Getting Things Done

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Decide the outcome and the action step, put reminders of those somewhere your brain trusts you'll see them at the right time, and listen to your brain breathe easier.
David Allen
About a year ago, I learned of the Getting Things Done system, put forth by David Allen in his book of the same name. Toodledo, a free, web-based todo manager, offers a concise summary:
The main principle of GTD is that recording your tasks in a reliable way - using a system that you trust - will free your mind from trying to remember and prioritize stuff. This recaptured mental energy can be put towards being more productive and efficient.
For a more in depth synopsis, Trent at The Simple Dollar has posted a great series.

I tend to be disorganized and a procrastinator. Using this system has been an immense help in keeping my day to day life in order. I use the aforementioned Toodledo to list, prioritize and date all the tasks I need to perform (I have an app on my iPod Touch which synchronizes with Toodledo. I also use the iPod Calendar which syncs with Google Calendar). Any task that I do not take care of immediately goes on the list. For example, my wife emails me asking me to remind her to bring a potluck meal to work two weeks from today. Solution? I go to the Toodledo website (always open on my home computer), make an entry, archive or delete email--done! And off my mind.

As John Reese wrote:
Here’s what I’ve discovered about myself. My level of happiness all comes down to my level of STRESS. And my stress level is mostly due to having the feeling of being OVERWHELMED.
As any procrastinator knows, putting things off leads to a messy buildup of uncompleted tasks. Mentally coping with a swirl of things to do, combined with the guilt of having put them off and the inevitable firestorm of consequences big and small certainly leads to feeling overwhelmed and stressed.

So everything goes into the system. Task items may include:
  • Utility bills
  • Credit Card payments
  • Insurance payments
  • Tax payments
  • Licenses and fees
  • Websites which require periodic login
  • Water and furnace filters
  • Charge cellphone periodically
  • Daily chores
  • Workout schedules
Calendar items may include:
  • Doctor visits
  • School events
  • Social and Family functions
  • Fest schedules
Benefits:
  • If I have a short span of time to kill, I can identify a task or two to complete.
  • I can quickly see all the high priority items falling due in the near or not so near future.
  • I avoid spending too much time on lesser priority tasks
  • If I don't have sufficient time for everything, I can concentrate on high-priority tasks
  • If I fall behind, the overdue items on my list provide incentive to catch up
  • If I find myself putting off a daunting task, I can break it up into smaller subtasks
  • I enjoy the satisfaction of checking an item off the list
  • Events are not forgotten
  • Conflicting events are not scheduled

It takes a while to get used to the idea that the nagging thought rolling around in the back of your mind is a task or project that needs to be recorded and processed. But once you see the benefit of this system, you will be more alert for things to put in your trusted system and let your brain breathe easier.

I Removed The TV

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I wish there was a knob on the TV so you could turn up the intelligence. They got one marked "brightness" but it don't work, does it?
Leo Anthony Gallagher
I have generally shunned television for years. I had no favorite show, I had no favorite team. Just the occasional newscast or game. C-SPAN, The Weather Channel, or vegging in front of a cop drama before bed. Okay, I guess I liked the Food Network.

But even limiting time in front of the tube and filtering out the most egregious examples of televised schlock, the whole concept of sitting passively while being fed low-quality content whose primary purpose is to provide a captive audience for advertising just bothers me. TV is an assault to our being in so many ways. The images, which present a phony view of reality. The production, which flashes these images in such rapid succession that we become bored with the pace of real life. The philosophy and (lack of) values, which push a vulgar, lowest common denominator appeal to our basest instincts, while seeking to tear down any idea of virtue. And, of course, the constant message of discontent -- in order to find happiness you must buy, buy, buy our products.
How can you put on a meaningful drama when, every fifteen minutes, proceedings are interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits with toilet paper?
Rod Serling

Watching television, we become passive, shallow, silly, ignorant, selfish, lazy, undisciplined, disrespectful, sleazy, distracted, enslaved.

I had a TV on the table next to my computer monitor. Now it’s gone. It added virtually nothing to my life, while harming it profoundly. It was a disease. Now it’s gone. Why did I wait so long?

There is still a TV in the living room. My wife is not on board with my decision. Ugh.

Shaving

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Gillette Fusion is more than just a next generation shaving brand, it’s the future of shaving.
Gillette CEO James M. Kilts

Having just purchased a 100 ct. box of double-edge razor blades, it looks like the future of my shaving will continue to be my old-fashioned safety razor. The blades cost $16.99, about the price of a 5-pack of Fusion cartridges.

While it may not be the latest thing for the up-to-date consumer, the safety razor offers a satisfying shaving experience, produces a fraction of the packaging waste you get with modern cartridges, and is far more economical than the 5-bladed wonder. I would probably be reluctant to pop one of those $3.00 cartridges into the wastebasket, and would tend to keep using them until I couldn't stand the pain any longer. No such problem with a 17 cent blade. The safety razor is also easy to clean. I wonder if they have figured out how to prevent multi-blade cartridges from clogging yet.

I have thought about a straight razor. That would be the manly way to go, but they seem like a lot of trouble with all the honing and stropping. And, of course, there is the fear of looking like Edward Scissorhands. The timeless ritual of shaving with a naked blade is a powerful call, though. The new box of 100 blades should last a good long time, plenty of time to think about it.

MSG

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Here I come, Elizabeth!
Fred Sanford
As I got older and fatter, occasionally I would take an after-dinner nap. Suddenly, I would awaken with a start, heart pounding away, convinced this was it. The episodes passed quickly, and, of course, I never mentioned them to my doctor.

About six months ago, I started eating better, exercising and losing weight. One night I was dozing on the couch after dinner, and--there it was again. "I haven't had one of those for a while," I thought, "the weight loss must be improving my health." Then it struck me. I had been eating healthy, whole foods for quite a while, and that night I had prepared a crap-in-a-box convenience meal. "Hmm, I wonder if it's the MSG." I did some reading online and, sure enough, dizziness and heart palpitations are frequent reactions to MSG. I also found out about "hidden MSG".

So I went to the pantry and started reading labels. I suppose I already knew it, but I consume a lot of junk, and a lot of it contains MSG, along with an assortment of other chemical goodies. What the heck, let's get rid of trans fats and High Fructose Corn Syrup, too. Needless to say, a lot of stuff got pitched. Good riddance!

I haven't taken the leap to organic food, but just eliminating MSG and HFCS takes a lot of the worst junk out of my diet. I am almost forced to eat healthier, so it is a win-win.

Fitness

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I'm in shape. Round is a shape....isn't it?
My New Year's Resolution was to lose 1 pound per week for the whole year. Halfway through, I am a few pounds behind schedule, but in the ballpark.

At 51, I’ve realized that my next decade or two can be healthy and robust, or weak and miserable, and my choices will play a major role in deciding the course they take. I had spent most of my life in good to excellent shape, but the 2002-2009 have seen a lot of eating and not much activity.

In January, I started with a healthier diet and a daily walking regimen, settling in at about 1 1/2 miles per day. Around the end of winter, I bought some dumbbells and combined light weight lifting with pushups, pullups and situps. In June, I dusted off my old mountain bike and hit the trail. Can you say slow? My legs are so dead, I can't even keep up a speed that makes me winded. I rode like the wind 20 years ago, hopefully I can get a piece of that back.

At my weight, an hour of vigorous riding burns the better part of 1000 Calories. I plan to do a one hour ride 3 or 4 times per week, so wish me luck melting the pounds away. I would really like to be in decent shape again.

Lightening the Load

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It is preoccupation with possession, more than anything else, that prevents men from living freely and nobly.
Bertrand Russell


I have too much stuff.

Probably resulting from inner conflict. I like simplicity, but I was raised a pack rat. Over the years, my hoarding and impulsive purchases have fortunately been somewhat counterbalanced by occasional purges, so I am not that overwhelmed with junk, but it is still too much.

All this extra stuff is much more of a burden to me than a benefit. The clutter makes cleaning difficult. The boxes of junk make finding things I can use more difficult. It takes up room, and requires a larger abode just to warehouse junk. It makes moving a nightmare. Worst of all, there is a part of me that feels bound by my possessions.

So I have resolved to rid myself of 10 things every day. Even if it is just a scrap of paper or an empty box, I will be steadily lightening my load. Things will be divided into three groups:

1. Keep

2. Give away/Donate

3. Recycle/Trash

Time will tell how far it goes, but I am thinking of this as "The Final Purge."

First Post

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Independence Day, 2010. Summer is in full swing. Fests, concerts in the park, reading poolside... Not much time to write, but I am on the board. See you at the fireworks tonight!