You Are = You Do = Love (or not)

In January I read an article titled “6 Harsh Truths to Make You a Better Person”. It’s written in a style that is deliberately confrontational and provocative, but that’s because it’s meant to jolt readers off their butts and get them to do something. If you can’t get past the tone to the underlying truth of the article, go sit in your room for a couple of years and then try it again when you’re ready. I’ve read it about four times since I discovered it. Continue reading “You Are = You Do = Love (or not)”

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A Good Use of Time

As Sunday afternoon wore on, part of me felt frustrated. It complained, “Here’s the whole day gone and I haven’t done anything!”

The other part of me countered, “What I have done is go on a 5½ mile walk with my husband and my dog, stopping in the middle for a charming lunch at a sidewalk café. What I have done is lived.”

Why is it so hard to feel like that is a valid way to spend part of my weekend? Especially when there was nothing else I particularly wanted to get done that day? Continue reading “A Good Use of Time”

Stop the Boredom

The more we rely on external entertainments, the more bored we become. If you would stop being bored, stop trying to entertain yourself.

(Hint: the quickest way to stop being bored is to learn something or make something.)

Here Again

It is completely shocking – and a little embarrassing – that fully 9 months have passed since my last post (in which, I’ve not forgotten, I promised that the November book review was “coming shortly”).

I do have a slightly valid excuse – as far as it goes – in that the dead computer referenced in that post wasn’t replaced until mid-August. My husband and I thought it might be an interesting experiment in anti-materialism, in breaking the nearly universal addiction to the online world, to see how long we could go without replacing it.

Well, it was interesting, all right. I spent just as much time as ever on Facebook, thanks to the advent of my iPhone, but was hindered from many more worthwhile pursuits. It took at least four months for me to get so fed up about not writing that I resorted to pen and paper.

And for that flakiness, I apologize. After all, the first hallmark of a respectable blog is the constant and regular addition of “content,” to use marketing-speak. Not to mention that my one loyal reader was disappointed.

All the same, I wouldn’t say the time was wasted. It occurs to me that the writing of the blog is somewhat incidental to the stated purpose of the blog: “the quest for a life of love, laughter, reason & usefulness.” Love and laughter are arguably best pursued off-line; and a usefulness that is built only on the written word is not more than half-baked. And in the post-less interval I did keep to my goal of reading a non-fiction book most months. I did make some gestures that were, for me, quite generous and thoughtful. I had new experiences, changed some opinions, and embarked on new ventures – all of which will be reflected in the posts of the months to come.

I won’t promise to be here every week, this time. After all, the time specified by the 52/365 Project is long over. And though a blog is a commitment, I’ve never prioritized it above other commitments – chiefly my marriage, my health, and bringing my A-game for the people who pay me – rightly, I think. Still, I will try, and this time I’ve done what I always wanted to do and never quite managed: I have prepared some posts ahead of time for those difficult weeks.

It’s good to be back. And thanks for your patience.

Productivity by Number, Part 2

This is the conclusion of a two-part series on productivity. You can catch up on Part 1 here.

Step 4: Prioritization

Yes, everything I have ever read about productivity and life satisfaction emphasizes priorities. But it’s hard to appreciate their importance and power until you see how completely you lack them. Continue reading “Productivity by Number, Part 2”

Productivity by Number, part 1

That it is possible to look busy without accomplishing much, and that correct prioritization is necessary for true productivity, are ideas which are pretty universally accepted – and, I suspect, nearly as universally confusing.

For years I struggled with the Steven Covey Four-Quadrant system.

If you have 10 urgent things, and some of them need to happen soon so various projects can move forward, but some of them were handed down by your boss, which ones are  1: urgent and important, and which ones are just 3: urgent? Or are they all urgent and important, and in that case, which do you do first? And at what point do the neglected 2: important projects become urgent, even though they have no time deadline attached, simply because they never rank highly enough to get done otherwise?

I spent years trying to use that system and just feeling bewildered.

It probably works very well for some people – evidently it worked for Covey, or he wouldn’t have written a book about it – but what I’ve realized is that no system will work for everyone. It’s only recently that I’ve gotten noticeably closer to finding mine.

Step 1: Getting Things Done Continue reading “Productivity by Number, part 1”

Enough Rope and the Myth of the Slow Day

A coworker mentioned that things had been slow in their department this week. I nodded in rote sympathy. What you really want is just enough work, not too much, not too little, but too little is arguably the more painful. Not that I remember what that feels like.

But then later on as I was taking one of my head-clearing walks I thought, “But when it’s slow, doesn’t that just mean you have time to do the strategy- and project-work that you’re always meaning to get around to otherwise? Isn’t that just the chance we’re always struggling for to be proactive rather than reactive?” Looked at that way I don’t think there is such a thing as a slow day. Continue reading “Enough Rope and the Myth of the Slow Day”

Ethics, Sleep and Creativity

Lately, I admit, I’ve been fudging the posting timeframe a bit. So, to make some amends, a bonus post with links to some helpful articles I ran across this week.

First, an interview that takes the ethics of everyday decisions to a whole new level:

people have to understand that there’s no latitude, that there’s no such thing as a little bit wrong, like there’s no such thing as a little bit pregnant… if you look at things that way, even a bad attitude is an ethical issue, because it might mean your own work isn’t being done properly, and you’re probably infecting others so their performance suffers, too.

Then two posts that made me feel both better and worse about my productivity levels:

From the Wall Street Journal, why some people can sleep so little and get so much done.

For a small group of people—perhaps just 1% to 3% of the population—sleep is a waste of time. Natural “short sleepers,” as they’re officially known, are night owls and early birds simultaneously. They typically turn in well after midnight, then get up just a few hours later and barrel through the day without needing to take naps or load up on caffeine.

From Rands In Repose, a discussion of how creativity can be harnessed.

Those who do not understand creativity think it has a well-defined and measurable on/off switch, when in reality it’s a walking dial with many labels. One label reads “Morose and apathetic” and another reads “Unexpectedly totally cranking it out”. This dial sports shy, mischievous feet – yes, feet – that allow it to simply walk away the moment you aren’t paying attention, and each time it walks away, it finds a new place to hide.

Finally, a long, beautiful, depressing and inspiring story about an experiment in which a world-famous violinist played for a crowd of commuters.

Each passerby had a quick choice to make, one familiar to commuters in any urban area where the occasional street performer is part of the cityscape: Do you stop and listen? Do you hurry past with a blend of guilt and irritation, aware of your cupidity but annoyed by the unbidden demand on your time and your wallet? Do you throw in a buck, just to be polite? Does your decision change if he’s really bad? What if he’s really good? Do you have time for beauty? Shouldn’t you?

Work Around

Some days you’re just not inspired. Time drags and being at work seems like a waste of time. Along the same lines as my post a few weeks ago about recharging at home, I thought I’d share some methods that help me push through it that you may be able to use, or may give you some ideas of your own.

Test conventional wisdom.
Continue reading “Work Around”

Fear = Nothing

I don’t mean it doesn’t have its place when a ruffian is rapidly approaching and brandishing a gun, knife or yo-yo saw. I’m talking about the everyday boundaries we set up in our lives.

Someone once asked me, “What would you do if you were completely fearless?”

What would you do if you were completely fearless?

My guess: be more remarkable. Do more things more worth doing. It’s worth making a list of things you would do if you weren’t somehow, for some reason, afraid of doing them: Take a class. Move to another city/state/country. Introduce yourself to more new people. Whatever it is for you.

And then, once you’ve made your list, ask yourself, seriously, why you’re afraid of doing each one. Sometimes all you turn up are symptoms – for instance, you’re afraid you’ll fail at some new endeavor because you were too nervous to take the necessary risks.

But even if you’ve come up with a rational reason for your fear, does that really make the thing any less worth doing? (Of course, if the thing you’re afraid of might kill you, maybe it does – but again, that’s not what we’re talking about here.) If you’re afraid your relationship will fail because, after all, the odds favor breaking up – does it mean it isn’t worthwhile to have a relationship? If you’re afraid you won’t be hired for your dream job, does that mean it isn’t worthwhile to go on the interview?

What would you do if you were completely fearless?

 

(As usual, I find that Seth Godin has already said something wonderful on the subject.