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!

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?

Samurai Coaching: Limited Opportunity

Talk to me---your lamp post.

Talk to me—your lamp post.

Even if you talked to a lamp post about your goals, dreams, and obstacles you would benefit.   Talking and getting your aspirations, frustrations, and the tangled web of priorities outside of yourself gives you the benefit of getting out of your head and into action.

I am offering to become your lamp post and your coach.  For a limited time, I am offering three free sessions of coaching to the first candidates that apply for the available sessions below.   We will have an initial discussion to see if we are good fit, then after that we will begin our 45 minute sessions.

It’s time to tap into your already wonderful mind and life and take it up a samurai notch. 

More about me:

  • I am a current student at the tail end of my training program at Coach U.   In addition to my current training, I also bring decades of experience in teaching and co-counseling, a process where people are training to listen–without judgement–to encourage growth and breaking through barriers.
  • I am a life-long learner and teacher.   I believe in everyone’s inherent capacity to grow and expand.
  • I am a teacher and am also starting a Masters in Library Science.  It is all part of my calling to help people find their voice without drowning in a sea of information.
  • I have been samurai mind blogging and encouraging people to use their minds and lives better since 2011.   With all my rough edges out I have blogged about various “self-help” topics such as maximizing how you use your memory to learn everything from foreign language to musical instruments, the importance of consistent “reaches” and small moments of practice, money consciousness, leveraging the power of reading, the power of letting go, creativity and time management, deliberate practice, the power of small moves,  and creating a samurai notebook (the powerful use of samurai mind notebooks).
  • I firmly believe that if we fully can tap our minds, we can better serve our selves, others, and the earth in a spirit of intelligent play.

What coaching is and what it can do for you:

  • Coaching is a process where you, the coachee, get to move your samurai mind and life forward, by articulating what you want in life, obstacles that you see, and envisioning.   As a coach I am there to support you, listen, gently question and remind you of your stated goals.
  • Coaching is not therapy, consulting, financial planning, or any other such service.  In the process of a coaching session you may reach the conclusion that this may help your growth and make a plan to get outside help.  I do not pretend I am qualified to guide you in these areas.  I am your lamp post.  You do the walking.

It’s time to tap into your already wonderful mind and life and take it up a samurai notch. 


Available Session Times in June:

Mondays at 4 P.M.  EST

Wednesdays 4-6 P.M. EST

Thursdays at 9 P.M. EST



Samurai Librarian: You Are the Collection!

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Librarians have always been my superheros because they helped me get to where I am. Now I get to return the favor. The idea of librarianship is really evolving as this article about superheroes, comics, and libraries shows.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been two months since I’ve blogged on this site.  Where did I go?  I’ve been spending a little time blogging about teaching about Asia, but really the rest of the time has been taken up by teaching and also getting into a School Media Specialist program at Syracuse University.  There are still little steps to take (immunization records, transcripts, etc!) but for now most of the post-acceptance work is done.

I will start actual classes in July, but I feel like I’ve already started to get the benefits of the program.  The library program shared a short article and video from one of their professors, R. David Lankes.   In “The Community is Your Collection”  Lankes weaves the story of his cancer with changing the notion of librarianship.  Rather than being the guardian of a “collection”,  being a librarian actually involves gathering the hopes, goals, dreams and fears of your patrons and working from their to build, assist, and grow. This lecture made even more excited to be going to the iSchool in Syracuse to learn how to be a School Media Specialist.  (Thanks to a PLUS NY grant funded by Institute of Museum and Library Services!)

Lankes begins by describing the night he that learned about his diagnosis and very quickly moves to explain how his experience differed with the experience of children and their families who learn about their prognoses at the very same hospital.   At that particular hospital, in addition to doctors and other support staff, a librarian comes to the meeting.   This librarian listens to the doctors, the families and listens for keywords and the concerns of every one involved.    Then she provides resources–links, sites and articles for the adults–appropriate age level picture books for the children.   Lankes very powerfully shows that being a librarian is about listening to people, and the community, and to help them face their fears, their dreams, and to take on life in its myriad forms.

I highly suggest watching the video even if you aren’t big into libraries.   What I would like to add is that you also need to be your own librarian.   You need to query your own passions, interests, lingering questions, problems, and challenges and get excited building your own set of resources–music, videos, websites, personal trainings, etc.    Follow your love and passion and in your own way you can better serve others.  You are the collection!




Let Your Samurai Flowers Bloom!

Seed your dreams and ideas with your samurai mind notebook.

Seed your dreams and ideas with your samurai mind notebook.

Yesterday, I had a curious experience.  I was doing a six-month review of a samurai notebook.  In the notebook, I was beginning to imagine how I want to reconstruct my work experience and life.   The shocking thing is that six months later a lot of these things are starting to become true.   Just this week I learned that I am one of 15 lucky New York City teachers who will get a scholarship to take courses at the Library Sciences program at Syracuse University to become School Media Specialists.   I am going to become a 21st century  samurai librarian!

This move is a mash-up of both my work with What Color is Your Parachute and my samurai notebook.  With the help of Parachute I did an inner search for my interests, abilities, and desired working conditions.   As I did my process and finally created my What Color is Your Parachute (WCIYP) “flower,”  I made sure that I placed a lot of my searching and results in my samurai notebook.  Because of this, I kept running into my requirements for different work or training.  Because I kept reviewing my notes on the WCIYP process through the samurai notebook process, I kept my lens and inspiration clear.

Here is an excellent example of a career flower from a blog called Quantified Self.  Doing the flower is great even if you are not switching careers because it helps you clarify where and how you want to be.  Take time to smell the flowers.

Here is an excellent example of a career flower from a blog called Quantified Self. Doing the flower is great even if you are not switching careers because it helps you clarify where and how you want to be. Take time to smell the flowers.

The WCIYP process asks career seekers to begin by creating several petals on their “flower”:  favorite knowledges, kinds of people to work with, favorite transferable skills, preferred working conditions, salary and level of responsibility, preferred places to live, as well as a statement of purpose or mission in life.  Making the flower involves both inner work and research.   Once you’ve finished making your flower, you have created a powerful tool that empowers you to make a more enlightened job search.

The author Richard N. Bolles loves to bend language rules.  One of the first “petals” he asks you to create are your favorite “knowledges.”    Knowing what moves and excites you will help you find the career that is an exciting fit.   I am looking to shift rather than change my career and these were my favorite knowledges or fields of experience:

  1. Learning to learn skills.   Books and programs about how to learn and develop talent.

  2. design of learning experiences/curriculum design

  3. brainstorming and generating ideas

  4. research

  5. self-help growth strategies

I put my “flower” on googledocs but I soon realized that just leaving it there would be just like archiving it.  During my morning reviews, I spent a little time putting the “petals” into my plain old notebook.   This ensured that I would keep rubbing against all of these ideas during my day to day life and as I considered different options.

My samurai notebooks can be rough, but reviewing it I am like a gardener turning over the soil and planting.  On some days, I am “weeding” and on other days I’m planting.   Every now and then a beautiful flower blooms in the process.  Let a 100 samurai flowers bloom.  Plant you now and dig you later! 🙂






How to Get Ahead Without Losing Your Head

Get ahead without losing your head.

Get ahead without losing your head.

I finally got around to picking up a copy of The Last Samurai:  The Life and Times of Saigo Takamori.  After watching the Hollywood Tom Cruise version of history, I realized it is time to get a real historian’s re-telling of this transitional period of history.   Saigo Takamori is the “real” last samurai, who rebelled against the central government.  Long story short, Takamori loses his head.   The central government tries to find it but can’t.  That becomes a problem.

For me reading this chapter was an opportunity to turn great history writing into a schlocky self-help mantra:  How to Get Ahead Without Losing Your Head.   In truth, this is what this whole blog is about: how to move your mind and life forward without self-abuse.

One of the key germs for this life approach was All Japanese All the Time.  I was beating myself up about how I wasn’t learning Japanese and stumbled upon this website.   Khatz, the founder, explained that you could learn Japanese by doing more fun things in Japanese and through consistent but micro moves such as SRS flashcard reviews, and a whole host of techniques.  What AJATT helped me to do was be gentler with myself and keep trying, probing, and most importantly looking for the fun opportunities.

I haven’t made learning Japanese a big priority though I still make it a daily habit.  (I am treading water, but I still know a hell of a lot more than if I had kept on beating myself up.)  However, through my AJATT methods I’ve learned how to get ahead without losing my head.  Khatz explains in “Why are Third Rate Ideas Better than First Rate Ideas”:

Here’s the trick to making deep, long-term, self-directed language-learning work.

Don’t do ten good things.

Do one good thing. One day. At a time.

And not even a very good thing. Just a good enough thing. Just barely good enough.

I think this is a great idea for making “deep, long-term, self-directed” growth work in areas beyond language.  Be gentle but push forward.   The samurai mind notebook is a great way to do one good thing.  Put your daily inspirations/vital information and review–just a little bit if you can’t do more.
Get ahead without losing your head.

Take time each day to reclaim your samurai mind.

Samurai Networking: Skip the Baloney

I am rethinking networking.   Maybe when it comes from true connection, it's about building bridges.

I am rethinking networking. When networking comes from true connection, it’s about building bridges.

This is one of those cases where I’m going to give you advice about something I’m not actually too good at yet–networking.     Part of the reason I may be developing in this area is because previously associated networking with oil and slickery–forced associations with others for personal gain. Then this summer, I met Tony Draper over the phone through an Introduction to Coaching class.   He explained that the best way to network is to make genuine connections with people and groups.  He made a couple of suggestions:

  • find groups that you are naturally attracted to rather than forcing yourself into a “networking” group–follow your interests
  • give most groups at least two tries–you may find your groove with the group on the second try
  • think in terms of “givers gain”—think in terms of how you can genuinely be of service to the group or members of that group–whether it is an important piece of information, a lead, or just your full attention
  • be genuinely curious about the members of the group

As I’ve tried to think about networking, part of what I’ve been doing is also thinking of the people that are genuine at their networking.    My former writing teacher and author of Devil in the Hole, Charles Salzberg, is also a genuine networker.    Whenever I have lunch with Charles he is  inquisitive about my life and the lives of many people that he comes in contact with.   He recommends the great work of his former students, friends and in turn has a good network of people who recommend his work.   Charles works at promoting his writing, of course, but I think it goes a lot easier because of authenticity and connection that he has with people.

No. Phoney. Bologna. Who knows?  Maybe 2014 will be the year that Juan got his Samurai Network on?  In the meantime, I am grateful for the connections I have now.   In the midst of this cold snap I thank you for being part of that and I wish you the deepest and most warm connections for 2014.

The Samurai Questions: The Tipping Point

Positive questions, quotations, and thoughts aren't necessarily to turn you into a happiness robot.  It's about shifting your internal tipping point.   Photo:  particle man from

Positive questions, quotations, and thoughts aren’t necessarily to turn you into a happiness robot. It’s about shifting your internal tipping point. Photo: particle man from

Though I am still on the fence about Words Can Change Your Brain, reading it inspired me to keep a “happiness journal.”   Once a day since mid-October, I’ve been reviewing the day or the previous day and searching for three events or observations that made me happy.   Nothing revolutionary is happening but what I find is that asking these questions and changing my focus and taking me towards a “tipping point”  that often leads to a more positive direction for the day.

Lately, I’m finding a lot of “tipping point” thinking in a lot of the top holistic career books.   What Color is Your Parachute explains for example:

In any situation, no matter how much we may feel we are at the mercy of vast forces out there,that are totally beyond our control, we can always find something that is within our control and work on that.

Laurence Boldt in Zen and the Art of Making a Living devotes a significant portion of his book asking readers to think about and tap into memories of when they have been powerful by recalling:

  • Times of great creativity.
  • Moments of commitment in the face of obstacles.
  • Decisive moments.
  • Times when they accomplished something in the face of discouragement from others.
  • Times of being so absorbed in projects that they didn’t notice the time passing.

I just stumbled across all these great thoughts in my samurai mind notebook.   The great thing about keeping positive projects, thoughts and inspirations and reviewing them regularly is not that I turn into a “happiness robot” but that by reviewing and creating my notebooks, I regularly get challenged into a proactive stance.

Apparently these practices of searching for the good and powerful is endorsed by a field called positive psychology.   Apparently, it might be good to build up your strong points and focus on daily moments of happiness, rather than focusing on what is “wrong” with you.

Obstacles and trying times will come.   As Bob Marley wrote, “Life is one big road with lots of signs.  So when you riding through the ruts don’t you complicate your mind.  Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy.   Don’t bury your thoughts.  Put your vision to reality!”

Ask powerful questions.  Find three happiness moments.  Find your samurai tipping point.

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 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.