Showing posts with label organizing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label organizing. Show all posts

Favorite Freebies on Amazon Part 2 of 2: Horror & Sci-Fi Edition

So last Friday, I talked a bit about my favorite ways of finding free ebooks on Amazon.  I saw that a lot of people visited the site and shared it with others (thank you!).  I hope part 2 is equally rewarding.  In particular, I've focused on Science-fiction, fantasy, and horror.  So enjoy and let me know what you may have found that I didn't know about!

A couple other places that I found that regular post free Kindle books include:

There is of course, the Free Book Collections site on Amazon itself.  There's also Freebook Sifter, which sorts books into categories for you to explore better than the Amazon interface.

There's also these Twitter accounts that are fairly prodigious in their outpouring:
Free eBooks Daily
Free Kindle Books
Free Kindle Ebooks
Free Kindle eBooks
Free Kindle Fiction
Kindle Free Books
Hundred Zeros

And here are some more of my favorites "free" purchases that I've found on Amazon, including some very popular science-fiction, fantasy, and horror authors.

Sentiment, Inc.
Poul William Anderson
Poul William Anderson titles.

Looking Backward 2000-1887.
Edward Bellamy
Edward Bellamy titles.

The Dueling Machine.
Ben Bova
Ben Bova titles.

The Planet Savers.
Marion Zimmer Bradley

The Monster Men.
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Edgar Rice Burroughs titles.

Invaders from the Infinite.
John Wood Campbell
John Wood Campbell titles.

Let'Em Breathe Space.
Lester Del Rey
Lester Del Rey titles.

The Hanging Stranger.
Philip K. Dick
Philip K. Dick titles.

Northworld Trilogy.
David Drake
David Drake titles.

Rastignac the Devil.
Philip José Farmer

The Misplaced Battleship.
Harry Harrison
Harry Harrison titles.

Operation Haystack.
Frank Herbert
Frank Herbert titles.

Wool - Part One.
Hugh Howey

The Moon is Green.
Fritz Leiber
Fritz Leiber titles.

News from Nowhere, or, an Epoch of Rest : being some chapters from a utopian romance.
William Morris

The Time Traders.
Andre Norton
Andre Norton titles.

The Hated.
Frederik Pohl
Frederick Pohl titles.

Starman's Quest.
Robert Silverberg

Clifford D. Simak
Clifton D. Simak titles.

The Big Trip Up Yonder.
Kurt Vonnegut

On Basilisk Station (Honor Harrington).
David Weber
David Weber titles.

The Invisible Man.
H. G. Wells
H. G. Wells titles.

Famous Modern Ghost Stories Anthology.

The Book of Were-Wolves.
S. Baring-Gould
S. Baring-Gould titles.

The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce, Volume 1.
Ambrose Bierce
Ambrose Bierce titles.

The Wendigo.
Algernon Blackwood
Algernon Blackwood titles.

This Crowded Earth.
Robert Bloch

The Dark Star.
Robert W. Chambers
Robert W. Chambers titles.

The Sword of Welleran and Other Stories.
Lord Dunsany
Lord Dunsany titles.

The Screaming.
Jack Kilborn
Jack Kilborn (A.K.A. J. A. Konrath regularly has his titles for free on Amazon).

A Stable for Nightmares or Weird Tales.
Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu titles.

The Great God Pan.
Arthur Machen
Arthur Machen titles.

Varney the Vampire Or the Feast of Blood.
Thomas Preskett Prest

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Mary Shelley titles.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Robert Louis Stevenson
Robert Louis Stevenson titles.

Bram Stoker
Bram Stoker titles.

So what are some of the interesting treasures you've discovered on Amazon for free?

Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email. 

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Favorite Freebies on Amazon Part 1 of 2

So I have never bought the Amazon Kindle.  When it first came out, I was curious but dubious.  And I never found a full need for it in my life (this coming from someone trying to read 365 books this year).  However, when Amazon released the Kindle as an App for use on smartphones, tablets and even computers, I found myself signing up for it and beginning my journey down ebooks.  In the interim, I've bought over 850 ebooks on Amazon, but I have spent a total of $0.00.  You read that right.  I spent nothing, but now I have some 850+ books in my Kindle app (Note:  When I started this blog post, I had about 800 but over the course of researching, I added 50 more books).

Tips and Tricks to Searching Amazon

Freebies to be found on Amazon.
So how do you find these awesome books.  The simplest way is to go to Amazon itself.  Type an author into the search engine.  On the search results page, click "Books" (or "Kindle Store" if it shows up--it doesn't always depending on your search).  On the right screen, click the drop down menu "Sort By" and select "Price: Low to High."  Depending on the author, particularly if it is contemporary, it is likely to wield poor results.  If it is a work in the public domain, it's much more likely to be found on Amazon  for free.  This means practically all works written before 1923.  From 1923 and beyond, it gets a bit trickier but there are still lots of works to be found.  (A follow up post will show some science-fiction,  fantasy, and horror that is available from after 1923).  You can also search by genre name and title and then sort by low to high.

Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought.  On most product pages on Amazon, there is a row of icons and products of "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought..."  There can be anywhere between 1 to 16 subpages that you can scroll through.  I find this is also a good opportunity to move through related products since in addition to the product item, the price is also posted.

OneHundredFreeBooks.  This is one of the many sites and apps out there that will inform you of the latest free books on Amazon.  I like it because it has a webpage but also updates on its Facebook page several times a day.

Twitter Hashtags.  Twitter is also a great place to look for hashtags related to "free" "Amazon" and/or "Kindle" and you'll find daily numerous tweets of various free ebooks.

Below are listed some of the purchases that I've made over the last 2 years of book-buying on Amazon. I link to the product page but then also when relevant, a listing to the author's works sorted by price from low to high so you can see what else is offered by the author.  As of June 27, 2013, all the links work, but that's the other thing to consider is that some items come and go.  Enjoy and come back (or subscribe via email or RSS) to catch Part 2 of this listing wherein I cover a good amount of classic sci-fi, fantasy, and horror.  The categories below are Classic Literature, Cooking and Homestead, Fairy Tales, and Miscellaneous.


Babylonian and Assyrian Literature.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum  free on Amazon Kindle.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
L. Frank Baum
L. Frank Baum titles.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
Lewis Carroll
Lewis Carroll titles.

The Awakening and Selected Short Stories.
Kate Chopin
Kate Chopin titles.

The Last of the Mohicans; A narrative of 1757.
James Fenimore Cooper
James Fenimore Cooper titles.

The Red Badge of Courage.
Stephen Crane

A Christmas Carol.
Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens titles.

Poems by Emily Dickinson, Series One.
Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson titles.

The Idiot.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Fyodor Dostoyevsky titles.

The Lost World.
Arthur Conan Doyle
Arthur Conan Doyle titles.

The Souls of Black Folk.
W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois titles.

The Man in the Iron Mask.
Alexandre Dumas
Alexandre Dumas titles.

This Side of Paradise.
F.Scott Fitzgerald
F Scott Fitzgerald titles.

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.
Benjamin Franklin

The Scarlet Letter.
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Nathaniel Hawthorne titles.

Thomas Hobbes

The Odyssey.
Homer titles.

A Treatise of Human Nature.
David Hume
David Hume titles.

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Written by Herself.
Harriet Ann Jacobs

James Joyce
James Joyce titles.

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling free on Amazon Kindle.
The Jungle Book.
Rudyard Kipling
Rudyard Kipling titles.

Sons and Lovers.
D. H. Lawrence
D. H. Lawrence titles.

Love of Life and Other Stories.
Jack London
Jack London titles.

The Prince.
Niccolo Machiavelli
Niccolo Machiavelli titles.

Maha-bharata The Epic of Ancient India Condensed into English Verse.

Moby Dick: or, the White Whale.
Herman Melville
Herman Melville titles.

Beyond Good and Evil.
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche titles.

The Yellow Wallpaper.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Charlotte Perkins Gilman titles.

The Persian Literature, Comprising The Shah Nameh, The Rubaiyat, The Divan, and The Gulistan, Volume 1.

The Republic.
Plato titles.

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket.
Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe titles.

The Argonautica.
Apollonius Rhodius

King Richard III.
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare titles.

King Coal : a Novel.
Upton Sinclair
Upton Sinclair titles.

An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.
Adam Smith

Oedipus Trilogy.

Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau titles.

Democracy in America - Volume 1.
Alexis de Tocqueville
Alexis de Tocqueville titles.

Anna Karenina.
Leo Tolstoy
Leo Tolstoy titles.

Life on the Mississippi.
Mark Twain
Mark Twain titles.

A Journey to the Centre of the Earth.
Jules Verne
Jules Verne titles.

The Aeneid of Virgil.

Up from Slavery: an autobiography.
Booker T. Washington
Booker T. Washington titles.

Leaves of Grass free on Amazon Kindle.
Leaves of Grass.
Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman titles.

The Picture of Dorian Gray.
Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde titles.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe titles.


100 Year Old Recipes You Can Still Make Today: HOMEMADE CANDIES.
Kirsten Anderberg

Things To Do While Avoiding Things To Do: And 56 More Fun Lists for Procrastinators.
Mark J. Asher

Basically Bread, The Fundamentals of Making Great Bread.
John Barnes

Best Ever Fruit Cobbler & Crisp Recipes (Best Ever Recipes Series).
Lori Burke

The American Frugal Housewife.
Lydia Maria Francis Child

Survival 101: The Essential Guide to Saving Your Own Life in a Disaster.
Marcus Duke

Smart School Time Recipes: The Breakfast, Snack, and Lunchbox Cookbook for Healthy Kids and Adults.
Alisa Marie Fleming

The Wonders of Kale: "Green it Up" with New and Unique Recipes!
Meigyn Gabryelle

Homemade Quirk

Create your dream garden (52 Brilliant Ideas).
Infinite Ideas
Infinite Ideas titles.

Incredible Cardboard!
Instructables Authors
Instructables titles.

Culinary Herbs: Their Cultivation Harvesting Curing and Uses.
M. G. (Maurice Grenville) Kains

Survival Guide for Beginners.
Vitaly Pedchenko

Home Vegetable Gardening -a Complete and Practical Guide to the Planting and Care of All Vegetables, Fruits and Berries Worth Growing for Home Use.
F. P. Rockwell

Survival Tactics.
Al Sevcik

Woodcraft and Camping.
George Washington Sears

The 30 Minute Wine Expert: Amaze Your Friends with Your Wine Expertise.
Michael Sullivan

All About Coffee.
William H. Ukers

Knots, Splices and Rope Work: A Practical Treatise.
A. Hyatt (Alpheus Hyatt) Verrill


More Fairy Tales titles.


Well Played 2.0: Video Games, Value and Meaning.
Drew Davidson

It's a Dog's Life, Snoopy!
Charles M. Schulz

How I Found Livingstone.
Sir Henry M. Stanley

United States Presidents' Inaugural Speeches.
United States' Presidents

Charles River Editors (Titles change often but lots of free history stuff).

So where else do you find free ebooks for the Kindle or elsewhere?

Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email. 

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Bending & Folding Time and Space In a Non-Physics Sort of Way Part 2

So in my last post, I explored some ways to save time that address the daily routines of life.  In this post, I'm going to look at other facets of life where I have re-oriented time to work for me.

I've talked about them before, but it needs to be reiterated.  Audiobooks are singularly an excellent means of reclaiming time.  This works on two levels.  The first is clearly that one is getting to read books, he or she wouldn't have otherwise been able to while engaged in sometime (e.g. chores).  Second, it exposes one to a potential wealth of knowledge that a person can use to inform one's life.  Many of the changes I have made to save time have been gleaned from the learning I experienced while listening to audiobooks and doing other things (commuting, chores, running errands).  While it can take some time to figure out what kind of listener you are (that is what genres, types of narrators, and what environments work best for you), it can open up much more opportunity to learn and explore things while otherwise engaged.

Coordinating Tasks

Many people make their "to-do" lists before leaving the house.  A key to any to-do list is to rank them according to distance.  If I'm going out on 4-5 errands, I spend the extra two minutes figuring out which one is closest to each next task so that I spend the least amount of time driving/walking/bicycling.  Without a doubt, I can save a half hour or more in strategically moving from place to place.


However, it's more than that.  Aggressively integrating audiobooks into my life also represents one of the core features I've worked hard to instill in my life.  Synergy.  When I was in undergrad at Salem State, the history department chair was Dr. Dane Morrison.  I had known this word before him but would always associate this word with him after college.  Over the course of several years, I witnessed him give this speech to incoming history majors about making their life synergistic.  I had heard this before from my father--though he never used that word.  But ultimately, both him and Dr. Morrison advocated for finding ways to make life overlap.  This was a lesson I took to heart and still look to do today at ever vantage point.  Audiobooks best represent my attempt to apply continued learning and experience even when doing things that don't necessarily demand serious cognitive demand.  It's a means of reclaiming time.

Synergy for me has meant blending interests in ways that maximize outcomes and frees up other time.  A good example of this was when I was a lifeguard.  For my high school senior year and all through college, I was a lifeguard.  But I worked largely at pools that were 5 feet deep in the deep end that either were adults only (health clubs) or required adults to be present with each child (apartment complexes).  There were a great many hours when the pool was either unoccupied or minimally occupied.  This afforded me lots of hours to do reading, writing, and homework.  Even if I worked thirty hours a week, at least half of it was free time in which I got my school work finished.  This meant  with my free time, I didn't have to worry about my homework or getting caught up.  I was often ahead.  This followed suit in grad school where I began working overnight at residential programs.  I was being paid to stay up all night and to check on the residents regularly.  One way to keep me engaged or busy through the night was to always have homework to do for grad school--which there always was--and to get grading done for the classes I taught.  Again, while working overnights messed with my schedule, I also had more free time to readjust because my "work time" also coupled as my school time.
"Time is an illusion; lunchtime, doubly so."  Douglas Adams.
Choosing Time
My friends knock me for being notoriously early, especially if it requires commuting to places that are far away or require driving during busy traffic.  There's been a handful of conferences south of Boston (I live North of Boston) that I have attended in the last year.  Each would start around 8am or 9am.  This pretty much meant that I would get caught in slow moving, almost torturous (were it not for audiobooks in the car) stop-and-go traffic.  This sounds supremely wasteful of my time.  Instead, I usually opt to get up and out of the house by 5:30AM.  This puts me well on the other side of Boston before the first hint of traffic.  I may arrive early but this gives me the opportunity to find a coffee shop and do some work or read.  I sometimes even just go for a walk and enjoy the morning.  I'm able to relax, knowing I've made it to my destination and can reclaim time that I would have otherwise spent in driving.  That's the bigger lesson here is to look for opportunities wherein you can do the same thing in less time.          

Coupled with this is to always make sure wherever you go, you something to occupy free time.  I'm rarely without a book  or something to read (especially now with a smartphone and the Amazon Kindle app).  I usually have pen and pad (or just a note-taking app).  That is, I always prepared to entertain myself if there is foreseen (sitting in the doctor's office) or unforeseen gaps in the regularly scheduled program.

Time vs. Cost
For about a year and a half, I paid for cleaning services (from a great company, Green Clean Salem) in my apartment.  I did this because time was at a premium and it was cheaper for me to purchase these services than it would have been to do the cleaning myself.  Weighing time and cost isn't just about considering what you should pay someone to do something--it's about realizing how much time it would take you to do the same thing and the cost to you weighed against the cost and speed with which a professional could do the same thing.  In this instance, I chose the professional.

Time and cost are a tricky formula that often become an ongoing assessment.  I look at the different services I pay for (and those that I do myself) and am regularly asking "do I pay for that or do I do that?"  A good example is my usage of Netflix.  I've gone from high usage with three or more discs to only one disc--I supplement this with use of my library, requesting films from my Netflix DVD list (the ones you can't watch instantly).  Doing so has reduced my spending on Netflix and helped support my library system.  Equally useful is that I work next to my school's library, so the time is largely just the time it takes to request the DVD.

Saying Yes, Saying No
Time is the ultimate commodity that we trade.  That "time" comes in different forms--being physically present (say for a hug) or emotional present (to listen to someone--online, on the phone, or face to face) or doing something (for ourselves or others).  The biggest way to save time and give yourself more of it is to genuinely reflect about what you enjoy and what you don't, what you need to do and what you don't.  Don't waste time agreeing to things you don't want or need to do.  Learn to know yourself well enough to do those things that are of reasonable importance to you and shed the rest.  I'm not a sports fan and thus, do much to avoid going to sporting events, watching sports on TV, and engaging in sports talk with friends and colleagues.  Sure, it puts me out of conversations at times, but on the whole, it has given me more time to do the things I really write on this blog.

Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Bending & Folding Time and Space In a Non-Physics Sort of Way Part 1

In conversations regularly, I get asked a lot about how I manage to do all that I do.  Within an hour of one friend asking me about how I do this, another friend posted a great blog entry about how she's renegotiating time with her child.  Thus, I figured I would also add my own experience to the mix.  For instance on my docket right now is the following:
And as I wrote the above list, it did feel like a lot (and I would imagine I am missing some things).  I do this largely while still being able to regularly get at least 7 hours of sleep on most nights.  A colleague of mine at my first major job out of college said it quite well:  "You take all those snippets of time-10 minutes here, 15 minutes there--that no one thinks about and put them to work."'t_stop_time.JPG
But you can fold & bend it.
But it does seem a lot and largely, it's not in the name of the Puritan ethic of productivity--though it does end up making me a very productive person.  I do it all in the name of pleasure.  These are all things that I really enjoy and find rewarding.  That luck and effort have colluded in a way to make my life so blessed, I can't pretend is entirely of my own making--but being persistent in my pursuits to various has certainly paid dividends.  That is, I recognize that a good deal of my being able to do this has much to do with luck and the circumstances of my surroundings.  That being said,  I think there are some things that I do that help contribute to this in some capacity that I want to touch upon here.

Automating Life
I look for things that I don't really need to think about so much as I need to be reminded to do.  Apartment tasks such as cleaning, changing out the litterbox, or taking out the trash regularly need to be done but are rarely in the forefront of my mind.  I also would rather not take up mental space or time recalling or figuring them out.  In this vein, I find Google Reminders a boon!  I load my calendar up with a variety of reminders and have reminders sent the day before or on the day of (depending on the task and it's time quantity).

In recent years, I've also taken to ordering food in bulk off of Amazon.  One friend jokes that it's my fallout shelter but it's really just a fully stocked food pantry.  There are several benefits to buying bulk on Amazon.  First, Amazon provides reasonable discounts for buying in bulk and if over $25, shipping is free. Amazon also allows for a subscription to foods and toiletries to be delivered on a regular basis (from one month to 6 or so months).  So there's a lot of staple food (rice, quinoa, tea, coffee, dried beans) and toiletries (paper towels, toilet paper, toothpaste, deodorant, etc) that I have subscribed to for delivery.  This has freed up a lot of time in terms of grocery trips and errands.  If I need to adjust because I need more or less of something, I can always go onto Amazon and adjust the frequency.

With my email, one of the best time-savers has been to actively use filters to only allow relevant emails to show up in my inbox (emails from actual people or things I need to see).  I subscribe to a lot of newsletters and am part of many listservs.  These emails are sent into various folders in my mailbox system for perusal at times when I can clearly and consciously dedicate attention to them.  This avoids me getting lost in a bunch of emails that aren't necessarily relevant or needs my attention.

Along these lines, I also often cook in bulk.  Some of which I will put in the freezer and the rest I will have for lunch and/or dinner for the rest of the week.  I usually try to make two large meals in a given week so that I can have some variation and also freeze some of it to supplement some other week later on.  This cuts down dramatically on cooking time.

Finally, I have automated payments whenever possible.  Be it phone bills, school loans, or any other regular bill, I just have it automatically debited or charged.  Again, this saves me time and energy of receiving the bills, filling out checks, finding stamps and putting it in the mail.

Cumulatively, these collection of tool decrease the need for me to have to remember to do things or digitalize things that are part and parcel of daily life.

In recent years, I've also realize the power of routines in one's life.  For me, the three routines that I find to be most useful are:

Going to Bed Routine.  I start this routine most nights about 1.5 to 2 hours before I'm ready to actually lie down for sleep.  It starts with making tea (some version of what's referred to as sleepy tea) but also includes showering, putting out clothes for the next day, prepping my lunch for the next day, putting out what I need for breakfast, packing my bag(s) for the next day, drinking said tea, and sitting down in bed to read for anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour.  Right before I turn out the light, I'll do some light stretching.  I'm amazed at how this routine helps to center me and prepares me for bed.  Most nights, I'm out within minutes of turning out the light.  It makes my sleep more potent as I'm fully relaxed and makes getting up easier because I know I've had a good night's sleep as that the morning is already set up; there's no need to scramble.

I find this routine rewarding also because it's a quiet and reflective time to myself.  I'm putting together my things for the next day--maybe listening to an audiobook or music--and just enjoying the motions and the solitude (ok, not entire solitude, the kittens love to trample underfoot).

Morning Routine:  The night routine gives way to the awakening routine which usually starts with me awakening (or being slightly nudged by Bear, one of the kittens) just a few minutes before my alarm clock.  My first and foremost goal is to get out of bed and stay out of bed.  A warm bed with two cuddling kitties can be extremely hard to escape from.  So my first goal is to get up, walk to the bathroom (turn on the audiobook), and wash my face with cold water.  This serves two purposes:  1.  It wakes me up much more than just getting up. 2. It's great for allergy season to wipe off the nightly build up of pollen.  From there, I'm putting on clothes, getting breakfast, and checking email (briefly), and taking care of any other last minute items.  It's overall less hectic because a lot of the issues needed to be taken care of already were--when I was in a more alert and prepared mindset the night before.

Rebooting the Mental Computer:  A large portion of my job consists of staring at a computer screen.  It's fun but it's also a lot of mental concentration and thought as I peer into a 2-dimensional viewbox, discerning information directly and indirectly.  Therefore, in order to focus or continue to be engaged throughout the day, I find it's useful to reboot my own computer at least once a day, if not more by going for a walk.  Sometimes, the walks are short--too the end of the hall and back and sometimes, they entail a lap around the campus for the air and eye relaxation.  Regardless, though they take time away from work, they also help me be more sustained and engaged in the work and less likely to lose concentration or maintain a low threshold of concentration.

Owning the Environment
A major component of this is that I've changed my physical environment significantly.  My "living room" is not the center of relaxation it is in many other rooms.  It's productivity central.  Sitting down to watch television has to be a conscious and determined act.  I've create spaces for certain things.  My bedroom is not so much a sanctuary but it's devoid of electronic entertainment.  I've got books a plenty, my bed, and a space to meditate, relax, stretch.  My kitchen and dining area is generally my chorse area (e.g. ironing, folding laundry, etc) and where I prep and eat.  My living room is for entertaining, working on the computer, and exercising.  This clear sense of space allows for me to know where things go, never really needing to do much organizing/cleaning up (besides sweeping/mopping).  This may seem like an irrelevant component, but it is useful as it cuts down on questions and confusion about where to put things or where to look for things.

If you've made it this far, you've probably NOT found things that help you save time per se, but to some degree add time to your life, even if it's adding time that will allow you to reclaim time later.  However, they are essential parts in the whole process in that they give attention to a great deal of the smaller facets of life that do drain or chip away at our time.  In the next part, I will explore specific ways that I either play with time or reorganize life to reclaim time.

Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Defaults and Cues for Improving Life

Humans are creatures of habit; blame it on our need to feed (refuel) or need to sleep (recharge), but we regularly find ourselves set in our ways of how we go about things, how we see things, and how we resolve things.  This can be good when we establish habits that are good and beneficial to our health, relationships  and work.  However, it can also be detrimental when we form habits that negatively impact our health, relationships, and work.  A part of my life has been trying to improve upon the more problematic or unhealthy habits I've accumulated along the way through circumstance, accident, or overindulgence.

There are two great strategies that I've found to help me make reasonable changes that direct me towards more healthy habits without a lot of internal struggle or relapse into bad habits.  They work well with redirecting my energies and thoughts, enabling me to make the better choices more often than the bad choices (which is what it's all about, no?). 

Strategy #1:  Defaults

Dan Arielly has me thinking lots about default settings.  In the chart below, he examines the difference in organ donor rates among different European countries. As can be seen by the chart, countries are either extremely high or extremely low in their capacity to donate organs.  The reasoning for this is that the countries with low organ donor rates sets the default as "not a donor" whereas the countries with a high organ donor rate sets the default as "donor".  Because it is a default--not necessarily because people are more ethically dedicated to their fellow humans in those countries.

That's not entirely surprising for some.  After all, companies all the time create the a service the default (e.g. automatic renewal, monthly subscriptions, etc) and make opting out a required conscious (and often tedious) act.  However, it can be used to help one reorganize and refocus one's efforts.  Thus I have spent a good deal (and continue to do so) creating beneficial defaults for my life that produce healthier and more rewarding results.
No passivity while watching TV

In hindsight, creating and using a standing desk at both home and work was one such default.  I changed the default of sitting around to standing around.  In my life, this idea continued to grow until I fundamentally changed my living room into an activity room.  Between standing desk, treadmill, and spin bike, if I'm inclined to watch TV, I'm inclined to be active.  If I want to sit down and watch TV, then I have to consciously move a chair around to do so.   This has significantly changed my level of activity and screen time.  I still enjoy watching films or TV shows but rarely do I just sit in front of the TV And to be clear, I understand the reason for wanting to just do that (sit and watch TV), but many of us create that as the default and probably do way more of it than we want--many is the time that people share with me how much time they waste watching TV or ask me how I do so much.  Some of it is just that I don't let the time-suck that can be sitting in front of the TV consume my hours.  

Notice with both chairs, to use
them for TV, requires
a conscious act.
Similarly to this, I have purposely made my bedroom a TV-free room.  I have plenty of books in my bedroom and ample lighting, but no TV.  Electronics are for other rooms, my bedroom is for sleeping and reading.  In that way, it gives me a distraction-free zone to enjoy and get lost in a good book.

There are many other defaults that I set.  The book Mindless Eating pushed me to reset certain defaults in my kitchen, including getting smaller dishes for my meals.  They recommend smaller cups as well, but since all I ever have in refrigerator for drink is coffee, tea (home-brewed), and water, I'm less inclined to follow that recommendation.  However, if you are someone drinking other types of calorie-heavy beverages, it might also be a consideration.

I still want my treats;
but the giant back is too inviting
The "snack-size" version now popular in many grocery stores is a great idea for setting a size default, but I had trouble with the environmental side effect of wasting all that extra packaging so regularly.  My solution to this was to buy the large bin worth, open it up, and break it into small reusable plastic contains.  (and depending on the snack, rewashing after every use isn't always necessary.  This way I can have my sweets or less healthy snacks but not necessarily overindulge as a large contain would lend me to do.
Morning routines can sometimes be hard to get into and I find that if my default is to set my clothes out the night before along with my meal for work and my breakfast (by set out, I mean prepare enough so that the bare minimum is needed, e.g. add liquid, microwave, or just open), it makes getting up much smoother.  The major blockades have been dealt with and it's just about acclimating to the new day.  This can work particularly well if you want to try to go to gym or work out in the morning; pack the back the night before and there's less to argue against in the morning.

Strategy 2:  Cues

Cues are a great mechanism to get remind you to do something.  We use cues all the time.  Traffic signs are cues.  The classic string around the finger is a cue.  I've collected a handful of useful cues that help me better keep focus and organize my life.

The most promising cue that has worked for me is being vegetarian.  I became vegetarian for health, environmental, and ethical reasons, but at the end of the day, it's mostly about the health impact.  Being vegetarian means that I do have to make conscious decisions about what to eat.  Given that we are a meat-centric society (want proof--go into a restaurant--what's the ratio of meat to meatless meals?), by saying that I won't eat meat means I have to consciously think about what I am eating.  In doing so, this acts as a cue to pay attention to what I'm eating.  That in turn makes me do better (more often than not, at least) in making sure I eat a reasonable amount of food and not necessarily overeat or mindlessly eat when I'm not actually hungry.

Other cues that work well for me is where I place my work bag at night.  Different days determine different things to throw in the bag and sometimes some of those things are still linked/charging on my computer or may be what I'm reading before going to bed.  Regardless, at night, I place my bag either at my desk or by the door.  If I place it by the door, that cue tells me it is ready to go.  If the bag is by the desk, it tells me I still need to put stuff in it.  My water canteen cues me to regularly drink water.  I always try to carry it on me and when I do, I'm prone to drink and refill it twice a day or more (upwards of 80-120 oz).

Finally, I use (ok, abuse) my Google Calendar to help generate cues for different things to do around the apartment.  I can fill up my calendar with regular reminders about the different things that need regular doing (e.g. changing the litter box, washing the sheets, etc)--habitual things that I will forget at times (that is, forget exactly when I did them last) and can use some consistent cues to keep me on track.  These calendar events will be sent as reminders to me in my email or cellphone, making it much easier for me to stay on top of life and the regular needed chores.

Recommended Reading

The following books have proved helpful in getting me to come up with these ideas.
  • The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone--Especially Ourselves by Dan Ariely
  • Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults & Swallow Citizens Whole by Benjamin R. Barber 
  • Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior by Ori Brafman
  • Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work by Matthew Crawford
  • The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
  • Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath
  • Mindfulness by Ellen Langer
  • Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer
  • Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina
  • Wait: The Art and Science of Delay by Frank Partnoy
  • Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink
  • Food Rules: An Eater's Manual by Michael Pollan
  • In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan
  • Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture by Ellen Ruppel Shell
  • Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky
  • The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki
  • Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink

What kind of defaults and cues do you use to help organize your life and keep sane (or partially sane)?

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