Monday, August 3, 2015

Virtually Satisfying and then Some

Photo credit: Gwen Moran
Last evening, I went to a party. It was a beautiful night to celebrate a beautiful victory, and to top it all off, I met one of my Facebook friends.

Sounds silly, I know, but we writers have plenty of colleagues we've met only online. In my case, there was a real-world connection (mutual real-world friends), but in many cases, there isn't. Virtual colleagues meet online and cultivate relationships there as well.

Writing is a great gig, and for many writers, it's not only all we want to do, it's all we've ever wanted to do. But it's a solo gig, and one that non-writers don't fully understand. Conferences offer opportunities for face-to-face meetings with kindred spirits, but these come all too infrequently. As imperfect a medium as it may be, Facebook helps close that gap.

Don't get me wrong. My real-world friends are great supporters of my writing, and I appreciate them tremendously. But those colleagues that people engaged in other professions meet at the office? Writers don't have them. We're the only ones in our offices. Mostly, it's better that way, because it's the only way things get done.

But sometimes, we need to bounce an idea off someone who understands the industry. Or ask a question. Or commiserate over the unfairness of celebrity authors who can't actually write or the insurmountability of blank pages and rough drafts. Maybe even get out of our own little worlds and see what life's like.

That's where our virtual colleagues come in.

And it's pretty cool when Facebook friends turn out to be even better in the real world than in the virtual world. Last night, my virtual-turned-real-world colleague and I got to talk about writing in real time in the real world. Our daughters teamed up to play a mean game of ladder ball and together, we all celebrated a young lady's triumph over cancer. All in all, a great night.

Score one for the real world.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Saturday Special: Organizing Tricks for Teacher

#3 (
On Thursday, I went onto campus and spent about an hour in my office checking emails and making to-do lists. My friends who teach have begun making forays back into their classrooms, preparing for the school year ahead. Some of them never really left.

So, in their honor, I'm sharing a great Buzzfeed post about organization ideas for teachers. Most are designed for elementary school teachers, but many will transfer to secondary and post-secondary staff, as well as parents, or anyone looking for ways to keep paper, pens and the like neat and corralled.

As for me, I'm going into my basement to retrieve what I need to make #19 a reality in my campus office.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Friday Feature: 13 Questions: Are You a Leader or a Follower?
Early on in my first job as a school counselor, a high school principal I greatly admired asked me if I'd ever considered becoming a principal.

I laughed out loud. No, I told him. Not even once.

I didn't want to supervise adults. I wanted to teach the kids. And I still feel that way.

But over the years, I've come to learn that it's possible to be a leader without actually being the person in charge. And it's possible to be the person in charge, but not be a leader. I've worked for both kinds of people, and the best leaders are those who, in the words of another principal I admire, "let their wild horses run."

Those two principals were very, very different, but they had one thing in common, and it was the reason I enjoyed being a part of their staffs. They didn't believe in micromanaging. They wanted to nurture, to assist, to facilitate. They knew when to step in and when to back off.

How about you? Based on the traits described in this article, are you a leader or a follower?

Which do you aspire to be?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

10 Ways I Know it's a Backwards To-Do List Kind of Day

Blackout Cupcake

Several months ago, I wrote about my backwards to-do list. Like double chocolate cupcakes and strawberry daiquiris, backwards to-do lists aren't an everyday sort of thing. Here are 10 ways I know from a mere glance at my master list that it's a backwards to-do list kind of day:

  1. The list of things I need to accomplish is long. Very long. 
  2. I start procrastinating before I even get out of bed.
  3. The master list has a little bit of everything on it, and is spread out across two or more little snippets of paper in addition to the actual list itself.
  4. The things on the lists require different kinds of thought: creative thought, logical thought, no thought at all (this usually means laundry and restoring some semblance of order to the house).
  5. Did I mention that the list is long? Interminably so.
  6. I start thinking things like, "I'll never get all this done. I should just go play Words With Friends."
  7. I have enough control over the day's schedule (ostensibly) that I should be able to make significant progress if I stay focused.
  8. Someone in the neighborhood has decided to cut down a tree, mow the lawn for hours or play basketball right outside my office window, ensuring that every ounce of distractibility I possess will kick in with full force.
  9. I need a reward for powering through the master list, and a backwards to-do list has fewer calories than a double chocolate cupcake and less alcohol than a strawberry daiquiri.
  10. Reading the backwards to-do list at the end of the day will motivate me to get up and do it all over again the next day.

Monday, July 27, 2015

To Sleep, Perchance to be Productive

I slept in on Saturday. By the time I got out of bed, it was late enough to be "too late" by post-college grad standards, but not so late as to have become completely embarrassing.

I'm very good at berating myself when I think I've slept too late. So, to put things into perspective, I add eight hours to the time I went to bed to see if I'm as lazy as I fear a I am. It's rare that the time I get up actually exceeds that time frame; most days, it falls woefully short.

But on Saturday, it was a pretty close match. I actually got close to eight hours of sleep.

Once I was up, I kicked into high gear, and you know what? Saturday turned to to be a very productive day. Even without a nap.

Photo: kakisky via Morguefile
I've read a lot about sleep, some of it fact, some of it questionable. I know that sleep is essential to effective functioning, and that most of us who think we're operating at peak capacity have no idea what peak capacity really is. I've read that lack of sleep messes with our endocrine system, and contributes to obesity. I've also read that people who sleep later have higher IQs than those who rise early. That article even cited my default body clock (to bed around 1, up around 8) as common in that group, but I'm pretty sure I read that one on Facebook so I doubt it counts.

But for me, Saturday was verification of the first information tidbit. On several occasions throughout the day, I caught myself thinking, "So this is what enough sleep feels like." The correlation between sleep and productivity -- for me, on this one day, anyway -- was unmistakable.

I wish I could say I learned a life lesson and repeated the drill yesterday, but that's not true. Once again, my body clock and the plans we'd made were on different schedules, leaving me sleep deprived early in the day and leading into a Monday that, even by noon, felt a tad off-kilter.

So much for peak efficiency. Then again, it is Monday.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Saturday Special: BrightNest

I'm cheating a little today, linking to a blog post I wrote at about the BrightNest app and website. Cheating because I'm citing myself, but otherwise, the link meets my criteria for a Saturday Special: something informative that contributes to our continuing quest for an organized life.

BrightNest is kind of like a woman's magazine with really short articles on a variety of topics, organization among them. There are lots of fun hints on topics from organization to home maintenance to recipes, all easily digested (bad pun intended). Quickie questionnaires allow you to personalize the articles that pop up so they're suited to your needs.

Sure, there are lots of magazines out there that provide the same content, but BrightNest is tailored to those of us who might not have time to sit down and read a whole magazine, making it a great little resource for when you have only a little time.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Friday Feature: Smart Phones and Dumb Interactions

The other day, my husband accused me of being on Facebook all the time. While that's not exactly accurate, he does have a valid point. In the evening hours and in the car when he's driving, I'm on Facebook a lot. Way too much, some might say. In fact, a lot of our conversations in the car begin with "Listen to this...." followed by something I've read on social media.

I don't have any trouble putting my phone away when I make up my mind to do so, but it does have a way of creeping out of my purse and into my hand when I'm between tasks. Honestly, if I were childless, it would be out a lot less often, but still, I can't completely blame my daughter for my bad habits. Back when I had a flip phone, I used it only for phone calls.
And therein lies the problem. Back in the days of flip phones, I might have left my phone on the table during a meal with a friend if I wanted to make sure not to miss a call. And, since a call would have been the only thing to interrupt us, I wouldn't have been terribly distracted by the mere presence of the device. Now that I might miss a text, an email or the latest "news" on Facebook or Twitter, I'm quick to fill "down time" with a quick glance at my phone. Sadly, "down time" can consist of less than a minute between tasks.

But is leaving the phone (silenced) on the table such a bad thing? According to an article in Scientific American, "the mere presence of a phone affects how you relate to others." Yikes. I'm good at silencing my phone, and I rarely use notifications (definitely not for Facebook), but I must admit, I've grown increasingly careless about putting my phone away entirely.

Even if it is a cool trend, I certainly don't want to go back to using a one-purpose flip phone -- especially as a parent of a teenager whose first choice of communication is texting. I do, however, want to preserve manners and respect, so perhaps it's time to live by another old saw: out of sight, out of mind.

Challenging indeed.