You are currently browsing the HTNet archives for March, 2007.

I’ll be frank with you; I still smoke. Nevertheless, I think I manage to reduce my smoking habit significantly. Four years ago, I was on three king size boxes a day. Effectively smoking 60 cigarettes daily.

Now, one box lasts for two days, sometimes three. On Fridays, I’d only buy a smaller box containing 14 sticks, and they usually last until the following Monday afternoon.

Here I’ll share with you what I call the Boundary Method which I’ve been using to reduce my smoking habit and hopefully kick it altogether some time soon.

The Three Boundaries That’ll Help You Overcome Smoking

1) The People Boundary

Would you kill your loved ones just for a buzz? Think of that question the next time you have the urge to light up when you’re with your spouse or kids. Because that’s exactly what you’re doing if you smoke near them.

Set a People Boundary to your smoking habit by implementing these steps:

  • Don’t smoke when in the company of people you care about
  • Include people for whom you want to project a positive image to
  • Spend more quality time with people in your People Boundary

Start with immediate family members and close friends who are non-smokers. Include business associates and colleagues as you spend more time with them. Before you realise it, you’ll probably be smoking alone with nobody for company, thus killing the nicotine buzz experience.

2) The Places Boundary

Do you smoke in hospitals or when commuting in public transports? I don’t think that even the most hardcore of chain smokers will do that. Such places are protected by society norms and in most cases local laws from being public smoking areas.

Implement your own Places Boundary and strictly ban yourself from smoking in those areas. Here’s some steps that will help you get started:

  1. Set strict no smoking zones in your home
  2. Gradually increase the no smoking zone coverage
  3. Place your “stash” in inconvenient places

I started by designating my room as the only smoking area in my house. Being the only room in the house with a PC, my family members would use it for the occasional web surfing and checking their emails. Since I’m the only smoker in my family, complaints about the smell of the place rubbed on me.

I then removed the ashtray and kept my cigarettes in the car. This alone reduced my urge to smoke at home significantly due to the inconvenience of getting out of the house, unlocking my car and retrieving the cigarettes.

Now I absolutely don’t smoke at home. First it was due to inconvenience, but now it has become an accepted part of my lifestyle.

3) The Time Boundary

There are certain times of the day, along with specific events that trigger the urge to smoke. I’d be honest with you, I still look for opportunities to go for a quick puff.

The key to overcoming this weakness is by reducing this window of opportunity. Observe the timing as well as events that lead to you to smoke. Find ways to to avoid reaching to that tipping point.

I reduced the time I spend smoking by setting a specific Time Boundary using the following methods:

  • Setting up specific no smoking times in my daily schedule
  • Narrowing down my “smoking time” gradually
  • Set “expiry dates” for purchased cigarettes

I used to take a cigarette break every hour at work. Now, I only go for one pre-lunch and two post-lunch cigarette breaks. This exercise significantly reduces my at-work smoking time by 50%.

Consequently, this reduces my daily cigarette comsumption rate by roughly 30%. This means I’ll be buying cigarettes less frequently because a box takes much longer to finish.

The thing about cigarettes is that they tend to taste funny if an opened box is kept too long. Therefore, rather than waste money by discarding the expired ones away, it’s better to buy them in a smaller pack. You’ll not only be healthier, but you’d save quite a lot of money in the process as well!

Expanding the Boundaries

The good thing about boundaries is that it is a measurable way to track your progress towards reducing, and hopefully eliminate, your smoking habit. Being boundaries, certain sections of each boundary will overlap as illustrated below:

Initial Boundary Overlaps

Success in overcoming the smoking habit can be measured by a few factors of your People, Places and Time Boundaries, namely:

  1. The size of each Boundary
  2. The size of the Boundaries’ overlapping areas

We should aim to improve on both factors so that our boundaries and overlaps will resemble the following illustration:

Improved Boundary Overlaps

Have your own tips and success stories on quitting the smoking habit? Please share them in the comments.

Intrinsa: Treatment for Premature Menopause

Photo Credit: Catarina by Rodolfo Nunez

Procter and Gamble has developed Intrinsa; a patch that it’s marketing as the first treatment for women with low sex drive. Personally, I find this to be a step in the right direction in recognising that female low sex drive is a health issue that needs attention.

Basically, Intrinsa delivers its testosteronepayload via skin absorption. Being in clear patch form makes it inconspicuous and easy to apply. The BBC has more info regarding Intrinsa.

Although the comparison is inevitable, P&G prefers Intrinsa to not be described as Viagra for Women. Instead they prefer to portray Intrinsa as a weapon against premature menopause. Quoting the linked BBC article:

Dr Nick Panay, of the Daisy Network, a support group for women with premature menopause, said low sex drive in such women could cause a great deal of distress and concern about their relationship.

“Intrinsa offers real medical hope to these women as studies showed that the patch increases sexual desire and satisfying sexual activity while reducing associated distress.”

But GPs said one drug is incapable of addressing the “complex reasons” for low sex drive.

Have you noticed how the topic of Time Management is getting mentioned and discussed more frequently recently? More and more people are starting to realise that managing time efficiently will enable us to achieve more in less time. Whether we are ready for it or not, it’s now the age of multi-tasking. Gone are the days when your jobscope has a few clearly defined responsibilities and other things are non of your business.

I think that almost everyone knows this aspect of Time Management; don’t waste time. Yet, day to day, we keep doing it; loafing on the couch or at the coffee shop, yakking on the mobile for too long, and my personal addiction… spending a little bit too much time surfing the Internet.

Those who studied Management, or even read a few books on the subject will be familiar with the four key terms that define the subject:

  • Planning
  • Organising
  • Leading
  • Controlling

Essentially, Time Management is merely a process of applying these methods to how you make use of your time. It really is that simple!

Planning: Allocating and Budgeting

Almost everyone does some sort of planning when it comes to their time. The difference between successful time managers and those who are not too successful are significantly noticable from the planning stage. Some simply don’t plan their time, while others are too engulfed in this process.

Remember, regardless of how perfect you want your Time Management to be, if you spend too much time planning for the whole thing, doesn’t this defeat the purpose? You’re supposed to be managing time, not to be a slave to it!

The keyword here is flexibility. Allocate sufficient time to perform specific duties, and at the same time budget some leeway time before and after the scheduled event. We’ve experienced a lot of weird incidents to prove that not everything goes according to plan, right?

Organising: Using Available Resources To Achieve Goals

One common misconception that causes people to revert to inefficient Time Management is thinking along the lines of; “How can I do all this myself!”.

One thing we need to be very clear about is we can’t do everything by ourselves! There are always ways to delegate lower priority tasks to others. This doesn’t only apply professionally, but can be used at home as well. Start assigning responsibilities to children early on. Clearly tell your son he is in charge of keeping his toys properly organised. Tell him how important this job is and how you’re relying on him to be successful in doing this.

You’re not limited to “outsourcing” when it comes to organising. PDAs, mobile phones, diaries, and even pieces of Post-It notes can be very useful tools to help you organise. We have a very powerful mind, but let’s face it… we can’t remember everything! Hence, it’s nice to put our plans in writing for easier reference.

Believe it or not, such a simple method can improve your productivity significantly. Your mind can focus more on getting things done rather than figuring out what you have to do.

Leading: Order In The House!

Leadership is not about being the boss. It’s a lot more. We may be a superior to our subordinates, but are we acknowledged as their leaders? This is not necessarily true. Being a leader means you are able to keep track of assignments given not only to subordinates, but also colleagues as well as seniors. To put it simply, it’s the process of understanding your business.

Even if we’re a one-man-show, leadership is essential in keeping your plans on track. Remember that running your own business means you are your own boss. Hence, you need perform the jobs that good bosses do; keeping staff motivated, furthering the business, providing necessary resources for the organisation to grow and getting in touch with talented people that could help you in areas of your business.

If you’re running a sole proprietorship, you’re better off concentrating on your core business. Often times, this involves outsourcing non-core functions to contractors. If a contractor is slacking, make it clear to them that you have other alternatives.

Good leadership involves knowing when to be displomatic and when to put your foot down firmly. It requires tremendous self-determination, experience and know-how. There’s no “secret to good leadership”. You’ve got to find your strengths and leverage to them in developing your leadership style.

Without good leadership, you’ll find that more and more interruptions will be taking up a huge bulk of your time. Too much control and you’ll be inundated with authorisation requests. It’s not rosy when you have no control either. Your time will then be spent fixing things that got broken by subordinates or contractors who overstep their boundaries of authorities.

Controlling: Keeping Yourself In The Loop

Imagine this scenario; You’ve set up plans for a potentially successful venture, organised your resources to make it a success and defined clearly the responsibilities of your staff and contractors…

Then you said to your staff, “Goodbye everyone! I’m taking a vacation to Kenya for about three weeks. See you guys when I get back!”.

During that three weeks, you have zero connection with the outside world, and more importantly, your staff. Do you think your business will still be around when you get back?

The issue is more serious when it comes to time. You can always start another business, but you can never buy lost time. Therefore, having control is imperative for good Time Management. What’s the use of planning when you can’t implement any of those plans?

Having control of your time not only means prioritising, it’s the process of giving you the freedom on allocating and reallocating your activities. Time is one thing that everyone has the same amount of. Nobody has 70 minutes in an hour or 25 hours in a day or eight days a week. We all have the same amount of time.

The difference between successful time planners and the rest is that they have better control of their time. They decide what to get done and when. More importantly, they stick to their decisions.

In conclusion, Time Management gives you the freedom to achieve more with your time. Here’s some links that will help you get started in managing your time better:

Do you know of any more Time Management tips, links or tools? Please share them with us!

When the subject of corporate data security comes up in any board meeting, chances are, the topics will straight away dive into complicated things such as firewalls and IDP systems. And when this happens, it’s obvious that the meeting participants are:

  • Not familiar with data security in the real world
  • Wants a quick fix at a reasonable investment rate in monetary terms
  • Prefers a certain department or an external third party to bear (almost sole)responsibility in this area

This approach is fundamentaly flawed, and it’s amazing to see so many corporate bodies adopt such simplistic approach to a very critical operational area.

More often than not, I noticed that decision makers often fail to address the real weakest link in any system: people. Yes, most people fail to see the value of data confidentiality. This is especially prevalent in clerical staff and junior executives. They tend to feel that they have no access to important information. Furthermore, they feel that what they do know is already public information.

In my years of experience in the IT line, it never fails to suprise me how people willingly disclose their passwords without verifying the identity of the party inquiring it. Sometimes I don’t even need to ask. Here’s a scenario that has happened way too often:

Me: Hi, I’m here to assist you with your Wizbang Application problem.
SU: Good. My username is <username> and password is <password>. Please look into it.

Even Microsoft uses a low-tech implementation for its enterprise-wide security awareness programme, via a simple card detailing information such as:

  • Where to access security policies
  • Whom to contact when an incident occurs and measures that can be taken

Low-tech, yes. Creates awareness, undoubtedly. Simple yet effective.

The thing is, data security awareness needn’t necessarily be complicated. In fact, the simpler it is, the more likely it is to be understood among all staff levels. To me, the problem is more of resistance. People expect something so important to be complex. This is the very nature of human beings, accustomed to years of social conditioning in which bureaucracy is seen as guardians of important procedures. Overcoming this mindset itself can be daunting. However, once this hurdle is overcame, the rewards are plenty.

An interesting post on Darknet.co.uk discusses the need to include social engineering as part of penetration testing. I find myself agreeing to the logic behind this idea. You can have the most advanced data security hardware and software money can buy. However, all this will be useless without educating users of the importance of data confidentiality.

I feel that at its very basic level, a data security policy should, at the very least, address the following issues:

  • Identity verification
  • Password lifecycle
  • Disclosure policies
  • Remedial actions and solutions
  • Ownership, authority, and responsibility
  • Convenience vs. Necessary Restrictions

I will not even pretend that this is an exhaustive list. However, I can safely say that it probably is the very bare minimum requirement of things to be considered in order to develop a competent security policy. Since I came with the list, let me just name it the IPDROC guidefor ease of reference.

You’re probably thinking, “If the IPDROC guide is so good, why does it need a Remedial actions and solutions section?”. Well, my answer is, I’ve yet to see a good all encompassing solution when it comes to data security.

Saying that a proposed solution is perfect is at the very least, stupid and at most arrogant. There’s nothing wrong with making a stupid mistake. Nobody becomes smart by not making any stupid mistakes. However, those who are arrogant and refuse to acknowledge flaws in their creations are in my books, worse than stupid.

It is vital to have a remedial policy in place for unexpected situations. By skipping this portion, you’re taking a step towards havoc should something not go according to plan.

I thank you for reading this writeup to its completion. My intention on writing this is not to educate anyone. I probably am not worthy for such a thing. However, I do wish to share my thoughts about this issue and the observations I’ve made. Comments are most welcomed and highly appreciated.