Monday, April 14, 2008

Guarding your mind

I would like to take a little bit of time this morning to talk about guarding your mind. From what? Glad you asked!

I was in a statistics mood this weekend and looked up many different stats from the number of incorporated places in the United States and Ohio to the effects of advertising on consumers.

Here is one that really caught my attention:

The average 1970s city dweller was exposed to 500 to 2,000 ad messages a day; today it's up to 3,000 to 5,000.
--Yankelovich, October 2006
No way! 3 to 5 thousand per day?!?

Here's another blurb I came across:

by understanding that consumers are more receptive to food advertising when they are hungry, we learn to schedule snack advertisements late in the afternoon.

There are people at work right now who are paid exclusively to devise clever ways to part you with your money. While watching television with my wife last night, I noticed commercial breaks have two basic goals:

1. Give us your money for this product or service - the typical commercial.
2. Hey watch this entertaining show on this day at this time - in other words watch more TV so we can show you more commercials and part you with your money!

Television can be summed up as a device to entertain you while the marketers bombard you with commercials to part you with your money.

Radio is pretty much the same. You listen to music, you get bombarded by commercials. You listen to radio shows like Rush Limbaugh, get bombarded by commercials to part you from your money.

It's kind of depressing how just about everything in our lives revolves around money in some way. I am not innocent either as you can see by looking carefully at this blog! ;-)

So what can we do to combat the brainwashing? I am guarding my mind as much as possible. I don't listen to the radio that often and when a commercial break hits, I usually turn if down or off. I also use a digital video recorder (DVR) when I do watch a show. I fast-forward through the commercials. I also make sure I eat before sitting down to watch the TV. I feel sated and even if I have to watch a Papa John's commercial, I am, for the most part, unaffected by it.

I even go as far as to have a small snack in the car with me on the way home from work! I used to be tempted all the time by a fast-food restaurant I would pass right before getting on the freeway. Not anymore!

It also helps to be aware of what the marketers are trying to do and to fight it. You want my money? Good luck, I'm on to you!

Advertising works very well or they wouldn't do it. Guarding yourself from unwanted influence is an example of living consciously and will help you stay focused on your goals.

Well, thanks for reading The Daily Discipline. The Daily Discipline is your friend. Visit it everyday and...oh, sorry.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Getting into a goal "rut"

Let's face it, sometimes setting goals and going after them is just a boring process! Let's look at 5 examples:

Losing weight:
I eat five meals a day which average about 390 calories. I eat anything I want as long as I average those calories per meal. I have selected many meals that fall within that category range. I also walk 30 minutes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. Total time invested per week even thinking about this goal: About 2 hours.

The Total Money Makeover:
I have to make sure that everyday I don't spend money. This requires almost no thought whatsoever. I simply ask myself do I absolutely need this? If I'm honest the answer is NO! The time of opportunity comes on payday - once per week. I budget the money for the week and spend accordingly using the rest to pay extra on my bills. Total time invested per week even thinking about this goal: About 3 hours.

Increasing my job skills:
Job 1 in this area is to become Java certified. I am still struggling with this goal and don't spend as much time as I should on it. I need to just Do It Now and get it over with! Hmm. Writing this post has helped me see where I need to focus. Cool! Right now the total time invested per week on this goal: About 2 hours. That's it!?! That should be more like 8-12 hours. I really need to get busy!

Having great relationships with my family:
I do spend time each week, especially Sunday, working on this goal. The average conversation between a parent and a child per week is only 8 minutes. My daughter and I average at least an hour per week. We're talking about good conversation, not me lecturing her (though I do plenty of that) but listening to her.

I also talk meaningfully with my spouse about things each week although I would like to improve each area. Time invested per week on this goal: About 3 hours.

Becoming more spiritual:
I would like to get back to studying the scriptures more. I don't think just listening to the Bible and following along is enough. I mean deep thinking on the scriptures and internalizing (memorizing) them. Time invested per week on this goal: Sadly very little :(

In conclusion:
As you can see, I'm clearly not quite where I want to be on even my Phase 1 goals. By posting this re-evaluation post I can see that I need to devote more time and energy to at least the last three of these goals. Going after goals can be tough. Things that are worthwhile are often not very engaging or entertaining all of the time. The results are what excites and sometimes milestones are few and far between.

I have to remember that setting short-term milestones are important. For example. Could I just finish one 30-minute block of study time each day on my Java goal? How about one 30-minute block of study time on the scriptures? That is what the Daily Discipline means - getting a little progress in each goal each and every day.

I also need to ask myself the question - what is getting in the way? Blogging perhaps? :-)

Phase 1 Goals

There are a million opportunities out there to choose from so where should we start? I have begun with what I call the Phase 1 goals. I have 5 basic wants right now. You'll notice that these are spread across 5 major dimensions of a human being - physical, financial, mental, social/emotional and spiritual.

1. I want to be my ideal weight.
2. I want to be debt-free.
3. I want to have more skills for my career.
4. I want to have great relationships with my family.
5. I want to be a more spiritual person.

These are certainly not my ultimate goals in life but they are a rung on the ladder to my ultimate vision. There are many phases (progressions) of goals in each area until I reach my vision. The first physical phase is to be my ideal weight. I am working on this with dieting and basic exercise.

Phase 2 of this goal might be to be athletic by stepping up my exercise routine with weight training and more strenuous cardiovascular exercise as well as eating better quality foods.

Phase 3 of this goal would be to complete the P90X training program and have eight pack abs.

My financial goals would follow a similar pattern. Phase 1 is to be debt free. Phase 2 is to start replacing my job income with income from other sources such as investments, businesses and real estate. Phase 3 is building my wealth to a point where it pretty much takes care of itself and I am free to do what I want like engage in philanthropy.

As we graduate up to the next phase in each area of our life, we will begin to see new opportunities on the horizon. These will be things we couldn't have done at earlier phases. Imagine being at Phase 10 in your financial life. The dreams of phase 1 and 2 probably would seem ridiculously simple at that point even though they were tough and serious goals back then.

This post is basically talking about baby steps again, using progression for each area of your life until you've reached the goals in your vision. Of course, by then you'll see new goals up ahead that look even better.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

A great article

I was flipping through Steve Pavlina's website and found an article that really interested me. I knew that Steve completed two bachelor degrees in 3 semesters - that is not a misprint - 3 semesters(!), but I never read the entire article on how he did it.

His article is titled Do it now and, in my opinion, it is a must read!

One big affirmation I received from this article was his point about guarding time. In this section he states:

To work effectively you need uninterrupted blocks of time in which you can complete meaningful work. When you know for certain that you won't be interrupted, your productivity is much, much higher. When you sit down to work on a particularly intense task, dedicate blocks of time to the task during which you will not do anything else.

I have preached this principle for years to our management but they like the open atmosphere where anyone can just walk up to your desk and interrupt you at will - and they do.

Steve goes on to say:

The state of flow, where you are totally absorbed in a task and lose all sense of time, takes about 15 minutes to enter. Every time you get interrupted, it can take you another 15 minutes to get back to that state. Once you enter the state of flow, guard it with your life.

I have suggested that as software developers we should be isolated from all interruptions so that we can focus on the tasks at hand. I believe doing so will greatly increase productivity. It's funny but those same managers that like the open environment wonder why no one is motivated and really getting the work done!

Up until now I have approached this problem with a victim mentality - we need our managers to make it happen for us, we are not responsible. I no longer subscribe to this paradigm. Now I have a more proactive approach. When I really want to get some work done on a project, I don't do it at my desk. I find a conference room, schedule time there and do my work.

It's my experience that if interrupting you is easy, such as walking up to your desk or instant messaging you, then people will do it and they will do it often. But if they have to spend more than two minutes tracking you down, they realize that what they need probably isn't that important and they will get with you later.

I try to find a conference room on a totally different floor and one that has few if any windows. I also make sure our instant messenger program is turned off. I keep my cell phone turned on in case of emergencies but find that most people will think twice about how important their question is if they have to call you on the phone - weird!

My company is very results oriented but they don't maintain an atmosphere conducive to getting anything done! So, since our bonus and annual raise is judged on results, I, as a proactive person, have to make it happen by creating my own atmosphere. It's sad, but true.

Anyway, I suggest you read Steve's article. It's a long one - It took me about 45 minutes to get through it but it was very enlightening.