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 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 Three — Personality

Posted in self help by Steph Auteri on January 2, 2008
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I’d like to officially welcome you all back from the holidays. I tried to throw a few posts in there directly after xmas, but now we can really get back on track with finding more time (um, now that my schedule should finally be getting a whole lot less insane, but whatevs).

The next pillar in Laura Stack’s Find More Time is Personality. What this refers to are your regular habits, behaviors, and choices. Some of her oh-so-helpful advice:

  • Learn how to say no. Oh lordy, this is a tough one for me, and one I’ve only begun to move forward with (hence my proofing at the newspaper this past Thanksgiving Day and New Year’s Day, instead of bonding with my family members, and singing five masses at Christmastime). Learn to set boundaries with others, and also with yourself. Don’t do things out of guilt. Do them because you truly need to or want to do them.
  • Delegate. Learn to swallow your pride and ask for help when you need it. You’re not conceding defeat by admitting that you need help, or by acknowledging that someone else may be able to handle the task at hand better than you.
  • No procrastinating! I like to tell myself that I do my best work when spurred on by pure, unadulterated fear, but seriously folks. The more niggling little tasks you have rotting in the back of your mind, the more stressed you’ll feel. Why do that to yourself when it would be so much easier and pleasurable to just cross that task off your to-do list for good? Speaking of lists, it feels damn good to cross stuff off of them.
  • Don’t multitask. Really. Sometimes, when you try to juggle several things at once, you end up finishing nothing. And the things you do finish may not be up to par, because they did not receive your full attention. It’s often best to concentrate on just one task, all the way through to its conclusion, before moving on.
  • Be positive. Accept responsibility for your own stress levels. Most of the time, it’s not about that darn streak of bad luck. It’s about the way you handled it. You can read more about this in one of my previous posts.
  • Stop trying to please all of the people all of the time. This has a heckuva lot to do with our first bullet point.

Previous posts in this series covered Plans and Priorities. Next stop: Pests.

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.