Category: Introspection

Long time, no write

I’m guessing all my non-RSS readers and avid RSS-declutterers have dropped this blog by now, but happy new year to all of you remaining subscribers! I hope this year has been good for you. Here’s what I’ve been up to in the past few months, in order of most-time-consuming to least…

  • Being a mom: Steven is now 8 months old (where does the time go?!), has six teeth, is crawling, and is super-duper cute. He is a lot of fun, and we love life with him!
  • Trying to sleep: Steven was sleeping through the night for a while (yippee!) but then started teething early (4 months) and everything went to hell sleep-wise. I went into survival mode, sleeping whenever I could. We’re only just re-entering the world of sleeping through the night again.
  • Working as much as I can: Work has been challenging as Steven went from four naps a day to two naps a day and then got mobile! Meanwhile, my hubby’s industry (construction) isn’t doing too well, and he’s been out of work for the past month and a half. So, he’s been doing the childcare thing as I’ve been trying to pick up as much work as I can. Luckily, the work’s been coming to me, so I haven’t had to hustle too much.
  • Historian-ing like mad: I’ve been blogging prolifically on my personal blog to help keep track of baby milestones and daily life, posting hundreds of photos and videos on Flickr, and tweeting away for both myself and the baby. (It’s been even more fun on twitter because both my sisters joined, a few of my nieces and nephews have joined, and even my 64-year-old mom (I think? I can never keep track of her age.) has joined!)
  • Custom shadow box-ing: Without doing any additional marketing, people have been finding my Custom Shadow Box site on the internet and placing orders! Quite exciting and a fun break from my usual computer work.

Having a baby definitely took a big hit on my normal level of productivity and goal-orientedness, but it’s safe to say that it was worth it! Now that 2009 is upon us, though, I’m ready to “inject some intentionality into my life,” to quote my other blog. With that, I’ve been busy making lots of plans and goals and systems for the new year – things that I would normally blog about here, but that I’ve ended up posting in my other one. For your reading pleasure (only if you’re really bored), here are some links:

I hope you have a happy new year. If you’re a regular, I’d love it if you dropped a note to let me know what you’ve been up to!

Blog Action Day: Poverty

Today is Blog Action Day and the topic is poverty. Similar to last year’s post, I’m going to reflect and celebrate on what I’m already doing to help, investigate areas that could be improved, and then commit to action.


I have to admit that I’m even less passionate about “poverty” than I am about the environment. However, I can’t ignore the very real fact that if I’m to practice what my faith preaches, I’d better care about the poor and I’d better do something about it. So, I’m thankful that Blog Action Day is here and that I can use it as a chance to commit to some real action.

Let’s look at some of the reasons why I don’t take action more often, and things I can think about to counter my excuses:

  • Feeling overwhelmed: Knowing that about half the world’s children are living in poverty is a staggering statistic. When you look at the masses of people – about half of the world’s population – who subsist on less than $2.50 a day, it’s easy to feel like there’s nothing you can do about it. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, it’s helpful to remember the starfish story and commit to making a difference one life at a time. If each person who made over $2.50 a day helped out one person who was living on less than $2.50 a day, everyone would be covered. πŸ™‚ Of course, it’s not going to be that simple, but it does make me feel a little better to know that by finding a way to do my part, I’m helping to balance out the equation a little more.
  • Self-centered perspective: In these “tough economic times,” at least for those of us in the US, it’s easy for me to focus on getting me and my family through and to think that I don’t have any extra to spare. In college, when I was on a REALLY tight budget, I remember feeling a bit disgruntled by “call to action” people who would urge us to “give up that daily mocha” and donate the money to a charity. I wasn’t sure how other people were affording a daily mocha, because all of my money was going to textbooks, rent, and basic food! These days, I’m living a much more luxurious life with organic food, a “fun” budget line item, and owning a home. While I still don’t buy a daily mocha, there’s certainly more flex in our budget – on most months, at least – so that we could sacrifice in some areas temporarily and have a little more to give.


This list is much shorter than last year’s, but it’s still something that I can celebrate!

  • We sponsor a child through Compassion (which costs less than $2.50/day, actually, as our bank account gets debited $32/month automatically). It’s been neat to see our little girl from India grow up to be a young lady, exploring interests in school and beginning to dream dreams, via quarterly handwritten-and-translated letters.
  • At least once a year around Christmastime, we’ll peruse the World Vision Gift Catalog and purchase a share of a cow, or four chickens, or a few goats, which are given to needy families or villages. It’s a little bit weird to look through a catalog, which is a naturally consumeristic activity, and make decisions that affect real people’s lives. Should we feed a starving village or rescue a child from a life of prostitution? Kind of jarring, but at least, in the end, we’re doing something.
  • Steve and I participated in 30 Days of Nothing the first time around and donated the money we saved. We missed it this year, but I think it’s something I want to do every year, if Steve is up for it.
  • We buy fair trade bananas. πŸ™‚


Time to brainstorm next actions! This list is by no means comprehensive nor is it very radical, but I tried to come up with realistic and achievable actions that I could take. Rather than trying to come up with a big life-changing plan, I’ve found that real change happens when I start small and think of things that I could imagine myself doing.

  • Write a letter to my Compassion child. The web site allows for an easy interface to email the child, but I think it’s time to write a hand-written letter and include a recent family photo, now that we have a baby.
  • “Do” 30 Days of Nothing in a month other than September – talk to Steve about trying it out for November, for example.
  • A few years ago, I bought Material World, a really cool book where families around the world are photographed with all of their possessions lined up around their house. The disparity between the family in Mali and the family in the US is staggering, and each page is a visual reminder of how much we own – and how much we don’t need. While I don’t want to dull the impact by looking at the book every single day, I think that flipping through the pages at least once a year would be a good activity for me – maybe to kick off 30 Days of Nothing.
  • I’ve always been intrigued by Kiva‘s concept of microloans and their excellent implementation of making it easy to loan a small amount of money to someone else halfway across the world, watch it get repaid, and then loan the money back out to someone else. Their site currently says that all loan requests have been filled (although you can donate to their operating expenses), but it’s a site to keep an eye on for future giving opportunities.
  • We can reexamine our charitable giving and our values. Is helping the poor high enough on our value system that we want to reflect that in our charitable giving?
  • Add more fair trade items to our grocery list where we can – fair trade chocolate, for example (we aren’t at-home coffee drinkers, or fair trade coffee would be an option, too).
  • I also like the idea of starting at home. Grace In Action is an organization affiliated with several of the churches in town that helps the homeless in our community. I can start by looking at their donated items list and picking something up each time we go to Costco, which we do infrequently yet regularly enough for it to work as a “regular” donation without being a “ongoing” budget line item.
  • Have a garage sale, or, more realistically for us, sell items on Craigslist and donate the money.

Commit to action

I could really see myself doing all of the above! But again, I’ll commit to just a few actions and will follow up in a later post. Let me clarify – I will commit to talking to Steve about these actions, since we have joint finances and his opinion and approval is needed before moving forward!

  • One-time: Do 30 Days of Nothing in November or another month next year.
  • One-time: Write a letter to our Compassion child – this is something I can do on my own!
  • Ongoing: Get fair trade chocolate for baking/cooking purposes.
  • Ongoing: Commit to one year of getting something “extra” each time we go to Costco to donate to Grace In Action.

How about you? Do you have a post for Blog Action Day, or are there specific actions you want to commit to taking to help combat poverty?

Simplifying my life: Activities and Hobbies

One of the books I’ve been reading is The Simplicity Reader by Elaine St. James, chock full of applicable simplicity goodness. (It is actually three books in one volume.)

One specific way this book has affected my life is in the area of activities and hobbies. Elaine talks about the human tendency to pick up new activities and hobbies — and all the associated gear — just because we have the opportunity. But each new activity and hobby we add means that we 1) have more stuff and 2) have less time to fully enjoy the other things we have going on. This definitely hit home for Steve and I! Between the two of us, we have 20 separate activities/hobbies that we have “gear” for and spend time on or have talked about wanting to do at some point in the future. Here is the full list in order of “expensiveness,” and I’ve starred the ones that we’ve actually done in the past year.

  • Together:
    • Rollerblading* – up-front gear cost already paid.
    • Swimming laps – up-front gear cost already paid.
    • Cycling – up-front gear cost already paid; low maintenance costs.
    • Hiking – paying for gas, mostly, and shoes once in a while.
    • Triathlons – with free triathlons (where we volunteer in order to participate in future events), mostly paying for gas.
    • Backpacking/camping* – paying for gas and food, up-front gear costs already paid.
    • Exercising at the gym* – yearly or monthly fee
    • Stained glass (someday) – have some gear but would have to purchase more, then ongoing glass costs
    • Traveling* – paying for food, entertainment, and transportation
  • Just Steve:
    • Basketball* – shoes once a year ($60-$100)
    • Fishing* – fishing license ($60), gear is currently borrowed, occasional purchase of hooks, etc., paying for gas
    • Baseball* – pay annual fee for league (about $300?), already paid for up-front gear costs, possibly some maintenance costs
    • Guitar* – paying regularly for lessons ($120/month)
  • Just me:
    • Reading* – library is free!
    • Drawing – very occasional purchase of gear
    • Cooking* – occasional purchase of gear, but food is in grocery costs anyway
    • Running* – shoes once a year ($60-$100)
    • Crafts (making cards, shadow boxes)* – purchase of materials
    • Photography (taking a class, etc., someday) – cost of class plus additional equipment
    • Harp* – expensive harp purchase ($5000-$10,000), lessons ($100/month)

This list does not include the activities that we currently do for paid work — computer/design stuff for me, carpentry stuff for Steve, both of which have their own significant expenses as well for gear.

Anyway, I brought up the idea of simplifying our activities with Steve, we made the above list, then we started crossing things off. (Italics indicate things we would like to do in a few years.)

  • Together:
    • Rollerblading – can do this post-baby.
    • Swimming – we are knocking this out along with triathlons.
    • Cycling – ditto. Steve no longer has a “buddy” to cycle with, and I enjoy running more.
    • Hiking – can do this post-baby.
    • Triathlons – very unlikely that we could continue this. It was fun while we did it, but it would be difficult with kids to find the time to train together and participate in triathlons. (We could do it separately, but we’d rather spend that time together.)
    • Backpacking/camping – would like to do this as a family, but probably not backpacking until the kids are older.
    • Exercising at the gym – not sure about this one. We have a membership for several more months and will decide later if we want to continue or not.
    • Stained glass – would like to do this someday, but most likely not until we have our own home.
    • Traveling – not affordable for now.
  • Just Steve:
    • Basketball
    • Fishing – Won’t continue after this season is over; Steve is borrowing people’s gear for now, and it’s quite a time commitment — every Saturday morning during salmon season.
    • Baseball – Steve would like to continue this next year as he feels his “youth” is limited and he won’t be able to play competitive baseball for much longer. We have to talk about the cost and the feasibility of him playing while having a new baby!
    • Guitar – would like to take lessons again, but we have to work out the money/timing.
  • Just me:
    • Reading
    • Drawing – I’ll probably still “draw” occasionally, but I’m releasing myself from the expectation of wanting to do it regularly.
    • Cooking
    • Running – will pick this back up post-baby.
    • Crafts – similar to drawing — I can’t help but keep doing stuff, but I’m going to only buy what I need for an actual project (instead of buying stuff because “I might use it”) and release myself from the expectation of doing things regularly.
    • Photography – OK, I don’t need to be an expert in everything. There are other things I’d rather do besides becoming a professional-level photographer!
    • Harp – Someday! We’re slowly saving up money, and I figure I won’t have time for regular practice/lessons with a baby. When I actually have the money for a harp, I’ll figure out how to get lessons for myself.

I’m hoping that releasing ourselves from the expectation of “doing everything well” will allow us to really enjoy the things that we limit ourselves to. Making this list will also, I hope, keep us from jumping into new hobbies and activities as readily as we have in the past!

My next task is to post our bikes, bike gear, and my camera on Craigslist and see what takers we find…

November Review for Groundhog Day Resolutions

Last month’s revamp of Groundhog Day Resolutions proved to be a good move! I reformulated my long-term goals (which involved updating my goal tracker form) and set new milestones for myself.

  • Health/body goals – πŸ˜•
    • How I did: So I wasn’t very consistent with these milestones (which were necessarily ongoing routine-type things), but overall I still feel good about them, except for my distinct lack of an exercise routine.
      • Weigh myself daily – I ended weighing myself about twice a week, but managed to stay within a healthy 1 lb. a week weight gain for the beginning of my second trimester. Pure luck!
      • Walk 30 minutes every day – System failure. Trying to analyze what happened, I’m finding a combination of all-natural pure laziness and a lack of general routine, as Steve had 2/4 weeks off in the past month.
      • Keep track of blood sugar and diet – Kept track of blood sugar but gave up on tracking the diet, which meant that I quickly degraded into poor high-carb food choices and eating less veggies throughout the day. I got a small talking-to from my dietitian.
      • Bonus – I excelled at cooking wonderful healthy dinners using mostly local and organic produce; this is one of my long-term goals that I hadn’t intended to work on, but apparently reading the right books is pretty motivating for me.
    • Next month: I’ve set up some new milestones for myself. (See below for my new strategy on how I’m going to implement some of those daily routines like weighing myself and exercising.)
      • Weigh daily and track
      • Develop exercise routine
      • Buy local foods (not exclusively, but as much as I can)
      • Eat healthy lunches
  • Work goals: πŸ™‚
    • How I did: My one milestone was to complete 3/6 small biz client projects. I fully completed only two, but I’m still very pleased with my focus and progress this month; those two projects had been hanging on for a loooonnnng time and it’s nice to finally have them done with and have the invoices out.
    • Next month: So, I had 4 remaining projects, but I had two more that were waiting in the wings so I’m back up to six. Of these six, two are ones where the client has mysteriously disappeared and I’m going to count those as low-priority for now. The other four are ones that I’ll be working on, and I’m going to shoot to complete 3 again this next month!
  • Character goals: πŸ™‚
    • How I did: I kept up my gratitude journal but I’ve been unaccountably moody (pregnancy hormones? stress from Steve not working for two weeks?).
    • Next month: Shooting to continue my gratitude journal daily, and to get back into a daily devotional time (slacked off a bit at the end of this past month).
  • House goal: πŸ™‚ / 😐
    • How I did: I met 2/3 milestones (read the buying-your-first-home book, looked at our budget). Didn’t get a chance to talk to my mom as she went on an overseas trip by the time I finished the first two. Am not very optimistic about the reality of us owning a home in our current city, and our down payment savings also took a setback as we purchased a truck for Steve’s work.
    • Next month: Talk to mom.

I have my daily calendar “bubble sheet” for filling out daily routines, but I’ve been finding that it hasn’t been very motivating lately. So, I’m ditching the bubble sheet for this month and am instead combining the bubble concept with the Seinfeld productivity trick. I made myself a form with each day from 11/12-12/11. Each day has a box where I can write in my weight and bubbles to cross out for exercising, having a devotional time, and eating a healthy lunch. The idea is to “not break the chain” and to fill in every bubble for the month. We’ll see how it goes!

So — this is the last month in the Groundhog Day Resolution cycle, and I’m hoping I can end strong! Next month will end this experiment and will be a time to celebrate what’s been accomplished this past year!

Goals update

During last week’s Groundhog Day Resolution review, I talked about wanting to take some time to reevaluate my goals. I had a big chunk of Saturday morning to devote to this, but it’s been more of an ongoing process since then!

So here is how my original goals break down (from May Review):

  • 3 goals are health/body-related:
    • goal weight to maintain
    • exercise goal
    • nutrition goal
  • 4 goals are work-related:
    • develop a brand for β€œme”
    • learn specific new skills
    • develop alternative revenue streams (aka start a new side business)
    • learn to build my own computer (that one is an β€œinactive” goal)
  • 3 goals are personal/hobby-related:
    • have established routines
    • buy a house (inactive – no plan yet)
    • have a stained glass studio in my house (inactive – requires a house)
  • 9 goals are character/social-related β€” some examples are becoming more comfortable at small talk and being a joyful person.

And this is how my goals are shaping up now, although they’re still re-forming:

  • Health/body
    • weight: pregnancy goal weights to maintain each month
    • exercise: walk every day for at least 30 minutes OR bike to gym
    • nutrition: maintain good levels of blood sugars and eat my veggies!
  • Work
    • brand: rework focus (more about this in a later post)
    • learn new skills: on hold
    • income: (more about this in a later post, but here are the basics)
      • bomb through current lineup of small business clients, then limit to one at a time
      • implement new efficiency strategies
      • pursue writing opportunities
      • change focus of clientele
  • Personal/hobby
    • routines: in maintenance mode, apart from trying to get exercise back into it
    • buy a house: in process of dreaming and planning
    • stained glass studio: on hold
  • Character/social
    • Most are in maintenance mode, including keeping up my gratitude journal

So these are my reformulated long-term goals. For the rest of this month (until 11/11), I’m going to work on these specific milestones:

  • Weigh myself daily
  • Walk 30 minutes every day
  • Keep track of blood sugar and diet
  • Complete 3/6 small biz client projects
  • Keep up gratitude journal

Blog Action Day: The Environment

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

Today is Blog Action Day and the topic is the environment. So for this post, I’m going to reflect and celebrate on what I’m already doing to help, investigate areas that could be improved, and then commit to action. And in keeping with my style, there will be lots of bulleted lists!


I can’t say that I’m very passionate about saving the environment — I get more excited about organizing, teaching, kittens, and sea otters, for example — but I do have a sense of responsibility to do my part to conserve, reduce, recycle, and become more educated about the impact my choices have on the environment. Where does this sense of responsibility come from? For me, it’s a mixture:

  • A faith-based idea of “stewardship” and taking care of gifts that I’ve been given, which includes this world along with my body, relationships, and material possessions.
  • The desire for frugality inherited from my mother, which overlaps quite nicely with conservation — reusing things instead of throwing them away, saving money on utilities by using less water or electricity, etc.
  • The environment of liberal hippie-ness in my university town where organic and local produce is “in.”
  • The influence of one of my sisters who introduced me to the concept of composting, geothermal heating systems, and organic milk, and whose husband is a developer who makes it a point to use green materials and sustainable practices.


So far, I’ve “done the little that I can.” It’s not much, but it’s still something to celebrate.

  • Steve and I choose to live in a town where we can’t yet afford our own home but can bike everywhere. The local Safeway is a two-minute bike ride or a ten-minute walk from our house. Using a combination of bike-friendly streets and bike paths, we can bike the five miles to our church in about 25 minutes. It’s easier to bike or walk around the small downtown area than it is to drive. The campus (U.C. Davis) is purposefully closed to cars and has its own bus system which also serves the rest of the city. For a while, Steve and I only had one car; he took the car to work and I biked everywhere else. My mom gave us her old car (which now, with a baby on the way, we’re especially thankful for) but I still usually choose to bike instead of drive.
  • We have a food co-op that is chock full of organic goodness and locally-grown foods. The produce section indicates clearly on the price sign where the food came from. The co-op isn’t as conveniently close as Safeway, but it’s close to downtown and it’s on the way to the library so that I have an excuse to drop by for groceries. While I’m often seduced by the lower-priced items of the big chain grocery store, we’ve been starting to purchase more locally produced items which theoretically help the environment by reducing the resources spent on transporting goods around the world.
  • We recycle paper and containers.
  • I married someone who loves the outdoors and animals. My family never really went camping or spent much time outdoors other than in our suburban backyard; we were quite a family of bookworms. Steve has really stretched my boundaries to include camping, backpacking, swimming in mountain lakes, enjoying being by the ocean, hiking, and being on the lookout for cool wild animals like hawks, egrets, owls, and deer. I can’t say that hiking is one of my favorite things — it’s more something I suffer through to spend time with Steve — but maybe someday I’ll appreciate it. πŸ™‚


There are LOTS of things that I could imagine doing to help the environment. Here is a smattering of realistic and achievable changes that I could make:

  • I use a lot of ziploc bags for food storage and when making Steve’s lunches. We sometimes reuse ones that don’t require a lot of effort to clean them. However, this results in quite a bit of waste when I think of the Costco-sized boxes of sandwich and gallon bags that we’ve gone through. I could reuse more of the ziploc bags by washing them and encourage Steve to bring them home instead of throwing them away.
  • Our town has basic garbage, paper, and container recycling and picks up yard waste piles but I haven’t really tried to investigate recycling other types of waste. This is just pure laziness on my part.
  • My paper-based organization system results in the use of a lot of paper. I haven’t made it a point to specifically purchase recycled paper for the printer (although we recycle what comes out of it).
  • We have a halogen light in the office that is pretty much on all day while I work. I am a bit picky with the light I work with, but perhaps I should just deal with it and replace it with a lamp that would work with compact flourescent lightbulbs. At the very least I could swap the lamp from our bedroom (which uses CFLs) with the halogen as we don’t have the light on in the bedroom as often.
  • I could figure out how to stop junk mail and cancel the various catalogs that are coming for former residents.

Commit to Action

Rather than trying to do all of the above and burning out, I’m going to pick two one-time actions that I can do this week and one regular action that I can try to maintain.

  • One-time: Swap the halogen light with the bedroom light.
  • One-time: Call our city to request a free compost bin.
  • Ongoing: Start washing and reusing ziploc bags.

I’ll make sure that these are part of my weekly review so that you can see how I’m doing!

October Review for Groundhog Day Resolutions

Cheering groundhog This was, perhaps, the least productive month in terms of my Groundhog Day Resolutions. There’s a general feeling in the air (at least in the air immediately surrounding me) of “who cares about these stupid goals, anyway?” The combination of pregnancy-induced tiredness and a crazier, heavier workload leaves little time to dream big dreams and work towards “something.” Dave Seah mentioned that he’s booked for the next YEAR with projects, and at the end of his post, mentioned that he is losing steam with GDRs. I have to wonder if full (or over-full) workloads directly coincide with less energy for longer-term goals, such as developing alternative revenue streams (a goal that Dave and I both had in common; his ETP product and my shadow box business) or working on personal brand development. Hmmmmm.

I’ve definitely hit the point with some of my goals where I’ve forgotten why I had set them as goals in the first place. Why exactly did I care about developing my brand? Why did I want to start another business? And who cares about having a daily routine, anyway? Last month, I set monthly milestones anyway to try to slog through this rut, but as you’ll see in my summary below, not much happened. So, this month, I’m trimming back my monthly milestones, but I’m adding one main task which is to think about my goals and either redefine them or re-inspire myself.

  • Main task for next month: Reevaluate goals and/or re-inspire myself. This weekend will be a good time to reflect. I’ll post a blog about how it goes, so that helps with some built-in accountability already!
  • Health/body goals – πŸ™‚ / 😦
    • How I did: I had a goal to gain between 3-5 lbs. by the end of my first trimester (a healthy amount). In between weighing myself several times a week and my controlled diet, I gained three pounds. I’ve also been mostly disciplined with what I’m eating, although I have been starting to slack off a bit and not paying attention to eating enough veggies. But overall, I’ll give myself a gold star for weight/food! However — my exercise routine is still non-existent, so that’s what the sad face is for.
    • Next month: During the second trimester, I need to gain about 1 pound a week, so I hope to be 4 lbs. heavier by next GDR review day. My only other goal for this next month is to GET BACK INTO AN EXERCISE ROUTINE! It will be best if I just start walking every day, whether I go to the gym or not, so I’ll start tomorrow morning!
  • Work-related goals
    • Branding goal – 😦
      • How I did: My scheduled two hours of web site tweaks didn’t happen.
      • Next month: I’ve tentatively scheduled two hours on another day, but this is dependent on how my goal reevaluation goes.
    • Small business goal – 😐
      • How I did: I designed one side of the brochure and didn’t do anything else (following-up with people or developing a local marketing plan).
      • Next month: Nothing planned for now.
  • Routines – 😐
    • How I did: My daily routines are, well, routine (except for exercise), but I never figured out a housecleaning routine. We did meet with our roommates and figured out a chores system, but there are various maintenance tasks that only affect me/Steve that I wanted to figure out (such as how often do I clean my shower?).
    • Next month: Nothing planned for now.
  • Character/social – πŸ™‚
    • How I did: Gratitude journal is part of my daily routine.
    • Next month: Nothing new planned.

September Review for Groundhog Day Resolutions

Water or gatorade?We’re just over halfway through the Groundhog Day Resolution year, and I’m feeling the tiring effects of a hot and long summer combined with moving and a general unproductive malaise. But just like at any good 5K, 10K, or marathon, Mr. Groundhog is standing at the sidelines with a smile and paper cups filled with chilled liquid goodness. This September review is a great chance to take a break, look back, and surge forward with renewed energy and purpose!

This past month, I kept my goals purposefully minimal as I knew a lot of my energy would be sapped with moving. I tried to keep a focus only on health/body goals and getting a new site and blog design up while maintaining my other routines. Although I stopped tracking routines and goals in the midst of moving madness, I feel very pleased overall with how this past month went!

  • Health/body goals – πŸ™‚
    • How I did: Until we moved, we were very consistent with going to the gym three times a week, and I’m excited to start back again this week.
    • Next month: Get back into my exercise routine and start tracking food again. I realized this weekend that I haven’t had any green leafy veggies since moving (haven’t really been cooking, eating out a lot) and immediately made a menu for the rest of the month to rectify that situation!
  • Work-related goals
    • Branding goal – 8)
      • How I did: As planned, I took a day off and worked on implementing a new design to and this blog!
      • Next month: I’ve scheduled two hours into my calendar to work on tweaking the sites.
    • Small business goal – πŸ™‚
      • How I did: I got business cards printed, but didn’t design a brochure.
      • Next month: I have three things planned: Follow-up with people who emailed initially but didn’t get back to me, design a brochure, and develop a local marketing plan.
  • Routines – 😦
    • How I did: I didn’t really keep up my routines during or after the move, partly because I ran out of daily tracking sheets and didn’t have the printer hooked up to print new ones. I also didn’t put together a housecleaning routine for myself.
    • Next month: We have to have a house meeting with our housemates and hopefully will go over chore ideas then. I’ve printed out more daily tracking sheets and have started using them again, so my goal this next month is to use them!
  • Character/social – 😐
    • How I did: I didn’t set any new goals for this area.
    • Next month: I’m restarting my daily “gratitude journal,” listing five things that I’m thankful for.

Measuring productivity poll

Dave Seah is having an informal “how do you measure productivity pre-poll,” by which I mean, the poll is currently more about your to-do list than about how you actually measure productivity. Here are the questions:

  1. How many tasks are on your To Do list?
  2. How many tasks are you getting done a day, on average?
  3. Are you satisfied with what you’re getting done?
  4. What makes a task hard to start?

And my answers:

  1. How many tasks are on your To Do list? My main to-do list is housed at Remember The Milk, which holds all of my immediate next-action lists for both work and personal stuff as well as “waiting” and “someday” items. I have about 37 next-actions, which range from two-minute to half-day tasks. This does not include the inevitable 2-5 work-related tasks per day that come up on their own, from customer requests to starting the next next-action on a project to “life.”
  2. How many tasks are you getting done a day, on average? While it sort of depends on how long the tasks take, I think my average falls around 6-10 tasks. Of course, I’ve had days where I’ve only completed one or two tasks because they were things like “redo all pages of xxxxxx project.”
  3. Are you satisfied with what you’re getting done? Yes, at least if I speak for last week!
  4. What makes a task hard to start? A task is hard to start if I think it will take a long time or if I feel inadequate to the task. The good thing I’ve been learning is that my pessimistic time estimates for things I don’t want to do are usually way off, and if I just start them for the sake of checking them off my list, they usually don’t take very long. Feeling inadequate to a task is a tricky one; usually I only say “yes” to things I know that I can deliver or to things that I’m excited to learn more about, so if I really feel inadequate (don’t know how to do it and don’t think I can learn how to do it), it’s a hard roadblock to overcome.

Some thoughts about the poll’s meta-question, “How do you measure productivity?” and the meta-question’s meta-question, “How can I be happy?” (which Dave phrases as “How can I make time for the people in my life while maintaining optimum forward momentum in my work?”) They may not be direct answers but somehow they relate in my mind.

  • I feel satisfied about my day when I have done one or more of the following things:
    • Checked off the to-do items that I thought I could do today
    • Spent quality time with loved ones
    • Made a conscious choice to do something, or not (for example, choosing to not work on a weekday in order to do something else)
    • Overcome an obstacle
  • I think I can summarize the above: I feel satisfied about my day when I have been in control of the things I can control: myself and my choices. Did I choose to work hard, or did I allow laziness to overwhelm me? Did I choose to relax and “be lazy,” or did I let emails and the pressure of a to-do list drive me at a frenetic pace?
  • Interestingly, my satisfaction level doesn’t often correlate with how “productive” I was, although I’d say that I generally enjoy being productive.
  • Some of my projects are discrete entities with a specific end-date, after which I can send them off and never deal with them again and cross them off my project list. Other projects — like laundry, cleaning cat litter, and web maintenance — just keep going and going and going. I can be very productive with maintenance tasks, but sometimes doing them is not very satisfying because I know I’ll be doing them again next week.
  • Do I think of “being happy” and “living a balanced life” as equivalent statements, as Dave as sort of defined them in his own post? While I can be happy about living a balanced life and while not living a balanced life can lead to unhappiness, I think being happy could be a choice in itself despite circumstances. My day might get away with me and I can be disappointed with not accomplishing as much as I thought I would, but ultimately I can be happy and grateful for the day that I ended up with and the fact that I am loved.
  • My values and beliefs include the concept of stewardship — that all I am given, including my time, is something to be used and invested well. I’m not great at it, but this value definitely affects how I view using my time and why getting lots done seems to be important.
  • At the same time, my other values and beliefs should help to define what kinds of things I want to spend my time on. I think this second part is harder for me as I’m not as much of a big-picture person. Not having a big picture to work towards, however, can be frustrating because then I don’t feel like I’m “really” accomplishing anything of value despite all my checked-off to-do lists.
  • Which puts me in a bit of an angsty mood; I have plenty of goals (as you can tell from my monthly reviews), but I’m still lacking a calling, or vocation, for my life, at 29 years of age. Ack!

And on that happy note, I’ll get to work!

August Review for Groundhog Day Resolutions


Happy Groundhog Day Resolution Review day! How are you doing on your goals?

One of my major goals for the year was accomplished with the opening of Custom Shadow Box. A lot of my other goals are “maintenance goals” so I don’t really have any challenges to work towards other than “keep doing it” — which, well, I’m not that great at! So this next month, I’m going to focus on my health/body goals and also REALLY push for my new site design to get up and running.

  • Health/body goals – πŸ™‚
    • How I did: I sort of abandoned ship partway through the month with my own exercise routine and joined the gym with Steve. I lost 2 of the 3 pounds I had gained last time. My weekly menu plans were a little spotty; we ended up eating out spontaneously a lot; while that didn’t affect my waistline too much, it did affect our budget!
    • Next month: We have a year membership and historically have been pretty disciplined about going regularly. I’m pretty excited about our new gym — it’s the university’s activities and recreation center built not too long ago, so besides having tons of nice equipment, there is a huge gym (for basketball, badminton, and even ping pong!), raquetball rooms (which I probably won’t make use of), a rock climbing wall, and classes that you can pay for. You also get free admission to the pool, which is in a different part of campus. It’s also cheaper for two alumni memberships than it is to have a couple membership any other place in town. So far, we’ve been lifting three times a week and getting a little bit of cardio/warmup by biking to the gym. My goal this next month is to work in cardio on the other three days (with Sundays off), either by biking around on errands, swimming, or walking in the mornings, starting tomorrow!
  • Work-related goals
    • Branding goal – 😐
      • How I did: I did absolutely nothing! So much for my great plans to have my web site and new blog design up. Although I did switch my blog design to a plainer version to help motivate me to redesign. The non-floating images (such as the groundhog at the top — it’s not wrapped to one side) are starting to bug me enough that I think it might happen!
      • Next month: I am carving out time on 8/13 to work on my web site. I don’t have many other projects due that day, and will work harder the rest of the week to make up for the lost billable time.
    • Small business goal –8)
      • How I did: I surpassed my goals by going live! This is a pretty major milestone for me and I’m quite happy about it.
      • Next month: Nothing too major; get business cards printed and a brochure designed. I think I’ll wait until September to develop some kind of local marketing plan.
  • Routines – πŸ˜•
    • How I did: As I mentioned in my weekly update, I flat-out stopped following my routines for a little while. This week has started out better as I pushed the reset button on my life. πŸ™‚
    • Next month: I’m going to take a bit of time just after I post this blog to reconfigure my daily routine tracker sheet — I’m taking out exercise in my evening routine and moving exercise and shower to a different non-morning section. My goal for this next month is to use my sheet and fill out bubbles every weekday. Another new thing I will work on is a household routine; we’re moving into a house with some friends in a couple of weeks and will have to talk about chores and fun things like that.
  • Character/social – πŸ™‚
    • How I did: The small routines I’ve developed (including keeping a “gratitude journal”) have really become routines, which is good! My overall attitude has been good.
    • Next month: I’m not going to put up any mini-goals for this month in these areas, but will hopefully continue on with the good habits I’ve developed!