Monthly Archives: July 2012

Monday Motivator: Make a Game of It!

Once a little buddy of mine had thrown all her stuffed animals on the floor. I believe she was hosting some sort of stuffed-animal concert event. When told by her mom that she needed to pick them all up, she beseeched me to help her. When I seemed less than enthusiastic, she tried a new tactic: “Let’s play a game. Let’s see who can put the most toys in the box the fastest.”

Yes, my buddy is a born leader. (Actually, I think she may have been using one of my own strategies against me.) She was also onto something. Finding the fun in the most dreary of tasks can make the job seem to go faster and add joy to daily tedium.


  • Games have conflict.
  • There are defined choices.
  • There’s a clear winner.

These basic characteristics can be used to make study, work, or chores more entertaining:

  • Study partners can have a running bet on the person who makes the lower grade on each assignment buys the Starbucks at the next study session. (Obviously, this works best when partners are evenly matched.)
  • When we do library inventory, although we never admit it, we all race to see who can get through our sections first. The beeping sounds of others’ scanners keep us motivated.
  • And probably every mom knows that making a contest with a clear prize at the end is a good way to get kids to do their chores.

And even if you don’t have someone to be your partner or competitor, you can still make activities into a game:

  • My gym activity is always a one-person race: to run a little farther and to do just one more dip than the day before.
  • I’ll put on some music, set the kitchen timer (well, I certainly don’t need it for cooking) and clean house for a specified period of time. When that time is done, I’m done: no more worrying or berating myself about a dirty house until the next time to clean.
  • Even though this probably isn’t listed in any of the study skills books, in college, I would divide up my reading assignments by how many days I had before the next class or test. Then I would list them as micro-goals for each study session.

Maybe in a perfect world, we’d be innately interested in all that came our way, and most some folks are. But for the rest of us, just making a little game out a task can make a big difference. Please share with me the tips you have for making chores more pleasant; I need all the help I can get.

The Self-Improvement Chronicles: Sweeping Away the Cobwebs

Our task for this week was to dust out our environment, physically, not metaphorically.

After reading the assignment on Sunday morning, I went into living room where I ran flat into a cobweb that a spider seemed to be navigating across the room. Suddenly motivated, I took out a dust mop and cleared out all the corners of cobwebs, dusted, and vacuumed. Unfortunately, as I type this, three days later, dust is again accumulating in my home.

If your home too never seems to be dust free, then here are some tips to get it under control from the American Lung Association.

As for us, here are our updates:

Emily: I couldn’t even remember what our task was for this week… (But) I dusted some on Sunday.

Pam: Does cleaning another person’s house count? I cleaned out my vehicle (well, the front seat–mine, not the passenger)…That’s about it…

Our final grades:

Emily: F (for not paying attention to my emails)

Pam:  B (At least someone’s house is dust-free, even if it’s not hers.)

Jolly Librarian:  C (An effort was made, but the fact that spiders were able to build their own version of a high-flying trapeze act in my home  is just not a good sign.)


Monday Motivator: What Is the Big Deal?

In an email discussing a mutual disappointment, my colleague Valerie made the comment, “Maybe my lesson in all of  this is that a small thing to one person can be a big thing to someone else.”

While that didn’t alleviate my disappointment, her lesson was a good reminder that things that barely show up on the emotional radar for one person can be absolutely catastrophic to someone else. For example, I once had a friend who habitually said that it was okay if I couldn’t make a lunch with her: “You know it doesn’t matter to me if we don’t go,” she’d say. The problem was that it did matter to me. She was my friend. I didn’t see her as often I would like, and, although her intention was to let me off the hook, her casualness hurt my feelings. But I’m also sure, that if she had known that, she would have been stunned at my sensitivity.


So, the lesson here is to be careful before labeling other people’s requests as trivial. They may seem small in the scheme of things, but that’s only because we’re not seeing them through others’ eyes.


The Self-Improvement Chronicles: “No” Is the New “Yes”

Our assignment this week was to say no to activities that aren’t important to us so that we’ll have time for those that are.

People never seem to have trouble saying no to me, so I’m not sure what the issue is. But it apparently is so widespread that magazines and blogs are always taking on this topic. If you are having a hard time saying no, here’s an article that will teach you how.

As far as our group, here are the reports:

Emily:  “This week’s task to was too deeply philosophical for me to grasp.” (The Jolly Librarian suspects this is just a fancy of way of saying no to the task.)

Pam: “Oh my; I’m failing miserably. If anything, I keep saying yes to the unimportant (ie. Words with Friends, Free Cell Solitaire and Word Slinger). I’m just having a nervous week! (Wonder why? I’m falling behind in all my important stuff that needs to be attended to! But, hey..I’ve worked my butt off, around it all, picked some squash, cleaned a house for 10.5 hours, and passed a killer BIOL test. Does that count? Now…wonder if Ebay has any antique, cast iron animal doorstops or cookie molds for sale….)”

Jolly Librarian: Like Pam, I often find myself not worrying so much about saying yes to other people, but saying no to my own wandering eye. I can become fascinated with the smallest of things, while the really important stuff never gets done. So maybe I need to pay more attention to this assignment after all.


Emily:       F (on the suspicion of sassiness)

Pam:          C (for realizing her weakness and still getting things done)

Jolly Librarian: D (for realizing the weakness but not getting things done)


Research for a Shortened Semester: Write a Draft Now (No Matter How Bad It Is)

“You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”―Jodi Picoult

We’re down to the wire, my friends. Summer term is almost over. If you have a research paper soon due, it is past time to have started. But since we can’t go back in a time machine, let’s review what has to be done at this point:

  1. Choose a thesis.
  2. Write a basic outline.
  3. Write a rough draft without sources.
  4. Research your topic.

For help on the process, go to one of the Mayfield Library research guides.

However, right now, the key step to paper success is getting a rough draft of your paper done NOW. The more time you have for revising and editing, the better off you’ll be.

When I talk with faculty about student research papers, they say the following are common problems:

  • Plagiarism (the big academic sin)
  • Works cited and citation errors
  • Grammar, spelling, and sentence structure problems
  • Awkward sentences
  • Dropped quotations and sources not discussed

The thing is that many of these errors are caused by waiting to the last minute to get started. And what is often actually turned in is a rough instead of a final draft.

So write that draft now. Start working on revising and editing it. Work on the aspects listed above that cause the most problems.

I promise if you spend time on revisions, you (and your instructor) will be much happier with the final result!






Monday Motivator: You May Want It All, But You Can’t Have It All (Now)

A friend of mine was on the receiving end of a jealous tirade recently. She’d mentioned a project she was finishing and then had to sit through a rendition of, “Oh, I wish I had time to work on something like that. But I have kids and  (insert any of the million things that people say when they’re on one of these tirades).”

 Now my friend also has children, and when they were small, she too didn’t have as much time to work on projects. But they are now grown, and her time is more of her own again.

Sadly, to point that out to the complainer would not have made much difference, because the poor person was infected with the “I want it all and I want it now syndrome.” And it seems that more and more people have come down with this disease.

I like to blame the rise of the credit card, which made it possible for people to buy things without saving up for them. Getting used to having anything the second we want it, we think that the same process should be true for other areas in life as well. We should be able to go to school, have a job, be a good parent, go to the gym five times a week, cook every dish on our Pinterest board, and have romantic evenings with our significant others. All in the same day. 

Except that time is one tough taskmaster. It does not give advances or extensions. We are constantly being forced to make choices, and some of them are hard. So then we lash out at people who have made different choices or are at different stages in their lives.

Maybe a more productive way of looking at things is to realize that few choices are forever. Children grow up. Degrees are earned. Projects finish. And there will be a time for new and different choices.  

So for the time being, just enjoy the choices you’ve made for this time in your life. And try to let others do the same.


The Self-Improvement Chronicles: Stepping Away from the Soda (Not!)

Our task this was week to avoid sugary drinks. This should be a no-brainer on the way to health and weight loss. Almost every weight-loss story begins with the person giving up full-sugar soda and dropping ten or twenty pounds in the first month. Even diet soda now gets a bad rap: recent studies having linked it to increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and obesity.

So what’s a self improver to do? Well, for the Jolly Librarian, I am typing this between sips of the gigantic Diet Coke I bought at the drive-through today.  Yep, I’m a soda addict. And I’m probably not going to stop any time soon.

On the other hand, Pam is reveling in this week’s assignment: “I am doing SO GOOD! Yay! For once, I’ve been on task (does it count that I don’t drink soft drinks, anyway?) It does take a bit of the glee out of my celebration, doesn’t it? However, I just don’t. They are too fattening. When I was 18, I once made a New Year’s resolution to not drink soft drinks –and I didn’t for 8 years!”

And Emily was her usual enigmatic self: “I had some lemonade.”

So our grades for this week:

Pam:                         A+ (for her long-term commitment not to drink soda)

Jolly Librarian:   F  (I couldn’t even give it for the time it took to write this entry)

Emily:                     F (I suspect she was trying to get credit through vague wording.)