Of To-do Lists and My Favorite Motivator

Am I the only one that rebels against my own to-do lists? I can take an activity I normally even enjoy, give it a deadline, and presto—an obligation I resent. Even those fun Christmas traditions. I’ve toyed with several solutions, including NOT making lists (but then I forget), breaking tasks down into smaller bits (Lee is stellar at this), setting aside time in a planner, rewarding myself with fun, and all the positive thinkings.

During the great binge painting summer of 2017 I finally reached a crisis point. I had committed to illustrating a children’s book and the deadline moved up and there was no turning back; I had no choice (if I wanted to keep my integrity intact) but to churn out two paintings per week for 16 weeks straight. This was a side gig, so had to be fit in mostly while my three small children were sleeping. Essentially, I had no leisure time for three and a half months.

As I talked with friends and family about minimizing the imminent burnout, you’d be surprised how many suggested watching Netflix while I painted. Nope, need my eyeballs. ??

Then I remembered a tip given me years ago by my beloved, multi-tasking extraordinaire friend, Heather…

Photo by Alphacolor 13 on Unsplash

Audiobooks. AUDIOBOOKS!

My studio prison was suddenly transformed by habit-stacking my obligation with the pleasure of listening to books: history and science for the days I wanted to recharge my brain, self-help for the days I was motivated enough to be more motivated, and novels for the days I needed to escape. I switched back and forth depending on my mood/needs. All made easier by all the handheld electronic devices, of course.

Then I started recognizing all the other times during my day that I could spice up the tedium. As a SAH parent this meant listening to books while washing dishes, transferring and folding laundry, cooking, working out, and driving. And miraculously, not only was I happier to begin a once mundane task, I wasn’t resenting all the “lost” time I had to spend on my to-do list. I was learning and self-helping and escaping and feeling motivated to start those tasks I used to dread.

In addition, I’ve met some reading goals this year, including the 500+ page historical epic, Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose, which I’ve been wanting to read for years. Didn’t disappoint, for the record.

Now it’s the week before Christmas and the familiar angst I feel toward my lengthened to-do list makes me wonder if anyone else could use a little motivation…while cleaning your house for guests, making cookies for neighbors and teachers, running last-minute errands, while wrapping gifts. Get lost in a book and enjoy yourself!

Here are my favorite sources for audiobooks and why…

My local public library. Go in person and pick up a cd audiobook to listen to in your car, on your computer, or other sound system. Pros: free! Cons: a little cumbersome to actually carry a cd around if you’re moving at all. Or borrow from the library digitally using…

The Overdrive app. This app connects your electronic device to any public library with which you have a card/account. You can “borrow” digital and/or audiobooks directly to your phone! Pros: free and portable. Cons: for popular books you may have to wait on a long waiting list and then it may be available at an inconvenient time with a limited lending period.

Audible app by Amazon sells digital audiobooks, radio and TV programs, and audio versions of magazines and newspapers. The app is free, the membership is not—but it gives you 1 credit per month, good for any book and discounts on other stuff. I usually use the monthly credit for the expensive books that aren’t going on sale anytime soon. Pros: very portable—you can even switch devices and never lose your place. Intuitive, user-friendly interface. Cons: not free and the price may not suit your reading pace.

Amazon Kindle app. This is my favorite way to get audiobooks to my phone because one can buy digital books with the option of adding “Audible,” usually for a small additional fee. Which means I can switch back and forth between audio and reading the words and the app will remember my place. Pros: the most portable, convenient of all these options. Frequent sales (notifications pop up on my phone) means I pay relatively little for a full “library.” Cons: not free.

Not audiobooks, but other ways to read for free…

Project Gutenberg has been a favorite for years. This website/app offers over 54,000 free eBooks you can download or read online. You will find the world’s great literature here, especially older works for which copyright has expired. They’ve digitized and diligently proofread with the help of thousands of volunteers. As you can imagine, this makes my little librarian heart nearly explode. Pros: free and soooooo many books. Cons: no audio.

DailyLit is another website (app in development) loaded with free classics and more, with an extra twist: they’ll send you small installments of books to your email. After registering for free, you customize which days and how much text! And yes, you can skip ahead if you have more time. A brilliant way to tackle those daunting classics (think War and Peace or Moby Dick), just a few minutes at a time! Pros: free and spoon-fed and the books that make you sound really smart and cultured. Cons: no audio.

Between these options I keep a great rotation of books moving through my phone at a relatively low cost!

Are there other great reading or audiobook apps I’m missing? Share in the comments, please! Merry to-do listing and happy holidays!