Tag Archives: self help

Getting Things Done – David Allen

“The Art of Stress-Free Productivity”

Okay, its okay to point and laugh and call me a nerd. I get it. I am not only reading semi-self-help books, I am reading books about personal productivity.

If you haven’t heard of Getting Things Done then you are either A) not a total geek or B) don’t work in an office or any type of corporate environment. But, I was finally convinced to read it – and you know what? I liked it! That’s right, I said it. I liked it! And I will probably read more.

That said, this book took me forever to read. Not that it was difficult, but it was one of those that you can’t just read on the subway. In fact, I am SOOOO dorky, that not only could I not read it on the subway, I came up with a highly complex method (okay, it was just two different colored stickies) of organizing my thoughts while I read the book.

What? You don’t believe me?

Photographic Evidence of My Shame

Photographic Evidence of My Shame

And I made lists! And messed with my IGoogle! And became more productive in a week than I had in a year. I did dry cleaning, gave clothing to charity, set up payment plans for my bills, cleaned out my junk drawer, updated my regular files, researched and utilized financial software, made appointments with doctors and got some work stuff done that I had been procrastinating about – including organizing my office. And my co-workers want my help on getting their inboxes sorted. And my boss thinks I may have gone off the deep-end, but he is beaming with Nerd Pride.

GTD (Yeah, that’s what us nerds in the know call it) has kind of a simple theory – Get stuff out of your head and into managable lists of projects. Then you  break down projects by the next physical action you can take on them. There is of course more to it, and Allen obviously hates trees. You should see how he wants you to organize yourself with folders and pieces of paper and … Greenpeace would not be pleased.

I kind of started on my GTD journey already, although I skipped some steps that Allen would be disappointed by. And I think I want to read a few more books before I figure out what works best for me, but for now I will put my color-coding to good use and bullet out some of the thoughts, concepts and quotes that stood out for me. There’s also these few paragraphs on page 241 in my copy that talk about why it’s usually intelligent people that procrastinate. This of course made total sense to me, in a very self-congratulatory “ha! I am disorganized because I am smart!” way. I am insufferable.

  • In karate there is an image that’s used to define the position of perfect readiness: “mind like water.” Imagine throwing a pebble into a still pond. How does the water respond? The answer is, totally appropriately to the force and mass of the input; then it returns to calm. It doesn’t overreact or underreact.
  • Most people have dozens of things that they need to do to make progress on many fronts, but they don’t yet know what they are. And the common complaint that “I don’t have time to ____ (fill in blank)”  is understandable because you can’t do a project at all! You can only do an action related to it. Many actions require only a minute or two, in the appropriate context to move forward.
  • The verb “process” does not mean “spend time on.”
  • “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” – Albert Einstein

I will probably end up re-reading this, but I will save you the loser-ish details. Something else I learned? You don’t need to be some high-powered CEO or basket-case for these books to have a practical application.



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Coping with Your Difficult Older Parent – Grace Lebow & Barbara Kane

A guide for Stressed-Out Children

And my triumphant return to the land of books? A self-help book I bought for a certain member of my family, who after reading my personal blog should eventually evident, but for now will remain nameless.

While I bought the book as a part-gag, part-actual attempt at help, I couldn’t help but read it on the train home for myself, since I too have to deal with the Difficult Older Parent in question.

This is essentially a self-help book for “grownchildren” who have to figure out how to deal with their awful and difficult parents. There is an evaluation quiz at the beginning of the book, to try to figure out what a pain in the ass your adult is. Mine scored off the charts.  At least she is an overachiever.

Anyway, like any book about managing relationships – it really comes down to “You can’t change the person (especially if they are an old bat, set in their ways), but you can change your reaction to the person.” Essentially, don’t react negatively or attempt to use reason or logic with an unreasonable and illogical person. Acknowledge their feelings without a value judgment and hold fast to your boundaries.

Good advice for dealing with anyone. I think just reading some of the case studies is a nice acknowledgment that yes, other people have gone through what you are going through. And in my particular case-study-relative, every single symptom of being a difficult older parent fit.

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Tim Gunn: A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style – Tim Gunn

Seriously? Who doesn’t love Tim Gunn? I know I do. I got a little bored with makeover shows, but I have a special soft spot for Gunn and Project Runway. Keren raved about his book and lent it to me.

Either I watched way too many makeover shows, or I just have innate natural taste and style – but there was nothing revolutionary about this book.  I have heard this all before.

The high notes:

  • The writing was SO Gunn. I know he had a co-author, but I could absolutely hear his voice.
  • The suggestions, while not ground breaking, are good ones.
  • It has inspired me to clean out my closet. Which is good, because I have a week off.
  • It inspired me to wear the same clothing more often. This may not be his intention, but for me? A high note.
  • I read it and wanted to dress better. I can be stylish AND comfortable.

The low notes:

  • It inspired me to clean out my closet. Which I just did a few weeks ago when I watched his TV show. I don’t know what else is in there.
  • I read it and wanted to dress better. Then once again opted for jeans and a T-shirt to go watch wrestling. So, I CAN be stylish and comfortable, but I won’t be. And now I will feel guilty about it. YEA for more guilt!

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Fed Up! – Wendy Oliver-Pyatt

I have been thinking a lot lately about food. I have changed the way I eat, but i am not really ready to talk about this yet (it’s funny how a blog about what you read really tells so much about how you live. I mean, I guess in my case I am a teenage love-sick vampire, but you get my point – it’s hard to write about how you feel about what you read without it reflecting about well, how you feel).

But, this was a self-help book I picked up on the Strand Annex for 70% off (they are closing the downtown location). I bought it because I felt that I needed a diet book, or something to give me some sort of structure – but to my surprise, the book ended up being exactly the opposite. The premise is essentially – stop dieting and just eat. Not a fat-acceptance book, but the idea that diets make you fat, and you always regain and feel like a failure and continue the cycle, but if you just give yourself permission to NOT diet, then you will lose weight because your body will find its natural rhythms and you will stop the cycle of binge eating.

It makes sense to me, and its actually kind of what was going on during the beginning of the summer when I lost a good deal of weight (and have kept most of it off.) The book itself was kind of a “well, duh” but sometimes I think you need to read something and have it codified before it kicks in. I had a conversation this weekend that really struck me. My issues with weight don’t just effect me, they effect those that love me. And I am holding myself back my being so obsessed with my size.

All in all, a decent book for people who struggle with weight or always feel like they are dieting. I particularly liked the portions of the book that talked about doing something with your life that is meaningful and focus more on who you are as a person rather than what your thighs look like. It also had some cool tips and ideas for raising healthy non-fat conscious kids and that’s something I worry about a lot – putting my own neuroses on kids. Also, without being New Age hippie-dippy, it recommends massage. How can you not like a book that recommends massage?

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Helping me help myself – Beth Lisick

Yet another “a year of …” by people who would normally probably be unlikable. This one’s premise is getting your life together, one self-help book a month, for a year. Wild! Wacky! Lessons learned: Almost none. The author lives the same life as before she started, except more thoughtful. Oh, and of course – the only way she could afford her “year of” is because she is being paid to do it.

My lesson learned? Suze Orman still rocks, but Richard Simmons rocks even harder.

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