It’s just a bunch of Hocus Pocus…or is it?

Halloween is still a few days away, so there’s still time before the Trick-or-Treaters start running amok in the neighborhood. Here at Sentry, were all about safety, so let’s look at some things that can help make your Halloween safe.

Halloween is listed as second in popularity only to Christmas. Didn’t see that one coming did you? It’s a night of costumes, candy, parties, ghosts and goblins, haunted houses and magical fun. At least it should be and it can be if safety is top of mind.

Halloween is one of the deadliest days of the year for child pedestrian accidents. Sadly, it’s true and per one report, over 60% of the accidents occurred between 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. – prime time for trick-or-treaters. Think about it. It’s dark, the kids are excited, they’re quick and can dart in and out of traffic if not supervised. Basically, the children’s presence on the road and even around houses requires extra caution. Motorists need to be on the lookout for children on roadways, medians and curbs: remember that they don’t always wait to get to the intersection before crossing. Enter and exit driveways and parking lots with caution. Go slow.

Don't let young children go unsupervised and only go to houses with porch lights lit. Do not let them eat any of their candy until they get home and then make sure you check it carefully for any irregularities. Reflective tape is a great way to “light up” costumes for high visibility.

If you love to decorate for the holiday, make sure you keep safety in mind as well. Burning candles are a mainstay for Halloween décor. They can also be extremely dangerous and lead to unexpected damage to your home or worse. Battery-operated candles are a great alternative. Make sure the placement of your holiday decor doesn’t lend itself to being knocked over, tripped over or otherwise causing damage or injury.

Keep pets safe too. Candy is for the kids, not for your pets. Candy can be toxic to your pets so make sure it is out of reach. The constant arrivals at the front door can be scary for them too. Keep them calm and always keep pets inside. If you are absolutely compelled to dress up your pet for Halloween, make sure it doesn’t stress them out; make sure the costume fits properly and doesn’t restrict their movement or breathing.

Seems like a lot to think about to keep Halloween safe. It’s not; just a little extra caution and a lot of common sense.

Trick or Treat

Posted by MJ Thomas

TMI? Oh, yeah.

Believe it or not, today is Information Overload Day. No kidding, Honest. In fact, it’s been celebrated on October 20 every year since 2007. The premise of the observation is to call attention to the “never ending fire hose of data” we are bombarded with each day.

Information overload – the exposure to or provision of too much information or data. Ever happen to you? Come on. Admit it. It happens to me every day. Phone calls, emails, tweets, snail mail, television, radio, YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, Internet searches, Facebook – and the list goes on, but I’m overloading so I will leave it there. You get the point.

Are there days when you just want to put your hands over your ears, close your eyes and scream, “Make it stop!”?

Information overload leads to indecisiveness, decreased productivity, lack of focus and confusion. How many of you read customer reviews when you shop online? It can get confusing to the point where sometimes you just move on because it’s too overwhelming. It’s more than the brain can handle. Ever have so much on your to-do list that you didn’t know where to begin? What did you do? Nothing, because you couldn’t focus. Something that should take maybe an hour turns into a three-hour project. As Herbert A. Simon said, “…a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention…”

There is hope and help. In his book, The Organized Mind, Daniel J. Levitin offers some tips for pushing back the flood of information and thinking straight. Here are a few.

Clear your mind. Create a list of all the bits of information running around in your head. Getting it on paper clears it from your mind. Then you can prioritize, delegate, delete and move forward.

Follow the two-minute rule. Set aside a time – maybe an hour – to deal with smaller tasks; checking email, phone calls, etc. Then do it and only it. That means eliminating distractions. For example, does that little bell ring every time you get a new email? Do you immediately feel the need to respond? That’s a distraction that takes you away from focusing on the current task. Turn the bell off! Sometimes it’s necessary to “trick” our brains to stay on track.

“Eat the frog” first thing in the morning. That means taking the most unpleasant thing to do on your schedule and getting it out of the way. Energy levels are higher in the morning and that’s a good thing when making important decisions. Besides, getting it out of the way makes the rest of the day go better.

Overloaded yet? Just kidding. Your mission today, should you accept it, is to take control of your information overload. Good luck.

Posted by MJ Thomas

Are you talking to me or at me?

Ever have someone ask your opinion and then proceed to talk “at you?” Guess what? They really didn’t want to hear your opinion. Basically, they wanted an audience and – at that time – you were just perfect, thank you very much. The exchange was one-sided because they wanted to tell you things not hear what you had to say about anything.

The people that talk at you mistakenly believe they are having a conversation. They’re not. A conversation involves talking with people; having a discussion and exchange of ideas; everyone is equally engaged and actively participating.

When someone continually talks at you, it can get annoying. I mean, really. If you just need an audience, go stand in front of the mirror to deliver your monologue and don’t waste my time. Right? Ever feel that way? Of course, you have. I get it. People need to vent sometimes and that’s okay. If that’s the case, just tell me up front. Then I know the rules. But if you ask my opinion and then talk at me, my non-verbals will surely give away how the “conversation” is going.

Talking at someone is much less effective that talking to or with someone. Think about it. If you are so busy getting your message across, you aren’t thinking about how that message is being received or whether your remarks are appropriate or what non-verbal cues your audience is displaying or reading the messages between the lines.

And, oh the things you will hear – and learn – when you really listen to people and let them share their feedback! Two-way dialogue improves relationships with people; makes you more approachable, makes you real. Just saying.

Now go have a real conversation and have a great weekend.

Posted by MJ Thomas

It was a dark and stormy night.

No, wait. It’s a cloudy and rainy morning and another interesting commute to work is on the books. One can learn quite a bit on the morning commute – mostly behaviors you shouldn’t be emulating. I admit, my driving behavior is not always perfect, but here’s the thing. It should always be about safety – yours and everyone else’s on the road.

Seriously, there are some behaviors that fall into the category of “things that make you go hmmm.” Here are a few.

Assured clear distance – there is no doubt that keeping a reasonable distance between you and the car in front of you is necessary. After all, you never know when you are going to have to unexpectedly hit the brakes. However, nowhere have I found that assured clear distance is defined as the length of a football field. When traffic is bumper to bumper and crawling along, that kind of distance psychologically messes with the person behind you. That leads to anxiety and anger and well, you know where this is headed.

Cruising in the middle lane – NOT. There is something called “lane etiquette” and cruising in the middle lane is a violation. According to the Autoblog, traffic in the middle lane should be moving faster than the traffic on the right. If a faster car approaches from the rear and the right lane is clear – MOVE OVER. When slow moving drivers stay in the middle lane, it bogs down traffic and faster drivers start trying to pass on either side and that’s dangerous.

Multi-tasking – shaving, putting on make-up, texting – you know what I am talking about. Don’t do it! Stay focused, stay aware, be present.

Left lane campers - driving too slowly can be just as dangerous as speeding. Slow drivers that “linger” in the left lane force others to pass on the right leading to confusion, disorganization and accidents.

There you have it. A few interesting observations from this morning’s commute. My point? Be safe. Arriving at your destination a few minutes late is a small price to pay for your safety.

Have a great weekend!

Posted by MJ Thomas