Lessons from LifeCamp

| braindump, connecting, event

I had a great time organizing and learning from LifeCampTO at Linux Caffe on January 31, 2009. We started at 10:30 AM, and the conversations continued until around 2 PM. Sixteen people attended, and we had tremendous fun.

I brought along some markers and a pad of paper. Each participant had a piece of paper with a number on it, and they wrote down their e-mail address, what they wanted help with, and what they could offer help with. People then stood up and introduced themselves. As each person talked about what he or she wanted help with, people who could help them raised their pieces of paper up, and the person introducing himself or herself wrote those numbers down. As each person talked about what they could help with, other people who wanted help raised their pieces of paper, and then wrote the corresponding number down. I collected all (well, almost all – one participant is missing!) the papers afterwards, and I promised to e-mail everyone the appropriate introductions.

During the introductions, a few general-interest topics emerged: productivity, entrepreneurship, and networking. We decided to have a few big 20-minute conversations around each of those topics instead of breaking up into lots of little conversations. Here are my notes from those conversations:


  • Study Hacks – good tips for academic and non-academic success; check out practices for focus
  • Control your environment to avoid distractions
  • Change your environment if you need to. You may find it hard to work at the kitchen table because you associate that with eating, for example.
  • Break tasks down into smaller, more doable things.
  • Structured procrastination
  • Flylady – good tips for household chores, also breaking tasks down into 15-minute chunks
  • Meditation – breathing is good
  • Taking care of things helps you relax and be creative
  • Doing manual stuff (washing dishes, etc.) can be a form of meditation as well
  • Sometimes doing opposite kinds of activities (ex: away from computer) can help spark creativity
  • Anything can become a meditation
  • Nature walks are nice, too
  • Block out time to do things
  • Try sharing your goals online. Take advantage of peer pressure, and tap your community
  • Julia Cameron – The Artist’s Way, morning pages
  • Routines are helpful
  • RescueTime provides good analysis of where your time goes
  • Block time – find an extension that blocks your Internet surfing of time-wasting sites, and get a friend to set the password
  • Make a list of three tasks that would lead to significant progress, and focus on those
  • Parkinson’s Law – work expands to fit available time, so shorten the time you have. Give yourself early deadlines.
  • Pareto’s Principle – 80% value comes from 20%. Find the important few.
  • Examine areas of your life and figure out your priorities
  • Basecamp – a number of people swear by it. Other tools: Remember the Milk, Google Tasks, OmniFocus
  • Inbox Zero – good approach to e-mail. See also Trusted Trio: follow up, archive, or hold
  • Figuring out what you want to do with your life: Covey approach (vision, projects), GTD approach (get on top of little things so you can free yourself to be creative; little things define you)
  • See also The Joy of Not Working, perhaps?

Self-employment, entrepreneurship

  • Services portals, PayPal – international business
  • Business plan, self-employed benefits – Tania Samsonova can help
  • LinkedIn is very useful: connections, testimonials, answers
  • Social networks in general are useful for reaching out, asking for help, offering help
  • Friendfeed – good way to keep in touch with people with multiple presences
  • Check out WordPress integration with LinkedIn Apps
  • GigPark – recommendations for services
  • FreshBooks – invoicing
  • Wesabe, Yodlee – personal financing
  • Social networking – look for opportunities to connect the dots
  • E-mail newsletters – good way to keep in touch
  • LinkedIn – good way to start with an external profile / resume. Less in-your-face than sending resumes to people.
  • Business cards are very useful. Use them for advertising, too. Don’t just list occupation – talk about business benefit. See Vistaprint.ca
  • Take notes. Business card? Watch out for etiquette. Maybe a notebook or PDA. Use keywords or pictures of people to trigger memory.
  • Look for Ugly Betty episode on networking – ask Rochelle Latinsky
  • If you don’t want to give out business cards (eco footprint), carry a notebook or PDA, and get other people’s contact information. Also check out recycled business cards, soya
  • Domain name very useful. People hiring often notice that (compared to, say, @hotmail address).
  • LinkedIn – import your address book and see who’s online
  • Spokeo


  • Ask people questions and get them to talk about themselves
  • Follow up – ping them, talk about specifics of your conversation
  • Go to diverse events
  • Dealing with interpersonal conflict – Ian Garmaise recommended Swordless Samurai
  • When faced with ideas or events that grow beyond you, let the group culture lead itself, and don’t be afraid to start again
  • Put out your best ideas instead of worrying about people hijacking them
  • Handshake, eye contact, hand sandwich?
  • Live a diverse life – makes you interesting, makes it easier to connect with people
  • OtherInbox – lets you automatically set up alternate e-mail addresses, RSS view. Also see gmail: ___+__@gmail.com. Doesn’t work for all sites.
  • usernamecheck, Naymz – checking your web presence (UPDATE: Fixed link to Naymz, thanks; arrgh, weirdly spelled services!)
  • Mr. Tweet, Tweepler – review Twitter followers (UPDATE: Thanks for MrTweet link correction)
  • Summize, search.twitter.com, Tweepsearch (search bios) – find tweeters with similar interests
  • Mixing personal and professional – not bad, may even be good; helps build connection. “Show that you’re human.”
  • If you’re not comfortable with even one person seeing what you’ve written, don’t put it online
  • Write teasers, put content somewhere< ?li>
  • Check out Toastmasters, good way to connect
  • Volunteering is also a great way to meet people. Conferences coming up: FITC, etc. Google Calendar of Toronto events – where?

My next step is to make a spreadsheet, cross-reference the connection requests, and e-mail each person individual notes for follow-up. =)

If you were there: please keep me up to date on what you’re doing and the follow-up connections you make, and link back to this post so that other people can learn more from the conversations we had. =) If you tag your posts with lifecampto and add a comment here with the link, they’ll be easy to find, too!

Blog posts:

It was great fun. Thanks to everyone for helping make it happen. =) I’m looking forward to following up!

You can comment with Disqus or you can e-mail me at sacha@sachachua.com.