Like Clockwork; How Routine Habits Can Change Your Life

routines title

What does the morning mean to you? Is it a long slog of repetitive alarm snoozes and chimes, ushering you violently from slumber into a world of cold air and heavy eye-lids? Perhaps you’re a peppy-pepster, buzzing from sunrise and bouncing about the house in giddy merriment? Or is the morning simply just the first in a series of common events, an inevitability of your daily slog, and a reminder that you are no longer dreaming?

“Morning, tiger”

Wherever you fit, I hear you.

A lot of fuss is made about mornings; the early bird catches the worm; early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise; the morning has gold in its mouth.

These are three sayings that stress the importance of an early morning, the last two coming from a certain Benjamin Franklin (and I’m sure he must have said the first one too at some point).

Are you a morning person? Statistically, only about 10% are. In fact, only another 20% are night owls. That puts about 70% of us right there in the middle, neither late sleepers nor early risers, conveniently non-spectacular.

“Speak for yourself”

Here comes the sun

But what if we could harness the power of the sun? Like a blooming flower opening up in all its glory to spread itself out and bask in the sun’s aura, we too can be so grand and wonderful, no?

I know, I know. ‘I have a job’, ‘I have kids’, ‘I have Netflix’. These are not excuses, they are just facts of life. Obstacles will always be in your path, no matter what you do or where you do it. Life cares not for smooth sailing and calm seas. It will throw grenades, barbed wire and tornadoes, and expect you to take it all!

Pictured: life

Pictured: life

So, how do you get around this?

A routine of course!

It’s simple. Regularity breeds an environment where your body and mind know what is expected of them in certain situations and at certain times. By scheduling yourself to be doing specific actions at designated times, you get yourself into a very productive habit that can lead to serious long term gains. It also removes the chance for dilly-dallying and general horseplay (unless, of course, you have made time for that in your routine. In which case, fantastic!), and replaces this with well planned, well utilised time and activity.

“Hmmm, I’m not so sure”

Why bother?

“”Habits help us get through the day with minimal stress and deliberation,” says social psychologist Wendy Wood, provost professor of psychology and business at the University of Southern California whose research focuses on the effect of habits on behavior” (taken from the article The Blessings of Routine on ChicagoTribune.com).

Whether the routine is rising early and maximising your productivity in the morning (more on this to come), or structuring your movements and actions throughout the day so as to keep yourself maximising your time for your interests, your day can only get better.

Time is money, but time is arguably more important. They are two things that define and dictate our daily lives, and yet we have so much trouble emphasising to ourselves to need to manage our time as carefully if not more so than how we manage our finances. Are you spending your time on things you really want to? Whether it’s having more time to play laser tag with your kids, bake cakes with your grandma, sell stocks and close accounts, or write and read, we could all do with having a little extra time in our lives for these passions. Squandering time is as big a waste if not more so than throwing money down the drain!

“Aaargh!”

When can I routine?

This part is easy! For those of you interesting in making time at the beginning and end of your day, there is a great video here on The Art of Manliness that explains how you can book end your day with a structured routine aimed at prioritising your time and making the most of setting yourself up to succeed every day!

In the coming weeks we will also be looking into the daily routine of some great people from history, and seeing how their daily structures helped them to be the best they could be. We’ll also give you a breakdown of why making special care of using your mornings in an effective way can set you up for an even better day.

To, y'know, climb mountains and stuff

To, y’know, climb mountains and stuff

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself though. Life is busy, and some of us are truly swamped by the things we have to do, leaving us little time for the things we want to do. Small changes, even anything such as making time for ten minutes of reflective thought every morning, are a start.

Your task for this week? Go forth and add something to your daily life. It doesn’t have to be something big, but it has to be something noticeable, and something you are capable of doing every day. For the more competent among us, perhaps look to try something a little taxing that may take a little juggling to actually be possible to fit in.

Some ideas:

  • half an hour of reading before bed
  • fifteen minutes of emailing friends in the morning
  • 3o minutes of foreign language review before breakfast
  • a morning jog (15-30 minutes is sufficient!)
  • Keeping a journal, making time to write for at least 20 minutes every night (click here for the IQ breakdown of why journals are awesome)
or crocodile dentistry...

or crocodile dentistry…

Ultimately, the person who can control this is you. Don’t waste any more time thinking and yearning. With a planned routine, the thought process is removed and instead you only have moments for action! Knowing that every day you will be playing/practising/learning/growing can be a massive motivator, and a keen reminder that your life is moving in a fulfilling and enriching way.

What’s stopping you? Let us know in the comments what things you make a habit of doing routinely, and any tips you might have for others who are just starting to form routines of their own.

Special thanks to David Castillo Dominici, Kookkai_nak, marin, stockimages, TeddyBear[Picnic] and Tuomas_Lehtinen @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2015

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Why Blogger? 12 Reasons Why You Should Blog!

title giraffe

I started blogging for the main reason that I wanted a platform that forced me to write regularly, and gave me an avenue to research topics I found interesting in a format that forced me to be accurate and concise. So far at Itchy Quill we have looked at reading, travelling, gender roles in modern society, the history of symbols and the future, using this format.

Through my time in the blogosphere I have encountered other bloggers from many different backgrounds with many different motivations. My favourite blogs are a veritable mixed bag of randomness, from street poets to wannabe chefs, and travelling mums to deaf composers. There is a world of awesome out there to be explored, and so why not get a taste of it from the experiences of others? I’ve always believed reading is a gateway into adventure, giving you a unique insight into how someone else did something and this in turn gives you a grounding for your own escapades. Blogging is a microcosm of that, a peak into the unknown or a glance back at the adored. It’s a wink and a nod at life…

So, if you want to blog, but are not sure why, then let below be a list of some good reasons to try! If you already blog, but are stuck for ideas, then perhaps this list can help to inspire you. For the more advanced bloggers out there, where do you fit in?

Start your adventure today!

Take that first step... see where it takes you

Take that first step… see where it takes you

Helping People

I put this as number one because I want to start on a positive note; the helping of others. The ‘helping’ type of blogs are normally written by people who fall often into two categories; those who are trained in a certain area and want to help those who could benefit from their training, and those who have experienced something and want to share their experiences so as to help others in similar situations. A common example would be some of the wonderful work being done online to help mental health. There are countless blogs here, but that is just the start.

There are many blogs that talk about the ups and down of parenthood, of moving to a new country, or offer tips on certain kinds of work (such as ESL Teaching and Bartending). Sharing is caring, people! Go ahead, right now, write a  problem of yours into Google along with the word blog, and see the links that come up. Within a few seconds, you’ve connected with a stranger whose reality reflects yours. You may not agree with them, but sometimes even seeing ‘how not’ can remind us of ‘how to’. It’s the global conversation, happening every day.

See, blogging is a community. It builds bridges between people from all walks of life and reminds us that we are not alone. Whatever may be happening in your life right now, there is always going to be someone online who feels your pain and has shared their experience. Reaching out to others can be hugely beneficial, and connecting with other people so as to unite against such issues can be a wonderful start on the road to recovery.

“Dr Blogger here, how can I help you?”

You Can Share Ideas and Thoughts

The creative mindset is one that is heavily represented in social media, especially within the realms of Twitter and Pinterest. Many creatives will have links from their social media accounts to their blogs, which are places that give them the chance to showcase their talent for the world to see. Seeing the work of others can be hugely inspiring, as can having a forum to share your own.

Blogging naturally brings people with similar ideas and hobbies together, as the best audience for your blog will be people who share your passions. This can start a snowball effect on your work as it builds steam and energy from feedback and collaboration.

Find your posse

Find your posse…

It’s a Place To Make Snobservations

That’s right, you snotty little tyrant, you. If silently judging from afar just doesn’t quite give you the satisfaction it used to, perhaps unleashing your poisoned vitriol upon the internet will take your internal bitterness to a new level?

Of course, not all of us have such negative energy to spread around the world. Perhaps you long to divulge some peace and love, or you have some whimsical outlook on experiences you feel the internet could benefit from. Go for it!

“How does KFC run out of chickeeeeeeeeen!!!”

Dear Diary… Reflection

These could be two separate ideas, as to reflect is not necessarily to diary. Using your blog as a kind of online diary is a great way to keep it accessible. I have some good friends here in Taiwan who use their blog as a way of keeping folks back home in touch with what they have been up to. There’s no reason why this can’t be the case for those living closer to their nearest and dearest too.

The act of reflection, for some such an integral part of why they keep a diary in the first place, is also something that blogging offers. See, when posting situations or experiences onto the internet in this fashion, you are putting it into a domain where anyone can access it. Sometimes, the impartial view of a stranger can help to give you fresh perspective, or give you feedback on something that may link to their own life and the two of you can both gain a mutual benefit from your shared story.

Of course, don’t forget that as it’s online, people can read everything…

“Dear Diary, I’m still having that dream where I murder my friends”

Improve Your Writing

As a writer, what better practice is there to hone your craft than to write!? I mean, scribbling away odes and novellas is another way, of course, but blogging gives you regular practice that forces you to be strict on daily/weekly/monthly posts, and means you must edit and research it quickly. On top of this, just knowing that your work will be viewed by others means you will have to be more thorough and more appealing, giving you practice in the art of receiving criticism (or, sometimes, in receiving praise) and of marketing yourself through your words.

If you’re not a writer though, blogging can still help you improve your writing skills. I know many bloggers here in Taiwan who blog in English, even though their first language is Chinese, purely as a way of practising and feeling more confident using it.

Find out what your Words are Worth, understanding what the Dickens is so Austen-tacious about blogging. It really Shakes your Peares!

“Wordplay!”

Become an Expert

The word ‘expert’ gets thrown around a lot these days, especially on Twitter. Oh my, you can’t throw a digital stone without hitting a ‘Social Media Expert’ or ‘Marketing Guru’. It’s become rather laughable. The problem is, if you do have a skill, blogging about it is actually a wonderful thing to do! If you are one of the genuine few with something to offer, you should share it!

Fixing old bike engines? Pokemon collector? Butterfly circus? Whatever your poison, indulge your inner nerd and share your knowledge. You’ll be amazed how quickly you find a niche within a community and start to learn more and share more. Just by having a blog, you’ll be researching and learning, just for the benefit of your posts. This will translate to acquired knowledge and before you know it, you’ll be the paramount mind on contemporary dragon raising in the South of England! Boo yeah!

Find them a meaningful career, obviously!

Find them a meaningful career, obviously!

The Blogo-Social Network

Ok, so we’ve already talked rather at length about how community is the foundation of blogging, and vis a vie you will encounter a myriad range of different people and blogs. Truth be told, a lot of the people you encounter will be into similar fields as you, as one of the soul reasons they will stumble upon your blog is that they were looking for something like it.

Using these connections wisely can build a truly beneficial network over time. Many authors, graphic designers and artists use blogging for this very reason, so as to meet others in their industry and connect for the good of both their careers. Being part of a community means being part of something greater than the sum of what is yours and only yours. Use the internet for what it was meant for; the coming together of humanity!

In a good way... coming together 'in a good way' (not pictured)

In a good way… coming together ‘in a good way’ (not pictured)

To Make Money

Making money from your blog is not as easy as simply wanting it, but it shouldn’t take long for the truly dedicated to start to see money coming in from advertising. It is very, very hard to make a lot of money form your blog. Those that make steady revenue tend to be people who are furiously motivated and committed to their blog. That said, it is totally possible to make the big bucks from your blog. To see a list of ways to ‘monetize’ (their words, not mine) your blog, visit this link on about.com for five tips to stimulate cash flow.

Don't let it compromise your artistic integrity though...

Don’t let it compromise your artistic integrity though…

It’s Easy

Really, it is. There are tons of places you can go to find free hosting, and most blogging websites now offer free design and layout templates, with themes that can be customized to fit your blogs vibe. What’s stopping you? Giving it a try gives you the chance to cross something else off of your bucket list, and slowly work towards your ultimate goal of being an awesome you!

You could spend as little as 20 minutes a week posting up some thoughts, and then watch as your circle of influence grows steadily over time.

Check out this post on stylecaster.com to see their choice of The 10 Best Free Blog Sites.

“Me done maked ma bloog!”

To Learn New Skills

Since starting my blog I’ve had to sharpen up on writing skills, practice harvesting research in a swift fashion, find out where to find free photographs, teach myself how to edit my own photography on Photoshop, and also polished up on licensing law with regards to the internet! All skills that are totally transferable to other activities of mine! On top of this, I’ve had to take my twitter game to the next level (follow us here) and master certain other media packages to help showcase my work.

Just from reading the blogs of others I have learned a bit about living in different countries, which non-European authors are worth checking out, how to stay fit, and countless other skills and tit-bits of knowledge.

Who knows what you’ll learn, and how it might change you…

“The greatest wastes are unused talents and untried ideas”. – Unknown

Elvis Kung Fu anyone?

Elvis Kung Fu anyone?

It Builds Confidence

The internet can be a pretty nasty place at times, especially since trolls enjoy wandering from forum to forum, dropping racist, homophobic, sexist malevolence. At other times, people who are genuinely nice in the physical world can be right vipers when it comes to critical feedback and comments.

Responding to these, and developing the thick skin needed to tolerate it without lowering yourself to it, is a self-empowering and rather fulfilling part of blogging. Knowing that you can air your view, and then face down opposition to it in a mature way will help you feel much more at peace with yourself. Most of all, just taking the steps to put yourself out there, about whatever it is that you feel inspired to do so, is a genuinely fantastic experience.

Let that confidence flow…

“Take that, society”

It Might Change The World

Can blogging change the world? Of course it can! If you are someone writing about the impending doom of a zombie apocalypse, why not make the most of it and establish a blog on how to survive? You could go as far as offering tips on negotiating with zombies, finding an antidote in a crisis, and how to out run the undead. These are all fun to read now, but in the future they could very well change the world!

On a smaller note, know that sometimes your blog could be the inspiration someone needs to change their life, and that could be invaluable to a stranger in the trajectory of their personal success. Just look at this story of how two school girls changed their school life.

That’s the point. Blogging puts people around the world in touch with each other on such a potentially detailed and personal level that genuine bonds can be made, and why wouldn’t these change the world?

Who knows what may come from your words...

Who knows what may come from your words…?

The best part; comments! Feel free to comment below and let’s get a conversation going about blogging!

If you know of any great examples of different blogs that are worth checking out, please leave a link in the comments below too!

Special thanks to 1shots, artur84, David Castillo Dominici, holohololand, imagerymajestic, phasinphoto, Photokanok, siraphat, stockimages, vectorolie and winnond @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2015

Tokens of Our Time; The History of Some of Our Favourite Symbols

In 2012, I spent a summer in Brighton, UK, teaching English in a small scale language school with bags of charm but ageing resources. My class was filled with about ten 16 year olds, real cool kids away from home for a summer of language learning, beach-side romance and a few adventures to carry back to their respective homelands.

One afternoon we went to the attic room to use the listening suite. There was a vast collection of audio cassette and VCR tapes, but not a CD nor DVD to be seen.

Their desks were all fitted with embedded tape players, with individual headphone sets and audio control buttons. They had free roam of the wonderfully categorized shelves of materials, and as this lesson required no planning, I was expecting to be able to fill the time with reading while I casually supervised their progress. I was wrong.

Within a few minutes, hands were being raised and I was being told about the same problem.

“Sir, my player’s broken”.

I’d walk over, check the tape, and see that whoever had used it previously had failed to rewind it. I’d put the tape in and ask the students to rewind. They would hit the ‘skip back’ button. Nothing would happen, so they’d assume it was still broken.

It dawned on me; these teenagers had never used tape players in their life! In fact, their understanding of that technology was so absent, they believed it was possible to actually skip tracks in a way similar to CDs!

Those teenagers were digital natives. To them, the symbols on a laptop, TV, iPhone were all invented purely for those devices. I felt pity for them, but then realised for myself how I had done much the same thing when I was a child. Did I truly know the history of the symbols I saw every day? Had my grandmother laughed when I didn’t recognise the ‘L’ in the £ sign? Did my Science teacher chuckle at the fact I didn’t recognise Norse History on my telephone keypad?

I had to know more, so here is the Itchy Quill History lesson on some famous symbols and their origins!

ampersand-hiStuart MilesThe ampersand and pound sign

What do London, the & symbol and the £ sign have in common? Yes, they are all very popular in England, but more importantly, they were all invented by Romans. Ok, ok, So you can’t invent a city, but London, or rather Londinium, was a very successful experiment in replicating traditional Roman methods of living, but overseas. All three were also opportunities for ancient Romans to demonstrate their remarkable skill in design, ingenuity and style.

See, the ampersand is essentially a highly stylized version of the Latin word for and, Et, invented by a fellow named Marcus Tullius Tiro. He didn’t give it the catchy name however, you can blame the true lovers of Latin – Victorian school children – for that. In the time of Queen Victoria, the symbol was essentially treated as the 27th letter of the alphabet. Children would chant the alphabet through rote learning with the ending being “and per se and”. This literally translates as ‘and, in itself, and’. Children being children, they couldn’t wait to finish the chant and be the first one to get to the jelly and custard at break time, and so the words ended up blending together to make ampersand.

As for the £ sign, that little guy is essentially just a fancy pants ‘L’. Those of us born in modern times will find it harder to recognise, as practising this style, known as roundhand, becomes less and less promoted in schools. Why L? Well, it’s down to those Romans again. They had a unit of weight called the ‘libre’, and the £ sign is merely an abbreviation (which is the reason for the one or sometimes two dashes across the middle of the £). Interestingly, the libre is also the namesake of the lb measurement of weight too.

So, Ancient Rome… not just nudity, baths and hedonism.

Boy, us Romans invented most of this puny language you call 'English'. We smite you with Latin - basiate culos meos!

Boy, us Romans invented most of this puny language you call ‘English’. We smite you with Latin – basiate culos meos!

powerThe Power Sign

We’ve all stared at it knowingly for years, touched it on countless instruments, but never truly known what it means. In truth it’s a symbol from when coding was in its formative years. As far back as WW2, this symbol was used to demonstrate in binary the presence or absence of power; 1 (the line) means on, 0 means off.

However, sometimes there can be a line within an unbroken 0  which means a single switch can move an instrument from on to off, and vice versa. There can also be a 0 broken by a line which represents that something can be turned off, but not disconnected from the power source completely.

My power can never be turned to binary code 0, puny nerd

My power can never be turned to binary code 0, puny nerd

jscreationzsThe Dollar Sign

The dollar bill, a beacon of the American Dream, is arguably one of the best recognised currencies in the world. In parts of SE Asia and South America, dollar bills can actually be used as a de facto currency, meaning black markets exist for travellers who never need to change into the local money from USD, as the value of an American Dollar is so robust. So, where does this wonderful bastion of autonomy come from?

There are various theories to choose from, but the most widely accepted seems to be that it is an offspring of the Spanish Peso. In the 1700s, the Peso – “peso de ocho reales” or ‘pieces of eight’ – was the common currency of the Americas. PS was the abbreviation, and it is thought that over time the S and P would be placed on top of each other, forming an early ancestor of the $. This seems to fit the time line, as it was evident on the first paper bills printed by the US in 1875.

Those feeling curious are free to check Ayn Rand’s alternative idea, that the $ sign is a combination of the initials of U and S from USA, with the bottom of the U being cut off. Cifrão symbol.svg

Dollar dollar bills ya'll

Dollar dollar bills ya’ll

asterisk-hiThe Asterisk

He’s not just a menace to the Gauls; the asterisk has a history that goes back as far as the Middle Ages. Original employed with its best friend the dagger (†) as two of the first proof-reading marks, largely from need for the scholars tasked with editing Homer’s poetry epics. Ask an Athenian though, and they may tell you it comes from the Greek word asteri, meaning star.

In literary terms, it fell out of favour largely until the twentieth century, utilised to great effect solo to demonstrate the insertion of a footnote, or as a trio to break text into sections.

In modern times, it can literally mean anything. A pro athlete never wants one of these next to their name as it can signify a win under controversial or conditional circumstances, or in some biographies it can mean the year of birth (*1969). On the number key of your keyboard it could be a replacement for × (multiply), a mask for expletives in t*ts and s**t, and it can even be used to denote a *snigger* or a *gasp* on twitter. Whatever it’s use, the asterisk is a real chameleon of the symbol jungle, and it deserves a place in our hearts.

Shut the f**k up... *giggles*

Shut the f**k up… *giggles*

bluetooth-hi

Bluetooth

What do wireless devices syncing together and medieval Scandinavia have in common? No, it’s not a thirst for pillaging and decimation; it’s actually quite the opposite.

Harald Bluetooth was the Viking king of Denmark from 958 to 970, and famous lover of Blueberry’s (hence the blue teeth). He is best remembered for uniting parts of Norway and Denmark into one country, and converting them to Christianity. See Harald was a man famous for bringing people together.

In the early 90s, when various different technology sectors were developing their own systems, it was assumed by some designers that this difference would vastly impede wireless compatibility across them. Jim Kardach was one such designer. Inspired by Harald, who he viewed as a perfect symbol for bringing together rival parties, he was able to help mediate between the various interested bodies and from this the Bluetooth Special Interest Group was born.

Think it stops there? It’s Harald’s name in ancient rune form that actually makes up the official Bluetooth logo!

Cute like human Ewoks, Vikings were known for their deadly skill at battle

Cute like human Ewoks, Vikings were known for their deadly skill at battle

digitalart

The at sign

Few can imagine a world without it now, as it stands as the posterboy of modern communication; the twitter handle’s opening character, the link between username and domain on any email address. Alas, there was a time when this inescapable symbol was just a forgotten key stuck in obscurity on old typewriters.

The true origins are somewhat of a mystery, though many can agree that it came to prominent use as a symbol for ‘at the rate of’ in commerce, as in ’20 chickens at £1″ (its crucial meaning being demonstrated by the fact the total there would be £20).

It wasn’t until 1971 and the advent of the forerunner to email, that ‘The snail” (as the Italians called it) came into a new age of importance. Ray Tomlinson, a computer scientist at BNN (the company tasked by the American government with creating Arpanet – the precursor to the internet) sent a message to himself from one computer to another, and saved the @ sign from disappearing into symbolic and literal obscurity.

Make sure to take regular breaks from the screen to avoid hallucinations and Tron-esque out of body experiences

Make sure to take regular breaks from the screen to avoid hallucinations and Tron-esque out of body experiences

hash-sign-hi

The Hash

And here we are – the symbol of our time. Has any symbol found itself more crucial to our technological strides, not just once but twice in modern history? Initially one of only two symbols chosen for dial tone phones to make the new keypads more symmetrical, it later entered the public psyche via Twitter in 2007 to demonstrate a trend or topic. As my friend recently noted, “it’s the only thing that’s always trending”.

Most of us know it now as the hash sign, but its actual name is The Octothorpe, giving it the air of a superhero. Those etymologists among us will recognise that octo means eight. A quick count and you can see we are looking at only six points, but that’s not the only mystery. See, some claim that the thorpe part means ‘farm’ in Old Norse, and that # would indicate a village on old maps. To this day, the symbol can mean a lumber yard on Swedish maps. It can also be used in proof-reading to signify a space should be inserted, and it can even mean a checkmate in chess!

If that wasn’t enough, a similar incarnation would be adopted by the Romans (them again) as another symbol for pound (bringing the total to, yes, three different symbols for pound)!

bored at work #worklife #notlistening # presentation #booooring #cliche #wearinashirt #rolex

bored at work #worklife #notlistening  #presentation #booooring #cliche #wearinashirt #rolex #lolz

What symbols do you think are missing from this list? Do you feel aggravated that I didn’t include the Neptune inspired USB logo? Perhaps you cannot contain your rage at the non-inclusion of the question mark? There are many websites out there with information on the history of symbols, Gizmodo being one of my favourites.

The point here was never to give a definitive answer to all and every, but to instead give you the clip notes of some of the symbols we see everyday. The ingenuity, intelligence and history that is behind each of these could fascinate. I’d like to know what you think.

Going Obsolete – Help a Little

Going Obsolete – Learning Never Stops

Going Obsolete – Sweat, Tears and Digital Ink

Going Obsolete – My Little Avalon

Going Obsolete

Special thanks to AKARAKINGDOMS, digitalart, Iamnee, iprostocks, jscreationzs, Pixomar, Simon Howden, stockimages, Stuart Miles, vectorolie, imagerymajestic and patrisyu @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2015