Sunday, August 24, 2014

Enjoy Now

How many times have you tried to find a swimsuit in a department store in July only to find they don't carry them anymore because they had to make room for back to school clothes.  I'm all for being prepared, but really how can you enjoy the present when stores and the media are pushing what's next.  Early August I'm seeing Halloween stuff on the shelves of these stores.  It'll be September and we'll see Thanksgiving decorations out, and likely next to the Christmas Decorations.  Christmas is when they keep stuff out longer.  Rightly so it's a religious holiday celebrating the Birth of Jesus Christ, but to use that as a means to sell product is a shame.

How can we enjoy the now without being inundated with a push to buy stuff for the next season or holiday?  I've found being mindful is the best way; and the best way I've found to become mindful more frequently than not, is through meditation.  I've talked to people about this and they say they're not into 'New Age' stuff.  Mindfulness and meditation have been around for about thousands of years so I don't really think that fits into the 'New Age' category.  Taking time to be you, with you, listening to your breathing, becoming aware of your thoughts without engaging, that's the way I've found to enjoy the now.

There are a lot of resources out there for the best way to discover mindfulness so I encourage you to find them and learn as much as you can.  However don't get lost in the learning, you can read a lot but unless you start doing the meditations, you are only learning stuff not experiencing the benefits.  So learn the absolute basics and start a daily practice of meditating 5 minutes a day to start.  While you learn about how to deal with monkey mind and other obstacles, you can start increasing that to 10 or 15 minutes a day.  Before you know it you'll be experiencing some of the benefits of mindfulness, which should be encouraging enough to keep going and maybe expand it further.  I am still learning or I would be giving tips and hints on how to develop and sustain a daily practice, but one thing I'm learning is that the key word here is 'practice'.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Friday Recharge

Ah Fridays, the last day before the much needed, highly anticipated weekend. We look forward to Fridays so we can trudge through the last mundane work day of the week, that we can go home and rest and recharge during the weekend so we’re ready for the next work week.  But how productive is that last workday really?  Do you get a lot of work done?  Or do you look at the clock and keep hoping to see it it 5 o’clock without really getting anything done?  After all, your batteries are just about spent by now, so how productive can you be?  And how good is your weekend when your really just decompressing from the work week so you can start all over again on Monday?  Sounds depressing.  What if there were a way to use Fridays in a better, more meaningful way?  A way that will make your Friday more productive, and recharge your batteries for the weekend, instead of during the weekend?

The Friday Recharge does that for me.  It’s a day where I spend more time away from my workstation, and actually feel prepared for Monday before I even leave work on Friday.  That way I don’t have to use the weekend to recharge, I recharge on Friday so I’m ready to hit the weekend for fun and adventure.  Here’s how it works for me:

  • I plan for Fridays by blocking off some time in my Friday calendar on Wednesday so hopefully no-one will schedule a meeting during that time as it shows I’m busy.
  • I get as much of the work done as I can during Monday through Thursday so I’m not scrambling to finish projects on Friday.
  • I plan out my recharge activities

The recharge activites are the fun part.  You could include others as well depending on the activity.  Some examples that take you away from the daily grind to put you in more of an improvement frame of mind, which is a good way to increase positive energy in your workplace, are:

  • Read a work related article.  If you have periodicals at your work stop by and grab one.  If not see if you can find one online if you have a computer.  Maybe a newspaper, again if your work has them, or online.
  • Sign up for an online webinar at work.  See if your Human Resource office has a training program where they sign up for online webinars, whether live or previously recorded webinars.
  • Sign up for a live offsite seminar or training course.  
  • Brainstorm ideas with co-workers for some improvement opportunities in your department or overall company.  

These examples also improve positive energy in a less work related way:

  • Meditate - this is an activity you can do on your own or with others.  It could be seated at your desk or a bench outside, or even your car.  It could also be a walking meditation if you know how to do that.
  • Take a walk, it doesn’t have to be a walking meditation, and you can go alone or with a couple of co-workers.
This is a short list, use your imagination, inspiration and research to find what works best for you.  And if you don't work a typical Monday through Friday workweek, or if you don't get two days off in a row, pic a day right before a day off and recharge then.  Have fun.

Disclaimer - if these activities go against your company's policy, don't do them.  Recharging is not worth losing your job over.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Simply Try

Have you ever felt daunted by a project you want to do thinking things like - 'it's too hard', or 'there's no way I can do that', or 'what if I mess it up'?  For me, yes, mostly wood working projects.  I've wanted to make my own bookcase for years and never felt I had the skills or tools to do it.  I wanted to make a storage unit for my closet as well, again with no confidence that I could do it.

My family and I have tried and done many new things since we started on this simple journey.  We've made our own peanut butter, fudge, root beer, chocolate syrup, protein bars, baked goods, dish washing soap, body wash, laundry detergent etc.  It was a simple matter of trial and error.  We'd try and if it didn't work we'd adjust and try again.  It was a good mentality for a lot of our projects over the years.  For some reason though, I couldn't apply that to my woodworking project ideas.

I decided this was the year I'd attempt a bookcase.  Even after I found the plans and material list, through hours of research online, I still felt daunted and kept putting it off.  So I decided to try a meditation bench.  It's a much smaller project with three simple pieces of wood.  I made one first which worked okay.  But I knew I wanted something more sturdy so I tried a different method and it worked great.  So now I had some confidence, but not enough to jump into a bookcase.  So I decided to make a shelf unit for my tools.  I figured if it was rough looking it was okay because it was in my workshop.  That came out great, so on to the bookcase.  I don't have a table saw, a mitre saw or a router so I went as simple as possible.  Then I decided to simply try.  I cut the pieces to the dimensions I needed and assembled it.  It's still a bit rough looking and not something I'd sell in a furniture store, but it looks great and holds the books well.  Best of all my wife loves it.  I've since made another bookcase, my closet storage unit and a fire pit and patio.  Okay the last one isn't a woodworking project, but it was something I though about trying and never felt comfortable tackling.  Until I simply tried.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Almost Lost Art of Writing Letters - Challenge (2nd Update)

Well the six weeks have passed.  I have written and sent 6 letters and while I haven't received response letters yet, I have received a couple of phone calls and texts, one of which was surprising.  I received a text from someone saying he was reaching out to a group of people in an effort to improve his communication.  Now I don't know if that has anything to do with my letter, but the fact that a week after sending my letter stating I wanted to improve my communication I get a group text from someone saying he's going to do the same thing, is encouraging. 

I've dusted off an antique secretary's desk my grandfather owned and stocked it with what I need to continue with this new habit.  I have plans this summer, now that I'm using it, to restore this antique desk which has a lot of character. 

I will send updates as responses increase and my mailbox starts filling up.  It's still a bit early for that as people need time to remember how to write letters.  Time to stock up on postage stamps. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Almost Lost Art of Writing Letters - Challenge (UPDATE)

It's been 2 weeks and I've written 2 letters.  One went out yesterday so I haven't received feedback on that one.  The other was well received, but it was to my wife in the same house so I didn't really expect a response letter.  The time I took writing the letters was very mindful.  I felt like I was in the moment, not thinking of other things while I wrote.  I focused on the message, both content and form, and that felt great.  It is definitely a different feeling than when I write an e-mail. 

Now that I know this will stick and become a habit, I have to find a good place to write the letters and store the supplies, not my dining room table.  While the dining room table will work, it's not the most effective.  I have an old style desk that needs repair and refinishing before I put it to use, fun weekend project.  I used a nice pen (not a fountain pen yet) on thick resume paper.  I put the letter and a Calling Card in a resume quality envelope.  I know there are other stationary options out there but they didn't have any at my local office supply store so I'll have to look online.  Next time I will use a wax seal as well.  I am researching 19th century writing styles and formats as seemed to be the heyday of letter writing, at least from my research that's the style that I appreciated the most, every one's different.
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