Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Review: The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment's Notice

The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment's Notice
The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment's Notice by Todd Henry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Many people believe that you're either creative or you're not, but Todd Henry's "The Accidental Creative" will challenge those beliefs.

In this book, not only does Henry argue that one can become more creative, he also says that building more structure in one's life will bring more creativity to those who are already creative.

Those of us who are creative would rather not hear those things as we usually identify ourselves as creative, as in it's a thing you are or aren't (although we really know that everyone can be creative). Also, hose of us who have creative-type jobs enjoy being messy and waiting for the ideas to just come to us.

However, I have to admit that Henry's ideas of adding more structure probably does allow you to come up with more ideas. After all, we all know our best ideas come when we are working on something else, so wouldn't it make sense that we'd need to schedule some of that time to "something else?"

Many of the concepts he uses is similar to the concepts in "Getting Things Done" by David Allen, such as having reviews, carrying a notebook for ideas, but he goes further in that he suggests we eliminate or "prune" some of our projects and activities so that we can focus on others.

I like the idea he has of setting up your year by quarters and deciding which projects should be focused on during each, even planning your reading activities by what you are focusing on to ensure the greatest ideas.

For someone who has a lot of ideas, this narrowing down ideas can prove a wonderful way to finally finish some projects and move on to others. I've noticed this in writing a children's book with friends. The further along we go, the more book ideas we have, but if we stopped and started on the other ideas right away we wouldn't be nearing the end of the process. Instead we each write down and tell each other the basic premise and then when we are done with this first book we will decide on our next two to three we would like to focus on in the next year and decide on one to actually write and illustrate next.

Some of the things I'd like to incorporate are meeting more often with creative friends to purposely discuss creative ideas, setting aside an hour a week to devote to new ideas and weeding out some of the ideas I don't yet have time to focus on. I'd also like to do some more long-term planning for my life, so I can determine which projects are most important.

If you're struggling to maintain the creative ideas you need to manifest in your career or daily life, then this book will inspire you to come up with the structure to ensure the ideas continue throughout your life.

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Review: The Thoreau You Don't Know: What the Prophet of Environmentalism Really Meant

The Thoreau You Don't Know: What the Prophet of Environmentalism Really Meant
The Thoreau You Don't Know: What the Prophet of Environmentalism Really Meant by Robert Sullivan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Music is the sound of the circulation in nature's veins." —Thoreau in Walden

Few associate Henry David Thoreau as a lover of music and dancing, but if you read "The Thoreau You Don't Know," you'll learn a lot about the man who wrote "Walden" that you don't yet know about him. Rather than the recluse that some are often want to painting him as, Robert Sullivan sets out an argument for Thoreau as someone who knew his neighbors and often had visitors even while at Walden Pond.

I learned so much about Thoreau and those he was friends with at the time, including Emerson and Walt Whitman. It's hard to imagine what his life was like, though he writes about it often, since Thoreau had many odd jobs, many well-known author friends and seemed to have tons of free time in between to write, walk and be to himself.

I can definitely relate to Thoreau as a person who not only enjoys being around others, but also likes being alone and observing life. A minimalist at heart, I find his time at Walden very romantic and exciting.

The depth of the insight in this book should not be missed by anyone who wants to learn more about Thoreau, or even the time period and area he lived in.

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Review: Making a Living Without a Job: Winning Ways For Creating Work That You Love

Making a Living Without a Job: Winning Ways For Creating Work That You Love
Making a Living Without a Job: Winning Ways For Creating Work That You Love by Barbara Winter

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An extension of Dan Miller's "No More Mondays," Barbara Winter's "Making a Living Without a Job" extends this knowledge to go beyond the basics to show you examples of what a life without a full-time job might actually be like. Not only has she created several different money-making endeavors throughout her career, but she trains many others to do the same.

My favorite portion of the book is where she talks about creating multiple streams of income. She has you picturing a juggler, who begins spinning one plate and once that plate is going, to start spinning another plate. Basically, she is describing her process for creating many ways of bringing income in at the same time. Instead of starting everything at once, though, Winter encourages you to start one project for 90 days, then begin the next. She explains that if you create many ways to make money you'll never rely solely on one income stream, which makes it easier to survive.

Much of the book also focuses on increasing your self-esteem and easy ways to do that; coming up with creative money-making ideas and why you should never stop that process; and how to take care of yourself along the way.

It is an easy, quick read with tons of ideas for new businesses that can be started immediately.

If you are looking to bring in money, this book will show you where ideas for self-employment comes from.

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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Review: No More Mondays: Fire Yourself -- and Other Revolutionary Ways to Discover Your True Calling at Work

No More Mondays: Fire Yourself -- and Other Revolutionary Ways to Discover Your True Calling at Work
No More Mondays: Fire Yourself -- and Other Revolutionary Ways to Discover Your True Calling at Work by Dan Miller

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you're questioning your line of work, Dan Miller does a great job at giving you options for your future.
In this book, he gives ideas for starting your own business or becoming a freelancer or contractor, but he doesn't ever tell you exactly what you should do. He makes it clear that everyone's answer to "what should I do for a living?" will be a little different depending on their wants, desires, skills and passions.
There are plenty of ideas throughout the book for passion seekers to explore their ideas and at the end of each chapter their is a list of things you should have learned from the chapter and some questions to ask yourself.

Miller also explains that while many people believe being an employee is the safest route, it, in fact, is not. Some of the reasons he gives is that many businesses are using cost-cutting measures to eliminate giving some of the benefits people are used to in a position, that many businesses are eliminating employee positions to save money and that if you lose your job you must replace 100 percent of your income, rather than losing one client of many, where you would only be losing a percentage of your profits.

I think even those who are not thinking about leaving a job in the next year or so should look into this book and begin exploring ideas in the future about what measures they could take to rely less on their 9-to-5 job. I think it's a great career exploration book as well as get you thinking about alternate ideas and using your imagination to find a passionate career that is likely to bring in more money than what you are making working for someone else.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Review: "Organized Simplicity" aimed at families

By Tiffany Young

While their were portions of "Organized Simplicity" that someone single could glean from this book, it was very much geared towards those with more than one bedroom and more than one person in their life.
(I have a significant other, but since we don't live together many of the discussions we might have about our home goals are moot.)

A few times, the author says if you are single just reframe the question, but for the most part, I felt it was difficult to do.

All that to say, there were some takeaways that could be gained from reading the book even if I wasn't the target audience. If you have debt, she goes into detail on how she and her family got out of debt so they could live the life they wanted to live. She also goes room by room and has the reader clean and organize each one. I just have a single bedroom, so this, too was not incredibly useful, but if you are overwhelmed with scheduling time to organize, she has you go through each room on a daily schedule for 10 days.

I would say that this book is aimed at a beginner to simplifying as many of the concepts are fairly general.
I did enjoy the reference pages and the appendix, which had checklists to fill out.

Her use of a notebook was a bit more detailed than many of the other concepts, and I am going to try using one, although I am very much an out-of-sight out-of-mind kind of gal, so putting something away in a notebook rarely works for me, since I forget it is even there. The only way I've found to avoid this is by leaving the notebook out, which is clutter in and of itself.

I would recommend this book to parents who want to make goals with their children for having a happier, simpler home.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Review: "Winning the Clutter War" is a great book for 'messies'

By Tiffany Young

Unlike many organizing books, "Winning the Clutter War" is made for those of us with a real clutter problem. Some of the books on the market tend to be talking to people who already have it all together.

This book is not like that! It gives step-by-step directions on how to change your behavior from procrastination and disorganization to living in a clean, organized home. And she's not unrealistic either.

The author admits that if you are a natural 'messie,' you likely won't have a spotless home in the near future. But having a home that people can drop in at and you won't be horribly embarrassed is a real possibility by following a few key points.

One of those points I enjoyed was the strategy to work circularly around your home giving yourself ample time to complete a drawer or area. Unlike some books, there is no stress to tackle any area in a given amount of time or to merely tell you about the 2 or 3 boxes to carry around for throw away, donation and keep. Although she does use this as part of an overall strategy, it is not the only advice she has.

She also goes into detail about how to set up chores to ensure that one the home is clean and organized it stays that way.

I especially enjoy that she has lots of other resources listed in case you need more help and that she gives real examples of problem areas and how to solve them. It is much less general than the organization books I usually find and I believe her when she says that she had to learn to live this way rather than it coming naturally.

If you tend to have messy home, I would highly recommend this as your first read to overcoming clutter and living an organized life!

"Frumpy to Fabulous Flaunting It" mostly on-mark

"Frumpy to Fabulous Flaunting It" is a pretty extensive book on how to choose a personal style for yourself. It does not have a ton of visuals to see examples, but it does go through different body types, how to choose colors and styles depending on skin tone and body shape and the psychology behind wearing something and flaunting it. I'd say about half of the book discusses things like body issues over what to actually wear, but Natalie Jobity does a pretty good job of describing what should and shouldn't be in your closet as well. 
I will say she emphasized that everyone should try to look tall, encouraging high heels for short women, which I can't say I necessarily agree with. I think high heels on a daily basis is terrible for your body. See these articles for more on that: What health dangers lurk in your closet and High Heels: Worth the Health Risk?
Otherwise, I enjoyed her advice and took the opportunity to re-evaluate my closet. A lot of the advice you have probably heard before, but it is a pretty new book, so unlike some fashion books it is not yet outdated in its advice. 
I'd say this is a good read for you if you are stuck in a rut and need to re-evaluate your closet to meet a certain goal, such as feeling confident in your clothes, having your clothes match your job or just to make sure you have all the necessities in your closet.