I have an interesting relationship with reading. Well, good interesting.
As a child I read all the time. My brother would complain that you had to say my name multiple times before I would pull myself out of a book and respond. I would check 10 books or more out of the library at a time and stagger to the car with them. I usually read fantasy with some realistic fiction thrown in (Sarah Dessen or John Green-esque).
When I got to college (and fell in the ditch) I stopped reading. Textbooks were overwhelming and when I had free time I was either partying or sleeping. When I became a junior I got a library card for the local library and would check out a book occasionally. Or just go there to be comforted.
Now that I have graduated I’m trying to read more. I got a Kindle and have somewhat picked up on fantasy again. It’s hard to totally get into reading for fun with my “anxiety about being productive” mindset. That’s why I’m trying to do more work and productive things at work so that when I got home I can spend my time how I want.
The lure of TV is strong though. It’s easier for me to get lost in a tv show now than in a book. And I think this is made more difficult by the complication of liking physical books but not wanting to carry them around (that’s where the Kindle comes in). So I will try to read more books for fun and do it on my Kindle. Or go to my local library and check books out.
My mom reads a lot of educational / better than pop science books. I think that for my future I want to get into that too. Reading psychology journals / articles / books. And books about geopolitics as well.
This is what my schedule looks like. Everything I do (that fits into the Two a Day category) goes in here. Weekenders too. I turn them green when they’re done! This is a tab on a spreadsheet with the two images below also having their own tabs.
This is the menu that I can choose from. Things I can accomplish at work, things that have to happen when I’m not at work. Weekenders, cleaning list for things that are due (orange as you’ll see below), and my weekly rotation list.
This is where I keep track of all the cleaning I am assigned to do for my house. And cleaning for my room. They’re separated out by frequency of cleaning. The orange are things that are due. Blue is because it’s raining this week and it doesn’t make sense to sweep the outdoor stairs while it’s going to be raining. Some of the ones that are not orange but should be are currently assigned days. The period for “Clean out clutter area” is currently bigger than two weeks (2/7 – 2/22) but that’s because I’m going to do it on 2/22.
This is what my Productive app looks like. You can see that it has my habits and I’ve done some of them today. The bottom has the past week and how I’ve been doing. These habits I can do at any time. After 5 pm, Bed Before 10 pm will pop up too.
My anxiety manifests in feeling overwhelmed about all the things I have to do and then doing none of them because of that. In college I used a hand drawn calendar that would break things down that I needed to do day by day but also could see what was due in the future. Then I would write each day on a post it note and get stuff done without always having to look at the big picture. Now I don’t need to look into the future as much because I have less due dates. My current system helps me combat my anxiety in my post grad life in a couple ways.
Putting everything down on paper
When things are floating around in my brain they seem bigger than they are and not well defined. By writing them down, I don’t have to remember them, I realize their true scope (large or small) and I can break them down into concrete steps.
Having realizable goals
Two a Days is a manageable enough number for me. I think, can I get two things done today? And yes, yes I can.
Sometimes I put (0.25) or (0.5) or (1) etc after items as guesses as to how long they’ll take, using hours as the unit of time. That helps me calm down about getting them done because it helps me realize that it won’t take that much time at all.
I’ve learned that I sometimes deal with things better if I’m mentally prepared for them. Like a larger project at work. If I come into work knowing that’s the only thing I’ll do for the day and that I will devote multiple hours to it, it’s easier for me to get it done than trying to start that in the middle of my day.
If I feel overwhelmed about all the things I have to do (like cleaning) I split them into my Two a Days for the next couple of days and then I feel calmer. When things are planned out, I realize that it is manageable.
Part of this is learning to listen to how I’m feeling and not make myself feel guilty for not accomplishing enough. Making myself feel guilty takes so much energy that I could be using to do other things and not just tiring myself out.
Two a Days are my answer to not making myself feel guilty. If I do two things I have hit my goal and I am not required at all to do anything more.
Getting to integrate all the cool things I want to be doing
I want to be doing all these things (cleaning, fiddling, writing, exercising, practicing Arabic, etc). I just get overwhelmed at all the things I’ve assigned to myself. So I’m breaking it down and taking it day by day.
This is my main method of getting things done. Monday – Friday I choose two things to accomplish from my list of stuff (cleaning, reading, writing, etc). Once it’s done I put it into My Schedule and swipe it on Productive.
Weekender is for longer projects or going places (like Ross). I do one a weekend.
Always gotta write. I have a couple things I’m working on. This blog counts as writing too. I have writing prompted once a week.
I’m taking fiddle lessons. I try to practice my fiddle twice a week.
This is on Tuesdays when I set up how I’m going to resist that week. Calling my representatives? Going to a rally?
Bed at 10 pm
I gotta try ya know? I do this Sunday – Thursday night.
I’m still getting back into exercise. Cardio is once a week right now but will grow in the future. Especially because I read a study that said you need 6 weeks of 4 times a week exercise to form a habit. Usually I run, sometimes I bike.
This is a new one I’m piloting. Every Thursday I pick something from the list below and fit it into the next week. I’ll report back on how it goes.
Things I Might Want to be Doing
I studied Arabic in college. Gotta practice.
I studied Spanish in high school and college. Gotta practice.
Dancing and exercise. Helps me be more coordinated.
I just want to be able to do at least one pull up.
I miss playing in a band.
Played as a child, useful for the band.
Being able to dance in different styles is cool. And moving fast is fun.
I like making people laugh. I want to practice improv more.
I live with three other people in a house. I first met one of my housemates at a Queer Grad Student event I snuck into (not being a grad student at the time). We graduated the same year from college and bonded over the fact that our significant others were current seniors. Long distance sucks. Luckily for my housemate (who we’ll call Jax) they stayed together with their SO and I now live with both of them.
The third housemate is the best Craigslist rando of all time. We put a pretty specific ad on Craigslist (LGBTQ+, POC friendly household, very clean, quiet, community building, etc) and the lady we found is great. She’s funny, interesting, and at this point definitely not a rando any more.
The housemate this post is about however is Jax.
Jax is a full time grad student who on weekday nights / weekends: goes rock climbing, sews clothing, plays fiddle, goes irish dancing, fixes things around the house, goes on bike rides, or goes hiking. The only time I really see Jax watching tv is while sewing or cuddling with their SO.
As I’m trying to get myself out of this ditch, I’m like damn dude look at you. Currently Jax is sewing a jacket in their free time because the one they want online doesn’t come in their size. Some days I don’t just not do work after work I also watch tv while at work.
But I’m trying to change that (obviously). So, things I could learn / pick up from Jax:
going to bed early and getting up early might allow me to be more productive
pick projects I’m excited about
give myself enough time for projects
do a little bit at a time and don’t get overwhelmed with the scope of the project
have fun while doing a project, don’t just look forward to the end goal
I learned recently that you can turn your iPhone black and white. (Sorry for other phone users). Let me say, your phone is so much less appealing when it is in black and white. Notifications don’t elicit the same response in me and it’s wonderful. I’m much more likely to put my phone back down and not interact with it as much when it’s black and white.
How to do this is Settings > General > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut > Color Filters.
This means that whenever you triple click the home button you can toggle between black and white and color for your phone.
College was hard. I never felt like there was something I shouldn’t be doing. During breaks it felt like frantically treading water to catch up on sleep and calm down enough to head back for another four months.
Shit happened over the years, shit was dealt with. But I didn’t really start understanding the lasting impact college had on me until recently. The feeling of anxiety around always having things to do and never getting them all done. And that feeling of anxiety being so bad you don’t do anything at all. The feeling of anxiety around people being mad at me (or misinterpreting social situations). Which is partially where the feeling of loneliness comes from.
One of the reasons I started this blog was to keep track of the things I am doing so that I don’t feel overwhelmed by projects I want to do. I am capable of doing large, cool things, it just feels more difficult than it used to.
This blog will help me manage my anxiety, invent meaningful things for me to do at a job that requires almost nothing from me, and accomplish cool things.
For the past three summers I have worked for a wonderful, crazy, stressful, hilarious, amazing children’s summer boarding school. You get to wear costumes, work 14 hour days, dance choreography with 200 elementary schoolers, occasionally cry in frustration, and hopefully make a difference in the lives of children.
Part of my job for the past two summers has been to schedule the day for all 80 staff members. Meetings, meals, field trips, off time, I put it all in. I loved, loved, loved this job. It combines my CS problem solving background with real people doing real things. It required an intense amount of brain power and more than a few spreadsheets. All this is to say that working a job with 50 things going on at once and 10 of them potentially going incorrectly, you have to be organized. (5 are guaranteed going wrong but you have to walk across campus to find out if the other 5 are as well.)
When I left the job this past summer (hopefully not forever?? Ugh) I took with me skills around how to use my brain. More ease with sorting through things that can be dealt with now, things to deal with later, and things that should just be dumped into a spreadsheet. I started applying that organization to my life. Lists of things I could do when and where. An app to track habits, tracking my days in a spreadsheet, etc. This helped me manage my anxiety around getting things done and also helped me get things done.