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Tools, Motivation & Forward Progress

I got my new laptop the week of Thanksgiving, and spent several days setting it up. It is *so* much better than my old one. We’re talking leaps and bounds. The bigger screen is nicer than I thought it would be, it’s quick and clean and “roomy”, and best of all, it has a true mechanical keyboard that is clicking happily (and audibly) along as I type this post.

The right tools really do make all the difference, and honestly, I *want* to use this laptop. I want to have it with me in the living room, where it’s in easy reach to work on a web site update or make some cover art, edit part of a story or even write a blog post (*ahem*).

Needless to say, having the right tool(s) is paramount, and this laptop is definitely a game-changer for me. Why did I not get this post done/up last week, you might ask? Well, it’s because I finally got motivated to actually start getting things done.

I’ve had a lot of outstanding projects going on lately, and while I still do, I decided it was time to quit letting those feelings of being overwhelmed de-motivate me.

You know how sometimes you have so much going on at home, at work, and everywhere, and every time you even think about making some progress on *something* (even just one tiny little thing), you get interrupted or derailed or…whatever, and more things keep piling up and not getting finished, until you just sort of hit that point where your brain shuts down and states that if you can’t even finish one simple little thing, there’s no point in even trying to do anything at all?

Yeah. That’s kind of where I’ve been for awhile now. Drowning in “things” that need to be done, things I want to do, and being constantly interrupted and derailed at every single freaking turn. It’s the most annoying thing ever in life, and I got to the point where I just sort of shut down and quit trying.

Then I went ahead and got this new laptop against my better judgement, and I decided to *take* the time to get one thing off my plate. Just one minor side project that I’d been working on for awhile now, and only had just a little bit left to do on it. If I could have focused, it would have taken me an hour, 90 minutes tops. As my life is at the moment, it took me several hours and a lot of irritation at interruptions, plus a later bedtime than normal (which actually turned out to be pretty normal for last week, unfortunately), but I got it done.

Finishing that project was a major turning point for me. I finished something! Anything! Done, complete, off my plate! I tell you what, it was such a relief just being able to finish *something* that I was downright giddy (at 1am, that happens quietly, but it does happen). I don’t know about you, but sometimes I need to prove to myself that I am capable of focusing and finishing things, especially when it’s been a long time since I’ve actually…you know…finished something.

Completing that project was the “re-proof” I needed, apparently, because I actually managed to get some larger projects off my plate last week, which felt phenomenal. And there are a couple more that I’m on track to finish this week as well.

Granted, I have had to be very focused, and sometimes very insistent with others that I needed time to work. I hate having to do that, only because I feel like people should just automatically leave me alone when I’m clearly busy. That never happens, but it would be nice if it did. I’ve also been giving up some sleep too…compromising between the 6 hours I want and the 4.5 hours I can’t really function well on anymore for around 5 hours instead. It’s not optimal, but honestly? The better mental outlook because I’m finishing stuff is worth a little less sleep. At least for awhile, until I figure out how to sneak the sleep back in too.

In my continuing quest to “get stuff done”, I have two smaller writing projects I’m finishing this week – one a story for an advent calendar (it’s actually done now, and yes, the calendar is late, but better late than never and one of the projects hanging over my head), and one a story for my Christmas cards this year. My writing projects have been suffering just as much as anything else, but I think I’ve found the (mental) problem, and I’m working on “fixing” that as well. More on that later.

I don’t actually know if any of this would have happened without the new laptop. Having a tool you *want* to use is so much more productive than having one that frustrates you every time you need it.

Like magic, of a sort.


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Attempted Derailment & The High “Road”

I think the universe is scoffing at my need for routines and habits, as well as the progress I’ve made on my financial well-being. It was bound to happen, I suppose. It would just be nice to have somewhat longer periods of success before life decides to kick the tires on the new automation and test the new security measures.

Last Saturday, the dog food delivery didn’t show up. Yes, I order fresh food weekly for the dogs and pay a company the big bucks to make it so I don’t have to. But when the order doesn’t show up, and tracking says it won’t be here for three more days, which means the order will be ruined, the dogs still have to eat until the replacement order arrives (nearly a week later).

I didn’t have much choice but to run out to Costco, buy the ingredients and make a week’s worth of meals for the dogs myself. Half the cost, sure, but also a few hours of time that I normally use for other things (like housekeeping and blog-post writing). Needless to say, my Sunday was completely derailed, and my very carefully planned out budget very nearly with it, until the company agreed to move my next order out a week (so I wouldn’t have to pay for that on top of the ingredients I had to buy).

Monday night, the hubby noticed one of the headlights on the Subaru was out. Just when I thought I was all good with the budget. But since it’s dark more often than not, and we had to drive through a highly patrolled area to get to the bar where he was playing pool Wednesday night, and I already have a warning from when the other headlight went out last summer/fall…I decided I needed to get it fixed asap.

Made an appointment with a shop close to work (since our normal mechanic’s shop burned down just before Christmas) and dropped the car off Weds after lunch, thinking it would be around $70 for the fix (if you haven’t tried to change the headlight on a 2012 Subaru outback, google it, and you’ll know why I didn’t want to do it myself).

Guys called me back half an hour later, said it was just a loose connection, and that I owed ’em $10.

Whew!

So my budget is still intact (though I did put off paying a bill so I’d have money for dog food, headlight, whatever if needed), despite a couple notable attempts to derail it this week.

Yes, I’m aware that’s why I need a savings stash. I’m working on it. I just paid off one of two minor lines of credit planned for payoff this year, which feels pretty good, and we’ll see how the budget looks when I balance tonight.

Next week, taxes. *sigh* I’m doing them early this year, so we know how much we need to save up to pay by April 15th. We always owe the feds and get back from the state, but I dare say it’ll be worse this year with the tax “cuts” from last year. So, better to know early, I guess.

In other news, I’ve recently started walking the sky bridges downtown for an afternoon break. The route that starts in my building goes around 4 blocks out through buildings and parking garages, and I’m quite enjoying it. That route is never busy, there’s no traffic or waiting for lights, it’s enclosed, so while it’s chilly when not in a building, it’s not as cold as wandering around at street level, and as a bonus, I can catch pokemon and hit a few stops and gyms all along the way. If I want to hit the bookstore or the bank or the bakery, they’re all stops along the way – just drop down to street level from the appropriate building, and everything’s right there.

There’s definitely something to be said for getting up and away from your desk during the day – even just for 10 minutes or so to clear the mind and get the blood pumpin’. Taking this quiet, “high” road is perfect for an introvert like me, and a good way to wake up and get a little extra exercise.

And more fun than shoveling snow, which is what I’m doing today for exercise (I’m off work – burning excess vacation hours). It’s been a very mild winter, so I’m trying not to complain, but…I am ready for spring. And so are the dogs (who *need* to get out of the house this afternoon – they’re going nuts being cooped up inside).


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Slowing Down to Make Progress

We’re getting our share of the polar vortex this week, apparently. Though it’s not nearly as bad as the midwest got last week – more like normal “winter” here. So, while I’m not enjoying it (or having two restless dogs stuck inside for a good week), I’m doing my best not to complain too much. It’s a good thing I have extra eye drops at home. Nothing beats sub-zero temps with even colder wind chills to make your eyes water and then dry out even worse than normal while thawing. Ugh.

I’ve talked a lot about financial and routine changes lately, and something that is benefiting from the routine changes is writing. I’ve been a lot more disciplined lately (in a lot of things), and that has had the very good side effect of doing late-night chores a bit earlier, and getting back to my office earlier as a result.

Also, given the lack of ability to just “buy stuff” when I want to in order to do/learn/organize things, my mind tends to be more focused on the here and now, rather than what’s happening (or what I think should happen) in the future. I still plan, and still look ahead, but there’s less immediacy to it, if that makes sense (because anything that requires a purchase of some sort is not happening “right now” or even “next week” anymore…there’s a waiting period for everything).

Ironically enough, while I’m more conscientious about money and spending, I’m less concerned about…well, pretty much everything else. When forced to wait and/or plan far ahead for nearly everything, it actually removes a source of mental stress – there’s no point in worrying about or planning for something that isn’t happening anytime soon.

And that leaves me with more mental energy & head space to spend on other pursuits.

Like writing.

It still takes me a little while to get into a story when I sit down most nights, but that’s okay, because I’m sitting down earlier. I’m using my Neo, which isn’t optimal due to the darkish screen, but it’s easy on the eyes and the keyboard is a million times better than the one on my laptop. Not being on the laptop also keeps me away from distractions, though I do need to remember to upload my writing to the laptop once a week (which I keep forgetting to do). Luckily, the Neo does hold quite a bit of writing, so I won’t run out of space anytime soon. But keeping scenes and chapters organized is easier in my writing software.

One of my “indiscretions” back in November was to pre-order the Freewrite Traveler (I’ll be done paying for that this month), which is basically the modern version of my Alphasmart Neo. The screen is e-ink and not backlit, and the keyboard is manual with Cherry MX switches. It won’t ship until this summer, but I’m looking forward to it both for the lighter e-ink screen that I’ll be able to see better in my dim office, and also for the fact that it will connect to wifi and upload my writing sessions automatically (the Neo requires an old printer-to-usb cable connection, and acts as a keyboard emulator).

Until then, the Neo works just fine, and I’m really glad to have it. I don’t think I’d be nearly as productive working on my laptop and fighting the constant cursor jumps due to the too-flexible case (not to mention the crappy keyboard).

I am going to have to work on my computer set-up, but not until I get my longevity bonus this spring (May). Hopefully I’ll have at least one draft done and ready to format and cover by then. Whether I do or not will probably determine how much I’m willing to spend to upgrade my set-up. So, we’ll see. Lots of potential writing time between now and then.

I think my next feat needs to be finding some time in which I can edit, format, and create cover art for books. Time that isn’t normal writing time and also doesn’t require more screen time on weeknights, which means a few hours on the weekend, preferably.

I have a few ideas, and a book that needs reformatting (not to mention several that need new covers). If I could get the one book done by the end of February, I’d be happy with both the progress, and having a new time slot mapped out for that kind of work.

And that would be great progress.


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