“Wow, You Really Like Books, Don’t You?”


New Stack of Books 2017

Books I can’t wait to read!

The title of this post is what my cousin said to me recently when I was at his house, returning a pile of books that his wife had lent me. And then because she has some sort of wicked sixth sense about her, she guessed that I might appreciate even more books, so she blessed me with another pile of loaner teen fiction. This is third such pile of books she’s let me borrow in the past couple years, and my cousin knows this, but I think this was the first time he was actually in the room while I eagerly accepted the books, all but bursting with delight to have my hands on more stuff to read.

If you know me, you know that I always have a book on hand. Nothing will stop me from reading. In fact, I finished one book and started another when I was in the delivery room, hours away from giving birth to my first baby. It’s a serious thing to me. (Some might call it a problem.) But I guess it’s different to witness me grabbing all the books I can get my hands on, a manic gleam in my eye, as if I’m on an episode of Oprah’s Favorite Things.

Now before anyone gets onto me for starting on a new pile of books before finishing what I set out to read at the beginning of the year, I will say that even though it’s killing me, I will read (or try my best to read) everything on my 2017 list before I get started on this latest stack of potential goodness. That’s not to say that I’ve been good and haven’t detoured at all. I have. The problem is that so many of the books from this year’s list are the first book of a series, and if I like a series, well… let’s just say that my bookshelf real estate is dwindling.

This could be a problem, having enough time to read everything I own. I was really worried when my position at work changed from teacher to admin support, which puts me in the office year-round. But I am not to be deterred. Maybe I’m not blogging as often, but I am reading and writing with as much gusto as ever.

It’s well past the halfway point of the year, so of the 34 books on my list, I should have read more than 17, correct? And I am happy to report that, despite getting sidetracked a few times, I’ve still crossed 23 off the list. (Check out the link to my Goodreads page in the sidebar for all the details.) If anything is going to sidetrack me from my list, it’s other books, not a lack of time to read them.

So bring them on! I need to have something to read in 2018, anyway. And please excuse me for cutting this post short; my current book is just getting to the good part.

Three Ways to Manage Your Busy Schedule – Instead of Letting It Manage You

Laura's work desk 13/05/2008

Piles of Work (Photo credit: Laura Whitehead)

After substituting in kindergarten for the third time this week, I drove home with that relieved, TGIF feeling. I love teaching, especially the freedom of being a substitute, but it makes for a busy day, often with no breaks or time to think.

But the entire weekend stretched ahead of me, with plenty of time to decompress and do the things I wanted to do.

My little fantasy didn’t even survive the drive home. I knew there was a pile of laundry waiting to be washed, plants that needed to be watered, sippy cups to be washed and refilled, and I still had my daily bookkeeping duties for the family business that I’d put off in order to substitute.

When I walked in the door, I discovered more things to do: a book sitting on the kitchen table that I need to read for a class next week; a pair of pants that need to be re-hemmed; a looming trip to the store before my son’s t-ball game. Oh yes, and then the t-ball game itself.

I also took on a new project today that I have to finish before we go on our spring break vacation, plus a novella to read for Fiction Fix, not to mention my personal fiction projects. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what to do first when there are so many tasks at hand. Better just to take a nap and ignore them all, right?

If your life follows a similar pattern, you may feel that you’re always behind and rarely or never get to do anything for yourself. And it’s all too easy to give in to a negative attitude.

When Peter started playing t-ball, I dreaded the practices and games. My time is already so limited that I didn’t know when I would ever get anything done.

I had two choices: succumb to despair and have a nervous breakdown, or adapt and make the most of my new schedule.

I chose the latter, and you know what? I’m still able to embrace all the new projects I’ve taken on, and I’m even finding that elusive “me” time. Here are three tips that have helped me, and I hope they’ll help you, too:

1. Use Technology to Your Advantage

I know of people who have gotten rid of their TVs and phones because of the distractions they cause. If this seems a little drastic to you, there are ways to turn your electronics into a boon rather than a procrastinator’s crutch.

Did you know that there are a plethora of apps and computer programs that can help you manage your time? Some, like SelfControl from Mac users or SelfRestraint for Windows, block the internet altogether for set amounts of time. Just search for “time management apps” to see lists of what’s available and which one best fits your needs and personality.

Some of you may be able to control your electronics use by sheer will power. I fall into this category. I used to check my email any time I woke in the middle of the night, and the result was that I always had a hard time getting back to sleep. I finally made a deal with myself: don’t check email at night. It was as simple as that. If someone texts me, I know it’s urgent. Otherwise, it can wait.

Another thing I love is my phone’s timer, which I use in conjunction with step number two.

2. Take Baby Steps

When I have enough projects to fill a mile-long to-do list, I tackle them a bit at a time, baby-step style, and there are two ways to do this. As mentioned above, you can use that handy timer on your phone and work in blocks of time, or you can set goals, like editing one chapter and then moving on to a different project.

I’m currently rotating five projects in this manner, employing whichever method makes sense for each project, whittling away until they’re done. At the end of a hard day, instead of feeling like I’ve fallen short by ignoring one project while spending all my time on another, I can see that each one is closer to completion, even if only by a little bit.

3. Schedule Recreational Activities

It is very discouraging to run into someone on a Monday and have to come up with an answer to the “What’d you do this weekend?” question. I often stand there in utter silence, knowing I was busy but not able to remember anything specific. “Oh yeah,” I might say after a few seconds, “I weeded the lawn all day Saturday.” Exciting stuff, right?

When piles of laundry, flowerbeds full of weeds, grad school projects, and your kids’ sports schedules hijack what could have been your spare time, you feel like you’re stuck in a rut. This is when you can get in trouble by either going off the deep-end and throwing all responsibility to the wind, or you can wallow in self-pity and start hating anyone who did manage to enjoy her weekend.

If, instead, you schedule regular periods of recreation, just as you would schedule all the work that you need to do, you will have something to look forward to every day.

This is easier said than done, I know. Part of my personal promise to myself was to leave work well enough alone after my kids were in bed every night. If I could just hold out until they were in bed, I could read or write whatever my heart desired. But sometimes there’s not enough time in the day to get all my work done, and there’s still quite a bit left to finish after the kiddos are down. But I still make sure that I read or write or watch the occasional movie because my brain craves that break. Afterward, it’s much easier to work.

You may have more time but feel guilty about using it. Don’t! Fit in the occasional golf game or fishing trip or cup of coffee with a friend, if that’s what floats your boat. If you ignore opportunities such as these in order to “save” your enjoyment for a blow-out, two-week vacation that eats up a quarter of your annual salary, think of all the misery you’re subjecting yourself to in the meantime. Wouldn’t it be a shame to turn something you used to love doing, such as being a freelance writer, into a task to which you feel enslaved? I would rather have a few minutes of rest or fun every day, and the vacations, although they aren’t many, are truly special.

However you choose to do it, find time to do something not work-related on a regular basis, and you will be able to attack your projects again with renewed vigor and enjoyment.

Oh, and by the way, your house is patient: it will wait for you to clean it. Wash you underwear, by all means, but I won’t look at your baseboards if you won’t look at mine.

Do you have too many things to do 24/7/365? How do you manage your own workload?

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