Posted in Freedom Friday

The In-Betweens

Do you like secrets? Yeah, I like them, too. I have a secret—well, not like my dark secret I admitted to about a year ago—but a secret, nonetheless. Do you want to know what it is? Of course you do, everyone likes secrets. This is where I insert a strategic pause to give you a moment to think about it. Okay, okay, I’ll tell you, but you’ll have to promise not to tell anyone else. Deal?

It's about time
It’s about time

All right, then. For a long time my friends have noticed I don’t waste time. This is not one of those self-appreciating statements you hear from someone who wants to put himself on a pedestal for all to admire. I just don’t like throwing my time away on useless pursuits. I never did.

You must be thinking, “Boy, Jack, you must really be high on yourself today.”

In truth, I’m being open so you’ll know where I’m coming from when I tell you my secret. Ah, I see I have your attention again. Telling you I don’t waste time is only a fraction of the overall reason for this Freedom Friday post.

Allow me to pose a question: Where do you waste most of your time?

Think about it carefully. I’m sure you can easily come up with several specific things that distract you from being productive. But you know what? You won’t believe it when I tell you what the biggest time waster is. I’m thankful I learned this secret a long time ago in my teens, and I’ve benefited from knowing it ever since.

Fine, I think you’ve had enough of my build.

Here’s the secret to being productive: It’s the in-betweens.

I can see the puzzled looks already.

Here’s an example. You’ve decided you will clean out the shed this weekend. You have the plan in place. You will unpack the deck chairs, organize the garden tools, and sweep the inside of the dirt that had accumulated over the winter. This shouldn’t take more than an hour, tops.

The weekend comes and two hours later, you’re still sweating it out trying to decide what order the garden tools belong on the shelves. Four hours later, you’re done. What happened to the one hour, tops?

Well, in between you had to check your phone to answer your messages. That is, in between placing one chair after another on the deck. That took a whole hour. Next, the garden tools. As you were deciding what to do with the pruning shears, whether they belonged on the left or right shelf, you decided to take a break in between. After all, you couldn’t do all this work without some lemonade—which, you made from real lemons, in the kitchen, away from the work that was going to take you an hour to finish, tops.

And on and on it goes. The in-betweens is where we lose our time. Those moments in between tasks are precious. This means throwing away the distractions, phone, internet, and general laziness, and getting it done without wasting time between steps.

Five minutes here, five minutes there, the next thing you know it’s been an hour and nothing gets done. It happens more often than not. The key is to prevent it from happening.

This is what I do. When I have a task, I’ll estimate how long it might take. I then give myself a hard deadline. Sometimes, I’ll underestimate the time in order to set the fire under my seat ablaze. This pushes me forward as I quickly see the time disappear and I frantically attempt to beat the deadline. It really is an exercise in self-discipline, but a rewarding challenge, nonetheless.

In the end, this is how I write all my posts. I give myself an hour and hope whatever falls on the page eventually makes sense.

Now, your turn. Try it yourself. Find a task and attempt to complete it with a hard deadline. Make it even more of a challenge by setting the deadline less than the actual time it will take doing it. Believe me, the in-betweens will disappear faster than you think and you will have accomplished your goal in record time.

Oh, all right. If you want to tell someone this secret, go ahead. I won’t stop you.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

Where do you think you waste most of your time?

Posted in Freedom Friday

My Dark Secret

I have a secret. A very deep and dark secret. It’s the kind of secret that would make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. Yet throughout the past year, holding my tongue, I never thought it possible I could ever admit to having this secret. This is my Freedom Friday series, and this is my secret.

Thunder and Lightning Storm
Thunder and Lightning Storm

What is it? Well, I could tell you it’s something simple. It’s not. It’s something life altering. Something that goes against nature. Something really, really bad. How else can I describe that which can cause grief and frustration to everyone around? There’s no other way to say it than to say it openly without reservation.

I cut my own hair.

There, I said it. I know. It is bad. Last summer I decided to put away childish things so as I may concentrate on the things grown-ups do. It took some convincing but I did it. I took the plunge and cut my own hair for the very first time.

Cutting hair is up there with food preparation and construction. If you know how to cut hair, you’re good for life. That’s exactly what I was thinking too. I’ve wanted to learn how to cut my hair for a long, long time. I don’t know what held me back. How can I describe the feeling?

It’s awesome! Yeah, that’s how I can describe it.

How did I finally learn to do the deed? I’ll tell ya. One of my good friends told me one day he cut his own hair. It came as no surprise because whenever I saw him, he stood before me an immaculate individual, well groomed and clean cut. It wasn’t until I delved further into his hair wizardry that he confessed his evil, little secret to me. He said it didn’t take that much time to do and it saves him money.

I thought, here’s a guy who learned on his own how to cut his own hair. It fascinated me. I’ve always wanted to do that. He went on to explain how he accomplished the whole process. I listened intently and took notes. This is what I learned.

WAHL Clippers
WAHL Clippers

I don’t know how it is in the rest of the world but in Canada, we have this retail outlet called Canadian Tire. I purchased a set of hair clippers (WAHL 23-piece haircut kit) there for $30. It comes with clippers, guide combs, scissors and a styling guide.

The first time I used it, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I had to go to YouTube for a few instructional videos just to remove the initial fear of putting blade to hair. They were helpful and made life easier for a novice in disarray. I learned how to clip in levels, blend, trim, and spruce up the sideburns. I also learned how to cut my hair without getting any of the hair on my body—to cut my hair naked. Yup, buck naked. It’s the only way to have a clean familiarity with clippers.

Since cutting my hair, here are a few things I’ve gained.

  • I’ve made mistakes—bad ones. But I read somewhere the difference between a good haircut and bad haircut is three days. No matter how bad I goofed, it’ll take three days to fix itself up.
  • I’ve saved oodles of time by doing my own hair. My first haircut took me an hour-and-half. Crazy, huh? Nowadays, it takes me twenty minutes, tops. I don’t have to wait in line for a free barber. I don’t have to rely on anyone. I can do it whenever I want. Even midnight on a Sunday night…if I want.
  • I figured I’ve saved $160 so far on myself only. When I subtract the cost of the clippers, I’m $130 richer. That’s enough money to go out to eat at one of these fancy schmancy restaurants. Oh, and that doesn’t include the cost of cutting the kids’ hair. If I added them, we’re talking about big, big bucks.
  • My confidence level has skyrocketed. Hey, no telling what I’m capable of now that I know how to cut my own hair.

Do you cut your own hair? What do you use? Is it something you’ve wanted to do your whole life? If you don’t cut your own hair, have you ever wanted to?