Category Archives: Deliberate Practice

Keep it On Hold, Not on Mold:  the Advantage of Mini-Habit Practice

“Motivation is what gets you started.   Habit is what keeps you going.” –Jim Ryuun

Picking a doable minimum keeps dreams and skills in play

Doing a little every day keeps a skill on hold rather than let it mold.   Playing at least two minutes of guitar every day has not turned me into Jimi Hendrix but it also hasn’t let the possibility of playing guitar slip further and further away.

Doing at least five minutes of exercise hasn’t turned me into an Adonis but at least I have a base of strength and flexibility to work with.   Sometimes I do 200 push up and sometimes I just do five minutes of stretching.   It beats what I was “doing” before.   Nothing.

Reducing your practice to a doable minimum insures that you will have a base no matter how small.  Playing two minutes every day makes me at least keep my guitar tuned.

Mini-habit practice is like a vitamin for your skills. This is a card from Terre Roche’s Fretboard Vitamins. She asks aspiring guitarists to use these cards a little bit at a time to get to know the fretboard better. A little a day is the way to play.

Last week I practiced fretboard vitamins.   This is a card system to remember different positions on the guitar.   Even with a few late nights when I couldn’t get to the guitar at least I looked at these cards for two minutes of mental practice. Terre Roche,  accomplished musician and designer of these cards, encourages all who undertake her system to, “practice with no hope of fruition.”

Mini habits are a great way to hold on in the midst of many conflicting concerns.   I don’t study German any more than about seven minutes a day.  I’m nowhere near fluent but I “own” a lot more words than if I didn’t.   When I can spend more time with German or in Germany at least I will have a base of vocabulary to build on.  Keeping it small for now keeps German do-able and fun.

A little a day is the way to play.  Keep it on hold.  Don’t let it mold.   Do your mini habits.

The Compound Effect:   Get a Habit

For me, this book was a good though not especially engaging guide to how to use the power of habits.

For me, this book was a good though not especially engaging guide to how to use the power of habits.

I’ve  let library books pile up again.   I finished a nice graphic novel memoir called “Relish” that was recommended by the podcast Librarians Assemble.

But I also have a small little pile of books recommended by online business folks on Patrick Flynn’s program,  “15 Entrepreneurs Answer:  ‘What I Wish I’d Known Before I Started My Own Business.'”  These books must be pretty popular because they are all on hold and I can’t renew them.

“The Compound Effect” is the most accesible.    Though I’ve skimmed rather than read each sentence carefully, this book hits home the message of the power of habits.

Though I found some of his metaphors and examples tiring,  Darren Hardy’s message of the power of daily habits and decisions  affirms what I’m trying to do with habits lately.   Continue reading

Podcast Your Samurai Mind

cultivate your life with great podcasts

This summer I’ve learned to use podcasts as an extension of my mind.  I’ve gotten podcast recommendations from friends and professional journals.  I pop in a podcast and give two to three minutes.   If I am not inspired, I click and move on to something that does.

Let Podcasts Be Your Mentors

Podcasts can be a great way to tap the language and knowledge of your current or future career.  Listen to experts who interest you within the field.  For example, I don’t know much about graphic novels and comics but I think they have a lot of great potential for making libraries accessible to more people.   I’ve started listening to two great programs on comics and libraries called “Librarians Assemble” and “Secret Stacks.”

If You Aren’t Feeling It, Move On or Delete

I listen to podcasts while walking, commuting, or cleaning.  Your mind is valuable real estate.   Don’t clutter it with podcasts that don’t stimulate you or make you laugh.  Move on until you are ready to hear it or delete the whole program from your line-up. Continue reading

Streak Your Way to Success

You don’t have to be a super hero.  Just try a little bit every day.

Touch it everyday

Touch it.  I want to touch it every day.   This is my new winning strategy to skill acquisition.  In previous posts I’ve been examining how I’ve been using the “Mini Habits Mastery” course in combination with the Chains.cc app to keep track of the new habits I want to make.

However, what I want to focus here is a little digital tool that can make a big difference–the streak.  If you are going to win, you’ve got to make daily contact with your skill.  Maintain a streak of “touching” your skill every day and make a big difference.

Feed the slow steady fire

If you can’t study a lot, at least maintain your streak of making contact with the skill.   Duolingo, the language learning app boldly reminds you, “Learning a language requires practice every day.”  Michael Palmisano, my guitar teacher at Udemy says in his video courses that it is better to do a little bit every day than to try to tackle it all and not build the muscle memory that daily practice takes.

If you can’t do five minutes a day go for a streak Continue reading

Riding that Chain:  using the chain of mini-habits

Little Moves Make Big Change

I’m on the 23rd day of using Chains app to establish mini habits.  Everyday I do something small for six things that I am trying to make life-long habits:  learning languages, playing guitar, becoming a skillful librarian, getting in shape, increasing my financial strength and writing.  I’m noticing a few things:

  • Committing to just a little bit has made helped me take my learning just a little bit further. For example my goal to sustain my chain in Iknow (an app I use to learn Japanese but can also be used for English and Chinese) just takes one minute a day. But once I’m on the app I often continue because it’s so easy. It’s also fun because the app has built in incentives such such as weekly targets.
  • It’s easier to remember where I’ve been and keep from being discouraged. I’m traveling and hanging out in Japan. sometimes being busy makes it hard to keep up with my habits. But if I really remember how small my mini-habit commitment,is I can just keep moving. Momentum is my friend. For example, when I am travelling with I am not around a guitar. However, I can finger and practice chords and isolate the ones that aren’t natural to me.
  • More of my toolsーーguitars, webpages, notebook pages–are all more easily accessible because I do my habits much more frequently.

 

  • Momentum is on my side. For example,my only commitment to writing is five minutes a day. However, since I’m on the page with all my tools out it is often nor problem and even fun to keep going. However it is important to note that five minutes of sustaining a chain is a Yuuuge victory to be celebrated with another day on the chains,cc app.

I’m going to leave it here. As always the proof in this system will come once school starts up again. However, the time commitments are so small it looks like I can succeed every day.
If you would like to master the chain of mini habits check out the course called “Mini Habit Mastery: The Scientific Way to Change Your Habits” on Udemy. If you would like to support this blog, please hit on the Udemy link on the right side of this page and search for the course or pursue your other samurai learning needs. I will get a small commission that will help support me Samurai Mind. Enjoy!

Mini-Habits: (Don’t) Break the Chain

I’ve been enjoying the Udemy app so much I have become an affiliate.

It’s been an app-y summer.   I’ve finished graduate school and though I am preparing to start a new career as a school librarian, there aren’t as many looming deadlines and forced readings as last year.   I’ve installed a few apps and I’m rolling with them:

  • Simply-e–which allows you to use your New York public library card to borrow books to read on my tablet
  • Epic–to get online picture books for my daughter
  •  Sworkit—provides a variety of workouts without a gym
  • Udemy–an app for learning new skills online from various content providers
  • Chains–an app that lets you track and maintain new habits

Using the Udemy website and app I’ve been  watching the “Mini Habits Mastery” course on Udemy.   In short,  this course explains that in order to create new positive habits you need to go teeny tiny and small.  (Thanks to Rob Schwarz, a friend and an NLP trainer who suggested the course.  You can reach out to him at rob.schwartz@gmail.com for more cool ideas).

Great course on how-to of building mini habits

The course has been worth it to me even though I’ve been mostly listening to it on my walks in Japan as opposed to watching the video content.   It’s been worth the price because it has allowed me to jump start some habits and think about how to maintain them.   The course itself really digs in deep in an informative and entertaining way so check it out.
However, the main point I’ve gotten from the course is that you have to go infinitely small to develop habits that you want to sustain you.   For example, if you want to get in shape, set the goal of doing one push up every day.  If you want to write, set a goal of writing fifty words a day.

The Mini Habits course does a much better job of explaining why you would want to do this.  However, here is my understanding of the power of mini-habits:

  • setting super-small goals and actually being able to do it every day ingrains life-long habits that can transform your life
  • tiny, do-able habits get you on the page, to the gym and lead to increased forward momentum
  • mini-habits encourage “bonus reps”and often lead to exceeding mini-habits
  • Mini habits help you to insure you have your “tools” out for further creation…my mini-habit may be to out the guitar in my hands for two minutes but it puts me in the position of playing more if I want to

 

Easy to use checklist with great quotes about the power of building habits

I have game-ified the Mini Habit process with Chains.cc, an app that lets you track your habits and try to create chains.   Every day that you practice your habit you swipe to the left on your the app and create a new link in the ongoing chain

 

When you turn your phone sideways you can see the chain of habits you are creating with cute images.

So far I haven’t broken a chain because it would be so sad to break the visual picture.  What’s more important is that I’ve gained some momentum on goals that have seemed formidable.   I signed up for some Udemy guitar courses and asked have practiced at least two minutes a day.  It’s just two minutes so why not keep the chain going?

So far I’ve noticed some powerful advantages to this chains and mini-habit fusion:

Picture your on going chains of success. Part of my success with this so far is not wanting to “break” the picture by skipping a mini-habit day.

  • It’s fun.   Because the daily goals are very low stake it’s easier to have s feeling of success at the end of the day.
  • Momentum leads to “bonus reps” as the authors of Mini Habits call it.  If I have the guitar out to do my two minutes it’s easier to do more.   The mini habits author explains not to secretly raise the bar because it’s the mini aspect of this system that makes it work.
  • The chain effect makes it harder to forget where I was, whether it is the latest blog idea or the names of te guitar strings.

So far it’s only been a week but it’s been a quiet but powerful way to change up my summer.   Hope you will join me.   Become part of the chain gang.

Back in the Kanban Flow!

This is an interesting way to organize the flow of your work life.

KanbanFlow is an interesting way to organize the flow of your work and home life.

I’m back like the Phoenix from the ashes–or the busy teacher in graduate school.    Summer is here and I’m in Japan for the summer.   I am taking two online graduate classes through Syracuse University as I slog along the path to becoming Juan the Samurai School Librarian.

My Samurai Mind notebook is still a lifeline.   I pour everything in there now, including my graduate classes.  Normally, I would suggest keeping separate notebooks but this school year I have been in time survival mode.   The boring-est of graduate class notes are mixed in with inspirational quotes.   Sometimes the graduate stuff overwhelms the inspiration, but the inspirations are like little nuggets that keep the process fun.   Once the unit or class is finished, if the information from the classes are not inspirational, I put a huge X across the page once the class is finished.

This is my Writing board.   I've written a lot more since I started this board.

This is my Writing board. I’ve written a lot more since I started this board.

My newest summer toy is a website called KanbanFlow.    It is my latest time management tool.  I’ve just had it for a week.    Basically, I can add tasks to several columns:   to do, do today, in progress and  done.    I can move the tasks you create from one column to the other.   The “in progress” column just has room for three tasks, because in reality it’s hard to do more than three tasks at once.  For me, it serves as a reminder of what I am actually doing.  In the world of Facebook, notifications, text messages, etc I really need the reminder of what I am doing.   When I start to wander to Facebook, I look at the chart and remind myself of what I’m actually supposed to be doing.

A Pomodoro counts down from 25 minutes.  This is the stopwatch option that allows you to measure how much time you are working on a task.  It can be motivating.

A Pomodoro counts down from 25 minutes. This is the stopwatch option that allows you to measure how much time you are working on a task. It can be motivating.

If I really want to get fancy, the site lets me set a “Pomodoro” for the task that I am currently on.   Usually it sets a countdown timer for 25 minutes.   At the end of the time and the effervescent ring, I can claim the time or “pomodoro” if I’ve been on task or I can deny it if I have been off-task (i.e. looking at Facebook).   The nice aspect of this is that the time you claim adds up and gets added to your task card.  This way you can track the amount of time you’ve been on a certain task.   Kanban is  a nice way to ”gamify” productivity and creativity.

When I create cards, I can create subtasks within the task.   This is a great feature that allows me to guide myself through various projects.  For example,  I am currently studying three languages:  German, Tagalog, and Japanese.  When I click on the study Japanese card, I can check off little subtasks: study IKnow, surusu, Jpod101, read fun manga/book, watch fun Japanese stuff on Youtube, etc.   The checklists lets me know where to go and also where I have been.   When I get done with a task, I can move it to the “Done” column.  In the morning or when ever I look at my kanban board again, I can move the tasks that I do repeatedly back to the “To Do” column.

The kanban board encourages me to accomplish more while being more flexible.   There is something very pleasing about moving a task to the Done pile.  I’ve studied a whole lot more of the different languages this way.   On the other hand, having a board to look at gives you a lot of options to choose from depending on your energy level and interests.   If I get tired of writing my blog, I can move to do a teeny, tiny language lesson.   KanbanFlow allows you to create several boards.  I call one the Masterboard, where I can see the various kinds of task that I am interested.  Then I have other boards for the different contexts I find are important to me: School (everything from planning lessons to individual student concerns),  Library (graduate studies and planning to create a school library), Writing, Union/Advocacy, and Family/Home.

I have the Premium (5$/month) version but you can just play around with the free version to see if it helps you with your productivity.  I also didn’t shop around a lot, so this isn’t an endorsement.   I needed something to help me harness my time and options and I ran with it.    I also have an app called Kanban for One which works on a similar principle but I didn’t like that I couldn’t synch it across devices.  However, I still use it for times when I can’t access the internet–long plane rides, etc.  The whole kanban process was originally done on paper strips. Yay sticky notes! and white boards!

I have 5;47 remaining to finish a snappy conclusion.  Move it to the right and get it done with kanban!

Be the Poet of Your Samurai Song: Samurai Mind Notebook

Be the poet of your life’s song.  Laurence Boldt, Zen and the Art of Making a Living

Create Your Own Mix

Making the music of your life is a lot easier with a samurai mind notebook.

When I first started teaching up in the South Bronx, I started to notice that some of my students had notebooks where they worked out their rhymes.   They treated these notebooks with a heck of a lot more care than the work I was giving them, but I respect that.

To create, shape, and save your words means that you get to create your vision, create your own song.   To keep a notebook is to create your samurai sword.   To review it regularly is to polish it with love.

I just hit a patch of inspirational material that has been overdue for a six month review.    At the time I was reading Zen and the Art of Making a Living and copied the best ideas and quotations.   One more time I got to hear William James say,  “Human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.”

The Samurai Mind Notebook is a way to do what James is asking.  By taking time to write ideas and inspirations into your little notebook and gently review them, you systematize on-going cultivating.   It’s like you are leaving little treats or positive “bombs” to challenge or steer you in the future.

I’m also coming across little bits of music theory in my notebook.  Lately, I’ve made a conscious decision to give less attention to music, but coming across these snippets in my samurai mind notebook is challenging that decision in a fun way.   I know that the holiday sale at jamplay.com is happening again, and I just might pull out the guitar and the five minutes a day to make it part of my song.

There are no obligations with a samurai mind notebook.   If reviews aren’t interesting to you, you can gloss over them and call it a success.   But every now and then elements and ideas pop up that want to be part of your life’s song.   Review.   Trust your joy.  Play your life’s song.

Make Every Day a New Year’s Day: Small Samurai

One little step.  Take one small action.  Make small the new "big."

One little step. Take one small action. Make small the new “big.”

Right now it is December 10th but it feels like the New Year has already begun.   I’ve joined a gym and I am actually going.   I’ve initiated the process of exploring a spiritual community.   I’m not waiting for the New Year to get moving on projects and ideas.

It all started by going through my book shelves.   I finally realized that I was getting tired of having so many books that I hadn’t read.  I made the decision to go through each shelf methodically, reading at least page in each book and stopping when I got bored with the whole process.   Part of what has sparked so much learning these past few years has been my experience with All Japanese All the Time, which emphasizes working with working with the “neutrino” of small actions accumulating to immersion in Japanese.   The “mediocre choice that leads to excellence” can be applied to other things that you want to shift in your life.

Once I started going through the simple act of one page of every book on my shelves, I experienced a quickening.  I gave myself permission to stop but as I went through my books, the old dreams and inspirations were rekindled and I continued.   When I got to the bottom of the shelf in my bedroom, I decided to make a pass around the whole apartment, slowly reviewing, cleaning, reorganizing, tossing, and reigniting ideas, projects and resources.

The new year is approaching and for some people it is a time to set big goals and make major transformations.  But why not start the New Year now with some small action.  Make small the new big and start by picking one “corner” to begin with.   Clean out your purse (or murse).   Be gentle with yourself.   Celebrate and move on.   Repeat.  Make every day a New Years Day.

 

 

Samurai Attraction: Get a Little “Shelvish”

Screen shot 2013-08-20 at 5.16.16 PM

This is one of the bookshelves I’ve started to go through. Reading is a powerful way to move your life forward. But sometimes we need to give ourselves to not be so precious or serious about our reading. Find ways to be “attracted” to books. Fun is serious stuff. 🙂

This will be the year of getting “shelvish.”  I have been feeling a little overwhelmed that I have all these great books on my shelf that have gone unread and are just “lying there.”   So I’ve begun a one page campaign.   I am going through my bookshelves methodically and just letting myself read one page each night.   Sometimes the information sings to me and I read more.  Many times I get excited and move on to the next book to see myself moving forward.  I bookmark the page and the next night I move on to the next book.

Keep in mind that I am a busy parent and teacher.    I turn to the bookshelf after I finish reading “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” or “Jamberry”  to my three year.  The other day I read two or three pages of David Fromkin’s A Peace to End All Peace:   The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and The Creation of the Modern Middle East.  Last night I read two pages of Stanley Karnow’s Vietnam:  A History.  In the next few nights I will hit Zen and the Art of Making A Living and some other self-helpy materials.  (My bookshelves aren’t necessarily arranged according to the Dewey Decimal system.)  I am also approaching a fun little patch of Japanese manga and self-help books.

We live in an age of information overload and days that may have 1000 demands.   It’s easy to fall into overwhelm.  But increasingly I’m finding it is important to do two things:  1)  think small and 2)  follow joy.    The information or the story or the song has to be attractive and attracted to you because that’s when you can really grow into your skill, into your self the way that you want to be.

Whenever I start to feel a little too precious or self-righteous about reading, I head over to ajatt.com.   The blogmeister, Khatzumoto, taught himself Japanese in fifteen months through fun immersion.  A big part of that involved reading fun materials in Japanese.   One of his latest blog articles is “Multipass Reading:   Be Sloppy the First 10 Times Because You Can Always Come Back.” 

I love this invitation to “read sloppy” because the other option for little ole “perfectionist” me is not to read at all.   Why should I let these hundreds of dollars of books and thousands of hours of human knowledge pass me by because I’m frozen about how to read correctly?  It’s time to be shelvish and just have fun.

If not reading is holding you back, join me!  Let’s make this the Year of Being Shelvish!