Failing at reading

I’d like to show you something:

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Other than not knowing how to screenshot, if you look even closer, you will see that on my Goodreads account, I started reading Sense and Sensibility…

in (shock horror) February of 2015.

2 freaking years ago.

Not even I realised how bad I was until logging in to update my progress.

It’s taken me over 600 days to finish a book, which though slightly hard to engage with at first, I grew to love, with Austen teasing me throughout about what, and how, certain things were going to play out.

It’s not that I don’t read. I love it, so so much. I wish I had more time for it. But, things happened last year, and though I turned to the book, time and time again, reading chapters here, chapters there, the fact that we had a massive life overhaul, what with Sea changing and all, meant that there were so many other things to take care of, and that still need taking care of… that taking time out to enjoy a very fave pastime of mine, just felt selfish.

This here my friends, is a lesson in failure. Observe the following 2016 reading challenge I participated in last year:

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Have a look at that, really, have a good look at that.

I pledged to read 10 books. Not much I thought. 10 books a year, equated to just under one book a month. That didn’t seem at all impossible, but as mentioned above, Sea change, and all I ended up reading was 2 books.

2 books.

2 books!

And during that time I was about half way through Austen’s book too.

I don’t feel oddly embarrassed. A little ashamed, maybe, because you know, being a Writer and all, and wanting to write for a living, well you feel a bit pathetic when your main bread and butter, the act of reading to help you write – you fail miserably at.

I failed miserably, I know.

I have excuses. I have reasons. Do I need to justify them to anyone? To make people believe that I am a legitimate writer, that I am worthy of the “Writer” title?

No. My online writing presence is enough. I am a busy person. I have a life. And sometimes, things don’t go to plan.

Many times, things don’t go to plan.

It doesn’t mean however, that we shouldn’t plan, or strive towards certain goals.

The lesson here is this.

Firstly, don’t feel bad for taking time out to read, if it is something you love to do – writing-related or not. We should all give ourselves a break now and then, even if it is while waiting in line to pay a bill, on your lunch break at work, or late at night when the house is quiet. For a creative mind, it is necessary.

Second, shit happens. It almost always does. So if your well-tuned ideas and visions don’t turn out the way you’d like – don’t despair. Don’t use it as a reason to give up.

Never use ANY thing as a reason to give up.

Just say “oh well,” and move on. Or my favourite “PLOT TWIST!” and then see what scene the chapter of your life will play out for you next.

I’m already thinking of what I will read next. And I think the well overdue “Girl on a Train” book that I borrowed off Hubbie’s cousin, LAST YEAR, is definitely next in line…

(If you’d like to be Goodreads friends and have an account of your own, my profile name is Smikg…)

 

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Doing, doing, to-dos…

Recently, after my blog post about How to MAKE it while doing it all, I came across a bit of an organisational revelation.

You see, ever since reading Richard Carlson’s Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff at the beginning of my I-can-achieve-anything revolution, I have learnt, and unsuccessfully have had to come to terms with the truth that your ‘Inbox’ will never be emptied out.

Your inbox, that being your to-do list, your list of chores, of people to meet up with, the things you need to buy, etc – if it’s a to-do, and it has to be done, hear this, and hear it well: you will never finish them ALL.

This has been difficult to accept from an over-accomplisher like myself. I thrive from having a to-do list, but too many things on my list and I get overwhelmed. Too little (I can’t believe it either but that does happen) I start to wane from my resolution to achieve them all, and begin to procrastinate on the tasks.

A month or so ago I did some simple things, things that I’ve been putting off for ages. Those tasks can be so menial, but because you’ve been thinking of doing it for 7 months, it suddenly becomes so hard. The thought of doing them becomes so big, simply due to the time spent thinking about it, rather than the actual fact of it being such a simple and minor task. But these tasks I did a couple of.

I did some other things too. Tidying, clearing, sorting – things that may seem so boring to some but that I find utterly therapeutic. It’s important to focus on your goals, your dreams, yes, but if your house is in clutter, so will your head be too. You need to clear ALL the clutter to really re-organise what you’re going for in your mind.

What really struck me, was the way I felt after doing these little jobs. To offer insight and example, they were:

1. To purchase a personal domain name: (note smikg.com now exists!)

2. to create a Goodreads account

That was it. The personal domain name I’d been thinking of for almost 6 months I think. Every time I logged into wordpress I’d see the familiar ‘purchase smikg.com for $18!’ I’d wanted to set up the Goodreads account for a while too, though for not as long.

What held me back on accomplishing these two tasks was:

1. time required

2. frame of mind

3. the length of time I’d been procrastinating on it.

I didn’t know how long the tasks of purchasing a domain/setting up a Goodreads account would take. Having a toddler I needed to find the adequate amount of time to do it, and yet I didn’t know what that would be. I needed to be alert and aware, especially for the setting up of my account, and so didn’t want to leave it ’til the end of the day when I usually was spent from everything. And the longer I put both these things off, the longer it took to muster the motivation to do them.

During baby girl’s nap one day I found myself at my laptop, and thought to myself ‘I need to purchase smikg.com/set-up Goodreads one day.’

My next thought was ‘why don’t I do it now? What am I waiting for?’

Within an hour, I’d done both. I was rapt. And the unbelievable thing was, now that those tasks were done, they were done! Finished. Things I’d been thinking of doing for so many months I could now cross off my to-do list, and they’d barely taken an hour to accomplish.

These are my points.

1. Just do it. Many jobs can be done so quickly if we just push our indecision/uncertainty/lazy arses to the side and get it done! Like Gretchen Rubin talks about in her book The Happiness Project, if a job takes less than 5 minutes to do, do it. Do it, do it, do it. You’d be amazed at how much you can do, and how much can be done, when you abide by this simple rule.

2. Categorise your to-dos. This has been a huge revelation to me. There is no disputing that there will always be something for you to do, and your inbox will always have a few bills waiting for you, with some minor house renovations waiting for your (un)skilled hand to have a go at. But if you categorise the things that will be complete once you’re done with it, versus your ongoing jobs, you will lift a load off your chest, let me tell you. My purchasing of my domain name and setting up Goodreads was a once off job, therefore I’m now done with it. However maintaining goodreads, and my wordpress account, is an ongoing job. I literally, LITERALLY have over 1000 photos waiting to be sorted and filed into photo albums (yes I’m old school, I still do that) spanning over 2 years since falling pregnant with baby girl. Sorting them all will be a temporary, massive hoorah! moment when it’s done, but then maintaining my photos will be ongoing. It’s important to categorise your jobs and tasks into once-off or ongoing things, just to save you some unnecessary headaches over a never-diminishing inbox.

3. Aim to get one ongoing and one once-off job done per week. If your tasks are so huge that you require more time, allow yourself the time required to fulfil them, but nonetheless, don’t procrastinate and make sure you stick to your aim. Also remember, a little bit of push and shove is necessary too. We get slack when we relax too much. Chipping away at your to-do list and getting things done, even at a slow pace, inspires you to want to do more! True story.

4. Get a cute notepad/diary/to-do list. Any smart person knows that pretty things actually work, because we suddenly want to use them and be ‘proactive.’ Whatever works my friends, whatever works.