One Change at a Time? Not so Fast.

Among those in the business of telling you how to change your life, it is universally contended that the best method is to choose the most important change you can make, make it, and then move on to the next one. Continue reading “One Change at a Time? Not so Fast.”

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A Good Use of Time

As Sunday afternoon wore on, part of me felt frustrated. It complained, “Here’s the whole day gone and I haven’t done anything!”

The other part of me countered, “What I have done is go on a 5½ mile walk with my husband and my dog, stopping in the middle for a charming lunch at a sidewalk café. What I have done is lived.”

Why is it so hard to feel like that is a valid way to spend part of my weekend? Especially when there was nothing else I particularly wanted to get done that day? Continue reading “A Good Use of Time”

The Danger of a Slow Start

Last night we had a guest to whom we gave the master bedroom, which meant that we slept in the front bedroom and endured the constant parade of cars driving in and out of the driveway, people walking past, a cavalcade of wailing sirens, and the rattling coming and going of our neighbor’s shopping cart early this morning. (The first time I saw her, I thought there was a homeless woman in our driveway. I’ve since realized that she does live there, but her contribution to the family’s income seems to be collecting bottles and cans for recycling.) Needless to say, I did not sleep as well as I would have liked.

On such days, waking tired and grumpy, I am tempted to start the day slowly. Have a leisurely breakfast and a few cups of tea or – the sign of a truly desperate morning – coffee; read whatever book I’m working on at the moment; catch up on emails and Facebook and articles; and just generally work up to the strains of the day.

This is false interpretation of the lessons to be learned from Days That Seem Like They’re Going To Be Impossible To Get Through, But End Up Not Being So Bad. Continue reading “The Danger of a Slow Start”

Trying Not to be Selfish

Let’s face it: marriage is disastrous for blogging. When I resumed in September I didn’t say it was a 52-week project or that I would post every week, but such was, of course, my intention. Then miss two weeks, post one (at the absolute deadline), miss – what? Two weeks? Three weeks?

But when you have a husband who is at school two days a week and often studying until 7 on the other nights, dinners must be cooked and dishes must be washed and at some point the laundry must not be allowed to remain in its state of filth. And afterwards, in spite of our best intentions and repeated resolutions, we often find ourselves too tired or too headachy to do anything but sit down to a nice episode on Hulu.

And I find myself resenting it all.

Yes, of course I had chores when I was single, but aside from keeping some semblance of friendly roommate relations, there was no reason to do them if I had something more “important” to do. Now, no matter how much I want to accomplish something for myself, I always seem to end up doing the chores instead because it will relieve that much pressure from my husband.

To be clear, it’s not that he doesn’t do his share. I feel bad plenty of times that he didn’t get as much homework done as he wanted to because he was running errands for the household: taking the recycling, doing the grocery shopping, dropping off my shoes at the repairman because he’s going to be on that side of town anyway.

And it’s not that I feel particularly “guilty” about not blogging. If I’m going to feel guilty about anything it’s about not exercising and being more targeted about my diet – the idea being that those things would create more energy (and therefore more usable time) where none currently exists.

No, it’s just that I miss the reading and writing that go into blogging. There’s a book I’m desperate to read that I’ve checked out from the library twice. Twice, because I maxed out the renewals the first time before making meaningful progress through it. Tomorrow I’ll max out the renewals again. And I’m maybe 10 pages further along than I was when I returned it the first time.

15 weeks to read 60 pages. It’s no wonder I feel like my brain is slowly shriveling up and dying of starvation.

For now, I’m not sure what else I can do than continue what I’m doing. Only one thing is clear: if this low level of selflessness is beyond me, I am so, SO not ready for children.

Productivity by Number, Part 2

This is the conclusion of a two-part series on productivity. You can catch up on Part 1 here.

Step 4: Prioritization

Yes, everything I have ever read about productivity and life satisfaction emphasizes priorities. But it’s hard to appreciate their importance and power until you see how completely you lack them. Continue reading “Productivity by Number, Part 2”

Productivity by Number, part 1

That it is possible to look busy without accomplishing much, and that correct prioritization is necessary for true productivity, are ideas which are pretty universally accepted – and, I suspect, nearly as universally confusing.

For years I struggled with the Steven Covey Four-Quadrant system.

If you have 10 urgent things, and some of them need to happen soon so various projects can move forward, but some of them were handed down by your boss, which ones are  1: urgent and important, and which ones are just 3: urgent? Or are they all urgent and important, and in that case, which do you do first? And at what point do the neglected 2: important projects become urgent, even though they have no time deadline attached, simply because they never rank highly enough to get done otherwise?

I spent years trying to use that system and just feeling bewildered.

It probably works very well for some people – evidently it worked for Covey, or he wouldn’t have written a book about it – but what I’ve realized is that no system will work for everyone. It’s only recently that I’ve gotten noticeably closer to finding mine.

Step 1: Getting Things Done Continue reading “Productivity by Number, part 1”

Enough Rope and the Myth of the Slow Day

A coworker mentioned that things had been slow in their department this week. I nodded in rote sympathy. What you really want is just enough work, not too much, not too little, but too little is arguably the more painful. Not that I remember what that feels like.

But then later on as I was taking one of my head-clearing walks I thought, “But when it’s slow, doesn’t that just mean you have time to do the strategy- and project-work that you’re always meaning to get around to otherwise? Isn’t that just the chance we’re always struggling for to be proactive rather than reactive?” Looked at that way I don’t think there is such a thing as a slow day. Continue reading “Enough Rope and the Myth of the Slow Day”

Intersections of Responsibility

Read someone like Seth Godin regularly and you quickly become a convert to the idea that you should always bring your A-game to your work and your life and your “art”, that you should never give less than your full allowance of passion and energy, that you should never just show up and think you’ve done your duty.

Great. Agreed: that is ideal.

But what about those days when your A-game just isn’t going to happen? Continue reading “Intersections of Responsibility”

C’est La Vie

There is no “real” post this week. True, it is not at all “eschewing easy” to give myself too many (any?) passes on that, but this week there were enough extenuating circumstances, including the night my print job needed to be picked up as soon as it was done, at 11 p.m., and working over 16 hours yesterday, including driving to and from San Diego, and also needing to leave the house by 9 a.m. tomorrow, that I don’t feel too bad about it this week. And then, too, I find that one of the hardest things to do in life is to balance effort and upholding commitments with not killing oneself. So here’s my stab at doing that this week.

But I Don’t Want To!

The wail sounds often and wordlessly in my head. “But I don’t want to call the HMO/ get up in the cold pre-dawn to go for a walk/ write my blog/ etc!” Usually, the presented alternative is not even some other useful thing, but to take it easy, to relax, to take whatever “reward” or indulgence I tell myself I’ve earned.

I suppose this is normal or even nearly universal. The problem is giving in to it too often; the frustration comes from reflecting on how many people have overcome it. If they can, why can’t I? Continue reading “But I Don’t Want To!”