FuelSpace is a blog focusing on the emerging commercial space economy, space exploration, energy production, technology and innovation. We also cover the skills that enable great achievements in these areas including sales and persuasion, productivity, self-discipline, and leadership.

BrainFuel: What I learned from Canceling My Cable (Hint: It is Awesome)

About a month ago, my wife and I decided to cancel our cable and ditch the TV. Why would we do the unthinkable? The initial reason was just money. We were sinking a lot of hard-earned cash into the void that is cable programming. However, it turns out the real reason you should do this is that life is vastly superior when you don't watch TV. It is an interesting concept to understand before you have actually made the leap. Oh...just in case you never read this message, it is most likely because our cable provider (who now provides only our internet service) found it, deleted it, and then removed me from my home late at night with a bag on my head.  So here is what I have learned. 

1. TV is one of the reasons you feel so rushed

Do you feel rushed? Are you always thinking about what you need to do next? Are you playing with your kids while you plan tomorrow's staff meeting in your head? This is the driving force behind the mindfulness movement in America.  If this sounds familiar, it is because we always feel rushed to move on to the next "thing" we have to do.  This is standard operating procedure for most busy professionals. Canceling your cable is one of the easiest ways imaginable to remedy this situation. Once TV is gone, you have a lovely chunk of time back when you don't need to be watching the latest episode of Naked Dating.  It takes about a week, but eventually you stop rushing through your evening so you can get to the couch and sit down and zone out. The evenings begin to feel longer, slower -- as they should. It's quite lovely. 

NOTE: My Internet has now gone out three times since I began this article. Never used to happen before I canceled my cable. They are punishing me for my insurrection.

2. You will find amazing things to fill your time with

When this little experiment first began, I admit I missed the ol' tube. I wondered what I would do now that I had all this time on my hands. Would I be bored? Turns out the answer is no. You will find very rewarding things to fill your time with. Combine this with insight #1 above and you have a really nice recipe for productive and enjoyable evenings. I spend more time cooking, and actually enjoying the process of cooking now that I am not so rushed. I found out that I like to write. Look mom...I have a blog!  No seriously, this entire blog is primary a result of not having TV.  I read, I write, I cook, I tend to the garden, I take the dog on more walks. I used to have zero books by my bed.  Now I have three. I exercise more and no longer feel like I have to be somewhere to be (that somewhere used to be the couch). It's liberating. The problem is this: TV turns off your brain completely. It does not relax you, it simply puts you in full zone-out mode. Have you ever watched children when the TV gets turned on?

It's truly frightening.  I was surprised to find a new, highly-creative version of myself surfacing each evening. Sitting at the table again (I forgot we had a dining room table) has been a gateway to new ideas. Problems get solved. Work frustrations get vented and released. Enjoyable and funny conversation happen. You will find yourself relaxing in a much more natural way -- one that does not involve artificial daylight

3. You will not miss out on anything

I will miss the news!  I will miss the Bachelor and have nothing to talk to the people at work about! Oh no! Turns out, this is not an issue. I am not advocating canceling your Internet (I'm not crazy, people! I have a blog). Smartphones keep us constantly connected, often to a fault. Soon your phone will be implanted into your arm. One of the things you absolutely do not need to worry about is information under-load. I still know what's going on in the world; my Google alerts still seem to find me. If we really want to see a movie, we go to a friends house or (gasp!) to the theater. Crazy, I know. But worry not -- you will be just as connected and informed as you were prior. You will just be calmer and more sane when absorbing your news the next day. 

Give it a try. It is harder than you think to pull the trigger. Commit and do it. Call the massive conglomerate you shell out cash to each month and tell them you don't want what they are selling. They will offer you the world (Do you want one million channels free for one month?  Yes?! Regular rates apply including, but not limited to, your first born child, your car, and your good health. Call TODAY!)

Don't fall for it. Don't waste your precious time and money. Just cancel. Write to me and let me know how you feel after one month. 




BrainFuel: Five Productivity Rules for the Driven Professional


Productivity is hot these days, and like any hot topic, there is no shortage of information on web about how to be productive. This often leads to information overload. The next thing you know you are spending all day learning how to be productive and not actually doing anything. So...being a constant student of productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness (those two are very different FYI), I have condensed this information into a short list for you. It is important to remember that everyone's brain is wired differently and therefore what ultimately works for one person may not work for another, but out of the chaos of productivity science, several standout rules have emerged that apply to today's business world.  Here they are:

1. Do not start your day with email.

The majority of the people you know begin their day by sitting down at their desk, grabbing a fire extinguisher, and then putting out fires. If you choose to do this, be aware that your day is automatically dictated by everyone but you. Luckily you have the power to change this.  Each day should begin with 10-15 minutes of careful reflection on what you would like to accomplish. Layout your single top priority, then three or four other tasks you plan to accomplish that day. Scheduling your entire day - even breaks, time to check emails, meetings and meals - will grant you full power to follow through on your daily objectives. That is exactly how Benjamin Franklin found time to manage so many successful projects. This simple change in your daily routine will shift the balance of power back to you.  It is your day; you decide what to do with it. 

2. Goals -> Milestones -> Tasks.

A goal is the big idea, the grand dream, the big win at the end of the year or even the decade. The goal is what you ultimately want to accomplish. However, you cannot put “build space station, explore new worlds” on your to-do list. You must first subdivide the goal into milestones that are achievable in the near future, and then determine what tasks need to be done TODAY to move toward that milestone. Break it down during your planning sessions and complete that next task today; this is how you get to the milestones and ultimately achieve your goal.   

3. Multitasking is a myth.

The concept of multitasking is myth. Science tells us that the brain simply does not handle multiple tasks at the same time. More specifically, it does not handle multiple tasks WELL. This is why texting and driving is possibly the stupidest thing you can do. Human brains are designed to focus on the task at hand, and then move on. Learn from this and stop trying to do six things at once. Read, work on the proposal, make a sales call, prep for the big meeting. Pick one thing you will work on, get after it for your allotted time, dedicate yourself to it, and then move on.  I am going to repeat this for those of you who decided to do something else while reading this: you are terrible at everything when you multitask. Stop multitasking and realize your true potential by single tasking instead.

4. Breaks are not helpful, they are absolutely essential. 

The human brain can focus on any given task or project for 60-90 minutes at an absolute MAXIMUM. After this amount of time, the brain's ability to produce any meaningful work declines dramatically. Divide your day into 60-90 minute sections and then take a break. The break is the most important part. It allows the brain to recoup its energy, recover, and prepare for the next project. Schedule breaks, lots of them...take a walk, get outside, change your environment and surroundings, allow yourself to DAY DREAM. Commit to actually allowing your mind to rest for 15 minutes. When you return, switch to a new project for 60-90 minute section of your day. The results are nothing short of astounding. 

5. Sleep and exercise will maximize your potential every day.

If you want to excel at school, work, and life in general, you have to exercise. The human brain developed in a state of motion and this has never been undone. Exercise increases the oxygen flow that is the fuel for your brain and maximizes your thinking, learning, and cognitive potential. This is beyond all of the other health benefits - this is pure brain power we are talking about. Sleep is very similar. If you do not get enough sleep, your cognitive abilities begin to drop off at an immense rate. Sleep is also the time when you brain moves into cleaning and repair mode, something you should not miss. If you are driven to succeed, sleep and exercise will put you ahead of your competition. That is not a recommendation; it is a fact. 

If you want to delve into the science behind these rules even more, pick up a copy of Brain Rules by John Medina.  He explains them all in an amazingly digestible and fascinating form.