Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Treasure Sense tingling...

After work today I went to a nearby charity shop knowing, just knowing, I'd find treasure.  You know that feeling you get when you're a keen charity shopper and your Treasure Sense is tingling?  You know you're going to find The Thing.  I had that feeling as I headed the the shop, which is usually packed with cheap stuff (clothes £1.49, CDs 20p, books 10p) ready to rummage until I found The Thing...

...and I didn't find it!

You can't win them all; at least I'm saved from bankrupting myself in a binge of 10p books and assorted bric-a-brac for one more day.

Photo from Alex: The Beast

The Beast at the bottom of a suburban garden silently stalking his prey, the cunning shrew.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

What colour is Wednesday?

When I look ahead to a free weekend with no plans I see two equal sized boxes in my mind, ready to be filled or not filled.  The boxes sit side by side, are attached to each other and are transparant.  Through them I can see the colours of my home, not clearly defined but more as a wash of various colours in the background.  I've always carried a visual image of the days of the week in my head and it never occurred to me that I did until a colleague turned to me last year and asked "What colour is Wednesday?"  I told her it was dark blue and she said "Ah, you do it too."  We found that we agreed on some of the days as the same colours and others as different.  In my mind's eye the week looks like this:

Monday = Light blue
Tuesday = Light green

There's a small gap between Tuesday and Wednesday

Wednesday = Dark blue

Another small gap between Wednesday and Thursday

Thursday = Dark orange and at I slight peak above the first three days
Friday Morning = Purple
Friday Afternoon = Red

Saturday and Sunday = Red and boxed off from the other five days

When I try to imagine not seeing the week like this I can't get my head around it.  I just can't plan the week without this framework appearing in the background.  I find that when someone describes how they visualise it (or don't at all - shock) it makes me feel a little off balance, almost "What?  How can you live like that?".

Today's box so far has been filled with a little of this and that; writing, knitting, soaking in the bath, making soup, cleaning the house and continuing my sift of all the clutter in my home.  It's been a gentle rhythm that I suddenly realise has actually relaxed me after the work week of madness.  Weekend pottering is good stuff whatever colour the day is.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Hello Trello

Following a month where work has gone off the scale thanks to more incoming work and less staff I've launched into a new project today which relates to boosting the organisation's social media profile.  Am I mad to have taken it on?  Possibly, but it's interesting, new and full of potential.  I'm also trying to get more involved in the different parts of the company and develop my career in a more interesting direction, five years of admin having worn me down to a nib, so it makes sense to grasp these opportunities.

One big problem:  Whilst I felt enthused as I walked home from work I also felt overwhelmed.  I can think of four distinct projects I'm working on, along with piece of training I'm about to undertake, finance, PA work, events preparation and everyday admin work.  I can't fit any more hours into the day and the only work I'm willing to take home is for the training course if I can't squeeze it into my day somewhere.  I want time to write, make things and spend time with my husband, friends and clingy elderly cats so bringing home work is a no no.

I've always relied stubbornly on pen and paper but this amount of time planning was giving me too many separate To Do lists and making things look even worse, so I'm giving an online planning app a chance.  I've set up a Trello account and so far it's looking good.  I've set up one board to share with the people who'll be working on that particular project in other offices so we can co-ordinate our efforts.  I've set up five other boards to cover different areas, so that each of the five work areas (and their many sub-areas) that are supposed to be my number one priority (!) are now separated out from each other.  Now that I've got them in distinct lists everything makes more sense in my head and although I havn't reduced the amount of work or increased the amount of time I have it all looks manageable now and I can see what needs doing now and what can be put off reasonably.  (I can also see that I should be paid more, weep weep.)

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

The simplest of simple tips for writers block

I was annoyed yesterday when I set aside a large chunk of time to write without interruptions or distractions and couldn't think of a thing to write.  I have a couple of stories I've been working on, some ideas for other things and access to infinite online writing prompts and yet I continued to sit there clicking between stories, doing nothing.  I looked up writer's block to see what tips I could find and the one that worked for me was as simple as it gets:  Get up, make a cup of coffee, write for 25 minutes.  Both the coffee and the short time limit worked.  I wrote for 15 minutes on a story, got up to stretch for a minute or two and wrote for another 15 minutes.  Framing a small amount of time to write in was effective because I was able to tell myself that if I just wrote whatever came into my head for 25 minutes I'd have made progress and now I feel freed up again.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Why I've kicked the bucket list and 4 tips for getting the most from life lists

On 15th August 2012 I wrote a list of goals I wanted to achieve in 1001 days, a bucket list with a due date of 12th May 2015.  I started on the list enthusiastically and got a lot done for the first four months.  Among other things I learnt to home brew wine, researched Seasonal Affective Disorder to plan for the heavy Winter months, visited the dentist for the first time in 15 years (procrastination indeed) and joined a knitting group.  It was a productive time and the list was an effective tool to kick myself into action.   I'm a procrastination pro and writing the list actually got me moving, which at the time was miraculous.

Despite this by early 2013 I'd stopped working on the list daily and by mid-2013 I'd forgotten about it completely.  Why did I abandon it if it was going so well?  The answer is that I didn't need it any more.  Making the list and actively using it for several months got me into the habit of drilling down into what I really wanted to do, asking why I wasn't doing it and finding a way to start making it happen right now.  I completed 27 of my 95 goals and set many others in progress but found myself dropping some goals altogether as I was no longer interested in them, and getting involved in others that had never been on my list.  Here's my advice if you want to embark on a goal list:

1)  Don't hesitate to include small things.  Many list sites would have you stick to sailing single handedly around the world and other great feats, but if you want to create the perfect meringue then write it down.

2)  For each goal make a note of why you want to achieve it, when you'll know you've done it (make it measurable) and what the first step in your journey to completion is eg.

Make the perfect meringue

Why?  Because I love Queen Of Puddings and want it to be the best I've ever had.

When will I know I've done it?  When the meringue is firmly peaked and crisp

First step?  Look up You Tube videos giving clear instructions.

3)  If you look back on your list several months in and feel uninspired by some of your goals ask yourself why this is.  Are you putting it off because it's hard or is it just not relevant to you any more?  If it's no longer relevant, drop it and spend your time on something that inspires you.

4)  Keep going on the goals that do inspire you but keep an open mind to any opportunity you get excited about whether it's on you list or not.  In this way you'll develop the habit of looking out for interesting new opportunities and you will have developed the habit of defining your goals, whether they're on the list or not, and actively working towards them.

Despite kicking my own bucket list I still recommend them.  Working on one made me see how full my life is of exciting and interesting things to do at a time when I felt restricted and small and my attitude's changed permanently because if it, making it an empowering and valuable experience.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Grinding to a halt

For the past ten years I've been making things by knitting, crocheting and sewing almost non-stop.  It's been wonderful;  there's a thrill at the start of every project, which becomes an engaging challenge or a peaceful escape and ends in delight at the finished object.  I've made hundreds of things, fantasised about countless projects that never got started and cursed things like work and sleep for filling up time when I could be making things.

This has all changed in the past three months because of one small thing.  It started out as a tiny bit of stiffness in the middle finger of my right hand.  After three days it became unbearably stiff and ached constantly.  The doctor said it was probably tendonitis and I needed to rest that finger.  When I'm knitting, crocheting or sewing I don't use my middle finger so it curls under and out of the way.  Looks like years of being a cramped up and out of the action has taken it's toll.

I had no choice but to rest it and for three weeks I was bored and figity as I went cold turkey.  I read much more and remembered just how much I enjoy it and after a couple of weeks I had a story idea of my own so I started writing.  Even using an ergonomic pen hurt after not very long though as I have a weird grip so most of the pressure is on - you guessed it - my middle finger.  I realised that typing took most of the pressure off, with my finger being stretched out instead of cramped and sharing any pressure with all my other fingers, so I took the plunge and bought myself a cheap, light, fast Chromebook with a comfortable keyboard.  It might not sound like a massive leap but it meant buying something relatively expensive for myself, which is against the thrifty obsession nature I've grown over the past few lean years, and committing to writing regularly.  It turns out to have been a powerful gesture and I'm in the habit of writing every day, which I love.  I will always love making things but I was burning up a lot of time that I could have spent trying to live my dream of writing.  I can't help thinking that my middle finger's protestations were a way of the universe or my unconcious getting me moving in the right direction, seizing up so that I'd have no choice but to expand in a new direction.