Friday, February 24, 2017


Eat That Frog: Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time... Part 2


In the blog on Wednesday (February 22, 2017), I introduced the basic concept of the book Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracy.

Continuing on... How do you create the daily prioritized list of tasks?

In order to do so, I ask myself, "Which is the one activity that if I did in an excellent and timely fashion would have the greatest positive impact on the project as a whole or my life?" Thus, I use long-term consequences to make my near-term decisions.

The thing that I, personally, have been and continue to be guilty of is that I'm tempted to clear up the small things first. The thinking is that these are things that I can finish up quickly and that will make me feel accomplished and on top of things. Whereas the reverse is true. Time management is really life management, and while I am free to choose what to spend my time on, my ability to choose between important and unimportant things will determine my successes day-to-day and in the long-term.

Identifying the key constraints of all the tasks also determines the order of execution of the tasks. Say, I'm waiting for something to be delivered to me by someone else before I can start on my part of the project, then I can schedule that task for the afternoon instead of first thing in the morning, even if, it is the most important thing on my list for that day. In this case, the ugly morning frog will have to be the ugliest of all the frogs in my control and not dependent upon others.

An important determiner of the order of tasks is my assessment of my daily health and special needs. Say, my energy levels always flag around 10 o'clock and pick up after lunch at 1 o'clock. Well, then the ugliest frogs are set for the first half of the morning, unimportant tasks for mid-morning, and the lesser frogs for early afternoon.

Sometimes a project is too large and unwieldy to be tackled in one big chunk. So after it is broken down in various sub-tasks, the sub-tasks can be sequenced in order to get the whole project done.

These are some of the ways in which to develop a prioritized list of tasks to do on a daily basis.

One thing to remember is to unitask, that is, focus on only one task at time, and finish it before moving on to the next task on the list. See the blog on Monday (February 20, 2017) to learn how and why unitasking is better than multitasking.

Another thing to remember is to "develop a sense of urgency in everything you do," according to Brian Tracy. Once you start a task, develop the habit of working immediately and fast on it.

The unitasking and fast action help in achieving a task quicker with higher quality. It results in a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

So remember: Eat That Frog every single morning!


Wednesday, February 22, 2017


Eat That Frog: Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time... Part 1


This blog is about the book Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracy.

Eat That Frog! refers to the Mark Twain mantra: "Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day."

According to Tracy: "Your frog is your biggest, most important task of the day, the one you're most likely to procrastinate on. It is also the one task that can have the greatest possible impact on your life and results at the moment. [So] tackle your major task first thing each morning before you do anything else and without taking too much time to think about it. If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first."

The way I interpret this is that I should plan my day in advance (say, the night before or at the start of the day) by creating and typing up a prioritized list of tasks I want to get done that day.

"There is never enough time to do everything, but there is always enough time to do the most important thing." So the first thing I tackle the next day morning is either the most significant task and/or the most 'procrastinable' task. The latter is the task that I'm most reluctant to get done—it might be something I have been putting off for days. So getting that done and out of the way in the morning itself will take the pressure off from the rest of my day.

"Whenever you complete a task of any size or importance, you feel a surge of energy, enthusiasm, and self-esteem," says Brain Tracy. "The more important the completed task, the happier, more confident, and more powerful you feel about yourself and your world. The ability to concentrate single-mindedly on your most important task, to do it well, and to finish it completely, is the key to great success, achievement, respect, status, and happiness in life."

Who wouldn't want these feel-good endorphins first thing in the morning? Especially when, I don't have to have burning pain in my legs or heaving sides to get it? Frog legs for the win! Bon Appétit!


Monday, February 20, 2017


Unitasking Instead of Multitasking is the New Way to Work


I shall be doing a short series of productivity blogs this week. These blogs aren't new—they're from May 2013—but their currency hasn't waned yet.

The buzzword of the late 1990s and 2000s was multitasking. Everyone wanted to be multitasking or wanted it bruited about that they were efficient multitaskers.

But the key question these high achievers failed to ask was: Were they effective as multitaskers? That is, at the end of the day, given the same set of tasks, did the multitaskers or the unitaskers achieve more in terms of quality and quantity?

Has this ever happened to you? You're reading a document, when it suddenly reminds you of the email your friend sent to you yesterday that you hadn't replied to, so you open your email program, only to find two high priority emails from your boss that you start answering, only to be interrupted by your co-worker calling you for lunch. And so your mid-morning goes, by the end of which, all you've achieved is a meal.

Behavior and social scientists now believe that constant context-switching between various tasks causes people to be less effective overall. For something like walking and chewing gum, multitasking works. For something like, writing a scene of your book with complex fight choreography and also having a protracted discussion via email on the minutiae of book contract negotiations, multitasking is counterproductive to achieving the milestones for either of the two tasks.

Every time you switch away from task one to task two, you have to reload all the details about task two in your mind before you can start working. Similarly, switching back to task one requires you to reload those set of details, and back and forth.

In Monk Mind, blogger Leo Babauta explodes the myth that multitaskers are getting more work done and are getting more satisfaction from that work, in terms of quality and sense of achievement.

So for the intellectually challenging tasks, tasks that require a lot of attention and care, tasks involving physical and emotional intimacy, etc., unitasking is to be lauded and actively pursued, because focusing on single tasks is the way to go in order to achieve success.

How do you go about focusing the mind on a single task? Take the case of writing an article for a magazine.

Clear Away Distractions

Close all email systems, browsers, and social media programs.

Turn off all notifications.

Disconnect your computer from the Internet.

Clear your desk of all pieces of paper except for those necessary for your selected task. As in the case of writing the article, you'll need your folder of research material, interview transcripts, and notes.

Leave only the programs open that are necessary for achieving your selected task. So for the article, perhaps you'll need the folder where you've saved your research and nascent article files and your word processing program.

Plug in headphones, whether you play music or not is up to you. Headphones cut out ambient sound and also signal to other people that Serious Work Is In Progress.

Now, do nothing but that one task.

Practice Doing One Thing

If you can't focus on one task for more than a few minutes, start out with small goals in the begining. Say, you'll work on your task for five minutes, then reward yourself by taking a one-minute break to read email. Slowly build up to ten minutes on, one minute off; and so on. Be sure to have a timer set so that you can accurately build this up. In his article, Leo writes, "Set up a positive feedback cycle for single-tasking focus, and you’ll reverse the years of training your mind has gotten to switch tasks."

Sounds overly simplistic? Give it a try. The mind is flexible and can be retrained.

In conclusion, Leo writes, "While a few years ago I couldn’t sit down to work on something without quickly switching to email or one of my favorite Internet forums or sites, today I can sit down and write. I can clear away distractions, when I set my mind to it, and do one thing. And that changes everything: you lose yourself in that task, become so immersed that you pour everything you have into the work, and it becomes a meditative, transformative experience. Your happiness increases, stress goes down, and [quality of] work improves."

An aside...

However, busy moms will still prize multitasking. For example, here's what writer Monica Trasandes wrote in the December 2012 issue of Real Simple: "Recently I found myself walking toward the kitchen with a load of laundry in my arms, two empty coffee cups dangling from my fingers, and car keys tucked between my chin and the clothes."

I think Trasandes is a lightweight. I'd have a book tucked under one arm, a purse dangling from that elbow, the mugs held in one hand, while an empty water bottle and a board game are firmly clasped in the other hand, in addition to the laundry and the keys.


Thursday, February 16, 2017


#TBRChallenge Reading: My American Duchess by Eloisa James


2017 TBR Reading Challenge
Book: My American Duchess
Author: Eloisa James
My Categories: Regency Historical Romance
Wendy Crutcher's Category: New-to-You Author

I really enjoyed the book till the hero and heroine get married and then I felt it went flat for me from there. But the first three-fifths were great with snappy dialogue, great characterization, and a good plot.

Merry Pelford is an American heiress on the catch for a titled English gentleman. So far, she has fallen in and out of love easily, and she has jilted two American men. Despite being a Cabot of Boston, she has gained a reputation as being fickle. So her Aunt Bess and Uncle Thaddeus have bundled her out to her mother's homeland, England, where she may have a clean slate and a wide selection to choose from.

When the story begins, Merry has just been proposed to by Lord Cedric Allardyce, the twin brother of the Duke of Trent. Cedric is a virtual Pink of the Ton and very persnickety in his tastes. However, he also drinks heavily, gambles heavily, and spends money heavily. As a result, he's in need of an heiress bride, even if she is American. Merry has some idea that she's being courted for her money, but she's captivated by Cedric's good looks and fine address and believes him to be sincerely fond of her.

However, the same night of the proposal at Lady Portmeadow's ball, Merry has a run-in with the Duke of Trent. Neither knows the other out on the darkish terrace. And what ensues then in them revealing their true selves to each other in a refreshingly fresh, witty repartée. Merry does not try to hide her American-ness or her abiding interest in facts and figures, and Trent does not hide behind an aloof ducal hauteur. They also find that they have instant chemistry.

The minute they part, Merry hates herself for her capriciousness in constantly being enamored of the homme du jour. She determines to be true to Cedric to whom she has given her word. Meanwhile, the proper Trent is amazed that he is captivated by a woman who's the opposite of who he would consider as his wife and a fit duchess. However, by the time their conversation draws to a close, he has decided that he will have no other to wife.

Imagine his horror then when he finds out a few minutes later that his heart's delight is recently engaged to his brother!

And then follows the constant tug of war between Merry and Trent's growing attraction and feelings for each other, Merry and Cedric's growing disenchantment with each other, and Cedric and Trent continuing sibling hostility, almost all emanating from Cedric. Trent warns Merry to watch out for Cedric's penchant for drunkenness, while he believes that Merry could be Cedric's salvation to a normal life. He tries to stay out of the way of the affianced couple, all the while being unable to help himself for being unable to do so.

At Lady Verker's ball, Trent starts out consoling Merry but they end up in their first passionate moment when both acknowledge to themselves and each other that they were meant to be; anything else would be a travesty. Unfortunately for them, Cedric is hidden in the library, while this is going on. After Trent leaves to fetch Aunt Bess, he rakes Merry over the coals for her inconstancy and insists, vehemently, that none other than he would marry her.

Merry and Trent are in deep despair for two days till the wedding. Then comes an ex deus machina and Trent ends up married to her with Cedric off to the Bahamas. (It's a bit, um, wonky.)

And this is where the story went downhill for me. The story came to an utter standstill with repeated love scenes. There was no advancement of plot or characterization other than the fact that they were having a lot of sex and were getting emotionally involved. In between the love scenes, there was a lot of telling to show passage of time and how much the two of them shared their thoughts with each other and grew as a couple. There was no showing, only telling. It got to the point that when the black moment came, I didn't care very much.

What a pity! The story had such heart, such promise in the beginning. It felt energetic and organic. By the end, I felt the HEA was being pulled together.

Having said all of this, I have loved many of Eloisa James's books, so I will always try her next one.

(May I just say what a gorgeous cover that is? !!)


Tuesday, February 7, 2017


My January Reading


My reading speed seems to have dropped off even more this year if this month is any indication. However, I read great books, so I can't really complain. The Happiness Project had languished on my TBR for years, and every year, I made plans to read it, but it has never happened, for some reason. Not sure why, because it is eminently readable. This year, I decided to spread the reading out, and that's helping to get me to move on it.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
Categories: Nonfiction
Comments: One day, Rubin asked herself what it was that she wanted from her life. And the answer that came to her was to be happy. That started her on a year-long happiness project of self-examination and self-determination. This book is a collection of her thoughts and conclusions of her project and the tools and methods, she used to work through her issues. sEach chapter in this book is by month. I'm going to be reading this book, one month at a time. So expect to see something about this book in every month's reading roundup. This month, I read the "Getting Started" and "January" chapters. My review is here.

Gutenberg the Geek by Jeff Jarvis
Categories: Nonfiction
Comments: Johannes Gutenberg, of the printing press fame, was history's first technology entrepreneur and should be Silicon Valley's patron saint. He is also credited with training and producing more entrepreneurs who went on to build tremendous value of their own.

In the end, it was his cash flow and equity structure that did him in. After pivoting from one business to another, solving myriad technology problems with keen insight, recruiting his team, raising capital, perfecting his product through secret alphas and public betas, launching his business, finding customers, and earning revenue, the founder's main investor call in his loan, and in a nasty legal battle, took possession of most of the company's assets.

Gutenberg, who used technology to create a manufacturing industry, was perhaps the genesis of industrialization itself. He had a profound impact on the major events in the centuries to follow. This book goes into great detail about Gutenberg's working years and how he researched and developed all the technology behind his press. Through trial and error and with great vision and determination, he kept refining his product until it was just right. And despite his success being snatched away by his investor, his name came to be associated with his product forever more.

Daughters of a Nation by Kianna Alexander, Alyssa Cole, Lena Hart, Piper Huguley
Categories: Historical Romance
Comments: This is an anthology of stories of black suffragettes, where the desperate struggle for equal voting rights for black men and for women is told against the backdrop of American history and the romantic entanglements of the protagonists. I truly enjoy historicals where I’m not only entertained by a well-written story, but I also learn about a part of history about which I have had no prior knowledge. So I really appreciated seeing a bibliography at the end of three of the stories in this anthology. A welcome first for me, because I’m interested in following up on the history behind these stories. This is a unique book in historical context, and one I recommend. My review is here.. Here's a bit about the individual stories:

In the Morning Sun (1868) by Lena Hart
Having lost her beloved James Blakemore to the Civil War, Madeline Asher’s ready to follow her other passion. She moves from her home in Philadelphia to Nebraska to educate and enlist the freedmen to vote. But James isn’t dead, and she runs into him in that tiny town and they learn how difficult it is to be a biracial couple there.

The Washerwomen’s War (1881) by Piper Huguley
Mary Frances Harper, the young daughter of the famous poet suffragette Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, is invited to take a month off from being a student at Milford College to teach adult women at the Atlanta Female Baptist Seminary. There, she comes face-to-face with Gabriel Harmon, a minster whom she’d refused to marry when they’d met before. The two get deeply involved in the washerwomen’s uprising and demand for fair wages.

A Radiant Soul (1881) by Kianna Alexander (1881)
Sarah Webster is a dedicated pastry chef at a hotel in Wyoming Territory. She meets Owen Markham when she returns home to Fayetteville, North Carolina. He’s involved fighting for equal voting rights for black men. Their relationship has to allow for them both to be activists while doing their day jobs.

Let Us Dream (1917) by Alyssa Cole
Bertha Hines owns a successful cabaret in Harlem. In her spare time, she teaches classes on the rights of citizens, civics, and politics for the marginalized African American women of New York City. Enter Amir Chowdhury, an illegal Muslim immigrant from Bengal, India, who jumped a British ship to settle in America. Little did he realize that he’d be treated like an alien and have to hide from immigration officials. He gets involved in activism for immigration reform. The two struggle with acceptance for their bi-racial relationship.

Obama's Legacy by The Washington Post
Categories: Nonfiction
Comments: Bold, deft, and articulate, this collection by some of The Washington Post's best journalists is a great look into the Obamas' public life in the White House. From policy to personal attacks, most aspects of their public life is discussed, critiqued, and praised in these pages. I loved reading it and will return to it.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017


Best Books of 2016


I read 99 books and poems in 2016, and here's a detailed look at my reading. I read some amazing modern poems and picture books, but for my Best Of list, I decided to choose full-length books: fiction, nonfiction, romance, and children's. Here's what I loved:

Belgravia by Julian Fellowes
Lord Richard’s Daughter by Joan Wolf
News of the World by Paulette Jiles
A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi
Paris for One and Other Stories by Jojo Moyes
The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen
The Innocents by Margery Sharp
Good Time Coming by C.S. Harris
The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere by Pico Iyer
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

My top favorite book was When Breath Becomes Air. It is simply unforgettable!

For details about each of the books, please visit my blog on All About Romance.