Stop Overwhelming Yourself

I don’t know what it is but the last few months I have felt completely overwhelmed. My TiVos are filled with shows piling up that I “need” to watch, I have a pile of mail to go through, posts to write, RSS feeds to read, magazines to read, things to do, etc. Regardless – I could not seem to make a dent in any of it.

This past week I decided enough was enough. I know the one way to take care of something like this is to just keep chipping away at it one piece at a time. I started by first with all my computer related overwhelming tasks. I did a full backup (offsite to Amazon), then re-organized. All media is now on one computer specifically for media and all my Apple devices are set up to properly sync with this computer as well. I then went through and archived email from a year ago to cut the clutter from my mailboxes. I also went through my iPhoto library and trashed any junk photos (blurry, mis-takes, etc). Less photos – easier to go through and truly appreciate. I also went through my RSS subscriptions and deleted a good 40%. I probably spend a good hour+ a day going through RSS feeds and hopefully this will give me more time to actually read only about what I truly care about.

After that, I started in with the mail – and have designated a day of the week specifically to go through everything so that I know (and do not have to worry) that this will not build up anymore. After the mail – I decided to take on the TiVos (which may sound silly – but this was causing a lot of overwhelming feelings of not being able to get caught up). I ended up tossing a lot of things I know I will never watch and also decided to cut down on the number of series I watch. There is only so much one can watch – and I just need to pick this more carefully. I am still at 60% full with TiVo – but I can easily knock that down to 40% by next week.

I also went through my magazines – threw away what I had read or “just about finished” but still had laying around (like my October 2010 Astronomy magazine which highlighted Astronomy events in October of last year).

I know I have a little more to go through, but all in all sometimes you just need to clean out the junk and start fresh or simply plan some time each week to go through certain things so you know you definitely will get to it. We are all busy – but a little goes a long way and even with the things I did this week – I am definitely feeling a little less overwhelmed.

Lesson learned: Get rid of the junk so you can focus on what’s important (applicable to just about everything).

This is Not Google

I just got a call from an automated service (I did not stay on long enough to hear all of it) that said:

“This is an important call for the business owner. This is not Google…”

I figured when they said “This is not Google” they really meant to say “this is a scam to get you listed when you could do it for free” so I hung up. I did have to laugh a bit when I heard “This is not Google”.

Timing Is Everything

I would have totally been up for this if I got it BEFORE it started instead of AFTER it started…by three hours. Let’s hope they got some people for the event.

Plastic Card Payment

Continue with Plastic Card?

Some form buttons need to be noted – and this is one of them.

Really – a simple “Continue” would not have worked?

Where is this from? Library of Congress. Perhaps I should have donated more to help out the programming team.

How NOT to Take/Make a Business Call

It is unbelievable how some people act on a conference call or even a business related call. From my experience here are some pointers on how NOT to impress your colleagues/clients/developers. (All based on actual things I have experienced)

  • Make a business call while in the drive-thru at McDonanlds…and then ask me to hold while you order your “Big Breakfast”. You called me – why couldn’t you wait until at least after ordering?
    What it tells me: You do not respect my time and this will not be the last inappropriate call. Anything is game.
  • Have multiple conversations while on a call. Setting up a call with me, then talk to your co-workers about unrelated topics in between actually taking to me – who you called is just not acceptable.
    What it tells me: You are over scheduled or have no idea how to stay focused. Reviewing the project with you is going to be a bear.
  • Answer another line, without asking me to hold so I can hear the drama with you and your spouse.
    What it tells me: You lack discretion and inappropriate comments are soon to follow.
  • Yell at your co-workers while on the phone. If this is how you treat someone that you work with day in and day out – perhaps I should stay clear from you and your business.
    What it tells me: You have respect issues and interactions with you are going to be rough.
  • Talk to your kids while on the phone. Telling them to “go watch TV” or anything else while Daddy is on the phone just does not cut it. If you work at home – make sure your family members have boundaries.
    What it tells me: You have no boundaries and are going to expect me to work all hours of the day (since you do as well).
  • Take a call with very loud background noise. I have been on conference calls with people who had to literally mute their line when they were not talking because of the background noise. If you cannot find somewhere quiet to take/make a call – perhaps you should just wait.
    What it tells me: You think your time is worth more than mine.
  • Make the call, but then answer all call-waiting incoming calls. I know there are exceptions and emergencies, but if we have a 30 minute call scheduled and you put me on hold more than three times, perhaps this is not great time to take the call.
    What it tells me: You have a lot of other higher priorities than what is being discussed.

Seriously – phone calls should be to the point and between the parties on both ends done with mutual respect. This is not rocket-science – it is just a matter of time and respect.

Traveling with Children

We just returned to Chicagoland from a trip to see my parents/grandparents. While I was not really excited to travel with all three kids – I knew my family would appreciate it. Since we were traveling with all three kids (4 years, 7 month twins) I figured it would be a nightmare. To my surprise – we had a pretty good experience by doing the following:

  1. First thing first: make sure you tell yourself that regardless of whatever comments/facial expressions you get – that they do not mean a thing. People are idiots and very selfish – and they tend not to care about anyone else but themselves – especially when traveling without kids.
  2. Make sure to pack at least one change of clothing for all travelers. We went through 3 out of 5 changes of clothing over our trip due to spit up/accidents/etc
  3. Don’t rush. Rushing only causes more stress for you and regardless of what you do and how fast you do it – people will not see a family as moving fast.
  4. Bring plenty of food. When all else fails, a bottle, a snack, or something tasty might help with the boredom, crankiness of both adults and kids.
  5. Bring plenty of water. Kids and adults can act/think/react better if they are well hydrated. I would just make sure the non-diaper children have a controlled amount so there are not multiple on-plan bathroom trips.
  6. Bring plenty of candy. When all else fails – a lollipop or some lifesavers go a long way to help make kids happy (and also helps with the ear pressure changes).
  7. Bring the entertainment. Our four year old spent almost the entire flight playing on the iPad/watching movies on the iPad. This kept his mind off the fact he had to sit quietly for almost three hours.
  8. Dial back the “no”. On our first flights with Evan, I constantly said “no”/ “don’t” to everything. Don’t touch this, don’t kick that, don’t look there, don’t talk to that person. It was over the top stressful to all. This time around – Cora decided she wanted to play with the onboard WiFi information handout and while I generally would have been saying “don’t touch that” – I let her and it entertained her for over 30 minutes. As long as the kids are not bothering others on purpose – let them do what they need to to get by.
  9. Travel in the AM. We have traveled on the first flight out and on the last flight in. Earlier travel seems to work best and allows the kids to adjust easier for the activities once we land.
  10. Give yourself a day. Give yourself (and your kids) a day to relax before rushing into some planned events. Traveling is stressful and we all need some downtime. Likewise – make sure you have some time the day after travel to just relax and unwind.

Nothing is more important than the first item. For all you non-family travelers, remember as bad or as horrible as a flight you had because of someone’s kid screaming – the parent and the child feel 1000 times worse. Suck it up and invest in some good earphones for the next flight…and consider this: who is a bigger baby: A baby crying because they are stuck in a small space, not sure of what is going on, with ear pressure problems or a big baby who did not get x hours of their day as quiet as they wanted and then complains about it and says nasty things to the parent – who in most cases – would have prevented the screaming/crying if they could.

Holy Crap

I walked past this car and it instantly made me laugh. What did those birds eat – and what did the person do to them that owns this car?

Finding Your Pace

We all work at different paces. Some like to try and do everything really quickly so they can relax later. Others wait until the last moment and race to get things done (they find energy and excitement in the challenge to finish). Still others prefer to keep a grueling pace throughout the entire project in order to get everything plus more done.

Although I have done all of the above – if nothing else – Oregon Trail taught me one thing: pace is everything. While some of these routes to the end result will work some of the times, the best way to do it is to go at a realistic – not too fast, not too slow pace. While there may be benefits to either extreme – the costs for both of them are often higher than expected for both you and your client.

If nothing else learned this year – I learned that you should set your pace – not the client. No one knows how much x,y,z tasks take better than you if you do them over and over. The client might be working on this project now, but you are being hired for your professional experience – experience that you have gained by doing similar tasks – and thus you should have the best idea how long/how much something will take.

Any client that needs something in an unreasonable time frame or that constantly has emergencies in off hour time periods is perhaps not the client you want/or even constant “immediate” changes (regardless of the pay). I know it sounds hard to stand up to them or even risk losing some clients, but trust me it is well worth it. Your quality of work will improve as will your mental sanity.

Early in the project – make sure to set the pace. Your client will respect you more and your family/friends will appreciate it too. Just remember – your sanity is worth a lot more then spending weekends/holidays on the phone for something that will not be as important as the time you lost with your friends/family.

Make Opportunities

Several years ago, the company I worked for had a secretary full of life lessons which she would tell me about each morning. Out of everything she ever told me – one thing really stuck. She told me “Jen – don’t wait for opportunities, make them”. There are not too many days that go by that I do not think about that.

So many people wait around for “that phone call, that new job, that right guy/girl, etc” (you fill in the blank) and those people will often live most of their life with regrets and/or with dead end jobs. It is easier to stay stuck in a rut than to actually make a change and if that is how you live your life – that is fine, but I wanted more.

With the economy the way it is, I have seen a lot of people get laid off or feel like they have to stay in their mind numbing job because it is “too risky” to move into a new job. At some point in your life you either have to “shut up or do something” and for your benefit – I hope you do something. The best thing I have done in my life was to stop waiting around for things to happen to me and to go out on my own and start something that was mine and I enjoyed. While it was risky – I got to a point where it felt more risky not to do anything. I finally took the secretary’s words into consideration and have not regretted it whatsoever.

I do not mean to preach, but I do ask you to take chance and to think about what you want – not in a month from now, but in 5 years from now. Can your current situation provide that? If not, what can you do to make a difference? Whatever you do, take a chance and make that opportunity instead of waiting for it!