10 Ways Family GTD Knowledge Lifehacks Productivity

6. Spend Time With a Child | Ten Ways to Improve Your Quality of Life

This is the sixth in a series of 10 articles that give suggestions meant to improve the over-all quality of your life.
6. Spend time with a child. If you have one, consider yourself lucky, if you don’t, I bet you have friends who would be happy to let you borrow theirs for a few minutes (or hours). It doesn’t matter what age they are, children see the world entirely different. Look at it from their eyes. Be their hero. Appreciate what they appreciate. Enjoy the simple things again. You’ll love it and they’ll love you for it.

Take the time to just do the things they want to do rather than being a teacher. With my son this would usually include one of the following:

  • Playing with sticks or dirt
  • Reading Where’s Waldo
  • Playing with Play Doh
  • Swinging at the Park
  • Playing the “talking car game”

Children will help you appreciate the simple things in life. They’ll keep you on your toes with questions that you can’t even begin to answer. They’ll amaze you with the seemingly endless levels of energy they have. After spending time with a child you’ll also realize just how much of an influence you are over their moldable minds–they almost worship you. It is a humbling experience.

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Toddler Tips

A Toddler

It’s been awhile (years) since I’ve written about parenting here, but after a conversation with a friend last night, I decided to post a couple things that I’ve come across that seem to work.

Generally when raising a toddler, there are two times when wills collide, the first is when you want your toddler to do something that he doesn’t want to do and the second is when you want him to stop doing something that he wants to do. I’ve found a couple “tricks” that seem to work most of the time, plus a bonus tip to stop tantrums.

Give and take. If you want your toddler to do something such as get in the car, eat dinner, take a bath, stand next to you in the line at the post office, etc., there are two things you can do, the first is to repeat what you want them to do in an increasingly loud voice while inserting various threats such as “or else I’m going to…” and “I’m counting to three.” This does not work. What does work is giving them the choice: “If you don’t get in the car we’re going to put your <<insert toy name here>> away for the rest of the day.” Or, “If you don’t stand next to me in the post office there will be no fries with the happy meal.” The trick here is you have to really mean it and be ready to actually do it. It takes a few times but they learn quickly that you’re serious and this technique works a lot better than the aforementioned voice raising.

Distraction. If your toddler is doing something that’s driving you nuts such as talking loudly when he’s supposed to be quiet or squirming incessantly or slamming doors or unplugging the lamp or … whatever, there is only one way to peacefully resolve the issue. Distractions. Your job is to think of something they’d rather be doing as quickly as possible and present them with that alternative. Good distractions include drawing, play-doh, learning to whistle, jumping or doing other “cool tricks,” reading a book or anything else he enjoys doing.

Stopping a tantrum. I’m referring the less violent form of a tantrum. This is when you’re in a public place (an art museum, church, the library etc.) and your toddler decides to start crying really loudly because they’re bored and know the whining and crying will frustrate you and cause you to move onto more fun things (anything but the museum) quicker. I’ve found that the best way to stop this is to immediately carry the toddler off to a secluded spot, stand them up and bend down to look them in the face and tell them in no uncertain terms that the whining and crying needs to stop, explaining why and what will happen if it doesn’t. This gives the toddler some respect–you’re not yelling at them, and in my experience usually ends with something of a fragile truce between the two of you which will give you a few more minutes to finish what you’re doing and move on to a more toddler friendly place.

The nice thing about these techniques is that you hardly ever have to raise your voice (or blood pressure) and you and your toddler are still friends once the incident is over. While they don’t always work, in my experience, they have made being a dad even more fun and rewarding.

DISCLAIMER: I’ve only had experience with these on one toddler–mine, your mileage may vary.

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etc. Family Software Technology

Getting Things Done The Last Two Months

Is it wrong to want to write a blog entry just because the software you write the entry in is so nice? I haven’t written for a couple months and every so often I’ll remember just how nice Ecto is and want to write again. Aside from that, a lot has happened.

I’ve finally started reading Getting Things Done by David Allen. I got two other co-workers reading it at my recommendation (before I even started reading it) and when they they really liked it, I figured I had better have a taste of my own medicine. It lives up to the hype.

GTD has inspired me to find a better way to get everything out of my mind and on “paper.” I really feel his philosophy that you have to have it all out of your mind (which doesn’t know how to manage tasks based on the best time to do them) before you can really become productive and relaxed is right on.

I’ve looked at a few options for doing this and haven’t really ruled any out yet. These are the choices so far:

  • A Wiki – I’d probably just use my install of PmWiki which has been great (it’s moved now because of all the wiki spam).
  • Entourage X 2004 – Theoretically this would be nice, but it has been super buggy for me and I can’t stand the instability.
  • PlannerMode (planner.el) in Emacs. This looks like a powerful way to manage tasks/projects etc. but requires learning Emacs. That might not be such a bad thing, but I haven’t decided for sure if I’m up to it. This is an article with a screenshot of what to expect.
  • PocketInformant – Pocket PC software that does it all.
  • Tracks – a Ruby on Rails application that looks great. I, however, have not had much luck getting it installed.
  • A Paper planner
  • Text files
  • Something else.

I don’t think anything is going to be ideal. In order to do that, it would need to:

  1. Be accessible from work and home. At work they block every port but port 80 so I have no access to SSH or port 3000 (what Tracks seems to like to use) or anything else.
  2. Be accessible from both my Mac and my Pocket PC
  3. Be intuitive and quick. If I’m going to enter everything I need to do, it needs to be fast.
  4. and it should obviously allow for the basic GTD philosophy

So that’s where I am with that. I still haven’t even finished the book, but I’m sold on the idea.

I’ve also been working a lot more in Flash, programming in ActionScript. It goes in cycles, I program for a couple months then spend awhile in production. I definitely like the programming (and design) part of the cycles much better.

This time around I found TextMate and it also lives up to the hype. It’s a text editor with a very OS X feel and all the features I need to keep me happy while coding.

Since last time I wrote I’ve been to Florida to visit family, enjoyed a couple good snow storms (including one that’s going on at this very moment), redesigned Silverfish Longboarding, started work on a Masters in Instructional Design and Technology at Old Dominion University and ordered an iPod shuffle (which unfortunately won’t be here for another month).

I’ve also gotten 4782 blogspams which were blocked by MT-Blacklist as well as 634 that were moderated. I’m seriously considering switching to WordPress which my wife uses and I get jealous of every so often. I need to check to see if image uploading is supported by Ecto for WordPress now.

Over the past few months I’ve read less on Bloglines (the best aggregator available IMO) have been unsubscribing to blogs at a rapid pace. I’m no less enthusiastic about weblogs, I’ve just become a little more picky about which ones I read. I continue to be amazed at how much Rui Carmo manages to post on the Tao of Mac.

That’s about it for now. Best Tool for the Job is back (again) from vacation.


Great Design

It’s been too long since I posted anything about my family. I’d just like to point out that my wife Jenny is extremely creative… There was a contest at one of the blogs she visits to basically make an Elephant out of something soft. This is what she came up with:

Softie Elephant

It’s so simple, yet perfect. One piece of felt folded over that forms an elephant head, complete with large ears and a trunk. Add a whimsical pocket and little white bird and you have something that could probably be made in 20 minutes but that you might not think of if you had the rest of your life. Kudos Jenny.

She also paints…

Jenny Self Portriat

(a self-portrait)

is a great photographer…

Jenny Photo of Bicycles

and a better blogger than I. Visit her site here:


Saturday: Not on the Computer

Today was spent longboarding in Williamsburg, eating home made Mexican and watching episodes of “V” from the mid-eighties. Man. TV has come a long way since then.


Two Years….

Max (my son) turned two today. We had a little celebration with some friends–he LOVED it. I just can’t believe I’m a father… much less that I’ve been one for two years now. It really is great–despite the hard times and the times where I feel I just don’t have enough patience, it is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I love that kid!


Painting and Re-Painting

Today we (we meaning Jenny 😉 painted our bathroom. Twice. It’s almost impossible to tell what a room is going to look like as a new color before you paint it. Sometimes you just have to do it then find out what it looks like afterwards and hope for the best. Well, we found out pink isn’t the best…

I think it would be great if painting companies let you submit pictures of your room as one color then returned a photoshopped the image showing the room as the new color. Of coure there are all kinds of problems inherent to that process, the biggest being that even if they did a perfect job you’re still only looking at a tiny picture and not actually in the room, but it would make it a little easier.

After all is said and done, we’re very happy with the new color and this old house continues to become more of a home to us.



Finally! We’re first time homeowners. After finding a house we really liked the last day of last year, one month later, we’re ready to move in. It was a pretty crazy process–the way lenders pry into every detail of your life; one I’m not looking forward tor repeating anytime in the future, but hopefully that will all be forgotten with the new home. We move in tomorrow. Pictures here.

It’s an old home–built in 1938 and needs work, but is very livable in it’s current condition. We’re love the neighborhood and all the character in the home. Tomorrow is going to be a very… very busy day 🙂



Yay! Our contract was accepted it looks like we’ll be first time homeowners the 29th of this month (pending inspections, home loans etc.) What a way to bring in the New Year! For pictures of the home, click here.


Biggest Cruise Ship in the World…

We spent the last 7 days and 7 nights on the Mariner of the Seas touring the Caribbean and getting some sun (burn) on the islands of the Bahamas, St. Thomas and St. Marteen. My favorite island of the three was St. Thomas–it was the most tropical and I liked the fact that it was American–I felt more at home there than in Nassau or St. Marteen which is French and Dutch.

Jenny got a 10gb iPod for Christmas, making a grand total of 1,300,001 iPods sold this Christmas. I’m very curious to see what the new, smaller iPods that are supposed to be released in a couple weeks will look like…. I can’t wait for an Apple handheld either.