Sunday, 21 April 2019

21 Days Out #28DaysOut

It's nine o'clock on Easter Sunday morning. Christ is risen. I am writing this now because of my intention to write every day and I missed yesterday. I am not sure what there is to write. 
What have I learned so far in this challenge? To recap, it's a self-improvement drive before my birthday. I have learned that it is worth spending-out on big ticket investments in how I look and that I tend to regret not buying these sooner. One exception to this has been the Slendertone Face that I bought a couple of years ago - on Sali Hughes' recommendation - and have hardly used. It looks funny on my face and I think my head must be the wrong size/shape for it. I could give it another go I suppose. It always feels like it's on wrong. 
I have also learned that I need to commit to going places as I get cold feet the nearer the time comes. There is always something else to be doing, or I feel the need to "bank" photodamage by staying at home and indoors. I reckon I am going to give the photophobia one more year and then just give up the ghost on preserving my youthful looks. It's impossible anyway. 
What have I learned about exercise? That I really enjoy it if I go regularly, and that doing 40 seconds in the morning is a good way to build up a habit that can be expanded when the time comes. The 40 seconds I do is better than the 10 minutes I tell myself I don't have the time to do. 
One thing I have really learned is the extent to which I waste time and attention browsing mindlessly through the internet, especially on Twitter and Youtube. I need to take breaks from focus, not breaks for focus. The worst thing about it is the illusion of connection when I am actually here in the house on my own. 
I am useless at connecting with other people or responding when people reach out to me. This is something to really work on in the next three weeks. It's a quarter of the time gone already. Time to switch it up a gear. I think I will draw a nine-box grid, like in "Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway", and identify the nine areas I need to work on, as well as the 10 things. One thing that is going well is drinking more water and less San Pellegrino. The San Pellegrino was just a habit at the end of the day. 
Am watching Brené Brown on Netflix. Her anecdotes are painful in the extreme and I don't know how her husband puts up with it. (I expect the money compensates). Nevertheless, she is right in her whole "call to courage" manifesto and I think I will read "Daring Greatly" again. That and Kristin Neff's book. I feel the Kristin Neff book would find a bigger audience had she omitted the bit about improving her son's autism through submitting to being beaten by shamen. 

Friday, 19 April 2019

23 Days Out #28DaysOut

Things went well today, except for one thing. I met a friend for lunch and she wanted to sit outside. I agreed. I had my hat and had put on sunscreen and we were sitting on the north side of the building. For some reason, I didn't put on my hat and know now I have a lot of sun damage. We were outside for around forty minutes, at midday. What was I thinking? Minimising sun damage is going to to be part of #28DaysOut. I am also considering investing in some proper skin treatment. As in a dermatologist. I told you I was a narcissist, didn't I? Why not donate that sum to the rebuilding of Notre Dame or something else worthwhile? 
I suppose it's knowing yourself and knowing what makes you happy/unhappy. Skin ageing upsets me, and even while I know it's inevitable there's no point in inviting it. I mean, it would have cost nothing to put my hat on. And a hat is the best defence. I'm not sure sunscreen does anything to the rays that cause ageing. 
It was nice to meet and we had a short walk in the park, which is just lovely and somewhere I could go more often. I can't say I got a whole lot of MEd work done. I am considering moving the desk back so that it faces the wall. Was this why it worked the last time? I don't know. Perhaps I need to take a break until next week when the deadline will be looming for real. The MEd is the new correcting. What would this week have been like if I had been as free as the rest of my colleagues? What might I have done? Where might I have gone? I know I spend too much time on it for not enough actual word-count. I need to Just Do It. 
I went to the gym and did a very decent class that felt like a worthwhile workout. And I collected my Philips Lumea in Boots. I love it! It makes a great early birthday present to myself. No more bearded lady! It works out as far less than what laser treatment in a salon would cost me, and I can also do the rest of me. It's the entry-level model so not as effective as the top-of-the-range but sure I can be tipping away with here at home. 
The area outside the Electric was thronged with people. I miss Good Friday pub closing. I mean, it's one day. Find something else to do. But perhaps it means more when the decision not to go to the pub and drink is a personal one, not just because it's the law. I did remember to meditate this morning: it does make all the difference. I have booked one event at the Dalkey Book Festival but think I may end up going up and down on the one day as I am having trouble booking accommodation. Unless of course I go the day before, which a possibility I shall now investigate. 

Thursday, 18 April 2019

24 Days Out #28DaysOut

We will see what will happen. I more or less took a day off today. One thing I will say is that I can see the benefit of meditation. It does something like putting everything in perspective, like I am able to react more intentionally to things. I suppose the word is "mindfully", but that's been ruined for all of us hasn't it?
I have done a lot of purchasing in the last couple of weeks, especially since the #90DayNoSpend finished. I bought conditioner for my hair even though I'm not out of it. I bought two bottles of outrageously expensive Living Proof dry shampoo that I'm not convinced is better than Batiste. Today I ordered a pair of sandals, but that's okay as shoes is an area I've identified as one I under-buy. I also bought, on complete impulse and on-line, a Philips Lumea from Boots. It'll be delivered to my local shop on Saturday. It's not the more expensive version and there was more than half-price off it. I also foretell that it's either this or very soon spending a lot of time and money in the salon having them deal with my facial hair. At least with this I can do that at home and it can also be used elsewhere.
I do think I am a complete narcissist in my obsession with all things grooming. You'd be surprised if you saw me how unkempt I normally am, but in my head I am high-maintenance. I do think it's an area it's worth spending out in, especially the maintenance things are supposed to be invisible if they're done right: like hair removal and hair dye. Although I don't go for waxing. I just get my eyebrows threaded and do all the rest myself, mostly with my decade-old epilator. And I never get my nails done. Mostly I leave them bare and the very odd time I paint them I do so myself. I rarely get blow-dries but I do get my colour done professionally. It needs it badly at the moment.
I keep thinking I'll get to a stage in this where I won't have to think about it any more, but that never happens. Giving up shopping for skincare and make-up has helped a lot. The stash is going down very nicely and I am not sorry at all that I did not buy things I felt deprived of at the time during the 90 Day Challenge. The one thing I think I have learned is to buy gift-sets when they are on sale because then you have a stash to use as presents for other people.
In other narcissist news I bought a productivity book, now that I am allowed. It's Chris Bailey's Hyperfocus. I am underwhelmed, as it's mostly a re-hash of Deep Work.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

25 Days Out #28DaysOut

Oh, I'm not doing very well at this at all. I am tipping away more or less as normal. Here is my check-in on the ten things so far today.
1. I didn't get up until 7.25. This is isn't too bad for most people on a day I'm on holidays, but it's nearly two hours later than I was getting up a few weeks ago. Will set the alarm earlier tomorrow.
2. Haven't done any exercise yet today and did none yesterday, but there is still time. Maybe I could change it up and do a minute on the hour or something.
3. Yes, I am using Freedom a lot and I need to.
4. Yes, I am eating my frogs, all of which so far have involved sending emails that I have been putting off.
5. The house is cleanish, but could be better. I have guests coming tomorrow which will force me to do a proper clean in the morning.
6. I did meditate yesterday morning but didn't today. Using period pain as an excuse.
7. I am doing lots of MEd work but it feels right now that I'm getting nowhere. I need to start writing.
8. No, I am not socialising and have no plans to do so.
9. Haven't gotten around to entering any competitions yet.
10. Yes, I am drinking more water, mostly to wash down painkillers.

There, it isn't as grim as I first thought. There is progress on some fronts; this is, however, supposed to be a major push, not a minor push. It's a sprint to the finish line with the intention of having nothing left in my legs. I need to pick up the pace.

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

26 Days Out #28DaysOut

Today was the day I had penciled in for going to Dublin for the day, just for a change and to get out of town. I planned to book the train ticket to commit myself to going, then got the idea into my head of going to West Cork instead. And then I couldn't decide. Then I thought after that that I could work this week and go next week instead, as a reward for doing my work. I think I will do that. I won't go on Tuesday though, as that is the day after the bank holiday and there would be more people travelling than normally do on a Tuesday. I will go on Wednesday or Thursday. Not Friday. I am typing this on my new laptop, and it is making an ominous whirring sound. I cannot think what this sound could mean. It does not sound like a sound that will get better in time. Machines do not repair themselves.
Today's focus in on cleaning the house. I still have a way to go but that was the greatest disappointment of yesterday. I got up at seven o'clock and did "work" on the MEd. By work I meant reading, which I suppose is a necessary step. There is a lot yet to do. I am interleaving the two assignments, doing each on alternate days. I am fairly sure that this is a bad strategy and I would be better off finishing one and then doing the other.
For my afternoon break I went into town and bought a present in Brown Thomas for my sister-in-law's birthday. That was all I bought. It was a good break though. I met a colleague and talked about myself. Is this because I am self-centred or because I spend so much time alone that I have pent-up stuff to talk about. I'm not sure. I think it's mostly just a bad habit and one I need to consciously work on.
Another thing I need to be doing today is reaching out to some-one. I will call the friend I see the most, I suppose I call her my best friend. I shrink from calling other people, being afraid, I realise of rejection. What about signing up to things like Meetup? I can do those too, there is no reason I cannot do both.
All is quiet now but once Thursday arrives I will have little time to myself. I need to strategise about spending time with the family over the holidays. All is good really. The weather has turned fine again but it is still really cold and windy and would be more so in Dublin. I am better off waiting until next week to go. I have plenty of time to get my work done if I stick to the schedule. I work best in the mornings anyway and there is no expectation that I will be at my parents' house any day before noon. I am pleased with the present that I bought my sister-in-law. It is appropriate and I think she will like it.
There is no point thinking life is anything but wonderful. It is, really, in lots of ways.

Monday, 15 April 2019

27 Days Out #28DaysOut

Today has been the first real day of the #28DaysOut challenge. (The 28 days is the month before my birthday). So far, so good. I didn't quite get up for seven o'clock but I wasn't too far off it. I went spinning. I made soup. I drank more water than usual. I ate my frog, which was to send an email that's been on my list for a fortnight, and my reward was the first episode of the final season of "Game of Thrones". I went to the library and have a stack of books for my work tomorrow. I used Freedom for two hours and will do more tomorrow. I can't say the house is clean and I have neither meditated nor contacted a friend, but it's only six o'clock and there is still time to work on all of these things.
It has, overall, been a good day. I suppose there is a difference between being grateful and being self-congratulatory. It has been raining heavily since yesterday morning and in a way I think that is suiting my mood. I have plenty of healthy food in the house and have found a new source of fresh, organic veg (Robinsons' stall on the Coal Quay) and that helps. "Game of Thrones" cheered me up, as did last night's "Line of Duty" and there is "University Challenge" to look forward to. I can't say I watch too much television, but when it is good it is enjoyable.
So. Two days down. Twenty-six to go.

Sunday, 14 April 2019

A New Challenge #28DaysOut

I love challenges. The 90 Day No-Shopping Challenge, 19 for 2019, Plastic-Free July, #26Habits and my own inventions such as #WintheSummer and its follow-up #WintheWinter. The latest one, and its one of my own invention, is #28DaysOut. This day in a month's time will be my birthday. It's not a significant birthday but an in-between birthday. Birthdays are sad events in these dying years of any hope of having my own children, but we must be philosophical and remember the whole idea is that they're a celebration of the fact I Am Not Dead (yet).
For the next 28 days I am doing a flat-out self-improvement binge. That is the plan, but I am a bit vague so far on the specifics. I considered doing Rachel Hollis (my latest self-guru of choice) "Five to Thrive" but it didn't quite fit right. How many is a good number of rules to go by? The obvious numbers are three, five, seven and ten. Ones in the running so far.

1. Get up every morning before six on a workday or seven on a non-work day.
2. Exercise every single day, preferably in the gym
I might consider adding an extra class during the holidays.
3. Make serious use of Freedom in order to minimise the time I waste on social media.
I am going to limit myself to two hours a day of access to my distractions list, with nothing after eight pm. Two hours a day still seems like a long time. If I'm realistic that's probably as much time as I spend though.
4. Eat a Frog every single morning.
I'll need to decide the night before what the frog is. Tomorrow's frog is to send an email of inquiry about something that is important to me and my future. I opened up the email already (first step was finding the person's address) and had no clue what to say. But I have to say something. I could do it now altogether, at least a rough draft.
5. Keep the bloody house clean.
This is the bane of my life. I seem to be constantly doing housework and then I turn my back and it's messy again. I live alone, so it's not the fault of anyone else. The culprits are clothes (clean and dirty) lying around, dishes not put in the dishwasher, empty Diet Coke cans and books that I leave down and don't put back. And I'm lax about putting the shopping away when I come home. I need some micro-habits to keep on top of things, like putting books back on shelves, putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher as soon as I have finished eating and putting dirty clothes in the laundry basket.
6. Meditate every day for at least five minutes.
The five minutes I do are better than the ten minutes I don't. This comes down to having a proper routine for mornings I am off as well as mornings I am on.
7. Big push on for MEd work.
 At least an hour every day, and three to five hours on the days of the holidays I have allocated to assignments. Five hours might not seem like the longest work day ever but that's realistically as long as anyone can concentrate on that kind of stuff.
8. Socialise more
Every day I have to connect with at least one friend, preferably outside my colleagues. One is the minimum. This is the kind of task that lends itself to "boxing", as in making a list of people to contact and then going through the list. The important thing is to follow-up. The usual story is I contact some-one and they reply with "must meet up sometime" and I agree that we must meet up but that never happens. So the key activity is the follow-up, as much as the original contact. The next time some-one suggests meeting up I am going to reply with a definite time and/or place.
9. Enter more competitions and send stories off places.
I'm not going to say "write more" as I have too much stuff to do with the MEd. I wonder if the MEd will be the new corrections. For years I thought I was being sensible by giving up a chunk of my summer holidays to do mark exams. Half-way through I would always have the epiphany that writing a novel would be a better (and even potentially more lucrative) use of my time.
10. Drink more water.
This had to be there somewhere.

In a fit of digital housecleaning, I deleted the list I made last year of tasks to be completed before my last birthday. It'd be interesting to see which ones I didn't get done before the deadline but have gotten around to since. This day I am going the habits rather than goals route. I realise the list above may be predicated on the wrong reasons: the idea that I am flawed, unfit, disorganised and lazy and these are all small whips with which to lash myself. Perhaps it would have been preferable to start by thinking what kind of identity I want to have for myself and then choose habits that fit with that identity. I can still frame the list above in that way.
Identity: fit, disciplined educational academic with an organised home and Zen-like calm/dynamic and sociable full-time writer. Or a combination of these two. There I am like that donkey who starves between two bales of hay. Which is it? Zen-like writer? Sociable academic? These identities need to merge in order to get rid of the need to choose. Fit, disciplined academic/writer with a wide circle of equally-dynamic friends who often visit her house which exudes Zen-like, organised calm.

Friday, 5 April 2019

I need to think of a new habit.

It appears I have fallen off the #26habits wagon. I haven't started a new habit in around three weeks. That being said, the last one has been a roaring success. That was to take my supplements daily. I put them on my Habitica list, and not just "take supplements" but separate entries for "take fish oil", "take pro-biotic" and "take Fe". They are the three I am taking at the moment, but this may change. I no longer forget, although I wouldn't say yet that it's an infallible habit that is part of my routine. 
Speaking of routine, the hour changing has completely messed with my morning routine. All this week I failed to meditate and to do my 30 seconds of abs in the morning. The only thing I am sticking to is having my breakfast at home. I've started getting to work before the caretaker arrives so I could definitely put in 5 minutes to meditate at home. I am almost always the first person to arrive in work: we are changing the timetable to start earlier next year. This will suit me, but we won't be getting out any earlier, which won't. 
I have also given up exercising, as I have been sick. That said, I am well recovered now but didn't go after school. It was too much effort by the time I decided to book and I would have had to pay a fiver. I haven't been in over a fortnight, due to feeling too sick. I now feel too unfit to go, which is a paradox. I am all flabby and know I will find the class hard when I do go back. The trainers keep resigning or getting fired and there are always new people which I don't like. Sometimes the new people are fine, but a lot of the time the old people were better. I may need to find an alternative if the rate of turnover continues. I think my membership isn't up until the autumn. 
I have come to the end of the 90 Day No-Spend Challenge and it was a very worthwhile experience. I intend to make the rest of the year a Low-Buy Year. I mean, there is nothing really that I need, except the time saved by not walking around the shops and cutting down on online browsing. I broke the fast by buying a Seasalt coat from BrandAlley. I'll keep it, but feel a size down might have fit better and the colour's not what I expected. This affirms my commitment to stay away from online shopping as much as possible, especially for clothes. I almost never buy skincare or make-up online anyway. Who would? I mean, I know you can get esoteric brands like Drunk Elephant more easily but is it really worth it? 
I need to think of a new habit. Two new habits. Will get my thinking cap on. Went to break my no-productivity books fast and didn't I find that Waterstone's is out of "Atomic Habits". I did buy "The Productivity Project" in Vibes n Scribes, which is fine but hardly life-changing. 

Saturday, 23 March 2019

19 for 2019 Update

Mixed-bag of an update. The groundwork has been done on some of these, but I suppose I can't cross them out until they actually happen.

Here is the list:
1. Get the flu vaccine.
Still not seasonally relevant.
2. Plant my planters.
Approaching the time this will be seasonally relevant.
3. Find or hire some-one to put up the things in the house that need putting up.
Disgracefully no progress on this low-hanging fruit.
4. Do the 90 Day No-Shopping Challenge.
Almost there. Only a week to go. I did break today and go into Home Sense after a 68 day absence. Well, not exactly break. I was looking for a particular item but once in there I did have a look around. Am going back for a proper shop next week. Not buying self-help/productivity books has been a real positive. I now have a short list that I'm looking forward to buying and there are a couple - including Gretchen Rubin's "Outer Order, Inner Calm" - that I won't be buying when before I would have gotten them on release day.
5. Instigate and stick to a #26habits programme.
This is going well. Habits so far include taking supplements, meditating, cleaning up the house when I get home and I have also added in work-specific habits.
6. Plastic-free July.
Not relevant yet.
7. Start a podcast.
No progress since last update.
8. Speak at least one education conference.
I have submitted for that conference, so my work is done in one sense. I procrastinated to such an extent that I missed being listed on the launch line-up. I was invited to submit in the end, but am slightly worried as I haven't had official acceptance notification. But progress good on this one.
9. Save all the videos and photos on my phone somewhere safe so I can delete them and free up storage.
Making progress.
10. Make a will.
Zero progress.
11. Grow out my fringe.
12. Cycle my bike.
Was going to say "not seasonally relevant" but that would be a cop-out. No progress on this one.
13. Go to at least three arts/literary festivals.
Have booked two of these, including a novel-writing workshop at one. Accommodation booked as well.
14. Organise a Gateway Women Meetup in Cork. 
15. Go to France. 
Progress made here and trip to Nice booked. A great help here was listening to Rachel Hollis' "Girl, Stop Apologizing" on audible.
16. Accumulate a lot of rejection letters. 
No progress and kicking myself that I missed the Granta submission window AGAIN.
17. Meet the 7th January deadline for my two MEd assignments. 
18. Have a meeting at work about my timetable for next year.
Progress, had an informal chat with the DP who seemed to implying the P will be meeting people to discuss. I need to be more proactive on this one.
19. Surprise myself. 
I haven't really.

So, nothing to tick off, but real progress on at least three of these.

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Half a Habit. #26habits #ANewStoryforSpring

I didn't start any new habits last week, even though they were due if I'm sticking to the #26habits schedule. I was intending to start drinking a bottle of water on the way home from work. I think I might do that anyway. For now, I'm doing something small as it's only a week. (I know. In whose world does drinking a bottle of water not count as something small?) Okay, something smaller. I have stack loads of supplements that I never take and sometimes end up either imbibing when they have surely lost all potency or putting them in the bin. So this week I will take three supplements every day. Not new ones, but ones that were in the press. These are iron, fish oil and a probiotic. I also have loads of calcium/vitamin D tablets that I should take more often and these are the only ones I'm actually prescribed. Although I have been told to take iron in the past. 
What about a work habit? Here again, we're looking for small. I think I will start using my STAR acronym more. This is a technique from Doug Lemov's "Teach Like a Champion II" book. It just means the kids put down their pens and listen, either to me or each other. It's a small thing I do anyway, this'll just be an incentive for me to do it. 
Started today feeling very low and wrote diatribe in my paper diary about how overwhelmed I am. I still am overwhelmed but I knocked a few items off the gigantic to-do list and did a lot of shopping. I did a food shop in the English market and also went to Dunnes and the Health Store. This morning I broke the 90 Day Challenge. It's effectively broken now, although the two items I bought are technically allowable as they fill an identifiable vacuum  in my wardrobe. I'm not sure about the lightweight anorak (it will come in handy but it's black and a paler colour would be more flattering) but am pleased beyond reason with my snakeskin Ecco heels that were a genuine bargain and will go with half the dresses I already own. 
I was also depressed because supposed to be meeting a friend tonight and I was convinced she would cancel. She hasn't and I met another friend in Dunnes who is joining us. This is cheering me up enormously.It has been hard sticking to all the habits and the early rising and the pushing through: today I feel more positive about the whole thing. Of course, the reward will be more of the same. You break the rules, you pay. You follow the rules, you pay. 

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Unjustified Whinge and Remembering "This is what I want" #springofdifficulty.

I am in the Boole basement of UCC, which is taking me back in time. The reason I am here is that the library does not open until ten o'clock. I thought it opened at eight and got here at what I thought was the late time of half-nine. The reason I am here on a Saturday is to bring back books. This is purely down to my own disorganisation. I could also have worked out what the fines would cost me between now and Tuesday and not bothered taking up my whole morning. I couldn't face my going-into-town routine, even though I need food and other essentials. I don't know why I didn't want to go in there. I just get tired of doing the same thing all the time.
I am almost at the end of the 90 Day No-Buy. I have broken on a couple of occasions. I have also bought replacements for foundation, concealer and face powder. I have been in TKMaxx many times, ostensibly looking for shampoo. I have kept out of Home Sense and have not bought anything online. I haven't bought any self-help/productivity books unless you count Cal Newport's "Digital Minimalism". Clothes-wise I think the only thing I've bought is a green cardigan from FatFace. I did break the cosmetics and toiletries fatwah by buying cleanser and a Nip &Fab glycolic body lotion from TKMaxx. It's a very good lotion and I hadn't seen it there in a long time. That said, I'm nowhere near finished the original container of it.
In terms of things I didn't buy, there are regrets. I told myself I didn't need another pair of black ankle boots, but the ones I have are starting to look shabby and I could have bought some in the sales. Also some beauty buys that I didn't get in the sales. I have no regrets about eyeshadow palettes I would have bough otherwise, or bonus time gifts from Clinique or Clarins. I am pleased that my stash is diminishing and even with the couple of slips there is definitely a smaller net amount than there was on the 31st December. I am using up what I have, including the excellent Drunk Elephant C-Firma Serum.
Work has been hard and I have been tired. I think a part of this is that I need a B12 injection and am sorry I did not ask the doctor the last day I was in. I feel I am underperforming in college. My two mid-module assignments each contained a serious mistake that I realised only after they had been handed up. I saw the mistake in one straight away and woke up at two o'clock this morning when I remembered the other one. Is this because of my B12 deficiency? It is ten o'clock now. I will go to the library and then I need to buy some supplies for the house and for work. It seems like an awful lot of chores, a list that I never get to the end of, and not a lot of fun in between. I know this is partly because I don't make enough effort to be in contact with people, and the getting up so early every day makes me anti-social. Feeling sorry for myself now, I know. Must remind myself that this is what I want. I want to be here, I want to be studying. I want to get up early and get things done.
How is the Spring of Difficulty coming along? I never think of it, if I'm honest and it's half way over now. 

21 Days Out #28DaysOut

It's nine o'clock on Easter Sunday morning. Christ is risen. I am writing this now because of my intention to write every day and I...