Category Archives: change

20 for 2020: week 30

Week of 20 July

My 20 for 2020 list.

In my quest to find a regular time to sit down and focus on my creative work for longer than 10 or 15 minutes snatched here and there, I thought Tuesday afternoons might be a good time. Except for the Tuesdays when I have appointments in town, which, for the next couple of months, is every second Tuesday. Not really a routine I can get into at this stage. But this week, I did have a free afternoon on Tuesday and I figured I should take advantage of the time rather than talk myself out of doing any work because I couldn’t do it every week at the same time. (That is really scraping the bottom of the barrel for excuses not to do something, isn’t it . . . ?)

20200723 Macquarie St 749am edit

Macquarie Street, Thursday morning

It was time to get back to the Photoshop course (thing 7). I had a look at the exercises and realised I’d forgotten most of what I’d seen in the videos because it had been so long since I’d watched them, so I went back and watched a couple of them.

That went well, and I went to do the work, but . . . Photoshop wouldn’t cooperate, which meant I had to spend time googling how to fix what wasn’t working. Adobe and my computer don’t really get on very well.

Once I finally got it working, I was able to run through some of the exercises, reminding myself that (a) I was working on a copy of the file so it didn’t matter what I did to it and (b) this is all just experimenting and learning and there are no mistakes or failures here. I would call the afternoon’s work a moderate success.

Cementing my bedtime reading habit (thing 14), I finished reading the book Down the Dirt Roads by Rachael Treasure, which I got for Christmas a couple of years ago.

20200726 Down Dirt Roads 2

Down the Dirt Roads

It was a fascinating story of a Tasmania that I, a lapsed suburban gardener, am only vaguely aware of. In the book, Rachael gives her account of learning about better land management and reconnecting with feminine principles in an attempt to restore the land from the practices of generations of intensive farming practices and big agri-business that have depleted the soil and provide us with food that is nutritionally deficient. It made me disheartened to read of consequences, some of which I was already aware of, about what our culture of “bigger and more” means for the food that we eat and the land we live on and, ultimately, our future and our ability to survive in a changing climate. How we have wiped out tens of thousands of years of sustainable land management in just a couple hundred years and the reluctance of most people to question ingrained habits, practices and assumptions.

But it also encouraged me to know that there are people like Rachael who are quietly going about promoting better ways to do things and there are people who are starting to listen. Her philosophy resonates very strongly with me, and reading her words made me want to find out more about what I can do as a consumer to make a difference besides my boycott of big supermarket chains.

20200720 Pepsi egg edit

Our first post-moult chicken egg

Unlapsing my “lapsed gardener” status might be a good start. I should have put that on my list!

I emailed the sewing machine people to arrange for them to repair my machine (thing 2). This was a thing on my 19 for 2019 list and I had emailed them last year but it hadn’t happened. I was waiting for them to let me know when they’d be in the area and hadn’t realised it was almost 12 months ago I first made contact with them and hadn’t followed up!

Conscious that I keep saying I need to get back into the book Indistractable (thing 13) but don’t do it, I picked it up again on Saturday and reread chapters 20 and 21 which are in the section about getting rid of external triggers. I’m already doing some of the things Nir Eyal talks about in these chapters, but I have a bad habit of seeing articles and blog posts and leaving them all open in browser tabs, which creates a lot of clutter on my phone and on my computer. So I decided to try Nir’s suggestion of using the app Pocket to keep articles I want to read in one place and making time to read them rather than leaving them as open loops on my devices. The result of that was that I closed more than 20 tabs on my browser on my phone and about ten on my computer. And I listened to several webinars and interviews I’d never got around to listening to.

One of these was an interview with the actors who played Julian, Dick and Anne in the 1970s TV series the Famous Five. I used to love that show and it brought back heaps of memories listening to them talking about their time on the show. Kramstable has the DVD set and it’s made me want to watch them all over again.

Fun fact: Patrick Troughton, the second Doctor Who, appeared in one of the stories and Gary Russell, who played Dick, was a massive Doctor Who fan (weren’t we all in the 1970s?). He’d been told not to talk to Patrick about Doctor Who but he said he couldn’t help himself and after a few days on set asked Patrick to sign a copy of one of his books. He said Patrick then sat down and talked to him about the show for more than three hours. Gary Russell went on to have a long involvement with Doctor Who both in the spin-off work throughout the years after the original show was cancelled and as script editor on the new series.

I’m all nostalgic about the TV of my childhood now. Grange Hill, anyone?

Summary for the week

  • Things completed this week: 0
  • Things completed to date: 11 (1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 14, 15, 16, 18, 20)
  • Things I progressed: 3 (2, 7, 13)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress: 4 (8, 11, 17, 22)
  • Things not started: 4 (9, 12, 19, 21)
  • Days I stuck to my 15 minutes creative habit: 5
  • Days I read a book: 7
  • Days I did yoga stretches: 3
  • Days I was in bed by 10.30: 6

20 for 2020: week 21

Week 21: Week of 18 May
My 20 for 2020 list.

After I handed my uni assignment in last Sunday (thing 8) I felt completely drained and flat and certainly not inspired to start thinking about the rest of the work and the next assignment, which I think is due at the start of July. I hoped I’d feel a bit better about it later in the week and got the readings for the rest of the unit together so they’d be ready to work on.

As it turned out, my week was pretty disrupted with three medical appointments, including one on Friday that left me needing to take the rest of the day off work, so I really didn’t settle myself down to refocus on this work until the weekend and even then I only managed to get through one reading.

The good news from my GP earlier in the week though was that the lumps and scrapes on my hand are not, as I’d imagined, the result of some creepy crawly living under my bed that comes out at night to bite me when I’m sleeping, but a specific sort of hand eczema that can be caused by excessive hand washing, soap, the cold, stress . . . whatever normally causes me to get an eczema flare up. I’m relieved that it isn’t a mysterious nocturnal predator slowly poisoning my body bite by bite, but also secretly disappointed, because that would be a kind of cool story to go into my isolation journal.

20200519 Concoction of potions 2 edit

Begone, itchy hands!

On the days I go out, I’ve been taking photos of things that show how the world has changed in the last couple of months. I think it will be interesting to look back on this in the future.

I’ve been trying to develop a more useful and regular mindfulness meditation practice, which I have been doing recently through a combination of different apps following a study I participated in last year through the Menzies Centre on mindfulness at work. About two months ago, I went back to the Insight Timer app, which I used to use every day and had built up a streak of over 500 days before I forgot one day and completely lost the habit. I was very disappointed in myself that one missed session was enough to kill a habit of almost two years. I have always struggled with the idea of focusing on my breath and, whenever I get distracted by a thought, bringing my focus back gently to my breath. So my daily three minutes “mindfulness” was mainly me struggling not to think. This week I started a new program that I’m using in conjunction with Insight Timer, which involves two 30-minute sessions every day. It’s a huge step up from slotting three minutes in sometime during the day when I think of it, and it’s not easy. It is frustrating and there are times I hate it.

The reasons for me doing this are long and varied and I don’t want to go too much into them, other than to say that developing a mindfulness practice is one element of my personal development plan that I completed in the second unit of my uni course and I hope that it will support me in dealing with some of the other things I identified in the plan. None of this is supported through the uni program. What I do with the personal development plan is entirely up to me, but I feel like now I’ve made the effort to put it together, I need to actually make it happen.

It’s too early to tell if the mindfulness program is going to benefit me and but I know that I need to commit to it and do it for several weeks to see any real effects.

So there’s that.

As well as doing my mindfulness practice in the mornings, I’ve been continuing to use the time after my morning walk to work through the Photoshop course (thing 7). It’s really exciting stuff and I need to actually break out of my bubble and start to do some of the things I’m learning.

I’m three lessons in to the second module and realised there is a lot of material I’ve been sitting there nodding at but not taking the time to sit down and practice. There almost seems to be a point right now in the course that is a really good time to actually do that before moving on. It’s almost like the instructor knows I haven’t been doing the work and wrapped up the video I watched on Saturday with a pretty clear instruction to stop consuming the content and start creating. (And if he didn’t, that is my brain putting that interpretation on it because it knows it’s time to do some work.)

20200523 Shattered dreams and broken 3 edit IG

Trampled dreams

I have this idea in my head that I need to get through the videos as fast as possible to finish the course and then go back and do the work later. But, of course, this isn’t like that. The videos build on the previous work, so if you haven’t done that, you’re going to get very lost and confused.

I do not need to finish watching the videos in any set time. There is no time limit, only the one my completionist brain insists on. But there’s no benefit in doing it this way. I need to work through the material and actually do it as I go and when I start to understand it, then I can move on to the next video. There’s no prize for getting through them all in record time. There’s no prize at all. And there definitely won’t be a prize for watching all the videos but not actually being able to use any of the techniques. I need to do the work. Now.

One thing I have learned from doing my uni course is that I actually do have time to sit down and do the work I want to do. I can organise my days to do this. Not having time is an excuse that really means I’m not prioritising things. I already knew this, by the way, but I have seen for a fact that I can sit down and focus on something. I also learned a bit more about procrastination this week and that ties in well with the Indistractable work (thing 13) that I still haven’t gone back to and finished . . .

I used my graphics tablet (thing 17) for all of 30 seconds this week before Photoshop crashed and I didn’t go back to it. 30 seconds is still progress, right?

And finally, following my raven reading theme, this week I read the book The Ravenmaster’s Boy by Mary Hoffman, a young adult historical fiction piece centred around the last days of Anne Boleyn.20200524 The Ravenmaster's Boy

Summary for the week

  • Things completed this week: 0
  • Things completed to date: 8 (1, 4, 5, 6, 10, 15, 16, 18)
  • Things I progressed: 1 (7, 8, 14, 17)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress:  (3, 11, 13, 22)
  • Things not started: 6  (2, 9, 12, 19, 20, 21)
  • Days I stuck to my 15 minutes creative habit this week: 7
  • Days I read a book: 7

 

20 for 2020: week 17

Week 17: week of 20 April

My 20 for 2020 list.

This was another slow week for my 20 for 2020 list. There are some things I won’t be able to do while we are in death virus lockdown, such as getting my sewing machine fixed (thing 2) and going to a fermenting class (thing 19). The Bored and Brilliant challenge (thing 12) really needs me to be home alone so that’s going to have to wait too.

I reviewed the wellbeing classes (thing 3) I want to complete from 2019 on Sunday and started to work on some of the journalling exercises. I’ve also been maintaining my nightly reading habit (thing 14).

20200426 How to love Brutalism

This week’s reading

My uni course (thing 8) starts again on Monday, so that’s going to get resurrected very soon. I have no real excuse for not doing the work on Indistractable (thing 13) other than I just haven’t made time for it in my schedule. I’ve been working on editing some photos for another project now that I’ve completed my first project (thing 1) and that’s been taking up a lot of my time outside of work. Time I probably won’t have when uni starts up again, so I’ve been making the most of it.

This week was my first full week working outside of the office and I have to say I’m really getting used to this. I used to think that it was my job that was making me miserable and stressed but working in this different way has made me question whether it’s actually the job. I realised that when I go to work, my whole day revolves around work: either getting ready for work, getting to work, being at work, getting home from work or unwinding from work. With all of that in play, it wasn’t uncommon for work-related activities to take up 11 or 12 hours of my day. Add in seven hours for sleeping and a couple of hours for house and family stuff, there wasn’t a lot of time left over, and I never really felt like doing much in the afternoon/evening even if I did have some time because I was worn out after a day at work.

20200420 Abandoned Wrest Point 11

Wrest Point from a bus stop after a late appointment on Monday night

Fast forward to now where the amount of time I need to prepare for and recover from work has reduced. I get ready for work more quickly, I don’t need to travel to work and I finish work at either 2.30 or 3.30 because, not needing to travel, I can start at 8.00. Whereas in the old world, I’d not be home before 4.00 and sometimes closer to 6.00, and the last thing I’d feel like doing is going for a walk, now I finish work and I head out for a walk in the afternoon light to clear my head and close the door on work for the day. It really re-energises me and I actually feel like working on my own projects for a few hours when I get back.

20200424 Tree in Jenkins St 2

Beautiful afternoon light

Not only did my whole day revolve around work, the environment was not good for me. I was always uncomfortable and anxious in an open plan office designed for maximum occupancy than maximum productivity. Maybe some people like it; maybe some people do the sort of work that is suited to that kinds of environment. I don’t and my work isn’t. Away from that space, I feel calmer and more relaxed, even though the work has ramped up quite a lot because of the death virus.

The combination of not being in that environment and having more time away from work has meant that I am feeling more comfortable than I can ever remember feeling. I haven’t been getting headaches or a sore neck, even though I haven’t been doing my physio exercises (sorry, Tom), I’m sleeping better and I haven’t been running out of rooms in tears because I can’t take it any more. I delete the emails I get that tell me that I’m probably experiencing something between mild anxiety and full-blown panic right now. No, that’s how I felt before this happened. While I would never say I love my work, it seems clear that wasn’t the actual job that was making me unhappy; it was how I had to do it.

20200423 Tree at Taroona Beach 2

More beautiful afternoon light

Of course, as I said last week, I am so very lucky to be in a position where I still have a job and can do it at home, when so many don’t and can’t. Many people are on that spectrum between mild anxiety and full-blown panic. Unlike others, I don’t have to put myself in situations where I might be exposed to the death virus and nobody I know has contracted it. The circumstances that have made this way of working possible are not something I would ever wish to happen. I also recognise that things could change for me in a heartbeat, any day. But this is the situation that we’re in, and I can’t change it. I can only make the best of it and I’m grateful that I’m able to do that right now, in this moment.

Summary for the week

  • Things completed this week: 0
  • Things completed to date: 8 (1, 4, 5, 6, 10, 15, 16, 18)
  • Things I progressed: 2 (3, 14)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress: 6 (7, 8, 11, 13, 17, 22)
  • Things not started: 6  (2, 9, 12, 19, 20, 21)
  • Days I stuck to my 15 minutes creative habit: 7
  • Days I read a book: 7

20 for 2020: week 16

Week of 13 April

My 20 for 2020 list.

20200418 Hinsby Beach 51

Saturday walk

This week was not one for a lot of progress on my 20 things. The only thing I did was reading (thing 14). I finished The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman, which is the second in his Book of Dust series that follows on from the His Dark Materials trilogy. Books, and a world, that I love and I can’t wait for the final installment.

20200419 The Secret Commonwealth

Captivating read

I spent some time watching Photoshop videos but they weren’t from the course I actually am intending to complete (thing 7). Not to worry, they were useful and I learned a lot of tips.

I had a couple of nice days off for easter and then it was back to work: two days at home and one in the office. This year, I cut back on my bus travel a bit when I started riding my bike to work (thing 10) but the weather wasn’t so good on Thursday so I caught the bus. Here’s what I wrote afterwards.

20200416 Morning bus 3

Two buses waiting at the bus stop

This is a bus that I catch when I miss the earlier one that I prefer. It’s often a bit late and is always crowded and noisy, especially with the school girls singing up the back.

Since we’ve been required to stay at home, it’s been nothing like that.

First, they made bus travel free to give people time to get a greencard so they could pay their fares without cash. They cordoned off the front-most seats of the bus so no one could sit close to the driver.

Then they extended the free travel and made everyone get on the bus through the back door (to the delight of schoolboy humourists everywhere). The whole front section of the bus is out of bounds now.

These days, the buses are practically empty. They’re quiet and no one’s talking, let alone singing. The people who do get on sit as far away from the other passengers as they can get. The buses are early now, something I have only very rarely had to deal with on this route and am still not used to. Fortunately, the drivers are pretty good when it comes to spotting people who haven’t quite made it to the stop on time.

Before, when the buses were usually running late, they’d only stop at the “does not depart before” stop if someone was waiting, but now there’s no one waiting and they sit there for what seems like ages, often with the bus going the other way sitting at the stop on the other side of the road.

I took this photo out of the window from the back seat of an almost deserted bus waiting at the bus stop to remind myself was bus travel was like in April 2020.

I think it’s important to document my experience of this pandemic in the small ways like this, where something that is a very minor part of my day has changed so dramatically. What’s happening is something none of us have ever seen or lived through before and hopefully never will again. My experience will be different to anyone else’s experience, for a whole range of reasons: my life is different to anyone else’s, my circumstances, my personality, my job, my responsibilities and the effect this is having on people around me are all different, to name just a few. What I document will be different to what anyone else documents because I will live through this from my own perspective and my own filters, and the things I notice will be different to the things other people notice.

20200414 Everything is going to be okay 3

A sign on the fence st the park

While I’d prefer the world not to be shut down because of a global pandemic and I’d rather people weren’t getting sick and dying and that my friends weren’t out of work, there is nothing I can do about it. It is the world I’m living in right now. All I can do is observe, document what I see, treasure the fact that I am alive and well, and stay healthy, stay connected to the people close to me and stay at home.

Summary for the week

  • Things completed this week: 0
  • Things completed to date: 8 (1, 4, 5, 6, 10, 15, 16, 18)
  • Things I progressed: 1 (14)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress: 7 (3, 7, 8, 11, 13, 17, 22)
  • Things not started: 6  (2, 9, 12, 19, 20, 21)
  • Days I stuck to my 15 minutes creative habit: 7
  • Days I read a book:  7

20 for 2020: week 15

Week 15: Week of 6 April

My 20 for 2020 list.

I’ve lost count of the number of weeks since we have been in the world of covid-19, where no one is supposed to go out unless they are going to work or school, getting essential supplies or medical treatment, or exercising. People aren’t allowed to gather in groups of more than two unless they are family who live together, shops are closed and streets are a lot more empty than usual. I’ve been in this kind of transition state, where I would prefer to be working from home but haven’t had the technology to do so every day and have needed to keep going to my office two or three days a week. The one day in, one day out has been making me feel quite unsettled, like I’m not really in one place or the other, though I have also been grateful for the change of scenery and the chance to ride my bike on roads that are a lot quieter than normal.

20200406 Centrepoint 1230pm

Centrepoint, Monday 12.30pm

(When I said I wanted to practise riding to work when there were fewer cars around, I didn’t mean I wanted there to be a pandemic that shut the world down and stopped most people going to work. A few rides on weekends and leaving for work earlier would have been quite sufficient, really.)

20200408 Wellington Court

Wellington Court

Anyway, I got the technology update on my laptop that means I can work at home most of the time from now on, so my trips into town for work are going to be a lot less frequent. I think this will help me to feel a bit more settled working from home and to get into more of a routine. Now that I can use my work laptop at home, I’ve set it up on a different desk from my normal computer so I’m hoping that will keep me away from the distractions that my Mac likes to offer up when I’m trying to work.

20200408 Stay home at Easter message from the govenrment

Easter message from the government

I’m also going to start putting into practices some of the things I’ve been learning from Indistractible (thing 13) to try and stay as productive as possible in what is turning out to be a very unusual year.

I got the first set of course material for the next unit of my uni course (thing 8) this week. This is a unit called “Managing Outwards in a Networked Government” and I’m sure they weren’t thinking of remote networks and everyone working from home because of a global pandemic when they came up with that title. It’s going to be interesting to see how this unit goes in the current climate, when the way government does business could change dramatically over the next six months.

I still haven’t sorted out what I want to focus on this month from my monthly review (thing 22) and I’ve been making lists and mind maps and trying to make things link together . . . everything except making a start on anything. I feel like I need to do everything and that I am frittering my days away on make-work rather than actual work. I think I’m falling into the trap of trying to have everything planned out, when I don’t need to. I just need to know the next thing I need to do. And I’m also falling into the trap of feeling like I have to use the extra time I have at home, which isn’t really that much more than normal because I don’t go out much anyway, to do something and learn something and be useful, when what I really need to do is take the opportunity to look after myself, to rest and to not get sick.

At the same time though, there are things I want to be doing and that I can do. My world hasn’t turned so far upside down yet that I can absolve myself of all responsibilities. I have a little time to be doing things I want to do. Striking a balance between being and doing will be important in the coming weeks.

I continued to work on my photo project (thing 1) for 15 minutes every morning. On Friday, which was a public holiday, I decided I wanted to finish it once and for all. I had a few little things to tidy up that I thought would take maybe a couple of hours.

Ha.

I kept finding little things that weren’t quite right or that I had overlooked. Then I came up with a new idea to include that meant I had to edit some more photos. And then I found that the format of the quotation marks was different in some captions to others . . . By the end of the day, there was only one thing left that was bugging me and I didn’t know how to fix it, so I left it.

20200412 Hinsby Beach 08

Leave it, go out for a walk

I did some more work with it on Saturday but it was late at night by the time I finished. I thought I was ready to have it printed but I decided to have one last look in the morning when I wasn’t as tired and I’m glad I did because there was a huge typo in there! Then when I got to preview the ready-to-print product I decided I didn’t like how some of the pictures looked, so I went back to change them. But I finally said enough was enough and uploaded it and sent it to print.

Done is done. Perfectionism, begone!

I watched a video on how to set up my graphics tablet (thing 17). I imagine that is going to take a bit of getting used to, to use a pen instead of a mouse. One suggestion was to use it exclusively instead of the mouse until you get used to it, which makes sense, but picking it up and putting it down all the time sounds like it would be a bit annoying. But I guess the more I use it, the easier it will be.

20200412 Setting up the tablet

Let’s find out how this works

I also did some work on my dodgy home studio (thing 11), which involve attempting to get wrinkles out of the backdrops, which wasn’t successful. I’ve googled some other ideas to try for that.

20200412 Scoby hotel edit

Sunday kombucha brewing

Bedtime reading (thing 14) seems to have become a thing for me. I didn’t like it before but I seem to have got more used to it now and am quite enjoying it. I guess it’s become part of that evening routine that I’m struggling to develop.

20200412 Light on Eastern Shore 2-Edit-Edit

Sunday afternoon

Summary for the week

  • Things completed this week: 1 (1)
  • Things completed to date: 8 (1, 4, 5, 6, 10, 15, 16, 18)
  • Things I progressed: 4 (8, 11, 14, 17)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress: 4 (3, 7, 13, 22)
  • Things not started: 6 (2, 9, 12, 19, 20, 21)
  • Days I stuck to my 15 minutes creative habit: 7
  • Days I read a book for at least 15 minutes: 7

20 for 2020: week 14

Week of 30 March

My 20 for 2020 list.

Things continue to change in the world at a rapid rate as the covid pandemic wreaks havoc across the world. More and more people from my work are working at home as we are told to stay at home unless we absolutely have to go out for work, to get food or medical supplies or to exercise (alone or with no more than one other person). People are joking that the world of social distancing and staying home is something introverts have been doing for years, and I can relate to that.

20200401 Bus Mall 1001am

Deserted bus mall being cleaned. The construction work is still going on.

Adding a couple more days to my working from home routine is a welcome relief from the noisy open-plan office (which is remarkably not noisy now, because most people aren’t coming in any more). And the weird thing about that is, I have endured the noise for over two years and now it’s so quiet, it’s unnerving because it’s not supposed to be so quiet. And that makes it hard to concentrate. As opposed to weekends when I’ve gone in to study with no one there and been super-productive because on a weekend it’s meant to be like that. It gives me a real sense of unease to be in there at the moment and I’ll be relieved when I don’t need to go in there any more.

20200330 Macquarie & Harrington St 904am 2

Macquarie Street, Monday 30 March 2020, 9.04 am

However, working from home while there are other people there doing the same thing has its own challenges. It seems to make a big difference, just having other people in the house, to how it feels to be there.

20200330 Stay at home

Front page of the Mercury, Monday 30 March 2020

All very small problems compared to the scale of this issue and the chaos, fear and tragedy it’s causing across the world and I’m sure I will find ways to deal with it. I’m grateful that I still have my job and that my workplace is still a safe place to be.

While the schools were still open this week, they asked us to not send our kids if we were able to supervise their learning at home. With at least one parent at home every day, we were in a position to do that. Kramstable has been working on the material set up by his teachers this week, and I’ve been impressed by his ability to make himself a schedule, that includes breaks, and stick to it each day. School holidays will start a week early to give the schools more time to put learning resources online for next term. The school has been great with its communication and I am really impressed with the work everyone is doing to make this as minimally disruptive to the kids as possible. We’re in for an interesting time over the next few months adapting to new ways of learning.

20200331 Frilly pants edit

I can’t ride to work in these pants but they are brilliant house pants

I am trying to hold myself to as much of a routine as I can in this strange world, which means going on my non-negotiable walk every morning at 5.30 (or thereabouts), doing my 15 minutes of creative work, getting dressed, eating breakfast and having movement breaks during the day whether I’m working at home or in the office. I’ve started to add a morning mindfulness activity into the mix to try and keep myself more grounded but I think I might need to work this in a couple of other times during the day.

I’m rolling with my 20 things as best as I can. One of the big ones was completing 30 days alcohol free on Tuesday (thing 5). I did this in March last year for 19 for 2019 and went straight back to drinking almost as soon as I’d finished. I struggled with maintaining drinking in moderate amounts, in not drinking on weeknights, in not drinking late at night . . . and the result was I was feeling really down on myself for not being able to control myself better. I couldn’t understand why I could easily go without a drink for a month but then rarely go one night after that.

This time I did my 30 days in conjunction with the book The Alcohol Experiment by Annie Grace, which offers you new ways to think about alcohol, why you drink and whether alcohol is really giving you what you want.

20200402 The Alcohol Experiment

The Alcohol Experiment

I was reluctant to try this experiment because I was worried that the result might be I would never want to drink again and (at least I thought) I rather enjoyed drinking. I won’t say too much other than it has completely changed the way I think about alcohol and made me realise that I don’t really want to drink at all right now. Never is a long time, and Annie cautions against committing to never drink again for the rest of your life, so I won’t say I never want to drink again. But right now, especially right now when the temptation might be to drown out the fear and anxiety about what’s happening in the world with alcohol, I don’t want to drink.

The good thing about this book is it asks you to consider what you want to do after the 30 days, not just run you through the 30 days and leave you on your own, which I was when I did my alcohol-free month last year. Being more mindful and informed this year, I think I have a much better chance of not getting back onto that slippery slope that I fell onto last year. For now, I have made the decision not to drink.

20200402 St Davids Park 2

Autumn hasn’t been cancelled

I have been working on my photo project (thing 1) and I’m now into the tidying up stage of it. I’ve been reading before I go to sleep (thing 14), which is not my favourite time to read, but it’s the only time that’s working for me at the moment.

20200401 Walking

Reading about walking

I did a bit more work on my monthly review (thing 22) to try and work out my goals for April. I got a bit lost last week when I did it and am still not sure what I’m tying to do. I feel very unsettled and ungrounded at the moment but I think that’s probably a very common reaction to what’s going on in the world around me, and the fact that the world as I know it is very different to the world I was in this time last month.

20200405 Sunrise Taroona Beach

Walking alone is still allowed

Summary for the week

  • Things completed this week: #5
  • Things completed to date: 7 (4, 5, 6, 10, 15, 16, 18)
  • Things I progressed: 3 (1, 14, 22)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress: 5 (3, 7, 8, 11, 13)
  • Things not started: 7 (2, 9, 12, 17, 19, 20, 21)
  • Days I stuck to my 15 minutes creative habit this week: 7
  • Days I read a book for at least 15 minutes:  7

20 for 2020: week 10

Week of 2 March

My 20 for 2020 list.

20200308 Fallen

Fallen

On Monday, I started my alcohol-free month (thing 5). I did it in March last year as part of 19 for 2019 and decided to repeat it this year. A few weeks ago I came across The Alcohol Experiment by Annie Grace, which is subtitled “30 days to take control, cut down or give up for good”. I thought “30 day alcohol experiment” sounded better than “no alcohol for a month” so I decided to follow the program in the book for the coming month. Last year I did my month. It was easy, but I gradually slipped back into my old ways, which is not something I wanted to do, and was always a risk after reaching a goal without a clear plan on what I wanted to do afterwards. It means that I still stay up too late, I don’t get enough sleep and I am tired a lot.

The program outlined in this book shows you a new way of thinking about alcohol and “asks you to look a little close about why we drink, what we get out of it and whether it’s really the alcohol that’s giving us what we want”.

There have been some interesting things to think about and challenges to some of my beliefs, so it’s a lot to take in. I think the most important thing that I have learned is that it isn’t a lack of willpower that makes me reach for another wine when I really should have started packing up and getting ready for bed, and that treating myself with compassion for my past “failures” is going to be very important. I’m not very good at that.

The “lack of willpower is not the problem” theory also features in the book Indistractable (thing 13) and Nir Eyal suggests a similar compassionate approach towards yourself when you make a mistake.

I reviewed what I’ve done so far in the book and where I’m up to. I started to feel a bit overwhelmed about some the ideas because I know that they aren’t going to work for me. Scheduling time to reply to emails (chapter 15), for example, might not work in an organisation that relies on email for a lot of its “immediate” interactions. I do this a lot precisely because I don’t want to disturb people by going to talk to the face to face, but actually talking to them would probably save a lot of time when I get into those back and forth email conversations. So, okay, let’s not say never. I will give this a try.

I’m not sure about the stuff on work interruptions (chapter 14). I always thought that putting on headphones meant that you didn’t want to be disturbed but in my workplace, noise canceling headphones are essential to get any work done, not just the work you need to concentrate on because the noise is unrelenting, so people feel quite at liberty to come and talk to me. I think the only way to be truly uninterruptible is to go and work someplace else when you really need to focus. For me, it’s not just the noise, it’s the constant movement in my peripheral vision that keeps me constantly on edge and unable to concentrate, so I don’t even think putting a “do not disturb” sign on my computer would help that. I read somewhere that it’s like your lizard brain constantly scanning the environment for signs that something out there is about to attack you, so you’re always in this semi-alert state, ready to fight or flee if you have to.

I’ve picked a few things out to try rather than go full-on and implement everything at once. I think one important thing to be sure to have is a clear work space around me (chapter 19), which means no phone within reach and only the things I am working on in front of me. I’m very good at clearing the spaces off but not so good at keeping them clear. I let stuff pile up and then I spend ages clearing it off again instead of putting things where they belong in the first place.

20200305 Wet chooks 05 edit

Wet chickens are wet

Earlier in the year I made a STOP-START-KEEP list, which I hope is pretty self-explanatory. As I discover things I’m doing that aren’t serving me, they go into the STOP section, things I’m doing now that are working well are in the KEEP section and things I want to start doing, well you get the idea. I’m going to add a TRY column to this list for things I might want to start but are more of an experiment than a thing I definitely want to do.

I stuck some more photos from my 2019 photojournal into the book (thing 4) and trimmed all of the ones I printed last week ready to go in the book. I worked on my photo project (thing 1) and completed the last three modules of my uni course (thing 8). I watched a webinar from the wellbeing course (thing 3), which relates the journalling that I need to complete from last year to call this thing done for the year.

Summary for the week

  • Things completed this week: 0
  • Things completed to date: 5 (6, 10, 15, 16, 18)
  • Things I progressed: 7 (1, 3, 4, 5, 8, 13, 14)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress:  3 (7, 11, 22)
  • Things not started: 7 (2, 9, 12, 17, 19, 20, 21)
  • Days I stuck to my 15 minutes creative habit this week: 7.
  • Days I scheduled (and did) 50 or 25 minute blocks of time to work on my projects: None.
  • Days I read on the bus on the way to work (or another time for at least 15 minutes): 6.

 

20 for 2020: week 9

My 20 for 2020 list.

Week of 24 February 

For my uni course (thing 8), I have five weeks to undertake a project to apply some of the things I’ve learned in the unit to my workplace. There was lots to think about from last week’s workshop and I’ve come up with an idea I want to try out but now I have to go and do the readings and figure out how they are relevant to what I’m going to trying do at work. My lecturer pointed me to some relevant theories that we’d considered and every time I read something that’s even remotely related to my workplace plan I’m jotting down copious notes to include in the assignment. I’m sure this is backwards and I should have put the theories together and come up with a project based on that, but I’ve had this idea germinating for a while and if I can identify some theoretical basis for doing it, then I’ll be happy.

I got my mark for my first assignment back, which was pretty reasonable, and I got some very supportive comments from the lecturer in response. I am also happy that I got away with not only referencing my instagram profile in a uni assignment, but also a not so subtle reference to “this one time . . .”. (You know what I’m talking about.)

20200224 Updating my tablet. edit

I didn’t actually use the tablet (thing 17) but I updated the software and firmware

I printed the rest of my 2019 photojournal collages (thing 4) and I stuck some more into the journal. I am on the home stretch with this one now! I just have to trim them and stick them in. There’s about 12 weeks to go now. I’m far less behind with 2019’s journal than I was with 2018’s journal this time last year, which has a lot to do with smart collections in Lightroom and making sure I’ve sorted the previous week’s photos by Wednesday evening so I can edit them in my 15-minute creativity slot on Thursday morning.

I also worked on my photo project (thing 1) in my 15 minutes of creative work in the morning on some days. Just enough to keep it moving along.

20200229 Flowering gum at Taroona High 2-Edit

Saturday morning walk

I’m calling the creative abundance class (thing 6) done. I’ve got the morning routine in place (sort of—there are a few bits that need tweaking), I am working on my project, even if I’m not actually scheduling time blocks to do it. I have another project lined up for when this one is finished. I know what I have to do to eliminate more distractions; I just have to do it. And the last thing for this work it to set up an accountability mechanism, which is going to be me recording how many days I did my “just 15 minutes” in the morning in these blog posts.

I started turning my wall into a vision board (thing 15). I pulled down some things I don’t want on there any more. Then I realised that I already had a pinboard that was already sort of a vision board and thought why didn’t I move it to the “vision wall”, where I’d actually look at it, and give it a bit of a refresh. I pulled off all the stuff that, well doesn’t so much not inspire me, but doesn’t inspire me in the way I want to be inspired right now. And I added in some new pieces—though I’m not sure that John Brack’s Collins St, 5pm is something I actually aspire to . . . more like the future I want to avoid! I left lots of space to add things I find over the coming weeks.

Nothing like procrastinating on uni work, but thing 15 is done.

I can’t read on the bus (thing 14) when I ride to work (thing 10) but I can do it the other days and it’s becoming more of a habit now. I need to track the habit though.

20200301 Sunrise Taroona Beach 06-Edit

Sunday morning walk

Sunday was the closest Sunday to the last day of the month, so that’s when I’ve committed to doing my monthly review of the Unravel Your Year workbook (thing 22). I went to my local coffee shop and settled for an hour. That was good, apart from the kid on the table next to me who found the noisy toy that played “Funkytown” over and over and over. And over. Just what you need when you’re sitting down to think!

I decided to write my March goals on my whiteboard (which is part of my vision wall now), as well as a few things I meant to do after last month’s review and then forgot about because I never looked at the review page again. Note to self: if you ever decide on an action item from something, make a note of it somewhere you will actually see it so it’s not stuck in a book and you forget about it until next time you look at the book.

Now what I need to do is clear and right where I can see it. Time to make progress.

Habit tracking

  • Days I stuck to my 15 minutes creative habit this week: Mon, Tues, Wed, Thurs, Fri, Sat, Sun (sort of. It took half an hour for Photoshop to open one photo on Sunday and I got the shits with it and went to do something else. I came back to do the work a bit later on.)
  • Days I scheduled (and did) 50 or 25 minute blocks of time to work on my projects: None. I had two or three times when I sat down and worked on my photo project but I didn’t actually schedule the time.
  • Days I read on the bus on the way to work: I forgot to track this. It’s a new thing.

Summary for the week

  • Things completed this week: 2 (6, 15)
  • Things completed to date: 5 (6, 10, 15, 16, 18)
  • Things I progressed: 5 (1, 4, 8, 14, 22)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress: 4 (3, 7, 11, 13)
  • Things not started: 8 (2, 5, 9, 12, 17, 19, 20, 21)

20 for 2020: week 8

Week of 17 February 

I finally posted my 20 for 2020 list here. It’s only taken eight weeks!

20200222 After sunrise Taroona 4

Wistful Saturday morning walk

This week was all about uni (thing 8). I went to a three-day workshop to go through the material for this unit, which, after all the self-analysis I did for the assignment, was very intense. I was glad to discover I wasn’t the only person who had struggled with the word limit for the assignment though.

One of the most challenging exercise was engaging in “coaching conversations” where we had to taken the roles of coach, coachee, and observer, who would provide feedback to the coach. I felt incredibly awkward and anxious about speaking one on one to a “coach” about areas I wanted to work on in my development. I was just as nervous being the coach who had to draw out issues from what a “coachee” was saying. Modelling reflective listening and actually responding to what they were saying was intensely stressful. However, the people who had acted as observers during these conversations told me that they hadn’t picked up on my anxiety and that I had presented myself very well. This is completely at odds with what I think I’m like when I have to speak up in meetings. I am a bundle of nerves, I hate doing it and I’m sure I mangle my words and fail to get my point across effectively. I flagged it as an area that I need to work on, to gain more confidence to speak up and to stand my ground.

One of my fellow students very wisely said, when we were discussing it later, that I need to focus more on what I’m doing rather than how I’m feeling and that what I think people are thinking, they probably aren’t because they’re so worried about their own shit they aren’t noticing the nuances of how I present myself. Easy said after the fact, not so easy in the heat of battle . . .

20200222 Dodgy kombucha 2 edit

Excellent kombucha. Only possibly dodgy. I didn’t die.

I decided to use my “just 15 minutes” this week in the mornings to work on the creative abundance course (thing 6) so that I could get that finished. On Monday morning I worked on the day 16 and 17 journalling, which, coincidentally, relates to the uni self assessments I’ve been doing, so I’m liking the overlap and consistency there. It makes me think I’m on the right track. I went to my favourite coffee shop on Monday morning to work on it some more. I worked on day 18 and 19 on Monday night, which was about finding ways to overcome procrastination, and then watched the last two videos. In days 20 and 21, there’s a five-step plan that’s a summary of the key actions from the course so I’m looking at how to put that into place, and then the course will be done as far as I’m concerned.

I did some more work on my photo project (thing 1) later in the week in my 15 minutes and spend a lot of the weekend working on it. I feel like I’m making progress. I probably should have been doing uni work, but I felt like I needed a break after the intense week; to put my head into a totally different space.

I watched the two introductory videos for the Photoshop course (thing 7) on Tuesday so I’ve now started that! It will be a steep learning curve as my Photoshop knowledge is limited to how to clone out No Parking signs from the front of buildings. I’m also getting good at getting rid of fluoro lights behind blinds.

I finished reading the book Grit by Angela Duckworth  on the bus. It’s a great book, along the lines of Carol Dweck’s Mindset, which I read a few years ago. It looks at Angela’s findings that talent in an area doesn’t mean someone will be successful but rather that grit, which she says is a combination of passion and perseverance, is the characteristic that produces high achievement.

20200219 Grit

Grit. Bus reading is good.

Bus reading is definitely a good idea that I want to stick with to develop the reading habit (thing 14). Much more productive than going on social media.

It was a full-on week but I feel like I’m getting somewhere.

Summary for the week
• Things completed this week: 0
• Things completed to date: 3 (10, 16, 18)
• Things I progressed: 5 (1, 6, 7, 8, 14)
• Things in progress I didn’t progress: 5 (3, 4, 11, 13, 22)
• Things not started: 9 (2, 5, 9, 12, 15, 17, 19, 20, 21)

20 for 2020: week 2

Week two: Week of 6 January

Welcome to week two of 20 for 2020. This is the first full week for the year and I’m lucky I still have some time before my uni course starts to concentrate of some of the other tasks, some of which I think will be important to have done because they will help me stay on track with uni (thing 8).

The most obvious of which is Indistractable (thing 13), which is a book by Nir Eyal about helping out get control of your attention so you can do the things you really want to be doing. There is a bit of overlap between this work and the creative kickstart course (thing 6) and also the wellbeing work (thing 3) I’ve been doing so I think it’s good to be tackling them all at the same time.

Something that all three things look at is whether what you do every day is actually what you want to be doing. It’s described differently in all three, but the idea is that you look at how you spend your day, look at how you would spend your day if you were leading a life that you truly wanted to live and then start to see what shifts you can make to move your life closer to the life you want to be living. Each approaches it in a different way, and I love seeing the differences in approaches between a productivity person, a creative person and a person focused on health and wellbeing.

Rather than attempt to explain all of the three groups of activities, I’ll write about what I’ve been doing.

One of the first things I did was to track my time. This is important so you know what you spend time on and can assess whether you might be able to claim back some of the time you spend on activities that are less valuable to you so that you can work on things that are really important to you. I did this in excruciating detail for five days. I kept a spreadsheet and every time I started to do something different, I noted it down.

The first thing that struck me when looking back at it that every day I woke up to the alarm rather than already being awake (four of the five days) I lay in bed from 25 minutes up to an hour and 25 minutes. So over four days I wasted four hours lying in bed avoiding getting up. If that’s normal, it means I waste 365 hours a year avoiding getting up. That’s 15 days a year I spend in bed doing nothing. Two weeks!! I only get four weeks annual leave each year. I’d never waste two weeks of that like this, so what the hell am I doing this for?

I had never thought about it this way until I looked at those numbers.

The next thing that is painfully obvious is that I am very “distractable”. Other than things like walking, going out for a lunch break. watching a movie or spending time with family, the longest stretch of time I did any single activity for was 48 minutes. That was highly unusual. I did most of my work in 10-15-20 minute bursts (or even less), interrupted by emails, checking social media (48 times in five days and I think this is way less than I actually did), getting up to move, colleagues, text messages, phone calls, family members, my boss . . .

Not all of these were bad distractions. Getting up to move, for example, is very important for my physical wellbeing and to prevent further injury to my back. But a lot of them were distractions that I initiated myself, and this is where some of the work in Indistractable and the creative kickstart work is focused. Eliminating (or minimising) self-initiated distractions that take me away from the work I want to be doing. I don’t have to check social media ten times a day. I don’t have to check email that often either. What this exercise has shown me very clearly is my lack of capacity to work undistracted for long periods and, therefore, to get into a state of focused concentration where I can do my best work. This isn’t just at my day job; it’s at home too when I want to do some writing or photo editing, so when I say “work” I am talking about both.

Part of this is environmental and it’s not all down to me not controlling my attention. My day job is in a noisy open-plan office, which is not conducive to doing concentrated work for long periods. Indistractable has some ideas for minimising distractions in that type of environment, which I’ll get to later, but my work for this week has been on minimising the distractions that I create for myself.

One idea that has occurred to me is that I find I get annoyed by the walk breaks, which are reminders on my Fitbit at 10 minutes before the hour if I haven’t moved enough that hour, because I’m often (finally) settling into some work after dealing with distractions I gave into throughout the hour. So I thought if I restrict my access to my phone until the walk alarm goes off, that will minimise a lot of my self-initiated distractions and I can use the 10 minutes to have a break, move and check things on my phone if I want to. The challenge will then be to put it away again when I get back to my desk. I also think that in my day job it would be helpful to use the walk alarm as a trigger to shift into a different position and to take advantage of the sit-stand desks, so that’s what I’ll be focusing on trying to make more habitual. Using the walk breaks for good.

Distractions notwithstanding, however, the main purpose of this tracking exercise is to look at everything you do and to figure out what you’re doing that aligns with what you really want to be focusing on, and what is taking up your time and stopping you focusing on your work (however you define that, paid work, art, writing, blogging, photography . . .) and the things that are important to you, such as family, friends, walking, photography and chickens. Having done that, you decide whether you can get rid of some of the stuff that doesn’t align. If you can’t (hello, cleaning out the chicken enclosure) and, if not, whether you can delegate it to someone else, defer it until later, reduce the amount of time you spend on it, or change it in some way so that it does better align to what you want.

Travel to work is a prime candidate. It’s not a thing that aligns to anything. It’s something I have to do or I might find my cashflow stop rather abruptly. One way I got rid of it a long time ago was to start working from home one day a week, which, from where I was living at the time, gave me an extra two hours a day. Nice, but not available to everyone. Now I just scroll social media on the trip to work.

I want to read more. But I have no time to read. But I have an (approximately) 20 minute bus ride to work. Therefore, I have 20 minutes to read. Twice a day. Done.

I want to do more exercise. I bought an e-bike that get me to town with some effort but not enough to make it necessary to need to shower when I get there. Therefore, I have two sets of about 35 minutes of exercise.

Okay, that’s an easy one, but you get the idea.

On the same theme, Gretchen Rubin had this great idea many podcasts ago about mundane activities. She says that when you’re doing an activity that’s really boring try to put the word meditation after it to reframe it. “I’m doing waiting in line . . .  meditation”, which she says feels a whole lot better than being bored and frustrated by waiting in line or cleaning the bathroom or waiting for the bus (or subway in her case since she’s in New York). She refers to the saying “if you can’t get out of it, get into it”, which is, I think what “shifting” is all about. Related, Gretchen and Liz have an interesting discussion on boredom in this podcast, which is a little related to my Bored and Brilliant challenge (thing 12).

After looking at my activities and working out what aligns with where I want to go and what doesn’t, and discovering that there isn’t much on that list I do that I can actually delete, I worked through Chapter 10 of Indistractable, which asks you to allocate how many hours a week you want to allocate to each activity. Then you sit down and work out how to fit it all into your schedule.

My hours added up to 196.5.

This is after eliminating everything I no longer want to do.

There are 168 hours in a week. This ain’t gonna happen, kids.

Well, I do have 30 hours a week of work. 196.5 minus 30 is 166.5, which gives me an hour and half to watch a movie as well . . . .  Unfortunately, I also need the pay that comes with that work time!

So the work now is to figure out a schedule that gives me time to do what I love to do, and what I have to do. This is only chapter 10. There are 25 more chapters to work through.

I finished reading the book too, with my new bus reading habit (thing 14).

As I said, a lot of the work I’ve been doing for Indistractable has been connected to the wellbeing work (thing 3) and I did some of the journalling for that this week too.

I’ve now worked through seven days of the creative kickstart course (thing 6) as well, which covers a lot of the same ground. One suggestion I liked was to set aside “just 15 minutes” every day to create. I have started experimenting with doing that after my morning walk. The idea is not just to commit to the time but also to commit to what you’ll be doing at the time, so I decided to spend just 15 minutes every day on my photo project (thing 1). It’s not much, but if I do this consistently for a year it will be 90 hours I would otherwise have not devoted to the project. That’s nearly four days! I have to be able to get it done in that time.

I rode my bike to work (thing 10) and read some of my uni material (thing 8) in preparation for the start of the unit on 20 January.

Summary for the week

  • Things completed this week: 1 (10)
  • Things completed to date: 2 (10, 18)
  • Things I progressed: 7 (1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 13, 14)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress: 0
  • Things not started: 13 (2, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12, 15, 16, 17, 19, 20, 21, 22)