Monthly Archives: July 2019

19 for 2019: week 30 update

Week of 22 July

I don’t have a lot to update from week 30. I finished the 31-day photo course (in eight months . . .) last week and I guess that felt like such a big achievement and now I’m feeling a bit lost.

Of the five uncompleted things left to do on my 19 for 2019 list, fixing my sewing machine (thing 10) is a fairly simple thing as long as I just make the call, which is always the hard part. Finishing the photo project (thing 16) will take more time but if I make regular time each week to sit down and do it, I’ll get there eventually. I did some work editing some more photos this week and I learned a couple more features of Photoshop.

Making a folio of my best work of 2019 (thing 2) is something that’s ongoing for the whole year. But I need to make a better way of reviewing my photos each week and putting any good ones in there so I don’t get behind and then have to go back through the whole year’s worth of photos to find my favourites. Something to think about and I have a couple of ideas.

Making photo I’m proud of enough to print it big and hang it on the wall (thing 14)  is something that will probably fall out of the folio, so I might not get around to doing that until the end of the year when I have a year’s worth of photos to choose from.

20190725 Clouds over 36 Davey St edit

Cool clouds. Probably not one for the folio, but who knows?

Finally, in the wellbeing work that I’m doing (thing 6), I’m still struggling with the whole evening routine and getting enough rest thing. I’m not sure what’s going on there but I suspect it’s my brain trying to make me feel good in the moment rather than listening to what is going to actually be good for me. I wrote about it a bit in my Weekend Wisdom post. This week I listened to the week 28 class (the material is a bit behind the actual weeks of the year because we started in mid-January) and I’ll have more to say about that in my week 31 post.

For No-buy July, which isn’t a thing but I’m still doing it, I didn’t buy anything from my off-limits list this week. No books, no online courses, no free resources that end up putting me on mailing lists that send me more tempting things to buy, no stationery (even though my favourite stationery store had a 15 per cent of everything deal), no clothes (even though my favourite clothing store has had several sales going on). I’ve been ruthless in deleting emails that are out to tempt me. There is a piece of equipment I’ve been considering buying for several months and it’s come to the point where I really need to have it or I risk wasting a lot of work. I’ve done some research and asked questions and I think this is going to be the best way to fix some problems I’ve been having. So I think I can justify that. It’s not on my off-limits list so it’s all good.

Status for week 30

  • Things completed this week: 0
  • Things completed to date: 14 (1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 15, 17, 18, 19)
  • Things I progressed: 2 (6, 16)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress: 1 (2)
  • Things not started: 2 (10, 14)

Weekend wisdom 6

A weekly review of things that came through my inbox that I found interesting and want to remember.

This week, I found myself annoyed at someone about something they did, or rather, something they didn’t do. The thing about this was that the person would have had no idea that I expected them to do this thing and I had no authority that would require them to do it. Just an expectation that they should behave in a particular way.

As I worked through being irritated and annoyed at them, I realised I was blaming them for me feeling bad, when in reality, they’d done nothing wrong. I was being completely unreasonable, and I eventually figured out that dwelling on this was a waste of my mental space and that I should get on with doing my thing.

Like magic, I got an email covering exactly this topic from the Bold Self Love podcast, which I don’t listen to but I do flip through the transcript if it sounds interesting. The title of this week’s episode was “When Others Disappoint You”, which seemed to be about the feelings I had been processing. And, indeed, it was about exactly that.

The message was that when someone does something, it’s a neutral event but we choose to interpret it in a certain way and it’s our interpretation that causes our negative feelings. We then blame the person because we think their actions caused the feelings rather than recognising that it was our interpretation of their actions causing the feelings. If we’d had a different thought about the event, we could have ended up feeling completely differently about it.

The post goes on to say that we create instruction manuals for people, which are our expectations about how we think they should act and behave and then, when they don’t behave like we think they should, we get upset. The person has no idea we have these expectations and, even if they did know, we don’t get to write their instruction manual—they do. They get to choose how they behave and we get to choose how we behave and we get to choose the meaning we give to everything that happens. For example, hypothetically, my sister didn’t return my call as soon as she got my message. If my “sister manual” includes an expectation that she’ll call me back asap I’m always going to be disappointed if she takes three days to get back to me. If I release this expectation of her and accept she’ll get back to me in her own time, however, I’m not going to be annoyed if I don’t hear from her for a few days.

As I was reading this I realised it applied perfectly to the expectation that I’d had of the person whose behaviour had upset me and that it was up to me to change my thoughts about this, not up to them to change their behaviour. They’re allowed to do their thing, just as I’m allowed to do mine—indeed I can only do mine— so I need to get on with it and forget about what other people are (or aren’t) doing.

20190725 Cool cloud 2

A cool cloud I saw on Thursday

Along similar lines, an email from Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages, had a nice take on how to deal with people who put you down.

It can be challenging to deal honorably with others when they come off as judgmental, offensive, or belligerent. So when you find those pesky defenses and negatively charged emotions rising up within you, I want you to remember one simple maneuver that may just keep you sane—reframe it.

When a photographer takes a picture, what he or she includes in the frame makes a big difference. A portrait focuses solely on the face of a particular individual. Similarly, when we find ourselves focused on the actions of one person, that’s all we see. So if they treat us poorly, it fills our view and consumes our attention.

However, if the photographer were to pull back and frame a bigger picture, the person originally photographed would not seem as important in light of the overall scene. When you learn to pull back and reframe a negative interaction, it can make all the difference. You may have a judgmental in-law, but your spouse loves you. Your marriage is good. Your kids are happy. There’s a bigger picture, and you are not enslaved to seeing only one person’s opinion on your life. Same goes for a bossy boss, a complaining coworker, or a negative naysayer on social media.

Reframing your perspective in the midst of conflict could very well help you stay cool, calm, and collected. Remember, keep the negativity of others in its proper place. If there’s truth in it, acknowledge and learn from it—but don’t react to it. The quickest way to do this is to simply reframe it in light of the bigger picture and know their opinion is not the only one that matters.

James Clear had a good piece on what to do when you’re struggling and feel like giving up. I love the concept of the mind as a “suggestion machine”. James says,

Consider every thought you have as a suggestion, not an order. Right now, my mind is suggesting that I feel tired. It is suggesting that I give up. It is suggesting that I take an easier path.

If I pause for a moment, however, I can discover new suggestions. My mind is also suggesting that I will feel very good about accomplishing this work once it is done. It is suggesting that I will respect the identity I am building when I stick to the schedule. It is suggesting that I have the ability to finish this task, even when I don’t feel like it.

This reminded me of last week’s Bold Self Love podcast on self-care, which observed that our brains “like to avoid pain, they like to seek pleasure, and they like to conserve energy, so they’re kind of lazy” so they’re always telling jus to do things that make us feel better. But they want us to feel better right now, which is why our brains encourage us to not exercise, or to over-eat, or to drink too much alcohol, because it will make us feel better in the moment. And she says what we need to do is become aware of when our brain is telling us this and to “replace these thoughts with new thoughts that will lead to new results”.

Along similar lines, an article by Lisa Grace Byrne on integrating self-care into your life rather than it being a thing that you do.

I especially liked this line: “You eat all day, and every meal is an opportunity to support your body, mood and mind toward vitality and wellness” because it’s so obvious when you think about it. Every time you eat something you’re making a choice as to whether you will nourish your body (and mind) or potentially harming it. Every meal is an opportunity to care for yourself.

I love this!

Some other things that got my attention this week were

A piece that really spoke to me that a friend posted on Facebook about having been a smart kid and having been praised for this, but then growing up and not feeling so smart any more

This resonated with me this week as I was reflecting on my school subject choices, the expectations people had had of me at school, where that had led me to, and how my life might have been different if I had followed the dream I’d had in primary school rather than the path well-meaning adults set me on. (Coincidentally, I did an online career quiz recently and my top career result from this was the same thing I had wanted to be in primary school and early high school, before my “smart kid” got sent in another direction entirely.)

Which leads us neatly to James Clear’s five lessons on being wrong.

What is the likelihood that your 22-year-old self could optimally choose the career that is best for you at 40 years old? Or 30 years old? Or even 25 years old? Consider how much you have learned about yourself since that time. There is a lot of change and growth that happens during life. There is no reason to believe that your life’s work should be easily determined when you graduate.

James says:

Given that your first choice is likely to be wrong, the best thing you can do is get started. The faster you learn from being wrong, the sooner you can discover what is right. For complex situations like relationships or entrepreneurship, you literally have to start before you feel ready because it’s not possible for anyone to be truly ready. The best way to learn is to start practising.

So, with that in mind, here are 8 Micro habits that will completely change your photography in a year on the Digital Photography School blog.

And finally, Sean Tucker’s video on doing your own thing and ignoring social media attention.

19 for 2019: week 29

Week of 15 July (week 29)

I’ve had a lovely slow week this week. It’s school holidays and I had four days off work.  Wonderful! It meant I got to spend some time with Kramstable and to do some things for me as well, including finalising a post for my photoblog (I mentioned this in my Weekend Wisdom post) and taking myself to the movies.

One of my 19 for 2019 things was to get a manicure. I’d never had a manicure before this week and I’m not sure what made me want to have one. I never let my nails grow very long and I’m not a nail polish fan. But I do have a couple of friends who have really nice hands and I keep thinking it would be nice to have soft, well cared-for hands rather than chapped ones. So I put it on the list (thing 17).

Kramstable is fascinated by all things nail polish so I asked him if he wanted a manicure too. He did, so I figured it would be a good school holiday activity for us to do together this week. And we did.

I wasn’t sure what would be more difficult for the lovely nail ladies: my ancient hard-as-rock hands with years of cuticle growth, or Kramstable’s small fingers. Bethany, who was working on Kramstable’s hands, said his hands were easy and if I thought that would be hard, try doing a manicure on a three-year-old.

I mentioned to Jessica, who had the unfortunate job of working on my neglected hands, that I had never had a manicure and didn’t take very good care of my hands. She just smiled and said, that’s why you’re here. Indeed. It wasn’t an unpleasant experience and my hands felt and looked very soft afterwards. I mentioned that I had some really old cuticle oil at home and Bethany said get it out, put it by your toothbrush and use it when you brush your teeth.

Great idea! I’m going to do that as part of my evening routine (thing 6) so that next time I go back (because next time I’m going back for the ultimate hand pampering treatment) my manicure will be easier and my hands will look even better.

Quite coincidentally, I learned that that day was a strong “earth” energy day and good activities for earth energy days include “treats and luxuries” so it ended up being a perfectly appropriate day for it.

20190716 After manicure 3

I have been doing horribly on getting to bed on time and on staying hydrated, which are my main wellbeing goals (thing 6). I can’t, hand on heart, say I made any progress on that this week.

But!

I completed the last three assignments for the photo course I started back in December (thing 1). The course was meant to take 31 days. It took eight months!

20190719 Waterfront from Mac 2 03

Never mind, I got there and I learned a lot and certainly know a lot more about Lightroom (thing 19) than I did when I started. I’m also working my way through a book called The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic CC Book for Digital Photographers by Scott Kelby, which I bought for my Kindle before I started taking the course and had forgotten about. It’s nearly 500 pages long and covers file organisation, which was helpful when I started before I had any clue how any of it worked, as well as having a lot of material on workflow. It has a lot of instruction about dealing with your finished images (printing, publishing and so on), which doesn’t really interest me at the moment.

I’ve flicked through it and I don’t think there’s anything more in there that I need to know to edit 90 per cent of my photos. I think what I need to do now is practise and edit lots of photos. If there’s something I need to learn how to do, I can look it up either in the book or online. There’s no point in going through it now when I don’t need to use it because I won’t remember it and will have to look it up anyway. For the purpose of this being a thing I wanted to do in 2019, I’m happy to call it done. I will never know everything there is to know about Lightroom, but I know enough for what I need. Thing complete.

I edited some photos for my photo project (thing 16) and I added this week’s photos to my 2019 folio (thing 2). And with No-buy July (take 2), I’m up to day 11.

Status for week 29

  • Things completed this week: 3 (1, 17, 19)
  • Things completed to date: 14 (1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 15, 17, 18, 19)
  • Things I progressed: 2 (2, 16)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress: 1 (6)
  • Things not started: 2 (10, 14)

Weekend wisdom 5

A weekly review of things that came through my inbox that I found interesting and want to remember.

Nothing on perfectionism came through my inbox this week. I’m kind of relieved. I’ve been thinking about it a lot and think it’s time to stop thinking and start doing stuff.

Imperfectly.

So, I made myself publish a post on my photoblog that I’d been working on for weeks before I was ready to publish it and before I felt totally happy with the photos. But I knew if I kept putting it off and kept tinkering, I’d never publish it. It’s out there now and I can move on to the next thing.

20180115 T&G Building 2

T&G Building, Hobart

I’m still struggling with making myself go to bed on time. If this doesn’t motivate me to, I don’t know what will.

During deep sleep the spaces between our brain cells expand by as much as 60%, which allows cerebral-spinal fluid to flush through and remove toxins from our brain. One of these toxins is beta-amyloid, a protein that can lead to the build-up and formation of plaques and create memory impairment.

Oh. My. God. That sounds gross! But very good. The last thing I want is memory impairment. Get more sleep!

This statement is from the Smiling Mind website, which is an app I’ve been using to develop a mindfulness practice, mainly at work, where I really need it.

Smiling Mind has just launched a new sleep meditation program, which I signed up for. I like this because it relates to the work I’ve been doing on trying to get more sleep through my wellbeing program. I haven’t started doing it yet because it needs me to have my phone in my bedroom at night, which I don’t like doing. I’m still trying to find a workaround for that so I can have calming music or do a guided meditation at night without my phone. (My CD player has died, so that’s out for now.)

Another segment of the wellbeing program is trying to get more vegetables into my diet. I scanned through this article, 10 Ways to Make Vegetables Taste Good by Steve from Nerd Fitness. I need a lot of help in this area, so I was very interested in what he had to say. In summary, the 10 ways are:

  1. Change their state (cook them in some way: steamed, baked, grilled, sautéed).
  2. Blend them in a smoothie (works well with things like spinach and kale).
  3. Make a combo bite with a food you like (make things like stir fries with lots of veggies and gradually increase the amounts of vegetables and reduce the amounts of the other food).
  4. Cover them in cheese.
  5. Wrap them in bacon (works well with asparagus).
  6. Spice it up (add spice or hot sauce to change the tastes, which reminded me I saw a post on Instagram last week from EatWell Tasmania, which has a similar “veg it up” campaign suggesting ways to get more veg into your diet, which included a suggestion to roast thin slices of carrot with olive oil and cumin, which sounds absolutely delicious and I have to try it).
  7. Pretend they are other foods (zucchini noodles, “cauliflower rice”).
  8. Dunk them (in hummus or guacamole).
  9. Add small amounts of leafy green vegetables to other meals like pasta sauces, chilli beef and curries (I do this a lot).
  10. Cover them in something you do love (which may be an unhealthy thing but the point is to start getting the veggies in and then gradually reducing the amount of sauce. I imagine the same goes for the cheese and the bacon suggestions).

And then, some beautiful words from @tilleysong on Instagram about how our feelings are valid, we don’t have to fix them and we don’t have to make “negative” emotions go away. This was a wonderful post. It came up in a few places for me a couple of weeks ago and it’s something I constantly have to remind myself of.

Finally, some words to inspire me in my photography, from David duChemin,  who says it’s important to get out of your comfort zone, face your fears and keep learning.

I got a similar message on a post in a Facebook group, which was just to get out there and shoot and even if it goes badly, you’ll still have learned something for next time.

So, it’s time to get out there and do something!

19 for 2019: week 28 update

Week of 8 July

No-buy July, which isn’t one of my 19 things but is a 30-day challenge I want to do, lasted exactly nine days, and on the tenth day, I forgot I wasn’t supposed to be buying stuff and ordered something online. As soon as I hit “pay now” in Paypal I knew I’d stuffed up. I tried to rationalise it by telling myself it wasn’t really buying, it was pre-ordering and that I had intended to buy this product for ages and had just never got around to doing it, so it really wasn’t a purchase of a non-essential thing in July.

All very fine excuses, but not good enough. I bought something I didn’t need and so the month restarted on 11 July.

I finished two assignments in the photo course, so I now have four remaining out of the 31 assignments in the course (thing 1). I watched the last class video and I learned some new things in Lightroom for one of the assignments (thing 19).

I was losing track of the photos for my folio (thing 2), so I made a smart collection of all the photos from this year in Lightroom (there are 5900 of them) to have them all in one place and started to pull out my favourites. So far I have about 200 shortlisted. I made virtual copies of my shortlisted photos for the photo project (thing 16) and have started editing them.

I made my appointment for a manicure next week (thing 17) and I finished sticking the last of the 2018 photos in the book (thing 11). It is now safely tucked away in its archive binder and I have finished another thing!

The Bucket List Journal (thing 18) has space for you to list and plan out 100 things.20190713 Bucket List Journal

There’s a two-page spread for each of the 100 things to help you plan how you’re going to do it and to record what you did when you did it. There’s also an index section at the back to list all of the goals. That means you have to write the things in the book TWICE! I put all the 100 things in the index on Saturday but decided that it didn’t count as finishing the thing, because the things needed to be in the book proper so that I could start to make plans to do them. That was my intention when I wrote my list. So I wrote them all in. And I have a sore hand from writing so much. But I’ve finished another thing. And don’t be surprised if 20 of the things on that list make their way onto my 20 for 2020 list, if I decide to do that.

If you’re interested, this is how MiGoals, the creator of the journal, recommends to use it.

I’m failing badly at my attempts to implement a consistent evening routine (thing 6) and have been doing some of the other work from my wellbeing course around getting better rest. This course is a thing I don’t think I can ever actually fully complete. It’s designed so you can go back year after year and take what you need at the time. This is the fifth year I’ve worked with this material and so far I have never made it through to the end of the year. So my goal is to stick with it for the full year, listen to all of the lessons and I start to make a few small changes from some of the lessons. I can always go back and work through it again next year and get new things from it.

Status for week 28

  • Things completed this week: 2 (11, 18)
  • Things completed to date: 11 (3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 15, 18)
  • Things I progressed: 6 (1, 2, 6, 16, 17, 19)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress: 0
  • Things not started: 2 (10, 14)

Weekend wisdom 4: perfectionism meets comparison

A weekly review of things that came through my inbox that I found interesting and want to remember.

Perfectionism has been the major theme in the things that have caught my eye over the last couple of weeks and I think I’m calling an uneasy truce with it now that I’ve come to understand what it is. After much thinking and writing, I thought I was done with it and that it was time to move on to other things that were grabbing my attention. To put it in the words of a friend who I’d been talking about this with recently, I thought I had kicked that shit to the kerb.

But perfectionism isn’t done with me yet and so the lessons keep coming. It’s probably good that they do, because I don’t think you ever truly “recover” from perfectionism. You have to constantly be on your guard that its voice doesn’t start speaking to you again and that, if it does, you don’t start listening to it. And one way of doing that is to have the message that perfect is the enemy of the good (or done is better than perfect, whichever way you want to look at it) constantly reinforced because reinforcement is how the old pattern of perfectionist thinking got entrenched in the first place.

So, the first thing on Monday morning I saw was this article by Lisa Byrne on perfectionism, in which she says that she sees perfection as being the opposite of excellence. This rang a bell with me because I see my pursuit of perfection as a misguided pursuit of excellence. That is, where I thought I was seeking perfection I was really seeking excellence. I’m still processing my thoughts on this so that might not make too much sense, but I was interested to see what Lisa had to say.

Lisa says that perfectionism leads us to compare ourselves with somebody else (real or imagined) and that when we do this we’ll always come up short because we are not them. (There’s a theme emerging in these posts, isn’t there?)

In her post, Lisa writes of an interview she did with the shame researcher Brené Brown. Brené observed that we are all unique. We’re made up of different parts and we’re all many different things: mother, father, sister, brother, partner, worker, volunteer, writer, gardener, cook, artist, singer, teacher . . . whatever we are. There is no exact replica of us in the world and, therefore, no one to directly compare ourselves to. So instead, Brené says, she (we) (I) compares one part of herself to the “perfect” version of that part. So she might compare her writing to the World’s Best Writer’s work, her volunteer work to Mother Teresa’s work, her research to the World’s Best Researcher’s work, and her photography to the work of the Artistic Genius I referred to last week (no, she doesn’t, that’s what I do . . .).

And guess what? She concludes that she’s falling short in every area of her life because she compares each individual part of her life with the “top” parts of several different people’s lives.

The “comparee” might be a full-time artist who has spent their whole life learning their craft, and has been doing it 12 hours a day, seven days a week, for the last 25 years. They might have devoted their entire life to the service of others. They might be at home full-time with their kids . .  . and so it goes . . .

And hopefully you begin to see that you can’t be the Artistic Genius AND the World’s Best Researcher AND Mother Teresa AND the Gardening Guru AND be home looking after the kids all day because you don’t have 48 hours in a day or 14 days in a week to put in as much effort to each one of those things that you’d need to put in to reach the standard of one of those people in one of those areas. Even if you never slept, you wouldn’t be able to achieve at the level of all of those people in all of those things.

This reminded me of a time I was reading blogs about whole foods and trying to eliminate as much processed junk as I could. I thought I was doing pretty well until I read an article from a homemaker blogger, who said she milled her own flour because flour starts to go bad as soon as it’s milled and the fresher it is, the better.

My first thought was: Are you fucking kidding me? I make my own chicken stock, I am learning to bake bread, I buy hyper-expensive organic yogurt, I don’t buy packet sauces or tinned baked beans or frozen meals anymore, and I have my own chickens and now you’re telling me I have to Mill. My. Own. Flour.

At the time, I felt hopelessly inadequate beside this “homesteader”, who did absolutely everything from scratch, and wondered why I was bothering even trying because I could never achieve this level of food nirvana.

This week, as I reflected on how that had played out, I thought, hang on, if Brené Brown, world-renowned researcher and author, is comparing herself to others and finding herself falling short, then what hope is there for me in getting off the comparison hamster wheel?

And it hit me that maybe there isn’t. No matter how skilled I get at something, there will always be someone who is “better” than me, who knows more than me and who has been doing it longer. If I reach a level that I consider equal to theirs, then they will have moved forward too and I’ll still feel inadequate in comparison.

Comparison is a game we can’t win because the goalposts are always moving. Therefore, it’s a game that isn’t worth playing.

It’s a trap.

We compare ourselves unfavourably to other people because we’re comparing one part of ourselves to the only part of them that we see. When Brené Brown compares herself to the World’s Best Researcher or Barb compares herself to the Artistic Genius or the Homesteader Blogger, Brené and Barb are always going to feel inferior because they’re comparing a small part of their identities to what they perceive as being the whole of that person’s identity—that is, the part of that person’s identity that they show in public. (That was the only time I’m ever going to be mentioned in the same sentence as Brené Brown, so let’s just take that in for a moment . . . )

And you know what, if Brené thinks she comes up short against World’s Greatest Researcher, then I bet that the people I look up to have moments where they feel inadequate compared to someone else too. After all, they are human too. Homemaker Blogger might look at Artistic Genius the same way I do and feel like giving up her art because it’s not as good as theirs. World’s Best Researcher might look at Homemaker Blogger and feel terrible about their own food endeavours. Hell, Artistic Genius might sometimes feel totally incompetent in their own field because they aren’t Van Gogh or Ansel Adams. But they’re still in the same comparison trap that I’m in. They’re comparing their whole self with only a part of the other person’s identity.

One of my favourite expressions about this is that you can’t compare your cutting room floor footage with someone else’s highlight reel (thanks, Kendra). We don’t see the crap that the “comparees” made first, the struggle they’ve gone through to produce what they show us, the things that went wrong. We only see the finished product. We also don’t see the World’s Best Researcher pop in to Macca’s for drive-through on the way home every second night because they don’t have time to make dinner. We don’t see Homemaker Blogger’s pile of unfinished art and we don’t see Artistic Genius’s overgrown garden.

And that’s the way I have to deal with these comparisons whenever I hear that nagging little voice in my head tell me that what I’m doing isn’t as good as what . . . is doing.

So, after the initial guilt for using potentially tainted flour had worn off, I told myself that Homemaker Blogger devotes her entire life to raising her family, making a home and preparing the absolute best food she can. I am not this person, I am nothing like this person and my life is nothing like hers. For a start, I work outside the house. I have to, to pay for it. Therefore, doing home stuff is a much smaller part of my life than it is of hers. Just like I have less time to spend on my art than the Artistic Genius has and Brené has less time to volunteer than Mother Teresa did.

So rather than looking at World’s Greatest Researcher or Artistic Genius and thinking I’m useless in comparison and feeling deflated and defeated, I need to learn to acknowledge that someone else’s personal best is their personal best, not mine and that I should be striving for my personal best from the place I’m at, not that person’s personal best.

Rather than allowing it to make me feel inadequate, I can then use comparison as a motivation to do my own work and to get better. To shine my own light, not someone else’s. I can look at what it is I like about what they do and see if there’s something there that I can learn from. Perhaps I can buy better quality flour in smaller quantities and store it differently. If like the way the light falls in this artwork, maybe I can look for opportunities to incorporate that into my work. When I noticed that a writer has used words that flow with a certain rhythm, I can experiment with doing this and see if it works for me.

Comparison is a two-edged sword. When it inspires you and moves you forward, it’s a useful tool. When it deflates and demotivates you, it’s time to stop. Get off social media, stop reading blogs, take a break and focus on your own work. Forget about what everyone else is doing and go out and do what makes you happy.

And stop I will because that’s long enough to spend on one article from my inbox (which, incidentally, is still not at zero).

I had a couple of other strong messages grab my attention too this week. First, was an article from James Clear called Stop Thinking and Start Doing: The Power of Practicing More, which is a great reminder that you don’t get better at something by reading about it and thinking about it; you get better at it by doing it. The second theme that I saw in a couple of places was the importance of learning, which at first seems to contradict the message in James’ article, but this wasn’t as much about learning new skills as it was about broadening your world view through reading, exploring new ideas and getting out of your comfort zone. Here’s one of them by photographer David DuChemin, The Greatest Misconceptions in Photography.

19 for 2019: week 27 update

Week of 1 July

20190703 10M 01 from Brooke St

Hobart Waterfront, Wednesday morning

This has been another slow week for my 19 for 2019. Monday was 1 July so I decided to start this No-buy July thing. I don’t know if it’s a thing or not but if it isn’t it is now. (It is. I googled.)

When I was making my 19 for 2019 shortlist, I included a few month-long challenges I thought I’d like to do over the year. Only one of them ended up making it onto the final list of 19, which was the month with no alcohol (thing 13). There was also a month with no coffee, which I ended up doing pretty much alongside the no alcohol month, and a month of not buying anything I don’t need. This would include books, online courses, clothes, jewellery . . . anything that I don’t actually need and tend to buy on impulse or on sale or because of one of those breathless “LAST CHANCE!!!!!” emails, without considering if I really need it or am really going to read it or do it. (Spoiler: I don’t.)

So this is my challenge for July. I didn’t pick July because it rhymes with “no buy”, I just decided to do it this month.

Strategy one in this quest is to avoid shops at lunch time. Yes, that includes bookshops. The temptation there is too great.

Strategy two is to delete any emails that look like they might have tempting things or sales advertised in them. New fountain pens? Delete. Look at these beautiful new notebooks! Delete. 30 per cent off at my favourite clothes store? Delete? Buy two get one free? Delete. You mustn’t miss this opportunity for this shiny new course! Delete. LAST CHANCE!!! Delete. Funky pillow you can sleep at your desk with? Delete. All Udemy courses on sale? Delete. New . . .  Wait a minute! Funky pillow I can sleep at my desk with? Did you say sleep at my desk?!   Hold on . . . surely I need this?!

You do not.

*Makes folder of things to look at in August* *Files email*

Okay, this started out well. I managed to get through the first week pretty easily. I even went to Spiceworld to get the spices I had run out of without making a detour into my favourite clothing store next door. (Spiceworld is my downfall.) And then on Friday morning, unexpectedly in the mail arrives a loyalty voucher from my favourite bookstore as a reward for buying all those books I haven’t read over the last 12 months or so.

Oh dear!

This is a true test.

Free books!

But No-buy July!

But free isn’t actually buying, is it . . . ?

Well technically, no, but the point of No-buy July in my view is to not accumulate more stuff. It’s not about spending money. So no, I may not spend the voucher this month. Instead, I can think about all the wonderful books I might get on 1 August and choose one (or two) that I really want and that I will read.

20190707 Willow Court Barracks 07

Willow Court Barracks, New Norfolk, Sunday afternoon

In terms of my actual 19 for 2019 list, this week I’ve been focusing (imperfectly) on my evening routine (thing 6). I took some photos that might work for one of the photo course assignments (thing 1) so I’ll count that as progress, and I also watched one of the videos. I stuck one photo in my 2018 photojournal before I ran out of tape (thing 11). I bought more tape, after an exciting lunchtime trip to Spotlight where I wandered round with this look of devastated confusion on my face for ten minutes because I couldn’t find the tape. And finally, I now have a list of 100 things I might be happy to put in the Bucket List journal (thing 18).

That is all good.

Status for week 27

  • Things completed this week: 0
  • Things completed to date: 9 (3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 15)
  • Things I progressed: 4 (1, 6, 11, 18)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress:  4 (2, 16, 17, 19)
  • Things not started: 2 (10, 14)

Weekend wisdom 3

A weekly review of things that came through my inbox that I found interesting and want to remember.

This week was a mix of a couple of intense days and a couple of less intense days where I was able to slow down and deal with the backlog of things I had neglected during the intense period. I even got to inbox zero at work, which was a nice feeling to go into the weekend with.

There wasn’t a lot that came through my inbox this week that really jumped out at me as something I wanted to remember and/or put into practice. The first thing I noticed was from James Clear, who wrote about the myth of multitasking in his weekly email.

I’m familiar with this concept so the article was more of a refresher than anything new. James observes that while we are capable of doing two things at the same time, such as watching TV while we’re cooking dinner or sending an email while we’re talking on the phone, it’s impossible to concentrate on two tasks at once. So what our brains do when we think we’re multitasking is actually switching very quickly back and forth between the two tasks. This uses a huge amount of energy and wastes a lot of time because of the time it takes to get back onto the previous task when you switch. And it results in lower performance.

To overcome trying to do many things at once and to enable him to focus on what’s important, James says he identifies his “anchor task” every day. This is the one priority that he has to get done that day. He says that, while he has other things he has to do during the day, the anchor task is the priority, and he plans everything else around doing that one thing.

What I like about this model is that James has a weekly schedule of these anchor tasks, which give his week some structure and allows him to know exactly what he needs to focus on that day. So, for example, on Monday he has to write an article and on Friday he has to do his weekly review. This is something I’m going to try out and see if it works for me.

20190702 Elizabeth & Macquarie St from Franklin Square 442pm 2

Completely unrelated photo taken on my phone on the way home during the week

The second article I found interesting this week comes from Asian Efficiency, which is about checking in on how you’re going with the goals you set for yourself at the start of the year. If, indeed, you actually did that.

The article suggests if you look at how you’re tracking half-way through the year you can adjust your goals accordingly so that they remain achievable for the rest of the year. The example they give is if your goal was to do 50 book reviews and you realise you’ve only done 15 by six months, the mid-year review would be an opportunity to either adjust the goal or to amend the number of reviews you do each week to help you achieve the original goal.

The article suggests some things to look at, which include:

  • changing a goal, for example, because your circumstances have changed
  • removing goals you no longer want to pursue or that aren’t as important to you anymore
  • looking at where you’re at with the goals you set and what else you’ll need to do to get there.

It also touches briefly on the idea of setting more frequent goals, rather than 12-month goals. For example, rather than 50 book reviews in the year you could set a quarterly goal of 12 book reviews. By setting shorter-term goals, the article says you need to make more frequent check-ins. So you’re less likely to become overwhelmed by the length of time needed to achieve the goal.

I guess most, if not all, of my goals for this year are in my 19 for 2019 list, though I didn’t write the list with “setting goals” as an objective. Some of them aren’t so much goals as nagging tasks I keep putting off. Looking over the list there’s only two that I would consider to be “goals” that I haven’t made a lot of progress on and that I want to tick off by the end of the year. And I still have six months of the year left to do them so at this stage I’m not too worried. Ask me how I feel about them again in November!

19 for 2019: week 26 update

Coming up to the middle of the year, I’ve completed nine of my 19 things I wanted to do this year. That’s pretty close to half, although the pedant in me says that half of 19 is nine-and-a-half, which is rounded up to ten, so I should have completed ten things to be on track at the half-way point.

The realist says that’s ridiculous and that many of the things are more than half-finished so if you added in all of those to the mix, then the grand total would be way more than ten.

The pedant says that’s stupid and that a thing is either done or it isn’t done and only nine things are done. There is no part-done . . . and so I let my brain carry on its pointless argument while I actually sit down and do things. Or write about them, which isn’t really achieving anything. Well, it is. I like writing and I’m trying to improve, so any writing I do is helping me do this. I hope.

By writing these posts relatively quickly and publishing them, it’s also helping to reinforce the message in my brain that “done is better than perfect”, a concept I struggle with. I touched on this in my Weekend Wisdom post this week, and I lived the experience on Tuesday morning.

Tell me more, I hear you say.

To set the scene, I’ve been feeling more and more like I’m getting my walking back on track (see what I did there?) since I got sick in May and stopped doing my morning walks. I think it must be three weeks now, maybe four, when I’ve been for a walk every morning even if, on a couple of days, it was just to the end of the street because it was all I could do that day (because I slept through the alarm and had no time. True story).

On Tuesday, the “do what you can do” got taken to another level. It was freezing cold. I went outside for my walk at 5.45 and I could see frost on the road. What I didn’t realise was it was also on my driveway, which, although short, is steep. I discovered the frost pretty quickly when my feet started to slip out from under me and I just stopped myself from falling.

20190625 The frost that bit me edit

The frost that bit me

At first, I thought if I could just get to the road I’d be okay, but after three slips I still hadn’t got anywhere near the bottom of the driveway and I was worried about falling over. I slipped down my front stairs a few months ago and hurt my back really badly and I didn’t want to go through that amount of pain again.

I decided that walking wasn’t worth the risk of injuring myself and I stopped trying and went back inside. My fitness will not dramatically drop off because I missed one day. My health is my top priority, and I decided that if going for a walk presented a risk to my health that outweighed any benefit, I wouldn’t walk.

I told myself that I had walked to the extent that it was possible to walk that morning. I had followed the routine. I’d got up, got dressed and gone outside to walk.  Just like the days when I only get to the end of the street and that’s okay if it’s all I can do that day, on Tuesday I got out of the house and onto the driveway and, in the circumstances, that’s all I could have done. It was my personal best that day. It was different from what my personal best would have been the day before and different from what it would be tomorrow. But it was okay for that day.

Was it a perfect morning walk? No. Did I do the best I could do in the circumstances? Yes. Was I happy with that? Yes.

I’ve told myself time after time that done is better than perfect and that “done” looks different every time. It’s an antidote to the other voice in my head that whispers “it has to be perfect or it’s not worth doing”. That’s the voice that usually wins, despite every argument I throw against it.

But lately, I’ve been noticing a shift. The “done is better” voice is getting stronger and drowning out the whispers of the perfectionist. I’m starting to feel like it’s okay to call something done if I’ve done the best I can with what I had in the circumstances I was in at the time.

It’s one thing to know something and another thing entirely to believe it and to live your life by it and I wonder why, having known this is true for many years, I didn’t accept it sooner. How different my life might have been if I had fully accepted this belief 10 or 20 years ago. But I didn’t, and there’s no point wondering. I’m learning to accept it now, and how I take it forward into the rest of my life is what matters, not what might have been, because I can’t change that.

I suppose it’s part of the journey of life that it takes time to incorporate new beliefs into your way of thinking and behaving. You can see the same phrase over and over again, read countless articles that say the same things from different angles and sit there nodding your head, thinking, “I have to start doing this”, but when it comes down to it, you carry on as you always have because you don’t really believe it.

Changing long-held beliefs is like trying to change any other habit you’ve had for a long time and struggled to break. It doesn’t happen overnight. You don’t just wake up one morning and say, “hey, I’m not going to beat myself up for not being perfect any more” and never do it again, just like you don’t wake up one morning and decide to quit smoking and never do it again. (Well, I suppose some people do, but they are not me. I struggle with replacing behaviours that don’t support me with ones that do, so it comes as no surprise that I also struggle with replacing beliefs that don’t serve me with ones that do.)

I hope Tuesday morning is a turning point for me in my quest to overcome perfection. I hope that it has started to prove to me that it’s okay when my best isn’t really very good because what matters is that I did it, even though it wasn’t perfect. And that tomorrow I will have a chance to do it better. (And I did go for a walk in the middle of the day after the frost had gone.)

20190625 Hinsby Beach 2 edit

Lunch time walk

And so, to the pedantic perfectionist, which is still arguing with the realist, it’s half-way through the year and I’ve completed nine of my 19 things. Nine! Yay! You need to remember this was a wish list to guide me through the year, not a rigid set of goals that I had to achieve no matter what. Nine things completed and eight more in progress is tracking pretty well at the half-way point. So thanks for your thoughts but I’ll let that one go.

This week I only progressed three things.

Wait, no. I progressed three things. Three is good. I had a lot of other things on. I progressed three things on my wish list. Great!

I didn’t do any work on the photo course or Lightroom (things 1 and 19).

I’m working on trying to re-establish my evening routine and get to bed at a reasonable hour (thing 6) but I’m struggling turning my computer off at night when I’m not being productive, I’m just mindlessly scrolling and surfing. It might be relaxing but it’s not giving me the kind of rest that I really need.

I think I need to approach this with the “personal best” mindset, which is that any night where I get more sleep than I normally do is better than beating myself up because I didn’t turn the computer off at my scheduled shut down time and be in bed with the light off at precisely 10.30. No one will die if I’m still brushing my teeth at 10.35. The aim is a gradual shift into building the habit, just like I gradually got walking back into my life.

I stuck November’s collages into my photojournalist (thing 11) and I spent some more time tinkering with the draft list to go into the bucket list journal (thing 18).

20190628 Argyle & Davey St 754am edit

My favourite @hobartstreetcorners photo from this week

Status for week 26

  • Things completed this week: 0
  • Things completed to date: 9 (3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 15)
  • Things I progressed: 3 (6, 11, 18)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress:  5 (1, 2, 16, 17, 19)
  • Things not started: 2 (10, 14)