Twelve books later

How many books are you guilty of reading at one time?

Every year, I set a new reading challenge for myself. I figured I would set a low goal in hopes that I’d exceed it by a long shot.

For 2018, I set myself a lofty goal of … one book.

Four months and twelve books into the year, I’m juggling a number of reads I’ve lost count.

A worn copy of On Writing by Stephen King picked up from the local book exchange. The latest edition of Müller-Brockmann’s Grid Systems in Graphic Design. An e-book of Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design by Michael Bierut for reading on the go. A hardcover of True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership lent by a close friend.

To be honest, the latter intimidated me too much to keep reading past Chapter Two. Grid Systems I lugged around my home from my bedside table to my desk and back, reading a page or two a day.

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” — Stephen King

I’m training myself to enjoy reading again. To savour every page I read, and to take down passages I want to reread over and over. And to read whatever I feel like reading.

Most of the time it’s non-fiction. Sometimes it’s a sci-fi novella.

Off the top of my head, I think I started on … three, four other books as well?Of course, I’d get a lot more reading done if I wasn’t leaping from book to book. But where’s the fun in that?

Combating mental overwhelm

Doing a brain dump is helpful for when you’re feeling overwhelmed. It shifts your mindset from “don’t know what to do” to “this is what I know”. When all your thoughts are on paper, you know exactly what you’re dealing with.

You can schedule a brain dump once a week, or use it as an emergency tool when you hit mental overwhelm.

Write anywhere you please, whether it’s on your phone or a blank piece of paper. I write in a password-protected document on OneNote. I can write without hesitation when I know no one can access it but me.

Set a timer and write for at least five minutes. Use point form or longhand, whichever flows easier. Setting a timer gets you started, but feel free to write for as long as you like. The point is to write down every single thing that’s on your mind.

Take a step back and process your brain dump. View every problem as an individual issue, separate from the others. Tackling each problem one by one will help your situation seem manageable.

  • What is most urgent? What problems need to be solved before you can proceed with others? Brainstorm some solutions.
  • Are you missing some information? Make a list of things to research.
  • What can you work on right now? If it’s fast and easy to accomplish, do them first.

Even if you don’t come to an immediate solution, this simple exercise can trigger ideas that may help you get there.

Thinking about thinking

My friend Suha offered me a tip on battling negativity and it got me thinking.

One of my most persistent thoughts — you are not good enough — could easily lead me down a vicious negative spiral of thoughts.

The single thought could colour the rest of my day or week.

Track down the source of your thoughts.

“Your emotions are usually induced by a thought,” wrote Suha. “Influence your emotions by tracking back to its source and countering that thought by working through it.”

It struck me that a majority of my thoughts weren’t my own. Growing up, I wanted to do something, I did it. I taught myself how to code and design.

I didn’t pause to consider whether I was good enough.

As an adult, I was informed that I was in fact, not good enough repeatedly until I caved in and believed it.

Allow people to form opinions about you.

Today, I was casually reminded I was a perfectionist. It’s why I set high standards for myself. It’s why I never get anything done. And it’s ingrained in my DNA, which is why I will always be miserable.

In the past, I would have retaliated. Today, I took it.

I don’t have to agree with anyone who offers personal attacks as criticism. I can improve what I can, with the help of my unwavering support system.

Pause whenever you’re feeling negative.

Identify the root of why you feel the way you. Journaling or talking to a friend can be helpful.

The most important thing is to be aware of your thoughts, and to reexamine what you truly believe about yourself.