One of the reasons I have greatly reduced by blog frequency is the sheer distraction that is offered by my laptop in the morning. This blog is a self-indulgent way to spend my morning time. That is definitely not a bad thing at all, I believe in self-indulgence as a way to improve energy and patience for the rest of the day. I just get distracted once I switch on the laptop, so instead I have been reading rather than blogging recently, that keeps me focussed. And I don’t need to get out of bed – a definite benefit in the winter.
The truth of life in the early 21st century is that much of it takes place electronically, so booting up a laptop offers lots of distractions and opportunities to “get things done”. I am a bit addicted to getting things done. I could be balancing the accounts or doing some useful and overdue Scouting admin. I could be researching the new oven we need or booking the camping trip we are due to take. There’s a Facebook group to administer, a news story I would like to investigate further. The world is on this laptop it feels.
This morning I have given myself a stern talking to and have dragged myself off the Facebook group and am stuck to this page until I have reached my word count. Which, come to think of it, isn’t really self-indulgent, it’s rather good practice for the rest of life and a chance to focus on one task until it is satisfactorily completed. Not perfectly completed mind you, oh no, perfection is not mine and I avoid it like the plague because striving for perfection a great way to encourage procrastination and a lack of focus. This morning, done is definitely good enough.
And that’s me at the word count, so I’m out of here and back to the distractions.
No, not Friday. Although, it is Friday, I will call today Friday. But it is also a day where I am not working for an employer. In the coming months I will have some more of those, as a contract comes to an end.
A short discussion with friends last night has led me to ponder. “Day off” doesn’t quite cut it. One of the friends in the discussion has a side hustle, she is paid for activity on some days off and sees that activity as work. We are keen (as a group, its one of our discussion topics) to keep work – either formal or side hustles – in a work space and carve proper space between work and rest.
Obviously all days include both – or they jolly well should do anyway. Cliches often have a root in truth and all work and no play making a person dull seems like truth to me. I am focussing very strongly on putting aside the work when my time there is done. It is not easy, I am criticised for not doing enough work, not answering enough emails or calls. As a part-time worker, I think I am an easy target for those who think I should be working in my non-paid hours. To my colleagues, there seem to be a lot of non-paid hours which others cannot imagine are filled with anything as useful as my job.
Being able to describe them to other people seems to be behind my need to title the days. I feel a sense of fear that people think I am wasting my time on my days off. I know that some are surprised I do not spend time cleaning or cooking.
There is also a ritual that seems to be needed, I will not have that Friday feeling soon – my week in my paid job will end on a Thursday. So what do I call a Thursday evening? The start of a new phase of the week for sure, but I oddly feel the need for a title. It may just be me though, the discussion last night included those who felt that days are days and do not need a specific work/non-work delineation, although we were all clear that “day off” becomes a misnomer when the paid work creeps into it, which does indeed happen.
An insignificant thing to be pondering this morning, but lovely to have a day in which I know I have time to ponder the insignificant alongside the significant.
I am not known for my handiwork skills, nor my practical expertise in gardening or decorating. I tell myself constantly that I am not a practical person in the physical sense.
Yet, I can planned pack for a holiday, I can cook for a houseful of people, I can organise brilliant parties and bake amazing cakes. I can see how a room of furniture could be arranged, I can place plants and pictures in the “right” places, I can choose colour schemes for rooms. All of which are practical, physical skills and I am good at them all. I need to change that narrative in my head.
One of my aims this month was to create space in my day for doing something different, something that does not involve typing on a screen or meeting in a room of people making more to do lists. I decided some more time crafting would be good. I have been trying to sew. It is not neat and tidy, but I am only starting out, so why would it be? It is fun. And a bit addictive.
I have managed to meet up with friends three times in the month to do some gentle sewing or knitting together over a cuppa. A friend and I had a fun afternoon wet felting and making some beautifully wonky coasters. It is a social activity as well as a relaxing one.
Looking at my progress I realise why I tell myself I am no good at it – it takes practise, it takes time. Embroidery, knitting, felting are not skills we’re born with, they’re skills we learn. I am as able as anyone else to learn the skills, but they take time.
Finding the space to sew a bit or do anything creative has shone a light on how I spend my time – a lot of what I do is very similar, both in work and in my home life – organising lists, groups of people, planning, emailing, meeting. It has been fun doing something very contrasting, but it has also given me a real insight into how little variation in activity there is in my week.
I am trying to focus on a theme of ‘creating space’ this month. Space can of course mean many things and indeed it does to me.
My focus this week was having space in my diary: I am not doing very well – as soon as space occurs, I fill it. I work part-time technically, but I only have one day a week off, split into two afternoons. I combine that limited time off with a habit of booking lots of social events into those afternoons and a tendency to offer to do lots of tasks, as I have a day a week to complete them. My perception of the amount of time I have off work does not coincide with the time it will take to do all the tasks and meet all the friends.
I travel a fair amount in evenings when I am away with work, and yet also manage to fit in meetings either around travel or on the evenings I am not travelling.
I feel a need to leave space, rather than filling each part of the blanks with something else. My aim is to have space for just mulling things over and seeing what comes up, but I have a nagging feeling that having space in the diary will not be the solution, because I really dislike not doing things, I want to be seeing people and feeling useful. Maybe I need to head back to the drawing board on this one and define space in my diary in a way that suits me more?
Today is my last working day of the year. When I next sit at my desk it will be a new year, a new start and I will be a totally new person.
I will be very efficient, there will not be a thousand emails in my inbox, my to do lists will be legible and realistic. I will calmly prepare thoroughly for all meetings and ensure that I have read all the required papers and have done some extra research on all topics to be discussed. I will follow all meetings and events with timely feedback and follow up wherever necessary. I will be available for every colleague whenever they need me, answering every email, phone and skype call as they come in. I will have reflection time every day to develop my work against my plans and priorities. I will reach every deadline with time to spare. I will be happy and calm at all times.
Ah, just writing all of that is making me feel so much better, I am typing and giggling at myself, which does a power of good. My personal need to leave the year in some sort of state of perfection is indeed funny, even if I have not been able to see that in the last couple of days.
Mainly I am looking forward to a holiday and I need to be very self-aware and check this daft feeling that I need to leave my desk today with everything in order for the imaginary perfection to be possible in a fortnight’s time. Especially as it would take me two weeks just to clear that inbox.
Happy last working day of the year to you, whenever it may fall for you.
In weeks like this where work involves a fair amount of travel, I take comfort in dividing my week in half. There are 168 hours in a week, my week starts at 6am on a Monday morning, so the half way point is Thursday at 6pm. The first half of my week has been focussed on work. I have travelled to Plymouth and back and Bristol and back and worked full and productive days. Today I have a good day planned with useful meetings and some discussions with colleagues in the diary.
It’s been very full and very work-focussed though. That said, I have had dinner with a friend, I squeezed in one run, and have done quite a bot of Scouts volunteering, as well as getting some plans in place for family events and the pre-Christmas season. I have also had a good amount of down time watching Netflix (I am obsessed with Gilmore Girls!) and surfing social media. So, it has been far from all work.
It still does not feel quite as balanced as it could be though, so the halving the week is a great comfort. The reality is that I will do absolutely no work at all in the second half of the week, and thinking of my week like that really helps me see the balance. And even in this last half a day of this half of the week (yes my brain does work like this!), I am squeezing in a blog writing session, I have just had a lovely ten minutes thinking through the day and I will manage a run before work. I am also taking some time off to attend a school appointment, so there is family time in the day too.
Just reflecting on how much Scouting and me-time there has been already helps to energise me. here’s to the second half of the week.
I am struggling with making myself write in the mornings. Yesterday was a good lesson in why I should though. There is always a list of things I should be doing in the mornings; various parts of my volunteering roles are very much email or computer based, so this precious 15 minutes could definitely be used for the greater good.
This morning is no different. I need to write a report, it should have been done a few days ago, so I need to crack on. Yesterday I got the laptop out deciding I would check my diary for the week and then do my account reconciliations – also overdue. I wrote this blog instead.
The result surprised me. It gave me a bit more energy than crossing things off the list would have done. I had forgotten that this exercise of putting thoughts onto paper first thing seems to straighten out my thinking for the morning and enables me to just get on with things a little bit faster.
I still didn’t get the report written, but I did get lots of other bits and bobs done yesterday, which I suspect I would not have had I not taken this bit of time to do something fun first. To get my own thoughts sorted and out there before I start writing for everyone else and doing the chores that enable everyone to flourish together.
This is my version of putting on my oxygen mask before helping others. I still need to plan what I am going to write though, eventually this is going to descend into sheer babbling if I don’t. Some may say it already has!
This blog turns out to be a good example of doing something productive in the mornings. I was not aware it was until this morning’s non-exemplary lack of productivity. Or in plain English – I am having a Monday morning. I seriously cannot be bothered this morning. The weather was tough this weekend, I am tired, it feels like light years to the next holiday and the daylight hours are getting uncomfortably short.
All this will pass I am sure, but I decided to forego even attempting a blog and just try and sort out in my head where I am and what I am doing this week. So, I was sitting with coffee, bullet journal and laptop. The latter to check diary in fact.
The teen wandered in and asked, with genuine interest “so, what are you writing about today”. Genuine interest. On a Monday morning. From a teenager. About seomthing his mother is doing.
That, my friends is known as motivation. I did explain – in a VERY non-exemplary manner – that I wasn’t going to write, because frankly I just need to get my **** together.
Actually, it takes ten minutes to have a think about what needs to be done in the next couple of days, it turns out there are plenty of meetings in the diary to keep me on track. So, here we are, a blog.
It’s another one about blogging, I really do need to organise a plan in this. Yet more **** to get together. I am hoping for some enforced downtime later this week, so I may just get around to planning themes or at least have more idea than waking on a dark wet October morning and thinking that I just cannot be bothered.
I made it through September. I feel a real sense of jubilation at that fact. September is always the hardest month. It is a month of transition from the endless days of summer to the full days of autumn. The mornings are very different to August mornings. Mornings are important to me, as I am sure is abundantly clear from this blog.
Lots of my social and voluntary groups take an August break and then we all try and catch up in September. The challenges we were able to hide from in August suddenly take centre stage again. The teachers start putting pressure on parents to ensure their children are all top of the class. Countdowns to Christmas pop up on my social media feeds – seriously they do, I have a Christmas-obsessed family.
Even the news becomes more serious again, I feel less able to pretend it’s all going to be ok. And as for work – those gentle hours of August where I have the time to think before responding, where I have the space for a bit of creativity – all gone and replaced by more emails and more demands on my brain than I can possibly cope with. And not enough space in my day to stop and work out which fire to fight first.
I also added to September some amazing family weekends and a week’s work travel to Rome, as well as another two weeks of travel in UK for work. What I have abandoned are my friends and Scouting. Which is why I now feel a joy at the new month. Everything that I got wrong last month can be put right in October. To all those who have not seen me for a month, or who are waiting for something from me – it’s a new month. All shall be well. I shall once again be efficient and available. Here’s to blind optimism induced by an arbitrary dating system.
Obviously there are no real problems with summer. Summer is a beautiful, gorgeous, energising time of the year.
I adore the long summer holidays for the break from the routine that can start to feel oppressive. Now that the offspring are older, the summer really gives a sense of ease. Only me to get up and get out in the morning. A feeling of fun in the evening as we hang out and do things as a family instead of execute a finely tuned evening of activities, transport and eating which are seemingly designed to test our life skills in every way.
The summer holiday mornings are especially precious, with a delicious combination of more sleep and more time spent with the husband. They are more tired though, as early nights seem to disappear in the change to the summer routine. But that just means more coffee and chat.
All in all, it is a good time where time seems to stretch a bit further. And so less gets done. There’s the rub. That feeling that I have loads more time as the deadlines are softer means I don’t gets things done. The running has fallen by the wayside. The blogging has been non-existent. This morning it occurs to me that I have not really looked at my diary or the to do list all week. There are advantages to the morning rush of the school term.
But for now, let’s enjoy these last few precious days of the relaxed routine.