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What we need around here are some spreadsheets

It’s been 157 days since I launched into my “achieve every goal you have every imagined” year. There’s 209 days left until I will once again be facing a cake adorned with candles and lamenting the passing of my life.

It’s becoming increasingly evident that organisation is the key skill I am lacking when it comes to achieving my desires.

I get obsessed on one thing to the detriment of, well everything else in my life. Blog’s going well, housework, obligations with children, fitness campaign, decluttering, well that’s pretty well gone to hell in a handbasket. I get distracted – working on the first chapter of my absolutely sensational book, just as soon as I wander through Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. I lose focus – I have goals, I wrote them down, I broadcast them to the world-wide web, I set aside time to meet them, then somebody suggests lunch at that new café in town and off I go.

In the meantime we lurch from one crisis to the next because I just don’t quite manage to get everything sorted before I sit down to meet my goals. I ask for the winter school uniforms to be brought out so I can wash them in time for the start of the new school term. Forget to actually check what I was washing and we don’t realise until the first day of school that we haven’t done the sports socks. An archeological dig to the bottom of the laundry hampers unearths them and the mad panic begins. We miss the school bus, have to stop at the ATM to get lunch money because I haven’t packed the lunch, then realise child didn’t eat breakfast so arrive at bakery to get a muffin, at the same time staff have to remove the pies from the oven, we wait patiently as the morning ebbs away.

It is obvious it’s one thing to have goals, it’s completely another to actually achieve them.

In my wasted hours on Twitter I discover an article How to Write a Novel When You Are Really, Really Busy I am shocked to discover this woman has a spreadsheet. In her spreadsheet she targets her word counts for each day. It is clear writing any sort of book will involve ditching any notion of meandering my way through the creative process to arrive at the finished product. SPREADSHEETS I thought only accountants used them!

So I’ve decided my life needs spreadsheets, and a to do list. I sat down yesterday and wrote down every single activity I need to do – and then I had a stiff drink. Seriously people – I used to be a list person, but now I see I stopped doing my lists when it became obvious there was no hope of ever getting to the end of one. When you see everything you do each day, coupled with everything you want to achieve laid out on paper the desire to give up before you start is overwhelming.

However, I will persist. I will make a spreadsheet. Dividing the remaining 209 days into tiny squares with activities assigned for each day. I’m not beaten yet.

Project 44 – The Struggle

Regular readers will remember I embraced a mid life crisis late last year and decided to whip myself into a frenzy of self improvement for my 44th year on this planet. In one frantic 12 month period I was finally going to tick off some of my long standing to do/wish list items in my Project 44 challenge.

Well I’m two-and-a-half months into this madness and I think we can safely say I’m at the “what the hell was I thinking” stage. The calendar laughs in my face as yet another day departs into the black hole of the time/space continuum. One less day to devote to the seven tasks I identified as necessary to ensure my long term happiness in middle age. SEVEN challenges. Just one of the items from this lengthy list would have been enough to keep the average mortal busy for the year. But in my usual state of over-confidence I decide to do EVERYTHING I’ve been putting off or dreaming about for decades. Dear Lord I even finished with “Right, that’s the starting list, more to be added as I go along.” What was I drinking at the time?

So how is it going? Glad you asked. There have been baby steps of progress made along the way. Yet the impatient voice of discontent echoes in my brain “you’ve not done enough, you are running out of time”.

Road blocks loom suddenly out of the darkness leaving me to consider whether I have the strength to move them, the energy to climb them or the time to divert my path around them. I remind myself to focus, there’s still nine and a half months left – long enough to grow a baby with a bit of time on the side – break the gigantic down into manageable bite sized chunks – do a little bit every day. Sneak moments of activity when the children are otherwise occupied. Give up the television which eats away at the spare moments of a busy day.

Still the list sits there inscribed into the world wide web. Given my absolute stubborn determination to not FAIL I plough on.

Starting with the positive.

Start a blog/get readers. The blog is the shining light in this quagmire of desperation. There’s a slow but steady growth and it provides enjoyment, new friends and a chance to hone my writing skills.

Moving on to the “got potential”.

Write a novel. There are 9,000 words still sitting there, looking at me, asking what happens next? Frankly I don’t know, nor do I particularly care. So I’ve decided to multi-task (’cause I’m very good at that, work with your strengths people), how about a book – Shambolic Living – Essays on Modern Family Life? So often I hit the “publish” button and think “I could have done that better”. This way I can rework, expand, research some of the ideas I play with on the blog and create a paper version of the mad ramblings of my mind.

Then there is the almost done.

Get organised – sort through the myriad of boxes that remain unpacked from the last move.  When I wrote that you imagined a few odd boxes needing to be sorted didn’t you? Well no, the study was piled almost to the roof and you couldn’t walk into the room. The double garage was also chock-a-block. We have made a mammoth effort on this challenge. The study has been emptied, painted, shelves put up, filing cabinet built, trestle table put up. The garage has been cleaned out. The only problem is now the accumulated clutter of various stages of our lives is strewn up the hallway and into the lounge room. Just a couple more days of sorting and discarding and a trip to IKEA in Sydney to buy a bookcase and we might have this one beaten. There will even be a blog post in it.

Working on.

Entering five competitions a day. Apparently that’s what those people do who earn a living from entering competitions. Well I haven’t made it to five a day but I’m consistently entering stuff and just waiting for the phone call to say “congratulations you’ve won $50,000”.

Stalled.

Finish Shambles Manor/Go On Awesome Holidays. Waiting for the winning phone call before we can progress any further.

Then there’s gone to hell in a hand basket.

Lose 15 kilos. I signed up for the one million kilo challenge, but given I’d been feeling unwell since before Christmas I decided to go to the doctor. Various tests were conducted and the only negative result was a bit low in vitamin B. So having exhausted the possibility of medical “get out of this” card I resigned myself to starting to diet and exercise.

Then last weekend I developed chest pains. Mr Shambles (trying to calm me down) said my colour was still good and I could walk around so I wasn’t having a heart attack. In my head I was wondering how he had suddenly acquired a medical degree and was silently shouting MY heart attack might be different to YOUR heart attack.  However,  our entire life was spread eagled on the front lawn (we were in the middle of getting organised challenge above) there wasn’t time to argue, so we directed the children to pack it all away as we drove off to hospital.

ECG, blood tests, chest x-rays, urine samples, CT scan, 12 hours later, we finally had a result. It was not the suspected clot on the lung, just a little bit of fluid. Not enough to drain and no medication required I headed home. I googled fluid on the lung and needed a stiff drink. Worse still Nana Shambles googled fluid on the lung and now she’s in a panic too. YES MUM I AM GOING TO THE DOCTOR NEXT WEEK. Discovered my colleagues dog has fluid on the lung and he got tablets. Why didn’t I get tablets? Are you starting to work out where Princess Child gets her drama queen tendencies?

So basically I feel crap and am consuming even more comfort food than normal to drown my misery. Can you tell this losing weight challenge is my least favourite? How quickly can you lose 15 kilos when you start? Can I leave this one until the last quarter of my year? Right going to think about this one another day when I don’t have a DODGY LUNG.

So there’s where I stand with Project 44. Looking forward to getting to the point where I can at least say ONE thing is completed.


What’s a Perfect Life?

How would you define a perfect life? Then how would you get it?

There’s a blog called Inspiration and Chai where a former palliative care worker has created a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

Bronnie Ware, in her work with the dying found there were five themes running through their list of regrets as life drew to a close.

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish I had let myself be happier.

The list even now provides an uncomfortable reality check with the feeling that I too could get to the final boarding call with a few of those regrets in my excess baggage.

How do you then go about crafting a life that will give you peace and happiness while living and the certainity of ending with no regrets?

It seems the odds are stacked against us in the modern world. We now operate on a 24/7 cycle. Shops open 7 days a week late into the night. The internet (and we love the internet) demands immediate attention with little sympathy for those who step away from the keyboard (even for a short period of time) and fall behind in the information game. Two incomes now seem a necessity (although perhaps we have just structured our lives to incorporate two incomes creating a strait-jacket for ourselves).

Time seems rushed. Money seems less. Friends live further apart. Work seems more demanding.

My perfect life would look something like this:

  • Everyone healthy and happy.
  • Enough money to comfortably pay the bills, finish and furnish the house and enjoy some special holiday experiences.
  • Flexibility in our working lives.
  • The opportunity to write, and write and write and see where that ended up.
  • Many, many more meet-ups with friends local and distant, with lots of photos and some great blog posts to come out of it.

It’s not outside the realm of possibility, and I have taken steps to get there. I work part-time. I’ve got my Project 44 I’m working on. I’m blogging to get myself into the habit of writing. Although it still feels challenging with road blocks often appearing to getting what I want.

How would you picture your perfect life? How will you avoid regrets?

A New Year Begins

Well the first of my goals for 2012 is down the toilet. I didn’t win the $31 million Lotto draw last night. So instead of shopping for a new, highly expensive car this morning, I’ve got to settle for a cup of coffee (instant I can’t afford one of those fancy schzmancy machines) and a blog.

It’s the day of resolutions, when all the world unites in a determination to convince themselves  this year will be different. This year they will make more money, lose weight, read more books, exercise more, quit smoking and anything else they can think of in a blur of often alcohol induced optimism. Anything is possible on the first day of the year.

Why then do we so quickly discard the aims by the 2nd of January? How does life interfere so quickly with what we want to do? I read somewhere only 3% of people ever achieve their goals. Really? Those 3% must be busy people achieving everything while the rest of us languish in coulda, woulda, shoulda, will one day territory.

As you know I set my goals back in November, my Project 44 is dedicated to ME. It’s all about ME.  There’s the usual goals of losing weight, getting organised and then just for fun I threw in stuff like write a novel, start a blog (and get readers), finish Shambles Manor, travel and my personal favourite, enter five competitions a day.

There are days when I feel really overwhelmed by the goals I’ve set. But I know they are important to me and I really do want to have a red hot go at achieving them all this year.

The first month of Project 44 has really ended up being devoted to the blog, I have written those 9,000 words toward a novel, but essentially the blog has taken up a lot of my time. It’s made me realise that what I was really saying with those two goals (create a blog, write a novel) was that I wanted to write. Funny how as you get into achieving your goals you discover that what you set out to do may not be exactly what you meant.

Spending 30 days trying to write 2000 words a day in the NaNoWriMo challenge made me realise that perhaps I don’t have the level of commitment needed for a novel. Subscribing to a number of authors on Twitter made me realise these people spend YEARS on the one project. That’s right YEARS. Five years on one book, four years on another. Dear Lord I don’t have five years to spend on one project. Seriously you are lucky to hold my attention for one week, let alone years. Let’s not forget this has got to fit in around soccer, touch footy, dance and what else? Oh yes the real world job that actually pays the mortgage.

Blogging, on the other hand, even though it is time consuming, is pretty instant gratification. I write a piece and within minutes sometimes I can see someone has read it (not sure who if they don’t leave a comment – don’t forget to say hi if you are dropping by) but I know it’s been interesting enough for someone to at least click in for a little while. Blogging also suits my scanner brain. The scanner is interested in everything but has trouble finishing anything. In my blogging world I can talk about anything I want to and flit between subjects willy nilly and that’s OK, and 500 words isn’t a big commitment so even I can get it finished.

So what have I learnt so far? I’ve learnt I want to write every day. It may be working on a novel, creating a blog piece or articles for other sources but writing every day.

I’ve also made some baby steps towards my other goals but I’ll share more about them towards the end of January, when hopefully I will have made some substantial progress.

Now moving away from me for a second, my new year’s resolution for my family. I want us to create magnificent memories. I want us to enjoy some special, fun times together that the children will be able to look back on with love and fondness when they leave home, because that future is rapidly approaching.

I hope you are all enjoying your new year. Have you made any resolutions?

Letter to my 16 year old self

Have you seen the book “Dear Me, A Letter to My Sixteen-Year-Old Self“? An array of celebrities write a letter to their teenage self. If you could jump in the DeLorean and head back to the future to meet up with the kid you once were what advice would you offer?

Here’s my attempt.

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