Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Paper Planners

There was a banner link on a web page I was looking at earlier today about camping hacks. It seemed interesting, and somewhat applicable to what I've been writing about and thinking about lately, so I clicked through. It was a list of 11 reasons why you should have a paper planner: 1. Paper planners don't require wifi, so they never drop signals at inopportune moments. 2. Ditto: batteries. 3. Handwriting can help you remember things more clearly. 4. Let's be real: you've probably installed and abandoned more "productivity" apps than you can count. 5. Looking at screens all day every day hurts your eyes. 6. There's a paper planner for everything. 7. Notifications are great... in theory. 8. One word: doodles. 9. You will never experience an unwanted interface overhaul with a paper planner. 10. Paper planners are a mixed media experience. 11. Planners are a physical record of your life. Source: The list had a few reasons I actually buy into, and number 3 in particular is something I want to have more firm research about. There was a link I clicked through to get to another article. I wasn't sure how legitimate it was going to be, but it turned out to be a New York Times article. The article was focused on handwriting and the positive impact of learning on children. There were a few links out to other studies, so it shouldn't be too hard to find some concrete source information regarding the positive benefits of handwriting for memory retention. Source:

Thursday, November 10, 2016

How Effective is the System?

How effective your system of organization is depends on how well it works for you, obviously. But is there a critical mass? In other words, how many different things can be going on at the same time before the system starts to break down? Or how many before the system remains intact but you're no longer able to manage the things that need to be done? This is the point where you need to examine exactly what it is you're trying to accomplish. Sometimes you don't have any choice. The meetings are what they are. But sometimes it means examining the projects you're involved with and determining if they're worth remaining involved in, in the context of everything else that is going on. This is the point where you can start to examine the time you voluntarily invest in things. Involuntary things are those things that land on your schedule because they're either non-negotiable or they are scheduled by others. Voluntary things are those things you willingly take on. That you sign up or volunteer for. I have had to make difficult choices in the past about withdrawing from things I voluntarily became involved in, but it was the point in time when I needed to focus on other matters at hand. This created a little bit of cushioning in my schedule by which I was able to take on more of the involuntary workload. The problem is that the involuntary has now grown to where it is nearly overflowing. So what to do when this happens? Well, for the last two months or so I have been spending one full day each weekend creating a compartment where I can store all the work that needs to be done on my dissertation and address it then. Now I'm in countdown mode, with only a few days left before the dissertation. I am at a critical point where compartmentalization has become more important than ever, because I need to be in the moment with the other things that need to be accomplished so they can be fully addressed and then set aside so I can devote all the time necessary to the task of finishing the dissertation work. It is Thursday now, and thankfully tomorrow is a holiday. If it wasn't, I'd be in a bad position because I have a deadline tomorrow night that I need to meet. The system I have for managing my time has worked, but there was an unexpected addition of a set of revisions that meant I needed to be able to insert them somewhere. And my schedule has just grown and grown in complexity to the point that I have very little space in which to add things. If anything, this experience has taught me more about the value of time management, and the importance of having a system that allows for unexpected additions. I can masterfully craft my schedule so everything fits, but then if I do that I'm missing the blank spaces that might be necessary when the unexpected comes up. It also means I'm missing the time for myself and my family. I take a step back from time to time to examine where I'm at in my life and what I'm doing, but I'm not able to make any changes at this point because of the situation I have created. Merrie and I need to make a requisite amount of money to keep the machine going. But do we? This house, our belongings... the more I think about our situation the more I realize that we have to a large extent created this situation by investing in our 'stuff' that we have accumulated. At some point it might be beneficial to engage in a prioritization exercise, and to really examine what it is we have and what we need in order to keep things going. We need to provide for our boys and we need to take care of ourselves. But when I look at things like cable television, I question the value. When I consider that I'll be going into loan repayment it worries me in the context of all the other things I already have to pay for. For the bills we already have. For the fees we have to pay for the investments we've made in this stuff, that now needs to be maintained. It would be an interesting exercise to just look at all of this and put it down on paper, and then see what we could cross out.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Gaining Momentum

Tonight I attacked the hall closet, and managed to put it about half in order. I also completely cleaned off the top of my dresser. While I was at it, I went downstairs and noticed Jack had left the drawer we keep the scented wax melts in (not sure what the hell they're actually called) so I organized that as well. While I was doing it, I figured something out. Throwing things away creates a feeling of freedom. Like you're getting back to the point where you are regaining control over your stuff. I feel like I'm starting to get to the root of the issue. The stuff in the house is controlling us. I'm tired of it, and I'm ready to be done with it all. I just feel like I want to keep going. Like perhaps I've actually managed to figure it out. Slowly but surely, I think we can do this. I have faith.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Essential Spirituality

Back in 2013 when I was doing my doctoral coursework I took a course in Multicultural Perspectives in Leadership. Part of the course was a reading of a book called Essential Spirituality. It was about meditation, investing time in one's self, and addressing our needs on a spiritual level. I had to write a summary of the book, based on the way I intend to apply the principles to my life. I thought about it for some reason the other day, and went back through my course materials to find it. I'm reading through it right now and the goals and aspirations I had back then in regards to simplifying my life, to trying to be more focused on the things that have meaning in my life, and to be a better person were all there in my write-up. I acknowledged at that time that it is my dream to one day be able to have the time I want in order to do the things I want to do, not the things that I have to do. I talked, in one of the sections I was reading last night, about how there is only a certain amount of time in a given day. If we are to change anything we first need to look at the time we have available and see what changes we can make there. Sound familiar? I talked about this at greater length recently when I was working on a section of the book. The reading of this old Essential Spirituality write up was very telling. I haven't progressed much in the last three years. I need to invest more time in getting to where I need to be, and time management is still difficult because my schedule is my nemesis.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

One clutter at a time - strike one

Well, that turned out to be an exercise in futility. I started with a drawer in my nightstand that is basically my repository for all things. Detritus. Clutter in the purest sense of the word. I have anything and everything in the drawer, and that was the problem from the start. None of the things have ever had a home before. Where would they go? What would be appropriate? What would be the 'structure' I would want to employ as far as keeping track of these things, and determining where they should go? What about cigar stuff, that has never lived anywhere else? What about extra digital cameras? I can't throw them away until I check them to see if they have any files on them that need to be downloaded. What about pocket tools? What about the card items? Surely they should eventually end up in the fireproof box, but for now they continue to live in the top drawer. What I need to think about first, it is clear, is structure. So what would that structure look like? Taking the idea of a memory palace and instead looking at the actual layout of a given physical space and all the storage options (or lacks of options), where would things go? More importantly, and perhaps a fundamental question in the process, how many things should be the limit? Is there a limit? Is the limit a total number, or a particular number of items in a given location? What would this look like if we categorized everything? What would the categories be? Would each category of things live in one place? Would they not mix? It seems to me that one of the biggest problems is overlap, and it speaks to a need to go back through the KonMari method. I remember she mentioned containers and organizing things a particular way, basically of imposing a filing system over a given physical space. I also recall this being mentioned as being problematic. Why? Well, as was evident by my relatively short and frustrating exercise, having too many different things in one place means there is a risk for sprawl. It is the whole idea of not even knowing what you have because it is all over the place. Nothing has its home. Because any place is its home. I found four pocket combs. The last time I checked, I only had one head of hair. I found four lighters that don't work. I found old receipts. So was it productive? In a sense. But more frustrating, in that the drawer is still cluttered (minus a bit of trash) and I came away with more projects to add to the to do list. Namely organizing personal materials and keepsakes, and going through the electronic devices to see if there's anything that needs to be kept before I get rid of the devices. So, a failure for now, but a success in that the process really underlined the importance of everything having its place. I wonder if I begin the process with that in mind, if I can truly succeed at doing it one drawer/shelf/closet/box/cabinet/space at a time. I don't have the luxury of being able to just organizing one area because it creates a domino effect. All the areas need to be addressed. I need to identify the collections, and then figure out what to do with them. This is turning out to be quite an investment of effort.

One clutter at a time

I'm trying to work towards organization and minimalization. I get the idea of the KonMari method, and of doing everything at once. The reality is, when you're in a house that you share with other human beings, you can't impose a method onto them and just assume it is going to work. I think the idea of leading by example is a more effective approach. In looking around at the spaces that I consider to be 'mine' within the house, I believe the approach of handling one space at a time makes more sense to me. I'm going to try to deliberately approach this effort, and one space at a time I hope to be able to move towards more organization and less clutter. It will be interesting to see if this activity of becoming organized ends up rubbing off on anyone else in the house. I don't want to dictate the way we should all live, but I know that the more time we spend in this house and the more cluttered it becomes, the more it seems like we just aren't living our lives the way we should. We have too much stuff. Too much that we don't need. Too many impulse buys, and not enough things around us that bring us joy. We aren't deliberate enough about what we acquire, and then we have less emotional attachment to it. But just enough of an attachment that it seems to bring anxiety to think about getting rid of things. I have things that I hold onto for sentimental reasons, but why? What is the value of keeping them? Do I need them? Can I just get rid of them? Should I put them in a box somewhere and see if I end up missing them, or have they really brought me all the joy and usefulness they are going to bring me? It is an interesting prospect. I'm on the way upstairs to begin the process and see how it works out.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Documenting Ideas

I spent some time in the car earlier this week and found it was a great opportunity to capture some ideas on my voice recorder. One of the things I thought about was how I can begin to organize my ideas into a book format. I was able to put some coherent things onto tape, but the problem will become transcribing. The nice thing about voice recording is that I am able to capture things as fast as I can think about them. Writing tends to be just a bit slower. I'm a fast typist, but it takes more for me to get the ideas down and I don't have as much free/available brain space to be thinking about the next thing. That said, I think there is an opportunity with the blog to use it as the brain storming space as I continue to develop the topics of organization, compartmentalization, and efficiency. I try different approaches and different systems (one of the things I also talked about on the recording on Monday) to find what works the best. I have a Google doc right now for tracking the ideas but it is just one long free form document. it isn't a to do list per-se, but rather just a brain dump. I need to take that information and begin to organize it in some coherent way. The challenge is in moving these ideas forward while there is still so much going on. I am busy constantly, but unless I am able to consciously devote a period of time to these ideas, they're not going to go anywhere. The time in the car is not taken up with anything else in most cases, so it makes sense to be able to document ideas there. I journal in the morning, so it makes the most sense to be able to document ideas here. I have another journal, one I started back on January 1 this year (it is now day 308) to track my weight loss, exercise goals, thoughts on health, and other miscellany. I think having two journals, or multiple journals, is a good way of keeping track of things by giving each journal a unique voice. There are some things that don't work in a public forum, or are private in nature and are things one might not want to share out. On the other hand, writing with the idea that what is being written is going to be published to the web and might actually be read by someone gives a bit of a different approach.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Motivation (sometimes)

Motivation can be a real bitch sometimes. We all find ourselves at one time or another having a drive to get things done. In the same way, we can also find ourselves equally incapable of simple tasks. Take tonight. I had high hopes of learning how to set up the website, but it just pretty much fell through. I ended up getting frustrated because I'm basically exhausted right now, so it was easy to lose my concentration and screw up what I was doing. I finally figured out a way to at least get rid of all the template crap that was on the page, but now it looks terrible. It will need work, but once it is good to go I'll already have all the links there. In the meantime I can start dumping content onto subpages and then go from there. Which brings me back to my point on motivation. You can't give up just because you don't feel motivated. Sometimes you have to circle back around, take a little break and work on something else, and then come back to it. Notice I said WORK on something else. If you're trying to get something done and it isn't happening, don't go fuck around on YouTube for ten minutes. Those ten minutes will quickly grow to two hours, and then where are you? Nowhere. So go to something else that you need to work on that might be related, which in turn might actually lead you off on a tangent that will, if you're lucky enough, lead you back to where you were trying to get for the first place. While you're off doing something else, your brain is still thinking about what you were just doing because it's not done. It's not tied up nice and neat and filed away. It lurks. It demands your attention, even if it is only grabbing the attention of your subconscious. At some point though, if you just keep at it, you'll find the motivation you need to get it done.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Organizing - to file or not to file?

I have been brainstorming a number of topics for the podcast and the YouTube channel, and I keep coming back to the importance of organization. Case in point - I've created folders and subfolders in Google drive, a set of to do lists in Wunderlist, and a section of my organizer for brainstorming. It may seem like a bit of overkill, but the bottom line is that there is a method to the madness. Everything has its place. If everything didn't have its place, everything would end up being lost because you wouldn't be able to find it. Or would you? Take the Google approach, for example. If we're looking for something on the web, we search for it. Everything is in different locations from a data standpoint, a URL standpoint, a web structure standpoint, but at the same time it is all in one place. OUT THERE. We search for it, and Google goes and crawls the web for us, bringing back whatever we need. Email is this way for me. I put all of my emails in one place. I don't subdivide them into folders. I have one huge archive of deleted emails. When I need to find something, I figure out keywords that will return the items I need. Sometimes I need to refine the searches, but it is a system that works for me. Google Drive, on the other hand, doesn't work for me unless it is organized. My desktop of my computer? Everything is everywhere. My 'documents' folder? Drastic improvement. I tend to be selective about what is organized. Why is this? This is one of the topics I'm researching now, and I'm hoping to figure out best practices depending on scenarios. Do I think there is a 'one size fits all' solution? Not necessarily. But there might be an over-arching structure that would work across scenarios. In the meantime, I guess I'll keep on organizing one way for one thing, and another for another.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

A New Start?

I have been brainstorming a number of ideas around getting the blog up and running again.  I think I would like to look at podcast options, to really see how far I can take some of these ideas I have around efficiency, productivity, and happiness.  I'm not looking at making a Tim Ferriss clone but rather looking at what makes Everyman, and any man, choose their respective path in life.  I know my path, and yet I also feel like I should perhaps be on a different path.  To that end, I'm looking at creating a site around some of the concepts I have been reading about, and hopefully I will be able to reach out to individuals who are successful in their respective walks of life, to figure out how things should be.  Even more, to figure if there's a way things SHOULD be, or only what we make of them.  We spend so much time trying to create an ideal 'us' that perhaps we are just spending time moving in the wrong direction.

So pull up a chair, stay a while, and see what happens.  This is the seed.  We'll see where this idea grows to, and how big it gets before it needs to be pruned or before we need to just spray some weed killer on it.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Forgotten Blog

I had forgotten about this blog. I have been working on a running journal, and didn't even consider that I had all these other journal entries available. It is interesting, if I measure my life in terms of written output thus far, I've actually been fairly prolific. At the same time, there are chunks of my life that are missing. I got in the habit of writing things down, then things just seemed to take an unscheduled turn. I went back to school, finished school and went back again, and had two kids somewhere in there. A Day in the Life was the other blog I started, to track memories of the kids. Funny how when you have kids you do a great job of documenting the first one, but things seem to go to shit when you have the second one. Pictures are forgotten, journal entries are neglected... second children just end up getting the short end of the stick sometimes. A lot has changed since I started writing this blog. My older son is 12 years old now. My younger son just turned 8. Max, the wonder dog, passed away last year at the age of 13. I'm nearly done writing my dissertation and I have a dissertation defense date scheduled for July 19th this year. I've gained weight, lost weight, and started and stopped various exercise and diet routines. I've gone from being an Assistant Registrar to a Dean of a School of Education. I don't watch much TV anymore, but I don't read as much either. I will have time for that, but for the last three years I have been so embedded in my work I feel like I've forgotten how to live. When I do take the time out of my schedule to go away on vacation I seem to tend towards overdoing it. I guess I just want my down time to be as much as it can be. And that can be problematic. For now I just want to try to start putting things in order. Life has become so cluttered with meaningless things. I'm a pack rat in so many different ways. I can't get rid of things. I take on new things, and then I don't finish them. I want to start finishing things. I want closure on all the things that are in process right now, so I can finally get to the point where I can stop for a minute and realize that there's nothing to worry about. That I can take five minutes and just enjoy life, without having to worry about deadlines, or what is coming next. I can just relax and take in the moment. I don't have many days where I feel like I'm just taking in the moment. Most days I feel like I'm doing as much as I can but there is still plenty that I'm not doing that I should be doing. And that is a terrible feeling to have to live with day in and day out. That is the feeling that keeps you up at night. The feeling that wakes you up in a panic in the middle of the night. The feeling that gets you up early and doesn't let you fall back asleep. It will be interesting to go back through these entries and start taking stock of what I've done. Some of the entries in Tea for One are funny. Some are reflective. Some might be sad, but they're all something I can leave behind for others to enjoy. I think that's one of the amazing things about a journal - there are two very utilitarian functions that are both served by the same general output. The output is documentation of what has been going on, or what has come to mind. The utility is twofold. Other people can read it and enjoy it, but it can also serve as a point of self-reflection. I can look back and see how far I've come. Or how far I haven't come, in other cases.