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Making the Most of 2017: A Workbook, Planner & Calendar
Making the Most of 2017: A Workbook, Planner & Calendar
by Liisa Kyle
Edition: Paperback

2.0 out of 5 stars Format too restrictive, 10 May 2017
I liked the idea of combining a journal and to-do list; fewer books to carry and growing goals for the year out of a review of the last one is a great idea; ditto writing tasks for the months and weeks as you reflect on how you’ve performed in the previous period. It’s good to see a reminder to track goals throughout the year rather than just ticking off easy tasks; the monthly reviews keep you honest.
Physically the paper is good and ink doesn’t soak through; normally I’m not fussy about the materials used in a book but it really makes a difference to have something durable that doesn’t soak through to following pages or tear when you cross out or erase pencil marks. The perfect-bound spine isn’t ideal for something you’re going to write in, as the book doesn’t lie flat as a ring-bound or stapled book would.
Eventually I abandoned the book, however, because of a couple of things that I didn’t get on with. The strengths noted above can become weaknesses in terms of layout. I know everything is optional and the author takes pains to point this out and encourage you to customise the book to make it personally useful, but at the end of the day it doesn’t have the flexibility of simply using a notepad. Bullet Journal fans may seem a bit mad to some of us, numbering and formatting their notebooks by hand, but at least their books only contain features they have chosen. I felt burdened to complete sections that weren’t useful, partly because of the niggling anxiety that if you’re not using a system “properly” you won’t benefit from it, but also because having masses of blank pages seemed like a mental “to do” every time you flick through the book.
The one-size-fits-all limitations of a book that has been fully prepared can make the experience less useful than an electronic version or a blank notebook for me. Once you have summarised the major triumphs and stresses of the previous year there seemed to be a lot of rewriting as these challenges were reframed as goals for the next year. I found it a struggle to complete some reflections on last year, although that was in itself instructive - if friendships are important, for example, but there were no notable events or achievements to record, that is a good indication that something isn’t right?
One of the other issues is that while a to do list would be a steady thing in an ideal world, as our throughput cannot increase indefinitely, I found that I needed additional sections to capture actions that didn’t fit into the book.
I currently use a spreadsheet to summarise the years (my goals, my partner’s goals, priorities, roles, and other notes like aspirational salary and the type of home I want), which lets me see where I’m headed and also how successful I was in accomplishing the main goals for each year.
I don’t agree with the criticism of New Year’s Resolutions - I think they work well because they tend to be simple and personal, and there is moral support from the fact that everyone is doing them at the same time. I find a degree of self-awareness means that you don’t need to search for “Why”s to input and are more likely to achieve your goals if you feel instinctively led to the tasks that will achieve them than doing things you ought to be doing.
The highs/lows/goals/feelings approach doesn’t work as well for practical considerations like financial planning; building goals into your accounts files might be good, but focusing on your own goals/wishes implies a degree of control over finances that few people have.
Goals were too disparately spread around the book, a few headlines for a small number of life ‘areas’ and habits to follow them, should help more than crushing your life into these boxes, which mix events and tasks in a way that makes both unclear. A drawback of most paper systems is that pressure on your schedule will mean lots of rewriting of tasks into new dates, contrary to Dave Allen’s advice in Getting Things Done. Even if your task list is paper-based, your calendar really ought to be online these days, so lots of people can interact with it, you can move things around easily, and various devices will ping and hoot when you have an appointment approaching.


Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy
Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy
Price: £3.99

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good summary of harmful thought habits, and how to stop them making you ill, 5 April 2017
This is quite a long book, and other reviewers have pointed out that a person who is incapacitated by depression is unlikely to tear through all 700 pages, complete the exercises and effect change in their own life. They may order it and it will sit there, announcing their inability to complete things or help themselves, and therefore make themselves feel worse. That would be a real pity, and the only thing I can recommend is that someone in this condition would really benefit from working through it with another person, a counsellor, sponsor or friend. There are other books that, if you picked them up and read them on your own, would be almost impossible to apply without help - spiritual texts, some business and computer manuals and many other self-help books. Perhaps the concept of working through this book with someone else could be more heavily promoted, or a quick start/cheat sheet section to get someone going before they tackle the whole book.
Despite that, I found it excellent and really helpful. The length is partly due to the fact that there are many symptoms and types of depression, and numerous behavioural/psychological habits that affect this illness. Like "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," or "Getting Things Done," it's one of those popular classics whose elements have been borrowed, reworked and expanded upon elsewhere many times, so anyone who has read a few self-help books will see some familiar themes here, but brought together in a really coherent whole.
The exercises aren't overly burdensome and you can benefit from the ideas behind them without completing the exercises, practicing thinking "Are my thoughts/beliefs/reactions real and reasonable? Can I find positives in this situation?" etc.
The style of writing is easy enough to follow. The final section is a bit "Here comes the science!" and covers brain chemistry and pharmaceutical treatments in a level of detail that not everyone who will benefit from the self-help sections will require. Dr. Burns is clearly making a case for CBT as an alternative to drugs, but he has apparently found this useful in his practice, and having a point of view to argue is probably one of the reasons that this book got published; despite this, he seems pretty fair and equivocal in his coverage of other treatments. He also sees himself as part of a therapeutic tradition rather than an isolated fixer and guru, which is refreshing. If the style isn't always perfect (a subjective aspect of any book), this is probably because to him facts rather than style are key. Every self-help book has corny-sounding anecdotes about people who've been helped by the methods described; it may balance the book better to say "...and then there were other patients who were terribly miserable forever after trying this," but self-help books to keep you reading by offering more hope than balance. Many of his examples aren't black-and-white and he doesn't claim that his approach is the only viable one.
I think people who are going to get the most benefit from this are those who have mild/middling depression or are in remission from psychological illness, they can practice techniques for keeping things in perspective that may ward off more serious depression in the future and make their lives generally more tolerable.


Art of Happiness: A Handbook For Living
Art of Happiness: A Handbook For Living
Offered by totnes_books
Price: £8.00

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A little bit of HHTDL, a lot of Howard Carter, 19 Sept. 2016
As others have pointed out, this isn't really 'by' HH the Dalai Lama. Most chapters run along these lines; Howard C. Cutler is thinking about something, the usual 'person A came to me for help' or 'I hate person B' that illustrate your typical self-help book, then he asks HHTDL about the scenario in one of their interviews. HHTDL twinkles and pauses knowingly (Cutler is adept at interpreting silences and gestures, and sharing what is on HHTDL's mind) then offers a gnomic response, either a sensible bit of Buddhism or (more frequently) an admission that he doesn't really have an answer, a suggestion to try and look at things differently and/or just forget about the problem. I suspect that on his own HHTDL may come across as wiser or more convincing, as it seems unlikely that his reputation could have been earned by this kind of material on its own. He does seem worldly, kind and loving which is why I'm loath to over-criticise. I'm probably missing a great deal through approaching it with the wrong attitude, but surely it's miserable and cynical old curmudgeons like me that need to learn the art of happiness from a book? The kind of person who would knit their fingers over a cup of chai and tell me "Ah, but the simplicity is the point!" is probably already capable of being moved to transcendent ecstasy by noticing the progress of a raindrop down the windowpane of an artisan coffee outlet or the peace that one can achieve by developing an acceptance of the injustices and indignities that other people suffer.


The Work We Were Born To Do
The Work We Were Born To Do
by Nick Williams
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.19

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Wishy Washy, 1 July 2016
Quote from the book, "We are here to live the truth of who we are, which is more magnificent than anything we can imagine, but try telling that to your boss or mentioning it at your next interview!" And there's the problem. All the examples of people realising their potential/dreams are stories of people with lucrative jobs that do not fulfil them emotionally, who give up to become healers/gurus/counsellors and join the self-help community. If everyone took the advice in this book, we'd all starve to death at a Mindfulness workshop. It's pleasantly written, but essentially there are lots of exercises that will leave you with a piece of paper with your dreams/personal statement/navel-gazing ruminations on what you think God wants you to do and no idea of how to actually quit your job without going bankrupt. There is lip service to the idea that you can work purposefully in your current job, but this is better and more practically expressed in Cal Newport's "So Good They Can't Ignore You." The spiritual aspect is also very unfocused, a New Age-y hodge podge of Christianity, Buddhism and well-worn quotations that appear on inspirational desktop wallpaper the world over. I suspect a lot of people approaching this book will be confused, and dissatisfied with their current job and lifestyle, and would benefit from some soul-searching followed by practical changes, but I don't think this 400-page wallow will give afford anyone the kind of clarity and determination that would be of benefit in that situation.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 19, 2016 11:05 PM BST


Secrets of Productive People: 50 Techniques To Get Things Done (Teach Yourself)
Secrets of Productive People: 50 Techniques To Get Things Done (Teach Yourself)
by Mark Forster
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.68

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good summary of productivity techniques, 4 April 2016
Good stuff from a veteran of the time management/personal productivity world. There are lots of good tips that will especially benefit someone who isn't familiar with a lot of other productivity material. Talking about famously productive figures from history, Forster makes the point that Van Gogh, Isaac Newton etc. achieved a large output of work; the outpouring of their genius was not confined to a few documents/artworks/ideas. There are two core concepts that I struggle with, however, (hence the middling star rating). The first is the 'abandon your to do list' ethos. It's true that many to do lists are merely wish lists and don't take into account the time involved to complete anything, but the alternative given here, of listing only five items (similar to Scott Young's "Current Project Page" approach - [...]) is good for achieving focus in a particular day, but without running separate lists of things that cannot be accomplished in the day but do have deadlines leads to stress (as suggested by GTD; you could end up with people nagging and trying to keep commitments for subsequent days in your head). Also, not all tasks are equal in size; you may need to log ten short tasks (paying bills etc.) that are one-offs and not part of automated systems, and have consequences for missing deadlines; I think the idea is that after clearing the first five quickly you'd add another five if you have discretionary time remaining, but for this approach I found previous versions of Mark Forster's Autofocus system better at combining tasks of all sizes. One of the best aspects of this book is a very practical version of the Roles concept from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People; remembering the goals of non-work commitments (why a friendship began, the common ground in your relationships) and applying productivity techniques to them (e.g. focusing on relationships and affording them time in your systems and planning), which may seem clinical on paper, but is a good recipe for a happier, more fulfilling life.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 21, 2016 12:28 PM BST


Rogues
Rogues
Price: £1.19

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Underwhelming - no clever, smart, diabolical or lovable rogues, 1 Nov. 2015
This review is from: Rogues (Kindle Edition)
Could have been better, so much better. The blurb is right - the names on the cover of this anthology are promising. But it felt really rushed and flat to me. I've read far better crime, sci-fi and fantasy anthologies. Many collections featuring various authors serve two purposes; a chance for genre gluttons to snack on short works by old favourites and an appetizer for newbies to try out authors without committing to a novel. Many of the stories here seemed to rely on familiarity with the author's works, and when the fun of revisiting favourite characters is removed, the thin, obvious plots and lacklustre descriptions are really laid bare. Some authors I'm vaguely familiar with seemed to feel they had to "play their hits" stylistically (perhaps with a view to attracting new fans) but this meant that Gillian Flynn's (Gone Girl) story seemed formulaic (unlikeable people turn the tables on one another over and over again with no real crescendo of tension, more a "I reckon seven or eight plot twists and then a quick smoke" approach), and Neil Gaiman's drowsy Neverwhere story wasn't a great deal of fun. George R R Martin rounds off the collection with an odd tale in the style of a historical textbook "and then this happened, and then that," which had no real tension or drama. There were some interesting ideas, but too many of the plots were like computer games or a hurried D&D adventure (vaguely saucy rogue encounters someone naughtier, stand off/fight, prized thing gets passed along the chain of increasingly horrid/powerful/large villains, repeat until word count satisfied). In Lisa Tuttle's reasonable Sherlock-esque tale comes the line "Fiction at short notice was never my specialty," a phrase that could have served as a feeble excuse for the whole collection.


Emotional Capitalists: The Ultimate Guide to Developing Emotional Intelligence for Leaders
Emotional Capitalists: The Ultimate Guide to Developing Emotional Intelligence for Leaders
by Martyn Newman Ph.D
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.30

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Positive thinking for business people, 16 July 2015
Plenty of good advice and some data to back up the ideas, but I didn't come across any new insights. Perhaps there are certain basic truths, as outlined in self help books such as 7 Habits, Tony Robbins etc. and business leadership books by Jack Welch and others, that are going to seem familiar if you've read widely, however they are repackaged. Some examples (optimistic/pessimistic shoe salesmen in Africa) are quite well-trodden. Where this book improves on some is that there are references to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Maslow etc. rather than an attempt to pretend that all these ideas are new or original, but for more depth it's worth going back to those sources for more depth and detail.
TLDR: If you've read many business/positive thinking books, nothing new to see. If not, it's a great summary.


Business Analysis
Business Analysis
by Malcolm Eva
Edition: Paperback

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good summary of core BA skills, 2 Jan. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Business Analysis (Paperback)
Very good summary of core BA skills. As other reviewers have noted, some of the strategic stuff is chiefly relevant for understanding how a business works and passing the ISEB exams, many BAs may find the chapters on process modelling, requirements engineering and stakeholder management more useful on a day to day basis. One thing that is unfortunate - the subediting is so poor that it's quite distracting, the typos, spelling/grammar errors etc. make the book look rather unfinished. Also, for the price, some improved diagrams and illustrations (possibly even a bit of colour?) would be welcome.


No Title Available

3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful but a little fragile, 12 Jun. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The main figure is solid and the whole is beautiful. The only complaint is that the wings don't fit brilliantly, and as they are made of thin tin and are very fragile indeed, making adjustments is hard without breaking them.


Fulton Funbrella Birdcage Kids Umbrella Pink Trim
Fulton Funbrella Birdcage Kids Umbrella Pink Trim
Price: £11.00

3.0 out of 5 stars Keeps the rain off, 12 Jun. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Which is what it's supposed to do. Light enough for children to hold onto comfortably, wide enough to keep the rain off, the tight frame and high dome shape mean it's unlikely to blow inside-out when it's windy.


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