Category Archives: personal challenges

20 for 2020: week 7

Week of 10 February

After two intense days of editing my uni assignment last weekend, I was grateful for a public holiday on Monday to recover.

Kramstable and I were home and we took advantage of the space I’d made to set up the studio equipment (thing 11) and find out how we might be able to make it work. It didn’t all go according to plan and there are a few issues we need to sort out, but it’s happening.

I went to the coffee shop on Monday morning and did some of the journalling for the creative abundance course (thing 6). This was about projects I want to work on and how I might go about making them happen. I can now tick off the work for lessons 12 and 13. One of the projects is my photo project (thing 1), which I’m working on in my 15 minute creative time in the mornings. I missed one day because I slept through my alarm and woke up so late I didn’t even have time to go for a walk. I had gone home sick the day before and I had slept half that day, so I’ll cut myself some slack there. Being unwell is a reason not to walk and I obviously needed sleep. Needing the sleep isn’t the same thing as lying in bed for an hour because I can’t force myself to get up.

I finished the journalling for days 14 and 15 of the creative abundance course. There’s a lot of work involved in this and part of me thinks I’d be better off going out and doing something than writing about why I want to do it. But having a why is important because it keeps you motivated when you feel like giving up, so I’m going to keep working on it. (Yes, I feel like giving up on the thing that is supposed to motivate me to keep going when I feel like giving up. What?!)

I stuck in two photo collages into my 2019 journal just to say I had made some progress on thing 4.

I have to complete the second module of my uni unit (thing 8) in preparation for the face to face workshop that starts on Monday so I worked on that. I came up with a startling realisation connected to one of the readings that I need to explore further, on top of all the things that came out of the work I did on my assignment. This has been an intense unit.

I’m still trying to get my reading habit (thing 14) established. Some nights when I go to bed early enough I read in bed, and some days I read on the bus on the way to work. But I don’t always go to bed on time and I don’t always catch the bus, so I wouldn’t call either of them habits just yet. I finished reading Clare Bowditch’s memoir, Your Own Kind of Girl, which is a wonderful book. Subtitled The stories we tell ourselves and what happens when we believe them, the things that Clare related touched me deeply and what I reflected in as I was reading it connected with the work I’ve been doing in my uni self-analysis and in the creative abundance course. Funny how there are things you need to hear and they all come and hit you at the same time in a pretty intense sort of way.

20200214 Your Own Kind of Girl

Go and read this book!

As I said a couple of weeks ago, I’m still struggling with doing the scheduling exercise from the book Indistractible (thing 13) so that’s delayed me I’ve used that as an excuse to delay doing the other work from the book. I recently watched this video from Brooke Shaden about how she structures her days, which I found interesting and I thought it might be fun to imagine that I didn’t have to attend my place of employment and make up a weekly schedule of how my life might be if my life were solely dedicated to my creative work. So I made a Google calendar called “my artistic life”, hid all my other calendars and set to work.

A few things jumped out from that. First, I had no travel time, which would free up about an hour and a half every day for me to do my creative work. I was also able to schedule in the things I have to do to keep my creative work organised, like sorting photos, that I struggle to find time for now and that take time away from actually doing things with my photos.

The ideal week was probably unrealistic because didn’t take into account the fact that there are people, like my family, who might sometimes want to spend time with me. But it did see me going out walking three times a day and having a 30-minute nap at my lowest energy time of day. At that time of day I’m useless to anyone so might as well be napping rather than being completely unproductive struggling to keep my eyes open. It was a fun exercise and maybe there are some adjustments I can make to my current schedule (that I never stick to) to bring it closer to my ideal creative week.

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

20 for 2020: week 6

Week of 3 February 

School went back this week. I had the first two days off with Kramstable before I went back to work and he went back to school. I always find January a bit unsettling because there’s no real routine. I work longer hours at the start of January to cover some of the days leave I need to take at the end of January before school goes back, so my normal routines never quite fit the January days. Some of them are long work days and some of them are no work days when I spend time with Kramstable.

QNTI20200205 Waiting for Mark at school edit

Back to work colours

The family issue I’ve been dealing with has added an extra layer of complication into the mix, as has having to undergo a fairly extensive process of self-analysis for my uni assignment (thing 8) in only three weeks. The time I’d like to have devoted to this wasn’t available to me and I had to make use of the time I did have to do this as well as I could.

I spent several hours undistracted in at work on Saturday trying to complete the assignment and then I spent an excessive amount of time on Sunday being incredibly nit-picky to try and get the word count down. It was a frustrating process because every time I read it through, something else occurred to me that I needed to say that was relevant to the assessment criteria. I spent hours shuffling and reshuffling sentences and paragraphs until I had a story that flowed well and said everything I could reasonably expect to cover in 1500 words. Except that it was closer to 2000 words. By this stage, after two days, I couldn’t bear to read through it again and try to cut more out. Removing anything else would have disturbed the flow and lost important parts of my story so I decided to hand it in and accept any consequences for exceeding the word limit.

This was a self assessment and personal development plan and what I wrote relates well to other development work I’m doing, some of which made it into the essay and some of which didn’t. The stuff that didn’t make it in is still important and I’ve kept it to feed into my master development plan. (That sounds more impressive than it is, but I’m working on it.)

After the family issue and the intensity of the uni work, I’ve tried to re-establish “normality” by being more committed to the “just 15 minutes” of my creative work first thing after my walk. This week I did it every day, an improvement on last week’s two days. During this time, I worked on my photo project (thing 1) and on some other photos I wanted to edit.

I had a bunch of photo collages for my journal (thing 4) ready to print as a result of last week’s sprint to get all of 2019 finished last week and then forgot to take them to get printed on tightarse printing day, so they can wait for another day. In the meantime, I have eight collages already printed, so I trimmed them all down ready to stick in the book. Progress.

Setting up the studio (thing 11) isn’t as big of a thing as it might sound. I got a dodgy backdrop and lighting kit from eBay a while ago to experiment with portrait making. It also has a green backdrop that Kramstable is interested in for his videos. There’s only one or two places in the house where I can set it up, and it has to be packed up again when I’m done with it; I can’t leave it there all the time. So this week I moved a pile of stuff away from one of the potential setup areas, got everything out of the box and that was enough for now. At least I made space.

I had my hearing test (thing 16). Lots of things came out of it, including some issues that are related to my master development plan. It’s interesting that health issues in one area show up as problems somewhere else and the solution is not always as simple as addressing the presenting issue. As the audiologist said, everything is connected. Among other things, I was assessed as having a low noise tolerance, which explains why I always feel so anxious and tense when I’m in noisy environments—and “noisy” for me is a lot quieter than most people would consider “noisy”, so it doesn’t take much to trigger this. Not an ideal situation when work in an open plan office! The next step is to talk to my GP about how I can manage this.

It was a full-on week.

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

20 for 2020: week 5

Week of 27 January

I was on leave this week and fully expected to spend it hanging out with Kramstable, doing some work on my uni course, and working on some of my photo projects.

20200127 Scoby city edit

If you ever wondered what happens to a kombucha scoby when you leave it alone for four months, I found out so you don’t have to. Also, the chickens love it.

I didn’t anticipate that I would be spending a lot of the week dealing with a family issue and that my plans were going to unravel.

The first thing to disappear was my 15 minutes a day working on my photo project (thing 1) as recommended in the creative kickstart course (thing 6). My plan, as I explained in week 2, was to set aside 15 minutes every morning after I return from my (non-negotiable) walk to work on a creative project. The aim was to make this as non-negotiable as walking is, but it hasn’t clicked yet. I guess I’m still in the early stages, and thinking how much of a struggle it was to get back into walking after I stopped for a couple of weeks, and acknowledging the difficulties of the moment, I don’t want to be too hard on myself. I just have to keep trying. This week I did it two days out of seven, which is better than no days out of seven. It’s 30 minutes I wouldn’t have otherwise done.

20200127 UTas Chemistry 11-Edit

Monday morning photowalk

This is the second official week of my second uni unit (thing 8). I sat in on a webinar with the lecturer early in the week to discuss the work we need to do before our first face to face workshop and for our first assignment, which is due on 9 February. I started work on the assignment and am feeling pretty overwhelmed by it all right now. I have a lot more to do and the unexpected events haven’t helped. I have to keep reminding myself that I can only do what I can do, it doesn’t have to be perfect and what is most important is the learning, not the grade I get. (I struggle with this idea. A lot.)

I completed all the remaining photo collages from 2019 (thing 4), so now I have to print them and stick them in the book. I think all up I’ll have about 26 collages to trim and stick. A boring task for when I’m really bored. I also completed the first four weeks of 2020 and have to figure out a way to keep this work up to date so I’m not left with weeks and weeks to do at a time. That might actually mean trying to make it a weekly habit rather than hoping it gets done and ending up weeks behind like I have been. How does that sound for someone who can’t stick to a schedule? This needs some more thinking.

I reviewed the work I’ve done so far on the creative kickstart course. The “just 15 minutes” is the main takeaway I have so far.  I worked through two more days of the material (Days 12 and 13).

Thing 22 (of 20, yeah, I know) was to commit to and do the monthly review in Susannah Conway’s Unravel Your Year workbook, which is intended as a prompt to remind me to actually keep what I’ve said I’m going to do this year at the front of my mind rather than complete the workbook and forget about it for the rest of the year.

I wasn’t sure what a monthly review would look like, so on Sunday I grabbed the book and went to my local coffee shop to reflect. I made a note of the main events of the month and completed the sections on what I’ve been grateful for that month and what you’ve learned. Following that are some reflection questions that are different each month, so I jotted down some responses and made a list of action steps to take as a result. I flipped through the workbook and had a look at everything I had written and started to feel overwhelmed because there were all these grand ambitions but no real plan to put them into action. Not how I wanted to feel.

20200202 Monthly review at the Picnic Basket edit

Sunday morning

I decided to let that go for now and try to focus my attention on the most important thing at the moment (other than the family issue), my assignment. At the moment it’s the thing on my to-do list that is weighing most heavily on me. I feel like until I can get everything I want to say out of my head (and out of the readings) and onto the page so that I can sit down and start to edit it, I’m going to continue to feel feeling scattered and light headed. I’m recognising a pattern here in every assignment I do, and I’m not sure if there is another way to do this, or accept it’s just the way I do things and to roll with it.

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

20 for 2020: week 4

Week of 20 January

20200122 Sunrise Taroona Beach edit

Wednesday morning walk on the beach

There’s not a lot to report on this week. I went to work and had two days off that were largely taken up with family matters, a big event on Saturday and a long bike ride and some study on Sunday. It means I didn’t get as much done on my 20 for 2020 list as I would have hoped but I managed to keep some of the things ticking along.

This is the first official week of my second uni unit (thing 8). I was very relieved that there are a lot fewer readings in this module than there were in the last one, some of which I didn’t manage to read and are still sitting in a pile waiting for me. (Yes, I know. Go paperless. I can’t read on screen. I have to have the paper so I can scribble on it and get out the highlighter pen). There is a lot of reflection to do in this unit and the first module is about understanding yourself, your style, preferences, strengths, values and identity. It’s something we’ve been looking at at work, as well as tying in with some other work I’ve been doing recently, including Indistractable (thing 13) and the wellbeing course (thing 3), neither of which I progressed this week. I’m interested to see where this is going to take me.

I made some more photo collages (thing 4). I have four weeks left to do plus the first four weeks of this year.

I have committed to working on my photo project (thing 1) for 15 minutes every day, an activity from the creative kickstart course (thing 6). 15 minutes is better than nothing and it means I’m making progress on a project that stalled last year. This week I did that for six mornings, so I’m happy with that. I listened to another one of the course lessons this week too.

I had a bit of a revelation, which wasn’t so much a revelation than a reminder, that in all of this work, I don’t have to do everything. I need to take what is going to work for me in the place where I am right now. For example, there are going to be days especially leading up to intense periods of uni work, where I will not have the time to sit down for even one block of 50 minutes to do my creative work, let alone three or four. I’m currently looking for slots in the day where I might be able to fit some of this work it in as well as my 15 minutes in the morning.

This all relates to the Indistractable work too and the struggle I’ve been having trying to schedule everything. I’m very good at making schedules. I can timeblock forever. I love composing timetables down to the smallest detail. But ask me to actually do the things on the schedule and that’s never going to happen. If I’m doing something and the time comes do start on something else, the chances of me doing that are basically none, unless it’s “go to doctor’s appointment” (or “meet friend for lunch”).

So I’ve been scouring the internet for ideas on what to do if you can’t make yourself stick to your calendar.

I posted in one of my Facebook groups asking for help too. Someone suggested I was aiming too high trying to schedule everything and that I could try to put one regular thing in my calendar each week, commit to that and make that a solid habit before moving onto the next one. I like that.

Someone else suggested putting an alarm on my phone and putting the phone out of reach so I have to get up to turn it off, thereby stopping me doing what I was doing and giving me a better chance of actually doing the thing I want to do (in this case, go to bed on time), because the act of getting up will force me to stop what I’m doing, so I then have to take that opportunity to stop properly, not just pause.

A final person said maybe I’m just not a calendar person (I think that’s right) and maybe I need to just pick out the top three things to do each day and work on them until they’re done. That might work but I think it will require planning so I can figure out what are the most important things I need to do and I would still need to figure out when to fit them into my day. So I’m not sure if that gets me any further ahead.

But anyway, baby steps.

Summary for the week

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

20 for 2020: week 3

Week of 13 January 2020

This was my last full week of work before school goes back so I am rather looking forward to some time off next week.

This week, I rang the hearing centre and booked a hearing test (thing 16). They didn’t have any appointment for the tests I need for three weeks but I’ve finally made the appointment, so this thing is now in progress after me putting it off for more than six months.

I read some more of my uni material (thing 8) and started work on some of the exercises. The unit officially starts on Monday and the first assignment is due three weeks later. So I think most of my effort is going to be directed at that for the next three weeks. I’m really excited for this unit because it focuses on self management and a lot of the material is stuff I’m already familiar with so I think I’ll enjoy this work.

I started putting my phone away when I’m travelling to work and have been reading on the bus instead (thing 14). In my quest to develop an evening routine (thing 3), I’ve started reading before I go to sleep most nights. So far this year, with these two new opportunities for reading, I’ve finished five books. Three of them, I started last year, but they are now out of the “reading” pile. You can find my reading list here.

Things went bit chaotic for a bit over the weekend and early in the week and I haven’t had a chance to listen to any more of the creative kickstart lessons (thing 3). I missed a few days of doing my “just 15 minutes” from that class where I sit down after my walk and work on my photo project (thing 1) but I got back on track later in the week.

20200113 Jaffa & T&G 3

Happy Monday!

I looked at my 196 hours that I figured out last week that I need to get everything I want to do done in a week from the Chapter 10 exercise of Indistractable (thing 13) and ran away screaming. Trying to work out what to let go of so I can do the things I really want to do.

Just about every productivity manual I’ve read says that if you want to get something done, you need to put it on your calendar and treat it like an appointment you might make with the doctor or a meeting you have to go to at work. This is great in theory, but I don’t work like that. I see “time block for photo editing” or “time block for meal planning and shopping list-ing” that I put in the calendar last week and if I don’t feel like doing it, I generally don’t. Same as setting an alarm to tell me it’s time to get ready for bed. I ignore it.

One of the suggestions in the creative kickstart class is that you identify the times you’re most creative and you put the time in the calendar to do creative things at those times. Which is also great in theory, but the times I find I feel I’m at my creative best, I’m either at work or I’m having to do something like cooking dinner that isn’t so easy to reschedule. As for other suggestions you need to schedule three to four hour blocks to sit down and do your work, believe me, there is nothing I would love to do more. But I work five days a week, I live in a house with other people who sometimes like to interact with me and for whom I sometimes have to do things like cook dinner. There isn’t a day during the week that I have three or four hours to devote to my work so this is never going to happen then. I’m sure I could structure my weekends better, but it hasn’t worked for me so far.

This whole scheduling time to do the things I love and that are important to me just isn’t working out for me.

By Saturday afternoon, I was feeling stuck and hopeless and ready to throw it all in. I walked out of the house, caught a bus to town and went to a location I love to photograph. 3pm Saturday is not a time I would ever “schedule” for creative work. The hours between 1pm and 4pm are my lowest hours of the day, I have no energy and am no good for anything. Yet there I was (after having a quick nap on the bus, which I’m sure the driver noticed and that’s why he stepped extra hard on the brakes at one of the stops), at my lowest time of the day, going out and doing what I love to do.

I have to rethink this one and remember that I only have to take from these programs the things that will work for me. I don’t have to do everything and I don’t have to do it perfectly. I have to do something and hopefully by taking small steps, I will start to see positive change.

The same goes for the wellbeing work (thing 3). The course rolls around every year and you can dip in and out, taking what you need at the time. Last year was the first time I listened to all of the classes (well actually I finished them in the first week of January this year). I didn’t do all of the activities but I did the ones I needed to at the time. Right now I am still trying to set up an evening routine, which is an activity for the middle of the year. I have a couple of journalling tasks left over from the end of last year that I want to do to close the circle on 2019’s work and, when I’ve done that, I will call this thing done. I’ll continue to listen to the lessons each week and pick up some of the work I didn’t do last year, but for the purpose of this thing, I specifically wanted to complete the last module and those exercises.

Finally, to scrape in progress in one more thing this week, I worked on a couple of photo collages from my 2019 photojournal (thing 4). I only have four more collages to actually make (and three from this year), then I have to print them and stick them in the book. I’m nowhere near as far behind with this as I was with my 2018 journal.

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

20 for 2020: week 2

Week two: Week of 6 January

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My hours added up to 196.5.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary for the week

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

Bicycle days

On Monday morning I left home at 6.45 to ride to work, which is number 10 on my 20 for 2020 list.

Some background. When I moved to Canberra and started my first job (last century), encouraged by one of my bike-rider colleagues, I bought a bike and started to ride to work. Canberra has this wonderful network of off-road bike paths, at least it did in the suburbs I lived in in the north of the city. So riding to work was a relatively safe activity. But because of the ramblingness of them and the tree roots that were a trap for young players riding home in the dark, I used to get frustrated and ended up riding into the city down the main road, Northbourne Avenue. Lots of riders did it and it was a lot faster.

I’m not sure how long this lasted, but I guess I must have tired of it pretty quickly. Then I ended up with a job close to my house so I walked and after moving jobs again was a car passenger for many years.

The bike, meanwhile, because very neglected and I rarely used it. (Rarely is code for never.) It just took up space in the shed and space in the shipping container when we moved back to Tasmania. And space in the shed at the new house.

One year I put it on a list of 100 things I wanted to do that year. It was 2016 (I was very ambitious back then. 100 things in a year! What was I thinking?) and one day I did pull it out of the shed, clean it, pump up the tyres, lubricate the chain and I rode it. Once.

20160326 Clean bike

March 2016

From memory, this had been on the 100 things list for many years, and during that time I met a new friend who is a very keen cyclist and who kept telling me to get the bike out and ride it. When we moved closer to the city, he kept telling me I should ride to work.

Haha, no. Was my reply every time. It’s a ten km ride. On a main road where drivers are often, let’s say it politely, complete dickheads. Buses are frequent. All the cyclists who ride on these roads seem to be Bike People and they look like Bike People and they ride really fast. Yes, there’s a marked bike lane but it’s a very busy road. It is way scary and I am never doing that.

Fast forward to November 2019. I’m in a cafe and I see a poster for an e-bike expo in a couple of weeks. What’s an e-bike? I wonder. It might be fun to go up to the Regatta Grounds and hoon around on an e-bike for a bit. So, with no clue about what was going to happen, I went to the expo.

It was all a bit intimidating. There were Bike People there. I didn’t know who to talk to. The first stand I went to I asked the guy to tell me all about e-bikes because I didn’t know anything and hadn’t ridden a bike for years, and he said he didn’t know either, he was there from the Government’s climate change policy unit and I could take one of their publications if I wanted.

Not awkward at all.

I wandered round for a bit feeling very lost and confused. I’m not very good in crowds, even small ones, and I’m not very good at putting my hand up and asking for help. So I wandered up and down the bike shop stalls trying to overhear conversation fragments between salespeople and potential customers so I might find out how to actually try one of these machines out. I was finally able to find someone who was available to talk and told him my story. I know nothing, I haven’t ridden a bike for years, I live ten km from town and want to be able to ride into town and home again. At the time, I hadn’t thought about riding to work. I was thinking more about being able to get into town early in the morning to take photos more quickly than if I had to walk.

He showed me a bike he thought would suit me. It’s small, it has a battery capacity for up to about 50 km, and it’s . . . grey. Can I try it? Of course. A few formalities were needed. I had to exchange my massive sun hat for a fabulously fashionable bike helmet, hand over my driver licence, and sign a waiver in case I died. He showed me how it all worked (remarkably easily; these bikes are pedal assist, so you set a speed you want to ride at and then the motor will kick in if you drop below that speed—but you have to be pedalling for it to work. And its top assist speed is 25km per hour). He adjusted the bike to fit me and then I was allowed to go riding round the Regatta Grounds.

Whoooo! It was so much fun! All of a sudden, riding a bike wasn’t work. Sure, I had to pedal, and any time I got over 15 km/h I started to feel a little terrified but I couldn’t stop smiling. Can I ride over the memorial bridge as easily as I could ride on a flat street? Yes, yes I can. I exchanged smiles with other people experiencing the same thing. This. Was. So. Cool.

I imagined the possibilities for my weekend walks if I wanted to go and take photos somewhere around town. I don’t drive and on Sundays the buses don’t start until 8am, so I walk. It takes about two hours so it’s a very early start if I want to catch the morning light. At 15 km/h on a bike it would take less than one, or I could go further. The more I thought about the idea, the more excited I was. Finally, I could have some transport of my own.

I did a bit of research when I got home and the more I read about this bike, the more I liked the sound of it. I went into the shop the next week and chatted some more to the guy I’d talked to on the weekend (Ahmet, who, it turns out, knows my cycling friend because this is Hobart). I decided I was going to do it, that I was going to become a bike person (not a Bike Person) and ordered one.

It took about two weeks to come in and in that time I rode my old bike to the beach, a trip that takes about an hour on foot but only 25 minutes on a bike, even without pedal assist. I loved it. The trip back, uphill (up-incline?), was not quite as enjoyable, but I’m not used to riding so, of course, anything other than flat or downhill was going to be challenging.

20191208 Bike ride 1 edit

My first trial ride and a bonus sunburst

I probably annoyed everyone for the next two weeks talking about when the bike was going to come. When it finally came, I arranged to go in on the Saturday afternoon so I could ride it home. There really wasn’t any other way, and I figured Saturday would be preferable to a weeknight because there’d be less traffic. I was so excited to pick it up as well as being terrified that I would have to get it home on my own. Ahmet was very thorough in explaining how everything worked and all the things I needed to know, he showed me how to adjust everything and pointed out a very handy feature of power assist walking where you can turn the motor on while you’re walking to keep the bike moving faster. These are heavy bikes, around 27 kg, so pushing them up a hill is not easy.

Fully briefed and relieved of a lot of money, I left the shop with my new bike. Walking through the streets. There was no way I was going to ride it until I got to somewhere more isolated. Because it was a couple of weeks before Christmas, the streets were packed. I don’t think I’d ever be game to ride in town, even in the quieter periods. My workmate, who I learned had recently started riding to work along the same road I would need to ride on, had told me she got her bike confidence by taking a few trips on the inter-city cycleway before she went on the road. This wasn’t really an option for me unless I walked the bike down there so my test ride to the beach on the old bike was all I had. I was going on the road today, no matter what.

I felt so awkward and visible walking through town, even though I’m sure no one looked twice. I’d worked out a route than involved a bit of footpath riding (never again, too narrow and pedestrian-rich), riding some back streets of Battery Point, walking down Napoleon Street (because there is no way in hell I am ever riding down there), and then riding along Marieville Esplanade to where the bike path is still on the footpath on Sandy Bay Road, and then (gasp!) the actual road. I made it home unscathed, bike undamaged.

20191214 My new bike 2

I made it home!

Since then, I’ve ridden to the city a couple of times on Sunday mornings and it’s been great.

I’d been thinking about riding to work but thought that I wouldn’t want to do that until I was more confident in riding and knew the bike better. I wrote it down as a thing for 2020 to make sure I did it. Then it occurred to me that January is actually the perfect time to get that confidence because there are fewer cars on the road before school goes back and it’s light all day. If I’d left it until later I’d have to immerse myself in a more hectic road space and it would be more scary. No time like the present and this window won’t be around for long. I have no excuses. I picked Monday as the day and I did it. No special riding clothes, no shower at the end. I didn’t need them. It was no more energetic than walking 40 minutes to work (or however long it took).

It’s a good ride. I’m happy sitting at around 20 km/h, which I can do under my own steam most of the way. But the pedal assist is awesome for getting up hills. Well, not exactly hills, more like upwards gradients in the road. And going down the other side at speeds of nearly 35 km/h is way fun and I feel a lot more in control doing it, compared to a month ago when I would have sat on the brakes the whole time.

20200106 My bike at work

Bike at work. I rode it.

So ride to work is now crossed off the list and I think I will aim to do it at least once a week, at least in the lighter months. I’ll see how I feel when it starts to get darker. I might buy some more lights before then too.