Deflated

Super Bowl game balls waiting to be laced and inflated

Via NFL on Instagram

I’ve been finding it really hard to get my productivity mojo going this month, and it’s affecting me more than usual. Maybe it’s just all the gossip about underinflated footballs in the news right now, but the current buzzword certainly sums up my mood this week: I feel deflated.

I know that I had things down, I was moving along pretty well right before the holiday break, and I had even planned out where I would pick things up again in the new year. But I had lost more than I realized when I came back to work, forgotten a lot of the nuances of projects I was working on, and what was important and what could wait. And I forgot about how easy it is to get interrupted or distracted by the needs of others.

It’s as if somewhere during those ten days off, all the projects I had been working on left my head, and all my work day routines went with them–woosh! Great for my vacation time, but not so great when I’m back at work and trying to get stuff done. Continue reading →

Coat. Hat. Gloves. Repeat.

Being really cold in winter is nothing new to me. I’ve lived in the Northeast of the U.S. of all my life, and January to February of every year seems to have at least one solid week of single-digit to below-zero temperatures we must endure, intermingled by “mild” days where it may get up to 40 degrees. Good times.

The challenge of winter then is in trying to be prepared on any given day for not just how cold or wet it is when I leave the house, but also how that may change during the day.

I’ve lived in Ithaca, NY for more than a decade, where the topography of steep hills carved by gorges overlooking a lake makes for some stunning scenery, but also creates a microclimate that can change our weather dramatically from one hour to the next depending where you are. It’s not uncommon to see it snowing ferociously over the campus where I work on the slope of South Hill, while only a light flurry falls on the flats of downtown half a mile below. Weather forecasts really are more of a guideline, which means taking precautions.

In winter, I’ve learned that there are only three important items I need in to be warm and comfortable no matter how cold it gets: the right coat, a warm hat, and warm gloves. I’ve also learned over the years that a warm hat and gloves are two of the easiest things to misplace or forget in the hubbub of getting to and from home and work.

But that’s not a problem any more because I’ve got a nearly foolproof method to be sure I’m never without the accessories I need to stay warm in any situation… Continue reading →

Muscle Memory

Last weekend I was at a party where I got the chance to play the video game Rock Band for the first time. Having been a drummer for almost 20 years, I thought it should be a piece of cake to sit behind the game controller of rubber and plastic electronic drums and start jamming with the rest of the players.

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I gave my drumstick a twirl as the screen started clicking off a beat to a classic Yes tune  (yeah, I was playing with a bunch of adults my age – it’s called classic rock for a reason) and then I started getting my cues from the screen. All I had to do was watch the stream of different colors come down the pathway toward me and hit the gamepad “drums” for each corresponding color in time with the beat.

But playing a drumming video game is not the same as playing actual drums. In fact, my experience playing drums probably made me worse at Rock Band because I had years of muscle memory built up that I had to ignore. This was suddenly a lot harder than I expected – and being surrounded by gamers who were all playing on “Expert” level didn’t help my ego much.

But here’s the good news: it turns out that recent research on habits and behavior has shown this kind of disruption of our environment is an important part of making changes to any habit, especially the bad ones, and that’s something we can learn to use to our advantage.

Continue reading →

Making a Resolution Long Pass

I love that New Year’s resolutions have become so ingrained in our culture as something doomed to fail, and yet we continue to make them. It’s hard not to see the start of each new year (or even a new month) as a time for renewal and positive change in our lives. Who doesn’t want to be a better person?

But I’ve learned that the resolutions that fail are the ones that weren’t made in good faith to begin with. I wasn’t being honest with myself about what I could accomplish or change, but merely what I was hoping I could change; I had vague goals, but no real plan for making them happen, and suffered little consequence if they didn’t happen.

So here’s to making honest resolutions, based on not just what I want to gain for myself, but what I want from myself.

I won’t resolve to run more if what I really want is an excuse to buy new shoes.

I won’t make resolutions just because I think they’ll make someone else happy. I will follow my gut, not my ego.

I will find my tribe and share my resolutions with them. I will change my surroundings/environment/context to reflect and support my goals.

I will make a resolution that means something, a resolution I can plan for, monitor its progress, and bring to a close by the end of the year in a way that feels like more than just accomplishment – it feels like victory.

My New Year’s resolution is a long pass to myself from today into the future, a throw from the end zone of last year so high and so smooth that I can watch it climb and arc overhead as I run forward through the year, dodging interference, leaping over tackles, and plotting my way to the point I know the ball will be landing at the end of the year ahead of me, and I’d better be there to catch it.

This website is a big part of that resolution – turning something I didn’t know I had into something more tangible I can share. I’m going to keep adding to it and expand the scope, and I’m not even completely sure how I’m going to do it. But I have a good idea where that pass I’m throwing is going to land at the end of the year…

Time to get those running shoes on.

How a Hoarder Handles 208 Hours of Reading in One Day

My name is Dave and I am a hoarder. Not the “piles-of-garbage-in-the-living-room” kind of hoarder but a virtual one. I have an invisible mountain of magazine articles, blog posts, and other random bits of information in a stack that stretches on and on for what feels like miles, with little to no organization or purpose other than at some point I thought I needed to read it or otherwise act on it. And even though these are not physical piles that I am walking past and ignoring, they have grown large enough that I can feel them there, waiting for me to do something about them.

The primary enablers for this bad habit have been my favorite “save for later” web clipper apps, Pocket and Instapaper. I’ve been using them for many years without any cleanup, and between just those two apps I have enough unread articles saved that I could read for 8 days straight and still not be finished. Many of those articles I no longer even remember why I saved them. And yet I still haven’t done anything about it because it’s “virtual” clutter.

But tomorrow is the start of a brand new year, and I’m determined that I am going to start 2015 with as much of a clean slate as possible, so it’s time for drastic actions.

Continue reading →

The Truly Productive Gift Guide

This post started out very differently, as yet another list of recommended “gifts for productive people” or something along those lines. I spent a couple hours collecting my list over the past week, finding images to embed and establishing details about each item and why it was on the list and blah blah blah.

It was looking really good, like a lot of other similar lists I’d been seeing. Which is when I realized that nobody needed that blog post. Not even me.

All I was doing was adding to the noise, creating another listicle that didn’t really say anything, and I wasn’t really learning anything by writing it either. So instead, I’m happy to present a “gift guide” that not only encourages productivity but is in itself productive because there’s only one suggested gift on it.

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Starting At One

It’s the beginning of a new month. Perfect time to finally get started on that thing.

Day One for December calendar

You know what I mean – we all have a thing. It’s that project or task we’ve been putting off and telling ourselves we’re too busy to start; we’re waiting to think about it more because we’re just not sure we’ve figured it all out yet, but at the same time it’s starting to bother us that we haven’t gotten started on it yet because it’s important or timely or we just need to get it out of the way. That thing that’s distracting us, a bit of psychic grit in our cognitive gears.

You know what your thing is. You’re reading mine right now.

Continue reading →