Review: Stephen R. Covey – 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People

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Great. Another book review among the thousands that already exist for this book. This happens to be one of the top 10 self improvement books of all time, so if you are interested in personal growth, it’s a must. My girlfriend (who happens to be the only person I’ve met that has a higher interest in self improvement than me) has been snagging me to read it for some time, and I finally got around to it. Here’s my take on it.

What type of book is it?

Practical type of self improvement book that is packed with author anecdotes and real world examples.

Who should read it?

I think everybody would benefit from this book. It’s deep, long, contains so much good quality information that it would take a lifetime or more to master it, and several re-reads to understand it.

What’s bad about it?

Well, to be honest, it bored me quite a lot. The second half of the book took a long time to get through. Maybe I didn’t find the information there as useful as the first half, or maybe I just got tired of all the information. I’m not sure, but it just took a massive amount of effort to finish.

What’s good about it?

It’s just so incredibly full of good information, tactics, and lessons to learn. The first half of the book I found much more interesting and useful than the last. Especially the part about time management. That’s pure 100% gold material and should be a mandatory read for everybody.

Final verdict

Definitely a good read, but be warned. This heavy hitter induces reading fatigue like crazy. That was my experience at least. But in the end, I got a lot of good things out of it.

Why YOU should get up before 05:00

I recently solved a huge problem in my life. Something related to personal growth that I’ve been working on for at least a decade with only minor and temporary improvements. It’s a problem I’m sure many of you readers are familiar with: how to structure and set up your daily routine so that you can maximize your productivity, not waste time and get done what you need to get done – without feeling like a robot or lacking time to enjoy impulsive ideas.

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I was looking for some kind of blueprint or system that would guarantee that if followed, I would pass all my courses, get in better shape, have time for hobbies, and get done all I need. And of course, it needed to be so easy to follow that you would want to follow it out of free will. Now, I’ve finally found the system I so desperately needed. Let me walk you through it and find out how you can implement it as well.

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The KEY part is to fixate your sleeping and rising times to be the same, EVERY day of the week. I argue that it’s almost impossible to achieve without this variable handled. Why? Because that’s the one part of the equation that all my previous years of trial and error were missing. I’d work late nights on weekends, and have to get up early for school during weekdays. It was just too hard to maintain fixed times because it would negatively affect my sleep.

But recently, I chose to increase my study rate to 175% in order to get my degree 6 months faster. It turned out to be a real blessing in disguise, because it also made me give up all those weekend work shifts – which freed my schedule so that I finally could try the fixed time method. And boy, did I see huge and unexpected improvements in all areas of my life!

Improvement 1: Increased mental capacity. I quickly notice an improved cognitive ability – the brain seemed to just work faster and better. It’s hard to explain, but I had no problems handling the study rate of almost 2 full time jobs. No more brain fog.

Improvement 2: Expect to have the perfect nights sleep every night. Yup. Your body THRIVES on set times, habits and routine. When you start setting your waking and sleeping times, you can adjust the amount of sleep hours to tailor your individual need exactly. In other words, the schedule will guarantee that you get enough sleep every night, and wake up fresh and rested. Not bad huh? I also noticed that the time to actually fall asleep was significantly reduced – not bad for somebody who has been battling insomnia for years and years.

Improvement 3: Say goodbye forever to morning tiredness. This might be one of the best hidden benefits. I noticed that the schedule completely eliminated any form of morning tiredness. Following a fixed schedule, you can expect your body to even wake up a few minutes before your alarm goes of. Once you get out of bed and turn the alarm off, you’ll be at full mental capacity within minutes. It’s almost unbelievable. For years, I’ve had the conviction that morning tiredness doesn’t really exist on it own. Many people harbor the false belief that they are slave to “morning tiredness” – a view based on victim mentality that lets them off the hook from taking responsibility. I argue that there is no such thing as a “morning person” or “evening person”. Being tired in the morning is simply the side effect of a poorly managed day that deprives you of sleep and keeps your body guessing because you don’t have a routine. Nice to finally be able to confirm my suspicion. I’ll write a detailed post about that too.

Improvement 4: Increased amounts of free time. This seems counter intuitive. How can imposing strict rules of getting up and going to bed give you more free time and not less? Due to increased mental capacity, not wasting time in a tired state, and choosing to work on important stuff early, you free up massive amounts of hours to spend on leisure in the afternoon. Guilt-free. You’ve already taken care of your must-dos. Instead of being a slave to your moods (which is controlled subconsciously), YOU finally get to take conscious control and be the master of your time. Not a bad deal at all if you ask me.

My personal schedule

After successfully and easily maintaining and tweaking my routine for 6 weeks, here is the plan I follow every day (even weekends).

04:20 Wake up 5 min before my alarm. Go to toilet, record my weight measurement, boil water to have green tea, make my bed.

04:30-05:30 Creative hour: Work on personal projects and stuff I’m learning. Practice DJing & photograpy, learning new stuff in photoshop or premiere, etc. Hobby time for all my creative passions.

05:30-06:45 Get to the gym, have a workout, sauna, shower, and take my bike to school. This type of early morning workout also lets you enjoy pre-workout supplements with caffeine, something that is very difficult to combine with an afternoon workout set up, since the caffeine will make it very difficult to fall asleep.

07:00 Arrive at school, start preparing your day for class, lab assignment, or whatever is on your study schedule. If it’s a weekend, I’ll just go back home after the gym to start working on something else.

08:00 Start studying. I can’t fully express the immense satisfaction of being the first person in the classroom and already having hours of productive work under your belt, as your groggy and tired classmates start to arrive (many of them late), just having woken up. You feel like you have cracked the code to secret superpowers!

16:00 Study day is finished and I take my bike home.

17:00-18:00 Eat with my brother and watch some entertainment

18:00-19:00 Start preparing my bag for tomorrow and doing my evening routine (brain dump, some planning, duolingo app, filling out habit calendar and gratitude journal). That’s right, the foundation for a perfect day is created in the evening before.

19:30 Go to bed, read some book. I find that once I get into bed, I’m often so tired that I can’t even manage 20 minutes of reading. Falling asleep is a piece of cake! Usually I fall asleep around 20:00, which gives me at least 8 solid hours of sleep every night. I can’t even begin to tell you the satisfaction of getting up early and getting your important work done first. It’s unbelievably satisfying – something you owe yourself to experience. It gives you hours of interrupted time to completely focus on what matters to you.

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Drawbacks

The observant reader will note that late night social events don’t have any room in this type of set up. And yes, it’s true. Following this type of schedule, maintaining a party lifestyle or hanging out with friends late at night several times a week is simply not an option. But honestly – how often do you really have important late night social events anyway? A few times each month, max? The workaround is to go to those few important late night events, and still get up early the next day. To compensate, have a 20 minute power nap during the day. Research shows that such a nap can make up for 2 hours of missed sleep. Just do NOT make that nap longer than 20 min. You don’t want to fall into deep REM sleep, since it can make it more difficult to fall asleep in the evening.

I’d also note that this type of set up probably isn’t for everybody. If you are the unambitious type who isn’t interested in personal growth or improving your life, then by all means – continue as you were. But just ask yourself; how’s that been working out for you..? Join the league of goal driven individuals, instead of wasting your life in the quagmire of shallow unimportant party nights. The future belongs to us.

Tips on implementation

  • Skip breakfast. I noticed an immense improvement of my health and well being once I started doing this about 7-8 years ago. It doesn’t mean eating less, just eating two big and satisfying meals instead of many small. Save yourself the time to not have to not have to prepare breakfast every morning, washing dishes, etc. Have a big lunch and dinner instead.
  • Don’t take any caffeine after lunch.
  • Take some time each week to plan your week so that you block off time for stuff you really must do. “Failing to plan is planning to fail”. Truest words ever spoken.
  • Impose a STRICT time for when you are allowed to play with your phone or social media. Limit this time to no more than 1 hour a day, preferably less. Keep your phone out of sight and in flight mode or turned off while you work. One study showed that even a mere presence of a phone on the desk decreased the mathematical performance of students by over 20%.
  • Wait until the afternoon to check your mail. That stuff can wait until you’ve used your willpower to do your important things first.
  • Consider trying the android app “my effectiveness pro”. It’s a great tool, based on the popular book “7 habits of highly effective people”. Obviously, read to book to fully understand how to use the Eisenhower matrix of time management that the app also uses.

Acknowledgements and tips

I’d be lying completely if I claim all the credit of inventing the system on my own. The idea of such a system had been percolating in the back of my mind for years, but it wasn’t until I listened to a pod-cast episode with author and personal trainer Craig Ballantyne that I finally was able to make the step of implementing it. In the pod-cast, he talks about his book “The perfect day formula”, which I purchased amazon for a few $ after listening to the episode. In the book (which I recommend), I found more tips and strategies on how to set up the schedule. Check it out!  I’d also highly recommend “The habit blueprint” by Patrik Edblad.

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Confucius on changing the future

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Like the ancient roman god Janus, you must constantly keep a backward glancing eye on your own progress if you wish to learn success. By analyzing yourself, your actions and their consequences, you learn from your past to create a better future.

Confucius was a Chinese philosopher whose teachings has had a deep impact on Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Korean mentality and way of life. He is the author of a huge collection of good quotes and one of my favorite philosophers.

Operation plastic detox step 3: Jar

Following part 1 and part 2, it’s was time for another plastic object in my kitchen to be cut from the roster. This is the item I got rid of:

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This plastic pitcher has been with me a long time. It’s got measurement increments on the side in both imperial and metric and that’s a feature I really like. I didn’t think I’d find a good BPA-free replacement with this feature. I was wrong..
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Meet Mr. Heavy Duty thick glass pitcher with big bold measurement increments in both imperial and metric! This is so much better than my wobbly, old, thin plastic pitcher. A most welcome addition to team kitchen! Testosterone-lowering-plastic will no longer contaminate my fluid measuring. Next week there will be a really important player getting cut from team kitchen – and a very promising free agent signed to take his place! Stay tuned.

Review: James Allen – As a man thinketh

What type of book is it?

Philosophical type of self improvement book that teaches the reader the power of thinking.

Who should read it?

I would recommend this book to beginners in self improvement, or people who normally don’t read the genre. The concepts of the book are very easy to grasp and it’s a delight to read.

What’s bad about it?

Some of the reasoning seem a bit outdated. Like where the parts where Allen suggests that thinking “impure thoughts” about the opposite sex could lead to a host of negative side effects of your character.

What’s good about it?

It’s short, contains a lot of great wisdom and easy to grasp concepts, and the thing I like the most is that it’s packed with a lot of powerful quotes! Here are my top three favorites:

Men are anxious to improve their circumstances but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefor remain bound. The man who does not shrink from self-crucifixion can never fail to accomplish the object upon which his heart is set.

All that a man achieves and all that he fails to achieve is the direct result of his own thoughts. In a justly ordered universe, where loss of equipoise would mean total destruction, individual responsibility must be absolute. A man’s weakness and strength, purity and impurity, are his own, and not another man’s; they are brought about by himself, and not by another; and they can only be altered by himself, never by another. His condition is also his own, and not another man’s. His suffering and happiness are evolved from within. As he think, so he is; as he continues to think, so he remains.”

How many people we know who sour their lives, who ruin all that is sweet and beautiful by explosive tempers, who destroy their poise of character and make bad blood! It’s a question whether the great majority of people do not ruin their lives and mar their happiness by lack of self-control. How few people we meet in life who are well balanced, who have that exquisite poise which is characteristic of the finished character!

Final verdict

A great read! It opens the readers mind to many ideas and instills the command to take ownership of your thoughts and exercise self control. The last four pages are pure gold, and definitely my favorite part of the book. Those last pages are well worth the price of the entire book, and I love how Allen finishes:

In the bark of your soul reclines the commanding Master; he does not sleep, wake Him. Self-control is strength; Right Thought is mastery; Calmness is power. Say unto your heart, “Peace, be still!”

Operation plastic detox step 2: bowls

So the operation is up and running! Feels very good to invest in my health and eliminate all that plastic in my kitchen that touches my food. And besides – buying quality items for cooking is such a pleasure! It’s also good for the environment. If you didn’t know, plastic is just one of the hundreds of materials used in daily life that comes from the oil industry. For this week, I chose the following item to replace:

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Take a look at these plastic bowls. I’ve used them for years.. No more! Say hello to Mr. Stainless Steel bowl!

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Take a look at these high quality brushed stainless steel bowls from Kökskungen. I like the measuring on the inside, and I LOVE the silicone coated bottom that protects the bowl from sliding around when you are working it. The coating also dampens the noise of when the bottom of the bowl clanks against the counter top. Good investment that will serve my kitchen for MANY years! I already know what to replace next week..

Male fashion trends that need to stop

I love men’s fashion. What got me hooked was buying three custom tailored business shirts at James Fashion in Bangkok, Thailand. I wasn’t really into the clothing game before that point, but when I got my shirts and tried them on, it was an experience that changed my mind. The fit was perfect, they looked great and my self esteem was instantly raised. That’s the moment I became interested in timeless men’s fashion – a dressed up style that NEVER gets old and always looks good.

I recently got my diploma as a men’s style consultant, and one of the biggest takeaways I learned during the course was to avoid what teacher Antonio Centeno calls “The whimsical winds” of fashion.

What does he mean by that? Trends fluctuate, and what’s hot today will highly likely be passe in three months. Don’t fall for the temptation to jump on these trends. Instead, a man should slowly build his wardrobe based on timeless pieces of clothing that looked great 50 years ago and likely will look great during the next 50 years. Following the whimsical trends will leave you with an empty wallet and a chaotic and growing wardrobe of low quality garments that you can’t mix and match and can’t wear anymore because they aren’t in style.

Here are three current whimsical trends that particularly burn my eyes, and that many guys seem keen to jump on. Best advice? Avoid like the plague.

Extravagantly unbuttoned dress shirts

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Good looking guy, but what is he thinking? No, no no.

I started noticing this trend on Instagram a while back. Suddenly, it seemed cool to wear a dress shirt like flamboyant Mediterranean beach hustler. Not far after, I saw men of all ages and styles jumping on this ridiculous trend.

I remember sitting in an outdoor cafe in central Singapore and a few tables away from me, a middle aged, over weight office worker with a very hairy upper body tried to pull this off. His shirt was unbuttoned down to the belly button, exposing his hairy chest and stomach for everyone to see. Needless to say, he looked like a clown.

Guys, just don’t go there. Think hard before unbuttoning the third button of your dress shirt – and for gods sake, start using an undershirt with your dress shirts. The benefits are just too many to not do it.

I can’t think of many occasions where it would be OK to unbutton this much. But in this situation, I’ll let you off the hook.

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Cropped pants

A very clownish style that burns my eyes at the moment is this notion of wearing too short pants. Do I really need to explain this further? Nobody has ever looked good in 3/4 shorts, and the last thing pants and trousers need is to imitate that. Don’t do it guys. You won’t be able to wear the pants in 3 months and it will be a poor investment that rots in your closet until you donate them.

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I’m baffled by how many guys walk around like this.

How long should your pants be? There are a few factors to consider. Do you want to appear tall or short? A short guy would want to create vertical lines for the eye to follow, witch makes him appear taller. In that case, aim for a length of the pants that ends exactly where the shoe begins – touching the shoe slightly but avoiding a crease.

A tall guy who wants to appear shorter to blend in could have a pants length that makes a full crease and breaks up his vertical length a bit. Just don’t do anything extreme like too saggy (or too short, like above), and you’ll be able to wear your pants for the rest of your life. A good example:

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This is a nice length.

 

Skinny & spray on

This trend has been particularly pervasive, and every night before I fall asleep I say a silent prayer to the fashion gods to end it immediately. Guys all around the world are walking around in pants that resemble female leggings and tights more than men’s clothing.

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No explanation needed

The sad thing is that the trend even has spread into formal office wear, like trousers and suits. You see them all over Instagram – the flashy guys who nail the color combinations perfectly – but fail miserably on the fit.

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Great combo! Love the color, and the shoes. But the fit is slightly too tight, and pants too short.
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Another example

Leave the tight fitting clothes for your workouts guys. The fit of office clothes and most street wear should follow your body shape but not be sprayed on. A good fitting garment is meant to compliment your body – not be your body.

What to do instead?

I definitely recommend every man to learn the basics of men’s timeless fashion. Check out Antonio Centeno’s stuff. He has courses, and a good place to start if you don’t want to invest in one of them, is his YouTube channel with tons of free videos for men. Time to leave boyhood and start dressing like a man. A good Instagram account, one of my personal favorites, is modern man collection. I’ve gotten lots of inspiration there. Tons of looks and good color combinations of timeless fashion.

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Operation plastic detox step 1: food containers

The first step will be to change how I store my food. This is what I currently use:

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When warm food comes in contact with plastic, it’s even MORE likely to be contaminated by these hormone altering substances. That’s another reason to not use a plastic cover in your microwave oven, and never to re-heat the food while store in plastic boxes. After a recent trip to my local supermarket, I am now a proud owner of these instead:

These babies are made of durable glass and can stand high temperatures as well as the freezer. Although the plastic lid is claimed to be BPA free, I’m not taking any chances. The lid won’t touch the food anyway, and I won’t put it on while the food is warm. An added benefit is that I can even microwave my food directly in the glass box now, or even make the individual portion directly in the containers (if it’s an oven dish), which saves dishes to wash! Every week from now on, I will change two of my plastic boxes for two glass ones, and also choose one other plastic thing in my kitchen to change.

Irish coffee

Following the post about café D.O.M, next up is Irish coffee! This is probably the most well known and popular coffee drink. There are a few variations of the recipe, but the original is said to be with Jameson, and brown farin sugar. Brown sugar is also the kind used in the I.B.A (International Bartender’s Association) recipe. Irish whiskey has (in most cases) not the smoky taste so characteristic for the Scottish counterpart. This makes the Irish whiskey a bit sweeter, and pairs better with the coffee and sugar.

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Category: Longdrink
Skill level: Medium
Glass: Irish coffee glass. I have never seen one in a store, but they can probably be ordered online. If you happen to know a bar manager, ask him/her to order glasses from the supplier with the next batch of Irish whiskey. If you can’t find that, use a wine glass.

Ingredients:

  • Jameson Irish whiskey
  • Teaspoons of brown sugar (some recipes also use cane sugar)
  • Black coffee
  • Whipped cream

Instructions:

  1. Put 1-2 tsp of sugar into the glass
  2. Add 4 cl Jameson Irish whiskey
  3. Fill up with black coffee. You should leave some room for the cream
  4. Whip your cream. It should be thick but not firm, you should be able to pour it
  5. Pour cream on top of coffee. If you are inexperienced with this procedure, hold a small spoon just above the coffee and pour the cream with your other hand. Pour onto the spoon and let it act as a “shield”. The cream will run off the spoon gently on to the coffee. After you’ve tried that a few times, you won’t need to use the spoon. If you made the cream right, it will layer perfectly without the help of the spoon.
  6. Garnish with 2 coffee beans, and a sprinkle of sugar

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History:

In the 1940’s, a group of American passengers were stranded in an Irish airports. It was freezing winter, and the bartender (Joe Sheridan) added whiskey to the coffee to warm his guests. When asked by a few of the passengers if it was Brazilian coffee, Sheridan replied “No, it’s Irish coffee”.

Tested: Ben & Jerry’s Coconut Seven Layer Bar

I was actually finished trying and reviewing all the flavors of Singapore that I’ve never had. But I still had two weeks left in Singapore which meant room for trying two more flavors. I knew that B&J recently developed non-dairy flavors, but I hadn’t tried any of them yet. The question I was asking myself was if it was worth it? Technically it isn’t even ice cream, since it doesn’t contain any cream (non-dairy). So if I tried one of them, would they still be allowed to compete against the other “real” ice creams on my list? Only one way to find out right.. I decided to pull the trigger on the flavor called Coconut seven layer bar. Good.? Read on to find out.

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Sweetness balance: 8/10
Sweet. Maybe just 2% too sweet.

Texture: 9/10
Very chunky, I like it!

Lives up to description: 10/10
Perfect execution. I can taste all the elements.

Other considerations (creative flavor pairing, innovative, boldness, etc): 10/10
I must conclude that I’m VERY impressed. Not only is it good – it’s actually better than most of their real ice cream flavors! It’s bold, adventurous, exciting, tropical – it’s got the works folks. From past experience, vegan & non-dairy version of popular foodstuffs often taste like shit, but B&J’s pulled of a miracle on this one.

Overall summary: 37/40 points, which equals a 93% rating. Highest rating so far! Definitely recommend it. I would consider buying it over any of their flavors. And I probably will..