Getting rid of distractions

5 ways to manage distractions

Distractions are the enemy of productivity. They lure us away from current tasks for seemingly short periods of time which can ultimately add up to a significant percentage of our day. Having to start and stop tasks can waste valuable time and cognitive effort as we readjust and try to regain focus and rhythm. Distractions can also demotivate us from completing difficult tasks since the alternative to doing boring or arduous work seems so much more appealing. All is not lost though; we can overcome our penchant to procrastinate by using these 5 simple steps to guide us in the right direction.

CoffeeAllocate time for breaks

We are not robots and productivity does not mean working for 8 hours straight focusing only on tasks in a to do list. We will get tired, frustrated and go through a whole range of normal human emotions. Ignoring these factors and soldiering on might seem admirable but can lead to burnout, unhappiness and generally higher stress levels. It is okay to take occasional breaks and these cool out periods can help clear our heads and increase our productivity.

HeadphonesChoose entertainment wisely

Entertainment is another thing that should not be omitted from a busy schedule. A work life with no entertainment can lead us to seek entertainment at the wrong time or leave us easily distracted. There are appropriate times and places for various types of entertainment and choosing these strategically can help us deal with stress. Music can be played softly or through headphones, our lunch hour can be spent doing something we like or we could simply socialize with co-workers. There are also countless of other after work activities to get our minds of the stresses of the job.

Social MediaDisconnect from social media (temporarily)

Being constantly connected to our favourite social media websites may keep us “in the loop” but is it really a productive loop? The compulsion to check messages or status updates can distract us from the job at hand especially if we get roped into a discussion. One solution is to temporarily disconnect from social media sites while we are working on important projects. This could be as simple as refusing to use social media for the duration of specific tasks.

iPhoneTurn off mobile phone

An unwanted call or text message can not only disturb us from our train of thought; it can totally change our mood (for the better or the worst). Notifications from apps on smart phones also tend to pique our interest or curiosity until we finally give in to the temptation and have a look. One solution is to turn off the phone completely or at least put it on silent mode to minimize the distraction it creates.

ChairGet comfortable

We may not realize it but our comfort levels have a lot to do with how distracted we get. Physiological discomfort such as hunger, feeling too hot or too cold, and being tired can influence our concentration levels. Environmental factors such as noises or odours can also cause distractions. While we may not be able to control all these factors we can minimize their effect. Changing posture, using ergonomic tools, or simply changing the font size on your computer can make working more comfortable and reduce the desire for distractions.

Despite our best efforts there will always be distractions. Left unchecked these distractions can steal large chunks of our most productive hours. By strategically managing our time and balancing fun and work we can be more productive while reducing the likelihood of burnout.

Getting Over The First Hurdle

Entrepreneurship – getting over the first hurdle

HurdlesWhen we start doing something new it can be very intimidating. There is risk involved in entrepreneurship as in all business ventures and it is possible to be paralysed by the fear of failure to the point that we miss valuable business opportunities. This is why it is important to get into the habit of overcoming challenges which inevitably will come.

The first hurdle

The first hurdle will be the first major challenge we encounter in either starting a business or running it. It is the first defining problem that makes us wonder whether we should proceed or count our losses and give up. It could be difficulty raising initial capital, low sales, low profitability or unexpected expenses. The first hurdle could also be non-financial such as reduction in family time, difficulty finding the right employees or competition from other businesses. Usually the way we handle this first hurdle will teach us about making tough decisions and the sacrifices that are necessary to be successful.

Overcoming the first hurdle

There is no guarantee that we will get over the first hurdle. There is also no guarantee that we will get over the first hurdle in our first try. While this may seem like a recipe for failure, it is actually an opportunity to consider the challenge facing us and the potential solutions. If profitability is the issue and trying to increase sales does not work maybe their is a problem with the entire business model. The music industry learned this lesson when it was reluctant to capitalize on the growing popularity of the internet and concentrated instead on physical record sales. Timing may also be a subtle factor which we sometimes neglect to consider. Introducing a product or service to a market that is not ready for it can lead to failure. Educating the market first and showing the need for the product or service can help us overcome the hurdle of the product/service being new.

The confidence boost

Getting over the first hurdle in business gives a boost in confidence and a taste of solving real world solutions. It may not guarantee business success but the lessons learned from this experience can be the foundation for getting over future hurdles. Many times the solution may not be obvious and out-of-the-box thinking may be necessary. We can use the experience of getting over the first hurdle to remind us that success can be achieved even when it is not immediately in sight.


Making the most out of our mistakes

Mistakes are undesirable but inevitable. We can do our best to minimize the number of mistakes we make but due to our own limitations we can never totally eliminate all mistakes from our lives. What we can control is our reaction to  our mistakes and this can have a major influence on the outcome of a situation.

Speech BubblesAdmitting our mistakes

It may not be pleasant to admit when we are wrong, but the ability to own up to our mistakes shows accountability. It also sets a good example for others. The sooner a problem is identified the quicker a solution can be worked out. Trying to cover up a mistake may prevent the root of the problem from being addressed or even make it worse. We do not need to broadcast our mistakes to the whole world but letting those in authority (such as a supervisor) or those it may directly affect (such as a co-worker) know can help expedite a solution. This also helps to build trust and encourage honesty.

Knowledge Is PowerLearning from our mistakes

Once we have acknowledged our mistake we can learn from it and move on. If we identify the root cause of the mistake we can adapt to minimize the likelihood that it occurs again. For example, if the mistake was caused by ignorance, new knowledge on how to do a procedure the right way can prevent it from happening again. Our mistakes may also identify bigger flaws in the system that need to be fixed to reduce the likelihood of others making the same mistake. If an employee does not read company reports because the font is too small and gets called out for it, by identifying the font issue, others suffering from the same predicament may also speak out and the font size could be increased.

Mistakes also give us valuable information about how things should not be done and why. This information is necessary for finding the most efficient way to get things done and to achieve optimal results. If a certain posture causes back pain, a better posture may relieve that pain and make us more productive.

HelpHelping others with their mistakes

When we learn from our mistakes we do not only gain knowledge – we also gain experience. These two valuable assets can help us to avoid our previous errors but they can also help us to be more sympathetic to the mistakes of others. By remembering how we feel when we make errors and the lessons we have to learn from them, we can help others to be accountable and learn from their mistakes. This may be challenging since some people tend to want to keep their shortcomings private for fear that it will adversely affect their marketability. Acknowledging that we are not perfect and that we too have made mistakes may help others to see us as offering assistance rather than offering judgement. A story about our own mistakes and how we overcame it with the lessons we learned can also help put our intentions in the proper perspective.

While mistakes may cause some embarrassment we must not let that overwhelm us. It is a part of our development and learning from these mistakes make us better. By admitting our mistakes, learning from them and helping others with theirs we can encourage progress while developing our collective skills.


Books In An Internet Age

Why books are still needed in an internet age

Books may  seem outdated for some due to the power and reach of the internet. For others, however, the physical copy of a well thought out and organized collection of ideas is irreplaceable. Throughout history knowledge has been transferred through writing via books, scrolls or even paintings on cave walls. Has the internet made the traditional book obsolete though? Do we still need books if information can be found in abundance online? Here are a few reasons why I think we do.

Book Personal PreferencePersonal preference

Some people just prefer books than reading from screens. It may be more convenient or reduce eye strain. Books are also portable and do not need electricity or the internet to work. Traditionalists may also enjoy the experience of reading a book as opposed to being surrounded by electronic devices all the time. It provides a sort of escape from a constantly connected world.

Book ConsistencyThe consistency of content

Once a book is published its content is finalized and the same content will be available in that book for years to come. Blog posts and articles online can be modified, taken offline or get hundreds of comments appended to the content that you are not interested in. There is obviously the argument that a book’s content can be outdated, but some of the most popular books, such as the Bible, have  stood the test of time. Some types of books such as biographies or documentation of events do not suffer from obsolescence.

Book No InternetNot everyone is online

In developed countries with high internet penetration constant connectivity is taken for granted. Because you can access the internet at home, work or on your mobile does not mean everyone can do so. Not everyone has the ability to use the internet as an alternative to books. This may also become apparent if you have to travel and find it difficult to get an internet connection.

Book SentimentalBooks can have sentimental value

It is not uncommon for a reader to get attached to a book or for a book to be shared or even passed down from generation to generation. In these cases the value of the book is much more than its contents. The preservation, the memories associated with the book and even its look and feel can evoke emotions from the reader.

E-bookBooks can also be distributed online

Books are no longer limited to a physical form. They can be released exclusively as electronic books (e-books), exclusively as physical books or in both paper and electronic form. This offers options to both publishers and consumers. E-books may mitigate many of the concerns people have with physical books as well. You can read them on your computer, tablet or mobile devices and do not need internet access once the book is downloaded. You can carry many books around in electronic form without having to worry about physical weight and other logistics.

I am by no means against finding information online and using electronic devices to read. In fact, I think this is a wonderful way to find and share information. The internet has exponentially increased our access to information and is an essential tool for many businesses. Books, however, should not be discredited simply because of new technology. The relationship between the internet and publishing only makes books that much better since more and more people can publish their own content.


Learning & Knowledge

Learn, share, repeat

Learn & ShareOne of my favourite things about the internet is the vast amount of information it gives you access to. You can find educational material such as scholarly articles, tutorials, answers to questions and electronic books. You can also find entertainment, news, and countless other interesting or extraordinary bits of information. The empowering thing about the net is that you can also create content and share your expertise and experience with others. This platform is great for two way learning and interaction.


Learn Books Learning may often be associated with formal education and school which may not exactly seem like a fun experience. Learning is much more than that though and the internet empowers you to learn at your own pace and study the topics that interest you. You can do this formally by taking online courses or informally on your own. Many freelancers are self taught and can find help on forums and in groups online.

The other great thing about learning online is the wide array of multimeda which you can use to enhance your learning based on your preference. If you are a visual learner you can search for videos. If you rather read you can search for articles. If you rather listen you can search for podcasts. If you learn about what you are interested in or passionate about in this manner you are less likely to get bored.


Share PuzzleOnline communities are great places for finding and sharing information. Chances are that some time in the future someone with the same questions as you will be looking for answers. Using what you have already learned you will be well equipped to either answer these questions or point the person in the right direction. Things you share in online communities may also be indexed by search engines so it can be found via web searches.

Sharing does not always have to be public though. You can share via an email or a direct message to a particular individual or group of individuals. Sharing can be as personalized or as generic as you see fit and you can do so utilizing the same variety of multimedia that is accessible for you to learn from.


RepeatAfter you learn and share your knowledge it is time to start the entire process over. We are always learning new things even when we are not actively seeking knowledge. Sharing is one of the principles on which the internet was built and is a foundation of social media today. Continue to learn, share and repeat so we can benefit from each other’s knowledge and experiences.


Little things count too

The little things count too

Everyone can dream big and there’s nothing wrong in that. In fact, dreaming big is a major characteristic of an ambitious individual. Setting lofty goals and striving to achieve them is great motivation and a key to success. Success does not come instantly though. It is also important to set short term objectives, be flexible, and to be unafraid to ask for assistance in order to reach ultimate success.

Little PiecesOvercome small challenges

A problem may often seem large and complicated and this  leads us to assume that it is difficult to solve. While this may often be the case, problems can be broken down into smaller more manageable chunks which are less overwhelming. Trying to save the world from pollution is a daunting task. Not littering, composting and recycling are simple steps that benefit the environment despite seeming trivial. Overcoming small problems is one way of contributing to a large solution.

Change OrderSwitch it up

Sometimes simply changing the order in which you solve a piece of the puzzle can make the whole thing easier to decipher. Small changes is perspective can change the entire overview of the problem. This is why you are advised to skip the more difficult questions in a test and do the easier ones first. Not only does it prevent you from wasting time getting frustrated, it also allows you to gain confidence from the problems you can solve simply by breaking the routine of chronological order.

Ask for help

Ask for HelpAs talented and resourceful as we may be their are times when we need help from others. This not only refers to getting help to do what we cannot do alone but also getting help to do what a team can do more efficiently. Asking for help can save both time and effort and can be mutually beneficial to members of a team. We all have different specialities and utilizing our individual strengths in a coordinated manner makes for a stronger and more productive collective group. Help may be much more forthcoming if you reciprocate and also offer to help others out.

PositiveBe Positive

A genuinely positive attitude can have a much greater impact than you expect. Being polite, respectful and showing concern for others may have nothing to do with a specific problem but can affect your mood and the mood of those around you. A simple smile can make the workplace a more comfortable environment. It also makes you more approachable which encourages collaboration.

These are just a few strategies to keep in mind the next time you are trying to achieve a difficult goal. There will be ups and downs but doing these little things may help you get through the more difficult challenges. Keep the big picture in mind but remember you cannot get to your destination without taking the first few little steps.


Why reliable Internet Service Providers matter

The internet is an important tool that is easy to take for granted when you are constantly connected. You may have internet access at work and at home as well. You can probably also subscribe to a mobile data plan on your phone. The more access we have to the internet the more we tend to depend on it for work, entertainment or education. This makes it all the more difficult when connectivity issues creep up.

No WirelessMy problem

Over the past few weeks I have been having issues with my internet connection either working intermittently or not at all. As someone who develops and maintains websites and social media pages this affects me not only on a personal level but more importantly on a business level. While I can do a certain level of work offline, the workflow is different and it limits the accessibility that clients have to me via email, Skype, or social media. It also limits my access to information on many useful sites on the internet. Obviously without an internet connection I also can’t publish any content for myself or my clients.

Our problem

Shopping CartI am not the only one affected by poor connectivity to the internet due to the unreliability of an ISP. This also affects anyone trying to set up or run an internet related business. If you or your customers are likely to experience internet connectivity issues which are not quickly resolved it devalues the whole online experience. Imagine you are in the middle of making a purchase and your connection drops. Did the transaction go through? Will reloading the page make you do a double purchase? Will a potential customer remember to check your website when the internet starts working properly again?

The reality of the situation

Speed and cost are often touted as selling points by Internet Service Providers but reliability is also very important. What’s the point of having the fastest download speeds if you can only use it half the time? Occasionally problems will occur and ISPs are expected to upgrade their networks which may cause some connectivity issues. They are however, also expected to be committed to their customers and not charge for services that are not provided. Good communication can diffuse many tense situations while lack of communication can make it much worst. The more reliable and ubiquitous access to the internet becomes the more opportunities that open up for entrepreneurs. Internet Service Providers have a pivotal role to play in this equation – one they should not take lightly.

Improvising Workflow

Improvising your workflow

Calculator WorkWhen you get comfortable in an occupation you begin to develop a unique way of getting things done. Through trial and error and experience you develop a workflow which makes your work easier and makes you more productive. Part of this development of efficiency involves identifying the best tools for different jobs, learning how long certain tasks will take or even how best to interact with different people. The problem, however is that many times our ideal workflow is interrupted and we have to improvise to get things done.

Plan BAs a website developer and graphic artist I use tools such as Adobe Dreamweaver, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator all the time. I am accustomed to the software so it is easy for me to use. It also produces work that can easily be transferred to the desired medium whether online or in print. However, there are occasionally times when I have to work without my preferred tools and I am forced to use alternatives which are not as well suited for the job.  Here are a few reasons that we may be forced to improvise our workflow:

  • The tools that we are accustomed to are not available
  • The customer insists on using a specific tool or system
  • Our current workflow is incompatible with the job at hand
  • The scope or budget of the project does not justify the time and effort of using the normal workflow

Tools MiningIt is easy to refuse to change our workflow and there are some situations when this is an appropriate response – if a specific change will adversely affect the quality of the job and in turn misrepresent the quality of your brand for instance. There are  situations, on the other hand, when we need to adapt and do the job regardless of the situation not being ideal. When I am working out of the office I am at the mercy of the whichever internet connection I end up using. If it is not as fast as I am accustomed to I have to adjust and find a way to get things done. I may do more graphic designs than website work to compensate for the poor internet access. Improvising is a way of staying productive when conditions

Sooner or later there will come a time when we have to improvise on the job. It may be an uncomfortable situation and an unwelcome change. Being able to adapt to different situations can help us through these stressful periods though. Try using an alternative tool in a non-critical situation to get familiar with it in case you have to use it some day. Practice operating in less than ideal conditions to learn how to react with both the conditions and the emotional impact it has on you. Practising how to improvise will help to make it second nature when it is really needed.

nathvibe 2015 Shockwave Calendar

Every year I design a set of calendars for SeizerStyle Designs to help promote brands, concepts or fun ideas. This year I decided to include the nathvibe brand in the mix and the 2015 nathvibe Shockwave Calendar was born.

2015 nathvibe Shockwave Calendar

This calendar is an example of a clean and simple design which is meant to send a message of inspiration and motivation. The slogan Now All Things Happen emphasizes the ability to change your present conditions by initiating actions immediately. The Shockwave name implies that there may not always be a smooth transition when change is involved and this should not intimidate you.

Download the 2015 nathvibe Shockwave Calendar

Keeping It Simple

Clean and simple designs

PortfolioIf you follow my work or explore my portfolio you will notice that I like simple and clean designs. This is not a cop out from designing more complex works, but rather a decision based both on personal preference and usability. It is  actually often  more difficult to keep it simple than to just utilize all concepts that come to mind. Imagine a magazine where pictures of all the stories in the issue are considered for the cover page. Due to limited space and the desire to make maximum impact a simple design featuring one main picture is usually used as opposed to a montage of all images from the magazine. Here are a few reasons why  I prefer to keep my work simple.

Simple PacmanSimple is more memorable

It is easier to remember something simple than something complex and this concept is as true for design as anything else. You may not know all the lyrics for the most popular song out right now but you probably remember a few of the  nursery rhymes you learned as a child. Without a doubt simplicity helps you to remember because there are less details to process. Simple information can also be processed much faster which means there is less chance of you being distracted while processing simple details.

Simple BloatSimple reduces bloat

Unnecessary elements can actually distract from the message and diminish the effectiveness of a design. Simplistic design strategy involves eliminating this bloat and concentrating on the important parts of the design. Why use a paragraph to describe something that could be said better in one picture.? People are busy and may not appreciate having to spend a lot of time to get the gist of your message.

Simple SmileSimple is less intimidating

Simple designs tend to have a psychological impact on the viewer. It  is not as overwhelming as complex designs and that can make the viewer more comfortable. Some people may just skim over complex designs that look hard to understand (even if they are not). This is especially true with websites which only have a few seconds to impress visitors before they leave.

Clean and simple designs are easy on the eyes and clients usually like them. There are times when a more elaborate design is appropriate and I get a chance to splash my creativity around. These opportunities are also fun once they do not defeat the purpose of the design. The ultimate goal is to appeal to the target audience and most times a simple approach will do the trick.