Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Do It Right the First Time

Sweeping the floor.  It's a pretty straight-forward task, in my opinion.  You either get the stuff off the floor or you don't. Pretty clear cut.

One of my kids (I've been learning a lot from my kids these days) hates (I mean, REALLY HATES) sweeping the floor.  I don't blame them, it's not my favorite task, either.  Their turn to sweep the floor came up today, and as they started, I noticed a little carelessness in the first few broom-strokes.  I saw a few things get missed.  Big things that shouldn't get missed (a napkin and a flip-flop!). I took a moment to put aside my "requirement" that these things should be obvious (see previous post, Requirements of the World), and I calmly, supportively explained that if you spend a little extra time and care the first time you do this (and any other) task, you only have to do it once, and that is way better than having to do this chore that you loathe more than once.  I did not immediately inspect it, but I walked through the kitchen a while later and stepped on some stuff that should have been easily caught in a thorough sweeping.  (Even in a not so thorough sweeping, but I digress.) So I called this child back into the kitchen to redo the work.

As I reflected on how it would have been so much easier on them if they had done the task right the first time, I thought about how often I find myself in the same boat.  There are things like this in all aspects of my life.  Things that I don't give proper attention to, or I don't devote enough time to.  I end up having to redo them at a less convenient time, or in a more rigid schedule (due to procrastination, for example). It's just harder when you do it this way.

No, there isn't a specific instance in my life that is currently making me think about this, but it happens all the time.  I really should do a better job at doing things right the first time.  Maybe then I could really pass that wisdom on through my example to my kids, rather than telling them one thing and then doing something different.

I think it was Joseph Fielding Smith that said "Do it! Do it right! Do it right now!"  Good words to live by.

One day I'll get it.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Requirements of the World

My work is currently putting each of its employees through a training course that talks about how to deal with stress.  Sounds thrilling, right?

This is a little different than what I was expecting when I first heard about it, and I've actually learned a thing or two.  The main thing they try to drill into you with this training is that your brain has essentially 2 levels of functioning.  One is sort of the natural functioning, and the other, they call the "Identity System" or "I-System".  You are either in one or the other.  When your I-System is active, the idea is that your mind sort of disconnects from your body, which causes you body tension.  In the midst of this, the mind starts to spin, ultimately preventing you from putting your main focus on what it should be on.

One thing that I really like about this training is that external stress does not equal inner distress.  No matter what is happening around you, hopefully you learn the tools to keep internal distress to a minimum regardless of the external situations you find yourself in.

All that aside, they talk about one thing that activates your I-System is what they have termed "requirements".  In this context, a requirement is one of those things that your mind thinks should happen in your world.  For example, if you find yourself driving down the road, and you're late for work, you get really frustrated when every light turns red, or another driver is driving "irrationally" slow.  In other words, your requirement of the world is that traffic should move out of your way and you should only hit green lights, especially when you are running late.

Sometimes, requirements can be good, and even important things.  For example, I have a requirement that my kids don't run out in the street in front of cars.  Rhoda and I have put this rule in place to keep our children safe.  However, as much as I teach my kids these kinds of rules, it is ultimately up to them to follow them.  Another good example of this is that I have a requirement that Josh (my oldest) doesn't eat any peanuts, because he is allergic and could die.  But again, ultimately, I only have so much control over that.  It is still his decision.

So as I have worked with my kids over the last little while, I have realized that I have these requirements of my kids. I require that they do what I ask of them.  I require that they treat each other nicely.  I require that they treat our family's "stuff" with respect so it can stay in good shape for a long time.  The list goes on and on.

The thing is, I get really angry when they break these requirements.  Like, more than I should.  Out of willful disobedience, or laziness, or even the more benign forgetfulness, they will always make their own choices.

Interestingly, I think this correlates very strongly to why we are here on earth in the first place.  We are able to make our own choices and see if we will make good ones.  

I can tell you that even though I kind of understand this idea more, my reactions haven't changed much.  I yelled at one of my kids for throwing a Wii remote on the tile floor yesterday, especially since they did it out of frustration and was throwing a fit.  Once I took a step back, I could see they didn't intentionally throw it on the tile floor.  They were just trying to un-tether it from their wrist and drop it, but it got caught and flung up in the air and landed on the tile.  I was thinking about it it and realizing that at the moment it happened, I could see the look on their face, that they were just as surprised that it happened as I was upset.  I justify my yelling or frustration by saying things like "we can't ever have nice things because the kids will just ruin them" or stuff like that.

So I'm working on it.  I'm trying to be a little more aware of these requirements and what I can do to "diffuse" them so that they don't cause such a negative reaction in me when it doesn't happen.  I'm sure it'll be a long time before I get it all figured out.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Things That Matter Most

So I've noticed for quite some time that at work, I'm getting more and more to the point where I spend my time working on the little things.  I pretty much just manage bigger projects, not actually do them.  So I spend my time either helping my team understand and work through how to do their part, or taking on some of the smaller things that I can take off of their plates so they can keep working on the big things.  In fact, I have a quote on my wall at work:
You can't motivate people to do things, you can only demotivate them.  The primary job of the manager is not to empower but to remove obstacles.  -Scott Adams
And so I spend my time removing obstacles.

Sometimes it feels unproductive.  Sometimes I still try to get work on other bigger projects done, all to no avail because I spend my time working with others on their stuff.

So I have to go back to the title of the post.  What are the things that matter most?  Am I spending my time doing the things that make the biggest difference?  Sometimes doing the small things, and removing those seemingly small obstacles is pretty important.

There are also different spheres for this discussion.  This post started out thinking about work, but the same concept applies to other areas, such as family life and spiritual things as well.  Obviously some of those spheres cross over each other.

It's an interesting exercise to take some time and consider each of those categories and prioritize your time.  Doing this will help you make sure that you're always spending your time on the things that matter most.

While I was writing this, I thought of a conference talk by President Uchtdorf a couple of years ago, "Of Things That Matter Most".  It's a fantastic talk about making sure that with all the things we have to do, we need to refocus our lives and center our attention on those things that matter most.  His conclusion, and I agree with him, is that the more we refocus our attention to these things, and just get back to the basics, the more joy we will find.

Realistically, this thought exercise makes me think I have a long ways to go before I can honestly say that I spend all my time doing the things that matter most.  Something to work on.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

What do I not know?

So I was helping someone at work today. He had a process that took hours to run. I helped him trim it down to taking a matter of about 15 minutes.

Without going into any detail (because it doesn't matter), I basically showed him a feature that he wasn't aware of in the system he was using to build the process. He was happily surprised that it existed.

But it made me think...what don't I know about? What aspects of my life, job, or anything that I do, could be either easier, faster, more enjoyable, or whatever, if only I knew that [insert unknown thing here] existed? Essentially, the question is "What am I missing?"

I know that there's tons of stuff out there that I don't know. But how do I go about seeking that information without inundating myself with just that much more stuff that doesn't do anything to improve my situation?

Any thoughts? If anyone out there knows something that I'm missing, let me know.

I don't know. But at least I know that there are things that I don't know. It's a start.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Write Something!

So I was thinking about my blog.

What's that?  You forgot that I have a blog?  Yeah, me too (pretty much).  I pulled it up and noticed that the last post I published was posted on 11/15/11.  Um...so...that was a long time ago.

I have had a lot to think about over the last 14 or so months, so I thought to myself "Self, you should just write something!".  It's not like I have any excuses.  Posting to a blog is SO easy.

Anyway, so here goes.  Just a quick little glimpse into that mysterious place called "my mind".  Most recently, what's on my mind is expectations.  More specifically, expecting. Yep, you guessed it.  Although probably most people who would even read this blog already know, but we are expecting child #5 sometime around the end of June.  We don't know what gender yet.  But we can confirm, it is indeed a...baby (whew).

I'm pretty excited.  I'm not generally one to show a ton of emotion, but I am EXCITED!  It's been a while since we've had a baby around the house (5 years!!!!).  Occasionally I find myself in the company of a family member with a small baby, and although I've never really admitted it, I find that I really enjoy holding those tiny little things.  I know I can expect difficult times, too (like when the baby really doesn't like me very much, if it's anything like the other 4), but really, that stuff is so insignificant when compared to the good parts. :)

I'm sure there will be more about that in the coming months. But yeah.  SO looking forward to it.  Lots to do before that little one arrives (i.e., we haven't baby-proofed in years!).

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Something to Write About...

As some of you may have noticed, it has yet again been a long time since my last post. I've been thinking lately about wanting to write more often, but one of the problems I run into is knowing what to write about (another problem would be my procrastination problem I wrote about in my last post). This blog's purpose is to write about stuff I've been thinking about. But I realized that sometimes it goes the other way. You can come up with stuff to write about that causes you to think. So I decided to come up with something that will get the juices flowing. I actually kind of like "features" that other bloggers do. As a way to focus, direct, or motivate thought, I decided to try to come up with my own weekday features. Honestly, they may not last at all. But I like the idea, so here goes. The first "feature" I've come up with is "Typical Tuesday". (I like that alliteration, don't you?) What I mean here is that there are so many things worth writing about that kinda don't seem like they're worth writing about. Normal stuff that happens every day. Typical stuff. We come to expect it, or think about it a lot. Or just recognize that this is how life is most of the time. Routines are prevalent here. But really, it is significant to us. It means something, no matter how "ordinary" or "typical" it seems. It's important to us. It's important to me. And that's worth writing about.

I've been thinking lately about how much I love being home with my family. It's easy to understand why. Since I got married, I've spent a lot of time outside of work doing other stuff, like school, church callings, extra work, etc. Some stuff is kind of fun for me (such as choirs and I was even in a band for a little while). I have been so lucky to have so many opportunities like these. However, there is definitely something that all of these have had in common: time away from my family. I look back and recognize that there have been plenty of days when I got home after everyone was already in bed, and I'm up and gone before they get up in the morning.

Anyway, so lately, all I've had going on is my church calling as an 11-yr-old scout leader and primary teacher. We hold scouts every other week, so that's the only time I have to do anything during my family time. There are days when I work a little late. And I have lots of days when I go back into work after the kids are in bed and I've spent some time chatting with Rhoda. But I've had more time with my wife and kids lately than I think I've ever had in my entire married life.

Most of the times that I spend with my family, it's not like anything special is going on. It's not like there is always an event or specific thing that I'm home for. I'm just home. We do things like read books, play the Wii, and occasionally just sit and chat about things. My point is, it's not like these moments are just action-packed and always exciting, so the question that comes to my mind is, "Why do I enjoy it so much?" I guess it's because even ordinary things are extraordinary.

That's the point of a "Typical Tuesday" post. I think about things all the time. They are not usually what I would label as "profound" thoughts, but they are my thoughts. And just because they are ordinary thoughts, it doesn't mean I can't share them. I just want to share some of the ordinary experiences that I have that are extraordinary experiences if looked at in the right light.  That's what my "Typical Tuesday" is all about.

In reality, when I thought about this, I did have a specific ordinary thing I was going to post about, but this post is long enough already, so I'll save it for another "Typical Tuesday".

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


I know that most people would disagree with me on this point, but I'm going to level with you: I have a lot of flaws. I know, I know, most of you (if there are any of you reading this crappy [crabby?] blog) just thought, "What? Flaws? What on earth is this crazy talk!? Is he feeling OK?"

And yet it's true. I do have many flaws. The biggest problem that I have is that I don't really ever seem to get around to addressing my flaws to improve myself, no matter how much I want to.

Which brings me to my (probably) single-most self-frustrating flaw: I am a procrastinator. Why is it that procrastination has to be so easy for me? I've been meaning to write a post about procrastination for a long time, but I just never got around to it. *smirk*

According to the dictionary, procrastiation is simply to defer action. I think the frustrating thing about this is that when I have something else to try to improve on, my procrastination kicks in and I put off starting on it. In other words, I don't take any action to make the improvements. I find myself putting things off until it is either too late, or at least almost too late. Rhoda hates it. Truth be told, I hate it. But I just let it happen anyway. What's up with that?

I've recently read these quotes about procrastination, and they resonate with me:

To think too long about doing a thing often becomes its undoing. ~Eva Young

I love this one because this is too often my problem. I like to do things in the "best", "most efficient" way I possibly can. This results in my analyzing it to death to figure out what way that is. So to save myself 10 minutes on a task, I might have analyzed it for 20 minutes. Doesn't really make sense when you look at it like that.

Procrastination is the thief of time. ~Edward Young

How many times have I just not had time to do something the way it should be done, or had to cut corners or had to make bigger-than-necessary sacrifices to do something because I put it off?

Procrastination is opportunity's assassin. ~Victor Kiam

This one rings very true for me. How many opportunities have I missed because I put something off? It could be small, unimportant things, like going to see a movie that I really want to see in the theater because it was out of theaters before I ever found time to go. Or it could be huge costly things, like not returning something or getting something fixed before the warranty expires, even though it broke before.

Procrastination usually results in sorrowful regret. ~Ida Scott Taylor

This one kills me. I think about the opportunities I may have missed because of procrastination, such as spending time with Rhoda. Or my kids. Or the fact that I'm a crappy home teacher because I never get around to making those darn appointments. Or missing a deadline. And the problem is that all of those things don't affect just me. Rhoda, the kids, my home teaching families -- they all lose out on that too. And that's something that I definitely regret.

So I'm thinking that in my journey to better myself, the first thing I need to do is improve on this thing. In other words, DON'T PUT IT OFF!

So what is the solution? How exactly does one go about kicking the habit of procrastinating? Or is it even possible?

I'll look into that later.