Art of the Debrief: Just Move

October 4, 2013

Every Friday morning I ask myself 25 simple questions about my week’s activities and experiences. It’s an essential ritual that keeps me grounded in reality, my body, Time and the beauty all around me.

Here are few of my favorite answers from the week of September 30…


How did the unexpected show up this week?

Those awful side affects. I firmly believe in self-compassion, nevertheless, this item falls under the I-Am-An-Idiot category. Last weekend, in an unthinking moment of a really bad headache, did I choose one of the two over-the-counter medications in the cupboard? No. I spied the prescription drug leftover from a long-ago surgery and chose that instead. I listened to the devil on my shoulder that said: Yessss, let’s obliterate this thing! - completely forgetting the drug was a narcotic and narcotics and I don’t get along well. They are to be used only when absolutely necessary and under supervision. In the end, I just traded my headache for some pretty awful side affects. Like I said, I am an idiot.

And my response to that reaction. And why don’t narcotics and I get along? Because in addition to the typical nausea and general wooziness, I don’t breathe right. It’s a decidedly unpleasant sensation. And while the wooziness seemed like a good reason to go lay down, the breathing thing seemed like a good reason to stay upright and moving. Not just moving, but hopping on the elliptical on the back patio and really getting my circulation going for nearly half an hour.

Somewhat to my surprise, it worked. Moving was the much better choice. It still took another three days of hydration and movement to flush it all out of my system, but I’m pretty sure that process would have taken longer had I chosen the prone route (not that I’ll be testing that any time soon).

In the end, the real surprise isn’t that moving worked, but that I chose it. A year ago, the option wouldn’t even have occurred to me. As I gradually become less and less of a couch potato in the second half of my life, the more often I find myself choosing motion as a solution.

And that brings me to…

What did you learn? What do you now need to explore or learn more about?

Feelings are feelings. I’ve always thought of emotions as a special type of thought – a thing of the conscious mind. But what if emotion is a special type of sensory, physiological experience? – a thing of the mind as an organ, as a part of the body?

Maybe there’s a reason they call feelings feelings, you know?

It explains why exercise is as or more effective in changing mood than medications. Why I feel mentally refreshed after a massage. Why I can’t talk or journal my way out of a funk.

Now, you may be reading this thinking well, duh, but for me – a gal who pretty much lives in her head – this is a revelatory shift in perspective.

You’ll often hear me say good time management is good energy management – and that there are five types of energy you need to take care of: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and financial.

In working to better care for my emotional energy, I’m curious to find out just how much that’s tied to my physical energy. So I’m conducting an experiment to find out just how far that connection goes by treating them as the same thing.

I’m pausing to notice what’s going on in my body about once an hour.

Shoulders tense? Might be the way I slept or my posture where I’m sitting. Then again, I might be stressed about deadlines. Stomach tight? Maybe I’m hungry or maybe I’m excited about a presentation. Foggy? Maybe I didn’t get a good night’s sleep. Then again, maybe I’m sad about a loss.

In this experiment, the reason doesn’t matter. The only thing I need to do in the moment of noticing it is to move in what ever way seems appropriate to the sensation. Emotional or physical, the remedy must stay in the physiological, non-thinky realm. (I wonder how much this will expand my repertoire of what-to-do-when responses?)

But here’s my real hypothesis: Will this approach help me to better travel the middle way between drama and repression, neither ruled by emotion nor buttoned-up, but living in the space in between that fuels my creativity, integrity and satisfaction? Stay tuned for results…

And speaking of motion…
Thanks to Pandora, I also learned She’s a Bad Mama Jama is a great workout song (and everything Brick House is trying to be). She’s poetry in motion, a beautiful sight to see… Just sayin’ in case you want to add something new (okay, old) to your own playlist.

Where did life take you this week?

The farmer’s market. It might be even better in the fall, when all the fair-weather shoppers stay home and there’s more room to explore and savor. Plus: crepes for breakfast. Yum.

What are you thankful for? Who do you need to thank?

Shannon. For setting me on this experiment in the first place. (You didn’t think I’d be doing something so radical alone, did you?)

What moments of awe, wonder or fun did you experience this week?

That extraordinary spider. Despite being disturbed by the mailman every afternoon, a huge glorious spider found shelter from the fall storms and spun an extraordinary web by our front door almost every day this week. Amazing.


Tell me: What were the highlights of your week?

What are you exploring and learning more about right now?

How do find and navigate that sweet spot between emotional drama and repression?

Where did life take you this week?

What are you thankful for?

What moments of delight did you experience this week?

Organized under week-in-review. none

Art of the Debrief: I Love Back-to-School Season

September 27, 2013

Every Friday morning I ask myself 25 simple questions about my week’s activities and experiences. It’s an essential ritual that keeps me grounded in reality, my body, Time and the beauty all around me.

Here are few of my favorite answers from the week of September 23…


What was the worst thing about this week?

Being so excited/nervous about the opening of the course I’m currently teaching, I didn’t sleep properly for several nights in a row. Sleep deprivation is the worst. Thank goodness that passed.

What was the best thing about this week?

The opening of the course I’m currently teaching! Talking with people about Time is pretty much the best thing ever. And I am so loving getting back to basics and revisiting this foundational material that I haven’t taught in years. I’m geeking out on it all over again and feeling so inspired to deepen and widen my understanding of this most favorite topic.

What did you learn?

Again: that nervous moment before you go on stage (literally and metaphorically) is temporary. Once you’re out there all your preparation will kick in and you will be more than fine. Note to Self: plan for this predictable period of wobbliness.

Also, while I could watch Tim Gunn teach all day long (make it work!), there’s something about Project Runway that leaves me a neurotic mess. Perhaps it’s the tense music that underscores the entire judging process. Perhaps I’m identifying a wee bit too much with the designers. It doesn’t matter why. All I know is it gets my Worried Hurried Mind Hamster on its Wheel to Nowhere and, like broadcast news and crime dramas, it has got to go (even though I’m super curious about who will be going to fashion week).

And in a moment of celebration involving rice krispie treats, I was reminded why I don’t make them: they are just a sticky mess that results in a total sugar bomb. Ick. Lesson (re)learned.

What do you now need to explore or learn more about?

That big stack of library books on my desk about time, willpower, transitions and habits says it all. I also want to explore using more improv skills in daily life.

What worked? What needs a system? What systems need tweaking?

What became immediately clear this week was that my existing system for tracking student progress is not up to the demands of what I’m currently teaching, especially given that this group is three times larger than any I’ve led before. It’s not just time to update, but to scale up. Systems crafting!

What did you observe or experience that should be added to your Almanac?

[ an "almanac" being my notes about seasonal changes in myself and the natural and social worlds around me for future reference when planning my year ]

Now that I’m over my annual Not-Ready-For-Summer-To-Be-Over! whine, I’m remembering even more of what I love about autumn: the changing light and colors, especially of the trees, migrating geese, cozy sweaters and blankets, fleece pajamas, pulling out your favorite boots from the back of the closet (the brown buttery leather ones and the pink polka dot rubber ones), resuming knitting projects, chai lattes, apple cider and hot chocolate, dinners baked in the oven, roasted squash and pumpkin muffins, and classical music (that was a new and unexpected association).

I’ve even lit up the digital fireplace. (Don’t scoff. It’s surprisingly effective, especially when combined with a few candles and the simmering of something evergreen.)

What are you thankful for? Who do you need to thank?

I am blessed with the most delightful, intelligent, well-read, thoughtful, self-aware, curious, inspired, ready-to-do-this, hilarious clients a gal could wish for. You teach and inspire me. And I adore you. Thank you for including me in your lives. I’m so grateful you’re a part of mine.

What moments of awe, wonder or fun did you experience this week?

When picking up that stack of books from my neighborhood library, I was treated to the sight of kids playing at the elementary school across the street. Recess! Why-oh-why do we have to give that up once our age reaches double digits? We grown-ups could all use a little more recess in our daily lives.


Tell me: What were the highlights of your week?

What are you exploring and learning more about right now?

Where are your own systems are in need of an update?

What do you most love about autumn?

What are you thankful for?

What moments of delight did you experience this week?

 

Organized under week-in-review. none

What Your Time Snark Is Doing To You

September 23, 2013

Time Snark: you know, those snide and sarcastic comments we make about Time.

Like this gem left on my Facebook page about a year ago…

 “Don’t know what the big issue is — give me some time to manage and I’ll manage it.”

On the surface, it’s funny. Because we all know that feeling. But only for about a second. Then… not so much.

Given my livelihood, all I really see when I read something like that is someone who feels powerless in the face of their own overwhelm, in their own life.

And that breaks my heart.

Well, after my blood pressure drops. And I take a few deep breaths. Because along with compassion comes frustration – and such statements will get me on my soapbox faster than anything else.

First, because it’s such a gross mistruth. Time is the dimension in which we exist. It’s impossible not to have any Time. (Duh. I realize every Snarker knows this – it’s sarcasm after all – and yet it still cheeses me off.)

And thank goodness we do have it. Without Time, nothing would ever happen. And life would not be possible in a world in which nothing ever changed (think: evolution, for instance).

And without its flow in one direction (that thing that makes Time feel like a force rather than a dimension), everything would happen at once (as Einstein famously pointed out). We wouldn’t be able to understand cause and effect and therefore make sense of the world.

Time itself and the way it works is a good thing. It’s one of the miracles of the physical universe. It serves us well. For that it deserves our respect, not derision.

And it’s not its fault for failing to be so infinitely malleable that we can shove anything and everything we want to do into a day or a lifetime.

It’s just an innocent, neutral fourth dimension that isn’t doing anything to us.

We can’t blame Time for our own refusal to make choices.

And that’s what bothers me about Time Snark. Not the disrespect. That’s just a cultural bias around busyness (it’s a badge of honor to be busy, but it’s also something one is expected to complain about rather than express pride in) combined with an outdated understanding of Time that’s stuck in the Newtonian age of science.

No, what concerns me is how Time Snark, and the habit of thinking that fuels it, keeps the speaker in a victim relationship with the events and activities of her life.

For the Time Snarker, life is something that happens to a person, not something that can be co-created.

[ Hat-tip to Molly Gordon for teaching me that you can be stuck in the Drama Triangle not just with people, but with more abstract realities like Money and Time. ]

Sure, much of what happens in our lives is outside our control. Yet there is just as much within our control. And we always have a choice about how to respond to what is beyond our power to direct.

So stop throwing Time under the bus. Own your life. Own your choices.

The more you relinquish responsibility, the more practiced in your victimhood you become. And the more victimized you feel, the less Time you’ll perceive available to you (amongst other unpleasant consequences which I leave to the therapists and life coaches – I’m just concerned about your relationship with Time here).

That’s what your Time Snark is doing to you. And I know you don’t want to play the role of victim in your life. So let’s do something to change that.


During this first week of Foundations, we are practicing being more honest in our statements about Time.

Rather than being shocked that it’s the last week of September, or expressing disbelief that it’s Monday already, we could observe instead our lack of presence in our daily lives – whether from stress and overwhelm or creative flow.

Rather than wishing it was Friday instead of Monday, we could note instead what’s so unpalatable about the present moment.

Rather than using a lack of Time as an excuse for not doing that thing, we might say instead that we didn’t have the energy, we chose other priorities, or we overestimated what we could do in a day or a week.

Join us and try it for yourself.

Try to catch yourself when you make sarcastic comments about Time, express disbelief or displeasure at where you are at on a completely predictable calendar, or blame a lack of Time or busyness for not following through on a commitment, and say something more honest instead – in your emails and on social media, in conversations with family and friends, wherever Time comes up (which is pretty much everywhere).

Note: This exercise falls into the simple-but-not-easy category. Bonus points if you actually say these things out loud to other people, not just in your head.

Notice what changes in your life when you change your language. Just this simple act of integrity can begin to shift a rushed and grumpy powerlessness into a more positive and empowered creativity in your life and a sense of calm spaciousness in your days.

Please write back soon and tell me…

- in the comments below, by email [ hello at thirdhandworks dot com ] or postal service [ address at the bottom of the page ]

… about the results of this experiment. I’d love to hear how it changes things for you.

peace and love,
sig

Organized under choosing. 2 comments.

Art of the Debrief: #6 on the Roller Coaster of Shipping

September 20, 2013

Every Friday morning I ask myself 25 simple questions about my week’s activities and experiences. It’s an essential ritual that keeps me grounded in reality, my body, Time and the beauty all around me.

Here are few of my favorite answers from the week of September 16…


What did you enjoy about the doing (v. the finishing)?

- I didn’t.

There were things that needed to be written this week that I did not enjoy writing. In one case, sleeping on it brought needed clarity and ease – and a successful outcome. But the other was a total and complete slog. (If it hadn’t been for the Open Studio co-working sessions, it probably still wouldn’t be done.)

I usually discover the reason for my avoidance and resistance in the process of working (if you want to know, this is the best way to find out). But this time around, I’m still baffled. It was a straightforward task of modest size. And it kinda kicked my ass. All I can guess is this: finishing that meant doing the Next Thing. And that next step is intimidating the hell out of me. But for no good reason other than a bad case of nerves.

Since this has been going on for two weeks now, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about performance anxiety. About stage fright. About how the singer Adele vomits before going on stage – every single time. About how she’s not alone. About how common this is in a creative life. So common that I hardly know why I’m talking about it here.

Except that good time management is good energy management – and this type of energy is tricky to manage.

It’s tricky to outsmart your lizard brain, the part of you that just wants to keep you safe but isn’t always so great at recognizing what “safe” is.

And it takes some observation over time to see the pattern and rhythm of creation and recognize this moment of performance anxiety for what it is: temporary and meaningless to what you’re about to do. It’s just phase #6 of the roller coaster of shipping. It will pass.

And yet knowing all this didn’t make the doing any more enjoyable. (I mean, who likes barfing before going on stage?)

What worked? What needs a system? What systems need tweaking?

When I’m in a funk, I do 100x better when I have to show up in responsibility to other people. The more ways I can book this in advance, the better. This feels a strange turn for an introvert, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

And it’s time to revisit what I call my Interrupter Uppers – small, simple actions I can take to change my mood and direction when I first notice the slide into said funk. My list of emergency measures is a little stale and therefore ineffective. It’s time for a refresh.

What are you thankful for this week? Who do you need to thank?

Miriam at Ruzuku for solving my technical question by giving me a free upgrade. So kind and generous. Above and beyond. What people say about their customer service is true.

What moments of awe and wonder did you experience this week?

I am in awe of our celestial bodies. Bright full moons and the changing angle of the sunrise that momentarily blinds me in my favorite chair while sipping my morning coffee. Beautiful.


Tell me: What were the highlights of your week?

What did you enjoy about the doing?

What do you do to get yourself out of a funk?

What are you thankful for?

What moments of delight did you experience this week?

Organized under week-in-review. none

What transformation and celebration can look like.

September 16, 2013

The more I learn about effective time management, the more I’ve come to take celebration very seriously. Because pausing to acknowledge all the good in what you’ve accomplished – even if it’s less in quantity or quality than what you expected or hoped for – hugely changes your sense of productivity and your relationship with your work, Time and ultimately yourself for the better. Plus, it’s plain good fun.

It’s something I do at the close of each week, each work party session, and each course I teach.

In preparing for my Foundations course this fall, I came across my presentation for the Gala Event that closed a similar course I taught last spring. The Gala felt like both a commencement ceremony and the Academy Awards – packed with as much virtual pomp and circumstance and red-carpet glitter as we could bring to the party. It was wonderful.

And reviewing it three months later, I was as blown away by everyone’s transformation as I was when I first wrote it. I felt like a proud peacock – actually more like a proud mama – all over again and that feeling inspired me to share it with you.

Because nothing better illustrates the extraordinary insight and progress that happens when people come together to practice shaping and moving through Time on their own terms.

So without further ado [and with generous permission from two participants to share their experience] – here’s what transformation and celebration can look like…


Welcome!

Welcome to the Studio for our last gathering under the virtual skylights.

Everyone have their glass of virtual champagne? Comfortable? Then let’s begin the ceremonies…

• • • • •

Twelve weeks ago, we imagined ourselves here to today. What we had done and how we felt about it.
Now we are here. Having learned and done and felt so much more than we pictured in our minds back then.

We surveyed our temporal landscapes – and bravely explored them.
We remembered our futures and took care of our Future Selves.
And we crafted compasses that kept us from getting lost.

We dared to leave empty space on our calendars,
to rearrange our sticky notes – often,
and wiggled in our wiggle room.

We stood at the crossroads of our days and weeks and navigated the intersection of our plans, our energy and the unexpected with honesty and integrity.
We listened for the turbulence and heeded our warning signs.
We learned how much we are influenced by the natural world.

We left ourselves many breadcrumb trails,
and drove by headlights with courage and trust when there wasn’t a clear path to follow.
We captured ideas without being distracted by them.
We freed our minds by writing things down.

We each found our rhythm and shook our groove things in that groove.
We created even when our muses didn’t show up to help.
We bridged the gap between our vision and the various imperfect states of our projects.

We shone a light on our should’s and shouldn’t’s – and called bullsh*t on all of them.

We now know that preparation is liberating.
That observation leads to efficiency and effectiveness.
That it’s faster to slow down.
That graceful exits make for graceful entries.

We stuck our landings,
found satisfaction
and celebrated.
We practiced practicing.

And most of all, we learned we need this. That all successful people plan ahead and use systems. And that needing this doesn’t say anything about us other than we have the maturity, intelligence, discipline and self-compassion to choose.

To choose in favor of what is effective even when it doesn’t come easily.
To choose in favor of our energy and capacity.
To choose in favor of what serves us and our work.

Brains have been exploded. Patterns shifted. Skills developed.
We have discovered self-acceptance. Confidence. Stability. Resilience. Pride.

We have been transformed. And each in our own ways…

• • • • •

Shannon

Shannon discovered that working in 30-minute blocks is so ideal that maybe it should be tattooed on the inside of her eyelids so she never forgets.

She has learned that 90 minutes is all the time in the world when she is well-prepared. And that the more prepared she is, the more she gets done.

And that preparation and percolation creates not only ease, but anticipation and excitement.

Answering the question of what – having Clarity – is her key that unlocks the door that opens all the other doors. And answering the question of why – feeling the Love – is what fuels her work and gives her a sense of synergy and wholeness.

She has shifted from resistance to acceptance to embracing the truth that:

“To do this much planning, to keep checking in and to create those containers – all of that stuff that I feel I shouldn’t need – brings so much ease into my life. It’s so supportive and it makes such a huge difference.”

Shannon “well, that took less time than I expected” Wilkinson – please step forward to accept your award for Best Performance in Mise en Place Is My New Religion!

[ much applause and fanfare + heartwarming acceptance speech ]

• • • • •

Lisa

In this course, Lisa discovered something more useful than calculus. Even her Time Monsters agree.

She has become the Queen of Checklists – both creating them and then checking them off. No longer demanding that that it remember the details, she has freed her mind for better things.

She has learned that different phases of a project require different containers. And learned to add those transitions to those beloved checklists.

Answering the question of what – having Clarity – is her key that unlocks the door that opens all the other doors.

She has given herself the gift of rehearsal. She has practiced practicing. She has learned to appreciate steady progress, choosing it over hurry-up-and-finish. She is cultivating steadiness. She is allowing herself to be supported by stability. She is allowing reflection to support her mission.

She is no longer willing to pay the price for pulling it out of her ass at the last minute. She is no longer willing to just get by. She is choosing self-kindness instead.

She discovered that Love isn’t enough; you actually have to do the work. And even when the work doesn’t go as planned, she now also knows she can make lemonade from some pretty sour lemons.

And she has learned how to celebrate that work. Instead of plowing ahead to the next thing, she now can pause a moment and enjoy the relief and accomplishment that come from completion even when there is more to do.

On her horizon is an excitement and readiness to explore more distant temporal landscapes and new projects.

Lisa “there will always be more chocolate” Gillispie – please step forward to accept your award for Best Performance as a Phoenix Rising from the Ashes!

[ much applause and fanfare + heartwarming acceptance speech ]

• • • • •

Thank you.

Thank you for showing up even on days when you didn’t feel like it.
For greeting me and each other with those silly Julia Child hello’s. [ hellloooo! ]
For laughing together.
For being kind to each other.
And mostly for trusting me.

This has been as huge and meaningful a learning experience for me as I hope it has been for you. And I’m deeply grateful it.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you have been the most calm, engaged and productive group I have ever led through a course. It has been a delight and a privilege to share this experience with you and I hope we have the opportunity to meet under the skylight again very soon.

Now go forth and party. [ching ching!]


I’d love to celebrate your own transformation with you.

If you’d like to be smashing a virtual bottle of champagne over the cornerstone of your new foundation twelve weeks from now, please join us. Foundations gets underway just a week from today. Learn all the details and register here.

Please write back soon and tell me…

-  in the comments below, by email [ hello at thirdhandworks dot com ] or postal service [ address at the bottom of the page ]

What award would you give yourself for what you’ve learned and done in recent months?

peace and love,

sig

 

Organized under celebration. none

Art of the Debrief: The Movie-Marathon Hangover

September 13, 2013

Every Friday morning I ask myself 25 simple questions about my week’s activities and experiences. It’s an essential ritual that keeps me grounded in reality, my body, Time and the beauty all around me.

Here are few of my favorite answers from the week of September 9…


What was the worst thing about this week?

- The post movie-marathon hangover.

I should have known better. I should have seen it coming. But I was fighting the first inklings of a cold and staying put on the couch while indulging in a Harry Potter movie marathon was very appealing. I had recorded the series with the idea of watching it over the space of a week, but I got so caught up in the story I couldn’t stop until I had seen it through to the end. And pulled an unintentional all-nighter in the process. Oof.

Of course, I had to drag my caboose through the following day. And staying up all night did nothing to help me fight that cold virus. But I was also reminded of what that cold-virus made me forget: Binging on fantasy-fiction is almost always an unhealthy form of avoidance. And it almost always turns me into a moody 14-year-old who is much less able cope with what I’m avoiding than my older, wiser self.

As soon as I recognized what had happened, I hauled myself to my favorite neighborhood café, not for the coffee, but to shake off that strange mood as quickly as possible. Because doing what needs to be done as a moody teenager is nearly impossible. (I mean, do you think of ninth grade as a particularly organized and productive period of your life?)

That’s what I should have seen coming. That’s why I consider the appeal of any sort of fantasy fiction to be one of my early warning signs that something is way off.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with fantasy fiction when it’s the right thing at the right time. But when it’s not, it’s what Jennifer Louden would call one of my “shadow comforts” – a comfort that isn’t comforting, rather a way to numb out or hide. And hiding I was. Like any performer about to step on stage, I was nervous about the Open Studio Open House two days later. Was I prepared? Did I know my lines and cues? Would anyone come? Would they like it?

There were any number of ways I could have calmed that case of nerves (which were probably unavoidable – no matter how prepared you are, if you care, you’re going to be nervous), but obviously fantasy-movie-marathon is not something that should be my list of remedies. Escaping into a magical story gave me temporary relief, but it also left me in that cloudy, depleted funk. That was the shadow side. That was the hangover. And like any indulgence, it just wasn’t worth it.

Note to Self: Don’t go there. Just don’t.

What was the best thing about this week?

- Open Studio Open House!

That case of nerves aside, the first week of the Open Studio Open House was delightful. I love co-working!

It was so much fun to connect with clients old and new. And get things done we did. Articles were drafted. Paintings painted. Feedback reviewed. Piles sorted and filed. Receipts entered. Desks cleared. Taxes filed. Phone calls made. Errands run. Mind maps sketched. All with flexibility and good humor, and a few insights and aha moments along the way. What could be better?

Given the stupidly rocky start to my week (and that pesky virus), I was even more amazed than usual by just how much I got done in the last five days. And I know that wouldn’t have happened without the energy and focus of these work parties.

[ sigh of infatuation ]

What did you learn? What do you now need to explore or learn more about?

- Twitter.

While I don’t miss anything about Facebook and my hiatus will continue there – after two months away, I’m feeling little tugs and pulls to return to Twitter. It just feels weird not to thank people for doing kind things in that space, say hello to new followers or share what I’m working on and excited about. I miss composing a good, pithy tweet. I miss the banter. Whatever my issues with social media, total silence isn’t the response. Just what is the answer is what I now need to explore and learn more about – because it would be easy to slip back into the same-old-same-old and end up right back in the grumpy place where I started.

What did you observe or experience that should be added to your almanac?

[ an "almanac" being my notes about seasonal changes in myself and the natural and social worlds around me for future reference when planning my year ]

That annual urge to shampoo the carpets. A sure sign that some part of me knows I’m about to spend much more time indoors, so I might as well make that space pleasant.

Also my annual Not-Ready-For-Summer-To-Be-Over! whine. But then I remembered how beautiful autumn can be, the deliciousness of apples and pears and dinners that come out of hot ovens, and how I’ll finally be able to wear the fabulous shawl I found just when it was turning much too warm for such things.

What are you thankful for?

- My immune system.

What moments of awe or wonder did you experience this week?

- An exquisitely prepared meal. Chefs that know what they are doing are a treasure.


Tell me: What were the highlights of your week?

What do you do to calm your performance anxiety (healthy or otherwise)?

What are you looking forward to about autumn?

What are you thankful for?

What moments of delight did you experience this week?

Organized under week-in-review. none

Forget work/life, it’s about balancing creation and maintenance.

September 9, 2013

Just like that, it’s starting to feel like autumn. I’m waking to my sunrise alarm clock rather than the actual sunrise. I’ve heard the first honks of geese migrating overhead. I’m craving oatmeal for breakfast. The first leaves of that tree on the corner are changing color. It smells different. The light is different. And yet there are still plenty of tomatoes on the vine and a very summery forecast for the week ahead. We’re in that beautiful, liminal space in between seasons. And that has me thinking about the seasons of work and balancing creation and maintenance.

Forget work/life, it’s about balancing creation and maintenance.

The distinction between work and life has never made sense to me – not even when I was an employee. Clearly the latter includes the former. While you are working you are also living. They aren’t two separate things. So how can you balance them?

And the uselessness of this distinction seems to be common amongst my clients and colleagues as well.

Between doing work that holds meaning and having a greater degree of flexibility in our jobs, our personal and professional lives tend to feel pretty integrated and whole. Except where healthy boundaries are necessary, the lines between work and life are blurred. And most of us understand intuitively that these things can’t really be separated – each affects and supports the other. Yes, sometimes we get so busy running our businesses that we don’t take care of ourselves as well as we should, but even in those moments we aren’t usually thinking about the problem in those compartmentalized terms: gosh, my work has really gotten out of balance with my life.

Where the challenge of balance really lies is between creation and maintenance – between the making of things and the routines of everyday life. In that moment of missing self-care, for instance, that’s what has gotten out of whack.

Though the fantasy of spending the whole of every day making things is very compelling, we all know that isn’t how it works. Without some nutrition, movement and hygiene we don’t have the physical energy to do the work. Without some housekeeping we don’t have clean space to work in. Without some admin, email and marketing there’s no cash flow and no one to do the work with. Creation can’t happen in a sustainable way without maintenance. And yet the one so often seems to come at the expense of the other. For most creatives, there’s tension between the two.

And what makes resolving that tension even trickier is the way creation changes things.

Of course, that’s usually why we make things, why we do the work we do – we want something to be different. And our efforts to change things for the better are usually pretty effective.

And so a cycle forms.

You make something. It’s grand. It changes things for you and the people you serve in all the ways you imagined. And in other ways you didn’t anticipate – some good, some maybe not so much.

One thing you couldn’t see coming was how the very systems and support structures that made that creation possible, now no longer work in these new expanded circumstances in which you find yourself. [more specifics on the ways this happens and how to address them in future posts]

Because creation changes the maintenance you need to engage in further creation.

And until you stabilize what’s no longer working – until you update or craft new systems that are effective in this new reality – creating your Next Thing either a) simply won’t happen or b) will just add to the chaos.

It’s a rhythm. It’s like breathing. Exhale. Inhale. Creation. Maintenance.

We are always moving through cycles of establishing a foundation and building on it – then reinforcing, widening and deepening that foundation and building again. Level upon level, story upon story. Season upon season.

We are organic beings who live and work seasonally. We cannot remain in a constant state of creation. Periods of birth, growth and bringing something to maturity (think: spring and summer) are always followed by turbulence, release and hibernation (think: autumn and winter).

Just as the routines of everyday life (the flossing, email and vacuuming I mentioned above) make our daily creativity possible, regular periods of updating those routines are what make our long-term creativity possible. You have to occasionally maintain your maintenance.

If you’re experiencing a lot of turbulence and chaos – if the systems that used to work no longer do – if you used to feel more organized, prepared and in control than you do now – those are strong signs you’ve stayed in the season of creation too long. It’s time to pause, take a breath, and return to the season of maintenance and reestablish your foundation.

This is true no matter how long you’ve been in business. Establishing a foundation isn’t something you do once at the outset of becoming an entrepreneur. Your sustaining foundation is something that needs to evolve along with your creative work. You need to give your systems some time and attention between each big creative push and stage of development.

And that’s one of the reasons I’m so stoked to be getting back to basics. Getting this administrative stuff right makes all the difference to your creativity and growth.

If it’s time to pause, take a breath and return to the season of maintenance in your business, I invite you to join Foundations this fall. The program gets underway two weeks from today – and it could be just the thing you need to set yourself up for success in the new year and fuel your Next Thing.


Please write back soon and tell me…

-  in the comments below, by email [ hello at thirdhandworks dot com ] or postal service [ address at the bottom of the page ]

How do you balance creation and maintenance? Is it easy or a struggle?
What do you do to restore stability and flow after a big creative push?

And how are the seasons changing where you are?
What are you noticing in yourself and the natural world around you?
How are you honoring and celebrating that shift?

peace and love,

sig

Organized under maintenance. none

The Art of the Debrief

September 6, 2013

For several years now, I’ve made a practice of closing each week by asking myself a series of questions about that week’s activities and experiences. The questions have evolved over the years and I’ve gone back and forth between answering them on paper and on my laptop, yet this Friday morning ritual has remained essentially the same: an hour + a nice breakfast + the end-of-week playlist + the week-in-review.

The ritual (ahem, system) has stuck because it works. I remain committed to it because of what happens when I skip it. If I don’t take time to review my week…

  • I focus on how much remains to be done rather than celebrating and finding satisfaction in what I have accomplished – which is almost always way more than I remember before I start my review.
  • I focus solely on my productivity, forgetting my creativity and the pleasure of the process of realizing an idea.
  • I miss the signs that I’m working beyond my capacity or drifting out of integrity.
  • I lose sight of what’s working and where I my systems need attention.
  • I lose sight of what I’ve learned and where I need more training and practice.
  • I forget to clear out the old to make space for the new – which just gums things up.
  • I forget that I’m surrounded by wonderful people and a beautiful, wondrous world – and to be actively thankful for that.
  • I forget that the unexpected is normal.
  • I bypass rest and get stuck all up in my head, forgetting I have body.
  • My perception of the passage of Time feels very rapid.
  • And I enter my coming week totally unprepared – which is rather unkind to my Future Self.

As you can see, there’s a pretty big payoff for investing an hour each week in answering 25 simple questions.

And in the fine blogging tradition of the End-of-Week-Wrap-Up, I’ll be sharing highlights from my reviews to illustrate the power of this ritual and share examples of how this right-brain time-management stuff works in real-life.

[ The Art of the Debrief is something we'll practice regularly in Foundations. If you want to develop your own week-in-review ritual and questions, please join us. ]

• • • • •

highlights from the week of September 2

What did you complete this week?

In addition to announcing all sorts of new and revived goodness, I’m especially pleased to have finished this new summary of my programs and how they all fit together.

In part because I think it’s super useful to you. Also because it’s the sort of thing I could have set out to write only to discover my work was much less cohesive than I imagined. But mostly because I was a bit stunned by the quantity and quality of programs I created during a period I tend to think of as unproductive and murky. It was like compiling the Anthology all over again: Though there is more to write, the truth is a great deal of good writing has already been done.

Just as I usually discover in these weekly reviews, once again I’ve completed more than I think I have. And that will be celebrated.

How did the unexpected show up this week?

Cold cooties brought home by my sweetheart from his workplace. I am appeasing the gods of productivity with a great many supplements. My prayer: Please spare me the snot. Because my plans aren’t as common-cold-proof as they should be and bed-rest would be really inconvenient right now.

What is the overall state of your energy?

Despite the above, my energy level is better than last week when I was proud, but vibrating with exhaustion. How tired was I? At the time of last week’s review, I was so tired I forgot I ordered a bagel in the space of time in took the barista to toast and butter it. I was genuinely, though pleasantly, startled when she brought it to the table. Now that’s a warning sign you’re working beyond your capacity. Thank goodness for a long holiday weekend of doing next to nothing. Lesson (re)learned.

What worked? What needs a system? What systems need tweaking?

The last two weeks have been a reminder that K.I.S.S. always works. As does listening to and obeying my intuition. And to-thine-own-self-be-true. It keeps things so easy and straightforward.

That said, Basecamp (which I already use and love) needs to become my new best friend – you know, the kind you talk to every single day. My brain is too full of ideas to trust things to memory. And there are many, many moving parts that need tending to right now – and knowing exactly what they are and when they need to be handled will be the difference between finding god or the devil in those details. Systems!

And speaking of a full brain, I need I also need to do more to help it stop spinning when it’s time to rest and maintain my equilibrium and integrity during this time of growth. It would be so easy to let things get moody and wobbly. Meditation, prepare to be resumed for ten minutes a day.

Where did life take you this week?

The post office – where there was snail mail! I am so in love with this revival of correspondence with you. Keep ‘em coming.

What moments of awe or wonder did you experience this week?

Thunder and lightening! They’re not so common in these parts, so always seem extra spectacular.

What do you want from next weekend?

I still don’t know how I want to celebrate this week or what I want from this weekend other than “a Sunday that feels like a Sunday,” but here’s what my Wiser Future Self said about next weekend: Keep pacing yourself. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Note: this is the same thing as trusting yourself.

I’m not sure exactly what it means yet, or if it’s even true, but I like it…

• • • • •

Your turn. Tell me: What were the highlights of your week?

Organized under week-in-review. none

I’m getting back to basics.

August 26, 2013

I’ve been nostalgic for the past lately, for days when things seemed simpler and more straightforward. Of course, the good old days weren’t always good and I’m editing a lot out of my memories. And yet I sense I’ve accidently lost something valuable along the way. So I’ve been retracing my steps, hoping to find what feels missing.

I’m getting back to basics.

I’ve been reviewing my early work, circa 2009, and dang it was good. Not in a way I can copy/paste – my understanding and approach have improved so much in the last four years it wouldn’t make sense to reuse that material word-for-word. No, what I loved about it was this: it was unapologetically about business administration. I mean, I regularly talked about how to create business manuals fercryinoutloud. (It was a smart recommendation. Still is.)

These days I describe my Blues-Brothers-Mission-from-God as bringing about a world where creatives are as skilled and enthusiastic about organizing their time and to-do’s as they are about crafting the work that is their calling. But back then I would have said it was simply to help people stop hatin’ on their administrative grunt work – and I still like that mission a lot. And it points to what seems to be missing: basics.

Basic organizational and time management techniques. Fundamental principles. Simple instructions. Core strengths. A solid foundation. The primary elements that create stability and sanity, productivity and confidence, profit and enjoyment in your livelihood.

Right-Brain Time Management 101

And so, after a much-too-long hiatus, I’m bringing back Right-Brain Time Management 101, aka The Way of the Time Disciple, and this time around simply titled Foundations.

It’s the first of a three-part program designed to help you master the art of moving through your days and weeks, then months and quarters, and finally through your year.

By the end of our twelve weeks together, you’ll be clear about what needs doing when and able to shift smoothly from one task to the next, balance creation and administration, roll with the unexpected, and complete what needs finishing in the average week – while remaining consistently fueled and, dare I say, enjoying yourself.

And you’ll come away with easy-to-use and remember-to-use systems for your daily life that will stick over the long-haul because they actually work.

If it’s time to develop or reestablish your administrative foundation, I hope you will join me this fall. The program starts September 23. You can learn all the details and register here.

Let’s take a field trip!

As summer winds down (not that there aren’t still plenty of tomatoes to be picked and s’mores to be enjoyed) and it slowly dawns on us that we’re entering the final months of the year – now is the perfect time to step back and make a plan for that last quarter.

  • a plan for an autumn that will set you up for a lovely holiday season
  • a plan that will allow you to complete the last of what you set out to do at the beginning of the year
  • a plan that clarifies the year ahead and how you can best prepare for it

Crafting such a plan requires perspective, some height and distance from your everyday life. So before we head back to school, I invite you to join me for a “field trip” – a half-day planning session during which we get away from it all and have some serious fun with calendars and sticky notes.

And I’d love to warm up my planning muscles with a handful of you. If you’re ready, willing and able to join me for a session between now and September 20, you can get crystal clear on the coming months for just $97 (sessions are regularly $280). You’ll find all the details here.

Better than your favorite café.

I’ve been hosting virtual work parties of various kinds since those early days and they remain one of my favorite things to do – mainly because, when it comes to boosting your focus and productivity, nothing works better – not even stepping out to your favorite cafe.

And while there are many online communities out there where you can connect for camaraderie and accountability, they all come at the price of being part of a larger program – extras you may not want or need. You just want to get things done.

So I’ve created the thing I want, but can’t find: a basic alternative with no curriculum, no library of resources, no discussion forums – just a space that asks: What will you do today?

You declare it. The Studio will support and hold you to it. You get your essential work done. Rinse and repeat. Simple as that.

Try it for yourself and see if it makes a difference. Come to the Open Studio Open House – Tuesdays and Thursdays from September 10-19. Details here.

You’re the best.

Lastly, I can’t close without thanking you for your lovely and thoughtful replies to my announcement that I was taking a hiatus from social media. They confirmed a few things:

  • the ways we are expected to connect online feel uncomfortable, confusing and broken to many of us;
  • the collective rejection of those expectations is creating change, and I do believe there is a Movement underway;
  • and I am in the most let’s-get-real, true-to-ourselves-and-what-works, willing-to-change, encouraging and appreciative circle of people a gal could wish for – thank you.

Please write back soon.

Last time I asked: What kinds of real-world experiences do you want more of? (And I’d still like to hear more about that.)

This time, I’d love to know: What have you accidently lost along the way that you’d like to find again? And: How would you like to get back to basics?

-  in the comments below, by email [ hello at thirdhandworks dot com ] or postal service [ address at the bottom of the page ]

peace and love,

sig

Organized under Uncategorized. none

I’m taking an indefinite hiatus from social media. Here’s why.

August 1, 2013

At first I thought it was the same thing that happens every summer: that irresistible urge to go outside as often and for as long as possible.

Over the past month I’ve planted everything from tomatoes to ferns, cucumbers to columbines. I’ve pruned, dug up sod, moved bricks and rocks large and small around our yard. I’ve cycled daily on my sweet new-to-me cruiser to my vacationing parents’ house to water their garden. I’ve eaten piles of fresh-picked berries, peas, beans and lettuce – often al fresco. I’ve picnicked at summer concerts at the island farm. I’ve had coffee dates that turned into four-hour conversations over lunch. There have been s’mores around a fire.

I’ve been very much in my body, with people, in my city and in nature, enjoying an unplanned vacation away from my business and offline – simply because I couldn’t make myself go inside.

It’s been completely, deliciously real.

So real and so engaging I forgot things I never forget, like my regular mastermind call. So real and so satisfying that I didn’t much mind falling behind on the professional work I had planned for the quarter.

And yet. A part of my mind was still busy figuring out if and how to post that delicious reality to social media – what to include, what to say, how to photograph it.

And then I realized just how angry I was about that sense of obligation to share my activities in real time and the distraction and brain drain that went with it, how much I loathed the way even thinking about it was altering my very experience. As in: it’s a good thing I had weeds and heavy rocks to take that fury out on, otherwise I would have had to beat my mattress with a tennis racket.

Given that no one was actually forcing me to do anything, I had to ask myself where that peer-pressure was coming from, along with that huge upswell of resentment and resistance to it.

Fortunately, in trying understand it I was reminded of a recent missive written by the always thoughtful and observant Sarah Bray. It included a link to Uncommon, which referenced a brilliant essay by Jack Cheng on the Slow Web movement.

That was the lucky bit. The concept of Fast vs. Slow Web explained everything I was experiencing. And let me know I wasn’t alone in that experience.

Such is the power of the internet.

That’s its good side – the side that remains a wonder to me, the side I acknowledge with delight and gratitude for all the useful and beautiful experiences, knowledge and people it brings into my life.

But there is another side – the side that foments voyeurism, comparison, conformity, false expectations, narcissism, distraction, information overload and a house-of-mirrors unreality. The side that keeps us on a dopamine high of random rewards that never satisfy. The side that siphons our energy for its own purposes like the Matrix. The side that fuels our fears of missing out and the-grass-is-surely-greener-over-there. The side that creates distance while promising connection. The side that keeps us clicking clicking clicking instead of living.

The side that reminds me of that frenetic early scene in Baz Luhrman’s Moulin Rouge when all the top-hatted patrons sing that Nirvana song: Here we are now, entertain us… The side that feeds my ego instead of my ideas. The side that has been insidiously turning me into a wanna-be celebrity instead of the educator, organizer and craftsperson I am called to be.

That’s what I was bucking against.

Once I understood that, I realized it wasn’t just summer. I wasn’t just avoiding work to be in the sunshine. I was also avoiding work because, while I love what I do, I no longer love the environment in which I do it.

Here in the delicious reality of summertime – while I’ve essentially been living Slow Food – the shortcomings of Fast Web feel painfully obvious. It’s time to change my location.

“Not long ago I Skyped with a friend who was driven out of the city by high rent and now has an artist’s residency in a small town in the south of France. She described herself as happy and relaxed for the first time in years. She still gets her work done, but it doesn’t consume her entire day and brain. She says it feels like college – she has a big circle of friends who all go out to the cafe together every night. She has a boyfriend again. What she had mistakenly assumed was her personality – driven, cranky, anxious and sad – turned out to be a deformative effect of her environment.” – Tim Kreider, “The ‘Busy’ Trap”, The New York Times

• • • • •

I reread Sarah’s letter because I remembered her saying people who are most successful on the internet these days are the ones who are helping people to have real world experiences and I wanted to get the quote right. Turns out she didn’t actually say that. It was somewhat implied, but really I had drawn the conclusion I wanted to hear.

Because that’s what I want to do. I want to help people – me and you both – to have better real world experiences, to be fully present and engaged in our lives and work.

Of course, in a digital age “real” gets pretty tricky to define pretty quickly – and will vary from person to person. That said, if you’re still with me, if you’re nodding your head as you read this, if you think this commercial is funny – I’m confident you know what I mean by real.

• • • • •

To have better real-world experiences, to stay on the good side of the internet, I am embracing the qualities of the Slow Web movement: timely not real-time, rhythm not random, moderation not excess, knowledge not information – and deepening my commitment to my own guiding principles.

“When people say, ‘You really, really must’ do something, it means you don’t really have to. No one ever says, ‘You really, really must deliver the baby during labor.’ When it’s true, it doesn’t need to be said.” – Tina Fey, Bossypants

Starting with breaking the rules by taking a indefinite hiatus from social media. I don’t care how fun and essential “everyone” says it is, no amount curation or systems-crafting has kept Facebook and Twitter from being tedious and draining spaces that fail to bring out my best. [Especially Facebook. If Fast Web is like Fast Food, I consider Facebook to be the Monsanto of the internet. If you are among those who thrive there, feel free to disagree and carry on.] This is one of those times when the best system is no system.

Next: It’s one thing to criticize Facebook as a space designed to keep you addicted to the dopamine high of random rewards and clicking clicking clicking to fuel its own purposes – it’s another to realize you’ve done the very same thing on your own website. So I’ve removed things like the eight or more self-serving links you had the option to click on at the end of every blog post. I’ve pared down my sidebars and deleted entire paragraphs and pages of information you don’t need to know to understand what I do.

Because, again, what I most want you to do after reading something like this is to incorporate the useful bits into your life, not end up down the rabbit hole of the internet only to come up for air hours later feeling unsatisfied and less-than and wondering WTF you’ve been doing all day. [And yet I acknowledge this post contains many links. I see the contradiction and can only say: I'm still figuring this out.]

Effective time management is good energy management, so I also don’t want to burn through your limited and therefore precious cognitive resources. Our abilities to process information, solve problems and exercise self-discipline all come from the same well – and even though we’re total braniacs, that well is far from deep. Every decision we make degrades our ability to make subsequent decisions. If I’m going to ask you to make choices, they’d damn-well better be worthwhile. Asking you to click to tweet is not a good use of your cognitive resources. Nor is pointing you to the latest video that made me LOL or cry. Those things are just french fries. And a digital storefront with an overwhelm of information and options does nothing to nourish you or bring out your real-world best.

• • • • •

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

That simplification is also finding it’s way into my upcoming programs. From content to structure, pacing, platform and pricing, I’m asking myself: what is the most straightforward way I can help you to change the things you want to change and do the things you want to do? How much tangible reality can I bring into a virtual business? Is it possible to create online co-working spaces that embody the same energy as your favorite local café? (Stay tuned for developments and announcements about that.)

• • • • •

nomoresmalltalk

“Heart-to-heart conversation in a world of chit chat.” I’ve had this postcard since high-school. It never gets old.

Lastly, though I am giving up social media, I don’t want to lose my connection with you. And though email can be just as pernicious, it still has that lovely quality of person-to-person correspondence. So, I’m shifting the Aerogramme from being an e-newsletter to something closer to an old-fashioned letter (remember those?) – occasional updates about what’s happening with me to which you’re enthusiastically invited to reply in your own time with what’s happening with you. Because I really, truly want to know. I just can’t figure out how to have such conversations on Facebook…

• • • • •

So that’s what’s been happening with me lately. Now go forth and apply any useful and beautiful ideas you found here to your real life. Form hypotheses and test them (e.g., what happens when you drop out of something popular?). And then if you’re so inclined, write back and tell me…

-  in the comments below, by email [ hello at thirdhandworks dot com ] or postal service [ address at the bottom of the page ]

  • What have you been up to this summer?
  • What kinds of real-world experiences do you want more of?
  • And what do you think about this Slow Web thing?

peace and love,

sig

Organized under choosing. 4 comments.