Tag Archives: time management

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!

Bend Time Like A Samurai: Personal Kanban

I found the kanban idea so useful that I created one to use in the Writers Room.  I used the format used in the app "Kanbanfor1" that includes "Things to Do" "Next"  "Doing" "Waiting" "Done" and a trashcan icon.  In the app if you try to put too many stickies in the "Doing" box it turns red because you can't be doing too many things at once.   It's made a big difference in organizing my time.  It really helps me to have physical reminders of what I am doing right now and what I have accomplished in a day.

I found the kanban idea so useful that I created one to use in the Writers Room. I used the format used in the app “Kanbanfor1” that includes “Things to Do” “Next” “Doing” “Waiting” “Done” and a trashcan icon. In the app if you try to put too many stickies in the “Doing” box it turns red because you can’t be doing too many things at once. It’s made a big difference in organizing my time. It really helps me to have physical reminders of what I am doing right now and what I have accomplished in a day.

Last week we trooped the family to Bushwick to visit another family.   The husband was really excited by a new time management system that he was using called “kanban.”   He uses it not only to organize his own life but also to manage workflow in his job in software development.   He even gave me a copy of the book that lays out the principles of why this time management system works called Personal Kanban: Mapping Work | Navigating Life.

Kanban is a Japanese word for sign, board, etc.  The set up for this board can begin very simply.  You can have three columns:  backlog, work in progress, and “done.”

  • The Backlog.   The backlog includes items that are traditionally included in things like “to do lists.”  However, most kanban systems rely on sticky notes (physical or virtual) because visualization and movement of tasks is really important.  You need to see what your options are and then “pull” from your options to move into.
  • Work in Progress. This is where you move items from the backlog that you are currently doing.  The trick to this is that you should limit how many tasks you are doing at once because multitasking can become a dangerous juggling act where nothing actually gets accomplished.
  • Done.   This is self-explanatory but so far I’ve discovered that it is really liberating to have this.   First of all, it’s fun to move things into the “done” column.   The second part is that it is also feedback.   I have a bigger picture of what I am accomplishing or the nature of my work and effort.

I’m still exploring how to use this tool but I was so excited about it that I had to include this in the blog.   It really helped to calm me down at the beginning of the school year.  As a teacher, I deal with so many things at once that the beginning of the year can seem like a chaotic swirl even before the students arrive.   Though I hadn’t finished reading Personal Kanban: Mapping Work | Navigating Life, I realized that it was a tool that could help me tame the beast.

I started to put items that I needed to take care of on my “backlog.”   After looking at all the items, I realized that the two best things that I could be doing were cleaning and organizing my classroom by circling around the classroom and also organizing my personal kanban.   Those two items were actually pretty synergistic.  As I came across and organized physical items, I came up with ideas to put on my kanban.   At times, I became overwhelmed but then I could look at “Doing” or “Work in Progress” section to calm myself down and focus.  At the end of the day, I had moved several items to the “Done” section.   This “Done” section not only gave me a view of what I had accomplished in the day but also gave me a deeper picture of my work.  I also realized that if I file these “done” slips I can document what I am actually accomplishing with my time.

I am also co-teaching with someone for the first time.  I get so overwhelmed concentrating on my own work that I often don’t know how to ask for help.   She looked at my kanban and since she doesn’t have her own room, decided to help by organizing my bookshelves.  (Physical organization is something I am working on.)

Kanban is a tool that originally came from Toyota, so it actually a “samurai” tool.  Even though I haven’t fully sussed it out, I know that a lot of people are making new starts this fall, so give it a try or read more about it at personalkanban.com.  Pull don’t push.  Bend time like a samurai.

Samurai Getting it from All Directions

Look back, look forward, look around.   Sometimes an all directions approach helps you move forward.   Think cross-train.

Look back, look forward, look around. Sometimes an all directions approach helps you move forward. Think cross-train.

I loved it when Daniel Coyle, author of The Little Book of Talent and The Talent Code, mentioned the skateboarders highlighted in the documentary Dogtown and Zboys.   These outsiders and misfits changed skateboarding forever.   Part of how Coyle explains how they developed their talent was that these skaters “trained” in ever changing environments.   The Zboys were influenced by surfing but also learned how to skate streets,  irrigation ditches, and in a year of drought a plethora of dried out pools.   Each change of environment added to their repertoire and talent.

The takeaway for me is to make sure to get it from all directions.  For example, I came to Kentucky from Puerto Rico at the age of eight and did not know very much English.  (I had the advantage of having a mom that already spoke English).   I went to school and was assigned a speech therapist in addition to regular instruction.   I also fell in love with comic books, specially Richie Rich, Casper, and Archie comic books.   I also grooved on “Sesame Street” and” Electric Company.”   I listened to AM radio.  I watched “Name that Tune.”  I was getting language from all directions.  A cat named Khatz did the same thing with Japanese at an older age and built a website called All Japanese All the Time.

Change your environments and approaches but not so much that you actually don’t move forward.   For example, I’ve taken a very dogged approach to music theory.  I spend five minutes every day moving forward on a little piece of music theory from Theory for the Contemporary Guitarist.  Is it the best book on theory for guitarists?  I don’t know.  Probably not.   At the end of each page, I hunt for youtube videos on the topic and see what other people have said about the various music theory topics.  I’m learning a foreign language here and I know that to learn it, I will need to approach it from many directions.   Every now and then something makes sense.   Victory! 🙂

I also make sure that there is time where I am playing and watching others play.  The point of practice is getting to the point of no mind, a concept I learned through continuous viewing of The Last Samurai.  🙂   Have fun strategizing and playing so when the self-doubt and “I am not worthy”  assassins come to kill you in the dark, you can have your Tom Cruise moment and come at them from all directions.  Peace!



Samurai Addiction: Become A User

This book is huge but I like it.  Reading it on an iphone breaks it up into bits.  I skim until I get to the interesting parts.  I use it as a treat to keep pushing.  Yes, nerd alert.

This book is huge but I like it. Reading it on an iphone breaks it up into bits. I skim until I get to the interesting parts. I use it as a treat to keep pushing. Yes, nerd alert.

I’m reading on the cloud these days and loving it.  I bought a Kindle from a friend and am enjoying the fact that I can read a book “on the cloud.”  I can read on various computers, my ipad, and my iphone.   Ironically, it is not available on the actual kindle.  I am reading The Making of Modern Japan, a massive book that I actually own a print version of.    The estate of the author, Marius Jansen, is probably enjoying a few extra cups of coffee thanks to me.  Reading on the cloud has become addictive but I am learning to use the addiction.

The Making of Modern Japan is not in Japanese and thus takes me a little bit away from my goal of Japanese fluency.  But reading on the cloud has become addictive enough that I have learned to use it.  When I noticed how much time and attention I was putting into the book, I decided to use the energy.  In order to turn the page, I do a rep of electronic surusu flashcards.   (What I really appreciate about these cards is that pretty soon after you do a few, it congratulates you on “repset finished” or something like that.  You feel a sense of accomplishment and can move on.)  You can substitute any short 2-3 minute “push” activity.  After you finish you can briefly return to your non-harming addictive activity.

So the next time you find yourself complaining that you just wasted a bunch of time looking at Facebook, think about how you can use the addictive pull towards healthy pushes.  After checking a screen full of statuses, slide over to your guitar, tune it, and do one little exercise.  Hey, don’t blame me if you end up practicing for half an hour.  🙂  You don’t have to practice for half an hour.  Just five minutes and you can go back to your virtual paradise.

Of course, I could hybridize my crack and find a really addictive book in Japanese and double the pleasure.  But this book has been beckoning me for years but because of how large it is and how I have perceived time, I have avoided it.  Now that I can read it in so many places, I am enjoying it.  (I gloss over the mind-numbing stuff about bakufu administrative structures).   So instead of being pissed off at myself for reading in English, I am surfing the pleasure wave and using it as an incentive to push a little more in Japanese.

Use your non-fattening, non-harming mini-addictions.   Become a pusher.

Push ‘n Play Samurai: Small Steps Big Results


This is the last hint in a Japanese book called, “100 hints to Becoming Better at Guitar.” Have fun with your “pushes” and “produce” the life you want. (I would love a great translation of the caption in this book.) You can do this in any area of your life.

My little music theory experiment continues.   Music theory has scared me in the past but I have books that I have accumulated over the years that have laid dormant and untouched.   I have decided to take one book, Theory for the Contemporary Guitarist, pulverize it into little digestible bits and put it into my samurai notebook.   Each bit doesn’t take me more than two or three minutes.  Today, I will draw the F major scale in my notebook and call it a day.

Because I review my notebook, I will be seeing my new friend a few more times.  In the two months since I started this, I have progressed nineteen pages.  Because the bits are so small the process has actually become fun.  I have become a push ‘n play samurai.

There is no grand guardian blocking your path to any field of knowledge.  You don’t have to own it overnight.  There should be no,  “I am not worthy.” There is nothing you have to do to be worthy. You are already “blessed” with the ability to breathe and think on this beautiful and complicated world.  It’s a lot easier to start from, “what would happen if I just push a little bit and try to have a fun.”  Here are a few little tips:

  • you don’t have to put your creative/learning pushes out there for the world to doubt, hate, question etc.  I’m putting my little music theory push out there as a public service announcement but there are other pushes that are under the cloak of silence
  • you don’t have to know where you are going . . . I don’t really know if understanding music theory will really help my playing.  But it has seemed impossible, and that’s part of why I’m attracted to it.
  • keep thinking small is powerful.   Khatz, the dude over at alljapaneseallthetime.com, calls his immersion service Neutrino.  Teeny tiny particles.  According to wikipedia, my vast samurai mind powers, “a typical neutrino passes through normal matter unimpeded.”  When you pulverize your new skill into do-able bits, it’s you will pass through skills you’ve seen as obstacles before.
  • Don’t break the neural chain, man.  (You have to say this in a hippie voice!)  Even if you pick up your guitar (code, language, piano [ouch!], business plan, etc) for five minutes, you are making the next day of practice a little easier.

You won’t always feel great, but I think you might just get a lot farther than if you just beat yourself up about how you don’t know fill in the blank.  Skip the drama.  Become a push ‘n play samurai.


Show Us Your Crack! (Reading, Listening)

Several posts ago, I tried to get you hooked on CRACK (Crevice Reading Acquiring Cool Knowledge).   This basically involves pulling out the most interesting little volume (evolume or paper) in little moments of time to up your skills or just have fun.  In the last post, I introduced you to the concept of “honey” and heading for the sweetest spots in your reading or listening.

It’s time for the reader’s voices to be heard!  Show us your crack, honey!   What are you reading or listening to that is fun or just moving you forward.

I will start:

  • I’m reading a page or two of BECK, a Japanese manga about a rock and roll band.  It reminds me to keep thinking/doing guitar and also let me experience adolescent non-polite language.  I don’t use a dictionary.

    This is a reference manga for the manga series, "Beck."  The manga is about a 90 lb. weakling who joins a rock band.  (I didn't end up following the manga or the anime.)   The music guide gives background to all the characters and all the real-life music influences that run throughout the manga.   If I read this, not only will I know more Japanese, I will also know more about rock and roll music history.  Amazon Japan Link.

    This is a reference manga for the manga series, “Beck.” The manga is about a 90 lb. weakling who joins a rock band. (I didn’t end up following the manga or the anime.) The music guide gives background to all the characters and all the real-life music influences that run throughout the manga. If I read this, not only will I know more Japanese, I will also know more about rock and roll music history. Amazon Japan Link.

  • Bedtime reading.   I’m re-reading 禅、シンプル生活のすすめ.  or Zen Suggestions for a Simple Life.  I read the table of contents and let the suggestions soak in until I am sleepy.  Suggestions include waking up 15 minutes earlier and greeting the day with deep, relaxed breathing.

    Half the fun/learning was just browsing.  It wasn't until I got home that I realized the book was Zen based.  (I read everything but the biggest kanji on the cover.)

    Half the fun/learning was just browsing. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized the book was Zen based. (I read everything but the biggest kanji on the cover. 🙂

  • When my children are playing by themselves and not turning me into a hospital patient or おおかみ (wolf/monster), I’ve been skimming the honey from Puerto Rico:  A Political and Cultural History by Arturo Morales Carrion.  I’ve been reading the book backwards like one of the Japanese authors suggests you study history books.  I’m getting ready to teach a course on the Caribbean.  I’ve been reading the first sentence of most paragraphs and extracting the honey where it smells sweetest.
  • oodles and oodles of podcasts and now that I brought Snow Leopard (I have an old Mac) home, I have ramen sized servings of Japanese rock and roll (Guitar Wolf, Urufuls, Happy End, etc) ….fun!

If you’ve gotten hooked on CRACK (reading or listening), show us what you’ve got.  If you haven’t gotten the crack idea yet from me give khatzumoto at ajatt.com a um, crack.

What do you pull out when you want to stretch your mind and use those little moments?  Show us your CRACK.

The Happiness Decision: Samurai Book Review

Be absolutely determined to enjoy what you do.  –Ben Hogan

  • You don’t have to “feel”happy to put your mind in happy places.
  • Focusing on happiness is a decision.
  • It’s possible that happiness is a habit of turning your mind to positive places.  There is also a key role for tears.  Sometimes you need to wring out a wet towel before putting it in the dryer.
  • The happiness decision may help you learn more.  Earn more?
  • Learning more may help your happiness.  It’s an unvicious cycle.

I’m back in New York and writing out of the Writer’s Room.  It has a lot more sunlight than the cave-like atmosphere of a manga cafe. My laptop, copies of the books in the post and two of my samurai notebooks. Samurai notebooks are more fun to review when you fill it with fun, personally thought provoking and inspiring material. What is in your notebook is a happiness decision.

For a few weeks now I’ve been walking around with two Japanese books in my “man-bag” and realizing that there is a strong connection between the two books but not quite being able to put my finger on it.  Today I finally realized what was the connection.  Happiness is a decision and it can help you transform everything that you do, especially with learning and transforming your life.

My dose of soy sauce translation of the two book titles are:  Only Do Good Things with Your Brain by Ken Mogi (脳にいいことだけをやりなさい!)and Speed up Your Information Rate by 10 Times with the NLP Speed Reading Method by Naoya Matsushima (情報量が10倍になるNLP速読術).  (Keep in mind that I am in day 457 of a 595 Japanese immersion experience.  Some day I will throw more English resources at you.)

Only Do Good Things with Your Brain by Ken Mogi (脳にいいことだけをやりなさい! )

Ken Mogi is a Japanese brain scientist and prolific writer and talk show host.   This book is slightly more technical, so I find it hard to keep really give the full meaning of it to you.  (I am also only in the middle of the book.  Yeah, I break the rules but at least I tell you!)  But it is pretty clear from on of the first drawings that Mogi believes that happiness is, in part, a decision. Part of the reason I picked the book is because it has pictures  (all is fair in love and reading!).   The first picture shows a happy person with the happiness lgauge on full blast.  The illustration below that is an unhappy person (fumes emanating all around him) with the happiness full gauge on low.   The final illustration on the bottom shows a person changing a control gauge (like an old fashioned volume control) from bottom to high.   The phrase at the bottom reads:  脳の中にある「幸せど度」いつでも変えられる or “You Can Always Change the Degrees of Happiness in Your Brain.”

How do you do this?  The second illustration tells you how.  It hows a person who has built a happiness house:

  • The foundation is “elimination of negative thinking.”
  • The supporting pillars are:  positive thinking, love and gratitude, the body’s energy (breath, position, etc), and “grabbing big power” (?)  「大いなる力」とのつながり。
  • The roof is goals for living.
  • There is a nice yard around the house and that is labelled, relationships with people.

All of these things interact and Mogi spends the rest of the book describing certain techniques for developing happiness.  Just looking at the picture makes me happy.

Speed up Your Information Rate by 10 Times with the NLP Speed Reading Method by Naoya Matsushima (情報量が10倍になるNLP速読術)

Matsushima’s book is a guide to help busy, overwhelmed or under-motivated readers increase their reading speed and increasing their information retention.  Matsushima, being an NLP guy, emphasizes the importance of getting in the right state of mind for reading and argues that one of the reasons people have problems with reading is all the negative associations they have with reading.  He offers several exercises for using breathing and body posture for changing your state of mind before reading.

But what is most interesting to me is that he asks readers to pick a happy moment and think about and feel it with all the senses before commencing with reading.   Happiness is an active decision that can help you learn more and experience joy through learning, if I follow Matsushima’s book correctly.

This happiness decision might be worthwhile in other areas.   In  100 Ways to Create Wealth, the authors explain that you should always “move to the part of the work that you love.”   This is a happiness decision that can result in improved efficiency, service, and even the ability to more easily transition to work that you love.

If you make the happiness decision then maybe you can experience more creativity in your life. Self-loathing and criticism aren’t going to help you. I finally got around to getting out my Japanese guitar books. Learning through love. Trying to make the happy decisions. Many birds, no stone. Online Guitar Lessons

I will warn you that the day I made the connection with all of this happiness stuff,  I was grouchier than the Grouch.  I also believe there is a role for crying and other forms of expressing other emotions.   Sometimes you need to wring out a soaked towel before you put it in the dryer.

But it’s nice to be able to make more decisions to move towards happiness.   Heck, it might even get addictive and help to you to transform the world.

All”s Fair in Love and Reading

One of the three books in my rotation. I started just writing the chapter titles down because they make sense. “Don’t compare yourself to others.” That’s a good one, especially when you think of yourself as a reader.

Okay, well far as love goes, you should try to be human , respect and work things out, and let them down easy but as far as books go, love ’em or leave ’em.   Here are some other important differences between love and reading:

  • Having multiple ‘partners’ is healthy in reading.    You can read several books and articles in quick succession.
  • You can drop a book the minute you’ve gotten whatever you want out of it.
  • A book can’ t break your achy breaky heart.

Why read?   Sam Beckford,  co- author of 100 Ways to Create Wealth explained that the difference between his  successful business and a several failed businesses before that was the 700 books that he read in between the two.   Reading and applying what you read is a powerful way to move forward.    Most importantly, reading is just plain fun way to explore and use your mind and a great way to keep it active.

(Being shiftless, cheap, and easy is specially important when you are using reading to learn a foreign language.   Keep it fun, or drop it and leave.   I know I quoted AJATT in my last post but I want to emblazon the title of his last piece into my brain:

That Righteous Feeling, Or: If You’re Not Feeling Naughty, You’re Doing It Wrong)

Here are some quick Samurai tips on how to be a reading ‘player’:
  • Browse. Go to real bookstores and libraries and relaxedly look around.  Even if you don’t buy or borrow a single book, a browsing session is a fun way to explore and map out the

    I picked this up at a local Bookoff. Kenichiro Mogi”s , “Only do Good Things with Your Brain.”

    topography of your heart’s desires.

  • Speed it up.  Spend one minute, five minutes, ten minutes on a book if time is limited or even just to get more out of it.    For a long time, I was one of those people that said that ‘there is no time to read.’   However, adding ‘time pressure’ to your reading can actually make reading more fun.    Set a timer or just use your interest as a guide.  Skim through every page or read closely.  Whatever turns you on.
  • Suck the marrow out and spit the rest out.  You aren’t married to your book.   Lately, especially with Japanese books, I’ve noticed that I get a lot out of a book even if all I do is read the table of contents.   Skip to the good parts.  You can always go back later.
  • Break up huge or ‘unapproachable’ books into small bites.   Ask yourself, ‘What is fun or interesting’ about this.   It can be fun to claim some herculean work.   I’ve been reading The Making of Modern Japan by Marius B. Jansen with the help of a timer.  It also helps that I ask myself what is fun about what I am reading.   I tend to skip over the parts about the bureaucratic administration of rice allotmentzzzzzz.

Sakamoto Ryoma, the 19th century samurai who is credited with helping to create the plan that would help Japan move into modernization and protect it from the West is credited with saying, “In whatever situation a person finds himself, he should not

After finishing this post, I went for my last browse in a Japanese bookstore until I come back next summer. This is an NLP inspired book called (roughly) “NLP Speed Reading Techniques to To Speed your Information Retention by 10X” Talk about serendipity.

abandon his favorite ways and his special abilities.”  Remember this as you read and choose how and what to read.  You are the artist, defender, and creator of your life.  Have fun, read, and  grow.


Use Time Limits: Samurai Time is On Your Side, Part 3

“Prepare yourself in the subject so well that it shall be always on tap: then…trust your spontaneity and fling away all further care.”” William James

“A man grows most tired while standing still” Chinese Proverb

‘Deadlines and things make you more creative…’  Jack White of the White Stripes

Check in slip from manga cafe. If you exceed your time, there are extra fees. Often I am most productive when my time is running out. That’s what time boxing is all about.

I am at a mangakissa in Japan and I have 45 more minutes left on a three hour package.  I am on day 439 of a 595 day Japanese immersion experience through Silverspoon.   I have fourteen more days in Japan.   I don’t know how many days I have on Earth, but as far as I know they are not limitless.   I have just enough time to tell you that Time Limits Work!  Here are some reasons why:

  • limits have the power to turn tasks, goals into a game
  • time limits can turn things into a Mission Impossible thriller …how much fun would it be if Tom Cruise had all the time in the world to defuse a bomb, jump on a couch, etc?
  • limits have a way of increasing rather than decreasing creativity . . . can you say haiku?
  • time limits are a way to work through fatigue, perfectionism, procrastination and a seeming lack of inspiration

Confession.  This post did not begin in inspiration.  I arrived exhausted at the manga kissa.  I decided to just take a nap and check my emails and not expect or push much.  I clicked on an article from brainpickings.org on Tchaikovsky, the work ethic and inspiration.  Mr. T basically explains that you can’t wait for inspiration.  You’ve also have to put in the work.

Brainpickings also includes a youtube vid of Jack White talking about not waiting for inspiration.  White also talks about how the and White Stripes make limitations part of their work, to force creativity.  Though White is very wealthy now, he limits the studio time that they purchase to record an album.  He also continues to use old guitars even though he could buy a thousand better ones.   White does this to force himself to work within limits.

White talks about how creativity can come about by working within the box.  Time is the ultimate box and as any two year old will tell you, boxes are for play.  Khatzumoto introduced me to the concept of timeboxing and led me to other people like Steve Pavlina who use it as a productivity tool.  Basically, timeboxing involves using timers to set small limits to start or finish tasks.   Time boxes as small as one or five minutes can be powerful little tools for smashing through procrastination and opening up creativity and competence.

Spending a shorter time at the manga cafe allowed me to have time to walk around and see Fuji fully revealed. A lot of the times it is hidden by clouds.

I once took a drawing class at the Art Students League.  The class began with little one minute timed sketches of a model.  (no clothes, whatever).  You had to draw fast and loosen up because the (nude!) model would change positions once the time was up.  Then the poses became longer.  However, having those little drawing sprints helped loosen me up and I began to draw better.

Are you stuck on any big project or idea?  Take out a timer and play around with timeboxes.   Work with your limits and let it be your inspiration. The fact that I had limited time at the manga kissa today actually made it easier to start and keep moving.   I didn’t finish but I probably got more done than if I had all the time/money/breath in the world.

Get your timers and continue to let samurai time be on your side!

Structured and limited “push” time allows you to have more unstructured activity that can also help you learn and grow. I spent some time at a Book-off and found this cool book about angels, demons, etc.

A Day at the Office: Mangakissa Samurai

Getting work done at home, with a four year old and a one year old, is a Herculean task.  They are a lot cuter and more fun than a blank page or a stack of homework to grade.  In New York, I retreat to the Writer’s Room.  In Japan, I resort to going to a mangakissa, a cross between a cafe, library, and office space.    This is a little break from my self-help cheerleading to show you a slice of life you may not know about.

The Commute

Lean, mean, bus riding machine.

Unlike in New York, buses here come right on time.  Most of the time, you enter from the back and pay when you get out and pay in the front.   If you don’t have change a cool old school looking machine changes bills and coins and gives you the assorted change.  After getting off at the train station, I walk to the Bivi building which also houses a game center, movie theatre,  assorted restaurants and shops and a Lawsons, where I stop to get snacks.

Food, movies, game center, and 24 hour manga cafe.

Choose Your Seat

Upon entering the Aprecio mangakissa, I am greeted by a concierge, who displays all the

Room Menu

Choose from reclining, Japanese style, massage, or buddy chairs.

seating options and time plan:.  smoking or non-smoking?, open area or semi-private booth?  Japanese, Western, or massage chair?  Do you want a buddy/couple chair or do you want to be solo?  I usually go for a private booth Western chair.  I used to go for the Japanese sit on the floor experience but my back had a different opinion.   I also usually request slippers.  (Oh, yeah!) A three-hour package usually costs 1000 yen which today equals $12.78.  Today I am opting for a six-hour plan for $16.

Once I enter, I set down my non-valuables at my booth after firing up the computer and monitor.   While everything is loading, I grab my drinks from

My Samurai office. I prefer the traditional Western chair. Look real close and you’ll see an ad for a katsu–breaded pork sandwich. For the health conscious! 🙂

the Drink Bar.  Choices include but are not limited to; Coke, Calpis, Japanese sodas, green and other teas, cappuccino and other coffees dispense by a space age machine.   There is also a soft cream machine but I usually stay away from that.

 Choose Your Pleasure

Once you are situated, you have several options with what to do with yourself:

  • Surf the internet.
  • Watch Cinema Channel, which includes an astounding amount of choices: Japanese and Korean dorama, old and current anime, Yakuza and Yanki drama, several Pachinko and Mahjong channels, Korean and American concerts (hmmm, Kenny G or Santana?), darts, billiards, pro-wrestling, Shogi, comedy, or グラビヤ、Gurabia involves watching

    I’ve tried this …it’s good for lounging and then my back protests. Notice the waist high desk?

    scantily clad women pose seductively with crappy music as a background.  There is also an adult channel.  I avoid the last two channels.  I’ve heard that they cause blindness and hair to grow on your palms. 😉

  • You can read.  Bring your own or read from the thousand of manga, magazines, and newspapers

    Battle Royale manga, empty glasses, internet and a remote control. Classic!

    available on the shelves.  I am usually overwhelmed but since I was writing this today I took a quick run into the shelves and found Battle Royale, the manga version of the book that was also turned into a movie.

  • Sleep.  Sit back, recline, and let the day melt away. You can also spend the night.
  • Eat and drink. .  For an extra fee you can have ramen, pasta, fried chicken, takoyaki, beer, etc.  (Who needs anything else?)

For the most part, when I go to the mangakissa I go to work.  I’m taking an online course to help me prepare for next year.  I usually fire up my Youtube playlists and alternate between studying (course work, flashcards, random good stuff from Silverspoon) and just relaxing.  The added plus is that when you watched Youtube in Japan all the ads and filler are in Japanese.

Breaded fried pork sandwich with fries. Combined with six hours practically immobilized in a dark cubicle–the recipe for Samurai Mind champions.

Jeez, I sound so serious.   Well, gotta go.   Need to dive into this toasty katsu sandwich and see if The Lost Canvas is any good.   If you have a chance, visit a Japanese manga cafe.  If you’ve been to one, share your mangakissa tips and rituals.