Tuesday Musings: On Chaos, Project Distraction & Tea Pictures….

The Sweater Project - half done.

The Sweater Project – half done.

Yes, I know it’s Tuesday. Monday was…well, chaos, from the time I got up (20 minutes late), to the time I remembered that I’d forgotten to fill the supplement boxes for hubby, Lucy-dog and I, moving forward to when I realized that writing a post, but not getting it scheduled the night before was a serious tactical error on my part due to extenuating circumstances, and on into a work project that suddenly had to be done *right that morning*, and then on to working on something ongoing that is…well, we’ll just call it challenging on a good day. And yesterday was not.

Here’s the thing about my whole stress-ridden Monday: sure, there were a few annoyances out of my control, but most of it could have been avoided had I just stayed organized *before* Monday hit. I could have scheduled my post the night before, like normal. I could have filled the supplement boxes Sunday night. I could have gotten to bed on time, so I didn’t sleep through that extra 20 minutes, and the work project that was all of a sudden due yesterday morning? I knew about it/had the information I needed and could have gotten it done a couple weeks ago so it was ready and waiting (which was the initial plan). I just let it get pushed aside for other things one too many times.

All too often, personal chaos is avoidable with a little forward thinking and discipline. And when I learn how to be consistent with that, I’ll write a book about it and make a million bucks. Until then, well, I’ll occasionally have majorly chaotic days. Though I did modify my schedule somewhat to account for a few of the things I missed last weekend, and this post will be neatly scheduled before I go to bed Monday night.

Part of the reason I was distracted this weekend was that last week, I broke down and splurged on some hand-dyed/handspun wool yarn from a friend in Wyoming. It came in the mail last Friday, and as soon as I saw/felt it, I knew I wanted to work with it right away – no stash time for this yarn. Long story short, I decided to make a sweater (my first – progress pictured above), and spent most of my weekend modifying a pattern to work with the amount of yarn I bought and then crocheting one entire side and part of the other (chunky yarn + a big hook = quick project). Sunday night, I was faced with a dilemma. I could finish the sweater and push back all the prep work for Monday, or set the sweater aside and get my less interesting household & book/blog tasks done.

I begrudgingly put the sweater aside, and decided to get to work. But I didn’t actually get anything done. I tried to start my blog post several times, but had no idea what to write. Tried to find a book sample to send to a narrator, couldn’t, gave up. Thought about starting some promo art or a cover for the draft I just finished, and just…didn’t.

I should have just finished the dang sweater. My mind is like that. When I know I’m close to finishing a project, I just want to focus on that and get it done, to the exclusion of all else. It’s like that with drafts, work projects, crochet projects, household projects…you name it, if I’m near the end, I want it done and over with, yesterday. And I can’t really focus on anything else until I get that particular project done. I know this…and yet, I still persist in working against my natural inclinations…and it never ends well.

Can I say definitively that if I’d finished the sweater, I might have been more focused in doing the other tasks afterward, for less chaos on Monday? No, I can’t…but I suspect that would have been the outcome. Someday maybe I’ll remember I wanted to test that theory and actually find out…

Now for something completely unrelated, but interesting nonetheless, in my opinion.

I’ve finally jumped into the Instagram web space (just JamieDeBree if you want to look me up there – because I’m original like that), now that I have a cell, and that makes taking/uploading photos incredibly easy. As a text-loving geek, I’m doing my level best to find my way in an increasingly image-ridden world, and as a tea-snob/lover, I’m also trying to work my way through a bunch of monthly subscription teas that have been piling up on my counter. So I started posting a tea break photo in the evenings when I make tea before I come back to my office to work.

Odd though it may be, the tea photos actually seem to be the most popular pictures I post. Isn’t that crazy, especially given the number of people who seem to truly hate food photos of any kind? Apparently, a lot of people like the looks of a good cuppa, and I can’t say I blame ’em. Still, kinda weird. But cool.

2014-09-08 22.49.58-1

And on that note, here’s to a far less chaotic Tuesday all around, eh?

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Monday Musings: On Looks, Perception, & Non-Verbal Communication…

Work Mode/Casual Mode

Work Mode/Casual Mode

I took a “selfie” this weekend…more to show off my new hat than anything else, because it’s a cool hat (in my opinion), and a rare occurrence to get a new one. And once I’d taken it, I decided to replace my current profile pic on my personal Facebook profile with it. For awhile, anyway.

Naturally, this got me thinking (as most things do). Because there’s so much more to taking a “selfie” than just point & shoot, and more yet involved in setting a profile picture. If that’s not the case for you…welcome to my over-analyze-everything brain. Yes, it’s always like this. No, I can’t turn it off.

Smile? Normal expression? Coy? Serious? Straight on? Sideways look? Tongue sticking out? 

Good grief. The whole thing makes me roll my own eyes, for cryin’ out loud. Just get over yourself, woman, and snap a damn pic. So I did.

The thing is, I’m comfortable being around people with make-up or no make-up, hair done or hat on, t-shirt & jeans or work clothes & heels. But people definitely react to me differently depending on whether I’m in work mode or casual. Part of it is who I am – when I’m in work mode with hair, makeup & the whole bit, I’ve got stricter filters (well, usually), and I’m even more reserved than normal. This serves me well for situations where productivity and working well with others is key.

When I’m in casual mode, it normally means a hat, no makeup, jeans or shorts & a t-shirt, looser personal filters and a more relaxed, easy-going vibe (as much as I ever give, anyways). This also serves me well when I’m interacting with people who are more comfortable around a more casual persona. It would not work so well at work – while it would be fine with my colleagues (I work in tech, so it’s a casual bunch), it wouldn’t keep me in the proper mindset for keeping things professional with customers & the other people in the building I work with.  A casual appearance invites people to be casual, a professional one establishes a professional boundary from the start. It’s an instinctual thing – most of the time, we don’t even realize we do it, but all of us react that way to some extent or another.

Note that when I look in the mirror on casual/work days (or even at the above photos – I took the work mode one this morning before work, just for you), the difference I see in my own appearance is subtle. The reactions I get from people used to seeing me one way or the other, but not both, are far more dramatic than I’m usually expecting, because I just don’t see a huge difference, personally. Isn’t it weird how perception works?

When I went to the comic book store the other week in “half-casual/half-work” (Friday) mode (jeans, but hair/makeup done), the poor comic store guy seemed uncomfortable, but he’s used to casual me, and my “work look” puts a wall up that doesn’t need to be there with him. He didn’t even remember my name, when he normally remembers exactly who I am. I actually felt bad for flustering him, but it’s pretty rare I have time to stop in and get my comics when I’m in work mode, so not something that will happen often. When I stopped in this weekend in normal casual mode, he called me by name right away and was his normal, helpful self.

The first time my dog’s vet saw me in work mode, he didn’t even recognize me at first. But even though he’s always a very nice, helpful, respectful guy, he was more professional with me that day than he normally is when I’m in casual mode. In that case, it was a good thing. No, it doesn’t mean I’m going to put makeup on every time I take the dogs in. I’m far too lazy for that. Just an interesting observation.

And it doesn’t make him a bad guy for reacting differently either – it’s a hard-wired, subconscious reaction, not something any of us have control over.

It’s not limited to men, either. Even the ladies who ring my groceries up at the grocery store have commented they didn’t recognize me at first when I stop in after work for something quick, because I shop on Sunday mornings, so ultra-casual mode there. A couple of them couldn’t figure out what was different until I told them (hair/makeup/clothes) – they just knew that something was definitely different. And yes, they treat me differently, to my detriment, much like the comic book store. When I’m casual, they’ll chit-chat with me while checking my order out, just being friendly. They’re much more reserved when I’m in work mode…that invisible professional boundary again. Again, a subconscious reaction on their part – I’m sure they didn’t realize they were doing it, it’s just the result of a change in perception.

What’s all this have to do with my FB profile pic? Everything, really. I normally keep my pics in “work mode” territory, because you never know who will be looking you up, and work mode doubles as “protective” mode in a bunch of relative strangers. It’s the reserved side of me with stricter filters & tighter boundaries, which I exercise more than people probably realize online, and even just seeing my own pic reminds me that I’m in “work mode” online. So to post a casual mode pic…yeah, that required some serious thought. Not because I’m self-conscious about how I look one way or the other (critically, I mean – I look like what I look like), but because it instantly removes some of those “walls” that keep people at a distance, and that’s not something to be taken lightly. I’m still not sure how long I’ll leave it like that, honestly, considering the wide swath of people I’m in contact with as well as people who might just peek at my profile here and there, even if they don’t outright friend me.

I think it’s a very powerful communication tool to take note of how people perceive us, and when it suits our purpose, to adjust accordingly. I know there’s a lot of pressure to “don’t pay attention to others” and “look how you want”, and overall, that’s a good message. But at the same time, paying attention and presenting yourself in such a way as to take advantage of a key tool in non-verbal communication just gives you more power in any social situation. And for someone like me who already sort of flounders socially, it’s good to have that confidence and control.

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