Posted in hope, know better do better, mindset, motivation, podcasts, tips

Yes! I’ll do that! … Later…

Procrastination has showed up in several podcasts in the last few weeks.

The content has conflicted in some ways, but I took some bits from them and plan to use them. (Always: take what you can use and leave the rest.) These things are so obvious and fall into place so easily that I can’t believe I didn’t sleuth them out already. Maybe you have?

The biggest takeaway I had was that procrastination is avoiding a feeling, not a task. Completely resonates.

So I don’t actually put off phone calls because I don’t like phone calls—I’m avoiding feeling intrusive or frustrated or stupid (for a variety of reasons), depending on the call.

And I’m not avoiding writing the book because I don’t like writing (which I already knew!)—I’m avoiding putting it out there when it’s done.

And on and on.

Sometimes, I’m exceptionally productive when avoiding a specific task. The best way to get a daily to-do list done is to put one thing on it that I really don’t want to do. Everything else magically gets done…

One of the episodes talked about the lack of immediate gratification, and that would be true on long-term tasks—or maybe quick tasks with long-term payoff—but it doesn’t fly with “I need to make a phone call.”

They also talked about making yourself accountable to other people, but I have witnessed countless times (and so have you, I’m sure) that often, that doesn’t work. You disappear from view of your accountability partner. Or you tell them you decided not to pursue the thing any more. You eat the money you paid for your accountability group. Or use some other means of escaping the accountability.

Brené Brown’s work ties into this. Shaming yourself for something you have shame about in the first place doesn’t help the problem and does not inspire change or productivity. (Don’t shame yourself. Don’t shame your kids. Don’t shame your spouse. Don’t shame your colleagues. Don’t shame anyone. It. Doesn’t. Work.)

So.

For long-term projects where fear of failure or rejection—often manifesting as perfectionism—are the roadblocks, there’s a plan. Let me recount what they suggested in the specific example in the podcast, and you can take it and adapt it.

The procrastinator was not making the (very short) videos she needed to make for an app she was looking to create. (The app already existed; it just needed content.) By asking her when during the day she would ideally work on this, she was assigned a daily 45-minute block just for making the videos. The first 15 minutes was planning. After that, she would record that day’s video until either time ran out or she had one she was happy with. If time ran out, she would just choose the one she liked best of what she had created and move on.

This creates space to work on it each day, but more than that, it removed much of the paralysis by perfectionism. Just make videos. It doesn’t matter yet if they’re good. Just make them. They’ll get better as you go.

Just write. Just draw. Just practice. Just record. Refine later. For now, just do it.

Of course, not everyone’s schedule allows space to be created so neatly. But most of us can find time on a regular-ish basis to work on a long-term project. (If we have a long-term project we want to do.)

How to make the phone calls?

Create a system where some highly desirable thing happens only when the dreaded thing happens. Perhaps a guilty pleasure type of thing. All of the examples that I’ve read/heard of this use watching movies or TV as the positive—”I can only watch these shows when I’m at the gym;” “I can only watch these movies when I do these unpleasant but long-term necessary health-related tasks”—but I’m sure that if that’s not your bag (like me), you can find something else.

As a general rule, I don’t like food/drink to be reward, but if it’s an infrequent or short-term enough thing, then it might be okay. It’s just … easy to set the stage to create or exacerbate other problems.

Links to the podcasts:

Work Life with Adam Grant

How To with Charles Duhigg (This is the current episode as of when I’m writing. “Procrastination” is in the title if you’re looking for it at a later time)

Armchair Expert

Braincast (This was my least favorite of the four I’ve linked—it’s the only episode I’ve listened to from this guy, and I’m not inclined to make room for more.)

Posted in about me, ebb & flow, education, parenting, tips

Things that are working for quarantine schooling and living

I’ve seen three people just today ask “What are you doing that’s working?” with regards to the kids being home. Here’s what’s more or less working here.

Disclaimer: This is not meant to tell you what to do. Our situations might be entirely different. This is just what we’re doing that’s working (or that we tried that didn’t work). Take what resonates. Modify what almost resonates. Leave the rest.

Also, it’s not homeschooling. It’s not entirely online distance learning. It’s a weird emergency unplanned hybrid of a lot of things.

So. What’s working?

Well … I have the advantage that my working from home is very flexible. This gives me the space to help The Kid with his life in a fairly hands-on way.

We’ve known for a long time that he doesn’t do well unscheduled. So we made a schedule immediately, even though there was no school stuff yet. It wasn’t rigid, and it included lots of things: meals, snacks, exercise, play, math/ELA/science, Spanish, music, creative, mindfulness, chores, kitchen skills. Within those categories, he had a lot of flexibility.

Bedtime got wonky which made wake up time wonky, and the schedule fell apart. So this is what we’re doing now (the last two weeks) and it’s been working well. (If it stops working well, we’ll go back to a more structured schedule.)

We made a list of All The Things. It currently includes: math, reading, writing, science, creative, Spanish, music, exercise, chores, kitchen skills, typing, mindfulness. I need to add playdate.

It’s in a picture frame; you can use dry erase markers on glass the same as you can on a white board. Because he has school work now, and because that list is pretty extensive, we agreed that over the course of two days, we’d hit on all the things. He uses a dry erase marker to mark the ones he’s done, and we reset it every other day.

It’s not a perfect system, and it’s working. Some things he does more than every other day (he reads nearly daily, for example), and that works. It allows us to make sure things aren’t falling through the cracks.

I have a little white board that I brought home from work. (If I didn’t have this, I would use another picture frame with blank paper inside for a clean background.) Each day, I put the full date on it and make a list of things to do that day.

For example, today, he has a live lesson, so I wrote the subject and the time. Otherwise, today is Day 1 of the two days on his list, so he can do pretty much whatever. He has school work to work on, so I just put “school work.”

He is stressed about his school work. (Because he has at least a couple of days to complete each, his list of assignments feels long.) We printed an April calendar, and as he receives assignments, I write them on the due date. (His writing is not small enough to do this task.) He’s able to look at it when he’s going to work on the more generic “school work,” see what needs to be done, and work on it. I am helping him with this.

(He’s still a little freaked out by assignments on the calendar, but we’re talking about spreading out work on a project so it’s not overwhelming. Life skills right here. Hopefully also helping me hone this skill for myself…)

We have been getting school work all done in the mornings, so afternoons and evenings, we can do fun stuff. Or chores. But either way, not school.

What else is helping?

Breaks

He had a half hour live lesson yesterday morning. During it, they had a few minutes to go collect some materials that he already had with him. He took those few minutes to jump on his trampoline, and he was in much better shape for learning when he returned to the computer.

When he started to frustrate with his writing assignment, I suggested he leave it for tomorrow (it’s due the end of next week) and go play outside for a few minutes.

That’s another help.

Sun

Getting out of the house is so important (for all of us—not just the kids!). We’re fortunate for now to live in a location where the weather is nice almost all the time. (Talk to me again in two months…) We’re also fortunately to be in a house with a yard. He can go out back and play. And run around. Which brings us to…

Exercise

Normally, he would have recess at school to run around and play. He would have time after school. He would, on some days, have taekwondo.

And while he does go outside and play, it’s not the same without other kids to run with.

We’ve done a few things to help him to move more.

One: he either takes a walk or a bike ride every afternoon with The Tall Daddy.

Two: While I’m not usually a fan of virtual races, we registered for a virtual 5K. This one has a medal that I thought was excellent, and it supports the National Parks. He could only register (and get a medal) also if he agreed to train. So on several of my solo afternoon walks around the neighborhood, I’ve mapped out routes that are at or a little over 5K. I showed him the maps, he chose one, and we’ve been running parts of it. Will piece it together in the couple of weeks we have left. (You can join here, if you care to. I don’t get any kickbacks, I just like the organization…and the medal.)

Three: on nights we don’t run, the three of us lift weights, go for a walk, or take a bike ride. His longest ride so far was six miles.

So he’s getting out to play in the morning, out with The Tall Daddy in the afternoon, out with us in the evening. And, as always, there is the trampoline in the living room. And I often agree to requests to wrestle. It’s not as good as playing with friends, but it’ll do.

Playdates

He has been using the Marco Polo app to keep in touch with a few friends. We have had virtual playdates with friends via FaceTime. He’s played Battleship and Guess Who and has just talked and fooled around and been silly.

Novelty

He’s learning how to play trumpet, because I am able to teach him and have an instrument available. I don’t know or care if he’ll still want to play when life returns to normal.

We have some toys and things in the closet, picked up on impulse and saved for a proverbial rainy day. It’s proverbially raining.

We’re baking things that we never bake. Bread. Cookies. Pretzels. He was astounded that I bought sugar.

There’s an overwhelming number of resources of things to do available online. We’ve chosen a few.

He and The Climbing Daddy built a table.

We have books and toys and activity things that he’s had and not looked at in a long time. Those things are coming into the rotation. (And the ones that still aren’t interesting are going into the donation box.)

Tidiness

With The Climbing Daddy working from home, he’s taken over the office. My computer is now in the living room. The house is out of whack. In order to have my work and his school all in the living room, we need to be organized and tidy. If it was a mess, it would be stressful. So his school things have a place. My school things have a place. Things get put away right after we use them so we aren’t moving around in clutter. While that is always what we do in theory, in practice, it’s more hard core right now. The living room must.stay.neat.

That said, he built a fort out of a sheet and the couch. It has stayed up for a week or more now, and it’s OK. We have other places to sit, and he likes to go in there and do his work or play or send Polos. He’s been sleeping in there most nights. It’s working.

What’s working for you?

Posted in audience participation, connections, mental health, parenting, socializing, thoughtfulness, tips, vulnerability

School. Virus. Sadness. Self-care. Hope.

Here in Arizona, the governor recently announced that public school buildings are closed for the rest of this school year. (Schools aren’t closed; the buildings are closed.)
Teachers and principals are still working.
I’m sad for all of the kids and teachers and parents who had something in the fourth quarter to look forward to. This is many seniors (remember: not everyone likes high school, so for some, this is a relief) and others moving up a level. Performances, dances, ceremonies, awards. “My last ____” just disappeared.
I’m sad for all the kids who go to school to get structure, to get love, to get consistency who are now looking at five or more months at home (spring break plus fourth quarter plus summer).
I’m sad for all the kids who are now working manual labor to try to help their families make ends meet. (Yes, that includes elementary-aged kids.)
I’m sad for the parents who are stressed out about trying to make their kids do their schoolwork (when really, love and connection and emotional safety are way more important — now and always…though those are different than “do whatever you want; another post for another day).
I’m sad for all of the lost birthday parties and quinceañeras and bar mitzvahs and  playdates and baby showers and weddings.
I’m sad for all of the people whose anxiety has shot up.
I’m sad for all of the people who have lost someone (virus-related or not) and can’t seek comfort in community.
I’m sad for all of the people who are separated from loved ones who are hospitalized (whether because of the virus or not).
I’m sad for all of the people who continue to mingle with others because they are so unwilling to accept their own vulnerability.
Stay in touch with people.
Do things at home that make you feel good.
If cleaning the house is a “should” and creating art is a “want,” create art. There’s enough to do that needs to be done (work for some, dishes, cooking, dishes, keeping other people and animals alive, dishes, laundry, dishes … so many dishes). When you have time outside of the needs, spend time on the wants. The shoulds can get done later.
Truly.
(If cleaning the house feels good, then do it! I know sometimes cleaning is a drag, and every now and then, a cleaning bender is mysteriously inspired. Wait for inspiration. And if you’re never inspired … it’s OK.)
Play.
Create.
Soak up beautiful things.
Take advantage of so many arts being available online (performances, galleries, etc.).
Turn on some music and dance and sing in the living room. (And make a house rule that no one makes fun of anyone else for how they look or sound doing it—emotional safety is important and “harmless teasing” erodes emotional safety.)
Get outside. Not socially, but sun is good for you in a myriad of ways.
Read. (Books, magazines, whatever. We were pounded with what “counts” as reading when we were in school, and it was bullshit. Read whatever interests you.)
Exercise. Go for a walk or a bike ride or do yoga or weightlifting or aerobics in your living room or your yard or on your patio.
Support the people around you and let them support you. We’re in our own little cells now, but we can still reach out and stay connected. Talk on the phone. Talk via video chat. Text. Email. Write letters.
So when it all passes and the fear settles and the anxiety reduces and we can gather again, we have changed the world for the better in the mean time.
In the mean time … stay home.
Posted in motivation, tips

If you want to use it, make it accessible

A common bit of eating advice is to make convenient the foods that you actually would like to be eating more of. Produce on the counter or in obvious places in the fridge. Junk food harder to get to, not noticeable as soon as you open the fridge or pantry door (if it’s in the house at all).

It’s true with more than food.

We have three ukuleles here at the house. They were tucked in their cases in a corner in the living room. At The Tall Daddy’s house, there was an electric piano in the office.

Occasionally, we’d pull out the ukes. Every now and then, he’d play the piano.

We just did some rearranging in the living room, and the ukuleles are hanging on the wall now. And we decided to bring over the electric piano.

So now, the instruments are all right in the main thoroughfare in the house. And you know what?

They’re getting played. Not necessarily daily, but substantially more than every now and then.

What do you want more of in your house? Can you make it more easily accessible? (And the flip side: can you make less accessible things you want less of?)

Posted in know better do better, mental health, mindset, parenting, tips

Be careful!

There is no shortage of parenting advice out there. Its quality varies, and its application varies.

I’ve also figured out that many of the pieces that are excellent are applicable to all humans, not just little ones.

Avoid saying “be careful.”

Why?

It’s useless.

Give specifics. What do you actually want them to watch out for?

For example: be careful crossing the street.

Instead: Cross the street at the corner. Remember to look both ways before you cross, wait for cars to go before you go, and walk.

Yeah, that’s a lot of directions. If they don’t have those in place already, maybe they’re not ready to take that one on alone.

Much of the time, when we tell someone to be careful, it’s not because we think they need the reminder but because we’re trying to do something with our own anxiety about their safety.

So instead of telling them to be careful, tell yourself to be calm, give useful directions if needed, and on we go.