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Choosing the right planner for the way you work: a series

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Getting organized is hard work! I read a news story recently that reported we lose three days a year just looking for things. Imagine what we could do with an extra three days- go on a romantic weekend trip, take the kids on a fun trip, complete an entire project, take a spa retreat… We even hire people to organize us!

The reclaimed time aspect of getting organized is probably the most important part of the process, but getting organized helps us save money, too. Besides not buying extra things we already have but can’t find, organizing our time ensures that we pay bills on time and not incur late fees, sign up for things early when costs are lowest, and buy things we need when they are at their least expensive.

We can save time and money, and feel less overwhelmed by having a good system for keeping our time organized. In my practice, I often hear patients say, “I forget things I’m supposed to do a lot, and let people down. I used to be able to remember everything without writing things down when I was young.” There are a lot of reasons that you can have trouble with memory, including medical and psychiatric problems such as anxiety and depression, pain, poor sleep, and head injury. I don’t know about anyone else, but keeping track of my schedule has become monumentally more complicated as my professional responsibilities, (multiple ways to keep track of licensing and board responsibilities and continuing education units, anyone?), childcare and household responsibilities, and social commitments increase. When I was in my twenties, I didn’t have to keep track of as many things- my work shifts, classes, bills and dates. In my forties, I keep track of my patients’ care and schedules, my own teaching and professional requirements, my kids’ schedules, my spouse’s schedule, financial information, household maintenance, blog and hobbies, and my own health maintenance. That’s a lot more information- of course I need to write it down now!

But an easy step to help with information overload is figuring out a system to get your time under control. I use a two step process plus modifiers to help my patients. There are probably a lot of ways to divide personal organization, but this is the way I like to think of the issue.

Are your days mostly task-oriented or appointment-oriented?

Look at your normal, average day.

Are you mainly going to meeting-after-meeting-after-meeting-after-appointment-after-meeting-after-ohdearlordnotanother-meeting with just a few (or a lot) tasks? Do you have a lot of appointments to schedule in the future? You’re probably more appointment oriented at this point in your life.

Or, do you have relatively few things tied to a specific time during your day, but a long task list of things you get done on your own schedule? You can still have a few appointments, but those are maybe just a few a week.

For example, I have morning rounds, afternoon rounds, teaching classes, meetings to mentor residents, and scheduled meetings for providers and patient’s families, as well as my own family commitments and my own wellness commitments. These are mostly scheduled times, with some tasks as well. I’m more appointment oriented.

Write down which category you fall into, and let’s go on to the next decision point.

Are you a paper, digital or a hybrid kind of person?

This one is harder to decide, typically. There is good data that people in general learn and recall better when they write things down. But there can be good reasons to use digital- including repeating appointments, sharing a calendar, etc. Digital also tends to be lighter if you need to lighten your load while commuting.

Benefits and drawbacks of paper

We already discussed that you remember things and learn better when you use paper. Also, jotting down an appointment typically is much faster than the multistep process of turning on your phone, computer, or tablet, opening the app, entering in data, and saving. You can express yourself better with beautiful planners, papers, and pens. You don’t have to charge paper. A paper planner can be left open on your desk while you work for reference. Paper may be the only option if you work in a secure workplace that handles classified or proprietary data that doesn’t allow electronics. Certain methods of paper planning can really help you prioritize what is important to you instead of clicking “add all” to your digital calendar and suddenly have half a dozen appointments you have no intention of going to cluttering up your month.

On the other hand, paper can be damaged or lost, and there’s no real back up. Paper can be heavy to carry, and less convenient to add repeating appointments to. Some digital calendars can have nice linked information that you can find everything you need in one place.

Benefits and drawbacks of going digital

We talked about digital being more convenient to carry and add multiple appointments to. You can set alarms to remind yourself to do something. Often, digital systems have cloud back ups that can keep your data safer from loss.

However, digital systems can be lost if you’re not backing them up to your computer or the cloud, and I’ve found a lot of people who aren’t. Digital systems can be a lot harder to actually plan on and picture what your week or month looks like (does anyone really like the monthly view of a calendar on the tiny iPhone screen?). You learn better by writing, as we talked about before. Apps have annoying bugs and upgrades, and tend to be more expensive if you have to upgrade devices than a paper planner. Goal planning can be a little more difficult. You may not be allowed to have a device at work, depending on what you do at work.

The hybrid planner

You don’t have to choose one of the other, but can develop a system which uses aspects of digital planning and paper planning. I’ve written pretty extensively about this system here, which I’ll refer you to. Read this blog entry, then come back to this page.

So, write down which type of planner you need: digital, paper, or hybrid. Next week, we’ll go over which planners I think suit each of the six types best and where to find them. After that, we’ll discuss how to use the planner that you’ve chosen. Thanks for reading, and see you next week!

 

 

 

A review of the Peloton: wunderkind exercise bike or fancy coat rack?

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Our family bought a Peloton bike with the idea that it would be a painful, but necessary addition to our house. Taking up a bunch of room in our small living room, we thought it might be helpful in keeping the adults in the family semi-fit. Still, the bike was met with a lot of concern and criticism. A sample of the potential complaints before the bike arrived:

“But do you REALLY have to wear the biking shoes?”

“Won’t classes being boring? I’d rather just watch TV and bike if I have to. Can’t you take the tablet part off so I can watch TV, or can I watch TV on the tablet part?”

“Is the bike really a good workout?”

“The bike won’t be like spin classes.”

“You could just ride a regular bike outside and buy a trainer for inside.”

“Isn’t this a lot of money for an exercise bike?”

We ordered the bike after going to try on the shoes, and get fitted for the correct setting on the bike at the kiosk at our local mall. We had a chance to try out the Peloton at that time, and the sales associate, who was very friendly and enthusiastic (and clearly a fan/rider herself), helped us with correct form. After that, she ordered the bike for us, which took about 10 minutes or less. A day later, we received a call from the delivery service, and the bike was delivered and assembled the next day.

To answer some of the questions above: yes, you need biking shoes, and those biking shoes need to be firmly attached to your feet. No, classes are not boring, but yes, if you insist, you can watch television, though I don’t know why anyone would want to.  No, the tablet doesn’t come off and as far as I know, you can’t watch TV on it. Yes, it’s a good workout, and you’re going to be sweaty afterward. No, perhaps it isn’t really like spin class, but over the long run, it is cheaper, and the classes are amazing. Yes, you could ride a regular bike, but you won’t have to contend with other drivers. Yes, it’s expensive.

Everyone in our house loves this bike. I have exercised more in the last few months than I have in my entire life. I love the classes, and especially some of the instructors (that’s you Robyn Arzon, Christine D’Ercole and Denis Morton!). The tablet offers an immersive experience that feels like you’re really there, and if you take the live classes, the instructors regularly provide shout outs to virtual riders meeting milestones. There are also on-demand classes (obviously no shout-outs), with all kinds of music, lengths, instructors, themes, levels of difficulties, and my favorite, ones with DJ’s. It feels like the dance parties I was always too busy to go to because I was working, and afterward, despite riding 45 minutes, I feel refreshed and accomplished.

There are milestones you can meet, which keep me motivated, and you can offer “virtual high-fives” to the other riders or your friends. You can also just take timed rides, or ride in over a hundred different places on earth- next up for me is exploring Paris, something I have never done in real life!

My spouse rides the bike, and has loved it. He’s very tall, perhaps the maximum for this bike at 6’5′.  He plans to combine the Peloton with weight lifting at the gym, and I have been doing the floor classes included with the Peloton digital app with good results. There’s even Yoga classes with Colleen Saidman Yee!

Perhaps the biggest skeptic in our house was my mother, who has been able to ride the bike even with some orthopedic issues. I think she didn’t want to like the bike, but recently skipped a beach vacation, reporting that she “didn’t want to break her streak.” And she hasn’t even asked me recently if she can watch TV on the tablet screen, which is a victory for team Peloton!

 

Review of “Daily Rituals: How Artists Work” by Mason Currey

Review of “Daily Rituals: How Artists Work” by Mason Currey

Half instruction manual, half voyeuristic thrill: it’s not very often that I describe books this way, but I think this is a good description of my experience of Mason Currey’s “Daily Rituals.” I read about this book on the Tim Ferris blog, and decided I needed to read it, partly because the book seemed like it might deal with one of the big issues for me in life- how do you have time for creativity and hobbies when you’re earning a living. This seemed like less of an issue prior to having children, but now I really struggle trying to make time for everything I think would help add meaning for life. Little did I know that this book came from the author’s own exploration of the same issues in his own life! The author is a free lance writer, and this book came from his blog.

Studies show that everyone has 24 hours in a day. Ok, just kidding. No one needs a study to remind them that every great mind, from Leonardo Da Vinci to Stephen Hawking had exactly the same amount of time in a day as you and I do. But somehow, they managed to prioritize the things that mattered to them, and achieve great things. How did they do it? I often have my patients make routines- willpower is limited- to help them ensure they take care of important things and priorities in their lives. It turns out lots of famous writers and artists did the same thing.

The book is broken into small chapters, each dedicated to a specific artist. The first, about W. H. Auden, one of my favorite poets, follows the same pattern as all the chapters that follow it- when they woke, what they ate, when they worked, how they lived. I was a little sad to read about Auden’s amphetamine dependence, but a surprising number of artists from this book used amphetamines- I guess it was more common during a certain time.

I think the lessons of this book, namely that there are as many routines as there are artists, and that consistency is important- keep writing! Keep trying!- were ultimately pretty encouraging for me. The other part of the book I liked, which I alluded to already, was the ability to see how someone I admire from the past lived, how their relationships worked, and a recipe for how to create a life of art. I think this book would be great for any artist, or frustrated artist, for inspiration and reassurance.

If I have any squabbles, there are few- the author needed an editor. There were more grammar errors than I expected. At one point, I thought the book was self-published, and was surprised to see that it was not. However, this is a little squabble, and I’m sure most people won’t even notice. The small errors don’t detract from the book at all.

Overall, I really recommend this book!

A Review of Warby Parker: Spoiler, I love them!

A Review of Warby Parker: Spoiler, I love them!

Buying glasses is a pain sometimes. Besides the distraction of a million different pairs of glasses, which a good optometry technician can help narrow down, there are a bunch of choices to make: frames, lens materials, coating, etc. Warby Parker (who didn’t sponsor this post or reimburse me in anyway) can make this a little easier. I’ve recently discovered that my days of contact lenses are probably limited, and I’ve been liking all the hip spectacles I’ve been seeing around town. I decided to expand my eyeglass wardrobe, through both a conventional optician (via Groupon) and Warby Parker.

The process

First, I obtained a new prescription, including pupil distance, from my optometrist, and scanned it into my document manager, keeping the paper version to give to the place I bought glasses.

Process at a conventional optometrist: This took about an hour. I went to the optometrist after buying a Groupon for $75 for a $225 voucher for eyeglasses. The optometry technician tried narrowing down glasses for me, bringing many glasses for me to see. By seeing what I liked, she was able to narrow down my choices, as there were a TON of glasses I did not like (Napolean Dynamite, anyone?). However, I have no idea whether she was “upselling” me glasses by bringing me incredibly expensive glasses or not. What I do know is that the glasses I saw in the end were Oliver Peoples, Fendi, Prada, etc. I picked some glasses out that I liked- Oliver Peoples, in an unusual bold cat-eye style. She computed the price, subtracted the voucher, and voila- “$550.” What?! Add the charge for ordering the glasses, labor, multiple coatings, high density lenses, etc. Plus, to be fair, I ended up with a really nice brand of glasses. However, she seemed perplexed that I did not want all these upgrades, and upon hearing that I was a.) in a hurry to leave since I’d been there 45 minutes already and b.) leaving since I wasn’t spending $550 that day in glasses, some of the things that were necessary were suddenly expendable, and they were able to reduce the glasses to $300. It took a few weeks for the glasses to come in, which seemed like a long time. I had to return to the store, and no adjustments were made at that time, so I could have had them mailed to my house rather than drive out to the optometrist. They didn’t have Oliver Peoples cases by that time, so I ended up with a velvet Tom Ford case. However, I love the glasses, and they are perfect.

Process at Warby Parker: My experience may be slightly different, since we have a physical Warby Parker in our town. Choosing glasses from Warby Parker is pretty easy. I walked into the store in Bethesda, MD, which was pretty crowded with people of all ages and demographics but had nice displays of well-curated eye glasses in their own brand. There were relatively few frames to choose from in comparison to the optometrist, but I really liked the ones I saw. Because they were crowded, there was no one to help me or suggest frames, but I tried several pairs on, which rapidly helped me narrow down the shape I liked. I had also done a little research before going to the store, so I was familiar with many of the styles, though not all of them were available to try on in the store. I found one I liked, went to the counter, where someone was immediately able to help me. He ordered my glasses, the “Upton” in “Sea Smoke Turquoise” on a portable device (I emailed him my prescription), with slightly upgraded high density lenses to make them lighter because I am SO blind I require coke-bottle lenses. The spectacles were $95, including lenses, but the high density lenses were $40 extra, bringing my total to $135. I received the glasses in under a week via mail, in a high quality case (nicer quality than the case from the traditional optometrist), along with a cloth to keep the lenses clean. Also, because of their “buy a pair, give a pair” program, a pair of glasses was given to someone in need. Hurray!

Had I ordered from the website, I could have either chosen a pair directly off the website, or chosen from a selection, of which five would be delivered to my house to try on. I make a choice and return the glasses- they mail me the ones I chose with the correct prescription. Easy!

What I like about Warby Parker…

  1. Well curated, stylish glasses for a reasonable price
  2. No hidden costs -what you see is what you pay!
  3. A pair goes to someone in need!
  4. Convenient
  5. High quality glasses and accessories
  6. Quick, polite service

What I think they could do better…

  1. The quiz to help you determine what glasses might look good on you is a little generic. If you don’t know what kind of glasses look good on your face shape, choosing glasses by whether the spectacles are round, square, rectangular, or cat eye isn’t going to help you. If you’re ordering on line, you’re really relying on their quiz to help you figure out what to order!
  2. All glasses look nice on J. Crew models. Ok, I might be exaggerating here- maybe they’re Gap models. But if the glasses look good on them, I’m SURE they will look perfect on me. Not really. You can see what they look like on customers, I’m assuming, by pressing the “more photos” link at the bottom of the page, but not all glasses have extra photos to look at.
  3. More people to help at the stores? I think the business model is on-line, so I’m guessing the physical locations are more for publicity and concept, but I thought the employees might have suggested frames I wouldn’t ordinarily have tried on.

The Verdict: I love Warby Parker!

I would definitely shop at Warby Parker again- I’m considering a set of translucent rose-colored frames that I think would be perfect for summer. And maybe a set of prescription sunglasses! In fact, they make wearing my glasses much more fun, and I would recommend them to anyone!

Review of “Awakening Your Ikigai: How the Japanese Wake Up to Joy and Purpose Every Day” by Ken Mogi

 

Japan Land ofthe Rising SunReview of “Awakening Your Ikigai: How the Japanese Wake Up to Joy and Purpose Every Day” by Ken Mogi

I’ve been reading a lot about minimalism lately, even if I can’t force myself into owning less books and magazines. A seriously small closet has made me consider every piece of clothing I own, and the Marie Condo movement similarly inspired me. This led me to a book I reviewed earlier about lessons from elderly Japanese adults, available here.”Awakening your Ikigai” by Ken Mogi, which I found while browsing the shelves at my favorite bookstore, Politics and Prose in Washington, DC, seemed like a natural fit for my recent interest. The author is a neuroscientist, who the jacket notes has written many books, most of which do not appear to be available in translation.

My favorite parts of this book.

The book is beautifully designed, in hardback, at a reasonable price. It would be a fantastic gift for someone interested in self-improvement. There were sections I loved- about taiso, the unique form of Japanese exercise; about the concept of starry bowls, and of tradition. The idea of slow, satisfying progress. As an American, I was fascinated by the historical concept of outward luxury and ostentation being harmful for a cohesive society. Having luxury in the lining of clothing rather than outside is a really interesting concept. I think a lot of people are starting to be less interested in items that have giant brand name logos all over them, but the thought that this started hundreds of years ago for different reasons is intriguing to me.

Not my favorite parts.

I felt like sometimes it was unclear where the author was going in each chapter. Each chapter was a like individual jewels, but without any unifying idea to hold the chapter together. The concept for Ikigai is that there are five essential parts (pillars):

  1. Starting small,
  2. releasing yourself (accept who you are),
  3. harmony and sustainability;
  4. The joy of little things;
  5. being in the here and now.

I think it probably would have been natural to develop each pillar in a chapter, but instead, they were often mixed throughout chapters.

The verdict: read it or not?

I think the book is worth reading, with some patience for the idea that it is sometimes challenging to follow the author. There are concepts here that I haven’t seen in any other books, and I think the book could be a good springboard for studying Japanese culture in more depth.

How to Read More Books

How to Read More Books

I often have people ask me how I manage to read so many books with a full-time psychiatry job, writing, teaching, and a family with small children. Last year, I read over 80 books, a combination of nonfiction and fiction (mostly mysteries). The most likely answer is that I do less of other things- I watch only a little television on the weekends (O, “Game of Thrones,” why do you make me wait until 2019?), and reading is really a way of life for me. I learn new things from reading, keep myself cognitively sharp, and in the case of fiction, gain insight into the thoughts and feelings of others. Reading is a valuable use of my time, but also helps me slow down and relax.

In terms of book consumption, fiction is different than non-fiction.

I read fiction mostly on a Kindle or in the Kindle app on my iPad. I get a lot of books from the library, because it’s easiest. I think there are a fair number of people who don’t know that you can register for a library card at your local library, and use it to sign up for their e-library. You visit the virtual library, check out a book, which is delivered instantly to your Kindle. After two weeks is up, the book disappears. The benefits are clear- mostly instant access, free books, and very portable. One downside is that if you reserve several books with a waiting list, and they all “drop” at once, you have some fast reading to do. Or sacrifice the book you weren’t as interested in. The other issue has more to do with the length of time it takes to read certain books- I take longer to read non-fiction, so I never pick up non-fiction by the library via Kindle. Also, Umberto Eco is out for me- his books take me longer than two weeks to read! Books with pictures are not as good in Kindle but generally ok on iPad. I also don’t read poetry on a kindle- sometimes the formatting doesn’t translate very well.

If you’re going to read electronic books from the library, you’ll also need an Overdrive or Libby account (free) and a PDF reader. Though less common, there are some books only available by Overdrive and PDF. Libby is the new version of Overdrive if you’ve not seen it. I don’t think it’s a huge improvement, and I’d rather use my Kindle account if possible, since I share library books with other family members. There are other types of readers, too- Nook, Kobo, etc. You can also get a fair number of books through sites like Project Gutenberg.

I want my own non-fiction books, in paper.

I like to mark up non-fiction books, and take notes. I tend to buy these in paperback, unless it’s a monumentally sized book, in which case it may be easier to have in electronic format. I only buy cookbooks in paper format now- the electronic format was not as pleasurable to flip through.

I listen to audiobooks on the train and bus, and on the exercise bicycle in the morning.

I just started this- I used to be a podcast listener- but I get through about an extra book a week this way. You can also borrow these from the library!

I read in small pockets of time.

I always have a book with me, so I don’t miss little bits of time. I read during breakfast (I know- not very mindful), at lunch if I am not having lunch with a friend, and before bed. I read when my kids are reading, or if they’re watching cartoons- they regard reading as something that everyone does at this point.

I don’t have a formal speed reading regimen.

I’ve been reading every day since I learned to read. I’m at this point, a pretty fast reader. But I don’t have never taken a speed reading class- to me this seems like making the point of reading to consume more, but to me, reading is an activity to be savored. Life is already too fast as it is. Why speed up reading?