Not Enough Time? Try These Tools


Much may be done in those little shreds and patches of time which every day produces, and which most men throw away.
- Charles Caleb Colton




With blocks on your schedule filling up, it’s easy to overlook the nuggets of time that, with proper management, allow you to recapture the value of your day.

The first question to ask is how do you want to be productive?  Try mind-mapping your thoughts in order to answer this question.

Mind Mapping – a mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea (from Wikipedia)

FreeMindpremier free mind-mapping software written in Java

MindMeisteronline mind-mapping tool with real-time collaboration and mobile apps

Further discussion of the uses of mind-mapping available here

How will you keep track of the results of your efforts?  Create a searchable notebook.

Searchable Notebook – whether it be a personal wiki or an emailed note to self, having a central place for your notes can boost your time management

Wikihost a collection of public and private wikis to publish content, share thoughts and find people with similar interests.

Evernotesave your ideas, things you like, things you hear, and things you see, available as a mobile app

Further discussion about personal wikis here

Spend a lot of time commuting?  Use a portable mp3 player to listen and learn.

Podcasts/Audiobooks – make use of your time by learning and reading.

Open UniversityiTunes provides search for free lectures via podcast at Open University

Librivox LibriVox is a volunteer-driven provider of audiobooks from works in the public domain

A list of sources of free audiobooks may be found here

What tools do you use to get better value from your time?  Or do you have enough already?

Being a Survivor of Change: Does it Get Better?

What does change feel like to you? A trickle? A stream? A firehose? Is there a degree of change that is easy for everybody to deal with, beyond which it becomes a hassle, then a crisis?

When I graduated with my Bachelor’s back in 2002, I had never experienced real change. I was not prepared for that in-between transition that feels exactly like failure. For a student with debt and no job, the years of hard work in school seemed like a waste.

I lived through that transition with the support of my family and went on to find my first full time job. Years later, I changed careers and found work as a software engineer. All in all, it took me nine years to become a professional with a definite career path.

This transition would have been smoother if I had anticipated change and seen it as a normal fact of life. Then again, is it possible to understand that without going through it first? What do you think?

Try the Frivolous Google Search Game

While amusing myself by typing phrases in to Google and seeing what pops up, I discovered some intriguing results. It is a challenging time-waster to find a phrase that produces mostly content on a Google search rather than the name of a company, a movie, or a song, and diverse content at that, like blog posts. Try it – see how many phrases you can come up with that produces more than a collection of Wikipedia entries, IMDB listings, Amazon books, and other name aggregators. When you do come up with a good phrase, the results can be intriguing.

Here are some highlights …

“the art of”:

  • The Art of the Prank
    Insights, information, news and discussion about pranks, hoaxes, culture jamming and reality hacking. – 72k –
  • The Art of Demotivation
    A text so historic deserves art of equal import. Kevin Sprouls, the celebrated creator of the Wall Street Journal Portrait Technique, lent his pen and – 37k –
  • How to Change the World: The Art of Schmoozing
    Schmoozing is both a skill and a fine art. Tech guru Guy Kawasaki has posted an excellent piece called The Art of Schmoozing in his blog Let the Good Times – 137k –

“top ten”:

“how not to”:

  • Bicycle Safety: How to Not Get Hit by Cars
    Ten ways you can get hit by cars (with pictures) and meaningful ways to avoid them. Not your typical lame Bike Safety page. – 72k –
  • How Not To Get Laid
    How Not To Get Laid – How Not To Get Laid, A Compendium of Coitus Rejectus. – 54k –
  • How to Not Be Annoying – wikiHow
    If you laugh loudly at everyone’s jokes, even if they’re not all that funny, read up on how to avoid laughing at inappropriate times. – 36k –

PS I also found out that there are weird HTML tags embedded in the code of Google search results – they make it look pretty on the Google page but when you lift it it can be annoying.

This and That I Believe

The NPR show This I Believe asks listeners for a paragraph summarizing their core beliefs.  I haven’t integrated everything I believe into one cohesive unit – I’m not that together – but I can handle a potpourri-style list of major points. 

  • Problems are challenges, not problems. 
  • God exists when there’s a real problem.
  • Money is how I survive.  Money is good.
  • I don’t need a boyfriend – I need a hero.
  • Why can’t I fly when I wake up?
  • People come and go – love them while you can

Just a few points, I’ll probably add to it later on.  That’s the fun part about beliefs – they grow.

Move on, Move up, Move out

     There is this glossy magazine cover of a life that some people call adulthood.  Get a significant other/spouse.  Get a better job.  Get an apartment.  These expectations for myself are not so much life goals, as they should be, as they have become status symbols.  Have I fallen in love yet?  Have I found my true calling?  Have I decided where I want to establish myself and my eventual family?  Not quite.  Who decides what year is the appropriate year to answer these questions?  I may never answer them, or I might answer them tomorrow.  Either way, I want my responses to be for myself, not motivated by some false sense of responsibility to public approval.  The reality is that everyone’s life has to follow its own path.  In fact, the pressure to conform can suck the joy out of what would have been a unique and joyful life.  A song by David Wilcox called “Leave It Like It Is” says it well:

Now most folks suffer in sorrow
Thinking they’re just no good
They don’t match the magazine model
As close as they think they should

They live just like the “paint by numbers”
The teacher would be impressed
A life-time of follow the lines
So it’s just like all of the rest

Life should not have a an end that’s completely up to me like those choose-your-own-adventure books.  I want a surprise ending.

Anything but the Best

All my life I have heard the line “you deserve nothing but the best.” Well-intentioned as the sentiment was behind the line, as a credo this screwed me over. A friend of mine insists that the word ‘deserve’ implies an action on my part, like “he got what he deserved” implies he did something and the result was fitting. In my experience, the word ‘deserve’ separates action from result. This perception of the word could be because of how it has been used – “nothing but the best” is a very vague statement that lends itself to obscuring the gradations of good – what if I just get ‘better’ for now, or what if ‘alright’ is all I can handle?

If I earn something, it’s mine by right of having it as a goal and achieving it. Rather than “nothing but the best,” what I want to earn is a specific achievement.

Brick in the wall

I earn a paycheck la dee da dee dah – but is that good enough? I’m in school, studying theory – fascinating reading material, eighty dollar textbooks. What this blog is about is aspirin – oh wait, aspiring to be more than you already are, but also being realistic. I have limits and I have dreams – but what do I deserve from people on paper?

That’s the theme of the overall blog, but today I have something in particular to talk about. That would be letting the real me guide my actions. Is there some alternate me that could be making decisions? Kind of – in that random urges tempt me to act impulsively. Good results won’t be consistent, and bad results will have even worse consequences.

I was a mentor for a student who had worked hard to get into a career building program, but she let it all go without fighting to stay in it. She had endured mental illness, and part of her issue was the tendency to act compulsively on whims. I don’t know what went on in her mind – not having my crystal ball handy – but my guess is she dropped out of the program because she acted on a whim or thought her original enrollment was on a whim.

I deal with compulsion myself, and I’m working to know the difference between my own true inner voice and the passionate yet passing urge. Even when it’s a matter of mental illness, the pills can’t distinguish what’s right for me. Only my mind can – to paraphrase Lex Luthor on Smallville, ” A person isn’t who they were the last time you spoke to them, they’re who they’ve been throughout the whole relationship.” My latest act or speech doesn’t define me; it’s the cumulative effect of patterns of behavior that come to be identified with who I am. Be that a brick in the wall of the local McDonald’s, or the keystone of an arch in a cathedral.