Tagged: happiness

A story that vindicates my approach to time management

In this post I talked about my approach to time management.  Graham has this great story on his site that illustrates the same approach but much more eloquently!

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him.When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.

He asked the students if the jar was full.They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly, and the pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.

He then asked the students again if the jar was full; they agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.

He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “yes.”

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor, as …

Sharing and giving

StawberriesOn Saturday I started to pull up all of the strawberry plants that had rooted from runners last year.  I ended up with several hundred plants in a big heap.  I decided that it would be a good idea to give them away, but my wife thought no one would be interested.  I took this as a bit of a challenge,  I am one of those people who likes to think the best of others (which is an extension of having a positive outlook) my wife in contrast always expects things to go wrong and tends to distrust those she doesn’t know.  Anyway I bagged the plants up – 15 plants to a bag – and to make the challenge more interesting decided to give the plants away but allow for donations.

My eldest daughter, Stephie, made a lovely sign and we put the 15 bags of plants in a big plastic container on the path outside the house.  The sign read – Free Strawberries – and was nicely illustrated.  Next to the container was a small wooden bowl which I put a little loose change in; to get things going.  After three days all 15 bags have gone, we …


I am being bombarded by information and initiatives that relate to thinking from all directions.  I thought it would be interesting to list the main ones and try and identify the many different perspectives.

Structure and rigour.  It all started with David Pollard’s structured problem solving process, which although not a perfect fit for me was an interesting insight into how formal and rigorous the process could be.

Quick and intuitive.  Then I read reviews of books that discussed rapid decision making, I have not explored them further but they support my gut feeling that my intuition is a valuable skill that I should nurture.  I don’t have a very good memory for facts, but am good at remembering relationships. I have specifically avoided learning memory improvement techniques because I worry that whilst I will be better at remembering names my intuition and innovation will suffer.

Innovation.  I came across a blog entry on types of innovation, quickly followed by one of my colleagues sending me a presentation, which led to me exploring innovation processes, in particular TRIZ and some of the tools that support it. 

Investing in living

I am currently changing my approach to spending money, in the most obvious, (in hindsight) way.

First I did an audit of how I spend my time, then I looked at how much I could improve my level of enjoyment or productivity by investing money in support of each activity.  I also looked for new activities that I could add to my life if I spent some money.

I ended up with a fairly simple list in order of Return On Investment.   Without going into all of the details here are a few of the outcomes:

– I have sold a whole load of old gadgets on eBay, because I only used them for a couple of hours a month

– I reaffirmed my decision not to spend any money on cars for a long time,  my current car get used for about an hour a week, although my wife uses her’s more, so we won’t be investing in a second car when hers gives up in a few years time.

– I invested in some great walking gear and swimming gear because that’s an activity I do every day and I want to maximise my enjoyment and minimise the …

More about SwimMP3

I wrote a short article yesterday about how my SwimMP3 player has transformed the way I swim.  In this article I will provide a better review of the device itself.

First off it looks quite strange, you get lots of looks whilst swimming.  If you like to chat to people then it’s a good ice breaker!

It has 128MB of memory, which is reasonable for music, if you set it to random then most people won’t get bored even if they swim every day.  If like me you listen to talk shows, conferences etc then 128MB is more than enough, in fact the way I use it I tend to load it up with just 2 * 30 minute MP3 files, less than 30MB, why 2, just in case I don’t fancy the the content of the first one and need an alternative.  Each day I just delete the talks I have listened to and download another.

My main source of talks right now is IT Conversations

I find that lots of the things I want to listen to are too long for my swims, so I split them into 20-30 minute sessions depending on how long I want to …

Working while you swim

I have recently restarted swimming.  It’s a great way to keep fit and it really helps ease my aching muscles and joints, but it’s really boring!  I recently found the solution though.  I purchased a waterproof MP3 player, that looks like this:

and it works by bone conduction of sound. When the device is placed on any bones of the skull (i.e. the cheek bones or the mastoid tip) it leads to vibration of the fluid in the inner ear. Thus I can enjoy clarity of sound with the SwiMP3 device that was never before possible.  Jon mentions it in his blog as well.

At first I thought I would use it mainly for music, but then I discovered the IT Conversations web site, which is chock full of really interesting downloadable talks, many of which are so relevant to my job that I can make a valid claim to be doing research while I am swimming!

I found a slight glitch in that there is no way to bookmark the point you get upto in a talk and restart at that point the next day, so for longer mp3’s I have had to split them into 20 – 30 …

If you only read one blog, make it this one …

I continue to be amazed by Dave Pollard and how he manages to provide us with such thought provoking insights into How To Save The World on a daily basis.  To give you a glimpse of his motivation look at the following snip, and then read his bio.

Five years ago, at the age of 48, I decided it was time to stop complaining and being depressed about the state of the world, and start doing something about it. I began to read voraciously, an average of two books a week, and gradually put together a picture in my own mind of the current state of the world, how we got here, and what we needed to do about it. In February of last year I started a weblog, in part because I wanted to share what I had learned, and in part to discuss it with others and find out if they felt the same way that I did


The Little Money Book

This is a great book to read in the bath just before you go to sleep, very thought provoking but with each thought served up in bite sized chunks.

The book is essentially 50 or so extracts from other books, papers or speeches on the subject of money.  It really is a facinating, if disturbing, read. 

It covers the following topics:

Metal money – all about the origins of money

Money information – all about the virtualisation of money

Measuring money – probably the best chapter – all about the lack of a link between money and happiness and value

Dept money – all about the scary levels of debt in the world

Mad money – stories of the ‘great’ crashes and why/how they happened

DIY money – money alternatives

Spiritual money – other ways to think about money.

I ordered this book from the library, but ended up buying myself a copy it was that good.

Six Thinking Hats

I have just started to think through some of the processes, I take for granted.  One of these is “researching and descision making”.  One of the first approaches I cam across was the “Six Thinking Hats”; approach it stunned me that a process I am so familliar with could be so dramatically improved through applying more structure.  What particularly appealed was how the approach works within teams to avoid conflict.  Here’s a summary of the approach:

  • White Hat:
    With this thinking hat you focus on the data available. Look at the information you have, and see what you can learn from it. Look for gaps in your knowledge, and either try to fill them or take account of them.

    This is where you analyze past trends, and try to extrapolate from historical data.

  • Red Hat:
    ‘Wearing’ the red hat, you look at problems using intuition, gut reaction, and emotion. Also try to think how other people will react emotionally. Try to understand the responses of people who do not fully know your reasoning.

  • Black Hat:
    Using black hat thinking, look at all the bad points of the decision. Look at it cautiously and defensively. Try to see why it might not …

A tale of bureaucracy

As readers of my blog will know I have been working from home since late January.  In February my company and I decided that home working was probably for me and that I we should make the switch permanent.  It’s been a low process to get official designation as a home worker, but that did finally arrive on the 19th of August.  I wanted to share with you the story of getting a business line and broadband installed.


  1. I get an email from Ms C in HR with two forms, one completed by HR and one that I need to complete
  2. I correct an error on Form A filled in by Ms C
  3. Form A is a request for quotation from BT and justification which needs to be sent to Mr X in Internal IT.  Form B is another justification which needs to be sent to my manager along with the Quote and then needs to be sent to Mr X
  4. I send Form A to Mr X
  5. I then receive a phone call from Mr Y from BT asking me what I need so that they can install it.  I have already …