Depression · Life · Organization

Goal setting, planning and doing

I have the great privilege of being my own boss, and mostly the master of my own time.  With that freedom comes the danger of drifting along not really accomplishing anything. This was especially dangerous for me a few years ago when I was struggling with unrecognized depression. PJs all day is great every once in a while. Not every day for a year.

Thanks to a good doctor, a therapist, understanding family and friends, and a husband who is my best friend and basically, a saint, my depression is controlled. It doesn’t rule my life.

I am still a super introvert, but that is not the same as being frozen, exhausted, frustrated, guilty and hopeless.

One of the best things about getting healthy again is being able to enjoy planning for the future. I have always been a calendar keeper, a journal keeper and a list maker. Planning is very satisfying for me. Sometimes so satisfying that I use too much mental and emotional energy making the plan, and not enough actually doing the thing.

About a year ago, I discovered the Self Journal. It is a hardbound calendar, planner and goal-setting tool. Each journal covers 13 weeks, and the days and dates are blank, so you can start anytime. It includes goal-setting guides, weekly progress pages, and daily pages that are two facing pages. I use it as a combination calendar/planner, journal of what actually happened that day, and an art journal where I include drawings, photos and affirmations and quotes.

I am starting my fourth 13-week journal today. The first one was not very successful. It was more of an experiment in how to define my goals. I wasn’t the greatest at carrying through on the day-to-day plans. The second journal was better. I read books about goal-setting and learned to hone my goals to better fit the 13 week time period.

I use mind-mapping software to break large goals into parts, and even sometimes into tasks with specific deadlines. Some people do this simply with lists, or spreadsheets, but I enjoy the colorful visual of a mind map, with its bubbles and clouds and arrows. Whatever motivates, right?

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I marked out the text because the amount of detail I go into is embarrassing.

My third journal was the most successful yet. I can look back and see exactly how close I came to completing my big three goals. (For the record, I was about 50%.) I’m not discouraged. I can look at the weekly pages and see where I strayed from my goals, and also what exactly got me sidetracked. I had very few “dead” pages, where I failed to plan, and later had no idea what I did that day.

Now, as I set my goals, I am reminding myself that I am planning what I can accomplish in 13 weeks, not in the next year, or in the rest of my life. I have settled on general categories for my three goals: Self-Care (diet, exercise, reading, hobbies, time with friends and family), Getting My Shit Together (cleaning, organizing, developing good daily habits, minimizing the “stuff” in our house and garage) and Helping (making the world a better place, activism, volunteering, donating, being a friend, supporting others.)

Blogging and other writing blurs the lines between all three goals, so that will be part of every day’s plan.

Promise not to judge me and I’ll show you a random page from my last Journal.

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Some days are better than this, some days are worse.

Here are some of the resources I have used so far:

The Self Journal

Mind Maps Classic for PC – Available free from Microsoft Store. There is also a Pro version, but Classic works great for me.

Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results, Stephen Guise

Best Self Alliance Facebook Group Lots of support here, and good ideas for how to creatively use the Self Journal. There is no one correct way to do it.

Kodak Mini 2 Wireless Instant Photo Printer This prints photos from your phone. They are 2 x 3, and have peel and stick backs, so they fit in the Journal. The photos are very clear and sharp. The photos are expensive, so I use them sparingly to print pictures of family events and fun times, or occasionally a finished project I’m proud of.

Staedtler triplus fineliner marker pens These are great for color coding systems, or just  making certain entries pop. They don’t bleed through the paper, and I find them easy to write with.

 

Family · Inspiration · Life · Organization

Short lesson on Being Enough

Spoiler: You ARE.

You’ve worked super long hours three days in a row. You’ve handled several items of personal paperwork that HAD to be done. You’ve done the emotional work of making sure everyone in the family is heard and appreciated and reminded that you love them. You’ve been there on the phone for a friend who is facing a huge disappointment. You have screened calls from three other friends, letting them know by text that you’ll talk soon. You’ve filled prescriptions. You’ve bought food. You’ve cleaned the litter box.

You’re spiraling. There is no time, NONE, for anything except the next thing. You are struggling with making your daily “Finish Strong” checklist and getting into bed at the time you must in order to be functional the next day.

Your introvert self is screaming for some time alone to gather your energy and recharge.

How do you take stuff off your mental plate, when EVERYTHING needs to be done?

First, realize that you CAN’T do everything. Your work stuff must get done, and it must get done by deadlines. You have to put other things on the back burner, just for now. The trick is to write those things down, even the most minor of things that take up space in your inner brain schedule, and then let them go until they come up on your calendar, or you can delegate them to someone else (Always plan to check back on your delegated tasks). Make a form text that says, “Hey, I’m sorry about the telephone tag, but work/life is crazy. I’ll call you back on (date).” Only send this when it is true, and DO call on the date you say you will.

Second, say NO to anything new. When you’re already at max mental and physical effort, DON’T take on anything else. Even if it’s something you think you want to do, you won’t want to do it when it is time. The hours in a day are finite. Sleep, as part of your self-care, is non-negotiable. The solution is saying NO in the first place, not cutting corners on things you have already committed to in order to cram something else in. Be impervious to guilt. You are good enough. You are better than good enough. You are kicking ass.

Third, don’t spiral. YOU are in control. Mental effort spent worrying and stressing about not getting things done is wasted energy. Use positive self-talk to reassure yourself that you are on top of this, you control your time and choices, and you are doing great. If you forget something, apologize, forgive yourself and move on. Remember to write things down, and carry your list, journal or whatever with you, and check it often.

Last, as you begin to get past the crunch, start scheduling downtime. Schedule time to write, journal, take photographs, paint, play music, craft or whatever re-fuels you. NOW you must prioritize those blocks of time. Say NO without explanation. Hire a sitter without guilt. Your scheduled downtime is important, just as important as any other responsibility or task. Don’t allow yourself to feel guilty for getting low on energy and re-charging. Re-charging is what fuels your super power of great focus and persistence during the busy times.

Don’t compare yourself to other people. Everyone is good at looking like they’ve got it together. It is one of our major talents. Don’t fall for it.

If this sounds like advice from an expert who has it all together and sails through life, never faltering, or screwing up, or bursting into tears of frustration and exhaustion, it most certainly isn’t. All these things are what I know I should do, not what I DO do. But writing them down is a coping therapy in itself, helping me to pull out of a dive when one happens.

Say it with me: It’s hard, but I’ve got it. I am enough.

Cat · Organization · The Dreaded House

Vacuuming Scares the Cat (and other excuses for not cleaning my house)

I have a great title for a book. The ADHD Guide to Getting Your Sh*t Together (and throwing it out.)

I’m a really good housekeeper on the inside. Inside my mind, I mean. I absolutely love the idea of a comfortable, minimalist home where there is only what we need and use, and everything has its storage place, and everyone puts stuff away properly after they use it. I fantasize about hiring one of those “we take your junk” services, and a couple of strong men, and ruthlessly going through our house saying, “Take that, and that, and that, and that, and that…” and ending up with so much stuff just….gone. I don’t want to have to sort it, or have a garage sale, or haul it away myself, or sell it, or donate it, or see if one of the kids wants it. I just want it out of here.

But that is a fantasy because … I have slight hoarder tendencies. Not like newspaper to the ceiling, or anything. I have lots of stacks. Books I bought and don’t have room for on my shelves. Mail, both important and unimportant. LOTS of yarn. Three junk drawers in the kitchen. I am very territorial about my stacks. I have a general idea of what is in my stacks, and I get anxious if anyone moves them around.

I read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and I found it inspiring. I know people like to make fun of the spiritual aspect of it, but for those of us who have anxiety about letting go of things, it sort of helped. I would never take the time to address each and every item before letting it go, but there are some things that do require a little ritual to get that tiny extra push to get them out of the house. What I really found most useful about the book was Kondo’s different technique for purging. She advocates tidying by category of stuff, not by the room, or the drawer, or the closet. This appeals to my ADHD ability to hyperfocus (which is a negative term – I like to use the term super-engage). I can super-engage with purging one category of stuff without running into the constant problem of distraction (mostly).

For instance, if I start, in the traditional way, to clean out a junk drawer that has hundreds of items in it, I have to make a discard or keep decision about every item. That part is not hard, I am pretty ruthless. But then I have to make a “Where does it go?” decision about all the keeper items. If I find the stapler and the staples that fit it, I have to decide, “Does this really need to be here? I only staple something about twice a year. Wouldn’t this be better in a plastic box with the hole punch, and extra ink cartridges, and paper fasteners and large mailing envelopes? And where would I put that box? In the downstairs closet under the stairs! Oh, but there’s stuff in there already… .” And before you know it, I’m downstairs going through that closet and all the keeper stuff from the junk drawer is still spread out on the kitchen table. You see my issue.

I’m actually a good cleaner, once a room is uncluttered and everything is stored away. It’s that “putting everything away” part that kills the ride. That and the neurotic cat that hides for hours under the bed every time I vacuum.

Organization

Is a clothing box subscription for you?

There are many different clothing subscription services available that offer you a personal stylist who selects items for you and ships them automatically. There are many possibilities, from high-end, rentable outfits, to quirky, inexpensive monthly t-shirts or socks. There are also subscriptions for cosmetics, jewelry, lingerie, accessories, and just about anything you could think of, but let’s focus on clothing for a moment.

Is a clothing subscription service for you?

Are you comfortable with someone else picking clothing for you? If you love to shop, love trying on outfits, love shopping bags and bringing your purchases home, then a subscription service won’t scratch that shopping itch. Likewise, if you are a bargain hunter who enjoys finding that great sweater or dress finally on sale, a subscription service will rob you of the thrill of the hunt. But if you’re like me, and feel overwhelmed and anxious in a store full of choices, you just might like having your choices made for you and sent in a fun mystery box every so often.

Are you disciplined enough for a subscription service?

There are rules, and if you don’t follow them, you can end up paying a lot for items you never wear. For instance, what is your clothing budget? Make sure you know before you sign up. Don’t agree to receive a box every month if you don’t have the funds to pay for it. Why tempt yourself to overspend? Take time to assess your wardrobe and really think about how often you buy clothes and how much you can spend. Make sure the subscription service you choose allows you to space out your boxes, and to cancel a box or change the frequency of your boxes if you need to.

Can you trust yourself to make returns in a timely manner? Most services provide return packaging and free shipping for returns. The trick is, you have to try the clothes on, make a decision, check out on the website, and get the package to the post office on time. Remember, they have your credit card number, and you have agreed to the terms. If you are too much of a procrastinator, you can end up paying for clothes you don’t want and will never wear.

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Can you work with your stylist to get the most out of your subscription?

When you sign up, you will be asked to provide your weight and measurements. Be honest! You want clothing you can wear NOW, not in a few months when you lose ten pounds. Also, the more detailed you are in describing your lifestyle, favorite colors, age, activities, and preferences, the more likely you are to get items that you will like and wear. If you never wear jeans, tell your stylist “no jeans.” If you like to choose your own jewelry or shoes, say that. Tell your stylist about the climate where you live. Also, and this is very important, give instructions about what kind of care you want the garments to receive. For instance, I specified that a few dry-clean only items were okay, but nothing hand wash only, EVER!

Will you be comfortable sending feedback?

Make sure the service you choose makes it easy to send feedback when you check out. You are not likely to go back and do it later, after you have sent your unwanted items back. Every time you send feedback, you improve the choices you receive in your next box. (If the service doesn’t listen to your feedback, you need to switch services.) Likewise, check to make sure the items are within the price range you set when you signed up. If a service is sending you items that exceed your budget, send them back and SAY WHY YOU ARE NOT BUYING THE ITEM. They will correct the problem, because they want you to buy. If you accept items that are out of your price range, they will keep sending them. You can’t really blame them, you know?

Make sure they don’t require you to give referrals. You don’t want to have to do that. However, some services will give you credit when you do make a referral, so make sure you know how to claim it.

Can you discipline yourself enough to evaluate how the service is working for you?

Keep records of what you buy. It is as easy as printing out your receipt when you check out. After two or three boxes, evaluate the cost and see if you are staying within your clothing budget. If you are a really diligent record keeper, make notes of how often you wear each item and calculate the cost per wearing. Nick Saban is not going to be there to say, “Young lady…” and guilt you into not making purchases you shouldn’t make.

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If you are going over your budget, is it because you are buying items that you are not 100% satisfied with, buying items unintentionally because you didn’t return them in time, or because you are receiving boxes too frequently? Whatever it is, take action to fix it. I suggest doing this within three months after you start the service. Any longer and you might get into credit card trouble, which we don’t want.

Wouldn’t you love to clean out your closet?

After six months, get rid of things you don’t wear. Let go of those pants that are frayed at the hems, and that jacket with the broken zipper. Don’t keep your fat jeans and your skinny jeans. Keep your “right now” jeans.

Can you be brutal?

You are the customer. Do not be afraid to cut the cord if the service is not working out great for you. If a shirt falls apart the first time you wash it, send it back with a note asking for a credit and explaining that you need clothing that holds up. If a service is not responsive to problems like this, then cancel and try a different one. Make the service work for you.

Which service is the best?

That I can’t tell you. Here is an article that gives the basic info on several services. Be sure to check the website of the service before you sign up and read the fine print. I use StitchFix and I give it a B+. I would give it an A, but they do tend to have price creep, and they have sent me a couple of hand wash items when I asked not to get any. But overall, for me, it is a terrific service and keeps me from EVER having to go to the mall!