Friday, January 28, 2011

Frantic Friday #12 - Deadlines

Love 'em or hate 'em, deadlines are a part of life.  Sometimes the deadlines are simple, like needing to make dinner before it is time to eat.  Other times deadlines can be complex, like when you need to prepare for a meeting with clients.

I have a love/hate relationship with deadlines.  While I don't like to feel pressured, I do like to get things finished and move on.

Right now I have a deadline.  I have the opprotunity to make my grandfather very happy, but that means finishing a big project (and when I say big, I mean I have been working on it for 5 years so far.) The deadline I have is seven weeks out. It sounds like a lot of time, but it isn't...not at all.

So I have a decision to make.  I can use this deadline as a motivator, or I can think of it as a giant sword hanging over my head, about to drop on my tiny self. I'm thinking the motivation option sounds a lot less painful.

I am not the only one who faces deadlines.  I am sure many of you do as well.  How we handle them can tell us a lot about ourselves.  If we get anxious, nervous and assume the image of a martyr, then deadlines are miserable.  If we gain energy and momentum while enjoying the challenge, then deadlines can be invigorating.

Today I raise my right hand and promise myself to look at this deadline as an opprotunity to finish a great feat.  The finished product will be so amazing it will go down in history next to the Great Wall of China and the Sistine Chapel.  In seven weeks I will have completed a great task and will be on my way to rest and relaxation.  I will be finished. It will be complete. Whew!

I challenge each of you to look at deadlines for what they are, a time when activity must stop and you look at what you have. Deadlines are all around us, they are not evil (although they can feel that way) and they are not meant to kill us.  They are meant to give us an endpoint to our activity. 

I for one could use an endpoint to long as that comes in the form of a nap.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I'd Like to Buy an Argument - A Lesson in Getting Exactly What You Asked For

One of my very favorite comedy sketches is the Monty Python, "I'd Like to Buy an Argument" sketch.  (Don't get me started on the Dead Parrot sketch, that one is hilarious!)  The reason I love the argument sketch is that very often we get what we ask for, just not what we want. An example from the sketch:

M:  I came here for a good argument.
A:   No you didn't; no, you came here for an argument.
M:  An argument isn't just contradiction.
A:   It can be.
M:  No it can't. An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition.
A:   No it isn't.
M:  Yes it is! It's not just contradiction.
A:   Look, if I argue with you, I must take up a contrary position.
M:  Yes, but that's not just saying 'No it isn't.'
A:   Yes it is!
M:   No it isn't!

The best part about this lovely conversation is that the man IS getting an argument...just not the one he expected. He is arguing about arguing.

How often do you get exactly what you asked for, just not what you wanted?  I think it happens quite a lot.  In my life here are a few examples:
  1. I asked for kids - what I got was 2 ping pong balls bouncing around the house, otherwise known as my children.
  2. I asked for a hobby - what I got was an office packed full of supplies and overflowing with equipment, but no time to enjoy the hobby.
  3. I asked for time to read - what I got was a problem that needed to be researched.
  4. I asked for a clean house - what I got was the opprotunity to do the cleaning myself.
  5. I asked for downtime - what I got was a cold.
So how do we take what we get and turn it into something useful? How do we enjoy the "arguments" in our lives?

I suggest a few items:
  1. Be specific in your requests.  I think our argument man would have preferred an intellectual argument over a contradictory argument.
  2. Specify a goal.  If I wanted a hobby, I should have specified I wanted a hobby I would have time to enjoy. (With fewer items to store would have been nice too!)
  3. Specify intent. I would like to teach my children to clean house so they will have the skills they need when they leave home.
  4. Specify context. I would like to read mindless fiction in my room while I relax...this sure beats research reading at the table while I multi-task.
I really think the reason we don't get what we expect is because our goals are not clear and our ability to self correct is impaired.  You have always heard the phrase, "Be careful what you ask for, you might just get it." I think that happens a lot more than we think.

Once you have what you asked for, but aren't sure you want, what do you do? You can:
  1. Make the best out of it.
  2. Complain about it.
  3. Change your request. (Although it may be too late.)
  4. Learn something from it.
  5. Move to Siberia and hope it doesn't follow you. (Just bring a coat.)
While I don't recommend the moving to Siberia option, (I mean really, that country would have a population explosion if everyone running away from desires gone awry landed there.) I do think sometimes we need to step back, pull ourselves out of the situation and take a good look at it. In all honesty,
  1. I love my kids, ping pong balls or not. 
  2. My hobby suits me, and gives me something to look forward to.
  3. Research reading broadens my knowledge base and increases my awareness of issues surrounding me. 
  4. A clean house is over rated.
  5. I can have downtime when I'm 90.
So take a look at the things you asked for, the things you actually got, and the differences between the two. My guess is that you got more than you just never thought to ask.

"The Argument" From "Monty Python's Previous Record" and "Monty Python's Instant Record Collection"

Monday, January 24, 2011

Motivational Monday #33 - Knowledge is Power

Today my car needs a check up. I could have sworn my car just had a check up.  In fact my car may get a check up more often than I do.  I think it sees the mechanic more often than I see the doctor.  Really.

You may wonder why I tell you this boring and somewhat mundane fact about my I'll tell you.

As I rolled out of bed today, I realized I had yet one more thing on my to do list.  Don't get me wrong, I think auto maintenance is very important, I just wish it wasn't my job.  I don't like taking my kids to sit down at the dealership or auto shop while they stick their heads under the hood and tell me the world will come to an end if I don't pay $$ for this or $$$ for that. I do not like the feeling of being at the mercy of some guy I don't know, who is telling me I need something I don't know enough about to disagree.  The last time the car was in the shop they told me I needed a new alternator...what I really needed was my belt adjusted. sigh

After way too much person pondering and soul searching, I realized it isn't the car, the mechanic, or even the expense of it all that bothers me.  The part I don't like is being put in a situation where I don't feel confident in my opinions.  I just don't know enough about auto repair to be able to know if they are telling me the truth or not. I hate that.

On this Motivational Monday I encourage you to look at the areas of your life you don't know enough about.  Don't try and become an expert at everything, just learn a little bit about the subjects that affect you. Gain enough exposure to those topics that you can readily contribute to the discussion.

Do you remember the old public service announcements that said "Knowledge is Power?" I think they were right, so go get some...both knowledge AND power.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Frantic Friday #11 - The Ebb and Flow of Motivation

Fridays are my "I have no place I have to be, so I should get thing done" day.  I usually stay in my PJ's and clean house all morning.  I right the wrongs perpetrated in my home throughout the week, and prepare for the craziness of the upcoming week.

Notice I said usually.

Some weeks I have no motivation, and honestly, the thought of moving from my comfy bed, or getting out of my computer chair is more than I want to think about.

I hope I am not the only one.

So why is it exactly that our motivation ebbs and flows?  Why does it overwhelm us with possibilities one day and desert us the next?  My personal opinion is because the universe thinks it is hilarious to see my house covered in half done projects.

As this blog is supposed to be about preparedness and organization, I thought it would be a good idea to tell you what I think can be done about all of this ebbing and flowing.

First, I think it is important to know everyone has burst of motivation and productivity, and everyone has different things that get them motivated.  It is also important to know everyone has moments of exhaustion, boredom and apathy. All of that is normal.

The question is, how do we keep the ebbing of motivation from ruining the momentum we have going in our lives?  Here are a few ideas:
  1. Know that you will have 'less than motivated days.'  If you know they are coming you will be prepared and less likely to get worried about it.
  2. Use the time you are motivated to get big tasks out of the way.
  3. Give yourself deadlines with meaning.  For example, "I have to scrub the bathroom before guests come over,"  tells you what you have to do, why you have to do it, and when it needs to be done.  It also implies a consequence...the company seeing your dirty bathroom, eeew.
  4. Put things on your calendar.  Using a calendar to set up 'appointments' for things that need to get done can be a clever way to make time for things that have to be done, even if you don't want to.
  5. Reduce distractions.  We do this with our kids, but how often do we do this with ourselves?  Turn off the computer, put down the book, get off the phone. Focus on the task at hand.
  6. Add distractions.  Sometimes chores are unpleasant, let's just be honest. I don't know anyone who loves cleaning all day long.  Sometimes talking to a friend on the phone, listening to music, or listening to a book on CD can distract you from how bored you are. Just don't tell the kids I talk to friends when I work.  There would be a mutiny!
  7. Add Rewards. When you clean the bathroom, then you can check your email...or when you clean the kitchen you can have a snack.  Work before play is the concept there.
Motivation is a crazy thing.  Some of it is internal, some external, but either way, some days there is more, some days less.  Recognizing that some days we are going to get more done, and other days we will get less done is an important part of managing our motivation.  Being disappointed by our lack of activity makes it even harder to get motivated in the future.

So get up...go get something can do it!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Motivational Monday #32 - MLK Day - A Dream We Still Need To Realize...For Everyone

Today is Martin Luther King Day, and if you live in the United States, I'm sure you already know that.

Martin Luther King was a man with a vision, a man who wanted civil rights for all.  While a lot has been done in the years since his "I Have a Dream" speech, there remains a lot to do.

As a nation which was founded on inclusion, we have a long history of exclusion.  We have pushed around ethnic groups, religious groups, political groups and groups of disabled people. We have spent a large portion of our history trying to defend our right to dislike others.

Here's the truth of it.  We do have the right to dislike others...we just don't have the right to take that dislike and breed hate.

Right now the nation mourns the loss of innocent lives after the shootings in Tucson.  In a knee jerk reaction there are plenty of people trying to find someone to blame...someone beyond the person who pulled the trigger.  There are those who blame his apparent untreated mental illness, those who blame his parents, those who blame gun laws, and those who blame the schools he attended.

The blame game is once again polarizing the people of this country. We are poised to identify yet another group of people who we can hate, another group of people to rile against.

As Martin Luther King's speech states:

"I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

When we can realize this part of Dr. King's vision we will stop judging each other based on color, religion, social-economic status, political views, mental or physical illness, gender, sexual orientation, or education level. We will truly see each other as equals.

My challenge to you is to find one person you have made assumptions about, one person you "think" you know, and really get to know them.  Find out why their views are different.  Find out why they oppose the ideals you hold dear.  Do so in the spirit of understanding.  Do so because you want to respectfully disagree, not just fight.

Take the time to see beyond what is obvious to you, and learn what is of value to others.

Dr King had a dream, but in order to realize that dream we must learn to include different ideals, different methods, and different goals.

Dr King continued his speech by later saying,

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

To which I would add, that they would not be judged by their religion, their income, their health, their political views, their...well you get the idea.

Today we celebrate a man and a movement.  We celebrate the effort and organization it took to bring equality to the people of this country.  I would hope that accomplishment will also extend to those who are struggling today.  May we all have a dream, and may that dream come true.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Frantic Friday #10 - Identifying Priorities

Priorities are a crazy thing.  We think we know what they are...but do we really?

I was told once that we can identify our priorities by looking at how we use our time.  Things that are really priorities get our time, while things that are not, don't.

If this rule holds true, my priorities include in order from most to least:
  1. Sleep
  2. Food (Preparation, Consumption and Cleaning)
  3. Kid's Homework and Activites
  4. The Computer
  5. Religion
  6. Housework
  7. Doctor Visits
  8. Relationships
  9. Projects (Personal and Around the House)
  10. Reading
I am may not be the brightest bulb in the box, but I don't remember this list being anywhere close to my lifelong goals when I was younger. What happened to the list I imagined? I think that list went something like:
  1. Travel
  2. Sleep
  3. Relationships
  4. Fabulous High Paying Job
  5. Talent Development
  6. Reading
  7. Spa Time
  8. Writing my Novel
  9. Sleep (Did I mention I really like sleep?)
  10. Religion
Is it okay to say I used to be a selfish, inexperienced doofus?  That second list almost makes me blush.

What does your time usage say about your priorities? Do you have things you wish were on the list but aren't?  How about things on the list you wish you could get rid of?

As this new year starts and we watch ourselves running around, spending our time frantically trying to get everything done, maybe it is time to be aware of our "in practice" priorities. You can't change what you don't acknowledge.

So what are your priorities?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Tucson Shootings - An Opprotunity To Unite

I do not like to get political, and today is no exception.  I do, however, want to talk about the shootings in Tucson.

I went to school in Tuscon, and I lived not far from the site of the shootings.  I did not know any of the people involved, but I feel a connection to the tragedy none the less.

I know people are talking about what made this happen. Theories are flying around faster than Auntie Em's house in the Wizard of Oz.  Some are convinced it it the political climate in our country.  Some feel it is the divisive feelings we have between political parties and the ads they show.  Some feel it is the failure of society to give the shooter appropriate mental health treatment.  Others feel it is a sign of judgment from the Almighty.

A very wise person once told me my biggest problem was trying to make sense out of things that just do not make sense.  I think this may qualify.

One thing I did notice was that while we may not agree on why it happened, we are unified as a country when it comes to how we feel about it happening.  We are saddened.  We are wounded.  We are outraged.  We are aware that we have been angry at each other for a long time.

I noticed after September 11 that we came together as a nation to get through the tragedy.  We stood together against an unseen enemy, knowing our strength as a whole was our greatest asset.  I think the same is true now.

When I saw the members of Congress standing on the steps for a moment of silence, without a line between the left and right, without distinction between liberal and democrat, I was hopeful that this intense tragedy could bring a little healing to our country. For one moment we saw a government standing as a whole, not a splintered group of individuals.

I am proud to live in a country where different ideas are expressed and valued.  I am grateful I live in a place where we are encouraged to talk about our desires for our country and our government. I also feel blessed to live in an environment where I am allowed to disagree and share my beliefs with others.

That being said, I think it is time to remember we have more in common than we have different.  I heard a politician once say that the legislature agreed on 99% of all details, but that it was the 1% that took up all the government's time.

I think it is time we focus on what makes us the same. It is time for us to remember our humanity and our ability for compassion.  While I do not think it is the nation's fault that a gunman walked into a crowd and murdered innocent people, I do believe we have an opprotunity to remember ourselves and change the atmosphere of our nation. We have common goals and common beliefs.

We have a country to run and responsibilities to meet. It is time we do that with a feeling of peace and unity.  We do not have to agree on everything, and in fact it would not be overly useful if we did.  We do, however, need to learn the lessons being taught by this tragedy.  We need to hold on to this feeling of personal involvement and we need to keep our common goals in mind.

As Dorothy said in Oz, "There's no place like home..." and I would add to that, there is no place like our home. We have been given a country with profound opprotunity.  Let us unify our spirits and create the home we all want to live in.

My deepest sympathies go out to the families and loved ones of the victims of the shooting. May their sacrifice be remembered and may the lessons we learned stay with us forever.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Motivational Monday #31 - Finish the Old Before Starting the New

Last week was a crazy whirlwind where I finished a project I started a year ago.  Yes, you heard that correctly, one year ago. I hate it when I leave things undone, but if I want to be honest, that happens a lot more than it should.

When my mother-in-law was here last Christmas we started making roman shades for my huge bathroom windows.  After being in the house seven years, we thought it was time to cover those suckers up with something stylish. Alas, when she went home the project got shelved, quite literally.  In the back of my mind I promised I would work on them before she got back, but I didn't.

After the fun of this year's festivities died down, I dug out the fabric and we started sewing again. It took us 3 days to machine sew, one day to gather motivation to continue, one day to hand sew the final details, and one afternoon to hang perfectly.

It is now finished.

Here is what I learned...(and this is profound, so get ready for it,) I am glad it is done!  I am not sure if I like the finished product as much as I just like that it is finished.  There is something about it hanging up on the wall and no longer sitting in my craft room that brings an almost giddy delight to my soul. I am a super fan of the finished part of this project.

I think many of us have the started projects of the past looming around in our current lives.  For me, and I don't know about you, I feel the weight of responsibility pulling me down...sucking energy and optimism right out of me.

So start this year off right.  Identify those half done projects and get them finished.  That means you fix the leaky faucet.  You empty out the closet to find your missing shoe.  You finish the quilt you started.  You read the half finished book that is gathering dust on your night table.

Use this year to finish what you started.  As you complete these long ago forgotten tasks you will feel a sense of pride, a sense of accomplishment, and a sense of closure.  And I promise closure is a good thing!

Now onto the curtains in the living room. sigh

Monday, January 3, 2011

Motivational Monday #30 - Taking a Break - And Enjoying It

Last week was a quiet week.  I did not blog, I did not post, I did not do much of anything.  The week was all about taking a break from my life.

Did I mention it was divine?

I am a fan of organization, as if you hadn't noticed.  I am also a fan of relaxation, and by the end of the year I realized my organization had taken over my life...thus no relaxation.  This had to be remedied!

After days of non organized activities, followed by spur of the moment meals and impromptu game playing, I am ready for a little structure.  I will miss the lazy mornings and late night TV marathons, but I actually crave some structure and routine. Crazy, I know.

So as this is the beginning of the new year, it only seems fitting to ask what it is you crave in the New Year.  I am not a fan of resolutions, but I like to think about what is missing in my life and what I can do to feel whole.

This year I plan on using organization in moderation...and enjoying every minute of it. You?