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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

20 for 2020 is a continuation of 19 for 2019, which is an idea I stole from Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft’s podcast Happier (here’s the link to how Gretchen and Liz did on their 19 for 2019 lists). I think they actually started it with 18 for 2018.

I’m going to do 20 for 2020, which, I mean, how can you not? All the twos and zeros.

I haven’t made any further progress on my 19 for 2019 list since my last post, so in the end, I accomplished 14 of the 19 things I wanted to do in 2019. Three are still in progress (things 2, 6 and 16) and I will complete them, one I decided I didn’t really want to do (thing 14) because putting the systems in place to do it, rather than actually doing it, was more important, and I think I went some way to doing that. The other one (thing 10), I’m waiting on someone else so maybe I need to follow up.

Having learned from 2019, I’m going to include a mix of small things that I’ve been putting off for ages, longer term projects that I want to finish off and some new things that have just recently popped up in my life.

The first step was to look at my uncompleted 2019 things and decide if any of them need to be carried over into 2020. I’ve kept the photo project on the list (thing 16), getting my sewing machine fixed (thing 10) and completing the wellbeing program (thing 6), which will actually run again in 2020, so I will be able to dip back into that work as I need to.

I’ve also included two things that I did in 2019 and want to do again in 2020. And a whole bunch of new things.

Here’s the list

Carried over from 2019’s list

1. Complete my photo project

2. Get my sewing machine fixed

3. Complete the wellbeing course lessons from 2019 (and go back into this work over the year to pick up on things I missed last year or need to reinforce)

Repeated from 2019

4. Complete my 2019 weekly photojournal and put in place a system so that I don’t get behind with the photos again (I have kept up a lot better than I did in 2018 but I still have about 10 weeks of photos from 2019 to sort and edit)

5. Have an alcohol-free month

New for 2020

6. Complete the 21 days creative kickstart course I started at the end of 2019

7. Complete the Photoshop class I signed up for in 2019

8. Successfully complete my uni course and graduate

9. Use no camera other than my SLR with a single prime lens for 30 days and post a photo a day for the month

10. Ride my bike to work

11. Set up a mini studio at home

12. Finish the Bored and Brilliant challenge and write a blog post about it

13. Read the book Indistractable and do the activities it recommends (at work and home)

20200101 Indistractable

14. Develop and maintain a daily habit of reading for enjoyment

15. Redesign my study wall as a vision board

16. Have a hearing test

17. Learn to use my graphics tablet

18. Reorganise my sock drawer

19. Take a class in fermentation

20. Repot my orchid

21. Use the sprout jar

22. Commit to (and actually do) a monthly review every month

I know. There are 22 things on that list. Clearly maths isn’t my strong point or I have travelled in time to 2022.

Allow me to elaborate. The monthly review idea comes from Susannah Conway’s Unravel Your Year workbook, which is a lovely thing that Susannah sends out to her email list every year to help you figure out how you want your upcoming year to look. I’ve dabbled with these in the past and shoved them into a folder somewhere. This meant I never followed up what I wrote down in the early days of January and have come back to them 12 months later to find nothing I wanted for the year happened.

I couple of weeks ago I saw a post from a friend on Instagram about her starting her workbook and I commented that I never followed through with mine. She said she found the monthly reviews really good, which got me thinking about how staying more in touch with the book over the year might be key to actually getting the work done.

So I got it spiral bound at the local printers so that it looks more like a book and is a lot easier to carry round and write in than loose pages or putting it in a folder. I’ve been working my way through it over the last couple of days, pulling out some of the key themes to include as things for my 20 for 2020 list.

20200101 Uravel your year

The monthly review is a way for me to remind myself to check in on how I’m doing throughout the year, along with my regular(ish) blog updates.

I just threw the sprout jar in as a thing at the end because it’s been sitting on a shelf looking at me forlornly (almost as forlornly as my sick orchid that is in desperate need of repotting and if anyone knows how to do this please help!) ever since I got it. I figure it’s a small thing to do, one that I have been putting off for months, and if I include it here I might have a chance of actually doing something with it. I didn’t have the heart to bump anything else off the list to make room for it, so there it is. Something I could probably do in five minutes, but it will probably take me six months to actually do.

So there we have it. My brand new list for 2020 with lots of fun and challenging things to do.

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!

Weekend wisdom 4: perfectionism meets comparison

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

Perfectionism has been the major theme in the things that have caught my eye over the last couple of weeks and I think I’m calling an uneasy truce with it now that I’ve come to understand what it is. After much thinking and writing, I thought I was done with it and that it was time to move on to other things that were grabbing my attention. To put it in the words of a friend who I’d been talking about this with recently, I thought I had kicked that shit to the kerb.

But perfectionism isn’t done with me yet and so the lessons keep coming. It’s probably good that they do, because I don’t think you ever truly “recover” from perfectionism. You have to constantly be on your guard that its voice doesn’t start speaking to you again and that, if it does, you don’t start listening to it. And one way of doing that is to have the message that perfect is the enemy of the good (or done is better than perfect, whichever way you want to look at it) constantly reinforced because reinforcement is how the old pattern of perfectionist thinking got entrenched in the first place.

So, the first thing on Monday morning I saw was this article by Lisa Byrne on perfectionism, in which she says that she sees perfection as being the opposite of excellence. This rang a bell with me because I see my pursuit of perfection as a misguided pursuit of excellence. That is, where I thought I was seeking perfection I was really seeking excellence. I’m still processing my thoughts on this so that might not make too much sense, but I was interested to see what Lisa had to say.

Lisa says that perfectionism leads us to compare ourselves with somebody else (real or imagined) and that when we do this we’ll always come up short because we are not them. (There’s a theme emerging in these posts, isn’t there?)

In her post, Lisa writes of an interview she did with the shame researcher Brené Brown. Brené observed that we are all unique. We’re made up of different parts and we’re all many different things: mother, father, sister, brother, partner, worker, volunteer, writer, gardener, cook, artist, singer, teacher . . . whatever we are. There is no exact replica of us in the world and, therefore, no one to directly compare ourselves to. So instead, Brené says, she (we) (I) compares one part of herself to the “perfect” version of that part. So she might compare her writing to the World’s Best Writer’s work, her volunteer work to Mother Teresa’s work, her research to the World’s Best Researcher’s work, and her photography to the work of the Artistic Genius I referred to last week (no, she doesn’t, that’s what I do . . .).

And guess what? She concludes that she’s falling short in every area of her life because she compares each individual part of her life with the “top” parts of several different people’s lives.

The “comparee” might be a full-time artist who has spent their whole life learning their craft, and has been doing it 12 hours a day, seven days a week, for the last 25 years. They might have devoted their entire life to the service of others. They might be at home full-time with their kids . .  . and so it goes . . .

And hopefully you begin to see that you can’t be the Artistic Genius AND the World’s Best Researcher AND Mother Teresa AND the Gardening Guru AND be home looking after the kids all day because you don’t have 48 hours in a day or 14 days in a week to put in as much effort to each one of those things that you’d need to put in to reach the standard of one of those people in one of those areas. Even if you never slept, you wouldn’t be able to achieve at the level of all of those people in all of those things.

This reminded me of a time I was reading blogs about whole foods and trying to eliminate as much processed junk as I could. I thought I was doing pretty well until I read an article from a homemaker blogger, who said she milled her own flour because flour starts to go bad as soon as it’s milled and the fresher it is, the better.

My first thought was: Are you fucking kidding me? I make my own chicken stock, I am learning to bake bread, I buy hyper-expensive organic yogurt, I don’t buy packet sauces or tinned baked beans or frozen meals anymore, and I have my own chickens and now you’re telling me I have to Mill. My. Own. Flour.

At the time, I felt hopelessly inadequate beside this “homesteader”, who did absolutely everything from scratch, and wondered why I was bothering even trying because I could never achieve this level of food nirvana.

This week, as I reflected on how that had played out, I thought, hang on, if Brené Brown, world-renowned researcher and author, is comparing herself to others and finding herself falling short, then what hope is there for me in getting off the comparison hamster wheel?

And it hit me that maybe there isn’t. No matter how skilled I get at something, there will always be someone who is “better” than me, who knows more than me and who has been doing it longer. If I reach a level that I consider equal to theirs, then they will have moved forward too and I’ll still feel inadequate in comparison.

Comparison is a game we can’t win because the goalposts are always moving. Therefore, it’s a game that isn’t worth playing.

It’s a trap.

We compare ourselves unfavourably to other people because we’re comparing one part of ourselves to the only part of them that we see. When Brené Brown compares herself to the World’s Best Researcher or Barb compares herself to the Artistic Genius or the Homesteader Blogger, Brené and Barb are always going to feel inferior because they’re comparing a small part of their identities to what they perceive as being the whole of that person’s identity—that is, the part of that person’s identity that they show in public. (That was the only time I’m ever going to be mentioned in the same sentence as Brené Brown, so let’s just take that in for a moment . . . )

And you know what, if Brené thinks she comes up short against World’s Greatest Researcher, then I bet that the people I look up to have moments where they feel inadequate compared to someone else too. After all, they are human too. Homemaker Blogger might look at Artistic Genius the same way I do and feel like giving up her art because it’s not as good as theirs. World’s Best Researcher might look at Homemaker Blogger and feel terrible about their own food endeavours. Hell, Artistic Genius might sometimes feel totally incompetent in their own field because they aren’t Van Gogh or Ansel Adams. But they’re still in the same comparison trap that I’m in. They’re comparing their whole self with only a part of the other person’s identity.

One of my favourite expressions about this is that you can’t compare your cutting room floor footage with someone else’s highlight reel (thanks, Kendra). We don’t see the crap that the “comparees” made first, the struggle they’ve gone through to produce what they show us, the things that went wrong. We only see the finished product. We also don’t see the World’s Best Researcher pop in to Macca’s for drive-through on the way home every second night because they don’t have time to make dinner. We don’t see Homemaker Blogger’s pile of unfinished art and we don’t see Artistic Genius’s overgrown garden.

And that’s the way I have to deal with these comparisons whenever I hear that nagging little voice in my head tell me that what I’m doing isn’t as good as what . . . is doing.

So, after the initial guilt for using potentially tainted flour had worn off, I told myself that Homemaker Blogger devotes her entire life to raising her family, making a home and preparing the absolute best food she can. I am not this person, I am nothing like this person and my life is nothing like hers. For a start, I work outside the house. I have to, to pay for it. Therefore, doing home stuff is a much smaller part of my life than it is of hers. Just like I have less time to spend on my art than the Artistic Genius has and Brené has less time to volunteer than Mother Teresa did.

So rather than looking at World’s Greatest Researcher or Artistic Genius and thinking I’m useless in comparison and feeling deflated and defeated, I need to learn to acknowledge that someone else’s personal best is their personal best, not mine and that I should be striving for my personal best from the place I’m at, not that person’s personal best.

Rather than allowing it to make me feel inadequate, I can then use comparison as a motivation to do my own work and to get better. To shine my own light, not someone else’s. I can look at what it is I like about what they do and see if there’s something there that I can learn from. Perhaps I can buy better quality flour in smaller quantities and store it differently. If like the way the light falls in this artwork, maybe I can look for opportunities to incorporate that into my work. When I noticed that a writer has used words that flow with a certain rhythm, I can experiment with doing this and see if it works for me.

Comparison is a two-edged sword. When it inspires you and moves you forward, it’s a useful tool. When it deflates and demotivates you, it’s time to stop. Get off social media, stop reading blogs, take a break and focus on your own work. Forget about what everyone else is doing and go out and do what makes you happy.

And stop I will because that’s long enough to spend on one article from my inbox (which, incidentally, is still not at zero).

I had a couple of other strong messages grab my attention too this week. First, was an article from James Clear called Stop Thinking and Start Doing: The Power of Practicing More, which is a great reminder that you don’t get better at something by reading about it and thinking about it; you get better at it by doing it. The second theme that I saw in a couple of places was the importance of learning, which at first seems to contradict the message in James’ article, but this wasn’t as much about learning new skills as it was about broadening your world view through reading, exploring new ideas and getting out of your comfort zone. Here’s one of them by photographer David DuChemin, The Greatest Misconceptions in Photography.