Review: Planner Books

I love these books. I use them as planners, by gluing a paper copy of my Outlook calendar into a two-page spread, and leaving blank pages for notes in between each week (and another pair of pages in between each month). I get about 9 months to a book which helps to break the “only starting new stuff in January” problem. I like the color, I like the size, I like the binding, I like the numbered pages. The books would, perhaps, be more perfect if the pages were unlined but they are a product for the accounting market and that may be too much to ask.

My life improved when I finally accepted that no commercial calendar or planner did everything I needed to do. For today (and for the past several years), this book and system works for me.

I use these books, and have for the past 8 years, to make my own custom planner. I couldn’t find any commercial planner that allowed me the right combination of schedule, notes, view-ahead, and flexibility that worked for my life. Every week, I print an Outlook 7-day calendar and glue it into a 2-page spread. My planner runs for 9 months / volume, which helps to break the sense that life starts anew in January. When a future week’s calendar gets cluttered with hand-written changes, I just print a fresh copy (post-a-note gluesticks!).

Numbered pages let me add a TOC (table of contents).

The size is convenient to carry and large enough to take good notes.

I simply can’t “see” enough of my life on any of the electronic calendars to plan readily. A paper-based system works all the time, charged-or-not, lets me think and plan the non-committed time, and lets me see the shape of time bigger than any one week. YMMV.

I love these books.

Review: The View From The Studio Door: How Artists Find Their Way In An Uncertain World

I’m just another artist with a day job, and while I may know, at some level, many of the ideas in this book, it is completely worth the time it took to read and the money it cost to buy. I read it twice right away, actually, and it will join Art & Fear in my flight carry-on because they’re good books for times when you can’t make your own art.

I particularly relish the way Ted speaks to artists in all media; there’s far too much “truth for every artist” that turns out to be for painters only.

I come away strengthened, encouraged, set back on my path. I am doing the right thing and I don’t have to know where this path leads. It did used to be different for artists but it’s not that way now and make your art anyway.

Heck, a therapist or a creativity coach will charge a lot more and take a lot longer to get you to the same place!

If I were writing the book, I would devote much less space to art students, but perhaps my distaste for that chapter has its roots in major-envy, in that I want to believe life would be different if only I’d recognized a path earlier. And yet probably my life would have been much the same if I had, only with no insurance.

Own the book. It’s doesn’t cost much, and it’s worth it. Someone over in the Art & Fear reviews noted that all the used copies are completely covered in highlighting and margin notes. My copy of View is well on its way to the same end.

The View from the Studio Door

Review: 7 Mistakes Greeting Card Writers Make

Quick little book worth every penny. One sentence made me look up and say, “Well, I just got my money’s worth from this!” I’ll let you read the book yourself in case your sentence is different from my sentence.

Four not five because it’s not, for me, a life-changing book; four not three because it is an excellent solution to exactly what it says it is. Some of these mistakes may not apply to you, particularly if you are planning to sell your own cards, rather than writing for a greeting card company.

One sentence. That’s all it takes. I found the sentence that mattered to me. You probably will, too.

7 Mistakes Greeting Card Writers Make

Review: Turn Your Art/Photography into Profitable Greeting Cards Online

I’m new to the POD art world, learning my way around the various e-commerce systems for selling digital versions of my art. I am only just beginning to see greeting cards as a possible product.

If you have art to sell and need a low-cost, entry-level product, consider learning about the POD options available to you today in greeting cards.

Reading Stephanie’s book was a very useful, cost-effective introduction to marketplace sites for greeting cards, as opposed to stand-alone e-commerce platforms (Cafe Press vs. Shopify, for example). I came away with a lot of ideas for what to do next and am completely satisfied with the cost-per-idea / encouragement ratio.

This book is a perfect match for Kindle–instant; brief, inspiration to be consumed during a road trip where I wouldn’t have internet access.

(Four not five because it is not a life-changing book; four not three because it is a perfect answer to the problem it proposes to solve.)

Turn Your Art into Profitable Greeting Cards

Review: Organizing For a Living

How to Build a Profitable Career as a Professional Organizer

To quote one of the other reviews, “it will save you money because you won’t need any other books about professional organizing!”

You also won’t need any other books about being in business, or doing your accounting, or managing your time, or…

This is a great book. It is completely thorough. The author addresses every question one could have in detail.

I am giving this book four stars because there is, simply, too much material. In order to fit into its 304 pages, the book designer went to very narrow margins, small type, and even smaller type for “pull outs”–stories and quotations. I can only read a few pages at a time before my eyes rebel. I am accustomed to being able to read hundreds of pages at at time in well-designed books, so this beef is very specific to the design of this edition.

There is a LOT of content in Organizing for a Living, and it is all well-written, and it is all tailored to the organizing profession specifically. I simply wish I could read it easily.

Review: In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

Close Encounters with Addiction

Five stars for the hard science and experience, three for the recommended treatment? I was drawn into the first 3/4 of this book, wherein the author discusses the realities of street-level, needle addiction, and the current understanding of the neurological basis of addition. Good stuff. Barely put it down. I have definitely shifted my understanding and view of decriminalization and harm reduction as a result.

On reflection, I’m pondering a bit of a gap: the claim that addicts are locked up for being addicts, whereas most of the people I know who have done prison time as a result of their addiction did time for real crimes that were committed under the influence, because of the influence. (Think drunk driving, drunken fights leading to murder, armed hold-ups, etc.) Still not sure how to think about this. Decriminalized drugs would take organized crime out of the picture, certainly. They will not take violence and insanity out of the addict.

I found myself losing interest in Hungry Ghosts as the author moved into his own solutions for individual recovery from addiction, a four+one step program of his own design. It’s one thing to be forgiving of oneself when a relapse means buying another classical music CD or being late to work again. It’s completely different when a relapse means driving up the on-ramp in the wrong direction and killing a family of four. Finally, reading an explanation of the 12 Steps written by someone who has been to one meeting, three years ago, might almost be amusing. Except it’s not.

On whole, the parts of the book that were informative and interesting to me vastly outweighed the few chapters that weren’t. Hungry Ghosts is well worth the reading, and given its price, worth the buying, too, if your life is touched by any form of addiction.

In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close encounters with addiction

Review: Amazon Basics Packing Cubes

I was completely prepared to say that packing cubes were a waste of time for normal packers; they might be OK for neat freaks.


They ARE useful for project toting and storage, however: sewing projects in process, so you can keep all the bits together. Knitting and quilting that needs assembly.

And then I packed a rolling duffel bag for an out-of-town wedding. One of those whopping great shapeless rectangle spaces, where everything gets mushed and muddled and sinks to the bottom of the bag. I have a cube for underwear, one for exercise gear, one for street clothes and one for the dress & accessories I will wear to the ceremony. And everything stows, and won’t shift (much), and I will be able to find it when I get there.

I’m a convert.

These packing cubes turn out to also be great for packing motorcycle saddlebags. Makes it easy to load and unload, to keep his-and-her stuff separate, and to not have to rummage through everything in the saddlebag to look for those socks…

https://www.amazon.com/AmazonBasics-Packing-Cubes-Medium-4-Piece/dp/B00SXKUIX8/ref=cm_rdp_product

Second Wilhelm

Wing and Wilhelm translations

Last August, I was challenged to develop a habit of reading from a book that was written before Gutenberg every day. I didn’t have to think 10 seconds before deciding that the I Ching was the book I would use. I’ve done pretty well; I’ve probably consulted the I Ching at least a hundred and fifty times out of a hundred and eighty days since the challenge started.

Now that I’m working with it daily, instead of only when I have a clear question, I’m wanting to know more about the oracle. I want to know more about the history behind the hexagrams than is offered in my R. L. Wing translation. I took my first copy of Wilhelm to the office I use on weekends, and I keep finding out that I want to consult it when I met my weekday desk.

So I bought a second copy. It’s easy to do now; I can find anything on abe.com.

It’s just a little bit strange, finding that I have become someone who needs to have two copies of Wilhelm.

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Review: The Upside of Irrationality

The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home

Writing as reviewer #31, having written a number of other reviews myself: what is it about this book that virtually all of the reviews thus far, even the negative ones, are multi-paragraph and thoughtful? Usually, by the time a book has 30, we’re seeing the “loved it!” “hated it!” “Didn’t arrive on time!” filler. Not here. Ariely’s work sticks in your mind, and you are inspired to write more than you normally would.

That said–it appears that behavioral econ gets really really close to marketing, as a field of study. Economists are testing and discovering what marketers have known since Ogilvy wrote his first ad.

Both of Ariely’s books are “news you can use.” I find myself referring to the stories–we cheat, given the opportunity. We make decisions about sex differently when we’re drunk (duh, but that’s rarely addressed in sex ed). (Still haven’t forgiven him for presenting 50-yo women as “beyond the pale” in that experiment, BTW.) Those experiments are from the first book. I know the one about Legos and meaning in work from this book will find its way into my life–watching work get canceled or undone has had a huge effect on my own career and motivation.

Many of the review copy books that come my way get passed on to book swaps, in hope that someone else will find them more useful. I’m keeping this one. I’ll be back in it.

The Upside of Irrationality

On a Clear Day

I live between two rivers, not far from two substantial lakes, one of which cools a nuclear power plant. As a result, we get fog. Not fog like San Francisco, but reliable fog in the morning when the seasons are changing and air, land, and water may have substantially different temperatures.

Today was a foggy morning. For a while, I couldn’t see the church steeple at all.

There's blue sky in the upper left, but I can't see the steeple.

There’s blue sky in the upper left, but I can’t see the steeple.

I know there’s blue sky above me. As the morning shifted, I could even see patches of blue above the church. But I still couldn’t see the steeple.

There are times, especially in the evening, when this familiar landscape looks completely different.

Time of day matters. Fog at night can distort a vision.

Time of day matters. Fog at night can distort a vision.

Given I am writing a series of posts about planning, the metaphor hit me like the bricks we make in this town.

What is my planning elevation? What is my planning point of view?

David Allen talks about the 10, 20, 30, and 50,000′ points of view; of taking a look at your life from different perspectives to see where you are going. It can be hard to know which one you’re at.

This morning, on the ground, I could barely see 100 yards ahead. I could, possibly, get up to 100′ and have a better idea of what was going on, but I still wouldn’t know anything about what’s happening at ground level because we are socked in. It’s hard to “do the next right thing,” and it can even be difficult to “do the next thing,” so I can only “do something.”

There are days when it’s perfectly clear on the ground, and I can’t see 300′ above. These are “do the next thing” days.

Clear vision on the ground, and socked in above.

Clear vision on the ground, and socked in above.

There are days when getting up to 10,000 feet only helps a little, because the path is completely obscured at that level, only for different reasons. Back to “do something,” or “do the next thing,” if I can manage that much clarity.

10,000 feet and visibility is even more limited, sometimes.

10,000 feet and visibility is even more limited, sometimes.

Sometimes, I can be at cruising altitude and know pretty much what track I’m on, but actual activity happens on the ground, and knowing the route at 30,000 feet tells me absolutely nothing at all about what to do next, today. 30,000′ views help me to distinguish between important and urgent and offer some general idea about what direction the “next right-ish thing” might want to take.

Cruising altitude, clear skies, and no information about ground level activity.

Cruising altitude, clear skies, and no information about ground level activity.

Sometimes, the 30,000′ view gives me some idea of what major challenges might be coming my way.

From here, you can see there is a river to cross.

I’m going to tie this to a separate post about calendar formats, and how I need to work with different views of the future to have a better idea of how to use the time and energy I have today.

Next right answer: if the view is obscured at my current level and I don’t know what to do, move up or down one and see what I can see from there.

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For Pinterest:

Planning points of view.

Planning points of view.

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