Scheduled Productivity

In trying to be more productive with my time lately, I’ve been finding so many new things I want to try and keep up with.  However, when I get excited about a new project, I tend to focus on it and forget about other ones I had already started…

I decided to go back to what I’ve done before and have a weekday schedule of project types for each day.  I actually found my old post from 2012 that had my old schedule listed:

  • Monday: Video games! and reading
  • Tuesday: Crafts project
  • Wednesday: Technical project
  • Thursday: Do something with Jack (play games or do a project or something)
  • Friday: Free choice

When I decided to make my current one, I had remembered that I used to have one, but I couldn’t remember what it was and hadn’t looked it up.  It turns out it was pretty much the same as the previous one!  Including the day for hanging out with Jack – I guess I’m pretty consistent in trying to have a dedicated “You have to spend time with me” day 😂 The difference now is that Tuesdays and Thursdays also include going to the gym after work, so the days are moved around based on what I am okay with having less time for:

  • Monday: Technical project
  • Tuesday: Gym, hang out with Jack
  • Wednesday: Crafts/journaling
  • Thursday: Gym, games, read
  • Friday: Whatever

An interesting thing is that in the blog post about my old schedule, I wrote that I had decided to come up with it “so I don’t get lazy and do nothing when I can’t decide what to do”.  The one I have now is almost the opposite – I have too many things I want to do and it gets to be a big mess with nothing getting finished if I don’t have focused days!

I haven’t quite decided if writing this blog post today is on schedule or off schedule – I usually put it in my planner for a weekend.  I guess writing a blog post would kind of fall under journaling.

And now, Juggernaut:

Prime Day Watercolor Brush Pens

Prime Day has been pretty mediocre the last few years.  This year I just got some books and a set of watercolor brush pens.

This was my first attempt at using them on normal printer paper.  I started with the big flower, then the Pusheen, the Jack, and finally the rose.  The rose isn’t terrible.  Dragon placed her paw in the photo for scale.

After that I decided to get watercolor paper to see if it would be better.  I feel like the watercolor paper attempt didn’t come out as good as the rose on printer paper – I got impatient and didn’t wait for various parts of it to dry, so some of the colors got blended together that I didn’t intend to blend… so I decided to outline it with a thick Sharpie to try to hide the weird blended parts.  It did not work.

London, Paris, and Edinburgh

We recently took a vacation to London, Paris, and Edinburgh – May 27th to June 11th.

Yes, in that strange order.

We don’t go on many vacations, so I wanted to fit in as much as I could, since it is highly unlikely we would ever go back together (though I’ve been to London and Edinburgh before, in high school).  I was worried I might get too overwhelmed partway through – being around lots of people and trying to be out and about the majority of the day are literally the opposite of what I would describe as my ideal day.  However, I decided to just plan for it and try to power through it… even knowing I had to go straight back to work afterward and wouldn’t have any recharge time at all.

Before I started the planning for each day, we had already made some dinner reservations we needed to make early.  This included one Michelin-starred restaurant in each city:

We started off making a Google map of each city and putting in the reservations we already had.  I made layers for each day of our trip, and put those locations on the appropriate layers.  Then we each added things we wanted to do on a “Planning” layer – with color-coded icons, of course.  Using the map, I planned specific days we would do specific things, with location being a very large factor.

Finally these were moved to a Google calendar.  I color-coded them:

  • Yellow – general notes (like hotel stays, leave this chunk of time free so you can go home and change into fancy clothes, etc.)
  • Red – strict times (we have reservations or tickets)
  • Blue – flexible times (we have tickets for this day but it doesn’t matter what time)
  • Green – completely flexible (planned for this day but we have no tickets and we could move them or just not do them)
  • Grey – while we were there I also ended up coloring some stuff grey if we didn’t end up doing them

Unfortunately, it seems like color-coding in a Google calendar can only be seen by you even if you share the calendar, so Jack couldn’t even make use of the colors.  I also left the time zone as my local time zone but found that you can add a secondary time zone for reference, so I added London’s time.  Unfortunately that also seems to only apply to yourself, so Jack had to add it separately for his view.

And now, one photo from each city

(Coca-Cola) London Eye

Eiffel Tower

Calton Hill

Productivity Stress

In January, I wrote about how I more clearly understood my need for recharge time after being around people.  My recharge time typically would involve just sitting around on the couch lazing around, using my phone, not really doing anything “productive”.

I say “productive” because it is productive to me as I need the recharge time to continue so I am gaining something positive from it, but from the outside it looks like I’m just wasting my time.  However, I decided to try to be more actively “productive” by working on projects or reading more often.  This was part of the reason I decided to do a challenge every month.  In addition, I decided to finally go through two books I had bought in 2011/2012 – Seven Languages in Seven Weeks and Seven Databases in Seven Weeks.

I am very motivated by lists and can tend to feel (overly and unnecessarily) like I failed if I don’t complete lists that I give time restrictions to, so I tracked these productivity projects in my planner, written on specific days, with little checkboxes that I had to check off.  I figured this would give me the motivation to do everything.

January, February, and March, I decided on challenges that required me to do something daily (daily yoga video, daily donation, daily wiki page).  It started off okay – the daily yoga video was a structured 30-day challenge so I didn’t need to make any decisions other than deciding what time of day I should fit it into.  We went on a short weekend trip, but I was still able to do the daily video while on the trip, so I got through it pretty smoothly.

February started to get a bit more stressful.  Before starting the month, I had already made a list of potential places I could donate to, and also asked for suggestions on Facebook.  I wanted to write a bit about all of them in Facebook posts, and especially for ones that I had a specific connection to, give more information about them and donate to them on relevant dates (for instance, donating to the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) on Rare Disease Day).  Even though I had a pre-made list, it has hard for me to decided which donations should go on which days – sometimes I spent up to an hour trying to decide on a donation because I knew I couldn’t get through all of the ones on my list in the month, and I wanted to prioritize ones that I felt were more important to me.  I also stressed myself out because typically after work I want to just relax and sit on the couch and just browse Reddit or play some games, but I had to make sure to do my donation and post before midnight in order to do it on that exact date.

March I actually got behind on reading some of the daily wiki pages.  I read the ones featured by Wikipedia each day, and sometimes the topics were just very boring to me (you should read about Ferugliotherium and their teeth).  Since I wasn’t doing anything public about them like a daily Facebook post, I actually felt less stressed about being behind, and would just catch up on them a day or two later.  Here I discovered how much being publicly accountable for things puts stress and motivation on me – not just in situations where it’s my responsibility and people are depending on me such as at work, which I knew about before, but even where I just arbitrarily gave myself some public deadline and no one else even knew or gave a shit about it.

Having discovered this, I decided to give myself a much more relaxed April challenge – each week, restart a conversation with an old friend, and also send a postcard to a friend.  That was definitely less stressful… but remember the two books above that I also decided to finally get through?  I decided to start the Seven Languages book in February.  Each language involves a short intro, 3 days of info + homework, and a short wrap-up.  I split these into 3 days a week (intro + day 1, day 2, day 3 + wrap-up) and slotted them into days we don’t go to the gym.  I got through Seven Languages smoothly, and Seven Databases started off pretty smoothly…

But then this month (April) we went on a 5-day trip where I did not do any of the book at all.  Of course after being on a trip I needed recharge time, but we came back in the middle of the week so I had to go straight back to work the next day and didn’t get the full relaxing I needed.  Instead, did the relaxing after work and put off catching up on the Seven Databases book… and it just got put off further and further.  I got really stressed and anxious and panicky – the last few days were not pretty.  Seeing the empty checkboxes and having visual confirmation that I was very behind on things (there were other month tasks I was behind on too because of the trip) put a lot of pressure on me, and the more anxious and panicky I got the less I felt like doing any of it so I wasn’t even slowly catching up.

Slowly though I’m getting my previous tasks done… today, 15 days after we left for the trip, I am finally caught up on the Seven Databases book up to the point I had pre-planned to.  I still have other things I’m behind on though.  I’m trying to get over putting so much pressure on myself for these things – it’s not that big of a deal!  I literally just made up the dates I wanted to do them on!  It’s okay to be behind!

I’m trying to find a balance – lists definitely get me to do things (no list is just me sitting around thinking about the things I should probably do), but too much listing stresses me out a lot.  I think part of it is that I’m using a pre-made year-long planner, and I fill it out a month at a time – one of my weekly tasks (that I am going to be behind on because I was supposed to do it today but I need to go to bed soon) is, on the last weekend of the month, to fill out the monthly challenge and monthly tasks for the next month.  However, this means that if anything comes up and is unexpected, it throws up to an entire month off and gets me stressed about being behind and not checking off all the little checkboxes.

I’m still using this planner because I went and bought a customized one with my name on it so I feel like I need to use it entirely to get my full worth out of it.  But on the side I am also using a separate blank notebook to do some bullet journal trackers – after this planner is done with (omg it feels like so far away, 8 more months…) I’m going to switch fully over to the blank notebook and do more of the bullet journal system for daily planning.  From the ways I’ve seen people do it, I’ve tried to think of a system that would work for me, and I think I will have a yearly summary page, where I can put dates and tasks that come up and have a deadline in future months.  This will just be a general aggregate page.  Then when a month is coming up, I will create a monthly summary page, where I migrate the dates/tasks for that month from the yearly summary, and can also add more dates/tasks as they come up in the month.  Then I will have a weekly spread as a week comes up, where I migrate dates/tasks from the monthly summary, and actually put down per day of the week the tasks I will do on those days, with checkboxes.  If things don’t get done in a week, I’ll migrate them to the next week and mark them as “resolved” – that way even if it’s not done I don’t feel like it’s unaccounted for and I need to keep going back and stressing about it.  Hopefully this way I’ll only have one weekly spread I need to look at at a time, and I don’t pre-schedule things too far ahead and stress myself out.

This was very long.  I’ll be honest, I just wrote this because one of my monthly tasks that I’m behind on is to write a blog post once a month, and it’s coming up very close to the end of April.  Luckily this also made me a bit less stressed out though, especially writing out how I’m planning on using a bullet journal to solve the stress I’m putting on myself.  Also I am definitely now more convinced that I really need that time just sitting around on the couch, and am going to try to stop stressing that I’m “wasting time” when I use that relaxation time.

Anyway, that’s the end of my brain dump.

February 2018 Daily Donations

For my February monthly challenge, I decided to donate a small amount to something different every day.  It was a mix of organizations I already knew and cared about, and others that I discovered or were suggested to me.  I wrote a small bit (okay sometimes it was a large bit) about them on Facebook each day, and tried to donate on relevant days if there were any (for instance, the 28th was Rare Disease Day) to make it more interesting.  My goal was to not only expand my knowledge of organizations doing good stuff, but also spread knowledge and awareness of them.  It was interesting to look into the organizations and learn more about them – hopefully you also discover something new and interesting in this list!

  1. Wikimedia Foundation
  2. Humane Society Silicon Valley / Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA / Nine Lives Foundation
  3. Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge
  4. International Pemphigus & Pemphigoid Foundation
  5. Second Harvest Food Bank
  6. Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation
  7. Planned Parenthood Northern California
  8. Sharks Foundation / Golden Knights Foundation
  9. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
  10. The Dancing Cat
  11. Code.org
  12. Freakonomics Radio
  13. Electronic Frontier Foundation
  14. KitTea Cat Cafe
  15. Free Software Foundation
  16. Kitten Lady
  17. Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy
  18. World Food Program USA
  19. DonorsChoose.org project
  20. Mario Lemieux Foundation
  21. Kiva / a Kiva loan
  22. Heifer International
  23. First Exposures
  24. Fred Rogers Company
  25. Palo Alto Medical Foundation
  26. San Francisco Symphony
  27. World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
  28. National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)