Life · Work

Changing How I Tackle Problems

So I talked a bit before of me suspecting I have ADHD. I still haven’t scheduled to see a doctor – I will get one eventually! – but I have been randomly googling books on adult ADHD, namely, if I have ADHD what concrete ways are there to manage it. Well behold, I found such a book! It’s called Order from Chaos: The Everyday Grind of Staying Organized with Adult ADHD by Jaclyn Paul. (Not sponsored or anything I literally found this book and bought it after reading the reviews.) It’s very funny and exactly what I’m looking for. So yeah, my suspicion that I have ADHD just increased, and I am thankful that my case doesn’t seem nearly as bad as the author’s. Small mercies.

I haven’t finished reading the book yet, and I didn’t find every strategy she put down helpful, but it did get me seriously thinking about how I need to prioritize my time based on reality, not wishful thinking. Basically, I need to really, really pare down what I can do each day. There are currently a lot of tasks that I consider “oh it’s a small so it doesn’t count as work” except they actually use up my energy, therefore they ARE work, and so me doing a jillion of them makes me too tired to do ACTUAL work. (Buying a new pair of shoes online is work, a “quick” vacuum of just the upstairs is work, calling a doctor’s office is work. They all add up!) Maybe to some folks none of those things I mentioned require any energy, and so they can do all those AND do 8 full hours of real work. Well, kudos for them! I can’t. Anything that’s not like, watching Youtube, or sleeping, is work to me. I have to accept this reality and work with my own brain, which means that, everything is work so I need to prioritize and space them out accordingly. Also, I have a jillion notebooks keeping track of all these non-work tasks, so much that they become very redundant. I sometimes record “do laundry” on three different trackers. (Keeping different trackers to do work, ironically, is also work for me!) So I dropped them and tried to consolidate everything so I only have to write a specific task ONCE. If it’s actual writing related it goes in the ONE writing notebook. If it’s chores it goes into my bullet journal, along with anything else (I used to have skincare things and other goals in a separate notebook, now they’re all in the same bujo). Keep ONE blog (mostly this one haha). Etc. Etc.

It’s the beginning of the month so I’m still sort of in the middle of the setting up stage. So far I’ve limited myself to at most two chores a day, with room for one extra non-chore but necessary thing to do (calling doctor’s office, for example). That. Is. It. No more wasting all my time doing small chores all throughout the day and therefore get nothing creative done because of all the interruptions! I’ve also stopped all my random journaling. One journal entry a day, period. If I update here today, then I won’t be writing literally anywhere else. I tried so hard to journal every day because I think it’s good for me. Well, turns out I just am not equipped to do that, so that’s a pure wishful thinking thing that I need to face reality with. If you have ADHD, or even if you don’t have ADHD but wants to keep your life in better order, I recommend this book. I’ll probably blog about it after I actually finish it. Right now I’m still testing the waters, but it seems to be working.

Work

Good Mondays – Routine

Hi guys. Today I want to celebrate a small thing called a daily routine. Or just routines in general. I never appreciated how much a set schedule meant until this past year when everything went sideways. A lot of the normal things I took for granted disappeared, and I didn’t realize how much that had actually impacted my psyche until my psyche was way out of sync. Whether it’s skincare, work schedule, or just something slotted to do over the weekend, the fact that I no longer have a routine to follow really mattered. To be truthful I’m still very much struggling to get myself back on track. With my city opening up and my s.o. getting back to steady work, my weekend plans slowly began to solidify once more. So there’s at least one thing that’s righting itself.

I have been noticing on my most productive days I tend to have just the right number of chores and work lined up so I keep myself motivated without overwhelming myself. However, to get that happening I usually need some planning, and if I slack off on that I literally don’t get anything done. It’s like my brain just shuts off after certain hours, and to overcome that I need to “train” it to not shut off, which requires time, practice, and a lot of patience. Sounds like establishing a new routine, huh? You have to do something at this time every single day, and eventually it’ll be an easy habit. Or so they say. In practice I climb on and fall off the wagon in a forever cycle. The best I can hope for is the number of days I’m on the wagon outnumber the ones off.

So I salute to the routine, because it’s probably going to be the one thing that for sure keeps me moving (the other is adamantly NOT check reddit until after all work is done). You need small wins interspersed with long hauls, otherwise you’d eventually wear out. Even if small wins mean “I did laundry today” or “I sent out an email”, they still count!

Work · Writing

End of Month Update

Well, today is April 30th, and I utterly failed in Camp NaNoWriMo this month. Yep, 100% didn’t meet it. I partially blame all the life stuff that happened this month. Covid vaccine sign-up and subsequent visits. My s.o. quitting and starting a new job (and the headache of health insurance changes that came with it). I contacting my doctor to discuss our plan to start IVF again and all that involved (I’m on birth control again and it’s really messing with my hormones/weight/headache/fatigue level). You know, life things! Coupled that with me being nervous about finally submitting something to my writer’s group – yeah, my head space was not all there this month, which is an issue. Because I’m kind of pushing close to my self-imposed deadline now. Here’s some more details.

So I talked to my s.o. about my work last year and I said that I’ll give him an assessment of how it is by the end of June this year. Now, I’m planning to finish my novel by the end of this year, but I also set a deadline of finishing the first part (there are three parts) of the novel by end of June. I gave myself more time at the beginning because I figure it’ll take me a while to ramp up. And it did! Oh boy did it take a while. I’m not proud that finally, finally managed to move on from chapter 5 – this is the one I’m submitting for my group, btw – and it has taken me a good chuck of half a year to get there. Granted, it was a very tumultuous half a year because of all the pregnancy then miscarriage then grief and all. So I’m not blaming myself too much for unable to create while being in that emotional state. However, I’ve been past that emotional state for a while now, and it still took months to wrap up ONE chapter. Boy. I’m not looking forward to meeting that June deadline. I told my s.o. that if I just cannot get myself to finish I’m going to stop writing this novel, and probably quit being a writer altogether. Because you know, sometimes you just gotta give up when you know you can’t do it. (I know people love to say “Never Give Up!!!!” Um, sometimes it’s smarter if you do. I’m sorry but it is. Sometimes you take a deep, hard look at yourself and you think, yeah, time to change course.) And then I’m going to take a coding course and then try to be an engineer, or find an actual job before I age out of finding a career altogether. No I’m not there yet! I still have time, but it’s getting pretty close.

(There’s also the fact that I really think I might have adult ADHD and need some medication. Maybe once I actually get some Adderall or whatever everything will be awesome and I’ll be a productivity machine. Who knows. I’ll reassess if that happens, after the whole Covid and new insurance and everything.)

I don’t know how I’ll fare but the next two months are going to be very, very important. I am going to see in May, first, if I can at all keep a work schedule if I try. Like, in the middle of April I just gave up, you know? And I really, really need to stop doing that. Like I said I still have time and I cannot waste it away being all dejected or moody or whatever! I’m going to seriously see how many chapters I can do in the next two months to determine if I can at all come close to finishing. Actually, with the way my mind works, if I don’t think about finishing and just write, it may work better. Like, if I just stick to fill out all the hours instead of having a goal of where to stop ahead of time, I tend to go further. I feel like I can only plan 1-3 days ahead at a time, which is horrible, but if I go any further I freeze up under pressure and then I just stop doing anything and go cry on the bed all day, you know? Hmm, that actually gave me an idea of how to setup my bullet journal more efficiently. Anyway, not important, the important thing is that I need to tackle the rest of the year, and it starts with May.

Work · Writing

Schedules Are There For a Reason

You know, I’ve been thinking. About my probably most likely undiagnosed ADHD prognosis. I know it’s not good to self-diagnose mental health issues, especially with the help of only Google, but, if the shoe fits I mean…? Kathleenlights basically thought she had OCD (clinical, that is) and then she did this whole video about the things she does and compared them to OCD symptoms (again, clinical, so much more than just ‘oh they’re just picky’ kind of things), and I was like, uh…yeah, I think she has a convincing case. (And kudos for her being so brave about it!) Anyways, regarding myself – so yesterday I set out to work because I was feeling better although not 100%, and then I didn’t work a lick, because I felt like “I can’t concentrate so might as well cut myself some slack. It’s the weekend and I’m not 100%, yeah?”)

No. The answer is NO. If I really do have ADHD, and I think I do, then the hard truth is that I probably will never be able to concentrate without some outside help. I’m not on medication, and even if I should be, I can’t because I think if I want to get pregnant they don’t recommend I take any ADHD medication. So I won’t be getting any help anyway aside from sheer will, and so, when I sit down in front of my computer to write, 9 out of 10 times I won’t be “in the mindset.” It will always, always be a struggle, and I have to develop some ways to cope with it. Them’s the breaks, you know. So I decided, literally this morning (you know, when we just wake up and groggy is apparently the optimal time for life-changing epiphanies), that that’s no longer an excuse. “I can’t concentrate so give up for now, try again tomorrow” is not going to fly if I literally cannot concentrate ever. Tomorrow is going to be the exact same as today. And the solution is, obviously, fuck your brain, push through, and work anyway.

Yeah yeah, easier said than done and all that. I’ve talked with my therapist about some of this (without thinking I had ADHD at the time) and he suggested to try some caffeine just to see if this makes a difference. I did, and I think it does, so I have caffeine to help (and of course have to give that up too if I want to be pregnant, ugh). Another thing is that strict scheduling seems to help me a lot. Which is kinda bad because if I deviate from this schedule even a little bit, like if I were sick, or something else comes up, I don’t really adjust and instead just falls completely off the wagon every time. I think the problem is that I feel like I have to make up for it. Like, I had a sick day on the 2nd, right? I was supposed to work 4 hours that day. Well, I didn’t, and so I thought, I’ll just work 4 hours on the 3rd, which was Saturday, which I initially scheduled to work 2 hours (weekend quota). Well, this little change apparently messed me up mentally enough that I didn’t do any work at all! Had I just completely written off the 2nd as “sick day” and moved on to the 2 hours slotted for Saturday, I probably would have gotten that done. Like, today, I’m also supposed to work 2 hours. I decided to not “make up for lost time” and just follow my initial schedule, and guess what I’m doing right now? Working! I feel like a robot that will just shut down if it deviates from its programming, so I guess the key is to never deviate ever?

(And if you’re like ‘wtf girl you’re only working 4 hours a day holy crap you lucky/lazy person’, yeah, I know. And it’s doubly shameful that I can’t even achieve that much. I want to up it to 5 hours eventually but right now I just want to get anything consistently done at all).

So my solution for now is set a schedule and don’t change it ever. If I’m sick or something big happens then just write the whole day off. Just pretend in your brain that you’re not behind, which apparently is the key to actually be not behind. I’m going to try this for the rest of Camp NaNoWriMo and see where it gets me. And if that doesn’t work either, well, May is a new month too.

Life · Work

Stomach Ache Delaying Work

Well, so much for working full steam come April haha. Literally one day after my post with all my goals I came down with a severe cramping stomach ache. I don’t know what it was, and it was not bad enough that I had to go the ER, but it was bad enough that I pretty much lay in bed all day yesterday. I tried to work and my s.o. was like, come on, take a sick day. You’re not really concentrating and we have a new villager in Animal Crossing to find. So I guess I got persuaded by that and instead of lying in bed I lay on the sofa and went on Island Tours until I found a good villager for our island haha. I mean I also slept and read and ate soupy food, so I’m not neglecting my health or anything. Just was not up for anything mentally taxing.

Today, I feel much better. Stomach still not feeling 100% so I had soupy pho for lunch although I was craving spicy fried chicken. I guess that’ll have to wait until next week. But I’m definitely well enough to be able to sit in front of a desk and type things. I’d have to watch my caffeine intake, too, which is a bummer. Nothing but boring warm water for a while (maybe with some super diluted lemon juice just to give it a bit of flavor). I’ve stopped taking some of my supplements because, well, I haven’t gone to the doctors in a while due to pandemic, so I’m not sure if I’m like taking too much vitamin D or whatever. My body doesn’t process vitamin D well but I’ve also read that you shouldn’t take too much of it either. I’ll know I’m okay if I had a physical, which probably won’t happen until I get vaccinated, which is most likely in June. So many doctor things coming up! Meanwhile let’s make sure I’m at least functioning, mmh?

Life · Work

Media Blackout

I’m posting super late because, well, I’ve been kind of super demotivated lately. Starting with the last week of February – I had that weird insomnia episode and everything just kind of went into a haze afterwards. I had zero motivation to do anything, which I’m not proud of. Finally, I got myself motivated enough yesterday since it was the first of the month – a great fresh start, right? Nope! I sat down with the full intention of doing my normal planning and bullet journaling and blogging, only to be sidetracked by a news article. And then it was off to the races! I spent a good hour just browsing news and get demotivated by all the shit that’s going on in the world, and then I got on reddit, and, yeah, it was just a bad spiral all the way down. My plan of doing any work went to nil. And the day was wasted, with me being super upset to boot.

Well, because of all that, I’ve decided this month I’m going to put myself on a media and social media blackout. I will be completely blocking click-baiting sites like cnn.com, and of course no access to reddit or twitter or other forum-like places. (I do not have an active facebook, so at least there’s that.) I, however, will allow myself to look at npr.org, because I found that I can read NPR articles and stop at 1 or 2 articles, because their headline is factual and non-sensationalist. Because of that, I can read a report, get the info, and then go back to work. If it was CNN I’d be continuously clicking titles and skimming the barebones article and then immediately move on to the next one. Their marketing and clickbaiting works! So I’m going to cut myself off from going to that website at all. Ditto for reddit and other social media sites. It’s one thing if there’s amusing content, it’s another that, 4 out of 5 times, I leave feeling stressed, anxious, and upset. And that impacts my creativity so much. (I also give leeway to covid vaccine news, but I go straight to my state’s dashboard for that, so no clicking anything there).

I successfully blocked myself from these distractions today, and lo and behold, I’m finally beginning to get myself back into work-mode. Still didn’t write anything creatively, but at least I’m blogging, and journaling, and doing something productive for my mental health. I’m hoping I’ll return to writing tomorrow. At least a little bit. I can fill my time not doomscrolling with reading or playing a video game. Speaking of reading, I really need something lighthearted and fun for this month. I would like to keep up the habit, too. Well, I guess that’s the next goal.

Work

Good Mondays – Break

Today I want to talk about, and appreciate, days off. Yes, it’s another generic one about the overall state of things, but I figure we can talk about the ridiculous amount of stationary I’ve amassed over the past year some other time (they do all bring me joy, each and every one). And I want to talk about forgiving yourself for taking a break, because we all need them, regularly, frequently, and they’re nothing to beat yourself up for.

This is brought on by the Superbowl yesterday. Usually every year we have a small party with a few friends to watch the game, complete with plenty of buffalo wings and beer. Not this year, obviously, but a friend of ours had set up a zoom hangout so we can sort of have a party. It worked alright, and in between getting angry at all the refs being obviously biased we caught up on our respective lives. Afterwards I was too strung up to do any work, so I didn’t, and just relaxed the rest of the day. I was supposed to be working on Sunday – I only allow myself 1 day break between workdays because otherwise I’d lose momentum so it’ll be extra hard to start up again. I spent most of Saturday just playing video games and do a crapload of chores. Sunday I was supposed to devote some time after the Superbowl to work. And I didn’t. And I want to say: that’s okay!

I woke up this morning ready to work. I made myself relax and not worry about the lost productivity from the day before. Superbowl is once a year, and it’s okay to take the day off because of that. It’s okay to take more time off if you’re meeting up with friends after a long time of quarantine, or having just come back from surgery, or your roof fell in from torrential rain and you have to call people to fix it. It’s okay to not get much done because your child is sick, or your mother had a fall, or god forbid someone in your family had caught a bad case of Covid and is in ICU. If you have the choice to not work on bad days, you should take the rest, whether the stress is mental or physical. It will help you in the long run. If you’re forced to work no matter what, then I’m sorry, and I suggest you take at least half an hour to yourself to relax, somehow. It’s important, and we as a society (especially Americans) are just way too focused on working and productivity. Constant production is unsustainable. It’s alright if you need some time to regroup.

So I did not feel bad (or as bad as I would’ve before) that I didn’t work yesterday when I should. I’m definitely back to work today, not feeling burnt out, and that is a whole lot better than trying to focus yesterday and failing and then end up completely losing motivation for the rest of the week. I lost a day and gained another five days of productivity. I think that’s a fair trade.

Work

Be Gentle, Be Kind

I had a terrible day yesterday. And the day before, but more so yesterday. No, nothing significant happened, just that I woke up anxious and therefore couldn’t really concentrate on work. And then because I couldn’t concentrate, I got more anxious, and the spiral of anxiety just went on until I basically stayed in bed all day and didn’t do anything. And then one of my packages from USPS didn’t get delivered due to a mistake. Totally understandable, since they’re so overwhelmed right now, but that seemed to be just the straw that broke the camel’s back and I burst out ugly crying on my husband’s shoulder while talking about how this completely non-essential delivery is going to be a few days late. I guess it really was just one of those days.

I woke up today still feeling horrible, still worrying about that super stupid package, and when my husband asked me if I could make some rice I burst out crying again. Yeah… He then was like, um, are you okay? Is something else bothering you that’s not just this package being late because it seems a little dramatic, and of course I said “I don’t know whatever” when of course I knew exactly why. In fact, I could just say that “I’m terrified I’ll never finish my novel why is it going so slowly omg???” and “I’ll never make money and I’ll be broke and homeless when I’m old due to no social security payments” and “I might as well kill myself and end it right here the future is so bleak.” And of course that’ll only get everyone more upset so I didn’t say anything.

So we ate lunch and after that I forced myself to just follow a routine. Not even a good routine, just a routine, just so I can stop moping around in bed. I played some games, put on my usual skincare that I’ve been neglecting, cleaned up the dishes, listened to a podcast, and then took out my bullet journal and started my usual checklists and other planning that I always do before starting work. I’m writing this entry now also as part of the routine. After this I’ll start on my novel again. (I did call the post office before lunch and everything seems okay – I just have to wait for the delivery for a few more days.) I still don’t feel that much better, but keep working seems to be the cure for, well, I think all of my woes. So I guess no matter what happens I just need to keep working until I’m done. Easier said by a wide margin, for realz.

Work

Be A Better Me Every Single Day

Let me explain the title a bit. It’s a quote I read in an article from Vogue, said by the artist Lizzo in an interview. For some reason it really struck a chord with me. I guess it was because I was in a writing slump and felt like I could never accomplish what I wanted to do. Like I just don’t have the willpower or something. But then I read that quote and thought, oh, I don’t have to be the best perfect self all the time. If I can just strive for the goal of doing better than yesterday (or if yesterday I did really well, keep up the same work), then that’s enough. If I worked on some part of my novel today, then tomorrow I will work on that plus an extra half hour, and add more the next day and on and on until I reach my maximum work potential. All sounds a bit new age-y, I know, but if you just break it down to the most basic components, it’s just a practical way to approach work (independent creative work, that is, I’m well aware there’s tons of difference between this and office politics, physical labor, etc.)

I also remember this interview with this small business owner I’ve heard on the podcast NPR’s Marketplace. She has a day job and her own side business, so her schedule is basically go to work from 9 to 5, come home, eat dinner, work on her own business at night for a couple of hours. Rinse and repeat every weekday. Weekends she devotes a lot more time to her own business but also give herself some more downtime. She called herself a work horse, and it just floored me that people work so much harder than me and I, well, felt bad about my lack of progress. I know you’re not supposed to compare yourself to others especially if you’re anxiety- or depression-prone, but I couldn’t help it. I feel like I’m not doing anything, and that just makes me even more discouraged. But at the same time I feel a tiny bit of motivation – like, I could actually try to be like her. Emulate her work ethics, you know? It’s worth a try.

So yesterday I actually worked the full 6 40-min slots I always aimed for but never got to (always zonked out around 4 or 5 slots, sometimes 3). Well, today I will aim for the same. My sleep schedule is still off, though, due to waking up super late and drinking copious amount of caffeine. So today I’m not going to drink any caffeine and will try to get to bed at a reasonable hour. I don’t miss the morning progesterone shots days but I do miss the fact I was forced to get up by 8:30 am. So much time to do things, too bad then I was too stressed by hormones to utilize it. Well that’s not going to happen next year. I will get myself in shape and keep to a good schedule, and I will definitely start this month and hopefully watch it run through next year.

Work · Writing

A Case of the Mondays, on Tuesday

I’m feeling super unproductive today. The most appropriate phrase would be I’m ‘having a case of the Mondays,’ except it’s 5 o’clock on Tuesday, because my weekend was Sunday and Monday, because I actually worked a “normal workweek” and decided yes, I do need two days off just like everybody else that’s toiling away do.

Why is this significant? Well, this is the first time in a long, long time, that I actually took two days off. As in, I did the work I’m supposed to do, and in the two days that followed, not only did I not do work, I also didn’t worry about work. It was utterly and completely freeing, and I haven’t had that feeling in so long that I really don’t remember the last time that happened. Every day I spend either working but agonizing over that I’m not doing enough, or getting completely burnt out and unable to work and then agonizing over the fact that I’m not working. Every. Single. Damn. Day. For the past however many months – years even. I seriously do not remember how it felt to…not do that. To be honest it was a pretty weird experience for me the past two days. Like, the lack of pressure was so new that I have no idea what to make of it. Good thing I’m seeing my therapist tomorrow. I’m sure he’ll have loads to talk about over this.

I got out of the cycle because I had to submit to my writer’s group last Saturday, so I basically worked nonstop until I finally deemed my submission “good enough,” which was around 11 pm Saturday night. After that I just crashed. But the point is that I was done and more or less satisfied with what I needed to do, which was new, and so the days that followed were spent at peace instead of in mental agony. I’m hoping to keep this up – not that I’ll work nonstop or anything, but that I will keep a manageable schedule and take regular number of days off. And keep that up. Because it’s the only healthy way forward, I think. I’ve been mired in an unhealthy mindset for so long that to get a breath of fresh air is almost too overwhelming.

This doesn’t help today, though. I’m supposed to get back to work but I’m procrastinating like no tomorrow. The only difference is that I think I’m experiencing what normal people with a normal job feel like on a normal Monday, not what a depressed person feel like on, well, any day really. But let’s not jump the gun. I’ll update on how my therapist interpret this later. Right now, I just need to get back to work!