Practical Creativity: To-Do Lists Made Fantastic!

My buddy Bonnie seems to have more hours in her day than the rest of us!  She balances a full-time job with parenting her son Wally, being a wifey to Craig, ice skating and playing the flute in a band.  Just writing that sentence made me tired. 🙂

But she wasn’t always this productive. Like many of us, she uses a to-do list to get the most out of her days, and like many of us, her to-do list often became an albatross around her neck.  She’d stare at it and either get overwhelmed, or uninspired, by what she had to accomplish.  And so would her son Wally. (She has him make his own to-do list for every weekend.)

Then it struck her…fun, novel stuff should be as valued as chores, practicing piano or whatever. So she started adding items to her list like get a Starbucks coffee, or get a mani/pedi.  Wally’s list might include things like go to Dunkin’ Donuts, or play soccer for an hour mixed in with make your bed, and do your math.

To make their to-do lists even more exciting, Bonnie and Wally use different colors for certain items on their lists, and sometimes use pictures, such as a soccer ball to symbolize soccer practice, instead of words to remind them of what they’d like to accomplish.

Now they both look forward to checking off the items on their lists, and as a result, enjoy fun, balanced, productive days.

Bonnie whipped this list up on the spot.  Notice the coffee doodle by Starbucks stop.

Bonnie whipped this list up on the spot. Notice the coffee doodle by Starbucks item.

So the next time you make a to-do list, think of Bonnie and create a fantastically fun one.  Then send me a pic of it so I can post it!

Purple Passion of the Fortnight.  I'd love to drink tea or coffee out of this cup!

Purple Passion of the fortnight. I’d love to drink tea or coffee out of this cup!

Destination of the Fortnight: Big Island of Hawaii..I've been but Bonnie wants to go.  Maybe she can sunbathe with the chap in the photo!

Destination of the Fortnight: Big Island of Hawaii. Bonnie’s pick–she’s never been and is dying to go. Maybe she can sunbathe with the chap in the photo when she gets there!



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Use Your Imagination to Increase your Influence

A Slice of AnnyWorld:

MAKE YOUR MARK: to have an important effect on something (Or someone)

Unfortunately in this country, many girls are raised to be afraid, very afraid, to make their mark.
Maybe because before you make your mark, you may fail–a lot. (Walt Disney went bankrupt three times, and got fired a lot before Mickey helped him make his mark. Your teacher may have gotten bad feedback on some of her lesson plans before she was able to make a great one, and leave her mark on you.)
Stepping out on that limb takes courage, and you won’t bother unless you’re driven by something dear to your heart.  Your imagination can reveal the  things that are worth the risk to you.
My buddy Eti Berland is a librarian/teacher at the Blitstein Institute.  She decided that she wanted to make her mark this year by helping her students discover their hidden inner gifts, a lost engineer, or wandering poet, or absent minded mathematician, or ?  Once they embraced these forgotten talents, they could use them to leave many marks.  (Not bruises…but achievements.) 🙂

Thus, she proclaimed the theme for the 2014-15 school year to be “make your mark and see where it takes you.”  This line is a quote from Peter Reynolds’ picture book, The Dot. The book encourages its readers to be brave by trying something new, especially something they think they can’t do, and see what happens.  
To start the year off right, Eti turned her library into a safe, creative space where students were encouraged to explore themselves through dot-making, poetry and other International Dot Day activities.  In addition, playing together encouraged the girls to express their beliefs, dreams, and fears–allowing them to see all that they had in common. Thus one of Eti’s first marks on the year was building a closer knit community.

To further inspire her students to boldly go where they hadn’t before,(Star Trek motto), she used “Celebridots.” These dots expressed the faculty’s thoughts about making their own marks, and allowed them to put their spin on the theme and dot making. It also put them out on the same limb with the girls.

Here’s Eti’s Celebridot, which expresses her joy about being on the Newbery Committee this year, and the fun she had attending the ALA (American Library Association) Summer Conference 2014 as a committee member. (The Newbery Awards are The Oscar Awards for kid’s books. And like the Oscars do for movies, The Newbery influences what gets read, including bringing visibility to books that may have been overlooked. As I write, Eti’s committee is selecting this year’s winners now.  For a librarian, is there a bigger mark one can make?)
Eti Dot
I hope Eti will keep us posted on her students’ discoveries, as well as her own, and the marks they all leave due to their new paths.

As for me, these letters represent some of my dots. I also intend to make my mark this year as a children’s fantasy writer.  A writer who provokes girls to dig out their inner imaginations, and claim their power, so they can use these gifts to change their own stories, and inspire those around them to do the same. 

And let me tell you, making my mark on children through writing was not something I saw coming!

Which is why I want to share two things I’ve learned about making your mark:
1) It doesn’t always manifest the way you think it will.  For ex. You discover you love dance, but you don’t have a dancer’s body.  You’re bummed until you realize you can design costumes for dancers, or lighting, or you are great at math so you can handle the dance company’s budget!
2) Don’t judge a dot/mark by its size.  (I can be guilty of this.)  Every mark matters. And we leave marks wherever we go, whether we realize it or not.

Describe some marks you’ve left recently.



anny:TorontoStrange and Beautiful



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Imagination can bring more $$$$ into your life

A Slice of AnnyWorld:

Can you make money and do good at the same time?  Unfortunately, there are many out there who believe it’s not possible.  Sell out first, they say, make your fortune and then change the world. 

I just can’t do that.  I recognize that money buys freedom, such as the freedom to buy a house with a yard so I don’t have to walk Odin when it’s cold outside, and the freedom to help change the stories of many around me, but I can’t chase money.  I invite it to come to me in return for doing something meaningful, something that helps others. Though I haven’t been able to make much money and do good at the same time YET, I have good role models around me who inspire me to stay the course. One such person is my friend Marie.

Marie and I are different in lots of ways…one of the biggest is that she enjoys the business side of life, whereas things like business plans and budgets make my head spin.  I’d much prefer to live in the worlds I create in my head and put down on the page.  But one thing we have in common is an active imagination.  We’re not afraid to think outside the box.

Some years ago she bought a recruiting company that matched people to tech jobs.  When she bought it, the company was bringing in about $150k in revenue each year.  She felt sure that the company could make much more than that, but in order to expand the revenue, she’d have to figure out a way to make the company stand out from the rest of its competitors. That’d be the only way she and the company could snag more clients.

She put on her thinking cap and came up with ideas of how to conduct her business differently.  One of the most radical was this:  She would be totally honest with employers when presenting her candidates.  She’d discuss the candidate’s weaknesses as well as his/her strengths. She’d point out to the prospective employer what specific challenges she thought the candidate would have if he/she was hired for the job, as well as the value the candidate would bring to the position/company.  This allowed the company to make better hiring decisions and set the candidate up for success once she/he got there.

NONE OF HER COMPETITORS WERE DOING THIS.  Employers loved this because it prevented them from wasting time and money on the wrong candidates for their jobs. The candidates loved it because it set them up to succeed at their new company. 

Marie’s unusual approach garnered fans quickly, making the company revenue skyrocket.  In a few short years her company’s revenue went from $150k a year to $6 million a year. 

By being creative about how she sold her clients, she expanded her company to the point that buyers came knocking.  She sold it and started her next adventure….

By serving the higher right, in this case putting the best interests of both client and company first through being totally honest, Marie raised her bottom line. Take a look at your own efforts.  Could you be doing more good and making more money by doing things differently?






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Imagination Makes Life More Fun

A Slice of AnnyWorld:

What if there were a way to use your imagination to make the stuff we have to do, but don’t like doing, more fun? My friend Ilana Ostrar came up with an innovative way to make her life easier.

Ilana works as a nanny when she isn’t writing her novels, or designing neat cards at Unique Notes by Pearl. She got tired of nagging her young charges to hold the railing when they went down stairs, or wrestling with them to get dressed so they could go to the library.  She realized if she made doing these tasks fun, her kids would happily do them.  So she created songs about the things she needed them to do such as:

“Hold the railing, Hold the railing, so you don’t fall down, Hold the railing, hold the railing, so you don’t hit the ground.”

Soon the eldest boy not only sang the song to himself, but taught his younger brother the song too.  Every time they went up or down stairs, they’d sing the song and automatically grab the railing. No more nagging.

Because the ditties worked so well, the eldest boy’s music teacher used one of the songs in class.

I think I’ll go write a song about rinsing the dishes before you put them in the dishwasher, and teach it to my husband. 🙂

What chores do you dislike doing?  Imagine what you can do to make them more fun and share your ideas with all of us in AnnyWorld in the comments below.

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