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Springy Spring

Daytime view of the yard – can’t wait until it grows in!

The front yard landscaping is done! Huzzah! We’ll spend the next several years paying for it, but it looks great, and is very low maintenance, which was the main goal. The neighbors have had favorable comments so far. But we haven’t put our pink metal flamingos out yet. Who doesn’t love pink flamingos, right?

Yes, we are going to be “those” neighbors – the ones with the beautiful landscaping broken up by all manner of kitschy lawn art. Pretty *and* fun, all in one spot.

Nighttime view – skeleton tree!

I need gnomes now. Ones that scream when you pick them up. There has to be a way, right?

Needless to say, with the front yard done (or as done as it can be until the last frost date, which here is May 15th), we’ve turned our attention to the back yard. We have much to do and very little time to do it in – our spring motivation wears off very quickly once temperatures are above 80 or so for any length of time. We’ve started refinishing the old patio swing with a new coat of paint (we ran out – need to get more soon), and I have new cushions/covers for it that I bought two years ago just hanging in the basement waiting to be put on.

We have a new gazebo in boxes in our driveway to be assembled on the patio, which will give us some much-needed shade back there when the sun is frying everything for hours on end. Before we can put that up, we need to disassemble and remove a shed we have sitting on the patio at the moment.

I started a project to raise the two rose beds just off the patio a couple years ago. I need to finish that project, replace some roses, and spread out the plants with better spacing.

We ordered some new veggie bed kits with compost towers in the center to help with feeding. They’re also sitting in the driveway, and we need to assemble them and get those filled (before May, hopefully!).

And we need to rake and overseed the backyard again, to continue our weed abatement/grass revitalization project. Eventually we’ll probably have all that just ripped out and redone, but for now, we’ll just take care of it as well as possible. And maybe this year I’ll finally get the hang of using the hose-based liquid fertilizer spreader for using the organic fertilizer I get from the company that picks up our compose each week. It doesn’t seem like rocket science, but apparently it kind of is.

By mid-June (at the latest), I’ll be sick of yardwork and outdoor projects (I’m not really a “play outside” kinda girl). So it’s important to get as much done early as possible.

Crate training…with treats!

Inside, we’ve been rearranging furniture to accommodate a couple of wire dog crates for our little four-legged hoodlums. Because sometimes it’s just too hard to be good. Especially for younger pups who are still very impulse-driven and eat everything. Including things that might harm them. And things that cost a fair chunk of change to replace. *sigh* I’m not sure if we’ll be able to crate them while we’re gone or not yet – they’re still getting the hang of the whole “sit quietly in the crate” thing. But we’ll see. It’s good training, no matter what happens.

Last but not least, I’ve instituted a writing goal for myself, to hopefully get that habit ingrained again. One hundred words a day for one hundred days. That’s the goal. Ironically, I had five days down, and then missed Sunday so I could get this blog done and posted. So, I’m starting over (again) at zero. I’ve ordered some word count stickers and black certificate covers to post them in, so that each day I’ll have a record of whether I hit 100, or went higher. It’ll be fun, as long as I don’t start over too often. There’s really no reason to – 100 words takes very little time (five minutes or less when I’m on a roll).

So, busy busy around here. At least until it gets hot, and staying inside to write is the only thing I actually *want* to do. 😉


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Finding Focus

I’m sitting here on my ottoman, a whole list of things I want to get done, not doing any of them (at least not until I started writing this blog post), and wondering why I spend so much time thinking about what I want/need to get done as opposed to actually *doing* it. I do this everywhere…though I am somewhat more focused at work when I can be (which isn’t as much as I’d like, because…other people).

That said, even here at home, by myself (well, just me and the dogs), I am…unsettled. Unfocused. I know what I want/need to do, but I can’t decide what to do first, or for how long, or what to do when I get interrupted, or…well, you get the picture.

Part of the problem is that I’m interrupted so often (even here at home), that I have trouble getting into anything because it seems futile. I know that happens a *lot* at work, and here at home with the dogs too. I’ve gotten so used to that, and it’s so disruptive to being “in the zone” with anything that I often just don’t even try. I pick at things, piecemeal, afraid to get too deep since an interruption is inevitably just around the corner instead of really focusing. It’s far less efficient and less satisfying than being able to actually put my head down and work steady for a good couple hours on the same project, but it’s often all I can do to actually make progress on anything.

Even just now, writing this post, I had to get up to let the dog in, but when I sat back down, I checked my email before coming back to this. Is there anything else that needs my attention? Do I need to shift focus again? Is it okay to try to get back in the zone for another twenty minutes or so?

I’ve trained my brain to be like this, to just work shallowly around all the interruptions throughout my day, and I get stuff done, but not nearly as efficiently or satisfyingly as I could if I were able to actually focus, even for just a full hour at a time.

Thing is, I probably could, it’s just that I hate being pulled out of the focus zone so much, and it’s happened so often, that the fear (or certainty) of it happening again keeps me from allowing myself to really delve into anything at all. And I’ve trained myself to give into that fear, unfortunately. Which means to “fix” it, there are a couple of things I really need to work on.

The first is planning. I’ve gotten lazy about both keeping track of projects and scheduling the smaller parts of the whole. The only way to be able to focus on anything is to first know what it is I wanted to focus on in the first place. I have a ton of projects to keep track of for work, and also a bunch for both the house and my writing. Today I wasted a ton of time just trying to decide whether to clean first, or write this blog post, or do some editing, or rearrange furniture…and that’s only four different things! If I had a running list of to-dos, and then either late last night or first thing this morning, I looked at that list and my day and actually scheduled when I wanted to do what, I wouldn’t have wasted all that time. I would have had a plan to follow, and even if I was interrupted or thrown off the schedule, I still would have been able to pick it back up from the last undone thing, and could have continued from there.

I have the tools to do this. I have a main calendar program and a list program that is easily used for automated reminders and scheduling. I also have a digital paper tablet that I can hand-write on (which often works best for me when making initial lists before they get scheduled into the automated one). The only thing I don’t have? A routine habit for maintaining the system.

The second thing I need will arguably be more difficult, and that is to somehow get over the fear of being interrupted, and learn to get into the “zone” of focused work more quickly so that even when I am interrupted, I don’t lose so much time. Part of that is knowing what I need to do when, but the other part is just retraining my brain so that when the interruption has been dealt with, I just check my list, figure out what I’m supposed to be working on next, and then just slide right back into it. That is a discipline thing, and it’s going to mostly involve using my to-do list to “trigger” my brain into focus-mode. It’s going to involve a lot of willpower.

I’ve been employing that throughout writing this post. Whenever I feel myself losing focus, I close my eyes briefly, remind myself that I’m writing a blog post, and then continue. I think what I’m going to do after I’ve finished this is to rearrange the screens on my cell phone so that my to-do list is the only thing on my home screen. That way, after any interruption throughout the day, I can unlock my phone, my to-do list will be right there, and at the top will be whatever is scheduled for the day and not yet checked off.

I think doing these two things – maintaining a to-do list/calendar and using it to trigger/ground my focus after every interruption, I can alieviate at least a little stress from my life, and hopefully spend more time actually focused on tasks rather than wondering what I should work on next or picking at things piecemeal throughout the day.

Next up on today’s impromptu to-do list: Update the actual to-do list, and schedule a time (either late night or early morning) to pick the priority items for any given day.

This sort of thing is why I should take vacation days more often. I have a hard time stepping back, looking at what’s causing me stress, and figuring out how to fix it when I don’t have time and space to just be quiet and think. Evaluation/re-evaluation days are important.


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