Week 14: The Best of Me for Me

A full fourth of the year has passed me by and already I have to say, it’s far from what I thought it would be—far more exciting and far more exhausting too. My work schedule has been busier than I would have liked and between obligations there and at home, it’s been hard to make time for myself.

It hasn’t all been unpleasant or unsatisfactory. It’s only that, for a time there, romantic love and fulfilling friendships have taken precedent over personal passions, but I feel something changing.

I suppose it’s the warming weather and the sense that, despite my personal views, the pandemic is being forced to the edge of our collective consciousness. We’ve been given permission to go against our better judgment and that feels better than it should.

I’m left now with a deepening sense of security and normalcy I haven’t known in two years at least. I’m aware of the delusion, but it’s a hope too tempting to resist. I want things to be more like they were. I want to be more like I was. I suppose I still am, in a way. It’s hard to explain, but I am me, only just changed. What I want to find out now is what this new me could do with those old dreams and aspirations?

In the meantime, this week I will:

Keep a to-do list and with each item, indicate not just the steps needed to complete the task, but how to know when to stop. I’ve been taking on too many open-ended items and found them either too daunting or all-consuming. I either don’t want to start them or I don’t know how to end them.

Spend time with my notebooks. I have already returned my pocket notebook to its place, but my journal, logbook, and commonplace book have been long forgotten in dark and dirty bag pockets. I want to get back to doing what I enjoy: jotting, noting, tracking, and documenting.

Get some fresh air. The dog has been far too cooped up over the winter and she seems to know just as well as I that Spring is here and with it the end of excuses for staying in. It’s time to explore the neighborhood again, revisit her training, and work on my endurance. Bonus: Work out just three days.

Read 224 pages of White Teeth: A Novel by Zadie Smith. I’ve been calculating pages to read by whether I want to finish in one week, 10 days, or a fortnight. White Teeth is rather long, so I’m shooting for 14 days to finish. That means 32 pages a day over lunch breaks and before bed.

Spend time with my cat. This week we are euthanizing our old cat, Sophia. There are no doubts now about whether it is right or whether it is time. Now it’s only a matter of making her last days some of her best. Treats, time outside, and lots of warmth and cuddles—for her as much as for me.

This week I will not let myself get overwhelmed. My work calendar is full, but there’s nothing beyond my capabilities and no shortage of support all along the way. the work will be hard but it’s not all going to be bad and, anyway, there will still be long hours I can make my own if I can meet them with the right attitude and focus.

It’ll take holding back a bit so the day doesn’t end with work. It’ll take giving “good enough” to everyone else and saving the best of me for me.


Photo by Katie Doherty on Unsplash

Week 04: Fragments and Snatches

This week promises to be another busy one, but not nearly as busy as the last two. The problem really isn’t the workload, but the lack of help I’ve had of late. One coworker is out with an injury and another left for greater opportunities elsewhere. There are still members of my team available, but still fewer to carry the same load, so each has a heavier weight.

This week the load is lot lighter in some ways, and a little heavier in others, but none of it is anything we can’t handle. It helps that I have been practicing preparing myself ahead of time for these weighty weeks. I knew my calendar events would grow dense and I would be more tired and less motivated than usual, so I gave myself permission to use my free time to rest or retreat when needed.

These weeks I am reading, writing, and learning in thought fragments and snatches of time rather than by hours or essays, and it’s ok. I’m ok. When there is more time, I can pick up right where I left off.

In the meantime, this week I will

Wake up 15 minutes earlier. I have been struggling to get up with my alarm and find myself cutting corners in the morning to make up time. I’ve been starting my days with frustration and forgetfulness and wasting hours and energy just to get back on track. I need to do better, but to go from what I have been doing to what I should be doing would mean a 45-minute difference, too much to ask from myself before sunrise. So, just 15 extra minutes this week, please?

Read more. I am proud to have finished two books already this year, but with increased mental strain comes a sharp downturn in my discipline. There have been far more episodes watched than chapters read and I’m disappointed in the disparity. I don’t want to stop watching TV. It’s not rotting my brain, only taking too much time. This week I just need to even out the split.

Keep up with my paper journal and logbook. I had one goal this year, and this was it: document what you did and how you felt. Keep track of what you think and how you change. It’s a small thing that I am convinced will, in time, make a vast difference to how I write. As you do it, though, the act can become mundane and feel unimportant at the moment. You throw the notebooks in a bag and forget. This week I will keep them visible during the day and make time during all those episodes in them every night.

Use my weekend mornings to my advantage. I have been lamenting the lack of time during the week and complaining about the endless obligations during the weekend, but I know there is time enough available. To start, I have Saturday and Sunday mornings entirely to myself. If I could get myself up and get my ass in the chair. There is more, but this could be a start—or a return, rather. Wake up a little earlier and take some time for yourself.

Make my health a higher priority. A busy work schedule makes it too easy to push your basic needs aside. You arrive at your desk and set down your water bottle, your breakfast smoothie, your medications and supplements, and your lunch, and never pick them up again until it’s time to return home. This week, eat when you are hungry, drink water when you aren’t thirsty, and take your medications and supplements at the appropriate times.

This week I will not let fear limit me. I try so hard to be brave every day, but I fail in moments when later I think I might have been able to be strong. I want to practice saying yes when fear is the only reason to say no. The hard part is discerning when that is.

For me, fear always arrives in disguise. Fear pretends to be wise, and I feel foolish to ignore it. There are reasons why something is scary and I have no trouble explaining and convincing myself to avoid what I know I need to do. Even when guilt comes nagging, I say, “Wait until you are stronger, better, smarter. Wait, wait, wait.”

This week, when my first instinct is to say no, I will figure out why. When my mind provides the worst case scenario I’ll then ask, “And what if the worst truly went wrong?” For every reply, ask again all the way down until you have found nothing but your fear standing in the way, do it anyway.


Photo by Katie Doherty on Unsplash

Totally Insignificant

Here it is not a matter of ordinary specialisation, which mankind has practiced from time immemorial, but of dividing up every complete process of production into minute parts, so that the final product can be produced at great speed without anyone having had to contribute more than a totally insignificant and, in most cases, unskilled movement of his limbs.

The Buddhist point of view takes the function of work to be at least threefold: to give man a chance to utilise and develop his faculties; to enable him to overcome his ego-centeredness by joining with other people in a common task; and to bring forth the goods and services needed for a becoming existence. Again, the consequences that flow from this view are endless. To organise work in such a manner that it becomes meaningless, boring, stultifying, or nerve-racking for the worker would be little short of criminal; it would indicate a greater concern with goods than with people, an evil lack of compassion and a soul-destroying degree of attachment to the most primitive side of this worldly existence. Equally, to strive for leisure as an alternative to work would be considered a complete misunderstanding of one of the basic truths of human existence, namely that work and leisure are complementary parts of the same living process and cannot be separated without destroying the joy of work and the bliss of leisure.”

— E. F. Schumacher, “Buddhist Economics

Well, last night didn’t turn out at all the way I hoped it would and as a result, I’m not in a great place emotionally this morning. Everything is fine, but I will need some time, some sunshine, some loud music, and at least one thing to go right before I can get out of my head and over this wallowing.

I had thought to make up some excuse to get out of the work I’d scheduled for myself today so I might get some time to myself to read or to write but I know I’ll only feel bad for it later. It might be better if I leaned in instead and kicked today’s ass rather than letting it kick mine.

121 // Fewer Regrets

Today went by way too fast. I feel I hardly had time to do today’s work and then to catch up on yesterday’s work before it was time to start on tomorrow’s work!

There wasn’t time for me to write or to read or to make progress on my courses. I cannot wait until after tomorrow when things will die down again…maybe. Now that I think about it, I think next week is supposed to be just as busy.

I’m doing better at night though. My new rule is I can watch one show, maybe two, but never three. I have to check my to-do list, write at least a journal post, work on my courses if there is time, and read for 30 minutes before bed. Making time in the evening to make up for time lost in the day is a relief. It means I go to bed with fewer regrets and a little less to worry about.


These entries are inspired by Thord D. Hedengren

119 // Monday Gloom Again

The weather patterns are repeating favoring us with gorgeous weekends and exacting the price in gloomy Monday mornings. This is the second gray Monday in a row but I’m determined to be more productive than I was the last.

I spent most of the day finishing up post drafts here and printing a fresh new editorial calendar to fill out for Zen and Pi. I did a few work things, sent a few faxes, and filed a few packets, and at least one wedding thing was accomplished.

It was a good reading day. I finally made it past page 100 of Notes from Underground, The Double and Other Stories by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. And it was a good learning day too, though I’m already behind in International Women’s Health and Human Rights. I got around to outlining a short essay assignment and plan to finish writing the piece tomorrow morning, maybe, hopefully.

Not bad for gray clouds and gloom I think.


These entries are inspired by Thord D. Hedengren

112 // Monday Gloom

The clouds are hanging around again today, in the sky and in my head. I can’t seem to shake them no matter how much sugar and caffeine I consume and fighting it is only exhausting me further. Today is for rest, even if I have to spend it working and wedding planning. Though my body may appear to be moving and doing I assure you that my mind was left back in the bed at home where it’s warm and peaceful. Writing, reading, and learning will just have to wait.


These entries are inspired by Thord D. Hedengren

Monday Motivation + Goals // Deep Work

My biggest goal this week is to start practicing the art of “deep work“. I learned about the concept through an old Ezra Klein podcast interview with Cal Newport, a computer science professor who writes about the toll technology takes on our ability to be productive.

According to Newport deep work is “the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task”. Half of it is secluding yourself for anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of weeks to work on a project, and the other half is using the chunks of downtime you have throughout the day to brainstorm and problem-solve your project rather than checking social media or catching up on the news.

The first part isn’t as easy as it sounds. It means no social media, no scrolling, no novelty or dopamine hits at all. It may mean no internet access at all! I would like to start with just 1 to 2 hours during the work week and 6 hours over the weekend devoted to writing. For now, I will just be focusing on blog posts but after a few weeks, I will switch to writing for a major project I have been planning. I want to practice focusing for a while and fail a few times before I direct my attention to things I’m much more terrified of.

To be clear, writing blog posts doesn’t mean searching for featured images, quotes, or editing. It means writing and only writing using what notes and ideas I already have. It means keeping my ass in the chair and the cursor moving no matter how frustrated or bored I get.

The second part is also two parts. I need to stop getting sucked into twitter threads or Facebook video holes. If I have a free minute that allows me to use my brain for writing rather than work I have to use it to take notes or research with intention. Just like when I was learning to meditate I have to be mindful of where my attention is being paid and do the work to redirect myself with kindness. To help me avoid this distraction, I’ll schedule my social media time—because I can’t just quit cold turkey—and keeping my phone anywhere but within arm’s reach.

During these “deep work” blocks of time, I will simply work my way down my editorial calendar putting together my notes and writing post after post after post. I’ll spend the last 15 minutes or so of each session writing a short journal type post for this space summarising how I feel and how the day is going.

I will also schedule what Newport calls “shallow work”. Checking my email, working on my editorial calendar, posting to Tumblr, answering comments, tweaking my blog themes, looking up “calls for submission”, reading other blogs, etc.. These tasks are surely important, but they are easy so I often do these things rather than to doing the actual writing. I feel busy, but at the end of the week, I have little to show for all the effort. I’d like this week to be the first in a long time I feel like I have made significant progress.

In addition, I have quite a few other items that have been lingering on my to-do list:

  • Set up an appointment to tour one potential wedding venue.
  • Create one newspaper blackout poem and a collage poem for Instagram.
  • Draft next Friday’s newsletter for Zen and Pi
  • Read every day for 40 minutes at lunchtime and 30 minutes before bed.
  • Finish my Christmas shopping!
  • Get an oil change and new tires.
  • Develop/choose a bodyweight fitness routine

I plan to write these “motivation and goals” posts every Monday with information and links to what is inspiring me to work harder and smarter and a few specific things I’m working to accomplish. Then at the end of the week (perhaps during my Weekend Coffee Share posts) I’ll check in and let you know how I fared with each new productivity and writing tactic and my ever-overwhelming to-do list.

I’m starting slow, but I’m definitely starting, and I hope that being accountable here and sharing what I’ve learned about what works might help you too.

So how about you? What goals do you have for the week? And what is your plan to achieve them? Have you heard of or tried the “deep work” method? If so, what did you think? How did it fit into your lifestyle?

Let me know in the comments, or write your own goals post and link back if that’s easier.

Thanks for reading and good luck!


Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash