How to Find More Time, Part Two — Priorities

Posted in self help by Steph Auteri on December 28, 2007
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I have read in many a magazine and self-help book the powers of saying “no.” It’s something I have a problem with. Perhaps that’s how I ended up singing at five masses over the Christmas break, while also hosting my family and in-laws for Christmas dinner & dessert at my one-bedroom condo. Perhaps that’s also how I let my priorities slip, and took an extended vacation from this blog, which is still lacking in any sort of regular editorial calendar.

Bad me.

So it’s a good thing that the second part of this series on how to find more time, based upon Laura Stack’s Find More Time, is about Priorities. (Geez louise, that post about Plans was, like, eons ago. I’m awful at Priorities.)

  • Remember those who are most important to you. When I was first dating my future husband, I was unemployed but keeping myself busy, as per usual. I was handing out iced latte samples at Dunkin’ Donuts (humiliating); writing nightlife reviews for Shecky’s; and interning at the Feminist Press. When life became especially hectic, I told darling Michael that we could only hang out if we were being productive together.

And so, we would go to Barnes & Noble together and sit at a table with our laptops as I wrote nightlife reviews and he wrote music reviews.

That was ridiculous.

Remember to make time for those you love, even if it means you need to schedule a weekly date night with your man, or a monthly Family Fun evening with the fam. Create your own traditions, especially around the holidays, that allow you to spend quality time with loved ones, and create fabulous memories that will last a lifetime (I’m sorry if that sounded too after-school-special).

  • Volunteer. It makes you feel good. It makes the person you’re helping feel good. It spreads good karma. I used to be a volunteering fool growing up, lending my time to my church CCD program, Safety Town, the library, the Juniorettes, etc. Most recently, I tried iMentor, which is an easier to commitment to make when you’re short on time yet still want to make a difference in someone’s life. Sites like VolunteerMatch can help you find the volunteer opportunity that’s perfect for you. If you’re strapped for time, there are even projects you can work on from home, at your computer! Check it. And remember (the most important thing ever). You can always change your mind. If you don’t want to be there, it will wear on you. And it will also show to others. No one’s holding a gun to your head. Pick something you enjoy, and that doesn’t necessarily add additional stress to your life. What are some of the awesome organizations you’ve spent time with?
  • Cut out the time-wasters. For me, it’s Minesweeper, StumbleUpon, G-Chat, e-mail, and reality television. And food. I am a weak woman. But knowing is half the battle. Place restrictions on yourself. You’ll find you get a helluva lot more done. Plus, you won’t feel all groggy from staring at a screen for hours.
  • Be healthy. Be sure to be active. No one said you have to suffer through 45 minutes on a treadmill. Pick something you enjoy, like cardio shimmy or hula hooping or callanetics, and make it a priority, rather than an afterthought. If you schedule it in, just as you would schedule in a meeting or a get-together, it might actually happen. Also remember to keep up with those pesky appointments with your dentist, your shrink, your gynecologist, your allergist, etc. And don’t do gross things like smoke or subsist on Red Bull. And get enough sleep. And do as I say, not as I do.
  • Expand your mind. Whether through reading, public seminars, continuing education, etc., it is healthy to keep challenging both your mind and your body. Plus, it’s a great way to meet nifty new people who share your interests!

Okay guys. I’ll see you next when we discuss Personality.


How to Find More Time, Part One — Plans

Posted in self help by Steph Auteri on December 13, 2007
Tags: , , , ,


With 40+ hours a week in the city, additional hours working on freelance projects at home, and other extracurriculars such as choir and, um, life, time is something that always seems to be in short supply.

And with the holidays adding even more mania to the proceedings, I figured it was a good time to re-read Laura Stack‘s Find More Time.

The book is split into eight sections, or pillars: Plans, Priorities, Personality, Pests, Possessions, Paper, Post, and Play (utilizing the quizzes at the front of the book, you can determine which pillar is most in need of some shoring up). Following one piece of advice in the first chapter — break larger projects into smaller ones — my posts on the the tips in this book will come in eight installments.

If you’re anything like me, the posts this book is inspiring will be a huge help.

So, to begin:

  • Draw up a mission statement. Writing up such a thing will aid in the decision-making process, helping you evaluate the way you spend your time, and the things that are most important to you. My personal mission statement includes my grand scheme to take over the world via written word, my desire to constantly learn and experience new things, and my urge to start a family. When forced to choose a path, consider which one takes you closer to your goals, or is more in keeping with your higher values.
  • Make a list of your goals and dreams. Actually if you think of your dreams more as goals, and write them down in the manner of a to-do list, you’re more likely to accomplish them, as they’ll seem so much more attainable! I plan on going hang gliding, learning the ukulele, learning how to use the manual settings on my camera, getting published in Bitch magazine, etc.
  • Break larger projects into smaller ones. As I’m doing with this series of blog posts on finding more time, so you should do in, well, just about every large project that comes your way. For example, if you have “put together an album for Papa” on your to-do list (which I totally do; it’s for his Christmas gift), break it down into: 1. Look through photo albums for best pics. 2. Scan pics. 3. Order prints. 4. Purchase photo album. 5. Fill photo album. 6. For the love of god, just get it wrapped and under the tree! Stop procrastinating! (Whether or not the tree is actually decorating is a whole other matter entirely.)
  • Be prepared. Or in other words, plan in advance. On The Big Bang Theory the other night, Sheldon tells Penny that she should be buying her tampons in advance, as she’ll “be needing them for at least the next 30 years.” While it’s really an inappropriate topic of conversation, he has a point. Make sure you’re stocking up on things before you need them. It will prevent stress later on when, say, you run out of birth control pills and you and your paramour really want to get with each other.

Check out the book, and Stack’s website, for even more tips! Next up: Priorities.

How to Make Love Last, Even When He Refuses to Rinse His Dirty Dishes

Posted in self help by Steph Auteri on December 10, 2007
Tags: ,

first dance.

I’ve always been a bit of a commitment-phobe (understatement). I’ve given each and every one of my past boyfriends hell, none moreso than my husband. I’m stubborn, solitary, and independent, and entrusting my heart to another has always been somewhat of a stretch.

As a result, I’ve read an estimated one trillion relationship how-tos. Out of those trillion or so books, my favorite couple therapists/authors have been Barry McCarthy and John Gottman.

McCarthy is a marital and sex therapist based in D.C., and I read his Getting it Right the First Time, so that I wouldn’t have to someday read Getting it Right This Time.

Gottman is a professor of psychology and the co-founder and co-director of the Gottman Institute. Of his many books, I own Why Marriages Succeed or Fail and The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.

I’ve tried to follow the tips in their books as consistently as possible and, as a result, my life with my husband has never reverted to The Way Things Were When We First Moved In Together:

  • If you don’t respect each other, there’s going to be a problem. Remember the person you fell in love with, warts and all, and you’ll be able to accept both their strengths and their weaknesses for many years to come. It may help to reminisce about the beginning of your relationship, before it occurred to you how annoying it is to have a girlfriend who eats cookies in bed.
    • This means that you should not demean your partner, especially in front of others. Even if you think it’s clear that you’re just teasing.
    • And acknowledge the fabulous things they do or accomplish.
  • Hold on to those positive feelings. Aim to maintain a 5 to 1 ratio of positive to negative couple feelings and experiences. This way, the tough times will never be so overwhelming that they shake the very foundations of your relationship.
  • Your Way Is the Right Way, But You Can Still Humor Him. Just kidding. The truth is, the both of you were most likely raised in wildly different ways, so you probably have differing ideas of right and wrong (the right way to load the dishwasher…the right way to make the bed…). As you enter into this relationship. realize that you can create new traditions and new concepts of what exactly it means to do things the “right” way.
  • Polish Up Your In-the-Ring Technique. Having a good relationship doesn’t mean not fighting; it means fighting the right way. Instead of blaming your partner for your negative feelings, take responsibility for them. And then attempt to have a rational discussion about them, that does not involve slamming doors, blaming, walking out, etc.
  • Avoid the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. These would be Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling.
  • Present a united front. Some conflicts will seem insurmountable. Don’t take this as a sign that you should take your complaints to an outside party. This will only serve to undermine your relationship.

All of these books contain a multitude of couple exercises that you can complete with your partner, that are sure to provoke many enlightening conversations. If you’d prefer to purchase a workbook, filled with nothing but exercises, I’ve found that the one I received at pre-cana is good for those who are both religious and non-religious. I’m sure there are a number of options out there, but the one I have is this. Sometimes, we sit in bed and do one of the worksheets together, because we’re huge dorks. I mean, it’s either that or boggle.

Friday and The Infinite Wisdom of Others

Posted in self help by Steph Auteri on December 8, 2007


My fellow bloggers — much like me — have been slacking a bit during this holiday season. For that reason, I’m going to highlight a single blogger who has been consistently, shall we say, awesome.

This blogger would be Gretchen, of The Happiness Project. This past week, she wrote two posts that especially struck a chord with me.

The first one was about putting things off until…well, until whatever or whenever. It’s something we all have the tendency to do. We think we’ll be happier once we lose 20 pounds or get our own place. We think we’ll have more time to work toward our dreams once we get more sleep…once the internship ends…once Christmas is over.  With all the excuses we can make for ourselves, it’s a wonder we ever get anything done at all. It was a post that made me think, because it’s a habit I catch myself indulging in far too often.

Gretchen’s second post is on showing up. This is a big one for me. There have been many events — parties, readings, concerts — that I’ve been more than thrilled to hear about. But when the time came, I finked out. Either I was too tired at the end of the day, or the weather was crummy, or I felt I had too many items on the mental to-do list…either way, I was lazy about moving outside of my comfort zone and, more often than not, I regretted missing these things.

I find that it’s a heckuva  lot easier to show up when there’s someone else involved to hold you accountable. For example, I went home after work on Monday instead of heading to a Shalom Auslander reading at my favorite bookshop in New York, because I’m lame. Plus, I was tired. But last night I attended a meet-up for a women’s discussion group on sexuality that an acquaintance of mine was trying to start up, merely because I had RSVPd that I was coming, and wanted to keep my word.

I ended up being glad I went. For one thing, aside from me and the moderator, only one other woman showed up. Aside from that, I got to catch up with this acquaintance of mine, learn of a cool new venue, meet a fascinating new person, and partake in a generally lively and always-interesting discussion. It was inspiring and fun and different from what I usually do. Which is hurry home and read in bed.

It’s the buddy system at its best.

Friday and The Infinite Wisdom of Others

Posted in self help by Steph Auteri on December 2, 2007

friday's wisdom.
I recently read a post on doshdosh focusing upon the concept of using editorial calendars to build blog readership. It’s something I’ve been considering since I began this blog, not only to keep readers coming back because of the promise of regular content, but also to get myself on track. As you can see from the dearth of new posts lately, it’s been tough making my blog a priority amongst the craziness of all other priorities, especially with the stress of the holidays encroaching (magical stress though; Christmas is always magical). Still, if I’m going to make this work, and make this blog an important part of my life, I’m going to have to get my butt in gear.

doshdosh gives a good number of recommendations for the various types of regular posts one could include on a regular calendar: Interviews, user polls, comic strips, and contests are only a few of the things he lists. I would definitely suggest checking it out if you’re struggling with the same issues as me; it’s a wealth of good advice.

In the meantime, however, as I pulll together my own editorial calendar, please bear with me. And let’s all just ignore the fact that I’m posting a Friday column on a Sunday (oopsie!).

Moving right along, I found this pretty awesome blog the other day (stumbleupon is my favorite) with a post on how to command respect. Posts are only once a week (like I should talk), but the content is well written and incredibly helpful. In this particular post, our guru of happiness lists a number of ways to naturally project that self-confidence and charisma you know you have somewhere in you, focusing on posture, eye contact, and more. Apparently, I hide behind my hands or my hair when I’m speaking to a group, so perhaps this post is especially worth my time. (People are scary!!!)

Gretchen over at the Happiness Project hit close to home with a post on giving up “fake food.” She goes beyond exploring the unhealthiness of processed foods and, instead, touches upon those pangs of guilt she feels upon giving in to temptation. I could understand where she was coming from, as I had made an attempt about a year ago to stop eating all that crap. I didn’t last long, however and, slowly, aided by my office’s close proximity to Jack’s 99-cent store, Fluffy Stuff and Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies crept back into my life.

Linda Formichelli over at the Renegade Writer Blog wrote a post on getting rid of the little things that bother us, thereby making a pretty big difference in our quality of life. While her focus was on the niggling things that keep freelancers from their productivity, I thought her suggestion to write up a list of annoyances and then tackle them one by one was no-duh, yet surprisingly revelatory. I’m a huge proponent of taking action, rather than playing the victim…and I love writing lists, so I can’t believe I never thought to do such a thing before. Especially since I’ve always been especially good at overcoming the far larger grievances in my path.

Finally, I’m going to be all weird and link to a post from Gawker, of all things. In the post that caught my eye, they sneer over an e-mail by Neil Strauss glorifying his discovery of the meaning of life and the key to happiness. In it, Strauss writes about balance, and its place in making us happier. In fact, he actually lists all the things one should spend time on each day, in order to maintain the ideal amount of balance:

“Even if you love your work, you can’t spend the entirety of every day working. You can’t spend it partying or sarging either, as fun as that may be. However, you’ll find that if each day, you productively do something in each of the following areas, your mood and confidence and charisma and happiness and inner game will skyrocket:

1. Work

2. Physical (exercise, running, swimming, a sport)

3. Social (and, yes, that can include Rules Of The Game missions)

4. Creativity or Education (whether it’s writing, making music, cooking, programming, taking classes, or learning another language)

5. Relaxation, whether it’s reading a book or watching TV or playing Wii Tennis or staring at the wall and contemplating life or lying in the sun and thinking about nothing.

So, your mission over the holidays:

Make a list of the specific things that make you happy and balanced in each of these categories, and then make an effort to comfortably fit them all into your schedule at least five days a week. Most of these areas don’t need to take more than half an hour each day. And chances are you’re doing at least two of them a day anyway.”

Thanks guys!