Personal Empowerment

Can you quit social networking for 40 days?

The Italian Catholics have started the campaign to refrain from texting and engaging in computer-based social networking and games during Lent. They appreciate the values of ‘virtual connectedness’ but the obsessive desire thereof tends to dissuade them from ‘rest, silence and reflection’ needed for healthy human development. And that is essence of the Lent. Thus, the campaign against social networking during Lent.

Brace for yourselves, fellow Catholics in the homefront. Our church leaders are out to follow in the footsteps of the Italian counterparts. On CBCP’s online site, Fr. Oscar Alunday of CBCP’s Commission on Biblical Apostolate was quoted as describing text messaging and Facebook as ‘addicting and time-consuming’, thus, making the faithful ‘out of balance’ and their lives ‘diminished’. Instead of spending time and money for text loads and use of internet cafes, Fr. Alunday suggests to spend them to helping others through charities. He also urges everyone to spend time with the family instead.

I don’t disagree with the CBCP official. But I think that texting and social networking can even be used to promote the Lenten spirit. As we use it to send greetings to our beloved ones during Christmas, a cellphone can be a great tool to send messages of Lent. The same with social networking sites.

What we can do is to regulate or minimize texting and social networking and instead use them for spreading the spirit of Lent. Of course, we should make do without games for the entire Lent.

How about you. Can you do a penance of quitting social networking for 40 days, or to be exact, 34 days starting now? And can telcos support this campaign of the church?

Cluttered desktop: Effect of ‘paperless’ mindset

For workaholic paperless souls like me, chances are that their physical desktops would look like mayhem. I’m an OC for making my computer desktop nifty all the time, with a corresponding efficient system for storing and retrieving files. Thus, my real office desktop has suffered for not being taken care of.

A self-professed environmentalist who cares for the trees, I have this propensity to have every important document that comes my way scanned right on the dot. And what happens to the scanned copy? File it away anywhere it could land.

But I do confess that it’s an unacceptable and mechanical mindset. “Orderliness is next to Godliness” still lingers in my mind. And I resolve to walk that adage.

Behold thy mother; her name you bear forever

Yesterday morning, I received mail from a bicycle-riding mailman. It’s my copy of the latest issue of the AIM Alumni Leadership Magazine. Apart from the excitement about cool updates from AIM and its alumni, the mail label got my attention because it misspelled my middle initial. It should have been ‘B’, not ‘V’. I thought that the labels that AIM is using are seamlessly produced from out of its alumni database, which I’m sure contains correct ID info about me.

Although, I must say that there’s a ring of accuracy in the misspelling. Yes, my middle initial could be, or should be, V. Befuddled? Let me explain before you complain, using the words of the showbizlandia’s witty man, Joey de Leon.

I’m actually adopted child of my aunt and her husband. After my aunt had multiple miscarriages, the couple was blessed with only one biological son. That I think was the reason why it decided to adopt me. I’m sure my adoptive parents didn’t get disappointed, after all.

So I’m using my foster father’s surname, Calmada, not my biological father’s, Benavente. My aunt’s maiden name should be my last name and biological mother’s, my middle name–Vergara. Thus, the inch of truth in the mail label’s error. And thanks to that for I got to remember my real parents, whom I failed to meet face to face as parents and child, because my foster parents hid that truth from me until when I was 19 or 20 years old already. So sad because the only time I got to see the face of my real mother was when she was dead lying inside a makeshift coffin. Until now, there’s a longing for me to see the face of my real father even in a picture. And the conscious search hasn’t begun yet.

There are times when I wanted to write my name in full, as in my middle name is completely spelled. That is my way of remembering, and giving tribute to, my father. But that is kinda weird, because people usually emphasize the middle name to give tribute to their mothers.

I remember that I tried to do that–giving tribute to mothers–during my organization’s assessment-planning activity in 2003. When I facilitated a session, I gave an exercise wherein a participant was tasked to remember the middle names of his/her seatmates, after which I asked them in random for these middle names. Lesson from that exercise: It’s not easy to remember two family names of your colleagues.

I thought that the exercise was my way of instilling gender consciousness among my colleagues. Perhaps, they appreciated that. Although, I came to realize later that the exercise indeed was not really gender-sensitive because there’s no certainty that a person’s middle name is actually the surname of his/her mother. So I must have received a rating of E for that effort, don’t you think?

Haven’t there been efforts to change the Philippine personal naming system so that mothers, or women, for that matter, get equal recognition across all generations? I’m not trying to be wet blanket here. I’m just trying to propose two amendments. One, each person must bear two family names, each from his/her mother and father. (I observe that couples attempt to inculcate parity to their pre-schooler kids’ minds by having them memorize their full names only to give in to the men-biased system when they grow up.) Two, marrying women should not be given an option to change their family names. (Ladies, I believe that there sure are other ways to show love and respect to your men, right? Although, I’m flattered and proud that my wife is bearing my surname in some of her public engagements. I wish I could do what some Brazilian men do–adopt the surnames of their wives.)

Never mind the inconvenience of saying and writing long names, if that means our women will be given due respect forever. But then again, I wonder how I’d treat my real mother’s maiden name. Ampons surely share this angst.

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Personal productivity and the Internet

Time is gold, so goes the cliche. Everyone recognizes that but finds it hard to really manage time.

Eight-year-old Martin had a school assignment that instructed him to list at least five ways to spend time wisely. He sought the help of his parents. Of course, Mommy would not give it away. She evoked from him what he really thought about the topic. The first two ways came from him. And he could not think of anything else. So Mommy advised the third, which he readily accepted.

Problem was Mommy could not think of any more ways. Martin still needed two. So Dad was forced to think as well. Bubbles, bubbles. Eureka. I found them. Here’s the final list:

  1. Eat on time; eat first before playing.
  2. Do your homework before anything else, like playing.
  3. Do today what you can do instead of waiting for tomorrow.
  4. Have fun while learning. Play educational games.
  5. Go to bed early so you’ll have enough sleep. That way, it won’t be difficult to wake up in the morning for school.

I wonder if adults can in general adopt that list. I think they can, as both kids and adults do need to spend it wisely though in different contexts. Although it’s much more complicated for adults, the fact that there’s been a host of self-help books about time management since the 20th century. (Could it be that the intricacy is brought about by the books themselves? Cannot manage time? Buy this book. Still cannot manage time? Buy this book; it’s different. The cycle goes on.)

I think that adults need to manage time because they need to be productive and effectively manage “scarce” resources. (As far as information resources, the scarcity viewpoint no longer holds.)

Technologies are the culprit

I, for one, am a fan of time management books. In fact, I have in our book case books by Stephen Covey and David Allen. When I read Covey in 1993, I was transformed into an addict of filofax organized according to the principles and techniques of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I was really conscious about my roles from which I planned my activities.

But when Filofax technology went out of fashion in late 90s, I struggled to retain the Coveyian techniques with my Palm gadget. I could not really adopt them because the related software bore a price, which I could not afford. Until I practically lost hold of the system.

When I got my own laptop in 1999, I wanted to relearn the 7 Habits system using a software. I tried the demo version of the Franklin Planner’s system that was integrated with Microsoft Outlook. But when I was exposed to Linux in 2000, my attitude toward Microsoft products changed, the fact that I could not upgrade them using the same low-end laptop of mine.

I was Covey disciple no more.

Although, I essentially remained true to my roles consciousness. I’ve used my roles–Manager, Father, Husband, Networker, Friend, and Self–as my categories for my tasks and activities. In fact, I was able to develop a LAPP (Linux-Apache-PostgreSQL-PHP)-based computer program to help me manage my time. But I’m having a problem running it every time I’m hooked to the Internet on Smartbro. (Too technical to explain here.)

I was introduced to David Allen‘s framework only this year. I didn’t notice him before until I observed that folks have been mentioning jargons identified with him: GTD, the next actions, tickler file, to name a few. I was interested to know how different he was from Covey. So I bought a copy of his famous book “Getting Things Done”.

No, don’t call me Allen disciple yet. Because I’ve not yet followed all his inputs as to organizing “stuff”, which are important things that are in our head and before us that require “processing”. Although, I think that he’s got a point. That I need to clear my head of the things I need to accomplish in certain times. There must be tools and devices that help me handle these things, like a calendar, lists, in-basket, clips, etc.

Allen also leaves to the person all his creativity he can get so long as he’s understood the workflow diagram and got all the basic tools required.

I only am confused at this point as to how to make better combined use of my laptop, office desktop, and Palm PDA and the Internet. Perhaps, I need time to really think it out. (You now wonder that I’ve not managed time to think of time to think.)

Managing time and resources in web-space

Surprisingly, I presently don’t feel any guilt that I’m “mismanaging” my time (and corresponding resources) just because I’m following neither Covey nor Allen. Is it because of lack of work pressure? Nuh. Everyday, every hour, there is. Perhaps, it’s because of the following:

  1. I’m connected to the Internet either at home or in office. And even when I’m out of these places, I can rely on Internet cafes that have mushroomed in the cities. If all fails, I can rely on my mobile phone that allows me to connect to the Internet, through Smart Internet service. That way, I never miss out on important emails and updates.
  2. I got Gmail that allows to me organize my mails according to labels.
  3. I got Firefox and plug-ins that let me to catch up with and scoop news.
  4. I’m using 30boxes.com for my calendar and to-do lists, which are very easy to manage. It’s got many features that I’ve not yet learned.
  5. I’m using 43Things.com to manage my life goals.
  6. I got time to write down my thoughts and experiences, thanks to WordPress.com and Twitter.com.
  7. I got a mobile phone that has features for capturing moments, collecting rich contact data, taking down notes, time alarms, etc.
  8. I’m feeling well, physically and spiritually.

I think that the last item is the most important one. For how can one proceed with managing time when he’s not thinking well? Lastly, I think that there should not be strict rules to spend time wisely so long as one is conscious of his roles in living his life. One basic tool that one should have, whether hi-tech or low-tech, is a calendar with a reminder feature. If he ever wants to go beyond that system, he must acquire the skill of adapting current technologies to his needs.

Thinktools (1)

Welcome to a new series called Thinktools. It is a collection of tools used in personal growth, management and political analysis that have in one way or another influenced my life.

My work colleagues often call me Mr. Matrix, although I don’t look like Neo (do I even look like Morpheus?). It is due to my brandishing cool tools here and there to facilitate brainstorming during meetings.

So let me showcase in this series some of them. Let me also include tools that I may have come across in my learning time.

The first Thinktool I am featuring is the Time Management Matrix developed by Stephen Covey, a personal empowerment guru. The tool is lifted from the book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” which is the very first ‘self-help’ book I have had.
Time Management Matrix by Stephen Covey

Used for the so-called “Habit 3: Put First Things First,” the tool, having four quadrants, is used to classify activities and tasks of an individual person or group with the objective of analyzing towards which quadrants do most of the activities and tasks gravitate. The ultimate goal of the tool is to help a person or group realize the need to minimize activities and tasks within Quadrants I (like emergency meetings), III (like answering an insistent phone call or replying to an urgent email), and IV (like desultory Internet surfing) so that more Quadrant II activities and tasks – the proactive ones – may be planned out.

The tool, according to Covey, represents the evolution of three generations of time management theory (first generation deals in notes and checklists; second generation, calendars and appointment books; third generation, prioritizing activities based on values) around the phrase: Organize and execute around priorities.

Let me define the two words often used in the quadrants – urgent and important. Urgent means requiring one’s immediate attention, without which requesting party may be ‘hurt’ in one way or another or a triggering situation may turn bad or worse. Important, on the other hand, pertains to results. If one thinks that a certain activity or task will contribute to her mission, values or goals, then, that activity is important, indeed.

Covey claims that Quadrant I time management results in stress, burnout, crisis management; Quadrant III, short-term focus, crisis management, feeling out of control, shallow or broken relationships; and Quadrant III and IV, total irresponsibility, fired from jobs, overdependent on others. Whereas, when one delves deep in Quadrant II, she develops vision, perspective, sense of balance, and discipline and figures in few crises as well.

The good thing about featuring this Thinktool is that it reminds me to ‘sharpen the saw’ (that’s Habit 7), that is, revive my habit of monthly and weekly assessing my goals and activities so that most of the latter will gravitate towards Quadrant II.

I likewise recommend this tool to the readers who may feel they lose focus in work and life mentally, socially, physically and spiritually.