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Organization
  • Better Vs Perfect

    Better Vs Perfect

    By the time this posts, Matt will be back from a work trip up to Michigan. I'm not entirely sure if he got any fresh air between Sunday night and when he flew home, so trust me, it was all work related. Even his evenings were tied up with post-meeting work dinners. Lucky him. 

    I'm not a stranger to business trips. My dad went on them with some regularity while I was growing up. So I know that, deep down in my soul, you need to keep busy. My mom almost always seemed to repaint a room while my dad was gone. My jam seems to be cleaning.

    The problem, as I've realized, is that I'll get things looking really nice while Matt is gone, and then he comes home, and the house explodes. It's so disheartening, as if cleaning weren't disheartening enough at times. (It never ends...My soul hates tasks like that.) My slightly perfectionist tendencies feel that if it can't be perfect, why do it at all? I mean - not quite literally, but surely some of you can relate to that feeling. You've done the laundry for the thousandth time and then you turn around and the basket is full again. Whhhhhhhy?

    Anyway, this time I've taken a different approach. Still cleaning, but I'm not bending over backwards to try and get it perfect. I'm just getting it better. Because better is attainable, perfect isn't. Better means that when Matt comes home, we can keep working on things to improve them. Perfect leads to the house exploding and wailing and gnashing of teeth the first time the dishes aren't taken care of before bed. (Again, not hyper literal)

    If I take a better approach and not a perfect one, I'm not spending ALL my time cleaning while Matt's gone. It means that I can prove to myself that I can make a nice dent in a chunk of time and still have time for the things that I enjoy. That mentality I can carry over to "real" life, where I certainly don't have the time OR the will to deep clean all day. And because Matt seems to follow my lead, if I'm cleaning for a small chunk each day, he will too, and the better approach gets, well, better.

    This whole thing made me think of a quote by Gretchen Rubin. I made it into a simple phone wallpaper, if you want to grab it. I really need to pick up some new fonts. Another day, perhaps.

  • To do, or not to do?

    I've been trying to figure out the best way to get things done. It's not a new project, exactly. I love organization and priorities and lists and office supplies. :swoon: Oh how I love those things. I'm not saying I utlize them well, but I love them just the same.

    Paper planners are where my heart is at. I love writing things down on paper - looking back over the year to see what I've accumulated, the tactile feeling of turning the pages, all that sort of stuff. But here's the problem - paper planners tend to stay put. Either they live on my desk (and it's really hit or miss whether I'll go into my office on a given day), or they'll go in my bag and never get pulled out at home. Either way, what I don't check frequently doesn't get used, which means a lot doesn't get done.

    Phooey.

    So I've started looking at keeping a to-do list on my phone. I'm not a big fan of trial and error - downloading new programs and such, so it was tempting to just use my notepad program. That so wasn't going to work for me. 

    After looking through some of the options, I decided to try out Todoist. It looked easy enough to use, which was critical for me. I didn't want a huge learning curve, or I wasn't going to use it. 

    Things stay in a daily list that's easy to see an cross things off of. You can organize things by projects, add labels, and get reminders pushed to your phone or watch. Todoist works really well with the apple watch - I've come to rely on the little 'ting!' on my wrist to tell me that Mikenna needs her medicine. I love that I don't have to try and watch the time - Todoist just lets me know if I set a reminder. 

    I think Todoist would be even more beneficial if I had an actual, start and finish sort of project going. But it works really well for me as-is, and as I've used it this last month, I've started to refine how I use it, and so it works even better. There was a bit of a learning curve, but it was very easy to get started. The curve was more in mastering the program. 

    One thing I love about Todoist, which is completely unnecessary but awesome, is that it shows me how many tasks I've completed on a given day/week. It also breaks those tasks down by project color, so I can see at a glance what I'm spending my time on. 

    So the good news is that I love Todoist, and it has become my little "get things done" buddy.

    The bad(ish) news is that Todoist as a free app is ... just okay. My biggest grievance with the free version is that it doesn't do reminders. I need reminders. The other perks of the subscription are nice, but without reminders, Todoist is almost useless to me. The subscription for Todoist is $28.99 a year, which isn't bad. However, I find that I'm really getting sick of things wanting subscriptions from me. Adobe switched to this model a few years ago - it's nice that you can pray $9.99/mo for photoshop rather than $799+ or pirating it, but I don't feel like it's actually MY program, and I've lost a lot of love for it. Evernote has had subscription plans for a while, but just tightened the belt and now you can only access Evernote for free on two devices (ie: pc & iphone or iphone & tablet) - that move made Evernote basically useless for me. I had just started using it on my phone, whereas I've been using it on my pc and tablet for years. I'm finding that if things aren't accessible where and when I need them, they're becoming obsolete quickly. So, I moved my evernote files elsewhere and decided I was done with it. 

    So, all that to say, I've been using a free, one month trial of Todoist premium, and I actually like it enough to pay for a subscription for the year. They've got a good product that I'm coming to use daily, and I'm willing to throw them a reasonable fee for that. 

    I don't know whether Todoist will work for you - Matt tried it out, and while he liked it, some other app whose name escapes me actually works better for him. Todoist, however, is definitely my cup of tea. If you're in the market for a productivity/list app, maybe give it a shot. 

  • Better Than Before: LOOPHOLES!

    Habits can be both surprisingly tough and yet, very fragile. There are habits that, once cemented, would take great difficulty to break, and others that require our concentration long after the "magic" 21 day mark. (By the way, 21 days is actually not the magic number. It varies greatly by person, by habit, and how that person forms habits. It's not a bad marker, it just doesn't tell the whole story.) 

    Safeguards help us to aniticipate and minimize temptation. It can keep a lapse from turning into a full relapse. 

    How do we put safeguards into place? Implement "if-then" statements. Put the energy into planning up front - IF they want to go out for coffee, I'll get a small. IF they want to go to a movie, I'll bow out because I need sleep. IF I get a milkshake tonight, then I'll skip dessert tomorrow. Putting energy in up front means that we don't need to think on our feet later. 

    Research shows that when people are forming habits, the earlier repetitions help most to establish it. Start your habit strong, and protect your habit the most right in the beginning, and it will pay off later.

    You can also use planned exceptions. The key word here is planned. Exceptions are best made for something memorable. Skipping the gym to watch tv may not make you feel great later, but skipping the gym to go to a once-in-a-lifetime concert is another story. Think about how you'll feel about the exception later. Will you say "it was worth it!" or not? If it isn't worth it, you may want to reconsider.

    Now, I'm going to run through loopholes. The strategy of loophole spotting can be useful, because for most of us, we will come back to some of the same loopholes over and over. Knowing what we're doing can help us either close the loopholes, or at least make a mindful decision. 

    Moral licensing - Permission to be "bad", because we've been good. "I went to the gym last night, so I can totally have an egg mcmuffin for breakfast" (Note: You can just have the egg mcmuffin without justifying it. It's okay.) 

    Tomorrow - Now doesn't matter, because we're going to do it tomorrow. "I'll eat well tomorrow."

    False choice - Thinking that two activities are in opposition to one another when they aren't necessarily. "I'm too busy to make dinner. Better eat out." 

    Lack of Control - Feeling like we can't control things when we can. "I can't possibly resist buying this book."

    Arranging to fail - A chain of seemingly harmless decisions that allow us to engineer circumstances that we can't resist. "Oops, I forgot to eat breakfast this morning, and I'm right by this bakery." or "I watched too much tv and now I can't do the dishes."

    This doesn't count - Self explanatory. "I can eat whatever I want because I'm on vacation."

    Questionable Assumption -  Weird mental blocks that may or may not be true. "I can't exercise now, I've already showered today."

    Concern for others - Acting out of consideration for others or to fit in socially, whether or not it's warranted. "I have to eat this cake, because aunt Edna would be upset if I didn't."

    Fake self-actualization - Disguised as an embrace of life or acceptance of self. "YOLO!"

    One coin -  The idea that "just one" doesn't matter, whether it's one good deed or one bad. Not realizing that things do, in fact, add up over time. "Why bother working out tonight?"

    Whew. There are a lot of loopholes that we can invoke! What do you find that you fall prey to most often? 

    Next week, we'll look at the strategies of distraction and reward. See you then!

  • The one coin loophole

    If you haven't read Gretchen Rubin's "Better Than Before", a book on habit formation, I highly recommend it. It's really inspiring and drives home that habits are NOT a one size fits all thing. 

    In one section, she talks about the loopholes we use to justify cheats, or not keeping our habits. One such loophole is the one coin loophole. The theory is that "just one" doesn't matter. One night off, one cupcake, one pound.

    The thing is, it's true. One night off from the gym, over your lifetime, doesn't matter. One night where you don't work on your novel doesn't matter. One night where you spend more than you should doesn't matter in the long run.

    Except that it does. One coin doesn't matter, but those coins add up. One night at the gym doesn't matter, but ten of those nights?

    Sometimes it's depressing when all of these things we do just feel like drops in a bucket. Like they don't matter, because they aren't adding up very quickly. But eventually they do add up. They do matter, even if it feels like watching grass grow.

    I thought Gretchen had a really cool video on the one coin loophole on her website. It's nice and short, so check it out!

    One Coin Loophole

  • This is my brain on paper

    This is my brain on paper

    I'm not sure what part of my need to organize things and desire to be productive drove me to this tonight, but here it is.

    I wrote down everything (that I could think of, at any rate) that I would theoretically like to do on a daily basis. I put them into categories, and then I took each category on a piece of paper and wrote down all of my options for that thing.

    Whether it'll lead to anything or not, it was a fun exercise. What do you want to do with your time, and what do you actually do with it?

  • Getting things - ooh, notification!

    Do you do this, too? Sit down to look up something, or work on a project, and next thing you know you're bouncing around between Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and whatever else catches your eye?

    It happens to me way more than I care to admit. Not only do I wind up getting far less work done than I intended, but I don't really feel like I've had any fun, either.

    So I've been trying to be more mindful about whatever I set out to do. If I'm going to work, I put on some music and dive head first into it. If I'm going to check the internet, I do it as it's own thing. I find that I 'run out' of things to look at a lot faster if I'm intentionally checking things out. I also get my work done more efficiently if I'm concentrating on it, and not letting my mind wander - then I really do have more time to go do other things.

    Honestly, we are way less capable of multi tasking than we believe. But sometimes it's just not that simple to sit down and focus. If it were a matter of merely telling ourselves to focus, we'd get a lot more done, right?

    Often there are physical and emotional things at play that we just don't pay attention to. Are you hungry? Thirsty? Have you sat for way too long? Is there something more urgent on your mind? Are you tired or upset? If any of these things apply, it'll affect your ability to work effectively. These are things to pay attention to, not dismiss!

    Many times, we use distractions as a way to numb how we're feeling. I know I should work on this project, but I'm feeling tired after staying up to late to argue with my sister, so I'll look at cat pictures. Or, I've worked a really long day, and I still have two more hours before I can get some relief, let's check Facebook.

    Distracting ourselves in these moments is not necessarily a bad thing. If all you can do to hold it together and regroup is browse your phone for a minute, that's better than not taking that minute and saying something you'll regret. But recognizing why you're distracting yourself and when can be very helpful.

    If you're only searching etsy because you don't like what you're working on, ask yourself if it really needs to be done right now. Can you be more productive on something you're excited about? Or is there a physical need you can meet that will make it easier? If you can, meet your physical and emotional needs head on, rather than jumping to the first website in your favorites list.

    Don't expect yourself to be a machine. If you're distracted for a reason, figure out why, and take care of it. You'll feel a lot better, and you'll get a lot more done. That's a win/win in my book.