Sunday, June 26, 2016

Weekly Goals #20: Try and See

1.) Same breakfast (cereal and coffee) and lunch (salad with protein) every day. This is almost a habit after a few weeks of doing this.
Result: Done, although I was really craving sugar and had too much cereal a couple of days. I did decrease simple carbs at lunch time, though, pretty much just sticking to a salad with protein. I usually had a couple of packets of saltine crackers (i.e. 4 crackers total) and a small bit of candy in the early afternoon, but not as many crackers as before and I used to get a pretzel roll with lunch, too, which I did not at all. I definitely made some progress.

2.) Spending 5 minutes praying, reading the Bible, or doing a devotional in the morning.
Result: Completely did not do this. I think that if I switch to doing it at work (since I get there early anyway) I might be more successful than trying to sit down when I'm getting ready to head out the door.

3.) Bringing a big bottle of water to work every day.
Result: Done. Definitely helped me stay hydrated. I brought carbonated water this week, though, and found it was harder to drink more of it, so I think I will go back to non-carbonated.

4.) Getting some kind of exercise almost every evening - target walking at least 3 miles a day.
Result: Done except one day where I only walked a little over two miles. My stomach was hurting me and I was feeling pretty weak, so it made sense to skip a day. Every other day, I went for a walk or hike.

What I tried:
1.) Reading in bed for at least half an hour every evening.
Result: Done but...I've been reading Quora on my phone, not books like I intended. Maybe I can start with reading a book for at least fifteen minutes before switching to Quora.
2.) Send a query letter to one literary agent (part of fulfilling my purpose...)
Result: Not done but I did make myself look at Edit #3 of my book and even do a little editing. I'm going to call that progress.
3.) Complete at least 1 blog post draft for my new website.
Result: Not the website I originally intended, but I did eight journal-ty peposts, and I'm pretty satisfied with that.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Kata and What I've Learned

There's a concept I learned about this week called "kata". In the traditional sense, kata refers to the drills or routines that martial artists perform. They are building blocks, and as one progresses in a martial art discipline, they become longer and more complex as the learner's knowledge and skill increase.

The concept of kata emphasizes practice over theory. It's important to come up with a hypothesis, but it must be proven or disproven with experiential evidence. Kata is applicable to any area with potential for improvement. It follows the basic principles of the scientific method and the Plan-Do-Check-Act problem-solving method.

1.) Identify your goal (where you want to be).
2.) Determine your current condition.
3.) See the gap between your goal and your current state.
4.) Form a hypothesis about how you can close that gap.
5.) Experiment.
6.) Measure the results and see if your hypothesis was correct.
7.) Adjust as needed, and repeat steps 3-7 until the goal is achieved.

In the spirit of Kata, I will continue activity that has proven to be effective, discontinue what is not, and experiment to learn new information about what works and what does not. It requires a spirit of humility and not jumping to conclusions without testing first.

What I have found works for me through experience:

Physical care:
1.) Eating the same breakfast and lunch every day. Specifically, cereal and coffee for breakfast, and a big salad with lots of protein at lunch.
2.) Spending money on a salad from a salad bar at lunch. I've experimented with a few different lunch sources and this one, while a little expensive, is working the best. Spending money on quality food is a good investment, though.
3.) Bringing a big bottle of water to work. When I do this, it's gone by lunch and I refill it at least once more before the day is over. This tool consistently results in drinking enough water throughout the day, and as a result I have not had any headaches during the workdays when I did this.
4.) Enriching time spent commuting, exercising, and doing chores by listening to radio programs and podcasts. I don't always make time to read, but it is easy to 'find' time to listen. I have learned so much from this practice.
5.) Going to bed by 9 most nights. I have been waking up on my own before my alarm. An adjustment may be needed though - I have been waking up a little earlier than I'd like (and getting to work before I have the chance to listen to my 7:05 Living on the Edge radio program). I'm going to try to push it a little later and see what happens.
6.) Getting and using a FitBit Flex. I have been moving more since getting it, especially with setting a daily goal of at least three miles.
7.) Taking my medication at the same times every day.
8.) A relatively low-carb diet. Although my breakfast and snacks are typically carbs, my main meal of the day - lunch - is very low-to-no carbs. This has helped me not crash or have stomach issues post-lunch.

Around the house:
1.) Doing 5S on my house on the weekends. This has resulted in the following:
    a.) A cleaner house, overall
    b.) Something to look forward to on weekends, actually
    c.) Shorter cleaning time - takes about 1.5 hours / week
    d.) Easier to identify problems and inventory what is needed at the grocery store
2.) Going to the grocery store 1x on the weekend. By practicing this, it's easier to predict what we will need and therefore determine what I need to gset without going over or under what our actual needs are. We're much less likely to run out of something before the next grocery visit. I'm also less likely to forget anything, as I bring a list that has been populated throughout the week.

Time Management:
1.) Leaving at 11:40 for lunch to beat the noon rush.
2.) Writing down my top three to-do items for the next day at the end of the work day. This is a great way to prioritize and it enables me to pick up where I left off the following day.
3.) Keeping my daily planner with me and using it to capture everything. This is something I picked up at a former company that has stuck with me.
4.) Keeping a running personal to-do list for all those 'back-burner' items.
5.) Reviewing the past week's goals and setting the upcoming week's goals once a week. Typically I have been doing this Sunday afternoon. I think I need to review my goals at least once during the week though - sometimes I just plain forget some of them.

Mental/spiritual/relational health:
1.) Going to church on Sundays. It really helps give time for worship and reflection and sets the right tone for the upcoming week.
2.) Doing things for others, even if they are small, lifts my spirits.
3.) Investing in my relationship with my sister has paid back exponential dividends.
4.) Making time to talk with my husband. This does a lot to both strengthen us as a couple and individually. We've been taking a lot of walks together lately as well, which has been particularly enjoyable.
5.) Time with God in the morning with a quick devotional. I found myself reflecting on this during the day when I started this way. It sets the tone for a more positive day, and seemed to make me more aware of the needs of people around me, and not just what I have going on.

What doesn't work / indeterminate:
1.) Taking vitamins and fish oil. I can't say I have noticed a difference, but based on my knowledge I'm going to keep doing it.
2.) Coupons. They don't generally seem to pay off in terms of time.
3.) Abstaining from diet soda. Maybe I did not do it long enough, but I did not notice a difference. The benefits (taste, energy) are worth it to me.
4.) Morning workouts. They did give me a little extra energy in the morning, but they cost me sleep and deprived me of one of the main benefits of exercise - stress relief, which I need at the end of the day, not the beginning.
5.) Very low-carb diet. I try not to eat too many simple carbs anyway, but eliminating them did not seem to have an effect on me other than making me grumpy that I couldn't enjoy some of my favorite foods. And beef jerky is an expensive snack! However, a relatively low-carb diet overall has been of benefit.
9.) Being extremely cost-conscious. I've relaxed with this, and have enjoyed the break from the anxiety as well as the convenience that spending money can sometimes buy. At this phase in our lives, we can afford to be less penny-pinching.

So in the spirit of kata, I will keep experimenting while continuing the practices that have proven useful.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Weekly Goals #19: The Right Process Will Yield the Right Results

The next two weeks will be spent at home (save for an overnight at my parents' house on the weekend). I will need to do some intense preparation for my next trip, but it should be a relatively stable time.

I need to remember to focus on the process inputs, not the results. The results can be used as feedback, but the priority should be on getting the inputs right. I think that's part of where I need improvement.
  1. Same breakfast and lunch every day. Result: Done, except for Friday when I had a work event. 
  2. Walk at least 3 miles a day (easy to track with my new FitBit Flex!). Result: Done except for Friday, when I had to drive to an event after work.
  3. Read Bible verse of the day each day Result: Done 4 out of 7 days. I really need to make this a habit by doing it at the same time each day, such as when I wake up. Otherwise I'm apt to forget.
  4. Listen to Living on the Edge when my commute time allows it. Result: I don't think I listened to any because I have been waking up and going to work early. However, I subbed in another sermon program, which isn't as good but I still benefited from it. A good example how one can still have good results even when the original goal isn't feasible. 
  5. Go to first Bible study. Great opportunity to fellowship. We need to do this. Result: Did not go because the study was cancelled. 
  6. Complete work activities on schedule. Result: Very good. Having a "Top 3" every day really helped to keep me on track. In fact, I got ahead and was able to pull up some activities that were originally scheduled for next week. 
  7. Be aware of opportunities to help others at work, not just get my work done. I can adjust my work to keep up. Result: Good. I made time for a coworker's calls and I was really glad I did. 
  8. Lab work to see why I am so tired all the time. Result: Not done. I thought I lost the lab paperwork so had to cancel the appointment. But I found it, so I will reschedule.
  9. Gemba Academy or other podcasts when exercising or commuting. Result: Listened to probably about 4 Gemba Academy and 7 Toyota Kata episodes. I learned a lot and am really enjoying the enrichment. 
  10. Enjoy a painting class with my Mom and sisters. Result: Done, although I did not enjoy it as much as I had thought. Part of it was heading straight there after Friday's work and spending the night. It was good to see family, though. 
  11. Enjoy a kayak ride with my Dad. Result: Not done, although I had the opportunity. I just wanted to get on the road. I wish that I had made time, though. 
  12. Just look at Edit #3 of my book. Don't have to do anything with it, just open it up and see where I am. Result: Not done...yet. The week isn't over yet, though!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Weekly Goals #18: "Where there is no standard, there can be no kaizen."

"Where there is no standard, there can be no kaizen." - Taichi Ohno

I have been reflecting on this quote a lot recently, especially as I consider my weekly goals. There have been so many changes in my life in the past few months - ending my job, looking for work, starting a new job, moving to an apartment, then finally buying and moving to a new house.

My coping mechanisms have struggled to manage the turmoil. I crave stability and predictability, and I need to refocus on my physical and mental health. I have so much I can give, but I can't do anything if I don't protect my health.

So this week's goals revolve around taking care of myself so I can achieve my full potential. I read somewhere that the majority of people will never reach the heights for which they were destined. They die without fully realizing who they were created to be. I don't want my life to end like that. And I'm making the conscious effort to make the choice to live a life that brings glory to God. In the core of my being, I know that is the only way to live a life that matters.

Before I can make significant gains, I first need to stabilize my baseline. This concept is as true in personal improvement as it is in process improvement. I need a standard. To that target, here are my goals for this week.

1. Same breakfast and lunch every day.
Result: Done, with the exception of Friday/Sat/Sunday where I had a heavier breakfast but a lighter lunch. Consistency is definitely key.

2. Plan dinner. If I need to stop by the store to get something for it after work, that's okay.
Result: Not really done in terms that I didn't really have dinner most nights. The one night I did was challenging.

3. Drink more water. I cannot stress this enough - I had several headaches last week from becoming dehydrated. To help with this, I will buy bottled water to bring to work. It's not as economical as filling up a water bottle, but I'm more likely to drink it if I bring it.
Result: I brought water a few days to work, and it was usually gone by noon. That helped a lot, and I'm going to continue it this week.

4. Get plenty of (quality) sleep. I'm usually pretty good about this - most nights I'm in bed by nine, and wake up a few minutes before my alarm.
Result: In bed by 9 every night except Thursday. I was so tired Friday from staying up so late despite sleeping in.

6. Nourish my faith. I have been neglecting this lately and its correlated to my difficulty handling life. I can do two things. First, read the daily Bible verse in the morning before leaving work. Next, listen to Living on the Edge in the car on the way to work (7:05-7:30). Doing this first thing helps to set the tone for the whole day.
Result: Living on the Edge 2 out of 4 days due to waking up and leaving for work early. Bible verse almost all days, I think. Not much noticeable results but hard to tell.

7. Make a top 3 daily goals list every day. I find narrowing it to 3 ensures I get the most important priorities done.
Result: Yes, this really helps me get my top priorities done. However, it does make me a little more rigid than I need to be. Something to watch out for. Sometimes the Top 3 need to be adjusted, and that's okay.

8. Exercise most if not all days, even if that's 'just' going for a walk.
Result: Done most days, despite the heat. 'Just' a walk, but I always felt better afterwards.

9. Listen to Gemba Academy podcasts. I am learning so much about lean philosophy and tools and am able to apply it to what I do at work. This has been a great find.
Result: Not only did I listen to about five, but I reached out to the host to let him know how much I enjoyed them, and he asked if I'd like to be a guest on the show! What an honor.

10. Read. There is so much to learn. Right now, I have "The Art of War", "2-Second Lean", "Running on Empty: Contemplative Spirituality for Overachievers", and "Zen Habits: Handbook for Life" lined up. Between a couple of plane rides and a long weekend, I want to get some good reading and learning done.
Result: I finished "2-Second Lean" and about half of "The Toyota Way." 

11. Make a plan for the long weekend, one that includes relaxing activities. Having a plan will help me feel less stressed about the time off. Some things I could include:
  • Going for a hike with my husband Result: Too hot. Went for walks every day though, including the downtown of a new city with my husband.
  • Doing my weekly 5S house activities  Result: Done - actually split it into two days after I got tired after having to do some extra work the first day. Worked fine.
  • Completing 1-2 projects from my household project pipeline Result: None done, but I'm okay with that.
  • Replacing lid switch on the washing machine  Result: Part did not arrive, so could not do this. Resulted in a trip to the Laundromat.
  • Weeding / yardwork Result: Done on Thursday when it wasn't too hot. It's starting to look good out there.
  • Reading books mentioned above Result: Done, during one afternoon and at bedtime. Gave me some good food for thought.
  • Napping. Result: 30 minute power nap on Saturday was all I needed.
  • Newcomer's group at church. Result: Done, with good relationship-building and learning about the church, culminating with our membership applications and an invite to a Bible study.
Overall it was a good week.  I really enjoyed the time visiting another plant and helping them with a brainstorming session. However, I'm looking forward to the next two weeks at home.