"At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want."
- Lao Tzu
Why I Blog And Why Should You Care

April 27, 2009

Be Better Than You Were Yesterday

Image by SukiSuki

First things first, a couple of changes around here.

#1 - I've got a sexy new masthead up top - I put it together myself in less than 15 minutes using one of my favorite pictures and a bit of Photoshop.

(BTW: I actually used my home office as I said I would from the previous post. )

#2 - This blog is now ad free baby!. I was thinking about this the other night - I have a handful of sites/blogs that I run which have ads in them, this blog is more of a personal one and I feel that it somehow cheapens what I'm trying to accomplish by randomly selling other people's stuff. Don't get me wrong - It's not that I will never put any ads on this page again but if I were to include them, it's to promote items that I really feel will benefit others with similar pursuits as I do.

Now that all of that is out of the way let's move on shall we?

It's Monday, and I usually jabber on about work-related stuff, today not excluded.

I've never worked so hard in the last week - My day job work hours have been brutally long and draining. I come home, eat a late supper, spend a bit of time with the family and off to bed. I'm lucky if I have the energy to check emails and work on my business. So I really have to maximize every free time available into my "project".

Regardless, I think I've made some really good progress. I just know the way I work, I can be really intense and want to put everything I have into something and I like to see results. I can be really overcritical on myself since I tend to be a perfectionist.

The good thing is that I came into a realization the other day: every single task accomplished no matter how small is a contribution to the bigger picture.

(I know, it's so ridiculously simple but so easy to forget)

Today I have one particular task that I will finish in 2 hours. That is the deadline I'm giving myself. 2 hours - no distractions, no breaks, no excuses.

Because after that it's time for other things. Non-business type things. Things that keep me grounded and sane. I constantly have to remind myself of the whole work/life balance too. You can add workaholic to my list of issues to cope with.

Be Better Than You Were Yesterday
My blog post title has been my personal mantra for the last week. Always strive to be better. Whatever that means to you. Give it your own definition. It's your life after all, you can do anything you want with it just don't waste it.

"Hello, I'm Your Muse, Why Have You Been Ignoring Me?"
There's a storm coming...
It's dark and gloomy outside, severe thunderstorm warnings with heavy winds.
But I love it when it rains.

Sometimes when you're working on something you're really passionate and excited about you try so hard to shape and mold it into what you originally envisioned in your head. When I use to make a living drawing and designing stuff for other people I would often get lost in that zone where the intensity of it all makes you forget, before I knew it I was running on autopilot. That happens for a few hours then I pull back from the work itself and see the end product. And it came to me that this thing I'm working on has taken a life of its own along the way and was just helping me get it down on paper. At best that's what I loved about the visual arts.

Well, with my current business pursuit the same is starting to happen again. No matter how much I'd fight it, this idea would keep coming up. I have other ideas that seem like better options at the time but this particular one had a way of making a reappearance. Before you know it I'm building upon that idea and expanding on it. So rather than fight it I'm going with the flow.

(A lot of topics covered in today's post, that should give you an idea of what goes on in my head most of the day. )

So there you go, go do something amazingly awesome today.
Hey you, yeah you there, the one reading this: If you liked/loved this post (or even just mildly tolerate it) could you kindly subscribe to it, stumble it, digg it, tweet it, link to it, puree and make a power smoothee out of it and share it with the rest of the internets please. Thanks a bunch. You rock.

April 20, 2009

Wasted space: home office

So today I'm gonna be chatting about wasted space. I think everyone's got one in their home.

I do.

I've got a home office upstairs - it was well-used at one point. Now I'm hardly ever in there to do work. I'm usually downstairs with the laptop sitting at the kitchen table. I used to pretty much live in that hole back in my freelance illustrator days. Now it's a place for the kids to hang out cos I've got a game table in there and an entertainment system, not to mention some autographed collectibles (movie paraphernalia, action figures - no wonder they misconstrue it as a "game room"). It's a total shame I don't hang out there more often to write or to just chill out and brainstorm ideas. I mean it's got a kick-ass view and everything. Aside from a few boxes of clutter it's a great work space. I've done a ridiculously large amount of work there so why not now? I have no frakking clue.

So no excuses, I gotta get back on that workhorse...

  1. I need to keep it tidy. I'm a bit of neat freak so any visible clutter creates a mental clutter for me. Right now its not too bad, just a little dusty, aside from a couple of boxes that need to be thrown out it's good to go.
  2. Set aside time for work. I already do this anyway for my business no matter how tired I am so it shouldn't be difficult, I just need to move my location to the actual home office space AKA "the lair".
  3. Inspire yourself. I keep stuff on display that keep me inspired and get the creative juices flowing. I do need to improve on this further. I don't have enough photos of my family in my office (not intentional of course), that needs to change. I've also designed something in photoshop - nothing fancy, it contains my life goals, I need to frame that up as a reminder to keep pushing forward.
  4. Set up an outdoor extension of my office. This is a big plus - I have a door that leads to an outdoor deck right outside of my lair- great view, quiet, you can see for miles, definitely inspiring. I'll have to get in the habit of working there too.
  5. I need a better work chair. The one I have is terrible for the back. Not comfy at all.

That's a start at least. As I've mentioned in previous post, I'm slowly working on the house one section at a time. We've amassed tons of stuff from combining households and we're slowly paring things down. We've donated a lot, sold a few and there's quite a bit more to go.

I'm taking the rest of the day off and catch up on my reading and writing. Take it easy.

Image from: freedigitalphotos


Hey you, yeah you there, the one reading this: If you liked/loved this post (or even just mildly tolerate it) could you kindly subscribe to it, stumble it, digg it, tweet it, link to it, puree and make a power smoothee out of it and share it with the rest of the internets please. Thanks a bunch. You rock.

April 17, 2009

The Week, The Biz, The Blog

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos

The Week:

It's Friday and I usually post about frugality and all that good stuff but I simply don't feel like writing about that so there. It hasn't been the most frugal of weeks anyway. We saved some and spent some. We ate out several times this week since our work schedules were just as hectic as can be. I'm not about to go home and cook a meal after working a 12-14 hour shift, and I certainly don't expect my dear spouse to do the same so it was better to go eat out and try to spend some time together that way. We had a meal at our favorite local 24 hour diner one night and the next day we ate at an Italian restaurant.

We also had our little puppy spayed this week but didn't have to pay for the procedure: it's part of the perks of having a partner-in-crime who works for the animal care industry. That saved us approx. $300

I've caught up on all the Hell's Kitchen episodes I've missed and I got to watch last night's ep. so I'm stoked. (I'm a nerd for that show). Speaking of nerds, we still have to catch up on our Heroes episodes though. I've missed the last few weeks. That's as much TV as we watch these days, we have a long queue list on Netflix for "instant play" movies, which we usually watch on our movie date nights.

The Biz:
Aside from the day job I've been dedicating lots of time into working on my business - it's been good so far but there's aspects of it that needs fine tuning. It's definitely still in its baby stages but the things I've implemented so far has been working out. I definitely feel like I'm going the right direction on this so I'm pleased overall.

My partner's business has grown exponentially since it was started a few years back. I'm helping her on her site, promotion and marketing in preparation for a relaunch (I haven't been able to give as much behind the scenes support this year) - she's also refining her business structure and model, she's had her share of clients that she can do without and I feel for her - she works so hard and genuinely wants to help people out but she's been burnt more than once.

The Blog:
I have many projects scattered about on the internet. Some sites I make extra money on and some are still too new but certainly have potential. This is my personal blog just to document everything that's going on. It's mostly for myself but I love making connections with people so the more the merrier.

The scheduled post to the right is a rough guide for me to keep myself on track but I find that often times I just want to write because I have this idea or something I just read or heard just made a significant impression on me. So expect more random posts around here. I'm also putting together a proper masthead for the top of this blog. I refuse to get over-complicated with the design and layout (I tend to do that having a background in technology and design). All that tedious work just takes away from the purpose of this blog which is to document my progress on "MY lifestyle design" and focus on writing and connecting with people.

I feel like I'm leaving a lot of things out right now but I'm typing this as fast as my fingers would go while the brain is going 5 times as fast, I'm sure I'll revisit this subject in the near future but that's all I've got for now.

Hey you, yeah you there, the one reading this:
If you liked/loved this post (or even just mildly tolerate it) could you kindly stumble it, digg it, tweet it, link to it, puree and make a power smoothee out of it and share it with the rest of the internets please. Thanks a bunch. You rock.

April 10, 2009

Solar powered anything is sexy

Another long work week gone. There were a few days this week where the weather was absolutely gorgeous during the day and at night we've had unbelievably clear evenings where the moon just seemed 3 times as large and 5 times as close and all the stars were twice as bright.

Gorgeous days and vivid nights: and what was I doing during? Inside a building working.

Regardless, I am thankful for all that I have. But I'm working on something bigger.
I have a couple of days off so I'm using it to my advantage by getting as much done as possible on my to-do list. I'm dedicating a significant amount of that time to work on my side projects.

Speaking of projects, we've been working on significantly reducing the amount of electricity we use around our little lake house. It's that time of the year where I go full-force on home improvement/home repairs.

But anyway, last fall I installed a storm door. This was my first major DIY effort and I'm pretty proud of it. We shopped around for one that had the sliding glass that we could open or shut. Between that and our sliding glass door (with a second screen door) by the dining area we're able to have a pretty good air flow in the main living area of the first floor.

Our winters here aren't that bad but heating bills can definitely add up. We have a pretty drafty older home with floor to ceiling windows in certain areas so we put up heavy paneled curtains to keep some of the draft away.

Our outdoor lighting is solar powered. We have a modest sized yard and a decent sized patio so I've set up the light to mainly focus on our outdoor living area. The deck is the main focus and the stairs leading to the yard is second. We have the standard solar powered stakes for our landscaping. We have a couple of solar spotlights to highlight certain areas. (I didn't spend a lot of money for any of these either)

A couple of things I'll be getting soon:
A solar powered lantern that I can either hang or mount for the front door entryway area.
A solar powered decorative lights for the deck.

Were also big on candles around here. We have tons of candles and candle sets. We received a couple of candle sets for Christmas (the ones that come with stones and sets up in a big bowl type stand). We have one on the patio table and one on the outdoor bar. And that's just on the outside! It definitely adds a more soothing and zen-like ambience.

We have a covered deck (not fully enclosed) so during the summers it gets pretty toasty. We've added some larger potted plants in the mix and a shoji-type screen for outdoors to help shield us from the sun.

So some ways to save money at home:
  1. Install storm doors.
  2. Go solar.
  3. Use candles (candles are sexy)
  4. Use plants and screens (not just a decorative element)
Of course I've done the other energy saving basics such as:
  1. Use CFL bulbs
  2. Use power strips for appliances - easier to turn everything off and unplug because electronics and appliances continue to eat up electricity even when turned off
  3. Use washer/dryer efficiently - I do my laundry in big batches one right after another instead of doing a little now and a little later.
I track my carbon footprint over at EarthLab. I'm not obsessed with it but I do make an effort. You can sign up for a free account and it helps you calculate your carbon footprint and make pledges to reduce it.

I just read this story about a guy who made a solar powered oven for $5

I'm outta here guys, I've got lotsa stuff to do!

April 6, 2009

Productivity Tip Of The Day: Do Nothing

I'm sitting here trying to figure out what to write...my mind is drifting off 10 other directions and my body feels as if I have been beaten down during my sleep. I've worked at the day job the last 4 days. I vaguely remember having a day off midweek last week, it went by so fast. I've felt this kind of bogged down feeling before: the seedlings of burn-out.

As I have my morning coffee and try to enjoy my quiet time for writing, my mobile phone rings - it's work trying to see if I can cover for someone. That was an easy decision.

As craptastic as I feel this morning I continue work with my "side projects". It's not really work to me because I enjoy writing. I always make time for writing and I'm a notorious note taker and a doodler. I usually have a notepad or notebook with me wherever I go.

I just finished an article I started last night and now I'm working on Monday's blog post. Since I usually cover work-related topics on Monday I figured the topic of burning out is a good one to work on today. The last time I experienced burn out was almost 2 years ago. I experienced fatigue, depression, had a short temper and became completely unmotivated to do anything. Once I got out of that funk I was determined to never have to go through that ordeal again. So when the first signs of it crop up I'm quick to nip it in the bud.

Things to do when you start experiencing mini-burn out symptoms:
  1. Do Nothing. This is my favorite one out of the list just because it's so simple yet difficult for me because I'm a workaholic and I feel guilty if I do nothing, but it works. Just take a day off. Don't do any chores, don't run any errands. Be a lazy slug all day,you've earned it. Stay in your PJs and watch movies (or in my case catch up on Dr. Who episodes and play Guitar Hero). It's ok to veg out, really.
  2. Take A Nap. Sometimes you feel like utter crud because your body is telling you that it needs more rest. I personally love naps so any excuse to take one is good. My mom used to always tell me that "your body is your temple", it's difficult to live a balanced life when you neglect your own needs.
  3. Read a book. Catch up on reading that pile of books stacked up on your coffee table. It's a healthy form of escapism.
  4. Take A Walk. It's always a good way to fit in exercise and it also clears my head.
  5. Blog About It. Sometimes it helps to get it off your chest. Once you see it written down you acknowledge that it's there. You don't try to make excuses about how you're not burning out, you're just tired.
  6. Plan On Taking A Vacation Soon. If you have time-off available go ahead and start planning a vacation date. Don't wait until the symptoms get worse to take action.
So there. Screw productivity for once and just do nothing. This is the short list of what works for me. Feel free to leave comments about how you cope with mini burn outs.

April 4, 2009

My Older House Can Beat Up Your Brand New House

Check out my million dollar home! It has a great view of the lake, I have no yard, it looks just like the neighbor's house and speaking of neighbors I can see him lounging around with no shirt on...Isn't this great?!

I was scanning the local newspaper (more like a newsletter actually) this morning and read an article about how home builders have seen more business than usual in this area in particular. Within the 2 years that we've been here we've certainly seen a lot of development with brand new and overpriced homes. The price range is usually half a million and up. When I drive past some of these homes on my way to work every morning I wonder if theses people know that they're getting suckered. Most of the houses are 10 paces away from each other. You are literally on top of your neighbor.

In the meantime there's a lot of already existing homes for sale around here for 1/3 and 1/4 of the price. Maybe it's just me, but I don't get why someone would spend so much on something that doesn't even have ample land for privacy. Plus there's something about older houses - maybe the charm, the history of it, the way it already has a story and you're adding on to it. Older homes tend to be not made of the cookie cutter models either.

Another thing I gripe about in terms of home ownership is the actual size of houses being built. I understand having large families, I come from one. Still, is all that square footage really necessary? How much of that house will actually be used? We have an 1800 square foot home and it's plenty of space for our family. Sometimes it even seems too much. We do have plans of getting some acreage (5-10 at least acres ) in a few years maybe with an old house that we can work on while we use the current one as a vacation home and a rental when we're not using it (we get a lot of vacationers here). I think those sustainable prefab homes are pretty awesome.

A couple of articles related to the topic:
Home Prices Falling
National Average Home Size Decreasing

April 1, 2009

All Fired Up: Focus, Mind Mapping and Obsession

M.I.A. for the last few days
I've been a baaad, baaad blogger. I've missed a couple of scheduled posts. This is what happens when you enjoy life too much. We had the kids this weekend and made the most of it. It was a blast. I grilled some steaks and we had a family dinner. Played a little bit of Wizardology: The Game (totally addicting by the way and has beautiful game pieces). Definitely good times. Exhausting due to the travel back and forth but it was fun.

So by the time I've had a couple of hours of free time to work on my side projects my mind was buzzing and pulling me in all sorts of directions. I've been almost obsessed with these projects of mine, and I'm definitely stoked about the entire process. Especially when I know I can make it work and when it does (not "if" but "when"), this means I'll have more time to spend with my family. Time to do a little more traveling. Time to start painting again. Time to take up photography. Time to write. Time to help out others.

Focus and Mind Mapping
It was around 10pm 2 nights ago that I was trying to play catch up and it got a little bit overwhelming - the ideas just would not stop. I definitely lacked focus. I finally had to get up and walk away and reevaluate what it is I'm trying to accomplish. I decided to try out a mind mapping tool. I found several that looked like something that I'd be able to utilize but I found one in particular that I like.

It's free and easy to use. You can embed it on your site/blog and you can even print it out. The one thing that made me chose this app in particular is that it's quite visual. The others I've found seemed little dull. After awhile it just looked like a bunch of random text on a page. This mind mapper is color coded. And best of all it's SIMPLE.

I'm currently using this to organize my thoughts on how to better run my projects. This way I can cut down on time spent with each (I have about 3-4 right now). This should definitely improve my productivity level.

I'm a workaholic. There I said it. I've become quite a good employee at the day job. Recently I've qualified to receive bonuses based on my performance. I'd like to keep this up since it means extra money for savings which definitely helps. I'm also a workaholic with my own business endeavours AKA my projects. Actually, obsessive is a better adjective. I think it's an important component to being a self-starter. Especially when all you have is your own motivation to get you through the early stages. When you just worked a long shift and you get home and all you want to do is catch up on sleep because you have to do it all over again the next day - obsession and passion enables you to dedicate just an hour or two on that special project of yours. Because you know that those 2 hours brings you a little closer to attaining your goals. At the end of the day you are physically and mentally exhausted, yet excited about what you can get done and the new things you can learn tomorrow.

It's your turn:
How do you get yourself to focus on one thing?
Favorite productivity tools (mind mapping and other)?
What is your obsession?
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