How to Find More Time, Part Eight — Play

Posted in self help by Steph Auteri on February 25, 2008
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Hallelujah people, we’ve finally made it.

Because all work and no play means that you obviously don’t have enough toy–um, I mean, you’re working too damn hard, here I present to you the natural conclusion of Laura Stack’s Find More TimePlay. Because when you’ve mastered efficiency, you might actually have the time for it.

  • Create a wall between Life and Work. At the moment, I have been working since 8:30 this morning (and it is now 9:30 at night; ignore the time stamp on this post). I woke up and immediately started blogging for the Modern Materialist, then traveled into the city to proofread pieces at the paper (say that three times fast), then made my way back here where I’ve since been catching up on other blogging and freelance responsibilities. I am pooped. So…do as I say, not as I do.
  • Take a vacation. It’s good for you to get away and recharge every once in awhile. Michael (the hubby) and I plan on taking one major vacation each year. We’ve already drawn up a wish list that includes a Disney cruise, a road trip through the southwest, a trip to Portland, etc. We knocked Burning Man off the list because we were afraid we might die in the middle of the desert.
  • Just say no! I believe we’ve gone through this one before, but it bears repeating. Cut back on your commitments if they’re unenjoyable and overwhelming! Make times for the things that benefit you holistically.
  • Take a ‘Just Me’ Day. Every month. Just do it. (This is the opposite of “just say no.”)
  • And finally, Carpe Diem. This makes me think of Dead Poets’ Society, which I love, because I’m a writing dork, and that one scene where everyone stands on their chairs gets me all worked up. But seriously. Since I’m telling you to say no, I want to make sure you’re saying no to the right things (or would they be considered the wrong things?). Say yes to everything else. Your life will become richer for it.

How to Find More Time, Part Seven — Post

Posted in self help by Steph Auteri on February 20, 2008
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For the love of God, it seems as if this series will never end, right? Well, in case you haven’t just up and purchased the book already, here’s a summary on Laura Stack’s chapter about your “post,” or your set of responsibilities.

Though Stack goes on at great length about hiring out tasks and being more efficient, here are the tidbits that spoke to me the most:

  • Relish Your Role as Social Chair. Though I didn’t fully embrace my nomination to social chair way back in my sorority days (don’t ask and don’t laugh), I’ve since realized the importance of making the effort to be social in an age when we’re so overwhelmed by work, errands, and the like. Find yourself some couple friends. ::waves to Nicole&Mike and Dawn&Jay:: Don’t neglect your old, non-couple-y friends. Plan family gatherings and host guests on the holidays (and any other old day). Just because there’s work to be done, don’t let the human element seep out of your life, or you’ll be the worse for it.
  • Don’t Wait for It to Pile Up. Perhaps clean-ups wouldn’t be such a huge, insurmountable undertaking if I had just put things exactly where they belonged once I ceased needing them, or if I at least did a little bit of tidying up every day. In short, I need to stop being so damn lazy.
  • Don’t Be Caught Unawares at Dinnertime. I will invariably come home from work, exhausted and hungry and just the tiniest bit cranky, and my husband will already be there, in his pajamas, at the computer, and be all: “What’s for dinner?” Is it not an absolute miracle that I have not yet smothered him in his sleep with his own pillow!? Stack’s brilliant tip? A meal plan! This is something we are planning to put into effect quite shortly so that we stop standing around in our pajamas, wondering what we could possibly eat, and then eating ramen noodles and Hungry Man TV dinners.

The next post will be the last in this series: Play!


Is that preemptive?

Previous Posts

How To Find More Time, Part Six — Paper

Posted in self help by Steph Auteri on February 5, 2008
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I’m supposed to be getting my stuff together, in order to file for taxes, but my filing cabinet (and everything in the vicinity of my desk) is an absolute disaster area. In Laura Stack’s Find More Time, Stack writes about what I should have been doing with this mountain of loose paper for the past year.

I’m always amazed to find different aspects of my life in such disarray, especially since I’m so enamored of organizational tools in general. Whether or not , personally, get it together, I was just tickled by some of the tips stack had to offer:

  • Put together a binder. I love binders. Really I do. In the past, I’ve had binders for decorating ideas, favorite quotes from both books and songs, work stuff, choir music, etc. Stack suggests filing things (I find a mixture of the binder format and the filing cabinet format easiest for the following) in three different areas: action, project, and reference. Those project- and reference-related papers can go in the filing cabinet. As for the action papers, organize them by the date in which they need to be done, so that you’re never scrambling (or just missing deadlines entirely) at th last minute. Stack goes into this at some depth in her book, and I thought it was just about the awesomest idea ever.
  • Consider that you might possibly die tomorrow. Okay, this is more of a reference tool than a tip, but Stack gives a comprehensive list of all the personal info you should have gathered together in a convenient place in case you ever do kick the bucket. I suppose this could be construed as, um, morbid, but a good amount of the info (attorney, physician, tax consultant, safe deposit info, location of marriage and birth certificates and mortgage papers, bank info, etc.) could be quite handy to have at the ready anyway.

I could go on, but Stack’s action-filing idea is really the mot priceless thing ever. If you’re curious about what other tips she has to offer, you’ll have to crack open the book.

Previous Entries in This Series:

  1.  Plans
  2. Priorities
  3. Personality
  4. Pests
  5. Possessions

How to Find More Time, Part Five — Possessions

Posted in self help by Steph Auteri on January 24, 2008
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This past weekend, we finally packed up all of the Christmas decorations, so that our condo could be restored to normalcy. Only problem was…we were packing up more decorations than we had unpacked at the beginning of the season. And room is our storage space was getting slim, what with all the books I had piled up that I kept meaning to bring to the Montclair Book Center…and all the clothing I had stuffed into bags that I kept meaning to donate to charity…

Sometimes, it feels as if I’m drowning in clutter. And that’s what makes it so damn hard to find anything I do need when the situation calls for it (such as the gym membership pass I finally gave up looking for last night).


So we’ve already gone over Plans, Priorities, Personality, and Pests. Thank the lord that the next pillar in Laura Stack’s Find More Time is Possessions.

Some of the best tips from this chapter:

  • Devote each weekend to a different aspect of clutter. The plan Stack draws up for herself is closets on weekend one (and my pantry, hall closet, linen closet, and bedroom closet sure could use some tidying up); paper items on weekend two (such as magazines, catalogs, coupons, and receipts); reaing on weekend three (though her suggestion of getting rid of a niggling reading pile entirely horrifies me); correspondence on weekend four; storage on weekend five; and things that need fixing on weekend six.
  • For the love of god, keep your kitchen organized. This is a tough one for me, and she lists steps that should be taken, such as making frequently used items more prominent in placement; freeing up counter space; and throwing out what you know you won’t eat. I wonder what she’d say about all that junk mail spilling over on the kitchen table.
  • Set up an effective office space. One that doesn’t look like mine, with old books and sheet music and recycling in various piles on the floor, things strewn across the top of the desk, wires mixing it up where my feet go…

If you keep up with the first bullet point, everything should follow. So it looks like I’m going to need to roll up my sleeves and tackle my closet problems this weekend. I trust you’ll hold me accountable.

Next pillar: Paper.

How to Find More Time, Part Four — Pests

Posted in self help by Steph Auteri on January 15, 2008
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Speaking of more time, my web mag internship just ended, so I will have significantly more time to devote to this blog.

I know. You don’t believe me. And I don’t blame you, but my schedule is now significantly more open and, thanks to Laura Stack’s Find More Time, I’m also tackling all of the other time-eaters in my life. Following on from the pillars for Plans, Priorities, and Personality, the fourth pillar is Pests.

Out of all the advice Stack gave in this chapter, the bits that really rang a bell with me were:

  • Go into hiding. When you can’t restrain yourself from socializing while “working,” (::waves to Google chat & txt msging::), it takes eons to get even one, simple thing done all the way through. Turn off the ringer on all your phones, shut down AIM & G-Chat, put up the Do Not Disturb sign, and sequester yourself with your work. The quicker you can get through your work uninterrupted, the more time you’ll have left over for fun-time.
  • Turn off the technology. In addition to forgoing the Internet and phones, don’t allow yourself to become distracted by America’s Next Top Model, or any of those other sources of quality television. Minesweeper is also bad news.
  • Be aware of all the other things you do to procrastinate. And then don’t do them. I went through the checklist in Stack’s book and found that I am distracted by television; hanging out around the refrigerator; checking e-mail as it comes in; surfing the Net; staying in bed too long; playing with the cats; taking naps; dealing with home deliveries; doing home chores while I should be working; running errands one at a time; and socializing. I am so bad!
  • Smother your sick husband when he’s asleep. Okay, just kidding. But it took me forever to write this one, little post because he’s home sick and, I swear, he’s even whinier than I am. He’s been quiet for the past few minutes. I’m going to cross my fingers that he stays that way (and that he didn’t pass away in his sleep or something).

The next pillar deals with Possessions.

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.