A Mindful Guide to Email in 20 Minutes a Day : zen habits

In Episode 3 of my podcast, I talked about how we can all learn to unplug for better mental health. In order to do that, we may need to make sure we aren’t stressed out by the possibility of important emails coming through that we’re missing out on. Odds are, we aren’t missing out on too much if we unplug for a while. But in case you need to feel productive before you can unplug, here are some excellent tips to checking and replying to your emails in a more efficient, productive way.

Plug in efficiently, so you can unplug peacefully.

Source: A Mindful Guide to Email in 20 Minutes a Day : zen habits

The Daily Teacher Podcast – Episode 7 – Comparisons

The influence of Facebook and advertising have made us creatures that constantly like to compare ourselves to others. But in this podcast, I explore the importance of comparison only with ourselves. The grass is greener, RIGHT HERE!

Listen to the podcast in mp3:

Listen to the podcast in ogg:

Check out All by my Selfie, Tiny Buddha’s First Short Film
Follow me:

Twitter: @thedailyteacher
Blog: www.thedailyteacher.com

Some important stuff:

Intro Music: “Take a Chance” from Royalty Free by Kevin MacLeod. Released: 2013.

Outro Music: “DarxieLand” from Royalty Free by Kevin MacLeod. Released: 2013.

Check out Kevin’s other music at http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/collections.php

“All By My Selfie”

There’s just so much to relate to in Tiny Buddha Productions’ first short film (about 10 minutes long), All by Myselfie, which I encourage everyone to check out here.

The film is about a young woman who has just moved to Los Angeles, and finds herself struggling to connect with new friends, through a series of missed opportunities. As someone who has moved several times, this hit home, and offers a very accurate cautionary tale about ‘missed opportunities’.

I wanted to briefly touch on this theme because of its relevance in an ever-connected world. For many of us, the screen is our primary means of connection and contact with the outside world. We text friends, we like items on Facebook as a declaration of ‘Hey, I’m alive and I like this!’…but we sometimes place greater emphasis on this, than on picking up the phone to make a call, or meeting with a friend face to face.

We’ve sacrificed connection and quality for convenience and quantity.

And I wonder if this has had an adverse effect when it comes to our ability to forge new connections. After all, when you’re so accustomed to reinforcing the connections you already have online, new connections in person can seem daunting. And it seems like more and more people are struggling with anxiety, often in a social setting.

I’ve been there, the protagonist in the film has, and I’m sure many of you have as well. We see a person we want to connect with – but don’t. Why? Here are just some of the thoughts that bounce around in our minds, feeding into our anxiety:

  • They look busy.
  • What if they don’t like me?
  • What if we run out of things to say?
  • What if they think I’m a creep?
  • I don’t want to intrude.


In a mixed attempt at being courteous, afraid, or shy, all at once, we often refrain from making the connection. And then we’re left with a kind of relentless regret (some of us who are harder on ourselves anyway). Over time, more and more connections are missed and we all lose out on the opportunity to create new and meaningful connections with the people around us.

Having experienced that regret first hand several years ago, I vowed to fight back against all those thoughts, replacing them with other ones. Here’s what I mean: take each of the above thoughts, and push back.

They look busy/I don’t want to intrude – I can always ask if they have time to chat just to be sure. And if they look distracted, just wish them well and be on your way.

What if they don’t like me?/What if they think I’m a creep? – What if they do like you? What if you get along wonderfully? You won’t know until you try. Most people are generally polite anyway, even if they don’t like you.

What if we run out of things to say? – Awkward silences, the big boss of social anxiety (at least it is for me). Silence has been something that I’ve had to grow accustomed to. We often try to fill silence with small talk just to keep the conversation going. But it’s not a bad idea to let the silence linger just a moment. Odds are, the other party (who likely also hates silence) will say something. But beyond this, the best way to combat running out of things to say is to ask open ended questions and show genuine interest. Don’t ask simple questions that can be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Ask about their thoughts, their hopes, their dreams, their favourite ________, and WHY. Be curious!

As a general rule, and speaking from my own experience, we always exaggerate the worst that can happen. We amplify how horrible a silence can be, or how embarrassed we may become, or how rude a person may be in reply. We also downplay people’s desire to be civil and non-confrontational. I’ve found that as long as you’re civil and kind to people, they’ll likely be civil and kind back.

So what is the worst that can happen? You realize that a connection cannot be made, you part ways, and you never see each other again. Compare that with the lingering sense of regret that will follow you. Fear, like any other emotion, can be experienced and used in a positive way. It could be an excellent motivator. Try overcoming a fear of making a connection, with the fear of regret that could haunt you forever! In a strange and unexpected way, it worked very well for me.

And anyway, if they’re really a jerk, odds are you don’t want to connect with them anyway! That’s the most likely worst case scenario.

But what about the best case scenario? What if you find someone you connect with or make a new friend? Isn’t that worth the risk of awkward silences, or interrupting someone briefly with good intention? The potential long term gain is massive…but the short term loss (if any) is minimal!

Every single friendship likely started with a connection. Maybe it was a “Hello”, or a question. But these are the seeds that could lead to something truly wonderful.

Why be all by your selfie, when you can be all by your selfie…with friends?

All By My Selfie” teaches us all of these things, and so much more. It’s real. It’s raw. It’s so human. It’s all of us. Check it out. You won’t regret it.

The Daily Teacher Podcast – Episode 3 – Unplugged

In this podcast, I talk about unplugging in a constantly connected world, and how doing nothing may be the hardest thing I’ve ever done!

Listen to the podcast in mp3:

Listen to the podcast in ogg:

Stay tuned for a new podcast every week!

Follow me (and then UNPLUG):

Twitter: @thedailyteacher
Blog: www.thedailyteacher.com


Some important stuff:

Intro Music: “Take a Chance” from Royalty Free by Kevin MacLeod. Released: 2013.

Outro Music: “DarxieLand” from Royalty Free by Kevin MacLeod. Released: 2013.

Check out Kevin’s other music at http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/collections.php

“Overwhelmed with ideas? Brainstorm using post-its!”

“Overwhelmed with ideas? Brainstorm using post-its!”

The other day I found myself struggling slightly with my thesis. I thought I had an idea of how it would play out, but my research and my thoughts just weren’t corresponding. I’d already scrapped 4 drafts (two weeks time) because things didn’t float. I’d spent so much time on the computer, cutting and pasting just the titles for each major section of the paper, to no avail. I LOVE using the computer. It’s easy to cut and paste, easy to save multiple drafts. For whatever reason, this time it wasn’t working…

So I pulled out a stack of post-its and wrote each major topic I wanted to discuss, along with some sub-topics on each stickie. Then, like a box of puzzle pieces, I started to put them on the ground, arranging and rearranging as I needed. It took three hours, but my large stack of post-its was organized perfectly into the basic outline for my thesis.

Postit White Board

One problem I had initially, was that I couldn’t see EVERYTHING in front of me. I needed to see the big picture and how everything fit together. I needed the image on the puzzle box before I knew what I was really creating. On the computer screen, or on ONE piece of paper, this is almost impossible. There isn’t enough room. I can’t see everything in ONE page. Doing it this way, with the floor as my creative canvas, allowed me to have a much larger scope of data visibility, and helped put things together.

Another problem I had was that I had my topics all in my head. I had a gist of what I wanted, and even though I’d written it down many times, it didn’t flow quite as well as I hoped it would. Writing each topic out on ONE post-it and taking things ONE STEP AT A TIME, really helped put each topic into perspective of the bigger picture. I was able to look at each piece, and try out different possibilities all at once, until I found the one that looked and felt right.

By the end of the experience, I had a floor of post-its, but could tell you exactly how everything weaved into one another, and what role each played in the overall scheme of things. Just when you think you have the best method of brainstorming mastered (aka: typing everything into a word document), an alternative presents itself that worked 100 times better. Keep an open mind, try out new ways of doing and seeing, and you won’t miss the big picture, OR how the little pieces fit into it.

PS: Post-its are quite fun to play with anyway!

Brainstorm Ideas

“Negate writer’s block by seeking out inspiration, or inquiry.”

“Negate writer’s block by seeking out inspiration, or inquiry.”

Writer’s block happens to all of us. Doesn’t matter whether we’re writing for fun, for work, an essay, or a letter to someone…Writer’s block is unbiased and undiscriminatory. And when it targets you, it can be hard to run away from which can completely block the creative process.

I’ve found that the best way to overcome writer’s block is to ignite your inspiration. Writer’s block seems to have difficulty affecting someone who is inspired to express something because the flow of ideas simply pours forth. This lesson is a collection of many different tactics I’ve used that can help get the flow of creativity going again when writer’s block takes hold. Here are some things that may work:

1. Stop trying to write. Go for a walk, meditate, do something different and then return.
2. Listen to music that inspires you.
3. Have a discussion with a friend, bounce off ideas.
4. Read a favorite passage from a book, watch a favorite part of a movie.

If none of these tactics work, I usually visit my “inspiration hub” websites. These are sites that have always triggered some thought, which often helps the blankness of writer’s block go away. I often end up writing some thoughts about what I’ve seen or read on one of these sites below, and that act alone seems to trigger the burst of creativity I need. Seek inspiration. Then, inquire: how do these blogs make you feel? What do they make you think about? Sometimes creativity just needs a little push to get going…

Thought Questions
Makes Me Think
Post Secret
Inspired Thoughts
The Chosen Words
Daily Dose of Imagery
Found Magazine
Surviving the World
1000 Awesome Things

How do YOU overcome writer’s block? Comment with your thoughts and suggestions!

“Send a thank you card.”

“Send a thank you card.”

We have much in our lives to be thankful for. Between family, lifestyle, health, happiness, status, certainty, wealth etc, there is something that we should be thankful for. There are many instances where people are deserving of a little thank you. Maybe someone holds a door open for you, helps you with a grocery bag, or simply puts a smile on your face.

But on occasion, people cross our paths that warrant a little more than a simple “thank you”. They can be mentors, friends, family, professionals, or perfect strangers that you met. It can be following an interview, a lunch, an exchange of ideas, an invitation. Maybe they gave you some wonderful advice. Maybe they gave you a much needed kick to the rear. No matter who they are, if you want to send your thanks, do so by sending them a little card. It costs very little, takes very little time, but is a gesture that can mean a lot to that individual.

When you write your letter, be sure to take a few moments to recall what interaction you had with them, and what it is you are thankful for. Be sure to be sincere with your words. Like most acts of compassion or kindness, there is an inevitable benefit to you as well. In this day and age, most people feel more comfortable texting, or emailing their thanks. Sending a card stands out since it happens so infrequently. They’re much more likely to remember your name if you’ve taken the moment to write it out by hand.

And anyway, a thank you card looks wonderful on a desk, or up on a wall 😉

Thank You Card

“Instead of ending the day with a screen, end it with a page.”

“Instead of ending the day with a screen, end it with a page.”

I usually end my nights watching a Ted talk on my laptop. It’s practically become a habit now. Last night, I decided instead to revive an old habit and read a book for 20 minutes before bed. And when I woke up this morning I remembered why I used to read a lot more before bed before the internet was so readily available: because it REALLY helped me relax and knocked me out cold. It made for a much more relaxing pre-bed ritual, and that’s not surprising.

The minutes leading up to bed can really shape how you sleep. Do/see something exciting and odds are you’ll be so excited you can’t even get to bed. Do something relaxing, and odds are you’ll sleep easier. But more than doing something relaxing is HOW you do it. Although watching a TED talk was a great way to learn something before bed, I found myself wide awake after. The likely cause? Artificial light from the television. Reading a book with a bedside lamp is slightly different in that you aren’t looking directly at a source of light.

Open Book

But all that aside, there’s just something very relaxing about a book: the crisp sound of page turning, that old book, or new book smell, every texture and sound as experienced by the reader, the weight of the book, being able to quickly determine where in the book you are just by holding the book and reading it and so on.

There’s a lot going on with a book that doesn’t quite happen with a screen. Next time you want to read an online article on an iPad, watch something on your television, or surf via your smartphone, give a book a chance and see if it helps you fall asleep quicker. New technology can be a great thing. But sometimes, classics never die…

(If you’re reading this right now before bed, GO READ A BOOK!)

Additional Food For Thought

Turning off Technology – Reuters 

Reading on an iPad Before Bed – LA Times Blog

“Always backup your data.”

“Always backup your data.”

HowtoGeek - Backup Your Data

Today’s lesson is one that I’m sure many people reading the blog can relate to. It’s obvious, but almost always overlooked, and the premise is very simple. Technology is not invulnerable and can suffer through harm. Because we live in a culture that depends so extensively on technology, and computers in particular, any harm they suffers harms us in turn. There was probably an age where people did not have to fret over the problem of lost data, but that age seems to have come and gone. Now we have to worry about the data on our computers, from infection, corruption, or deletion.

We all know what it’s like to try and access something only to find that its been deleted. How many of us have pulled out our hair in terror and rage at the realization that once again our computer has crashed, taking with it weeks, months, or even years of data. It’s just stressful, and we are part to place for our dependence on these technologies, and for not taking the initiative to ensure that if we lose our data, we can always replace it.

So today’s lesson isn’t so much spiritual, or philosophical, as it is practical. And it’s very easy to do. Take some time off as soon as you can and backup your data. Whether its on your computer, on your smartphone, or somewhere else, make copies, duplicate everything, and make sure you take care to ensure THAT copy is protected as well.

Technology provides us with so many benefits that we often take those benefits foregranted. That is until it is taken away from us. Ensure you don’t lose the data that matters to you. Make a backup! NOW! So you don’t end up like this guy…

Teknowlodgy - Data Loss

Additional Thoughts

Why Backup Your Data

You’re Backing Up Your Data the Wrong Way – Lifehacker

The Best Articles for Backing up Your Data – How To Geek