Thursday, July 27, 2017

Why 15 Minute Work Blasts Are Awesome

Usually, I keep my posts book-related, but today I decided to go life-related.

A lot of us have goals we want to accomplish, projects we want to work on. Some of us just want to read more. Others of us want to write novels, clear out our bedrooms, start a get buff program, eat healthier, or maybe even just finish our school projects on time.

For any of those goals and pretty much anything else I can think of, working in 15 minute intervals can be super effective.

Here's some reasons why.

1. It's too short of time to psych yourself out.

I'm sure you know the dread of having a project to do that you really don't want to work on. This especially happens to me when I'm already tired, or not feeling well. My gut reaction is to forget about it, to get it over with when I feel better. And sometimes this is the case, and we're better of resting and working on the task later. But a lot of the time it's a convenient out, and tomorrow will see the same thing happen if we're not careful.

Often, this sense of overwhelm is because we set too big of goal in front of ourselves. It looks huge, and it's so much easier to just say "Forget it, I don't need to do that today."

But 15 minutes is so short, it's too easy not to do. Instead the shame factor starts kicking in, where you actually feel ashamed if you don't do it for such a short amount of time. And each set of 15 minutes adds up.

2. Usually a start was all you needed.

Again with the psychological, it can be hard to get working when the goal is so huge.

Writing a book can seem overwhelming. Writing a chapter can also be daunting. But writing for fifteen minutes isn't that scary.

And a lot of times I'll find that, when that timer goes off, I'm not ready to quit yet. I've gotten into the zone, and I want to keep editing my novel, or keep writing another chapter, or keep sorting through my back log of email.

Last night, I was exhausted and felt sick, and I didn't want to do things as simple as unload and reload the dishwasher, and fold laundry. But I told myself I could do it for a few minutes.

This morning I was glad I'd taken the time to just do those tasks.

Set a timer, and give yourself permission to quit after 15 minutes. But keep going after it dings if you want.

3. You can get a lot done in that time.

You probably can put away a week's worth of laundry in less than fifteen minutes. Or pack your lunch for the next day so you don't just eat whatever the nearest restaurant has to offer.

I often find it takes only 15 minutes to clean my bedroom. Or do a HIIT workout (and for those of you with joint issues, they even have low impact ones). Or read a chapter. Or draft half of a blog post.

I can usually write 500 words in fifteen minutes. If I did that every day, I'd have a 180,000 draft (about the length of Thorn Changer) in a year. A 100,000 word draft would only take about 8 months. Granted, that's still a rough draft, with a lot of editing to do, but that's not bad for just fifteen minutes a day.

4. It's super easy to accomplish.

Sometimes the goals we set for ourselves are too big to get done all at once.

Say you want to get up at 5:00 AM each morning so you can workout before heading to work, but you currently drag yourself out of bed at 7:00 AM. Instead of just setting your alarm for 5, you can work backwards by fifteen minutes every few days to a week until you are waking up at 5, and do a short workout in the time you have (check out YouTube, there are tons).

Conversely, if you never hit the hay before 2 AM, but want to start getting in bed at 10 so you're able to get up earlier for classes, you can go to bed fifteen minutes earlier and get up fifteen minutes earlier and reduce the times until you are where you want to be.

5. It helps you make use of "useless" time pockets.

Sometimes fifteen minutes is all we have before we have to move on to another task or appointment. Often we don't consider that enough time to get any "real" work done, so we fritter it away on Facebook or Instagram.

But we've just looked at how much stuff you can actually get done in fifteen minutes.

You can make up some flashcards for your upcoming SATs in fifteen minutes (or better yet, study those you already made up). You can put away dishes. You can make a phone call or two. You can arrange your space for whatever task you have after your appointment. You can take a short break from your phone, and just close your eyes and relax (just make sure you set an alarm).

Those time pockets don't look quite so useless.

Fifteen minutes might not seem like a lot of time to work with. But you can really get a lot done in such a short time. And if you have a smart phone, chances are you already have a built-in timer (though I still love using my large digital timer you see in the picture).

So go ahead. Tell yourself you'll work on listing old clothes you no longer want on Ebay, or learning Latin, or getting down the basics of coding, for just 15 minutes each day. And see how much you can get done.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

5 Popular Series That I Haven't Read

I love to read. If you told me I had to choose between being able to read or having the ability to watch TV, I would choose reading, no hesitation. After all, I get bored with TV after a while. But reading opens up such a wealth of experiences. Unless I find the book uninteresting, I could read for hours.

I read a lot, and quite often. However, there are several popular book series that I haven't read. I haven't even seen all the movies or TV shows for them. Here's a list of five of those series.

1. Harry Potter 

I listed this one first because I imagine it's going to be the most surprising. My friends are surprised when I tell them I've never read Harry Potter. Of all the series on this list, this is the one which appears to be the most popular among children who are just starting to read them and adults who grew up reading them. So why haven't I read them?

In all honesty, I did read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and watched the movie based on it. I think J. K. Rowling is a very good writer, and I enjoyed it. It was an interesting read, and it did keep my attention.

However, the subject matter doesn't really interest me. I'm not really into books about witches and wizards. And maybe I don't hold the same attachment to them that a lot of other people my age seem to have because I didn't read them as a child. I might pick up the series again someday, because I did enjoy the first one. Right now, though, there's other books I'm interested in reading.

2. The Twilight Saga

This is the second series that's been really popular among my friends. But it's one I've never even turned a page in.

I haven't read this series for the same reason I haven't finished Harry Potter, lack of interest. Except whereas I may finish Harry Potter someday, I've no interest at all in picking up Twilight. I've no interest in vampires. They actually kind of creep me out (the reason why I've never read Dracula). Love triangles (such as the one which from what I've heard of the series is between Bella, Edward, and Jacob) actually are kind of annoying to me. What I've heard of the plot just doesn't interest me as well.

3. A Song of Ice and Fire (also known as Game of Thrones)

Unlike the first two series, this one does sound interesting to me. I enjoy history-based fantasy stories (my own book, Thorn Changer, is very loosely inspired by my readings of the Middle Ages), and from what I've heard, George R. R. Martin works very hard to write his books so they sound like they actually took place. I probably would give it a try, except that my mom has read some of the books, and told me enough about them for me to realize this series isn't for me.

From what she told me, Martin has done too good of a job of making these books seem like historical fiction.

I'm not a fan of obscenities of any form. I try to keep them out of my own writing, and I try to avoid them in the books I read (and if you've ever wondered why on earth I would mention profanities in my book reviews, that's why: I try to mention them so you can avoid them if you wish to). From what my mom has told me, and from what I've heard other people talk about with this series, there is too much swearing, sex, nudity (TV series), etc. for me to really enjoy it.

I don't doubt stuff like that happened back in medieval times. If I'm honest, his portrayal is much more accurate than my own of how life probably was back then (one of the reasons I say Thorn Changer is very loosely inspired by those times). But I like to read books that I could read to someone else and not blush during, that I could leave not and not be embarrassed if someone found it and started reading it.

Another telling thing: my one cousin was embarrassed to watch an episode of the TV series with her father. I'm more conservative about such things than she is, so I think that's a good sign I should leave it for other people to enjoy.

4. The Hunger Games

I've seen bits of the movies (though they never interested me enough to actually sit down and watch the entire thing). Because of all the hype, I actually started listening to the first book on my iPhone. But I never finished it, and I'm not certain I'm going to return to the series.

Honestly, I'm not into dystopia.

I know it's been a hot genre for a while. I know a lot of people who really enjoy this kind of books. But I'm just not interested. Plus, I don't really relish reading about children killing each other. For now, I'll skip this one.

5. The Divergent Series

Of all the series I mentioned, I know the least about this one (although I know precious little about The Hunger Games as well). My sister has watched at least two of the movies, so I've seen pieces of them. I've never picked up one of the books. My friends are more into Harry Potter and Twilight. But I know that in the book people are sorted into different groups based on their skills or something like that. And that the main character, Tris (whose name I had to look up), is consider "divergent" because she doesn't quite fit their sorting mold.

Based on that, I haven't read them because they don't sound very interesting to me. And since I've found other books I enjoy reading, I haven't looked into them more.

Most of these five series I haven't read because of a lack of interest. And whereas I might read Harry Potter in the future, and possibly even Divergent and The Hunger Games (if I can convince myself to try dystopia), I don't plan on ever reading Twilight or Game of Thrones.

But like I said, I don't know a lot about them. If there's a reason you love one of these series, please let me know.

Have you read any of these series? Do you think I should read them? What about them do you like, and think I might as well?

None of the links above are affiliate links (although of course if you buy Thorn Changer, I get some royalties). I'm not going to try to get you to buy books I haven't read myself and enjoyed. I provide the links so you can find out more about them if you wish (and so I don't have to make this post super long by giving a short overview of each).

Thursday, July 6, 2017

2017 Book Challenge, June Update!

June was a much better month of reading for me. The craziness of work in May eased into a slightly less crazy beginning of June, with the second half being pretty laid back. I read four books, and continuing my non-fiction trend, they were all non-fiction. I'm really missing fiction, though (especially fantasy), so I'll probably switch back to fiction in July.

1. The Curated Closet*, by Anuschka Rees

Rating: ***

If you never really knew what to wear, or constantly buy things that later you can't stand wearing, Ms. Rees walks you through how to find your personal style and revamp your wardrobe so it reflects your taste. She teaches you how to shop and choose clothes you like so you can always wear your favorite things.

This book gave a lot of practical style advice I never heard of (and revisited some things I already practiced, like wearing clothes and styles that I liked, regardless of whether I was "supposed" to or not). The one issue I had with this book was that, of all the example styles and color palettes, there wasn't a single one I liked. In fact, I think all except one I absolutely hated. Granted, this book is about finding your own style and color palette, so the fact that I didn't like any of her samples is irrelevant to the purpose of the book. I just found it really disconcerting that there wasn't a single outfit idea which intrigued me (I shuddered at most of them), and not one of the color palettes would I desire to play with by tweaking the colors. If I would get over that hang up, I think I would find the book very useful.

2. How to Get Dressed*, by Alison Freer

Rating: ***

Costume Designer Alison Freer reveals the secrets she uses to help actors look amazing on camera. She goes over what alterations are worth the money and which are not, how your clothes should fit, special tips and tools you can use to make the fit and feel of your clothes better, as well as how to take care of your clothes so they last.

I learned some interesting tricks and tips from this book. Some of them (like her use of moleskin and toupee tape) I plan on using this autumn when I'm in a wedding. Others I probably will not use at all (I don't think her trick of finding your natural waist is very useful, because at least on me wearing pants there would be super uncomfortable). Her writing voice annoyed me so much in the beginning that I almost put the book down, but after a while I got used to it and it wasn't so bad. Her washing and stain removal tricks are great. Overall, I think this book is worth checking out (just read a sample before you commit to make sure you can stand her writing voice).

3. The Millionaire Next Door*, by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko

Rating: ****

More people are millionaires than you think, and some of them might even live next door to you. Chances are, they are not the people you'd guess. In this book, Stanley and Danko study what qualities millionaires have, the differences between those who accumulate wealth and those who don't, and ways you can work on becoming a millionaire yourself.

I enjoyed this book. Even though it's almost twenty years old, a lot of the tips still hold true, and I imagine most if not all of the qualities of proficient accumulators of wealth (which they term "PAWs") hold true as well. It's inspired me to work on my own habits surrounding work and money in order to gain the true financial independence they described in the book (I never thought about it before, but in a way they're right: anyone working for someone else is dependent on keeping that job, unless they've taken steps and precautions in order to ensure they could survive for some time without it). I'd give it a read, and see if there's any areas in your life to work on in order to gain financial freedom.

4. Happier at Home*, by Gretchen Rubin

Rating: ****

This is my second book I've read by Ms. Rubin (I previously read her The Happiness Project* and really enjoyed it). I think her tips are wonderful (some of them, like her "suffer for 15 minutes," I'm working on incorporating into my life), and I really enjoy her writing style and voice. I love reading self-improvement books by authors I can relate to, and many of the struggles she shares in the book I can relate to. I found this book a simple yet enjoyable read, perfect for reading before bed or when you want to relax. Yet her tips and suggestions are great for working on your own life.

I'm very happy with my progress in June. I wanted to read about a book a week, and I've succeeded in this month. But I'm ready for a shift from nonfiction to fiction, so in July I plan on reading books such as Alice in Wonderland and A Girl of the Limberlost.

I've also posted reviews of these books on Goodreads.

*For the sake of brevity, I have not included the subtitles of these books.