was that I was really stellar at one thing: faking my own perfection. I had mastered the skill of being seen as the perfect, most stellar student in order to hide my own shortcomings.  

I was trying to hide that I wasn’t so great at studying and getting good grades. I was trying to hide that I did, in fact, get in trouble every so often.

I was trying to hide my own imperfections. I was terrified that the world would see that I had weaknesses and inner wounds. I feared that others would know that there were tasks that I was not good at or just flat-out could not do.

To this day, the fear of others seeing my imperfections is still an issue to some extent. Like the fear of judgement that comes up whenever I make a typo in an article or whenever I give a presentation and accidentally mispronounce a word.

My inner critic still likes to creep in and try to debilitate me from moving forward.

Whether we are a child trying to avoid bad grades or an adult who is trying to write the perfect book, we are all struggling with accepting our own imperfections.

We are all on the journey of hindering the voice of our inner critic and allowing our true selves (imperfections and all) to be seen.


Here are three ways that can help you create a habit of accepting your own imperfections:

1. Focus on utilizing your strengths, not your weaknesses. 

Many of us grew up societies where we were told we have to really focus on strengthening our weaknesses. If we weren’t great at math, then we got the idea that we needed to spend more of our time and energy strengthening our abilities in math.

Though there are benefits to strengthening our weaknesses, it can really cause a blow to our self-esteem and motivation to focus on them. We can develop the idea that just because we are not good at this one thing, then we are a failure.

So ask yourself: What things am I really good at? Is it music? Languages? Writing? Speaking? Physics? Identify what things come natural to you and make it a goal to really enhance your gifts so you can be the best that you can be.

2. When you mess up, say to yourself, “I am beautiful!” Then write down all the ways that you are beautiful.

Let’s get real here: Whether you are doing something that is your strength or your weakness, at some point or another you are going to mess up.

The problem, however, is that when we do mess up, many of us shut down. We stop trying, and our inner critic starts telling us how we are not good enough.

Next time you mess up when you’re doing something, say out loud, “I am beautiful!” Then get out a sheet of paper and write down ways that you are beautiful. What are the good things that you do for others? What are the amazingly beautiful qualities that you have?

To enhance this even more, make it a habit to do this same thing when someone else messes up.  See someone trip over their words during a speech? Remind yourself that they are beautiful, and why. See someone make a typo? Remind yourself that they are beautiful, and then write down a quality that they possess that makes them so beautiful.

We are all connected, so by sending other people love when they expose their own imperfections, we will give ourselves space to heal as well.

3. When you mess up, just keep going.

For many of us, the problem is that when we mess up, we just stop working. We get so caught up in the belief of “I am not good enough” that we stop ourselves from moving forward.

I struggled with this constantly when I took my very first watercolor painting class two years ago while I was living in Korea. Over and over again I found myself making a small error, getting all worked up about it, shutting down, and basically just wanting my art teacher to do it for me.

Over time I gradually learned to just let it go and keep going. I ultimately developed and strengthened my skills by setting the intention to keep going regardless of any errors I made along the way.

So, whenever you do mess up, whether that be using the wrong brush for that one stroke, saying the wrong thing, losing something important, or tripping over your own two feet, just brush it off and keep on going.

Breaking down, stopping, and worrying about it doesn’t allow us heal and transform. Accepting the mistake and continuing to act does!

Let Go of Control: How to Learn the Art of Surrender

by Dr. Amy Johnson

“If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking.” ~Proverb

I’ve noticed that things go much more smoothly when I give up control—when I allow them to happen instead of making them happen. Unfortunately, I’m terrible at this.

Although I’m much better than I used to be, I’m a bit of a control freak. I often use perfectly good energy trying to plan, predict, and prevent things that I cannot possibly plan, predict, or prevent.

For example, I wonder if my baby is going to get a proper nap when we travel and, if not, just how crabby she might be. I think through her travel and napping patterns, attempting to figure out exactly what we’re up against, as if her sleep is something I can control.

I also think about the weather a lot when out-of-town guests are visiting. I spend my already-limited time planning for every possible weather/mood combination when considering our itinerary.

Like most humans I know, I spend a lot of time in business that’s not mine. The baby’s business, my friends’ business, Mother Nature’s business.

As a recovering control freak, there are three things I know for sure about trying to control things:

1. We try to control things because of what we think will happen if we don’t.

In other words, control is rooted in fear.

2. Control is also a result of being attached to a specific outcome—an outcome we’re sure is best for us, as if we always know what’s best.

When we trust that we’re okay no matter what circumstances come our way, we don’t need to micro-manage the universe. We let go. And we open ourselves to all sorts of wonderful possibilities that aren’t there when we’re attached to one “right” path.

3. The energy of surrender accomplishes much more than the energy of control.

I suspect it’s slightly different for everyone, but here’s what ‘control mode’ looks and feels like for me:  My vision gets very narrow and focused, my breath is shallow, adrenaline is pumping and my heart rate increases.

My mind shifts from topic to topic and from past to future very quickly, and I have little concentration, poor memory, and almost no present-moment awareness.

In surrender mode, I’m calm, peaceful. Breathing deeply, present in the moment. I see clearly and my vision extends out around me, allowing me to (literally) see the bigger picture.

So the great irony is that attempting to control things actually feels less in control. When I’m micro-managing and obsessing over details, I know I’m in my own way.

Young woman drinking coffee and reading book sitting indoor in u

The Art of Surrender

Surrender literally means to stop fighting. Stop fighting with yourself. Stop fighting the universe and the natural flow of things. Stop resisting and pushing against reality.

Surrender = Complete acceptance of what is + Faith that all is well, even without my input.

It’s not about inaction. It’s about taking action from that that place of surrender energy.

If letting go of control and surrendering not only feel better, but actually produce better results, how do we do that?

Sometimes it’s as easy as noticing that you’re in control mode and choosing to let go—consciously and deliberately shifting into surrender energy.

For example, when I become aware that I’m in control mode, I imagine that I’m in a small canoe paddling upstream, against the current. It’s hard. It’s a fight. That’s what control mode feels like to me.

When I choose to let go and surrender, I visualize the boat turning around, me dropping the oars, and floating downstream.

I’m being gently pulled, no effort necessary on my part. Simply breathing and saying, “Let go of the oars” is usually enough to get me there.

Sometimes it’s a little harder to make the shift from control to surrender. Here are a few questions that can help:

1. What am I afraid will happen if I let go of control?

When you pinpoint the fear, question its validity. Ask yourself, Is it true? If you’re afraid the night will be ruined if your boyfriend doesn’t remember to pick up eggplant (and you’ve already reminded him 14 times), question that assumption.

Can you really know the night would be ruined without the eggplant? And if it would be ruined (by your definition, anyway), what’s so bad about that?

2. Find out whose business you’re in.

Your business is the realm of things that you can directly influence. Are you there? Or are you in someone else’s business? When we’re trying to control things outside of our own business, it’s not going to go well.

3. Consider this: Would letting go feel like freedom?

It almost always would. Let that feeling of freedom guide you toward loosening your grip.

A Friendly Universe

Einstein said, “The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.”

I believe in a friendly universe.

Being receptive and allowing things to happen is a skill that can be practiced and improved upon. It helps to believe in a friendly universe—one that is supporting you at every turn so that you don’t have to worry yourself over the details.

We can always choose to do things the easy way or the hard way. We can muscle through, or we can let go of the oars and let the current carry us downstream.

There is a peaceful, yet focused energy that accompanies holding the intention of what I want, but not forcing myself to do it. That energy is magic. I’m still a work in progress, but I’m allowing it to become a habit instead of making it a habit.

25 Little Changes to Make the Day More Exciting

by Lori Deschene

“All appears to change when we change.” -Henri-Frédéric Amiel

I admit it, I’m a change addict. I love new cities, apartments, jobs, and friends. This can be both a strength and a weakness.

On the one hand, I never shy away from a new experience or opportunity. On the other hand, it takes a strong effort for me to stick with anything once the novelty wears off.

So today I started thinking about all the ways I can make a day exciting without changing any of the big things that need to stay constant if I’m to make progress on my larger goals. Here’s what I’ve come up with:


1. Start the day with a blank piece of paper and the question: “What if today were my last?”

Write down what you’d do differently and then try to do at least five of those things.

2. Wear something much bolder than you usually do.

This gives people the opportunity to see you in a new light, which means they may interact with you differently.

3. Take a different path when you walk to work.

Maybe you’ll pass a restaurant you’d like to try sometime or a gym that’s offering free classes.

4. If you drive, park your car a mile away and take the bus the rest of the way.

I did this one time and met a man on the bus who I dated for a month. Well worth the detour!

5. If you take public transportation for your commute, make the time meditative or educational.

Practice deep breathing, listen to soothing music, or download an audio book for the ride.

6. Bring your camera and take pictures of things that catch your eye throughout the day.

You’ll notice a lot more than you usually do—and new people will likely talk to you to figure out what you’re doing.

7. Change your workspace.

Bring new pictures and candles, or move your desk if you’re able. Rearranging furniture always makes my space more exciting.

8. Start collecting something you often see throughout the day.

It will make the whole day more interesting if you have your eyes peeled for rare coins, specific pens, and odd food labels.

9. Make it a goal to talk to five people you don’t know.

And I mean real conversations. Ask them what they do on the weekends, what their favorite memory is, and whether or not they like spam. (Okay, the last one is less interesting, but I think it says a lot about you if you eat unidentifiable lunch meat.)

10. Commit to complimenting everyone you encounter on something.

Sometimes it will be easy; sometimes it will be challenging. Every time it will brighten someone’s day and fill you with joy.

11. Take a class during your lunch break.

Head to the gym, learn to do pottery, start guitar lessons. You can always eat a sandwich at your desk later.

12. Eat lunch at a different time than usual.

You never know what you’re missing in the office when you head out at the same time every day.

13. Make lunch and bring enough for two people.

Then offer some to someone in your office.

14. Give yourself a challenge.

Maybe it’s to find a lower car insurance rate or talk to someone you secretly admire. I get a big kick out of little victories like these.

15. Read about a topic that’s completely new and interesting to you.

Then start a conversation about it. It’s always fun to share a new passion, especially if the other person gets excited, too.

16. Learn ten new words from a thesaurus and then use them all twice during the day.

Maybe I’m just a dork but I get excited about stretching my vocabulary!

17. Practice mindfulness during a boring activity.

In Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh’s book The Miracle of Mindfulness, he explains how he stays fully present when washing the dishes—and enjoys it. Anything can be interesting if you get curious about how it works.

18. Count risks.

See how many (smart) risks you can take throughout the day, like accepting a difficult assignment or committing to something you’ve never done before.

19. Say yes to everything.

In the movie Yes Man, Jim Carrey said yes to absolutely everything, even an intimate moment with someone’s grandma. I’m not suggesting you go to that extreme, but you’ll likely have an exciting day if you say yes to most things you’re asked.

20. Commit random acts of kindness.

You’ll get a warm fuzzy feeling and you’ll create some good karma for yourself. You never know when that kindness will come back to you and open up your world.

21. Bet on things.

Once on The Office everyone bet on stupid things, like how long it would take Kelly to explain Netflix to Ryan, or whether Creed would notice they replaced his apple with a potato. If you’re pulling an all-nighter, this could be a fun way to hold onto your sanity.

22. Set up a profile on a dating site (if you’re single).

I was on Match.com for a while—don’t laugh—and I have to admit I kind of watched my email like a kid counting down ‘til Christmas.

23. Ask someone to come out to play.

Kids are always willing to jump around, get messy, and give get their blood pumping. You still have legs and endorphins—tap into that. Play basketball after work, go bike riding, or spend some time on the swings.

24. Learn something new during all your routine activities.

When you buy coffee, ask the barista how long the shop has been there. When you make copies, pay attention to how the machine works.

25. Swap apartments with a friend for a night.

Assuming you trust each other, why not? A change of scenery can work wonders; and it’s always fun to see how someone else lives.

I once read that intelligent people are never bored because they’re always curious. You’re smart—start exploring! If you keep your mind engaged and fresh during your downtime, you’ll have far more passion and focus when it’s time to get productive. And equally important, you’ll enjoy more of the minutes that would otherwise just pass by.

Do Affirmations Work? Yes, If You Know the Rules!

by Evelyn Jacob

“Do affirmations work?” is a very common question that all personal development teachers hear over and over. The short answer is, YES.

Think about it. All day long, you are talking to yourself. Whether what you say is positive and empowering or negative and disempowering, the point is, YOU LISTEN, you believe yourself, and you act on what you tell yourself. Therefore, what you tell yourself over and over again, with feeling, does imprint in your subconscious mind and it does influence your behavior.

For example, if all your life you’ve been telling yourself, “I’m no good at art. I can’t draw even the simplest thing!” then that is a command. With repetition you start to believe it, and so anytime you’re asked to draw something, you hesitate or refuse.

So based on all the negative self-talk you’ve been subjecting yourself to, with negative results, it stands to reason that if you shift your self-talk toward the positive end of the spectrum, your behavior and your results will change for the better.

Knowing that you DO listen to yourself, and follow through on your self-commands, here are some rules for saying the right affirmations in the right way, that will make them effective in creating a better life:

First, eliminate the word “affirmations” from your vocabulary if you’ve tried saying affirmations in the past and they didn’t work. You don’t want the negative connotation tainting what you are telling yourself. Let’s call it “self-talk” or “commands.” If you don’t mind the word, go ahead and use it.

Be in a happy frame of mind - exercise helps!And now, the rules:

1. Be in a relaxed and happy frame of mind. That’s not always possible, for example if you’re buried in debt, stressed out about it, and you want to change your financial situation. But you can do it. Exercise is one way to snap out of a negative mindset so that you can use positive feelings to drive your self-talk. If you’re stressed, your self-talk creates negative feelings and these in turn cause you to think more negative thoughts. Flip that switch! Go for a run, bike ride, walk, do some yoga, dance, hit the racquetball around, play some hoops… whatever – get those endorphins coursing through your body and then when you’re feeling great, do your self-talk (even during exercise, if you want!).

2. Focus only – emphasis on ONLY – on what you want. That is, think about the end goal and how incredibly fabulous you feel when you think about that goal. Never mention the current situation because every single mention or thought about it, only gives it that much more importance. Your subconscious mind’s job is to match your outer reality to your inner reality so don’t think about what you want to get away from… think only about what you want.

3. Feel it. In fact, you’re going to use these positive feelings to drive the idea “home” into your subconscious. The secret key is to be happy, and at the same time talk about how great you feel when you think about your goal. For example, “I love how I feel when I think about having a successful web design business!” or “I feel so good when I imagine helping women with career and business coaching!” or “I feel like I’m soaring, I’m so happy thinking about traveling the world as a photojournalist!”

Using feelings is the secret to moving past “what is” in your physical reality and allowing yourself to believe the “what is” that lies in your imagination… the “what is” that is already real in your mind and just needs to be brought into your physical reality.

The reason using feelings works because your subconscious mind has filters in place that disallow conflicting ideas to enter. That’s why affirmations like, “I am a successful artist” will work eventually, but it takes a LOT longer because your mind creates resistance to this idea based on what it already knows. However, the mind does not filter out feelings. So use the feelings as a carrier. It’s a sneaky way to imprint cool new ideas and beliefs into your subconscious mind!

4. Never mind “how.” That’s your subconscious mind’s job, so just let it do its work. Say your affirmations in the present tense, and let that idea “ferment” in your mind and solutions will come forth. You can always add, “or better” to any affirmation to open yourself up for a better alternative!

5. Never put timelines on your affirmations! Who’s to say it won’t happen sooner than you think? The fact is, unless your beliefs are in line with what you want, you won’t receive what you want. So be patient and work on those beliefs. Once they’re aligned vibrationally, manifestation can be quite spontaneous.

6. Practice daily. It took time to create self-defeating mental habits, so it will take time to create empowering mental habits – anywhere from 21 to 90 days to imprint a new belief. Do not quit before saying an affirmation feels natural and comfortable; it’s as natural to think this new thought as it is to wear your favorite pair of jeans. Embody your command with feelings, visualization and repetition.

7. Be happy now. Never wait until your desire manifests to be happy. That’s not how it works. You can’t attract happiness with unhappiness. The Law of Attraction only attracts what you vibrate. So be happy now! Be grateful for what is in your life right now, put a smile on your face and take that great feeling with you all day long.

8. Finally, take your wish for granted. That means, quit worrying about whether you’ll get it. Make it as part of your everyday existence as the dishes in your kitchen, the clothes in your closet, the furniture you sit on… make your desire an “already mine” feeling. Just expect it to come to you. If you’ve been faithful in saying your affirmations consistently, persistently and with feeling, those commands will NOT be ignored and whatever experience, thing or situation you want in your life, will manifest.