How to Retire by 20

IMG_0167Naturally, the title of this TED talk by Kristen Hadeed peaked my interest.

I couldn’t have found a better video to watch while sipping a cup of tea on a Thursday afternoon.

For the past few days I’ve been obsessed with the idea that the 10-year old you knows what’s best for the soul; it started with a similar idea from The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.

I talked about this idea with my sister the other day while we were on a bike ride, and she was a little disappointed that her childhood self was unoriginal, in her opinion.

She loved business.

As a 10-year-old, she liked printing receipts (yes, she got a legitimate receipt printer as a Christmas present from Office Max because she wanted one that badly), putting change in her coin counter/sorter, and writing fake checks for everyone.

My dad still has a check for a million dollars that she wrote for him.

We laughed about her childhood interests and my own because of how much they stayed with us.

I liked to play school with imaginary students (and my poor little sister), I made up songs and sang them in the backyard, during free time at school and on the weekends I wrote stories and spent hours writing in my journal, I strummed the guitar while my dad played, I loved riding bikes with my friends, and being outside.

I pretty much do the exact same things today, although I write music indoors and strum my own guitar.

After having this conversation with my sister, it seems so clear that our 10-year-old selves really do know where our interests lie, and maybe we should consider that on a more regular basis.

This is why Hadeed’s closing line just made it to the top of my list of favorite quotes:

“I think that my inner child has always known what’s in store for me, and I think yours does, too.”

I love it.

What advice does your 10-year-old self have for you?

How to Use a Wiki for Beginners

IMG_0150I’m a late adopter when it comes to new technology.

But something I like about my job is that it encourages me to use new technology when it feels right for me. I’ve slowly become accustom to different Learning Management Systems and how to manage online courses.

The most recent thing I learned was how to use a Wiki.

I’ve been taking a faculty development course this week called Engaging the Online Learner, and the focus is on participating in course discussions and group Wikis.

It’s short, sweet, and effective, like most of the faculty courses I’ve taken over the years (I highly recommend looking into faculty development for those of you that haven’t already).

I’m not sure why I’m always so hesitant to deal with new technology, but when it’s considered ‘homework’ for me, it’s not an issue.

Our instructor recommended a video that really broke it down in a way that made sense: Wikis in Plain English.

Essentially, Wikis are like a Google Doc, a collaborative document that you can add to and edit with various other people. So simple, right?

You really do learn something new every day.

How to Enjoy Your Work Commute

IMG_0133.jpgI’m a pretty patient person when it comes to dealing with people, but I’m extremely impatient when it comes to day-to-day activities.

I want to get things accomplished as quickly and effectively as possible.

I’m talking about (and have a solution for!) something the majority of people can relate to: the daily work commute.

I live within 30 minutes of each campus I work at, and I teach online quite a bit, so I feel like I’ve come to a point as an adjunct where my time is spent rather effectively. However, I still try to squeeze as much value as I can out of that hour-long commute (fortunately, it’s only twice a week this semester).

The answer? Audiobooks.

My mood and energy level determine which book I’ll choose for that particular day, and it makes a remarkable, positive difference in my demeanor:

Scenario 1– Often I feel a bit drained when driving to a different campus after already having taught morning classes, so I’ll listen to some familiar ‘chick lit’ authors whose books I read during college summers (Candace Bushnell, Sophie Kinsella, Emily Giffin, and Meg Cabot to name a few). This is a treat for me, since I rarely watch TV, so it’s the perfect way to get some relaxation in before getting to my next campus- and any traffic I may encounter along the way just gives me more time to indulge.

Scenario 2– Most of the books I read are nonfiction and encourage growth, reflection, and learning. Since I enjoy being a student as much I enjoy being a teacher, I tend to read/listen to anything that’s educational (mostly communication or psychology-related). When I want to feel that enthusiasm that comes from learning something new, I’ll opt for these types of audiobooks during my drive.

The public library might not have everything I’m specifically looking for, but they’ve got plenty of options to choose from.

A few weeks ago I had just 15 minutes to get in and get out of the library, so I grabbed a variety of books I thought I’d enjoy- most of which I’d heard of but had never sought out:

The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Great Leader by John C. Maxwell

Disciplined Dreaming: A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity by Josh Li

Flip: How to Turn Everything You Know on It’s Head- and Succeed Beyond Your Wildest Imaginings by Peter Sheahan

My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor

The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella

Lipstick Jungle by Candace Bushnell

~

I’m making my way through each of them.

I just finished The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader, which was full of excellent guidance for any person. Currently I’m listening to My Stroke of Insight which has caused a shift in my perspective, and a greater appreciation for the human mind.

So if you’re looking for a way to not just tolerate your work commute, but actually look forward it, I encourage you to play around with what works for you. I can honestly say I get excited to listen to great books on my way to class.

Tiny changes add up, and I believe there’s positive to be gained from everything in life. Even if you have to experiment a little.

Happy commuting!

My Simple Weekend

IMG_8656This past weekend I took a break from grading papers (for the most part) to add a little more simplicity to my life, and to slow down.

Friday night I was exhausted from a grueling- but worthwhile- week of classes, so my husband and I just opted to grab dinner and take a long walk outside.

Saturday, after starting Tammy Strobel’s book You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap)– you may know her as the face of the ‘tiny house’ movement- I got rid of close to 100 items (clothes, books, knick knacks) that had somehow been hiding in my one-bedroom apartment. The more stuff I got rid of, the better I felt. This feeling of relief is something most minimalists say surprises them most about ‘decluttering.’ You assume without your precious possessions that you’ll miss them, but you actually don’t. Truth be told, after hesitating to get rid of some of my own items, I can’t even remember what they were now.

As part of my ‘simple weekend’, I continued decluttering, reading Strobel’s book in my sweatpants, and then ended the weekend right.

Sunday my husband and I vowed to make it out of the house by 10 am so we could spend the full day in a local park. We met up to do yoga outside with 100 or so people who meet every Sunday morning, we bought some organic soaps at the farmer’s market, played frisbee, read on  blankets (where I’ll confess, I checked quite a few student emails and assignments- but I also finished Strobel’s book), and took a walk through the park before heading home around 6 pm.

There’s just something about long walks, paring down your belongings, and spending a beautiful Sunday with hundreds of smiling people to make you enjoy the simplest of life’s pleasures.

The Effortless Life

IMG_0342No, that’s not a description of my own life. Although, it’d be great if it was.

Last week I wrote about ideas for improving your work life, based on the book Drive by Daniel H. Pink. The Effortless Life by Leo Babauta (one of my favorite bloggers) is a quick read about improving your personal life.

Simplify your relationships, your needs, and your wants. That’s all one really requires to live more effortlessly.

Babauta also mentions that the things that make him the happiest tend to be inexpensive or free:

Working out with a friend
Reading a book
Taking a walk outdoors

I’m big on living simply, so the above items have long been weekly activities in my life, and they’ve proven to be more fulfilling than a lot of other- more expensive- activities.

Some other ‘effortless’ suggestions involve moving more slowly, not planning so much, and focusing less on goals. Babauta explains his reasoning well, but I’ll openly admit that I pick and choose what things work best in my life- and I have to say, writing out a list of daily goals is too fun for a Type A personality like myself to give up.

However, I’m on board with the overall theme: It’s okay to do things that aren’t the norm.

Consider spending more quality time with the people who make you feel great, not necessarily those your feel obligated to spend time with.

Get rid of cable television, or that second car if you can get by with one. These are some luxuries I’ve seriously considered giving up lately and I’m not sure why I didn’t consider it sooner (why is it so hard to think outside of convention?).

A few years ago I started doing things that cost little or no money.

It took a 10-year hiatus from riding my bike to school every morning as a kid to pick up the hobby again as a 25-year-old (more for pleasure than necessity this time). It’s one of my very favorite things to do with my husband and my friends, but I never would have considered it had I not been looking for a way to save money and have fun at the same time.

Remember, none of these are sacrifices. It’s a way to declutter your life and make room for the more important things (including more financial security).

Consider simplifying. What could you do without?

Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose

IMG_0337The key to great success, better job performance, and better health?

Intrinsic motivation.

Or what Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive, calls Type I behavior (good news- reverting back to our natural instincts of working intrinsically is something we’re all capable of).

I finished this book a few weeks ago (which also prompted me to put one of his other books, A Whole New Mind, on my ‘books to read’ list in the Great Reads section here).

I enjoyed reading Pink’s views on how any workplace can evolve into an environment of working for intrinsic/internal rewards rather than almost entirely for external rewards, which happen to be nowhere near as fulfilling as the former.

I found myself feeling grateful for the opportunity to work in a field that encourages the 3 elements of intrinsic motivation:

Autonomy
Mastery
Purpose

Just last week I read a book related to presenting (for pleasure- and that’s key), reworked some of my lecture slides, and changed some elements of my delivery. This was all part of working toward mastery of my job as a communication and speech instructor.

Having autonomy to decide what I would like to do in the classroom, when, and how I’d like to implement it is something that is also proven to increase motivation.

Lastly, purpose.

I feel that there’s great purpose in what I do. I help people build skills and confidence as speakers and communicators, not just to get ahead in their careers, but also to build better relationships with people.

I always assumed I just had a strange love of school and learning, which explained why I was so motivated and excited to work on my personal growth as a teacher, and to continually improve the classroom without any notable extrinsic rewards.

It turns out, according to Pink, that I just happen to have one of the few jobs (currently- although more companies/career fields are moving in the direction of intrinsically motivating employees) that allows me to pursue work goals the way that works best for me, and that can result in major internal rewards.

~

Take a moment to think about how you can incorporate some autonomy, mastery, and purpose in your current job or projects.

It might not be easy for everyone- even if you happen to be a college professor like myself- but work on finding places where those 3 elements can fit in, to make each of your days a little bit more fulfilling.

And, as always, a little bit happier.

Know Your Audience

IMG_0358As a college professor and lecturer/speaker, it’s important to know your audience, relate to them, and keep them engaged.

Otherwise your message is lost.

Those are some of the simple lessons (reminders, really) that I was taught while reading The Naked Presenter by Garr Reynolds over the weekend.

No matter what subject you teach, you can apply it to your students’ lives in some way. Making the subject more relevant will, consequently, increase learning.

If you teach math, tell your students how to handle their finances. If you teach English, have them submit a cover letter as an assignment for a job they’re interested in applying for.

If you teach communication/speech courses, like I do, remind them that the skills they’re learning will be needed in life whether they give a toast at a wedding, have to pitch an idea at work, ask for a promotion, or happen to be the PTA president when their kids are in school.

Know your audience and make your message relevant to their lives.

Happy teaching!

The Wonder That is the Public Library

IMG_8684My first real introduction to the public library (something that was long past overdue) happened when I was 24.

That was the day I got my very first public library card.

For someone who likes to read, rent new movie releases for free, listen to audio books, and loves to spend $0 while leaving a place with all kinds of treasures, this was just the most wonderful thing that could have happened to my simple ‘it’s all about the little things’ self.

The public library suddenly provided a perfect education-rich, but leisurely atmosphere for a new college instructor.

I’d been far too familiar with school libraries as a kid (which included long bouts of studying), as an undergrad (which included long bouts of studying), and as a grad student (which included arriving most days while it was still dark outside and leaving most days while it was again dark outside).

The public library was different than anything I’d ever experienced.

It was a place I could browse without stress, without worrying I might spend too much money, I didn’t feel rushed, I knew nobody would bother me, and best of all, it was quiet.

It’s become a routine of mine to stop off at the library after work at least once a month and pick up whatever interests me.

I happen to be in a no-TV/movies phase currently, but I’ve been reading frantically, so lately I’ve been walking straight past the DVD rack to grab a book on tape (to entertain myself during commutes for the next month), and then I take my time in the non-fiction books section.

A few weeks ago I spent an hour sifting through books, and it was awesome.

Part of the fun for me is having some books in mind that I’d like to find, then leaving with none of the books that were actually on my list. Here are my latest finds:

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink

Friends had recommended this book, and I’d flipped through it plenty of times in Barnes and Noble, so I thought I’d give it a shot. I don’t know why I’m so surprised by my response to it given how many people recommended it- it was a fantastic book!

All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks

I used bell hooks as a source in much of my research as a Communication major in undergrad and grad school, so seeing the author’s unique name immediately brought back memories. I thought it’d be nice to pick it up for leisure this time, and possibly as supplemental reading for my Family Communication class next term.

Ooh La La! French Women’s Secrets to Feeling Beautiful Every Day by Jamie Cat Callan

I’ll admit it. I was embarrassed to be seen leaving the library with this book, so I put it at the bottom of my stack. It’s not the type of book I typically read.

However, I originally picked it up because the cover was similar to the concept I originally had for my own book cover. I ended up leaving with it because as far as I could tell, it was about a culture I don’t know enough about, and it was essentially a non-fiction book that takes an introspective look at the inner workings of women who are happy and have high self-esteem.

Now, I’m not one to buy into why we need to invest in perfume or wear makeup a certain way. All that aside, it was everything I hoped it would be. The underlying themes of the book were the same as those of all the positive psychology books I’ve read- and I love seeing that all these ideas and studies in happiness inevitably weave together.

Each book delivered.

I realized half-way through All About Love that I could also use it in the college classroom, Drive has been a great conversation starter with friends lately, and Ooh La La! was the perfect book to recommend to a close (and very stylish) girlfriend of mine who’s enjoying a booming new business and always looking for a new book to read.

As I mentioned before, the public library is the ideal place for my simple ‘it’s all about the little things’ self. It’s not the prettiest place, and it’s not trendy, but it’s filled with books that are filled with ideas that just might make you a little bit happier.

Procrastinating Wisely

IMG_9583bwLike most people, I have a tendency to procrastinate.

However, I’ve learned that putting things off and wasting time makes me feel much worse about the situation and can be extremely stressful.

Now, most people will tell you to just not procrastinate, and their methods are great if you’ve got enough willpower to really dive right in when you don’t want to (zenhabits.net ‘7 Discipline-Mastering Practices’– one of my favorite blogs, and a great post, I just don’t operate that way).

As someone who teaches an average of 8 classes a semester, learning how to ‘procrastinate wisely’ was necessary for my survival. It seems like common sense, but I learned that it’s okay to put off some of the ‘to do’ items I’m dreading as long as while I’m procrastinating, I complete an important task that I wasn’t dreading quite as much.

How to ‘procrastinate wisely’ is something I figured out in college that greatly reduced my stress and guilt about being unproductive.

For example, a while back I needed to watch 20 online speeches for one of my online classes. I really felt like I should, but deep down I knew I was putting it off, so I looked at my ‘to do’ list (I’m a huge list maker, and I find it to be not only helpful but necessary) and attempted to work on some of the other things listed.

I tended to jump around and most of the items I attempted to complete didn’t stick, but I was determined that I needed to do something on the list or I’d be disappointed in my unproductive day.

Then without even realizing it, I found myself in the middle of developing my Family and Communication course that would be starting shortly, and I had really dreaded gettting started (but apparently not as much as watching those speeches- who knew?).

The task of developing an important foundation for that new class took me 6 hours, and I got everything done for that course that I possibly could. I even enjoyed it.

Sure, I didn’t do the one task I felt I needed to that day, but who can feel bad about conquering the course material for a class they’ve never taught?

I was completely fine grading those online speeches another day.

If you’d like to hear about other unconventional tips that work for me, check in with new posts weekly at happyprofessor.com or take a look at my book, Happy Professor, on Amazon.com (if you can find a free copy, even better).

 

Learning to Relax: Experiments with Outdoor Yoga

IMG_9384This morning I sat in a local park with 15 or so other people, stretched, practiced deep breathing, and generally enjoyed myself.

Before I go on, it might be important to note: I normally don’t like yoga.

If I’m going to workout, I’d prefer a 3-mile run, a kickboxing class, or anything vigorous that leaves me winded. I never had the patience for yoga in the past, but I suppose my tastes are changing.

I’ve had enough student speeches on the benefits of relaxation techniques, and I’ve had enough recent back pain, to start practicing some simple yoga moves for 10 minutes each morning during the past few months- but 10 minutes was where I assumed I would always draw the line.

As it turns out, my quick morning routine has trained me well; for the first time in my life, I not only liked yoga, but I found it to be easier than I remembered, enjoyable, and exactly what my body needed. Not to mention, this particular class allowed me to enjoy one of my favorite things: nature.

School will be back in session after the long weekend tomorrow, and it’s nice to know I’ll be going back to work feeling refreshed and a little more relaxed.

And- who knows- maybe even one step closer to becoming a yogi.

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