Since the age of 14 I’ve been obsessed with how to make the most of each day, how to use my time to the greatest effect. So I’ve read a fair number ofSince the age of 14 I’ve been obsessed with how to make the most of each day, how to use my time to the greatest effect. So I’ve read a fair number of books on this topic and gleaned principles along the way. This is the best book of its kind I have read so far. Maybe I feel this way because David Allen takes a similar approach to my own in getting things done. He confirm that some of my intuitive time-management practices are sound and effective. Allen also taught me how to refine those processes and make them more conscious. And he added new strategies to my repertoire that I am excited to incorporate.
Besides all the practical strategies I got from this book, I relearned an important life principle, this time through the lens of productivity. Tasks you tell yourself to do or projects that you make an agreement with yourself to take care of and then don't do not only clutter your mind and make it hard to concentrate on anything, they actually feel like broken promises to yourself and weigh on your spirit. To have what the author describes as a “mind like water,” meaning a mind that is fluid, creative, relaxed, and capable of sustained attention, requires that you know what you have to do right away and what you have agreed with yourself you can put off. You have to be able to feel good about what you are not doing right now in order to feel good about what you are doing right now.
If you keep agreements with yourself, you will feel peaceful. If you break them you will feel bogged down and guilty. The mind and spirit do not differentiate between small, relatively insignificant tasks, like getting your carpets cleaned, which you told yourself you would do this month or important life resolutions, like spending more time with your children, which you to told yourself you would do this month as well. They are both just broken agreements that weigh on you if you don’t follow through.
So here is the biggest gem from this book: Renegotiate with yourself often. This is how you keep a mind like water. You renegotiate your list. You go through your in-box every day and assign everything a spot. You look at each project on your project list at least once a week, deciding what the next action is and adding it to the appropriate list, determining when you will do it. Allen says that the day most people feel best about their work is the day before they go on vacation because that is when most people take the time to renegotiate their to-do list and reassign every task a spot. You can feel like that all the time if you regularly process your in-box, assign everything a spot, and then frequently renegotiate what will be done and when.
Allen acknowledges that there is never enough time in this life to do everything. But when you have a good system, you can feel peaceful about what you are choosing to do at each moment and enter fully into the experience with attention and presence of mind.
We read this book aloud to our children and then met to discuss it with other families. It was interesting to sit in a room with four families, sharinWe read this book aloud to our children and then met to discuss it with other families. It was interesting to sit in a room with four families, sharing the dreams we have pursued or would like to pursue, the dreams we have witnessed others pursue, the dreams that have failed, and those that have succeeded. That is the kind of thinking this book leads to. You start thinking about your dreams.
The first half of the book is an allegory. It’s pretty didactic and obvious, in the tradition of Pilgrim’s Progress. So at first it comes across as corny to modern ears, especially teenage-boy ears. But pretty soon we all settled into the writer's style and appreciated the fact that he was trying to teach us something through story instead of lecture. Once we let go of our expectations for edge-of-your seat entertainment, we began to let the message penetrate our hearts. We began to ask ourselves if we had ever been a “border bully.” We began to think about times we have been called to surrender our dreams to God. We began to wonder if we had ever had the courage to leave the town of Familiar or if we would have the courage to leave it again. We thought about how much we can help each other with our dreams, even though each dreamer must fight his own Giants. We found little nuggets like this one: “To do what he most loved, he would have to do what he most feared.” And we began to see that Ordinary’s journey has a lot to do with our own journeys.
Even though this is not great literature, it is simply told, which is harder to do than it looks. It generated good discussions in my home. And it does what it sets out to do--it teaches principles in a memorable, engaging way. ...more
This is the educational philosophy I try to follow with my children, though I fall short of the ideal. What I appreciate most about Oliver DeMille's pThis is the educational philosophy I try to follow with my children, though I fall short of the ideal. What I appreciate most about Oliver DeMille's philosophy is the emphasis on adult education, what he calls "you, not them." Be a role model of life-long learning and children will follow suit. ...more
I finished reading this book on election day. It was a great reminder that people who see the world differently in terms of politics and economic philI finished reading this book on election day. It was a great reminder that people who see the world differently in terms of politics and economic philosophy can still love each other. This book is an economics lesson first and a romance novel second. The back cover describes it as "delightfully didactic." The author's intent is to teach the reader to think like an economist, but he makes the lesson more palatable by couching it in terms of a love story. This book helped me think through issues I was fuzzy about and find ways to articulate principles I believe in.
I reread this book every ten years or so. It speaks to me in new ways each time, but never fails to soothe and inspire. This time I read it on an airpI reread this book every ten years or so. It speaks to me in new ways each time, but never fails to soothe and inspire. This time I read it on an airplane, and it seemed like I was looking down on my life through the window of this book from a higher perspective. ...more
My son had to read this book for his AP Literature class, and I was intrigued by the title, so I read it for myself. I wish I had had this book as anMy son had to read this book for his AP Literature class, and I was intrigued by the title, so I read it for myself. I wish I had had this book as an undergraduate English major! Even now it has helped me look more closely at the literature I read. A character who gets wet has been baptized. When characters share food it is communion. Winter is death, except when it isn’t, which makes for irony. This may sound like a simplistic approach, but in Foster’s hands it's not. Foster applies his analytical skills to wide-ranging literary selections and shows how symbolism and allusion, far from being simplistic, open up doors for irony, rich ambiguity, political commentary, and resonance. If you read for escape and don’t want to think too much beyond the surface plot-line and characters you can love or hate, this book will bore or frustrate you. But I recommend it for all who love to see the layered meanings and nuances in what they read. I expect to refer back to this book again and again. ...more
This is a personal narrative about the author’s experiences growing up in American after emigrating from Iran. I read it this summer at the poolside,This is a personal narrative about the author’s experiences growing up in American after emigrating from Iran. I read it this summer at the poolside, a few essays at a time, and sometimes found myself laughing aloud, sometimes pausing to reread a clever phrase, and occasionally being moved by a heightened sense of appreciation for American freedoms, educational opportunities, and prosperity. What touched me most was the young Firoozeh’s conclusion, reached as an elementary school girl on her first day in a new school, that Americans were very kind people. The teacher tried not to embarrass her and her mother, even though her mother could nor read or even find her own home country on a map. A stranger led the disoriented mother and daughter home when they got lost on their way home from school. And kind neighbors welcomed the new family on the block. That is America at its best.
The clash of cultures was fascinating, especially as seen through a child’s eyes. The author’s tone was affectionate toward both her homeland culture and her adopted American culture, but she has a keen eye for the ironic and absurd in both. She pokes gentle fun at everything from American dieting rituals to Iranian relatives who come for a visit and stay for months. At times I wished Dumas would show more respect toward her parents, but their fine qualities shine through anyway, so I suppose that is tribute enough. I was especially impressed by the parents’ willingness to give up familiarity in exchange for opportunity—for themselves but even more so for their daughter. That is what American immigrants have always done. And their sacrifices have been repaid by the successes of their posterity—in this case a popular book, well written and worth recommending. ...more
This is the best writing book I've ever read. It is aimed at screen writers, but is valuable for anyone telling a story in any genre. This book will aThis is the best writing book I've ever read. It is aimed at screen writers, but is valuable for anyone telling a story in any genre. This book will also make you a more astute critic of films and literature....more