Best Books for Productivity in 2019

books, reading

A confession: I’m a junkie for time-management books. I love knowing how to order and schedule my day and how other people schedule their days. I think I knew I was going to marry Bruno when he described to me how he plans his daily schedule and to-do lists.* Yeah, we’re the most romantic people you know. One of my favorite parts of Rousseau’s Confessions is when he describes his own day and then the day of the Spanish Altuna who is an 18th century strict-schedule keeper extraordinaire. I admire that guy.

Leaving the 18th century (dissertation on my mind), there are plenty of productivity books I love for today. Some I still go back to for when I need jolt to get things done and quit messing around the Internet. I know people say that you cannot rely on motivation, but sometimes you need that external source. If coffee is liquid ambition, then books on productivity are ambition’s written form.

Here they are the books that usually lead me to close out of facebook, pull up Microsoft Word and get going.

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam. Just listing this book makes me want to go back and re-read it. It is also one of the biggest reasons I get mildly irritated when people say “I don’t have time to do x.” You do. It just is not a priority. I like her practical suggestions like keeping a time-diary, but the best part of the book I think are the inspiring and motivating life examples. People are able to do so much more than they think they can.

Deep Work: Rules for Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport.  If you get any book to improve your productivity (and general life happiness), it should be this one. We (I) waste so much time messing around on the internet. Still. This book is a swift kick in the you know where. I especially like the idea that deep work is a muscle to be developed. You cannot just sit down and work for a focused eight hours a day. You have to practice, start small.

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones by James Clear. Speaking of starting small, I loved this book on habit building. It gives very specific advice on how to develop small habits that eventually develop into a better life. I’ve written about this book already on my Year of 1% Goals, but I still cannot help but recommend it.

Air & Light & Time & Space : How Successful Academics Write by Helen Sword.  This book helped me out when I was in a dissertation writing rut. Chapter one was fine, chapter two was fine, and then I just sort of felt overwhelmed by the whole process. I like seeing how creatives do their work, but it also did not really apply to me. This was research and writing. I recommend this book to anyone starting a dissertation.

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote for Chaos by Jordan Peterson. If your life is not in order, you cannot get work done. Fact. I think one of the more troubling things presented to any sort of life is ideal of the suffering, starving, drunken, debauched artist. It simply is not always true. Hell, even Ernest Hemingway once wrote a letter to F. Scott Fitzgerald telling him to knock it off with his nonsense so he could write. It is like that wonderful Gustav Flaubert quote, “Be regular and orderly in your life like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”

What are your favorite books that help you to get things done? What are you reading now?

*I’m kidding. Sort of. Life compatibility, you know?

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January 2019 Goals : The Year of 1% Better

crossfit, dissertation, goals, reading, running, year of 1% better

If you missed it, last week I declared 2019 the Year of 1% Better. Because so many things this year are to be determined (motherhood, post-graduate school life, where I will be working to name just a few big ones), I have decided to take things month-by-month and do little things to improve and, well, be better.

As you might have guessed from yesterday’s post, my January goals are already side-tracked. Excruciating pelvic pain at the end of last week has moved me to plan B: do what I can. That said, yesterday I felt pretty much fine, worked out and felt fine, and still feel fine today. So maybe, just maybe, it was an end of the first week of 2019 thing and will not derail my whole January. Fingers crossed!

Ok, ok. So here are the goals for this month:

SUBMIT MY DISSERTATION. This is the goal of all goals — the goal where all goals must be sacrificed to, if need be. This is what I have been working on for the last year and a half. And yes, it is finally happening. I am done with going through editing and formatting three chapters, with two to go. This one will probably be done next week, but it is the most important. I have been a Ph.D. student since 2013. 2019 will be the year I graduate. Six years.

91 Miles. This is one of those goals on Strava that different company’s post. Apparently 91 miles in January is 2x the amount of the average Strava runner in 2019. I do not care if I ran these or walk these (most likely both). I just want to do it while I can.

Do not, do not, DO NOT go out to eat at all for the entire month. We are so bad at this. One of us (ok, it is me. It is always me.) will be like, “I don’t feel like cooking.” Next thing you know, I’m eating a cheeseburger at a restaurant in town. It is not even like this place has a ton of delicious places to eat, so usually I’m eating a meal that is just ok. There are loopholes with this – if someone invites us out to eat and Culver’s custard when we do our grocery shopping on Sundays.

Double-under practice 3x week. Last week, I only did two days. I’m going to try to pick it back up this week. Note I did not say “accomplish double-unders.” I cannot guarantee that, but I’m hoping by putting in a little bit of time, I will get better and manage to do more than one every single time I try to do them.

Swim 1x week. I missed swimming, so I just want to incorporate it back in and do just a little session in the pool every week. So far, so good.

CathLIT2019. I guess this is more of a 2019 goal, but the idea is to read one book on Catholicism a month. The blog Carrots for Michaelmas put together a whole list with categories that I am going to try to follow. I’m trying to do what I think may be more denser, more time-consuming books prior to baby C’s arrival. This month’s category is a book about Mary, so I’m reading Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary (which arrived just yesterday…hooray!).

Poach an egg. Categorize this in random, but seriously, I do not know how to do this. I should know how to do this. I want to know how to do this. I will learn how to do this, even if it takes me more cartons of eggs than I expect. My favorite breakfast in the world is eggs benedict and I’m not gong to be able to do it without going out to eat if I do not figure out how to poach some eggs. This is the year, people.

What are your goals for January? For 2019?

 

 

 

 

 

Favorite Reads of 2018

books, reading

We are heading South to Ohio today and will be gone for the next two weeks. Translation? I’ve been running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to get the house ready to be empty — cleaning out the fridge, doing some last minute laundry, packing, and cleaning, cleaning, and more cleaning. It seems to never end.

I did plenty of reading this year, although I always wish I read more. I like a wide variety of things from nonfiction to history to memoir. Some of my books on my favorite list this year are shared by a lot of people this year, like Jordan Peterson, but others are new discoveries for myself. For example, I never read Patti Smith before.

Anyway, here are the new favorites that I look forward to re-reading again and again in the coming years. Written in the order I read them this year.

This is a Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett. This collection of essays is near-perfection. I already have a few (the one on writing in particular) I have returned to again and again this year.

The Call of the Wild and White Fang by Jack London. Two for one! Never in my life would I ever expected to love books written from the point of view of dogs, but I love the question of civilization and nature of these books. I love the character of Alaska and its brutal and killing cold.

The Outrun by Amy Liptrot. This was my favorite memoir of the year. Liptrot’s tale of recover in the Orkneys is so vivid in description. I wanted to go and live there in isolation too, bake bread, take cold swims in the sea, and write. I read this book twice and I’m sure next year I will read it again.

M Train by Patti Smith. I loved this ode to a life and love of art and beauty. It is a quiet book, good over a cup of coffee. I think Smith captures well the way certain artists, writers, and musicians touch our lives in such a way that we feel we know them. I think she captures the devotion to art that so many try to live.

How Bad Do You Want It by Matt Fitzgerald. I am not a competitive runner at all. But I think the mental strength and endurance required for competing is similar to that required for graduate school and getting your Ph.D. When I read this book, there was so much I took for just writing my dissertation and handling failure in that realm that I think it is appealing for athletes and non-athletes alike.

Deep Work by Cal Newport. This book is a slap on the face reminder that you probably waste more time on shallow, superficial tasks like messing around on the internet than committing yourself to the deep work necessary to be successful. I’ve changed the way I’ve worked thanks to this book, working my “deep work muscle” when working on my dissertation without distractions for increasing lengths of time. It works. It helps.

Chasing Excellence by Ben Bergeron. Would I be in CrossFit if I did not post this book? This book is great for the same reason Fitzgerald’s is. It seems like it is just for athletes, but you can apply it to so much more.

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan Peterson. My controversial pick! I loved this book. I took it out from the library, but will buy my own copy soon. Finally, remember the lobster.

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided Over Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt. I recommend this book to anyone who talks about politics, who posts on facebook about politics, who thinks about politics — basically everyone, because we are all political animals, right? But seriously, I strongly believe in humility when it comes to political thought. Haidt makes a strong case for it.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. We started in Alaska and ended there too. I loved the exploration of why people are drawn to the wild. I loved the stories of explorers and adventurers. Like London’s novels, Alaska is also a merciless character. I will not be taking a walk into the Alaskan wilderness anytime soon, if at all.

What books were your favorites this year?

xo, Ali

What I’m Loving Lately IV

books, daily life, food, music, reading

Tomorrow we begin our annual holiday tour. We leave Michigan for Ohio and then will leave Ohio for Connecticut on Sunday. So today I’m finishing up grading, packing, cleaning — all that fun stuff, because after tomorrow it will probably be two weeks before we are home again. I dislike being gone for so long, but it is the best way to get seeing everyone in.

So it is a bit of a full day, but I figured I would share something I’m loving lately.

Watching: It is an old show, but we’ve been watching a lot of Pushing Daisies lately. I like the whimsical fairy tale-mystery-crime of the week vibe. Plus, the lines are so good. We’ve mainly been sticking to comedy shows, because I have not been able to tolerate anything too serious — just stress, you know? Anyway, tis the season for Christmas movies and I had a few firsts. One — I finally watched It’s a Wonderful Life and cried my eyes out at the end. I was so afraid it would not be as good as everyone said it was and it really is that great. Two — I watched Die Hard. Not as good at IAWL, but good in its own way. I’m not usually one for action films, but I liked this one. And finally, we watched the Christmas Chronicles on Netflix and thought it was hilarious. Kurt Russell should always play Santa Claus.

Listening: When I was not running in September and October, I kind of took a break from podcasts. Now, I’m back to them, catching up on Ultrarunner Podcast, Work, Play, Love, and Rich Roll‘s podcast. It feels good to have these voices back in my ears while going for runs. I find that I miss everyone when it has been awhile. I’m kind of in a music rut. I want something new that does not sound new — if that makes any sense. Like, I want to discover an old album or song that I have not listened to in years.

Reading: I’m reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Every year between Thanksgiving and New Year I re-read the whole series. It has been pretty slow-going this year, but I’m sure it will pick up once we get to Connecticut. I tell you what, I still have the same reactions to those books as I did when I was a teen. I cannot put them down. I will sit on the couch all day to get through one of those tomes. I’m still trying to finish the Master and the Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov and reading Atomic Habits by James Cleary.

Eating: Well, you can see some of what I’ve been eating lately here. I’ve been trying to add more snacks to my daily routine (frankly, it is not working. I’m still hungry). I’ve forgotten how good something simple like hard boiled eggs sprinkled with salt can taste, like amazingly good. Another frequent staple is Montgomery Inn BBQ sauce (I’m addicted). I made this crockpot baked ziti on Sunday and it is so good and easy and has so much potential (like I would add a ton of veggies to it).

What are you loving lately?

xo, Ali

Books to Give to the Runner in your Life

books, running, triathlon

Eighty percent of my Christmas wish list is made up of books. Almost every year my parents ask for what I want for Christmas and I just send them my Amazon wish list, which is approximately a million pages long. I actually try to go through it and get rid of books occasionally.

Anyway – there are a lot of great new running books out this year and I want to read them all. One thing I have noticed about athletic books is that though they seem niche, the advice really is applicable to anything. I found Matt Fitzgerald’s How Bad Do You Want It? It was not only helpful for running, but for writing and finishing my dissertation. Running advice equals life advice.

So here are the running books I would give to a fellow runner (or to be honest, the books I would like to receive this year).

The Happy Runner : Love the Process, Get Faster, Run Longer by David and Megan Roche. Read an excerpt here.

Strong: A Runner’s Guide to Boosting Self-Confidence and Becoming the Best Version of You by Kara Goucher. File this one under a book that will be helpful not only for running, but for life.

The Trail Runner’s Companion: A Step-by-Step Guide to Trail Running and Racing, from 5ks to Ultras by Sarah Lavender Smith. I have not seen many (if any at all) trail running books for those running shorter distances — eventually I would like to run an ultra, but I think it will be another year (hello, baby C!) for that. I want something for trail running for where I’m at now.

North: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail by Scott and Jenny Jurek. I know. I have not read this yet. It is basically a travesty.

Run Fast. Cook Fast. East Slow.: Quick-Fix Recipes for Hangry Athletes by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky. I love the original cook book and probably make something out of it at least once a week. That said, it takes a long time to make the recipes. I’m looking forward to cooking out of this one for hopefully some less time-consuming goodness.

Fast-Track Triathlete: Balancing a Big Life with Big Performance on Long Course Triathlon by Matt Dixon. I loved my first triathlon. It will probably be a long time before I’m able to do a long one (would like to do a few more sprints, before moving onto Olympic, then maybe half-Iron–life is long, right?), but in the meantime I’d like to flip through this book and plan.

What running books are on your Christmas list this year?

xo, Ali

Books on my To-Read List

books, reading, Uncategorized

There are a lot of them. I have been pretty good at not buying new lately. We barely have the space for our currently amount of books and most of them are going into storage. I cannot “Marie Kondo” my books. The best I can do is try to avoid buying anymore, at least, not until we have a bigger place and more shelf storage.

Here are the recent additions to the “when I’m done with my dissertation, I will read these books” list.

  • Brazil: A Biography by Lilia M. Schwarcz and Heloisa M. Starling. Frankly, I probably would never have paid much attention to Brazil if I did not end up marrying a former Brazilian. Many of the dinner table conversations when visiting my in-laws are discussions of political corruption and life in Brazil. This biography seems like an interesting primer on the country.
  • The Marquis: Lafayette Reconsidered by Laura Auricchio. I love reading about the French Revolution. Previously my reading has mainly featured the more extreme components, but I would be interested in reading more about Lafayette. My favorite story about this French Americanophile: He was buried with soil from the United States so that he could say he was buried in a free land.
  • Twilight of the Gods: A Journey to the End of Classic Rock by Steven Hyden. I came to classic rock early in my life, but already well-past rock’s hey-day. I love music, but aside for love of certain bands and albums, I do not actually know too much about it. I do not ever expect to become a music expert, but it would be nice to know more about these bands and music I always have playing in my earbuds.
  • The North Water by Ian McGuire. Strangely, I have never read Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, but my favorite books explore loss of humanity while exploring nature. In this case, it is the arctic. Not to mention, one of my favorite books is Moby Dick and I love anything nautical and involving whaling.
  • The New Paris by Lindsey Tramuta. It has been a year since I have been in Paris and I miss it. We were only there for five days on our honeymoon and it is the first city that I’ve never lived in, but still feel a sort of homesickness for. Given that I’ve only had a taste of the moveable feast that is Paris, I want to see more, do more, eat more, and drink more. Before I go, I will be sure to read this book.

Happy reading!

xo, Ali

2018 Favorite Books So Far

books, reading

I finished my 20th book of the year this morning. It was a celebratory moment in itself because said book was A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin which means finally, finally, FINALLY I have finished the Game of Thrones series. It has taken me since September 2017 with moments of pure reading enjoyment and pure reading hell (Brienne chapters are the worst). I will probably want to re-read them again before the next (and final) season of the show comes out, but until then I’m glad to finally be done with the series. Fare thee well, Westeros and Essos. Hello…well, I’m not sure what I will read next, if I will even start a new series at all.

If I was only reading about the trials and squabbles of those frisky folks on King’s Landing, I probably would have been finished with the series much sooner, but I find it difficult to be book-monogamous (also those Brienne chapters, my GOD!). I usually have several going at once, although I do try to make sure they are not all in the same genre.

Here are a few of my favorites so far in this year (in no particular order):

  1. The Outrun — Amy Liptrot This one might be a favorite, not for the year, but all-time. I keep going back to it, just to read paragraphs of her description of the Scottish Orkney Islands. I have this one on Kindle, the sooner I can get it in hardcover the better.
  2. Why Bob Dylan Matters — Richard F. Thomas Part of my “learn more about music, not just listen to it” project. It provides a great defense of Dylan’s Nobel Prize for Literature, and more importantly, made me appreciate Bob Dylan more and the long tradition he comes from. Plus, it was a healthy reminder that I really need to read my classics.
  3. 168 Hours : You have More Time Than You Think — Laura Vanderkam Some good tough love. Most of her advice is common sense and fairly obvious, but I always need a reminder.
  4. Just Kids & M Train — Patti Smith Scanning through my high schools journals last year, I read something I wrote with an adorable pretentiousness back in 2005: “I want to live a life of art.” And proceeded to explain how I was going to that. I know I am not the first person to write something like that, nor will I be the last. Reading Patti Smith reminded me of these younger ideals and challenged me to continue to hold them. Art is not something you try to fit in, cramming in the hours, but a way of existing and being in the world. I will put these on the “read every year” pile.
  5. The Call of the Wild — Jack London Never in my life would I ever think that a story about a dog would become one of my favorites. Jack London writes like an American.
  6. How Bad Do You Want It? — Matt Fitzgerald I am a sucker for inspirational tales of resilience. The thing is, even though this is a book specifically about endurance in competitive sports, every lesson in here could be applied to graduate school. I think it will make not only my running better, but how I dissertate and everything that is to come after.

I keep track of all my reading on Goodreads. I’m a sucker for the lists and challenges. Plus, those percentage bars that show me how closer or far I am from finishing a book are a type-A dream.

What books have been your favorites this year thus far?

xo, Ali