Out of Practice

Mini Reunion, Clarion West class of 2014

I went to a mini reunion of my Clarion West class last night. I can’t believe it’s already been three years. (I forgot to get a picture early so two of my classmates aren’t pictured.)

I miss writing here or somewhere. I’m out of practice.

It’s very much a season of change right now. My husband and I are preparing to move. We have a couple of trips planned. I’ve been going through my belongings and making donate, garbage, and keep piles. We carted off a giant, heavy television to an e-waste facility yesterday.

Oh, that TV! There was history in that behemoth, and I no longer have to lug that history around. Of course there are loads more items to jettison, literally loads, but that was a big one. To motivate me, I have been playing a season of Hoarders in the background (on the newer TV) while I sorted.

It is already a warm, sunny day. All the fans are blowing. The dog is asleep on the couch beside me, on his blanket.

TIL – 2/6/16

I was listening to the radio and learned about the term: designated survivor.

A clearly defined line of succession has been established for when the U.S. president is … unavailable. And if everyone in that line of succession is likewise … unavailable … then a person is arranged to be the designated successor. For example, during the State of the Union Address, pretty much everyone in the presidential line of succession is in attendance. If something were to happen to everyone attending that event, then the designated survivor would become Acting President.

During the event, the designated survivor is given presidential-level security and waits out the time at an undisclosed location.

So that’s a thing I learned today on the drive home from the gym.

(Yesterday) I Learned – 2/5/16

I learned that smooshing half a ripe avocado on toast and adding a little bit of salsa, shredded cheddar cheese, and sliced black olives is very tasty.

I also learned (still listening to the audiobook) that the number one thing that makes a house look messy is cluttered surfaces. A solution? Take a page from FlyLady and focus on tackling “hotspot” surfaces in 15 minute bursts. (See this article for additional tips)

I think 15 minute bursts would work better for me than what I’ve been doing, which is ignoring the problem and waiting for a mythical free day to do it all at once.

I’ve become an expert at tuning out the “mess” frequency, but I can usually trick myself into doing something for 10-15 minutes without overanalyzing the situation. (Note to self: consider applying this trick to writing.)

When I got home from work last night I performed the burst trick on the island counter in our kitchen. It’s not completely mess free, but you can see an improvement. Daily mail continues to be my Kryptonite. I especially hate thick envelopes from the credit card companies which contain nothing but ads or credit offers because I feel like I need to shred any identifying details, so it involves separating regular paper inserts from the pre-filled forms and taking the to-shred pile downstairs and stacking it another box… Ugh.

And then there’s the half-finished projects and stalled hobbies and fancy cookware I rarely use cluttering up the rest of the place…

Basically, I live in the house of good intentions. And that’s fine, as long as those good intentions get organized once in a while.

TIL – 2/4/16

Still listening to the same audiobook about making the most of your 168 hour week.

Today I learned about a resource for reporters, Help A Reporter. You can sign up as a Source or as a Journalist. There is a free version and a subscription version.

I also learned about the importance of asking yourself: What does the next level look like? And then from there, reverse engineering the accomplishments you would need to have achieved to reach that point. Do you have to publish a certain number of scholarly articles in specific publications? Do you need to know how to use certain types of software?

In figuring out the accomplishments, consider attaching a number to the goal. Increase income or profits by x. Publish x more than now. Decrease time spent on audio editing by x. Whatever. Be thinking of tangible outcomes and what the next level looks like.

Today I Learned – 2/3/16

Day two and it’s already getting hard to think of things.

I listened to about an hour of the audiobook I mentioned yesterday on my commute. Today’s theme was focusing on core competencies during your day job and finding ways to minimize, ignore, or outsource tasks that take you too far from those core competencies.

Today I Learned

I’d like to try to learn something every day. To that end, here is what I learned today:

Instead of saying you don’t have time to do something, try saying that the thing isn’t a priority. When you say you don’t have time, you are putting the responsibility on someone or something else. For example, reword “I don’t have time to read to my child at night,” to “it’s not my priority to read to my child at night.” Well, is that true? And if it’s not true, why do you let other items steal that time away from what you’d really rather be doing — especially when those items might be busy work like checking Facebook or email? If it is true, maybe there’s a reason that reading isn’t a priority, like the books aren’t very interesting. So … now you know to get different books.

Paraphrased from 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam

I like this lesson because it forces you to admit to yourself that there are some things you feel like you should be doing, but don’t want to do and so it’s easier to say “I don’t have time.”  Better to admit that you could probably find the time, but the reality is you just don’t want to.  Save yourself the guilt and work with the priorities you actually intend.

On shortcuts, ruts, and shifting perspective


As I grow older, I find myself taking more and more shortcuts. Not that shortcuts don’t have a purpose. If you know what you want, shortcuts are great and can keep you from wasting time. But the grease that makes each shortcut so effective is an underlying assumption I don’t question, and that’s a problem.

Because of these assumptions, I don’t stop and ask myself, “Why I am doing this?” I assume that because I’ve always done it this way, I might as well continue. Move on to the next thing. I have a hectic schedule and there is so much to do that it has been simpler to fall into a routine that reinforces the shortcuts.

I wake up, I sit in traffic, I arrive at work, I react, I take a break and eat the same foods, I respond the same way, I watch the same shows, I go to bed.

Sometimes I notice how beautiful it is outside. I am distracted by a news story. But I feel as if I haven’t been thinking enough, absorbing enough. I skim the surface of my day like a flat stone skims the surface of a pond. This is not learning. This is memorizing stimulus and response.

I have been trying to be more mindful of the present, to focus on my attitude, to devote some part of the day to chipping away at long-term goals. It is uncomfortable to stray from routine and inject new practices. Even describing it here, the words come out stilted and forced.

How do I reboot myself? How do I step off the path I’ve created without everything falling apart?

I know what I am supposed to say. First I need to decide what I want and then I need to make a plan with milestones and achievable targets… but focusing on the end result seems so final and heavy and static. I want my approach to be more fluid.

I know the power of small changes made over time, how they compound, but I’m not sure I am ready to commit to a single end result. I have an idea that instead of the traditional list of “where I want to be in five years” I should ask myself continuously:

Will this action/thought process result in a positive effect over the long-term or  in the short-term?

And then focus on making the long-term choice. For example, I’m hungry. Should I eat this donut that is here in front of me and looks delicious or should I cook myself an egg, even though that will take more time and I don’t really feel like it?

If that question forms the spine of my decision-making, it is easy to choose the protein over the sugar fix. Instead of focusing on the reward, I am going to go back to the beginning and focus on the process.

I’m not abandoning goal-setting altogether, but let’s be real. I know generally where I would like to be five years from now. And if instead of focusing on a plan of attack and feeling guilty all the time when I wake up and am not that ideal version of myself, I can go down into the weeds and focus on the daily practices and choices that will move me closer or further away from who I want to be.

Now that I’ve put it like that, it isn’t so different from setting a goal and working towards it. But this way I can play mental tricks on myself and reduce it down to a single question.

Writing it all out like this, I see the contradictions, but it all comes down to this: I have goals, I take shortcuts that don’t move me towards those goals. I don’t respond well to consciously feeling like I have to do something, but then I fall into patterns where I do things for no reason beyond it’s easy.

This would be a multi-staged process, but I will attempt to tweak these behaviors first:

  • Be kinder to myself
  • Apply the question about long-term vs short-term benefits to shortcuts
  • Trick myself into making better choices as much as possible.

Think it’ll work?