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What Motivates Us At Work? April 11, 2013

Posted by shwaldman in Society, Work.
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The answer is simpler than you might think… acknowledgement!

Goals, motivation and priorities June 12, 2012

Posted by shwaldman in Family, Fitness, Technology.
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Hard work, dedication!

Is reaching you goals that simple? Of course not, for anyone with a real life. I have really enjoyed watching the NBC hit show Biggest Loser in which contestants are sent off to a secluded ranch to working with world class trainers to reach their fitness goals. One of these trainers liked to use the mantra “Hard Work! Dedication!” I like that, too, but if we all had that opportunity to focus on one goal at a time, we would be able to accomplish that one goal. But variety is the spice of life and we all have battling priorities.

I am very curious about many things and so my list of what I count as priorities is pretty high. One thing I am curious about is how to better organize my do list and have it do the mental work of prioritizing for me. I have tried many apps and different techniques but I think the ability to prioritize on the fly is nearly impossible to turn over to a computer (yet).

The problem is this: we all have a list of to dos and we all have calendars, the power of the human brain is that it can take those data elements and ranking in terms of importance. And it does this so quickly we often don’t even “think” about it. Picture this, you are at a sporting event with a drink in one hand and a snack in the other. Suddenly, a ball comes sailing in your direction. What happens next is a matter of how quickly your brain process all the important data points. Should you save your drink or project your body? You have an important meeting at work, but your child’s school calls and you have to go pick them up. We make these instantaneous choices throughout the day. Of course, these are the “emergency” examples.

This image comes from the web site of Myrko Thum who discusses Time Management and the Seven Habit of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.

What about the priority choices we have to make? Watch an interesting show or exciting sporting event on TV or get to bed on time? Watch TV or read that book you have been wanting to finish? Work on a home improvement project or get some exercise? It seems simple, but these are the priorities we have to rank careful to make ourselves happy. Some have only short term consequences and others affect us over the longer term. The matrix above sums it all up, but how do you choose between similar and competing interests?

I would like to hear how others use technology to help them make the right choices, satisfying their needs and making themselves happy. Please comment below.

What to do? What to do? June 1, 2012

Posted by shwaldman in Family, Fitness, Technology.
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It has been about ten months since my last post. And yet a couple of month before that, I said I was determined to post more consistently. What happened? Life, I suppose. But here I am back at it. I am still determined to make posting ideas and thoughts. I think it is valuable to be creative and express ourselves as individuals.

We all have our day jobs and sometimes it requires a certain level of mental effort and sometimes it involves significant creativity. And sometimes it doesn’t. Since my last blog post, I changed jobs. I was in a job that was getting mundane, repetitive, duplicitous. I found myself doing the same thing, day after day. I think that type of job does work for some people. But not me. I switched to a new job that has me changing who I work with, what applications I work on and what skills I need, on a regular, if not daily, basis. I am really enjoying it.

And yet I still find myself wanting to meet this goal of putting content out for others to consume. I have thoughts about producing videos, editing and maintaining family photo albums, and of course, writing about it and other things in my life. But the thing I have trouble with is prioritizing these things along with all my other daily responsibilities. I am constantly trying to find a to-do list tool to help me keep items like this in the front of my mind.

I struggle with these lists because they don’t have good reminder systems or prioritizing capabilities. What I finally realized this week is that there are two different types of lists that I need to maintain. And I think this is true for many people. There is one list of reminders of one-off items, like what errands to run this weekend or birthdays that are coming up. The other list is items that I want to accomplish on regular basis, like writing blog posts, exercising regularly and backing up my computer.

Almost all applications I have come across are great at the former. They are great making lists and outlines of ideas and thoughts I do not want to lose track of. And thanks to a recent twitter post by @danielpink, I decided to try a new app that finally meets the latter list this time. It is a simple app that says, what things do you want to keep in your mind and being reminded of every day or couple of days. It is called Wonderful Day. You get self motivational “points” by checking in for each item you have scheduled to complete on given days.

So, I have populated my list to blog on Mondays, exercise (Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday) and get a little yard work done on Saturday and Sundays. Once I get going on this process, I plan to figure out a good night to work on my video library and picture libraries and add them to my list. Clearly, readers of this blog will be the first to know how well it works for me. Wish me luck and please post comments about what tools or methods you use.

Movie Review: Freakonomics March 2, 2011

Posted by shwaldman in Politics, Society.
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Netflix Synopsis: Several documentary directors each film a segment representing one chapter of Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner’s best-seller Freakonomics, which explains different elements of popular culture through economic theory and statistics. Issues include everything from cheating sumo wrestlers to whether Roe v. Wade produced a drop in crime. Filmmakers include Morgan Spurlock, Alex Gibney, Seth Gordon, Eugene Jarecki, Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing.

I reviewed this book nearly a year and half ago. A year later, they made the book into a movie. As they point out in the book, it is hard to describe what this book is about. It is about nothing and everything at the same time. It is like a real-world Seinfeld episode.

They use economic principles to explain everyday things. Economics is a social science concerned chiefly with description and analysis of the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services (merriam-webster.com). In their case, they evaluate the motivations and incentives that move people to make the decisions they make in consuming certain goods and services. They turn data and numbers into information.

The most popular, controversial, and explainable example of this is their take on the relationship between crime rate decreases and abortions. They pour through the numbers in countries around the world and recognized that reductions in the birth of unwanted children often (if not always) correlated to decreases in the crime rate in those same countries precisely 16 to 20 years later. The book discusses this and many other topics. The movie only covers five topics like this, include cheating in Sumo wrestling, correlation between people’s names and success, others from the book.

If you have ever read the book, you will appreciate this movie’s content, presented in a visual form. Each topic is directed by a different filmmaker and has a distinct feel. Some bring the same information forward from the book, but the Sumo wrestling topic covered additional information and details like additional interviews and related stories. But for me, I am glad I did not see this in the theater. The value of this movie was in the DVD. In the Special Features, the authors sat down for an additional 45 minutes and help explain their methods and theories.

I have heard the often repeated, but ever wrong expression that “the numbers don’t lie.” But these authors really dig into the difference between correlation and causation. This is an important documentary to help people understand and keep their minds open. If you are open to this, you should see it.

Spark to My Fitness Regime May 6, 2009

Posted by shwaldman in Fitness, Work.
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SparkPeople logo
A couple of weeks ago, our organization started its third “fitness challenge” since I have been there. It is a program from the Wellness Committee that tries to get people into the habit of a little exercise. Since it is already an important part of my life, this program shouldn’t be a big deal. But it has turned out to be an extra motivator to get me doing a little bit each day. The way it works is that people team up in groups of 5-8 to try to keep each other motivated. Each person earns 1 pt for the team for each 25-45 minutes of exercise each day of the week. Of course, it counts anything as exercise so as to be all inclusive, which I think is great.

A couple of weeks ago, there was a extra bonus. If each memeber of the team signed up for SparkPeople the team got bonus points. This site is a lot like Gyminee. But it has a lot more community and tracking functionality. For me, it adds a little competition to keep me motivated… it is like having someone else to answer to. It adds to the organization’s program, reinforcing that other people are looking out for you to keep moving.

In just the first few weeks, I have jumped to the top of the leaderboard for our organization. It is clear that people are not using this site to track their activities, which is fine. But it is a little disappointing. I had hoped the site could keep me motivated by having people to compete against. Yes, there are tons of other teams, but every other team has people completing 4 times the amount of exercise as me, which ironically is similar to the total amount of the 56 people in our the whole organization that have signed up. I can’t really compete with that.

So hopefully, I can find a way to make this a motivational tool – once I got to the top of the leaderboard, it lost it’s power. If I can’t get that power back, this will fall by the way side like lots of other social networking sites.