Category Archives: personal challenges

19 for 2019: week 32 update

Week of 5 August 2019

I’m finding as I make my way through my list of 19 things I want to complete, there are fewer opportunities to make a lot of progress now that I only have five incomplete things.

This week, I contacted the sewing machine repair people (thing 10) and I am on their list of people to contact next time they’re in town, so I’m playing the waiting game now. I’ve progressed that as far as I can.

I printed some of the photos for my photo project (thing 16) to see how they’d turn out when I finally finish the project. And I made a colour coding system in Lightroom for my folio (thing 2).

I’m still working on getting a bedtime routine in place (thing 6) and am slowly making progress. Sort of. I’ve been keeping up with the weekly classes too so I’ll call that progress this week.

Status for week 32

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

Weekend wisdom 8

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

This week, I stumbled on Dr Sarah McKay, a neuroscientist who studies women’s brains. She’s also an author and presents the ABC’s Catalyst program. On her blog Your Brain Health, Sarah outlines the seven habits of healthy brains, which she says are:

  1. Sleep—it needs to be a priority, not a luxury. It is essential for consolidating memories and draining waste products from our brain. We also under-consume natural light during the day and over-consume artificial light at night, disrupting our natural rhythms, hormones and immune systems.
  2. Move—physical exercise is the best exercise for your brain. It triggers the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which promotes neurone growth and survival, reduced inflammation and supports the formation of long-term memories.
  3. Nourish—she says research favours a Mediterranean-style diet of mostly plants, fish, some meat, olive oil and nuts.
  4. Calm—chronic stress can change the wiring of our brains. Too much cortisol prevents the birth of new neurones and causes the hippocampus to shrink, reducing your powers of learning and memory. Meditate, walk or nap. Do something you’re good at that requires some degree of challenge.
  5. Connect—we are social animals and have a fundamental need for human warmth and connection. Loneliness and social isolation is as bad for us as smoking.
  6. Challenge—regularly challenge your mind and stay mentally active. Choose mentally challenging activities that you can practise regularly, that are reasonably complex and take you out of your cognitive comfort zone.
  7. Believe—seek out your purpose in life. People who score high in purpose live longer, healthier and more fulfilling lives. Set fantastic, passionate goals and work like crazy to achieve them. Find your place of flow.

What struck me when I was reading this was that six of these seven things are the exact same things I am (or will be) working on in my wellbeing program. So this is good to know.

Another post I found useful was from the Insight timer blog, an app I used to use regularly but haven’t used for several months now. It talks about morning routines, which are supposed to be good for us in setting up our day, but which I have fallen out of lately. This post specifically talks about how to alleviate anxious feelings by establishing a healthy morning routine. I generally don’t have a problem with anxious thoughts in the morning but the routine is similar to what I used to do before it all fell apart.

This is their suggestion for such a routine:

  1. Examine your thoughts
  2. Get up and hydrate
  3. Practise gratitude
  4. Breathe
  5. Meditate (incidentally, Sarah McKay’s blog has a great article on what to do if meditation stresses you out, which I’m kind of glad to hear her say because when I was doing it I always felt like it wasn’t helping me and I guess that’s one reason why it was so easy for me to not resume when I broke my 500+ day streak last year, when I think I was doing it under a sense of obligation to maintain the streak than any actual benefit. Maybe that’s one to think about for another day.)
  6. Exercise

I found this great article from songwriter Christine Kane on another blog I read occasionally. It’s about how to overcome “attention splatter”.  Of all the articles and tips I’ve picked up over the years I’m finding this to be one of the simplest and clearest outlines of what to do when you “mindlessly and half-heartedly splatter your attention on non-activities, but you never fully engage”. This sounds like me.

Christine’s seven steps are:

  1. Have no more than three priorities for the day. Ask yourself, “If I only accomplish one thing today, which one thing would make me most happy?”
  2. Know the task before you sit down at the computer. Assign tasks. (i.e. “Clean out email folders”) Assign times. (“From 1pm to 2pm”) Stop as soon as the end time arrives.
  3. Put an end to activities that leak (like checking mails). Make a list of “leaky” activities, and stop the leaks by scheduling these activities—and stop when the time is up.
  4. Use your small slices of time. Learn to fit constructive things in to small slices of time. (Along the same lines, this week’s Asian Efficiency podcast has a heap of ideas for activities you can fit into small slices of time.)
  5. Use your intention. Before you begin any activity, set an intention for that activity. Focus on your desired outcome and how you want to feel during the activity.
  6. Get rid of anything that doesn’t feed you—emails, unread books, subscriptions . . .  if you subscribe to it, ask yourself why. Start letting go of stuff. Be ruthless about keeping the incoming stuff to a minimum.
  7. Be present in your down-time. When you take a nap, take a nap. When you take a Saturday off, really take it off. Don’t spend the day obsessing about the things you should be doing.

I think the last one is a really great thing to keep in mind. You aren’t going to recover and rejuvenate yourself if you keep working and don’t take a proper break.

And finally, two thoughts from James Clear. Or one thought and a question:

An imperfect start can always be improved, but obsessing over a perfect plan will never take you anywhere on its own.

I need to put this up in very large print above my desk.

How long will you put off what you are capable of doing just to continue what you are comfortable doing?

Indeed.

19 for 2019: week 31 update

Week of 29 July 2019

I’ve not made a lot of progress on my five remaining 19 for 2019 things.

I really should contact the sewing machine repair person (thing 10), especially as Kramstable says he’s enjoying his textile work at school that he’s started this term.

With my photo folio (thing 2), as I’m already sorting my photos each week (or thereabouts) for my 2019 photojournal so it makes sense to pick out the ones that are potential folio material at the same time. That way I only have to review the week’s photos once.

I did a bit more work on my photo project (thing 16).

Early bedtime has become a bit of a dream, I think (thing 6). I’ve been writing up my bedtimes on my whiteboard so I can see how well I’m not doing at going to bed by about 10.30. The last two weeks, I’ve never gone to bed before 10.50. I think I need some new strategies to make this happen. On the positive side, I haven’t missed a day’s walk for a long time, even if it’s just been to the bus stop at the end of the street (because I didn’t get out of bed because I was so tired from staying up too late). I’m also revisiting some of the work I did earlier in the wellbeing course to try and re-establish some of those habits.

Bonus thing No-buy July, which got extended into August because I slipped up, is going well. I haven’t bought a single book, item of clothing or new pen or signed up for any class (not even free ones). One week to go with that one (actually, four days) before I can *happy dance* buy the book I’ve been eyeing off the last couple of weeks. It’s one I’ve thought about a lot as it will complement some of the work I’ve been struggling with in the wellbeing course. So it won’t be a spur of the moment purchase. It’s one I’ve considered carefully.

Here’s a photo of a lost shopping trolley of Hobart waiting for its morning coffee.

20190731 Lost trolley waits for its coffee edit

Status for week 31

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

19 for 2019: week 30 update

Week of 22 July

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

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

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

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

20190725 Clouds over 36 Davey St edit

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

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

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

Status for week 30

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

Weekend wisdom 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20190725 Cool cloud 2

A cool cloud I saw on Thursday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love this!

Some other things that got my attention this week were

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

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

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

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

James says:

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

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

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

19 for 2019: week 29

Week of 15 July (week 29)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20190716 After manicure 3

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

But!

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

20190719 Waterfront from Mac 2 03

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

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

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

Status for week 29

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

Weekend wisdom 5

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

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

Imperfectly.

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

20180115 T&G Building 2

T&G Building, Hobart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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