Category Archives: Personal Reflections

Personal Thoughts

Put the Remote Down and Step Away from the TV !!

“I could have done that but I just didn’t have time…”

One of my earlier postings this year was focused on Time Management. Personally, I thought it was a fairly easy-to-understand read and included one very simple recommendation:

Turn Off The TV!!!

Apparently that message continues to elude people. They still complain about “others” who are making progress and getting ahead instead of them. They complain that they aren’t getting “the breaks” that other people are. They complain that “life just isn’t fair!”

While I will grant you that life commonly isn’t “fair”, get over it! You may have been laid off from your last job and can’t find work. You may be in what you call a “dead end job” and your boss is unreasonable. Accept that and move to the next topic: What are YOU going to do about it?

There is nothing that is holding you back but yourself. The critical step in changing your life is to DO something about it.

Whether you are looking for a job or performing one that you don’t like, you need to make some time for yourself. Too much to do to make time? Go back to the title of this posting…

Put the Remote Down and Step Away from the TV !!

How many hours do you spend in front of the TV?

“I only watch a little TV each day. Usually just from when I get home from work just until after the 11 o’clock News.”

Do the math:    6:30P to 11:30P = ~5 hours per day … 35 hours/week (that approaches the amount you spend at work as a full time employee!)

Doesn’t sound right? Actually the 5 hour/day amount is an average taken across ALL age groups.

In 2007, according to A.J. Nielsen Company the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day. By the end of 2011, TV watching time increased to more than 5 hours per day, without including any computer or smartphone time. (and those readers in the over 50 age categories shouldn’t be smug … most of those hours came from you!)

Dump the TV in the evenings. 

Do something with yourself instead of being “entertained”. After work, grab a light dinner and then force yourself to take a 5 minute walk. Longer is OK, but 5 minutes (once around a small city block) should be adequate. Your walk will help break the pattern of behavior that has probably lost you several years.

When you get home, don’t turn the TV on. If someone else is there and already watching “Wheel of Fortune“, go into another room, pick up a book or a magazine. Now read for 30 minutes. Don’t just flip pages, but actually read a chapter or several magazine articles from start to finish.

Congratulations. You’ve just taken the first step into your next adventure!

Now get up and do something active around the house. This is where cleaning out your “sock drawer” or “washing windows” can be a positive activity. Your target is to perform another 30 minute activity that keeps you away from the TV. 30 minutes is not a long time, but you’ll be surprised at how much you get done in 30 minute segments when they are spread across a week or two.

It’s probably still early, so go back to your reading. This time, pick up something lighter, but it’s still important keep your focus.

If you are transitioning from years of evening TV, you’ll probably find it difficult to focus even for 30 minutes. The producers and advertisers have training you to focus for 8-10 minutes at a time, followed by a series of 1 minute commercials. You need to retrain yourself to focus your mind.

Alternate back and forth between half hour “activities” and readings until bedtime. I’d suggest that you plan on earlier bedtime, because, at least for the first 2 weeks, you will become tired earlier than usual.

Of course, your spouse or partner will probably think that you’ve lost your mind. Usually, their response will land somewhere between disbelief and harassment. Remember that this change is YOUR change, not necessarily anyone else’s. Your partner/spouse may choose to join your change, but that’s their decision and shouldn’t be linked to your success or failure.

Just say “Good-Bye” to that energy-sucking box, called a “TV”, and say “Hello” to your new life.

Pick your Direction

It won’t be long before you exhaust the casual reading materials and small chores around your home. Now it’s time to step up and look for your “new directions”.

Return to school? Get a degree in a new field? Join a gym? Fantastic directions, but too ambitious for most of us newly-ex-couch potatoes. Pick something smaller … something well defined … something affordable.

Need ideas? It’s time to brainstorm. The Internet is filled with great sites where you can look for something that might pique your interest:

Got an idea? Use a search engine (e.g. Yahoo!, Google) to start exploring in greater detail. Add associated articles and books to your reading list.

Do you want to do something more? Look for volunteer opportunities in your area:

Looking for how-to independence?

Whatever you choose to do, just don’t sit there. Become ACTIVE.

The most difficult step is the first one. The next most difficult steps that you’ll take in making a change in your life are those that you’ll take during the following 3 weeks. It takes about 2-3 weeks before you really change your patterns and behaviors. Stick with it … you’ll be amazed at your results!

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Aside

I keep hearing that employers prefer to select younger applicants over older ones because the younger generation is more “in-tune with today’s technologies.” Please excuse my personal response, but that’s such a crock that I can hardly contain myself. It’s … Continue reading

How to Make Time

If I only had 3 more hours in my day …

But a 27 hour day doesn’t help much if time isn’t utilized effectively.

One of the best lectures that I’ve heard on Time Management was given by Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch  at the University of Virginia in November 2007. [Just click on the “Time Management” link included above and you can see the lecture yourself — the lecture is a little over an hour in length but worth the “investment”.]

Among other topics, Professor Pausch stresses work/task prioritization. Task prioritization is not a new concept, but it’s one that we all seem to have problems with.

Most of you have seen a chart like this one for prioritizing work, one of the foundations to “making time”. It’s often referred to as the Covey Quadrant … that would be the Steven Covey Quadrant (of Franklin Planner &  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People fame).

What makes this chart so significant is its simplicity. Dr. Covey uses the two terms: Important and Urgent. Both are direct and clear. All of your tasks should fall into one of the four categories … nice system but what’s so special about it? The key is how it’s applied.

Most people will rightly focus on the Important/Urgent tasks. (That’s were Put-out-House-Fire or Save-Drowning-Person tasks would fall.) After that, we often get lost, attacking a pile of Not Important/Urgent tasks (most phone calls, most meetings and other interruptions). While completing these tasks are may look like significant accomplishments, they don’t Make Time. Rarely do “Not Important” tasks become “Important”, but “Not Urgent” tasks will often become “Urgent” if not addressed.

Focusing next on the “Important” but “Not Urgent” will not only relieve stress in your life, but allows you to plan and more efficiently use your time. You’ll also find that many of the “Not Important” but “Urgent” tasks really shouldn’t be on your task list in the first place. (Note: Dropping “Not Important” but “Urgent” tasks off your To Do list is a first step to Making Time.)

The another easy way to Make Time is to eliminate tasks from your “Not Important” / “Not Urgent” category. That’s where “Wheel of Fortune” falls. Yes, I am suggesting that you Turn—Off—the—TV!   Back away slowly and put down the remote control… It will be OK.

In 2007, according to A.J. Nielsen Company the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day. By the end of 2011, TV watching time increased to more than 5 hours per day, without including any computer or smartphone time. (and those readers in the over 50 age categories shouldn’t be so smug … most of those TV-watching-hours come from our age groups).

Still wondering where that additional 3 hours a day can come from? TV. Turn it off and remove the batteries from the remote. If the quiet bothers you, put on some music. Tired? Put your feet up and relax. Take a nap. You’ll be surprised at how much more you’ll accomplish.

Time management does not mean filling every minute of your day with work. It means using your time efficiently and effectively.

So prioritize your work (and turn your TV off) and you, too, will have those extra hours that you’ve been looking for.

Marathon … really??

For those outside of the Greater Boston area this weekend and next, you are probably missing one of the annual rites-of-spring that kisses the roads, streets and area paths. Today marks 29 days-to-go before the Boston Marathon and the Marathon hopefuls are now out-in-force striding through their final “long run” workouts.

Depending on the individual, it takes 3 to 4 weeks for a runner to recover completely from runs over 20 miles in length. So this weekend and next are the ideal times for such a workout. While the physiological benefits of  long training runs are debatable, few runners question the mental benefits of having-been-there (above the 20 mile mark), and survived, just prior to the race. This traditional “long run” marks the end of most marathon training programs.

Throughout the winter, several thousand runners trained in gyms and bundled up against the snow and ice storms. This past winter, the Boston weather was unusually mild, but I have led long runs where it snowed 6 inches during the course of that 20+ mile “final” workout. This weekend, hopefully, was the time for the 2012 runners to shed their winter running gear and feel the warmth of the sun.

As you drive around during the next few weeks, you may notice small groups of runners or perhaps a few more individuals out on the roads than usual. Many of them will be toeing up to the starting line in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, on Patriot’s Day, April 16th, 2012.

The obvious marathoners are those who are including the “Hills of Newton” (one of which, is the infamous “Heartbreak Hill”) in their runs. Most are in their 20s and 30s. They are looking toward a 4-hour or maybe even a sub 3-hour marathon. (Running a marathon under 4 hours requires a 9 minute 9 second per mile pace.)

There are also some slower runners out there on the roads. Some may be older; some may appear less fit … but they are still running.

On race day, we know that most of the runners won’t be competing against the Kenyans or anyone else, but why are they there? They will be competing for themselves. They will be celebrating another year of training. Another year of wet socks and sore muscles. Another year of challenging hills and long runs that they’ve completed even when they had serious doubts.

Some may have reached their 3- or 4-hour marathon goal, years (or even decades) prior to this. Some did not…but they are still there. Why? Because they are there to celebrate the effort, not the achievement. They are there reminding us all that while the achievement is important, it is the memory of the effort that remains long after an event.

Looking back on years of my races & training runs, it is that cold morning that I most remember when the sun first reflected off the ice coated trees and the world was silent. It is that summer afternoon run when I ran out of water and limped home with a strained muscle. It is the smell of dew on the manzanita bushes on hills outside San Francisco, when the only sound was that of my feet on the gravel trail.

Sure, I remember the big races and the finish lines and the medals, but the personal efforts and private times are what I hold closest. These are why we return to the roads each year, if only in spirit.

Is there something magical about 26.2 miles that blesses a runner with such enlightenment? No, it’s rarely about the race. An upcoming marathon, however, a reminder that you do have to put on that rain parka and do that training run. It’s a reminder on Saturday night that you have to get to bed early … another long training run will come in the morning. Honestly, a marathon just an excuse.

That lone runner jogging along a road in the rain or across a busy highway overpass is enjoying a very personal time apart from family or work or life. Their legs may hurt, their hands might be cold, but they are making the effort to be better at who they are. When they return home, often wet and somewhat muddy, only they know what they saw or thought or achieved. Did they run fast or slow? Were they able to keep going when they wanted to stop or slow down? Did they run past the top of “that hill” this time without even noticing it? These become personal achievements that they take back to their “real lives” and draw strength from them when all else fails.

Training for a marathon is not always about fantastic vistas and achieving great goals. It includes setbacks and failures. It includes months where nothing seems to go right. It includes training runs that start on peaceful forest trails and end on crowded city streets. Runners learn to accept the setbacks, to shake off the bad luck and to keep going.

Perhaps one of the most understated, inspirational  quotes that marathon runners reflect on is not from a great athlete, but from Woody Allen, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” It’s showing up day in  and day out, regardless of how you feel or what else is happening in your life. Becoming a marathon runner or a distance runner is about making a commitment to something and following through on that commitment.

When you see that runner along the road or on an overpass, I hope that you look at her or him differently. That runner is making a very personal statement. That runner is stepping out and reaching for something else regardless of whether a marathon or even a 10K run is in their future. It’s not the winner’s laurels that they seek, but a higher, more personal objective.

Give that runner a wave and an encouraging smile. We all benefit from the effort.