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.

March links

Interesting links on race and representation.

Article: For Decades, Our Coverage Was Racist. To Rise Above Our Past, We Must Acknowledge It

National Geographic owns up to its racist past. The iconic magazine examines what was include and excluded from the narrative of their coverage.

Video: The guide book that helped black Americans travel during segregation

During the segregation, this guide book helped African-American tourists travel the open road. Check out 99% Invisible’s podcast for a more detailed look at the Green Book.

Article: I’m a Disabled Man, and Here’s What You’re Getting Wrong About Stephen Hawking’s Death

Andrew Gurza explains why the way we talk about the death of Stephen Hawking is ableist.

Article: How to be Authentic in a Fake World

Society often tells you to be yourself, but what does that mean? Gustavo Razzetti writes about shedding the masks we wear in order to be authentic.


Goodbye Monday blues

More often than not, positivity comes out of negative things. That includes Monday blues. Instead of ignoring it, I use it as an opportunity to address what is bothering me and how I can tackle it over the next week.

On Sunday, write down all the tasks you need to get done. Then, prioritise the ones you need done urgently. For example, you could mark it with a star. Also, mark the tasks that can be done in under five minutes. Note all your daily tasks — this will also be included. Set deadlines for all your tasks. Once you have a list of all the tasks you need to complete, you can start distributing them.

Start every day with your morning routine. While it is tempting to get started immediately, taking time to look after yourself in the morning can help keep you from feeling overwhelmed. If you’re on the opposite end of the spectrum and tend to procrastinate, you can take advantage of this. Start the day with meditation — essentially “doing nothing” — and you’ll feel motivated to tackle those tasks you need to get done.

Group tasks that take less than five minutes together. You might discover that they will take less time to complete. If a task is urgent and takes under five minutes to complete, do it first thing in the morning. Plus, crossing out a bunch of tasks in quick succession can give you a slight focus boost.

Get started on the difficult tasks early. These might take time so set a deadline. If it will take more than one day or week, break them down into smaller tasks. This way, you’ll always have some progress on it.

Don’t rely on motivation. While motivation can help you work with more enthusiasm, it’s not going to be there all the time. Enjoy it while it lasts. It’s when you’re unmotivated that you need to keep going.

Allocate time to rest. Take a day off so you have something to look forward to. Decide when to stop working — either when you’re done with all your tasks, or at a certain time. Since you’ve completed your most important task early in the day, it is okay to stop for the day.

At the end of your week, reflect on what you can do better. Take note of when you’re most productive. It’s probably in the mornings — even for night owls.

Come Sunday, start again.