Success and Motivation at Your Fingertips:   Put Your Library on Speed-dial

Use e-bookss to power your life

It’s been a great summer.   I finished graduate school in Library Science in May.  Though this summer “vacation” I’ve been busy training for my new job as a high school librarian,  I’ve also had more time to listen to informative and fun podcasts, read for pleasure and establish the mini-habits I want in my life.   There’s a little more guitar, writing, exercise and joy in my life.

Part of what has made my summer more interesting is putting the library at my fingertips by putting books on hold and through various e-reader apps that allow me to tap into the library.

i have a regular card and an educator card through a program called MyLibraryNYC. My “keys” to success.

It’s not that I am just checking out more materials.   Getting more books and materials is part of being more excited about constant learning. I’m at the edge of jumping into a new career,  I’m listening to great podcasts that lead me to great books and resources.  Through the library I can have that extra information and inspiration within days or seconds.

The best learning happens when you can have a resource “just in time.” I have a growing but temporary collection of distraction free physical books and also a small collection of powerful books that I can read from my phone or tablet.

The library is an often untapped resource that can help you transform your business or skills.  September is Library Card Sign Up Month but it’s always a great and convenient time to get a library card.  If you are not a big library user here’s a couple of pointers: 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 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


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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 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, 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.

Dump and Slash:   Why sometimes you need to raze a village to save a child

I’m in Japan with a suitcase full of notebooks and professional literature.   I am on a dump and slash mission.   I’m here for thirty days and I hope to return without any of the notebooks and professional literature that I crammed into my suit case.   Sometimes you need to raze a village to save a child.

First a little back story.  I basically stopped updating Samurai Mind Online when I received a scholarship to study to become a librarian two years ago.  My courses were online at Syracuse University but that doesn’t mean that it was a piece of cake.  In addition to my full-time job, I was also elected the union representative for my school and continued to be a dad of two young children.

As the various projects and demands piled up, I found that I had a growing mound of professional literature and my notebooks piling up.   This pile is a potential treasure pile but it’s sheer size was a major de-motivator.   It created falling hazards on my desk that threatened to bury my children alive.   As an organizational samurai I’ve now realized that you have to raze a village to save a child.In addition to my library journals, I’ve brought a bunch of my notebooks that are due for review.   However, I’ve decided that instead of dating the entries and reviewing methodically that I will review at random and not date any of the pages.   The only effort I will expend is copying very interesting entries by hand into my new notebook or in the case of longer entries I use CamScanner to turn the pages into PDFs which I then upload to my Evernote account.

I have a built in incentive.  The luggage will have room for more goodies to bring back from Japan.  Plus, my wife won’t kill me.   My luggage is not all my own.  I moonlight as a mule of Japanese stationary, house hold goods, and snacks  for my wife.

This is just a reminder that even if you have a system sometimes what really needs to happen is to have a purge.   I could have carefully dated and reviewed all of my notebooks but they had built up to such a big pile that it would have just led to resentment, resistance and possibly an even bigger pile leading to more resentment and resistance.

So this is just a friendly reminder that if you are feeling overwhelmed by the “pile” maybe what you need is a celebration around the pyre of letting things go.  You need to raze a village to save the child.







Listen to What You Want to Become: Samurai Mind meets Cyberpunk  Librarian

Screen Shot 2015-12-23 at 7.20.42 PMI’m in transition. (No not that kind.).  I’m a teacher learning to be a teacher librarian.   But to be a teacher librarian these days means to be an information generalist in an age when information is metastasizing at a tremendous rate.  In library school, we are encouraged to learn coding languages as well as connecting with great books for kids of all ages.  It’s overwhelming for a busy dad who doesn’t even know what’s on cable television.

But I decided to let go and let podcast.  From my days of All Japanese All The Time,  I realized that you become what you listen to.   So I hit up a Facebook group for librarians called ALA THINK TANK for librarian podcast recommendations.  Librarians are a helpful bunch and within minutes and over several days I developed a nice little list of podcasts.

My only “ask” was that the program has to be fun to listen to.   I have enough required activities in my life right now and don’t need any more “homework.”  I found a program, Lost in the Stacks, about university libraries that interspersed with great rock  and roll.

Then I stumbled onto The Cyberpunk Librarian.  Episode 36 focuses on productivity tools and did a great explanation of the Getting Things Done system.  Daniel Messer shows how to use list making tools and why he prefers using OneNote to Evernote.  He also succinctly explains and rifts on the very helpful Pomodoro technique.  Always a librarian, Messer provides a killer resource list of interest to anyone interested in getting things done.  But what also intrigued me was that he also advocates for using a physical notebook.  I’m waiting with samurai baited breath to listen to that episode.

This little episode is a great reminder that you can use the immersion and principles can work for whatever skill you want to tackle.  Make sure to:

  • Use and expand your social networks to get ideas beyond your own research
  • Let go and let podcast.  There is so much interesting and specialized content out there.   Go get it!
  • Be immersed in the language of your new or desired skill
  • Expand your Personal Learning Network by asking for help, online and in person.  When you strike gold, make sure to share the wealth
  • Have fun!

Time Pressure Samurai

I’m sitting by a large window in a cafe in Manhattan, facing the East and hoping to get some rays of sun before I head into to the cave of work.  I have five more minutes before I have to go.   I am a imagetime pressure samurai.  You can become one too.

Time is at a premium these days which is why you haven’t heard much from me these days.   I’m a public school teacher with two children.   I’m getting a graduate degree in library science and spending as much of my “free” time as possible at school libraries and library trainings.

There seems to be very little time.   But here is this cafe window and a cup of coffee that gets cold within thirty minutes.   I use this little “window” of time every morning to create or study and connect.

It seems many personal and fun projects have gotten away from me.   So instead of despairing I go through little “me paces,”  short little bursts of activities that I want to do:

  • read inspirational or professional articles one page at a time
  • review of a current notebook
  • Review an old notebook
  • study Japanese for five minutes using I know
  • study Tagalog
A little bit at a time

A little bit at a time

I usually get into the cafe around 7 a.m. and have to leave by 7:40 to get to work on time.   This is also the amount of time it takes for my cup of coffee to get cold.   I pile up my reading and notebooks and set my iPhone to the side.  I read a page, review a notebook page, review an older notebook page.

Then I open my cellphone and study iKnow (a program with pre-packaged sentences in Japanese), write three sample sentences, and quiz myself on the rest of the work.  Since I have my iPhone at hand, I use Mango to study Tagalog.  I’m studying this language because I have a few Philippine friends and I thought it would be fun.   (The app and access to Mango is free through many public libraries.)  Tagalog is not a major goal so I only study five “cards” at a time and this study session takes two or three minutes.  Lately, since I realize having the iPhone in hand means access to many goals, I have also started writing and editing an article on how to keep a Samurai Mind Notebook.

Though I spend very little time on each activity there are several benefits:

  • A little bit every day keeps the neural chain going–skills are never completely abandoned
  • small attempts clear the ground for when there are moments of time–raking the leaves a little bit each day instead of waiting for a big wet leafy mess
  • its fun–it keeps little candle of hope and fun burning

Take it all a little bit at a time. Become a time pressure samurai.

Back in the Kanban Flow!


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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!

Use the Library for Physical Reminders of Big Ideas

Hello, Samurai Mindsters!   I’ve attached many vacuums to my time lately.  I am still a high school teacher.   I am a Librarian in Training (LIT!).   I also believe I am the parent of two little girls.

I keep a samurai mind notebook to remind me of great ideas but I also incorporate another practice to be physically reminded of great books and ideas.  As I come across great ideas of books and videos, I check my library to see if they have it and put the items on reserve.  Most libraries now make it easy to see which materials they have through online catalog and reserve systems.    It usually takes a while to actually receive the item, and I am notified by email when it arrives in my local branch.

Then I have a physical reminder of that inspirational idea.   Either I skim the book or view the video, or if I really like it, I fall into it.   The idea becomes a part of my physical reality.   The library reserve can become a physical spaced repetition system.

I made my first video for my graduate work at Syracuse University’s School Media Specialist program.  (Note:  I need to get a better microphone and background.  Enjoy my first foray into SamuraiTube!

Lost in the “Stacks”: Blogging About Libraries

You may have wondered where I have gone?  I’ve disappeared into the actual and virtual worlds of library training through Syracuse University.    I was away for the summer at the beautiful campus and then have been busy with online classes, learning, reading, in addition to my work as a personal coach and teacher.

Currently, I am taking a class called “Information Technology in Educational Organizations.”   Along with my other course, “Literacy Through School Libraries”, my head is spinning–in a good way.   I am taking my samurai mind on a different spin and I am valiantly trying to join the 21st century.

One of our current questions is to consider how we might include blogging in our libraries and classrooms.   How would or could a blog support the library?  Should it involve just me, your samurai mind librarian, or also involve the patrons.   My first thought is that blogging is an awesome opportunity to create community while developing skills that involve  collaboration, editing, technology, and a plethora of other skills that involve the Common Core and AASL standards.

I think it is important to have a librarian voice and a patron voice.   I think the more students/patrons know me as a human being, the better.   Blogging lends itself to informal sharing that could open up patrons to new books, activities, and ways to use the library.  I think it is also important to include micro-blogging opportunities for students so they have ownership and widen the audience/use of the library by reviewing books, adverstising/creating creation opportunities and events in the library and otherwise using student-speak to attract a wider audience.

How to do that is a different issue.   Ideas?

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