Sunday, October 12, 2014

Good Practice

About a year ago my friend Kait introduced me to the blog zenhabits by Leo Babauta. While I don't regularly read zenhabits it's saved in my Feedly organizer to click over and read when I need a break.

Well I recently spent a week focusing on Taking More Breaks  and during that time I read Leo Babauta's post The Productive Sprint. I originally misread the title, thinking it said The Productive Spirit, and read the post thinking it would be about something entirely different. Leo shared his strategy for completing a writing sprint and at the time I didn't need to do a writing sprint. I filed that information away in the back of my brain and went on with my day.

Now, it's paper writing season for my grad program. This week I have three writing assignments due over two days, which would typically scare the pants off me. Last week I had other writing assignments due so I'll be honest say I started these assignments for the first time on Thursday. Normally, this would be very stressful. I would work myself up about all of the things I have to do, feel anxious, and then become so paralyzed by the anxiety that it would be hard to start working on a specific assignment.

But I developed a new strategy that's helping me.  It's not Leo's writing sprint, exactly. It's a combination of his writing sprint and "the 40 minute rule" my friends recently adopted. The 40 minute rule started when a group of us were doing homework in a friends apartment and needed to balance how often we interrupted each other with the basic need to be able to ask each other questions. We set a timer for 40 minutes and no one was allowed to talk until the timer went off. If we had a question for the group we'd write it down and during a break from what we were doing discuss before setting the timer for another 40 minutes of silence.

That's the perfect amount of time for me. It's not so long that I'm too intimidated to even start work, but not so short that I haven't accomplished anything before I'm jumping out of my seat to take a break. My strategy for tackling papers is to write in 40 minute intervals with 20 minute breaks. And a bigger break after 2-3 hours to walk away and refresh my brain. Sometimes I use the break to read blogs, check facebook, get a snack, or just get up and stretch. Then I return for another 40 minutes of writing. Today, I'm writing this blog post during my 20 minute breaks.

Is it working? Yes! All three of my papers are in draft form. One is a complete draft, the other two are at least 70% complete. My goal is to finish the drafts of all three today and spend Monday editing. I never edit on the same day that I write. It's too easy for me to read over my mistakes and miss them.

All of that is to say: experiment. My weekly intentions have helped me to find ways to tackle my own procrastination without driving myself up a wall. That feels like success to me.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

#100HappyDays Progress

Earlier this week I shared a photo from my #100HappyDays challenge and then today I realized that blog readers miss out on most of the photos. The collage above has everything (starting on the botton right and zigzagging up to the top left). I'm on day 12, but I skipped the photo for day 4 since you'd already seen the lovely Ms. Chicken in another post.

If you're interested in seeing all of my #100HappyDays photos in real time feel free to follow me on instagram, by searching @buttonwoodcottage. If instagram isn't your thing that's cool too. I plan on keeping up with my weekly intentions on the blog.

Hope you're having a great weekend!

xx Kasey

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

This Week's Intention: Be Glad

Last week I restarted a #100happydays challenge. I'd tried to complete the challenge this summer, but got discouraged after missing several days in a row and called it quits less than a month in. Last Monday, I found the motivation I needed to start over - this time with a bit more support. I was surprised about unsolicited the encouragement I received from others right away. Encouragement from friends and colleagues boosted my mood and helped me stay excited about the challenge all week. I'm proud to say that I've remembered to post one thing that made me happy every day. And as a happy side effect I'm taking more pictures.

I managed to take several breaks last week, including a trip home to see my parents. And even though I've changed my intention for the week I'm still incorporating some of the strategies into my study habits so that I can stay focused for longer periods of time.

But with a new week comes a new intention and this week my focus is to Be Glad, chapter 15 of the book Just One Thing. I'll continue my happiness challenge while trying to incorporate strategies suggested in the chapter such as: looking for things that make me glad each day, sinking in to feelings of gladness, and sharing my glad feelings with others (including telling others what I appreciate about them).

Reading this week's chapter gave me a satisfying sense that I am on the right track. While I'll never be finished practicing mindfulness it's nice to feel like the work I've done is paying off.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

This Week's Intention: Take More Breaks

At about 2:00 AM on Wednesday morning and I had just got back from a duty phone call when I started thinking about this post. That was the first time I'd thought about mindfulness since the beginning of September and that's fairly telling. This month has been busy with classwork, the demands of my Teaching Assistant position, my graduate assistantship, and family and friends. When lots of things are jockying for my attention it can be hard to focus on the basics, like mindfulness.

Earlier in the day, I received a letter from a friend. In the letter she mentioned that she had started trying to infuse more positivity and gratitude into her life last year and that some of the things I was publicly doing to crease my own positivity had helped. That was the push I needed. I pulled up the Stop, Breathe, and Think app and meditated for the first time in two weeks. I kick started a #100happydays challenge to get back on track with gratitude.

This week my intention is going to be to Take More Breaks. This is the next chapter in the book Just One Thing which I have been using to guide my weekly intentions since I started writing about mindfulness on this blog.

It seems serendipitous that after weeks away from my mindfulness practice I read a chapter that addresses slowing down. This quote (with my emphasis added) resonated with how I've been feeling.

"The modern, pedal-to-the-metal lifestyle produces chronic stress and tension, and related physical and mental health issues. It also crowds out creative pursuits, friendships, recreation, spiritual life, and time for children and mates.
There are so many things in my life that have been crowded out since starting graduate school. When I talk to friends and family we often talk about the temporary nature of graduate school, saying things like, "It's just two years...It's an intense phase of my life... It'll pay off in the end..."

I'm incredibly grateful for my experience. So grateful that I've filled my plate with academics, a graduate assistantship, participation in professional organizations, and more. But in striving to take advantage of every opportunity I have a tendency to stretch myself to my limits. So I remind myself that I'm a role model and I work with students. Last year I made a promise to myself that I wanted to model healthy behaviors, particularly around health and wellness. So, it's time to get back to that.