Under Pressure

We’re hearing a lot about pressure these days. When this high pressure gets pulled into this low pressure, it’s the perfect storm. Then there’s work pressure, peer pressure, internal pressure—and we’re all worried about my mother’s blood pressure.

A little bit of pressure is not a bad thing. If we were completely immune to pressure, we’d probably never get anything done. Too much pressure, on the other hand, makes me want to throw up my hands and walk away. Lately, I have felt pulled in a lot of different directions, and I’m running around keeping all of the plates spinning without accomplishing anything. I went on YouTube and listened to the Michael Jackson song “Scream” (I prefer the Glee version), just to share the feeling with someone. A few days ago, David and I sat down with my old 7 Habits of Highly Effective People binder and tried to figure out why we’re not being effective. If you ever have the opportunity to take this course, do it. I’ve never read all of the original book, and the seven-day course is ridiculously expensive, but Wake County gives it through its Human Resources department (condensed into five days), so I took advantage of it.

Although all of the information is good, I wanted to brush up on the “Quadrants.” If you’re familiar with this concept, you’ll know that there are basically four ways to spend your time:

1)      Taking care of urgent, really important stuff. For a fireman, this would be putting out fires. Metaphorically, that works for you, too.

2)      Planning, preparing, and doing long-term important stuff. This is where you should spend most of your time. It’s the most creative quadrant, because you have time to think and strategize without being afraid that your house is about to explode.

3)      Working on things that are not important, but are urgent. Sometimes, this means wasting your life on things that other people think are important. If that other person signs your paycheck, you should do it. Otherwise, this is where you need to learn to say no.

4)      Plain old wasting time. It’s not important, and it’s not urgent. Free Cell goes here, as well as Jersey Shore, talking or texting incessantly, and so on. I’m sure you can fill in the blank for your own life. A little down time is good for you, but too much will make you ineffective.

We quickly decided that we were watching too much TV. For me, that usually means the news. It’s good to keep up with current events, but with today’s 24-hour news cycle, eventually you have to decide that you’ve heard the same story ten times, and you need to move on. I try to listen to the news when I’m doing something else, usually cooking dinner, but when I sit down during the evening and watch another hour, it’s too much. We decided to give ourselves grace on this until after the election. Just nine days to go before withdrawal!

Sometimes, it’s hard to decide if an activity is excessive. For example, it is possible to exercise too much. No, Imagereally! I have heard that there is research to support this, and I am doing my part to lower the total amount of exercise in the universe. You’re welcome. However, if you are a personal trainer, exercise is going to be a major part of your day. Rather than working out at the gym before work, you’d work out at the gym for work. Since I go into a library building every day, it’s tough to keep those books from sneaking into my work bag and finding their way to my nighttable. It seems that if I bring back two, I’ll take home three more. Witness my nighttable. These are the books that I truly plan to read soon. Every once in a while, I have to go through the piles and convince myself that I’ll never really read this. The next day, I bring a whole canvas bag back to the library, only to start the process over again. Right now, my nighttable is at critical mass. The books underneath are books I actually own and want to read. Most of the books on top are advance reader copies, so there’s no due date on them. There are a few library books, and those always go first so that I can get them back into circulation. Note that the Nook e-reader on the top is filled with more unread books. The pile of junk underneath is a bunch of bookmarks, which I collect, topped by my beloved weighted bookmark, which allows me to continue reading while I dry and curl my hair. It’s a sickness.

As a librarian, I do have to read a certain amount. Conversely, I am a librarian because I love to read. So, I have to read children’s and teens’ books in order to increase my knowledge of the market, but it’s not as if I hate doing it. I read nonfiction and major literary works because no self-respecting librarian (or human being) would skip them, and sometimes I’ll read a fun, fluffy book just because I feel like it. I think that’s OK. Right now I have books on writing, a book on the history of kitchen implements, several Newbery and Printz contenders, a collection of Dylan Thomas’ poetry,  a book on how I would be happier if I stayed home (Why do I torture myself?), and a book on the Borgias in medieval Florence, among many others. At the moment, I’m reading Jon Meacham’s new biography of Thomas Jefferson, which is very good, but it’s the kind of book that takes a while to get through. To tell the truth, I am usuallyImage fighting for time to read. One hour less television equals one hour more reading. That is, it would if I didn’t have this awful monster staring me in the face.  I refuse to divulge how long this can of Pledge has been sitting on my dresser, but I’m beginning to think of it as an accessory.

It all comes down to money, really. If I were wealthy, I would not have to work all day, plus I could hire a cleaning service. That way, I would just have to schedule my reading around my currently non-existent walks, and life would be peachy. I understand, however, that one must buy lottery tickets in order to win the lottery, and since I am way too cheap to do that, I’m afraid that I’ll have to look at those quadrants again. Too much pressure!

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This post was originally published on www.EatReadSleep.com on 10-28-12.

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