Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Magic Pill

It isn't very often that I get to say I have a magic pill for you.  I have one today.  A pill that is free, yes, free! A pill that will greatly improve your life.  A pill that doesn't add calories to your diet.  A pill that is available to every person on the planet.

You ready?  Naw, I'm going to make you wait.

I personally started taking this magic pill on a more regular basis about one year ago.  I didn't notice a difference right away.  I also noticed that taking this pill wasn't always easy.  Darn it.  But about 6 months into taking this pill, I started to notice a positive difference.  I was mentally clearer.  I didn't feel as stressed.  I wasn't eating like a maniac or drinking too much, at least not as frequently.  I felt stronger too.

Okay, I'll tell you now.


That's right, sleep.  Of course you sleep.  We all sleep. But do you sleep enough?  Did you know that adults should get 7-8 hours of sleep every night?  Did you know that insufficient sleep is now being considered a factor in all kinds of diseases, like diabetes, depression, even cancer?  I have your attention now, don't I? Here.  I found the data for you.  Reading this might make you fall asleep.  CDC Report on Insufficient Sleep

I've always loved to sleep.  I'm one of those people who could probably sleep for most of the day.  But even I was not getting enough sleep.  So, motivated by Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project(she says quality sleep is one of the keys to happiness) and my friend Susan (who has a life as full, if not fuller, than mine,  If Susan can find the time to sleep more, so can I), I decided to try to get better sleep.  I had already banished screens from the bedroom, as well as keeping the bedroom for sleeping...and maybe one other activity (wink, nod).  I knew that those were both important steps.  So I added going to bed earlier.  Not super early, but earlier.  I also started regulating my sleep - going to bed and getting up around the same time every day.  Going to bed earlier wasn't too difficult.  Getting up around the same time was hard, especially when I didn't have to get up.  I did it anyway.

Guess what?  As I said above, about 6 months in, I noticed I was much fresher when I woke up.  I didn't wander around the house like a zombie every morning.  I could actually talk to people and complete sentences within 5 minutes of waking up.  I also noticed that I wasn't getting as irritated with the small stuff. I felt stronger, both physically and mentally. While it's true that I was making other changes in my life, I'm pretty sure the added sleep was the bigger factor.

So, give it a try.  Here, this might help:

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Required Reading: Manage Your Day-To-Day

This book is a game changer.

I first read about this book on Brainpickings.  Since there are too many books in my house already, I requested it from my library.  You know how it is, you think a book is going to be good, you buy it and then it turns out to be meh.

This book is not a meh book.  I had to stop reading it, put it down to sit and contemplate what I had just read.  I found myself thinking about ideas presented in this book for days.  How often does that happen?

So what is it about Manage Your Day-To-Day that makes it required reading for Creataviters?  Well, for starters, it discusses some of my favorite subjects, like determining which of your ideas are worth pursuing, time management and how to really use your fantastic innate creativity.  But Manage Your Day-To-Day does this in a much deeper way than most books I've read on this subject.  Yes, there are simple tips in here.  But the how and why of our day-to-day is explored in a way that is extremely valuable.

Each chapter of this book, written by a different author, could stand by itself.  All of the authors are movers and shakers in the creative community - techies, authors, designers, filmmakers, etc.  Wait, no singers.  How did that happen??!?!?

Because of this book, even before the New Year started, I made a change in my day-to-day schedule.  For years, my routine has been to do a quick vocal warmup and then take care of business matters - emails, texts, etc. But reading this book pointed out to me that I am wasting the best energy of my day on tasks that can easily be done later in the day.  So, I'm trying to do my creative work - writing, composing, arranging, practicing - first thing, and attend to the business matters later.  This has not been an easy transition!  My brain screams at me that those emails are vitally important and if I don't respond immediately, I am a BAD person. But I'm trying anyway.  You know I'll let you know how it goes.

You can find out more here:  Manage Your Day-To-Day, although I supported my local book store, Main Point Books, and ordered my copy through them.  Actually, I ordered three copies.  I know I'll be giving this one away.

You can thank me later.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

New Year's Resolutions That Work

We're all basking in the glow of 2014, jazzed by the prospect of new possibilities.  That clean slate we are all given at this time of year is one of the best gifts given to us.  As you're working on your New Year resolutions, in whatever form they take, here are some pointers that have worked for me.

Before we get to the pointers, in the interest of full disclosure, I want you all to know that until 2011, I was rotten at keeping New Year's resolutions.  Absolutely rotten.  A total failure.  I didn't even bother.  What changed?  I found a specific plan that works for me.  The pointers I'm giving you today came from my continued work with that plan.  What's happened since I've been following this plan?  I can unequivocally tell you that my life is more fulfilling.  I am taking chances that I had only previously discussed.  I am working on projects that I would have never attemped before, AND, I am finishing or letting go of projects that have been hanging in my life for too long. Therefore, I would say more I am more successful, and no, I don't have that backwards. Fulfillment is really what I wanted, and probably want you want as well.  The success came from feeling fulfilled, not from chasing success.  Think about that!

Here we go:

Be realistic.  Invariably I set my goals too high.  Thank goodness for my friend, Jean, who patiently reads my new plan every year and then, with laughter in her voice says to me, "Heidi, are you REALLY going to be able to master Russian this year?  How is that going to happen?  Let's see if we can make that goal more realistic."  Jean always helps me face the reality of my life.  Remember, the point is to feel like you've achieved a goal.  Making the goal ridiculously large will only make you feel like a failure.  That doesn't feel good to me.

Be specific. Last year I really wanted to study jazz piano, but I knew I didn't have time to study on a weekly basis for the entire year.  I also know it is important to be consistent with the study of an instrument (gee, how do I know that?!?!).  So, I set my goal to study jazz piano for 1-2 hours every week for 3 months.  Specific AND realistic.  Also, this way, you can try things out and let go of them if you find they aren't really what you thought they would be.  And yes, I did achieve the goal.  In fact, I ended up enjoying it so much, I continued with my study by taking a MOOC on Jazz Improvisation.  I'll tell you more about that experience in a later post.

It's all about you.  Make sure you are the master of your resolutions.  Let's say you want more professional work as an opera singer, so you create a goal of being hired by 5 new opera companies. While I can appreciate the intent of this goal, you're leaving yourself open for failure, as there are too many variables in this resolution that are out of your control.  What if you can't find 5 opera companies doing the repertoire that you sing?  What if you just aren't what they are looking for this year?  Change the resolution to audition for sing for 5 new opera companies and now you're talking.  This is a goal that you are completely responsible for - you have to do the work to get the auditions, you have to prepare for the auditions and you have to sing the auditions.  This is achievable.  But isn't this aiming low, you might ask?  I don't think so.  I think it is making yourself accountable.  Every aspect of the new resolution is in YOUR control, not some wacked-out artistic director.

Tell someone.  In mid-December I started teaching in New York.  I've thought about adding a New York studio off and on throughout my teaching career.  I had to wait for the right time and space to open up in my life.  When I saw the opportunity, I jumped in immediately.  Very unlike me.  As I was driving home from my first day of NYC teaching, the very clear and specific goal that would make this successfully work in my life came to my mind.  I loved the clarity of that moment, BUT, it wasn't until I told my niece the specific goal that it became a reality.  It is now much easier to talk about the new project.  It is real; it is happening and I now have to be accountable, not just to myself but to the people who know about it.  

That's an example of why you need to find someone to whom you can tell your New Year's resolutions.  If you can't find anyone, contact me, and I will find someone for you.  Really.  Up to you.