Online Insights on FIVEaa Sunday January 6 2013

January 6, 2013

Another year lies ahead of us, so tonight’s websites are all destined, so to speak, to guide us through this year with aplomb. We will look at how to get organised from a ‘housewife’s’ perspective, how to sort good science from quackery, ideas for bucket lists for the whole family, and take the mother-of-all looks at New Years Resolutions.

The last damn thing you’ll ever need to read about New Year’s Resolutions

New Years Resolutions advice about making them stickEric Barker has pulled together a dense resource of everything you ever wanted to know about New Years Resolutions and how to make them stick.

He has drawn information from various science-based resources and created a great little article worth bookmarking so you can return to it at any time through they year when you want to break old habits or start new ones.

The first thing this article reveals is that many of the ‘self help’ and ‘new age’ solutions bandied about online and flooding the ‘desparate’ section in bookstores, actually don’t work. The lead reference is to a book by psychology professor, Richard Wiseman, called 59 Seconds: Change your life in under a minute. That book highlights one of the greatest myths in the self-help world, that visualising your success will breed success. As Richard points out in the book, studies that have tested this theory actually show that when we envision ourselves having made it to the top or passing the exam, we often fail because we slacken off. As it turns out, when we visualise our goals or share our resolutions publicly, the burst of congratulations we receive from ourselves and others, actually SAPS our will to do the hard work.

The next resource is from BJ Fogg from Stanford University. His little powerpoint presentation which I have embedded below, focuses on how important it is to break our new goals into tiny, tiny, tiny steps. And he means really tiny like, floss one tooth, etc. He then stresses the importance of anchoring that new habit to immediately after something you already do EVERYDAY without fail. The final step is to work hard at making the new habit stick.

If you visit BJ’s website, Tiny Habits, you will see he makes it clear that changing your context (mingling in new locations or social groups) and taking baby steps are the two most powerful tools we have on our side. He also runs weeklong habit making sessions which are free of charge. Sign up on his site. They involve setting a new habit and touching base with him daily by email to make sure it all sticks.

There are many other links and resources on the page but one of the key points is that 66 days is outlined as how long to expect a new habit to stick. This is drawn from various controlled studies.

It finishes off with some tips on:

  • how to break bad habits by identifying triggers
  • the importance of checklists
  • writing things down to ensure success

Happy New Year from me and Eric Barker’s page on resolutions.

The Organised Housewife

shelves help organise
Shelves I put up in the kids’ play room over Xmas have already made a positive impact on the ‘mess factor’

This is not a site I frequent but my wife pointed it out to me for a few of its novel and helpful features.

The Organised Housewife is a site written by Kat, an Australian mum with 3 kids – 9 year old twins and a 7 year old. They are good credentials for being ‘organised’, I must say.

Kat calls herself a WAHM (work at home mum) and says her blog is to ‘help inspire and motivate you to have an organised, clean and clutter free home’.

One of the best places to start on the website is Kat’s ‘How and where do I start organising my home’ page.

Here are some of the steps and examples:

Go into every room and list what you want to change or remove. Kat makes a free to-do list available here

Get clear on WHY you need to clean or organise the areas

Create a shopping list of storage tools or accessories you might need. Kat has a free shopping list here

Go back through your list and put a realistic deadline against each task and set up a new routine to make sure you can attack the issues effectively and sustain your attack over time. Guess what? Kat has a free worksheet here

Kat’s advice is to start with high traffic areas first, like kitchens, laundries and living rooms.

She then moves you on to her decluttering guide, including the 52 things in 52 weeks decluttering challenge.

The challenge is very simple. All you need to do is find one thing or group of things to throw out, give to charity or give to someone you know, every week. That’s it. The goal is to do 52 items over 52 weeks.

One obstacle that will be faced is parting with sentimental items. Kat has some advice:

  • The first question to ask is WHY are you holding on to something. Kat says if it is of a specific time in your life then that will be forever in your heart. If it is of a person, choose a photo of them instead. If it is of happy moments, display it don’t box it.
  • The display factor is quite important. Kat quotes the Australian organising ‘guru’, Peter Walsh, who said on Oprah:  Treat your times with the respect it so deserves otherwise part with it.
  • Kat then asked whether you have looked at or touched the item in the previous two years. If not, it goes to let ‘somebody else enjoy it’.
  • When it comes to children’s artwork, she recommends photographing the items then disposing of them. The photos can be placed in an album, accompanied by comments about time and stories.

Are you ready? If so, visit The Organised Housewife and see what takes your fancy.

A family bucket list

Sign language bucket list
Learning sign language is on some bucket lists (Image daBinsi via Flickr)

Out of nowhere, the idea of bucket lists for families has been infiltrating my social networks this summer.

Two websites bring this into focus for us today.

The first is Home Simplified, a blog by Debra Dane, an American woman married to a Brit and living in Australia permanently. I don’t know why I mentioned that, it just sounds interesting! Like when the police stopped me and some friends on the back roads of Slovakia one dark night. They asked for our papers and got: 1 Australian passport, 1 American passport, 1 Canadian passport and one Hungarian passport. The officer was so confused he waved us on, which was lucky because we had been drinking Gorby vodka – yes, named after the previous Russian president and tasting like distilled peasant!

Back to Debra. She turned 40 last year and dedicated a blog post to her goal for the year which was to create a Bucket List with her family and to ACCEPT ANYTHING they suggest. That is a big call. Some ideas from her and some fellow bloggers include:

  • Go on a roadtrip where we flip a coin to decide whether to turn left or right at key points and just see where we end up in a half hour or so of driving and then find something new to explore where we end up
  • Download a stargazing app onto my ipad and take it with us on a night walk to check out the stars (even better drive a bit further out for a clearer view)
  • Draw on the concrete outside with chalk. My kids love when I draw them things (even though I can’t draw!) and when I’m feeling particularly fun I let them color in our brick house!
  • We bake or cook together. The kids are pretty good at identifying and bringing in the correct herbs. They love ‘helping’ and I just have to laugh at all the mess we make!
  • Beach days -The beach is somewhere we are all relaxed and so we have a lot of fun swimming, walking and making sand castles. The children love collecting shells to bring home and enjoy turning the shells into all sorts of creations.

Meanwhile, another site, Share Buckets, is a free-for-all where you can upload your bucket lists for the world to see. It displays a list of the most recent entries and a summary of the most popular items. Here is a sample of the world’s most popular bucket list items, according to the site:

  • Get a tattoo – 246 people
  • Send a message in a bottle – 190 people
  • Donate Blood – 134 people
  • Sleep under the stars – 119 people
  • Write a book – 119 people
  • Go skinny dipping – 96 people
  • Learn sign language – 93 people
  • Kiss in the rain – 70 people
  • Adopt a child – 62 people
  • Leave a letter in a library book – 61 people
  • Be an extra in a movie – 59 people
  • Jump in a taxi cab and scream FOLLOW THAT CAR like in those movies – 42 people
  • Join The Mile High Club – 40 people
  • Ride in a horse drawn carriage – 26 people

If you like, I would love you to let me know what items are going on your family bucket list in the comments.


miracle cure protection
Supposed relics of miracle cures (Image joguldi via Flickr)

No doubt, as 2013 unfolds, there will be news stories of miracle cures and easy solutions offered to all things, along with nightmare-creating stories about how something you think of as safe is actually killing you.

Well, you now have a tool for quickly checking whether the information conforms to conventional, scientific thinking.

It is called the Quackometer and it lets you paste in someone’s name or a link to a web page and it does some analysis to let you know when you need to be on guard or suspicious.

The Quackometer is a project by Andy Lewis as an experiment to see if automated tools can be fine tuned to quickly and reliably debunk quack medicine on the web.

He says that ‘spotting these web sites appears to be easy when you know what to look out for,’ so quackometer project intends to find out.

It works by looking for some of the typical claims, argument tricks and wording that people use to convince you about their pseudo science.

Some of the typical red flags that Andy is using include:
  • Flaunted qualifications and credentials – this is just an ‘appeal to authority’. Quacks often award themselves impressive qualifications or buy them from non-accredited ‘colleges’ usually in the USA.
  • Exagerated and inflated claims – diets, cures or remedies appear to solve a whole host of illnesses and problems, not just one problem – they are non-specific. Foods are not just foods, but ‘superfoods’ etc.
  • More often seen on TV, newspapers, magazines with their ‘latest findings’ than in scientific journals, conferences, text books.
  • Works alone – a sole genius in a world that won’t listen.
  • Use of out-of-context language, e.g. energy, frequencies, vibrations, biomagnetic, quantum, detoxification, organic, holistic… These words are often stolen from other disciplines (usually physics) with the quack having no idea what they mean. Their use in health matters is pseudoscience and meant to sound impressive and to bamboozle the gullible.
  • Lots of impressive testimonials – little or no independent peer-reviewed research, no ballance in reviews of research, i.e. no mention of negative results, untracable privately published ‘research’, lots of ‘happy customers’. Testimonials count for nothing – anyone can get them for anything. People fool themselves over the effectiveness of treatments.
  • Claims to be standing up for ordinary people against the conspiracy of ‘big pharma’, doctors, scientist, the government, multinationals and other great evils (who might disagree with them).
  • Say there is always a need for a personalised questionaire, consultation, membership (with them, not your GP) – just a way to flog more rubbish.
What is interesting, however, is that he does not believe that all ‘quacks’ are evil. He thinks many people in fields of quackery honestly believe in what they do, it is just delusion.

Take a look for yourself at the Quack-o-meter.