Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Blowing Deadlines and Re-Scripting Failure

Spread before me right now are all my tools for working toward goals and organizing time. These tools go from the general to the specific -- personal mission statement, 2013 resolutions, and project pages. Project pages are what I live from. I check them every morning to orient myself. In them I list the areas of my life that require attention -- writing, volunteer commitments, household, finances, quilting, relationships, health -- and for each area I have columns for goals, tasks (a catch-all to-do list), and next step(s). Having just one or two tasks per area in the next step column makes juggling everything so much more manageable.

But here's the thing.

My project pages are full of missed deadlines. Dates crossed out, sometimes multiple times, for a project or next step. I used to be down on myself for this seeming inability to keep self-made deadlines -- especially as I am obsessive about meeting any deadline set for me by someone else. I can see the likes of Stephen Covey and Tony Robbins shaking their heads and thinking that success is not likely here; one must be accountable to oneself, or at least find a buddy to aid accountability. And while there's truth in that, I've come to realize something important.

For years I've badgered myself about blown deadlines, and my inner nag had just about convinced me that I could not perform work that is self-directed, that I needed a boss to set external goals and deadlines. Yet if I look back over the last several years, I managed to write three novels -- revising each mulitple times -- start a blog, complete five quilts, maintain a clutter-free home full of heatlhy pets, contribute a lot to volunteer efforts, keep up with friends and family, and make a mildly successful stab at a different career before deciding it wasn't for me. Not bad for suffering from nagging doubts that I can't be successful because I fail at keeping self-imposed deadlines.

Somehow my methods work (for the most part), and it occurred to me that my goal-setting and project planning are my way of plotting my life. In the writing world, we speak of plotters vs pantsers, or those who create character charts and plot outlines before writing the narrative (Elizabeth George), verses those who enter the world of a character and write the narrative by the seat of their pants (Stephen King). Many of us fall on the spectrum between those two positions. I am a plotter, but often I diverge from my carefully outlined plot and go off by the seat of my pants until I get so tangled I need to stop and readjust the outline. I do this over and over.

So I plot my life with goals and tasks and target deadlines. This works for a while until interests and circumstances intrude, and off I go. Then I get bogged down and disoriented, and back I go to my mission statement and project pages, crossing out and readjusting and moving forward with a plan for a while. Messy, messy, but it works and I'm done trying to change myself or measure myself against the plot outline, declaring myself a failure for not having stuck with it. If I am not managing to accomplish some of my objectives, then I'll figure out why and re-write the goal and/or tasks related to the goal. No failure there, and so simple. My inner nag will have to find something else to yammer about.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Unexpected Expenses of the Young New Year

Today the sun is shining! But it's still too cold for me. Brrr.

Kat and I had decided to take a break from household maintenance projects at least for the months of January and February. But God laughs at our plans!! It's been so cold (for South Texas; I'm sure many would think our shivering at temps in the 30's and 40's is amusing), that we've wanted to make our feral kitties more comfortable.

Kat built a little door in the side of the garage that can be closed off at night when our furry friends are safely inside, then we bought some Purr Pads and a small heater. Those boys are nice and warm at night now (you can guess they're not very feral any more, if they ever were true ferals). Cost was around $100, but worth it for the peace of mind.

Unexpected expenses in other categories in the new year are a defunct hard drive in Kat's laptop ($160 to replace) and a $170 trip to the dentist for me. It was a routine cleaning, but I was due x-rays and a consult with the dentist. All is fine except that I have two teeth with recessed gumlines that need to be filled at a cost of $270. Sigh. That comes up in February.

Not so good, but on the other hand, where we can better control expenses -- such as dining in and keeping our grocery bill in check -- we've done well. I'm determined to NOT be like the king in the old nursery rhyme who sat in his counting house counting out his money. Being budget conscious is one thing, but in the past few years I've gotten obsessive and overly anxious about it. We'll do what we can to be prudent, and beyond that I will trust life (part of my personal mission statement).

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Personal Mission Statement

The New Year is a grand time for me because I love to make resolutions. Keeping them is of course another matter, though I usually do ok except for anything exercise related.

A few weeks ago I was browsing through Amazon's Lending Library and happened across Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People . It's been around for quite a while now (originally published in 1989), but I'd never read it, so I snagged it. It turned out to be great timing with the New Year, and I decided to take the author's advice and write a personal mission statement out of which I could make resolutions and goals for the year.

After much journaling and meditation, here's a first pass at my mission statement:

"They are happy, whose strength is in you,
in whose hearts are the roads to Zion.
As they go through the Bitter Valley
they make it a place of springs . . ."
Psalm 84

I will

Trust in God's Providence to provide all that I need to accomplish my mission on earth
Nurture all creatures in my care or within my circle of influence
Create generously and with good energy, resisting the urge to doubt myself and my creative abilities
Treat writing -- books, blogs, and articles -- as my new business, working at it with as much time and energy as I gave Real Estate
Be a good steward of all that has been given -- talents and time, possessions, money, house, and pets
Strengthen relationships
Practice hospitality, making our home a welcoming and relaxing place for Kat and me and for others
Understand the "other side" of an issue and avoid demonizing others
Defend the absent*
Live more simply
Carefully consider requests to commit my time, accepting or declining as best fits my values and goals
Follow through on commitments made to myself and others
Create habits for prayer and fitness to strengthen the spirit and body
Persevere in following principles and creating and keeping good habits

These are not goals exactly, but a way of being to live into. I have developed goals from this, and already I feel stronger in accomplishing them because I have this statement as a touchstone, something to remind me why I've developed goals in the first place and to strengthen my resolve. So thanks Stephen Covey! This exercise makes a good beginning to the new year.

* I lifted this phrase straight from Covey's book. It's simple yet quite challenging.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Changing Direction

Until today, the About Me blurb on this page read:

"Middle-aged and muddled, I am writing toward a life decision. Shall I stick with my business, or quit and do something else? There's more involved, and I've a lot of exploring to do. I won't be hasty."

The decision was made and I've moved on. As of January 1, my decision to quit real estate has become a reality. While my state license remains active, I am no longer active with the Board of Realtors and so do not have access to the MLS (Multiple Listings Service).

I've changed my introduction to reflect the new direction of this blog (not so terribly different from the old direction, just not as specific in intent). Also, I don't like to call myself muddled. Maybe I am muddled, but I don't want to be. Living with greater clarity and simplicity is a goal of mine, and seeing that I am "middle-aged and muddled" every time I pop into this page is not so great.

So this year the key word is integration and the goal is living whole. To 2013!