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Posts Tagged ‘motivation’

Various family members (my mom, my MIL, and my SisterIL) all asked me what I wanted for Mother’s Day this year. Honestly, I couldn’t think of anything material that I wanted – or at least want badly enough to ask for. But no matter how much I try to carve out time for writing on teaching days and on non-daycare days, it is never enough. So I had an inspiration and asked for childcare in order to have more time to write instead. And furthermore I asked for at least four days of pre-planned babysitting coverage before the end of May, and to combine this “present” with my birthday gift as well (I turn 40 next week – ugh). 

So today is the first of my ‘gifted’ writing days. SIL is taking care of Buddy this morning (with SG downstairs and available if needed) and my MIL is taking the afternoon shift. We are most nervous about the nap – Buddy goes to sleep without a peep at daycare but it is always a struggle at home. However I am hopeful that with MIL – who has successfully put him to sleep at night several times – he will behave differently then he does with me. 

But I’m trying not to think about that. For today it is not my problem. I’ve left the house and the neighborhood. I drove up to our old neighborhood – the one we lived in for 6 years until I got pregnant and we could no longer afford to live in because we needed a bigger place. I am now in  my very favorite coffee shop working on my introduction (taking a break at the moment to write this post) and drinking too much coffee. This is one of the places where I wrote much of my masters thesis, prepared for my comprehensive exam, and wrote my grant applications. So it is a sight of inspiration and success for me. At least I’m trying to think of it that way.

So far it is great. Best gift ever!

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Oh dissertation. How I avoid you! You make me break out in a cold sweat. You have come to haunt my every waking thought and many of my sleeping thoughts as well…. and yet, I just can’t seem to quit you…. or rather to FINISH you….

I realized recently that until this dissertation is done, signed, sealed and delivered, I will have no peace and no rest. I will never be able to TRULY relax and enjoy a real day off. Sure there will be other projects and other priorities – articles, hopefully a book or two – that will replicate this feeling of dread and doom hanging over me in the future – but that’s in the future. And in the meantime, after I finish the diss I can take at lease a couple of weeks off. At least. 

Last week I wrote a preface to the dissertation. I realize that the preface is something that most people write last, but I felt I had to do it for a number of reasons. First and foremost, recent events in ResearchLocation, particularly as they relate to my interview subjects, have made it difficult for me to contain the scope of the dissertation.

In other words, do I include a discussion of recent political events or not? How do I account for NOT including them if I don’t – or alternatively how do I finesse the fact that I WASN’T there to observe and interview on these events if I do? After some serious consideration, I decided to limit the scope of the dissertation to the time frame leading up to and including the research. Hence the preface in which I address recent dramatic political events, point out how my research informants have been central to these upheavals, and justify my decision theoretically. All in all I think I’ve done a pretty decent job of it and it clears the deck in a way. 

In other news I received comments back on the introduction from my advisor. I didn’t really want to write the introduction before finishing all of the chapters but she insisted and in a way it WAS helpful. However, now she has come back with a bunch of comments, which while insightful as usual, make me tired just thinking about reading through them and making the necessary changes. Especially since I was somewhat leery of the whole exercise in the first place.

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I am something of a time management, personal organization junkie – as you might have guessed from the Life Improvement Experiment. So I was checking out the latest posts at some of my favorite productivity blogs and I came across this one on the best software for time management at Whakate and started drooling and thinking –  hmm, maybe I’d better check out this piece of software or that website app and give them a try – when it hit me:

My life is not that complicated right now.

Yes, there are always little things that need to be kept track of, but really, what do I need an elaborate time management system for? The answer is, I do not.

The fact is that I have found some aspects of Paul Allen’s Getting Things Done (or GTD as devotees term it) incredibly helpful for getting things, well, done. But when I reflect on it, two things become clear:

* First, my experiment with GTD was most successful during January and February of this year, when I was using a combined calendar/list system I “designed” (really it was so simple it doesn’t really deserve that appellation) myself and kept in my Moleskin Weekly Planner. I’ve since abandoned it in favor of a more elaborate system using Circus Ponies’ Notebook – a product that I LOVE for many reasons (and that I will blog about at some point) but that doesn’t function very well FOR ME in terms of day-to-day organization. I need to go back to a relatively simple PAPER-based system. Whether that is the moleskin again or something else (I am intrigued by some other systems on home management/plans for moms), I’m not sure. But it is clear that what I really need to do is to keep it simple.

* Second, GTD is not the ideal system for an academic. Others have blogged and written about this topic (sorry, I’m too lazy to track down the links right now), but what it comes down to is that long-term projects of a somewhat amorphous nature are more difficult to “fit” into the GTD system, which tends towards a work model that features lots of on-going projects and tasks with relatively discrete steps and well-defined outcomes. As a consequence, at least for a consummate procrastinator like me, I end up getting the small stuff done more efficiently than ever, but the big picture suffers.

Which brings me back to the larger point:

 My life is not that complicated right now.

Basically I have three primary responsibilities right now:

  • FINISH THE DISSERTATION
  • Teach
  • Take care of my child and tend to my family life/social reproduction

That’s all. That’s it.

Yes, other stuff comes up – there are conference abstracts to write and job sites to check and bills to pay – but seriously, it is not like I am juggling a full-time job with multiple projects and priorities (something I have done, I must say, with considerable success in the past). I have two projects – finish the dissertation and don’t make a fool of myself in the classroom.  And of course being a good mother and person is important to me as well, but really, should I be concentrating on being super-mom and homemaker right now? No, I should not. It is a distraction.

That isn’t to say that I should stop trying to be organized – but only in so far as it helps me achieve my goals and particularly the first one (dissertation, dissertation, dissertation).

So the take away?

Time to stop using time management as a time waster.

Time to get back to basics. My life will probably not be so straightforward again for a long time (maybe when I’m old and “retired”). It hopefully will not be so straightforward this time next year (I hope not – because that would mean I haven’t finished yet). Time for me to become much more single-minded. The other stuff can wait. Buddy is doing fine. I already live with a dirty bathroom and I’m still not much of a cook and there is no particular reason why I need to work on transforming those particular aspects of myself right now. Or rather it is worth doing if it helps keep me healthy, sane, and focused. Not if it becomes a distraction.

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I teach about labor and work and globalization. So by all rights I should be joining the big march and rally that takes place downtown in Big City every year. But I’m not going to.

Friday has become sort of my “day off” – which is bad because I can’t really afford to take a day off, but there is no rest on the weekends with the little bundle of energy and emotions that we call “Buddy” here at LivedSpaces headquarters, and by Friday morning I am drained dry, particularly if I was productive on Thursday (which I was).

So get Buddy off to daycare and then come home to sleep. And it feels SOOO good. Not just to sleep for 2+ hours but to have the room and the bed to myself.  To know that Buddy is off having a fun day with his friends (really – he loves daycare, we are starting to worry that we might have to take him out because of the cost and my not having a job and all).

Today I slept from 9 am to 11:45 am. Totally decadent but I needed to catch up on my sleep. Plus it is May Day and I am a working mother. So for all of the workers out there – whether you work in the “productive” (paid) or “reproductive” (unpaid) sphere or – like most of us – BOTH, Happy May Day!

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Teaching+Being Sick = UNorganized Homemaker

And let’s not forget that being a homemaker is not my primary job. Unfortunately, no one besides me (and SG) is going to do it, and the lack of organization in my home life continues to plague me. Plus no one is forcing me to undertake this experiment, so I should stop whining and just get to it.

So let’s return to the chipper world of Deniece S and her organized home and family (hmm, that sound sarcastic…or bitter. I’m not really either, maybe just feeling a little inadequate).

Truth be told I’ve been skipping around a bit in the book, thinking about different aspects of home organization and family management, so this installment is not quite as methodical as the previous ones.  

To start with, I was working my way through the core principles, which include decluttering and grouping which I discussed in my previous posts. The next is. 

Be Motion Minded

Here Mrs. S (as I like to think of her) sings the praises of Taylor and workplace efficiency experts, which makes me a little suspicious in that Taylorism and the rigid systems it has inspired have caused a great deal of de-skilling and de-humanizing of the workplace in the last century. However, setting aside the issues of alienation from one’s labor for the moment, her principles in terms of home organization are sound and reading the specific recommendations reminded me of a visit to the Cooper-Hewitt Museum of Design in NYC at a time when they were having an exhibition on designing the home for accessibility and ease. In this exhibition there were two kitchens – a “big” one and a closet (NYC apartment sized) one that had been designed by students at the Rhode Island School of Design. The kitchens were designed in such a way as to minimize lifting and stooping and to be honest, they kind of blew my mind. There is, of course, no reason why the standard tall fridge, stovetop with oven underneath, and high and low cabinets must be the model for most kitchens, but because they are I had never been able to conceptualize anything differently. Mrs. S., I suspect, would be very intrigued by this project, and that suspicion makes me suspect that she and I might have some common ground after all.

  1. First she advocates storing items at or near their point of first use. Seems obvious but actually takes some thought. Based on this idea, SG and I have a plan for our kitchen and dining area that, once we get around to it, should improve the flow of the two rooms and keep us out of the other’s way (the kitchen is very small and is basically the hallway between the front and back of the house).
  2. Second, she argues that it makes sense to store things in such a way that you do not have to take many steps to retrieve the items you need and complete your task. Honestly, while there is always room for improvement, there is nowhere in our house where one must take many steps to retrieve anything! 
  3. Third, she is a fan of one motion storage – particularly for items that you use a lot. This principle makes a lot of sense to me and I’ve tried to put this principle into effect in both the bedroom and the living room – particularly when it comes to Buddy’s toys and clothing.

More on the “groundwork” of decluttering and re-ordering the house in the next post.

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Tuesday, nap time. Buddy is still in his jammies after a busy morning playing with nana at our house. He’s sacked out on “the big bed” – the place he dreams of sleeping all the time. He is, however, always denied this dream at bedtime – poor kid!

I did get almost everything done for my class but yesterday morning I came home after dropping Buddy off at daycare and went back to bed for a couple of hours. Such is the price for staying up until 12:30 am writing a lecture for class (not to mention grading – oh the humanity). Staying up so late really doesn’t work if you have to get up between 3-4:30 and convince your toddler to go back to sleep until 5:30 or so. 

Tuesday is no day care so this morning was a lost cause work-wise. Buddy and I did some painting and then spent some time playing hide-and-seek in the “big bed” amongst all the pillows. 

Tomorrow however, I will do my (at least) an hour’s worth of work on the diss first thing in the morning. Which means that tonight I need to finish the discussion handout and preview the films I got from the library. I can’t believe how fast this month is going. I’m feeling that familiar sense of panic in my stomach – it is always there but now it is stronger. I’m coming to realize that I need to finish the diss not only to get a job, but because I want to know what it is like to not have this constant feeling of dread and low-grade panic with me all the freaking time. I’m coming to the conclusion that I will have no peace in my life until it is done.

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Ahem, yes. Well as I mentioned in my last post, this has been one hell of a week. But back on task. So far I have been working on discipline and working through the issues posed in that chapter. Here’s her definition of discipline:

Discipline refers to your ability to maintain consistent, productive behavior….Sure everyone has an ‘off’ day. If you are self-disciplined, however, you exhibit consistent focus in your day-to-day work, even if you don’t feel like it.” (pg.99)

And here are the sub-issues (so far) that I need to focus on:

  1. Finding and working with my natural energy cycles (difficult with a two-year old who insists on getting up at 5:15 am EVERY DAY!)
  2. Work regularly – stop putting things off until the last minute.
  3. I need to determine my priorities and make time FIRST for what really matters.
  4. I need to make my home office a place where I can effectively work without interruption.
  5. I need to have a better handle on the basics of everyday life and handle routine tasks around the house in a more efficient way.

OK, the first three are related. Partly it is an issue of energy, partly it is a sense of constantly feeling overwhelmed, slightly panicked and not at all up to the task, and partly it is just sheer boneheaded procrastination & laziness.

The cure is obvious – regular work on the diss that must take priority over everything else. So for this (next) week the plan is that for the days that Buddy is in daycare (including the days I teach), I will work for AT LEAST an hour first thing in the morning on the diss. Committing to that means that in turn I will need to be ready to teach on Monday morning – lecture and slides ready, film reserved, papers graded, so the priority for the weekend is teaching prep.

Non- daycare days are more difficult. I wish that I could just take one day completely “off” and maybe I should, so maybe that day should be Tuesday. If I have help on that day (from mom for example), then Tuesday will be the day in which I take care of all the little household crap that needs to get done and the errands like going to the post office and so forth. Weekends I have help from SG so I will need to work, but as I mentioned it may have to be on teaching although if things go well next week I will try to commit to at least an hour on both Saturday and Sunday to working on the latest chapter.

Similarly the last two are related. My office is a disaster zone. Tomorrow’s task is to dig out. Today I worked on getting the house into better shape. The linen closet still needs to be cleaned, as does the pantry, and my closet needs to be sorted. Furthermore SG and I need to sit down and figure out a plan for the weekend and for the week so we can be more on top of things. All of these issues are items that I am trying to tackle in the second book on being an Organized Homemaker extraordinaire!

Finally, I will make a sign – maybe a revolving wheel – outlining my status. Something like “Do NOT interrupt me unless there is a serious emergency,” “Do not interrupt me without 5 minutes warning,” “Interrupt me if you must” and “OK, I’m bored, come in and talk to me.”  We can see if that helps SG manage his interruptions better and creates more peace between us.

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