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Posts Tagged ‘Life’

The book I mentioned in my last post, Overwhelmed, had some great points. I skipped a lot of the book because it seemed to overly focus on how stereotypes between men and women placed more pressure on women than men, and I wasn’t looking for an equality speech (can’t we women at some point take responsibility for ourselves instead of automatically blaming men?). But she did have some excellent points once I got past that. One of which, was the ideal worker.

The ideal worker basically is how there is a certain expectation that I think anyone who works in a career of any kind is familiar with – that, if you want to make it, you will dedicate more of yourself to your work than any other part of your life. The one who gets promoted, be it women or man, is the one who puts in the most hours, makes it the number one priority, never complains, etc., etc., etc. That is becoming, I feel, a little less of a problem in today’s society – more and more people and employers are finally realizing the benefits of a work life balance, but it is still hard to shake the old idealism even with the best intentions.

I can see it in my current job – both the new and the old ideals clashing together. All the managers put in long hours, are always traveling, always busy, and if they aren’t at work they are running off to a child’s sports game or something else. It doesn’t matter how much time they work, they are paid the same (they literally told us they don’t care what we put on our time sheet if we are salaried as long as we actually work/put in the minimum 40 hours). But, at the same time, they allow us to telework on a limited basis, give us tons of PTO, great benefits, and try to encourage team building events. Nonetheless, I am pretty sure those who actually use all the PTO they give don’t get promoted as fast as the ones who don’t.

But it is more than the expectations – it is almost as though, if you aren’t incredibly harried or busy, always late to the next meeting, and constantly working, you aren’t working hard enough. That is literally the impression you get at work. You must be busy enough to be harried if you are actually working as hard as you ought to. In addition, you must be good at multitasking. Preparing a report while answering emails within 5 minutes (I’ve literally had my manager come to me within one minute of sending an email to ask if I got it), and participating in a conference call where they are upset you couldn’t make it in person all at the same time.

I have three daily meetings, five weekly meetings, and five monthly meetings. Do you know what that means? ~85 meetings in ~20 workdays, not counting the quarterly meetings and one-time briefings. 90% of which is to give status updates on the work I barely have time to do. That demonstrates a world who is desperate to appear busy.

In all the reading I’ve done, I’ve come across multiple references to studies that say the more work/life balance you have, the better your actual work is. According to Overwhelmed, “Research shows that forcing long hours, face time for the sake of face time, and late nights actually kills creativity and good thinking and the ensuing stress, anxiety and depression eat up health care budgets. . . [A research study finds that] the team with [regular] time off increased learning, improved communication with their team, worked more efficiently, and were ultimately more productive than their ideal worker colleagues.”

The book later states that a person cannot be productive for more than 90 minutes at a time and after 90 minutes, they should take a break to refresh their mind before starting again. Another study I found awhile back introduced me to the Pomodoro Technique. It essentially says that you should work in 25-minute bursts. Set a time for 25 minutes and concentrate only on one thing – multitasking hurts both your work and your productivity – then take a 2-5 minute breather, and then start again on either the same task or the next one. After five “Pomodoros”, take a break of 15-30 minutes. I’ve been slowly implementing it and I really think my productivity has increased significantly. I am not as good at the longer break unless it is actually lunchtime, but even the short bursts of concentrated activity have been very helpful.

The other thing many articles talk about is e-mails. We get so freaking many emails, most of which interrupt our workflow. Every pop-up we get pulls us out of our concentration and then we have to refocus. The recommendation I’ve seen most is to turn off pop-ups and only check email at predetermined times. I’ve been trying to get better about that too by not looking every time I get a new e-mail until I reach a break in my work, and that has helped – until my manager comes over when I haven’t responded within a minute or two. But I think he is starting to get used to my response that I am in the middle of a project and haven’t looked at my e-mail. *crossing fingers*

All of these various things have been slowly working their way into my own life. I figured out work/life balance a while ago, I think, and finally decided I would rather be home half my life than climb the career ladder faster, and I’ve been much happier since. (I’ve also become a rather annoying advocate – anytime someone starts talking about working late or on weekends I tend to scold them) Since implementing the Pomodoro Technique, my productivity has increased significantly, and I have very recently begun only checking my email in between tasks, as previously mentioned (though I fail in that a lot, like today – I’m sorry, but I can’t bring myself to turn off the pop-ups, and it’s hard to ignore them!!).

But, all in all, I think that, though these are all valid points, I don’t think they are the biggest time suckers for me since I have actually been working on it. It was nice to get validation though for my continued quest for work/life balance.

The rest of the pointers outside of the ideal worker really struck a chord for me though, so more on those later.

work life balance

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I am supposed to be working right now, but apparently after working 9-10 hour days all week to make up for being sick last week, and being extremely productive while I was at it, my brain is a little tired now. No, it has nothing to do with being up until 12:30 last night. Nothing at all. So I decided to talk to you all instead for a few minutes.

And yes, you caught that right, I was sick AGAIN last week – this time with influenza so I was definitely out and it was especially not fun since my mom was here again for training. Daniel had to take care of most hosting duties. Which means this is the first “normal” week since like early February, and we’ve been trying to work back up to the whole diet/working out/getting up on time thing again.

Unfortunately, the need to make up the 8+ hours I had to take for being sick (and that was with working from home!) has really taken away most of my writing time. I keep meaning to sit and work on stuff, but then I am catching up on food prep and cleaning the house and trying to fit in devotions (how wrong does that sound? I know it is supposed to be the first priority in my life, but sometimes it is difficult to rearrange my brain), and all the other things that go along with rejoining the human race after being sick.

Anyway. I am tired of sitting around and thinking of writing as a second priority (doesn’t that sentence sound familiar? How many times does a person have to come to the same realization before it actually sticks?) and am once again going to give myself a challenge. This challenge is to work every day for at least 10 minutes on editing my book God’s Masterpiece (You know, the light-hearted, sappy, hallmark-like book?). And I am going to do the same thing I did on my last challenge – check in on here every day to briefly say whether I did it or not – since that worked well for keeping me on track for my 15 minutes a day challenge.

My goal is to finish editing it (I actually think it will only take me like a week  if I work on it regularly), send it to one more person to read (this person says she will actually get me feedback, unlike most people I sent it to the first time), implement any edits, and then submit it. Soooo, instead of limiting myself to a week, I am going to say I will do this until I FINISH EDITING IT! Keep me accountable, guys, keep me accountable.

PeanutsEditing

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So we went on a week-long cruise the week of February 18th. It was a very fun, very busy vacation what with islands, snorkeling, an excursion that was cancelled and replaced by a different one, and in general staying up until 2 AM every night playing games with my brother and sister-in-law. But for once I didn’t get sick ON vacation. No, my normal cold that loves to accompany me on time off arrived late the last day of the cruise, for which I was mostly grateful. The only reason I wasn’t grateful was that we had all of one day before my mom and her boss/friend arrived to stay at our house for the rest of the week because of training in DC.

So I spent the rest of the week being mildly entertaining, but mostly just abandoning everyone and going to bed early and getting up as late as I possibly could get away with to try and survive the dreaded, mind-clouding head cold as I prepared for three briefings at the end of the week.

Thankfully I could talk normally again by the time my first presentation happened Thursday, and Daniel and I had a brief but awesome weekend before I left at 5:00 AM Monday for a business trip. We made the most of the weekend by going to see Sleeping Beauty by the Washington Ballet company at the Kennedy Center. It was simply lovely. Sometimes, and as a writer and a romantic I am hesitant to admit it, the ballet sequences get a little long and I want them to move on in the story, but I guess that is bound to be the case in a world where we are used to fast-moving movies, internet, and even books in which writers are instructed to waste no time getting to the point. I really think we miss something of life by always being in a hurry to get to the point.

Anyway, life finally got somewhat back to normal Thursday morning and I got back on my 4:45 AM schedule and even wrote a little, which just felt so good! I stayed up until 4:00 AM last night (this morning?) reading. Which was both because it was hard to put the book down and just because I could. How I love weekends!

So that’s my update and though I certainly have more to say, I know this is going to be long enough that most of you probably won’t bother to read it. 😛

But briefly referencing my earlier comment about  missing stuff in life, here is an inspirational quote for you:

Rushing

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. . . that are true for me right now.

  1. I got sick my first week at a new job. Like, seriously???? It could only happen to me. Thursday and Friday – sore/swollen throat and lots of congestion. Yesterday – a not very happy cough and today lost my voice as well. Great first impression, definitely. On the bright side, I am still doing introductory stuff so I don’t have to use my brain much. I just want this to go away before I do. Sigh.
  2. My husband is the epitome of perfection. All these work days as I drag myself out of bed to go to work sick he has gotten up with me, packed me lunch, made me breakfast, laid out vitamins and essential oils, and as soon as I get home from work makes me a hot toddy. He also has kept up with the dishes, laundry, basic housecleaning, found us food, and even cleaned out the fridge yesterday.
  3. Despite all this, I have started NaNoWriMo – granted, I am a few days behind at like 6,000 words, but I have every hope I can catch up – after I get lots and lots of sleep. I am loving seeing all the inspiration on Instagram and NaNoToons and my friend is keeping up with it marvelously which makes me eager to get well enough to catch up as well because I don’t feel like I’m in it alone. It’s amazing what having writing buddies will do.

And that is life right now.

everydaymaynotbe-min2

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I finished my first ever Master’s class almost a week ago and it has been almost too busy this week to even realize it – yet, when I think about doing this week and adding studies in, I shudder. We are taking a break until January – one, holidays and two, apparently we weren’t quite mentally prepared for the amount of exertion starting a masters would entail. I know all you people who already have masters are laughing at me right now, and I do not blame you at all.

On the delightful side, one of my best friends in the whole world came to visit me for the long weekend! We walked five miles yesterday, and took the path from near my apartment to Alexandria, where we proceeded to eat at Bilbo Baggins pub and then shopped. I convinced her to buy two dresses and then we went to a bookstore and I walked out with too many to carry without the assistance of a paper bag. It was so much fun! We spent all day walking there and shopping and then my husband came and picked us up and we went home, ate dinner, and watched Anne of Green Gables while we had cocktails, popcorn, and cupcakes from Alexandria Cupcakes. Truly a girls day. Now we are back in Alexandria, crashing at a cute little coffee shop and supposedly writing, but really doing random thing like shopping online or uploading photos to facebook. The plan is to go out for dinner, go back home, watch Anne of Avonlea and play with makeup – especially Tarte’s Mermaid Palette.

We are both planning to do NaNo this year, and are so excited! She is still determining her exact plot, but I think I am finally going to finish (or attempt to finish) that fantasy book I started a few years ago – the one that keeps writing itself even when I don’t want it to? Yeah. Ethrill. I have no idea what is going to happen, and I am becoming impatient for the characters to tell me. With only, what, 25 ?, days to go – it is actually time to start thinking through it!

NaNo1

 

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I am a little afraid to look at how long it has been since I have posted anything. But I have an excellent excuse. My husband and I just started a masters program! I won’t spend too long on this, since all my friends have already heard my numerous complaints, but it has essentially sucked away any and all free time that we had. Life has basically been a mix of Exercise>work>cook>study>sleep-for-5-or-6-hours>start over. Not that we’ve given up all fun – we are going to the normal every other Tuesday game night tonight and it will be a welcome break. But it still feels like we are stealing time we should be using to study.

As if that wasn’t enough, we also signed up for the Arlington Citizen’s Police Academy, which takes place every Thursday night and is a three-hour class basically teaching you the ins and outs of how the Police Department works. The first class was last week and extremely interesting, so I am glad we signed up – it just takes away another night in which to do things.

I took all my breaks at work yesterday (which has also been insanely busy) to catch up on all my messages I’ve been ignoring for about two weeks and my poor friends and family finally heard from me! It took all my breaks and more to catch up. 😛 I think that is what I hate most – my inability to respond to messages in a timely manner anymore – I do so pride myself on timeliness.

I also have been doing absolutely no writing. Which might be why I feel so completely overwhelmed and like I have no life at all anymore despite the fact that I love learning. Don’t get me wrong – this class has an insane amount of work – which I hear is typical of masters’ classes – but it occurred to me a couple days ago that if I actually made time to write as well, I would feel more fulfilled. Not picking up a pen in two months is a little rough. So I am establishing a new goal of writing 15 minutes a day no matter what. I did it that one time for a week straight – perhaps I can do 2 weeks this time? Maybe I’ll make it three weeks – the rest of the class – let myself have 15 minutes in another world a day.

find time to write

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I’ve been working hard on my book and am up to 46,000 words. It is amazing to me how much easier it is to write when you don’t care about being cheesy and you don’t have to do research for historical bits. The miracle of a sappy romance set in modern America. But really, I am having fun with it and am always a little sad to stop writing to do something useful, like going to bed.

So, I learned from my journal today that a year ago today we set out for a cruise. Sigh. How I would rather be doing that than sneaking a post in between work in a cold office, and knowing I will be walking out to an even colder outside in a few hours. But, I have to remind myself that, unlike a majority of people, I do pretty much like my job and my coworkers and that this job funds the ability to go on a cruise, so I can only complain so much. Next year. We’ll go on a cruise next year and it will be ten times more rewarding because we will be debt free. Did I mention that? We are doing a staycation this year (end of April) to save money because, if we work and save hard, and God deems it the right time, we will be able to pay off the rest of my student loans by the end of the year – maybe even earlier! Totally worth suffering through the cold instead of going to the Bahamas.

I’ve finally been going to a chiropractor on a regular basis and, for once, he has actually helped me. I have not had great experiences in the past. But, my fingers have stopped going numb and the debilitating pain in my elbow has gone to a reasonable amount that I can live with. Which makes me happy. Changing my sleeping position has been more difficult – since apparently the nerve damage is due to my sleeping with my arm crooked and my head on top of it. But I changed pillows and have been slowly changing my habits and am finally beginning to sleep well again despite not being in my accustomed position.

And that is basically life right now. God is good.

God is good

 

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