I had a chat with a colleague earlier this week who was struggling with finding balance to deal with illness and work and family, and well, we know the feeling I would say. I suggested she put resting on her to do list for the weekends. There was a surprised silence as this had never occurred to her. Of course I don’t always put the word ”rest” into the weekend plan, but when I know I have a bit of a hectic time in work or an upcoming event, or whatever it may be that will leave me feeling a bit frazzled, I do plan the downtime too. Sometimes that is literally putting “have a nap” on the list, I am comfortable with being the only person on the planet who adds napping to her to do list, it works for me. I like feeling intentional about resting, it is something I really want to do and feel is important.
The usual one that I add into the list is reading. I am a member of two book groups and also use the library lots, so deadlines and reading seem to go together. I feel wonderfully justified in having “finish Marie Kondo by Saturday” on the to-do list, otherwise I may get charged an overdue fee. Heavens forefend!
This week though I have a self-imposed deadline. I discovered that I have read 10 books so far this year, which is more than I expected, but of course it makes a neater pattern of three per month if I could fit in another couple this week. So that is my focus for the week – two more books. One on audio, a self-help style non-fiction: Shawn Achor’s Big Potential and on the Kindle (it’s been a long while since I used it) a light read, lots of fun and easy to have as an alternative to TV: The Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood Star in the delightfully silly detective series by Vaseem Khan.
It feels like a wonderfully productive way to ensure I sit down for a bit every day, or encouraging me to go to bed a bit earlier to fit in some reading time. I have a fair amount of driving and bus travelling to do this week, so the audio book soothes some of the traffic stress.
If I can get them read, I will be chuffed with 12 books in the first quarter of 2018.
It’s that odd time of year of clock changes in UK. It always amazes me what an effect it has on me. How can just one hour of time difference discombobulate me for several days? It was quite hard to keep time last night as it felt so much earlier than it actually was, so I did rely very heavily on looking at the time closely. I just did not feel tired at my usual bedtime, so found myself reading and chatting to a friend on WhatsApp instead of sleeping, so of course I feel a bit more tired. The mornings are suddenly so dark – I do feel like I have woken up in the middle of the night.
This week is all about adjusting. Relishing the light evenings is easy. We spent Sunday evening in the pub waxing lyrical about the sunshine, light evenings, the general feeling of wellbeing that a beautiful spring day brings. This evening may include a quick walk after dinner – something that only ever happens in the light evenings.
The mornings are being faced by a grim determination to reset the body clock – making sure I get up with the alarm and get moving and that we get out to see the sunrise. Although rainy skies this morning may put an end to that.
Hopefully it will all feel normal by the weekend, but has anyone else got any tips? Does everyone struggle like this?
I made the rash, and possibly gin-fuelled, decision to have quarterly resolutions this year. The process of making resolutions over the Christmas period when I have no work and lots of free time and alcohol has always struck me as less than wise.
So as well as the word of the year being ‘slower’, I will have four different but connected quarterly words and a list of resolutions to guide me to the overall resolutions in the year. I am laughing quietly to myself as I write this. My ability to over-complicate my own life amuses me greatly. But although some find it complicated, I do genuinely love it. I gain huge amounts of energy from having a written focus for the year, from having something to reflect on. At the same time, what worked in January probably won’t feel relevant in August, so this method may give me some flexibility.
Although it may not sound it from the complexity of the process, I am incredibly kind and generous to myself within the framework. So what if I did not complete all I set out to? So what if I abandoned several projects on the way? So what if no one else can see any transformation or progress, or even anything slightly different?
The aim is never to decide the end destination, it’s just to give a bit of a framework and focus to what I do. I have 168 hours to fill every week and my hope and dream for the resolution framework is to make sure that I am spending those hours mindfully and intentionally. But kindly and generously as well. A fair amount of them are dedicated to sleep or rest for example.
Having the guidance of resolutions makes saying no a bit easier. I cannot do everything, so sometimes it helps to know what the priority is. That gives me some focus. And I love having focus.
Starting every day, when my timetable allows, by writing this blog serves well to focus my mind first thing in the morning.
That focus feels impossible today, so this will be a short piece.
It is a busy weekend ahead, filled with friends and Birmingham Children’s Book Group at Bourneville Book Fest, theatre, food, walking and Palm Sunday. This could be why I am struggling to be succinct or to find focus – the sheer variety of the weekend is making my brain buzz with excitement.
To add to that, I slept less than the ideal amount last night, so my brain function may not be optimal.
“Brain busy” is a weakness of mine, it strikes so often and is generally a good feeling. This is not an anxious buzzing of the brain, it’s a feeling of excitement and anticipation. And exactly what I need to calm with my intention of being slower. Finding focus when there is lots to do and think about is still the goal. One that feels a way off this morning.
One of the upsides of my new working hours is that the inevitable chores that build up in 21st century life all have to be done in shorter time. And this morning I am thinking this is a good thing. Like lots of these things, chores just expand to fill time. Housework and email triage are two other tasks that seem to have that magic property. Whereas reading seems to stay well within its allotted time. Unless it is reading rubbish on Facebook, that has very magical time properties.
Back to the chores though. I have suspected for a while that they tend to grow in size and importance in my head because they make me feel properly busy. However, the reality of new working hours is that my hours are now controlled by someone else, so fewer are available for the luxury of the chores. Is there a verb there? Choring? Or is that something less salubrious?
This morning I am discovering a new delight in having an hour or so this afternoon when I can indulge in what I call a ‘chore tour’. Top of the delight list on that tour is a visit to the library. When I genuinely cannot get there as often, it feels so much more fun to go. I don’t think I have looked forward to going to the library like this since I was about 10. And I am very pleased to be getting rid of the bags of clothes that have been waiting for the charity shop for a couple of weeks. And that parcel that needs to be posted.
Here’s to an hour or so of dashing around ticking things off a list, can’t wait.
I know this is not a topic that will win me many friends, but the truth of it is that I don’t work full time. I don’t think I have ever had a full time paid job.
That has been partly by chance and partly by design. I made a conscious decision to work part time when the children were very young and I have never changed the decision, or rather, I have never needed to change the decision.
Until a few weeks ago when for various reasons I ended up working some extra hours. So, I now work five days a week. Possibly for the first time ever. Technically it is still not full time – I work two half days. But still, every week day is a work day.
The most surprising thing is how long it is taking me to settle into a routine. As I have not worked on two days a week for a long time now, I maybe ought not to be surprised. I suspect I haven’t quite accepted it either – part of me thinks it should not affect the amount of other things I do in my week, but the reality is that I am not quite as available as I was.
It’s turning into another project in a year of ‘slower’ – allow myself time to just settle. I am reminded in this process of why I found working a term time only contract so very stressful. It takes a while to feel comfortable in a routine.
It is a travel day for me, specifically Birmingham to Plymouth and back. Fortunately, by train, I think a road trip there and back would finish me off. It is a journey I do frequently enough and I enjoy it. The views are stunning, there is enough coming and going at each station to enable people watching to not veer into stalking (glancing surreptitiously at one person for three and a half hours is not a good plan).
All that said, I don’t use my time wisely. I tend to work hard, my laptop being bashed at a great rate of knots. Well, I say work hard, work busy more like. A stretch of over three hours sitting at a sort of desk is such an unusual occurrence that I do that thing of thinking “oh I’ve got ages” and so all prioritising goes to pot. And those people and views I mentioned? Nah, rarely even see them. I try and make myself look up through Teignmouth – a Birmingham-dweller needs to see the sea whenever she can frankly – but I often miss the whole of Somerset.
So today I am practising being a wise traveller. For a start, I am not going to work the whole way there and back. A wise friend of mine will be pleased to hear this. Instead I have a book to read and a blog to write and some Scouting to do (subject for another piece, but my Scouting is pretty much emailing).
This is being written on first leg of the journey, so I am feeling smug already. Technically I should not be starting work until about Tiverton, but I shall allow myself to get cracking by Bristol I think.
I also need to keep swapping seats – my ticket splitting shenanigans (I use Raileasy TrainSplit) have saved me money as always, but I have four different seats reserved, so that will also force me to stretch my legs and move my spine a bit.
Here’s to a day of wise train travel.