Monthly Archives: February 2013

Overwhelmed? Try Micro-Chore Lists

Last month hubs and I moved, but little did I know that moving constitutes one of the top 5 stresses in Life.  In the past few weeks my disorientation hit a few interesting notes:

1. I threw my keys into the garbage at work instead of an empty coffee cup.  It was great fun digging through the bin at the University hoping to go unnoticed by past or current students.

2. I locked myself out of my office at work.

3. I temporarily lost a set of students’ quizzes.

4. Not able to find my shoes, I wore flip flops to work.

5. I drove in the wrong direction to get home.

6. When the printer in my office died, and I was told there were not enough funds in the Department to replace it, I threw a fit that could rival Stanley Kowalski.

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A solution was in order: Micro-Chores

The idea is to take any large project and formulate a list of things (maybe 5 things per day) that will take you 10 minutes or less per chore.  Do these things first in the morning.  You will feel energized and more in control of your life.  In fact, by completing the 5 micro-chores you will gain momentum to spend extra time on the projects.  This helps to de-stress your life and bring about organization.

If you find yourself in the throes of a large project, or several projects, break down very simple steps towards accomplishing your goals.  For example, instead of listing “unpacking” I wrote micro-chores like: unpack one box, hang up one thing, etc… With respect to my regular “to-do’s” I also created a micro-chore list: grade 5 papers, 10 minutes return emails, print draft of paper, and so on.

One more important way to deal with being overwhelmed is to take a moment to thank people who have supported you in some way.  A quick text or email will do.  Showing gratitude builds character and puts your woes into perspective because stress can give the illusion that one is alone in the world, but when you reach out that illusion dissipates.  Let people know you appreciate them.

Here are some thank you’s of my own (mush alert!):

1. Thank you to my husband-partner-love for being wonderful throughout this chaos and for regularly getting take-out sushi or Mexican food.

2. Thank you to my dear friend, the brilliant and stylish designer Courtney Bates for helping me pick out tile and furniture for the new place.

3. Thank you to my students who have shown a lot of patience while I sort through your assignments.  You are bright, you make me laugh, and teaching is an absolute joy because of you.

4. Thank you to 7-11 for making the extra shot of caffeine free with coffee purchase.

Shhh! I’m an Introvert

Intrigued by the title, I picked up Susan Cain’s book Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.  My initial interest was geared towards the latter part of the title “a world that can’t stop talking.”  I assumed the book would be a sort of sociological/cultural analysis of American society.  But, after plowing through the first chapter, I found myself a bit startled to see so much of my own personality in her description of an introvert.  In fact, she lists twenty “yes/no” questions for the reader to determine the extent of one’s introversion; the more one marks “yes,” the more one is introverted.  I answered “yes” to 18 of the questions!   The more I read on I could feel a sort of weight lifted off my shoulders.  Indeed, because I am not particularly shy I had not thought of myself in this fashion; however, Cain points out that there is a common confusion between shyness and introvertedness.  Introverts are not necessarily shy.  Quite the contrary, introverts can give presentations and be social.  The distinguishing trait is that introverts retreat from interaction in order to re-boot.  Some introverts need more time than others.

I should back up here.  Why was I feeling like a weight had been lifted?  Cain explores the dynamics of being an introvert from biology, psychology, and referencing famous historical figures who were introverts.  As I was reading I realized not only that I expressed the traits of an introvert but that I have spent of good deal of my life apologizing and feeling guilty about being introverted.  Let me be blunt: I thought I was just plain weird!

From when I was young and throughout my college years, for example, I attended social gatherings but I was usually one of the first to leave.  After two hours of chatting I wanted nothing more than to be at home and to read.  Now, at the end of a long week of teaching, I notice that I need a day (or three) for myself to recover from all of the interaction.  I absolutely love teaching, but to be effective I must take a time out from the world once the work week is over.  I will plant myself at home with a book, turn off the phone, and sometimes postpone or reschedule social plans.  Even emailing gets suspended for this re-booting time.

Reading, an inherently solitary affair, has been and remains a large part of my life.  I read for nearly five hours a day. (Some days I have been known to read all day.  When I started The Brothers Karamazov, for instance, no one saw me for a week.)  I read a novel a week (give or take) in addition to reviewing my lectures, grading, and of course, reading Philosophy.  This is something I would rarely share with anyone because I knew it was…well…weird.  However, Cain’s book has assured me that this is quite typical and dare I say it, normal, given the disposition of being introverted.  She traces the trend to become extroverted as part and parcel of an American “success” to the publication and phenomenon of How to Win Friends and Influence People.  With the onset of this popular book, the ideal mode of communication swayed towards talkativeness and being outgoing.  Success meant, in part, imbibing the extrovert persona.  This inevitably eclipsed the power of the introverted disposition.  Qualities such as listening and retreating to problem solve (rather than group think) were undervalued.

At different points in my life a few people have said things to me along the lines of I needed to be out more or that I must spend time alone because of some childhood trauma. (Side note: childhood IS traumatic.) While reading Cain’s book these memories sprouted and gave me pause, for I had allowed people to make me feel sheepish about me being me.

After reading Cain’s book I not only know more about the sociological and biological dimensions of introversion, but I’ve actually come to be more comfortable about myself.  I’m not weird.  I’m not anti-social.  I’m an introvert!

For my dear readers, extroverts and introverts, never let anyone try to make you feel strange for delving into what you love.  I think that is the overarching reason I wanted to create this post.  Be stylish, interesting, social, quiet, creative, mathematical…whatever!  Just be tuned into what makes you YOU and flourish.

Click here for my Amazon Author Page.

5 Do’s and Don’ts Before Your Midterm Exam

It is midterm season!


1. Re-write your notes.  Use the syllabus, study guide, and text book to neatly organize the topics.  This may seem tedious, but re-writing your work helps to solidify the information for you.

2. Take 15 minute breaks every hour: get up, walk about, check your twitter account, or do some yoga.  If you study in long stretches then you will only remember the beginning and the end of your study session materials.  Your hard working brain requires a respite to let the material sink in.

3. Pack your bag the night before with pens, pencils, and scantron or essay booklet if needed.

4. Quiz yourself before you go to bed and again when you wake up.

5. Plan to arrive early to the exam (at least 20 minutes). That way you can review your notes, ask a fellow student a question if you are stuck on something, and be completely ready at your desk when the professor walks into the room.


1. Stay up late the night before (and booze is an absolute no-no). You’ll need your rest for thinking.

2. Get into a kerfuffle with your BFF, significant other, co-worker, or family member the day before.

3. Eat junk food.  This makes you groggy and clouds thinking.

4. Forget the details in written answers.  Never approach written work as putting something in a “nutshell.” Do intend to expand and clarify the material to demonstrate knowledge.  It is better to write too much on an exam than not enough.

5. Email the professor late at night with a question like “What’s gonna be on the exam?”

Good luck!

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