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Surprise!

Surprise!

my snake surprise

    Yesterday after a reasonably productive morning, I jauntily packed my gym bag, went downstairs to the garage and reached in to hit the garage door opener, started walking to my car and nearly stepped on a three foot long coiled snake.

    I do not like snakes.

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    Cats are better than people, dogs are great, fish are fine. Snakes? Not fine. Definitely not fine in my garage. Definitely, positively, utterly not fine when I practically step on one wearing sandals and shorts. I didn’t know it was possible to jump backward three feet, open a door in mid air slam it and scream bloody murder all at the same time. Now I do.

    Now this is not a post about snakes. I’ve seen all I want of snakes to last me a very long time. It’s about surprise. And how well – or not well – you’re prepared to handle surprise because surprises are things that you don’t get to organize, process, plan, review, add to your master task list and prioritize. They just jump out (or in this case, to be fair, you walk into) at you.

    How prepared are you for both predictable and unpredictable bad surprises? Predictable surprises like earthquakes in California and hurricanes in Florida. Unpredictable bad things like getting mugged on your way to your car, or tripping and breaking your wrist.

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    There’s a long list of web sites for the former (starting with this one), and having a backup paper copy of your identity and at least a passing familiarity with voice recognition (Vista comes with it, and it works) will help you deal with the latter, but above all else dealing with potentially nasty surprises is a mindset, an emergency mode you get into when that first burst of adrenaline hits your nervous system.

    After my close encounter of a reptile kind, I came up with this acronym to remind myself of what to do next time I find myself in a one of life’s little unplanned dramas. JUMP.

    • Jettison your plans and your need to protect possessions. I had my whole rest of the day planned out – a plan that went straight out the garage window when Mr. Snake decided he liked it just fine between me and my car. People sometimes would rather lose their lives than lose their plans – witness the depressingly regular news stories of the person drowned because they just had to drive across that flooded intersection and the water couldn’t possibly be too deep – until it was.

      As for possessions, 99.9999 percent of the time, it’s perfectly right to want to keep what you have – but that .0001 percent of the time like when there’s some punk with a knife in your face is a different story.

    • Are YOU or your loved ones in danger- real, actual danger this exact minute? We live in a world where everything is a priority, a crisis, a danger – from screaming bosses to screaming headlines to no disaster however remote being as close as your TV or PC screen. We are adrenaline junkies looking for our next computer game, sports or political fix. But these are not in the same league as being in a major earthquake or finding yourself face to fang with a possibly venomous reptile in your own home. There is a difference.
    • Move out of danger. It’s just that simple and just that hard. Simple, because while you pondering for a whole second or two the above point, your body went from 0 to 100 in about 3 milliseconds – it’s knows what real danger is and has a billion year old solution that works: fight if you must, run if you can. Hard, because fear can paralyze you if you let it.
    • Plan of Action Now. After you are out of immediate danger, then make a plan. A simple plan. Sometimes, the difference between living and dying is whether you can get your brain back online and come up with a simple plan (Be respectful calming. Drop wallet and run.) or not.

    There are a hundred factors that can influence whether you can JUMP or not when and if the time comes. This is where spending a few dollars and a few hours on training available to anyone and everyone can make the difference. Basic disaster, first aid and self defense training can make a huge difference. Relying on the kindness of the universe is not a good survival plan.

    As for the snake, it turned out to be neither the deadly cobra of my imagination or a venomous rattlesnake quite common this time of year in Sonoma County, California. It was a King snake that eats rats and rattlers, a good snake to have around I was told by my local animal control hotline, a snake some people have as pets that they walk in the public with wrapped around their shoulders and necks (shudder).

    After some protracted territorial negotiation carried out with a walking stick and a mop, Mr. Good Snake went back to eating bad snakes outside my garage and I went on with the rest of my afternoon. I think we both got a reminder we both needed. :)

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    Bob Walsh sells MasterList Professional, a Windows task management application and writes, codes,
    podcasts and blogs about different aspects of the digital lifestyle at ToDoOrElse, MyMicroISV and Clear Blogging. His second book, Clear Blogging, is now available at Amazon and elsewhere.

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    Last Updated on April 8, 2019

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

    Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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    1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
    2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
    3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
    4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
    5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
    6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
    7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
    8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
    9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
    10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
    11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
    12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
    13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
    14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
    15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
    16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
    17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
    18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
    19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
    20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
    21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
    22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

    Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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