Archive for the 'Self-improvement' Category


Mar 17 2010 Published by under Self-improvement

Ironic, how much of wise living consists of resisting one’s impulses.

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Beatdown Distraction

Feb 28 2010 Published by under Self-improvement

TinyAlarm Screenshot

Screenshot of TinyAlarm

We’ve all been there: it’s late in the evening, you meant to be working on your current Big Project, and you suddenly realize you’ve spent the past two hours flipping through unrelated Wikipedia pages. Not because you were bored; you just got distracted.

This happens to me when I’ve been racing around for most of the evening–cooking, recording videos, checking emails. I haven’t rested, so eventually my mind forces rest by distracting me with inanity.

So I’ve been using an app called TinyAlarm on my Mac. I set it for 30 minutes, after which it chirps, telling me to stop whatever I’m doing and rest for a bit.

Of course, “rest” can mean a lot of things; reading, making a drink, putting a book away, etc. It can be anything different from what I was doing.

It’s also a great opportunity to take a step back and look at what I’m doing. I often realize that I’ve become distracted within the work I was doing, concentrating on a less-important aspect of the job. These 30-minute breaks help me to refocus on what’s most important.

How do you refocus?

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Weekly Expenditure Adventure: Week 9

Nov 06 2009 Published by under Self-improvement


(This posted a couple of days late; technical issues, blah blah blah.)

Here are the purchases I made this week:

Saturday $38.01 Drinks, fabric, groceries
Sunday $0.00
Monday $1.37 Cookies
Tuesday $0.00
Wednesday $15.01 Lunch and cookies
Thursday $0.00
Friday $0.00
Total $54.39

Ridiculously low expenditures this week, thanks primarily to a pot of ham soup I made over the weekend. This provided me with a meal every day, and the rest of my sustenance could be provided by other groceries.

And this marks the end of my weekly expenditure adventure posts. I’ve proven to myself the importance of recording my expenditures. I’ll keep doing that; I just won’t post about it here on the blog.

There’s value in public exposure too, of course. But I want to try keeping them private, to see if that’s enough.

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Weekly Expenditure Adventure: Week 8

Oct 30 2009 Published by under Self-improvement


I was on a business trip this week, which took care of most of my meals. Even so, here are the totals:

Saturday $11.84 Snacks
Sunday $0.00
Monday $5.00 Laundry
Tuesday $13.74 Snacks
Wednesday $16.83 Dinner
Thursday $12.39 Snacks
Friday $169.90 lnch, gas, parking at airport
Total $229.70

Quite a few snacks. However, I couldn’t exactly bake a batch of cookies in my hotel room, so I was limited there.

$70 of this week’s expenditure was parking at the airport, which I’ll get back, so really I only spent $159.70. Huzzah!

I definitely think that just keeping track of my expenditures has made me subconsciously spend less.

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The Importance of Conferences

Oct 27 2009 Published by under Self-improvement

I’m at a conference this week, for work. I didn’t particularly want to be here. The content (thus far) looks to be of limited use at work (our customers don’t want a lot of the features being presented), and I can’t do fun stuff at home this week.

But I’m very glad I came.

Because of the people. I see how others are using their systems, and I see how productive and charged and successful they are. And I don’t mean “success” in the phony sense of charging down hallways while gripping a binder.

Folks are doing useful things with their software and systems. I want to be like them. I’ve now got pages of scribbled notes, full of neat ideas for things we can do with our software. I’ve also got the email addresses of helpful people.

The same is true of most conferences and conventions I’ve attended. They’re worth attending for reasons completely separate from the actual content of the events.

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Weekly Expenditure Adventure: Week 7

Oct 16 2009 Published by under Self-improvement

Okay, now that I’m back to regularly tracking my expenses, let’s see how I did:

Saturday $50.57 Gas and tchotchkes at the Renaissance Festival
Sunday $0.00
Monday $0.00
Tuesday $0.00
Wednesday $9.63 Dinner
Thursday $10.15 Lunch
Friday $124.69 Groceries, Halloween party ingredients, lunch
Total $184.88

Not only are these fairly minimal expenses (and mostly due to $50 worth of Halloween party ingredients on Friday), I’m particularly proud of spending no money for three days. I didn’t intend it; I just noticed on Monday that I’d spent nothing the day before, and wondered how long I could last. I ended the run with a delicious Rueben and hot tea at a local cafe Wednesday night.

And this is one of the hidden utilities of tracking my expenses: I find unexpected ways to save money. I become much more conscious of my spending. A few months ago, I simply never would have been aware of how much I’d been spending in the previous few days.

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Weekly Expenditure Adventure: Week 6-ish

Oct 09 2009 Published by under Self-improvement

Yeah, I haven’t been keeping up with this for a couple of weeks, so it’s more like week 10. But it’s week 6 of keeping track. Whatever!

Saturday $44.53 Gas and shipping a DVD
Sunday $16.08 Lunch
Monday $50.80 Pumpkins, mums, and veggies
Tuesday $7.24 Lunch
Wednesday $0.00
Thursday $9.79 Lunch and a brownie
Friday $92.41 Groceries, Halloween stuff, lunch
Total $220.85

Not bad! This doesn’t count bills, of course (electronic bill pay). I really should include that in future, now that I look at it.

Anyway: I’m pretty pleased! That’s not bad for a week.

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Expenditures, Expenditures

Oct 07 2009 Published by under Self-improvement


You may have noticed the lack of Weekly Expenditure Adventure posts on here. Why? I fell off the wagon.

As easy as it is to track one’s expenditures, it’s just as easy to forget. And then you face days’ worth of half-remembered purchases, and going to the mental effort of remembering just feels like too much work. ‘Cause there’s always something else to do.

Which is no good excuse. I’m reporting my expenditures to keep myself honest about my finances, and I can’t be honest if I don’t know what’s going on. So these records are important, even if I can’t remember every price down to the penny.

So I sat down a few days ago and rebuilt my expenditures as best I can remember. I’m back on the wagon.

I refuse to let laziness get in the way of improving myself.

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Weekly Expenditure Adventure: Week 5

Sep 14 2009 Published by under Self-improvement

A month into my experiment in spending less! Let’s see what this week totals:

Saturday $0.00
Sunday $5.50 Snacks
Monday $114.23 Candles, bird seed, plant bulbs, groceries
Tuesday $17.42 More groceries, cookies
Wednesday $3.47 Milk
Thursday $10.07 Dinner
Friday $0.00
Total $150.69

To be fair, I was at a wedding last weekend, so I didn’t have to spend any money there.

What I find most interesting here is the large amount of money I spent on Monday, just on a $15 candle, $44 of groceries, and $53 at Home Depot. Without those, I would have spent practically nothing this week.

I’m also surprised that, for me, a day without spending money is rare.

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Weekly Expenditure Adventure: Week 4

Sep 05 2009 Published by under Self-improvement

Here’s what I spent on various expenditures this week:

Saturday $26.72 Tea, flower bulbs, lunch
Sunday $10.00 Lunch
Monday $0.00
Tuesday $22.05 Movie ticket, food
Wednesday $12.01 Dinner
Thursday $46.89 Gas
Friday $26.00 Lunch and checking a bag
Total $143.67

Excellent! Much less than the previous week, even with the huge gas fill-up on Thursday.

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