The Game of Productive Baby Steps

by Elizabeth on January 28, 2013

Slightly more low-tech than the basic wheel.

If there’s a to-do app out there, I’ve probably got it.

It’s not that I’m disloyal to any one of them (well, okay, I am), but after using something for a while, I get that whole malaise thing going on.  I either a) don’t check it like I should, and end up missing things, or b) get too hyperspecific in my adding of things, so maintaining the blasted thing becomes a to-do-list-item in and of itself.  It kind of defeats the purpose of that whole increasing productivity bit.

A lot of what I’m doing right now is hyperspecific.  Or at least, it’s project-specific.  And for those kinds of things, these apps seem to work pretty well.  Put in a line item, check it off, celebrate with pie.  Easy peasy.  For those, I’m fine with app-as-project-management.

When it comes to life stuff, though — the everyday, do this, do that, do it again tomorrow — that’s where a lot of these app-type things fail.  Either you have to check them all the time, set a bunch of alerts for stuff, or schedule your day around your stuff to do.  (Which never works for me.  My work stuff might take me an hour today, but three hours tomorrow, and god only knows when those three hours will be.)  Plus, a lot of it’s stuff I don’t particularly want to do, which means relying on an app or system to just tell me again that it’s time to do something is kind of futile, because I’ll be resisting like a mofo.

Enter: The Simplest Game, Ever.

I have a long list of repeating tasks that should be done daily-ish to stay on top of them.  Stuff for work, stuff for the web, stuff for the house, stuff for me.  Stuff that isn’t necessarily attached with a goal, per se, but is regular ol’ maintenance work, but without the coverall glamour.

After noticing yet again that I put off answering email (which I totally do, sometimes even thinking I answered it with my mind already, apparently), and that the dishes were piling up, and holy crap I think a mushroom is growing out of the dust on the television set, and resenting every single second of it all, I came to a place of realization:

Something was gonna have to change.  And since the dust will still collect and the email still won’t be answered by my mind, I had to change my attitude.  And the easiest way to do that…turn it into a game.

the rules, this way!

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For Nerdy Adventurers of all ages.

 

Y’know how sometimes, you’re just bopping along, doing your thing, and suddenly, the thing becomes A Thing?

Maybe it’s just me.

Either way, right around the beginning of the year, after I decided that Adventure was going to be my word of the year, I was joking with my (equally nerdy) friends about starting the Nerd Adventure League and Blanket Fort Society.  Its purpose would be to promote adventuring and to watch numerous Dr. Who episodes from the comfort of a blanket fort.

Just to keep my regular, non-nerd, non-adventurer friends from being force-fed adventure spam, I set up a facebook group for it.

getting the Nerd and the Adventurer al mashed up.

And apparently, a hundred people or so thought it should be A Thing.

We’ve been invited to a convention in Florida to set up a blanket fort, for instance.  And a paper in Anchorage, Alaska’s mentioning the Year of Adventure in a story this week.  That kind of A Thing.

There’s not really a webpage for it, in specific, so I think I’m going to just pop any static stuff here from now on.  (We’re doing a Campcrafting badge program thingie that might need a place, for example.)  I’ll try to keep the Nerdy Adventure posts to their own section, in case you’re not a nerdy adventurer.

If you are, though, feel free to join us.  All adventurers welcomed.

(Now that it’s A Thing and all.)

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Little Green Monsters

by Elizabeth on January 10, 2013

KTW-TALK-1

What Fear Can Teach Us

Instead of going the whole New Year’s Resolution route this year, I took a page from Leonie Dawson’s amazing life planner and made a list of a hundred things I wanted to do this year.  It’s not really goals, per se, but a list of things that, by the end of 2013, would be really cool to have done.  I did it last year, and again on a minor scale for both Summer and Autumn with the bucket lists, and I have to say:  it works better than most lists of stodgy “goals”, which seem, at least in my own head, to equate to actionables and a long to-do list that I’m much more likely to avoid with the strategic application of cookies than actually to do.

(Hey, I never said I was perfect.  Far from it, actually.)

One of the things on that list of 102 (I’m an overachiever) was to watch 20 really good TED talks.  I always seem to forget TED’s there, as this really great resource by people with really big brains, willing to share.  Inevitably, every time I watch a few of these things, I feel my horizons expanding, and I get a zillion and one new ideas from the new perspectives, and in 2013, I’m looking for some great big horizons.

Today’s random talk is the one linked above, by Karen Thompson Walker, and as talks go, it’s not all that exciting on the surface.  Walker’s a writer, and it shows in her delivery, but the story she tells is one that stuck with me:  that fear is a kind of divination, and that it’s an innate storytelling ability in all humans that makes Fear possible.  The key, she says, is to look at them as a reader would, of any other kind of story — with a dual mind, Artist/passion and Scientist/analytical.  Choosing which story to believe, then, turns Fear from this overwhelming, huge, very real to your brain kind of thing…into just what it is:  a story.

As someone who often lets her fears get really big, really scary, and really overwhelming, this was like a giant clue-by-four straight to my head.  Fears do occasionally come true.  But it’s rarely the most salacious of them that’s the real threat — it’s the small ones, the ones we don’t think about.  The fear of a heart attack after too many of those Avoidance Cookies, or of muscle loss from sitting here inactive.  And that it’s up to us to decide which fears are actually the ones that will come true.  We just have to read the right stories.

Go watch the talk, folks.   See if it doesn’t change your perceptions just a little bit today.

Happy 2013.

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Taking Stock: booking it.

by Elizabeth on December 21, 2012

Sleeping aside, I’ve been doing a lot of taking inventory from this past year.

Looking at what worked, what didn’t, why things did or didn’t, that kind of thing.  It’s all part of coming up with the new Plan for 2013, et. al..

Not that A Plan ever really stays..a plan, mind you. New opportunities, unforseen events.  You know the drill.  But it’s nice to have one even if it’s most definitely written in pencil.

This past year, one of the things I did was to actually keep track of the books I read, which I usually don’t do.  I read in spates, much like everything else I do, and I forget where my lists are from one spate to the next sometimes.  I kept this one in my journals, though, and surprisingly, I read something like 57 books over the past year.  (Probably more, because of aforementioned forgetting to write things down.)

Now that I’m a confirmed Kindle addict, I find I’m reading a lot of entertaining crap, with a few more serious things tossed in here and there.  A few life-changers.  Mostly the equivalent of fast food, vs. some organic soul-nourishing type stuff.  :)

So question for you:

Got any good book recommendations for me?

I’m mostly reading fiction, for the record.  I get enough non-fiction in my day to day life.  I’m not a huge sci-fi fan, though I’ve been reading a lot of Corey Doctorow’s stuff lately (so technonerd stuff vs. vampires and ray guns.).  I also don’t do Really Super Dark stuff — I get nightmares.  So anything on the lighter side is fine, though.  Non-fic is fine, if it’s entertaining.

Tell me what you’re reading. :)

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Update: On Dozing and Hard Truths

by Elizabeth on December 19, 2012

It’s been a little over a week now since I decided to give myself a bedtime.

I know.  That sounds like I’m eight years old and whining that I’m not tired.  (Which is actually probably closer to the truth than I want to admit.)

But seriously…had to be done.

The initial reports are mixed.

[click here for more…]

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Get the Backhoe.

by Elizabeth on December 11, 2012

Absence makes the heart…

All the “experts” tell you not to acknowledge the whole lack-of-writing thing on a blog.  They say people don’t care why you’ve gone an unholy amount of time without writing anything, and to just dive in.  (Of course, by mentioning it, I’m mentioning it.  Faux pas: now you can has one. Meta, meta, duck.)

Work got crazy, then got more crazy, then inertia set in.  Because it happens.  (And will probably happen again, because that’s life.)

But there are a couple things kicking around the ol’ headmeats, and I figure there’s no time like the present.

So, hi there.  Long time, no see.

Expert advice thus unheeded, let’s talk about simplicity and sleep.

read more by clicking this linkydink…

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The Eggplant Invasion.

by Elizabeth on September 27, 2012

So I grew some eggplant, see.

Back in May, a local boy scout troop donated about five billion plants to the Community Garden where I’ve got a couple plots.  Most of them were well-marked, but there were a couple flats of these really pretty mystery plants, completely unlabeled.  Some of them were recognizable — tomatoes of some variety, either a zucchini or a squash thing, some kohlrabi.  But these really pretty ones, nobody seemed to want.  I grabbed one and stuck it in the dirt, and when they were all starting to wither and almost ready to be tossed, I grabbed another five to save them from the dumpster.

The problem, of course, with planting vegetable plants is that, at the end, you have vegetables.

A fact that, apparently, eluded me.  They were pretty, and some kind of veggie, so they couldn’t be too bad, I figured.

 

And then the eggplants came.

And came.

And came.

This is from a few days ago.  And it’s not all of them.  There are about a dozen of them in the kitchen right now, and that’s after two days’ worth of eggplant parmesan, a pot-full of ratatouille from a recipe a friend sent me, and slicing & roasting & freezing another dozen or so.

And they’re still coming, people.

There are another good dozen on the plants, not including the teeny-tiny ones that just burst out of the woodwork when the drought broke (which probably won’t get big enough to harvest before the frost starts happening, to be honest).  Clearly, my garden soil is the perfect growing composition for eggplant, because if they were any happier, I’d be turning purple right now.

There’s a quandary, though.

I have no idea what else to do with them.  I’ve frozen diced eggplant, roasted eggplant, and sliced eggplant.  I froze some of the parmesan.  I froze garlic-roasted eggplant.  Half my freezer is eggplant.  (Oh, woe is me, having too much food.  I know, I know.  First world homesteader problem.)

I’m about to start randomly leaving bags of it in neighbors’ cars, the way I had to with the jalapenos last year.  (Which, by the way, I also have three gallon-sized freezer bags full of, including one roasted bag in the freezer for using later on.  THAT, however, I’m making into hot sauce.  Sadly, eggplants don’t make good hot sauce.  It’s a little too bland.)

So what do you do with eggplant, folks?

I’m at the end of my ideas, here.  Local food bank doesn’t want them, almost everyone I know has been loaded up with them (by me), and I don’t want them to go bad — that’d kind of defeat the purpose of all the weeding and watering I did this summer.

I’m open to try just about anything at this point. :)

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Tiny Mopey Head-Demons

by Elizabeth on September 26, 2012

Any undertaking can be a little daunting sometimes.

After all, you’re learning all kinds of new things.  And learning new things tends to change  you.  It’s that whole “when you know better, you do better” adage.

Thing is:  it can be a little bit stressful.  (Says the Queen of Understatement.)

This past  year’s been a bit of a learning experience for me.

Obviously.

And any time there’s change, there’s also resistance.  Sometimes from other people, and sometimes, from inside my own head, which may not have been all that comfortable with where things were, but also doesn’t like being in that place of Newness, where changes — even positive ones — are kind of scary.  (If I don’t stay up all night and do stuff until I fall down, will I get it all done?  Will cutting back my work hours mean everything tanks?  If I grow my own food, what happens if I do it wrong and kill my whole family with botulism?) 

I didn’t say it was logical, because fears rarely are.  Just that they’re there.  And that it creates stress.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m stressed out, I start talking to myself horribly.

(I don’t mean, like, sitting on a street corner, babbling about aliens and radar chips embedded in my skull, by the way.  I mean the normal self-talk that we all engage in — the dialogue that goes through our heads directed at ourselves.  Sometimes referred to as the Inner Critic.)

The things that I say to me, I’d never say to another human being.  And since sometimes, I have precisely zero filter and have been known to say some pretty boneheadded things to people, that’s saying something.  We’re talking completely out of proportion commentary, even.  I screw up a link in someone’s newsletter, and the Critic tells me that surely, everyone will know it was my fault (since it was), that I’m a complete screwup trainwreck, and I’ll never work again.  Can’t figure out a poorly-documented plugin?  Of course that means that I’m a completely useless idiot who should go wash dishes for a living, though even that might be too complicated for someone as stupid as I am.  Forget to return a friend’s phone call?  Surely that’s a sign that I’m a self-centered jerk who would be better served by living in a cabin somewhere like a hermit so I can’t hurt anyone ever again.

Then, of course, I become aware of what I’m saying to myself, realize that it’s all self-pitying bullshit, and beat myself up for a while about that, too.

Like I said:  It isn’t rational or logical.  It just is. 

And moreover, almost every person I’ve ever talked to does this exact same thing, to various degrees.  We get stressed out, we get insecure or depressed, and the Critic comes out to play, like having a little mopey demon on our collective shoulders, telling us exactly what we don’t need to hear.

Combatting that little voice can be a huge battle.

It’s hard to know where to even start, since it’s not like a regular battle.  It’s inside your own head, which is dark and kind of squishy, and thoughts are very slippery things.

Chris Brogan (who’s a marketing guy, for those of you who aren’t familiar) wrote a really great post about how he’s facing those inner sh*t-talkers head-on.  His process isn’t quick and easy  (at the very minimum, it’ll take you a good week just to get started, and much more than that to gain momentum with it), but it does combat the irrational voice with a rational correction, like shining a big honkin’ truth-light on the shadowy demon on your shoulder.

His solution’s much better than my own, which has generally been to just endure it and wait passively for rationality and perspective to make a comeback.

So how do you deal with that little critical voice?

In times of stress or overwork, when you’re already on shaky footing, or in those times when you’re doing something new and scary — how do you hold the demons at bay?  I’d love to hear your own strategies for dealing with the screaming mimis and the hypercritical demons.

How do you talk to yourself instead?

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One more thing on Digital Organizing…a question.

September 21, 2012

I always seem to put off the hardest parts ’til last. I don’t mean to.  I mean to be one of those highly-effective people who picks the hardest thing off the to-do list and do it first thing in the morning, because that’s what all the “experts” tell you is the best thing to do. The […]

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Speaking of Digital Purging…

September 17, 2012

Just a quickie today: We talked the other day about purging out the digital stuffs. And in a fit of synchronicity, Kam from Campfire Chic is doing a challenge to get rid of all the extraneous digital fluffiness you may still have around. Go check out the introductory post if you want to follow along […]

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