I’m back!

Not that I’ve been anywhere. I’ve been lurking, and feeling a bit like my progress in the #steppingonthecracks project has come to a screaming halt.

If you haven’t been following my project, it’s a series of challenges where I try out a new habit, technique or idea for 30 days to see how it works out. The idea is to put some of the things I’ve been reading about and learning into practise instead of filing them away under “interesting idea, should try this one day”.

I’ve had varying degrees of success with the different challenges, and I was about half way through challenge 9 (30 days of undone things), when the end of the year struck, holidays and various other unsettling events that threw everything out of line and most of my good habits went out the window, along with any capacity to make any progress on these challenges.

I’ve spent much of the past eight weeks feeling like I’d come so far, but that I’ve let myself down by letting everything go to shit. All the other stuff that was going on, well that was just an excuse to not do this.

I know! I’m being harsh on myself, and the perfectionist voice is speaking very loudly. It does that.

Last week (or thereabouts), I found the original hand-written list of the 30 little things I wanted to get done in December – you know, those things that take about five minutes, have been on your to-do list forever, but you can never quite get around to doing them. I was pleasantly surprised to find that, even though the project had collapsed, I’d still finished 20 of them. That’s two-thirds. For December, I think that’s a fairly reasonable achievement.

Hooray!

And many of the 20 things are things I wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t started this challenge. The button would still not be sewn on. I probably would have lost it by now. I’d still be using towels with holes in them.

All that’s left on the list is:

  1. Book skin check
  2. Order yoga shoes
  3. Make a list of jobs that I can do in 5/10 minutes for when I have a short gap in my day
  4. Make a list of things I can do when I have low energy rather than go on my phone
  5. Get my baby slides scanned
  6. Finish the Facing Fear worksheets
  7. Get new cord for Kramstable’s greenstone pendant
  8. Sew buttons onto purple shawl
  9. Make a list of the beers in the beer books
  10. Wash baby mat

It seems perfectly doable. Other than the purple shawl buttons. That is not doable.

The list of things that I can do in 5-10 minutes has been a work in progress for a while. I haven’t finished it because I’ve never known what to do with it, or where to put it, which is probably a reason why there were 30+ undone things in the first place. And I never felt like it was complete, so it couldn’t be put anywhere.

(I’ve combined it with another list I started ages ago of things Kramstable could do when he’s bored. He wasn’t interested.)

So, in the interests of crossing things off the list, and acknowledging that this type of list is never going to be finished, and there just has to be a point where you say, “This is enough and I’m sticking it on the pinboard and next time I have five minutes spare I’m going to do one of these things”, I present it to you now.

  • Put some washing on
  • Put washing away
  • Wash up or put the dishes away
  • Clean out a shelf in the pantry
  • Empty the bins
  • Pick up stuff off the floor in the lounge room
  • Take things that are in the wrong place to the room they belong in (bonus points for putting them away)
  • Clean out a drawer or a shelf
  • Put 10 things away
  • Vacuum a room
  • Sweep the floors
  • Quick tidy of one room (10 minutes with the timer)
  • Clear off and wipe down the bench, coffee table or dining table
  • Wipe down the bathroom sink or the bath
  • Take out the compost or the recycling
  • Go through the fridge and throw out food that’s off
  • Dust a shelf and tidy it
  • Throw something out that’s broken or we don’t need
  • Refill soap dispensers
  • Update the freezer list
  • Unsubscribe from mailing lists
  • Write a thank you note
  • Find a new recipe and add it to next week’s meal plan
  • Book a doctor appointment or haircut
  • Go for a walk
  • Go outside and look at the clouds
  • Hang out with the chickens
  • Do some colouring in or drawing
  • Write in journal
  • Write down things to be grateful for
  • 5-10 minutes of breathing exercises or meditation
  • Have a glass of water
  • Make a cup of tea
  • Read a book
  • Doodle or scribble
  • Sort a paper pile
  • Organise a file
  • Make a to-do list
  • Process emails
  • Download photos from phone
  • Sort some photos
  • Put photos in albums
  • Do something from the 30 undone things list
  • Make a new 30 undone things list

Let me know what you think.

Do you have a list like this? What’s on your list that I missed?

Here’s to getting things done, one five minute block at a time!

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Stepping on the cracks: Day 45

If you’ve been following my Travelpod blog, you’ll know that we’ve just got back from a family holiday in Victoria and South Australia.

As you might have suspected, my attempt to holiday-proof my routines and continue the Stepping on the Cracks project was a spectacular failure. I ate more, drank more, went to bed earlier and later, didn’t sleep well, woke up early, slept in, didn’t drink enough water, didn’t find opportunities to go for a walk – pretty much everything fell in a heap and it was a massive waste of space in my bag taking my walking shoes.

We were on the move every day, so there wasn’t really any time to settle into anywhere. I didn’t read much, didn’t think much, and spent most of my time taking in everything around me. Being in a different bed every night played havoc with my sleep, so I never felt especially rested.

I had a great time! We went to some lovely places, ate some of the best food I’ve ever had in my life and had some great experiences – but it simply wasn’t the sort of holiday where I could have bedded down routines and spent time thinking and learning.

So I’ve decided to draw a line through the first 15 days of the evening routine challenge and the last 15 days of the growth mindset challenge, and start them again now that we’re home. This just means that my “habit change” challenges will start on the 15th instead of the 1st of each month, and my more substantial challenges will start on the 1st instead of the 15th. So I still have 15 days to go of the growth mindset challenge, and there are at least a couple of exercises from Carol Dweck’s book I want to do in that time. I don’t want to finish this challenge without giving some thought to some of the ideas she discusses.

I think that makes sense, and I’m ok with doing this, because I think I would have had a miserable holiday if I’d spent the time beating myself up for not sticking to my original plan. And I still have three more days before I have to go back to work to resettle myself.

Here are some photos!

Book 4/24 – Better Than Before

This is my final catch-up post of the books I’ve read this year. I’m currently reading book #5.

I’ve been a fan of Gretchen Rubin since I read her first book The Happiness Project in 2011. Her new book, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, was released last year. I’d been following some of her posts about habits on her blog, as well as doing my own reading on habits (in particular the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, which Gretchen recommends on her blog and is well worth a read if you’re interested in finding out more about habits). I was keen to see how Gretchen tackled this topic, so I finally got around to reading it last month.

2016 Book 4 - Better Than Before

I like Gretchen’s approach of testing her theories on herself and writing about what happened, and she continues to use this approach in this book. This personal experience means that things that worked for Gretchen aren’t going to work for everyone, and it’s interesting to see how this realisation dawns on her during her conversations with people she relates in the book.

The first part of the book looks at the differences between people and how these differences will impact how a person might go about forming a habit.

The conclusion that Gretchen draws at the end is that we can only build our habits on the foundation of our own nature, so a lot of the book is focused on figuring out our own preferences and how we can use them to form and stick to the habits we want to develop.

This resonates very strongly with me as I work towards accepting my own nature instead of fighting against it.

First up Gretchen considers what she calls the Four Tendencies, which go some way to explaining how people respond to expectations – both external (rules, externally imposed deadlines etc) and internal (set by ourselves). Upholders meet both inner expectations, Obligers meet outer expectations but resist inner expectations, Questioners will meet their own expectations but will question why they should meet external expectations, and Rebels resist both inner and outer expectations. Where you fit into this framework might influence how you form habits.

For example, I think I’m mostly an obliger. If something is due at work on a set date, I will make sure it’s done, but if I set myself a deadline I often struggle. If I have to be at the radio station by 8pm to start my show I will be there. If I want to get up at 5am to go for a walk, it’s hit and miss (especially on a weekend), but if I have to do it so I meet my step goal for Walk In Her Shoes that day, then I most certainly will do it.

The second part of the book looks at four strategies that help us to build and maintain habits. These are strategies that you’d find in many posts about how to form a good habit: monitoring what you do; building strong foundational habits (eating, sleeping, exercising and deluttering) that if you get right will make it easier to build other habits; scheduling time to do what you say you’ll do; and being accountable for doing it. (This is where the upholder/obliger/questioner/rebel tendencies come in.)

The next part looks at actually getting started in forming new habits, and the following (rather large) part examines ways to make it easier to stick to our desired habits. This includes a very necessary group of strategies to overcome temptation and what to do if you stumble and fall.

The final part of the book looks at how defining specifically what we want helps us to form and maintain habits, and how we see ourselves helps us behave in a certain way. For example, if I consider myself a person who doesn’t eat sugar, I don’t have to decide whether or not to have dessert. There’s no decision to be made.

While I can’t relate to everything in the book, and there are some key points about habits that I’ve picked up in other places that perhaps deserve more prominence, or aren’t covered here, I think it’s a great place to start if you’re looking for some direction around introducing habits you want to cultivate. The chapter on loopholes is particularly enlightening, because I think I found myself nodding in agreement at every single one of the loopholes Gretchen identifies.

“Begin now” is also a key point. Because future me won’t start a habit. There is no future me, only now me.

I enjoyed reading this book, and it’s added to the mountain of fascinating resources I’ve been building up about habit forming. I think it’s a really good practical guide. Recommended.

february catch up

Item number 19 on my 100 things to do in 2013: Blog at least three times a week.
Number of posts in February: five.
That doesn’t quite add up, does it?
I’ve started writing several posts and either never finished them, or decided I didn’t want to publish them after all. Or I’ve thought, why would anyone want to read that, and given up.
Not really what I had in mind when I wrote the list and decided I wanted to blog more often.
Now it’s the start of a new month.  It’s time to review the past month and (possibly) get inspired to blog again.
So what’s happened?
Project Life
I’m pretty much up to date with this and just have a few more photos to print for February, and then I should have a few layouts to share. I also managed to finish not one, but two layouts in the “in progress” album. Progress indeed.
Food
These are the posts I’ve been struggling with. I really don’t know what to write without looking like I’m trying to justify myself or defend what I’m doing. 
That looks so stupid now that I’ve written it down. I don’t have to justify making healthy changes to my life. Quitting sugar is the way I decided to start. There are a lot of opinions about whether sugar is really so bad. I don’t know the answer to this one. 
Anyway, the quit sugar thing has really turned into quitting a lot of the processed food with added sugar, which is what I’ve been trying to do (see Item 1 on the list). So I haven’t followed the Quit Sugar program completely. I’m still eating small amounts of fruit (which the program says to cut out, and reintroduce later on when you’ve broken the sugar addiction if you want to).
Apart from that I’ve been sugar-free, other than a couple of meals that other people have cooked that have had an ingredient that contains sugar, for six weeks now. I’ve politely refused desserts, have been into coffee shops and ignored the cakes and haven’t so much as even looked at the 85% chocolate in my fridge. (It’s there for me to test whether having not eaten sugar for an extended time changes the taste of that type of chocolate – whether it actually will taste sweet to me.) And I haven’t really felt like I’m missing out or depriving myself.
One thing I’ve noticed is that my coffee has started to taste quite sweet now from the lactose in the milk. I’ve never had sugar in coffee, so this is quite a strange sensation. 
I’m happy with how things are going at the moment, and I’m continuing to read about food and trying (most of the time) to make the best choices for me. 
Exercise
As soon as I read that exercise can make you fat I gave up exercise.
Well not really, since to give up something, you actually have to be doing it first.
Ha.
But seriously, I have been doing some form of exercise most days, even if it’s just walking to work. At the start of the year my goal was to be walking 15,000 steps a day and to get back into yoga. It’s still my intention to do both of those things.
I bought a yoga DVD a couple of weeks ago and have been getting up earlier most mornings to do one of the routines. Juniordwarf has been joining me, which is fun. 
Next Month
I do want to blog more often. At least, more than five times in the month.
Related: does anyone have any regular link-ups that they participate in that are fun? I did Wordless Wednesday once and then promptly forgot about it . . .