It’s Okay to Be Tired, It’s Not Okay to Give Up

I started writing this post more than a month ago as a pep talk to myself. Then I got tired, and for a while, I did give up. The blog is a thing I would get back to later, I thought. After all those other things that I would also get to later that were more pressing than the blog. After I got some sleep, and let my brain rest, and, and, and.

For me, procrastination is both easy and hard. Easy because even if I didn’t wholly grow up in the world of the immediate gratification of the internet, I certainly live in it now, and there are an endless number of endless rabbit holes to stray down even if I’m in one of those antsy moods where I can’t quite focus on things that I actually like to do. But hard because the looming specter of things to do causes me anxiety that distracts from the distraction, whether it’s a rabbit hole or a video game or some other consumptive experience. I can’t full enjoy it, therefore the procrastination becomes much less fun, because the thing that I am procrastinating on looms threateningly in my future.

I’m not sure if this is the reason, but my best guess is that the looming future thing occurs to me and not other procrastinators is because I always have this keen sense of the finiteness of the future. Not as much in a big existential way, like I’m mortal and will die some day and no one knows when that will be (though that’s true, too) but more in a I’m going to have to go to work, go to sleep, do this thing or that thing later no matter what, and if the thing I want to do isn’t done by then then I won’t be able to get to it, I’ll be late, it’ll suck, etc, etc, etc.

I think it’s a fair and real thing to just be too goddamn tired to deal with something in the immediate moment. To need sleep, or to be burnt out, or to just not have the brain space for it for whatever reason. The thing I’ve been catching myself on, though, is being too broad with that “whatever.” Do I really need to stay in bed and get another hour of sleep (sometimes yes) or do I need to get my ass up (also sometimes yes)? Do I need to wind down after work (often yes) right up until I go to bed thus spending my whole evening as a vegetable (no)? But brains are funny, especially our own, and I’m still working on the not-really-logical struggle of gauging my own need for rest vs kicking my ass to do the things I want and promise to do.

If I figure out the secret, to shifting from consumption to creation, to knowing when it’s fair to push myself and when I need to acknowledge my human limitations before I crash and burn, I’ll be sure to let you know. For now it’s pretty up in the air.

The Minimal Writing Laptop

The Minimal Writing Laptop

My poor laptop has seen better days. By virtue of being a piece of technology in the modern age, being 7 years old means it is painfully out of date. Progress has marched on, but it has not, and its welded 2GB RAM are not enough to handle more than two or three internet tabs.

I’m fortunate that I was able to afford my shiny desktop, and work provides a laptop, so my personal laptop falling behind the times isn’t a big deal. But where it has been able to shine is in its steady and only half-planned transformation into a minimal writing laptop.

With the laptop not able to handle much anyway, I slowly uninstalled most of the programs. Goodbye Broken Age, lovingly reinstalled on the desktop to finally finish one day; Picasa too, since all my photo drive storage and upload management is done on the more powerful desktop now. VLC, Simple Comic, and all my other “fun time” apps are gone. What does that leave me with?

  1. Some miscellaneous tools for work: TextWrangler, KeyNote, The Unarchiver. Sometimes if you gotta do work at home it’s more tolerable doing it lying down in front of a laptop.
  2. Evernote, Dropbox, Jumpcut and Quicksilver. Always required.
  3. Skype, because I call my family early in the morning and sometimes I can’t quite get out of bed.
  4. And Scrivener, my go-to for all my writing projects and management.

Plus all those annoying system apps that I know, from painful experience, cannot be uninstalled without dire consequences.

Of the above list, the only two real requirements for my minimal writing laptop are Scrivener, to do the actual writing, and Dropbox, to backup and sync the writing between computers. But minimalism comes in stages I suppose, and I haven’t quite escaped using my laptop for things besides writing. Still, it’s getting there, and maybe its dedication to a single task will encourage some more dedication in me too.

Giving Up on Goals

Giving Up on Goals

CW: Some brief weight loss talk.

I know friends, the title is alarming. Giving up on goals? But Jordan, you just posted your 2017 action plan! It’s not even the end of January! Are you giving up on goals you set so soon?

It’s okay, chill. I’m still forging ahead with my plans, if on an unexciting slow and steady pace. But while most of us are still basking in the glow of January and new beginnings and a world of potential, I want to put it out there now: giving up on goals is okay.

The cycle is pretty familiar to most of us now, either personally or through the 10 million think pieces that come out around this time of year on how to set good goals and stick to them. Those are great, and if you are one of the many who has problems making and pursuing reasonable, actionable goals, I encourage you to read some of them! I’m personally making my way through this video course on How to Stop Procrastinating, which will probably help a lot of you with the “why” behind why you give up.

Now with all that out of the way, this isn’t a “yeah it’s cool to let go of all your hopes and dreams and never try anything!” feel good article. If that’s one side of the spectrum and “go hard or go home!” is the other, then this is somewhere in the “you’re human, be aware of your limits and weaknesses so you can do better” area.

Giving up on your goals is okay… IF you learn from it, and try again.

For me at least, life gets pretty miserable if I don’t push myself. I don’t have dreams just because that’s the cool new thing to do, I have dreams because they’re things I want that make me happy. Even the pursuit of them sometimes makes me happy, though it’s hard and scary – those things aren’t mutually exclusive. But even knowing all that, I have plenty of days where I just cannot. I’m tired, or it takes too much brainpower, or my lack of inertia keeps me standing still. Or sometimes worse, I do take steps to pursue my goal, but then I fail one step and decide everything is terrible and impossible and why even try.

But all those states are temporary, and overcome faster or slower depending on what I’m pursuing and why. If I’m trying to finish that goddamn book, it’s easy to not sit down and do the work because my day job, the sheer time and effort it takes to take care of myself as a healthy human, playing with my dog, watching TV, whatever gets in the way. But I want to write the book for the intrinsic value of telling the story (and at this point, being DONE with telling the story), so if I focus on that, on the actual happiness it brings me to write and see it inch closer to completion, it’s a goal I can pursue.

Once upon a time I was also a person with the goal to “lose weight.” Essentially by whatever means necessary, because I was unhappy and I thought being skinnier would make me happy. The pursuit of that goal was miserable, how I treated my body and health in pursuit of that goal was miserable, and my failure was miserable, because I put “happiness” as an end state to only be had when the goal was reached, not something I felt at any point along the way.

If you’re pursuing a goal that feels anything like that, yeah, that’s maybe a goal worth giving up on.

I’m not a perfect goal-setter. I still decide to do stuff with no action plan (I’m looking at you, Japanese driver’s license study guide). But from having bad goals, deciding to stop banging my head against the wall in pursuit of them, and examining why I thought certain things were or weren’t worth pursuing in the first place, I’ve learned a lot about how to achieve actual success and actual happiness. I’ve finished considerably more writing of better quality (though lbr the bar was low) by writing steadily, every day, on a specific project that had a brainstorming and outlining process that worked for me than I did churning out short stories right before the deadline in college. I gave up weight loss as an end goal, worked through some shit and am still working through some shit regarding self-image, and am in a place where I eat healthy and exercise because it genuinely makes me feel good (endorphins man, they’re great).

So if you went a little overboard and have to call it quits, that’s okay. Just ask yourself why, and how you can do better.

And also, don’t wait until next January. Come on, do your future self a favor and if it’s really worthwhile, get started now.

 

Mood Music: Haters Gonna Hate

Hello friends, and welcome to another irregular edition of Mood Music. Janelle Monae has entered regular rotation in my workout music, but she’s good any time of day for a mood boost. Franchesca Ramsey introduced me to this song in her eternally watchable Snapchat (@cheschaleigh).

So if you’re feeling down, or just need that extra kick to take over the world, please let Janelle remind you that haters gonna hate, but you need to do your thing.

2017 Action Plan

2017 Action Plan

Friends, you will recall I don’t like resolutions. It’s not that I’m not about making goals, but that I don’t like setting arbitrary times to start them.

That said, I’ve still got some stuff I’ve been working on and want to keep a priority in 2017:

  1. Finish the goddamn book
  2. Get buff
  3. Remember that complacency is not the same as calm; and the unjust needs to be resisted at all costs
  4. Be thoughtful and organized, because small kindnesses and competencies mean a lot

Do you have any goals in progress, whether or not you want to call them resolutions? What’s in the works? Let me know in the comments, and good luck in 2017.

 

On 2016

on 2016

This was a pretty shit year.  I don’t have any insight or salient thoughts, and I don’t want to enumerate all the ways in which it was shit, both universally and personally. It just was, and if it was shit for you too, then I’m sorry.

I’m not interested in saying “I hope 2016 is over soon.” 2017 promises to be worse. Other than the people who passed away this year, who cannot be any more deceased than they already are, the things that happen and problems that exist promise to get worse before they’re better. The U.S. and U.K., just to name two, are significantly more dangerous for anyone but white, straight, cisgender men, and next year and likely years to come will be an exercise in finding out just how much more dangerous.

But what I also don’t want to do is retreat to a personal bubble, to hunker down until the storm has passed. I don’t want to abandon fighting because it is safer and easier, and easier most of all because I understand how to do it. Fighting is hard because it’s not yet clear how. Because just saying words, whether out loud or on the internet, in TV or books or in conversations with friends and family and strangers, clearly does not matter.

I don’t know what will matter. But I suppose 2017 is my year to find out. If I do, I’ll be sure to let you know. Do me a favor and do the same for me.

U.S. Election Day Feel Good Roundup

Updated 11/11/2016: I guess I’m going to keep this up for four more years.

It’s election day in my native United States, and anyone who has been paying attention for .2 seconds knows it has been sort of nasty and unpleasant to follow. If you can vote and haven’t, please hurry and get on that before the polls close; if you have, good job, I hope you got a sticker!

And now, please enjoy a few select feel good items while we wait for the results to come in.

A Japanese YouTuber visits a rabbit cafe:

The Calm meditation app, with lots of soothing nature noises:
"Calm" Meditation App

Puppy Bowl highlight reel:

Can I Pet Your Dog, the assertively and unapologetically happy podcast about dogs:
Can I Pet Your Dog? Podcast

An absurdly delicious recipe for vegan chocolate chip cookies made with coconut oil.

And in conclusion, the poem “Love After Love” by Derek Walcott.

The stuff of your life is enough.

Time Management Skills for Keeping Afloat

Time Management Skills: We are not robots.

There are enough articles on developing time management skills out there in the world that I think we all kind of know the gist. As someone who’s accidentally found herself in a field that tends to be either BUSY ON FIRE or suspiciously quiet, plus volunteer work, plus evening language classes, plus side gigs and personal pursuits, plus, well, the internet and all its distracting glory still exists, I have read and tried and promptly forgotten or discarded about 99% of them.

It’s not the knowing that’s hard; it’s when you’re drowning, remembering to put those time management skills to use. But emergency situations call for emergency measures: when I’m struggling just to keep afloat, these are the essential, non-negotiable time management skills I deploy.

Say no

Say no to that person who comes over to your desk and is like “Hey can I ask you real quick-”
Say no to a meeting that doesn’t need to happen (at all, right now).
Say no to answering that email that just came in (but I know you already looked – it’s ok, when something could catch on fire AT ANY MOMENT you feel like you have to).
Say no to things that aren’t important, urgent, or both. Some stuff you can’t say no to, but the unimportant, non-urgent things can definitely slide right now.

Ask for help

This can mean delegating. This can mean talking to your coworker to take some of your immediate workload, or something that will start to fall behind if you don’t get on it right now (and you can’t, because you’re doing 10 other things right now). This can mean talking to your boss and saying “I have too much and am worried about X, Y, and Z not being done well as a result, what can we do?”

Sometimes asking for help doesn’t accomplish anything. Sometimes you have shitty coworkers or shitty bosses. Sometimes your amazing coworkers and amazing bosses are just as busy as you are and have no bandwidth to lend. Sometimes the things you need help on aren’t easily given to other people. But just sending out the “help” signal can be valuable for setting expectations and covering your own butt, and the worst case scenario is you’ll be right where you were before you asked for help, so why not.

Decompress, but don’t dick around

We are not robots. Even having all these time management skills in our brains, it’s not like, run program, beep boop, operating at 100% efficiency all day. Take strategic breaks to decompress, but be vigilant about a) what the break is and b) how long it lasts. When I am really trying to power through something but my mental capacity is fading fast, or I find myself less and less able to deploy even the emergency time management skills, I find the following rules most effective for an efficient mental reset:

  • 10-15 minutes max
  • Eat something. Did you have lunch? How about a snack? No crap. Efficient brain food only. (Coffee counts in moderation.)
  • Go outside. Ideally, walk around the block. It’s nice to remember there’s a world outside your office.
  • Leave social media alone. That way lies madness, breaks that go over 15 minutes, and distracting thoughts.
  • But do look at a picture of your dog / pet / someone else’s pet / something else you find cute and relaxing.
  • Go back to your desk on time and refreshed.

Remember it will be fine

It was fine last time. It’ll be fine this time, too. Hell, this time tomorrow you’ll have forgotten all about today’s little emergencies (because tomorrow will have inconsequential emergencies of its own).

 

For time management skills that involve battling your own brain’s procrastination tendencies, have you tried the Pomodoro technique? I also assembled some productivity tips for getting your head in the right space to handle what the day has in store. Or if you’re looking for more writing-specific advice, take a peek at these tips for just getting started.

Mood Music: Sad Songs for Lots of Feelings

Kina Grannis - Elements album cover, a good source of sad songs and happy songs.

I’m a sad songs junky. I think it has something to do with never having personally experienced epic love and heartbreak, but instead just a regular life of the stresses and sadness that don’t get songs. Shitty things are so easy to romanticize if you haven’t gone through them, after all. Other peoples’ (ideally, fictional peoples’) tragedies become fun to wallow in because you can leave.

So for somebody else’s sometimes melodramatic sadness, please enjoy a few of my favorites.

Tegan & Sara, 100x
I will fight you about Tegan & Sara and how great they are.

Christina Perri, A Thousand Years
I know this was played at Bella and Edward’s wedding, I don’t even care.

Lana del Rey, Dark Paradise
Honestly most of her songs creep me out and this one does too but I suspect that’s the point. Video Games is also a sad song but more for a “girl no come away from there” reason, so it didn’t make the list.

Death Cab for Cutie, I Will Follow You Into the Dark
I’m not sorry. I could listen to this on repeat in high school. Look, Evanescence isn’t on this list, that’s all the slack I can cut you.

MAGICI, Rude (as covered by Kina Grannis)
Only listen to the Kina Grannis cover of this song. Hers is sweet and sad and the best version. Kina Grannis is overall a great source of sad songs, whether she means to be or not. Sorry Kina.

Taylor Swift feat. The Civil Wars, Safe & Sound
As inspired by the book series that made me cry on public transit.

Any favorite sad songs to share? (NOTHING ABOUT DOGS.) Drop them in the comments!

Daring Greatly: When Books Have Good Advice

When books have good advice they are usually stories.

I am generally not a fan of self-help books, pop psychology books, et al. When books have good advice, to me, they tend to be coming from a place of “let me tell you a personal story” and not “let me be meaningful, SO MEANINGFUL.”

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown didn’t quite get into smoopy “unlock your inner power, the secret to life the universe and everything is in these pages, how did no one find it until now” territory, but the subtitle still sets off my overpromise warning bells: “How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.” Still, I was aware of its very existence because someone with good taste recommended it to me. So I bought it. Then let it sit gathering virtual dust on my e-reader for about a year.

But clearly we’re here because I finally cracked it open. And friends, it’s kind of good.

When Books Have Good Advice: A Pre-emptive Review

I can’t report yet if it stays good because of the tragic passing of my Nook. But the author, Brené Brown, is an actual scientist, who talks about her pretty reasonable conclusions in terms of her actual, large-scale scientific research. So factual basis for measured and not overblown conclusions. We’re off to a promising start.

In particular, I enjoyed this list early in the book, breaking down the core categories what the average fulfilled person cultivates or lets go (Daring Greatly, pg 19):

  1. Cultivating Authenticity: Letting Go of What Other People Think
  2. Cultivating Self-Compassion: Letting Go of Perfectionism
  3. Cultivating a Resilient Spirit: Letting Go of Numbing and Powerlessness
  4. Cultivating Gratitude and Joy: Letting Go of Scarcity and Fear of the Dark
  5. Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith: Letting Go of the Need for Certainty
  6. Cultivating Creativity: Letting Go of Comparison
  7. Cultivating Play and Rest: Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth
  8. Cultivating Calm and Stillness: Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle
  9. Cultivating Meaningful Work: Letting Go of Self-Doubt and “Supposed To”
  10. Cultivating Laughter, Song, and Dance: Letting Go of Being Cool and “Always in Control”

Sorting Good Advice from Fluffy Nothing: Danger Words

You can probably guess that I am not super keen on some of the keywords above. In particular “faith” “resilient” “joy” and “laughter, song, and dance” make me raise a skeptical and judgey eyebrow. These are the keywords of fluffy best-sellers whose marketing is way more grand than their actual content. But on closer examination, the core idea behind the buzz-y keywords hits that sweet spot of not-quite epiphany, when you’re being told something you always kind of knew but hadn’t been able to articulate.

In short, when books have good advice, they can also sometimes be wrapped up in the trappings of an overall bad advice genre. Because scientists gotta make money to eat too, I guess.

Is anything missing from the list above? Have you read this book yourself, or have another rare winner to share in the “get your shit together, adult human being” advice book category? Let me know in the comments! For me, I’ll report back on whether the grand promise of basically good advice in Daring Greatly‘s first few chapters holds up.