Categories
Productivity Writing

When Older is Better – An Apology to the Creator of Vim

I first encountered the text editor Vim back in the late 1990s. I needed to edit some configuration settings in my first Linux install ever and the tutorials I found all told me to use Vim.

I cussed that program until the ears of the guy who created it had to burn. I hated that text editing program with a purple passion so I abandoned it with glee as soon as I completed my task.

A few years later I found myself with an ancient Windows 95 laptop that was far too old to even think about using Windows so I installed Damn Small Linux (DSL Linux for the polite) on the machine to restore functionality. My goal was to do a bit of surfing and to write my journal entries on that old beast. I was far too broke and entirely too stubborn to discard a laptop that was perfectly functional, if old and slow.

I hated the graphical text editor that came with DSL. I can’t remember why I didn’t like it, only that I did. When I eventually discovered that the battery on that ancient laptop lasted a lot longer when I used a shell (think really old school – no pictures), I cringed and tried to use Vim once again.

It wasn’t pleasant but I figured out how to operate the program enough to do what I needed. I used Vim on that laptop daily until that old computer died.

I forgot about Vim after that but after spending this last decade trying to find a blessed program that was comfortable to write in, a program that didn’t randomly delete chunks of my file or whatever, and didn’t cost a small fortune I became so annoyed that I decided to try again. I installed Vim on my writing computer and told myself that I would learn that program or die trying.

I spent the first few days searching up how-to pages but managed to knock out a few paragraphs. There was a bit of cursing involved but with this hillbilly, that’s par for the course.

But when I decided to move a chunk of text around, things changed. I looked up a tutorial and discovered that two teeny-tiny commands would allow me to rip a chunk of whatever size from one place and either delete it, create another file with it, or move it wherever in the document I desired.

Oh. My. God.

Anyone who has used a standard word processor like Word or even a basic graphical text editor knows what a nightmare that can be. You’ve got to fight with the mouse to highlight the chunk (the bigger the chunk the greater the pain), then scroll to where you want to stick it, and pray that it pastes it properly. It took what used to be an event I dreaded and made it amazingly simple.

Then I discovered that when you add another command to the process called folding, the task gets infinitely easier. You can fold up chunks of a document so that you only see the headings so that you can actually SEE the spot where you want to go. You can arrange those folds however you like in a way that is only seen in a Wordsmith’s wet dream.

I wasted 20 years of my life and thousands of dollars searching for a program that would allow me to write and edit my words easily. And I am more than embarrassed at the fact that I possessed the perfect program the whole time. Even more embarrassing, that program is FREE.

Bram Moolenaar, I owe you an apology. I have cussed you and your program for more years than I care to admit. But I am mature enough to admit when I’m wrong so that is what I am going to do.

I was wrong to dismiss the ancient text editing program Vim. You have created the best damn program for writing books, blogs, journal entries, and anything else a writer wants to write. I’ve just sent you a small donation and I intend to send more as money allows.

Thank you, Bram Moolenaar. Thank you from the bottom of this old woman’s heart.

If you happen to be a writer, you need to use Vim. You will curse that program until you’re hoarse the first few days because the way it works and the commands you use will be utterly unfamiliar to you. Keep a browser tab open and search for whatever it is you want to do. Make some notes as you go along, and don’t hesitate to look for tutorials to learn how to do stuff you think is completely impossible. Chances are there’s a command in Vim that will let you do whatever it is by punching a couple of letters.

I won’t go into the details about basic Vim commands here. There are pages enough about that subject so there’s no point. I am just going to tell you that Vim has changed my entire writing life for the better.

I cannot thank Bram enough.

We have all been programmed to believe that newer is better. Newer models, newer features must always be better than the old and tried and true. For writers, that means that we spend small fortunes on programs or subscriptions to programs that are supposed to make writing easier. Yet I have discovered that a 30-year old program, a 30-year old FREE program trumps them all.

Don’t dismiss the old stuff, folks. You may find yourself eating your hat like I have with Vim.

Do you have something old in your life that you’ve found more useful than the modern stuff? Please share your stories in the comments below.


It is hypocritical to run a website about buying and living on less while begging your readers to buy your crap so I refuse to do it. That said, I live on the money I receive from book sales, so if you can find it in your heart to pitch in I would be immensely grateful.

I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Organization Productivity Time management

My Minimalist Daily Planner

I have spent a small fortune on planning and productivity apps over the years. I’ve vacillated between paper and digital so many times that it borders upon the ridiculous.

While I wanted to go completely digital, not one of the apps I purchased could accommodate my needs so I would end up purchasing even more apps, make the process more complicated, and give up as a result. If I found one I liked it would be out of date within six months to a year unless I paid even more for the new version or moved on to something different.

Paper planning methods were just as annoying. While the Bullet Journal method worked to a degree, I found myself having to migrate to new notebooks so often that it felt like I spent more time migrating than I did actually using the thing. The closest thing to paradise I discovered in the paper realm was a hard back planner that made my wallet scream.

Even worse with the paper methods, I quickly built up a large supply of used notebooks, which is far from ideal when you live in a tiny house.

After my last round of experiments I decided that enough was enough. My goal is to simplify my life, not make it more complicated with stacks of notebooks or constant app purchases.

I wanted a planning and record-keeping method that would use a minimum of space, could be easily viewed on different devices, not be locked into some sort of specialized software, and not cost a single penny.

Since that doesn’t really exist out in the world, I made one.

I modified the original idea in David Allen’s book Getting Things Done. I created a series of folders, naming them in a way that would cause them to sort automatically by date. I eliminated the need for monthly folders with my naming procedure and got to work.

Daily Folders sorted by date.

Each day gets its own individual folder that is named by the date and day of the week. Within that folder I created a text file for my work shift, and individual text files for anything I needed to remember upon that day or tasks I wanted to accomplish.

As the day progresses I rename the task files, placing an “x” in the front of the file name to mark the task as completed. I file relevant documents within that folder by naming them accordingly. A quick search on my computer will bring up personal items, photos, or whatever I am searching for without having to dig through the folders individually.

Daily tasks and notes are stored in the daily folders. Note the “x” in front of the completed tasks.

On the days I have time to journal I create a simple text file in the daily folder to log my personal thoughts.

Recurring tasks get copied into each daily folder in advance based upon when I want to take care of them. While I do keep a separate file with a list of tasks that I don’t need to do on a specific date, that is simple enough to maintain. I just borrowed the old plain-text format from the Taskpaper app I purchased ages ago and access the file from any plain text editor now that Taskpaper is no longer supported.

It has been a few months since I started experimenting with this method. To my surprise, it meets my needs perfectly. I am able to not only keep track of my daily life even on the go (provided I sync beforehand or have wifi access), I can even scan in any journal entries I decide to write by hand so it has actually ended up being a bit better than any method I have tried in the past.

While it does take a few minutes to create a new set of files each month I have no doubts that task could be automated if one ever decided to write a script for the process. I find it meditative to create them manually at the moment so I’ve not been motivated to even bother.

Accessing the Planner on the Move

I recommend storing the main folder (named by the current year) in the cloud if you want to access your planner on the go. For simplicity’s sake, create a folder inside the annual folder named “@Upcoming Schedule” to separate your archives from your future plans.

When you want to create a note for a future date, create a folder for that particular date and insert the note inside. You can copy emails, PDFs, or anything in there as a reminder.

This method is extremely simple and quite effective once you develop the habit of checking your daily folder every morning. I move the previous day’s folder up one level into the annual folder before opening up the folder for the new day to get started.

If you are sick and tired of experimenting with planning methods or paying a fortune for apps and paper planners you may want to consider trying this method. It is simple, platform-independent, future-proof, and completely free.

Even better, you can customize the method based upon how you work and keep track of things in a way that you find most comfortable.


What methods have you tried to keep track of your daily life? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Health Productivity

How to Improve Your Health and Boost Productivity

At first glance the subjects of health and productivity don’t seem to have much in common. One concerns how you treat your body and the other how you handle your time. Yet the two are inextricably entwined. It is only by maintaining and improving your health that you can find the energy to do the things you want (and need) to do.

I must confess that I only understood the correlation recently. Over the years I had noticed a lessening of my energy levels. Considering that I am nearing the half-century mark, I attributed it to age and dismissed it. Everybody slows down when they get older, I told myself.

Over the past two years a lingering dental problem (a lifetime of drinking soft drinks has destroyed the enamel on my teeth) forced me to have several teeth removed. As I began to have the teeth extracted, I noticed a surprising side effect: Every time I had a tooth removed, my energy levels increased. With every single boost of energy, I became more productive in my daily life.

I began to ask questions about this phenomenon. Dental issues can cause lingering infections in the body. By removing the source of the infection, I was reducing the load on my immune system and allowing it to work more efficiently. Instead of expending energy to keep infections at bay, my body now had excess energy that could be channeled into other areas of my life.

I pondered this quietly as I noticed the change. If eliminating the cause of infection in my body could cause such a dramatic improvement in my productivity, could actively caring for my body improve my productivity even more?

I decided upon a simple experiment. As most people in this modern age, I didn’t get enough sleep. I would stay up until late in the night writing or chatting online with friends. As a result I would have to drag myself out of bed each morning and force myself to get to work. Since sleep is essential for health, getting more of it should not only boost my health but increase my productivity as well.

At first it was difficult to train myself to go to bed earlier. It felt as if I was wasting time sleeping instead of doing more important things like writing or cleaning my home. I can sleep when I’m dead, I would tell myself stubbornly when my designated bedtime arrived.

I kept working on my experiment. Since a set bedtime wasn’t helping, I instead started setting my alarm clock a bit earlier. Within a week or so my body would start forcing me to go to bed earlier at night.

I didn’t see much difference at first. I would still be a bit groggy in the mornings as I woke up and began to work. Over time that began to change.

I began to wake up before my alarm each morning, sometimes by several hours. At first I was content to lie there and think but over time I began to get restless. I began hopping out of bed ready to get to work.

I began to feel a restless energy that I hadn’t felt in years. Each time I would feel it surface I would get up and do something. While some of these spurts didn’t last long, others lasted for several hours. Over time, these spurts of energy began to get longer and tiny little health issues I’d attributed to age began to decrease.

My ankles no longer swell painfully after a long shift. My shoulder rarely aches after a busy day scanning purchases. My ability to deal with the daily stress of life has improved. Things that used to upset me are now met with a shrug.

I feel as if I’m doing less yet the evidence around me proves that I’m doing more than ever. My home is cleaner. I write more. I read more books than ever. I even started mowing my own yard instead of hiring others to do it yet I still have time and energy to spare. Even with starting college I now find myself with enough time and energy to get it all done.

And it all started by taking care of me first.

If you find yourself perpetually exhausted and feel as if you don’t have enough hours in the day to do what needs to be done, you can improve that situation by making one simple change to your routine:

Get more sleep.

Sleep is like a magic potion to the human body. It allows it to recharge, giving it time to devote to healing and restoration. It can solve problems that the modern medical community cannot even detect, much less repair. Even better, the solution is free.

So go to bed earlier tonight. If like me you have trouble doing that, start by setting your alarm a bit earlier each morning so that your body will force the issue. Take naps whenever you can. This is especially important if you find yourself nodding off whenever you sit down since this is a classic sign of sleep deprivation.

Take one day each week to just rest. You may sleep the entire day away at first (like I did), but over time you will notice that your sleep periods will get shorter and your energy levels begin to climb.

When your energy levels go up, your productivity will follow.

If you found this post helpful, please take a moment to share it with a friend. If you find that you have trouble sleeping, you may want to consider picking up a copy of Set Your Sleep on Autopilot: Learn How to Fall Asleep Fast by Eric West. In this book he compiled a number of very helpful suggestions. I had the honor of contributing my personal method for dealing with insomnia to this book as well. Over the years I’ve revisited this book several times to learn from him and the other contributors so I highly recommend it.

Categories
Minimalism Productivity

The Facebook Fast

As time ticked closer to the start of my first semester I began to worry: where would I get the time to attend college? I work more hours than ever at my public job; between that and my writing business (not including my regular household duties) I was already approaching my limit.

Perplexed, I revisited my old friend Minimalism in search of ideas. Minimalism is the art of eliminating the unimportant to provide space for the important. This process is different for everyone. Some may want to eliminate excess stuff from their lives to free up space and finances while others (like me) may simply need to carve some time out in their busy lives to focus on achieving a lifelong goal.

I spent the next several days simply observing my life as I asked the question How do I spend my time? As busy as I was, I knew that I didn’t spend every single moment involved in productive endeavors, so my goal was to locate the primary leak in the ship of my time and eliminate it.

The answer came fairly quickly. Each morning as I sat down with my coffee I would open Facebook to see what my friends had been up to and respond to the messages that had arrived during the night. As I moved through my day, I noticed that I spend a tremendous amount of time responding to messages from family and friends as I strove to accomplish my daily tasks before I went to my public job.

Sometimes these conversations would become so distracting that I would lose track of time and have to rush to finish my necessary tasks before racing out the door.

My evenings weren’t much different. Each night I would plop down in my computer chair to relax and unwind a bit from my shift. I would open Facebook automatically and continue the procedure.

Sometimes I would spend so much time there that I would barely be able to keep my eyes open as I completed my nightly reading ritual before going to sleep.

I asked myself: Did I receive anything beneficial from the time I spent on Facebook each day?

The answer was a resounding no. While it was nice to keep track of my friends and family, there was nothing there that was truly relevant. Whenever someone in my life did share something important, they usually contacted me directly to distribute the news.

I took a deep breath. I have friends who enjoy reaching out to me about the minutia of their day on Facebook. I enjoy hearing from them and sharing pieces of my personal day as well. Could I truly limit or eliminate my time spent on the platform in light of this knowledge?

Eventually I decided to re-phrase the question: Would anything bad happen if I eliminated Facebook from my daily habits?

The answer was no.

I reached out to my friends and explained the situation, encouraging them to use email when they needed to reach me for something important and then I summoned my resolve and eliminated Facebook from my daily routine.

The results were astounding. That very first day I actually found myself bored.

I was so startled at that boredom that I actually celebrated. I’d not experienced boredom—true boredom–since I was a child whiling away my summer months in the Mountains. The sensation was enlightening.

We tend not to realize that the simplest of actions can have immense repercussions. Turning on the television after work can result in an evening wasted. Hanging out with friends can cause one to lose track of time so that they have to rush to accomplish their tasks (if they get done at all).

And turning on Facebook to browse the Feed can result in a journey down the Rabbit Hole of Distraction that can steal a shameful amount of hours from one’s life.

My life has changed for the better since my decision to turn my back on Facebook. Now that I have stopped visiting my Feed, opting instead to check my messages once or twice a day instead of lurking in the lives of others I have more time for myself as well as my studies.

I can wake up, drink my coffee, and perform my daily tasks with time to spare each day. Depending upon when my shift starts, I am now able to grab the occasional nap before I head in so that I can arrive refreshed instead of exhausted.

In the evenings I can turn on some relaxing classical music, curl up with a book, and feel the tension draining from my body at the end of the hectic day.

I am calmer now that I have time to spare. The persistent tension between my shoulder blades is now a memory. I not only feel better physically, my mind is developing a clarity I hadn’t known was possible.

Time is Finite

Each moment we spend, for good or ill, is lost forever. Instead of spending those moments thoughtlessly, manage them as carefully as you manage your finances.

Unlike money, time is something we can never regain once it’s gone.

Think well before you waste it.

What one item in your life can you eliminate to regain your time? Please share your stories in the comments below. If you found this post helpful, share it with a friend as well.

You might change their life for the better.

Categories
Finances Productivity Success

Why the Turtle Beats the Hare to Success

One of the blessings that come with age is patience. Time has a way of making you realize that instant wealth or success is a fairy tale concocted by marketers to place your cash in their pocket by taking advantage of your impatience.

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins discusses how mediocre companies develop long-lasting success. His research demonstrated that the companies that made sudden, drastic changes weren’t the ones who succeeded.

It was the companies that made tiny, incremental changes over time that achieved lasting success.

This principle applies to every single endeavor.

If your house is a pigsty, cleaning it from top to bottom might provide a rush of pleasure as you look upon your freshly cleaned home but it won’t stay that way for very long unless you change the habits that allowed your home to get out of control in the first place.

If your finances are a disaster, a spending moratorium may help you achieve breakeven and get caught up on your bills, but unless you alter your habits to the point where you routinely live beneath your means you are one splurge away from catastrophe despite your best efforts.

This is why the turtle always wins. The hare starts out at a rush, going full-tilt to defeat the challenge in one fell swoop. He may be able to achieve breakeven on his finances by not spending any money for a month. He may be able to deep clean his house in a weekend by tossing a bunch of crap out and scrubbing it from top to bottom. He may even be able to jump start his business income by following the tips in one of those get-rich-quick tutorials.

But none of the hare’s success will last for very long. By the time he completes the massive accomplishment of cleaning his house, catching up on his bills, or bringing in the first few dollars of business income he will be so exhausted he will be forced to take a break. During that break things will go back to what they were before he began.

The story ends differently for the turtle. They start very slow, focusing on one tiny aspect of the thing they want to change. They may make it a personal rule to scoop the litterbox once a day. They may start washing their dishes up as they use them. In their business, they may start out by writing one tiny article or blog post, or by investing a few dollars in the stock market every month. The goal they set for themselves may be so tiny that no one around them even notices at first. Those whom the turtle shares with may even laugh at his progress.

While everyone is clapping the hare on his back for his massive weight loss the turtle will be plucking away in the background, altering the habits that made him overweight one meal at a time. As the hare starts to regain the weight he lost in his drastic fast, the turtle will grow continually slimmer and maintain his smaller figure.

While the hare is out celebrating his business success with his buddies the turtle will be at home tinkering on another aspect of his business venture. The hare will look at his bank balance and realize that his income is dropping. He may get desperate, repeat the actions he did to generate the first flow of funds but then decide that it’s too much work and quit.

The turtle will still be plucking away, happy because his business is steadily growing.

I’ve seen this scenario play out more times than I can count in the writing business and in life. Friends who stopped spending money for a month, who ended up asking me for cash because they’d blown every penny they’d gained celebrating with a major purchase after. Acquaintances who quit their job after making a sudden success in a business venture ending up broke in a town far away because they took their eyes off of the prize for a moment too long.

One by one I’ve watched my writing and business friends throw up their hands and quit. I’ve listened to them rant about the unfairness of it all so many times that I can almost predict what the recent quitters are going to say before they open the chat box.

But I am the Turtle. I chugged away for years before I gained my first success, so when that initial flood of cash began to slow I made a few adjustments and just kept going.

It would have been easy to quit. I was tempted to do just that when I went back to working a public job. All of my writer friends were dropping like flies, going back to their day jobs because the Internet life “didn’t pan out.”

But I didn’t. Instead, I took a long, hard look at my life. I analyzed what I’d done right and what mistakes I had made. Instead of throwing my hands up in surrender I started making adjustments and kept going.

That slow, steady pace is quietly paying off. Month by month I can see a small uptick in my book sales. Month by month I can see a tiny increase in the readership of this website.

Month by month I can see my investments growing, building towards my ultimate goal bit by tiny bit. So far this month I’ve received $60 in dividends and more will arrive before the calendar flips.

This turtle isn’t going to rest on her laurels, however. This turtle will do the same thing she’s been doing since she started. She will keep her expenses as low as she comfortably can and continue her steady march towards lasting freedom.

Whatever you desire in life can be achieved by taking slow, steady steps. It’s not as glamorous as throwing out all of your stuff, going on a financial fast, or hitting the gym in a frenzy but if you want to make a lasting change in your life it is the only method that works.

Stop trying to imitate the hare. It’s the turtle that wins in the end.

Categories
Business Productivity

Headless Chicken

Life has kept me super-busy these past few weeks. I’ve been slowly spring-cleaning my house by doing little things on top of helping Katie adjust to her current situation.

At work, my official management training is underway so I stay busier than ever. In order to keep labor costs low, the end of the night has me paired with my trainer. She generally runs the register while I race through the store like a headless chicken to get things done.

I’m having a blast!

My daily duties have been extended to include both the Produce and the Meat departments, so I’ve got to keep the store looking pretty, stock the meats when they get low (keeping them tidy in the meantime), check the dates to put items on clearance when needed, plus keep Produce and Action Alley stocked.

That’s in addition to helping out on the registers when needed and doing the paperwork side of things.

I stay so busy that my evenings fly by as a result. One moment I’m clocking in, the next it’s time for break, then BOOM! It’s time to close the store and do the last of the paperwork.

Even with my beginner’s mistakes, I’m finishing up at a decent time.

I’m quite proud of myself for that achievement.

The only challenge I face is doing some of the managerial register work. We’ve not had hardly any voids or other things for me to fix yet. Once they become confident that I’ve had my trial by fire, they will turn me loose to close the store on my own.

I’m both excited and nervous about that. It’s been at least 15 years since I’ve been a closing manager so I’m more than a bit rusty. My experience was with a restaurant so the specific duties are a bit different as well. The paperwork side has been fairly easy to learn but being on my own, being the one in charge of not only the store, but the employees as well?

That makes me a bit nervous. I want to do right by them.

My neighbor, who happens to be one of the main managers at the store next door, advised me not to stress so much over the responsibility. He says I will do just fine based on what he’s seen so far.

While I probably will, I will probably be more than a bit worried until I prove it to myself. That is just how I am.

Have a nice night!

Categories
Organization Productivity self-improvement

The Habit Chain

It takes time to form a habit. Positive habits are definitely worth the effort to build. They can slowly transform our life from the mediocre into an absolutely astounding existence.

When remaking your life it is best to start small. Analyze the things you want to change about yourself and select just one to focus on. This is how Benjamin Franklin did it. He would chronicle his success and failures in a journal for a time before switching his focus onto another habit, in a continual self-improvement program.

This year I have three habits I want to create. I want to read a little bit every single day, I want to write a single blog post, and I want to scoop the litterbox.

I added the last one because I didn’t want all of my habits to just be about me. One must curate a pleasant environment in order to be at their happiest, and I really dislike the results of skipping a day when it comes to scooping that litterbox. My litterbox may be large but I prefer it to be as clean as I can keep it.

In order to get a running start I began my project late last year. I would write those three items down on the daily pages of my planner each morning, checking them off as I completed them. I soon realized that I was spending time re-writing those three things that could be better utilized elsewhere so I began brainstorming a solution.

I recalled reading somewhere about a comedian who would place an X on an annual calendar every single day after he wrote one joke. His goal was to keep the chain going.

I decided to try it. I placed an X over the day after completing every blog post and circled the date when I completed my daily reading. I experimented with placing another mark over the date for the litterbox scooping but when I decided that it made things confusing I printed out a copy of my annual page and stuck it in my Book of Lists to mark off there.

That comedian was right. It is incredibly motivational to have a chain of marks that you want to keep going. I’ve found myself completing my unfinished tasks near midnight just to keep the chain intact.

If you have a habit you wish to acquire I urge you to try it. Use this link to print out an annual calendar and start crossing out the days as you complete the task. It really does help.

Categories
Productivity Writing

Morning Ritual

Back in the early days of my writing career I began a small morning ritual. I would wake up, snag my cup of coffee, and knock out however many articles I needed to write that day in order to achieve my desired income for the week.

Once I finished writing my daily quota of articles I was free to pursue my day.

That small routine forced me to do the work I needed to do in order to survive. Even better, the habit forced me not to procrastinate.

Times have changed since those very early days. I no longer rely on content producing to pay my bills. Instead, I spend a portion of my time each week at a public job that meets my financial needs. As a result, it has become far too easy to allow my writing to be pushed aside.

That will stop with this new year. Every single morning I intend to write a single blog post as I sit down with my morning cup of Joe.

Just one post.

I can do one post.

A single post, written every day, will result in 365 posts on this website by the end of the year. That will allow me to achieve my writing goal for 2019.

***

What small routine can you incorporate into your life with this new year that will take you closer to achieving your goals? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Organization Productivity self-improvement

Preparing for the New Year

Twenty-eighteen has been an incredibly eventful year. I’ve come to terms with the fact that the previous stage of my life is ending and determined a new direction for my life.

I may not know yet how I’ll get to there from here. That’s okay. All I have to do is continue to move forward with my end goal in mind; the rest will fall into place in time.

The primary way that I maintain my focus on a daily basis is through my planner/diary. The book allots one page per day to keep track of schedules, tasks, notes, and highlights. This not only allows me to keep track of the things that I want/need to do but to look back and remind myself of what I’ve already accomplished.

One major change I have made in this habit over the past year was to finally settle on the At-A-Glance Diary instead of just using the computer or a cheap composition notebook as I have in the past. My plans are extremely important to me, I can afford the expense, and I’ve realized that it’s high time that I break myself of the habit of going cheap on everything. It is time I began to utilize the Diderot Effect for a positive purpose.

I’ve fallen into the habit of using a modified version of the Bullet Journal method of notation to log my entries. This allows me to jot down things as I think of them in a format that is easy to review. My primary changes are using a “$” signifier for financial information, an exclamation point (!) for important items (as opposed to an asterisk), a lower-case “i” to note informative/inspirational notes, the letter “w” for my writing, and the letter “s” for self-improvement items.

As I’ve prepared for what 2019 will bring I’ve transferred recurring events to my new planner and dedicated an empty page in the back for both my annual and long-term goals.

They are as follows:

Long-Term Goals:

  • Multiple streams of passive income. More than enough to live on comfortably.
  • Own my own home.
  • Long, healthy, active life.

I made a note after this set of goals to remind myself that I’m just hitting my groove. I’ve got 50 years of life left at a minimum with modern medical technology so it isn’t going to hurt one bit to utilize 20 of those years to attain my goal of financial independence.

2019 Goals:

With my long-term goals in mind, I sat down to figure out just what I wanted to accomplish next year.

  • Have a will created. I need to get in the habit of keeping one of these. Wealthy people understand the importance of these; since I intend to become wealthy I need to adopt this practice.
  • Acquire dentures. I want a set of partials to correct my smile as I move forward. This will not only improve my ability to eat, it will also give me an advantage as I strive to increase my income.
  • Acquire new eyeglasses. These will aid immensely as I study and continue to write.
  • Re-acquire driving permit/license. This will be necessary if I decide to invest in real estate or enter a field that requires me to drive.
  • Continue investing. I must keep moving forward, doing what I can do with what I currently have, if I want to accomplish my long-term goals so I cannot allow this to fall to the wayside.
  • Determine if a career change is necessary. This concerns my public job. I know I will have to keep a public job for the next few years at the least so I need to decide if I want to continue life as a cashier or take steps to shift into a different profession. This does not concern my writing and investing whatsoever–just what I do to pay the bills and earn extra money to invest towards my future.
  • Continue reading/studying. I’ve got a lot of educational ground to cover as I change my mindset and work out the best way to achieve my goal. This will be a priority to me.
  • Continue writing. I want to share my journey with others in order to provide hope and prove that one can accomplish anything they set their mind to. It will also serve as a form of personal clarification and therapy. I also want to brainstorm and write a new book before the end of 2019.
  • Change the stories that I tell myself. Life is 99% of the stories we tell ourselves. I’ve realized that I need to change a few of my personal stories. I’ll discuss this in a later post.

Now that I know where I’m going it will simply be a matter of keeping on track. To close out the year (and eliminate the stress of drama) I worked out what I could personally do about a private situation, took a deep breath, and got it over with. Now that I know I have done all I can personally do I am free to let that issue go and continue with my plans to move forward.

I refuse to allow anyone’s actions to derail my plans for my future.

Taking Care of My Now

I’ve done all I can do to prepare for next year so it is time to focus on my now. I made another small investment in the stock market to celebrate, I’m composing a list of things I want to tidy and sort around the house (I’ve let things slide due to stress), and I’ve resolved to have this blog back on track with the coming year.

Starting in January I will resume posting three days a week come hell or high water. I refuse to allow myself to slack but I do need to reduce my current workload for a bit as I mentally prepare for next year since I want to hit the ground running.

***

What goals have you set for the coming year? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Productivity

It is Okay to Guard Your Time

I started wearing a ring on my wedding finger a few weeks back. I had become tired of being hit on by the numerous men who thought it was appropriate to distract me at my job. I am single for a reason; I’ve got something I want to accomplish. I’ll never be able to achieve my goals if I spend my time going out on dates. Even worse, the unwanted attention was beginning to interfere with my day job as I actively attempted to avoid the more persistent males.

Twenty dollars to guard my time.

It worked. Now I am able to focus all of my attention on my work which allows me to give my employer my best performance. I might not make much there but I like the store I work at and I want them to do well.

It speaks volumes about our society when a person is forced to pretend that she is in a relationship in order to work in public unmolested but at this point, I could care less about debating the subject. If I have to lie about my relationship status to eliminate the distraction then so be it.

Our Time is Limited

Time is a finite resource. We only have 24 hours each day to work towards our dreams and at 48 years of age, I’m running a bit behind. I have to hit this hard if I want to achieve success. That means I need to spend as much time as I can learning and growing if I want to achieve true freedom before I die.

We all have goals we want to achieve. Whatever the goal, the more time we spend engaging in distractions, the longer it will take to accomplish them. No one cares about your goals as much as you do; if you let them, the people that surround you will drag you down and prevent you from achieving success.

Don’t let that happen.

What is the one area of your life that is stealing time from your goals? Please share your stories in the comments below.

 

 

 

Categories
Productivity

Big Task, Small Chunks

I have kept extremely busy over these past few weeks. Between my public job, volunteering, writing, and working on my house I rarely have a moment of downtime so I decided to take a break the other day and just curl up with a good book.

I had spent the entire day being lazy when it dawned on me: I really needed to make a trip to the laundromat. Of all the things I’ve accomplished lately, that was the one task I’ve procrastinated on. My laundry bags were overflowing and I needed clean socks for work the next day.

Nine o’clock at night I hauled my laundry around the corner to take care of business. It was rather late so instead of sorting out socks, underwear, and bras into their individual piles I stuffed them all into a single bag to deal with later.

I had to work my public job early the next day but I forced myself to put all of my other laundry away. It was after midnight by that time so the bag of socks and stuff remained unsorted.

I was exhausted when I got home after work the next day. I saw that bag on the table and cringed. I did not want to do all of that sorting. I did have a little bit of energy left so I did what I seem to do best: I turned it into a smaller task.

Instead of stressing over the entire project I dumped that bag out and focused on one thing: sorting out the bras and panties. Five minutes later those items were carefully sorted and placed away.

The socks were done the day after.

If I had continued to think about the entire task with dread it would still be sitting on my kitchen table. The thought of doing all of it at once was not only intimidating, it would have taken time away from the other things I needed to accomplish as well.

I could squeeze a five minute task into my agenda, however. Two little five minute stretches of time conquered the problem without putting a strain on either my nerves or my day.

We all have those things that we want to accomplish but we dread to start. The task just seems overwhelming. It can range from doing the dishes, spring cleaning, or completing a project for work or school. It doesn’t matter what it is; all that matters is that the task seems so overwhelming that we never get started, so we sit and stress over it while the problem just gets bigger.

Instead of allowing ourselves to become overwhelmed, if we break these large tasks into smaller pieces we can tackle them with ease. It might take several days to accomplish but at the end of each little step we can celebrate our progress. At the end of the final step we can pat ourselves on the back because we completed our goal.

Today I would like you to examine your life and find one thing that you need to do but haven’t finished. It can be that pile of dirty laundry, paperwork that needs to be filed, or a dream that you want to achieve. Take out a piece of paper and break that project into simple steps that you can complete in just a few minutes. The first step on your list should be this:

Plan the project. Mark it off your list when you’ve finished writing down your steps. Congratulations! You’ve already gotten started!

Every day, do one thing. Mark it off as soon as you complete it. If you feel froggy do another step but if you don’t that’s okay. You can do the next step tomorrow. The trick is to do one small step at a time until you’re done.

Then celebrate.

What project are you going to focus on? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Education Productivity

Bedtime Routine

Time is the one thing I never seem to have enough of. Between my public job, caring for my home, and writing I never seem to have enough time to pursue my self-education goals.

While I read on my days off and on my breaks at work my progress was annoyingly slow. It took weeks to finish a single book and I watched my reading list grow longer with frustration.

One evening I collapsed into bed, exhausted from my shift at work. It was one of those nights where you desperately need sleep but your mind refuses to allow you the luxury. I snagged my current book off the shelf in hopes of settling my mind. As I snuggled down to read a memory from my childhood surfaced.

While I was in the second grade I ended up with a copy of The Wizard of Oz thanks to the local RIF program. I adored that book. Every night I would snuggle in bed and read several chapters before I fell asleep. I probably re-read that book a dozen times before I moved on to another.

Filled with warm fuzzies from the memory I read a couple of chapters in my current book before Morpheus began tapping on my shoulder. I ended up dozing easily and woke up refreshed the next morning.

Since then I have altered my bedtime routine. Instead of checking my email and trying to write a bit more before bed I now turn on some relaxing music and snuggle up with my current book. My reading progress has skyrocketed as a result.

Not only have I managed to increase the amount of reading I do my sleep quality has improved with the change in routine. Instead of tossing and turning restlessly, I now fall asleep easily and wake up refreshed.

Do you have a bedtime routine? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Productivity Simplicity

Lazy Yet Productive

My days off were split up this week so instead of resting the first day and working on my house the next I was forced to get creative.

My challenge was made even worse when I woke up on my day off feeling lethargic with a scratchy throat. I’ve pushed myself far too hard these past few weeks and my body was paying the price. I still had stuff to do, however, so I decided to power on.

My first order of business was to eliminate distractions. I turned off the Internet and disconnected my gadgets. I did not want or need the temptation to go online to distract me.

My next order of business was to create my task list. I noticed with a tired sigh that it was a long one. I’ve let things slide around here lately.

I picked one small item on my list and did it. I still had a bit of energy left so I knocked out a few more of the simpler tasks. Satisfied that I had made some progress, I read for a while and then took a short nap.

I repeated the process all day. Complete a couple of tasks, read, rest, repeat. I made the deliberate decision to postpone several energy-intensive tasks but I accomplished quite a bit nonetheless. Even better, my slow, deliberate pace allowed my body to recover a bit while teaching me an important lesson:

It is possible to be both lazy and productive if you use your time wisely.

While I didn’t tackle the physically intensive tasks on my list I was satisfied with my progress just the same. I could have powered through and worked through the entire list but I would have suffered for it the next day. I see no logic in being deliberately stupid. I have to pace myself.

Have you ever had to force yourself to slow down? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Productivity Simplicity

Disconnect

As the days stretch into months I’ve gotten rather lazy when it comes to guarding my personal time. Whereas I used to go to extreme measures to have quiet time in which to write I found my days have become a whirlwhind of messages, comments, and other communications from folks both near and far. Every time I would sit down to write I would end up being interrupted, losing my train of thought, or going on some random goose chase down the halls of the Internet.

Ding.

Ding.

Ding.

<Hey, you on?>

<I see you’re online. Why are you ignoring me?>

Random thoughts. Pointless comments. Gifs and pics and jokes galore. The more I asked people to leave me be so that I could write the more they seemed to want to communicate until I realized that I was approaching my breaking point.

Early one morning as the beeps began I found myself missing my ancient Windows XP laptop. It might have been old and decrepit but it had one serious advantage: it couldn’t go online.

I could turn that old computer on and work all day without having to deal with a single person messaging me. They couldn’t, since the computer wasn’t connected to the Internet.

I leaped out of bed and dived for the ethernet cable attached to my computer. Soon it was unplugged and my world lapsed into silence.

I accomplished more today than I have in over a month.

Do you ever take time to disconnect from the Internet? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Productivity

Wake Up Early

No matter how early I am scheduled to arrive at work I make sure to set my alarm clock a few hours early. This can be a challenge sometimes. I have never been a morning person and frequently stay up until the wee hours of the morning but the results are worth the extra effort.

I wake up, stumble through the house for some coffee, then plop into my computer chair. Once I wake up I write something, anything that I believe has the potential to become a blog post or a book section.

This allows me to walk to work with the knowledge that I have already made a little bit of progress towards my long-term goals. My steps are lighter and my day easier. No matter what happens at work I know that I’ve managed to accomplish something worthwhile.

Even better, I don’t have to worry about the day getting away from me. Even if I am exhausted at the end of my work shift I can rest easy with the knowledge that I haven’t let the day slip by without working at least a little bit towards my passion of writing and helping others.

It is so easy to fall into the trap of living day to day. You get up, go to work, and are so tired by the time you arrive home that you simply don’t have the energy left to work towards your goals.

This is my solution.

Have you ever thought about waking up a bit early to work towards your personal goals? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Productivity

Take Advantage of Downtime

Many years ago I was waiting somewhere for something. A lady came in after me. Once she found out that there was going to be a delay she settled down, pulled out some yarn, and started crocheting. While the rest of us shifted and grumbled, she contentedly tinkered on an afghan she was creating.

Curious and bored, I started a conversation with her. How could she just sit there crocheting? Wasn’t she upset that she was being forced to lose her valuable time because so-and-so was running behind?

She smiled at me patiently as she began to switch colors on her creation. She was pleased at the delay, she confessed calmly. It would allow her to get a bit more done on her afghan.

She proceeded to explain to me that downtime was a blessing to her. She spent so much of her day running errands and taking care of business that she rarely had the opportunity to work on her crocheting projects. While at first she resented the delays she eventually realized that she could take advantage of them so she started keeping her current project in a bag that she could carry with her. Whenever she had to wait somewhere she would reach into her bag, pull out her yarn, and start crocheting.

She completed a lot more projects as a result she informed me happily.

Her words stuck with me after we parted ways. At the time I worked multiple jobs, trying to keep food on the table for my children while also taking an online class in computer repair. Time was something I rarely had enough of. Could I do something similar?

I started taking my computer repair books to work with me. I would read them while waiting to clock in and during my break at work. I read them anytime I had a few minutes to spare while waiting for appointments and at night when I had trouble going to sleep.

I finished my computer course a lot sooner than anticipated as a result so I kept up the habit, reading more advanced texts on computer repair and eventually branched out to read books on business management, success, and other topics. I raised a lot of eyebrows when I would pull out my weighty tomes at work or in waiting rooms. Like the woman who inspired me, I patiently answered their questions and moved on.

I still do that now. I keep my Kindle in my purse, ready to take advantage of those snatches of time whenever I encounter them. Instead of vegging out in front of a movie or a television show, I pull out the device and start reading.

Not only does this help to eliminate stress by giving you something to look forward to while you are waiting, it allows you to accomplish something in those little pieces of time that would otherwise be wasted.

I use the time for learning. Currently I’m reading books on philosophy and religion, spiced with books on success and the occasional novel. I’m currently working on Bobby Knight’s book The Power of Negative Thinking after catching it on sale for 99 cents before I dive into the works of Emerson.

The next time you find yourself waiting try to devise a productive way to use those little snatches of time. Can you jot down some notes for a school project, touch up your manicure, clean out your wallet, work on a craft project, or read a book?

Make a quick phone call to an elderly relative. Update your task list. Send a text to your kid and tell them you love them. Make an appointment to get your car serviced. Plan out your budget or meals for the next week. Anything is better than just sitting there mindlessly checking your Facebook as the minutes tick away.

And at the end of the day, instead of plopping down on the couch to commune with your television or play a video game, think about the other things you could do instead that would improve your life. Even if you only take a few extra minutes of your time before returning to your regular routine, those minutes will add up to hours that you have gained instead of wasted.

What can you do with your downtime? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Productivity

Ten Things to Do When You’re Bored

“I’m bored.”

Those two little words can strike fear into the heart of any parent. Whenever a kid is bored, trouble is not far behind so we strive to find something interesting to keep the kids occupied.

Boredom is something that affects adults as well. While periods of boredom can be good for you, we often end up turning on the television, checking social media, playing video games, or mindlessly texting a friend as we try to find something to occupy our mind.

While I am no stranger to boredom I find that it helps to have something productive to do when boredom strikes. That way, at the end of the day you can tell yourself that you made a tiny step towards something better.

If you’re like me, however, you can find it difficult to figure out exactly what to do when in the midst of those moments. To help, I’ve created a small list of ideas to get you started.

  1. Read. Reading is the one thing that even the poorest person can do to improve themselves. How-tos, self-improvement, even certain novels can open your mind and teach you something new. With the ubiquitousness of smartphones these days, it is a simple matter to download a free reading app (like the Kindle app) to read free or low-priced books wherever you happen to be when boredom strikes. While you can carry a physical book with you, books can be bulky but since most of us carry a smartphone already, opening an app on the device would not be an issue when the opportunity arises. I carry my Kindle everywhere I go for this purpose.
  2. Make Lists. Open an app on your phone or carry a small notebook with you. When you feel boredom about to strike, brainstorm. Write down the things you want/need to do in the near future, ideas for new and current projects, hopes and plans for the future. This not only occupies your mind, it allows you to do something productive with your time instead of just wasting it on social media or fretting.
  3. Clean Your House. Everyone’s home has something small that needs to be done. Even if you just cleaned the place, there will be some small thing that needs doing. Look through the list you created (create one if you haven’t already) for some small thing you can accomplish. If you’re not big on lists have a few simple tasks that you always perform when boredom strikes. We always have clean dishes to put away, the litterbox to scoop out, a trash can that needs emptied, and a kitchen table that always needs a bit of tidying so when boredom threatens to strike I start there.
  4. Throw Something Away. Instead of being bored, go through your mental inventory of possessions in search of one or two things that you can safely discard. If you are away from home, make a list of these items so that you can eliminate them later. If you are at home, why not go ahead and get rid of them? You will have something to do, and be simplifying your life as a result.
  5. Take a Walk. Walks don’t have to be long to benefit you. Take a turn around your apartment building, go around the block, or even farther if time and energy allows. Look around you and see the interesting things you can notice, or just think about whatever crosses your mind. I find that walking is one of the best ways to relieve stress. When I feel myself getting frustrated or bored, I grab my jacket and take a turn around the neighborhood. I get some strange looks when I do this late at night but since I live in a very safe area I am able to wander unmolested. Find a safe place and try this for yourself. Not only will walking relieve your boredom, it will help to improve your health as well.
  6. Call/Visit a friend or Family Member. We all have that friend or relative that doesn’t receive much company. Why not call or stop by just to tell them that you love them and are thinking of them?
  7. Learn Something New. Read books or take a class on something that you would like to learn about. You can learn a craft such as crocheting, sew simple projects by hand or machine (if you have a machine available), even how to repair your home or the items in it. If you want a promotion at work, read or take a class on business management to improve your chances? It can’t hurt, and will give you an advantage over your competition.
  8. Write. Start a small journal by either writing down your personal thoughts using a writing app on your phone or by jotting them down in a small notebook that you carry with you. This not only gives you something to do, it will help free your mind of cluttering thoughts that can distract you. I find that writing my thoughts down helps me clarify my feelings on certain matters, which reduces stress. It gives you a nonjudgmental sounding board, a place where you can safely reveal your innermost thoughts. the experience can be liberating.
  9. Take a Nap. We all need more rest. Get some. Instead of vegging out in front of the television, turn it off and catch some Zzzs. Set an alarm if you need to wake up for something. Many people find that they are so exhausted due to their busy lives that they sleep for far more than they expected to.
  10. Do Nothing. Find a quiet spot, sit or lie down, and just relax. If you find yourself thinking about something, just allow the thoughts to flutter through your head. Eventually something may strike you that needs to be done. When that happens you can make a note or get started. I find that I get my best writing ideas this way.

What do you do when boredom strikes? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Productivity

Having a List Can Increase Productivity

A cherished part of my childhood was spending part of each summer vacation with my Auntie. Not only did I get to play with her kids, she lived a totally different life from my parents. I’ll never forget the day when I saw her sit down with a piece of paper and start writing.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“I’m writing down the stuff I need to do today,” Auntie replied.

“Why?”

“Well, it helps me figure out what I need to accomplish. At the end of the day, it shows me what all I managed to get done, so I can go to bed feeling satisfied.”

Younger Me didn’t understand that. What was the point in writing down silly things like “make the beds?” It seemed like a waste of time. Instead of writing a stupid list, why not just do the stuff and get it over with?

Many years later she showed me. When my father died Mom and I were lost. I followed Uncle’s instructions to drive over to their house instead of heading home. That night was spent grieving, but the next day? The next day we had stuff to do.

Auntie sat down and helped us create a list.

  • Get Annie’s glasses fixed (Mom had slapped them off of me in her grief and broken them).
  • Take Dad’s suit to the funeral home.
  • Switch the bank account into Mom’s name only.
  • Select our outfits for the funeral.
  • Call A, B, and C to inform them of Dad’s death.

It wasn’t a very long list but it included simple things like “grab a bite to eat” and “go to bed early and rest.” Because my Auntie had created it, I helped my Mom follow it to the letter.

I realized at the end of the day that it had felt good to mark the things off that little piece of paper as we accomplished them. When I went to bed that night, it was with the realization that we had accomplished everything that needed to be done that day.

Almost thirty years later I still make lists.

Pythagoras taught that everything in nature could be divided into three parts. He believed that no one could become truly wise if they didn’t understand that every problem they face was diagrammatically triangular. He was famous for saying, “Establish the triangle and the problem is two-thirds solved.”

My lists contain a bit more than three things but his reasoning (as demonstrated by my Auntie) holds true. Simply organizing your thoughts by making a physical list eliminates the heavy lifting in your day to day life. Instead of stopping to think of what you’ve already accomplished as you work out what else you need to do, it’s already there in front of you. Just pick something else from your list and get to work. At the end of the day you have physical proof that you accomplished something.

Lists don’t have to be fancy to be effective. You can jot them down on the back of an envelope, make a list in your daily journal, or use an app designed for that purpose.

I’ve personally learned that simpler is better. I keep a cheap notebook on my kitchen table for mine. When I sit down for my first cup of coffee, I turn to a fresh page and start writing. If I accomplish something that I didn’t think to put on the list, I write it down and mark it off. If I think of something that I need to accomplish at some point in the future, I jot it down on the side as a reminder.

When I complete something I like to take a moment, sit down, and relish the fact that I got one more thing accomplished that day. It sounds silly but that little moment of reflection means a lot. It reminds me that, instead of wasting my time, that I’ve actually managed to accomplish something. It makes a bad day better when you can go to bed knowing that you accomplished something. Here is a video that explains it better than I can.

Do you make lists? If not, why not give it a try? If you find that it helps you, please consider sharing this post with your friends. Thank you. Thank you

Categories
Organization Productivity

Pieces of the Puzzle

Sometimes we get overwhelmed when we look at everything that needs to be done. The dishes are piled in the sink, dirty laundry is scattered through the house, the beds aren’t made and the dog has left you a gift by the door.

It just makes you want to cry, doesn’t it?

Stop looking at that big picture.  It is merely a giant puzzle of many little tasks. You don’t solve puzzles all at once, you solve them one tiny piece at a time.

Make a list of those tiny pieces, and focus on just one piece until it is accomplished.  Then, and only then, worry about another piece.

Soon you will look up and discover that you have finished the entire puzzle. 

Time to celebrate.

Categories
Productivity

Today’s List

Today is getting a late start.. the storms last night led to a rather restless sleep and I ended up taking a nap after my daughter hopped on the school bus. I am still a tad groggy but I have to get moving.

Sitting beside me is a simple notebook to jot down my things to do. It has a line down the center which makes it perfect. The left side will get all the things I want to accomplish today, and the right? It will get all the things that I’m leaving to the Universe to worry about!

I learned about that tip in a book by Jerry and Esther Hicks on Abraham. It’s the equivalent of putting your worries on a piece of paper and burning them. Each day the paper gets tossed, and so do your concerns!

It definitely feels good to take action, and to make a decision NOT to worry about something! When I started it at first the list was longer than my to-do list, but now it is rather short!

Life is good.