A Very Important Product Review

Some information that you really need to know, because it’s something we’ve all been through.

 

 

 

Hope everything is going well for all of you.

A Public Service Announcement

Hopefully this won’t become a regular thing, but I had some bad news lately.  That bad news made me want to say a thing or two.   Please watch the video.

 

 

 

And if you have any thoughts or questions or suggestions, you know what to do.

Thank you!

Big Life Goals Pt. 3 – Tools

If you remember from last time, I went over some tips and techniques for beating a procrastination problem.

I have to say  that in the weeks since I decided that I really wanted to do something about this problem, I have gotten a lot more done.  I’ve been more consistent in studying my programming, and in writing.   I started that YouTube channel, which I think falls under the category of writing.   I feel more productive, and I think that is having a positive effect on my mood in general.   I’ve also become very protective of my time.

When I set out to do research on beating procrastination, I discovered that there are a lot of tools that are available to help a person be more productive and manage their time.   I want to share some with you, because some of them have changed my life.  Since I am a Mac computer user, a lot of the computer apps are geared towards Apple.   That being said, I don’t own an iPhone, so I’m not completely biased.

Notes and Lists and Things

The first thing I found that has really been helping me out is Evernote.   They have a desktop app, a website, a tablet, and a phone app. (Yep, even for Android.)   The thing that is so great about Evernote is its versatility.  You can make into almost anything you need it to be.   It can be your calendar, your contacts, a notebook for saving ideas, and probably a dozen other things that I haven’t even thought of yet.  It even has the ability in the phone app to do voice notes, if you can’t stop to type it in.   It has a structure where you create notes, which can be saved under notebooks, and those notebooks can be stacked.   There’s a ton of tutorials on YouTube for the different ways that people use it.   I may do one of my own.

I have mine set up in two basic ways.  First there’s the to-do lists.  I’ve always been against the idea of a to-do list, but somehow being able to set it up my own way in Evernote has really made it more bearable.   There are four of them, Today, Tomorrow, This Week, and This Year.  Every day, I write a list of the things I want to get done.  For today, I had blog, laundry, and study.   (Blog…check.)   It even lets you format with little check boxes, so you can check things off when you’ve completed them.

Screen Shot 2014-08-20 at 9.10.52 PM

Then I also make a list for what I think I want to work on tomorrow.   And then that all sort of rolls up into a weekly to-do list, that looks like this:

Screen Shot 2014-08-20 at 9.12.18 PM

 

So, if I know that I want to study twice per week, then I know I have to put it on this list for today and for tomorrow.   I also like to keep in mind any events or plans I have.  If I’m going on vacation, I’ll put less on the list, and not over commit.

The other section I set up in Evernote is basically just a bunch of organized notes.  It’s my repository for ideas and things I want to remember.    When I’m at work, I log into their website to take notes in meetings, and write to-do lists.   I have one long ongoing list of notes from every meeting I have with my boss.  I have a list of blogs that I want to read later, ideas for future blogs I want to write, ideas for future YouTube videos, short story ideas, novel ideas, study notes, awesome sentences I thought of or overheard that might make be a great first sentence of a story, a list of websites for things I might want to do on my next vacation, so many tiny houses, and for some reason, a single note with a url for this.

Eliminating Distractions

Evernote is great, because you can bend it to your will.   But if your problem is willpower, then these next two apps could be helpful, Freedom and Self-Control.  Freedom is an app that makes it impossible for your computer to login to the internet for a set amount of time.  I hear that Michael Chabon uses it when he’s writing.  This is great for me if I’m working on just writing a story, but not so great if I’m doing my online Python class, which of course requires me to be on the internet.   That’s where Self-Control comes in handy.  It’s very similar to Freedom, in that it limits your internet and has a timer, but it works with a blacklist.  You basically add the sites that you find yourself being distracted by, like Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube, but you can still get to the rest of the internet.  I like to break my work periods up into 45 minute chunks.   I mentioned the Pomodoro Technique last time, and yes, there’s an app for that, too.   Although I haven’t tried it.

There’s also another app that I haven’t tried, which I may.  It’s called Habit RPG.  It basically turns your daily tasks and productivity into a video game.   You get points for checking things off of your to-do list, and achieving goals.   I read about it in this article on Lifehacker, which was all about how to “gamify” your productivity.   Gamification is huge right now.

Motivation

Those are all some really great positive reinforcements, but like I’ve mentioned, I’m pretty highly motivated by negative reinforcement, mostly by way of fear of public embarrassment.   This is where the website stickK comes into play.   stickK is a website where you can set a goal, make a commitment to follow through with that goal, and if you don’t, there’s a consequence.  There’s a lot of options on the site for what the consequence might be, and they’re optional.  However, one of the more popular features of the site is that you can set as your consequence that a certain amount of money will be donated to an anti-charity of your choice, should you not meet your commitment.

This is where it gets good, and you get to cheer me on or root against me!

Since one of my Big Life Goals is to write a novel, I need to be writing more, like a lot more.  Not just on my novel, but in general.  It’s a muscle that needs exercising.   So, for the next six weeks, I commit to writing at least one blog post of 300 words or more per week.  Linking to an article with a three sentence summary of my feelings on it won’t count.  Pictures of my cat won’t count.  YouTube videos won’t count.

And for any week that I don’t do it, $10 is going to be donated to the NRA in my name.    Now, how’s that for some motivation?

If you want to cheer me or jeer me, click here to follow.

What about you?

Do you have any tools or apps that you use to keep yourself on task?   Do you have a specific way of setting up Evernote that helps you stay productive?

Do you think I’m crazy for even risking donating to the NRA?  Are you pissed that I would choose the NRA as my “anti-charity” and have a lot of things to tell me about your Second Amendment rights?

Leave your comments and questions below!   Just sayin’

Video – Book Review

My thoughts on Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.

 

 

 

 

Brave New World – YouTube

Hey, check it out, lovlies!  I started a YouTube channel to go along with this blog.  Here’s my first video:

 

 

 

 

Except, it’s not really my first video, because there’s some old videos up there of my friends, my cat, and my snot.   So, now you can follow me in a couple of different formats.

 

No, really….hit that button on the right that says ‘Follow’.   Also, subscribe to my YouTube Channel.

 

Also, let me know if you want me to write about anything specific or make a video.

 

Just sayin’.

Big Life Goals Pt. 2 – Beating Procrastination

If you remember from last time, here were my stated big life goals:

  1. Learn to stop procrastinating
  2. Write a novel
  3. Learn to code
  4. Learn to play guitar
  5. Become fluent in French

And I put stop procrastinating at the top of the list, because until I concur that one, the others are going to be much more difficult to pull off.

I began doing some more research on procrastination, looking for advice, research, and tools that would help me curb the habit.  It turns out, not surprisingly, that the internet has a lot to say about this.  I’ve had a lot to read, and some YouTube videos to watch, and this is what I’ve found to be most relevant and helpful to me.  It may not be what’s best for you.   Also, if you’re reading this, and you have a technique that you want to share, there’s a comment section for that, and I hope you’ll use it.  I want to help as many of you out there as possible.

But first, a little humor from The Onion about what I’m trying to do here with this whole ‘Big Life Goals’ project:

“Just find the thing you enjoy doing more than anything else, your one true passion, and do it for the rest of your life on nights and weekends when you’re exhausted and cranky and just want to go to bed.”

It’s easy to get discouraged; I’ve spent long periods of time feeling like I don’t have the emotional energy to work on my own stuff after putting in 40+ hours a week doing someone else’s stuff for the paycheck that pays for my life, because my stuff isn’t making me a dime.  Writing is something I truly love to do, and it’s not physically tasking, but it’s still exhausting.  So my first piece of anti-procrastinating advice is this:

Take a nap

I didn’t read this one on the internet anywhere; I came up with it all on my own.  (Which is of course, not to say that no one else said it on the internet, for the internet is vast, and I have not read all of it…yet.)  If you feel like you should or want to do something, but you’re lagging and drowsy, and you just can’t get yourself motivated, do what the college kids do, and take a snooze break.    It’s important, however, that you time yourself.    If you sleep too long, you won’t go to bed at night, and you’ll spend the rest of the day, at work or school or wherever you spend your days, feeling all cracked out and tense, and then the cycle just repeats itself.  You’ll come home in the evening, and you’ll just be too tired to sit down and write, or program, or practice French.  Whatever it is that you’ve decided you’d like to do with yourself in your lifetime.

Have a snack

This goes along with the nap.  If you want your brain to work, you need to give it fuel.  If you give yourself a little bit of a snack, your brain will be ready to focus, and a grumbling stomach will be one less distraction.   I’m typing this with an ice cream sandwich in my hand.

Turn off Facebook

Or Tumblr, or Twitter, or YouTube, or whatever your go to time suck is.  I am not proud of myself, but I am fairly addicted to Facebook.   I want to go on there and be the first person to post the most witty reply to everything my friends post.  It’s silly.  It’s not making the world a better place.  And to top it off, studies show that spending time on Facebook actually makes you lonely.  If you’re like me, and you almost can’t help yourself from opening the page, there are apps for that, and I’ll go over them in my next installment, where I’ll talk about all the tools that can help you procrastinate less and be more productive.

Break it Up

This came up in the comments of the last post, and it’s the most frequent advice you’ll see anywhere when you start researching procrastination.   It’s highly unlikely that you can write a novel, learn an entire coding language, or master an instrument in a single sitting, as I said before.   So the thing to do is to break your goals into a series of smaller goals.   Study one chapter in a Python book.   Have one conversation in French with your cat.  (Je parle francais a mon chat.)   Write 300 words of your novel.   Even this blog post is a good example of this.  I was originally going to write one single post about all this Life Goals and Procrastination stuff, but it proved to be just too much for me to take on all at once, so I kept not doing it.  Once I decided to break it up, it became a lot easier.   Writing a whole novel is such a huge project that it seems almost impossible to even conceive.   Writing 300 words?  I can do that while standing on my head.

Write a List

I have always been, deep in my soul, anti-to-do-list.   To-do lists, I’ve always thought, took the spontaneity and fun out of life.  And who ever actually pays any attention to them once they’ve written them?   You put all this stuff on the list, and then you do everything that’s not on it.   What I’ve started doing is keeping four to-do lists.  One for today, one for tomorrow, one for the week, and one for the year.   I decide what’s possible to get done today, and anything and everything I want to do today is on it.  If I think of something throughout the day that needs doing, I’ll add it to the list, or if I can’t do it today, I’ll put it on tomorrow’s.  That way there’s no stress about forgetting it, and it’s not distracting me.   I also try to predict what I’ll have time to do tomorrow.  I keep my eye on my calendar, so that if I know I have social engagements or what have you, I put less stuff on my list for that day.  The week list has everything I hope to get done by the end of the week.  If I want to write three times this week, I’ll put it on the list three times.  Then when I’m making out my today and tomorrow lists, I try to make sure I keep track of how many of each of those I do.   The year list is things that I may not be able to do this week, but I want to keep track of down the line.

Here’s a cool YouTube video about lists:

Have a Notebook

Whether it’s online, or in an app, or physically a pen and paper old-school notebook, you should have a place to put down your random ideas, questions, and thoughts.  You want to deposit them somewhere so that you know you can come back to them later, and that you won’t forget.  If you are in the middle of learning a new song on guitar, and suddenly the question “how do armadillos breed?” pops into your head, what you don’t want to do is open up Google right then and there, because the next thing you know, you’ll be down the rabbit hole, clicking from link to link, and deeper and deeper into the internet.

Positive Reinforcement

I see a lot of suggestions out there about charts or calendars.  Mark off or add a gold star each day that you do some work toward your goal or project.   If you see the stars adding up for days in a row, it’ll motivate you to keep doing it.  You won’t want to break the chain, and end the good vibes of self-esteem you’re getting for accomplishing it.   For some people, promising themselves gifts when they reach certain benchmarks could also be motivational.  “Once I’ve finished the first half of my novel, I’ll buy myself a shiny new soap dish!”

Negative Reinforcement

I believe I’ve said before that the fear of public embarrassment is highly motivating for me.   I would finally sit down to write my paper on the day it was due, because I couldn’t face what the teacher might say if I didn’t turn it in, let alone what anyone else would say when they saw my poor grades.  I learned musical parts right before shows, because I didn’t want to get up in front of an audience and make a huge mistake.   So some sort of negative consequence could be helpful to keep you on track.  It’s probably best to combine this with a positive reinforcement.

Prioritize Goofing Off

It’s not really feasible to be a 24/7 productivity machine.  Or even if it is, it doesn’t sound like much fun.   I know that I do a much better job of getting things done, if I know that there will be a chance to do something less taxing later.  So, on my daily to-do list, I may have “study Python for 45 minutes” but I also have, “watch Monty Python”.    There’s also techniques, like the Pomodoro Technique where you break up tasks into 25 minute chunks with 5 minute breaks in-between to goof off.

This, of course, is not the end of this series, but it’s a good place to stop for today, while I go accomplish something else on my to-do list.    Stay tuned for Part 3, where I think I’ll go over some of the tools I’ve been using to help curb my procrastination.  And here’s some links for more reading:

 

Links to More Ideas About Beating Procrastination (Not Comprehensive)

How to Stop Procrastinating on Your Goals by Using the ‘Seinfeld Strategy’

10 Techniques to Successfully Overcome Procrastination

HOW WE PROCRASTINATE (and may not even know it.) 

 

 

And, seriously, if you have any suggestions about procrastination beating tips and tricks, post below.  I love comments!

 

 

My Tattoos

I just got a new one, and I am feeling a desire to catalog them.  For the entire world.  On the internet.  I’ll just go ahed and tag this one “stalker bait”.

 

100_2777This was my first.  The dia de los muertos sugar skull.  To remind me of people I’d lost, namely my sister, and to remember to celebrate death as part of life.

 

Photo 76_3My second was a reminder to myself that today I am alive, but there’s no guarantee I will be tomorrow.  Life is short.  Live the shit out of it.

 

IMG_1147This one has a couple of different meanings.  It’s a reminder of home and childhood, yes, but also, I got it during the 2010 World Series, that was won by the orange and black wearing Giants.

 

IMG_2759Beautiful.  I am beautiful.  You are beautiful.  Each and every one of us, all of the world and all of humanity is beautiful. And if anyone says you’re not, I advise you to ignore them

 

IMAG0240_1This blue morpho is to remind me of Costa Rica.  There’s more of the world to see, and more butterflies to find.

 

IMAG0225_1My latest, incomplete.   Because you know what make for a cool tattoo design?  A mechanical, clockwork owl.

 

 

What?  I can’t always be deep.


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