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Here's one way to cure procrastination

Photo of a group of icelandic horses

Writing is something I enjoy doing, , but to be very candid, it is hard for me to sit down and start writing. It’s the same feeling I have about working out, for example, love the feeling while exercising and then after when I’m done, but it isn’t easy to start an exercise routine; starting is what’s difficult for me. Does that happen to you? Well, it happens to me, and one word for it is procrastination.

Procrastination is something that happens to everyone, we know we need to do certain things, but we push them to the back-burner until that decision comes to burn us one day. Why do we do this? Why do we procrastinate?

As procrastination builds, it can start to affect us severely. For example, I’ve missed several flights, hotel reservations, tax returns, and a lot of money due to this by procrastinating. Since wasting money is not enjoyable, I had to change my ways so one day I sat down and decided to do something about it – hey, at least I didn’t procrastinate on that!

The Plan

The first step of my plan involved finding and installing popular to-do apps like Todoist, Microsoft To Do, Wunderlist, etc. and while some of these apps are well designed and helpful (I still use Microsoft To Do for simple items), I continued to procrastinate. Then I tried writing these tasks using pen and paper, it didn’t work either, but at least I now own a neat journal and beautiful and inexpensive pens from Muji which I use for other things. I’ll share more about that on another post.

After these two failures, and thinking about it retrospectively, a moment of clarification appeared and a new idea was born. That process alone helped me figure out an important truth, I wasn’t giving these tasks the priority that they deserved. You see, I had it all wrong, I was attempting to create a to-do list but what I really needed was a dislike-but-still-need-to-do-it list. What’s the difference you might ask? Keep on reading dear friend, you’ll soon find out.

With this information in mind, I decided to experiment. What if I treated my other tasks with a higher priority and added them to a dislike-but-still-need-to-do-it list? The initial idea was to create this list in a spreadsheet and include a column listing the specific consequences of not getting these things done. It’s very innovative, I know.

The dislike-but-still-need-to-do-it list included items like the following:

  • Apply for the Nexus program for my kids
  • Replace car’s headlamps with new ones I already bought
  • Other personal items I do not care to list because they are for me and not for you dear reader.

These are a few items that I have been dragging for months, and I know they are important, but can’t get myself to remember them enough to do them. These items were the first ones that I added to my dislike-but-still-need-to-do-it list along with the consequences, and it looked like this:

To-doConsequences
Apply for the Nexus program for my kidsBecause if I don’t, the next time we travel to Canada we could end up waiting in line at the border for a long time as we did last time.
Replace car’s headlamps with new ones I already boughtBecause if I don’t, the driving visibility at night will not improve and then I might have to deal with more serious consequences.

Great, now I have a list of things I don’t want to do with a fearful description of what could happen if I don’t do it. Perfect? Not quite.

A better plan

While this was a bit more motivating than just have a simple to-do list, it still wasn’t enough. To keep these items top of mind, I decided to list a few benefits gained if I did these things; I am not driven by fear, so listing the consequences wasn’t enough for me.

To-doConsequencesBenefit
Apply for the Nexus program for my kidsBecause if I don’t, the next time we travel to Canada we could end up waiting in line at the border for a long time as we did last time.Reducing time by using Nexus or Global Entry kiosks when entering the United States. Saves a lot of time.
Replace car’s headlamps with new ones I already boughtBecause if I don’t, the driving visibility at night will not improve and then I might have to deal with more serious consequences.Increased night visibility.
The car looks better.
Increase car’s re-sell value.

Ta-da! At first look I was excited, I really thought I had it, in fact, just writing the benefits and negative consequences motivated me to the point I wanted to take care of these things as I was adding them to this dislike-but-still-need-to-do-it list. But after looking at it for a few minutes, I noticed something wrong, something very wrong in fact that I almost ditched the whole idea right away.

In my attempt to prioritize and motivate myself to do these things, I spent a great deal of time writing a lot of words to convince myself that this was a good idea, but it wasn’t. Some of the items in this list could have taken me only 5 minutes to complete, and instead of getting them done, I spent a great deal of time thinking and writing about the consequences and the benefits of getting them done. Fail. Big fail. Huge fail. So what now?

I really liked the list and how it made me feel, but I couldn’t possibly maintain such a to-do list with so much detail describing consequences and benefits because that wasn’t going to scale. If you want to stop procrastinating, you have to lower or remove all barriers between you and what you want to get done.

What can be changed? I asked myself, what if I removed the consequences column, shortened the contents of the benefits column, and added a due date, after all, what’s a to-do list without a due date right? After those changes, the dislike-but-still-need-to-do-it list looked like this:

To-doBenefitDue date
Apply for the Nexus program for my kidsSaves a lot of time when entering the country.2/1/2020
Replace car’s headlamps with new ones I already boughtIncreased night visibility and car’s re-sell value.2/1/2020

Finally, a to-do list that is informative and manageable. It requires enough effort that keeps items top of mind by reminding me about the benefits of getting them done. Does it work? Only time will tell. So far I have been using this version of the list for almost a month, and since then many items have been completed, it seems to be working.

Conclusion

When going through the process of creating the dislike-but-still-need-to-do-it list list I learned something about myself I didn’t know. I’m driven and motivated by the potential benefits than by fear, knowing about a positive outcome moves me more than knowing the negative consequences of not doing something. I didn’t know this about myself. The process of writing the benefits along with my to-do items takes a little more time, but this extra time is well spent as it helps me understand better the reason I need to do it.

That’s it folks, hope that my experience with my dislike-but-still-need-to-do-it list helps some of you as it helped me to cure the procrastination and get more things done. Cheers.

How to host a static website on Amazon’s AWS with SSL using S3, Certificate Manager, CloudFront, and Route53

Photo of the ocean from a beach

So you have a static website and need to host it somewhere, there are many places to host your site but since you also want your site to have a security certificate, and you want all of this at a reasonable price, your options are limited.

Last year, I tried Azure Storage to host a static website, but at the time, the options to get and apply a security certificate to a site hosted on Azure storage was complicated, it was very confusing.

This time I decided to give AWS a try, and it turns out, hosting a static website using AWS’s S3 storage service works really well for static websites.

AWS also has a somewhat simple way to set up your new static website with a free security certificate. Below I will show you the steps to accomplish this.

These are the services you’ll need to configure to host your static website and an SSL certificate with Amazon’s AWS:

  • S3
  • CloudFront
  • Certificate Manager
  • Route53

The instructions below assume that you’ve already signed up for a AWS account.

S3 – Create and change the properties of your static website bucket

After you login to your AWS Console, search for S3 and create a new bucket for your static website. When creating the new bucket, you only need to give it a unique name, and then uncheck the Block all public access options under permissions. Don’t change any of the other default values or options.

Properties tab

After you’ve created a new bucket to hold your website files, click on the bucket name and then on the properties tab. From here, select the Static Website Hosting, it should look like the screenshot below.

In this window, you want to put the name of your main page (i.e. index.html), an optional error page, and any redirection rules, also optional.

Image of static website hosting properties in AWS S3

Before you move on to the next step, copy the Endpoint value from the Static website hosting window and save it, you’ll need it for the CloudFront Distribution section below. In the example above, the endpoint is the URL: http://solopractica.s3-website-us-west-2.amazonaws.com

Permissions tab

Make sure the Block all public access option is unchecked. Now go to the Bucket Policy option and click on Policy Generator.

Select the options as shown above, make sure the Amazon Resource Name (ARN) follows this format: arn:aws:s3:::YourBucketName/* and replace YourBucketName with the actual name of your newly created bucket.

Finally, click on Add Statement and then Generate Policy, a new window will open with your new bucket policy in JSON format. Copy the JSON document, and paste it into the Bucket Policy space back in the bucket properties page.

If you get the following error message after saving the new policy: Policy has invalid resource, make sure the bucket name value is correct, and save again.

You’ll see a warning informing you that your bucket has public access, that is fine, the bucket needs public access to host your static website.

CloudFront Distribution – Create and configure

A CloudFront distribution is required if you want to host a static site and distribute media files using HTTP or HTTPS.

To create a CloudFront distribution, go to the AWS console, and type CloudFront in the search box. When the CloudFront Service page opens, click on Create Distribution, and then select Get Started for the Web option.

CloudFront distribution properties

Do not be overwhelmed by the many options in this window, you only need to change a few of these properties. Below are basic instructions on how to fill out the Create Distribution form.

Origin Settings

  • Origin Domain Name: Select your bucket endpoint from this list.
  • Origin Path: Leave it blank.
  • Origin ID: It gets filled automatically when you select the origin domain name above.
  • Restrict Bucket Access: No.
  • Origin Custom Headers: Leave default/blank values.

Default Cache Behavior Settings

  • Path Pattern: Nothing to change here.
  • Viewer Protocol Policy: Redirect HTTP to HTTPS (but you can select any option, it is up to you).
  • Allowed HTTP Methods: GET, HEAD.
  • Field-level Encryption Config: Leave default/blank value.
  • Cached HTTP Methods: Leave default value.
  • Cache Based on Selected Request Headers: None.
  • Object Caching: Use Origin Cache Headers.
  • Minimum TTL: Leave default.
  • Maximum TTL: Leave default.
  • Default TTL: Leave default.
  • Forward Cookies: None.
  • Query String Forwarding and Caching: None.
  • Smooth Streaming: No.
  • Restrict Viewer Access: No.
  • Compress Objects Automatically: No.
  • Lambda Function Associations: Leave default/blank value.

Distribution Settings

  • Price Class: Use Only U.S., Canada and Europe (the cost of it will change based on what you select here. Click on the information icon next to this setting and make the right choice for you).
  • AWS WAF Web ACL: None.
  • Alternate Domain Names (CNAMEs): Type your domain name and any subdomains you have for the bucket hosting your static website. For example, for my site solopractica.com, I entered the following values here:
    solopractica.com
    http://www.solopractica.com
  • SSL Certificate: Custom SSL Certificate. This is where you’ll also be clicking on Request or Import a Certificate with ACM (see section below).
  • Supported HTTP Versions: HTTP/2, HTTP/1.1, HTTP/1.0
  • Logging: Off
  • Enable IPv6: Checked.
  • Distribution State: Enabled.

After you request a SSL certificate and complete all of the options, click on Create Distribution.

Certificate Manager – Request a Certificate

From the steps above, open up the window to request a new certificate by clicking on Request or Import a Certificate with ACM.

In this page, type your domain name and www version of it and then click Next. Example:

Select validation method

Choose the DNS validation option, it’s the fastest and easiest. If you don’t have access to your domain DNS settings, then you can try Email validation instead. Click Review, and then Confirm and request.

Validation

Once you go through the steps to validate your domain(s), you’ll see a window with your Request in progress and the instructions to add a CNAME record to the DNS configuration for your domain. Click Continue.

Certificates

This page will show the status of your certificate request, you can refresh the status of your request to get the status updated. The time to get your domain verified depends in part, on your domain registrar.

After your certificate has been approved, go back to your Distribution and click on it to edit it. From the edit page, make sure you have the Custom SSL Certificate option selected and then select your brand new SSL certificate from the list.

Route 53 – Create and configure

This is the last step, it will allow AWS to route your domain name and certificate to the appropriate resource.

Go to the AWS console and type Route 53 in the search box, click on the Route 53 link, and then on Hosted zones.

Hosted zones

Create a new hosted zone, enter your domain name, make sure the Public Hosted Zone is selected and click Create.

Record Sets

Two record sets are created by default when creating a new zone, a NS (Name Server), and SOA (Start of authority).

While selecting the newly created Hosted Zone, click on Create Record Set.

Use the following settings and values when creating the new record set:

  • Name: Leave the name box empty.
  • Type: A – IPv4 address.
  • Alias: Yes.
  • Alias Target: Select it from the list, you should see a value available if all of the steps above were completed successfully.
  • Routing Policy: Simple.
  • Evaluate Target Health: No.

After this, you can add another record set of type A for any additional domain names you might be using, for example, http://www.yourdomain.com.

That’s it, by now you should be able to open your browser and go to your domain, it should be available with the https protocol.

Cheers!

How to consume books while hiking, driving, or washing dishes. Hint: Audiobooks.

Books wrapped by headphones

The thing is, as much as I enjoy reading paper books and also books in my kindle, it’s nearly impossible and highly irresponsible to do it while walking, washing dishes, or driving, it really isn’t safe. Now, I’ve known about Audible for a while, but for some reason, just never tried it until recently. However, listening to podcasts while driving, running, hiking, washing dishes, etc. it’s something I’ve been doing for a while now. Listening to audio while doing other physical or very repetitive activities is not only possible but enjoyable, and yes, I really do wash dishes just so I can listen to podcasts and audiobooks.

Audiobooks crossed my life recently, it was during a road trip to Florida last year when I experienced listening to an audiobook from beginning to end while driving for several hours from Texas to Florida.

The audiobook was Becoming by Michelle Obama, my wife had asked me to buy it, and so we ended up listening to it during this road trip. The book was long but very entertaining and exciting, it was great overall. We learned a lot about Michelle Obama, and also her husband, President Obama. But what it surprised me the most, it was the audio format was actually easy to follow, We truly enjoyed it. And this is all it took to be hooked to audiobooks.

The next thing I did after that was to buy another book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari, which I’ve wanted to read for a while and since I knew I was about to drive from Austin, TX to Seattle, WA, I thought it would be a great way to consume this book. It was, and it is now one of my favorite books I’ve listened to or read this year so far.

The thing with audiobooks is that, while they aren’t as polished as podcasts, they are a pretty good way to consume books, especially if you can’t find the time to sit and read. Now, for me, audiobooks aren’t a replacement of paper or kindle books, but they are definitely an option when you want to consume a book while doing an activity where reading isn’t an option.

Ad: Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks

In the end, whichever way you find more sustainable and entertaining for you to consume books, just do it. Eliminate all the barriers that are preventing you from learning and discovering new things usually hidden in books/audiobooks. I recently wrote about how reading help you find success, the post is in Spanish, but you can easily translate it or wait until I post an English version of it. Go read/listen more. Cheers.

Failed to authenticate HTTPS connection. Conflicting certificates for localhost when using Visual Studio for Mac

Lately, I have been trying Visual Studio for Mac as this version of Visual Studio has evolved significantly. However, something I noticed is that since I don’t use it often, the local SSL certificates created by dotnet in the Mac get a bit screwy.

There is a possibility that you might end up with a conflicting certificate for localhost from creating or setting up applications in the past.

If you work with the Mac version of Visual Studio, and you ever get the following error, run the commands at the bottom to clean up the existing certificates for localhost and create new ones.

Failed to authenticate HTTPS connection. System.IO.IOException: Authentication failed because the remote party has closed the transport stream.

Open the terminal window, browse to your dotnet project and execute the following commands:

$dotnet dev-certs https --clean
$dotnet dev-certs https

Happy coding!

How to Monetize your Blog with Google AdSense

google adsenseHow to monetize your blog? When you’ve had a blog for a while with plenty of content and visitors, one of the options you have it to monetize it is displaying ads.

You care about your site and your content, and you should care about the ads you choose to show in your website.

Google AdSense offers relevant ads and it gives you control over the look and the position of these ads.

In this article, we’ll show you how to use AdSense to monetize your blog.Continue Reading →

How to remove the date from your WordPress blog posts

In this blog post, I will show you how to remove the date from your WordPress blog posts without losing traffic. WordPress is the most popular blogging platform out there, it is widely used not just for blogs but also for full featured websites by professionals and businesses. One of the reasons of its popularity is that you can get a simple blog started within minutes. There are a multitude of free plugins and themes available to you to help you create and launch your blog in a short amount of time.

One of the most common mistakes people new to WordPress do when starting a blog is to leave the default permalink option. The default permalink option often includes a post id or the date and name of a post. While the date and name of post isn’t the worst option, it is also not the best one if you care about search engine optimization (SEO).Continue Reading →

Installing Windows Home Server (WHS) Connector in Windows 7 64-bit

I bought a Windows Home Server about two years ago, I use it primarily for backups and file sharing in my home network. It is a good solution for a small home network such as mine because it is sufficient, it is not overkill and it is easy to manage.

A few months ago, I put together a new PC which I use for development when I am home and for gaming. I installed Windows Ultimate 64-bit in it and up until today, I didn’t worry about connecting it to the WHS because I didn’t have much to backup, now I do.Continue Reading →