4 Ways to Find More Time to Read

One of the most common questions I get it HOW DO YOU READ SO MANY BOOKS!?

Left to right.

hahahahaha. Ahem.

It is natural for me because reading is one of my favorite hobbies. It serves as entertainment, distraction, escape, and personal growth. Reading has always been encouraged in my family. We often trade books and talk about what we are reading.

But I know that is not reality for everyone. Often people grow up only reading the books school requires or going to bed with no stories read to them or generally reading not being a value. When people with these reading histories ask me how I read so many books, they are often asking how I find the time to read so much.

I want to share a few suggestions on different ways I have fit reading into my schedule during different seasons of life. Reading looked different when I was a parent to school-aged kiddos compared to my current empty nest life. When I was a full time grad student also working full time, fun reading looked really different to times when I was between jobs for a several weeks. Vacations vs. work days. Winter vs. summer. All of these are variables that impact reading, but there are some common tools and tricks that might help you find more time to read.

Timers

You will be amazed at how quickly you can get through a book by reading only 20 minutes per day. Set a timer for 20 minutes and over a couple weeks you will be able to get through a 300-page book. If you don’t think you have 20 minutes in your day, I gently suggest that you look at the report on your phone that tells you how much time you spend on different apps, particularly social media.

If you truly don’t have 20 minutes, what about 10 minutes? I have family members who spend more time than that on the toilet everyday.

Identify small pockets of time

A corollary to the 20-minute suggestion is to identify pockets of time where you wait. These could be small pockets of time that occur naturally throughout your day. Car pool lines, picking up groceries, waiting for dinner to cook / water to boil, while the coffee percolates.

You also could manufacture small pockets of time for you to fit some reading in. Arriving to an appointment extra early, placing your dinner order at the restaurant instead of calling ahead. Yes – generally being “inefficient.” But is it truly inefficient if it is building in time for a hobby that brings you joy?

Different formats

If you find yourself without time to pick up a book, maybe switching to audiobook would work for you. Are you in  “Mom’s Taxi” years of parenting? The car is a great place to engage in audiobooks. A Kindle is a great option for readers on the move. Often a book is cumbersome to carry around, but a Kindle can hold hundreds of books and easily fit into a purse or briefcase.
Perhaps the fiction books you are reading are not really landing with you lately or you lose track of fiction books on audio. Switch to non-fiction. Putting down romance for historical fiction or sci fi might reignite your love of books. Burnt out on non-fiction self-help? Pick up memoir to break out of your rut.

Keep a list of suggestions

What happens when you identify small pockets of time, set your timer and then can’t decide what to read? Plan ahead for this eventuality by keeping a list of book recommendations. You probably have come across suggestions in magazines, podcasts, this blog, friends, and more. Keep these suggestions in 1 location so you can grab a title when you are stumped.
Some readers like a simple notebook to list their To Be Read books. Others use a Word document or Excel list. I use the app Goodreads. You can read more about this decision here.

Your Turn

If you are a regular reader, how do you make time in your day? If you are not, what is keeping you from reading more?
By |2021-09-12T19:58:05-04:00September 14th, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Finding Happiness in Hobbies

I attended a wedding this weekend and during the reception I watched 2 sisters dance together. One was 18 and the other 12, and the PURE JOY they had dancing was so fun to watch. I felt happy watching them be happy.

I want to talk to you more about this idea of “happy.” What is it, what does it feel like, how do you get it, and better yet – how do you KEEP it?

First, What It Is Not

Media makes it seem like happiness is something everyone should strive to feel on a regular, consistent basis. I have found this to not be realistic nor sustainable. I only know a few people whose neutral state is effusive happiness. And even then, I wonder if I know them well enough to see their true self.

Please don’t hear that when I encourage you to find things that make you happy, that means that you should fake happiness to be palatable to society.

Not. At. All. You deserve more. You deserve a life you don’t need to escape.

Redefining Happiness

Instead of trying to eliminate unpleasant feelings and situations, a more Sustainably Productive (SusPro) way of living is to identify situations, activities, and people who bring that happiness. This is where the Mental Well-being pillar of Sustainable Productivity comes in: Hobbies.

The Pittsburgh Mind Body Center study about how leisure activities impact mental and physical health demonstrates the value of hobbies for sustainable productivity.

Higher participant score on leisure time activity showed the following improvements:

  • Lowered levels of blood pressure, total cortisol, waist circumference, body mass index, and levels of depression
  • Additionally, it showed raised levels of positive psychosocial states, life satisfaction, life engagement, quality of sleep, exercise outcomes, and perceptions of better physical function {even when they factored out sports as hobbies)

Getting Started

What if you don’t know what makes you happy? What if you don’t even know what hobby you might want to try? I would like to suggest you begin by simply noticing what you notice.

  1. Identify the feeling of happiness, what does that literally feel like? When I was watching the sisters joy at dancing, my heart felt full, my stomach and mind were both calm, my face was smiling, and I just felt present.
  2. Once you know what happy might feel like, start to notice when those feelings are present at other times in your day. Does your stomach unclench when you left your phone at home and had silence in the car ride to the grocery store? Does the smile come back with internet cat videos? What smells, tastes or feelings are around you when your monkey mind finally settles?
  3. Now find out what activities can help you find more of these moments. If it is a certain smell, could you take up a hobby making bath and body products. If music makes you smile, maybe a dance class, singing lessons, or just making play lists is the hobby to make time for.
  4. Quit if it isn’t working. It does not mean it was wrong, it just means you have data points to try something new. I thought I wanted to learn to sing and did a few duets with Bixby on acoustic guitar. Turns out I don’t want to learn to sing, I want to do more karaoke. Subtle shift, but I never would have figured that out if I had not tried.

Your Turn

Each of us will have different feelings that indicate happiness. I would love to hear what yours are and what hobbies bring that out in your life!

By |2021-07-26T20:39:19-04:00July 27th, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Reading Relapse

Remember how I said I was going to read less? I reduced my reading goal so I could free up time to create more of my own content?

Welp, you are only as sick as your secrets so I am here to tell you I relapsed this weekend. I finished three books I had going, and started and finished 3 more. Over a span of 4 days. It is a disease. I am powerless.

In my defense, this was not all my fault.

  1. I was traveling so I just had to do the Read and Return thing. It is not a flight without a R&R book.
  2. The reason for the trip was to help my dad and sister pack up my mother’s things, which I knew would be emotional so I wanted more books to comfort me instead of forcing productivity on the plane.
  3. When I arrived I saw my sister was finishing a book that I had requested from the library MONTHS ago. She finished it shortly after we arrived so I had an opportunity to snatch it and read before she flew home.
  4. We finished early and had time for about an hour at the pool on the last day. I can’t go to the pool without a book – I am not a monster!

But alas, I am here to come clean with a recap of what took me off the clean and narrow path.

Books I Finished

I had three books in progress that I knocked out over the weekend.

Keep Sharp by Sanjay Gupta

My dad bought this, and we are passing it around the family. It is a mix of neuroscience that bounced off my brain at times and practical advice that you can incorporate into your life. Much of his advice is part of the Sustainable You program as well!

The Janson Directive by Robert Ludlum

I really want to be a Robert Ludlum fan, but this is strike 2. And it took 650 pages to get to strike 2 (I cannot even remember what strike 1 was). His books are massive deep dives into foreign policy, weapons, overlapping timelines that don’t need to be there, and poorly written romance scenes. I can’t believe I carried this around the airport. I should have thrown it in the pool when I finished.

Three Girls from Bronzeville: A Uniquely American Memoir of Race, Fate, and Sisterhood by Dawn Turner

This was a book I read on my Kindle after getting an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) from Netgalley. This was gut wrenching at times, eye opening all throughout. You cannot understand what privilege means unless you hear – and listen to – what others walk through to know their story.

Books I Started and Finished

Next there were three books that I started and finished over the course of the 4 days.

The Book of Lost Names by Kristen Harmel

While I will always pick up a book about World War II, I loved this point of view and combination of stories – forgers, book lovers, resisters. All from an airport Read and Return! What is not to like?

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Super quick read from multiple narrators. I called the twists but really enjoyed getting there. It was extra fun because my sister finished reading it the day before so I was commenting as I read and we were able to have our own little book club discussion during our visit.

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter by Margareta Magnusson

OK, not the best choice for a trip spent cleaning out my late Mother’s things, but when the hold comes up at the library you roll with it, right?! This was a super fast read (only 137 pages), filled with frank, practical advice, encouragement, and anecdotes about getting rid of crap now. Between this book and the weekend spent purging 154 reusable shopping bags and 77 bath towels, I came home and scheduled an appointment with a local consignment store.

 

Your Turn

What are you reading right now?

Note: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

By |2021-06-22T08:03:34-04:00June 22nd, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Creativity and Relationships

Soooooo to say I have been in a bit of a creative slump in the last several weeks would be an understatement. I have tried applying my 2021 theme: Wear life like a loose garment.

I have maintained this weekly blog post and related social media content and let that be enough. It was fine, but I still have not broken out of the slump.

Now I want to try the other side of the coin and Laura Tremaine (an author and podcaster who I pretend is my friend in real life) has the perfect opportunity for me – a daily social media writing challenge.

Why It Works

Creativity and relationships are part of the Mental Well-being pillar of Sustainable Productivity. Research has shown that loneliness has a negative impact on mental AND physical health. Additionally, creativity (and hobbies in general) reduce stress hormones, blood pressure, and other markers of stress.

To say 2020 impeded our creativity and relationships would be an understatement. When those 2 components suffer, our Mental Well-being suffers which leads to an overall loss in productivity. This is not a sustainable model. This is burnout.

I am not saying you should put blinders on to the grief caused by 2020. I am saying it is important to grieve those things and give yourself a break. It is equally unhealthy to stuff negative feels so that you can power through your to do list.

But all crises end. Darkness turns to dawn. Maybe you are like me and are starting to see a sliver of light on the horizon.

It is time to reach toward that smidge of sunshine, grab on and crack open a new chapter.

Let me show you what I have in mind.

How It Works

For every day in May there is a prompt that I will write about and want to invite you to come along with me. You don’t have to be a writer or aspiring writer – just someone who wants to share a bit each day. Don’t let the fact that it’s a couple days into the month deter you from starting. Check out the themes below and jump in on themes that move you. The point of this exercise is not to be on social media more. It is about leveraging social media to use creativity and relationships to build a life we don’t need to escape.

If you choose to join the challenge, use the hashtags #OneDayMay and #SustainableSue so we can find each other in a search.

By |2021-05-02T08:58:17-04:00May 4th, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Ways to Improve Physical and Mental Health

Spring forward and the vernal equinox sure help me improve mental and physical health! It’s that time of year when we start to come out of hibernation. I have a bit more energy to tackle, well – anything. If you have been around here for a minute, you know how much I love books and gardening. These are a couple of my favorite hobbies. I want to share with you why they also improve mental and physical health in hopes you will be inspired to add a hobby to your life. 

Benefits of Books

While self-improvement and memoir are in my top favorites to read, fiction is what is my favorite for escape, relaxation and general enjoyment. Research proves this is not just in my head. Reading fiction can

  • Reduce stress by 68% – demonstrated by lowered heart rate and muscle tension
  • Enhance “Theory of Mind” which is the ability to understand other’s mental states and show increased empathy. 
  • Increase your life span. According to Social Science and Medicine, those who read 3.5 hours per week had a 17|% lower risk of dying in the next 12 years. Reading MORE than 3.5 hours per week lower their risk by 23%. 

Source: Dr Caroline Leaf

Benefits of Gardening

Gardening can be equally healthy – both mentally and physically. You don’t have to have an elaborate or expansive property, even a simple container garden on the balcony of an apartment can bring you benefits. 

Benefits of Hobbies in General

While books and gardening might not be your jam, I cannot encourage you enough to find your jam. Hobbies give you a respite from the grind. You are more than the sum of your work hours. Whether that work is something that gets a W2 or not you need a hobby. 

  • Stay at home moms need time to give to themselves just as generously as they give to all of their people ALL DAY (and sometimes night) LONG.
  • CEOs need to take off the high heels and put up their feet to just be, not to solve all the problems. 
  • And where are my teachers? Sheesh, you are the CEO, mothers, tech support, and educators that the rest of us can’t even pretend to keep up with. 

It is more important to find some kind of hobby that to find the perfect hobby. No matter what you try, the simple pursuit of a hobby is what will reduce your need to escape your life. 

Extra Credit

Hobbies are just as important as laughter. If you want bonus points towards creating a life you don’t need to escape, check out this “No’s of Hobbies” podcast episode. 

By |2021-03-21T12:11:15-04:00March 23rd, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Fundamental Reading Question #2: 4 Books Everyone Should Read

This is part 2 in the Fundamental Reading Question series. You can read about Question 1 here.

I love to be bossy. I do not consider “bossy” to be an insult. So when my friend, Genay, tossed Fundamental Reading Question 2 at me, I immediately opened my mouth to tell her what I thought everyone should do.

But when I opened my mouth, I was speechless. Crickets.

Here is the question that stumped me. Fundamental Reading Question #2: What books should everyone read?

I have been procrastinating writing this post because of that word SHOULD. There is nothing about a Sustainably Productive life that includes the word SHOULD. Yet, I love talking about books, and I love this Fundamental Reading Question.

So with apologies to Genay, I am going to give an answer a bit tangent to this second Fundamental Reading Question. Here are 4 categories of books everyone should read.

Books That Feel Familiar

Reading is not just a hobby for me – it is an escape, a comfort, a respite, and a joy. Definitely something that can help make my life Sustainably Productive. While I rarely re-read a book, but I do have themes that I tend to gravitate towards.

I will read anything about World War II and am fascinated by the politics of the time and how the Third Reich unleashed its hate and fury on the world while good people stood by and let it happen. I will read about concentration camps, resistance groups, both sides of the war, the years leading up to it, the chaos of the whole decade, and the rebuilding after. This topic feels familiar to me and is always a go to topic I pick up when shopping at used book sales.

Taking a very hard turn from WW2 is Little House on the Prairie (LHOP). These are comforting to me, and I recently found Caroline – same stories as the Laura Ingalls Wilder series, but from Ma’s point of view. I watched LHOP growing up and started rewatching last year when it came to Amazon Prime. It is familiar to me. Although revisiting it as an adult makes me cringe at some things we thought were ok to allow on TV in the 70s, the idea of homesteading and family is familiar and comforting.

I have a couple favorite authors that are familiar to me as well. I will read anything by Fredrik Backman or Jodi Picoult. Although their recent releases were misses for me, I will give them a pass. It was a pandemic year after all.

Find a familiar genre or author that you gravitate towards. If you get in a reading slump, return to these. It never fails.

Books That Come Recommended

I will forever and always read what Laura Tremaine tells me to. She is a fellow booklover who has similar reading taste as me. What she recommends, I know I will like. With the exception of A Man Called Ove, books she has disliked have also landed on my Abandoned Books list. [I am not sure how you can’t love a curmudgeon, but I guess Laura is allowed to be wrong once.]

The flip side of this is a podcaster who has the opposite reading taste from me. I know if she recommends something, I will not like it. This is actually helpful because I know what NOT to read – or at least prioritize lower on my TBR. Conversely, when she hates a book, I put it on reserve at the library.

If you are looking to find reading mentors, I recommend starting with Anne Bogel. She has a podcast, a blog, seasonal reading guides, and a reading challenge. Something for everyone for sure! Along the same theme of accessibility for all, her podcast is set up to understand what her guest likes and dislikes in books, then Anne gives recommendations. So if the guest loves sci fi fantasy and so do you, maybe you will like the recommendations Anne gives the guest.

I would love to be your reading mentor! You can also sign up for the Sustainable Sue Bookmobile and I will send you a notice whenever I finis a 5-star read.

Books That You May Not Like

It is ok to abandon a book. Can I let you in on a secret? I have even thrown a book or two because I did not like them that much. Think of it this way – if you don’t identify what you DON’T like, it is hard to identify what you DO like. You may find you like a certain genre, but hate another. You may not be able to read a THING about the Depression Era, but futuristic sci-fi is what keeps the pages turning. Books you don’t like is a category of Fundamental Reading Question #2 because it means you are trying new things.

Speaking of sci fi fantasy – I just cannot. I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane because everyone else did. Same thing with The House of Salt and Sorrows. Caving to peer pressure and picking these books up did improve my reading life though. I learned that I do like fantasy (hello, Harry Potter!), and I do like sci fi (looking at you, anything by Blake Crouch). But I need to keep those separate – it is the combination of sci fi fantasy that is not my jam.

Books That Make You Question

This category of books you should read will probably be the hardest to approach – more so than even reading books you don’t like. Books that make you question what you have always known as fact can rattle the foundation that you were raised on. Here are three suggestions on where you can start.

  1. American Dirt. Anti-immigration comments and views of children torn from their families at the border break my heart. The “helpful” advice, “Go back where you came from” is unacceptable. Read American Dirt and ask yourself if you are the kind of person that you would force another human being to return to a country where they will most likely be killed. American Dirt is a story about why a family fled their home and what hardships they encountered on the way to America. There is controversy about the fact a white woman wrote the story of these Mexicans fleeing from Acapulco, but don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater by skipping this read. It is an entry point for those who need and want to learn more about immigration stories.
  2. And the Band Played On and The Great Believers. No one deserved to be dismissed like gay men were during the AIDS crisis. These two books are heart breaking and at times outrageous examples of how terribly people can treat other people. Yet both books do have hope as there are good people who stood up for what was right, not what was easy.
  3. Nickel and Dimed, Evicted, and Hillbilly Elegy. Minimum wage is a hot debate right now. Cost of living keeps going up while basic wages don’t. Sure most teenagers don’t need to be paid $15/hour for their summer jobs, but some entry level jobs support families of 4 or more. Americans living below the poverty line cannot solve the problem by working harder and saving more. I admit I am a bleeding heart liberal, but I was raised to believe hard work can solve all of your problems. These 3 books were startling eye openers about poverty and the factors that often create a perfect storm.

I would like to offer the old saying: you always do what you always did, you always get what you always got. Ignoring other people, lifestyles, cultures around you out of ignorance is not ok. I encourage you to pick up one of these books to see where you might some similarities to your story. We are all more alike than we are different.

Your Turn

If you choose to pick these books up I would love to hear about it. Just a reminder I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and will earn a commission if you click through any of the links in this post and make a purchase. In the meantime, think about your answer to Fundamental Reading Question #2. Tell me what books do YOU think everyone should read?

By |2021-02-13T10:31:26-05:00February 16th, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

What Should I Read?! Get Book Recommendations Sent to Your Inbox

The question I get asked most often is, “What should I read?” I always have a stack of books on my literal and digital To Be Read (TBR) list. Here is a peek at the stack on my desk:

Do you ask yourself what to read? I want to deliver the answer to your inbox.

If you sign up for Sustainable Sue’s Bookmobile, every time I finish a 5-star read I will send the review to you within 24 hours, including a link to purchase online from an indie book store local to you. It is so simple – just add your email address to this link, and you are all set!

This is a perfect time to jump start a reading habit – the weather is cooler so there is usually less to do outside. Holidays have not ramped up full force yet. Plus we are all staying home more because of Covid.

There are mental and physical health benefits to reading, which makes it a great hobby to pick up. Research shows that regular reading:

  • improves brain connectivity.
  • increases your vocabulary and comprehension.
  • empowers you to empathize with other people.
  • aids in sleep readiness.
  • reduces stress.
  • lowers blood pressure and heart rate.
  • fights depression symptoms.
  • prevents cognitive decline as you age.
Click here for original source.

Still not convinced? Let me sweeten the pot! Everyone who signs up for the Bookmobile is eligible to win a new copy of All Things Reconsidered by Knox McCoy. This is a drawing only open to Sustainable Sue blog followers – this offer will not be posted to social media.

But wait! There’s more! Do you know book lovers who might want 5-star reads in their inbox or a chance to win a free book? If you send them this post and they sign up for the Bookmobile, just have them comment on this post to let me know you referred them and you will get a second chance at winning All Things Reconsidered!

You really cannot go wrong! Enter now – I will draw the winner at 8:00 pm on Halloween.

Let’s read more this fall and winter!

By |2020-10-26T17:27:22-04:00October 27th, 2020|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Crafts Make You Calm

The headline is true – crafts can make you calm. In fact, not only do crafts make you calm, but hobbies in general are good for your health! Let’s discuss.

When life is unsustainable

Burnout is a real thing. It is not something you can manage through or toughen up against. Think about what is happening in your life right now. Maybe you feel like you are withdrawing from friends and responsibilities – isolating yourself. Or after months of battling stress at work, you find yourself procrastinating on completing projects and tasks. Are you going in late or leaving early? In general are you short tempered with those around you at work and / or home?

But there is a difference between stress and burnout. Think of stress as overwhelm and burnout as a drain. Stress is the piling on. Demands on you may look like taking care of kids and parents or covering another person’s job during a hiring freeze. Or the pressure of weeks of daily carpooling that never lets you have a moment to yourself. With stress, you still feel there is hope to find a system, route, or process that can improve things.

Burnout, on the other hand, is empty of that hope. It is the drain of mental exhaustion. Often people who are burned out don’t always notice when it happens.

Here is a snapshot of the differences between stress and burnout:

Crafts make you calm, help deal with burnout

Source: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/burnout-prevention-and-recovery.htm

The good news is that hobbies can aid recovery from both stress and burnout. Let me show you how.

How hobbies make for sustainable productivity

It does not have to be crafts that make you calm. Maybe it is music or gardening or coin collecting or movies. Let’s define hobbies as small pockets of respite where you can literally heal and restore your mental and physical self. When you partake in a hobby of any kind, you are improving various aspects of your mental well-being. Here are just a few:

  • Higher levels of positive psycho-social states
  • Increased life satisfaction
  • Improved life engagement
  • Better quality of sleep
  • Enhanced exercise outcomes

I hear what you are saying – you don’t have time for a hobby. But consider me your wise older sister as I bluntly ask you this: Sure, but do you have time for the illness that all that stress is going to cause you?

Because that is where too much stress and too little leisure will take you. Here are some of the ways hobbies can impact your physical well-being:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduce total cortisol
  • Smaller waist circumference
  • Decreased body mass index

Taking up a hobby does not have to be a huge investment of time and money. If you want to pick up a potentially life saving hobby, keep reading.

Where to go from here

 Here are three suggestions of where you can start today.

  1. Start small. Make a list of what you might like to do. A simple list on the notes app on your phone will do. If you see your neighbor rolling out for a bike ride, and you think that might be fun, add it to the list. While sitting in your car during your child is at dance lessons, you see a notice for an adult dance class. If this sounds interesting, add it to your list. You don’t have to sign up, just make your list.
  2. Notice what you notice. I believe the universe (God, your Higher Power, whatever name you choose), will put things in your path to make good decisions easier. If you see guitar lessons advertised three different places maybe that is something that you should pay attention to. If you get invited to a Zoom painting class with your girlfriends right after you put “Learn to paint” on your list, it is not a coincidence. Notice what you start to notice. And notice how it makes you feel.
  3. Take stock of what you already have. I had a client who started taking online piano lessons because her kids’ abandoned keyboard was sitting in the corner of the living room. She had been frustrated for years at their lack of playing and considered the keyboard clutter. When we were exploring what she might like to do for a hobby, music kept coming up. I could see the light bulb go on when she realized the “junk” in the corner was actually useful! Look around – there are probably art supplies, fabric leftovers, sporting goods, random canned goods you could make into a creative recipe, and more.

Take time to notice and make your list. Let me know how it goes. We can connect on social media or in the comments below to celebrate successes or trouble shoot where you might be stuck. Let’s work together on creating a life you don’t need to escape.

 

By |2020-09-27T13:46:06-04:00September 29th, 2020|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

2 Quick Tips for Fellow Bookworms

I am a bookworm for sure. I wear this moniker proudly and love to give quick reading tips to fellow bookworms. A friend of mine gave me a sticker that declares this, and I have proudly posted this on my monitor in my office. I recently came across a Tweet with names for bookworms in other countries and it is FANTASTIC.

Quick tips for bookworms

One of my favorite questions to ask when making small talk is, “What are you reading right now?” Yes, this is what happens when you invite an Enneagram 1 Introvert to a party. We’re a barrel of laughs.

I met Bixby on Match.com and one of the questions that is on the profile is, “What is the last book you read?” Bixby’s response was, “Practical C++ Programming: Programming Style Guidelines.” I winked at him anyway thinking it was a joke. Alas, Dear Reader, it was not. But at least he reads SOMETHING.

If you don’t feel like you have time to read, check out how one of my favorite podcasters, Laura Tremaine, finds time to read. Also, you may have to adjust expectations in different seasons of life.

Quick tips for bookworms

Here is the stack of books I brought with me to read while in Indiana taking care of my dad. My brain is generally not in the space to read most of these. Luckily my mom was a voracious reader so I am rolling through all the books she has squirreled away all over the house and reading what the library sends my way via Kindle.

Many of you already do find time and ask for reading recommendations. Generally I get 2 different questions from readers that I wanted to answer today and help provide two quick tips for fellow bookworms.

Where do you get your book recommendations from?

I get book recommendations from all kinds of places – books, magazines, podcasts, blogs, newsletters, word of mouth, and in non-pandemic times, wandering around garage sales and used book sales. Here are a few tips.

Podcasts

My 2 favorite podcasts to get recommendations from are The Popcast with Knox and Jamie and 10 Things to Tell You. The Popcast gives green lights at the end of each episode and often includes a book recommendation. You can see a summary of their green lights on their website here.  Laura Tremaine is an avid reader and regularly brings book recommendations to her podcast, 10 Things to Tell You.

Blogs

I used to listen to the podcast What Should I Read Next, but something about Anne Bogel’s voice does not agree with me. I struggled through it for awhile because I have the same reading taste she does so I generally love her recommendations. But alas, that was not sustainable. So I changed to subscribing to the blog. Now her recommendations arrive in my inbox, and I read them in my head with my own grating voice.

Anti-recommendations

Just as important as recognizing a recommendation source is having an anti-recommendation source. There was a reading podcast that I listened to for about 6 months, but I noticed every time I read a book they recommended, I HATED it. Although I have no shame quitting a book (more on DNFing here), it sure saves time in virtual line at the library when I can just skip the ones I don’t like. What this looks like today is that I no longer listen to the podcast, but if I am on the fence about reading a book, I will check this podcast’s website. If they recommend it, I do not read it. This is nothing against the podcast. There are no bad books, just books that are not for me.

What books do you recommend I read?

The other quick tip for fellow bookworms is what books I recommend for you.

Goodreads

Goodreads is a website with a mobile app where you can keep track of what you want to read, have read, and are currently reading. You can see more about how to use Goodreads on this post. You can see all of my Goodreads shelves here and follow me to get a weekly notice from Goodreads about what I have added.

5-Star Reads

Some of you don’t want to sift through the 900+ books that I have reviewed on Goodreads. To make it easy to get 5-star recommendations delivered to your mailbox, click here. When I read a book that I give 5 stars, I will send you an email about it, including links to purchase the book if you want. I am an aggressive user of my local library and encourage you to do the same, but sometimes you don’t want to wait 6 months for the best book ever (I’m looking at you, City of Girls). Also, there is value to supporting the arts and part of that is buying books.

Your turn, fellow Ink Drinkers! Reply back to this email and tell me what you are reading or where you get your recommendations!

By |2020-08-17T09:29:45-04:00August 18th, 2020|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Gardening and Sustainability

Gardening and sustainability – its not just for the planet, gardening and sustainability are good for the soul in a variety of ways. Let me explain, and you might find you want to try it in an effort to create a sustainable you.

Mental Well-being

In general hobbies are good for improving your mental well-being. Over the years, researchers have documented numerous benefits of hobbies such as:

  • Reduced stress
  • Less depression and low mood
  • Increased happiness and relaxation
  • Improved communication
  • Enhanced relationships

There is more to life than work and sleep. If you are in a relationship, having hobbies on your own can offer a chance for you to break away to learn something new, then be excited to come home to tell your partner about the experience. Participating in hobbies with your partner can also be a different option to just vegging out on the couch. 

Gardening and Sustainability

Bixby at a recent cooking class we took together. It was great to change routine, learn knife skills from a professional chef, and eat the delicious creations we made in class.

 
But wait! There is more. Let’s peel another layer off of this onion.

Specifically My Mental Well-being

One of my hobbies is gardening. I have others, but I want to drill down into this one. I am not a great gardener, but I just love to get my hands in the dirt. I feel so accomplished when I leave an overgrown spot with a bin full of weeds and an open garden space with only what I love left in the dirt. 
 
 
This is not just a placebo effect or vitamin D benefits. Turns out there are microbes in the soil that have a similar impact to your brain as do anti-depressants. There is scientific evidence that microbes in dirt boost serotonin in your blood system. Seratonin is a mood elevating hormone. 
 
So while gardening is good exercise and creates a beautiful environment, it also has been scientifically proven to enhance your mental well-being. What a hobby! But there is more, let’s keep digging (pun intended). 
 
In project management we have a tool called the 5 Why’s. Don’t just look on the surface then move on assuming you covered it all. Let’s go one step more in this example about gardening and sustainability. 

Specifically Healing My Mental Well-being

As I write this I am at my dad’s house in Indiana helping him recover from a total knee replacement surgery. The last time I was here was when my mom died in January. Because of grief and a pesky pandemic, none of her stuff has been cleared out. It is like she went to the store and will be right back.
 
Including her gardens. My mom was a Gold-Level Master Gardener and honestly, a wizard with plants. It has been healing to putter around in her natural world pulling a weed here, staking a plant there. I talk to her out there. This is sustainability for me – more than just saving the planet. Saving my soul.
 
Gardening and sustainability

Scene from my mom’s garden. 

 
That is the power of habits. They can be as simple as a small hobby that gets you out of the house and boosts your mood or it can be a generational gift that supports your grief. What hobby do you have? Is there something you have been meaning to try or pick up that would be a good distraction for you? 
 
By |2020-08-02T10:52:49-04:00August 4th, 2020|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

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