Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Pareto Effect

Today I am paying lip service to what is called the Pareto effect or the 80/20 rule. This is an important rule that took me a few months to properly grasp. The gist of the 80/20 rule is that 20% of an input is responsible for 80% of the output. What Pareto noticed was that 20% of the people in Italy own 80% of the wealth. This was similar to all the countries at the time. Moreover, 80/20 is the minimum. The ratio ranges to 95/5 and even 99/1.

What's important is that the things you do have disproportionate results. Ceterus paribus, a hour of work can achieve more depending on what you are working on. Look for the important, high-yielding work and avoid monotonous drone work (or skim through it as quickly as possible). Ignore the minutiae and look for things that pull the most weight.

From my experience, this is much easier than said than done. I learned about about a year ago and have recently gotten the hang of it.

The biggest obstacle for me was dealing with that tiny voice that says, "what are you doing?! you won't be prepared if you don't do x,y,z." Once you take the leap though, it's all downhill from there. Just sit back, watch you're productivity skyrocket, and find something to do with your new found time.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Find your yoda; find your guide

Today I've begun a quest. A quest towards financial freedom: I'm going to start an online business. Here's the thing, I have no idea where to start and it is honestly terrifying.

Here's what I did: I ate a cinnamon chip scone because it is a guilty pleasure and then I
brainstormed who I knew that might help. I ended up calling up a for a lack of a better word "mentor." It was this guy I met at a random seminar. Sounds sketchy and it was, but the fates decided that meet him and glad that I did. I haven't talked to him in about 6 months and out of the blue I give him a calls and sends me in several directions. We're meeting up next week to brainstorm and discuss the leads he suggested. Where would I be without him? Possibly on my 4th scone.

What I'm trying to say is that there is no such thing as a self-made man. It is always through circumstances and lucky breaks. This is not as difficult as you may think. You have to put yourself out then and keep your mind open. Remember, it's easier to learn than to invent. So seek out that guidance for whatever path you may desire. You'll never know who'll end up as your mentor.

Having a mentor is incredibly important. I can't emphasize this enough. It's like seeing from the ground versus seeing atop the shoulders of a 20 foot giant. This took me an incredibly long time to realize and I want you to gain from my ignorance. See keep your eyes and heart open and you just might find your yoda.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Parkinson's law

Isn't it weird how some days you're able to cram god's know how much work and other days you have difficulty driving to the store a few bits of groceries?

Enter Parkinson's law: Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

Basically, the work and motivaton devoted to a certain project is related to the time you give it. If you give something really easy a long deadline, it's unlikely it'll happen anytime soon. On the other hand, if you give a large project a short leash, you'll be surprised at what can be done.

If given an uncomfortably short time for a project, you'll do just what's necessary to complete it with little to no drop in performance. If given a long time, you'll start dwelling on the minutiae.

The takeaway is to be okay with "good enough." You don't need to be perfect and it'll most likely have the same result as if it were. I've given this law a few go's and it hasn't let me down yet.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Being in the moment

For the past few days, my mind has been distracted: I can't concentrate and my thoughts keep running around in circles in my mind. With all the stresses and occurrences in our lives, it is easy to be jumping around, chasing any endless number of agendas.

The solution is both simply, yet difficult: be in the moment.

With our american society, we are groomed to be working forward, planning, thinking about tomorrow, moving from project to project. It can get a little overwhelming.

What's more is that this splintered mentality will distract you to the point where it adversely affects your work. Have you ever tried typing while having a conversation? It's terrible.

What I suggest is that we take the time to really be conscious of what we are doing at the present moment.

The action is simply, but it takes practice. As with all things, "being in the moment" gets easier as you continue with it.

For me, the easier way try it is through chores or routines. By doing some menial task, it gives your mind the ability to drift. The goal of this exercise is to stay in the moment. Focus on your breath, the motions, movement. Really immerse yourself in the action. Notice what's around you and what your body is doing. As you stay in the now, it gets easier and easier.

From there, you can move to larger project. For me, I noticed that my finished work would be of higher quality. Not only did I have better quality work, I felt more at ease and less pressured and stressed. The key is not scrambling for the next thing, yet also not sitting around or moving slowly. Move with the flow of your energy.

Quiet your mind. Focus on the present. See the results.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Importance of Rest

In our current society, we are driven to do all that we can. None of us are strangers to those all nighter work sessions, drinking enough caffeine to power a small country.

This post I wanted to talk a little about something that is often under appreciated: Rest

We live in a crazed world that has us always doing something. hacking away at some large project. One always thinks that there just isn't enough time in the day. Here's the thing, there definitely is enough time. We only have to gain it back. The first step is resting your mind and body after a day's work and labor.

By getting more rest, we are more focused and active in the waking hours to accomplish more.

People seem to be stuck in a work-by-volume mentality (How much work can I do) as opposed to work-by-effort (how productive can I be?). We can spend a few hours of working late at night or finish the same amount of work in less time. Seems like a magic bullet, and it sort of is. We just have to change our perspective from quantity to quality. Easier said than done.

As the cliche goes, a thousand mile journey begins with one step.

So step one: get more rest, so we can be more awake, focused, and productive, which will make us a happier bunch of people. The difference in attitude and energy was enough for me to make this transition.

Friday, March 26, 2010

How to simplify your stuff in two steps

From a minimalist standpoint, past year has been a radical change for me. I've gotten rid of so much stuff and now I would dread having to go back to a stuff accumulated lifestyle (I did not see that one coming). Getting rid of your things is one of the most freeing experiences you can imagine. The caveat is that it can also very emotion laden.

Many times I would hesitate, holding an object in my hand, just trying to rationalize and find some pseudo-excuse to keep it. This process was long and arduous, but most fell by way of the donation bin.

Here are the guidelines I've used to boil down to what I need:
Before you start clearing up your clutter, have two bins: a trash bin and a donate/sell bin.

1) Trash the obvious. We see those scraps of papers lying around, wrappers of what-not's, things that clearly should be in the trash can but are not. These things are the easiest to get rid of.

2) Out with the old. You ever had that article of clothing that just took up space under the delusion that you might where it? I have these neon orange vest, which keeps me so warm during the winter time. I've had it for three years and have worn it about 10 times. I had to be honest with myself and placed it in the donation bin.

A good rule of thumb is to think "will I use this within three months?"
If not, get rid of it. Sell it or donate it.

The key to this is that you have to be ruthless. There is no "what if's," "maybe's," or "just in case's." Either you use it or you don't.

From these two steps, it's just a matter of pushing your comfort zone and seeing what is really "necessary." This process is really great if you plan on any extended traveling.

This may seem easy, but it is a tough cookie. I'm still in the midst of culling what I own. Good luck and congrats to any aspiring minimalists who are willing to take first steps

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fun (in a way) Firefox add-on

Have you ever been in the middle of doing something and you get that sudden urge to check out facebook or find fun movies on youtube? I definitely have. It completely ruins whatever work zen I have.

Then I found LeechBlock. It's this program that blocks a set of websites for a select period of time. When I first tried this program, the novelty was amusing. I would go to a site and get redirected to a page that prevented me from facebook, textsfromlastnight, etc. Then I was frustrated, I couldn't do the things I wanted to do. What about that music video I've been rolling around in my head? How am I supposed to play it? Weird thing was that I realized I would always try to go to one of my "killing time" sites whenever I was about to tackle a hunk of work. The sub-conscious can be a crafty saboteur.

Suffice it to say, my results per hour multiplied. Once I would get over these bumps, where before I would surf around to avoid them, I was able to get into the zone and crank out a sizable bit of work.

So whenever I have a hefty bit of work to do, I always turn to LeechBlock. Try it out, see what you think.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Being safe vs being smart

When we were growing up, our parents were always concerned for our well-being. With our best interest in mind, our parents said to us things like "be careful" or "you're going to hurt yourself." What they indirectly said (and unknowingly) is that we are not capable enough. Say that enough time, and eventually we'll start believing it.

From this comes the common mentality of being safe. "gotta play it safe." Albert Einstein once said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So many people play it safe. While you worth risk a lot, you don't gain either. If you want to live a different lifestyle from everyone else, you must do things differently. Remember there's a difference between being smart and being safe. Think about it.

There's a difference between being safe and being smart

Being safe means not taking risks and not gaining anything
Being smart is making calculated risks to make appreciable gains.

One is certainly more comfortable than the other, but the other will help you realize your dreams.

Which would you rather be?

Battle clutter, be more organized, free your space

Whenever I think of space, I think of Star Wars, the Space Oddesey or some futuristic Sci-fi movie. This just could be because I'm a dork at heart. Regardless, it is an important subject that I feel is worth discussing.

One thing that we take for granted is that space is finite. You only have a finite amount of space in your home. We always think that it's okay if maybe a few things move to the living room or on the counter of the bathroom. Next thing we know, there's a pile of clothes on the floor of the bathroom and a litter of papers all over the desk. This is actually an issue that I'm currently addressing with my life.

Confession time: Let me first say that I've had a very comfortable childhood. My mother would always clean after me and as I grew older, I had this magical ability to remember where everything is, despite my room looking like a pig sty. Both of these caused my room to be in a constant mess. Despite my mother telling me the room was disorganized, I was able to grab anything from my room that she asked for in a moment's notice. My system was perfect.

Enter college. My first semester at college, I didn't have a roommate. I had two. Suffice it to say, my skills of organization or lack there of lead me to organization issues with one of my roommates, who was OCD (at least in my mind he was). In addition to that, the tumultuous nature of college (read: partying and alcohol) led me to hit rock bottom in the realm of organization. It came to a point that the only way to move around the room was to jump around between patches of cleared ground. I learned a lot about organization in the past few years, with the help and prodding of my roommates.

My all of years of actively learning how to organize, the MOST effective way of being organized is simply having less stuff. By having less stuff, it is easier to organize and you'll be more likely to know where it is. Less stuff means one or two things: less clutter or less energy maintaining your things...possibly both.

A common thought is "I already have it, might as well keep it...there's no point in tossing's not doing any harm."

This is how I thought for a while, but I've realized we only have a finite amount of space and while excess stuff is collecting dust, it is also taking up space for something else and even hinder that sense of freedom and free space.

the size of the average American house as doubled since the 1950's. Think about how much extra stuff we have. The storage industry rakes in 20 billion dollars (that's $20,000,000,000, which is a lot of zeros) in revenue.

There's so many benefits to being minimalist:
less clutter
more spending money on things you really care about
more time, since you no longer are looking for stuff
a sense of freedom
a more calming environment
and so much more

I leave this post with a challenge. I challenge you to try the minimalist lifestyle just to see what it's like. If it's not your cup of tea, totally fine. You can't live like you did before previously. I tried it as an experiment and have been hooked ever since.

Just in Case...Always around the Corner

Whenever i pack to go somewhere, I always think to myself, "I suppose I'll bring this...just in case." It's the same everywhere I go, there's this nagging Just-In-Case monkey hanging on my back. When I buy something, I think, "Just in case..." When I am hesitant on tossing or giving something away, I think, "Just in case..."

How often do we think, "I'm glad I saved that?" If you're anything like me, it happens once in a while, but what if we compare it to all the times we think, "just in case?" Chances are there's a lot of things you have and a very few things you end up using.

Taking an neutral perspective on things, we seem to have more things than we actually need. The thing about being minimalist is that you must be ruthless. The cost of clutter, being disorganized, and things taking up space simply do not outweigh the benefits these rare occurrences in which you might need this one item.

Isn't the cost of buying something that you will probably use once or twice (and it'd be cheaper and more environmental if you bought it used!) worth the amount of space it would free up in your life? that's just one less thing to worry about.


For the past few months, I have been working hard on becoming minimalist. The major catalyst for occurred last summer, when I subletting with a friend. Moving from my apartment to my friend's place, I had access to two cars (Mine and my friends). This short summer opened my eyes to a lot of things. I read this amazing book on personal finance called "I Will Teach You to be Rich," which snowballed into an epic battle for my financial freedom.

During the summer of 2009, I made it a point to get rid of things that would weigh me down; I got rid of half of my clothes, as well as a multitude of accessories that I realized I was simply lugging around.

This was an emotionally tough thing to do. I identified myself with so much of my stuff; I can still remember how sad I was when i gave away my speakers (although now I never miss it). Yet through this trying period, I felt so much more free. By the end of the summer, I used only my car to move everything that I owned back to my campus apartment.

One of the best things about moving is that you always leave stuff behind. I savor the shedding of an old skin. It is like almost becoming a new person and it kind of it when you look at it. Your things help differentiate you from other people. By having a different set of things, you are creating a different "identity."

Since then I've been in a constant uphill battle: a minimalist rebel in a consumerism society. I invite you to try a different type of living: a life where one accumulates not things, but experiences. A minimalist lifestyle



My name is David. I'm a senior at Emory University and this blog is a place where I plan on writing my thoughts and by sharing it, I'll hopefully add some value to your lives.