The Jesus Manifesto

Jesus reveals God’s plan to release our potential, both by example, and by instructing us on how to live successfully.

In this work He values:

  • The things He does in us over what He does for us
  • Giving us meaning over making us whole
  • Developing our character over our material prosperity
  • Helping us grow over making us comfortable
  • Where we are going over where we are now

That is, while He values the items on the right, He value the items on the left more.

Principles behind the Jesus Manifesto

He follows these principles (amongst others):

  1. His highest priority is to satisfy God by enabling his followers to become like Him.
  2. Jesus is willing to enlist failures, even late in life. Jesus enlists us as failures and then enables us to make the best of our potential.
  3. He improves us over the course of their lives, as quickly as we are willing and able to change, with a preference for a shorter time-scale.
  4. Jesus and his followers must work together daily throughout the project.
  5. He builds a Church on passionate individuals, giving the support needed, and trusts us to get the job done.
  6. The most efficient and effective method of communicating His intentions is through the Bible.
  7. Character is the primary measure of progress.
  8. Jesus promotes sustainable growth. We can keep on growing indefinitely.
  9. Continuous attention to moral excellence and healthy discipline enhances progress.
  10. Worship–the art of putting God first–is essential.
  11. The best methods, programs and initiatives for spreading this message emerge from small, self-organized groups.
  12. At regular intervals, we are expected to reflect on how to become more Jesus-like, then adjusts our behaviour accordingly.

Acknowledgements

How to Cope with Crisis

We all face times in our lives when unexpected events leave us feeling off-balance, lost and confused. This guide can help you cope.

Bewildered?

Crisis occurs when an unexpected event upsets our equilibrium, and is usually accompanied by a sense of bewilderment and confusion. The causes of crisis are various. Sometimes the cause is a physicals event such as a fire, an accident, a physical attack or a sudden illness. Sometimes it follows an emotional event: someone has let you down, or abandoned you or betrayed you in some other way. At other times it may result from a financial catastrophe, or a challenge to your deeply held beliefs, or the death of a loved one. Even good things can leave you feeling all at sea: a sudden windfall, the birth of a child or a promotion at work, for example.

The good news is that there are some basic steps we can take that can help get things back on track. An enormous amount of research has been done on the ways in which survivors behave in order to get through major a catastrophe and disaster. The lessons learned from this research can help us deal with more subtle crises, too.

Here are some things that I’ve found helpful:

Read the Signs

It is not unusual for us to ignore the signs of impending crisis.

My wife and I were once in a shopping-centre café when the fire alarm went off. The strange thing was that nobody moved. All the other customers carried on eating and drinking as if nothing was wrong. Occasionally, people looked around to see if anybody else was leaving, but as neither other customers nor the staff were bothered by the alarm, everyone assumed that it was a false alarm. They just ignored the ringing.

The thing that frightens me about was this? I behaved in exactly the same way.

It transpired that there had been a few false alarms in centre over the last few months, so the staff assumed this was one, too. It was only after a full 15 minutes that the staff realized that this might be a real incident told us to evacuate. Even then, we were worried about not finishing the drinks that we’d paid for.

Now, I’ll bet you’d love to know if we right to stay, or if this was a real emergency? Frankly, it doesn’t matter! We had reason to believe that our lives were at risk, but did nothing about it.

What I learned from this is that we need to be vigilant for the signs of crisis, and be ready to take responsibility for our own safety, no matter the actions of the crowd.

  • Don’t be a sheep: take responsibility for yourself
  • If you’ve got concerns, seek information
  • If you recognize danger, raise the alarm
  • If in doubt, take action to protect yourself
  • Get ready to move quickly

Consider Your Options

In films, crisis is often greeted by panic – people screaming, running around “like headless chickens” and making irrational decisions. In reality, however, that is rarely what happens. The disaster survival literature suggests that a common reaction to a catastrophe is just to freeze up, like a rabbit caught in the headlights. People just stand still and go eerily silent as they try to process the new situation.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a good strategy for survival. The people who survive disasters are people who take action to protect themselves – the people who leave the sinking ship rather than waiting for instructions. In the same way, your ability to act may make all the difference to how intact or damaged you are following your crisis.

So, instead of trying to figure out what’s happening on a wider scale, deal with your immediate situation.

  • Take in your immediate surroundings
  • Evaluate your options with a view to taking action

If there are decisions that you need to make in order to get through the crisis then make them. At the same time, beware that a crisis is the worst time to make important decisions that don’t pertain to the crisis itself. So, don’t agree to marry someone just because you’ve been through a trauma together. Instead, wait until the crisis is over before you agree to tie the knot.

Take Action

So, you feel like you’ve lost the plot? The good news is that there never was a plot, or rather, the plot is the one that you write yourself through your own actions. And there is nothing to say you can’t go on writing it. So, now that you’ve evaluated your options, it is time to take action. You don’t need to plan everything in detail, you just need to do the next thing and learn from it as you go along.

But do keep re-evaluating. If you blindly peruse your first idea without checking that it is still viable then you’re likely to get into more trouble. So, keep your eyes open, but keep moving.

  • Take decisive action
  • Look before you leap

Enlist Help

You don’t have to be alone! There are lots of avenues to explore when looking for help:

Talk to Friends and Family

Even if people don’t have answers, a good talk can often make the path ahead much clearer.

The ear of a friend can turn night into day.Kramii

Support Groups

Another place to get help is from other people who have been through something similar. Do use your judgement over whether any particular group will help you out or make things worse – there is no value in joining a pity-party. On the other hand, getting together with people who have found ways of coping under similar circumstances is often the best thing you can do right now.

Lean on the Experts

You find that there are experts available who are trained to help you deal with your present crisis. For example, if your plane is going down, look to the air crew for guidance. If you’re in financial straits, get in touch with a debt counsellor. If you’ve won the lottery, call an investment advisor.

One word of warning, however: that there is a big difference between a counsellor and a salesman, but it can be easy to mistake one for the other.

Pray

I personally find prayer helpful, and have often received answers amidst crisis, both in the form of insight and practical help.

Prioritize Your Physical Well-being

In the midst of a crisis, it is often difficult to deal with life’s basics. If you’re in immediate physical danger, make this your priority. From there, remember that you need to take care of your other basic needs – you may not feel like eating or sleeping, but you’ll perform more effectively if you do.
So:

  • Keep eating and drinking healthily
  • Get rest and sleep where you can
  • Stay active
  • Maintain your routines where you can

Leave Your Baggage Behind

One of the challenges of crisis is that, under stress, it is difficult to prioritize properly. A surprising number of people have lost their lives in airline disasters because they can’t bare to leave their hand-luggage behind.

There are often things that you need to sacrifice when you’re dealing with a crisis because you have more important things to deal with – it won’t kill you to go to work in a crumpled shirt or with a little stubble, for example. Don’t worry – you can put things back to normal once the crisis is over.

  • Don’t sweat the small stuff

Remember the People Who Matter

Tragically, people have been known to leave their loved ones behind in the confusion following a disaster. So, make sure that everyone that matters to you is with you and travelling in the same direction as you. To do so, you need to focus on the people you care about.

Indeed, one of the things that motivates people to keep going in a crisis situation is the thought of their loved ones. Even if you don’t have people who need you right now, you’re sure to have in the future, so hang in there – for them, if not yourself.

Hope

Don’t give up hope. Don’t ever give up hope.

You will be secure, because there is hope;
you will look about you and take your rest in safety.Job 11:18

Acknowledgements

I found the following useful in preparing this article:

Original image courtesy XKCD.

How to Overcome Lateness and Be On Time: Part 3

This is the third part in a series of articles on how to be on time for things, based on my experience of having been a chronic late-comer.

The first was intended to provide motivation to change, and dealt with the problems of lateness. The second dealt with basic scheduling and planning. This third episode concerns how to prepare so that you can put your plans into action.

Be Prepared

In my previous article in this series, I talked about a variety of planning and scheduling techniques that can help prevent lateness. However, If you’re not ready when it is time to leave for your appointment, then you are still going to be late. In my own battle to be on time, I’ve picked up a few simple techniques that I’ve found helpful in this area.

Be prepared.Scout motto

Allow Plenty of Time to Get Ready

Different types of appointment need different levels of preparation. Popping next door for a coffee will take less preparation than a round-the-world cruise, for example – at least for most people. Either way, the timing of your preparation needs to be appropriate, so consider carefully what you need to get ready months before, weeks before, the night before, or hours before you leave for your engagement.

So, for trips abroad, start planning early. Get flights and accommodation booked weeks if not months in advance. Above all, make sure you have your passport and visa ready before you book anything: we’ve all heard of people who discover problems in this department the night before they fly.
And for a visit next door, start getting ready 10 minutes before you’re due to leave the house. It would be impolite to keep your neighbour waiting because you can’t find your trousers… and even more rude to turn up without any!

Confirm Travel and Meeting Arrangements

Now and then I’ve been caught out by misunderstandings about arrangements that have been made. The best way to deal with this is to make sure that everything is properly confirmed in plenty of time.
Make sure all parties agree on:

  • Pick-up times
  • Ticket collection arrangements
  • Where and when people are meeting
  • What everyone will bring
  • The purpose of getting together

Make a Packing List

I find it easy to forget the things that I need to take to an appointment, and I’ve found that these lapses of memory can cost me dear in terms of time-keeping, let alone stress and inconvenience. My remedy is to make a list of everything that I’ll need, and make sure that everything on the list is checked off before I leave home.

For big events that take a lot of planning, my packing list has 3 columns:

  • The item
  • A check box to show that the item is available for packing
  • A check box to show that the item is actually packed

The advantage of this is that I can leave packing until the night before (so the house isn’t cluttered up with suit cases or whatever), but be confident that I have everything I need to pack by the time I come to pack it. Additionally, it helps me remember the last few things that couldn’t be packed ahead of time: things like my tooth-brush and my phone.

I also keep a list of last-minute things to do. This will include all the things that I can’t do ahead of time, but which must be done before I leave: things like switching off the alarm clock so it doesn’t bother neighbours when I’m not at home.

To save myself both time and mental effort when making these lists, I used to keep old ones and refer back to them as needed. I’ve now developed a single master list that I use as the basis of new packing lists, and add to it any new items that occur to me. This might seem overkill – my wife things so, and she mocks my lists quite mercilessly. Nevertheless, my “away list” has made trips away from home so much less stressful that I’m happy to live the ridicule for the sake of the benefits (and to be honest, even if I stopped she would find something else to rib me about, anyway).

Keep Travel Plans Handy

Travel plans are essential for journeys of any significance, and having your plans available when you need them can save a lot of time and stress. For example, a last-minute timetable check can involve significant delay – booting a computer, finding the site and logging in etc. – that can easily be avoided if you print / write out the timetable and keep it in a planning folder.
Things to keep in your plans might include:

  • Maps
  • Journey times
  • Packing lists
  • Contact numbers
  • Hotel names
  • Names of people you’re going to meet
  • Emergency contact details

In addition, I might add other useful information to this folder, such as information about the place I’m visiting, ideas for activities or any other information that I might need when I get there.

Check Travel Conditions Before You Leave

Travel delays are a common cause of lateness. Things like traffic jams, flight cancellations and poor weather can add significant delays to your journey. By anticipating problems, you may be able to prevent them: by taking an alternate flight, driving a different route or by leaving a little earlier, for example. So, make use of the web and any traveller help lines that are available so that you can adjust your plans appropriately.

Prioritize Time-Critical Tasks

It is all too easy for me to get distracted by things other than the ones that will get me somewhere on time. Sometimes the distractions are frivolous things: fiddling with my phone, messing about on the ‘net, reading to the end of a chapter. Other times they’re things that need to be done, but don’t need to be done right now. My grandmother, I’m told, would “miss a train rather than leave a dirty cup in the sink”. If you want to be on time, you’ll need to do first things first. So, forget finishing the washing up for now and just get going!

One tip I picked up that has helped me: when I have time to spare before an appointment, rather than focusing on tasks I try to concentrate on time. So, instead of trying to get all the washing up finished, my grandmother could have decide to spend 10 minutes on the washing up. If she managed to finish in that time that’s great, but if I she didn’t then that’s just too bad. She would just have to leave it until later because it was time to go catch her train.

Use Reminders

One of the most common reasons I’ve been late for things is simply that I’ve lost track of time. This often happens when I’m actually ready to leave for an appointment, and decide to do something useful with the spare time (although I must admit, oversleeping is quite a common reason, too).
Occasionally, I ask other people to remind me of things, but on the whole I prefer to take responsibility for my own timeliness rather than be burden on others. Apart from anything else, other people are prone to forgetting, too, which not only results in my being late, but also adds strain to a relationship.
No, the best solution for me is to set up reminders for myself. Ideal tools include:

  • an alarm clock
  • a kitchen timer
  • my watch
  • my phone
  • my PC

Live Ready

Preparation isn’t primarily about preparation for a particular event, but is about your habits. By making various lifestyle changes that you can make that will make it a lot easier to follow through on your plans and therefore avoid lateness – as well as having a whole host of other benefits.

For example:

  • Get enough sleep. Everything is easier when you’re properly rested.
  • Have a place for everything. You can get ready much more quickly if you can find what you need.
  • Become an early riser. Doing so will give you more time to get ready in the morning, and will make it easier to get to events that require an early start because you’re more used to starting early.
  • Keep things close to the place you need them. Keeping the Sat-Nav in the car, for example, means that you can use it if you get lost on the way somewhere.

Conclusion

Arriving on time has a lot to do with being ready to leave on time. So next time you need to be somewhere at a particular time, make like a boy scout, and be prepared.

Acknowledgements

Original image courtesy Wikipedia.

Finish What You Start

 I’ve written previously about the importance of eliminating waste from our lives, and one major category of waste is unfinished jobs.

The problem with unfinished jobs is that they have already cost resource, but have yet to produce the anticipated benefits. By developing appropriate strategies, we can learn to finish the things that we start. By doing so, we become free to focus our efforts on the things that matter to us the most.

Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.William James

Look for Examples

Before you can learn to finish projects, you need to be honest with yourself about your tendency to leave things incomplete. If you’re anything like me, it isn’t hard to come up with a long list of incomplete projects. To get you started, here are some of the areas that I need to consider:

  • Incomplete DIY projects
  • Partially read books
  • Partially organized paperwork
  • Unfinished blog posts
  • Incomplete software projects
  • Stuff that I intend to sell on eBay or at the next car boot sale.

Understand the Problem

There are numerous problems that come from starting something but not finishing it. Here are some of the ones that I’ve noticed:

  • The resource is used
  • The benefits have not been realised
  • Storing incomplete work and materials requires ongoing resource
  • The materials may have an expiry date
  • It delays feedback on the quality of work, so making it difficult to catch mistakes
  • The work may be out of date by the time it is finished
  • I feel low whenever I notice the incomplete work

Much of the stress that people feel doesn’t come from having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they started.David Allen

Develop Strategies

If you’re going to start beating back the number of projects you have outstanding, you need to develop a strategy. If you’re looking for somewhere to start, here are some ideas:

Develop a Strategy for New Projects

Before starting a new project:

  • Finish off some old ones first
  • Estimate how long it will take
  • Seriously consider whether the benefits are worth the effort
  • Ask yourself if you’ve really got the resource to complete it
  • See if you can break it down into smaller chunks, each of which will deliver befits in its own right
  • Pare the project down to its bare essentials, and focus on those
  • Schedule extra resource for tying up loose ends
  • Consider the benefits of this project over others you could undertake instead
  • Try to focus on smaller projects

Develop a Strategy for Dealing with Your Incomplete Projects

Make a list of all your incomplete projects, and for each one:

  • Seriously consider just ditching the whole thing
  • Ask yourself if it is really worth completing
  • See of you can redefine finished
  • Set a time limit for finishing
  • Make a list of outstanding tasks
  • Schedule time for completing them

Know Your Priorities

If you really understand your priorities, it is much easier to decide the relative merits of your projects, and where best places to deploy your resources. As Steven R. Covey once said:

You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically, to say “no” to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside. The enemy of the “best” is often the “good.”Steven R. Covey

Example: Bedroom Overhaul

A while ago (quite a while ago, to be honest) we undertook a major overhaul of our bedroom. However, there are a few things we never quite got around to completing. Here are some of them, along with the strategy I intend to use to tackle them:

  • We intended to put hooks on the back of the door
    • we’ve lived without them this long, so we don’t really need them.
  • The back of the door still needs a re-paint
    • We’ll pick this up when we decorate the hall, stairs and landing.
  • The bed doesn’t have a headboard
    • We can pick one up next time we’re in IKEA. There’s no rush.
  • We don’t have curtains up, only a blind
    • Another one for IKEA.
  • The wardrobes still need doors (!)
    • And another one for IKEA. There’s a pattern developing here!
  • There are still items that need a home
    • Do this before buying more stuff
    • If this isn’t done by the end of August, add them to the car boot pile

Final Thoughts

I must admit, this is an area where I struggle, and I don’t expect to get everything sorted out overnight. Indeed, doing so may be counter-productive, as I need to develop habits rather than patch things up quick-fixes. In the mean time, if you have any advice or experience that you’d like to share then I’d love to hear from you.

Acknowledgements

Image courtesy Wikipedia.

Principle: Your Affections Follow Your Investments

There is an emotional side to investment that is often overlooked and misunderstood.However, one of the key principles of investment is that every investment involves emotional investment.

There is a psychological principle at work here, that means that, whenever we invest our resources into something, it becomes charges with emotional value. In other words, our affections follow our investments.

When we understanding this principle, we can use it to bring about positive change in both ourselves and in others.

Understand the Principle

I first came across this principle in the Bible, when Jesus said:

Your heart will always be where your treasure is.Luke 12:34

… and I must admit, I had no idea what this meant when I first read it. Indeed, I was clearly not the only one: I’ve heard several talks on this little phrase, and in every case the speaker turned it around and said that all this means is that we tend to invest in the things we care about. True as that may be, that really isn’t the point of Jesus comment, as I learned when I visited the dog track a few months later.

Gone to the Dogs

Now, I am not much of a gambler, but when some good friends invited me to the dog races I decided I go along and see what it was all about. I must admit, it wasn’t what I had expected. I was surprised by the pleasant, family-friendly atmosphere track-side, and for some time we just enjoyed the atmosphere and watching the dogs.

Then someone suggested we should place a bet on the next race. Although I wouldn’t normally be bothered, on this occasion I felt I could afford to lose the few pence that I was being asked to contribute. So we all chipped in, and between us we contributed enough to place the minimum bet.

We put £2 on Number 3 in the next race.

As the race was about to begin, we all took our places at the rail. Then they were off! Number 3 got off to a good start. He rapidly moved into third place, behind number 5. We cheered him on, urging him to the front of the pack. To our delight, he surged forward, moving from third to second place, then easing into first! We cheered more loudly. He was looking good for the win!

But Number 5 was creeping up on him, and Number 4 was looking strong, too.

“Come on Number 3!”

Then disaster struck. 5 passed 3! Then 4 passed them both! 3 made a valiant effort, but he just couldn’t keep pace. Moments later, as the action drew to a close, it was clear that it was going to be a race between Number 4 and Number 5. Sure enough, Number 5 crossed the line as the clear winner, with Number 4 was a respectable second. And poor old Number 3? By the time he crossed the line, had dropped back to 6th place.

As we lamented our loss over a greasy hot-dog and a polystyrene beaker of refreshing tea, I realised something: all the time we were not betting on the dogs, we didn’t really care which one came first. But as soon as we had invested in one of them, we immediately found that we cared about it. We really wanted it to do well.

More recently, I’ve come to see that all investment is like that. Whenever we invest in something – whatever it is, whatever we invest – we become emotionally bound to that thing. We care about it. We cheer it on. We want it to succeed. We value the thing we invest in. It is not that we have any choice in the matter, either. We are just wired up that way. It is just a principle of the thing.

See the Principle Work

Here are a few examples of this principle in action:

The IKEA Effect

The IKEA Effect is an example of the principle that “Affections Follow Investment”. The IKEA Effect is the name given to the psychological phenomenon whereby people develop an emotional attachment to the results of their efforts. The term was coined to describe the results of a series of experiments that demonstrated that people place higher value on things that they build themselves over identical things that have been built by other people. It is the reason that people have a disproportionate effect for furniture that they have assembled themselves over furniture that is delivered pre-assembled.

An example of the IKEA Effect occurred with the introduction of instant cake mix, back in the 1950s. At first, there was resistance to the product, at least in part because housewives felt that their skills were being devalued. However, when one manufacturer changed the recipe so that the baker was required to add an egg, sales increased significantly. The evidence suggests that the extra effort required to make these cakes was a key ingredient (no pun intended) in the success of the product.

Other examples of the IKEA Effect occur when you pick-your-own at a farm, when children visit the Built-a-Bear Workshop (my son adores “Owlie”, a cuddly toy that he “made” at Build-a-Bear in Southampton), and with those bags of crisps that contain the little blue bags of salt.Based on investigations of the IKEA Effect,

researchers have concluded that:

Labour leads to love.

Easy Come, Easy Go

If people tend to value the things that come through great effort, it follows that they are less likely to value the things that come more easily. Indeed, we’ve all heard stories of lottery winners who have gone bankrupt, people with massive inheritances who have ended up penniless, and people who have made it big in the entertainment business who have frittered their money away on fast living and spending sprees. For example, research statistics suggest that, within five years of retirement, an estimated 60 percent of former NBA players are broke. It seems that we care little for things that have cost us little, whereas those things that are hard-earned are less easily squandered.

Good Money After Bad

People have a tendency to fall in love with their own ideas, One reason for this is that they are ideas that they have already invested time and energy in developing. This tendency has both beneficial and damaging consequences.

On the negative side, for example, it is one reason that people are willing to “poor good money after bad”: because they become emotionally attached to product in which they have invested, and find it difficult to break that attachment.

On the positive side, in my career as a programmer I have repeatedly observed that customers become passionate about a product when they have had a hand in its design. They can become great ambassadors for it when it is rolled out to their colleges. In contrast, those who have a solution thrust upon them are far less likely to view it positively.

Apply the Principle

The principle can be applied in many circumstances – indeed it applies whenever you make any kind of investment, be that an investment of:

  • Time
  • Money
  • Possessions
  • Mental effort
  • Physical effort
  • Anything else

Moreover, you can deliberately use the principle to make positive changes in both your own life and in the lives of others. The ways you do so will be determined by what you want to achieve, your creativity, and your understanding of the principle itself.

Here are some suggestions:

Do You Want to Influence Others?

To care about the environment?

  • Get them involved in clearing litter, removing graffiti or pulling supermarket trolleys out streams.

To be committed to your group?

  • Give them something to do. Even simple things like making tea or setting out chairs.

To love your product?

  • Get your customers to help you design it
  • Allow people to customize it
  • Give people a free trial period – during which they will invest their time in learning it
  • Make it harder for people to obtain (e.g. by making it rare and exclusive)
  • Make it more expensive

Want kids to eat up their vegetables?

  • Get them to help you cook the meal.

Want people to come to your event?

  • Charge for the event instead of making it free
  • Encourage people to buy tickets before the event, rather than on the door
  • Ask them to state preferences before hand

Want to Change Your Feelings Towards Someone?

In his best-selling book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey told a story about a man who came to him with a problem. The man said, “My wife and I just don’t have the same feelings for each other we used to have. I guess I just don’t love her any more and she doesn’t love me. What can I do?”. Covey answered, “My friend , love is a verb. Love – the feeling – is a fruit of love, the verb. So love her. Serve her. Sacrifice. Listen to her. Empathize. Appreciate. Affirm her. Are you willing to do that?”. Covey recognised that feeling follow actions, that when we invest in someone, our affection for that someone increases. Of course, this works in all relationships, marriage included.

Do You Want to Increase Your Self-Esteem?

Invest in yourself:

  • Take time to discover your strengths
  • Nurture your talents
  • Eat better
  • Improve your fitness
  • Smarten up

Do You Want to Escape from Unhealthy Behaviour?

Then stop investing in it, and invest in an alternative:

  • Spend time thinking about the benefits of the behaviour you desire.
  • Spend less on the habit. The first step in my kicking a chronic caffeine addiction was to find cheaper ways of feeding by craving.
  • Invest in other, less destructive ways to feel good.

In the book, Switch, the Heath Brothers observed that change is hard when you have no emotional imperative to change, but is much easier when you feel like making change. You can use this information, along with this principle, to make significant changes in your life.

The method is follow the advice in the adverts, and…

Just do it.Nike

But don’t try and do all of it. Not yet, anyway. The trick is to make a small investment in the change you want to make. This could be an investment of time, finances or effort. You don’t have to feel like making the investment, you just have to make it. Having made this small investment, you’ll be a little more committed to achieving your goal, even if the investment you made didn’t actually bring you closer to achieving it. Rinse and repeat. Little by little, the amount you invest will increase, and your commitment to your goals will increase as well. When you’re sufficiently motivated, you’ll move heaven and earth to reach your chosen destination.

Acknowledgements

10 Tips to Get More Reliable Technology

There are a myriad ways in which technology promises to simplify our lives and to streamline productivity. Appropriate tools make it possible to achieve in seconds what it would once have taken days to accomplish – if they could be done at all. Moreover, the ongoing digital revolution means that, every day, hundreds of new digital tools are being created. However, all this innovation has come at a price, and all too often, that price is unreliability.

I seem to spend big chunks of my day dealing with stupid, niggling technical problems – usually computer problems – that get in the way of my real work. I’m talking about silly but annoying things like dropped connections, hardware glitches, random slow-downs, corrupted data and reboots. Of course, as an IT guy, I am generally capable of dealing with issues as they arise, but I really do have better things to be doing with my time. And I’m sure that you do, too.

Fortunately, there are lots of little things we can do to remedy this problem. Here are 10 of them:

1: Choose Reliable Products

Or at least, products that have a reputation for reliability. Even if they’re not the most up-to-date. Even if they cost a little more.In my experience, products aimed at businesses are often more robust at those aimed at consumers.

2: Buy from a Good Company

That has a reputation for:

  • reliable products.
  • good customer support.

3: Use Popular Tools

If you choose tools that have an established, active community of users, you can often go to the community to get help when you need it. Even if there are alternatives that have better functionality, it can be beneficial to go for the more popular choice simply because other people will face the same issues that you face – and will discover work-arounds.

4: Pay for Support

Consider paying for a warranty or a support contract so that you can get things fixed when they need to be fixed. For example, I pay for breakdown insurance for my home’s hot water boiler because it:

  • Is vital to the smooth running of my life
  • Needs regular servicing
  • Operates in environmentally tough circumstances
  • Is prone to failure
  • Can be expensive to repair
  • Needs specialist skills to mend

I pay for breakdown cover on my car for similar reasons.

5: Have a Fall-Back Plan

It is sometimes vital to have an alternative, emergency method of getting the job done. You could:

  • Use the same tools as friends / other family members so you can share temporarily in a crisis
  • Choose solutions that have both a web-based version and a local version so that I can still get at my data if one or the other is becomes unavailable (e.g. Evernote)

Pen and paper is still one of the best solutions in an emergency.

6: Make Sure there is a Way Out

Choose services that make it possible to transfer out if necessary. If a company ties up your information or money or whatever, you won’t be able to transfer to another service if that company lets you down.

For example, I avoid using an email address that is tied in to a particular company. I do use a popular mail service, but if I’m not happy with the service I’m receiving or if the company decide to withdraw their service then I can take my email address elsewhere.

7: Undertake Regular Maintenance Activities

For example, on your desktop computer:

  • De-fragment your computer’s hard drive every two weeks
  • Do quick virus scans weekly and complete scans monthly
  • Do hard drive health checks regularly
  • Apply updates to your software

8: Get to Know your Tools

Many of the problems that I have are the result of my poor understanding of my tools.
If necessary, use fewer or simpler tools so you can develop your ability in the ones that matter most.

9: Keep Things Simple

Complex solutions have more “moving parts” that can fail. For example:

  1. Use a wired connection rather than wireless one
  2. Use pen and paper instead of a computer
  3. Read paper books instead of digital ones

10: Buy In Services

Sometimes it is easier to buy services rather than trying to maintain the technology that enables you to do them for yourself. For example:

  • Use a photo printing service rather than printing pictures yourself
  • Buy web-based data storage rather than trying to maintain your own backups

Bonus: The One thing That Matters Most

Keep a backup of your data:

  • Store it in a common format on commonly available media
  • Test the backup regularly

Clutter Busting: How to Decide What to Keep

One of the hardest things when clutter-busting can be working out what is really clutter and what isn’t. A great way to decide is to answer 4 simple questions about the purpose of your stuff:

  1. What purpose does this item have… in my life?
  2. Could I use something else instead?
  3. When will I use it?
  4. Is it expensive / difficult to replace?

To see if these questions can help you, why not give the following clutter-busting method a try?

Choose a Place to Start

Set aside some time for de-cluttering, ideally a good hour or so when you won’t be interrupted.
Start somewhere you haven’t cleared out recently: the more clutter there is to clear, the more satisfying the results! Start with a small area: if you take on too much you could easily end up in a worse mess than when you started. Good examples for me would be the cupboard under the sink, a kitchen drawer, a single bookshelf, or the top layer of stuff in the shed.

You may find you need some containers – big cardboard boxes or something – that you can use to keep the things you’re sorting from getting spread all over the place. Paper and pen might be useful, too, in case you need to jot down a few notes (about things that need mending or anything else that pops into your head whilst you’re working).

Take One Item at a Time

Work systematically through the area that you’re de-cluttering, and consider one item at a time.
For each item…

Answer the Key Question

What purpose does this item have… in my life?

If the answer is, “it doesn’t have one”, set the item aside for disposal.

Answer the First Follow-Up Question

Could I use something else instead?

For example, for keepsakes, this could be a photograph of the item. If you can find a suitable substitute, put the item aside for disposal.
Otherwise…

Answer the Second Follow-Up Question

When will I use it?

If the answer is “never”, put the item aside for disposal.

If the answer is “within the next 12 months”, put the item away where it belongs. If it needs cleaning / repairing, don’t do it now unless you can do it in less than 2 minutes. If you don’t stick to this rule then you’re likely to get distracted, leaving the de-cluttering job half done. Instead, make a note of the extra maintenance task and move on.

So, if you’re not going to use the item any time soon….

Answer the Final Follow-Up Question

Is the item expensive / difficult to replace?

If the answer is “no”, set the item aside for disposal.

Otherwise, put the item away and move on to the next item.

Finally

As soon as you can, get rid of anything you’ve set aside for disposal. As long as it is hanging around, it is still clutter. But once it’s gone…

Acknowledgements

I am the Founder of Christianity!

It doesn’t seem long since I proposed the establishment of Christianity. Today, however, it is a growing global community that involves people from all walks of life. Christianity welcomes committed Christians, experts in Christianity and all those who are genuinely interested in learning more. Join Christianity today:

  • Ask questions and get great answers!
  • Earn reputation!
  • Get badges for participation!

No, I’m not actually claiming to have founded a religion. I’m talking about a web site!

The site is part of the Stackexchange network of question and answer sites, which now boasts over 100 covering a wide range of from Software Development to Cooking to the English Language to Photography… and now Christianity.

The unique thing about this site is that it is essentially a secular site about the subject of Christianity. It invites users to ask and answer questions about the traditions, history, practices and beliefs of Christians, but makes few assumptions regarding the beliefs of its users. It certainly doesn’t presume any particular doctrinal affiliation, nor even membership of any particular faith. The result of this approach is that the site that isn’t preachy, and it isn’t evangelistic, but it is informative.

Of course, many of our users are Christians – it is to be expected that believers will have an interest in the subject. At the same time, however, many others don’t share their faith – they simply have an academic interest in it. It is heartening to see so many different world-views represented. I don’t think that there are many forums where such diversity can co-exist with such a thorough exploration of religious matters. In this case, however, our differences enrich rather than alienate. Of course, as a Christian myself, I’d love to see people transition from non-believer to believer, and I sincerely hope that the information provided by the site facilitates this transition for some. Nevertheless, this is far from being a requirement – you’ll get no Bible-bashing there!

(OK, there are a few people who don’t play by the rules, but the moderators take them into the alleyway out back. They’re soon sorted out…)

Anyway, I am delighted to say that, two years after I proposed it, Christianity is now live. Thanks to a nice long beta, the site already had over 3,500 questions and about 2,500 registered users when it was officially launched. With your help, it can continue to grow. If you have an interest in Christianity, please do check it out. I’m sure that you’ll learn something new!

Eliminate Waste

A powerful approach to making the best of our potential is to make sure that we eliminate all waste from our lives. In this context, waste is defined as any effort that doesn’t produce the desired results.

Value the Elimination of Waste

It stands to reason that, in order to reach your maximum potential, all your effort must be maximally productive, and this can only happen if you eliminate everything that is does not meet this ideal. And whilst it may not be possible to reach this lofty ideal in practice, the effort to do so will certainly help you take major steps in the right direction.
Eliminating waste in any setting has numerous significant benefits. For example, it:

  • Provides a focus for self-improvement efforts
  • Can be tackled in small steps if necessary
  • Can provide significant immediate benefits, especially in the early stages
  • Can reveal other, deeper issues
  • Makes you feel good
  • Develops your problem-solving skills

Moreover, eliminating waste as a means to maximising potential has been proven to work in numerous settings. For example, it is one of the central tenets of lean manufacturing, and is one of the fundamental principles by which companies such Toyota have achieved success. The general approach as been adapted use in a diversity of other commercial settings including Software Development and Service Provision, and is increasingly adopted for use in personal and domestic settings.

See Waste to Eliminate

The first step to dealing with waste is to learn to see it. At first, this can be quite hard – after all, if you really thought you were wasting your time and effort doing something then you probably wouldn’t be doing it in the first place. However, with a little practice, it is easy to see that waste crops up in all kinds of ways.

As you look for waste in your own life, it may help to look for waste in some of these categories:

  1. Unfinished work
  2. Clutter
  3. Over-consumption
  4. Repetition
  5. Distractions
  6. Delays
  7. Making mistakes
  8. Doing the wrong thing

Of course, it isn’t important to categorise each kind of waste – rather these categories are intended as an aid to seeing waste.
It can be helpful, however, to make a quick list of some of the things you’ve noticed – otherwise you may have to re-notice those same things later, and that would itself be wasteful!

Start to Eliminate Waste

There are all kinds of waste in our lives, and once you start to see it, it can be a little overwhelming. As a result, it can be difficult to know where to start tackling it.

One simple approach to avoid the paralysis of indecision, just start. This works because the waste in your immediate environment is often the waste that is reducing your ability to achieve your potential in what you’re doing right now.

As you become accustomed to dealing with your waste you might consider another strategy: go through your list and pick out the items that will have the most impact for the least effort. This works because the time and resource that you free up by dealing with these things can then be re-invested in tackling the next thing on your list.

Keep On Eliminating Waste

The reality is that you won’t ever eliminate all the waste in your life. There are many, many things that are beyond your control. Even those things that are apparently under your control can be extremely difficult to tackle. And this can, I admit, be a little dispiriting at times. The good news, however, is that there are many, many things that you can deal with – so focus on these things first. Once you’ve pulled them things up by the roots you’ll be better placed to deal with other things. So, take things a step at a time and enjoy your successes.

Clearing waste from your life is like removing weeds from a field: you’ll never get rid of them all, but the more you remove, the greater your harvest.

Acknowledgements

Image courtesy stock.xchng.

Money Management: Useful Categories

Here are some categories for managing personal finances (I like putting things into categories) . I find them a useful basis for my financial planning and filing.

Planning and Budgeting

Overall resource planning. Managing the relationship between time and resource.

Income

Money that comes in.

  • Wages
  • Income from investments

Spending

Money that goes out. Paying for stuff.

  • Goods
  • Services

Saving and Investing

Paying today, benefiting tomorrow. All investment involves a degree of risk.

  • Savings plans
  • Shares

Borrowing and Debt

Benefiting today, paying tomorrow. Also involves uncertainty.

  • Mortgage
  • Loans

Protection

Paying to reduce uncertainty.

  • Insurance

Giving

Resource that goes out, but for which I receive no (material) benefit.

Acknowledgements

Original image courtesy Wikipedia.