Category Archives: Productivity

Hard Work

After I was done with college, I’ve always struggled with staying focused on my own businesses, websites and various projects. When you don’t HAVE to wake up early in the morning and work, sometimes you don’t.

I’ve always had some sort of excuse for not working or being distracted. Even my recent stint at the loft was mainly an effort to be more productive. At one point I blamed the place I was living for being “too boring” and not stimulating enough, and then in another place I blamed it for being “too distracting.”

I would often go to coffee shops or various places to “Liven up the atmosphere” to get more work done, but most of the time the difference between staying home and going elsewhere was very little…and when you go elsewhere, it often means transportation time, buying coffee, being distracted by happenings around you, making a stop to a restaurant for lunch etc. etc. etc..

After a while of doing this and only being semi-productive each day, I got used to not doing much work each day. So what I THINK is a lot of work really isn’t even 3 solid hours worth.

So as of the last few weeks I’ve come to the stark realization that there is no substitute for plain, dumb, hard work. All the people I’ve seen who’ve really accomplished something have simply just worked harder than the rest. The big trend in business books now is to say “Don’t work hard, work smart.” From what I’ve seen, most people who’ve achieved greatness have done both at the same time.

Of all the little tips and tricks and motivators I’ve used over the years, the only one I’ve stuck to for a substantial length of time is making a to-do list the night before. So if it’s Wednesday night right now, I should already be whipping up Thursday’s to-do list.

Anti-Goals for 2007

For 2007 I’ve decided NOT to set any goals.

When I was reading the book Good to Great, some successful guy said that people around him would always say, “THIS is going to be the year that (insert goal)” and it would almost never happen. However when someone just shut up and handled their business, good things started following very quickly.

When I was trying to draft some New Years Resolutions, I wrote some down…but they just didn’t sit right…. So I decided I didn’t want any. I still have long-term directions, but for 2007 I shall be for the most part goal-less.

Personal Accounting, 21st Century Style!

It’s nice to know how much you’ve spent each month in real time. This helps keep your spending in check and is just a good way to keep track of finances. For the longest time I’ve been posting receipts and writing amounts on this dry erase / cork board. No more.

It frequently gets cluttered, is a hassle to tabulate at the end of the month and doesn’t go into much detail about expenses.

For about $200 bucks I bought this thing called Neat Receipts. This system is supposed to digitally organize all your receipts….I originally saw it while browsing Sky Mall in a plane.

I’vebeen using it for a few weeks now, and it’s amazing! The whole system consists of a piece of software and this small scanner which fits neatly on my desk….it’s about the size of a TV remote control:

I was originally going to buy it, try it, and return it…but I’m actually very impressed. Just insert a receipt and the software AUTOMATICALLY reads it, tabulates tax, total price, tells what store the purchase is from, keeps a scanned copy, shows date of purchase and categorizes it!! Online receipts are also very easy to enter in. I was very impressed at how much information the program accurately picks up from each receipt.

You can I can see in real time how much I’ve spent for bills, investments, fun etc. in real time without having to input each purchase in an Excel sheet.

During tax time this thing will be extremely helpful because it basically tells you how much was spent for groceries, investments, transportation etc, and you can easily search for receipts digitally which beats rummaging through a large accordion folder full of them.

I’m sure for most people an Excel chart would be fine, but anyone with a considerable amount of purchases per month would benefit from this little system. This is personal finance for the 21st century!

Dedicated Days – YouTube Videos

Oye….staying focused on a task is hard when there are lots of different things going on.

Something I’ve really slacked on is getting all my House Of Rave videos on YouTube, like this section of the videos. This way viewers can watch the videos directly on the website, and it also garners free advertising from YouTube.

This transition requires the following for EACH video:

  1. Uploading the video to YouTube. (approx 1-2 minutes)
  2. Writing a new description. (approx 2 minutes)
  3. Taking a new screenshot from the YouTube video and Photoshopping to correct size. (approx 2-3 minutes)
  4. Uploading new screenshot and video (approx 1 minute)
  5. formatting the More Info page with pertinent video information (approx 3-4 minutes)

It’s probably the most mundane thing I’ve ever done. In the end it will pay off, but damn it’s not fun right now! I’ll have to find a way to streamline all this work.

So today ALL I WILL DO TODAY is overhaul the HoR video section. I have taken care of most of my daily work, and undoubtedly more will pop up throughout the day, but my ONE MAIN TASK IS UPLOADING THE ENTIRE VIDEO SECTION.

It’s 11:50am on Tuesday right now…..

If it’s not done by 11:59pm tonight, I’ve been slacking!!

Maximizing Efficiency

In my effort to become ever more productive throughout the day, I’ve done several more things:

For starters, if I need to concentrate for a prolonged period of time and start to drift, I’ve found these things work pretty well:

Ear plugs. Blocking all audible input greatly reduces the amount of things to concentrate on, therefore helping concentration. I use them time to time if I have a large amount of “boring” work to do.


When I work out now, I bring a checklist of exercises to do. I wish I had started this years ago!

There’s a quote I like by Brian Tracy that says: “At the age of 24 I began setting clear, written goals for each area of my life. I accomplished more in the following year than I had in the previous 24.”

Setting goals and creating plans helps accomplish more in any field, so I don’t know why it took me so long to apply it in the gym. Instead of simply stopping when I get tired or unmotivated, I now finish long workouts, and I can see my progress in visual form on the checklist.

I got the initial checklist from this workout plan post at, then slightly modified it to be one workout with more sets.

My latest motivational addition to my room comes in the form of a large poster I had printed out at Kinkos on foam board. It’s a quote I stole from Stephen Stephanian’s website.

I put this board right in front of my desk so I can’t ignore it.

Steve Balmer Video – Enthusiasm & Body Language

There is a short video clip of Steve Balmer, the billionaire CEO of Microsoft, which has been out for a while now, but I find myself watching it everyday.

To get people motivated, you have to lead by example, and this guy DOES IT. This is a famous video from a Microsoft company meeting where he comes out screaming and jumping with unsurpassed energy, apparently he pulls stuff like this at all the speeches he makes…I love CRAZY business people!

If a guy 30 years older than me can show THAT much enthusiasm (or insanity) for what he does, as a 23 years old with all the opportunity in the world, what am I doing?

While looking up some more videos of Steve Balmer, I found some interviews with him by Robert Scoble:

(Video Link)

I was again enthralled with Balmers enthusiasm, but I picked up something else from this video….by watching it on mute. He NEVER crosses his hands or hides them, and he frequently uses them in combination with his speech in a very animated manner. Interesting.

Note to self:
Start working on developing better body language and becoming more energetic.

Staying Organized

I’m currently involved with tons of different projects, and staying organized is a task all unto its own. After years of trial and error, here are my favorite ways for staying organized in different areas:

Favorite method: Sticky Note Chain.
I’ve experimented extensively in this area, and nothing comes close to a sticky note. I’ve tried Palm Pilots and computer calendars to no end….but nothing beats the sticky note.

Instead of setting my day hour-by-hour, I just write down TASKS. This way I can easily compensate for unexpected new tasks. If I don’t finish the list, I don’t sleep.

Alternate Methods: Outlook Calendar, AT Notes.

Favorite Method:
Binder with transparent folders in conjunction with the spending cork board and Excel. When I have a tax write off I need to remember, I put it in the binder at the end of each month. Receipts are extremely important in this area.

Favorite Method: Cork board coupled with month end closeout on Excel.
When I get a receipt or incur an expense, it goes up here. I tabulate at the end of every month the total amount. This also gives you a real time visualization of your spending habits.

Favorite Method:
Outlook. I used to hate Outlook for a while, then was told by a mentor to start using it. I begrudgingly did so, and now I would never leave Outlook. As much as I hated it tying all my accounts into one, I now view it as a godsend.

For example, I used to view House Of Rave emails only when I got a chance or felt like it. Now with Outlook integrating all my email accounts in one place, order problems and customer inquiries get answered almost right away instead of in hours or days. This obviously improves profit and customer satisfaction which tends to = $$$

Outlook also allows me to sort all mail into different folders for future reference. I honestly don’t know how I was running my businesses without this earlier.

Business Cards/Contacts:
If I am handed a business card, I almost always snap a picture of it with my camera. I then upload the picture to the Buinsess Cards folders on my computer. I also enter the persons information into Outlook.

My list of organizational techniques is always changing, but for now these are most efficient ways that work for me in particular!

Moving Fast

Things have been moving at a million miles per hour lately, and I’m loving it. School doesn’t start till the 31st, so I am focusing on business only. Things are starting to get REALLY exciting.

The amount of reading and “studying” I’m doing right now for various businesses is more than I’ve ever had in school, but it’s all for business so it’s much more fun. The reading is mainly for another personal business project I’m launching soon. I’ve got three full books to read and take detailed notes on. It has something to do with:

I’ve got TONS of stuff on my plate, and recently we just added more projects to the table, but More Work = More Money. The problem here is not spreading resources too thin at the moment.

Speaking of moving fast, I saw my first on-the-road Ford GT during a business meeting at a hotel. This thing will set you back something like $180,000:

If only I had the keys…

After paying $13 for 2 hours of parking, I’ve decided to step-up my efforts to buy a new form of easy-to-park-for-free transportation.

For about 2 months I’ve been seriously thinking about purchasing a new Aprilia Scarabeo 50 scooter. Everything I do is within a 4 mile radius of my new apartment, and parking before 6:00pm is the most frustrating thing around campus and all over downtown Austin.

After doing the research, the Aprilia is by far the best (and most expensive) 50cc scooter I’ve seen. It gets 122 miles to the gallon because it’s the only fuel-injected 50cc scooter in the world. I’ve spoken to people who own them, and the consensus say they can hit a top speed of about 50mph with ease… enough to be safe in traffic, and slow enough to keep me out of trouble.

A brand new 2005 model out the door after tax, title and 1-year of insurance is around $3,400.


Staying Organized

I have a lot on my plate right now, and managing time has been getting a bit difficult. Since I am frequent user of my tablet PC, it’s the perfect place to keep my to-do list.

Here is what my computer desktop currently looks like:

I made a wallpaper (download it) with a “Today” section and “This Week” section and used it in conjunction with AT Notes, a very efficient and free program that lets you put “Sticky Notes” on your desktop (The program was brought to my attention from TheKirkReport).
I’ve been using this system for a week or so, and it has been very effective so far.

I know what must be done everyday, but managing my time is difficult for me. To solve this problem, I bought this little egg timer.

Now I can set one hour for reading school work, the next hour for business, then another hour of school work etc.
Once the bell rings, I move onto the next thing on my agenda. The timer works well at work.

I also bought this big dry erase board to keep track of business projects. This way I can see the most important tasks on my agenda in one place. I hung it above my desk.

Hopefully this will make it slightly easier to manage my time between business stuff and school.


Dubai – Always Thinking Big

There is something about the city of Dubai and its “Big Thinking” that attracts me to it. Every new structure they build outdoes the last.

The newest additions to the Dubai coastline are two man-made islands in the shape of giant Palm leaves. They also have made 300 new islands in the shape of the world. A friend who lives in Dubai told me about this project and thought it was a bit crazy, so did I.

Now several years later the islands are nearing completion:

I’m sure when The World was proposed, many people doubted its feasibility. We’ll see who has the last laugh when the hyper-rich people of the world start paying for some of the most unique real estate on the planet.

The Palm’s are equally impressive. I never would have imagined such a thing:

-See time-lapse photography of The Palm construction here.
-More info on the Palms and The World:

One of the things I want to do in my lifetime is stay with family and friends at the Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai. To me, it represents MUCH more than a simple hotel stay.

Every time I see a picture of the Burj Al Arab, it motivates me.

Click to enlarge each Burj Al Arab picture from Dubai which can be used as desktop wallpaper:

The BurjAlArab at Night:

Just glancing at the interior pictures can make me shudder:

One day you will find me vacationing at the Burj Al Arab. Look for me, I’ll be at the spa getting a massage.