Sunday, November 15, 2009

Find how to focus on what is really important to you

Personal development blog Zen Habits has posted a great reading about how to refocus your time and effort to the things of life that should matter you the most, according to your own beliefs and aspirations. In the words of their guest author Sid Savara, it all begins with asking yourself what do you really want to do instead of what you are doing right now - a question clean installers ask themselves a lot of times a day. My favorite tip in this article has a lot to do with realizing you have to do something to change things as soon as you can, since you're not getting any younger:
Treat it as an emergency. My life is booked back to back with work, appointments and various commitments – but when I had to go into surgery for appendicitis, none of the little boxes in my task list got checked off that day. Instead, my routine came to a halt as I dealt with my medical emergency. If you’re having trouble letting things slide, or aren’t sure where you can make time, then consider treating your life mission as an emergency. Clear important, but unnecessary items off your schedule for a day – and let them go. Every day that you spend on tasks that don’t matter is a day you can never recover – and that, to me, is an emergency.
The revelation of how much your current occupation matters to you may be a big motivator when it comes to doing a reboot of your life. Try and ask you these simple but important questions. The answers can surprise you big time.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Check up your health at home in between doctor visits

The Reader’s Digest has put together a very straightforward list of 16 tips to be aware of how well your health is – all by yourself. The list is filled with many common-sense ways of knowing if something is wrong with you, but some are good to know if you haven’t heard of them, like taking the fall test:
Time yourself standing on one leg. Do it in shoes or barefoot, but don't hold on to anything. Try it on both legs (one at a time) three times. […] If your best leg time is less than 12 seconds, or you wobble back and forth, you have poor balance and should talk to your doctor or physical therapist about exercises to improve it.
I think the vast majority of you would like to keep yourselves healthy on your road to a new life, so it will always be a best practice to check your body behaviour regularly instead of waiting for an illness to manifest in a not-so-good way.

16 Ways to Monitor Your Health Between Checkups

Photo by ZackWilson

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Migration: the ultimate clean install?

The thirst for a life rebooting may have many origins, even for a single person. It can be some wish for prosperity, or a vocational calling. It can be the need for fresh, new air to breathe, or a passion for adventure. But a great share of these reasons can have a single motivator, many times unconsciously: you feel you should be in a completely different place, instead of the current one.

This, of course, is a need that can be fulfilled in very different ways, each one with its own level of difficulty. It depends entirely on what you want to achieve, and can range from moving to the next cubicle in your office to migrate to a new and strange country, the latter being in most cases the ultimate, most scary and epic move over the course of a clean install. Trust me, because these feelings are exactly the ones I have, as I am preparing to leave Venezuela for Australia on 2010.

Choosing to migrate is, as you can imagine, a big and difficult decision. We’re talking about leaving the place you call “your birth country” behind. There are a lot of questions to ask yourself before, because you really need to know if this step is for you. The next ones can help you find the much needed answers:

What do you really want to achieve? Is it a better-paid job? Or is it a change in your lifestyle? Do you want to feel safer when you walk the streets, or worry a little less about health emergencies for you and your family? This is important, because a lot of people can obsess with migrating to their dream countries without thinking what they really want of their new lives.

Can you achieve what you want in your birth or home country? Have you really considered your current options? If you are an office worker within a certain salary range and want to become, say, a fitness trainer that shouldn’t have to sacrifice your income, do a little research about how well would that go in your homeland and compare it with a similar search in your chosen destination.

How well do you handle changes? Obviously you need some taste for change if you are considering doing a clean install, but it’s also true that everybody has a limit in handling life transformations. Are you ready to leave behind things you take for granted, like your favourite food? What about hanging out with friends and relatives? Try and be sincere with yourself, and in the process not only you will gain enlightenment about your limits, but also you’ll have a golden chance to do an effort and get a little better or stronger in handling life changes.

Which external obstacles do you have in your migration path? It would be naïve to think the real world would make your quest for migration a road filled with rose petals. Some countries have only a few complications, but others can put you through a real torture. Consider also how much money you have saved, and how much of that can you convert to dollars, or euros, or the destination country currency. Search information on plane ticket costs, flight hours, and take into account if you can handle these numbers should you have to travel back regularly.

Which obstacles are you unwillingly imposing on yourself? Like external obstacles, internal ones keep you from reaching your target. Maybe you and your parents are enormously attached with each other and don’t want to put an ocean in between, or you are frightened at the sole idea of living the rest of your life in a foreign-language country. Try to identify these issues and see which ones are real concerns and which are just fears of change in disguise.

If you take a look at your answers, you’ll have a great resource for taking the right decision. Keep in mind that you are seeking change, and starting anew in another country may be just what you and your loved ones need.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Find precious help and support for freelancers in 10 ways

FreelanceSwitch has compiled a list with ten useful ways of getting some support when freelancing. Many help sources are numbered, including one that can be an all-star ally: your life partner!
Even if your partner is not a talented web designer, graphic artist or writer, there may be ways they can help you with real work. Assuming they have the time and are willing.
A lot of people who were employees and turned themselves into freelance workers can feel a little lost when it comes to search and find the right helping hand that assist them in their new working lives. This is by no means a definitive guide, but it’s a great start point.

10 Ways Freelancers Can Get Help and Support [FreelanceSwitch]

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Goodbye code, hello strings! Jonathan Coulton did it!

I think life can give you some signals about what to do at any moment, but their timing can make them pretty amusing. Just when I started writing a blog about life rebooting (this one), one of those signals came in the form of Lifehacker’s interview to Jonathan Coulton. I didn’t know who he was until that very day, and now it’s impossible for me to think of a very successful clean installer without him coming to my mind.

For all of you who never heard of Coulton before, he’s a Visual Basic programmer who left his IT profession behind to become a full time, profitable musician. And, as simple as this fact could sound to some people, think for a second about it. We’re talking about a guy who, in classical, conservative terms, did the unthinkable: trade his very safe 9 to 5 job for guitar playing and singing!

His story about how he accomplished this is surely inspiring. You can read all of it on his website, but what make all of this even greater are the absolutely cool achievements he got since he took that decision. He has consistent sales of his music through Amazon, iTunes and his own page, performed at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, has become a geek icon, got a pair of songs as downloadable content in Rock Band 2, and has as an article about himself on Wikipedia. If that isn’t an example of how good a clean install can get, I don’t know what could be.

And the music is pretty cool, also.

Jonathan Coulton's homepage
His Lifehacker interview

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

6 tips for riding yourself of clutter before a clean install

Well, here you are, ready to tackle on the challenge of beginning a new chapter in your existence. You’ve left behind all your fears and what was holding you back, and finally you have seen in your bright future what you want to do for the rest of your life. The only thing that stands between you and your dreams is… your cluttered desktop.

Or perhaps a messy laundry room is what stops you, or instead a kitchen turned permanent disaster zone. The fact is clutter doesn't help you to leave your current life trend behind. It sounds funny and almost unbelievable, but you know every time you see that mess all over your tables or your floor your enthusiasm dies a little more.

As with every change, you can find yourself resisting to accept the fact that you can be very disorganized, but if you have already swallowed the awful truth, here are some tips to begin a life of uncluttered existence:
  1. Know which cluttered space holds you back the most. If you are looking for a new career as a recording musician or as a freelance developer, for instance, chances are the area surrounding your computer is the one you need in perfect harmony. For an aspiring crafts or auto expert, the garage is what needs to be clean and pleasant. Identify which place is the one that needs to be pristine for your life reboot.

  2. Choose a system. Many people before you has walked the uncluttering road, and some of them have made almost an art of it. Take some time to research on the many organization systems developed by professionals. The most popular is by far David Allen's Getting Things Done. It can look intimidating at first, but the trick is tuning this or any other system to your specific needs.

  3. Have a strong will to get rid of the non-useful or disposable things. It's almost ridiculous how we stay attached to useless stuff. How many ornaments do you have over your desk? Are they so many you can't put over its surface a regular paper notebook? You'll never know how much space you really have until you have thrown off all the extra stuff.

  4. Invest in organization. Maybe you have the space needed for all your things, but you will not know until you get some storage solutions. A drawer unit, a cabinet or even a few shelving boxes in the right place can do wonders for when it comes to keep your new work esentials at hand, and will help you to keep surfaces clean of objects otherwise without a home.

  5. Aim to be comfortable. If you are turning to illustration or some other artistic occupation, your small counter table will not do it, unless you also have some Cirque Du Soleil acrobatic skills. Try to keep in mind ergonomics and freedom of movement when you plan your workspace redesign.

  6. Keep it that way. How many times have you cleaned your desk, just to find it cluttered again by the end of the day? If you managed to give all of your stuff an adequate place for storage, you'll find your tables and floors will remain free almost 24/7, only by putting things back in their places when not in use. Try not to remember your mother telling you to pick up all your toys... you might resist to do it unconsciously.
Try and experiment the feeling of finding your workplace tidy and ready for your clean install adventure. Compare that sensation with the one you had when the place was a mess, and you will know how different it feels. You'll be absolutely amazed!

Photo by naddl79.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Become a confident photographer in seven steps

Ah, photography... Who wouldn't drop a boring office day job to get lost all day behind a trusty camera, and give people a showcase of the world as we see it? If only we had the confidence to take great photos...

Fortunately, photographer Natalie Norton has put together a list with 7 steps in Digital Photography School that can help you to feel less intimidated when taking pictures. This is the most important of them all, according to the author:
If you really want to gain confidence, you should be out shooting as much as you possibly can. Perhaps it’s every day on your lunch hour. If that’s the only window you have to consistently squeeze it in, fine. Just be out shooting frequently and consistently.

As a clean installer, I find equally important the one that talks about setting goals, because we should have clear objectives about what we want to achieve, specially in something as vast and self rewarding as photography. What do you do to show confidence in your photos? Write about that in the comments.

7 Steps to Becoming a Confident Photographer: a Beginner’s Guide (Photo by Nanynany)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Day Grid helps you balance your own life

Graphic designer and productivity scholar David Seah has published a new free form named The Day Grid Balancer, built for you to try and organize all about the most longed balance in modern human history: the one between work and life.
Unlike some of my other forms, The Day Grid Balancer is not intended to track time very accurately. You can use the various grid boxes, as I've described them in the earlier 24 boxes and asymmetric grids post, to note when you spend an hour doing something that seems to fit in the balance diagram.

At first the form looks a little complicated, but the instructions show you precisely how to use it to track your various tasks, and to see how well work and life are coexisting. Give it a try if you feel like it, and write about your own experience in our comments.

The Day Grid Balancer, via Lifehacker.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Review: How I use Wesabe to keep track of my money

One of the skills I’m trying to develop for my own clean installing is the ability to control how well money enters and leaves my pocket. This is of course a not so easy task - even more if you have almost zero background on financial education. Many would say relationship with money is somehow like sex: you end up learning about it almost on your own.

However, nearly every personal finances program will instruct you on a task that is fundamental for success in money managing, yet is perhaps the most difficult both on a practical and motivational level: keeping a spending log.

That’s where Wesabe comes in, at least for the practical side of this task. This free online tool helps you with the chore of keeping track of your income and expenses, allowing you to check at a glance how are you spending your so hard earned money. I’ve been using it for two months now and can say it is very useful to uncover some truths about your personal financial life.

A snapshot of your money

When you log into your account, a main dashboard shows you several things. The line and pie graphs are the most prominent, and show you the relationship between income and expenses, and the category tags that are taking the heavier hits. Personally I find this a great way to get into your senses every time you ask yourself where it all went.

In order to follow your spending trends, you must create accounts. These can be linked to your bank reports – providing Wesabe supports the bank. Since I have all my money in Venezuelan banks that don't provide any means to link to external applications, I can’t fully enjoy the benefits of it. Fortunately Wesabe has the option of creating a cash account, and this approach fits perfectly with the financial program I’m currently trying.

Keeping track and keeping in line

Adding transactions is a relatively easy task. You provide a date, a merchant name an amount, and one or more tags to categorize it. You can see these transactions on a list, but there is one drawback here: navigating between transactions limits to two back-and-forward links. Granted, you can search your transactions, but the only way to look at tag totals is by clicking on Spending Trends, which isn’t always an intuitive way.

You can add spending targets to any tag you choose, which is another way to call budgets. However, as I’ve learned, budgets don’t always work at your advantage, so I’m not setting any spending target, but you could find them useful if you think so.

Another feature you could find nice is its ability to add transactions via Twitter. I’ve used it very few times, and find the syntax a little awkward, but can be of great help if you don’t want to spend a full afternoon transferring your spending from your paper notebook to the website just because your ISP failed for two days in a row.

Speaking of Twitter, Wesabe makes an emphasis on its social features. Basically you get access to groups of members around some financial topic – a forum, in essence. I think it’s nice to read people who have some common goals with you, but I really don’t hang there too much.


I think Wesabe has a lot to offer just because it is very basic and straight in its services, and it has worked for me. I remember trying to set an Excel worksheet to make all these things, and got bored after half an hour. Of course there are another free online tools for these tasks, but if you want a direct approach to keeping track of you money, Wesabe can handle the task.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Get a fitness look with the MANS diet

Bodybuilding blogger Mark McManus has lots of fans thanks to what he likes to call his MANS diet. According to him, this free program is the reason why he looks like he does (combining it with a strength exercise routine, of course). McManus claims this natural nutritional strategy will give you results that mimic at a certain degree what you could get using the controversial anabolic steroids that have gotten into trouble so many athletes in the modern sports world. Words from the author:

So how can this nutritional strategy produce massive muscle gains? There is a way to increase anabolic (muscle building) hormones in the body in the same way that steroids do. The only difference is, it’s safe and natural.

After reading the program, I can’t help to make comparisons with the well known low-carb diet. I was on that one some years ago and can say it worked, but it’s very difficult to stick to it in a world full of flour and sugar. This variant is heavy on some fats, also, but if you are sure you can live without your daily piece of bread and like to pump up some weights a couple of nights per week, then you can find this helpful to build some extra muscle.

The MANS diet at

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Paul Potts: from cellphones to Passione

Today my father is receiving Passione, the new album from Paul Potts as his Father’s Day gift. I remember Dad’s face when he first saw him through YouTube, and remarked his amazament with a “How wonderful!”. Every time I watch this video, I agree with him a little more.

I think Potts has to be remembered as one of the greatest clean installers of all time. Before his appearance in Britain’s Got Talent, he had been a low self esteem, bullied kid at his school that grew to serve as an elected member of the Bristol City Council. He later took very expensive singing classes that included none other than the late and very missed Luciano Pavarotti, using all of his savings for it. When he auditioned for Mr. Simon "I'm-so-hard-to-impress" Cowell on national TV, he was working at a mobile phone store as its manager.

And now, he’s a professional opera singer with two international albums. It seems investing time and money along with taking risks to get where you always wanted can actually work, huh?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Why I need to format myself

"Every day there's a boy in the mirror asking me: 'What are you doing here?'"

Those are words from Kings of Convenience's Homesick. I remember having listened to it for the first time during some messy months. Lots of work at the office kept me busy more than ten hours a day, traffic jams in Caracas had become sort of an apocalyptic beast, and it was difficult to remember when I had played my guitar or drawn something recently.

Then I realized I had been asking that same question for a long, long time, but I didn’t know I was. I had begun to feel extremely tired, and any small inconvenience was more than enough to anger me for the rest of the day. It would have been difficult at that time, but now I realize those were the ways I was asking myself why I was doing something I didn’t enjoyed anymore, and, more important, why I wasn’t doing the ones I loved so much.

Of course, anybody who knows how difficult is to try and make a living in Venezuela can tell you the reason: “because of money”. Living in a country where inflation rises every year at an average of 30 percent doesn’t really gives you lots of space to pursue an uncommon, artistic career. You have to grip to something that let you avoid starvation. You have to accept it and live with it.

Or so I thought. And, fortunately, I can say that in past tense, because I now believe the most difficult step in doing a clean install of your life is stop thinking we don’t have choices. And trust me: we all have plenty of choices.

That’s why I’m writing this. I want to track somehow my own rebooting process, find resources that teach me the best ways to do it, and share it with people with the same purpose. Let’s format ourselves, choose the life apps you really wanted in the first place, and do a clean install! It would be at least fun, I assure you all.