Wednesday, September 28, 2016

How to Get Things Done: Planning, Action, and Reflection

     Hello there, I'm back with part 2 to my getting things done guide, as promised. Part One, Ideas and Focus, is here. Here's steps 4-7, plus a few additional notes and some further reading. I hope y'all will find these helpful and assistive to your productivity, sanity, and balance. I have especially emphasized rest and breaks because I think it's a very important aspect of productivity that does not get discussed as regularly as the format of your to-do lists. So, without further ado: 

4. plan and timeline 
     Now that you’ve got a narrowed-down list of your most important/urgent, time-efficient tasks or goals, you need to plan out how you will accomplish them. Here are a few ways to do that: 
  • Break the task or goal down into smaller steps. If it can be broken down, do it! This will give you a better idea of how long it will take to complete the whole task. For some things, like a weekly braindump to pull daily to-do lists from, it’s good to do this step while doing your braindump. For other things, like goals, this more naturally comes after narrowing your list.
  • Schedule it. Plan by when something should be done and give yourself a deadline. If you want to do all the laundry by the end of the day, there’s your deadline. If you want to learn to ride a motorcycle by end of 2016, there’s your deadline. Write it in your calendar, planner, or whatever you use (bullet journals are my fave), and stick to that deadline. Don’t make it unreasonable. Only you know what you have room for in your schedule. Give yourself more than enough time to accomplish something, because chances are, you’ll need it. 
  • Timeline. If a task or goal is multi-layered or involves multiple steps, make a “backwards timeline” starting from the day the task is to be completed and going backwards in time towards the present, figuring out by when the individual smaller steps need to be accomplished. For example, if I want to host a party on Halloween, I need to send out invites two weeks before, and have ingredients purchased for food by the day of the party. This is an example of backwards timelining. 
     It may also be helpful to use a daily timeline to understand where the time in a day is going. Here are some great examples of a daily timeline used in a bullet journal. I use one on very full days, but not all the time. You can expand this idea to a monthly or yearly scale, designating weeks or months to accomplishing specific tasks. In any case, make sure you allot yourself enough time to get the tasks done! Doing so will ensure that you accomplish them, have time to do them well, and feel good about your productivity, meaning you are more likely to keep being productive rather than getting frustrated if you don’t get everything done. 

5. schedule breaks and rest
     Yes, this gets its own step because it’s REALLY IMPORTANT. Resist the urge to assign yourself 10 tasks for the day and instead balance your productive time with restful time. This balance will ensure that your level of productivity is sustainable for you and suitable to your lifestyle. It will ensure better mental health, which means a better, more enjoyable life overall! 
     If you are using a daily timeline, leave time for meals and breaks in the day. Do something like giving yourself an unscheduled hour in the morning and another in the evening, for warming up and winding down. When practicing this on a monthly and yearly scale, leave at least a few days every month (if not at least once a week) that are at least mostly unscheduled, and allow yourself the space to just be, and engage in unplanned, relaxing activities. Also cut out some vacation time for yourself every year, whether you actually travel, or just relax around your town for a week. Use your breaks to be social if you wish, but also to recharge and have some alone time, as both are important for your well-being! 
     If you take anything away from this post, please let it be this! Setting aside time for breaks, rest, and relaxation will refresh your mind and creative thinking abilities, alleviate stress, help you avoid burnout, and inspire you and have you looking forward to your productive “work time” rather than dreading it. 

6. take action 
     Phew! Ok, you’ve gotten this far, you’ve planned and timelined and everything else out the wazoo. Now you just need to DO IT! The only tip I have for this part is to use the pomodoro method (which you can learn about here). It gives your brain a little break to look forward to and keeps it focused on one specific thing rather than attempting to multi-task. I use this all the time, especially when I’m having trouble focusing or doing something less-than-exciting. I use an online timer when on the computer and one on my phone when doing other types of work. 
     If you are doing something that might not fit into that 25 minute window but needs to be done all at once (like mopping the floor), use a similar principal by just promising yourself a break after you complete the task, and before going on to the next one. 

7. reflect and learn 
     Yay! Look at you, you got something done! Congratulate yourself and soak in the sweet feeling of checking something off the list. 
      Now it’s time to reflect on the process you just engaged in. Answer this list of questions about what worked, and what didn’t work: Did you get everything done that you set out to do? Were you rushed, or did you have enough time, or maybe too much? Was the setting you were completing the task in suitable, or distracting? How do you feel? Rested, balanced, or overwhelmed and stressed? Did you plan well enough, or too well? (Yes, you can plan too well - there’s a reason I only use daily timelines occasionally. Sometimes they stress me out!). Answering these questions, plus anymore you can think of that might be pertinent, is an important part of the process. It might help to jot some of these notes down on paper, or discuss them with a friend. 
     Once you have reflected, implement what you have learned from your reflection. If you were rushed or bored and had too much time, timeline more in accordance with your time needs. If you feel stressed and have figured out why that is, eliminate that stressor from the process as best you can. Keep doing this, and you will come to a pretty good place of balance, sustaining the cycle of productivity in a way that works for you and your life! 

a few final notes: 
  • You may have noticed that this whole process is designed with people who have time to take breaks in mind, but I recognize this is a privilege that not everyone has. If there is a way you can eliminate some of your responsibilities and commitments, do it. Use Step 3 to root out those things in your life which are not urgent, important, and time-efficient. 
  • Guard your time and do not take on too much. As someone who has made pursuing social justice and sustainability their life’s work, sometimes it seems to me that everything is important and urgent and I MUST GO TO ALL THE PROTESTS AND DO ALL THE THINGS RIGHT NOW. By using this process, I understand that I will ultimately be more effective at promoting justice if I only take on a few select responsibilities, focus on them, and do them well. 
  • In a culture where we are all trained to think of “time as money”, an ever-dwindling hourglass in the rat-race to our grave, I want to suggest a different idea. Time is our friend! Ultimately, when you are trying to get something done, time is what allows it to unfold and happen. Time is what allows us to move forward with plans and goals. You may feel an urgent need to do a hundred different things, and feel disappointed you haven’t gotten to them all yet. Remember that time is what will allow you to do those things, and that, because time is your friend, if you focus on what you want, eventually it will come to pass. Letting go of your sense of urgency in order to allow yourself to rest and be balanced, while recognizing that the things you want to accomplish will unfold over time, is probably going to feel better than trying to do them all right now. 
  • Lastly, remember that the utmost important thing about this process is that it’s meant to help you feel good! Accomplishing things this way is about feeling good, resting is about feeling good. Of course, life is about balance, including emotional balance - you’ll never feel good all the time, and that’s ok, that’s what allows you to feel good sometimes. But the goal of the way this is designed is to make being productive a positive, sustainable cycle. If you don’t feel good, try something new. Keep adjusting until you find what works for you. 

Alright, that’s all folks. Go forth, and kick ass. 



further reading: 
I definitely cannot take credit for creating all these concepts on my own! Here are some things that I have either based my own ideas on, or are very related good reads. 
Thomas Frank on beating student burnout, Erin from Gingerous on Crafting Your Best Day Ever Part One and Two, Tim Ferriss on why you need a "deloading phase" (read: rest and breaks!!!), and because I mentioned bullet journalling a few times and it's one of my favorite tools for getting things done, here's an intro video to the bullet journal and the official bullet journal website

Monday, September 26, 2016

How To Get Things Done: Ideas and Focus

    As somebody who has spent quite a bit of time already getting things done, while also being a little bit of a productivity/wellbeing junkie, I’m surprised I haven’t written something like this already. I have mixed feelings about the idea of productivity and dedicating your life to getting things done (which you can read about here), but I also am a pretty ambitious person, driven by a sense of urgency informed by my awareness of the need for justice in this world. Because of these converging viewpoints, I am coming to a place in my life where I am very aware of how to efficiently get things done, but equally aware of the importance of rest, breaks, and valuing being over doing at certain times. 
     From this point in my understanding comes this handy-dandy guide I have constructed on how to get things done! Below are steps 1-3. Part Two, Planning, Action, and Reflection, contains steps 4-7. Rather than a linear step-by-step with an end point, I recommend looking at this more as a cycle that you will continually engage in throughout your life. While I think it’s helpful for me if I have the cycle go in this order, the order (and even the steps!) might look different for you. Plus, life is crazy and things rarely work out in their exact order. Just take this guide and run with it and use what helps you :)

1. gather ideas
     The first step to getting things done is knowing what it is exactly that you want to accomplish. For example, maybe you are feeling bored and want to find a way to spice up your life. Maybe your issue is more specific, like you want to figure out how to organize your closet. Or perhaps you have a million things you feel like you could be doing and need to pick out a few (if this is you, skip to the next step). 
     This step is kind of the “research” or “inspiration” phase. Look around for ideas on what you need to do, whether you do this on Pinterest or by looking at an issue and figuring out what needs to be done about it. So, for example, I work in a co-op marketplace, which is currently very messy (although less messy than it was). Sometimes I am very overwhelmed by the mess, but if I start writing down all my ideas and actionable tasks to solve the mess, I get closer to solving the problem just by identifying ways to do that. Another example is, sometimes on the internet I come across lots of really cool, inspiring ideas. In this phase, it’s important to record these ideas and write them down!! 

2. braindump
     So, now you’ve got ideas. Great! The next thing to do, if you haven’t already done so in Step 1, is to write them all down and conduct what some call a braindump. Erin of Gingerous conducts braindumps on a weekly basis to create a to-do list for the week. I like to do braindumps on various categories or in response to certain issues, like for my work or when writing New Years’ Resolutions or goals. All you have to do to conduct a braindump is just get a piece of paper and write down all your ideas on a topic, whether it’s just a giant to-do list or something more focused. 

3. focus
After you’ve done this, pick out a few tasks on the list to focus in on.
  • If you’re doing a braindump for the week and writing a daily to-do list based on that, pick out just a few of those tasks. My magic number for to-do list items is 3. It may not seem like a lot, but you need to give yourself leeway for rest, breaks, meals, unexpected interruptions, LIFE. Plus, you are more likely to get all the things on your daily list done if you put fewer items on there, and that feels really good!
  • If you’re doing a braindump for a list of goals to set, or a plan to solve an issue, pick out the most important ones to you, and again, only pick out a few! Make your list manageable so that you’re able to accomplish what you assign yourself, rather than overwhelming yourself and feeling discouraged. 
     When narrowing down lists of either type, I find it’s important to consider these two ideas. The first is a rule of permaculture design called “stacking functions”. When looking at a goal or task, ask yourself how many functions it serves. For example, cleaning your house might serve the practical function of cleaning your space, while also increasing your mental clarity and decreasing stress. The act of cleaning might also be a meditative task, or (if you are mopping or sweeping really vigorously) provide some physical activity. Right there are four functions that the task “clean house” serves- seems like it’s an efficient use of time! Conversely, exercise that is done purely for exercise’s sake alone, and not also for mental or spiritual wellbeing, serves fewer functions and is a less efficient use of time. That’s why you won’t catch me doing sit-ups very often, but I love going running and doing yoga because both aid my mental and spiritual health, along with my physical health. I also do a lot of biking because on top of providing exercise, fresh air, and mental clarity, it also is a method of transportation that gets me places - a very efficient use of time. Tasks or goals you identify as serving larger numbers of functions (in some permaculture circles, the goal is for anything to serve 3 functions or more!), are more worthy of your focus when you are narrowing down your list. 
     The other idea is something referenced often in productivity circles: the Eisenhower Matrix. Here’s a picture: 

You can assign any task or goal a place on this graph. Based on the quadrant it lands in, you can decide whether you want to do a task right now, later, or just discard it. Tasks that are urgent, and urgent and important are the most favorable things to focus on when narrowing your list. 

That's all for now! Check back on Wednesday for steps 4-7, and in the meantime, try these out if you like :)


Images:, Josh Medeski

Friday, August 26, 2016

On Embracing Minimalism

       I wrote previously about reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and I have to say, that reading that book was indeed life-changing. The book helped me understand, in a new way, how to let go of things, and how to keep the things I absolutely needed and loved. I harnessed the power of decision making, something that non-minimalist lifestyles do not encourage well. I learned, to an even greater magnitude, how to appreciate and care for the things I chose to keep. In total, I got rid of more than 14 grocery bags worth of stuff, about 40% of what I owned! In return, what I gained was a better sense of self. 
       Today, what I want to talk about is how embracing minimalism has positively impacted my mindset, and I want to encourage anyone who is willing to give it a go! 
       First off, sorting through all my things and discarding everything I didn’t love, as the book instructs, left me with a much smaller body of possessions in the end. This really helped me realize what I really love. When I was going through all my clothes, I realized I had a lot of clothes that I like ok, but had stains, rips, or didn’t fit the way I wanted them to. For those reasons, they just weren’t quite right, so I got rid of them, and felt a lot better for it! I also managed to get rid of a lot of things I knew I’d never use again, like books I would never read, old textbooks, craft supplies for projects I never started, and so on. Instead, I was able to clear those things out and narrow it down to the books, projects, and other things that were really important. The natural thing to follow that would be that I appreciated what I did have a lot better, once I was aware of what I had and how much I liked it! 
       Another wonderful thing that happened with this was that I was faced with much less clutter. This took a psychological load off my mind, and has made my spaces much more relaxing to be in. Finding things is easier, as is cleaning and organizing those things. I really cannot emphasize enough what a relief it is to be rid of all those things I didn’t really like, use, or want. I really appreciate the physical and mental space these things left behind, so much so that I am very rarely tempted to shop. Instead, I protectively guard this de-cluttered and peaceful state of mind. 

This is the first donation I made to Goodwill, the entire trunk was full! There were more bags too come too!
      Additionally, having fewer things means I feel more motivated to take care of those things, because its much easier to keep track of all of them and take care of them. Doing laundry is quicker with less clothing, and using lotion is easier with less options! Plus, moving around is a lot easier with all of that extra stuff. Having fewer things makes it easier to organize and move what you do have, go figure. 
     My favorite effect by far that embracing minimalism has had on me is this: it’s helped me realize what most important to me. The people and treasured relationships in my life, and meaningful and impactful experiences, are the most meaningful parts of my life. With the material aspects of my life in better order, I find I have more time and energy to spend on these priorities, which makes me ecstatic! 
     Another thing that excites me is that I’m not even done discarding things yet. I moved to Missouri in the middle of the process, so it was much more abbreviated than I would have liked it to be.   However, I am excited to know more discarding awaits me in the future. Paring my life down to the essentials is making it much easier to function, especially as I prepare for the next few steps of my life, post-graduation. 
     I am surprised by how much happiness I have derived from the simple act of getting rid of things. This is something that is, in my mind, absolutely revolutionary for people to know about. Stuff doesn’t make you happy- getting rid of it can help, though! In today’s world, I think people are really trapped by their stuff, as well as by their pursuit for more of it. Minimalism is liberating and helps you reevaluate your life, in a way that people can really use. I believe we need to place more value on our relationships, and our experiences, than our things. 

     What do you think about all this? Would you get rid of 40% of your stuff, or give it a shot? Let me know down in the comments :)

Photos: Ines Perkovic, 2 is mine

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The End of Higher Education as We Know It: A Call to Action

      I have written only a little bit about my college experience, but I’m sure that many of you at least know that I attend UC Santa Cruz. I’m now in my senior year of college, and while I have learned quite a few things, some of which I hope to share in another upcoming post, the biggest lesson I will take away from my years in higher education is how broken the system is. My reason for writing this post is simple, as is my call for action. Colleges, community colleges, all forms of higher education, need to be fixed. WE NEED ACTIVISTS. 
     Although I am writing from the point of view of someone who spent all four years at a UC, a system which is notorious for corruption (and in fact, currently being audited, yay!), I believe that my assessment and my ask are appropriate for all higher education in this country. There are a myriad of resources out there for anyone who wants to learn about the depth of the issue with higher education in the U.S., but here’s the basic gist: higher education has become an industry. Students are viewed as customers, business opportunities, cash cows. What’s more, in many situations, students’ rights are disrespected and tuition continues to be upped because the thought of trying to enter the workforce today without a college degree is even more terrifying than having thousands of dollars in student loan debt at the time of graduation. 
     The demand for a degree is high enough that colleges get away with a myriad of abuses on their students, tuition costs being one among many. You may have also heard about or experienced some of these treats: increasing class sizes (I’ve had classes where people had to sit on the floors of lecture halls because there were no seats left), no classes with actual professors (colleges these days hire lecturers, who get paid way less and have way fewer rights, but do have the same level of credentials), not being able to get into the classes you need, tiny dorm rooms, cramped libraries, packed buses, you name it. The resources offered to students are often barely enough to feed the needs of students. Janet Napolitano, head of the UC system, recently ordered the UC system to expand. As colleges go on packing in more students, they also neglect to provide more resources. In the case of UCSC, some are being cut back. Our buses were recently cut down, and many single-size rooms are being turned into doubles without being expanded. 
      This phenomenon is not unique to UCs. Just lookie here. Evidently, schools all over the country, and the people that control them, are looking to run for-profit operations, and the situation is compounded by cuts in federal and state funding to public colleges. The unfortunate thing about this is that it severely limits the lives of our young people. 
       How many people are not able to go to college because of the cost? How many people are burdened with debt for years after they graduate? Without as many college-educated individuals, society will not function the same way. Often, the U.S. competes with other countries to have an educated population. We cannot compete, nor can we function, without allowing our young people access to higher education. Burdening our young people with debt negatively affects our economy and similarly limits the potentials of our society. We need affordable higher education in this country. We need students’ rights to be respected by academic officials. So again, I say, WE NEED ACTIVISTS. 

      We need people who will stand up for what they deserve, for what their children deserve, for what society and the future of the U.S. deserve. We need people who are brave. Have you seen what colleges have done to student activists? UC Davis recently attempted to have this video of campus police pepper-spraying peaceful student activists protesting tuition hikes removed from the internet (no, UC Davis, you will never live that down, because you cannot treat students that way). UC Santa Cruz suspended six students while completely denying them of their judicial rights of due process after they blocked the Highway 17 while protesting tuition hikes. No, being an activist is not safe or easy, although there is strength and safety in numbers. In 2014, UCSC staged an occupation of a campus building and no arrests were made, because hundreds of students participated. We need activists, as many as we can gather. Instead of the Highway Six, we need the Highway 600, or 6,000. I wrote last year about how student activism is on the rise. Join the swell, we need you! 
      Not only that, but we also need parents who are willing to stand up and demand a better education for their children. There are many parents out there, like my own, who have the resources to send their children to college, and therefore have the resources and education to, in some way, make a demand from the system. Whether that’s contacting school administrators, getting media coverage of the issue, leveraging their position in society to draw attention to the problem, or something else, parents are important and powerful allies. They know what’s going on, and most likely, they understand its wrong. My father often complains that the only emails he ever gets from the UC system are emails asking for money. What if, instead of complaining, my father was able to act on his discontent with the higher education system? Parents have the power to cause a tidal wave of change. 
       Beyond them, concerned citizens who understand that we need college grads to do the work of today and tomorrow are also important. Education is a public good that contributes to the health of society. Anyone who understands that can and should do something about the crisis of higher education we are experiencing now. WE NEED ACTIVISTS. 
      We need visionaries. People who can create a new kind of university, one that serves the needs of individuals and society in a fair and affordable way. A university whose primary goal is providing a high quality education and is run like a school, not a business. The reason this piece is titled “The End of Higher Education as We Know It” is simply because that’s what I am calling for. I am asking for a push for a new and better model of higher education, and I am asking you and everyone around you to help imagine it and help build it. What functions does a college need to perform? What is the best way for that to be done? I like to imagine a university that is run completely by students. Imagine it: a governing board of elected officials, who are in charge of all matters of the university. They do not get paid, but receive class credit. Students hire and fire professors, make decisions on tuition costs and resource cuts or expansions, and just generally run the show. How cool would that be? 
       I am asking you to imagine an alternative that you desire, and then demand it and help to create it. We need to move beyond simply asking. We can protest, but we can also create. How can we bring into being a better-run university out of what we have now?
      My proposals are tentative fantasies, but what I emphasize is that we need change. We need it bad. And we need the creative visionary activist beauty from each soul to make it happen. We all have something to contribute the end of higher education as we know it, including you. 


Photos: 1, 2

Friday, August 5, 2016

Good Vibes Book Club 2

        If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you probably know by now that I LOVE BOOKS, and reading in general. I’m seriously a book addict, and consider it a real tragedy that I don’t get to read as much as I want to during the regular school year. However, I’ve been out here in Missouri for about a month now, and definitely have a lot more time on my hands to read as much as my heart desires. So, in the spirit of the Good Vibes Book Club post I did last year, I’m following up with a list of books and other reading materials that come highly recommended by yours truly :) 

If you are anywhere on the leftist/radical scale and you haven’t picked up a copy of Adbusters yet, do it now, as soon as you can. Adbusters is super inspiring and great to have around as a pick-me-up whenever you need help keeping the faith in your radical anti-colonial, anti-empire beliefs. They also do a great job at being really visually inspiring, so it’s great for artists. They publish a new issue every two months, and will definitely keep your revolutionary flame burning. 

What I really like about Cait Flanders’ blog is that even though she can be categorized as a finance writer, her blog is really more about deeper subjects. She talks about how her finances reflect what she values, and what she spends her time on. She asks questions about what time means to her, and what her baseline income is for still being ok and happy. Her writing contains strong leanings toward mindfulness, minimalism, and sustainability. I love it! Plus, this is where I got the idea for a shopping ban from. 

Dulce and Jazmin have been blog buds of mine for a long time, and what I really like about their blog is that, as the name suggests, they are truly hardcore DIYers. These days they sell a lot of what they make, and everything they post on their blog is really handy and admirable. They have a really cool aesthetic going and are just generally inspiring DIY babes :)

The Last of Her Kind
by Sigrid Nunez
This is one of the only fiction books I’ve read this year (I just don’t really do fiction that much!), but it definitely made an impression on me. It’s written from the point of view of a girl from poor, rural upstate New York who comes of age in the 70s and goes to college at Columbia in NYC. Her roommate is a political radical, friends with members of the Weather Underground and Black Power activists. The book recounts the events of the 70s from an inside perspective and using historical events. It’s a really interesting read, and gives the reader an idea of what it might have been like to be alive during that time.

The Next American Revolution
by Grace Lee Boggs
I confess, I’m not finished with this book. I’ve only read a few chapters and excerpts. But what I have read has been awesomely inspiring, and I can't help but recommend it to everyone. Grace Lee Boggs is an icon and hero in activist history, and reading this account made me want to pack up and move to Detroit (still a plan for future Madeleine). In this book, she enlightens us to new pathways to revolution, many of which are already taking shape, like the organic food revolution. Please read this if you ever lose hope. At 93, when she wrote the preface to this book, she still believed in a better world. Amazing :)

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
by Marie Kondo

I’ve been made fun of for reading this, but this book honestly changed my life. Marie Kondo basically just gives you permission to get rid of anything and everything and walks you through how to do it. Plus, the book is a satisfying size and weight and very fun to hold in your hand. 

Those are my recommendations! You'll notice not all are books, because I read all kinds of things. In fact, my favorite things to peruse are blogs, simply because of the way they provide you with a good sense of another person's values, actions, and story. It's interesting to be able to delve into someone's life like that, even if what they're writing is not entirely personal or over-sharing. But of course I will always love books and and the printed word too. I hope that y'all will try out a few of these recommendations and enjoy what you do look at. Also, what are your recommendations? Of course I'm always looking for new things to read, so if you have any thoughts, send 'em my way in the comments! Thanks :)



Photos all found via Google Images, none are mine. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Against Productivity

     I have always been one of those people who is constantly making lists of to-do’s, goals, things, to achieve and accomplish. If you’ve been following me for a while, you can probably tell by the posts on my blog; I am very into lists, and very into achieving, checking things off, marking as done. Life, to me, often seems like a limited chunk of time I am given to accomplish as many things from a list as I can. Life can seem to be about getting things done, about productivity, either in the sense of accomplishing tasks or having meaningful experiences. 
      Today, I invite you to think against productivity. I have to ask myself, and you, is that what life is really about - just checking things off a bucket list? Sure, there are things I want to do before I die, but I will still die anyway. Sometimes, I think, what’s the point of doing those things? What’s the point of the list?
      I want to challenge the belief that life is about output, that your life and identity are comprised of what you accomplish and achieve. What if we could stake our identities on something else, like how we treat other living things, or how we are content in our being? I think the tendency to associate identities with actions, output, and professions is a very capitalist tendency. It coincides with the old adage of “Time is money, money is time.”, but time is so much more than pieces of paper, and you are so much more than your achievements and your profession. I have a friend who works as a restaurant cook for a living who told me, “I never want to be anything. I never want to be a cook, I just want that to be something I can do and am good at. What I do doesn’t define me.” I find this to be an inspiring statement, and one of the many reasons I chose to write this post. 

      I think productivity is a rat race. People are in a rush to do more, and to be more, including myself. But sometimes it’s important to stop and think, “What is life really about?”. That’s a hard question to answer, but I don’t think the answer is output, or finishing everything on your to-do and bucket lists. It’s also important to be present, to appreciate the moment, to think about how you are alive, and to nurture your senses of zeal and wonder. It’s important to create, to be with others, to be kind to others, to explore, to learn, to feel. There are so many things that life is about, that have no place on a to-do list. They come just through the wonderful experience of being alive. 
     I believe being goal-driven is good, to a point. I am happy and proud of all the things I’ve been able to accomplish in my short 20 years on Earth. But I am also happy for the spontaneous moments and good memories I’ve had, with others and on my own, as I’ve experienced the process of living, discovering, and growing. 
     You don’t have to do away with your to-do lists, but I encourage you not to measure yourself by them either, and to put them down frequently in favor of allowing yourself to be present, see what happens, and roll with it. Ultimately, I believe a balance between productivity and presence is what makes life whole and well-rounded. Remembering that the human experience extends beyond your computer, phone, and day-planner can do us all a bit of good. 
     What are your thoughts on productivity? How important do you think it is? Do you agree or disagree with me? Let me know in the comments :) 
     As a parting word of wisdom from Mary Oliver, I want to ask you, “What are you going to do with your one wild and beautiful life?”. 



Saturday, July 23, 2016

Life Without Internet

           I’ve done what I previously found unthinkable - I’ve lived without internet at my house for almost a month. At the end of June I moved to Southern Missouri, or Alton, the county seat of Oregon County, to be exact. The house I moved into had no internet service set up, although from what I understand it is able to be connected. I was looking into the process of getting Wi-Fi in my home earlier in the month when it occurred to me: “Why not just try to go without it?”. I had thought about doing that for a while, but always assumed that it was a choice I would make further in the future in a house I owned.
       Presented with the opportunity to experiment, I took it. I’ll only be here until December, and I can also access the internet at the public library and the food co-op that I’m interning at. Both are about a five minute walk from my front door, so it’s not as if I’m actually living without internet. 
What it does mean is that my time at home is spent a lot differently than it used to be. While I do enjoy the occasional exploration of the many annals of YouTube or Tumblr, I’ve found that living in the world of the concrete and physical for a higher percentage of time is also enjoyable. Rather than sitting and staring, I’m spending a lot more time cooking, reading, writing, thinking, singing, cleaning, biking, running, and doing other physical, tangible activities.  I’ve also found that my attention span has been greatly enhanced by my decreased time online. No longer constantly flitting from tab to tab or multitasking between windows, but instead focusing on a single task in front of me, I have found that my focus has been greatly enhanced. Reading is suddenly so much easier! I find myself charging through books like nothing. 
        What I do miss about the internet - tools of communication, information readily available, and visual inspiration - I can get when I go into town. But often my brain fills the void for me. The other day, a friend and I were talking and wondering how dingoes had come to live in Australia. We realized we had no way of looking it up, so we made up our own theory. While definitely not the most informed or factual way to go through life, it is certainly more entertaining and much more encouraging for one’s creative juices.

       I also appreciate the room that it makes for conversation, both with myself and with others. Technology, I feel, constantly intrudes on valuable opportunities to converse with yourself or socialize with others. Last year I went on a backpacking trip, which of course meant that there was no internet access for anyone on the trip. Within a matter of days, I had become good friends with the thirteen other people who were on the trip, and part of that was because we had nothing keeping us from talking to each other!  I am enjoying my reprieve from the internet by listening more deeply (with my improved attention span!) to others, but also by tuning into my inner monologue and learning a little more about myself. 
        Ultimately, this internet hiatus has allowed me to see more clearly the role I want it to play in my life. I want the internet, and computers in general, to be a tool that I know when to pick up and when to put down in favor of other things or activities in my life. I believe that too often it is easy to let technology and the internet intrude too deeply into our everyday lives, until it is part of many of the things we do, and constantly distracting us in a way that is unhelpful to our being. They say “Everything in moderation”, and that applies here very well. 
         If you find it ironic that I would write a post about not having internet and then publish it on my blog on the internet, I can understand your amusement. However, since I’m advocating that the internet be used as a tool, I’m suggesting moderation of usage, not abstinence. The internet is still a wonderful tool and something that I do use now - just not very often. I think the most internet connectivity I’ve had recently was 2 hours in one day, and that felt like a lot. Since going without it at home, I’ve been quite fruitful in other, more creative pursuits, and I’m happy about that. These next few months without it promise to be productive ones. 
      One last parting thought - while this is an experiment for me, this is a way of life for many people. A lot of people, for one reason or another, live in conditions that don't permit them comforts like internet access. Here in Alton, it's poverty and economic circumstances that seem to bar people from that access, and through no fault of our own. I recognize that it is my privilege to willingly forgo internet, while other people have no choice because of systemic inequality, and I ask others to remember this as well. 
      What do you think about not having internet in your home? Would you ever try it? Have you? Let me know your thoughts :)

Photos: 1, 2