Posts tagged ‘planning’

January 16, 2012

#36) Putting the Pro in Procrastination

Everyone knows what the worst thing about procrastination is*, but could it be that this time-honored tradition actually has its benefits?  Lately I’ve been finding that it just might.

“Being busy is a form of mental laziness – lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.” –Tim Ferriss

When I first heard this idea, I wasn’t ready for it.  But looking back on that time of my life I now see I was keeping busy with small details that really didn’t matter, while missing the big picture.   I was focusing on procedures, not results; not unlike the characters of the film “Office Space.”  Procrastination can actually be a way of helping oneself distinguish between what’s really important and what just feels important.  It’s not that one should try to avoid activities that seem like chores; it’s that realizing that you see something as a chore is a signal to take a closer look at just how important it is.  Busy and productive aren’t always the same.

“If it wasn’t for the last minute, nothing would get done.”  –Attributed to Michael Taylor

Former baseball player Dick Allen once said that he liked to swing wildly at the first two pitches, just to see what he could do with one strike.  Some people are at their best when their backs are to the wall.  When people are asked what they would do if they only had one day left to live, they never say that they would spend it at the office dealing with paper work.  Procrastination might put you in a tight spot – but at the same time, it could bring out the best in you.  Urgency is tough to manufacture or force: are you really going to tell me that you have the same level of intensity and focus on the first day of the semester as you do during finals week?  Or that a team that has been eliminated from the playoffs has the same competitive drive as a team about to play the seventh game of the World Series?

“We plan ahead, that way we don’t do anything right now.”  –Val (Kevin Bacon), “Tremors”

Some people live by the rule, “never put off until tomorrow what can be done today”, but you could just as easily say, never force yourself to do today what can be done tomorrow.   Sometimes it’s better to wait; just ask those who practice the Tantra.  I remember forcing myself not to read too much of Bill Bryson’s “A Walk In The Woods” at a time because I wanted to enjoy it.  I used to have a rule that I could never listen to the same song more than twice in a day so I wouldn’t burn out on it.  People eating their food too quickly and not enjoying it has been cited as one of the reasons for the obesity epidemic.

So there you have it: procrastination isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Sure, there are times when it’s best to avoid it, but everything has two sides, and paradoxically, there are times when procrastination can actually make you more productive.

*I’ll tell you tomorrow.

October 29, 2011

#29) Top five lessons from “Moneyball”

This will be the last baseball post for a while, I promise.

It’s been said that one doesn’t have to be a baseball fan to enjoy “Moneyball.”  As a baseball fan, I wouldn’t be the one to ask, but I would guess that one would have to be a baseball fan to really enjoy the book.  There were some parts that were a little hard to follow, even as a baseball fan, and it’s my guess that the non-fan would be lost or bored by them.

That said, with “Moneyball”, the movie vs. book debate is apples and oranges: the film, thoroughly enjoyable, has wide appeal, whereas the book is already a classic among hardcore baseball geeks.

The book has several valuable lessons that transcend the sport, so for those who don’t feel like reading “Moneyball” but might be interested in some of its take-aways, I present my five favorites.

1) When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  This may be the oldest cliche out there, but the story of Billy Beane, Oakland Athletics general manager, puts a new twist on it.  Beane himself was a highly touted baseball prospect in the early 1980s, whose career was a disappointment.  However, he became his own cautionary tale.  The scouts who saw him and built him up were impressed by his appearance, and Beane used the lesson of his own story to judge players by their actual statistics and records, not just what is apparent.

2) Use what you have, not what you need.  Billy Beane’s 2002 Oakland A’s won the same number of games as the Yankees, a team with a payroll four times higher.  Beane knew early on that it wouldn’t pay to fixate on the gap between the two teams’ budgets; he had to find a different way of looking at the numbers.  He reinvented how to read baseball statistics and found value in players who were under-appreciated by the market; he also saw how to replace the higher-priced stars whom he couldn’t afford to keep.

3) Know what you want.  Once Beane realized the type of players he wanted, he would put their names up on a board and figure out exactly what he needed to do to get them, bluffing, cajoling and negotiating his way to his goal.

4) Know how to be “wrong.”  Baseball people, be they fans, writers or those inside the game, are notorious for being stuck in their ways.  Beane didn’t change his course when his strategies were lambasted by the media.

5) Know how to be right.  As word spread of Beane’s effectiveness in finding undervalued players, others in the baseball world refused to do business with him, knowing that by definition, they were probably getting the short end of the stick.  Like a pool hustler, Beane had to convince his marks that the deal was actually in their interest.

The story of Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics is certainly entertaining, educational and inspirational.  Even non-baseball fans can learn a thing or two from his persistence, innovation and creativity.

August 1, 2011

#18) Back From Vacation!

I’m back.  To be sure, I actually cut my “vacation” short by about 9 hours; I felt as if my purpose had been served.

Being on hiatus from Trail Head Enterprises did feel weird, but after a while, resisting the temptation to see how my online presence was progressing felt more like having to remind myself to write the new date at the beginning of a year, rather than being unable to scratch an itch.  Without worrying about what to post on my blog or which photos to submit, I focused on other things: music, my relationship, friends and hiking just for the fun of it.  I revisited a few of my old favorites without the camera, just as I did the first few times I visited them, long before T.H.E. or Nobody Hikes in L.A. were born.

I learned a few things on my vacation.  First and foremost, I learned that don’t need to sweat the small details.  While I was gone, NHLA received a lot of site traffic; although I only posted 9 new hikes in July, it was still my busiest month ever.  My photos did well too in my absence, as did my Examiner articles (July ended up being my best month for the latter).   I also learned that what I miss the most is focusing on and sharing the message of my hiking; not the actual day to day operations over which I tend to fuss.  And I learned that while I enjoyed seeing how much site traffic I got and how many pictures were downloaded in my absence, I can go for over a week without having any idea and still enjoy my life.

I had also hoped that by spending less energy worrying about the small picture, the big picture might become clearer, as far as where I ultimately want T.H.E. to go.  I’m not sure if that happened, but as I return, I may find that new ideas and visions work their way into how I handle things.  I have no doubt that taking this time off will help me put more enthusiasm into my work, and that doing so will convert into results.

The vacation, overall, was a definite success, and the best part of it is that I know should I decide to take another one, I can do so any time.