Planning activities: today or never…

I was crawling through my long to-do list (that sadly doesn’t look like the Pink Panther’s):

Source: novaplanet.com

… and I noticed that there are two main categories:

  1. things I do every day/immediately,
  2. things that I postpone.

A handful of activities (luckily for them) fall into a third category of properly planned items, that are to be done regularly (often thanks to a calendar reminder) or at least in the near future and with a good certainty.

I don’t like the prevalence of the first two categories. It basically means I’m not properly planning, so I simply improvise, picking things from the to-do list depending on the current mood/energy level, and leaving all the rest to wait forever, like dogs in a shelter. The only time I plan is actually today. This of course can’t work for any activity that has a longer cycle (cleaning, for example) or lasts more than one day. I manage to do these things too, but more because their urgency makes them finally eligible to be done today, not because I planned them. On the opposite extreme, I have had planning-intensive moments in the past, but I tended to over-fill my schedule and it was simply exhausting.

I would like to find a level of planning that is right for my current energy availability, while allowing me to set goals in the future. A reasonable balance is to plan activities for a few hours of the day (around half of the day is OK) and leave the rest free for improvisation (for example it is a sunny day and I can spend the free hours at the park with a book; or it’s raining and I can do the house cleaning I planned for later). It would also work to leave one day per week completely free. It is also meaningful to coordinate activities with a partner, so that the common free times are planned together. On the longer run, I tend to plan a week ahead in detail (write down all planned activities), two weeks ahead in less detail (intentions, but no fixed dates), and occasionally plan events for a more distant future. I think this somewhat short planning is able to give me positive feedback when I manage to complete my weekly items, and motivate me to continue, and plan more accurately according to my energy stock.

How do you process your to-do list? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Watercolour: negative painting

Yesterday I came across this post from Sunnyfae about negative painting, a (watercolour) technique that requires to paint all around a given shape, therefore leaving the lightest areas of the canvas free. Here is one of her drawings:

I absolutely love the technique, so I looked up for Linda Kemp, the artist she mentions in her post. I found several videos on YouTube, and this one sounded great for my beginning with this new technique. Linda explains how to approach the painting in a mid-way between completely free and completely planned – by deciding the subject, colours and overall shapes before starting. The painting process will then be focused, while remaining free on local decisions (brush strokes and colour density). I like that approach and it suits me in this moment. You can browse other videos and find the one that speaks to you and invites you to try painting!

Thank you Sunnyfae for your inspiration, and do keep us posted with your progress and discoveries 🙂

Sharing inspiration #3

  1. Podcast: an episode of “Wort der Woche” (word of the week) – das Pipapo. Very short and accompanied by the transcription, it teaches you a new word in a light and funny way. Ideal for beginners!
  2. Text: the Curated list of falsehoods programmers believe in is actually for everyone, when you consider that the essential job of a software programmer is to replicate reality through a model. This list is a collection of errors and over-simplifications of these models. See for example the W3C page about handling names.
  3. Image: a motivational poster from The Latest Kate (whom I discovered in this imgur dump)

Sharing inspiration #2

Second post of the series! This one features:

  1. Podcast: Sticky Notes Episode 2: Conductor FAQ – a great behind-the-scenes of a conductor’s job, training, and rehearsal work with the orchestra. It is too easy to assume that the conductor only waves a stick when the orchestra does the job of actually producing the music; Joshua Weilerstein explains how minimalist conduction at the concert is the result of great preparation work – so that the orchestra doesn’t need constant inputs anymore.
  2. Post: Zumwalt‘s Thoughtful Thursday: Personal Growth – interesting answers to  the question “Is forcing yourself to do things that are uncomfortable the only way to achieve personal growth?”. I always got the answer “of course!” but could not put that into practice, because the joy of success was nothing in comparison to the panic of being out of my comfort zone. This post reassured and motivated me a great deal.
  3. Image: the Calabash clash (ESA’s Picture of the Week, 30th of January, 2017)

Find the differences #3: taking sides

I was talking with a good friend about comfort zones, and the discussion got heated (each of us sort of got kicked out of their comfort zone 😀 ). I later thought at how we talked, and found two sentences I want to compare in this post:

  1. “It’s common that people disagree with you about something”
  2. “It’s common that people disagree with you about something, but when this happens between us, I try my best to understand your points and discuss fairly”

The first form of the sentence is the one I hear most often. What hurts me is that it is not clear if the person means that it happens with anyone, including your closest friends, partner(s), and family. I can’t resign to that!

Source: tumblr

The first sentence implies the side taken by the other person, so if it is a person close to me, they probably imply they are on my side. There are times when the other person sides with you, and some where they disagree so deeply that they can’t – and I really need to know it. Guessing would be dangerous, or unneccessarily cautious!

I see “taking sides” as deciding whether to fight someone else’s opinion, or to examine it together. I assume that parents are always on their children’s side: I mean, they try their best to examine the children’s opinions in a clear but calm fashion, rather than fighting them like dogs’ bad habits (or horse vices). I am horrified at the thought of children (of any age) not having parents “on their side”, therefore having to prepare for a mental war with them, where they actually could lose.

It is not yet about the positions about a topic – it is a promise that the discussion will not turn into a lawyer’s outwitting challenge. Both parts promise not to exploit the other’s weaknesses in speech, emotions, and coherence. I am aware that it is not the default for the majority of people I meet randomly in the city, but I want it to be a clear agreement with the people I consider close to me. To put it in positive terms: we agree on sharing our ideas in a safe environment, where issues and divergences are discussed with respect and honesty.

(Thinking about it further, it is really difficult to “be on the same side” of a person with deeply different opinions on many topics, and that makes me think that it’s unlikely that this person will ever be among my close friends; anyway, I try to extend safe discussing habits to all discussions.)

 

Sharing inspiration #1: a podcast, a post and an image

I’d like to organise the inspiring links I rake from the Internet every day, in a new series of posts named “Sharing inspiration”. To keep them short, I will post one podcast, one text post and one image. The topics are varied, but all content I link has made me think twice about something, or inspired me in many ways.

Here are the first three:

  1. Podcast: BBC 4 Arts and Ideas – “Happiness” (21mins): discussion about how unhappiness seems more decisive in one’s life, how it looks the necessary fuel a novel, and how to focus more on positive moments.
  2. Text post: emotions are valid, behaviours related to emotions are not always justified – a prompt.
  3. Picture:
Source: gayufo