Simple Everyday Health Tricks

Simple tricks and tips to improve your health.

Use a smaller plate. This makes you eat less.

Have a rule to do something before eating anything sweet or unhealthy. Like put ten things to their place, do ten push-ups. This a) gets you to do things and b) delaus the unhelthy thing, and maybe even makes you forget it.

Walk barefoot. Start slowly if you have not used to it.

Use MBT (or similar shoes). Sit on a gym ball or an inflatable pillow (on your chair). This makes your muscles work while doing office work.

Do work at a standup desk. It’s healthier than sitting, and may create a sense of urgency, which promotes getting things done.



User Stories as Software Development Tool

User stories are short descriptions of features (usually of an application), which are told from the user’s perspective. They usually follow this format:

As a <type of user>, I want <some goal> so that <some reason>.

For example:

As an user administrator, I can add new users to the system, so that they can log in.

User stories can be simple or complex. Really complex stories can be called epics, and should be divided into several shorter stories. An epic could be:

As an user administrator, I can control the users of the system, so all authorized people can effectively use it, within the limits set according to their responsibilities.

Detail can also be added to stories as conditions of satisfaction. For the first example, these could be:

– Administrator can add users first and last name, email address and description.
– Administrator can change all the information about the user.
– User gets an email notification when they can log in.

When following agile development principles, anyone can write new users stories at any time. These can then be discussed by stakeholders of the project. The main purpose of stories is to facilitate discussion and understanding about the features between users, developer and other stakeholders.


User stories – Montain Goat Software


Strategic Thinking and Planning

In broad sense, strategic thinking is the process of coming up with ideas in order to reach goals. Still, there isn’t one ‘right’ way to describe strategic thinking. One view is that it is one part of larger strategy creation and execution:

  1. Strategic thinking (out-think competitors): what could be done and why?
    Problem analysis, stakeholder involvement, innovation, exploring possible futures, hypothesis, criticism, testing.
  2. Strategic planning (out-plan): how could it be done? Analysis and synthesis creating a strategy.
    1. Analysis: gather the dots
    2. Synthesis: connect the dots
  3. Operational planning: how to put the strategy into practice in daily operations?
  4. Monitoring and reacting (out-maneuver): Measuring that the strategy has a desired effect. Keeping an eye on new opportunities. Reacting by iterating or pivoting.

Attributes of good strategic thinking

What to do and which skills to have to be a good strategic thinking?

  • Perspective of the whole value creation system from one end to another, and one’s role in it.
  • Focused attention
  • Bridge the gap between current reality and future plans (Scenario planning)
  • Responsiveness to new opportunities and seeking them, even when they are not part of the current strategy. Be creative and open to new ideas.
  • Be critical:
    • question everything (including yourself), challenge current conventions and uncovers biases,
    • test assumptions
    • try to find the root of problems
  • Good decision-making process:
    • interpret information from multiple sources
    • make a balanced decision (on time, quality, rigor) on the crux of the matter
    • move on (avoid analysis paralysis)
  • Align conflicting views, even on tough issues
  • Learn by interpreting feedback, debriefing and reflecting, and use the lessons to improve or pivot

How to interpret and think better

Thinking revolves around gathering data and making new interpretations based on it. But how to test the reliability of the interpretations?

  1. Make a list of assumptions that have to be true for your interpretation to be correct. Organize from the easiest to resolve to the hardest.
  2. Look at the data: does it support the assumptions? Also look out for biases in the data, think broadly and challenge your perspective.
    1. Get information about the assumptions from (three) different viewpoints. Talk with people with different views and backgrounds. Use scenario planning.
    2. If an assumption is not supported, rethink your interpretation.



Learn Constantly to Achieve Success – The Five Hour Rule

Learning new things is the best investment you can use your time on. So, instead of obsessing on becoming productive with routine tasks today, focus on learning. Learning pays back in the long run by opening new possibilities and making yourself more valuable for employers and society. Most successful people have committed to lifelong learning, from Benjamin Franklin to Bill Gates and Elon Musk.

The “Five Hour Rule” says that you should set aside at least five hours a week for learning (one hour per weekday).

Ways to learn constantly:

  • Dedicate time for learning and thinking.
  • Set goals for learning and improving yourself, not just tasks and achievements.
  • Read. Concentrate on reading e.g. books, instead of skimming the latest blog posts.
  • Be curious. Diversify yourself. Be curious about what the world needs and wants.
  • Experiment. Test what is possible in your field. Learn from your experiments.
  • Treat every event as an opportunity to improve. Don’t settle on automation and doing “okay”, but figure out ways to learn, experiment and improve.
  • Practice deliberately. Do new things, challenge yourself and get feedback.
  • Solve problems as you face them, instead of leaving that for later. Learn from the problems.
  • Stepping away from your normal work and location might stimulate thinking. Go for a walk, do some gardening or work in a coffee shop.

Never stop learning. Commit to this.


Michael Simmons: Why Constant Learners All Embrace the 5-Hour Rule

Empact: Why the Smartest People Are Constant Learners

Elle Kaplan: How to Use the “5 Hour Rule” to Radically Improve Your Intelligence and Success

Negotiate by Listening and Aiming for “That’s right”

Leadership is negotiation and getting people to agree on a common goal.

Agreement comes when people feel that they have been listened and understood.

This emotional connection can be achieved by first listening carefully, and then summarizing what you were told. Ask whether there was something misunderstood or missing. The goal is to reach such an understanding that the other person can give his voluntary agreement by saying “that’s right”.

Listening opposing views carefully is difficult, but helps reaching agreement, especially if at least part of the view can be incorporated to the outcome.


Andy Raskin: To Be a Better Leader, Learn This FBI Hostage Negotiation Tactic

12 Rituals to Make You Successful

Many successful and famous people share routines, that help in succeeding but which are done quietly and often hidden from the public.

1) Have a morning routine. Start your day with a one hour long calm routine, don’t just start to react to busywork. This helps to concentrate and be proactive.

2) Focus on the important. Choose what to do and forget the rest. Plan what to do to achieve your goals, prioritize and evaluate results.

3) Take action, today. Perfect idea or plan is nothing without execution. Successful people ship.

4) Turn hardships into insight. Look at things with a fresh perspective.

5) Challenge yourself. Do things that are hard and uncomfortable. Stretching your limits makes you learn. Don’t be afraid to fail, just do it again.

6) Trust your informed intuition. When making hard decisions, first learn all possible about it. Then do what you feel is right.

7) Mindfully focus on the positive. Brains perform the best when you are in a positive mood.

8) Create reminders for your goals. This helps to choose to do things that take you closer to that goal, instead of things that are just easy.

9) Keep a journal. Writing things down helps to think. Write what you did, plan to do, what you learned and/or where you made mistakes.

10) Have a mentor who has done what you want to do. This motivates and helps to learn. Observing a successful model can also be beneficial for you.

11) Welcome constructive criticism. Be gracious with it and learn. (Let go of unconstructive criticism.) If you don’t get critiqued, you are too plain and not trying hard enough.

12) Be humble. Don’t pretend to be perfect. Fail. Ask help. Learn from everyone.

Key words: stretch and observe. Push yourself to your limits, do things you don’t master yet. Observe and emulate successful people.


Angel Chernoff: 12 Quiet Rituals of Enormously Successful Humans


12 Tips to Remember What You Read

Just reading isn’t enough if you want to use that information later on. These tips help you to remember what you read.

Read with a purpose
Think why you are reading, and how the text helps you to reach your goal. This makes it easier to see the parts that are important for you.

Use the SQ3R method
SQ3R is an active reading and note-taking method that helps remembering the key points of a text.

First skim the material
Look at headings, images and captions, and read the abstract. This helps to get a sense of the whole material and subject.

Focus on blocks of text
Instead of reading word-by-word, learn to focus on larger blocks of the text. Besides making reading faster, this also helps understanding the whole.

Highlight, but not too much
Highlight only key words and ideas. After reading few paragraphs or pages, try to remember the key ideas. Then check your highlights to see if you remembered all correctly.

Think in pictures
Create a mental image of the content. Or try to experience being a part of the situation, instead of observing it from outside. Both require understanding the content and help in memorizing. Mind maps are also good for making connections between concepts.

Every few pages or after finishing a chapter, stop and think what you just read. Ask questions about the content. (What this means? How this helps me? What wasn’t said? How this can be applied? Where this has connections to?) Do you have real-world problems to solve? If not, find some from textbooks or old exams.

Explain the concept to someone. Summarize the text with your own words. If you can’t, re-read.

Make flashcards, paper or electronic. They are good for memorizing facts.

Have a break when you can’t concentrate
Stop reading for a moment after you have reached your attention span. (Typically 15 minutes for hard content.) Learn to concentrate longer.

Rehearse after reading
When finishing your reading session, rehearse again as instructed above. Repeat twice during the day, and once per day for a few days.

Read the text again. This not only helps you to remember, but also to understand better (since you have a sense of the whole) and to correct your (possible) misinterpretations.


Bill Klemm: 8 Tips To Remember What You Read

Quora answers on How can I read quickly but still understand and retain everything that I read?

Remember What You Read by Using SQ3R

Remembering what you have read is crucial if you try to learn something. Just reading through the text passively is not usually enough. Active reading means that the reader actively thinks about what (s)he’s reading, and marks & makes notes of key ideas.

SQ3R is an active reading-comprehension method that helps remembering the key points. It converts your notes to Q&A format. SQ5R was introduced by Francis Pleasant Robinson in his 1946 book Effective Study.  The name comes from the words Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review.

Skim through the text: look at headings, pictures, charts, summary etc. (If studying for a test, check also what the teacher regards important.)

Turn the headings and other material into questions, and write them down. You may also create more generic or your own questions, depending on the situation (e.g. the reason you are reading).

Read & Recite
Read the text. After each paragraph, try to answer the questions. Write down the answers and key points using your own words. This forces you to engage with the text, instead of just passive reading.

Read the questions and try to answer them. Try to remember the key points. Check the answers from your notes. If you have trouble remembering, review your notes and repeat later.

Cornell Note Taking System

Cornell notes is a structured note-taking method, that makes SQ3R’s review process easier. Notes are arranged on a (paper) sheet:

  • Questions on the left
  • Notes on the right
  • Summary at the bottom

To review, just cover the notes and summary.


John Ramos: Guide to Effective Note Taking – SQ3R and Cornell

Virginia Tech: SQ3R – Reading/Study System

Saddleback College: SQ5R (PDF)

Learn Efficiently With Deliberate Practice

Expertise it not dependent on talent, but largely the result of efficient practice. Merely performing a skill multiple times is not an effective way of learning, because learning has more to do with how one practices. Deliberate practice is a way of learning as efficiently as possible.

“… the differences between expert performers and normal adults reflect a life-long period of deliberate effort to improve performance in a specific domain.” [1]

Deliberate practice has five essential components:

  • Have a Goal. Be specific on what you are learning. Split large and vague skills (e.g. be a better artist) into concrete chunks (e.g. learn to draw portraits, understand perspective…).
  • Be motivated. You must be motivated make and effort to improve. Practice isn’t inherently fun, but the results are rewarding.
  • Customized to challenge, but not overburden you. Take into account what you already know and can do. Understand your weaknesses and practice those areas. Practice at more challenging levels as you learn.
  • Immediate feedback. Get feedback on how well you did and what to improve. It will make learning much more efficient.
  • Repeat. Repeat the same or similar tasks. Becoming an expert will take time and perseverance, but don’t burn yourself out either. Make a schedule.

In the end, motivation dictates who will become an expert.


K. Anders Ericsson, Ralf Th. Krampe, and Clemens Tesch-Romer: The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance

Corbett Barr, Expert Enough: Deliberate Practice