December’s resolution: Prepare

Be Prepared by calsidyrose

Be Prepared by calsidyrose

photo by: calsidyrose

Prepare

  • Go to sleep earlier
  • De-clutter, clean, organize
  • See the whole thing
  • Establish routines
  • Think, commit and follow through
  • To do list.

These are my Happiness Project resolutions for December. I’ve put them into a small chart on my iphone to check them each night and measure my progress. The idea behind these six resolutions is ‘Prepare’. I used to think I was a spontaneous, impulsive person – and certainly I like doing spur-of-the-moment things – but I’ve found that the busier I’ve got the more I like to have my life organized and ready. I’ve gone back to following the routines and ideas at flylady.net that I’ve used successfully before (not being a Born Organized sort of person, I do rather like the mollycoddling and positive testimonials). One of the tenements of the programme (because it is rather a 12-step programme for clutter addiction) is to go to bed early enough that you have the energy to tackle the things you need to do to make your life just run smoother. This is hard for me. One, I’m naturally a night owl although my kids are not. Two, it is a ton easier for me to get things done (like blog!) if I stay up later. Three, my medication has the effect of making me quite nocturnal. But I will fight on and prevail.

Declutter, clean and organize is the first step for preparation. We moved house a month or so ago but I was not actually here for the pack up and move (I was in Australia, as you do) and so I am decluttering on the other side of the move. Ideally, I want to get our ‘stuff’ right down to what is easy to maintain, find and actually use. I am reminded of that William Morris quote about keeping things only that you know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. I am doing about twenty minutes decluttering most days, and so far so good. Plus, it had the added advantage of meaning I had space to put decorations up early for Christmas.

See the whole thing is a reminder to myself to ensure I have the full picture before I panic or make rash decisions. Have I checked the cupboards for what I have before I make a pantry list? Have I given all the receipts and invoices to the accountant for him to work out our tax? Have I done the preparation to have a good idea what my next move should be? Have I checked the calendar before i book myself in?

Establish routines. I have discovered that just like babies like routines, I do too! At least for housework and bills and what not. They say it takes 21 days to make a habit, and do that’s what I’m trying to do.

Think, commit and follow through. I say yes to a lot of stuff. Some of it, frankly, I shouldn’t. This resolution is to remind me to think about what I am saying I will do, the cost of that, the work needed etc. If I’m okay with that I will commit to it and then not procrastinate. I’m hoping, for one, I’ll say no to more things and the ones I do say yes to I’ll be more on the ball.

To do list I love to do lists. they make me feel in control and prepared for the day/week/month etc ahead. And yet I hardly remember to make one. So, each work day (and weekends where appropriate) I will make a list of my do-able tasks, and tick them off as I go.

 

The nine guiding principles to being Relly

neon no.9

neon no.9

  • Be Relly
  • Use it now
  • You can do anything in 15 minutes
  • Smile first
  • Act like I want to feel
  • Let it go
  • Get to the root of it
  • Think, commit, follow through
  • Make stuff

In The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin thought about what she could do to improve her happiness in part through an understanding of herself – acknowledging her personality, strengths and weaknesses. She came up with 12 commandments that fitted her project – guiding principles for me, as I’m not one for commandments really – that allowed her to test and measure whether she was doing something that might make her happier. She aimed to tackle both the bad and the good aspects and to encourage growth and progress throughout.

These are mine. There are nine of them. some are directly taken from Gretchen’s list because they fitted me well – like Be Relly (although of course she went for ‘Be Gretchen’), Act like I want to feel, and Use it now (although hers is actually ‘spend out’, as in don’t save it for a rainy day: use your best stuff.). Others are sentiments that i could do with committing too and reminders of life lessons I’ve already learned and try to stick to.

I’ll write a bit more about each of these in time but I’m happy that I have them down. I’m thinking about making some funky subway art style print with them to hang in my office and remind me.

 

The Happiness Project

IMG_4848

I am about a year behind everyone else, as ever, but I just read this amazing book called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. In it she spends a year exploring aspects of herself and commits to some resolutions that look at her personal happiness, as well as researching happiness on a bigger scale.

Recently she made a 30 second TV ad to demonstrate it:

It’s not just about kids or memories, or about any airy-fairy selfhelp bull shit while we are at it, but a conscious and imaginative exploration of taking oneself from content in an unthinking way to happy, aware and appreciative.

Throughout, she hopes that people will also embark on a similar process – and to that end she has also created the happiness project toolbox, a free site with ways of making yourself accountable and to meet with fellow happiness project subjects – she admits to becoming a ‘happiness bore’ such is the awareness she has to what creates and destroys a sense of happiness and well-being. I was about a third of the way through the book when I though, ‘hey, maybe I should do this’ and by halfway I was sold.

Tomorrow being the first of December, I figured why not jump in? It gives me a month run up on those dreaded January resolutions at any rate.

We need to talk about Christmas.

Christmas is back in just 357 days :D

Okay, first up, I’m not someone who spends August 31st to December 31st thinking about ‘the holiday season’ and listening to Rudolph the Reindeer on loop (well, not until December 1st anyway) but I want to mention Christmas and, specifically, the buying of gifts.

I hear a lot about how Christmas is too commercial and just a cynical way to have us buy stuff we neither need nor want, for ourselves and others, yadda yadda yadda. So here’s what I’m proposing: Don’t buy commercial crap. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty certain my kids are going to end up with something from Fisher-Price they ask for, but for gifts for aunts, uncles, parents, friends etc I’m going to get them handmade or independent retailer stuff.

Some of it I will make myself. Most of it I will buy from Etsy.com, Folksy.com and Notonthehighstreet.com.

So, why am I telling you this? Because I think half the reason we end up buying the same shit shovelled in the shelves of the same shops is because that’s what is there is at the time we come to buy it.

Buying handmade stuff, or custom order prints or having things sent from overseas takes time and planning. Most people start thinking about shopping mid-November by which time the one-person-capacity makers are usually already full. And so the same old shit from the same old shops are it.

This year. Take a stand. Make a list. Browse Etsy stores and the like. Commission stuff from sellers. Most are very open to creating something that you want, a one of a kind treasure, and there is something for everyone from hard-core gamer to a lace-loving grandma, the newborn baby to your prop-forward grown up nephew.

Refuse to be part of the commercial machine you resent so much. Plan ahead and buy something unique – just remember, don’t wait until the carols are wall-to-wall audio in the shops. If you’re really smart, and get it all bought elsewhere, you might never need to suffer a pan pipes cover of winter wonderland ever again.

Any morning that starts like this is a good morning …

light saber quote

light saber quote

At about 6.30am this morning, Thing 1 went into to see his little brother (Thing 2, naturally) and chat to him as he usually does. Often this involves Thing 1 talking about the book Thing 2 has in his cot, about what they are going to do that day or if Thing 2 wants cereal or toast for breakfast. Occasionally, Thing 1 teaches Thing 2 new words. Today was one of those days.

Thing 1: “Can you say ‘Luke Skywalker’?”

Thing 2: “Look Ty Wader”

Thing 1: “Can you say ‘Darth Vader’?”

Thing 2: “Dar Rayer!”

Thing 1: “Can you say ‘Bad white guys’?”

I think someone couldn’t remember the word Stormtrooper.

Just as I was getting over giggling at this, I heard from across the hall a faux-Yank accent and as clear as a bell:

“Can you say ‘Help me Obi-wan, you’re my only hope!’ ”

At this point I officially lost my battle to not squawk with laughter and catch the boys’ attention but oh my. I am so proud to have raised a mini-geek.

Here’s to the other stuff.

Typewriter

I am struggling to focus today. It’s hot and sticky and I work in a converted loft. This is not conducive to brilliance. Instead I have spent today thinking about life, the universe and scrapbooking.

I am a scrapbooker. It’s awesome fun. And I was reflecting on how it has made me a better person. No, honestly, stick with me. It has given me an appreciation for visual aesthetics and colour and typography. More than that it has encouraged me to broaden my horizons and find new experiences to journal about. It was the lure of lovely scrapbooking supplies that first persuaded me – long time fearful flyer – to get on a plane to the States in 2005. It has encouraged me to take photos of everything, always. I write more, I notice more stuff, I savour things happening. And it’s fun.

I have found that if I take time out from work and walk to the other side of my office and start creating something unrelated often an answer comes to me, ready to go. That’s got to be a plus (and a business expense?! 😉

The thing is I haven’t made much time for it recently and I have missed it. I just had my stash of beautiful craft things sort of dumped in drawers in the office but it’s making me kinda grumpy which then means when I do make stuff they are infused with that kind of grumpiness. First stop, sorting out my supplies so they are ready to go.

Here’s to the other stuff. The reason we weren’t meant to be at desks 24/7.

Waving not drowning: or how I gave in and learned to love the content strategy flood.

KEEPING UP WITH CONTENT STRATEGY

Here’s a sobering admission. If the body of knowledge of content strategy is an ocean, I’m currently about ten foot out from the shore – probably with a dorky inflatable ring around my middle and certainly nowhere near enough sunscreen. The comforting bank of sand under my feet is suddenly and rapidly sliding away, leaving me somewhere near to out of my depth. I’m not sure that anyone has realized I might be out of my depth and I’m not sure I want anyone to notice. That would be awkward. I’m meant to be a good swimmer, I mean, content strategist.

I had a Skype conversation with the (insanely adorable) Erin Kissane earlier this week. It started with me flapping my hands and wailing “Do you ever feel like suddenly there is SO MUCH BEING SAID about content strategy that it has now reached a point where it is IMPOSSIBLE to take it all in?!!”. I was very relieved to find she replied in the affirmative. I was beginning to wonder if it was just me.

Not all that long ago, as Kristina Halvorson said at Confab this year, it was a simple enough ask to keep up with the chatter on the #contentstrategy hashtag on Twitter and the occasional Google alerts that came in. Now it is probably next to impossible and also likely very foolish to attempt this. I mean, we’re content strategists. We crank stuff out every minute of every day. Put simply, the CS community doesn’t shut the fuck up so I am never going to catch up. It’s almost liberating to know this, in a demotivational poster kind of way.*

I have found a trend, though, where I go into client meetings with a rough outline of what I think we should do, which is met with a range of nods but then followed up by someone asking ‘What do you think about our $%£$%^ ^*&(&*&&&^!@££’. And what I mean by that is the words they say might as well be in Swahili. Oh, God, I think, another area of CS I don’t know. And then it gets awkward as they all look at me expectantly. I mean, I am a content strategist. Apparently.

I don’t know anywhere near everything there is to know about content strategy but here is something I do know: it takes a lot of confidence to say those words out loud, to a client, in a meeting.The difficulty is that content strategy is so big and covers so many aspects that I think we will have to get better at saying it. Before long we might increasingly need to band together in small mercenary tribes to cover the range of skills within CS, especially for larger projects. (You can imagine it, can’t you? One burly agency lead, a stats nerd, a library scientist with an eye for digital services and a rogue content writer – Left 4 Dead: CS edition.) But for now we need to accept that we can’t know all that there is to know that CS touches, we can’t read everything and hear everything or take part in everything spilling out of the CS community, and to practise saying ‘I’m not sure but I will look into it and get back to you as soon as I have a good answer.’ (Which isn’t, by the way, an admission of weakness. It’s just how big CS is.)

As for me, I’m still a long way out from the beach but now I’m happy to lie back in my rubber ring and enjoy the sun (dammit, still not enough sunscreen). There’s a whole ocean out there to discover but as little old me only has a rubber ring I’ve made do running a big rope back to shore. Anytime I feel I’m drifting too far out I can ask to be towed back in safely. Once back on dry land I can charter a ship and set sail for any promising new lands like a true sailor. I mean, content strategist.

*THIS DOES NOT MEAN I WANT ANYONE AT ALL TO STOP POSTING ABOUT CONTENT STRATEGY. IN FACT, IF YOU’VE READ THIS GO AND POST ABOUT SOMETHING YOU’VE BEEN THINKING ABOUT RIGHT NOW!

Diary of a conference talk: the wrap-up.

Yesterday I gave the talk I’d been planning for the last few months. So, on reflection, how did it go? The slides weren’t finished until super late the night before, which was totally my fault, but I ran through a few times in the morning so it wasn’t too much of an issue as I’d already finished the talk a good few days before. It did mean that I was more reliant on my presenter notes than usual but it was the sort of talk that had a ton of names and dates so I probably would have been a bit tied to the podium (and my screen) regardless.The reception was generally good, and some people tweeted that they were thinking about the implications of it afterwards which I take as a good thing.

Some people, like I predicted, didn’t like the heavy history content (although it was an unfortunate coincidence that I was the third person to talk about ancient civilizations that day – what are the chances at a web conference?!!) but I think this long zoom is perhaps indicative of what is happening on the web today. Outside of the business stuff, and marketing, and realities of life as an agency employee, I find myself increasingly thinking about what the web is and could be. Only be learning about ‘other’ networks and industries can we see our place in this.

I understand the cry of ‘but what for us in the trenches?!!’. I’m there too. But, as far as I know, I’m not at war so I climb out of them sometimes to survey the fields beyond. So yes, I’m in the trenches but because I’m digging foundations not because there’s firing on all sides.
That said, I was at pains to ensure there was plenty of good concepts for all content (not just mobile). It was just on a macro level, not my usual ‘write like this’, ‘make buttons like this’, ‘plan this form to be like this’. What can I say? I like a little variety. (Also, one of the chief detractors on Twitter later very graciously came to apologise and admit that she realised she hadn’t read the talk description. It takes courage to do that and I really appreciated it.)

Plus, I scored a bonus point from Jeremy for referencing the Space Elevator. I’m making a note here: ‘Huge Success’.

Diary of a conference talk pt6: Into the home stretch.

I have been an unspeakably cruel, nay wicked, wife. I have dumped about 150 slides on my poor husband and sodded off to a hotel in London. They are looking very stylish, the slides I mean.

The night before talk is always an odd one. I should do another run through but I’m kind of hungry and tired so I’m going to go and scavage some snacks and then give it a go when I’m in bed.

I want to tweak more but I know if I do, I’ll get myself even more muddled up onstage. To be honest, there is so much to this talk that I hope sheer willpower and adrenaline keep me going through. That’s what we all do though. I know there are about half-a-dozen conference speakers right now all sat in their rooms, tweaking at slides. So now you know too.

Fuck Yeah High Octane Book History!

Diary of a conference talk: pt.5. The long slow death of creativity.

Today The Husband and I went through what my slides would be. I think there will be 150 of them and some are quite complex. He has been working on them for the last few hours.

Every so often he curses me, and all like me, and shuffles a bit in his chair as he continues to make my ramblings look good in Fireworks. Once done we will transplant to Keynote and I’ll add presenter notes. Tomorrow is going to be a long day and then I will be going to London in the evening.

I hope I’m still married come Thursday.