I'll do it

Small Change in Plans

change in plansI know I've changed my plans, like, 550 times (545 of those times were plans that were never started), but this is the 550th time that I am changing my plans regarding this blog. I can't guarantee this is the last time I'm changing my plans, but that's what's happening. My former business coach wouldn't be too happy with this, and would probably tell me to commit to something during our next coaching session. Not only is that not a bad idea, but I do think I ought to schedule a lunch with her in the near future.

Questions Will Be Posted on the International Political Forum

I just secured a new writing gig with International Political Forum, a news and commentary website for politically engaged young people, and I will be posting the answers to those questions there instead of here. I'll be starting this coming week. I think it's a better platform for that type of content, and I think my pieces will be able to attract more traffic on a site like this one. I also like that there isn't much time constraint here, so I don't have to pitch the old questions each one. If one is still relevant, then I can still write about it. One of the nice things about It also frees up my personal blog to be a bit more, well, personal. Sorry if this disappoints a few people.

I Prefer Keeping This Blog Personal

At first, I didn't like the idea of turning this blog into an online diary, since online diaries are so 2001. I wasn't sure if such content was what I wanted for my online reputation and identity capital. However, I do miss having something that's just mine and is there for me to write what I want. Since I write for a living, I am writing for someone else, even if I get to choose the topic or if there isn't much criteria in what needs to be written. There's always a standard to meet, an audience to consider, and other goals to shoot for, depending on the writing project. None of that has to apply to this blog, which is nice to have every once in a while (but don't get me wrong, as I'm probably not going to start using profanity or to cover inappropriate topics). It's nice to be able to write for myself regularly, as it does make me more motivated to write for others. Also, it is easier to write everyday if that's the case with this blog. I really don't need something else that requires a ton of work and forethought.

When it comes down to it, this blog should be fun. Writing should be fun. In the case of this blog and the questions articles, I think this change in plans makes both a little more fun. I'm excited already.

What to Expect

Since summer is almost over, I will be putting together my fall reading list and tallying what I've completed with my summer reading list. I have an idea of what's going to be on that fall reading list, so I am thrilled to put it together and to read more good books. That's what I know I will be covering in the next few days. I'll also write about many of the topics that I covered in previous posts i.e. poker, my cat, my business, eating healthier, video games, political issues etc. Should be fun.

Goals, Updates, and What I'm Capable Of

goals for this weekMy parents say I shouldn't be so negative on this blog, referring to my previous post on how I'm so horrible at this new niche (and considering that I haven't written a single post this week, I'm still very horrible). However, I say that it's important to be open and to be honest about these things. Besides, if I put my mistakes and shortcomings into writing and admit them to the world, then I can acknowledge them and fix them. If I just go one pretending they don't exist, then I'm probably not going to do anything about them.

Goal for this Week: Do One Post, Just One Post

Apparently, two was much too ambitious for me. I couldn't discipline myself to do the research. I also got busy and distracted, although I was way more distracted than busy. Below are the 10 possible topics that I might do for my one post (since these are rather engaging and interesting topics, I might actually do more than one like I'm supposed to. Some of these actually sound fun.)

  1. Will Cristina Fernández de Kirchner succeed in amending the Argentinian constitution so that she can run for a third term?
  2. What reforms are needed to the Mexican judicial system?
  3. Should India avoid an upcoming meeting with Pakistan due to the recent violence in Kashmir?
  4. What changes should Hassan Rohani make to Iran’s nuclear program?
  5. What role should the European Union play in the Gibraltar dispute?
  6. Is America winning the fight against obesity?
  7. If you were the chief executive of AOL, what would you do to make it relevant again?
  8. How can the U.S. make itself less dependent on foreign oil?
  9. Is the GOP’s refusal to participate in CNN and NBC 2016 presidential primary debates justified?
  10. Will privacy rights be a major issue in the 2014 midterm elections?

I'm So Close to My File Cabinet!

My main goal for my inferno of productivity is to accrue 300 points so that I can get a file cabinet! I ended the previous week with 271 points, and after tallying this week's points, I have 322 points. This means I can finally get that file cabinet! I am excited since I've need a file cabinet so badly, and never got around to getting one. Now, all I have to do is redeem those points and get one. I took a quick look online and there's nothing that I really like. I'd really like a wooden file cabinet to match my a little bit, but perhaps I'll settle on a metal one because they are cheaper.

Once I achieved my goal, I said that I would evaluate my inferno of productivity to see if it really worked at boosting my productivity and to make a decision as to whether or not to continue the game. I think I will continue it because it's a record of what I accomplished each day as well as a fun way to work toward rewards and to give myself those rewards. Also, by assigning points, I can prevent myself from overindulging on these rewards One of my prizes is eating out, and eating out is much less appealing when it means I have to give up points and it means one more week until I can get that file cabinet, or that haircut, or whatever it is I want.

It's also a good way to ensure that I purchase things that I've been intending to purchase for a while, such as that file cabinet. It's really easy to forget those things and to work around the problem (the problem with the file cabinet being my papers and files are in piles on the floor, unattended and dusty). For my next goal/reward, I want a haircut. I badly need a haircut, as my hair is way too long. It gets in the way when I sleep at night.

Speaking of sleep, I should go do that.

I am Getting SuperBetter at Eating Healthier

my secret headquarters As I was working on my summer reading list and making my way through Citizenville, the author discussed the idea of making government more fun by turning civic duty into some sort of game. The city of Manor, Texas did it by awarding residents a fake currency for submitting an idea on how to fix the idea. If your idea is chosen to be implemented, you got even more of this fake currency, called innobucks. These innobucks could then be redeemed for real life goods, such as being mayor for a day or free appetizers at a local eatery. I'd do more for St. Louis if it meant more Ted Drewes and Kaldi's coffee.

Anyway, while reading about this great stuff, the author mentioned the name Jane McGonigal, who had started this really awesome website/online game called SuperBetter. I remembered her from a TED talk I watched a few years ago (it's below if you want to watch it), and I didn't realize that she had started this gaming website "designed to help you build personal resistance." I had to see what it was all about and give it a whirl.

I Haven't Even Started Yet and It's Amazing

superbetter logoSuperBetter is SO FREAKIN' COOL. Once you sign up (which is free), it starts you off with four different exercises about the four different types of resilience: physical, mental, emotional, and social. The exercises are incredibly easy, ranging from taking three steps to looking out a window for a few moments, from thanking someone on social media to snapping your fingers 50 times. Each exercise comes with a short one-minute video about that resilience and some of the science. After you do these four things, called quests, you then move on to choosing your secret identity, choosing your challenge, and choosing a power pack to overcome your challenge (you can even create your own power pack if you want). My business coach should totally incorporate this into her coaching.

I went through this, and chose eating healthier as my challenge. I went vegan after Thanksgiving, and after a few months of keeping that up, it's slipped away. I'm no longer vegan. I'm not even vegetarian. Since I have two things on my life goals list about eating healthier (one is to avoid eating out for an entire month, and another is to be vegan for one year), I decided that this would be a perfect place to start. I've been thinking about eating healthier ever since my diet slipped, but haven't made any movement in the right direction. Now, with the help of power ups, allies, and fighting bad guys, I'm hopeful and excited to have concrete steps to move in the right direction.

I do have to admit, I LOVE the branding. The more colors something has, the better it must be. The rainbow is just phenomenal.

I Will Start Today/Tomorrow

I have downloaded my Power Pack, the Full Plate Diet, and I will start my first quest today/tomorrow. I already know that what I need to do is watch a video, sign up for a free membership, and subscribe to a newsletter. Sounds easy enough! But, of course, when you are just starting, the first step is always the easiest. It's the next 972 steps that are difficult.

In the meantime, if you want to know a little more about this concept of gamification, and whether it really works, then here it from the founder herself. Part of the reason why this TED talk is so cool is that she's a female gamer who's using games to help others better the lives of others as well as their own lives.

[ted id=1501]

OMG bonus talk! I didn't realize that she had TWO TED talks! I just watched the one above for the first time as I was putting this post together, when she referenced her first talk in this second talk. I was really trying to find and to share the one below, which is her first talk. Anyway, they are both long, but both incredibly compelling. After all, she is essentially encouraging us to play more games and to turn more of life into a game. Rock on, right?

[ted id=799]

Inferno of Productivity: How I Turned My Task List into a Game

inferno of productivity One of the biggest lessons I've learned from my business coach is to be specific, but to keep things simple also. My coach noted that I had a tendency to overwhelm myself by making things too complicated, by not focusing on the little steps that need to be taken to achieve the bigger picture. It's very smart advice, and why my business coach is so awesome (and why she should be your business coach too).

As part of this sage advice, one thing that needed simplification was my to-do list. One weekend, I had a very long to-do list and I hardly got any of it done because I'd look at it and feel overwhelmed. I wanted a way to be able to focus on one thing at a time and to pick one thing to do while also being able to visualize the entire day or an entire week's worth of work (it helps for scheduling purposes, and for organizing when to do what). It then occurred to me that index cards would be a good idea. I could write one task per card but have a pile of cards to represent the day, and many piles to represent the other days of the week. A pile of cards is also much less daunting than a long to-do list. It also makes it easy to transfer things to the next day in case I didn't finish everything.


I didn't like the idea of using index cards just once. I didn't like creating so much waste and using up so many index cards just for a single purpose. So, I thought about how I could reuse these index cards and save them for a second or third purpose. One thing led to another and I came up with my awesome game:

Inferno of Productivity!

inferno of productivity point system

When I thought about saving the index cards, I thought about saving them to redeem for something, which led me to the point system. Obviously, if you're redeeming something, you are redeeming it either for points or prizes, or maybe both. So, what I've done is I count each task/index card as a point. At the end of each day, I count my points and put them in a plastic food container I bought for $5 at the dollar store across the street. On Sunday, I count up all my points and give myself the chance to redeem them for something. I took the time to come up with a whole bunch of rewards for me to work toward, and I assigned them point values based on dollar value and on how big I considered the reward (i.e. I think clothes shopping is a bigger reward than a new pair of shoes because you get more things with clothes shopping. So, clothes shopping is over three times as many points as a new pair of shoes).

I just had to double the number of points each prize is worth because I want them to take a lot of work to obtain. I've done this for a week already, and after one week, I had enough points for half the list. This meant that my list was too easy. Right now, each task is only worth one point, but I might end up changing that in the future depending on the difficulty or the length of time/number of steps needed to complete the task i.e. laundry could be multiple points depending on the number of loads I have to do.

FYI - "Need of the Week" includes things that I would only buy once, or things that I would buy so irregularly that they don't really merit their own points. For example, a spice rack is one of my "needs of the week" because I really do need a spice rack, but I only need to buy one. Haircuts are also in this category because I don't need a haircut every month, but I also consider haircuts somewhat of a luxury and a reward, so they can be something to work for.

Am I More Productive?

points for today

I've only been doing this for a week, so the game and my levels of productivity may still change, but I do think it has made me more productive in four ways. First, since I need to complete the task to count it as a point, I do force myself to finish tasks if I start them. This was a problem I had with my old method, as I would check them off if I started the task or even if I planned to do the task. This meant that I didn't always finish tasks and it would my planner and my lists into a big mess. This wasn't good for productivity, and now it's going away.

Second, I don't forget things that I need to do because I can just put it on an index card and place it with the appropriate day. It also means that I don't have to keep things to do in my head because my to-do list was already written and I didn't have room for it. Things are a little less stressful for me as I don't have to worry about forgetting, and it was always the personal things that got forgotten, since I typically filled my to-do list with work and business tasks. Plus, if I do forget, or need a reminder of what needs to be done, I can just go through the pile and see what's left. It's also great that, in case I don't finish everything, I can take what's left and just add it to the next day's pile. No crossing out, or arrows, or any other mess that clogs up my calendar.

Third, with the index cards, I can put notes with any or all of the tasks. For example, if I need to call someone, I can write that I need to call this person as well as what I need to ask about or talk about. This saves time, hence improving productivity, because I then don't have to call the person back or send an extra email because I forgot to ask that question or to bring up something important. This also helps with just keeping everything in one place. If I need to write an article for someone, then I write how many words it needs to be and anything else I need to do to write the article.

things I've done

Fourth, I'm motivated to do my work and to get something as a reward. Currently, I'm working toward my top prize, an actual home furnishing, because I'd like to get a dresser (I seriously don't have a dresser and am using those plastic drawers for my clothes), or a file cabinet, and/or a bookshelf. It'll take about five weeks of work to have enough points to get that, but I do think that's a fair trade off. In that time, I would have saved the money while having earned enough money as well. Plus, I like looking forward to having more nice things in my apartment. What's also great is that I didn't choose to redeem any of my points from last week because I really need the file cabinet and the dresser, so I'm starting this week with 60 points in container. Yay!

What's Next for the Inferno of Productivity?

60 points

Well, I'm going to pilot it for as long as it takes to get that dresser/file cabinet. Once I get to that point, I'll evaluate the point system, or how many points certain tasks are worth, or even if this game is still fun and worth playing. If it just ends up complicating everything, or if the novelty fades away and it doesn't help anymore, then I'll stop doing it. My fiance suggested that I add breaks to the point system, where for five or 10 points I can take the time to watch a movie or to play video games or something. I like this idea because it means that taking a long break isn't just distracting me from the work that I need to do, but that it will also take away from the overall goal and the big picture of productivity. However, these breaks need to happen from time to time, so it's cool to classify them as a reward.

So far today, I have nine points. Now that this blog post is complete, I have 10 points!

I'll Do It!

i'll do it I'm not Allison Mack, or Bill O'Reilly, but I am just as fabulous.

How's that for a tagline/niche? I need a new one, since I don't even know what "All is On with Allison" is even all about. I'm thinking that I just have a pretty darn good life that I should be a bit more appreciative of, so I should just blog about and blog about what goes on here in St. Louis and in business and that other fun stuff. Although, I must say, 'Mack' is a pretty cool last name. It reminds me of a Mack truck, and that's pretty cool.

I mean, it's a start for a tagline right? I just read this long article about the dysfunctional guide to blogging and business success, and I think that 'dysfunctional' is a good word for me. I prefer different and original, but dysfunctional would work too. People probably do think I am dysfunctional. After all, I did go vegan and then I ran out of money for food so I had to eat all the meat that I had stored up and now I'm a horrible, horrible vegan.

A Week of Moping

Yeah, that's seriously what my last week and a half it's been. Probably the worst week and a half to mope too, since Memorial Day weekend is this weekend and I should have started the moping three days later. Time it with the vacation so that I wouldn't have been moping when everyone else was at work being productive and doing things with their lives. I haven't been working enough and being productive, even though work is slow and that's part of the reason why I'm moping.

I don't want to be moping. The moping is turning me into a loser. I want to be better and to be awesome! I am doing that by going to my VIP day tomorrow to work on my business and my personal branding. It starts at 8:30 a.m. and I will be getting free breakfast and lunch. How could I not go? I'm also going to be spending the day with my business coach and she will guide me in the right direction and help me tap into my purpose power and all that good stuff. I can do it! I will have a successful business and make money and save the world!

You Can Do It!

I can totally do it, and I must do it because the great Daniel Negreanu said I could do it. He totally said this when he participated in a Q&A on the FlopTurnRiver poker forum. I asked him a question about veganism, and how to go vegan, because he's also vegan, and this is what I got:

First, watch Forks Over Knives | Official Website it has a lot of great information. Then pick up the cookbook it's incredible. Also checkout Vegetarian & Vegan Starter Kit | Guide on How to Become Vegan / Vegetarian | PETA.org for help getting started. Good luck and congrats on your decision! Stick with it and you won't regret it.

Okay, so there's nothing in there that's all that encouraging except the 'stick with it' part. However, I've been telling myself that he was encouraging for like, six months, so I'm just going to 'stick with it' and tell people that Daniel Negreanu encouraged me through the interwebs and so that's why I can do it and that I won't fail.

That also really has nothing else to do with the rest of my life, except poker, but that's okay too.

I've also just concluded that my tagline sucks. I'm working on it. I also need to work on this whole page too.