Category Archives: clarity

21 for 2021: week 11

Week 11/2021: week of 15 March 2021

21 for 2021 update

I’ve been working on several of the chapters of the Change Journal (thing 4) in fits and starts. In the habits chapter, I finished 66 consecutive days of yoga stretches and am continuing with the pre-work routine (thing 20) and the post-work routine, as well as starting a new habit to do ten push ups every day. That’s one of the exercises from the exercise physiologist (thing 1).

I also worked on chapters 8 (“Clarity”) and 9 (“Pitch Yourself”) and started thinking about my strengths and skills. I had one of those a-ha moments while I was reading through some career advice for my personality type. It said one thing people like me often enjoy and are good at is “extracting and explaining the basic storyline running through a set of ideas, as well as translating technical jargon intro everyday language”.
I had a look at some of the things my managers had said about me at work in the past, which included things like putting complex ideas into plain language and explaining complicated concepts for different audiences.  I thought about the work that comes to mind when I think about what work I’ve really enjoyed doing. It’s exactly the same work. It’s fascinating to realise that my brain is wired to do the type of work I not only enjoy but also am recognised for. So this is all going towards updating my resume (thing 18).

 I did some more photo work in the “unexplored areas” (thing 14), though it wasn’t particularly successful. I got my SLR photos back (thing 16) and have realised that the shutter button on the camera is broken and I don’t know whether this is going to be fixable. So that thing has come to a screaming halt until I decide what to do with the camera. 

When you can’t find a quiet room in your office to do your stretches so you have to go outside and do them under a tree

Vegetable of the week

Thing 2 is to choose a different vegetable every week from the book In Praise of Veg and make a recipe from the book using that vegetable. 

On Tuesday, I chose sweet potato in a recipe called Darl’s Daal (page 146), which is a completely different dhal to the one I usually make. It had pumpkin and sweet potato in it for a start. And lots of coconut milk. I really liked this one and there was enough left overs for lunch for the rest of the week.

A week’s worth of exercise done in cutting this pumpkin up

On Saturday, I stuck with the pumpkin theme and decided to make Alice’s pumpkin soup, which isn’t an official recipe in the book but I needed pumpkin for one of next week’s recipes so I figured soup would be a good way to use up some of what I wasn’t going to use. I also made the Hasselback Parsnips with Rosemary Oil and Salt (page 56). They were okay, but my oven is really bad at crisping things up, so they weren’t super crunchy like I’d hoped they would be.

Not-very-crunchy Hasselback parsnips

Regular projects

There are several things on my list that I have made a regular commitment to doing in the hope that this will be more likely to make me do them. It’s working and it’s not working. I worked on these ones this week.

  • Thing 8: Spend an hour a week working on Kramstable’s videos. One hour on Sunday afternoon. I did some work on this.
  • Thing 9: Write my mother’s life story. I went to see my Mum but we had other things to do and I didn’t get a chance to ask her any more questions this week. Instead, I did some work on writing up some of the notes from our previous sessions and tried to track down where my grandmother had been in between the time she left school and when she married my grandfather.
  • Thing 11: Complete the Compelling Frame course. I did one of the exercises from lesson 5.
  • Thing 17: Brainsparker gym*. This week I worked on the first lesson of module 4.

21 for 2021 summary

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

Blast from the past

Following on from my 10-year review of my blog, here’s another one of my favourite posts from 2011. This one is from 7 July 2011: Here I write. I remember this time. I wasn’t in a good headspace then at all.

Views from the garden

What I’m reading this week

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Diana: Her True Story – In Her Own Words by Andrew Morton

Habit tracker

  • Days I did my morning planning routine at work (Goal = 4): 4
  • Days I did my post-work pack up routine (Goal = 4): 4
  • Days I worked on my art (Goal = 2): 5
  • Days I read a book (Goal = 7): 7
  • Days I did yoga stretches (Goal = 7): 7
  • Days I had a lunch break away from my desk (Goal = 4 work days): 4
  • Days I went for a walk or did other physical activity in the afternoon (Goal = 7): 4
  • Days I shut my computer down before 10.15 (Goal = 7): 7

The Change Journal

I’m not sure where I first heard about the Change Journal. Probably on one of the many stationery store social media feeds that I follow. 

It’s a journal by LEUCHTTURM1917 that was originally produced in German, with an English edition being released in 2019. 

Designed by Tim Jaudszims, it’s a guided journal that gives you 24 ideas to try out to see if they help you improve your productivity and organisation. Some of the ideas include gratitude, digital detox, single-tasking, reading, and decluttering.

Testing out ideas is one of my favourite things, as you’ll know if you’ve been following my blog for a while, and I’m a sucker for gorgeous stationery, so finding a beautiful notebook whose sole purpose is to let you experiment with new things is my idea of heaven! I was never not going to get a copy. 

Change Journal, Berry edition

In the introduction, Tim says:

“When you’re incredibly lazy and yet as full of ideas as I am, at some point you start searching for tricks to make your life a little easier. Like how to get more done in the same amount of time. No, hold on! How to get even more things done in less time! A fine idea but no matter how hard I tried I failed at it.”

Tim Jaudszims, Change Journal Founder

Hmmm, sound familiar? 

Tim observes that he used to try and keep journals in beautiful notebooks, like the LEUCHTTURM1917 journals, but he always lost the motivation after the first few pages. And his handwriting kind of wrecked the beauty of these fine books. I can totally relate. He decided to design his own journal that allows you to try out 24 different ideas for a week at a time (I refuse to call them “hacks”), with a brief explanation of the technique and then a week’s worth of daily templates to record your experiences.

Each chapter has a short introduction to the idea

Each chapter also has a review page where you can go over what you learned during the week and decide if you want to continue using the idea or if it didn’t work for you. The website has downloadable templates you can print if you want to keep doing it. 

A daily tracking spread, which includes tracking your water intake

This page gives you an idea of how it works. 

The weekly review page

You can work through the chapters in any order you want. The instructions say to flick through the journal and start with the chapter that looks the most interesting or that appears easiest to you. The only rule that Tim wants you to follow is that once you start a chapter, you need to stick with it for the whole week. He says using the journal should only take a few minutes a day so even if you hate the idea, it shouldn’t be too much of a chore to do the work each day and then, after the week, you never have to do it again. 
Basically, you just have to start. 

So after buying the book about six months ago and sitting it on the shelf, occasionally getting it out to flick through it and thinking how beautiful it was, I think that if ever there was a good time, it’s now. A new year, a new list of 21 things to do this year and an empty book, with 24 weeks worth of mini-challenges to do. If I start now, I’ll be finished by the end of June. Actually, there’s really only 23 challenges I need to do, as the first one is to drink more water. This is something I have already made a priority, and it doesn’t actually have its own template in the journal. Rather, each of the other 23 challenges has space to record your daily water intake, so I’m going to continue to aim for around 2.5 litres a day of actual water and record that in this book.

There’s a couple of others that I don’t think are going to work for me as weekly challenges, so I’m going to find different ways to do them as I get to them. The first one is the chapter called “clarity”, which sort of relates to the work I’ve been doing with the Unravel Your Year workbook and includes stuff that I might do over the course of a week, a month or even a year . . . or perhaps just one day. I started filling out this chapter as I was working on Unravel Your Year 2021, so this one is a work in progress rather than a weekly challenge. 

I’ve set up a page to track my progress with this journal. I think I need to pick up my German language studies again now so I can read the Change Journal’s Instagram posts! 

21 for 2021: a new list and an update

Week 53: week of 28 December 2020
I’m not sure if the last week of the year was week 53 of 2020 or week 1 of 2021. Or if was both. Or if it really matters. (My Travelers Notebook 2021 diary tells me it was week 53 of 2020 and that the next week was week 1 of 2021, so in the interests of keeping things consistent for my weekly photojournal, I’m going to stick with that. But it doesn’t matter. A week is a week. Or it isn’t.)

I spent the week trying to find my Word for 2021 and writing about that journey, which you can read about here (it’s long, so get yourself a cuppa). I was thinking about my 21 for 2021 list as well and working through my 2021 Unravel Your Year workbook so I could make sure the activities and projects I put on my list relate to the intentions I wrote in there.

Coffee shop planning

If you’re new to this (hi there!) here’s a reminder of what a 21 for 2021 list is, and why you might want to do one, from Gretchen Rubin. To my mind, the key to making it work is for the list to include concrete activities, rather than vague things that don’t have end points. “Learn to use Photoshop”, for example, is vague and there’s no defined end point you might reach and say you’ve done it. “Complete xyz Photoshop course” is specific and you will know for sure that you’ve done it and can cross it off the list.

Of course, that’s just my take on it and you (if you were to make such list for yourself) might have a completely different approach. There are no rules, except for the ones you set yourself, which you can break whenever you want because they’re your rules, and there’s no right and wrong way to go about it. Hell, you don’t even have to have 21 items on your list. I had 22 things on my 20 for 2020 list.

By Wednesday, I had 44 things (some of which were pretty vague so they weren’t going on the list), a bunch of sub-things falling off some of them (the vague ones, mainly, to make them more concrete), along with 33 nagging annoying jobs that I want to get to in 2021, for a grand total of 100 things. At least if I made that my list, I wouldn’t run out of things to write about. It has shades of the “100 things to do in 2013” list I made in, well, 2013.

There’s also my habits that I want to keep up from last year, which are:

  • Do the morning planning routine at work (Goal = 5 days)
  • Work on my art (Goal = 2 days)
  • Read a book (Goal = 7 days)
  • Do yoga stretches (Goal = 7 days)
  • Have a lunch break away from my desk (Goal = 5 work days)
  • Go for a walk or do some form of physical activity in the afternoon (Goal = 7 days)
  • Shut my computer down before 10.15 (Goal = 7 days, with the aim to move this to 10.00 as the year progresses, and maybe even 9.45)

And any new habits I decide to pick up in 2021. The focus of these will, as you might imagine if you read my last post, be on lifestyle changes that I can make to reduce the impact I have on the Earth.

I decided to pick out the 21 most concrete things and/or the things that were most important to me for the list, knowing that I’ll still be working on most of the other ones along the way. And it goes without saying that educating myself about issues like the climate emergency and social justice and making changes to my lifestyle and my mindset is something I also have to do. But as I said in the post, these aren’t things I can check off a list, so they don’t appear on it. I have a lot of work to do in that space though.

I’m not sure if thing 5 “Spend an hour a week working through my annoying mundane things list” is a sneaky way for me to get 33 more things on the list but I’m hoping that making a commitment to spend an (yet to be determined) hour will help me to get through that list really quickly.

The final list is here and I’ll keep it updated more or less weekly. 

  1. Go to the exercise physiologist and get an exercise program
  2. Choose a different vegetable every week from In Praise of Veg and make one of the recipes from the book
  3. Complete the 30-day voice training course
  4. Work through the ideas in The Change Journal, one idea per week for 24 weeks
  5. Spend an hour a week working through my annoying undone things list
  6. Grow some vegetables in the garden bed
  7. Clear out the area at the side of the house and make a space to sit
  8. Spend an hour a week working on Kramstable’s videos (with the aim of completing two of them)
  9. Write my mother’s life story
  10. Make a book of my 2014 UK trip photos
  11. Complete the ImageWork course
  12. Complete the Photoshop Classroom in a Book activities
  13. Create a consistent web presence for my work
  14. Photograph some unexplored areas
  15. Use my tripod in public 
  16. Go out and shoot with film
  17. Complete the Brainsparker gym* program
  18. Update my resume and apply for at least one new job
  19. Get a Strengthsfinder assessment
  20. Implement my pre-work workday routine
  21. Read at least three books about Tasmanian history

So after all that, here’s my first update for 2021.

As I thought at the end of last year, I didn’t do any more work on any of my 20 for 2020 things, so that chapter is now closed.

As 2021 started on Friday, it was time to start thinking about 21 for 2021. While I didn’t have the list finalised by then, there were a couple of things I knew were going to be on it. First was the 50 vegetables challenge (thing 2), which you can read more about here.

On Saturday, I made my first recipe from In Praise of Veg, which was the okra peanut stew.

Okra peanut stew ingredients. Just pretend there’s a jar of tomato paste in the photo.

I didn’t even know what okra was before Saturday, much less how to cook it, so it made for an interesting evening and a very tasty dish. I love peanuts and this recipe seemed a lot easier than the southern fried okra, which had me worried I’d burn the house down. I’m not much of a fryer.

Okra. Right?

One vegetable down, 49 to go.

The end result

I also did some of the work in the “Clarity” chapter of the Change Journal (thing 4). I’ll have a post that explains what that journal is very soon.

I pulled out some of the weeds in the garden bed (thing 6) and I added things to the undone things list instead of doing any of them (thing 5).

Untrue. I did one of them. I reorganised my bookshelves on new year’s eve while everyone else was out partying, and I made the window seat/bookshelf in my room into a resource section for the work I’ll be doing this year. I hope the party people who kept me awake half the night had shocking hangovers the next day. #oldpersonrant

The tidy space. Not the shelf on the right. I didn’t tidy that one.

Summary for the week

  • What I was reading this week: This One Wild and Precious Life by Sarah Wilson
  • Things completed this week: 0
  • Things completed to date: 0
  • Things I progressed: 4 (2, 4, 5, 6)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress: 0
  • Things not started: 17 (1, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21)
  • Habit tracker:
    • Days I did my morning planning routine at work (Goal = 5): I wasn’t at work
    • Days I worked on my art (Goal = 2): 2
    • Days I read a book (Goal = 7): 7
    • Days I did yoga stretches (Goal = 7): 0
    • Days I had a lunch break away from my desk (Goal = 5 work days): I wasn’t at work
    • Days I went for a walk or did other physical activity in the afternoon (Goal = 7): 5
    • Days I shut my computer down before 10.15 (Goal = 7): I’m not sure. I didn’t keep a very good record of this. Hey, I was on holidays!

2020 in review

Susannah Conway’s Unravel Your Year 2021 workbook asks you to describe the year just gone by in three words. It’s left open to you how you interpret this: you could, I imagine, choose three words that describe the year from a global perspective, from a personal perspective or anywhere in between. There’s one word I’ve heard more often than I care to remember that has been used to describe 2020 that I never want to hear again and I have no intention of using it. It starts with unp . . . .

And that is the last I will say about that word.

I’ve chosen three words to describe the year from my own isolated perspective from the bottom of an island at the bottom of the world. They are:

  • Unexpected
  • Inconsistent
  • Introspective

Unexpected because I didn’t in my wildest dreams imagine that the world would be thrust into a pandemic that shut everything down, took so many lives, and shook everything up, leaving people jobless and causing so much worldwide despair, uncertainty and confusion. On a personal note, I didn’t expect the issues I was having in my workplace with noise to be (temporarily) resolved by having to work from home. There were other unexpected things too, not all good, and not all for this blog.

Inconsistent because, while I made a lot of progress in some areas I wanted to work on and I achieved a lot, I didn’t do as much as I’d hoped in other areas. I completed my uni course, and I had some good results at work but, there were other areas I was less successful in developing (no judgement here, just stating a fact) and they continue to haunt me. A lot of that is connected to me not being able to stop procrastinating and giving into distractions. And not getting into an exercise routine that works for me.

I struggled to find a third word but I chose Introspective because I started to work on some long standing personal issues in my head that are preventing me from being the person I want to be. It was hard work but rewarding, and I think I am starting to discover small chinks in the façade I’m trying to break down.

I would also add interesting to the mix . . .

I started the year with beautiful sunny Sunday morning photo expeditions, a couple of times with a good friend and other days by myself. It seems like so long ago now . . .

Sunday morning explorations with my camera

A major focus of my year was my uni program, of which I had three units to complete. The first one was intense, involving a lot of self examination and analysis, which left me feeling drained but also with some very clear ideas of what areas of my life I specifically needed to work on. I finished the course in October and received my qualification in December and am very glad that’s over but also grateful for the opportunity to have done it and learned so much.

I managed to keep reasonably healthy in 2020, not least because I have now gone for nine months without drinking alcohol and, as a formerly very regular moderate drinker, I’m particularly proud of my efforts to do this. I read the book The Alcohol Experiment by Annie Grace, and it totally changed the way I looked at alcohol. I’m not saying I will never drink again but for now I’m very comfortable with my decision not to.

This book changed my life

I had a potential issue with my eyesight that I had to have checked out a couple of times during the year but it all seems to be okay for now and the professionals are monitoring it. I got a hearing test at the start of the year, which revealed I have a low noise tolerance, which makes sense of all the issues I’ve been having at work and in other situations. I’m not sure what we do about this but a retest later in the year showed that my sensitivity had increased and I still don’t really know how to manage it. I kept up with my dental checks and my physio visits to resolve long-standing neck, back and posture issues.

I’m grateful there was never a time during the lockdown that I wasn’t able to go out on my regular morning walks. That would have made it a lot more unbearable.

Morning beach walks, muwinina Country

I started riding my bike to work, which became a whole lot easier when everyone had to stay home because of the pandemic and, as I said at the time, while I didn’t love riding in the traffic, I didn’t necessarily want the roads to be clear because no one was allowed outside. I stopped doing it as much (at all) as the weather got colder, the buses stopped charging fares and, eventually, when I was working from home full-time. It’s something I will start to pick up again when I go back to work after the holidays.

Bike riding to work

Another habit that I actually stuck with was reading, and there were a couple of things that made this possible. First, my goal was to develop the habit, rather than to set a number of books I wanted to read, which the pressure to read a certain amount off and allowed me to just focus on doing it. Second, keeping my no alcohol month going the whole of the year led to me going to bed earlier, which meant I could read in bed before I went to sleep. As of today, I have finished 34 books, which is 13 more than in 2019 when I set myself a target of only 12 books to read and never really stuck with it after I’d finished the 12th book.

The most powerful book I read in 2020, Truganini by Cassandra Pybus

I didn’t do as much work on learning Photoshop as I had intended at the start of the year when I signed up for a bunch of courses. Even though my uni work took up a lot of time, I still had a lot of free time that I could have done this work and I’m not sure what was stopping me. It’s not like I have to do the courses all at once or that there’s a time limit. I can do them in my own time, and maybe that’s the problem. I’ve worked well to deadlines where there is a clear assignment to complete but with these courses there are no assignments, just instruction and it’s up to you to play around with what you’re shown and see what you come up with. This is one of the areas I’m disappointed that I didn’t achieve very much in, and I want to do more in 2021.

I completed the major photography project I wanted to do this year, which was to spend 50 days making a photo a day with my 50mm lens. I’m really pleased with that project and it’s made me appreciate and understand that lens a lot better. I certainly won’t be keeping that one stashed in the bag again!

50mm photo of the Aurora Australis, the day before she left Hobart for the finial time

I had a couple of exciting moments in my photography in 2020 too. In January, one of my photos was published in Australian Photography magazine.

My first photo published in a national publication

I was equally chuffed when the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court asked if the court could use one of my photos of the court in their Christmas cards this year.

Supreme Court 2019

And just before Christmas, I found out that one of the photos I had taken of the Hobart Magistrates Court at the Open House Hobart weekend had been chosen as a winner of their photo competition, which was a lovely way to end the year. I’ve really enjoyed my photography this year.

Hobart Magistrates Court 2020

I was lucky to be able to get away for a couple of short breaks during the year. We had a trip to Bridport in the July school holidays. I hadn’t been there since I was a kid and couldn’t remember it at all, so it was great to be able to explore a part of Tasmania I wasn’t familiar with.

Old pier at Bridport on pyemmairrener Country

In October we had a night at Port Arthur, a place I am always somewhat reluctant to visit because of the many sad layers of history held by the area. And then, as a reward for finishing my uni course, I took myself off to Launceston for a photography retreat and I had a wonderful time photographing some of my favourite buildings and walking all day.

Tessellated Pavement near Eaglehawk Neck on paredareme Country

Kramstable adapted really well to online school and I was impressed with his commitment to his work, his ability to self-direct and to manage his workload. The schools did a huge amount of work to ensure that kids could continue learning during the lockdown and I have nothing but admiration for them for what they achieved. Thank you seems like such a lame things to say to convey how grateful I am for what they did. It has been wonderful watching Kramstable learn and grow this year, and for it to start to become more obvious what his strengths are and where his passions lie. The high point of his film work was his nomination as a finalist in one of the categories of this year’s My State Film Festival. It’s also exciting to watch his work and interests develop outside of school. Seeing his dedication sometimes makes me wonder how my life might have been different if I’d had such a passion as a teenager and had been supported to pursue it in the same way I hope I’m supporting him.

Sadly, Bethany the Australorp chicken and Rex the rabbit died earlier in the year. Two new chickens joined the flock in November, Dorothy and Shirley, who are black copper Marans and are very cute. After a month in a cage in the chook yard, they are now finding their feet with the big girls, some of whom are none too pleased to have them there.

The new chickens

Aside from the working from home, covid didn’t have a massive impact on my life. I don’t like going out much, I detest shopping, I don’t play or attend sport and I don’t enjoy being around large gatherings of people. I spend a lot of time at home anyway, and I love it. So I pretty much did what I always did, it’s just that I didn’t have a choice any more. Regular Friday night dinners at the bowls club were replaced with trying out various takeaway and home delivery options from local restaurants and pubs. I actually reversed my no caffeine strategy and started getting takeaway coffees from my local cafe (I am sorry for the plastic, but they weren’t allowed to use keep cups). I’m not sure why. One day I felt like a coffee and it was a valid reason to get out of the house and one day tuned into a couple of times a week, turned into every day. And when they were allowed to reopen, it because my go-to place to write. And a place to work when I needed a change of scenery.

Monthly review at the coffee shop

I realise that I am incredibly lucky that this was my experience when so many others suffered greatly and many continue to do so. I am so grateful for having the job I have and that the Tasmanian Government did what it needed to do to keep our state safe. I haven’t stopped being grateful for being in the position that I’m in this year.

It was, indeed, an unexpected year.

A weed is just a plant growing in a place someone doesn’t want it to grow in

Unravel Your Year asks you to consider what the gifts of 2020 were. I know for many, this would be difficult. I offer the following.

2020 brought me the gift of afternoon walks. Instead of being at work all afternoon, packing up and catching the bus home, I packed up my home office and went for a walk every day. I watched the afternoon light dance on trees, rocks, water and the opposite shore, and I made photos of what I saw. I would never have been able to do this if I hadn’t been working at home.

2020 brought me intense self reflection and the deep inner work that I need to do to start to heal myself.

2020 brought me a confidence boost that tells me maybe I do have an artistic side.

2020 brought me a brain that is no longer befuddled by alcohol, and the clarity and health benefits that go along with this.

2020 brought me respite from a work environment that was becoming increasingly stressful and difficult for me to cope with. My stress and anxiety levels are lower than they have been for a long time as a result.

A friend recently posted that we all need a little more yellow in our lives. I agree. You can never have too much yellow!

Goodbye, 2020.

You were not the year I expected you to be. I know the challenges you have presented, both on a global level and to me personally, are not going to disappear when the clock ticks over to 2021. In reality, the date on the calendar is just an arbitrary thing anyway. The sun is going to come up tomorrow, covid is still going to be here and I’m going to have the same struggles I have today. The climate emergency hasn’t gone away and there’s a lot of work to do. However, the end of the year is a good time to have a bit of a reset, to re-examine my priorities and goals, and make sure the course I’m on is still the one I need to be on.

Thank you, 2020, for the gifts and the opportunities you have offered me. I ticked 18 things off my 20 for 2020 list. I haven’t made the most of everything, but I think I’ve made some progress and I have learned a lot. I intend to continue to learn in 2021.

One thing I know, 2020, is that I won’t forget you in a hurry.

12 commandments

I got a bit lost on Challenge 6, 30 days clarity.

The idea for this challenge came from Stephen Covey’s Second Habit: Begin with the end in mind. That is, to start with a clear understanding of your destination; to know where you’re going so that the steps you take are steps in the right direction.

I imagined that I might do some activities in this sphere that appealed to me including writing a personal mission statement, identifying my personal values and setting some goals.

I made some progress on the values idea, which actually came about through another exercise rather than this challenge, and I’ve been tinkering with this document for quite a while.

At the same time I’ve been re-familiarising myself with Gretchen Rubin’s work. One of the things she did in her Happiness Project, which I really liked, was to develop her 12 Personal Commandments. These are overarching principles on how she wants to live her life

She describes it as “a creative way to distill core values”.

While I love the idea of having this sort of list, it also terrifies me a little to think about setting down my own rules for my own life. You know, because once you have rules set down like this you can never ever ever change them because they are set in stone . . .

Right?

I know this isn’t true, but it’s one of the mental barriers that I think was preventing me from taking action on this challenge: the mistaken belief that once I’ve written down my life goals, I’m wedded to them FOREVER.

It’s why I could never decide what I wanted to be when I grew up because I didn’t want to make a decision that would bind me to a career path for my entire working life. (So I’ve ended up in a career I chose because there was nothing else going at the time. I’ve been here for 20 years. And on reflection, I seem to have decided my fate by not deciding. Wrap your head around that. Ha.)

I’m thinking about getting back into the clarity exercise and, to kick it off, a few days ago I decided to make my own list of 12 commandments – not for my life forever, but for the way I want to live my life this year. That seems a whole lot less daunting than committing myself to something forever (even though, as we know, it wouldn’t have necessarily been a forever commitment).

Here’s my work-in-progress list. I wanted to put something together now and see how it sits, and make adjustments as I work my way through the other exercises I’m going to do. I think something to start with will be better than nothing.

My 12 (draft) Personal Commandments for 2017

  1. Be kind to everyone I meet.
  2. Nourish myself. (Take care of myself.)
  3. Express gratitude.
  4. Pause before responding, rather than reacting instantly.
  5. Be the change I want to see in the world.
  6. Focus on cultivating positive habits rather than eliminating negative ones.
  7. Be present. Feel my feelings. Fully immerse myself in my experiences.
  8. Fix what bugs me if I can change it. Don’t complain about it if I can’t influence it.
  9. Start where I am; Use what I have; Do what I can. (Know that I am enough.)
  10. I am what I am.
  11. Know what’s important and focus on that.
  12. Simplify. (Don’t take on anything new unless I have identified something to give up. One in, one out.)
  13. Consolidate. (Reflect on what I’ve learned and put it into practice instead of collecting more shiny new objects.)

Yeah, I know. There are 13. The Arthur Ashe quote (number 9) wasn’t in the draft list of 12, but it came into my head while I was writing this post. I love this quote and it needs to be there, but I don’t know which one has to go to make way for it. Maybe none of them do. Who says it has to be 12 anyway? Make your own rules.

I think I want to re-read The Happiness Project now, but I already have three books on the go, so in the spirit of “one in, one out”, I’ll wait.

The three words in bold are the three words I picked out at the end of last year to try to guide me through this year. This is a thing. Three words or one word. It sounded like a good idea, but I’m not really sure what to do with them, so I incorporated them into my commandments. Now I’m not sure if I need big ticket ones and subordinate ones, or if they all belong together . . .

See! This is why I never get anything done. I overthink things.

Just put the damn list out there, refer to it regularly and do it.

I’m going to print this list out and stick it up where I can see it, so I don’t forget. I hope that this will be the restart I need to get me back into the #steppingonthecracks project.

Challenge 6 – Clarity -it continues

I am really struggling with the “clarity” project.

I think I’m finding it hard to lock things like my values and purpose into writing, because I think once they’re committed in writing they’ll be locked in and I’ll never be able to change them. It’s an issue I’ve struggled with my whole life. If I commit to something, it rules everything else out – so rather than make a conscious choice (because that implies a forever commitment) I’ve gone along with whatever has come up at the time. Because somehow making a not-choice-which-still-commits-you-to-something has less power than an actual choice.

I know.

Looking back, this hasn’t been a good strategy, and is probably the reason I’ve stayed in the same career path for as long as I have.

I’m trying really hard to do this exercise as a “work in progress” activity rather than a “once it’s written it’s set in stone and can never change” thing. But I still have this reluctance to commit anything to writing.

And I have made progress. See!

Listen to the Asian Efficiency Podcast on creating a manifesto  and start to write these 5 documents

  • I listened to it and I made a start on the “perfect day” document
Make a start on the last three “easy peasy” crosswords in my crossword book.
  • I totally did this, and I started three of the more difficult ones.
Write a blog post on where I’m up to with the “clarity” challenge (i.e. actually do it this week).
  • This is it.
Write a blog post on what I learned this week.
  • Done. It’s here.

And I saw the most amazing clouds the other day

Goals for this week:

Finish the “perfect day” document.

Start three more crosswords. Finish at least one.

Write a blog post on what I learned this week.

Time to take stock

When I started this project back in June, I imagined that I’d be able to have two challenges on the go at the same time – one would be a small habit change that I would try our for 30 days and the second one would be something more substantial that I would think about over 30 days and see how I could incorporate some new ideas into my life. I imagined that at the end of each challenge I’d launch into the next one the next day.

It’s not working out this way and I’ve been feeling very frustrated about it.

The 30 day habit changes are working well – I was pleased with how the 30 days of no alcohol, the 30 days of facing fear and the 30 days of evening routines panned out. But the less defined challenges have been, well, a challenge. Not a complete failure, but not progressing in the way I thought they might.

I think there are at least two reasons for this. First, I haven’t really been clear on what I want to achieve out of the challenge and what I’m actually going to do and second I haven’t set aside time to do the undefined things I’m going to do, so I’m fumbling round in the dark a bit (a lot) and not making much progress. What I need to be doing is setting myself a SMART goal (we all know about them right? – Specific/Measurable/Actionable/Realistic/Time-bound – or something like that), working out that actions I need to take, and booking time in my schedule to do them, instead of thinking “oh I haven’t worked on the blog for a while, I’d better go and do something” and not knowing what I actually need to be doing, and ending up getting distracted by squirrels and other shiny things.

The second reason isn’t one that I’d thought about much, but a couple of things I read recently reminded me of a key thing I’d left out of my project plan (in so far as there is a plan) – Down time. In short, I was expecting myself to be able to swing from branch to branch to branch, encounter new things and take as much on board as I could without ever stopping to consolidate or to rest. (Thanks Kendra!)

A good analogy I came across recently was that life isn’t a marathon, it’s a series of sprints – more like interval training if you like. Google that and you’ll get many varieties of it (and people who don’t agree), but the idea is that your body and mind need periods of down time after a period of intense activity. This is true on a daily level (you can’t work flat out all day long), a weekly level (why we have weekends) and a yearly level (why we have annual leave). But it’s also true, and this is the bit I was missing, on a project level.

I can remember one particularly intense project at work a few years back that I worked flat out on over several months. I really enjoyed it, I loved the pressure and the intensity of the work and the feeling I was doing something worthwhile. It was one of the high points of my recent career history. But when it was done, I completely crashed. I went back to my normal work, but I wasn’t able to get my focus back and in some ways I wonder if I’ve really recovered from it.

It’s the same for these “undefined” projects. Trying to bounce from one 30-day project to another without stopping is completely unsustainable. What’s happened is because I haven’t factored in any down time or time to process anything for the last two challenges I’ve tried to do, I’ve basically done nothing in those challenges. First because I haven’t panned and secondly because I haven’t really processed, closed off and recovered from the previous challenges.

So I’m doing a total rethink of the project to slow things down and focus on one thing for as long as I need to, and then to take some more time to process it before moving on. I hope that by doing this I’ll achieve something lasting. Some of the things I want to do will take longer than 30 days, and some might take less. (Example: my drawing lessons, which if you go by the title of the book should have taken me 30 days, but I’m still working though it – I’m up to Lesson 28 after almost four months.) And the 30-day theme will continue with ongoing 30-day habit change challenges.

This means I’m not giving up on Challenge 6 (clarity and purpose) after 30 days. I’m going to keep working on this because I think it’s important. I’m making a firmer plan for what I want to do, and I’m trialing the Happiness Planner as a record keeping tool.

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I feel a bit more optimistic now that I’ve figured out what’s going on and have made some more concrete plans. And I’ve decided to reward myself with a new yoga mat if I do 30 days of yoga in a row. 13 days to go! Yay!

Challenge 6: 30 days of clarity

I’m a few days late with posting about the beginning of Challenge 6 of #steppingonthecracks. I had a vague idea about what this challenge was going to be about, but wasn’t sure how to articulate it. Then I realised that figuring out what the challenge is is actually a big part of the challenge.

I mentioned in Challenge 5 that I’d been reading Stephen Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and that his first habit is about being proactive and working within your circle of influence. 30 days of doing this was hard to define, but I’m trying to at least keep this idea in mind as I go through the day. And not complain about things I can’t do anything about.

Dr Covey’s second habit is “to begin with the end in mind” – that is, to start with a clear understanding of your destination; to know where you’re going so that the steps you take are steps in the right direction. This is a common theme through many of the books and posts I’ve been reading lately – that you need to know where you’re going so that you can do things that will get you there, not things that don’t matter in the grand scheme of your life.

Some of the ideas that I’ve come across in this sphere include writing a personal mission statement, identifying your personal values and, of course, goal setting. The thing about goal setting is that you have to figure out what’s important to you before you can go in and set your goals. For example, I consider learning to be very important, so one of my goals for this year was for me to read 24 books. The step I was going to put into place to achieve this was to set aside a dedicated time to read every day.

But that’s getting ahead of myself.

I’ve been feeling a bit scattered lately, and have this overwhelming urge to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. So the next 30 days (or 26 days now) will be about working through some exercises to help me sort out everything that’s going round in my head and get some clarity about what’s really important to me. I have a long list of resources, tests and exercises, including a couple of work-related activities that I’ve been spending a bit of time on in the last couple of weeks. I don’t imagine I’ll end up doing all of the exercises because there will probably be a lot of repetition once I start to get some clarity and begin to sort my thoughts out.

I’m not sure what this challenge is going to look like, but what I’d like at the end of the month is to know myself a bit better and to have some written evidence of this!

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