Thanksgiving Planning

Thanksgiving

Whether you’re hosting Thanksgiving at your house or you’re packing up the car – and the kids, the pets, the kitchen sink – to travel somewhere else, this time of year can seem particularly hectic if you don’t plan ahead. Of course, there’s no guarantee that planning ahead will result in your desired outcome, but it could significantly improve your chances of having a smooth holiday. Keep reading for more information on how The Arena App can help you plan for whatever this Thanksgiving holds for you!

Thanksgiving: Planning a Trip

At first glance, the option to travel somewhere else for the holiday seems like the logical choice. No need to worry about cleaning your house, having enough place settings, where everyone will sleep, etc. However, this choice packs plenty of its own hang-ups, such as “What am I responsible for cooking?” “Should I bring my own ingredients?” “Will I be able to use the stove/oven?” “Are we sleeping at Aunt Julie’s house, or will we be with Uncle Tim on the other side of town?” “Should we just get a hotel room instead?” “Can we bring the dog?”

This list could go on for a while if you’re not careful. The Arena App can help you keep track of all of these questions, as well as everything you will need to do to prepare and pack for the trip. Our pre-built checklist – Planning for a Trip – will come in handy in this situation, and can be edited to suit your specific needs. You can also create your own checklist for all of those lingering questions you need to have answered in advance.

Thanksgiving Trip

Thanksgiving: Hosting at Home

Having Thanksgiving dinner at your house can feel like a lot of unnecessary pressure if you don’t plan ahead. “Is my house clean enough? Who’s staying here overnight? What is Aunt Julie bringing? Is Uncle Tim even coming? Are people cooking dishes ahead of time, or will they need my stove/oven?”

The Arena App can help you easily manage all of these things as well. It may be beneficial to break up the planning into different projects (Guest List – Invites, RSVPs, dish requests; Cleaning – Laundry, dishware, house; Day of: Cooking list/times, table prep, clean up). Each project you create could then have its own checklist, to keep things more manageable. Or if you prefer to just have it all in one place, create a task for Thanksgiving Prep, assign yourself A LOT of points for it, and plug in your own custom-made checklist. This will help you stay on top of your to-dos for the day (and the days before) so that you can avoid rushing around at the last minute while trying to fit 6 casserole dishes in the oven.

Thanksgiving Prep

Thanksgiving: Gratitude

No matter what your plans are for Thanksgiving, or how you choose to handle them, make sure to allow yourself time to appreciate the people around you. Pause, take a breath and enjoy the moment it all comes together. Whether you’re hosting Thanksgiving or hitting the road for the holiday, be grateful to those around you who helped the day come together. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Zen to Done with The Arena App, Part 2

A Quick Recap

A few weeks ago, we posted Part 1 of our series on how The Arena App works with the Zen to Done (Babauta, 2011) method, covering the first tenants. This week, we’re taking a look at the remaining ones, and how you can use Arena to help keep you on task following Zen to Done. Keep reading for the other steps in ZTD, and how to best utilize The Arena App with them to help you have a better day!

Step 6: Keep everything in its place

Arena is structured to help you focus on today and tomorrow, so that you are only working on what is important in the moment. However, if your work week flows more smoothly when set before it even begins, Arena can help with that too. You will start by adding all of your big projects for the week into the Unscheduled screen. From there, you can move what you will be doing on Monday into the Today screen, and what you plan to work on for Tuesday will go into the Tomorrow screen. As the week progresses, all you will have to do is make sure you are pulling your tasks from Unscheduled into the correct days.

Step 7: Review the system and your goals weekly

The Arena App includes an option to see both your Accomplishments and your Insights, which track your most productive days and weeks in Arena. The Accomplishments view includes a bar graph so you can visually track your progress, and have a better sense of what your weeks look like overall. The Insights page includes your completion and productivity scores, both in overall averages and in highest singular days. If you find yourself with several projects left in the Unscheduled section, you may want to go back and evaluate if anything can be delegated, deferred, or deleted.

Zen to Done planning

Step 8: Keep everything as simple as possible

This step is fairly easy to do in Arena. For each project you enter, start it with a verb, and only use a few words in the title. If you need more information about it, add the details into the note section of the project. For the more complex tasks, it might help to create a custom-built checklist to keep track of where you are in the project. Breaking your large project into smaller, more manageable tasks gives you a better starting/stopping point if you ever need to set the project aside for a bit to come back to at a later time.

Step 9: Set and keep routines

The Arena App can help you develop better routines for completing your day. Choosing your biggest projects based on impact and effort will allow you to prioritize the most important things first, leaving the time you have left to tackle the smaller things. Doing this daily (or even every few days) will help build your routine of focusing on the most important things first, and feeling at peace with what you did and didn’t accomplish for the day. Arena also allows you to choose if a task is repeating (and how often) so that you don’t have to enter it over and over again. 

Zen to Done routines

Step 10: Choose work about which you are passionate

Arena might not be able to help with this final step in the same way that it can the others. However, it might be able to help you realize that your current work is not your passion. If you find yourself procrastinating more and more on your project – even with the help of Zen to Done or The Arena App – that may be a good sign that you are not where you want to be. If your Arena analytics and insights are starting to slip, that might be a good time to take a look at your job, and see if A) things are slipping because you are lacking the support you need, or B) things are slipping because you don’t want to do them. If it’s the latter, it may be time to re-evaluate.

These are just a few ways that The Arena App can work with the Zen to Done method. Each user will have to tailor the steps to best fit their work style, but it can be easily done in Arena. Part 1 can be found here, and if you want to learn more about how The Arena App can help you win the day, find us on social media (@thearenaapp) and in The App Store and see how it can help you have a better day, every day.

Download on the App Store

Babauta, Leo. (2011). Zen to Done: The ultimate simple productivity system. Waking Lion Press.

Zen to Done With The Arena App

Zen to Done

One of the biggest hurdles that many of us encounter in our days is the ability to just start a project. The methods of both Zen to Done (Babauta, 2011) and Getting Things Done (Allen, 2015 (2nd edition)) point out that most of the time, the largest part of a task is the start. If you can find a way to motivate yourself to start, you’ve completed half the battle. Of course, whatever task you start is bound to be time and energy intensive, but once you actually begin it, you may find that everything else just falls into place. This blog is the first in a series that will focus on how The Arena App works with the Zen to Done method. Keep reading for the first five tenants and the best way to utilize Arena with them to help you have a better day!

Step 1: Capture Everything

Babauta recommends carrying a small notebook to keep track of various things – ideas, notes, reminders, tasks – and then compiling them all into your overall system at a later time. This notebook could also be the notes app in your phone, or, if you’ve already planned out your day in Arena, you could simply open a project and record the necessary information into the notes section of that project. Whatever method you choose, maintain consistency in using it in order to help form the habit for yourself.

notebook not done

Step 2: Handle the Small Things as They Come

This step can be completed in a variety of ways, but most frequently, it is broken down into “Can it be done (in 2 minutes or less), delegated, deferred, or deleted?” If it can be delegated, make sure the proper people are notified, putting a note in your Arena project notes as well. If it can be deferred, simply move it to the Unscheduled section in your Arena screen, note the change in the deadline for anyone else involved in the project, and come back to it at a later date, when you have time to focus on the task.

Step 3: Set the Most Important Tasks Daily

Arena is specifically designed to help you plan your day efficiently and even allows you to do so the night before. This will help you have a better sense of where you need to start your day, as well as where the bulk of your focus will need to be. And to help you choose your project, Arena allows you to pick if you Must, Should, or Could work on it today. Arena is also designed for you to decide the impact and the urgency of a project, so you can easily see your 3 biggest projects for the day, as well as the smaller ones. Added bonus: the Calendar view lets you see all of your projects overlaid on your calendar, so you know the amount of time you have available to work on things.

calendar done

Step 4: Do One Thing at a Time

Once you pick a project to work on in Arena, you can help yourself focus on it by setting a timer and working for the selected time. The best part is that you get to decide how much time to work: 2 minutes, 35 minutes, 60 minutes – it’s entirely up to you. If you only have 15 minutes to work on something before a meeting, set your timer and just do. Eliminate all of your distractions and work for the set time. You’ll be amazed at how much you can accomplish in that time, as long as you know you’re working on a deadline (self-subscribed, but still a deadline).

Step 5: Keep Your List Simple

This step focuses on simplicity: lists, projects, details, etc. In Arena, there are two ways to keep task lists simple: Must, Should, and Could distinctions, and the effort/impact of each project. If a project is labeled Must, you know it has to be done that day. If it’s labeled Could, you know it’s not essential to complete the project, but if you have, it can be done. Additionally, if the effort/impact amount for your project is 580, you know it needs to be completed. If the point amount is 45, you know it’s not essential that the task is completed today. This is a simple way to set your day up to know what is important, as well as what you have additional time for.

These are just a few ways that The Arena App works with the Zen to Done method. Each user will have to tailor the steps to best fit their work style, but it can be easily done in Arena. Part 2 of the blog series will be coming soon, but in the meantime, check out Arena on social media (@thearenaapp) and in The App Store and see how it can help you have a better day, every day!

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Allen, David. (2015 (2nd Edition)). Getting Things Done: The art of stress-free productivity. New York: Penguin.
Babauta, Leo. (2011). Zen to Done: The ultimate simple productivity system. Waking Lion Press.

Effort vs. Impact Feature Focus

Planning Your Day

Most productivity tips and practices encourage people to focus on 3 big projects to get done every day. And if you have some smaller tasks that need to be completed, it may be more helpful to roll them into one bigger task (though maybe not one of your 3 for the day), and just chip away at them at the same time. But then how does that look when you’re planning your day?

Impact and Effort

With The Arena App, every project you enter will be added on a scale of impact and effort. The best part? You get to say how much (or how little) effort and how big (or small) of an impact the project has when you enter them in for the day. The size of your bubbles will reflect the value placed on your tasks, and each task will then receive a point total. The higher the impact and effort, the more points a project is worth – and more points toward your Accomplishments bar once you complete your task!

effort impact

 

Some people use this scale as a motivation tool for not only completing the project but sometimes just for starting it. If the project is not something you particularly want to do or are having trouble starting, increase the point total. Getting that high point total at the end of the day feels great, and knowing that you knocked out a big (or unpleasant) project along the way can make it even better!

Must, Should, Could

To help with the impact vs. effort decision, each project also comes with the option for Must, Should, or Could complete it today, which can also help you decide what to work on and when to work on it. For example, your 3 big tasks for the day would have higher point totals and the Must label. If you have smaller tasks, enter them in accordingly (or all as one, with a checklist to keep track of what you have completed), and choose either Should or Could so you know that not completing them won’t throw your whole day off.

effot

The most important thing to remember when choosing impact vs. effort, and if you Must, Should, or Could complete a task is that you are the one who makes the decision. It’s all up to you – sure, maybe you have a deadline for your budget report (Must, 320 points), but once you complete it, you’re on your way to finishing your day strong. The appeal of Arena is that it doesn’t tell you what to do; it helps you focus more on what you know you need to do, which allows you to be in control of your day. Let The Arena App help you win the day, and gain the peace of mind that you did everything you could in the time you had.

Download on the App Store

 

How Play Impacts Happiness

The Importance of Play

“All this thinking about fun made me realize that I had to make time for it. Too often, I’d give up fun in order to work. I often felt so overwhelmed by tasks that I’d think, ‘The most fun would be to cross some items off my to-do list. I’d feel so much better if I could get something accomplished’” (Rubin 122).

If you’ve been following our social media, you’ve seen our weekly posts asking, “What would you do with more time in your day?” and the accompanying photos of enjoyable activities people partake in when they have free time. We decided that this was an important focus for The Arena App: it is designed to help you move through your day more efficiently, freeing up time for you to do the things you want to do, not just the things you have to do. Additionally, we are fans of author Gretchen Rubin and her book The Happiness Project. In the book, there is a chapter titled “Be Serious About Play;” we chose to tie the two concepts together – the free time that Arena brings to your day and the impact of play on happiness. Keep reading for our thoughts on how important play is in getting your work done.

play blocks

 

What is Play?

For the chapter, Rubin works with the definition of “…play – that is, the activities I did in my free time because I wanted to do them, for their own sake, for my own reasons, and not for money or ambition” (Rubin 112). In a world where people tend to focus on being productive – or, at the very least, staying busy – sometimes we forget to make time for things we enjoy. And not just what other people consider to be fun; you have to find what you think is fun. Rubin suggests employing a fun test, which contains three simple things: “You look forward to it; you find it energizing, not draining; you don’t feel guilty about it later” (Rubin 116). For some, this could be an activity as simple as taking a walk or reading a book; for others, it may involve learning a new skill, such as playing an instrument or taking a cooking class. The most important thing is that it’s enjoyable for you, and gives you a chance to focus on something other than work or family or you know…real life.

play outside

Currently, our society seems to be focusing on the ability to get as much as possible done in the smallest amount of time. With this focus comes the overarching question, “How do you ‘make time’ for the things you find fun?” It’s true that some days feel like there is no end to the list of things you need to do. But what if you didn’t actually have to do all of those things? There are a few methods that encourage you to focus your day on the largest projects you need to complete (Zen to Done, The 4-Hour Work Week). With The Arena App, as you enter your tasks for the day, you assign them along a scale of impact and effort, as well as the urgency for each. This gives you a better sense of what you know must get done today, and what you should/could work on if you have time. Once you have completed your day, you have time to focus on the things you want to do, which might even include something fun!

The Value of Play

“I saw that there was value in taking time to play…” (Rubin 131).

Some people may see fun as frivolous and unproductive; why should I waste my time doing something that won’t yield any viable results? Just because you may not be able to see the outcome of doing something fun and enjoyable doesn’t mean that there isn’t one. There may not be a goal or a finish line to a fun activity, but it will pay off. You may find yourself feeling more relaxed and energized after spending time doing an activity you enjoy, which can even lead to more productive workdays. So take the time to find something that is “satisfying, has no economic significance, doesn’t create social harm, and doesn’t necessarily lead to praise or recognition” (Rubin 113). You’ll thank yourself later.

play an instrument

 

Rubin, Gretchen. The Happiness Project. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2009.

How to Manage Your Day With The Arena App

Manage Your Day

One of the best suggestion for organization and productivity is to manage/keep track of your tasks in as few places as possible. The Arena App is best used in conjunction with an overall task list so you can see the big picture as well as the daily breakdown. This gives you a better sense of what your most important tasks for the day are, and where you can fit in the smaller to-dos. Keep reading for some ways that Arena can help you better manage your day!

The Arena App is designed to manage your day with as little effort as possible: enter in your projects, meetings, tasks, etc., every day, so you can see what needs to be completed today in order to produce the most impactful outcome. Arena has both a Play view and a Calendar View; Play allows you to see your tasks with their impact/urgency (more information below) altogether, while the Calendar View lays your tasks for the day over your existing calendar. This is incredibly beneficial, as it allows you to see the amount of time you have available for things, as well as how much time a task might take. You can even move the tasks around in the Calendar View, if you have a preferred time for working on a project or if you know you have to complete that financial report first thing in the morning.

manage your calendar

Manage Your Urgency

When you first enter your projects for the day, The Arena App lets you choose the impact, effort, and urgency of each one. For urgency, Arena defaults to the Should distinction so that users don’t feel like they have to do everything today, though Must and Could are also available options. The focus should be on what you know needs to be completed today, rather than what you would like to complete today. Once you choose the urgency, you can then choose the level of importance your project has, in terms of impact and effort. These can be decided based (again) on what you know you need to do. However, some users assign higher point totals to projects they don’t particularly enjoy doing as a way to motivate and reward themselves.

Additional Features

One great feature within The Arena App is the project checklists, both pre-built and self-curated (for more information on the Arena checklists, check out our blog post). Checklists can be added when you are either entering or editing a project and will appear when you open your task bubble. You can even add, delete, or rearrange tasks on any pre-built checklist to better suit your project’s needs. Arena even tracks your progress through the list on the outside of your project bubble as you check items off the list, so you can get a sense of how far along you are with just a quick glance.

manage your checklist

The Arena App also comes with a timer feature (more information can be found here) that can be used when you work better with a deadline, or if you are struggling to focus on a project. The timer is designed to work best in the same way you do; the user can choose how much or how little time is needed, and just get started. Since starting a task is sometimes half the battle, you’ll be amazed at how much you can get done when you know you only have 20 minutes to work on something!

Have a better day, every day

The Arena App is designed to help your day run as smoothly as possible. And while that might not always be in your control, you can easily get back on track with Arena. The appeal of this app is that it doesn’t tell you what to do; it helps you focus more on what you know you need to do, which allows you to be in control of your day. Let The Arena App help you win the day, and gain the peace of mind that you did everything you could in the time you had.

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Tips to Eliminate Distractions from Your Day

The Distraction Loop

It happens to the best of us: You’re plugging along in your workday, finishing tasks left and right, when all of a sudden your email notification dings..then dings again. And then Slack alerts you that someone sent a message. Suddenly, you find yourself lost in a notification loop, and you can’t seem to get out of it in order to get back to work. As technology advances, so does the ability for someone (or something) to get in touch with you at all times of the day. This also creates the possibility of unlimited distractions in your work, which cuts down on your ability to be productive. Keep reading for some of the ways you can start to eliminate distractions from your day.

Cell Phone Distractions

Today, a lot of the distractions we encounter come from our cell phones. A majority of apps available come with push notifications, which send a direct alert to your phone when something happens in the app. Typically, these are automatically turned on too. As a way to keep these interruptions to a minimum, as soon as you install an app, turn off the push notifications. If you don’t want them off entirely (i.e., it’s nice to be notified outside of your working hours that someone re-Tweeted you), you can look around in the app’s settings to see if there is an option to control your notification hours. This will help decrease the number of times you pick up your phone to check what app just made that noise.

Another solution to your app-distraction issue is to remove all social media apps from your phone. This will help keep you from mindlessly scrolling through your feed to see what everyone you know (and many you don’t) is up to the moment your focus is pulled from your work. Though it may seem a bit extreme, you will eventually break the habit of aimlessly picking up your phone. 

phone distractions

Endless Emails

Now, about those emails. Often times, people have a tendency to reply to emails very soon after receiving them. This can lead to multiple interruptions throughout your day, depending on how many messages you receive. One way to help eliminate this distraction is to turn off your email notifications, and set aside a certain time or times in the day to check your email. 15-25 minutes could be enough, or maybe two separate 20-minute blocks to read, respond, and record any actions from the emails could significantly help you remove some of the distractions from your day.

Office Distractions

If you are in an open-office setting, accumulated noise from around the workplace could create distractions without anyone realizing it. If you are in a job that allows you to wear headphones (or some kind of ear covering), this could help you eliminate some of the background noise from your day. Alternately, if you are fortunate enough to have an office with a door, you could simply close your door for parts of the day. An important thing to remember here though is to inform your co-workers as to why you are working with your headphones on or your door closed. As with email, you could implement the times of the day when you leave your headphones off or your door open for people to drop by and discuss projects or ideas.

computer distractions

These tips are designed to be adjusted to best suit your work style and can be used individually or mixed together. The important thing is that you recognize when your distractions are happening, and what is causing them. Once you know that, you can decide which technique might be best for you and work on eliminating the distractions in your day.

 

 

Tips for Staying on Task and Focused in College

College Life

The semester is in full swing, but you’re still trying to find the perfect balance of work and play. As fall break (yay!) and midterms (boo!) near, it is time to look at the assignments you have due, the amount of effort each will take, and how you are really using your time. Keep reading for some tips on the best ways to stay focused and on task while navigating the freedoms of your collegiate life.

College books

Record Your Assignments

The first tip for staying on task is to record all of your major assignments as soon as you receive your class syllabi. Just choose your preferred method – calendar, bullet journal, app, etc. – and put them all in one place. This will help you have a better idea of how much time you will need to carve out for each assignment or how many days you will have to study for an exam. Recording everything in one place will also keep the panic level to a minimum when that first test pops up.

Eliminate Distractions

Another good tip, though difficult to follow at times, is to eliminate distractions (okay, your cell phone!). Conversations with friends, endless social media scrolls, and various games are in your hands at all times; however, there are several options to help keep the distractions from your phone to a minimum. One option is to set your phone to either “Do Not Disturb” or put it in Airplane mode, which will keep all your notifications from coming through (you could also just turn your phone on silent if you still want your alerts to pop up). Another option is to put your phone in a different room to remove the temptation when you start to lose focus. A third option is to go do your work someplace where using your phone would disturb other people (i.e., the library) so that you are accountable to other people as well as yourself.

college distractions

Practice Self-Care

Our third tip is to make sure to include some time in your schedule to give yourself breaks. Whether it’s to exercise, hang out with your friends, or just breathe, make the time for self-care. Burning out is easy to do in an atmosphere such as college where you are in charge of your entire schedule; the feeling like you’re falling behind is overwhelming and can come on quickly when you’re balancing 5 classes at one time. Keeping track of all of your assignments will help, but keeping track of your time in order to take a step back for a minute or two could help you even more.

College can be both an incredibly difficult and an incredibly fun time. Keeping yourself focused and on task will help you find not only that balance between the two, but also maintain it throughout your time in college. And who knows…maybe some of the habits you form to keep yourself on task will carry over into your professional life!

college building

Checklist Feature Focus

The Benefits of a Checklist

You planned a Halloween party and somehow forgot to buy ice and extra candy. You had it in your head the whole time to pick up both at the store, but every time you went, you somehow forgot. Next time, you’ll make a checklist of all of the things you need to remember for your party! Now, who can you call to bring the ice and candy…

Tailor Your Checklist

The Arena App: Daily Planner features both custom made and pre-built checklists for several tasks. All checklists in Arena are editable as well, so you can easily turn the Plan a Party checklist into your Plan a Halloween Party checklist, adding any holiday-specific tasks to the list, and deleting anything that you wouldn’t need for this type of party (i.e., thank you notes for gifts). The lists are available as you enter or edit a project, and can either be chosen from those provided or entered in according to your needs. Arena includes pre-built checklists for Home (Prepare for Houseguests), Work (Build a Presentation), and General (Review Weekly, based on David Allen’s Getting Things Done method).

Halloween Party Checklist

 

Create Your Own Checklists

Arena also gives you the option to create your own checklist, which can have as many or as few items as you need to stay on track to complete your task. For instance, if you were getting ready to put your house on the market, you could create your own checklist for the steps you would need to complete in order to make the process as easy as possible (minus the stress level). Alternately, if you are in the market to buy a house (and aren’t selling one), you can create a checklist for what that process will entail as well, ensuring some level of ease (again, minus the stress level). You could even create a checklist for the fall fundraiser you volunteered to put together at the first PTA meeting!

Fall Festival Checklist

As with any to-do list, the checklists found in The Arena App are available to help you move through your day as smoothly as possible, so that you know you did everything you could in the time you had available. With Arena, it’s not just a to-do list; it’s a way to find peace of mind.

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The Arena App: Daily Planner, Version 1.5

New Updates to the Best Productivity App

Your team Scrum call happens every day at 8:30 a.m. Your marketing meeting is every Thursday at 2:00 p.m.  Your financial projections are due on the 75th day of every quarter. Instead of entering in these tasks every time they occur, Arena now allows you to choose if a task is repeating, as well as the frequency they occur. These show up in your Arena Play screen with arrows denoting that they repeat, and can be edited at any time if the day of your task changes. This will help cut down on the amount of time you spend planning your day.

New Updates in the Checklists

Also included in the new version of The Arena App are two new pre-built checklists. Now that the new school year is upon us, there are so many different things to keep track of – afterschool activities, volunteering opportunities, paperwork, etc. – that it can be easy to miss a step. The new Arena checklists include Preparing for Back-to-School and Navigating the First Week of School. And as with any of the pre-built checklists, you can add, delete, and re-order any of the tasks on the list. Help keep the new school year – and yourself – organized and on top of the afterschool activities, volunteering opportunities, and paperwork to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Arena updates

With The Arena App Version 1.5, you can now check or uncheck and swipe to re-order the items in a checklist when editing a task. This allows you to take care of everything at once, rather than having to enter your task, and then go back in later to edit a checklist. Version 1.5 also adds the days of the week in the project due date picker. This function makes entering in your tasks more efficient.

Stay Updated

If you are new to The Arena App, take a look around these new features (as well as our other awesome ones), and let us know what you think! If you’ve been an Arena user for a while, let us know how you like the updates, and if there are others you would like to see. One thing that didn’t change? The Arena App will still help you have a better day, every day, and keep you on track to make sure you are doing what matters daily.

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