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Focusing Up

Balanced is a great little app. I know I’ve plugged it before, but it has to be the best “to-do” productivity management type app out there, well worth the small fee for the unlimited “pro” version. I’ve been using it now for over 3 months and the results are pretty telling. I’ve been annoyingly diligent in entering each task, item, project, or initiative I want to spend time on in the app. I’ve been scheduling my ideal time spent on each app and then checking in each time I actually complete or work on a particular item.

Having taken the time this passed week to do something of a look back, I took advantage of the app’s activity tracking feast urges.  The results have given me real food for thought in considering the paths that lie ahead and real data to benchmark effort to reward ratio of the various things I spend my free time doing.

The first conclusion, I have too many balls in the air and it’s time to focus up. There’s a lot of great interesting projects to work on, but there’s only so much time. Jamming my limited free time with working on too many things has led to a lack of relaxation space, efforts that are too diversified and too diluted, and hence a lack of satisfaction in rarely achieving milestones on schedule or completing something.

Second, what I’ve been focusing my efforts on has been primarily driven by others and unfortunately just isn’t my passion. Some would say, well then why work on it? Well, my answer to that is really, but sadly only, it seemed interesting and like a good idea at the time 🙂

Lastly, What I’m working on today is completely disconnected from where I want to end up in the future.


So in keeping with  those points, It’s with a heavy heart that I’ve decided to shutter my current app businesses and end my participation in a new venture that I had hoped to launch with a pair of good friends; Best of luck to them as they move it forward and drive it forward toward a disruptive launch. The app businesses have, surprisingly without real active management for over a year, continued to sell product and be break even, but the current state is a far cry from what I have in mind when I had excitedly launched the businesses. Shutting them down doesn’t necessarily mean I won’t be back, but it’s the end of this chapter and the end of that work for now.

With my 35th birthday just around the corner, there’s no better time than the present to make sure today’s actions match the goals I’m holding for tomorrow. More on that to come, when the time is right to share.

 

The Year Ahead: Resolutions for 2016

I had mixed success in tackling my 2015 resolution list. Really where I failed to cross items off my list was simply because I consciously refocused a lot of my time being a Dad or I exercising crap time management (read as too much TV, or too exhausted to do anything).

However, 2016 is a new year that despite everything that’s going on, holds some bold promise and potential to be the greatest year yet. I’m really looking to challenge myself in 2016, become healthier, become more resilient, refocus and aggressively develop for the future, and achieve a much better defined work/life balance.

But overall, I want 2016 to be the year where I follow through on everything; Where I act on ideas, overcome obstacles and cut out detractors. I want 2016 to be a year that is defined by Action, change, and Tremendous Fun.

Education Challenge

Every time I go back to Halifax or I visit another University Campus I feel the draw. In 2016 this is something I’m finally going act on as I’ve been scoping MBa programs for a while now. I’ve already signed up to write the GMAT and I’m burying myself in study. I don’t know where this will end up yet, but I’m resolving to make some applications for 2017 this year. More details on this will surely come.

Reading & Writing Challenge

I suffered several starts and stops in my goal to write 1000 words per day a last year. Nowhere is that shortcoming better exemplified than here on this blog with a Whopping 8 posts for all of last year.I did get on a bit of a hot streak with books over the summer but ultimately all fell victim to a bad work/life balance.

This year, I’m challenging myself to read 26 books (averaging 1 every 2 weeks) and nail an average of 1000 words per day for a grand total of 365,000 words written/published/saved by year-end.

Fitness & Health

I got off to a pretty solid start in 2015,  however I then fell into a sad state or repair only to get reinvigorated through the last quarter of the year. I’m looking to keep some momentum up now and have 2016 be the year I become the fittest I’ve ever been. I want to crush my marathon PR of 3:40 and really work on strength training. Like my first running coach used to say “The hardest step you take on any run is the first one out the door”, well one day into the new year and I’m still on track.

Home Improvement Projects & Business Hobby Challenge

My wife, Jen and I have talked at length about getting a new hobby together. We used to paint and do pottery before the need for a babysitter changed things. During the summer we’re pretty frequently in the garden together but with half of the year consumed by Winter here, we need something else. In 2016 we’re going to pursue a business opportunity and see where it goes. There are those that say never work with family, and then there are those that couldn’t be happier working couple teams. Either way, it won’t be our primary employment (at least not at the start), it’ll be strictly a hobby, so we’ll see where it goes.

I’m looking to catch up on some deferred projects from 2015 over the course of the year. Namely, put in a retaining wall and re-landscaped garden in our back yard, a built-in fire pit, and finishing the Garage interior. On top of that there’s a host of more minor home improvements that are on the list. Ultimately, we’re looking to position ourselves to take advantage of what looks like it may be a pretty active real estate market in Calgary in 2016.

Geek Hobbies

On the other side of things, I want to get back into being an engineer at home. At my Day job, I work much more in a Project Management Capacity with my technical work focused almost exclusively to conceptual design. I am feeling the NEED to create and make again. To this effect I’m looking to refresh my coding skills with some small little projects and work on hacking some hardware. I have my eye on a couple of projects already with some of the hardware already on hand:

  • First Up: raspberry Pi powered Weather Monitoring Station with a webserver for displaying measurements
  • Solar Powered Garage
  • Micro wind Turbine Build
  • Travel Hacking: I’ve lost my airline status and I’m dreading losing the perks for whenever our next trip is. I’m committing to learning up on and getting into Travel Hacking. Why pay full price when you can go for almost nothing?

2016 is a new year and it holds some bold promise. I’m anxious to get started and looking forward to sharing the adventures and the lessons.

#LetsGetStarted

Into Fall and End of the Drought

It’s fall, there’s no denying it in Calgary. The leaves quickly turned and have mostly fallen to the ground. Neighborhood lawns are peppered with Election signs and warm sunny summer days are just fading memories.

The quick onset of Fall in Calgary is something that still 7 years after moving here sort of catches me in an annual state of surprise. It seems like the leaves only begin turning and then suddenly they’re on the ground and covered in that first, although temporary, blanket of snow. 

  
Admittedly, the maintenance and updating of this website had fallen by the wayside during my first very very busy summer as a Dad. However, with a calmer onset of fall and with our son sleeping like a champ, I’m hoping to catchup on a serious backlog on my to-do list, which actually extends back to my pre-parent status. Stay tuned, more to come.
 

Waterproof Photography

IMG_1313_Fotor_CollageI’ve wanted a waterproof camera for a long time, almost as long as I can remember, pretty much ever since was old enough to understand what I was looking at in my Parent’s National Geographic Magazines.

I had debated getting a “waterproof to 3.1m” Olympus point and shoot when I was preparing for what turned out to be an Epic European backpacking trip back in 2008. Given different drivers at the time, I decided the $55 premium for waterproofing would be better put toward beer and other such end-of-collage trip variable expenses and in stead I elected to get the non-waterproof version of the camera. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that on the FIRST night in Europe we were caught in a brutal downpour. Despite best our efforts of running from the cover of awning to awning in Munich. By the time we got back to our hostel from the beer hall, we were water logged. The camera never turned on again. It didn’t take more than 30 mins the next day to cement my regret as I ended up buying the same camera at a %15 euro premium (also non waterproof).

Ever since I’ve never been able to argue the need for a waterproof camera, Especially given how my wife and I love all things water: the ocean, swimming, snorkeling, sailing, beach, water fights, etc. It turns out all the things we enjoy on vacation are also the best camera killers (i.e. sand and water).. We have a drawer full of dead/vacation killed point and shoot cameras.

So despite learning my lesson repeatedly and despite the fact that I’ve always wanted a “waterproof” camera, I really hate the idea of hauling around multiples of anything just because their single function devices such as a normal camera and a water proof camera.

In preparation for our upcoming trip to Hawaii, I again scanned all the available tech offerings. Funnily enough, the first listing I came across was the very highly rated updated model of the Olympus point and shoot that I decided against 8 years ago. I looked over the specs and after some brief thought, added it to my cart on amazon.ca. But just before checking out, I reviewed the specs again, it bothered me. The camera’s specs were more than a generation behind the camera built into my iPhone 6. I was more than a little bugged by this. I started thinking, there had to be a case that would work for my phone.

I searched endlessly, framed by the thought that it had to be a hard case like something my pro photog friends have for their DSLRs. Sure, there was, but phone cases for $150-$500? I might as well just get the olympus and treat it as a disposable.

I had just about given up and was about to go back to the checkout of the Olympus point and shoot when I saw that section at the bottom of an amazon item page that says “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought..” and there I saw the FRiEQ universal smart phone case.

For $25, it was a waterproof phone case to (certified waterproof to 100ft), sandproof and floating! The waterproof depth certification was 3x anything I’d even seen for more than 5x the cost in a hard case. It seemed to be a little too good to be true, but for $25, a 5 star rating with solid reviews, and with amazon prime, I felt it was worth it, and well if it was crap I could return it no hassle.

Now I’ll admit, the first time we brought it to the pool, I was nervous. I had tested it in the bathroom sink without my phone in it first and it had worked brilliantly, but now I was standing on the side of the pool about to test it to 10ft with my phone in it. With my Son and wife in the pool, I jumped in; no leaks. I let it go from the bottom of the pool and it buoyed straight up to just beneath the surface. I mean, this thing is little more than an ultra durable plastic bag with some float material and a waterproof clamp to seal it all in, but it’s awesome, and the touch screen works through the case underwater!

I don’t often do reviews and even more rarely endorse  products, but this little FRiEQ waterproof case is pretty awesome, cheap, floats, and fits pretty much every modern smarthone. Converts any phone into a beach proof, sand proof, water proof, kidproof, fully useable camera/tech piece of gear. Completely love it and can’t wait to use it on our next trip. Stay tuned for some photos!

Planning A First Family Trip

It’s become something of an annual tradition now, Every spring we try to set aside a solid week for a great vacation. The guidelines are pretty straight forward: We fly someplace that both of us haven’t been before that’s not just warm, but a little exotic.

It’s been a pretty solid streak of great vacations, last year it was Greece, and before that Portugal. Now with a 4-month old baby accompanying us, it’s added an extra element for consideration in planning this years trip.

We’ve settled on Hawaii, well Maui in Particular.
It’s modern, has all the facilities we may need and even more we probably haven’t thought we’d need. I haven’t been there before (nor has Charles 🙂 ), it’s tropical, it’s warm, there’s surfing (which must be tackled), volcanoes, culture, history, much ocean…. and the list goes on.

Seems odd to say it now, but one of the biggest factors in destination selection of this first exploratory escape has been, can we get there on a direct flight? Maui is a direct flight from Calgary, though at ~7 hrs, near the upper end of of the flight durations we were willing to tackle.

I’ve never really valued direct flights, being an airline status pursuer, flight segments (e.g. layovers) has been something that actually pays off. But now we’re seeking to get this first flight out of the way and over with as quickly as possible. We’re hoping for baby best on that flight, but prepping [mentally] for some challenges. I’m really hoping we’re not those parents with the inconsolable  screaming child that dominates the in-flight entertainment and is a fair match for all but the best noise cancelling headphones. We’ve all been there 🙁

We’ve been lucky to have had some great trips and I don’t mean to brag, but my wife and I are pretty decent vacation planners. Now as we set about planning this trip, the tectonic shift in what we consider important on a great vacation hasn’t been lost on us. In addition to planning day trips, hikes, pool/beach days,  and defining our dining hit list we’re also tackling unknowns like:

  • Where can we heat up bottles?
  • Where to buy Diapers around the hotel? Where’s the costco?
  • What brand of UPF rated clothing is the best? What UPF do we need?
  • Baby swing rentals?
  • Best place to sit on the plane with a baby
  • Hotels with kitchens?
  • How much infant formula can I bring through airport security? Can it be liquid?
  • How to tackle infant jet lag?
  • Do babies like convertibles? (joking of course)

If nothing else, this will be a learning experience for all of us. But I’m pretty confident that in additional to that, Maui will be an epic trip. Now back to more pressing things, like getting my terribly Canadian winter paled body beach ready.