Above the Mess

Hey everyone! Long time, no post. Things have been wild around here but are settling down, slowly but surely. While that’s happening, I wanted to let you know that I started a project with some friends (Izzy and Rose) that is officially launching today!

Another friend, Alex, suggested I do a podcast to talk through how my projects go from idea to reality, and while I love podcasts, I knew I couldn’t add one more thing to the pile… until Rose suggested it become a group effort. I jumped in with both feet, as is my nature, and we’re all really excited, because our first two episodes launch today at the times shown below:

  • 🇺🇸 - 9:00 AM Pacific
  • 🇺🇸 - 10:00 AM Mountain
  • 🇺🇸 - 11:00 AM Central
  • 🇺🇸 - 12:00 PM Eastern
  • 🇨🇦 - 1:00 PM Atlantic
  • 🇬🇧 - 5:00 PM BST
  • 🇪🇺 - 6:00 PM CET
  • 🇸🇾 - 7:00 PM EEST
  • 🇦🇺 - 2:00 AM AEST

I’d love it if you’d take a listen! Definitely feel free to reach out via the podcast’s email or Twitter to give us some feedback!

Above the Mess LogoAbove the Mess Logo

Be well and I hope to hear from you soon.

Timezone support provided by Elsewhen, a delightful new iOS app from some of my other friends.

October 27, 2021 Above the Mess

August & September

Two more months have gone by, and I have two more playlists. I didn’t plan on only writing these posts every other month, but this is what my brain is doing, so we’re going with it!

August Awake - August 2021

I said in the beginning of August that I was beginning to feel more awake, more alive. That carried on through the month, and my playlist seems to reflect that. It’s got everything from the wild upbeat again&again by Against the Current to the moody Old Gods by Emily Scott Robinson, from new music by All Time Low and The Maine (a lot of The Maine) to a Taylor Swift jam. I love the mix, the way the moods swing as the playlist shuffles, and I am still listening to some of these into this month, when I usually get bored after 30 days.

September Sunrises - September 2021

September and the coming of autumn are always when the weather turns enough for me to sit out on my back patio and watch the sun rise up over the tall pines in my backyard. Usually that image evokes ideas of quiet acoustic or soft, fairytale tones… but this year I was in a dancing mood, and a bunch of my favorite bands had singles drop! I’m especially loving Street Lightning by The Summer Set, and not only because this is their first single after they got back together!

Open on October - October 2021: Preview

The month, being only 4 days old, seems to be a lot of throwbacks! I’ve got songs from Lydia and This Century. I’ve been listening to my Discover Weekly and some new songs as well, so who knows how this playlist will go! The name, by the way, is inspired by the way stages are set for plays–open on October, the leaves beginning to turn, and the squirrels burying acorns as fast as they can.

P.S. My friend Justin, who I mentioned last time, launched his self-care app Affirmations. It’s the gorgeous, beautiful, wholesome widget-app I desperately needed through my darkest moments, and I’m so glad he launched it so others can be encouraged by his creation. You can download it on the App Store, or read his blog post about making it.

October 4, 2021 Music

Rotating Priorities Board

Long time, no post! I’ve been wildly busy and expressed I might be what with picking up the stray and the past few months being event-heavy… and then getting a new job. But I digress from my reason for being here!

I shared a picture of a tool I’ve been using the past couple of months with a friend and she advised me to write it up so she could share it with some other lovely people. So here I am, doing it really quick while I wait for dinner to finish roasting!

I call it my Rotating Priorities Board. This is a term I pulled out of one of my favorite books–Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher (affiliate link to Bookshop.org). Sher uses this name for a tool that is designed to help someone track a bunch of projects in various states of completion. My design does not exactly match hers, as I felt I needed a bit more information on my board to track my ongoing work.

Here is my board as it stands today.

Rotating Priorities BoardRotating Priorities Board

It hangs directly to my left side in my home office, so it’s always just out of the corner of my eye, reminding me of what I should be focusing on. The lefthand axis is state of completion, ranging from seed to harvest, a gardening metaphor I quite enjoyed. The upper axis is amount of attention the project currently has or needs, ranging from freezer to boil–this one being a cooking metaphor.

Every so often–I’m not regular about it, though I probably should be–I take a look at my project list and at my Rotating Priorities Board and I evaluate where on each spectrum a project falls. For Mandala Madness”, a blanket crocheting project in the shape of a mandala, I have been thinking about it, but not acting on it, so it falls into the Freezer column of the board. I also haven’t started it, so it’s just a little seed of an idea, chilling in the bottom row. Another card, Secret Seer for example, is in the upper right, getting a good amount of attention–somewhere between warming on the stovetop and simmering–and approaching the end goal: a finished novel.

This board gives me a visual representation of my current commitments, and though it’s relatively new in my toolbox, it’s proving quite useful; the other day I told myself no” to adding a new project, and today I thought, you know, I’m feeling overwhelmed, why don’t I pare my active projects down.

September 27, 2021 Productivity

June & July

A few months ago I wrote a post about sharing my music choices all the way back to 2019. I meant to keep up with it on a monthly basis but as a project, it’s pretty low stakes, so it went on the back-burner when everything else needed my attention. I still listened to music though, and still made two new playlists (and started my third today!).

June Too Soon - June 2021

June was a month in which I really let my friends’ music tastes guide me. I listened to a bunch of Scouting for Girls, was introduced to Constantines and The Weakerthans, fell in love with Majik, and then soaked in a bunch of songs I hadn’t heard from bigger names in music like Ellie Goulding or Halsey. Surrounding it all was my usual blend of pop-punk and pop-rock, or whatever I’m supposed to call it, in the form of Angels & Airwaves, The Band CAMINO, and Go Radio, along with some others.

Jammin’ July - July 2021

It took me a long time, like half a month, to find the energy to start this playlist, and my last song was actually added to this mix only a week before the end of the month. I leaned heavily on bands I know and love, including an album I had just rediscovered from NEEDTOBREATHE. I remember listening to the album on repeat as a teenager, so I’m unsure how I completely forgot it existed, but I added in two of my favorite songs from the album to bring back some good memories. There were some new song thrown in, for which I can thank Spotify’s The Band CAMINO mix that came out of one of their fun little here’s what your music says about you” events.

August Awake - August 2021: Preview

I just started this playlist today, so I’m not going to share it yet, but I did want to give a peek into my thoughts going into the month–I’m feeling more alive again, more awake. I listened to my Discover Weekly playlist for the first time in a long time, and saved quite a few songs–those appear in this mix. I also saved a few new songs from artists I love, like All Time Low and Taylor Swift. There are some throwbacks that caught me when I just shuffled my saved library, and who knows what the rest of the month will bring! Can’t wait to share it later this month!

P.S. Did you know I got the idea for the cover art from my friend Justin? He sometimes uses his photo-editing powers for good and is also building a really awesome app, you should check his website out.

August 3, 2021 Music

Introspection Travel Log: 1

A few days ago, I posted about zooming my focus out to get the lay of the land, so to speak, by going on an introspection journey. After discussing this need with some friends, one introduced me to two exercises that have really influenced my thinking: David Allen’s Horizon’s of Focus (via Dandy with a Lens) and a Learn OmniFocus post about mind-mapping my responsibilities.

Despite being immersed in the productivity space, I’d never much paid attention to David Allen’s Horizons of Focus, but I immediately thought that the idea of thinking about my Values, Principles, and Purpose was something worthwhile. I’ve mused on my values plenty of times, but my principles? Not consciously, and my purpose… not on paper.

First, if like me, you look at values versus principles as rather similar, let me elaborate on how I thought of them. Values are traits and aspects of life you hold dear–things like athleticism or creativity, family or success (or both!). Principles are the rules you live by; they are probably influenced by your values, but they tend to look more like rules than qualities.

My Values

I went through this exercise from the bottom up, so to speak, building from the base of my values. I recently looked at my values, so this was more of a review to make sure none of my thoughts had changed. They had not, so I kept them, only elaborating on what exactly my values meant to me.

Family

Found or otherwise, family is important to me, especially the little family my partner & I make together. I’d like to have a good relationship with my nuclear family, and with my partner’s family, as well as remaining great friends with my found family.

Growth

Becoming a better person, by learning and helping others, by reflecting on myself and on the world—these are things I want to focus on. I want to be challenged to be my best self.

Creativity

Expressing myself through whatever means necessary is very important to me. Fabric, paint, development work, writing, I need to have my creative self to feel whole, to feel real.

Self-Sufficiency

It’s important to me to be self-sufficient. I want to run my own life (with my partner alongside me) and be beholden only to things I care for, and the rest can be secondary. This does not mean I am self-sufficient to the point of harming relationships or myself.

Success

I do not define success as the equivalent of wealth. All I want is to be well off in my careers, I want to have a happy, healthy relationship with my partner and our family, and I want to know that I’m living my best life.

Environmentalism

The world is the only one we have, and I’d like to really put effort into having as little of an impact as possible, and work as hard as I can to help reverse the existing impact on the world.

My Principles

From these values, which still resonate with me, and make me feel as though I recognize my true self, I began ruminating on rules by which I already live my life–I just wanted to put them into words. I came up with six, and while they mostly relate to my values, some of them came out of left field.

Self-Care First.

I cannot do anything if I do not take care of myself. That is of the utmost importance. If I am not healthy, who can depend on me?

We Only Get One Earth.

This one is self-explainable. There is only one planet on which we currently live; we cannot replace it. Every action should be weighed against that.

Everyone Is Creative and Intelligent.

Creativity and intelligence showcase themselves in myriad ways–it is society that does not choose to see it. I want to appreciate creativity and intelligence in all its forms.

People, and Time, Change.

Everything changes, including people. It’s important to recognize that and to get comfortable with it. I don’t usually handle change well, even though I know it’s coming–even though I want to change.

Success Can Only Be Defined by the Person Aiming for It.

My definition of success does not match anyone else’s. I cannot judge other people by my yard stick, and they cannot judge me by their own–or they can try. What I am aiming for now may change as well, and that’s perfectly acceptable.

Family, Found or Otherwise, Is Everything.

I have a close nuclear family, and I have my own partner. But that is not all of my family. I cannot count on two hands the extent of my found family, but I love them all, and I want to always be there for them, no matter what.

My Purpose

I don’t think I’ve met anyone who doesn’t believe they have a purpose in life. I’ve always believe this myself, but I’ve never tried to articulate it. I think I’ve managed it, at least for now! It may change (and that’s okay).

Heal Myself, Heal My Family, Heal My World.

Stick with me–a few months ago, a friend introduced me to the concept of healing the world” and that obviously resonated with me. We should start at the beginning, however, and talk about heal myself.”

I do not think I’m broken, but I used to. I thought my inability to focus on only one thing was a problem. I do not anymore. My journey from thinking I was broken to the present has been a really long one, and I’m still on it; I expect I will always be on that journey. What I mean by heal myself” is being there for myself as I discover myself and who I am meant to be in this moment.

Heal my family” is not about healing wounds or broken bonds, but rather being the support I know I can be for my family and friends, giving them a port of call when they need one, and encouraging us to see each other more, and close the distances that life-changes have brought between us all.

Finally, heal my world.” My little world, my little universe around me is an area I can influence, and I want to exercise that power. I want to enact change in my local area, to help others in my city, my neighborhood, and to make a difference in a way that I can see. I can influence the wider world, but the ripple effects are only so large from one person–if I can help the earth and the people around me, maybe the rest of the world will take notice.

All in all, this was an enlightening exercise, and it’s been influencing me already as I continue on this introspection journey.

Be well, talk soon! 💕

July 20, 2021 Introspection Productivity

I Hate Goals

You read that right–I hate goals. More specifically, I hate SMART Goals. For those who have never encountered this, SMART is a template for goal making that has spread through schools and workplaces like wildfire, becoming the only way to set goals.” SMART stands for, in it’s original incarnation:

  • Specific: goals should be narrow and defined for easy planning.
  • Measurable: you should be able to track your progress.
  • Attainable: your goal should be doable within a reasonable time-frame.
  • Relevant: your goal should be linked to your values and vision of the future.
  • Time-based: set an end-date for your goal as motivation.

Now, on the surface, this seems great! You want to know your goal, that it’s achievable, that you’re making progress, and when you’ll be done. But there’s an underlying problem. SMART goals just give you fail-states.

I’m a big believer in setting yourself up for success. I don’t mean dressing for the job you want, or making sure you’ve sharpened all your pencils. I mean, you should feel good about your progress and how you’re doing. Most people don’t do well when they feel bad about themselves. So, why set up an entire framework that gives you more ways to fail?

Let me give an example. Say you want to write a book. Under the SMART system, you’d fill out the rubric like so:

Goal: I Want to Write a Book.

  • Specific: I want to write a book about three dragons that go on an adventure and find a fallen star.
  • Measurable: I will track my progress by word count.
  • Attainable: A book can be written in a year. (According to NaNoWriMo, it can be written in a month, but we’re being generous here).
  • Relevant: My values are creativity and my vision is of myself as an author.
  • Time-based: I want to write the book before December 31 of this year.

Seems good on the surface. But let me throw some scenarios at you: what if halfway through writing your dragon book, you lose interest in the subject and have a better ideas? Based on your SMART goal–you’ve failed. What if you realize you write better when you take your time, and at your current pace, it’ll take you two years, not one? I mean, George R. R. Martin takes 5-10 years to write a book, right? What if, after a long bout of introspection, you realize your vision of being an author doesn’t fit you anymore? Failed. And these are just the simplest of examples.

I expressed my frustration with this framework to some friends, and one suggested I come up with an alternative. REAL Goals, he said. I chuckled to myself, but my brain started spinning. It took me less than an hour to come up with some ideas that represented, to me, reasonable goals, goals that were not fail-states. REAL stands for, as of right now:

  • Right for you: is it actually your goal? Or is someone else/society speaking for you?
  • Exciting: does it make you excited? Can you not wait to get started?
  • Adjustable: things change, people change! Don’t limit yourself!
  • Lined-up: you have a trail to follow, at least to get started. If you only know steps 1-3, you may learn steps 4+ on the way!

Now, in our example, a goal looks like this:

Goal: I Want to Write a Book.

  • Right for you: I want to write a book because it’s something on my bucket list. No one has told me to do it, it just strikes me as something fun.
  • Exciting: So exciting! I’m doing something I’ve always wanted to do.
  • Adjustable: If I don’t like my idea, I can change it. If my pace is slower than I thought, no problem, I’m still taking steps, and every writing session is practice.
  • Lined-up: I know I need an idea, and maybe an outline of a plot, and then a manuscript, but past that I’m not sure! Do I need an agent? Am I just doing this for fun? Who knows! No problem. I’ve got enough to get started.

These are the types of goals I can get behind.

July 18, 2021 Productivity Planning