Looking forward

Now that the New Year is officially underway, it’s time to lay some groundwork for a productive year. I make the mistake that many people make when making resolutions. I want to do ALL THE THINGS! Which is a recipe for disaster. Your brain is like a muscle and retraining it takes time, building up little by little. In one book or article I’ve read recently, it was suggested that you add one thing a month, because it takes about a month to establish a new habit.

I’ve been batting around different ideas for where to start. I have an inclination to change my morning routine or start cleaning up ALL THE THINGS immediately. I did spend 20 minutes cleaning a corner and I’m glad it was only 20 minutes because I started to get overwhelmed. That’s what happens when you dive into a big thing without a plan or an end in sight. I rejected changing my morning routine because it’s already pretty tight. Basically, I have a cup of coffee while catching up on blogs, shower, dress, eat breakfast and then I’m out the door in just under an hour and a half. Part of me wants to get up a little earlier, but I know this is the most ingrained of my routines and it’s not horrible.

The biggest thing I want to tackle is getting our house into a more organized state. There are areas of our house that I look at and just cringe. That corner I mentioned. I got overwhelmed because I was like, well, crap, I need something to put this stuff in, and then a couple of things I was like, should I keep these? And I got all indecisive. But now that I’ve been away from it for 24 hours, I know what I want to do with that stuff.

The second thing I want to do is return to my habit of walking. So these two things I’m going to start tackling in January and I’m going to do it by changing my home from work routine. At some point after the school year started, maybe three or four weeks in, I started just coming home and collapsing instead of heading out for a walk. That’s easy to do because, of course, I’m exhausted some days and all I want to do is sit on the couch. But no more. I’m going to resist. I’m just going to do two things when I get home: go for a walk and clean for about 45 minutes. That’s the routine I’m going to try to establish. You will all know if it works out

Routines and Habits

It’s Monday, which would normally mean getting back to the weekday routine.  But, of course, it’s vacation, so the routine is slightly different.  I admire people who can stick to a routine while on vacation.  I’ve never been able to do that.  Exercise, diet, etc. all seem to go out the window while on vacation.  At least for me, that’s a good thing.  It is good to let certain things go.  I try to establish some kind of routine, so I don’t become totally soft over breaks.

This break, for instance, I’ve tried to walk at same time I would normally during the day.  And I’ve tried to keep up with the cleaning, thanks to my new app.  But otherwise, I’ve let myself sleep in, indulge in some video games and binge watching tv (Alpha House, ftw).

Today, I have to tackle some actual work.  I’m going to check in with my work email, and I have to make a dent in some grading.  So, some routine has to sneak in.  I’m also thinking about routines and habits more generally, and about tweaking my existing ones as part of my New Year’s resolutions.  You’ll hear more about that later.  For now, I’m going to enjoy another week away from routine (mostly).

Looking back, moving forward

Every year, we all reflect on the previous year and look ahead to what the coming year might bring.  I have the benefit of seeing this process here on this blog, so I can see what I hoped for each year.  I tend to tackle the same things year after year: financial stuff, exercise, organization.  I always focus on the things I consider weakest, not on things that are already going well.  That can be frustrating, as most of those things take some serious willpower and/or reorganizing of my routine to begin working on it.  I have had some success over the years, but it definitely feels like one step forward, two steps back.

Earlier this year, I decided to tackle learning something new, playing the guitar.  And slightly later, I decided to relearn some French.  Both tasks fell by the wayside as the year got busy.  I felt like I was treading water just trying to get what had to get done done, much less adding in extra things.  This is just a busy year for me, work wise, and so I think realistically, I can’t add in too much.

That being said, I think part of why I want to add things in or improve things in my personal life is to give shape to my life outside of work.  I’m not content just coming home and lazing in front of the tv.  That is often my default mode when exhaustion sets in.  But I’m also not ambitious enough to have some really involved hobby that takes hours and hours every day or takes the whole weekend.

This year has been a great year for me on a professional front.  I’ve taken the work I’ve done to new levels and continue to feel invigorated and challenged by my work, both at school, and through my work with the CSTA.  That success has meant that I haven’t had as much room as I might have wanted to take on non-work challenges.  In some way, though, I need to find space for those.  I have some ideas, that I will reveal in the coming days.  For those of you with equally busy lives, I’d love to hear your strategies for nourishing different aspects of your life.  And for keeping all the balls in the air.  I’ll be thinking through my own.  And here’s to a relaxing end of the year and an energizing beginning to a new one.

New Year, New Goals

It’s about that time.  Meetings will start next week, students return the week after.  I’ve got meetings this week already, some with new students, some with administrative staff.  So I feel like I’m already working.  Every school year, I set goals or resolutions and reset them at the real new year in January.  It’s kind of nice to see what’s working and what’s not.  And I like that I have a record of them.  Even though I probably miss 80-90% of my goals, I still feel like I make progress.  If I set a goal, for example to lose 10 pound and I lose 7, I count that as success.  I set the goal high on purpose.

Last year, I set goals for my health, for working with colleagues and for expanding understanding of CS.  I mostly accomplished them, except for the social media use.  Getting there.  In January, I had the idea that I was going to focus on a theme each month, but that lasted all of one month.  Clearly, concrete goals work better for me.  So here’s some things I want to work on this year:

1. The house.  The clutter is taking over.  It’s well hidden in rooms we don’t use–the 3rd floor, a guest bedroom, a weird porch area.  I’ve tackled this before and I’ve periodically purged some things, but now I want to get serious.  Every time I see the clutter, it drives me nuts.  And those areas could be useful to us.  In addition to dealing with the clutter, I’m hoping to keep the visible areas cleaner.  For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been doing okay with this as have other family members, but we’ll see.

2. Keep on walking.  I got a fitbit and it’s great for letting me know how the walking is going.  I’ve been trying to walk every afternoon for 1/2 hour to 45 minutes.  Doing that usually gets me to my 10,000 steps, combine with my regular walking around that I do.  I plan to walk after school at school while waiting for Geeky Girl to finish sports.  The ultimate goal is to lose some of the weight I gained back after losing it last year.  I kept it off until around January or February and then life just got in the way.  My habits slipped.  I blame all the snow.

3. Be mindful of time.  I have a good schedule this year, though I am still busy.  But I only have 3 preps instead of 7.  So that is going to help.  I still run one committee and am on a task force that is tackling something huge right now, but I have more time in the day to accomplish what I need to.  I’m hoping to do a better job of working in stretches and keeping track of what needs to be accomplished.

4.  Work stays at work.  This is related to the above item.   I’m pretty good about not bringing work home, and sometimes it’s necessary to work at home because of a pressing deadline, but I would rather stay an hour after school to finish something than to bring it home and have it interfere with family time.  I’m planning to focus on those relationships and keeping work out of my family time.

That seems like enough to start with, yes?  We’ll see how it goes.

The End (and the beginning) is Nigh

I hit the holiday blues a couple of days ago, just a minor moment as I finished cleaning the detritus from Christmas morning where I thought, “It’s over.”  Every year, there’s kind of a mad rush to tie things up, prepare mightily and then in a fifteen or twenty minute flurry, the presents are all opened and it’s done.  And I always feel a kind of a “now what” sort of feeling.  And it’s dark outside and the year is over and I’m reviewing what went well and what didn’t and I spend too much time on Facebook seeing old friends post about all the fabulous things going on in their lives.

But now I’m looking forward to the New Year, to a new start.  I’ve spent the last few days hibernating mostly.  We’ve curled up on the couch and watched movies, played games, drunk hot chocolate, and napped.  I’m thinking through things I want to tackle in the coming year.  Last year, I wanted to focus on debt and while I haven’t increased it, reducing it has proven challenging.  I’m leaving it on the list for this year.

In general, I want to take the tack of “slow and steady wins the race.”  I’m looking for a more relaxed approach this year.  I want to accomplish things, but I don’t want to be frantically working all the time. For reference, see this article. I want to work towards goals a little bit at a time, rather than throwing myself at everything at once.  That worked for me in losing weight–just do something every day and eventually you accomplish something.

Besides the finances, this year, I want to keep the house in better order.  I’m way better at this than I used to be, but still, it seems like it doesn’t take long for chaos to take over. We have two junk rooms now that I’d like to reclaim. And we have some unfinished projects to attend to.  Some of the larger things I can’t tackle every day, but I can certainly manage the daily stuff–and do some more delegating to Geeky Girl and Mr. Geeky.

I also want to spend more time with my family in ways that involve more than just sitting in front of the tv. Actually, I’d still like to get rid of cable. We’re still tethered.

Speaking of getting rid of cable, I want to read every day something besides a blog post or online article.  I’m thwarted in that only by my own distractibility.  I figure if I can’t flip through the channels and/or don’t pick up the computer, I can read a book or two.  Now to find some good books.

I may tackle a few other minor things, but in general, I want to be more well-rounded and feel more organized about things.  And I’m just going to approach it one day at a time.

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School Year Resolutions

I’ve been setting goals and making resolutions at the beginning of every school year for years.  I definitely find it useful, to at least set a trajectory for the year.  I don’t always accomplish my goals, but I often get close.  My job is definitely no longer new, but every year so far, I’ve been facing new things: new classes, new projects, new initiatives, new students.  I find that refreshing.  Even if everything was the same, I think I’d still be finding a way to make the new year fresh.  Here are my thoughts for this year.

  1. Take care of myself.  I often put this last on my list, but it’s really important to me.  When I get stressed and don’t take time for myself, my physical health suffers, which means I lose time and can’t get done what I need to get done, which makes me stressed, which . . . a vicious circle.  I’m going to continue with my healthy eating and exercise habits.  And I’m going to try to take measures to make myself even healthier, making time for down time, etc.
  2. Increase the use of social media by my colleagues.  This sounds really weird, I know, and I’m a fan of moderation here.  I know of two colleagues who are on Twitter.  I’m not saying everyone needs to Tweet, but I want to encourage my faculty to use social media for its resources and connections, to learn to use it effectively.  It might be Twitter.  It might be Tumblr, Learnist, Storify, a blog, whatever.  It’s a quick way to find information and stay informed.
  3. Increase understanding of what Computer Science is among students and parents.  I’m still struggling a bit with aspects of this because I wear both the CS hat and the Technology (as in bullet 2 above) hat.  I don’t mind both hats; I just want people to understand the difference.  I’m working on revamping some of the web content to make this clearer, and I’m hoping to publicize what I do in my classes more.
  4. Code every day.  I’ve fallen off the coding daily bandwagon.  Last week was stressful.  And even though this week is going to be busier, I’m going to try to get back on the horse.  I’m also going to try to push myself beyond my comfort zone.  I’m actually good about doing this, which is often what makes me resist coding (it’s going to be hard! I can’t finish a program in a day!).  But I’m going to push forward.

I think that’s enough.  There are other things, and I also set goals daily and weekly (usually in my head).  This week, establish habits, i.e. don’t let the busyness push away the habits that will keep you healthy, organized, and stress free.  What are your goals this year?

Clean slate

Although managing money is my only real resolution this year, I am taking the few days I have before I go back to work to create a clean (or cleaner) slate to start from. I’m using Unclutter Your Life in One Weekas a guide. I’ve been an avid reader of Unclutterer, the blog, for a while now, and have found much of the advice useful. I made great strides this summer, dumping a ton of stuff, but then school started, and despite my best efforts, I couldn’t keep up even for a couple of weeks.

Clutter really does bother me, but I often don’t tackle it because it’s not always just my clutter. Mr. Geeky and the kids leave stuff all over the place. For a while, I’ll pick up after them or otherwise admonish them to please, please clean up after themselves. But it gets tiring, and then I just join in the clutter making because it’s easier. Mr. Geeky also doesn’t like clutter, but then he also doesn’t get rid of stuff. He keeps things for sentimental value or “just in case.” I’ve always been a purger, even if I’m not so neat. I regularly get rid of clothes and papers. While Mr. Geeky has t-shirts that are 20 years old, most of the clothes I have are less than 5 years old and much of it is only 1 or 2 years old. I’ve thrown out diaries and old school papers. There’s a box somewhere with Mr. Geeky’s stuff in it. The thing is, once we’re gone, someone else is going to throw it out. I’ve seen this happen with grandparents and other relatives. What’s most important is the relationships you have, and sometimes stuff gets in the way. What’s ironic is that I don’t push Mr. Geeky or the kids to declutter to preserve those relationships. All I can do is try to convince them through word and action.

So, I’ll create my own clean slate, and maybe they’ll follow my lead. Maybe I’ll convince them eventually. Or we’ll revert back to chaos.

Last day

I’m ready for a new year. I’ve always liked the idea of a fresh start. I get two of them: now and the beginning of the school year. In previous years, I’ve set my sights pretty high. This year, I’m only tackling one thing: money. We’ve gotten a little spending crazy, mostly by not really paying attention. To tackle this issue, I’m checking my accounts every day, and I’m checking physical mail every day. I used to do that once a week or so, but until I get some things under control, I’m checking every day. Mr. Geeky is on board as well.

I’m paying off debt, which will give us some more discretionary spending, and I’m trying to save a little as well. Having a kid about to go off to college puts some things in sharp relief. We have a little saved for college but a lot that is going to come from our available income. We have a tuition benefit through Mr. Geeky, which definitely helps, but doesn’t cover everything. And while we have no idea whether GB will head off to school, we certainly don’t want to be unprepared. So money looks tight for the next year or so, and I’m hoping to make it feel less tight.

I have so many other things I’d like to tackle this year, but I think doing one thing well is better than not doing anything all that well. Plus, my energy is mostly elsewhere.

Getting back on track

This has been my first free weekend for about a month.  My intentions when I set my goals/resolutions were that I’d work at them a little every day.  That hasn’t happened with the decluttering/housecleaning.  I got so behind at some point that it was overwhelming to even think about digging out.  I knew a mere 15 minutes wasn’t going to do much.

Today, I began to change that.  Using the 15 minutes rule, I spent 15 minutes in each room.  When I finished each room, I made a note of the areas I’d most like to tackle when my decluttering time.  In living room, that’s the closet and a storage cabinet.  In the dining room, the two china cabinets.  I still have a couple of rooms yet to go, and I think I’m going to give it another pass tomorrow, but it feels better already.  The truth is, I don’t want to spend more than 15 minutes or so cleaning each day and yet, I still want my house to be neat and organized.  But in order for that to be a reality, I need a good baseline.

I’m getting there.  I hope, then, to have more time to work on some of my other goals, learning more programming, playing with my arduino, hanging out with the kids.

I need new resolutions

I guess change is hard.  Some things have worked out well. The budget, for example, has worked out pretty well.  I missed the mark in one category by $20.  Not so bad.  Meal planning was working well until this week when I went to a conference over the weekend and didn’t have time to shop.  So this week started with ordering pizza.  Easy enough to get back on track, but kind of a pain.  I’m staring down three weekends in a row filled with activity.  Two robotics competitions, an open house and a college visit.  That’s got the potential for disrupting a lot of routines.

Pretty much everything that was on my earlier problem list is on my problem list now: laundry, decluttering, yoga, walking, programming.  It’s too much.

So I think I need to revisit.  I need to figure out what’s important.  Rest is extremely important to me, which is what usually happens instead of these other things.  The fact is that by the time dinner is done, it’s often 7:30.  It’s hard to jump into doing laundry or decluttering, much less walking or doing yoga.  I have been doing some programming, and because it’s part of my job, I try to squeeze it into work.  Mostly, that’s happening.

The yoga class I had originally planned to take meets on Wednesday evenings.  I’ve had other obligations for the last two Wednesdays, but I’m going to try to make it tomorrow.

The walking. Well.  I think that’s just going to have to go.  If I establish the yoga routine, maybe I’ll add in the walking.

I’ve already modified the decluttering a bit.  Partly, this has been practical. I started with the front porch, which is a room that used to be a porch and was enclosed but never insulated or heated.  Since the weather has been cold, it’s not been practical to go out there at night to sort through things.  So, I’ve decided doing anything for 15 minutes per day that contributes to getting rid of stuff or putting stuff in its proper place counts.  So, setting up a pick up for something counts as much as sorting through a stack of papers.

And laundry.  Well, it’s just never-ending.  I’m doing my best.  It piled up a bit over the weekend but I have mostly caught up–by doing a load a day.

It’s been extremely busy at school, which takes a lot out of me mentally and physically, and I’ve been finding it hard, especially over the last week, to muster the energy to do much of anything except put my pj’s on.  But I’m going to keep trying.