Posts Tagged ‘productivity’

I’ve been quite busy this past week for being unemployed.

Let me back up. One week ago yesterday was my last day at a job I’d had for just over a year. It was a good last day. We ended well.

The next day, the rest of my life started. I feel set free. I anticipate good things. I wake up ready to take steps toward the future and enjoy the day.

Day 1: I put my home work space in order to serve me better moving forward. Well, mostly. It’s only 10 x 8 and serves as both home office and sewing studio, while also containing my Hoosier kitchen with dishes and games, because it’s actually supposed to be a dining room. It’s a work in progress.

I began reworking my LinkedIn profile. It too is a work in progress.

At a networking event, I introduced myself as a tutor, writing coach, and fledgling business owner. When I said I make aprons incorporating vintage linens, two women shifted from talking business to sharing about their aprons, a grandmother’s apron, dishes left them by a relative, things that connect to human-heart yearnings. It confirmed to me that it’s not just about aprons.

Day 2: I drove an hour north to meet with Sandy, my partner in this fledgling business. (It’s my job to get our online presence set up. I’ll share here when it is.) She took home all the aprons I’ve made to begin photographing them. I got back just in time to go to lunch with a friend from my previous employment and then wander with her through a gift shop on South Pearl. Call it competitor research.

Sandy texted me about some photo staging props she’d found on Craigslist. After some texting and deal making, since I live closer to the sellers than she does, I hopped in the car again and picked up two posable mannequins — headless children — and brought them home in my trunk. A bit macabre, I know.

Day 3: My son, daughter-in-law, and I went to two farmers’ markets. After lunch I went to pick up our other Craigslist finds: a wooden standing rack with metal hooks and some nice wooden hangers. By this time my compact car was pretty full.

Day 4: Worship in the morning, zucchini bread baking in the afternoon, plus cutting out aprons, reading, movie watching, talking to my son on the phone. Oh, and cleaning my iron, because the bottom was sticky and I can’t sew without an iron. A YouTube search yielded instructions to clean a hot iron with an acetaminophen tablet held in pliers. Crazy. But it worked. (How-to here.)

Day 5: Labor Day. Lunch with my daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter. Then another meeting with Sandy 30 minutes north. We spent a long time camped out in Panera, discussing business, life, and hopes for both, after which we transferred the headless children and display rack into her SUV.

Day 6: Roberta, whom I had met at Day 1’s networking event, and I met for coffee/tea. She told me about other networking opportunities and suggested schools to contact about tutoring. Home again, I responded online to two students who had posted requests for tutors and applied for a job at a hospital. With book club later this week, I finished this month’s selection, One Summer, by Bill Bryson.

Day 7: First I contacted two high schools and a community college about tutoring services, then posted my availability on the college’s online bulletin board. Then a get-acquainted lunch with a woman from church. Leaving the restaurant, I made stops at Hobby Lobby and Office Depot, then the bank to ask about business versus personal accounts. After supper I talked to a friend, then finished one apron and started two more.

Trusting God means taking the steps God shows you to take. Moving onward.

Let’s see what today brings.


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Never one to jump right on a book trend, I just finished reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo.

I have not yet taken each item I own in my hand and asked myself whether it sparks joy for me. I may or may not do that, but I did take a bag of clothes out to the car today to drop off at a donation bin next time I go that way.

A couple of observations.

One, Kondo is a tad bit obsessed. Has been since she was a wee child, apparently.

Two, her obsession indicates her super power, to quote a life coach I know. She is gifted at not only tidying but its sister, organization, and at seeing that our relationship to our stuff indicates the orderliness or lack thereof of our psyches. I totally respect her for finding a way to turn loose her super power to help others, to spark joy in herself, and to make what I assume is a rather decent living.

Three, her personification of belongings and dwellings at first struck me as over the top. But then something about it started to feel right, as an expression of gratitude and respect.Maybe the child in me relates, the same child who felt that if I didn’t play with one toy for awhile, it would feel left out, like I loved the others better.

So I’m asking: Where does my apartment want my sewing supplies and fabric to be stored? Big mystery right now.

And I’m also asking: What are my super powers? How can I turn them loose for good in my life and in this world? Can I trust them to take care of me?

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We had a meeting yesterday at work about how we’ll use space in the future. The five of us in the room knew the meeting was necessary, even wanted it,  but the longer we looked at drawings and talked, the higher our stress levels rose. There were simply too many moving parts in our heads if not on the table, and cost could not be one of them. “Do we still need . . .?” “But what if. . .?” “No, that’s won’t work because. . .”

We finally had to call the meeting, having identified a couple of questions that need answering before we can resolve anything. No one was comfortable, and some of us were downright cranky.

Creativity isn’t just about art, design, and architecture. Life is a creative process. The best solutions to problems are usually creative.  And results of creativity don’t appear on the first try, full-blown, a masterpiece. Whether you’re painting, or writing, or composing, or arranging your office, or fixing a meal, it’s a messy process. Anne Lamott has a whole chapter called “Shitty First Drafts” in Bird by Bird, her book on writing and life. It’s hilarious, and spot-on.

Anne’s one of my favorite authors. So is Malcolm Gladwell. In this short video, he talks about the need to embrace chaos. That sounds scary, but I think he’s right. Controlled chaos, probably. One can’t careen completely out of control and do much good at all.

So, let’s keep creating.

In the midst.

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I’ve been having fun making things, a bit at a time.It awakens something in me.

Knitting up rectangles that get sewn into wrist warmers, a pair for myself (done!) and more for gifts, will use up some of my yarn odds and ends.

I’m also making paper beads from old magazine pages. Each one emerges with its own handcrafted look. When I get a stash of colors built up, we’ll see what they become.

Frugality and creativity do seem to bring out the best in one another.

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Usually we hear of fasting in regards to eating. People skip meals, or even days of eating, for either spiritual or health reasons. I’ve done both, the longest being a nearly 3-day juice fast as recommended in a holistic health book.

There are other kinds of fasts. Fellow blogger Lisa fasts annually for a few weeks from technology, during which I understand she gives herself a few weeks without all things online. I’ve heard tell of couples who go on sex fasts, and the Bible actually makes mention of this by cautioning married couples not to go too long without. Other variations come in the form of TV fasts, video game fasts, and who knows what else.

I’m thinking maybe I need to put myself on a fast from self-education, and here’s why: I feel like I’ve been developing ADD lately. Too much to think about, not enough focus. The thing is, I love gathering new information and ideas — it’s recreation to me.  I catch speeches on TED.com, read books — I stopped at Goodwill on my home from work today and came away with yet another book to read, this one by Stephen Covey on leadership, even though I already have several books going, all of which end each chapter with self-exam exercises which I really do want to work on seriously.

But lately the stress in my body is telling me I need to act and not just think about things, and if all this input is becoming an avoidance technique for me, then I need to get tough with myself. Yes, I have to think about things, but I have to focus on just a few. I can’t stop my own ideas, and I don’t want to, but I can temporarily limit my intake of other people’s ideas. Maybe I use TED.com as my reward. Clear off my desk, or go check out some apartments, then get to watch Jaime Oliver talk about educating children about food or Daniel Pink talk about motivation. Some of the books I’m reading are supposed to help me set priorities. Just gotta do it.

I write about it. Maybe writing about it is avoidance, too. Maybe you can identify. Any thoughts?

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A couple of months ago I borrowed a book from the library by personal productivity guru David Allen called Ready for Anything: 52 Productivity Principles for Work and Life. I quickly could tell that it was something I need to own, so I bought a used copy online. Now the question is whether I can discipline myself to do what it recommends.

The first chapter is about clearing the way for the next challenge. Allen says that when unexpected things come up, there are two levels of thinking about it.

  1. “The spiritual. If God is all, and you’re part of that, just relax.
  2. All the rest. For this you must get your act together, so you can shift gears as required.”

It’s all spiritual, actually, both the trust and the discipline. I really do want to be ready for whatever God sends me next, so I’m looking at one of my clean-up spots– my desk. Diving in . . .  Here’s what’s on it:

  • A ruler, for keeping my place on a spreadsheet or list when I’m entering data.
  • 4 pens, 2 mechanical pencils, a green highlighter,and a nail file/buffer. My pencil pot is too full for them to fit in.
  • 2 big stacks of sticky notes with a business logo. They were free at a chamber of commerce event, but they don’t hold their stick, so they’re more a nuisance than a help.
  • A pair of fingerless gloves I found for a buck at Target, for when my hands are cold as I work.
  • The book weight I use to hold books open hands-free.
  • My Bible and a devotional book
  • 2 other books I’m in the process of reading — slowly.
  • The marked-up event guest list I was working on last night, since emailed to myself at work, cleaned up, printed, copied, discussed.
  • Three  job descriptions for jobs in Denver that I printed out 19 days ago and never followed up on in any way.
  • Print-outs of Guidestar articles called “Secrets of the Charismatic Organization,” “Get Going on Planned Giving,” “Top 10 Year-end Fundraising Strategies to Put You Over Goal on December 31.”
  • Printout of an Entrepreneur article called “5 Rules for Pitching the Very Rich.”
  • Scrawled notes from an online audio interview that Michael Bungay Stanier did with Susan Scott on Fierce Leadership.
  • Another sheet of scrawled reminders for a day that’s long past.
  • A reminder to schedule my annual mammogram, which I will have to pay for but can’t afford because my health coverage says it has to go against my deductible.
  • A notice from the county health department that they are offering well-woman checks for those who qualify. I think I make too much.
  • The unopened notice of my automatic car insurance payment — now opened and filed.
  • My November cash flow chart, above payment noted.
  • A blue and brown leather bookmark that says “Be still and know that I am God.” It was a gift from a friend.
  • Two bank deposit receipts.
  • A page of notes from a client conference last month.
  • A counted cross stitch bookmark, given to me by a friend. Same one.
  • A page from a Verizon ad about a phone I’m thinking of upgrading to so I can learn to text.
  • A bunch of other miscellaneous papers in a letter tray — where they’re supposed to be, at least temporarily.
  • A letter holder with bank deposit slips, spending diary, little pieces of scratch paper that I cut up from slightly used paper, and my quote journal.
  • Not one but two pots, not cups, full of writing instruments, scissors, and other long desk objects.
  • The phone
  • A staple remover, the long kind. The only kind to use.
  • A squeeze grip strengthener and stress buster.
  • A retractible brush for cleaning off my keyboard.
  • A can of compressed air.
  • Two menthol-eucalyptus cough lozenges
  • My camera
  • A desk plaque that says, “This is the day which the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Now that I’ve spent all this time cataloguing, for the world to see, what covers up this flat surface, I’ll make some decisions and clear the decks.




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