July 27, 2008

Scheduling Your Priorities The Seven Habits Way

If you love life, don't waste time, for time is what life is made up of.
— Bruce Lee

As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.
— Henry David Thoreau

As the ultimate nonrenewable resource, our time is precious. We spend better when we plan. That's where time management helps us. Different systems achieve similar results when followed regularly.

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.
—Peter Drucker
In the early 1990s, I adopted a basic suit-pocket-sized DayTimer system with new inserts each month and a box to store the year. This worked reasonably well for scheduling but didn't help me plan my life the way I wanted. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People did. I read Stephen Covey's book in the later 90s and found that his approaches resonated with me. In a 3-day seminar, we got the compact Seven Habits planning system (two pages per day) and I used it for a few years.

Putting First Things First

Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least. — Goethe
Using the Seven Habits, you plan a week at a time:
  1. identify your key roles, which can change each week (e.g., parent, gardener, exerciser, project manager)
  2. for each role, set a goal (minor or major)
  3. for each goal, schedule time
For example, in your role as an exerciser, say you want to workout twice for two hours each time. You schedule those sessions in your calendar. As a parent, you decide to spend Thursday evening taking your youngest child to see SpongeBob SquarePants. Simple enough?

Visually, you fill your container of time first with rocks (what matters most) and then sand. If you add the sand first, you'll have no room for the rocks.

Relying On Technology
As Microsoft Office became the standard, I switched to Outlook, which synchronized to a portable Palm Tungsten C with built-in and external keyboards for speed. Unfortunately, the synchronization with Outlook was unreliable. In 2005, I got Blackberry, which synchronized to Outlook extremely well but didn't have a time-saving touch screen or the ability to personalize with thousands of third party applications. No external keyboard either.

I soon went back to a Seven Habits organizer, this time with 8.5"x5.5" pages. I got a nice zippered binder with a handle and 7-hole punch to save money by creating my own notepaper. My first calendar had 2 pages per day, which uses lots of paper if you're carrying last month, this month and next month. Last year, I picked 2 pages per week and this year I'm down to a page per month. Outlook and the Blackberry supply what's missing. I use the binder mainly for note taking, rather than organization.

Enter Getting Things Done
In recent weeks, I've experimented with David Allen's model called Getting Things Done or GTD. He has interesting ideas. I'll fill you in on what proves valuable. I'll also write more about the Seven Habits. As soon as there's time ...


July 20, 2008

Five Tips For A Perfect Wedding

Well would they ever look so happy again
The handsome groom and his bride
As they stepped into that long black limousine
For their mystery ride
--- Bruce Springsteen, Walk Like A Man

"You don't know much about marriage," my wife Sharmila tells me. After 20 anniversaries, she'd know. I know a bit about weddings though, having seen many over the years.

We just got back from a wonderful wedding a few hours ago. What made it so special? First, the newlyweds were perfect for each other. Their faces and movements clearly showed the chemistry between them. Each alone was incomplete. Together they are finished. Both families were in harmony too. The pleasant atmosphere radiated through the event.
Me and you and you and me.
No matter how they toss the dice,
it had to be.
--- The Turtles,
Happy Together
What Weddings Need
While weddings are great for the weddees, they can drag on for the guests --- especially for guests who don't know them. This one worked very well for everyone. Here's why.
  1. Momentum: keeping on schedule kept the celebration from stalling. The wedding only took 20 minutes and set the snappy but unrushed pace.
  2. Short speeches: even better, they were interspersed during the evening. This worked much better than lumping all the talking together.
  3. Great food: even for vegetarians and others requiring special diets
  4. Assigned seating: each spot had the handwritten name of a guest. This counteracted guests who dashed to grab the best seats for themselves.
  5. Personal touch: little things showed rare care. The invitations looked handwritten (probably a special font) and were assembled by hand. This made them extra special and saved money.
Interesting Twists
This wedding benefited from an exceptional location, the enclosed, grassy courtyard of Hart House on the campus of The University of Toronto. Two guests commented that the setting looked like Hogwarts out of the Harry Potter movies --- but pleasant. The dining hall also exuded history (but no air conditioning).

Rather than signing a guest book, guests wrote their sentiments on pieces of blank picture puzzles (roughly one puzzle per table). The newlyweds then assemble the puzzles. Probably after the honeymoon.


July 13, 2008

"10-8" Leveraging: Turbocharging the Top 5 Insured Strategies

We've looked at the perennial top five insured strategies for tax planning. We've also seen how "10-8" Leveraging reduces the risks over conventional financial leveraging.

This time, we'll look at the interrelationships, combining
  1. tax advantages of life insurance
  2. tax advantages of borrowing to invest
Lower Costs or Higher Returns?
If you want life insurance primarily for the tax-free death benefit, you look for low cost. If you're an investor, you focus on higher returns.

With "10-8" Leveraging both become possible while you bypass the two drawbacks of investing in life insurance by investing externally --- the way you already do. You can use the tax deductions to
  • reduce your cash outflow --- usually less than the cheapest products available, or
  • increase your yield by reinvesting the tax savings
The Top 5 Strategies
As we saw, the top 5 strategies account for about 80% of the concepts the wealthy use.

Here is how "10-8" Leveraging helps active investors.
  1. Legacy Bond: no effect (used by passive investors)
  2. Insured Retirement Strategy: enhance returns
  3. Estate Protection: reduce costs
  4. Income Shelter: enhance returns
  5. Insured Annuity: no effect (used by passive investors)
Users of the remaining strategies may also benefit.

Can you see the appeal that "10-8" Leveraging has for wealthy active investors who want tax deductions?


July 6, 2008

Who's Reading What Here: Jan-June 2008

The work of science is to
substitute facts for appearances and
demonstrations for impressions.
--- John Ruskin

That motto of the Society of Actuaries guides me. We'll use the science of statistics to discover what you've been reading during the first six months of 2008.

Top 3 Posts
  1. Does Warren Buffet Buy Term and Invest The Difference?
  2. Should You Switch To An Actuarial Career?
  3. Six Basic Fears From 70 Years Ago [Napoleon Hill]
Only #3 was written this year :(

Where You Live
You live primarily in
  1. Canada (113 cities, especially, Toronto area, Ottawa, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Montreal, Hamilton, Sudbury and Richmond)
  2. United States (especially California, New York and Texas)
  3. United Kingdom (especially London)
though there readers from 59 countries. For example, Hong Kong is #10. Country-specific content is for Canadians, though general principles are universal.

  • browser: 60% use Internet Explorer (60% use v7) and 35% use FireFox
  • traffic sources: search engines (60%), referrals (25%), direct (14%)
  • returning visitors: 24%
Recent Changes
Many financial blogs discuss how to become wealthy, often through investing. I tried to write for average Canadians but mainly know those who are already wealthy and want to stay that way. They are especially concerned about losses to tax.

Recently, I've described proven insured strategies the wealthy already use to
  1. give ideas to those in similar situations
  2. show other Canadians options as their wealth grows
More subtle are three other changes
Thanks for reading.