Simple Life

Although I know about the importance being able to return to the present moment and although I tried and experienced it several times, it is still quite difficult for me.

Living in a bigger city does not offer the optimum environment to find silence and peace. Outside, being in a forest or on grassland it is easier. In the city or in front of the computer or TV attractions, impulses and distractions are on a very high level.

Yesterday, listening to a song of Elton John "Simple Life", he gave me a good hint how to improve the ability to return to the present moment:
And with the last breath we ever take
We're gonna get back to the simple life again
So, when you imagine that what you currently do is the very last thing you do, you will give more attention to this doing and you will be more impressed and more present. And take deep breaths!

Related posts: In the present moment, The tension habit, Know better and act on it, Your situation does not suck.


Crying for attention

After reading some articles on the net the first days this year I gave up the hope for the rest of the year that quality of news and articles get any better. The first days of the year began worse than ever with subject lines trying to get my attention and while reading the appropriate article I left the site disappointed and full of anger because the headlines where near completely exaggerated if not wrong (in the way that it either didn't match the article's content). I lost a lot of time reading completely unnecessary stuff....

The problem:
Everything and everyone is trying to get your attention.

Companies, products, problems, groups, persons, ... - everything is crying for attention. Look here, look there, you must read, watch or have this and that.

The reason: You are a potential customer and you should be motivated to buy and consume products, services and information.
We are often annoyed by advertisments or by the behaviour of salesman when they are trying to catch our attention and get us as customers and often we see a company or a system as the annoying element. But there are people behind trying to earn money. It is the same as in a room where a group of people talk. The noise gets louder and louder because everybody needs to increase the volume to get heard. The advertising "volume" and amount increases with the time. But why can't we simply ignore all that stuff? - Because "Knowledge is Power"! Knowing the important things pushes you in a better situation in general. You have more control, save and earn more money, be happier - in general you be more successful having more of the important knowledge. This is the reason why we don't reduce information intake drastically. And the problem is that what shouts loudest is not always the most important.

The solution: Improve your ability to focus and the ability to ignore what does not matter.
Easy said, hard work to be implemented - and I can only give you some considerations that hopefully help you sorting the things out. So think of the following before starting your information intake:
  • Is this really new to me?
    Often we read something that we already have considered to be this way. Reading what we ever thought to be this way is confirmation of our considerations and we love that. So ask yourself if you really need so much confirmation from outside about your own opinions or considerations.

  • Can this have the potential to change my life?
    Think whether this book, article, advertisement has really the potential to change your life. Ask yourself consciously: Is it very probable that this information changes my life?

  • Who could be behind pushing that information and what could be his intention?
    The same information can be provided in very different words and manners. It usually depends on the author and his intentions how information is prepared and manipulated. So the question about the author and his intention can be of relevance for the reliability/quality and the importance of the information.

  • Watch your needs and then the market.
    Often information is brought to you to make you consume something you might not have known that you needed it. Don't watch products and find their importance for you, instead you should do it the other way round: Focus on your needs and search for solutions/products/services that could help you achieving your goals or improving your life quality.

  • Information can be wrong!
    Don't rely too much on information in general. Just because some economy analyst is saying that economy is bad should not cause you to get in panic about loosing your job. Such an information can already be wrong because the parameters used for measuring economy could be theoretically a good indicator but mismatching practical experiences in the real world (See "The mismatch problem"). Especially information about the future should also be considered as "nice thoughts" only. And there are either authors knowingly producing wrong information to misslead you.

  • You are always missing information.
    When searching for information (e.g. while comparing different products or services or when you worry about current politics or economic changes in progress) you should give up the desire to know everything. There is always some doubt remaining. This should not mean that you shouldn't search and read information. But after you collected a certain amount of knowledge about the issue, consider to stop when it doesn't make more sense getting more information.

  • Rely on "common sense".
    Often relying on your intuition and common sense leads to a good decision without the need of reading a bulk of information. So the cost performance ratio is often much better if you just rely on common sense. So before you go to research for making a decision think if research is really convenient.

  • Ignore articles with crazy titles.
    My experience is that those articles with the most crazy title do have the most unnecessary content. Maybe because without the crazy title nobody would read it. I am glad that those authors help me identifying unnecessary information by giving crazy titles. Here an example from today's science news (freely translated): "Mistaking apes are humanly" or another from an english IT news channel: "Buddha Machine Wall Plays Relaxing Ambient-Loops".

Before you start consuming:
  • Search for hidden costs.
    When you read or hear about special offers then keep in mind that there are usually some hidden costs that are not mentioned in the advertisements. Advertisements usually exaggerate the efficiency as well as the economical factor of the product or service. And sometimes they are very hard on the limit to be a straight lie.

  • Consider the total cost of ownership (TOC) of the product or service.
    Even free services can produce costs - not necessarily "just" money. Even if you consume free services maybe on the internet there is some maintenance effort coming along (regular password changes, dealing with several notification mails, keeping profile data up-to-date and so on).

  • Will this make me more happy than just hanging around relaxing?
    Has this product or service really have the potential to make me more happy instead of just doing nothing? Doing nothing and just relax and enjoy the present moment can make very satisfied and happy. Don't underestimate this (see "In the present moment").

  • What other activities are dropped when consuming this product or service?
    Consuming itself consumes time - time that can't be created from nothing. Instead your time and attention is moved from something else to the new point of interest. Choose consciously what to drop and if. Maybe buying and playing the new computer game drags your attention away from your family. Consider carefully if you really want that.

Related posts: The mismatch problem, Spam thoughts, Who cares?, Information overflow, In the present moment, Get focused with 3 questions, Total cost of commitment.


When to criticize

A number one tip for positivity that helped me already a lot during the first days of the new year:

Don't criticize when you don't have a solution at hand!
This means that you either should not come up with critics when you would know a solution but don't know a person who has time and the know-how to implement the solution! When you don't have a solution that can be implemented NOW, then probably things are currently in that awful state because no better solution available yet. Just search for a solution and solve the problem yourself or be patient and accept that the world is not perfect!

Further, you should keep in mind to never criticize a person as a whole - just criticize a specific behavior or a particular strategy!

Related posts: An eye for an eye, Spam critics, Positivity barricades, Success with optimism AND pessimism, There are no problems, How to be happy, The power of intention.


How to be happy

In order to GHE (Get Happiness Established) the decision to be happy is important but not sufficient. The decision is just the commitment but not the way from where you are to the desired goal.

First a very important rule: You will never be happy as long as you cannot be happy NOW. As long as you make your status of being happy dependent from anything in the future you are caught in the vicious cycle of wanting more and more. Apart from that you ride for a fall - life can easily throw a monkey wrench in your plans.

Second, an important note: On the way to perfect implementation of happiness there is a long time, a long way between - maybe your whole life. You should be glad of every small improvement.

So, here are my tips:
  • Return to the present moment - more detailed help on returning to the present moment here:
  • Slow down
    Urging at full speed through your life prevents you from enjoying any single moment of your life and reduces quality of whatever you are doing or trying to create. See also slowdownnow.org.
  • Imagine, that everything that happens just flows through you instead of "affecting" you.
  • Imagine, that no suffering that you face can take control of you without your approval.
  • Imagine, that nothing that happens can destroy you. Whatever happens, you will adapt.
    I remember an earlier post at this point, "What to learn from the Borg".
More tips on happiness (non-exhaustive list of important related posts on other blogs):
Related posts: In the present moment, There is suffering, What to learn from the Borg, Between GTD and GHE, Get focused with 3 questions, Highly happy people, All Done Status, Who cares?, Being positive, Urging to forge at full speed, No risk, no fun, When to criticize, Dynamic activity, Slowing down, Total cost of commitment, The power of intention, Being like a child, Living your opportunities, 2 major mistakes, Your situation does not suck.


Between GTD and GHE

While optimizing my life with GTD (and other) principles, I asked myself lately the questions introduced with my earlier post "Get focused with 3 questions". While the second one does not really makes sense when the main goal is to optimize time management, the other two make sense: "What for?" and "Who cares?"

Optimizing my life is just a means to an end, it's just helpful principles - but helpful for what? Just for getting more done, just to fill up your life with more content so that you can think at the and that you had very much done in your life? - That sounds silly for me because in more or less years we are all forgotten. There are only a very few people who manage it to be remembered even a long time after their death (like Gandhi or Einstein). And I believe that their main goal was to serve the world instead of being remembered.

However, I came to the conclusion that from now on I will focus more on happiness than on optimizing my life as I was already facing the fact that GTD somehow got ended in itself with no higher goal in mind (any more).

So to have another 3-character abbreviation (nowadays nothing can live without a cool abbreviation ;-) ), I decided to name it GHE - Getting Happiness Established. First I was thinking of GHD, but "Getting Happiness Done" does not seem to fit here. ;-)

Working on GHE brings up sense for GTD again because there is a lot of things that is far from being fun (at least sometimes) - toilet and kitchen cleaning, buy food, ironing, change diapers - just to mention a few. There can also be problems or tasks in your office that are far from being fun but must get done, simply to keep your life "up and running". It is not always possible to do a work that perfectly fits your (current) desires but you need work to pay your bills. Otherwise the situation of singing happily under the warm shower in your well heated flat while outside cold winter wind blows cannot be established.

Not everything can be turned into fun - or in other words, happiness cannot always be established - talking from the practical view and not from the theoretical. In those situations or times where you have difficulties to get happiness established then use GTD principles to get rid of those tasks or situations ASAP (yet another abbreviation - standing for As Soon As Possible).

If your life sucks completely then use GTD principles to win just a few minutes or an hour for your personal use to do or feel something that makes you happy. A few minutes of happiness can be worth a lot of suffering.

I do read much about happiness is just a decision. I think returning to the present moment is an important required step after you decided to be happy. And with some exercise you might even be happy while getting rid of unwanted tasks using GTD (and related) principles.

Related posts: Get focused with 3 questions, Highly happy people, All Done Status, Who cares?, In the present moment, How to be happy, Between short and long term goals, The main purpose, How to rebuff somebody, 2 major mistakes, Your situation does not suck.


Learning from spaghetti sauce

On the weekend I watched a video talk given by Malcolm Gladwell - "Learning from spaghetti sauce". Although the video is from 2006 I have found it yet. Anyway there are two interesting points in there:

He says that
  1. People do not want what they like (or at least they can't explain).

  2. You should not try to find the one perfect product (spaghetti sauce, Cola, Coffee) - instead you should take into consideration the diversity of people and create several different solutions to serve different groups of people.
I am still not sure whether this can be applied to all businesses, but I am quite sure that it can be applied to more businesses than just the food business.

The more generic lessons that I learn from it anyway:
  1. People may have difficulties explaining their desires or needs.
    This might be a reason why in bidding or project documents requirements are often specified only in a very vague way. So don't stop asking to clear the situation and do tests with prototypes of your product or service during the project phases.

  2. You can't create the killer product or killer service. Create a good solution for a specific problem.
    Prefer to provide a good service to a specific group of people over the desire to get everybody satisfied.
Related posts: Focus by direction, direction over goals, Principles over rules.


High quality needs time.

I have spent Christmas together with the family of my wife in Turin and I ate a special Panettone (it's a typical type of cake) there which contained a special type of high quality, very sweet tangerine. The description that came along with the Panettone said that this particular species of tangerine was the result of a spontaneous freak of nature. Without any attempt of breeding, nature itself created that particular fruit. And guess what: That high quality tangerine created by mother nature takes longer to complete maturation.

Mother nature prooves the concept: You need to invest enough time to get high quality!

Related posts: Why investing enough time rules, Parkinson's law and quality, The productivity trap, Minimum effort.