Category Archives: creativity

20 for 2020: week 34

My 20 for 2020 list.

Monday beach walk

What did I want to do better this week?

  • Go to bed on time.
  • Plan my days and stick to the plan. This will be really important over the next two months as I complete my uni work.
  • Abandon the idea of 15 minutes creative time every day and find two time blocks within the week when I can work on my creative projects.

So, how did that go then?

It went well! I was in bed no later than 10.32 every night. I think I need to start packing up slightly earlier that I have been though, so I don’t find myself jumping in to bed at 10.30 and getting changed into my PJs in bed just so I’m in bed before the clock ticks over. (Yes, I really did that one night.) That is really lengthening the bow. Even five minutes earlier would be enough.

I have been doing a lot better at planning my day and sticking to the plan. At least for the first half of the day. By the end of the day I’m getting tired and am less likely to do it. But I’ve made progress.

And I feel a lot less guilty for not doing 15 minutes of my art every day now that I’ve decided to stop trying to do that. I achieved my goal of doing two longer sessions during the week and together they added up to a lot more than the hour and three quarters I would have done if I’d just stuck to the 15 minutes (that I wasn’t doing anyway).

Friday waterfront walk

On to 20 for 2020

I picked up the book Indistractable (thing 13) again this week and had a flick through to see where I was up to.

“Up to” implies I’ve been systematically working through it and doing everything it says. I haven’t. I’ve randomly implemented ideas that I think will work for me rather than try to religiously stick to doing everything in the book chapter by chapter. Some of the chapters aren’t relevant to the situation I’m in and some of the things I’m already doing.

This is especially true for work now that I work from home four days a week. A lot of the interruptions I used to get just don’t happen any more and we don’t have as many meetings as we used to.

One of the things that has been causing me issues though is work email. I manage a shared email box that gets a lot of requests for information from other areas, often at short notice. Most of the requests are things I have to send to other people rather than being able to deal with myself, which means a lot of things on my task list require me to wait for someone else rather than being able to do them myself. I’m not good at waiting. If something’s an open loop like that, I like to close it as quickly as possible, so I struggle with sending stuff out and not knowing when I will get a response. I get quite anxious and unable to settle to focus on other things because I’m always thinking about what’s in the emails.

I know this is something I do to myself and I’ve been working with my manager and colleagues to find ways to manage this better. One of the things I’ve started doing, which is partly based on chapter 15 of the book, is to actually schedule blocks time for checking emails and dealing with them so that the emails don’t leak through my entire day. This means I can also schedule larger blocks of time during the day to work on my projects undistracted, knowing that I will get to the emails at regular times.

So far, it’s working well.

Farewell to the Parliament Square crane

I had a win on my uni project (thing 8). I had submitted my draft proposal to my facilitator last week without knowing if I had any support from work to do it. This week, I met with the relevant senior manager to talk about it and she gave me the green light to go ahead as long as I can do it in a way that addresses the concerns that she identified. (She actually talked to her boss about it before she spoke to me. I won’t be sneaking this one in under the radar. It is Out There now.) She’s going to work with me to help me develop a project that meets the needs of the program, is of value to the workplace and is doable in eight weeks. As a former graduate of the program, she understands what’s needed and I think she will be a good sponsor for the project.

I got feedback on my draft proposal from the unit facilitator on Monday. She raised some issues I’ll need to address in my final proposal, which is due at the end of next week. We have the face to face workshop next week for four days, so I have a lot of reading to do over the weekend to prepare for that. I’m expecting my life to be fully engrossed in this work for the next two months.

The best thing is that, after 12 months of study, the end is in sight! I’m still trying to get my head around how I’m going to transform the concept for the project I had in my head at the start of the program into a 3000 word report in two months, but I keep reminding myself that I don’t have to know all the answers now, I just have to keep taking the next step and I will get there.

I spoke to the sewing machine people (thing 2) and ordered my new machine. It should come next week.

What did I achieve?

I overcame the voice in my head that told me I wasn’t good enough to do something and did it anyway.

What didn’t go so well?

Being organised enough in the evening to be able to pack up without rushing.

What do I want to do better next week?

Focus on sticking to my 10.30 bed time, I want to start packing up with enough time to actually be in bed before 10.30 rather than leaving myself less than ten minutes and rushing to get into the bedroom while the clock still says 10.30.

Continue to stick to my day plans and try to be more consistent in the afternoon. Maybe I need to take a proper break in the middle of the day to give myself time to regroup and refocus. I’ll try that.

The week’s reading. Highly recommended.

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, 8, 13)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress: 4 (7, 11, 17, 22)
  • Things not started: 4 (9, 12, 19, 21)
  • Days I worked on my art: 6
  • Days I read a book: 7
  • Days I did yoga stretches: 0
  • Days I was in bed by 10.30: 6

20 for 2020: week 33

Week of 10 August

My 20 for 2020 list.

What did I want to do better this week?
Start packing up at 10.15.
Schedule 15 minutes of creative time every day and do it.

So how did that go then?
That did not go well. By the weekend I had I only gone to bed on time on Monday. One night I didn’t get to bed until 11.30. I didn’t sleep well that night and I woke up at some stupid time in the morning beginning with a 4. Not surprisingly, my sleep score has been down this week too.

I’m also struggling with the 15 minutes of creative time. I had it scheduled for 5pm, which is probably a completely unsuitable time so I need to rethink this one. The days I have stuck to it, it hasn’t been at 5pm and I’ve worked for a lot longer than 15 minutes because I was enjoying it. I’ve probably done the whole week’s 15 minutes in one or two days. Much as I appreciate the idea of doing 15 minutes every day, I’m not making it work, so I need to review that one as well.

On to 20 for 2020
I got a phone call from the sewing machine guy on Monday afternoon (thing 2). He said he was leaving his last job and asked if now was a good time for me. It was fine. I was home and I’d finished work, so I told him to come over. Because it was so unexpected, I started freaking out that someone was coming to my house in 20 minutes. Frantic moving things off the sewing machine cabinet for him to be able to access it. Wondering why I have never put my graduate diploma on the wall and just left it propped up against the cabinet since I’ve been in this house. (Thinking that, all going well, in three months time I will have a newer one to put next to it.)

People who haven’t known me long are surprised when they find out I have a sewing machine. I guess I don’t talk about it now that I don’t actually use it. In the past, my one sewing job a year was a Book Week costume for Kramstable but I stopped doing that around grade 5 when he started to put his own costumes together. Long-time readers might remember that these were long, drawn-out affairs, where my vision and enthusiasm were unmatched by my skill, but somehow I managed to pull off some pretty good costumes. I’m not sure if I was more proud of the cat outfit (for the Cat in the Hat) or of the Dame Washalot outfit that I designed the pattern for myself based on illustrations in the Faraway Tree, having absolutely no clue what I was doing.

And I don’t think I’m creative. Pffft. Begone, doubters.

The sewing machine guy arrived. After giving him a vague description of the problem (“It doesn’t work”) I left him to it.

(It is a slightly more specific problem than that, for which I had initially sought advice from sewing friends and the internet, because I thought maybe it was a setting I’d mucked up somewhere and that I just needed to move a few dials and everything would be back to normal. Clearly, given I had to call in an expert, this was not the case, though I still had doubts about my ability to use the machine properly and set it up to work.)

He spent a bit of time doing fidgety-looking stuff to it and pulling bits off. This involved a highly vile smelling oil that I feel is going to linger in my room for the next week and him holding various bits and pieces up to the light. I heard him say a few things like, “oh, that shouldn’t happen”  and, if nothing else, I was relieved that there actually was something wrong with the machine and it wasn’t just me not knowing what lever to move.

The verdict, after all that, was that it was a workshop job, not something he could fix at my house. He would have to pull it apart and it would cost at least $150, more if any parts were needed. I don’t know how much the machine was worth as I got it as a gift, but his advice was that I’d be throwing good money after bad if I tried to get it fixed and that for not much more than the repair cost I could buy a new machine that would be more suitable for what I use it for. It wouldn’t have all the features of this one, but given that I never used them anyway, this wouldn’t be a problem.  From what I understand, this is a lower-priced machine trying to cram in features of a higher-priced machine and not succeeding very well. Apparently, this brand performs very well at the high end of the market with machines that do fancy stitching and embroidery but that this doesn’t translate to the lower end of the market, which is where I am firmly planted.

So there you have it. After two years and two lists, I have still not got my sewing machine fixed but at least now I know it isn’t worth fixing and can decide where to go from here.

I also had to borrow some money from Kramstable to pay for the service call because he’s the only person in the house who has any cash. How awkward is that!

20200811 Sandy Bay Rd & Queen St 356pm

Sandy Bay Tuesday afternoon. From Hobart Street Corners.

The only other thing I worked on this week was my uni work (thing 8), which is going to have to be my focus for the next nine weeks. This mostly involved a very long, agonising process in which I made a decision about the workplace project I want to work on for this unit. I had to submit a draft 500-word project proposal on Sunday so that the unit facilitator could give feedback and direction to make sure it’s on the right track and is gong to be manageable in the time I have to do it. (Did I mention that it’s only nine weeks? No pressure.)

500 words.


I spoke to the facilitator on Friday about it because I wasn’t sure if what I wanted to do was appropriate, especially since it’s not a project that is directly relevant to my workplace. She said it absolutely was, so all I had to do was get an official tick from the relevant person at work and submit the proposal. As of Friday afternoon, I hadn’t been able to make contact with the manager I needed the okay from and I had a 1500-word proposal. This left me with the weekend to think of all sorts of reasons why work wouldn’t support me and to cut 1000 words out of the document.

One of these things I had control over and one I didn’t. I decided to focus my attention on the one that I did have control over, hard it was to try and put the doubts aside. What reassured me was that other people I had spoken to, including people in the area that the work most directly related to, were positive about the idea and thought it would be valuable work.

And if worst came to absolute worst, the facilitator said that if I don’t get my work’s support to do this work, it will be possible to throw the whole thing out and start again with something else.

I hope it doesn’t come to that!

And I submitted the proposal, without having any authority to do it, but minus 1000 words, on Saturday afternoon. A whole day early.

Now, I wait.

What did I do well or what did I achieve? (Did I do what I said I wanted to do better?)
My biggest achievement this week was to make the decision on the project I wanted to do. This might not sound like much, but making that decision was actually a huge thing for me.

What didn’t go so well?
I think we know that already.

What do I want to do better next week?
Go to bed on time.
Plan my days and stick to the plan. This will be really important over the next two months as I complete my uni work.
Abandon the idea of 15 minutes of creative time every day and find two time blocks within the week when I can work on my creative projects.

20200816 The Sea Priestess

This week’s reading. This had been on my bookshelf unread for at least 15 years.

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: 2 (2, 8)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress: 5 (7, 11, 13, 17, 22)
  • Things not started: 4 (9, 12, 19, 21)
  • Days I stuck to my 15 minutes creative habit: 2
  • Days I read a book: 7
  • Days I did yoga stretches: 0
  • Days I was in bed by 10.30: 3

20 for 2020: week 32

Week of 3 August

My 20 for 2020 list.

20200803 Hinsby Beach 10

Why is that photographer coming back from the beach with a giant lens? Ohhhh! There’s a giant pink full moon out there! Why didn’t I bring my camera out?

We got the reading material for our final unit of the uni course (thing 8) on Monday. I spent a couple of hours organising the material and making a study plan so I know what I need to do over the next 11 weeks. I’m trying to be more organised with this unit so that I can get more out of it than I did the last one.


I have three weeks to work through the first three modules (there are six) before our face to face workshop. I thought that working through a topic in each module a day (most of them have five topics) would be a good pace. That would mean I’d need to set aside roughly an hour a day to work on it.

That sounded fine in theory, but finding that hour wasn’t as easy as I thought. I found myself drifting through my days without a plan and finishing the day without having done any of the work, so by Saturday morning, when I wanted to have completed the first module, I’d done exactly no readings.

It’s amazing how easy it is to not do the work when there is no real consequence of not doing it. I found with the assignment in the last unit, I could focus on that all day because I had to do it, there was a hard deadline, and there were major consequences of not doing it (i.e. failing the unit). Whereas with the course reading material, it’s all self-directed and you are responsible for doing it: there’s no one to check up on you, nothing to hand in and no mark at the end.

Clearly, if I want to get something out of this unit, this isn’t the way to do it, so I made it a priority on the weekend to complete the first module and to schedule regular time each day to work on the material. This fits in nicely with the work I am doing to better organise my workload at work and to try and prevent my role of being that annoying person in the branch who manages all the coordination requests (I mean, being my branch’s coordination superhero) leaking over into the rest of my day and affecting my ability to focus on the projects I’m supposed to be doing.

That’s a whole other story and perhaps I’ll write a post about it one day, once I get it worked out.

The other thing I need to do for uni is to decide on a workplace project and get started on planning that so I can hand in my draft project plan next week. This project will decide my final mark so there is a real consequence of not doing that. It’s been something I’ve been thinking about since the start of the course back in September 2019 but now it’s time to take my thoughts and put them into something that I’m actually doing to do. I have ten weeks to plan it, do it and report on it. No pressure, then.

20200803 Cherry blossom 1

Spring started to spring . . .

I didn’t hear back from the sewing machine people (thing 2), so I’m not sure where that’s at.

I had a conversation with one of my workmates this week, which turned into a conversation about our art (she’s a proper artist who has actually had shows). I was telling her about my Photoshop work (thing 7) and a vague idea for a project I want to do but how I feel a bit overwhelmed about getting stuck into it because it’s all so new and there is so much to learn. She said the same thing to me as I’ve heard and read so many times that it should be ingrained into my mind and something that I just do. That is, it doesn’t matter what you do, just do something. Make a commitment to do just one thing every day. She said for her it might be something as small as making a decision on the thickness of a hem. And she said that sometimes just doing one thing will lead you to do something else and something else and, before you know it, you might have completed a piece. Which is great. Or it might not, which is fine too because you’ll still be one step further than you were before you did it.

That’s the point of my 15 minutes a day creative habit. Just like my uni work, I need to schedule this and then actually do it. I know I can’t commit to doing huge chunks of the Photoshop course during the next ten weeks. I’ve already agreed with myself that I can’t possibly take on two huge study projects at the same time and that the Photoshop work is going to take a back seat for now. But 15 minutes a day, I can do that if for no other reason to reinforce to myself that I am creative and that I make art. Even if it’s bad art. To quote photographer David duChemin, everyone starts ugly. But without the ugly start, you’re never going to make anything beautiful.

I went back over my monthly review and picked up on the things I didn’t quite get through when I did it last week. In particular, I wanted to set some goals for August:

  • Complete all of the readings for Unit 4.
  • Decide on a workplace project and submit the proposal.
  • Commit to 15 minutes a day to creating something.
  • Finish two chapters of a book I’m working through.

20200804 Davey & Murray St 503pm-1

. . . and winter hit back

I also decided to ask myself three questions at the end of each week:

What did I do well or what did I achieve this week?
I can’t think of anything.

I need to pay attention to small wins and accomplishments to remind myself of the good things I did. And knowing I’m going to be writing about it each week is going to inspire me to think of at least one thing I did well . . . it’s going to look like I’m pretty down on myself if I only write about what didn’t go well!

Actually, now I think of it, I did do something well. I overcame my fear of speaking in meetings and contributed to a national meeting of about 40 people, most of whom I’ve never had anything do with, on a subject I am not very familiar with.

What didn’t go so well?
I’m still struggling with going to bed on time and getting up with the alarm instead of lying about in bed for half an hour or more. My Fitbit sleep scores are mid-80s. I want this to improve.

What do I want to do better next week?
Start packing up at 10.15. Set a reminder for this.

Schedule time to create something every day and actually do it.

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

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 24

Week of 8 June

My 20 for 2020 list.

After a weekend where I put off doing any work on my uni course (thing 8) until Monday, which was a public holiday, I succeeded in not doing any work on it at all. Instead, I spent the day writing, thinking, editing photos, wrestling with my computer and doing some work on my home studio (thing 11).

I also learned that if you put a flash on a camera the wrong way round, it doesn’t work. Who knew.

After getting my 100 per cent habit score for reading last week (thing 14, which I am happy to report I am still doing and actually finished two books this week), I passed another milestone this week.

Tuesday was the 100th day since I’ve had a drink. If you’d told me back at the start of the year when I decided to go a month without alcohol (thing 5) that I’d still be alcohol-free more than two months after finishing that challenge, there’s no way I’d have believed you. Regular drinking had been firmly ingrained in my identity for many years and, although I knew it wasn’t where I wanted to be, I enjoyed drinking and I couldn’t imagine a time without alcohol.

I might write about my experience later or I might not. I don’t want to sound like the preachy ex-drinker, and I don’t know how long I’ll keep this up for. But what I can say right now is that I believe that being alcohol-free is the best thing I can do for myself and I have felt better this last three months than I had done for many years as a regular drinker. I don’t feel any need to go back to where I was.

20200613 Hinsby Beach 2

Subtle afternoon colours

This week, Kramstable went back to school, which I think he was happy about. I have been really impressed by the work the schools have done to transfer students’ learning online for this last couple of months. I know I’m lucky to have a young person who is very self-directed and who adapted well to the situation and who’s old enough to be trusted to work independently. I imagine my experience working from home and supervising online learning would have been very different with a younger child or someone who isn’t as driven as Kramstable is. I’ll miss having him around during the day but I’m glad he’s able to go back to face to face learning. It makes a big difference, as I’m discovering with my uni work (thing 8). Two-hour zoom sessions aren’t anywhere near the same as the intensive three-day workshop we were supposed to have. I’m really struggling to get engaged with the work in this unit and I miss the opportunities to have the deep discussions with my fellow students that we’d been able to have in the previous units.

20200610 Workking at the Picnic Basket-1

Studying at the coffee shop

However, everyone is in the same boat and it’s just something I have to adapt to. Complaining isn’t going to get my work done!

I (re)learned a valuable lesson this week from a podcast I used to listen to regularly. This is The Productivity Show by Asian Efficiency. In this episode, they discussed the importance of focusing on only one goal at a time to avoid having fragmented effort and not really achieving anything. I could immediately see that this was something I was trying to do. Right now, I can see the Photoshop course on my list (thing 7) and I can see my uni course, both big projects that will take a lot of time and commitment to complete. But instead of focusing on one of them really intensely and getting it done, I’m dabbling in the uni course, wishing I were doing the Photoshop work, feeling bad I’m not doing that and not really focusing on the uni work either because the Photoshop work is hovering in the back of my mind. So I’m getting stressed about not doing the uni work either. This podcast was a brilliant reminder that I need to stop scattering my focus on too many things, even though I want to do them all, and acknowledge that right now is not the right time for the Photoshop work. Once I have made that space, I can focus on the uni work without feeling guilty about not doing the other work. I’m not quitting. I’m pausing, and I need to do this without guilt. Photoshop will still be there in a month when this unit is completed and I’ll be able to spend time on it then, knowing that I put my best effort into my uni work and that now it’s time to refocus on my art.

It seems such a simple concept and I think I’d forgotten it and was stretching myself too thinly. But worse than that, I wasn’t doing any of the work I needed to do on anything. I was stressing out about having so much to do that I wasn’t doing any of it. That really isn’t the way to get anything done. It’s time to put some things on hold, refocus on one thing and get to work.

But . . . (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?) what about my commitment to 15 minutes of creative work every day? I had been doing that in the mornings after my walk, but with my 30-minute mindfulness practice taking up that space, I didn’t want to get up even earlier to fit that in and it’s falling through the cracks. So I had a look at my afternoons. I go for a walk after I finish work every day before my afternoon mindfulness session. Then I have a period of about two to three hours, depending on the day and whether it’s my night to cook dinner, to do whatever I want. That might include sorting photos, deleting emails, writing, paying bills, scrolling social media, reading . . . or maybe . . . working on my uni assignment (yeah, right).

20200610 Waiting at the library

Clicking and collecting at the library

None of it is particularly well-directed, which is fair enough in a way after a day’s work. It’s not a super productive time of day but it’s a couple of hours. Sure, there are some things I need to do in that time, but there are other things I don’t have to do, so there is time to fit in things I really want to do. 15 minutes of space to work on photo projects? Look no further. Having already decided not to do the Photoshop work at this time, I still have plenty of other creative work to do and one project that jumped out at me was my Hobart Street Corners project, which I have neglected for several months. Editing those photos doesn’t take a huge amount of creative energy but it still allows me to dabble in my photo art. So that’s my new focus while I’m not fully engaged in the Photoshop work. It keeps me engaged but it’s familiar work so fear and resistance are less likely to put their hands up and try to stop me.

At least, that’s the plan.

20200613 Hinsby Beach 5

Summary for the week

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

20 for 2020: week 23

Week 23: Week of 1 June
My 20 for 2020 list.

I don’t feel like I achieved much this week.

20200601 Leaf on the ground 3 edit IG

Some winter colour

I spent a bit more time tidying up the work I finished on the wellbeing course (thing 3) last week and I’m quite happy with what I’ve done.

I’m struggling at work with finding ways to deal with a job that is, at the moment, very reactive and, consequently, not giving me much of an opportunity to work in the way I do my best work. I like to sit down and focus on something for long periods uninterrupted and I’m finding my inability to do this at work is flowing over into my personal work too. I’ve been looking for ways to manage this better at work and at home because I don’t see this changing any time soon. The procrastination tips I learned last week have certainly been a good start.

I missed a few days of my creative 15 minutes in the mornings this week, which is not something I’m happy about. Part of this is because of the longer meditations I’ve been doing, which is giving me less time in the morning, but lying in bed for half an hour after the alarm clock more than wipes out the time I could be doing my creative work. So I can’t really blame the meditation, can I? The days I did do it, I felt good about it. When I actually got started. I just need to convince lie-in-bed me that it feels great to get up and do the work. Even if it is freezing cold!

In amongst me not doing a whole lot of stuff, a nice little milestone slipped by this week. My habit tracking app now records my reading habit (thing 14) as being 100 per cent consistent. I’m not sure exactly what that means but I think it means I’ve done the habit more or less consistently for at least 90 days. I was thinking about this as I updated my reading list and noticed that I have almost read as many books before the halfway point of this year than I did in the whole of 2019.

20200603 Reading habit

Habit achieved

This got me thinking about goals and habits, and some of what I’ve read about that. Essentially, what some people who know lots about habits and productivity say is that focusing on building a consistent practice rather than focusing on your goals is what will get you to where you want to be. So if you want to run a marathon (I don’t know why that always comes up as an example, but it seems to be one of the go-to goals in these explanations), you have your goal of running the marathon but you don’t focus on that. You focus on setting up a training program, showing up for every session and doing the work, and the consistent work is what gets you to be able to run a marathon.

So in my case, in 2019, I set a goal of reading 12 books (low bar, I know) and I set out to achieve this by reading 20 pages every morning after my walk. That worked well for a while, but I wasn’t wedded to the 20 pages thing and all I really wanted to do was check the 12 books thing off the list. After I’d done that, which happened in March, I didn’t have anywhere to go. The goal wasn’t there to motivate me any more and I let the habit gradually fall away, with the result being I read 21 books in 2019. Twelve in the first three months and only nine for the rest of the year. I met the goal but I didn’t make reading a habit.

This year, I decided to focus on the habit instead of the number of books I read. My thing for 2020 was to develop a habit of reading for pleasure. I tried a few different ways of doing it. Reading after my walk hadn’t worked for me. Reading on the way to work on the bus did, but I didn’t catch the bus every day and for the last three months I’ve been working at home so there’s no bus ride to read on. I decided to try reading in bed before going to sleep. In the past, this hasn’t been successful. I think this is because I would stay up too late and be too tired to read by the time I got to bed. A major part of that was drinking alcohol in the evenings. That’s a story for another time, but I’ve found by not drinking at night, not only am I going to bed earlier (and getting more sleep and better quality sleep), but I’m also able to be sufficiently alert to be able to read for 10 or 15 minutes before I go to sleep. According to the habit tracker, I have read every night (apart from one) since 2 March, which gets me the 100 per cent tick. Yay! And I have read 19 books so far in 2020, only two fewer than for the whole of 2019.

I’m not sure when you can call “develop a habit” as a thing done, because I could just as easily stop doing it today. I don’t subscribe to the “it takes 21 or 66 or whatever-other-magical-number-people-have-come-up-with days to build a habit”. After all, I meditated for 515 days in a row and still managed to lose the habit after missing just one day, so I don’t think the number of days means much at all. I bet I could develop a habit of eating chocolate every day in less than a week and then take the best part of a year to break the habit. For my reading, I think 90 days is enough to convince me that this is a habit I want to continue, combined with not drinking and going to bed at a decent hour, so I’m calling this thing done.

20200603 Hinsby Beach 2

A beach and a rainbow

That means that I’ve now finished ten out of my 20 things (yes, I know there are actually 22 things) before halfway through the year so, based on the numbers, I’m on track to get through all 20. However, obviously, some things are bigger commitments than others and are going to take a lot of time, and some of the things I’ve done were pretty easy wins (reorganise my sock drawer, anyone?), so just looking at the numbers isn’t really that helpful in terms of predicting how I’ll be sitting at the end of the year, but it does still feel good to be into double digits.

Summary for the week

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

20 for 2020: week 22

Week 22: Week of 25 May

My 20 for 2020 list.

20200530 Sunrise Taroona Beach 1

Happy Saturday

I got my mark for my uni assignment (thing 8) on Monday and to say I was surprised was an understatement. It was a lot better than I had expected, especially after having done so much of it at the last minute. I was glad that the lecturer commented on my hand-drawn picture that I had spent countless hours fretting over and that I got some recognition for the work I’d put into that. Her feedback on my writing was a huge confidence boost and makes me think maybe I can get through this. It has also inspired me to strive for a better mark than a pass for the next assignment. So much for “done is good enough”. I doubt I will ever believe that.

At least the next assignment is going to be about something that relates to my work, and it might make a difference at work—which is the point of doing the course—so I might struggle a bit less with it.

We had an online seminar this week to make up for not having the face to face workshop that was supposed to have been this week, and we have three more of those lined up in June. I’ve missed the interaction with the other students and the discussions we were able to have at previous workshops. But we are not in that world any more, so we have to adapt.

After deciding not to watch any more videos from the Photoshop course (thing 7) until I’d done some of the work, I did precisely nothing this week.

No. I lie.

I found out how to import gradients into Photoshop and I imported some of them from the course material.

Did I use them? No.

20200529 Sunset 3-Edit

I edited this in Photoshop

Let us assume I am relatively competent at my uni course. The material doesn’t scare me as much as overwhelm me with its sheer volume. While I am unfamiliar with some of the concepts, the framework in which they are presented is one that I have worked in for 20 years, so it’s all variations on a theme rather than a completely new mindset to learn. It’s intense but it’s not a world that is very far outside my comfort zone. I can do this work.

Photoshop, on the other hand, is a new world for me. I’ve dabbled in it for years doing very basic photo adjustments and refining my mad cloning skills, but I have never attempted to create an artwork using its tools. Actually, come to think of it, I have never really attempted to create any artwork anywhere, ever. A few dodgy paintings here and there that I didn’t enjoy making. Some line drawings that I enjoyed rather a lot more. I don’t consider myself an artist (that’s a rabbit hole for another day) so making art is not something I am comfortable doing or saying I’m doing. Yet clearly I want to, or why did I sign up to this course?

I am procrastinating on this big time. Why?

Unlike the uni course, this is all new and scary. Even though I want to do it, I am terrified, because I have no idea what I’m doing and I’m scared of making a mistake.

I learned a bit about procrastination last week. One of the reasons we procrastinate is fear, which provokes the fight/flight/freeze response from our brains. It doesn’t matter that the “danger” isn’t real. It’s not a bear chasing me that I have to get away from, but my brain perceives the thing it has labelled as a threat in exactly the same way and wants to respond in the same way it would respond to a bear—by getting away from it.

Isn’t that hilarious? I am so terrified of making a mistake in a skill that I’m only just learning and that has the easiest mistake erasing tool of all, the undo command, that I will do anything to avoid doing it.

Now you know, and I know, that when you are learning a new skill, you make mistakes precisely because you don’t know how to do it yet. You are learning. I am in constant admiration of Kramstable, who is taking art at school and is giving his all to learn techniques that he has never used before, experimenting and learning from what he’s been doing.

And at the other end of the scale, even when you’ve mastered a skill, you’re still not immune from mistakes. Look at the current Masterchef contestants who, despite many years experience in the industry, still manage to overlook fish, undercook rice and forget to add salt.

It’s totally a mindset thing, right?

So, how do we overcome this? I’ve seen a few strategies suggested to overcome procrastination. One I really like is the idea of starting covertly so your brain doesn’t know what you’re doing and doesn’t have the chance to invoke the fear response. That is, you say, “I’m just going to turn the computer on”; “I’m just going to write the first sentence”; “I’m just going to open up a photo and look at it”. What’s supposed to happen is that this tiny step leads you on to keep going and before you know it you’re doing the work and your brain has no idea it was supposed to be scared of that activity.

I’m sure my brain knows, when I say “I’m just going to write one sentence” that isn’t all I’m going to do, just as it knows that I can’t learn a new skill without making a few (a lot of) mistakes, so I’m not sure how this is supposed to work. My challenge this week is to see if it actually does work, because fighting with my mind over whether it is okay to make mistakes or not is clearly not working. My scared mind is winning every time. So I need another way to outwit it. I’ll just open up Photoshop . . .

Well, that went on for a bit longer than I had intended. But it was a useful thing to work through.

20200525 K&D Warehouse 4-Edit

Doomed Tasmanian icon, K&D Warehouse

I went back over the wellbeing work (thing 3) and reviewed what I needed to do with it and realised that I actually needed something slightly different than the work that was being suggested. My reluctance to do the work has resulted in me putting off doing it all year. Now that I’ve tweaked it to be something I’ll actually use, it was a relatively quick job to finish everything off that I didn’t complete last year. So thing 3 is done.

Sunday was 31 May, the last Sunday of the month, so it was time to do my monthly review from Unravel Your Year (thing 22). With the covid-19 restrictions starting to be eased off a bit, it was great to be able to go and sit in the coffee shop to reflect on the month and what I’d learned, do the review and set my new goals for June.

20200531 Monthly review at Picnic Basket-Edit

Sunday morning coffee

Summary for the week

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

20 for 2020: week 18

My 20 for 2020 list.

20200501 Hinsby Beach 6

Afternoon walk

I signed up for a new Photoshop course during the week. It’s by one of the instructors of the other course I’m doing (thing 7) and when I got the email advertising the course at a massive discount I thought for ages about whether I should sign up for another course when I hadn’t made much progress with the one I was already doing (and not making much progress on). But the special deal and super discounted price were sweet and I am a sucker for signing up to pushy emails that try to sell me courses, so here I am.

I did do a bit of research and I asked them about whether there would be much overlap between this course and the one I’m already doing. There isn’t, and their answer is what really convinced me to do it, which is that this is more of a Photoshop course and it covers a lot of the basic elements of the app that I don’t know much about and have been using with only a vague idea of what I’m doing and get frustrated when they don’t work properly. I think this course will give me more of what I need right now and it will give me some of the foundations I need to do the course I was originally planning on doing, which covers some elements of photography as well as Photoshop. I’ve started work on the first module and have learned (and applied) a lot already. One of the first lessons was about setting up a graphics tablet and I learned a couple of new things about my tablet (thing 17), which was a bonus.

20200430 Lavender on my walk 4

Collecting ideas on my walk

As a result of starting this course, I decided to change my 20 for 2020 list slightly and make this new course thing 7 on my list. Of course, there’s no reason why I can’t complete both of them this year, and that would be brilliant. But looking at the uni work (thing 8) for the next two and a bit months, and then the final unit after that, I can’t see me having a lot of time to devote to these courses until the middle of October when uni finishes. So I am just aiming to get one course done, or as much of it as I can, this year. I think this will require some better time management and scheduling than I currently have, and I will need to go back and finish the Indistractable work (thing 13) so that I can become more focused.

Unit 3 of my uni course officially started on Monday and the first assignment is due in two weeks. No pressure! After a full-on unit last time and with all the odd things going on at the moment, I’m finding it really hard to muster any enthusiasm for it at all. I’ve been enjoying the extra free time to work on my creative projects and I feel like I’m making progress there. So I need to get my head around this. It does seem like it will be relevant to my work and will have things we can apply at work throughout the unit but the thought of starting a new unit, with new materials and a big reading pile, is not filling me with joy right now and I’ve only started one of the readings.

I continued to work on the journalling for the wellbeing course (thing 3) and am finding the overlaps between this and some of my personal development work from the previous uni module really useful. Some of it also links to the Indistractable work.

20200430 Tree at Taroona beach 4

Same tree as last week, slightly different light

I’ve been reading in bed every night (thing 14). I never used to like to read in bed so I didn’t think this was a good time to do it but now I’m going to bed earlier than I used to, I’m not quite as tired and reading puts me more in the mood to sleep than before, when I’d just crash as soon as I got into bed.

Sunday was my allocated day for doing my monthly review of my Unravel Your Year workbook (thing 22). Sitting at home in my room with a takeaway coffee isn’t quite the same as sitting in my local coffee shop first thing in the morning, but these are the times I’m living in and I’m glad the coffee shop is close enough for me to be able to do this. It was still nice to reflect on what I learned last month and to clarify what I want to focus on this month. Now I just have to get myself to work on that uni assignment!

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: 6 (3, 7, 8, 14, 17, 22)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress: 2 (11, 13)
  • 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 11

Week of 9 March

My 20 for 2020 list.

Monday was a public holiday (yay) so I let myself sleep in a bit (which is code for lying in bed and thinking about how great it feels not to wake up slightly hungover because I am into week two of 30 days without alcohol (thing 5)) before I went for a walk and worked on my photo project (thing 1).

20200309 Mushrooms in the compost 03-Edit-Edit

I found some funghi in the compost heap

I actually finished three 15-minute photo editing blocks on Monday. I got this app called Forest, which is meant to stop you doing stuff on your phone when you’re supposed to be working. You plant a tree and set the timer for how long you want to work, and if you leave the app to do something else on your phone, the tree dies. Who wants to be responsible for killing a tree? Over time, you build a up a forest and the more work you do, the cooler trees you can unlock. Of course it doesn’t stop you doing other stuff on your computer than what you’re supposed to be working on, but it does discourage you from doing stuff on your phone, which can be a pretty big distraction. And who wants to kill a tree!

I think there’s another feature on there where you can join up with friends and you can set it so if you go onto your phone while you’re supposed to be working you kill your friends’ trees as well. How’s that for accountability?!

I’d heard of this app before but never tried it and decided to do it as I was flicking through chapter 18 of Indistractable (thing 13), which is “hack back your phone”. In this chapter, Nir encourages you to get rid of apps you don’t use that clutter up your screen, and to reconsider what you have on your phone that distracts you. Nir uses the examples of YouTube, Facebook and Twitter in the book, which he says he took off his phone and now only accesses on his computer so he can still stay in touch with people and watch videos, but isn’t tempted to get out his phone and start scrolling when he gets bored. Nir shares a photo of his phone’s home screen, which has Forest on it, so I decided to give it a try. I’ve only killed one tree so far and that was because I left the app without thinking about it. Ooops.

20200311 Sad little plant edit

Sad little plant. Not the one I killed in Forest

As well as removing distracting apps, I’ve also heard of people who remove email from their phones and only look at it at fixed times on their computer to avoid the distraction. I actually like to have it on my phone because if I get a few spare moments, I can go in there and delete any emails I know I don’t want to read, so I have fewer to deal with when I do go on my computer.

Another part of this work is to move things off your front screen that distract you so that you only see apps that you actually need. The idea is if you put Instagram into a folder and put that three or four screens deep, it will take you more effort to get to it and you’ll be less likely to go on it because it isn’t right in front of you. At least it forces you to make a choice to get to it instead of having it right in front of you to tempt you. That’s the theory. I don’t find it makes much of a difference to me. I still find it! The only way I would really stay away from Instagram would be if I deleted it altogether and I’m not going to do that. If I want to stay off it I’ll plant a tree!

The final part of this chapter talks about turning off notifications that distract you, which is something I have been doing for a while, and I have very few notifications on my phone now. And if I really don’t want to be disturbed, the Do Not Disturb feature makes sure I don’t get any notifications at all.

If I’d had “get the gazillion tests that my optometrist keeps insisting I have” as one of my things, I would have ticked that off the list this week too.

20200312 Bored at the optometrist 5

Waiting for tests at the optometrist

I worked on my uni personal development plan (thing 8) early in the week as a way of avoiding doing work on my assignment, which is due in two weeks but then I spent several hours over the weekend working on it to makeup that time. It’s going okay at this stage. I have a lot more to do though.

20200314 Empress Towers 6

Saturday afternoon

I stuck some more of my 2019 photo collages into my journal (thing 4) and even stuck in the tab stickers to mark the months. I have 12 more collages to stick in and this will be done. For my wellbeing course (thing 3) I listened to this month’s bonus webinar about moods and moon phases, which I found really interesting.

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): 7

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)