Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Just five minutes

Do you ever find yourself stuck with a task that you just do not want to do? The thing sits there, festering away, undone and mocking you for your procrastination!

The folks at AE (Asian Efficiency) recently mentioned a nice strategy that my kids and I have used for years: the five minute rule. Pick your most dreaded task (for example, folding laundry) and determine that you will do that for no more than five minutes. Set a timer for five minutes and then do that dreaded task until the timer goes off. At the very least you would have made some serious progress on that to-do; and most times you know you are so much closer to finishing it that you just keep going.

The trick is to just get started!

We have used this idea for cleaning our house, doing dishes, etc. Try making it fun by doing a 5-minute relay game: one person starts and does the task for just five minutes, then the next person takes over for five minutes, etc. Great team work and a nice way to share the load.

Some tasks may need a 10-minute lapse instead of just five. The nice thing is that you (and your team) can set the work time to whatever you want. The important thing is to get started and make as much progress as possible.

And this idea lends itself nicely for competitions. For example, who can clean the most windows in five minutes? The winner gets a reward. :-)

In the end, what is important is that progress is made, even if it is in five-minute chunks.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Reading faster and more efficiently

It is not all about speed now, is it? The lure of speed reading is not only to read faster but to also increase our understanding of the material. Here is a nice article on how to improve our reading efficiency: Systematically Skim Books to Learn Better

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Page-Turners and Cliff-hangers

Do you want to give your productivity (and creativity) a boost? Then go over to this great (short) article and read about a simple technique that is sure to help! I have used this methodology for years and it really does work (and it is easy and it is free!).

Page-Turners and Cliff-hangers Technique

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

The End of Plenty

NPR's "Fresh Air" show of June 8 was truly captivating, especially the first segment concerning the book "The End of Plenty" by Joel Bourne. Here is the link to the show in case you missed it.

Mr. Bourne makes some very insightful points about our food production models. I was particularly interested in the fact that GE/GMO crops have not been found to produce significantly higher yields than unmodified versions. If this is true and we add to it the fact that there is evidence of human DNA alteration from GMO products, one has to stop and wonder what benefit (other than huge profits for companies like Monsanto) this altered products bring us. Here are some references:

Another disturbing aspect of the report is the prospect that regardless of our advances, we will not be able to produce enough food to feed all of humanity 50 years from now. That is a scary thought if you just stop and think about it. Part of the problem is that we are taking an enormous amount of our crops and using them to feed our cars instead of feeding people. In the process of trying to maximize profits, we are overusing pesticides and fertilizers disregarding the damage to the soil, rivers, lakes, oceans, and all the eco-systems connected to them.

Coincidentally, yesterday I also came across this video from Conservation International:

The most powerful point: if we keep this up, we may not destroy the planet, but we may destroy our species.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Shameful corruption

On my way home yesterday I listened to a report on NPR about how the American Red Cross raised $500 million after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and how Haitians are still living in horrible conditions five years after the disaster.

Here are pertinent links:
This is an example of an organization that has grown to the point of being poisoned by corruption and inefficiency. I have seen this in the Red Cross since the 1970s in my native Mexico. I saw a little of it in my dealings with it in Upstate NY as a member of the EMS community. And now these reports show that the magnitude of problems with the Red Cross are enormous.

Personally, this reinforces my hesitation to contribute to this organization. I will not send money to them, and I am questioning my commitment to donate blood. I know they sell my blood and platelets (to the highest bidder?). How much of that money goes to serve the community or help the poor and those in need? The more I read on that the more doubts I have about their operational model.

Perhaps it is time for all of us to research the Red Cross and demand much more accountability and transparency. They need to do the right thing at the right time, not the things that look right but solve none of the problems at hand.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

The dangers of Contra

For the last few years I have been involved in a seemingly innocent and fun activity called Contra dancing. I invite you to watch this video to get an idea of what Contra is all about, then come back and read the rest of the blog posting.

So, in no particular order, here are the dangers of Contra dancing:

  • It is addictive — oh, sure, at first you can go once a month to the local dance and be happy with just that. But then horrible things begin to happen. By Wednesday morning you begin to have withdrawal symptoms. When there is no local dance scheduled for that weekend, you start looking for dances in nearby communities. Soon you find yourself driving one, then two, then three hours to a dance. In my case, I started with Lake Murray Contra (thanks to my friend Robin), and then to Columbia Contra events. Soon we were going to Charleston, SC, and Charlotte, NC, for some dances. Now, I routinely go to dances in all those places plus Greenville, River Falls and Spartanburg (website coming). The addiction is so bad that I find myself missing the Contra dance on Monday instead of Wednesday. See how bad it is? And now I am thinking maybe I can drive to Atlanta or Florida for a dance when there are none in my areas. Bad, isn't it? And don't even get me started on Contra weekends! I attended my first weekend-long event this April (The Palmetto Bug Stomp in Charleston, SC) and now I keep looking forward to more weekend-long events!
  • It disallows any sense of inactivity and boredom. If you are a coach potato, being exposed to Contra dancing is a bad idea. You will quickly find yourself wanting more activity. It will start with one dance per month, then two per month … soon you will want to start running and lifting weights. And you might as well cancel your cable subscription and sell your TV(s). You will not have time or desire for those things.
  • It makes you new friends even when you don't expect them. Picture this: you show up at a Contra dance having 20-30 friends. After just two or three hours you leave the dance with 50 more friends. Oh, but it does not stop there.  Wait until you attend a weekend event -- then your circle of friends grows exponentially. It can be exhausting having these many friends! And some even bring you into their homes and make you part of their family just because you are a Contra dancer.
  • As if all the above was not enough, your sense of community gets inflated almost as much as a politician's ego at a political rally. Soon you find yourself volunteering to be a Board member for one … two … three or more groups. You volunteer to do events. And someone gets you started as a Caller. It is all very dangerous, I am telling you!
  • You will be forced to learn new skills — not on the dance floor, as Contra dancing is nothing more than fun walking to fantastic music, but in many other areas. For example, if you start calling, your memory will improve, you will learn to modulate your voice, improve your listening skills, and work on having great timing and rhythm.
  • You will be forced to give up on perfection and focus on having fun. Dancers, callers, organizers, musicians — they have all abandoned the concept of perfection and embraced the joy of having fun, laughing at all the goofy stuff that happens, and moving on quickly so that the moment can take over and fill your heart with joy. Contra teaches you to be in the here and now; what happened a moment ago is gone and what may happen tomorrow has no room in your mind and heart. The only thing that matters are the people you are with and the fabulous music you are dancing to. You focus on the here and now or the group will bring you there very quickly. Beware: Contra dancing is pure mindfulness in motion.
  • You will develop smile muscles you never knew you had.
I am sure there are many other potential dangers of Contra dancing that I may have missed. If so, please feel free to comment and let me know what perils you have encountered in your Contra dancing journey.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Looking 10-15 Years Down the Road

Goals are dreams with a deadline.

Plans are what helps us achieve our goals.

How far ahead do we plan?

I am beginning to plan the trips I will take when I retire some 10-12 years down the road. If all goes well, the road will be my home. I will have a modest vehicle to live in and will criss-cross the USA, Canada and (perhaps) Mexico. I have a three-prong mission and a clear vision. And when not on the road on the American continent, I am planning trips to visit other countries. First stop: Spain. That will be followed by Scotland and England. Each will be at least three weeks long. I have books I am reading and planning my trips.

Do you have long-term plans, goals, mission and vision?

When we fail to plan we plan to fail. (Benjamin Franklin)

Friday, May 29, 2015

It is time for reform and re-evaluation

The latest scandal on a large organization (this time FIFA) is a clear indication that our society needs a re-boot. Organizations such as FIFA, the International Olympic Committee, all governments, and most corporations have become corrupted. Their sheer size is a perfect conduit for corruption. The larger the enterprise, the more likely that things will begin to run amok, that accountability will fade away, and that transparency will be replaced with secrecy.

It is time for all of us to demand reform, accountability and transparency. We are all paying the cost for this corrupted system.

It is also time for us to take action. Let us not support organizations that fail to meet high ethical standards. Let us all re-evaluate our own behaviors.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
Mahatma Gandhi