Friday, 28 July 2006

Newsletter Issue 117, July 2006


Sam Young Newsletter

Issue 117, July 2006
Hi guys,
Is Circulus Vitiosus something you are guilty of? Read on to find out.
Have you started planning for your Retiring Times? If not, now is the time to start 
Don't forget, if you want to be taken off my mailing list, click here to send me a reply e-mail and I will remove your name.

Circulus Vitiosus

Circulus vitiosus is a lovely Latin phrase that just rolls off the tongue, and it is something that nearly all of us apply to some or many things in our lives.
The meaning? A vicious cycle. That when we have work that we dislike, we push it back, so then it becomes overdue. Because it is overdue we even dislike it even more and don't get onto it, and the pressure increases.We leave it to the very last possible minute and loathe every aching minute spent on it, stressed out, making mistakes and in a foul mood.
This is the job that lurks in our in-trays, growing larger and blacker as time goes on. The one that others are breathing down our necks for, but that we just can't even bear to start. Yay! We have created our own negative feedback loop!
Often the more gentle, distant cousin of circulus vitiosus is seen on personal noticeboards, a round "Tuit". Ah, procrastination, the thief of time :-)
So how do we best deal with circulus vitiosus?
There are some easy ways to motivate ourselves to get started - and finished - on these black dog jobs. Try these for size:
  1. Create new associations. Often the reason we really dislike something is because we put it off until it becomes a huge last minute panic. So if we start working on the black dog early and work steadily, we will eventually create a new association around that task. Other things we can do to create a new association include rewarding ourselves afterwards, playing up-beat music, working in surroundings we enjoy, or somehow creating a 'holiday' atmosphere while we work on the horrid jobs.
  2. Identify the key culprits. It may be work from a certain manager, or a certain type of task (like calcuating income tax!), or a type of process that we loathe. However, once we know which tasks we habitually avoid, we are better placed to deal with them.
  3. Build an Action Plan. When we receive a culprit, or know that one is about to descend, we should develop an action plan. This should detail all the tasks that need to be undertaken and the dates we need to have them completed by. This is easy stuff to do, because it isn't actually working on the black dog; it's avoiding working on the black dog.
  4. Schedule time. Now schedule all the tasks into short blocks in our diaries, none over an hour. We should diary the times as our last tasks before a break, so that we can reward ourselves with something that motivates us (a latte, lunch with friends, a shopping trip or a walk along the waterfront) after we have completed that item. However, we must be disciplined enough so that when the reminders pop up, we actually do that portion of our Action Plan.
  5. Put on another's hat. If all else fails and we can't manage to do this as ourselves, we can use a twist on Edward de Bono's Six Thinking Hats Theory. Just pretend to be someone else whom we admire and whom we are sure would never procrastinate with a black dog, and act our way through getting the job done.
  6. Review progress regularly. Check our progress against the Action Plan and give ourselves  yet another reward if we have done it well; or a metaphorical kick in the pants if we have got slack. If we find that going 'solo' doesn't work for us, we should ask someone whom we respect to mentor us. Trust me, this will provide quite a lot of impetus!
Good luck with breaking your personal negative feedback loops - and I hope you all remembered that your income tax was due on 7 July!

Retiring Times

I was reading that "The safest way to double your money is to fold it over and put it in your pocket." A bloke named Kin Hubbard said that in sometime in his career as cartoon creator of "Abe Martin of Brown County" which ran in US newspapers for the first three decades of the 20th century. But Kin makes a good point; to keep your money, don't spend it.
Unfortunately, here in New Zealand, we appear to be rubbish at saving our dosh. Once we counted on having our own house to soften the blow of retirement (no rent to pay as we had paid off the mortgage, so could survive on the pension). However, now we don't even make the top fifteen in the world for home ownership. Even countries like Germany, where property is incredibly expensive, has 43% of their population in their own homes, rating ahead of we slack Kiwis.
So not only are we now bad at owning our own homes, we New Zealanders also now rank as one of the lowest in the OECD for savings.
Remember that old parable about the grasshopper who played all summer, jeering at the ants who were working away saving for the winter; who then had nothing for the winter himself and had to rely on the ants for his survival? Pretty simple, really; we should work like the ant. So what we should be doing is retiring debt, accumulating assets, investing while spreading our risk. The general approach tends to be having a small super scheme, some savings, a house or two and some other kind of investment. The Sorted website at http://www.sorted.org.nz/tensteps_retirement.html gives a good ten point plan which certainly makes us think about preparing adequately for our retirement.
All of us can stand being reminded to keep a regular savings programme going. Even a small, regular amount stashed away turns into some serious money after a few years. Adjusting our savings each year for inflation ensures our savings will hold their value. It's a good start to what should be a good retirement.
For all of you who haven't really thought about funding your retirement yet, start planning now. There's nothing like a reminder!


Would You Like Chips With That?

I read a piece recently in the E-tales section of Computerworld magazine, entitled "Never mind chipping the dogs".
The article related "The World Cup may be over, but an idea hatched during the tournament could become permanent. Manchester United is considering fitting players with microchips so that their on-field performance can be more carefully analysed.
"The team’s spokesman, Phil Townsend, told the Manchester Evening News 'There is certainly technology out there and we are always on the lookout and if a system helps improve performance, we will look at it. But no decisions have been made.' Reportedly, one or two players were alarmed at the prospect, thinking the microchips might be used to track their off-field movements."
Now there's a thought!

TLAs for SMEs

Here are this newsletter's TLA for you:
  • PERM, Practical End-host collaborative Residential Multi-homing. Software using flow-scheduling algorithms to choose the best connection available for groups of WiFi broadband users to give subscribers better performance and exploit bandwidth that would otherwise lie idle.
  • BOFH. I was asked to find out what this meant, and I have discovered that it is an IT term which means, ah, illegitimate Operator from Hell. Not a term of endearment.
Please feel free to email me with any TLAs that you want to get the bottom (meaning!) of.

Tips, Short+Hot Keys
This newsletter we look at all you can do with Alt, Shift, Ctrl and full stop:
  • Excel "Open the Address Book in the To field when sending email" Alt & . (Full Stop)
  • Excel "Move clockwise to the next corner of the selection" Ctrl & . (Full Stop)
  • PowerPoint "Display a black screen, or return to the slide show from a black screen" B or . (Full Stop)
  • Outlook "Go to next item (with item open) when working within Outlook" Ctrl & . (Full Stop)
  • Word "Insert an ellipsis while working" Alt & Ctrl & . (Full Stop)
  • Word "Grow Font" Ctrl & Shift & . (full stop)

Hot Linx
Trendwatching.com, a dutch-based marketing trends company, has a very interesting view on consumers at http://www.trendwatching.com/briefing/
For a couple of minutes of entertainment, go to http://www.sternestmeanings.com/talk/talk, type in some lines of text and see what the Anagram programme comes back to you with...
To do some comparative price shopping for electronics purchases, check out PriceSpy at http://www.pricespy.co.nz/
The jury is still out on whether the Spaniards or the Chinese discovered America... read on at http://www.economist.com/books/displaystory.cfm?story_id=5381851

                                Catch you again soon!! E-mail your suggestions to me here

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