Thursday, November 21, 2013

Overcoming Inertia

How is sugarcane packaged by the grower and shipped to market?  I thought it was a fairly simple question to research.  But the answer eluded me and stopped me cold in writing my novel.  I didn't skip the section dealing with it and move on.  I just stopped.  And I haven’t worked on the novel in six months.

Ouch.  I hate to admit it, but I am the queen of the unfinished project.  Several examples come to mind.  I found a maternity dress I planned to make for myself – all cut out and ready to sew.  My youngest child is 27.  I found a cross-stitch sampler that I started in 1990.  I found a baby dress I started for my daughter, who is now 28.  I don’t remember what my excuses were for not finishing these. 

I’m retired.  I have no excuses.  It’s time to take action.   How have others overcome inertia to get things done?

Google is my friend.  The first article I found was from Forbes, titled Two Ways to Overcome Inertia, written by Sonia Kapadia.  The two ways were 1) schedule the activity and make yourself accountable, or 2) deliberately do something completely different to refocus and clear the mind.

The second article Google listed was in and lists seven ways to overcome inertia and get yourself unstuck. 
1.  Shock yourself into action. 
2.  Secure short term wins. 
3.  Dangle a carrot in front of yourself. 
4.  Use a stick. 
5.  Fill your gas tank. 
6.  Create a clear vision of what you’re trying to achieve. 
7.  Stage it. 

The third article I found titled Overcoming Inertia: Harnessing our Minds by Kerwyn Hodge, states it both clearly and succinctly:
      1.  Inertia is a real part of our lives, and can work for us or against us.
2.  To overcome inertia, you need an external force.
3.  That external force is our mind.

To this inspired list of strategies, I add my own:  practice finishing.  We get better at things we practice.  I’m hoping this will be no exception.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Retiree Looks at the Affordable Care Act

I received my retiree health benefits enrollment package from my former employer in the mail day before yesterday.  After hearing all the doom and gloom about rising costs I was pretty nervous opening the envelope.  Turns out the cost of our total coverage – pre-retirement medical for me, Medicare supplement for my husband, and dental insurance for both of us – will go up 2%.  I can live with this.

But is there a better deal out there?   My premium for a high-deductible plan with a Health Savings Account (HSA) will be $713 a month.  This is the full premium for employer-based coverage for retirees – which by definition are a high-risk pool.  I am the (relatively) young, healthy person paying into this pool.  What would I pay for the same plan on the new health care exchange?

My current plan is not available on the exchange in the state of Utah.  So while I would have liked an apples-to-apples comparison, the best I can do is look at similar plans. 

As a reminder, the healthcare exchange offers four plan Tiers. 
                Bronze – plan pays 60%
                Silver – plan pays 70%
                Gold – plan pays 80%
                Platinum – plan pays 90%

With the high-deductible/HSA plans, the plan starts paying after the deductible is met.  These plans are only offered on the bronze and silver tiers.  The lowest premium of the bronze plans is $329 per month; the highest premium for the silver plans is $502 per month.  The higher the premium – the lower the deductible.  The silver plans come closest to what I have now. 

Just for fun, I also researched what my current insurance dollars would buy on the exchange.  The highest priced platinum plan is $622.75 per month.  So the answer is yes, I could get a policy with a lower premium on the healthcare exchange.

But I won’t.  Premiums are not the only thing you should consider when evaluating a health plan.  You also need to do the math.   Look for the plan that will give you lowest total health care costs, including premiums, co-payments and co-insurance, and out of pocket maximums.

This became very clear when I researched Medicare Supplement Plans for my husband. Here in Utah there are eight available plans that cover both health and prescription drugs.  Of the eight, two have no monthly premium; the others have a much lower premium than what we pay for the Medicare Supplement offered by my former employer.  But wait!  How much will the copay on his prescription be?  About $450 a month, as opposed to the $28 per month we’re paying now.  And – what is the annual out of pocket maximum?  They range from $6700 for the no premium policies down to $2500 for the highest premium policy.  Our current plan has an out of pocket maximum of $500
I can’t cover my husband through my former employer unless I am also enrolled.  So I will choose to pay more for my health care in exchange for my husband paying less for his.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Speed Cleaning – the First Time is for Practice

I cleaned my house using the Speed Cleaning method on Monday.  I chose Monday as my housework day because, quoting one of my favorite movies, “everybody should go to work on a Monday.”  I put on my apron, put the supplies in their respective pockets and loops, and started in front of the kitchen sink.  Here’s what I learned this first time through the method.

1.  I had to remind myself several times to start at the top and work down, after something midway, or to the right caught my eye and my cleaning cloth.  Even with my self-corrections, I missed the front of the microwave and the top of the refrigerator.

2.  I’m just too short to reach the top of the fridge – and higher places in general.   Too bad my cleaning apron doesn't have a pocket for a step-stool.  I’m going to have to put the step-stool in front of the fridge before I start next time, and then put it away when it’s time to do the floors.

3.  I was totally flabbergasted by the dust that came down from the upper recesses and the crumbs that came from the appliances.  It was by sheer force of will that I allowed them to stay on the floor, patiently waiting to be picked up by the vacuum.  When I see dust and crumbs I want to get them.  The visible surfaces of the house are always pretty clean.  This method helped me find dirt in the invisible places which I’m sure hadn't been cleaned in months (years?).  Next Monday it should be a little easier.

4.  I didn't have my caddy of cleaning supplies with me in the kitchen.  I keep it in the bathroom, and when I loaded up my apron I forgot I was supposed to take the caddy with me.  So when I ran out of cleaning cloths, I had to stop what I was doing, go to the bathroom and get the tray.  This is exactly what Speed Cleaning tries to prevent – wasted time.

5.  I also didn't refill my spray bottles with cleaning solution before I started, and of course, I ran out midway through cleaning.  Again, wasted time.

6.  I could have done a better job making life easier for the vacuumer (also me) while I was dusting.  There were a number of items that could have been picked up or moved aside so I didn't have to stop vacuuming to move them.

7.  I took my apron off before I started doing the vacuuming and then the mopping.  Big mistake.  While I still had my whisk broom in my back pocket to get the stray crumbs I should have gotten while I was dusting, I sure could have used my white or green pads to get the stubborn stuff off the floor while I was mopping.

So, lots of lessons learned on using the technique, which I will employ next Monday when I clean.  That said, the house is clean – cleaner than it’s been in a long time.  [Smile]