The Pause That Refreshes: SoCS

It’s time for Stream of Consciousness Saturday, which means I’m also going to get a post in for Just Jot it January. What I like most about this happy coincidence is that I like getting a two for one in a post, AND SoCS posts usually end up being something I never would have written otherwise. So it’s a great surprise. If you’ve never tried it before, you should check it out. It can be really fun! So here is today’s prompt from Linda.

Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is: “pause/paws.”  Use one, use both, use ’em any way you’d like. Have fun!

When I saw this prompt, I couldn’t help think of the Coca-Cola commercial with the slogan “The Pause That Refreshes.” (OK, so I date myself.)

Refreshing or not, it’s time for a pause. Following the holidays, and all those reindeer paws and Santa Claus and shopping and festivities, a break is what most of us need. There is something to be said for that week between the holidays when people comment about not knowing what day it is because schedules as we typically know them during the rest of the year simply don’t exist. Many of us can just move through those days and catch our breath. The pause might actually be refreshing if it weren’t for all the hoopla leading up to the holidays, along with the reality of heading back to reality as soon as we recover from our New Year’s revelry (if we partake in such revelry and IF we’ve recovered by the time said reality sets in).

Still, the pause is something we look forward to, often hoping in vain that we will be more organized, less stressed, and full of contentment and good tidings. For many, the pause itself is an illusion, as we trade the crazy schedules and expectations of the holidays for the crazy schedules and expectations of the day-to-day routines we manage through the rest of the year.

One of the great things about Taiwan is that I was able to step out of the holiday tradition as I experienced it all my life. I experienced a different kind of pause because of the cultural differences. Although Christmas will be a holiday of sorts in 2016 in Taiwan, it wasn’t during the six years I was there. I have actually taught classes on Christmas Day, and Christmas Eve, and the days leading up to New Year’s (although that day was a holiday for different reasons). It isn’t until exams are finished and graded, and final grades submitted, that the holiday pause happened.

year-of-the-goat-cartoon_23-2147503522

The semesters in Taiwan are 18 weeks long, and while classes start a week or two later than they do here in the States, they don’t finish until the first or second week of January. Sometimes exams can sneak into the third week. THEN we have our semester break, with a three to four week break before the second semester starts following Chinese New Year. 2015 issued in the Year of the Goat.

In some ways, the preparations for festivities surrounding Chinese New Year are the same as the Christmas season for those who celebrate it. People plan their meals, clean their houses, pick up gifts. But in other ways, there are major differences. Where you celebrate each day of the Chinese New Year is proscribed, depending on how close you follow the ancient traditions. And while many people look forward to Chinese New Year’s Eve dinners based on the male’s family, and the reunion luncheons and dinners the following day based on the female’s family, it’s the same level of stress and activity that we experience on this side of the world.

I was fortunate to be invited to various Chinese New Year’s celebrations of various kinds, and I found that the sense of pause and catching one’s breath wasn’t really there. On the other hand, for someone like me, who only accepts a few invitations and picks up gifts for the hosts of the events I attend, the season is one where I can at least catch up on projects I’m behind on, even if it’s not a true pause. But occasionally, I was able to steal away hours and sometimes a few days to truly pause and recharge my batteries. It was during those semester breaks in Taiwan where most of my quilting time happened. I later learned to sneak it in other places, but CNY worked for me. I suspect though that it was largely due to the fact that it wasn’t MY holiday.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABeing in Taiwan resulted in a huge shift in the way I approach Christmas. During my six years there, I sent greetings to family and friends, but aside from grandchildren, I didn’t do gifts. I invited students over to the house for a meal. I let them put up the tree, and we exchanged small gifts and ornaments, and they asked questions about the way Christmas was celebrated in America. But aside from that, it was business as usual, and we worked these gatherings around classes.

My first Christmas back in the States has been more of a pause than it would have been before my time in Taiwan, but as I reinvent myself in 2016, I have a feeling that Christmas will take on a new look as well, a space in time where I can truly pause and recharge my batteries and live in the moment of the season without getting wrapped up in the unnecessary trimmings.

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This post is part of SoCS and JusJoJan. Join us. You can check out the rules and the other participants for either or both of these events Linda’s blog.

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One Week Later: Building Room (At the Coffee Shop)

Image courtesy of nuttakit / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of nuttakit / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Last week, I rejoined the construction crew in Rome, and helped put the finishing touches on our very own coffee shop. You should stop by for a beverage of your choice. There is quite an extensive menu. It’s nice to take a break along with the other builders.

Speaking of which, it would be great to encourage some new and returning builders to join us. Bradley has put together this wonderful space to help us all build the part of Rome we most want in our lives. It’s a fun way to stay motivated, build community, and inspire each other with ideas and support. Spread the word!

So in terms of my goals for last week, I knew it was ambitious. I knew I would not complete everything, but the challenge was to throw it all out there and push myself to do more than I might have with a more “realistic” list. As you can see, this approach definitely had some benefit. Completed items are crossed out. Items in orange have been moved to this week.

For the week of February 9

Teaching

  • plan ppts for upcoming Japanese intensive English program
  • set up lessons for first four weeks for writing classes
  • sort papers for comments
  • pull document together for JJE project

Research Presentation

  • set up data collection file for last group
  • set up first round analysis
  • register for May conference

Job-Hunting

  • Finish CV
  • Write letter of intent
  • Send CVs for review

Editing

  • Finish G project
  • Finish current JR section
  • Start JL

Personal

  • Two blog posts
  • Go for appt on Friday
  • Catch up on Fast-Forward Fridays
  • Do some sewing for my play date

 

While several things did not get finished, many things did. With my helper, we got much further on the research data than I had hoped. In addition, my co-presenter needed some materials from me, and I was able to get that put together to send him. Since the main goal was to make a dent in this mountain, I am happy with the progress for the week.

That said, I am reminded that this outside accountability for one’s goals and intentions is really helpful. I like this weekly check-in. That’s also part of the reason why I encourage and invite people to join us above. It doesn’t have to be a big list. Maybe just something you’ve been putting off for a while. Break it down into a few steps, and put the first one on a list for next week. I’ll be there to cheer you on.  🙂

I’m crazily considering doing a long-range plan for the year and posting it in another ongoing challenge. I’ll report in about my experience if/when I take the plunge.

So, on to the new week! I am moving all my incompletes from last week to this week and adding a few more things. This is my last full week before the new semester begins, so there is lots of impetus to press on. See you in Rome!

 

For the week of February 16

Teaching

  • plan ppts for upcoming Japanese intensive English program
  • set up lessons for first four weeks for writing classes
  • write comments for JJE project
  • review thesis draft for TC
  • finish textbook answer key

Research Presentation

  • set up first round analysis
  • prepare ppt slides of first round of analysis
  • register for May conference

Job-Hunting

  • Write letter of intent
  • Send CV and letter for review
  • Prepare reference information
  • Submit main job app
  • Travel web-site

Editing

  • Finish G project
  • Start next section JR (20-26)
  • Write questions for JL
  • Meet with JL

Personal

  • Two more blog posts
  • Catch up on Fast-Forward Fridays
  • Do some sewing for my play date

Best of luck in whatever the week brings your way!

 

 

This ongoing challenge to keep people focused on weekly goals and projects provides both the method and the support to keep participants going. You can check it out here: Bradley Corbett at: http://greenembe.rs/2015/02/16/building-rome-week-7-for-2015/

Coffee, Quilts, and other things that go “K” in the night

year-of-the-goat-with-icons_23-2147502885Tomorrow is Chinese New Year’s Eve. For the first time in my six years here, we will spend most of the evening in Taipei. We are meeting our friend Joe in Taipei at 3:30 for coffee, discussion of a paper I’m helping him with, and dinner. I should say I’ll be doing the coffee and paper discussion part. Dave will wander around that part of Taipei and join us for the dinner portion of the afternoon/evening. To start the festivities, Dave and I will catch a bus from our neighborhood about 2:30 to go to the nearest MRT station that will take us to the Taipei station where we’ll meet Joe.

As most of you know, I have just over a week of semester break left. Once the Chinese New Year holiday is past, we will gear up for back to school. You may also know that during the break from classes, I’ve been putting in most of my “working hours” at a coffee shop about a half mile from our apartment. I do it because it takes care of a variety of goals and objectives in one fell swoop. Or at least on a regular basis without having to put a lot of time and thought into it. For example, my nearly daily trip to the coffee shop does at least four things for me.

  1. 100_0697It keeps me focused on my work without overtaking my home life.
  2. I get exercise walking here and walking home.
  3. I get great coffee!  ❤
  4. I have an interesting social group here, even though we don’t speak the same language.

OK, now you may wonder what the connection is among all of these seemingly isolated pieces of information. Particularly, how does quilting fit into it? (Coffee fits in with everything. Am I right?)

Any other day, if I were leaving for Taipei at 2:30 in the afternoon, I’d come to the coffee shop when they open and work for a few hours and drink coffee. But . . . . .

THEY ARE CLOSED TOMORROW!

Whatever will I do? Luckily, they will be open the following day, New Year’s Day proper. So I can’t fault them too much. They are, after all, only taking one day, when many places can take up to a week or more. For example, the neighborhood near campus will be quite quiet tomorrow.

mystery quilt fabricSo I decided that since they’re having their day off tomorrow, I’ll stay home and do something else that doesn’t contaminate my home space with work. I’m going to work on some quilting projects. Sure I could work on other stuff, but guess what? I’m not going to. I’m giving myself this gift of time.

The reality is I’m coming to terms with the fact that I can never really catch up. That I’m going to have to rethink my commitments and obligations, so that I can rearrange my life accordingly. In the meantime, I can have a nice chunk of sewing time tomorrow. I’ll be sharing some of the results of tomorrow’s escapades here. I actually feel more excitement than I have in a while. I think it’s a good sign.

 

91 days until 60. 

Gone Fishing!

me and cat on wallOK, maybe not exactly fishing, but I’m going to be absent from Blogland for a few days. I’ve now posted daily for over 40 days, and I’ve achieved several of my crazy blog goals that I set for August–knowing it would be the last month I had to devote that much time to blogging for a while. During the next few days, I will not be writing for my blog or posting on my blog. In addition, after the next 12 hours (a little time tonight and a little time tomorrow morning), I will not be visiting, commenting, or liking other blogs (unless I slip off the wagon) until my return toward the end of next week.

During these next few days, I will be focusing on a few deadlines and projects that need my attention. To be honest, blogging is more rewarding than some of the projects I need to do. The “responsible” part of me had considered a long-term leave from the blog, but the “rational” part of me vetoed that crazy idea. I learn so much about myself while blogging, and I am unwilling to give up the community that exists among the bloggers I interact with. My life would be so much less without blogging and the people I have met because of it. So I’m taking a short break–just a few days–to try to make sense of my schedule in a way that allows me to get things done and to honor this blogging thing, which has become so much more than simply a hobby to engage in only when I can squeeze it in.

During August, I intentionally made blogging a priority. I’m hoping that by telling myself that I’m taking a break, I won’t say to myself (16 times a day), “Oh, I could blog about that.” And I won’t be asking my husband, “Oh, could you get some pictures of that.” In other words, taking a break is intended to remove blogging (which I really enjoy) from the forefront of my thoughts as I figure out how it fits into my life during the normal schedule.

To help with my blogging withdrawal, I will spend some time doing some sewing on the quilt top for the summer mystery quilt challenge. Hopefully, I can begin to do some regular drawing practice. Or at least, alternate it with Zentangle. But my main focus is to create a schedule for the coming academic year that provides a balance between what must be done and what I want to do.  Such a schedule may be too big a project for a week, but I will see how far I can get, while knocking off a few things on the project to-do list.

I have a couple of blogging “questions” that you can help me with, if you are so inclined. First, I would be interested in how other people organize the reading of and commenting on other blogs. Do you have a system that you would care to share? Some of you seem to get around much more than I do, even when I spend some dedicated time on it. So any suggestions would be welcome.

When I come back (probably on September 4th or 5th), I hope to have a blog plan. The free-flowing thing I’ve been doing may become more structured. It may not. If you have any preferences about which of my posts you enjoy reading the most, I would be delighted if you would let me know in the comment section. You can choose as many as you wish. I’ve listed a few that you can refer to by number (see purple list below). Or if you have other ideas, that’s fine too. This is also a good place to ask questions if you have any curiosities about me. Although, I’m sure that’s not very likely. Right?  😉

1. Responses to challenges where you learn random things about me?
2. Posts about Life in Taiwan?
3. More about my family and the experiences that got me here?
4. Quilting and creativity?
5. The eclectic mix that I currently do?
6. A decluttering challenge.

OK, thanks for all your support. Your comments will help me as I figure out my blog plan.

I’ll see you in about a week!  🙂

261 days til 60!

Time to Think about Time

Our Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is “time.”

Lately, time and I have an uneasy relationship. I keep trying to plan it, manage it, rearrange the plans, and it just keeps on going, as if I don’t matter. When we are in synch, I feel productive, fulfilled, sometimes even invigorated or hopeful. But other times, I feel overwhelmed. Then I realize that it isn’t really time’s fault. It isn’t the fickle one, changing moods and priorities at every turn. Time is so consistent, annoyingly so sometimes. I want it to be a little more flexible, a little more willing to go with the flow. Enjoy the spontaneity of our relationship. But no, just the same old answer every time I ask: tick tock, tick tock, or some variation of it, with a few chimes or bird calls thrown in for good measure. How is one to maintain a good relationship with such limited conversational options?

Time knows me though. It knows that if it weren’t consistent, I’d complain about that. I’d be asking how am I supposed to get anything done when I can’t depend on you? Geez, Time, if you’re going to change the details of our relationship without giving me enough information, how can I trust you? Time just looks at me with a knowing half-smile. Damn, maybe I’m the one with the problem!

I guess, if the truth be told, I’m a little jealous of Time’s consistency. I think I’d like to be consistent–maybe not in a regimented way, but in a way that allows me to walk in better step with time. It would be nice not to be out of synch so often.

I keep trying things, dividing time into blocks, compartments that I can use to have at least small pieces of success with the way I use time. I try to play matchmaker between these time blocks and the tasks on my to-do list. Sometimes it works, but not consistently. So I try other ideas.

I know I need to get along with time, but some of my other regular companions don’t always play nice. Motivation is totally fickle, and I wish it would learn a few things from Time. But if I’m honest, the one that really messes things up pretty regular is Depression. It comes and drains all the Excitement and Vision from Motivation, snubs its nose at Time, and is totally comfortable with the misery it leave behind.

Therein lies my real problem with time, but I need to be careful not to use depression as a reason to give up on my other friends. They deserve more. Time, Motivation, Excitement, Vision, and Well-Being are the ones who make life worthwhile and who keep in touch with my human friends. Without them, Depression has a tendency to be a little possessive and get in the way of all my friendships.

Somewhere along the way, several years ago, I read something about making friends with Depression, or at least, don’t spend so much time actively resisting it. I’m not quite so sure how I feel about that, but I do know that ignoring it isn’t the way to go. Maybe Time and I will need to give a little, and at least help Depression feel a little less like an outcast. Maybe a listening ear is just is needed. It’s worth a try.

 

This post is part of SofCS: http://lindaghill.wordpress.com/2014/08/15/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-august-1614/

 

socs-badge

A question of balance?

Your Friday prompt for Saturday’s Stream of Consciousness post is, end your post with a question. Extra points if you fit an exclamation mark somewhere in the body of your post.

newyear's 2010 002A week to pick our own topic. How to get started. What will I write about? I could write about the fact that this week hasn’t gone according to plan. It hasn’t been a bad week, unless you judge it solely on how much of my weekly list got accomplished. However, there is more to life than a to-do list. I know that. Still, I’d like to be closer to catching up.

On the other hand, today and nearly every day this coming week has social events scheduled. Not my choice, yet they are all important, and they are all time sensitive. In other words, they can’t be put off.

If I had a third hand, I’d be focusing some time on the big picture and what is really reasonable to have on a to-do list over the next 7 weeks. Maybe I should choose just a few significant things (however I decide to define that), and allow lots of down time to do things I find relaxing and rewarding, like more quilting and other creative endeavors.

I realize as I am writing this, that the cloud of apathy that has been my constant companion for a while now might possibly be dissipating. Even if it’s just beginning, that would be great news. It also means that once again, SofCS has helped me make a realization that breaks down the “logjams” that exist in my head (and in my physical environment). Writing is amazing!

So, now I’m thinking that it’s time for a fourth hand that would take a day away from the expected and do some writing and exploring of all the things floating around in my head. In that way, I may discover a fifth hand that I hadn’t thought of. After all, I can let my subconscious mull all of this stuff over for a couple of days, and then see what nuggets of insight it will provide if I just take the time to write and listen to it.

So, I’m taking comments and suggestions. I suspect I know how this will go, but I’ll ask anyway. If you were in my situation, what would you do?

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This post is part of SofCS: http://lindaghill.wordpress.com/2014/07/25/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-july-2514/

Building Rome: My First Day

Image courtesy of 89studio / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of 89studio / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

After weeks of watching people make posts on this Building Rome theme (hosted by Green Embers), I’ve decided to dip my toe and try it. I chose today because I was particularly inspired by this week’s posts from Mental Mama and Not a Punk Rocker. The main idea is to have a place for goal setting and accountability. So today, because it’s my first time, I will post a set of goals that I want to accomplish this week. Then, next week, I’ll report my progress on those goals and post my goals for the new week. I know firsthand that this kind of accountability system works because I was part of a similar group with three other women located in various parts of the US. We did ours by email, and our weekly “check-in day” was Tuesday. We kept at it for about six months, and we all found that we were much more productive when we were using such a system. I’ve even tried to recreate it a could times–without success. So, after several weeks of hemming and hawing about joining this adventure, here I am. Since one of my goals is to have more time for writing and quilting, I want to reduce my working hours to 20, at least for the rest of the summer. But I want to those twenty hours to be focused and productive. My hope is that I can accomplish as much in those twenty hours as I normally would by working longer hours by being more intentional during those 20 hours. Taiwan 047To that end, I am setting up four one-hour blocks for each workday. I then make a general task list for those 2o hours, i.e. what I need to get done this week, and estimate how many of these “blocks” it will take to accomplish each task. Maybe it’s crazy, but I’m going to give it a try. I’ve been trying it for two days so far, with great results on Day 1 and less spectacular results on Day 2. BUT I still got more done on Day 2 than  I would have otherwise. I suspect it’s because it’s easier to tell myself, “Just focus for an hour. Then you can take a break.”  mmmmmmmmmmmm coffee! Part of the reason I told you all of that is that my goals are going to focus on blocks of time and more general names for some of my projects. I realized that part of the reason I didn’t join sooner is I didn’t want to post some of the specific things I’m working on, so now I have a solution for that issue. So now that I’ve bored you to tears, here are my goals for the week.

GOALS FOR THE WEEK of July 8

1.  Complete 18 one-hour blocks.  The tasks for those blocks include:

  • an editing project
  • writing project
  • completing a project spreadsheet
  • preparing for fall classes

2.  Maintain walking three times this week (in spite of the heat).

3.  Complete Step 2 of the Mystery Quilt Challenge.

4.  Visit more of my fellow builders, now that I’ve jumped into the fray.

5.  Make a plan for my blog.

There you have it. I feel more accountable already.  🙂   If you’d like to play along, you can join in here:  http://greenembers.wordpress.com/2014/07/07/building-rome-week-28-silver-napkins/

My Summer Magical Mystery Quilt

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you follow my blog, you know that I’ve been struggling to find quilting time. Now, as the semester has come to a close, finally, and the deadlines are becoming less frequent (and less intense), I am planning to embark on a couple of quilting projects. Specifically, a lap top quilt that is part of a mystery quilt challenge. And at my daughter’s request, I may finally tackle something I’ve been thinking about for a while–quilted postcards. Their small size and relatively low time commitment may be just the thing to be me back into some regular quilting. I have some other projects I’m hoping to get to as well, but these are the two I’m going to focus on–mainly because of the structured nature of the projects themselves. First up, the mystery quilt challenge.

On May 22, I saw a blog post inviting participants in a summer quilt-a-long. Aby Dolinger  is hosting it, and you can find more information here. Her pattern tester and partner in crime is Karlene at Scrap Muffin Quilts. If you love quilting and aren’t following these two wonderful blogs, you should go check them out.

In that May 22 post, we were given the fabric requirements and told that the first clue would be given on June 1. No problem, I said to myself. However, when the first clue came on June 1, I was in a bit of a panic since I hadn’t yet selected fabrics.  The couple of times I went to peek in my fabric stash, I would find one or two fabrics that I wanted to use. Then I would start trying to find playmates for it, and it never ended well. After a few frustrating minutes, I would throw up my hands (after throwing the fabric back on the floor one of the shelves.

mystery quilt fabricThese are the fabrics I’m going to use. I was surprised how hard it was for me to find five fabrics that I could really get excited about. But I chalked it up, in hindsight, to the chaotic pace of life and all the deadlines. As June was moving along, and the 2nd clue for July would be showing up in my mailbox, I knew I needed to get moving if I wanted to be part of this challenge. And one afternoon, I tried again, going with a different color scheme, and this came together. I took a picture of it, sent it in an email to Aby, and I’ve now completed s.

Step 1 (given on June 1) was all about cutting different widths of strips from these four fabrics. From the fifth fabric, we were to cut thirty-one 6 1/2″ squares. These cuttings were then placed in a series of 4 zipper plastic bags according to the instructions. I’ve seen July’s clue for Step 2, which is to start sewing. And I have until August 1 to get it done. YAY! This is a challenge that I can handle.

So let me tell you a few of the cool things that attracted me to this particular quilting challenge. First, it’s a mystery quilt, and it’s easy enough for beginners. Although I’m not a beginner, I’m not looking for technical challenges–I just want to get back at some quilting. When I’m ready for something to advance my skills, I might give paper piecing a try, but that won’t be this summer.

Did I mention that it’s a mystery quilt? That’s cool because I’ve never done a mystery quilt before. I told you above that the first of each month, we get instructions about how to cut, or how to sew, BUT we don’t get any pictures of what the finished quilt will look like. We are constructing one kind of block this month, and there will be something else to construct with August 1’s clue. But it won’t be until the September clue that we finally find out how it all fits together into its final pattern.

My sewing machine is set up, my strips are cut, and there’s a chance I can do a little sewing over the next couple of days. It would be nice to get this clue completed. And then maybe I can tackle a few other ideas that are rolling around in my brain.

And I am intrigued by those quilted postcards, but I’ll save that for another post.

I’ll be back with pictures of my progress. Thanks for stopping by!

400 Words: Go! (Day 19 of the Writing 101 Blogging Challenge)

Prompt for June 26

Don’t Stop the Rockin’

writing-101-june-2014-class-badge-2On this free writing day, remember the words of author Anne Lamott: “I don’t think you have time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won’t be good at it.”

Today is a free writing day. Write at least four-hundred words, and once you start typing, don’t stop. No self-editing, no trash-talking, and no second guessing: just go. Bonus points if you tackle an idea you’ve been playing with but think is too silly to post about.

Even this post is a struggle. 400 words. One at a time, she said. OK, I can do it. But first: the words that come to mind as to the boring things I could write about. Use them as headings and explore the stuff inside this brain.

Motivation, Wasting Time, The Forest, First Steps.

MOTIVATION

I have almost forgotten what this is, let alone how or where to find it. My final exams have all been graded and recorded as of 36 hours ago. The last of the semester’s deadlines–finished. Of course, now there is summer camp to prep for and a few writing and research projects that need my attention, but overall, I finally have some breathing space. I have a list of things I’d like to accomplish. I even have a few things I’d like to do for fun.  Fun? Oh dear, have I forgotten about how or where to find that as well?

Luckily, last night I had the idea that maybe I should just jump in with the current prompt and catch up later (if at all). The last post I made for this challenge was for Day 4. Granted, it was only posted a few days ago (as I am not doing the challenge on the normal schedule), but my intention had been to “catch up.” So this morning, when I read this post for day 19,  it totally made sense to use jump right in and start clearing out all the nonsense that is knocking around in my brain about how time is getting away from me.  Which leads me to the next heading.

WASTING TIME

Anyone who knows me will not understand how this even shows up on my radar. The reality is that I take on way too much, more than any three people should do, and then I don’t give myself credit for what IS accomplished. I silently (usually) berate myself for what HASN’T been finished. Or what I had hoped to do but didn’t get to.

I have made tremendous strides in ONE area. When I DO take time to do something that might not be considered productive by my “doing compulsion” (Enneagram, Type 6, if you care), I don’t view that as a waste of time anymore. I do see things like doing Sudoku, napping, having coffee with friends, and similar activities for recharging my batteries. In fact, that is one of the big lessons I’ve learned in the past few months. No matter HOW busy I let myself get, I MUST take time out for recharging. The alternative is not pretty.

Still, I find myself a little frustrated lately because I now have a little breathing space, but I am not finding my way to the things that really enliven my soul: quilting, writing/blogging for fun, creative pursuits just for the fun of it.

THE FOREST

I’m not sure if this is unusual, but when it comes to trying to map out a daily journey, I can’t decide whether I should go for the forest OR the trees. I can see the forest. I can see the trees. OK, yes, there are too many trees that I focus on. But I have found that the moments of renewal give me lots of forest time. So my frustration comes in when I can’t bring my trees to blend into the forest very well. For me, I think that multi-tasking has really gotten in the way. In the days when multi-tasking was considered a good thing, I got pretty good at it. But I’ve seen the research, and I’ve lived the dream nightmare, and I’m really seeing–both in myself and in others–that multi-tasking keeps us from being fully present in the moment, AND it depletes the limited conscious attention we have to devote to the things we want to accomplish.

I realize that the task list I created for myself as summer began is a problem, not because those things can’t or shouldn’t be done at some point over the summer, but because I started scheduling them in such a way that the summer quickly became a huge case study in the pitfalls of multi-tasking. I took all the tasks and ideas, and started slotting them into the days and weeks and hours as if they were pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. There was no real prioritizing, just shove it all in. And that makes for a really messy forest. Clutter of the mind. As if physical clutter isn’t enough to derail the best of intentions, I’ve got way too much stuff banging around up there as well. No wonder, I couldn’t get excited about quilting or blogging or other fun activities.

While planning is good, I think I might be stuck in “over-planning mode.”  I didn’t just make a list of things I wanted to do this summer, I tried to shoehorn them all in to specific spots. A recipe for frustration. No wonder I have no motivation. The summer looks like a maze with no way out. And even though I have more freedom about which tasks I work on when, my over-planning was paralyzing me into feeling that summer was just like the rest of the year. The aha moment came when I realized that I need to create a summer that works for me, balanced with accomplishing important tasks and regular down time that restores me. Then I can use THAT model to ease myself back into the school year.

FIRST STEPS

SO, new plan. Just make the list, so the items that need attention don’t get forgotten. Then, just walk away. For me, this is revolutionary. I don’t have to plan when each of those things is going to get down. Once I’ve written everything down, it’s there for me to look at any time I want to. All of the things I need to do are contained; they are no longer wandering around in my head, with me wondering if I’m going to forget something. But, I really don’t have to map out a time slot for each one of those items. It’s enough that they’re on the list.

WHAT?

WOW! It’s enough that they’re on the list. I don’t need to spend time arranging and rearranging them based on my frustration level and the other surprises life brings my way. I can just focus on a couple of things at a time. Create a reasonable schedule for THOSE things, and then go back to the list and choose the next things to focus on. A recovery process for an over-achieving multi-tasker.

The actual steps involve:

  1. Making the list
  2. Choosing the first 2 (or 3 at the most) tasks to focus on.
  3. Walk away from the rest of the list.
  4. Enjoy the breathing room.

I have the list. That was the first thing I did at the beginning of this period. I just didn’t stop with the list. I started plugging everything into a calendar. I missed the walk away part. I just have to extricate it from my attempts at calendering everything. Not too tough.

The two things I need to focus on first have emerged–as a result of a couple email exchanges this morning. I don’t have to force the process. It can actually be organic. The flexible third thing has also been identified.

The rest of the list can be put aside. (I’m still marveling at this.)

I have a feeling the next few days are going to be much more productive AND relaxing at the same time. I suspect my frustration will diminish as well.

 

THE EXTRA SURPRISE

I never would have expected to make it to the 400 words (with little editing) once, let alone three times.

Writing through my frustration helped me make some discoveries that were below the conscious level of my recent circular thinking. This resulted in breakthroughs and a potential plan.

I expected I would feel better after I got these feelings and thoughts written, but I had no idea that I would get to the end of it with a solid plan for changing my way of doing things.

When things seem frustrating and confusing, writing really is the best thing to do.

I’m moving again!  🙂

 

 

The (IL)Logic of Self-Defeating Behaviors

Image courtesy of 89studio / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of 89studio / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In the US, the fall semester of most universities ends in early December with a break for the Christmas holidays. That’s not the case in Taiwan. Our 18 week semester ends sometime in early to mid-January in time for a break for Chinese New Year’s. (Which also means that, yes, I taught on Christmas). But the nice thing about the schedule here (other the fact that the semesters are 18 weeks long) is that when our break comes, I can use it to catch up on tasks that have been slipping through the cracks while classes are in session.

So I entered the month-long break with a list of things I wanted to accomplish. Now this wasn’t my usual crazy-ass mountain list where I try to climb Mt Everest, take 1st place in a cooking competition, and write my acceptance speech for a Nobel Prize all in the same afternoon. I was actually fairly reasonable, listing three major projects that I wanted to make progress on. I thought this would be a smart way to approach things instead of resorting to my typical over-achieving ways. I added a couple of personal projects that I was excited about to be used as a reward as I accomplished my goals. I even sweetened the pot by adding “fun” projects–quilting, blog posts, pleasure reading. We planned a couple of outings–a couple day trips and one overnight. A productive, yet restorative break lay out in all its promising glory.

The new 18-week semester begins on February 17, our opening faculty meeting is on Friday, the 14th. So, with less than a week of the break left, I wish I could report that my three main projects for the break have been completed, and that my “reward” projects are all moving along nicely. And that further, I’m refreshed, renewed, and ready to tackle the semester with gusto.

Instead, I am frustrated because during the past couple of weeks, I feel like I didn’t get enough done. And when I say “enough,” I mean the things that were on my “reasonable” to-do list. I sit here with one of the three projects finished, one at about 70% completion, and no progress on the third. What’s worse is aside from blog entries, and a tiny bit of quilting early on, I set those things aside. And my energy and motivation continued to fall.

With the help of a friend, I realized that I am actually being pretty ridiculous. I know the things that will energize me. Quilting, writing, reading. Working on projects that will further my long-range plans. So let me present you with two scenarios.

  1. Whenever I really invest in quilting, writing, reading, and other activities that energize me, I am able to tackle the things that need to be done. It’s like magic. I return to the deadlines and the results are very satisfying.
  2. When I tell myself that I need to finish my to-do list and THEN I can do one of the energizing activities as a reward for getting my work done, my already sluggish output eventually screeches to a halt or results in less than satisfactory results.

In the first scenario, I accomplish all kinds of things. My spirits are high, as is my motivation. I get lots of good ideas and am able to implement them without too much difficulty.

In the second scenario, I get even less done. I might slog through a few of the most critical things, but truth be told, it is not my best work.

It’s not that I need to play and take a total break. But taking significant things from my life and putting them on the back burner because they aren’t on the top of the priority list turns out to be self-defeating over time.There are things in my life that are not in the top priority list that are still a significant part of my life. Putting them on the back burner as an incentive to do the things that I “should” do first does not really work. But when I stop “thinking” and revert to automatic pilot, scenario two is the default setting.

If I incorporate the energizing activities as a regular part of life, I’ll end up being productive, less resentful. It turns out that getting everything done first before doing the things that feed us is actually counter-productive when viewed  from the moments when I feel most alive and creative.

I can’t go back and get these last few weeks back, but I can sprinkle my life with the things that will make life more colorful and energizing.

The new semester is looking brighter already.