I hate competitions

Let me start by sharing a quote from the great 20th century composer Bela Bartok:

Competitions are for racehorses, not for artists.

I believe Bartok sums it up nicely. In the artistic world, how can any rubric authentically measure the success and prowess of an artist? And this is never more so in the world of performing arts. Be it music, dance, singing, and (dare I say) cooking, how can the artist be rated as the “Best”, or the “Winner”?

Did they accomplish their feat in the fastest time? Did they score more points before the final bell? Did they best their opponent within in a certain number of meetings? Was it done in nine innings (like baseball)?, or in fifteen rounds (like boxing)?, or within five touches (like fencing)?

I shake an angry fist especially at musical competitions. When a field of musicians can play any piece they choose, and only one or two judges adjudicates, and no clear rubric is defined, how can anyone be called the “winner”?

To those who know me, you may know that I have some skin in the game of a certain national and international music competition. And my “entrants” have won top honors. So this blog is not a sour grapes blog; it is just a heartfelt hug to those artists – young and old – who work so hard for their craft and to be indiscriminately looked over due to their choice of piece, the whim of a judge, or the lack of clear, measurable guidelines.

OK, I’m done.

BTW, two of my musical heroes in classical piano – Artur Rubinstein and Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli – never achieved higher than second place. And to this day, no one knows or remembers who had beat them!





A saying on kindness.

I recently came across a great saying to use in your personal and work life. When I told others, they said the saying was around for a while. I guess I never came across it before. Hope you can use it well. Here it is:

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle


How to get an extra hour each day.

Let’s face it, we all wish we had an extra hour (at least!) each day.

The easiest solution is to travel to Mars, where Martians enjoy a 25 hour day.

However, if you prefer to stay on Earth, you should re-consider how your 24 hours are already spent. I will talk about gaining the extra hour during the Monday-through-Friday time slot. Weekends are up to you!

You could caffeine yourself up, and get less sleep, and that give you your extra hour. Or you could skip your lunch break. Or you could find a job where you work only seven hours a day instead of eight. If none of the scenarios are appealing, then let’s get down to more practical solutions.




What you SHOULD put on a To-Do List

Now that you know what time-killers (life-suckers?) should not be on your To-DO list, what should you put on them?

Well, that depends. If you have a job that is filled with projects, deadlines, meetings, client interfacing, etc. then you need two To-Do lists; One for work and one for personal. Do not commingle the two.

A good rule of thumb; Leave your “home” work away from the office, and leave your “office” work away from home. This also helps grow and solidify a good family life (more on that topic in a future post).

I have distilled two great philosophies on To-Do lists (maybe three, if you count the “To-Don’t” topics). They are as follows:

  1. Set your To-Do lists with 1-3-5 objectives
  2. Only include items that are S.M.A.R.T.


1-3-5 Objectives

A To-DO lists could be a daily log, a weekly log, or a monthly log, depending on what the project it. I recommend you take a blank page from a desk calendar mont-at-a a glance (or print one out from your favorite calendar software tool). Then set up daily To-Do items that, when accomplished, could fill in a whole week. Set up weekly items that can cover a large project (with a month-long deadline). Further set items up one a daily basis, with 1 big project, 3 smaller, and 5 no-brainers.

As a business example, your may have a single day with the following 1-3-5:

1: Finish that travel expense report (1 big project)

3: Contact vendors for quotes (3 smaller items)

5: Delete, respond to, or forward 5 emails.(5 no-brainers)

As a home example, try this:

1: Fix that broken kitchen cabinet hinge

3:Pay two bills, unsubscribe to 1 nuisance email service.

5: Find five items to take to Goodwill.

PS: You don’t have to limit it to 1-3-5: it might be 1-5-9, or 2-3-5. Resist the temptation to go ridiculous with something crazy, like 5-24-105. That’s why you have a month-at-a-glance calendar, so you can split it up over a longer period.

S.M.A.R.T. Items

SMART is an acronym for your goals. Valid goals belong on a To-Do list if they can be accomplished, and are of merit. These goals must satisfy the rubric of the acronym, namely they must be:






If you can categorize your goals as S.M.A.R.T., then they are worthy of accomplishing, and belong on your To-Do Lists



What NOT to put on a To-Do List (Part 1)

This entry can be quite lengthy. Many posts (from other blogs, for example) and re-tweets (from and discuss the To-Do lists from successful people. And from my readings I have found there are two streams of thought:

  1. You need a To-Do list -or-
  2. A To-Do list will slow down your day.


Ugh! So who to believe? Well, both, in fact.

The Importance of To-Do Lists:

Whether you’re crossing the threshold into your office or your home, it’s easy to get derailed. Those great ideas you brainstormed on your commute to work or home are now wiped away with your first catastrophe-du-jour. Written down, they now become a reminder of something you need to accomplish that day, or to get started long-term.

BUT: don’t let your To-Do list overwhelm you (after all, you are the one who wrote it; you weren’t given it by your boss or significant other). A To-Do item such as “Organize Expense Reports” is important, and can be done that day. If you let it grow out of control, you need to tackle it and get it off the list. And if you get it done first thing in the day, imagine the burden lifted off your plate; by lunchtime you will have quite a sense of accomplishment circling around you. With that being said, don’t put a long term project on your To-Do list (such as “Start and submit that big business proposal”, or “Build the kid’s treehouse”), and hope to nail it that day. Break it into smaller pieces (such as “Write the outline to the business proposal”, or “Sketch the plans for the treehouse”)

A To-Don’t list:

You might need to be reminded that there are things you shouldn’t waste time on. Reading every flyer that comes in your mailbox wastes time. So does reading every Facebook post, Twitter feed, and personal email. A great to-do item (which helps on the to-don’t list) would be: “Go Through Email and un-subscribe to those wasteful emails I had to subscribe to when I got my museum membership”, etc.

OK, I went over my 300 words, but there’s more to talk with this big topic. Stay tuned.





Top 10 things of top 10 things.

As I slowly phase out my presence on Facebook and spend more time on Twitter (follow me @gsafko), I look forward to leaving the world of food pictures, cute kittens, and political extremes, and embarking on a journey with a little more substance (at least in my opinion.)

If you follow me, you will see that I re-tweet daily “numerical” affirmations to live by. I say they are numerical, as they usual begin with something like, “Top 7 ways to get more accomplished,” “Top 9 time-wasters that successful people never do,” and “Top 5 things you can do to get a promotion.”, to name a few.

It may seem that I have become more materialistic in my outlook, but that is far from the case. Rather, I want people to see that they can make small changes in their lives and use those changes to become happier with their jobs and family lives, to feel more accomplished, and to enjoy life a little more.

So, follow me on Twitter @gsafko, but don’t forget these blogs!

Twitter keeps you to 140 characters, and I will try to keep my blogs to less than 300 words (the number of words on a single sheet of paper, double spaces, with 1 inch margins).

My next blog will be on the pros and cons of “To-Do” Lists. And I’ve seen some blogs and tweets on having a “To-Don’t” list. One size does not fit all, so hopefully we can build some dialog on this important topic that has powerful applications in your personal, professional, and family lives.


Twitter vs. Facebook?

What social media realms do you inhabit? Besides my blog, I’ve been migrating away from Facebook, and moving more towards Twitter. I’ve been enjoying the Time Magazine posts that have “numbers” in them (such as “Top 4 Ways to Maximize Your Time”, “Top 8 Things Successful People Never Do”, etc.)

No matter who you are, and what type of personality you’ve been pegged with (Type A, Type B, and whatever else psychologists come up with), I find these Time posts to be helpful, relative, and enlightening.


Big Storm: Many Closings

To all my East Coast friends, please be advised that many states (including our own) are under a State of Emergency this weekend.

To that end, please be advised of the following closures (this list is by no means conclusive):

Circuit City is Closed.

Garden State Racetrack, Hawaiian Cottage, and the Latin Casino are also closed.

At the shore, the following are closed:

Golden Nugget Casino


Brigantine Castle.

Finally, I received a report that  all Chick*Fil*A restaurants will be closed on Sunday.

Be safe, and plan accordingly.


Do what Edison did.

Did you ever need something to jump-start you into launching some new project or venture?

Do what Edison did.

I recently read that Edison would call the press in for a meeting. He would then make an announcement regarding some new project or invention that he was working on, and that it would be unveiled soon.

After the meeting was over, he would then go to his lab, and begin inventing what he announced.

How’s that for getting you jump-started?



A good piece of advice

A quote I saw recently:

Please excuse this mess: our children are making memories.