Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Best Laid Plans, Acts of God and the Electric Company

Sometimes I wonder if we're supposed to try to plan things.  It seems, on occasion at least, as if the universe is trying to tell me it's folly to believe that I can develop a list of things I intend to accomplish and proceed to tackle them.  

Like tonight.  I arrived home after a "day that was filled with surprises."  (A little ditty which I just learned has been stuck inside my head for several decades courtesy of the Mickey Mouse Club--strangely enough, since the only time I could see that classic show growing up was when I visited my out-of-state Grandma.)  My husband and I had gone out for a Happy Hour supper, and made several stops on the way home.  We were searching for a rear wiper blade for our 1996 Isuzu, only to be told, by the forthright employee of the last auto parts store we visited, that Isuzu is not "third-party-friendly."  Meaning they don't share parts information with the makers of accessories like wiper blades.  So my son will leave town tomorrow morning on his first long-distance road trip sans rear wiper blade. 

We also stopped at the public library so that I could view the website I'd set up for a client on Internet Explorer, the browser he uses which is no longer supported by Mac, which I use. 

When we returned home, we walked into a totally darkened house, on a totally darkened block, and heard, but did not see, our two sons somewhere in the cave of our living room, announcing a power failure that had begun some three minutes before we arrived.

Instead of starting the blog post I had planned to write this evening, I spent the next forty-five minutes scrambling for candles and flashlights.  Apparently,  I am out of practice in dealing with power outages.  I found myself using the candle I finally located that had enough of a wick to support a flame, which I had ignited after braille-ing my way through the kitchen in search of a candle lighter, to grope my way toward the light switch upon entering each new room.  As if the only problem was that I couldn't see the light switch!  

Then I returned a call I'd missed from my daughter, and she advised me to call the power company, her former employer, in case they didn't know about the outage.  I figured that, since my computer still had some juice, I could use it to look up the number.  Forgetting, of course, that I would need an internet connection, which was not possible with no power to the modem or the router.  My clever daughter looked up the number in her phone book, in her house five blocks away where they had power.  I typed it into my computer, which was at least good for note-taking, hung up, and then called the power company number. 

As I was "press[ing] 1 to report a power outage," the lights went back on.  (Clearly, I should have called earlier!)  After I hung up, the power company called me (a robo call, of course) to see if I had experienced a power outage!  I pressed whatever number corresponded to "I sure as hell did!" and hung up.  They called again--a different robot this time--to let me know that I had experienced a power outage, which they had subsequently fixed, and that I was one of 1,942 homes affected.

If I was planning to blog about something more meaningful tonight, I no longer remember what it was.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Doing What We Love, Money or Not

My canine companion is a little bit greyhound, a little bit yellow lab. . . and a whole lot rock and roll. 

And here's the thing.  He's been busting his butt, for eight plus years, trying to teach me joy.

He's got this one thing that he's great at, that he loves above all else.  And he'll pull out all the stops so he can do it.  As often as possible.

That thing is running, like the wind, like there's no tomorrow, like, well, a greyhound.  Like the dog on the side of the bus, stretched out as long as possible, all four paws in the air.

Of course, his running has taken out more than one knee in our family.  Luckily for our insurance rates, and the security of our position in the dog park community, he has confined his damage to those he loves, and more importantly, those who love him.  

Early on in his career as our canine roommate, he accidentally "clipped" my thirteen-year-old budding basketball star, resulting in a severe patellar dislocation in the field; much pain and swelling; a veerrryyyy sllloooowwww ambulance ride; a gruesome "external reduction" in the ER; surgery to remove "loose bodies" (bone fragments) inside the knee; some serious medical expenses; and the end of serious hoops. 

About a year later, it was me.  He came careening up behind me, again at the dog park, and crashed into my knee, injuring my medial collateral ligament.  My son's physical therapist got to work his magic on me for three months.

But Ollie still loves to run.  And we still love to watch him.  We just don't turn our backs on him much.  

My husband and I have always said that we would love to find our one thing--like running to Ollie--that is utter bliss, absorption, raison d'etreThat special gear that takes everyone's breath away who sees it.  The thing we were born to do.

I'm not sure every being has one.  Or maybe some of us have too many, which results in a splintering of the effect.  Maybe part of the secret is investing in a thing to the exclusion of others.

I'm pretty sure, though, that "do[ing] what we love [so] the money will follow" is antithetical to the joie de vivre so evident on Ollie's face as he flies by.  So while I intend to keep on searching, and attending to clues in the pleasant moments in my life, I will avoid harnessing my delight, should I manage to stumble upon it, to the plow of occupation.  That would be too much like setting Ollie off after a mechanical rabbit with money down on his pace.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Procrastinating 101: Because Cindy Crawford Thinks It's Rude!

This week, Procrastinating 101 launches in earnest our examination of Diana DeLonzor's Never Be Late Again:  7 Cures for the Punctually Challenged

DeLonzor's aim in this chapter is the motivation of any of us who still need convincing that constantly being a day late, short a dollar or not, is an idea whose time has gone.  A habit we would do well to move past.

She begins by sharing an amusing story from Manila about President Fidel Ramos's personal and political challenges that led to, and complicated, his declaration and observance of "National Consciousness Week of the Imperative for Punctuality and Respect for the Rights of Others," in April of 1996.  The occasion seems since to have morphed into the November designation as "National Consciousness Month on Punctuality and Civility," which would indicate continuing issues with lateness in the Philipines.  There Confucianism requires recognition that "time is money and punctuality matters." [p.11, quoting 1996 St. Louis Post Dispatch article]

But what about the rest of us, perhaps not guided by Confucius?   As the chapter title asks, "What's So Great About Being on Time?" 

DeLonzor offers 5 "Great Reasons" for becoming "perfectly punctual."

#1.  Tardiness Affects Your Self-esteem

Former punctually challenged folks, on the other hand, say that once they manage to change, they begin to build self-confidence, gain respect from other people, and take more pride in themselves.
#2.  It Impacts the Lives of Others

According to Cindy Crawford, "Tardiness is the biggest disrespect."   And, according to DeLonzor,

. . . early birds take your lateness personally.  They see tardiness as something you are doing to them.  Perhaps they've cut short a workout at the gym, skipped breakfast, or waved away a second cup of coffee.  If they've made sacrifices to meet you on time, they'll fell frustrated and slighted that you didn't think enough of them to do the same.  For the most part, early birds believe that if you really wanted to, you'd be able to show up on time.
#3.  It makes a Bad Impression

From her interviews with "the punctual," DeLonzor  recounts these statements:
  • Late people believe their time is more important than yours.
  • They like the attention they get when they walk into a room.
  • It's a passive-agressive thing.  Late people want to be in control.
  • They don't have the same respect for others.
#4.  Lateness is a Career Buster

The price tag for chronic lateness in american businesses?  $3 billion annually in lost productivity.   And guess what?  The boss notices.

One executive pointed out that an employee who is ten minutes late to work every day has, in essence, taken a full week of unscheduled paid vacation time by the end of the year.

Tardy employees affect the morale of others at work, are less likely to be promoted, and may eventually be terminated for their persistent untimeliness.
#5.  In This Culture, Punctuality Matters

DeLonzor reminds us that the U.S. is not Brazil, Spain, Southeast India, or the parts of Africa where time is a more fluid concept.  And, although

a clockless, relaxed way of life has its appeal. . . in western cultures, the clock is part of our lives. . . . [And since] it's unlikely we late folks will have much success convincing the majority of the industrialized world to loosen their standards, it may be a better use of our energy to join them and accept the fact that punctuality is important.
 I confess that, at this stage of my life, I find Great Reason #2 most persuasive.  Just like Cindy.  And Fidel.  And Confucius.  

But, although I am not generally rude or thoughtless, I am frequently late.  Next week, we will consult Ms. DeLonzor about why that might be.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Done for the Week: Where Have All the Hours Gone?

Last week, fraught though it was, seemed to last about 5 hours.  Or at least that minimal time frame would be consistent with my perceived level of productivity.

Here's the official list:

Done for the Week:  Sept. 19-25, 2011
  1. Continued 5K training with my youngest son, in preparation for his first race--Finished Week 4 of 9 Week program
  2. Ran once; swam once
  3. Read The Shallows:  What the Internet is Doing to our Brainsby Nicholas Carr
  4. Continued to work my two part-time jobs 
  5. Published 4 blog posts
  6. Continued significant work on current clients' projects
  7. Attended Prayer Vigil for jobs
  8. Attended NAACP Freedom Fund dinner
  9. Resurrected and read through half-done novel
  10. Gave substantial support to pregnant daughter
  11. Attended tap dance class
  12. Did laundry
  13. Took my dog to the dog park, with my husband
  14. Watched episodes of Eureka with my oldest son
  15. Finished reading Elizabeth George's In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner aloud with my husband
  16. Went out for Happy Hour with my husband
  17. Straightened out serious snafu with health insurance, affecting drug coverage for oldest son
  18. Filled three prescriptions, requiring four trips to drug store
  19. Fought with AT&T (and won!) over misrepresented replacement cell phone
  20. Began using my son's old cell phone, until mine resurfaces
  21. Found new mechanic, and arranged for inspection and adjustments to car my younger son plans to take on his first road trip this week
Last week's "most important thing" was supporting my daughter and her family as she makes her way through a high-risk pregnancy and the increasing maze of tests, regimens, and appointments.  My own pregnancies gave me some familiarity with the scary landscape she is negotiating, and I am happy to live close enough to do whatever I can to alleviate some of the everyday stress of dealing with an energetic four-year-old while going through such a difficult time.

Modern life and the so-called feminist revolution have left many women feeling like we have to fit our planned and obligatorily healthy childbearing in between the demands of our professional lives.  It has been my experience that some of us don't get to do it the easy way, and that at least this beginning part of motherhood resists compartmentalization.  We struggle not to feel guilty and/or defective because we are not able to carry and birth our children as efficiently as O-lan in The Good Earth.  

But this time of disruption for my daughter, and for me, will last at most the next two plus months.  And it is a time worth paying attention to, and giving space to.  And nothing else I am doing right now is as important.

Last week's focus goal, before my daughter's situation worsened, was to "return to work on the novel I put away last winter in the midst of my state's political upheaval."  My husband has expressed his disbelief that I would attempt such a thing with all that is going on just now.  But I have a few hours each week that I am attempting to keep sacred, to devote to making progress on this half-completed undertaking.  For as long as circumstances permit, I intend to "make hay while the sun shines."  I did manage to spend most of the scheduled time reading through what I have written thus far--material that I haven't laid eyes on since last February.  I plan to begin writing more of the draft this week.

In light of all that is on my overflowing plate at this time, my focus goal for the coming week is to meditate a minimum of three times.  As I have written before, meditation is most difficult when most needed.  Clearly, it is most needed now.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Acceptance Boot Camp

Life just keeps throwing me curves.  And you know what?  I don't think it's just me.

I was listening to musical artist Pezzettino today on the radio, describing the personal significance of her soon-to-be-released album entitled Pedestrian Drama.  I was particularly struck by her embrace of the adjective "pedestrian," in recognition that troubles and "drama" are common to the human condition.  We are not so special in our pain and confusion.  Or in our stress.  Or in our inability to stay any course without being blown off by unanticipated events.

And the whole curve thing makes me think of a workshop I attended recently, on the 10th anniversary of 9-11, where the main presentation was entitled "From Tolerance to Empathy."  Drs. Sam Richards and Laurie Mulvey, Co-Directors of the World in Conversation Project at Penn State, sketched a framework for moving into conversation that can bridge differences.   Participants practiced specific skills to facilitate such interaction.  

The highest level skill we dealt with on that occasion, in a mixed gathering of 300 Muslims, Jews, Christians, and "Others" like myself, was one they referred to as "steering into the curve."  The metaphor was taken from the advice to drivers negotiating slippery surfaces.  The idea is to go toward the  difficulty, instead of trying to jerk one's steering wheel in the opposite direction and risk making the situation worse.

So as new circumstances amend my plans and schedules in major ways--as at present with the serious health problems of one of my children--it seems like advice I can use;  steering into, not the health issues, but the chaos engendered by the changing needs for my support and care.  Kind of like riding the waves of labor contractions, instead of fighting for control.

Something I'll be working on for the next several weeks. . .

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Losing It. . . Again!

My cell phone has been missing for three days.  This time.

So if my sister is calling to see how I'm managing with the problem I called to cry on her shoulder about on Sunday, she isn't getting through.

And if the library wants me to come pick up a book I ordered, I don't know about it.

And if I want to call my mom to reinforce the cell phone training we did last week--which I do--I CAN'T because the only place I recorded her cell phone number is IN MY PHONE!   Aaaarrrggggghhhhhhh!

Publisher's Clearinghouse can't notify me of winnings, publishing houses can't reach me to beg for my half-finished novel, life is passing me by.  But not my phone.  It knows who's calling.  It's storing the texts and the voice mail.

Clearly, the thing has legs.  And no conscience.

Clearly, I have a problem.

The men in my life don't seem to experience this major life dilemma with anywhere near the frequency that it befalls me.  I think it's because of the reliability of pockets in men's pants.  And the lack of purses.  And, I admit it, my own gypsy nature.  There are just too many places where I non-routinely stash the stupid thing, and too many places where I use it, and hence too many locations to toss when it goes AWOL.

I've reached the phase of phone-disappearance where I'm about to move from the desultory searching mode, which followed the initial frantic pursuit, into the more laissez-faire approach.  Phone?  What phone?  Did I used to have a phone?  What was I doing with such a thing?  Eventually, if the past is any predictor, this will conclude with serendipitous discovery.  Oh look, a phone.  Wow, it has pictures of familiar people, an address book of names I know, and some of my favorite music!

Until then, I guess it's just me and the land line.  And the few numbers I can still remember.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Procrastinating 101: Time for the Mad Hatter to Grow Up?

Today, we begin a new venture on Procrastinating 101.  We will spend the next several Tuesdays digesting and learning from the book Never Be Late Again:  7 Cures for the Punctually Challenged, by Diana DeLonzor.  

I have chosen this book from the stack of life-fixing volumes on my shelf because it reflects my sudden, and many would say, late interest in being more timely.  According to the back cover, I am promised discovery of:

  • The root causes of lateness and procrastination 
  • How anxiety, time perception, and adrenaline affect time management 
  • The most common mistakes late people make [I'm presuming she doesn't mean late, as in deceased]
  • Tips for overcoming the psychological obstacles that hold [me] back 
  • 7 unique and simple secrets to successfully managing [my] time
 This speaks to me.  Unfortunately.

As does this handy list at the beginning of the book's first section:


  1. I'm trying to break this perfectionist image.
  2. Wasn't it Einstein who first said time is relative?
  3. Why do we need labels like "late"?  Can't we all just get along?
  4. I was busy planning a surprise party for you.
  5. Really, I don't feel tardy.
  6. My biorhythms are off.
  7. Existentially speaking, how can you prove I'm late?
  8. I'm protesting the oppressive nature of clocks.
  9. Explain this whole "late" concept to me again.
  10. I thought you might want some time alone.
  11. I was born late, you know.
  12. Mentally, I was here twenty minutes ago.
So, how many of these have you used?  I confess to uttering something close to #s 1, 2, 3, 8 and 11 out loud.  I'm not saying how many others I've muttered under my breath, or thought inwardly.  It would seem that I am "punctually challenged."  Hence, the reading assignment.

I love following advice from those who've been there, so I was charmed by the harrowing tale with which Ms. DeLonzor begins the book's introductory chapter, "Running Late."  It related her own experience of "crashing" a wedding procession because of lateness, a story embarrassingly reminiscent of something I lived through.  Unlike Ms. DeLonzor, I didn't end up blocking the bride's access to the center aisle, but, along with my carful of family members, I held up my brother's wedding by a half hour.  My entire family has a legacy of embracing lateness, and claiming to find it humorous, but I can assure you, our new in-laws weren't laughing.  And because my brother was marrying into a Baptist family, we couldn't slosh our way to amnesty at the reception. 

But enough about me.  Lest we think that Ms. DeLonzor's opening account was an exception, there's this:

I am a former card-carrying member of the punctually challenged, and punctuality used to be my Achilles heel.  I was suspended three times in junior high school for tardiness.  I've been late for surprise parties, client presentations, court appearances, and classes for which I was the instructor.  Planes, graduations, and funerals have left, started, and ended without me. 
I like this woman already.  I know this woman.  I am this woman.  (And so, apparently, are 15 to 20 percent of the U.S. population--though some of them are men.)

And since she purports to have left her tardy habits behind, maybe she can show me how.  And she doesn't underestimate the difficulty of reform.

Resisting that sudden urge to make the bed, unload the dishwasher, water the plants, or finish a newspaper article can be nearly impossible.
(As it was this morning.)

DeLonzor cites research showing that "the late" differ from our more timely counterparts on measures of anxiety and distractibility (we have more of both, of course), and self-esteem and self-discipline (less, naturally).  And she, and others, have found that "lateniks" consistently underestimate the passage of time, while those who show up on time overestimate it. But her main contention is that we get something out of being late, and until we understand what that something is, no amount of organization or time management will help us change.

Previewing the rest of the book, DeLonzor pledges to motivate the reader to change her/his delinquent ways, and to provide tips and exercises to achieve this.  

[I]f you practice the techniques in this book on a daily basis and stay committed, your days of rushing, apologizing, and excuses will be over, and you'll embrace a new, more effective way of managing your time and your life.
Sounds good.  I guess.  But what about drama?  Oh wait, could that be what I'm getting out of my Mad Hatter act?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Done for the Week: No Place Like Home

I am beginning this new week wiped out from the previous one.  And for some reason, the coming week's schedule was apparently fashioned by demons.  It calls for super energy, and warp speed.  Starting from my present rag doll state, that will be something of a trick.

Squeezed in around ten hours of plane travel and a couple of large last-minute projects, I managed to get the following done last week:

Done for the Week:  Sept. 12-18, 2011
  1. Continued 5K training with my youngest son, in preparation for his first race--Finished Week 3 of 9 Week program
  2. Ran 2 times; walked once with my sister, once with my daughter
  3. Continued strength training
  4. Read A Curtain of Green, and Other Storiesby Eudora Welty
  5. Continued to work my two part-time jobs 
  6. Provided technical assistance to nonprofit organization
  7. Published 1 blog post
  8. Continued significant work on current clients' projects
  9. Attended Board meeting
  10. Traveled to New Orleans; spent 5 days with family
  11. Took my Mom out for lunch
  12. Took my Mom to the movies
  13. Helped my Mom dig out from under paper avalanche
  14. Had dinner with my sister and my nephew
  15. Did laundry
  16. Took my dog to the dog park, with my oldest son
  17. Had lunch out with my oldest son
  18. Continued reading Elizabeth George's In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner aloud with my husband
  19. Went out for Happy Hour with my husband
Last week's "most important thing" was traveling to New Orleans to spend time with my mother and my sister.  My visit was enjoyable, but not especially relaxing.  For one thing, there's the long-distance-daughter guilt, which I generally treat by full-tilt grappling with all manner of problems and dilemmas in my 83-year-old mother's life.  And then there's the time-bending--the exhausting effort to love and relate every minute of my abbreviated stays.  Add in the continuing adjustment to my dad's absence, and the pull to spend time with my caregiving sister, and the wrench of leaving for an indeterminate time, and it makes for a huge expenditure of emotional energy.  Still, it was overdue, and I look forward to doing it all again as soon as I can. 

My focus goal for last week was to "be a good Buddhist, and a good daughter, and to be fully present for [my] visit.I managed that, with the help of a lousy internet signal "borrowed" from an unknown neighbor of my mother's that made blogging, working, email-checking and skyping with my family at home a near impossibility.  

This week, my goal is to return to work on the novel I put away last winter in the midst of my state's political upheaval.  I hope to maintain a regular, if minimal writing routine.  At least until the next recall heats up, and/or my daughter's high-risk pregnancy concludes, whichever comes first. . .

Monday, September 12, 2011

Done for the Week: Heading Out Again

Once more, this morning, I am entering another of my customary liminal states--this time, the between-ness of getting ready for a trip but not yet having departed.  So I'm not really here or there, in my head.  And having just finished Jodi Picoult's Nineteen Minutes, I haven't fully returned from the disturbing world of her story to my own everyday concerns.

And I am on the cusp of a new week--looking back at what I did with the last one:

Done for the Week:  Sept. 5-11, 2011
  1. Continued 5K training with my youngest son, in preparation for his first race--Finished Week 2 of 9 Week program
  2. Ran 3 times; biked once 
  3. Began strength training
  4. Signed up for tap dancing class
  5. Finished Nineteen Minutesby Jodi Picoult
  6. Continued to work my two part-time jobs 
  7. Provided technical assistance to nonprofit organization
  8. Published 3 blog posts
  9. Attended 2 yoga classes
  10. Continued significant work on current clients' projects
  11. Attended Peace and Justice workshop at the Islamic Center, in observance of 9/11
  12. Attended jobs meeting on transportation barriers to employment
  13. Booked trip to New Orleans to visit family
  14. Did laundry
  15. Took my dog to the dog park, with husband and both sons
  16. Continued reading Elizabeth George's In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner aloud with my husband
  17. Went out for Happy Hour with my husband
  18. Arranged for my asthmatic son to be seen and treated for acute bronchitis
  19. Squeezed in lunch and a late night dog walk with my overworked, jet-lagged husband
  20. Attended 3 hr. meeting at grandson's co-op preschool, with my daughter
  21. Attended Task Force leaders' meeting, to discuss organization's website

The most important thing I got done last week was finally booking flights for this week's trip to New Orleans.  The cost of air travel these days makes it difficult to bite the bullet and ante up--to employ just a couple of metaphors.  Add to that my crowded work schedule, my husband's continual travels, and my daughter's pregnancy--which will require me to be at home on standby from October on--and scheduling this trip needed an algorithm I don't seem to have downloaded yet.  But my aging widowed mother and my best friend/sister live a thousand miles from me.  Seeing them with any frequency means biting this bullet, anteing up, and tackling the algorithmic challenge several times a year.  And once again, I (finally) did it.

Last week's focus goal was to "stick to my plan of publishing three blog posts."   I am happy to say that I met it.  But the pace of life and change, and my almost complete lack of day-to-day routine mean that keeping to my intention of posting Monday through Thursday, except for holidays and trips, will meet with frequent obstacles.  This week, I will be traveling from Tuesday through Saturday.  Thus the second week of "blog reform" is a write-off.  So I will have to resume my posting regimen next Monday, after a week's interruption.  

Of course, the habit change literature would recommend that I post this week, despite being away.  But I have little enough time to spend with my mother, and I plan to be a good Buddhist, and a good daughter, and to be fully present for our visit.  Which is my goal for the coming week. . . 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Procrastinating 101: (Probably Not) The Last Word on "The Procrastination Equation"

So, I am finally getting around to winding up my Procrastinating 101 summer odyssey through The Procrastination Equation, Dr. Piers Steel's compendium of the science of delay.  And I begin this post by confessing that the enterprise's inception was plagued by tarrying.

After determining that Dr. Steel's book would follow Joseph Ferrari's Still Procrastinating? as Procrastinating 101's featured work, I apparently suffered a momentary lapse, in which I forgot to obtain said volume.  This was followed by a further mental mishap, in which I imagined that I had gotten the book.  I could see it in my mind.  (I'd seen its image online.)  And I envisioned it occupying the place on my shelf where I would have stashed it had I secured it.  

The night before I planned to write the first post, I went to the shelf and, like Old Mother Hubbard, discovered the absence of the phantom edition.  A late night expedition to my neighborhood chain bookstore remedied the situation, but perhaps I should have recused myself from reviewing a serious work on a subject I apparently knew waayyyyyy too much about.

But I didn't.  Instead, I spent the next sixteen weeks knee-deep in The Procrastination Equation's compelling exposition of all we can learn from a breathtaking array of research on putting stuff off.

And after all that, am I cured of what Dr. Steel so scientifically refers to as "dilly-dallying?"  Not really.  Though I do have a much keener appreciation of the degree to which I, like all other humans, have been set up to sputter through the motivational demands of life in the 21st century in this culture.  And I have acquired a repertoire of strategies to use in countering my tendencies, hardwired and acquired.

Dr. Steel's Postscript, following Chapter 10 and quaintly entitled "Procrastination's Chapter 11," appends a brief discussion of the potential of disciplinary integration to focus our efforts to defeat procrastination, the "ubiquitous" common enemy.  He reminds us that "the top two ways that people procrastinate are through their televisions and through their computers," and suggests that we "apply the principles of self-control [put forth in The Procrastination Equation] to our own technology."  Thus DVRs, "attentional control programs like Rescue Time," and "a sophisticated and difficult-to-subvert nannyware program--like Chronager, except self-administered," could form the basis of an "effective self-control platform."

With further advances in integration, more such tools that address our own weak wills should become commonplace, designed into our society's fabric.  And ironically, for all this, we can partly thank procrastination.  Fittingly for an irrational self-defeating delay, by making possible the groundwork for integration, procrastination may have contributed to its own defeat.

And that's all he wrote. 

# # #

Finishing with this book feels a bit like ending a semester.  I am tempted to try to assign myself a grade.  To what extent have I mastered the material?  I haven't taken the final, so it's hard to say.

Which makes me think of the last institution of higher learning in which I taught.  That innovative establishment had developed an approach to measuring learning in which "test" was a dirty word.  Instead, we administered "assessments," designed to approximate real-world situations in which a performance would reveal the incorporation of new information, understanding, and ability.  

In this context, a relevant assessment opportunity is available with each new dawn.  And this course in what to do about procrastination isn't over until it's (all) over, mellifluous fat lady or no such personage. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Lowering the Bar: My New Blogging Success Strategy

I am determined to revive this blog, and to reclaim the time for writing it.  Life, however, is not cooperating.

Today, paid work took up 9+ hours.  Then there was the failed effort to get my asthmatic son's acute bronchitis needed medical attention.  And a squeezed-in sortie with my grandson to see the under-construction sidewalk sections in his neighborhood.  And a run with my teenager.  And a thrown-together dinner.  And a two day's accumulation of dirty dishes.

And now I'm tired.  And it's past my bedtime.

So this is my post for today.  As Gandhi tried to tell us, tomorrow is a new life.  One, I trust, with a bit more room for blogging.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Done for the Week: Launching My Blog Revival

At the end of every summer when I was a kid, my indulgent grandmother took my sisters and brothers and I shopping for new outfits to wear to the first day of school.  It took the sting out of the ordeal of returning to the classroom.  New school supplies helped, too.

Now that I'm grown (as I have been for awhile now), it seems I need to be responsible for my own transitions, and their easing.  I am not starting school this fall, but I am adjusting to new work schedules, and most importantly, to the waning light and warmth that signal impending winter.  

Since, like so many of my countrymen and women, I find myself a few shekels short these days, I will probably have to come up with something to get me through the first couple of weeks of September that doesn't involve pulling out a little plastic card.  One thing I can give myself that may help is the gift of renewed blog rigor.  (See last week's statement of good intentions.)

Although last week concluded a string of weeks of relative blog neglect, I did get some things done.

Done for the Week:  Aug. 29-Sept. 4, 2011
  1. Continued 5K training with my youngest son, in preparation for his first race--Finished Week 1 of 9 Week program
  2. Ran 2 times; walked once (babying yoga-induced hamstring strain)
  3. Finished Run, by Ann Patchett
  4. Continued to work my two part-time jobs 
  5. Provided technical assistance to nonprofit organization
  6. Published 1 blog post
  7. Attended 2 yoga classes
  8. Continued significant work on current clients' projects
  9. Launched client's new site
  10. Attended Unity Rally in response to White Supremacy gathering
  11. Attended Social Justice meeting
  12. Had lunch with friends
  13. Went paddleboating with my kids and grandson
  14. Picked up my husband at the airport, back from Kenya
  15. Did laundry
  16. Attended church picnic; helped with setup
  17. Reapplied for vocational support for dyslexic son
  18. Organized and helped cook four at-home dinners
  19. Took my dog to the dog park, with both my sons

Last week's focus goal was to "come down gently, and as little as possible, from Cloud 9-3/4" after finishing the triathlon.  Despite being busy with a clump of work commitments, I did manage to maintain my unaccustomed happy mood.  With it came a bit more energy, which led to a little burst of housecleaning, which reinforced my positive feelings, which boosted my energy level, which . . . .  All good.

So, still not down.  And trying not to second-guess the lifespan of the happiness fairy's reign.

The most important thing I got done last week was getting the new blog site up for one of my clients.  A lot of work went into preparing the site, and we were all pretty excited about seeing it "go live" when his wife clicked the "Publish Post" button.  (You can see his fascinating work at

His is the fifth project of the small business I seem to have inadvertently started.  I am enjoying the challenges, and the opportunities to contribute to others' communication efforts.  Now I will need to learn how to incorporate this new level of activity into an already full work life, and to save some time and energy for my own writing.

My goal for the coming week:  stick to my plan of publishing three blog posts, having taken Labor Day off, and commencing my new regimen of Monday through Thursday posting.

One down, and two to go. . .

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Done for the Week: Ready to Reconnect

While I was getting around to finally getting this post up, it turned into the first day of September.  And the first day of my intended blog reform.  My worst week of blogging, followed by cleaning up my act.  That's the plan, anyway.

I did get some things done last week, and here's the list:

Done for the Week:  Aug. 22-28, 2011
  1. Relaxed and enjoyed my post-triathlon glow
  2. Tracked down my bike pump lost on bus at the triathlon
  3. Returned rented wetsuit, and made plans to purchase
  4. Attended introductory spin class
  5. Went to outdoor water park with my kids and grandson
  6. Launched 5K training program with my youngest son, in preparation for his first race
  7. Babysat while my daughter and her husband watched the Brewers beat the Cubs
  8. Went out for breakfast with my son
  9. Finished Good Things I Wish You, by A. Manette Ansay
  10. Continued to work my two part-time jobs 
  11. Provided technical assistance to nonprofit organization
  12. Published 1 blog post
  13. Continued reading Elizabeth George's In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner aloud with my husband
  14. Continued significant work on current clients' projects
  15. Purchased new laptop tote for my new business
  16. Attended 9 to 5 National Day of Action
  17. Helped my husband prepare/pack for trip to Kenya
  18. Joined my husband's family (in his absence) for lunch
  19. Did laundry
  20. Called my mom and sent tri pictures

Last week's focus goal was to "come down gently, and as little as possible, from Cloud 9-3/4."  I can honestly say I pretty much devoted myself to that pursuit.  I even managed to continue reveling while helping my stressed-out husband survive the start of a new semester and leaving for a ten-day international trip.  

I realized, in the process, that it has been a long time since I have had that feeling that "God [or whoever] is in her/his heaven, and all is right with the world."  I should probably try to stay in practice more, so I don't get the spiritual bends ascending to this relative height.

I believe my most important accomplishment last week, supported by my happy mood and my less-training-intensive schedule, was the attention I was able to give members of my family.   I know I have missed them, and I believe they have missed me, as the amount of time I spent training and preparing for the triathlon, working on a recall campaign, and accidentally starting a small business, has engulfed my recent weeks.  

It seems that the way balance works in my life, when it does, is as a wild ride--consisting of going too far in one direction, and then taking drastic action to right things by going too far in the opposite direction.  I'm not sure if I can, or should, learn another way. . . .

Next week's focus goal? Resuscitate the blog I have neglected over the summer.  My recovery plan is to post four days a week, Monday through Thursday, taking off time for major holidays and traveling.

It's September, "back to" time.