Category Archives: Success

Take Advantage of Downtime

Published / by Annie / 3 Comments on Take Advantage of Downtime

Many years ago I was waiting somewhere for something. A lady came in after me. Once she found out that there was going to be a delay she settled down, pulled out some yarn, and started crocheting. While the rest of us shifted and grumbled, she contentedly tinkered on an afghan she was creating.

Curious and bored, I started a conversation with her. How could she just sit there crocheting? Wasn’t she upset that she was being forced to lose her valuable time because so-and-so was running behind?

She smiled at me patiently as she began to switch colors on her creation. She was pleased at the delay, she confessed calmly. It would allow her to get a bit more done on her afghan.

She proceeded to explain to me that downtime was a blessing to her. She spent so much of her day running errands and taking care of business that she rarely had the opportunity to work on her crocheting projects. While at first she resented the delays she eventually realized that she could take advantage of them so she started keeping her current project in a bag that she could carry with her. Whenever she had to wait somewhere she would reach into her bag, pull out her yarn, and start crocheting.

She completed a lot more projects as a result she informed me happily.

Her words stuck with me after we parted ways. At the time I worked multiple jobs, trying to keep food on the table for my children while also taking an online class in computer repair. Time was something I rarely had enough of. Could I do something similar?

I started taking my computer repair books to work with me. I would read them while waiting to clock in and during my break at work. I read them anytime I had a few minutes to spare while waiting for appointments and at night when I had trouble going to sleep.

I finished my computer course a lot sooner than anticipated as a result so I kept up the habit, reading more advanced texts on computer repair and eventually branched out to read books on business management, success, and other topics. I raised a lot of eyebrows when I would pull out my weighty tomes at work or in waiting rooms. Like the woman who inspired me, I patiently answered their questions and moved on.

I still do that now. I keep my Kindle in my purse, ready to take advantage of those snatches of time whenever I encounter them. Instead of vegging out in front of a movie or a television show, I pull out the device and start reading.

Not only does this help to eliminate stress by giving you something to look forward to while you are waiting, it allows you to accomplish something in those little pieces of time that would otherwise be wasted.

I use the time for learning. Currently I’m reading books on philosophy and religion, spiced with books on success and the occasional novel. I’m currently working on Bobby Knight’s book The Power of Negative Thinking after catching it on sale for 99 cents before I dive into the works of Emerson.

The next time you find yourself waiting try to devise a productive way to use those little snatches of time. Can you jot down some notes for a school project, touch up your manicure, clean out your wallet, work on a craft project, or read a book?

Make a quick phone call to an elderly relative. Update your task list. Send a text to your kid and tell them you love them. Make an appointment to get your car serviced. Plan out your budget or meals for the next week. Anything is better than just sitting there mindlessly checking your Facebook as the minutes tick away.

And at the end of the day, instead of plopping down on the couch to commune with your television or play a video game, think about the other things you could do instead that would improve your life. Even if you only take a few extra minutes of your time before returning to your regular routine, those minutes will add up to hours that you have gained instead of wasted.

What can you do with your downtime? Please share your stories in the comments below.

How I am Teaching Responsibility to my Young Adult

Published / by Annie / 2 Comments on How I am Teaching Responsibility to my Young Adult

As my daughter Katie neared her 18th birthday the inevitable challenge arose:

“I’m almost 18!” she huffed at me one day. “You need to start treating me like an adult!”

“I’ll treat you like an adult when you start acting like one,” I retorted firmly.

This led to a conversation about what it takes to be considered an adult. I explained to her that able-bodied adults pay their own way in the world. They don’t rely on Mommy and Daddy to support them. While they may not be rich, they have bills that they have to pay and they do.

“What if I start paying rent then?” Katie suggested. “If I pay half of the bills, would you start treating me like an adult?”

After I recovered from my surprise, Katie offered to begin paying half of the household expenses. Since I live very cheaply, that’s not as much as it seems. Two hundred dollars a month during the summer months, with more added to cover the extra heating expense when winter comes ended up being the amount we settled upon. We are both responsible for any personal expenses and we split the expense of buying food and supplies (like bathroom tissue) that we both use.

To be honest, I agreed to this with the belief that she would keep up the payments for a month or so and then start coming up with excuses. However, over six months have elapsed and she has paid her share of the expenses cheerfully. As a result, I now treat her like the adult that she wants to be treated as.

This not only solves the issue of dealing with a young lady on the cusp of adulthood, it teaches her how to budget in a safe environment. I keep the whole amount for the bills on hand in the event that something happens that prevents her from paying just in case. Instead of my daughter moving out to live with friends who may or may not be fiscally responsible with their share of the expenses, she gets to live with someone (mom) who knows how to make sure the bills are paid regardless.

It has also made life as a single parent easier. Instead of having to pay all of the bills, they are now halved. As a result, I actually have money to save or to use on those little extras I’ve sacrificed over the years (I’ll write more on that later).

How have you decided to teach fiscal responsibility to the young adults in your care? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Ten Things to Do When You’re Bored

Published / by Annie

“I’m bored.”

Those two little words can strike fear into the heart of any parent. Whenever a kid is bored, trouble is not far behind so we strive to find something interesting to keep the kids occupied.

Boredom is something that affects adults as well. While periods of boredom can be good for you, we often end up turning on the television, checking social media, playing video games, or mindlessly texting a friend as we try to find something to occupy our mind.

While I am no stranger to boredom I find that it helps to have something productive to do when boredom strikes. That way, at the end of the day you can tell yourself that you made a tiny step towards something better.

If you’re like me, however, you can find it difficult to figure out exactly what to do when in the midst of those moments. To help, I’ve created a small list of ideas to get you started.

  1. Read. Reading is the one thing that even the poorest person can do to improve themselves. How-tos, self-improvement, even certain novels can open your mind and teach you something new. With the ubiquitousness of smartphones these days, it is a simple matter to download a free reading app (like the Kindle app) to read free or low-priced books wherever you happen to be when boredom strikes. While you can carry a physical book with you, books can be bulky but since most of us carry a smartphone already, opening an app on the device would not be an issue when the opportunity arises. I carry my Kindle everywhere I go for this purpose.
  2. Make Lists. Open an app on your phone or carry a small notebook with you. When you feel boredom about to strike, brainstorm. Write down the things you want/need to do in the near future, ideas for new and current projects, hopes and plans for the future. This not only occupies your mind, it allows you to do something productive with your time instead of just wasting it on social media or fretting.
  3. Clean Your House. Everyone’s home has something small that needs to be done. Even if you just cleaned the place, there will be some small thing that needs doing. Look through the list you created (create one if you haven’t already) for some small thing you can accomplish. If you’re not big on lists have a few simple tasks that you always perform when boredom strikes. We always have clean dishes to put away, the litterbox to scoop out, a trash can that needs emptied, and a kitchen table that always needs a bit of tidying so when boredom threatens to strike I start there.
  4. Throw Something Away. Instead of being bored, go through your mental inventory of possessions in search of one or two things that you can safely discard. If you are away from home, make a list of these items so that you can eliminate them later. If you are at home, why not go ahead and get rid of them? You will have something to do, and be simplifying your life as a result.
  5. Take a Walk. Walks don’t have to be long to benefit you. Take a turn around your apartment building, go around the block, or even farther if time and energy allows. Look around you and see the interesting things you can notice, or just think about whatever crosses your mind. I find that walking is one of the best ways to relieve stress. When I feel myself getting frustrated or bored, I grab my jacket and take a turn around the neighborhood. I get some strange looks when I do this late at night but since I live in a very safe area I am able to wander unmolested. Find a safe place and try this for yourself. Not only will walking relieve your boredom, it will help to improve your health as well.
  6. Call/Visit a friend or Family Member. We all have that friend or relative that doesn’t receive much company. Why not call or stop by just to tell them that you love them and are thinking of them?
  7. Learn Something New. Read books or take a class on something that you would like to learn about. You can learn a craft such as crocheting, sew simple projects by hand or machine (if you have a machine available), even how to repair your home or the items in it. If you want a promotion at work, read or take a class on business management to improve your chances? It can’t hurt, and will give you an advantage over your competition.
  8. Write. Start a small journal by either writing down your personal thoughts using a writing app on your phone or by jotting them down in a small notebook that you carry with you. This not only gives you something to do, it will help free your mind of cluttering thoughts that can distract you. I find that writing my thoughts down helps me clarify my feelings on certain matters, which reduces stress. It gives you a nonjudgmental sounding board, a place where you can safely reveal your innermost thoughts. the experience can be liberating.
  9. Take a Nap. We all need more rest. Get some. Instead of vegging out in front of the television, turn it off and catch some Zzzs. Set an alarm if you need to wake up for something. Many people find that they are so exhausted due to their busy lives that they sleep for far more than they expected to.
  10. Do Nothing. Find a quiet spot, sit or lie down, and just relax. If you find yourself thinking about something, just allow the thoughts to flutter through your head. Eventually something may strike you that needs to be done. When that happens you can make a note or get started. I find that I get my best writing ideas this way.

What do you do when boredom strikes? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Having a List Can Increase Productivity

Published / by Annie / 6 Comments on Having a List Can Increase Productivity

A cherished part of my childhood was spending part of each summer vacation with my Auntie. Not only did I get to play with her kids, she lived a totally different life from my parents. I’ll never forget the day when I saw her sit down with a piece of paper and start writing.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“I’m writing down the stuff I need to do today,” Auntie replied.

“Why?”

“Well, it helps me figure out what I need to accomplish. At the end of the day, it shows me what all I managed to get done, so I can go to bed feeling satisfied.”

Younger Me didn’t understand that. What was the point in writing down silly things like “make the beds?” It seemed like a waste of time. Instead of writing a stupid list, why not just do the stuff and get it over with?

Many years later she showed me. When my father died Mom and I were lost. I followed Uncle’s instructions to drive over to their house instead of heading home. That night was spent grieving, but the next day? The next day we had stuff to do.

Auntie sat down and helped us create a list.

  • Get Annie’s glasses fixed (Mom had slapped them off of me in her grief and broken them).
  • Take Dad’s suit to the funeral home.
  • Switch the bank account into Mom’s name only.
  • Select our outfits for the funeral.
  • Call A, B, and C to inform them of Dad’s death.

It wasn’t a very long list but it included simple things like “grab a bite to eat” and “go to bed early and rest.” Because my Auntie had created it, I helped my Mom follow it to the letter.

I realized at the end of the day that it had felt good to mark the things off that little piece of paper as we accomplished them. When I went to bed that night, it was with the realization that we had accomplished everything that needed to be done that day.

Almost thirty years later I still make lists.

Pythagoras taught that everything in nature could be divided into three parts. He believed that no one could become truly wise if they didn’t understand that every problem they face was diagrammatically triangular. He was famous for saying, “Establish the triangle and the problem is two-thirds solved.”

My lists contain a bit more than three things but his reasoning (as demonstrated by my Auntie) holds true. Simply organizing your thoughts by making a physical list eliminates the heavy lifting in your day to day life. Instead of stopping to think of what you’ve already accomplished as you work out what else you need to do, it’s already there in front of you. Just pick something else from your list and get to work. At the end of the day you have physical proof that you accomplished something.

Lists don’t have to be fancy to be effective. You can jot them down on the back of an envelope, make a list in your daily journal, or use an app designed for that purpose.

I’ve personally learned that simpler is better. I keep a cheap notebook on my kitchen table for mine. When I sit down for my first cup of coffee, I turn to a fresh page and start writing. If I accomplish something that I didn’t think to put on the list, I write it down and mark it off. If I think of something that I need to accomplish at some point in the future, I jot it down on the side as a reminder.

When I complete something I like to take a moment, sit down, and relish the fact that I got one more thing accomplished that day. It sounds silly but that little moment of reflection means a lot. It reminds me that, instead of wasting my time, that I’ve actually managed to accomplish something. It makes a bad day better when you can go to bed knowing that you accomplished something. Here is a video that explains it better than I can.

Do you make lists? If not, why not give it a try? If you find that it helps you, please consider sharing this post with your friends. Thank you. Thank you

Fighting the Good Fight

Published / by Annie / 10 Comments on Fighting the Good Fight

Life, no matter how you arrange it, is far from perfect. We all have things that we need to deal with. In my personal journey, I am dealing with a brain disease as a result of an injury I suffered some time ago.

I have a choice: I can sit on my ass, whining and crying, or I can plow forward and keep fighting. On the days that I glitch, when I transpose numbers at work , my hand refuses to work, I stumble over thin air, or the words that come out of my mouth sound like gibberish and the pain makes it hard to think it is easy to sit down and give up. I am terrified that my boss will figure out that something is wrong with me and fire me as a result.

But you know what I do? I keep trying. Every day I use the tricks that I’ve invented to keep moving forward. I get friends and family help me to remember things. I use notes and Outlook to keep track of stuff I’ve done and stuff I need to do. When my hand doesn’t work right, I switch to doing things one-handed until the glitch irons out. When my words turn into gibberish I play it off as I’m just dingy.

And when I hurt, I take whatever is available to dull the worst of the pain and I keep moving forward.

It would be so easy to give up and to say that “I can’t.” But you know what? Can’t never could do anything. Can’t never managed to get a damn thing accomplished. The only true failure is to stop trying and it will be a cold day in hell before I do that. I am going to fight, and keep fighting until I either beat this shit or I am dead in my grave.

And I want you to learn from that.

I want you to understand that, no matter how bad things are, no matter how bad things get, that the only way out of them is to keep fighting. You may make a lot of mistakes. You may hit a lot of brick walls, but if you allow these things to defeat you then you will never be able to achieve your dreams.

So please, whatever you do, keep fighting. Don’t let the darkness win.

What challenges are you facing that make you want to give up? Please share your stories in the comments below.

The Art of Teaching Yourself

Published / by Annie / 4 Comments on The Art of Teaching Yourself

Not everyone can manage to get a formal education. In some instances, the subject of study desired isn’t even offered in a class. I learned a long time ago that if I wanted to learn about something I would have to figure out a way to study it outside of formal methods.

This determination has served me well.

When I wanted to learn more about computers, I started reading books on the subject. I scavenged computer parts from discarded machines and used them to practice what I learned until such time that I managed to take an online course in computer repair.

When I desperately needed to make repairs on my home, I located a couple of books on the subject, read them, and applied what I learned to tear out walls, reinforce the studding, repair electrical wiring, insulate, and install drywall in the place of the ancient paneling that had originally covered the walls. I even learned how to take a rotting porch apart and rebuild it to make it safe.

I’ve done this with many subjects over the years. When I needed to learn something, I would either locate some books or find someone who was experienced in the subject to pepper with questions until I figured out what I needed to do.

In recent years I used this method of self-education to learn how to start writing online, then I expanded my research to learn how to self-publish books and create my own website. I built my writing business by simply teaching myself what I needed to know.

Since the markets have changed I have decided to learn how to write in a completely new genre. I’ve been studying the art of writing fiction for several years. Since romance authors are the most successful in the field of publishing (both traditional and self-published) I’m focusing on that narrow spectrum in order to build my business.

As with everything I learn, my first projects will doubtless stink. They generally do, in my personal opinion, and that’s okay. I need those first attempts in order to learn from my mistakes and to grow closer to my goal. I know that each project will be a bit better until I am finally satisfied with the results.

I have been collecting the most ubiquitous romance novels I know of to start: Harlequin novels. I am collecting every single book I can get my hands on to analyze construction, plot, and other features. I figure that once I master that format I can teach myself how to write longer works.

I intend to use the money I earn from writing these books to support my passion. I want to continue teaching people how to live on less while keeping this website as non-commercialized as possible since I cannot in good conscience encourage people to buy more than they need.

This project is not only how I plan to support myself with my current limitations; it is also a way that I can continue to afford to write about my passion. Barbara Ehrenriech discussed this dilemma in her article In America, only the rich can afford to write about poverty. It isn’t perfect, but it is the only solution I can come up with. I am not going to give up this website without a fight, any more than I’m going to just lie down and die because of an injury that severely limits what I can do to earn money.

So wish me luck, folks. I’m gonna need it.

Dealing with Challenges

Published / by Annie / 9 Comments on Dealing with Challenges

One of the things I haven’t written about lately is the fact that I’m laboring under a distinct challenge: due to the head injury I suffered a while back (2015?), I ended up with demyelinating disease. To sum it up, my memory stinks and is only going to get worse. I also ended up with some physical limitations aside from memory (speech, movement, etc.) but I’m working on those.

From what I understand, if I keep my mind active I can delay the deterioration of my gray matter. Fortunately, that is always something I’ve excelled at – if I can remember to do it.

Once I stopped feeling sorry for myself I resolved to figure out how to function despite the crappy hand Life dealt me. I tried a whole slew of methods to remind myself to do things as well as having to figure out a way to continue writing and publishing books. I have problems seeing, so I dug a spare monitor I had out of mothballs and connected it to my laptop. I can still remember how to format my books using Microsoft Word so I switched back to that program. I even dug out my ancient 11-year old laptop because it could not only connect to the larger monitor I needed to use, it ran Word.

During my desperate thrashing for a method to remember the stuff I need to do I stumbled upon Outlook. It was bundled with the ancient copy of Word that I now use to compose blog posts and write my books. I have figured out that if I put every single task in it as I think about it (or the kid points it out), then I can better keep track of what needs to be done. It even has a journaling section where I can write down the things I’ve accomplished so that I can remember that I’ve done them.

I’m still learning how to use the program but it is helping. I use it to remind me to write every day as well as to tell me when to write and schedule new posts for this website. That is how I’ve managed to start publishing once a week on a regular basis again.

I turn on that ancient laptop first thing every morning, look at the stuff I need to do, and slowly tinker on it throughout the day. I scan in any papers I need to save, logging them in that old program for when I need to retrieve them. That way I just need to run a search instead of trying to remember where I’ve (mis)placed the originals.

I’m telling you this not so that you will feel sorry for me, but so you understand that I don’t feel sorry for myself. Instead of focusing on the stuff I can’t do, I work on ways to get things done. I figure out ways to achieve my goals.

Like my father before me, who invented ingenious ways to solve the problems presented by his amputated leg, I am working out ways to take care of business and support myself despite my challenges.

I want you to remember that. I want you to know that, no matter what, that as long as you keep trying, as long as you keep working, that you can achieve anything. I also want you to understand that you won’t accomplish a damn thing if you sit on your ass and feel sorry for yourself.

If one thing fails, try another. And another. And yet another until you find something that works. Then once you figure out something that works, you use that to keep marching towards your goals.

What goals do you want to accomplish? What methods are you currently trying to achieve them? Please share your stories in the comments below.

The Stupidity of Self Talk

Published / by Annie / 1 Comment on The Stupidity of Self Talk

The past few days I’ve had a sick kid at home. I’ve been chowing down on jalapeño peppers as I hacked my way through writing this novel in hopes of not catching what she has.

Brilliant woman that I am, I stayed up past five in the morning on Wednesday knowing that I had to get up at 8 to take her back to the doctor. I told myself “I’ll just take a nap once we get home and start work.”

Right. Cue Johnny Depp and the strangest dream ever to keep me from getting any sleep at all. The whole dream was nothing more than dear old gorgeous Johnny waking me up every single time I tried to visit La La Land.

So I gave up trying to sleep and made a cup of coffee. I NEEDED to work on my book despite the fact that I felt like crap. I felt so bad that I was ready to just call it a loss for the night and accept a big ugly goose egg on my word count log.

But what did I do? I fired up my ancient writing rig and started talking to myself.

“Okay, Annie, here’s the deal,” I told myself. “You wanna get this book written, right?”

“Right.” (Yup, I even answered myself.)

“Well, you ain’t gonna get it done if you don’t start writing, so sit your happy butt down and knock out a single word.”

So I did.

“Now write another one, you idiot.”

Word by word I ordered myself to write. When one sentence was done I would bully myself until I managed another. By the time I finished I had 1,200 words written for the day.

I met my daily goal and then some.

The thing about having a goal is that you won’t ever achieve it if you don’t do the work; some days you won’t feel like even bothering, just like I didn’t today. When those days come you have to be willing to do whatever it takes to force yourself to get busy. It won’t be fun, but by the time you are finished you will be that much closer to wherever you want to be.

What can you do today?

The Secret to Accomplishing Goals

Published / by Annie / 1 Comment on The Secret to Accomplishing Goals

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day and he told me that he’s always wanted to write a novel.

“I’ve got lots of ideas,” he said, “I just don’t have XX and YY and ZZ.”

I must confess that I went on a bit of a rant. I’ve started out and over more times than I can count so excuses tend to rub me the wrong way.

You want to start a business but don’t have the equipment? Look around your house to see what you do have and start from there.

For instance, let’s say you want to start a handyman business but all you have are some cleaning supplies. Offer to start cleaning houses, then use the money you make to start buying your equipment. As you get the equipment, start doing handyman work using the tools that you have, then add more tools and supplies until you get things set up the way that you like.

You want to write a book but all you have is a phone? Download a free text editor and start tapping that sucker out in plain text if you have to. Visit a friend and use their computer to format it and submit it to distributors. When you get enough money from sales, invest in a computer or whatever you feel will help you get the job done easier.

When I started working on computers all I really knew how to do was to speed them up and clean them out. I started doing that for friends to make extra cash. I took that money and invested it into education and tools, gradually expanding my business to cover doing other computer-related repairs.

When I got two registered cocker spaniels, I didn’t know a darn thing about breeding dogs. I just knew that I needed to make some money to escape an impossible situation. If I had told myself “I would love to be able to breed animals but I don’t know how,” I wouldn’t have even gotten the dogs in the first place.

But what did I do? I took them home, went to the library, and read up on the subject. I made a lot of mistakes but by the end of it I made enough to achieve my goals.

I wanted to write books my whole life. I tried and I failed for years. Eventually I came into contact with someone who was writing articles online and I started there. In time I came into contact with others and learned how to write and publish books.

If I had told myself “articles are nice but I want to write books,” I would have passed up on a valuable stepping stone that lead me to where I am today.

Since my head injury I’ve been unable to work a public job. I’ve been told that time and again from family, friends, and medical professionals. BUT, thanks to a friend, I was able to get to the point where I could start writing again, so what did I do?

I started writing.

Yes, I made mistakes. Yes, I had a horrible time trying to get my book formatted. I was using software that I wasn’t extremely familiar with in the days before I got hurt so I kept slamming my head against a wall but you know what? I kept trying. I fiddled and I tinkered until I got a free trial of an ancient copy of Microsoft Word going so that I could get the book published.

What do you think would have happened if I had not kept trying? That book would have never gotten written, much less published. Some days I couldn’t work at all due to my current limitations. On those days I did what I could, and you know what? I’ve got a new book published as the result of my efforts.

You don’t need to have all of the tools when you begin something. You don’t need to have all of the answers to every single problem that comes up. You just need to get started and make yourself do the work.

Every single day, do something towards your goal. If it’s writing, make yourself sit down for ten minutes and knock out a sentence or two. If its computer repair, spend your down time reading and fixing the computers of family and friends. Take dead computers and piece them together to make a good one, then sell that to buy whatever tools or educational manuals you need.

You won’t ever manage to accomplish a single thing if you never get started. You won’t achieve anything if you don’t make the time to do the work. If you are waiting for the perfect time or that windfall in order to do whatever it is you want to do, well, I hate to tell you this Sunshine, but the perfect time or circumstances are never gonna come. You have to start where you are.

What do you want to achieve? What steps a can you take every single day to achieve your goal? Please share your stories in the comments below.