Monthly Archives: July 2011

39 Ways to Live, and Not Merely Exist

By | Lifestyle Design, Personal Development | No Comments

Original post by Leo Babauta, however it’s just so brilliant it needed to be re-posted:

The proper function of man is to live – not to exist.” — Jack London

Too often we go through life on autopilot, going through the motions and having each day pass like the one before it.

That’s fine, and comfortable, until you have gone through another year without having done anything, without having really lived life.

That’s fine, until you have reached old age and look back on life with regrets.

That’s fine, until you see your kids go off to college and realize that you missed their childhoods.

It’s not fine. If you want to truly live life, to really experience it, to enjoy it to the fullest, instead of barely scraping by and only living a life of existence, then you need to find ways to break free from the mold and drink from life.

What follows is just a list of ideas, obvious ones mostly that you could have thought of yourself, but that I hope are useful reminders. We all need reminders sometimes. If you find this useful, print it out, and start using it. Today.

1. Love. Perhaps the most important. Fall in love, if you aren’t already. If you have, fall in love with your partner all over again. Abandon caution and let your heart be broken. Or love family members, friends, anyone — it doesn’t have to be romantic love. Love all of humanity, one person at a time.

2. Get outside. Don’t let yourself be shut indoors. Go out when it’s raining. Walk on the beach. Hike through the woods. Swim in a freezing lake. Bask in the sun. Play sports, or walk barefoot through grass. Pay close attention to nature.

3. Savor food. Don’t just eat your food, but really enjoy it. Feel the texture, the bursts of flavors. Savor every bite. If you limit your intake of sweets, it will make the small treats you give yourself (berries or dark chocolate are my favorites) even more enjoyable. And when you do have them, really, really savor them. Slowly.

4. Create a morning ritual. Wake early and greet the day. Watch the sun rise. Out loud, tell yourself that you will not waste this day, which is a gift. You will be compassionate to your fellow human beings, and live every moment to its fullest. Stretch or meditate or exercise as part of your ritual. Enjoy some coffee.

5. Take chances. We often live our lives too cautiously, worried about what might go wrong. Be bold, risk it all. Quit your job and go to business for yourself (plan it out first!), or go up to that girl you’ve liked for a long time and ask her out. What do you have to lose?

6. Follow excitement. Try to find the things in life that excite you, and then go after them. Make life one exciting adventure after another (with perhaps some quiet times in between).

7. Find your passion. Similar to the above tip, this one asks you to find your calling. Make your living by doing the thing you love to do. First, think about what you really love to do. There may be many things. Find out how you can make a living doing it. It may be difficult, but you only live once.

8. Get out of your cubicle. Do you sit all day in front of computer, shuffling papers and taking phone calls and chatting on the Internet? Don’t waste your days like this. Break free from the cubicle environment, and do your work on a laptop, in a coffee shop, or on a boat, or in a log cabin. This may require a change of jobs, or becoming a freelancer. It’s worth it.

9. Turn off the TV. How many hours will we waste away in front of the boob tube? How many hours do we have to live? Do the math, then unplug the TV. Only plug it back in when you have a DVD of a movie you love. Otherwise, keep it off and find other stuff to do. Don’t know what to do? Read further.

10. Pull away from Internet. You’re reading something on the Internet right now. And, with the exception of this article, it is just more wasting away of your precious time. You cannot get these minutes back. Unplug the Internet, then get out of your office or house. Right now! And go and do something.

11. Travel. Sure, you want to travel some day. When you have vacation time, or when you’re older. Well, what are you waiting for? Find a way to take a trip, if not this month, then sometime soon. You may need to sell your car or stop your cable bill and stop eating out to do it, but make it happen. You are too young to not see the world. If need be, find a way to make a living by freelancing, then work while you travel. Only work an hour or two a day. Don’t check email but once a week. Then use the rest of the time to see the world.

12. Rediscover what’s important. Take an hour and make a list of everything that’s important to you. Add to it everything that you want to do in life. Now cut that list down to 4-5 things. Just the most important things in your life. This is your core list. This is what matters. Focus your life on these things. Make time for them.

13. Eliminate everything else. What’s going on in your life that’s not on that short list? All that stuff is wasting your time, pulling your attention from what’s important. As much as possible, simplify your life by eliminating the stuff that’s not on your short list, or minimizing it.

14. Exercise. Get off the couch and go for a walk. Eventually try running. Or do some push ups and crunches. Or swim or bike or row. Or go for a hike. Whatever you do, get active, and you’ll love it. And life will be more alive.

15. Be positive. Learn to recognize the negative thoughts you have. These are the self-doubts, the criticisms of others, the complaints, the reasons you can’t do something. Then stop yourself when you have these thoughts, and replace them with positive thoughts. Solutions. You can do this!

16. Open your heart. Is your heart a closed bundle of scar tissue? Learn to open it, have it ready to receive love, to give love unconditionally. If you have a problem with this, talk to someone about it. And practice makes perfect.

17. Kiss in the rain. Seize the moment and be romantic. Raining outside? Grab your lover and give her a passionate kiss. Driving home? Stop the car and pick some wildflowers. Send her a love note. Dress sexy for him.

18. Face your fears. What are you most afraid of? What is holding you back? Whatever it is, recognize it, and face it. Do what you are most afraid of. Afraid of heights? Go to the tallest building, and look down over the edge. Only by facing our fears can we be free of them.

19. When you suffer, suffer. Life isn’t all about fun and games. Suffering is an inevitable part of life. We lose our jobs. We lose our lovers. We lose our pets. We get physically injured or sick. A loved one becomes sick. A parent dies. Learn to feel the pain intensely, and really grieve. This is a part of life — really feel the pain. And when you’re done, move on, and find joy.

20. Slow down. Life moves along at such a rapid pace these days. It’s not healthy, and it’s not conducive to living. Practice doing everything slowly — everything, from eating to walking to driving to working to reading. Enjoy what you do. Learn to move at a snail’s pace.

21. Touch humanity. Get out of your house and manicured neighborhoods, and find those who live in worse conditions. Meet them, talk to them, understand them. Live among them. Be one of them. Give up your materialistic lifestyle.

22. Volunteer. Help at homeless soup kitchens. Learn compassion, and learn to help ease the suffering of others. Help the sick, those with disabilities, those who are dying.

23. Play with children. Children, more than anyone else, know how to live. They experience everything in the moment, fully. When they get hurt, they really cry. When they play, they really have fun. Learn from them, instead of thinking you know so much more than them. Play with them, and learn to be joyful like them.

24. Talk to old people. There is no one wiser, more experienced, more learned, than those who have lived through life. They can tell you amazing stories. Give you advice on making a marriage last or staying out of debt. Tell you about their regrets, so you can learn from them and avoid the same mistakes. They are the wisdom of our society — take advantage of their existence while they’re still around.

25. Learn new skills. Constantly improve yourself instead of standing still — not because you’re so imperfect now, but because it is gratifying and satisfying. You should accept yourself as you are, and learn to love who you are, but still try to improve — if only because the process of improvement is life itself.

26. Find spirituality. For some, this means finding God or Jesus or Allah or Buddha. For others, this means becoming in tune with the spirits of our ancestors, or with nature. For still others, this just means an inner energy. Whatever spirituality means for you, rediscover it, and its power.

27. Take mini-retirements. Don’t leave the joy of retirement until you are too old to enjoy it. Do it now, while you’re young. It makes working that much more worth it. Find ways to take a year off every few years. Save up, sell your home, your possessions, and travel. Live simply, but live, without having to work. Enjoy life, then go back to work and save up enough money to do it again in a couple of years.

28. Do nothing. Despite the tip above that we should find excitement, there is value in doing nothing as well. Not doing nothing as in reading, or taking a nap, or watching TV, or meditating. Doing nothing as in sitting there, doing nothing. Just learning to be still, in silence, to hear our inner voice, to be in tune with life. Do this daily if possible.

29. Stop playing video games. They might be fun, but they can take up way too much time. If you spend a lot of time playing online games, or computer solitaire, or Wii or Gameboy or whatever, consider going a week without it. Then find something else to do, outside.

30. Watch sunsets, daily. One of the most beautiful times of day. Make it a daily ritual to find a good spot to watch the sunset, perhaps having a light dinner while you do so.

31. Stop reading magazines.32. Break out from ruts. Do you do things the same way every day? Change it up. Try something new. Take a different route to work. Start your day out differently. Approach work from a new angle. Look at things from new perspectives.

33. Stop watching the news. It’s depressing and useless. If you’re a news junky, this may be difficult. I haven’t watch TV news or read a newspaper regularly in about two years. It hasn’t hurt me a bit. Anything important, my mom tells me about.

34. Laugh till you cry. Laughing is one of the best ways to live. Tell jokes and laugh your head off. Watch an awesome comedy. Learn to laugh at anything. Roll on the ground laughing. You’ll love it.

35. Lose control. Not only control over yourself, but control over others. It’s a bad habit to try to control others — it will only lead to stress and unhappiness for yourself and those you try to control. Let others live, and live for yourself. And lose control of yourself now and then too.

36. Cry. Men, especially, tend to hold in our tears, but crying is an amazing release. Cry at sad movies. Cry at a funeral. Cry when you are hurt, or when somebody you love is hurt. It releases these emotions and allows us to cleanse ourselves.

37. Make an awesome dessert. I like to make warm, soft chocolate cake. But even berries dipped in chocolate, or crepes with ice cream and fruit, or fresh apple pie, or homemade chocolate chip cookies or brownies, are great. This isn’t an every day thing, but an occasional treat thing. But it’s wonderful.

38. Try something new, every week. Ask yourself: “What new thing shall I try this week?” Then be sure to do it. You don’t have to learn a new language in one week, but seek new experiences. Give it a try. You might decide you want to keep it in your life.

39. Be in the moment. Instead of thinking about things you need to do, or things that have happened to you, or worrying or planning or regretting, think about what you are doing, right now. What is around you? What smells and sounds and sights and feelings are you experiencing? Learn to do this as much as possible through meditation, but also through bringing your focus back to the present as much as you can in everything you do.

The Benefits of Telecommuting

By | Business Strategy, Lifestyle Design | No Comments

Today I had the opportunity to telecommute into work from home, so I thought I would put together a post about my day as it unfolds in order to journal it’s effectiveness toward maintaining a much happier and more productive employee. For those just tuning in, this is a follow-on to my earlier post detailing my average working day since I’ve moved out into the suburbs: A Word on Motivation.

The New and Improved “Commute into Work”!
As it takes me the better part of 7 seconds to walk the distance from my bedroom to my study at the other side of my house, this morning I was able to enjoy a sensational sleep in (well, by contrast to my average day). Then with time to kill, I made myself my favorite N-espresso coffee and a hot bowl of Uncle Tobys oats (it’s still winter at time of writing this), then armed with my awesome breakfast I make my way to settle in comfortably at my PC and remote into work.

Reasons Why my “at-home” Working Environment Rocks
While my work has been kind enough to provide me with two 19″ monitors, my home PC has a magnificent 3 x 27″ wide-screen high-res DELL monitors which wrap around to capture almost my full field of vision when I’m seated at my desk. They sit on a black-leather office desk which is also very spacious and I have a high-back leather reclining office chair. You couldn’t wish for a better working environment! I’m comfortable. Ergonomically seated with respect to my keyboard and mouse, and have some SERIOUS screen real-estate to work with. Next to me there is a window looking out over a quiet, suburban street – completely free of distractions and interruptions. With this scene in mind, we move onto my working day! (Picture above is not my actual desk btw).

The Benefits of Telecommuting
The first and most immediate benefit which come to mind in this arrangement is that I am considerably more refreshed with the extra sleep I was able to get this morning. There’s definitely much to be said about allowing your body to rise with its natural sleep cycles. Consequently, I was able to make some unprecedented headway through my massive backlog of emails this morning – something which back at work would almost certainly have been hampered by numerous interruptions as staff arrive at the office, greet each other, stop by for a chat etc.

The day goes on as most days do. A plethora of emails stream into my inbox, communicator chat windows popup as people throw ad-hoc questions and requests at me, and jobs roll in through our in-house ticketing system. As with most jobs I guess, I have fairly well defined responsibilities within my role, so it’s rarely the case that there isn’t much to do. One thing which did occur to me though as the day drew to a close, was that through work from home I was ideally positioned to take on after-hours tasks. The imposition of this type of work was considerably less offensive from the comfort of my own home, than were I stuck in a cold, empty workplace waiting for 6pm to roll by before being able to start. Extending this idea further, the concept of having telecommuters cover the outer extremities of rostered shifts would also provide more quality of life to those who do need to go into work and would otherwise have been stuck there until close of business day (clearly IT context here).

So with my work desk phone forwarded through to my mobile and online via the in-office communicator program and email, I made a point to ensure I was just as readily accessible as were I in work and at my desk – so much so that most of the people I interacted with during my day had no idea I wasn’t even there! Surely this has to be a positive indicator in favour of telecommuting! Then there’s also the added bonus that if I was on the phone, any incoming calls from the office now had a personal voice mail service available for the caller to leave a message on, which at work would not have otherwise been the case.

Ok so at this point we’ve established the following benefits;

  • More sleep, more rested and consequently more productive employee
  • Flexibility hours, and increased ability to take on extended hours work
  • Fewer non-work related interruptions
  • More relaxed and comfortable working environment

Next up we should probably consider the financial aspects; with the rising cost of public transport, petrol, inner city parking, depreciation on the motor vehicle as well as all the sundry expenses associated with being away from home such as lunches and coffees. There are environmental considerations too, with the ever increasing traffic congestion problems spewing tonnes of pollution into our atmosphere each day. And in a society where we are all already time-poor, the most offensive aspect of all (in my opinion at least), the completely inefficient use of our time when having to partake in this daily commute! For myself I calculated about two hours per day was being written off in transit in and out of work. Just imagine – what could you do with a 2 extra hours each day? … that’s another 10 hours per week!

Now, I should probably also give a special mention to the absolute awesomeness that is having your own private bathroom available to you. No longer do you have to suffer the moans and groans of a shared toilet experience, forced to listen to the guy next to you giving birth in his cubile while trying to mask your own bodily transgression… toilet paper on the water to “break the fall”… controlled releases of flatulence so that your “roomy” doesn’t hear you and pass judgement… nope. At home, you can just grip it and rip it. When you want. How you want. In the complete comfort and privacy of your own bathroom, and with none of the communal toilet hygiene issues.

On a slightly more cultured note, let’s also take a moment consider how much we’re paying for these beautiful homes of ours. For most of us, an average home loan is costing us anything between $1500 – $3000 in interest / rent each month (possibly even more?). Wouldn’t it be great then if we could actually get to spend some more time in them? And if the options were available and we could telecommute full-time, we wouldn’t even need to live so close to the city, creating opportunities to afford even more beautiful homes a little further out!

In Conclusion…
Let me preface this next section in saying that I am by no means blind to the merits of the conventional office environment. The social interactivity which takes place allows people to feed of the energies and enthusiasm of those around them. It creates a dynamic environment that encourages creativity, brain storming and new ideas. Problem solving through focus groups and meetings allow for arguably much faster resolutions than were these to be approached by isolated individuals. It facilitates new friendships and relationships, as well as allows people to fully embrace a team culture and all the inherent benefits of cross-skilling, mentoring and healthy competition which falls incumbent to that… however…

We are in the 21st century now and there are just too many compelling arguments in favour of offering such flexible working arrangements that it would be truly remiss not to seriously consider these. A 2009 trial undertaken as part of a QLD Transport and Main Roads Pilot study found statistically significant results that employees were not only happier but also MORE productive when working in an environment where they felt more relaxed and comfortable. Some of there other finding also identified;

  • The pilot achieved a 34% reduction in morning peak hour travel and a 32% reduction in afternoon peak hour travel amongst participants.
  • The initiative eliminated some journeys altogether through participants adopting telecommuting and compressed work weeks/fortnights
  • Of the three flexible practices offered, flexible hours were the most popular. Many participants chose to use more than one practice.
  • Both employees and employers indicated they had achieved increased productivity through working flexibly during the pilot.
  • 87% of participants reported improvement in their work-life balance.
  • There was high satisfaction with flexible work arrangements – 92% of participants expressed an interest in continuing their arrangements.

… the full report can be downloaded here: Flexible Workplace Pilot.

Couple the above with modern day broadband speeds and telecommuting technologies such as Citrix or Windows Terminal services – both of which offering high quality and secure remote desktop access… why would we still insist in forcing ourselves to endure conventional 1950’s work practices; being stuck at a desk in a budget chair that’s slowly destroying our backs, while sucking in the communal air of a shared office environment…. was that a sneeze that just exploded from the guy next to me? … followed by a violent emptying of his head into a tissue and the air all around him? But not to fear people, I’m sure THAT won’t be circulating through our internal air conditioning system… right? 😉

For the old-school operators out there, I can already hear the wailing and nashing of teeth at the very notion of this idea; “But how can you control this? What if you have employees who aren’t performing?” … Firstly I’ll say that having a little faith in your staff that they will do the right thing will go a long, long way – especially when their work performance is directly linked to them receiving such an opportunity. But in the event that they did abuse this, then you would most likely discover this in the exact same way as were they skiving off at their work desk; things start to fall through the cracks, you hear reports of them being constantly unavailable and work tasks repeated get escalated up to you for updates (as a manager or team lead). The reprimanding would then be the same as with in-office workers; privileges are promptly revoked, the staff member is placed back at their desk and slapped… with a mandatory 1-3 months sentence of intensive micromanagement to look forward to. Generally speaking though, if an employee has no work ethic to start with then they’re probably not going to be the best suited for such an arrangement anyway. That said too, these employees would probably be equally as useless regardless of where they’re seated – so in this instance, telecommuting would again serve to move the good employees away from such disruptive influences.

In summary, there are clearly many benefits offered through flexible working arrangement such as telecommuting, however a full time telecommuting arrangement risks losing out on the valuable social interactivity of a conventional workplace. So while different solutions will work better for different businesses and organizational types / structures, a balance between the two approaches would arguably serve to capture the best of both worlds. Then as a consequence of this, the organisation is rewarded with happier and more productive employees, a better performing business with a lower staff turnover!

For those interested in some extra reading on tnhi; Queensland Transport and Main Roads’ Guidelines for effective transition and management of Telecommuting arrangements, a general article on the Benefits and Drawback of Telecommuting, and 6 Organizational Benefits of Telecommuting.

Check out the full 4 days of Dilbert’s Telecommuting experience here!