Me — Relaxation Allowance

I’ve recently started working on a new data-oriented Google Sheet. I mean, that sentence would probably be true if I had said it any given week in 2018. I’m really excited about this one though because it’s geared towards holding me more accountable towards productivity, and for the two days I’ve used it it’s been great.

Here’s the jist of it—I like not doing things, just like everyone else. Relaxing and playing video games is great, but if I do them when I know I have other things that need doing, it stresses me out. This Sheet is to help me quantify that line. Assuming I don’t have any deadlines (personal or otherwise) that need to be met that day, how much “stuff” do I need to do in order to feel justified in spending the rest of my day doing nothing?

Let’s take an arbitrary (but nice) number, say 10, and call that the number of points I need to achieve in order to allow myself to relax. What earns me points? Well, simple: anything at all that makes me feel better about myself as a Responsible Adult™. Getting dressed is 1 point. Vacuuming is 2 points. Folding laundry is 2 points. Writing Friday’s flash fiction piece is 4 points. So if I do all four of those things, I’m just about allowed to not do anything the rest of the day. (I realize that’s 9 points, not 10.)

The important distinction here is that these numbers are not solid, and this is not a rule. I am not restricting myself from doing whatever I want. Rather, I’m using it as a guideline to test the point at which I internally feel like I’ve done “enough” for the day. In terms of game design, these numbers aren’t supposed to be balanced, they’re supposed to accurately represent the amount of satisfaction I gain from completing certain tasks. If I look at the chart and see that I’m at 8 points, I can look at what I haven’t done and just do it.

This does a few awesome things. The first is that the chart is a good way to visualize all the things that I may or may not need to do. I don’t need to vacuum every day, but if I’m almost at that threshold of 10 points and I haven’t done it in a week, I might as well. The second is that because I’m literally racking up points, it encourages me to be productive I might otherwise not even consider. Reading, for example, is 3 points per hour. I basically never read, but if I genuinely don’t have anything else to do, it’s a good way to actually force myself to be productive.

The idea is that I will, eventually, get to 10+ points every day. Eating a meal is 2 points, so if I’m being a responsible adult that’s the majority right there. But this will actually encourage me to eat three meals a day, and doing nothing besides getting dressed and eating all day won’t be enough to earn me relaxation. Not to mention I’d have to be doing something in the time between eating those meals. Might as well use it to be productive!

So, this is a new thing. I expect the numbers to change significantly on a quarterly basis, but given a very short two days, it’s been awesome. Would recommend.

 

Me — Writing “Enough”

I’m a big fan of stats and information. I love writing stuff down, compiling it, visualizing it, and while I wouldn’t consider myself obsessively organized, I can’t handle disorganization. Most of the documents I have on Google Drive are kept within four sub-levels of folders. My Spear Gate manuscript, for example, is under “Writing > Bigger Projects > Spear Gate”. The presentation I made for my senior project in High School is under “School > Homework > [Name of School] > 2014-2015 > AP English 12”. Yes, I could pull it up on a moment’s notice if I needed to.

One of my main folders is titled “Data”. I keep track of both information about myself, my writing, and the people around me. It’s not something I need. I could delete the whole folder in a heartbeat and never lose anything I would ever really miss. But having all these lists and numbers is something I like to do, because I’m a visual person.

I have a phone app that is something of a journal. Twice a day I tell it my mood and write a little bit about what I’ve been doing. Knowing how my activities affects my mood really helps me get a better understanding of what I enjoy, what tires me out, and what I can and can’t handle.

I had a tough time getting through this month’s Lisa Stenton. I’ve adopted a bad habit of intentionally procrastinating because I’ve (unfortunately) come to the realization that I can work more productively if I wait to the last minute rather than staring at a blank screen knowing I don’t need to work on it today. I did that with Lisa Stenton last night, and it took me about five hours to write the entire second half of the story. Not too shabby, because that’s almost 500 words an hour. But I wrote in my phone journal before and after I did that, and writing for that long made me exhausted. Maybe that’ll help me learn to write sooner than I need to, because I’m not eager to repeat that.

I’ve only been keeping track of my mood and energy levels for a few months, but I’ve already learned quite a bit. Something that surprised me was the fact that I’ll get a little tired before a big day or big event, and I’ll relax a bit afterwards knowing everything is over.

Another thing I’ve found that doesn’t surprise me is that I need to write in order to be in a good mood. If I do nothing but play games for a few days straight, I’ll feel a little down, because the knowledge of the fact that I haven’t really done anything will make me feel bad. So the best way to keep my mood up is to constantly write. Luckily, I’ve only skipped my 500 word requirement four days in February, and a few of those days I’ve written well over 2,000.

So it’s a balance. I need to write pretty much every day in order to feel productive and thus be in a good mood, but if I procrastinate and let it pile up (like Lisa Stenton yesterday) I’ll burn out and it’ll be way worse.

Moral of the story: keeping track of stuff will make you learn. And learning is always cool.

Me — Dear Me, But One Year Ago,

Dear Me, but one year ago,

I find that life is generally a lot easier to deal with when the things coming at you are being handled one at a time. Life is stressful and exhausting when events are out of your control or too big to take on, but when you dice those big things up it doesn’t seem so daunting. Don’t look at the entire ladder and think “Oh boy, I have a long way to go,” because that’s discouraging. Instead, just grab the first rung, and then the next. I’m not going to be a well-known, established author in a day. In fact, that idea is nothing more than a glimmer in the distance. I just have to make sure I know how to stand first. Then I’ll try to walk. Then I’ll start marching towards it.

It’s the little things that, once done, tie you over until eventually you realize “Hey, look how high up I am!” That’s when you realize you have a fear of heights, which has a whole lot of other issues attached to it, but first you have to focus on climbing the ladder. One rung at a time.

Things just don’t go the way you plan. And that’s okay. It happens. Pretty much 100% of the time, actually. What’s important is that you just make the best effort you can and then learn from what went wrong. If you don’t know what went wrong, well, that’s a different story. If that happens (when that happens), just keep tabs on what happened. If a similar thing happens again in the future, you can cross reference and learn more about yourself and the process. Learning about how you and the world works by trial and error.

I know that a lot of this is what you’re already doing, but it’s also totally okay to stop and breathe. Go to your room and think about what you’ve done. But, really. A habit of hyper-productivity is all well and good, but once you learn to stop, sit down, and breathe, you’ll realize that most of the time, things only happen at the pace you set for it. You’re only stressing yourself out because you have these grandiose goals, and your expectations for yourself are too high.

Just stop and breathe.

Believe it or not, moments of calm actually help revitalize you rather than discourage you by making you feel like you’re going too slow. I admit I’ve been bad at following this particular piece of advice lately, but at the same time, I haven’t really needed to.

I’m good with where I’m at. Life is stressful enough to keep me feeling productive, but quiet enough to give me the time I need.

Things don’t go as planned. Your life may still pretty much where it is now, but that’s honestly okay. Just keep your eyes on the horizon, keep track of how you want things to change, and take on that ladder one rung at a time. And even if you’re in the same place a year from now, sitting in this same chair at this same desk. That’s totally okay, as long as you’re happy and your eyes are on the horizon.

Sincerely,

Kollin, but a year later? The current one? Whatever.

Me — Constant Improvement

I try to live my life in a state of constant improvement. I didn’t like that I called myself a writer when I didn’t write, so I started a blog. I didn’t like how I dressed, so I changed it. I’ve noticed I can be a narcissistic jerk sometimes, so I stopped… Okay, I’m still working on that one.

Point is, I try to fix everything I don’t like about myself over time, tackling one thing at a time. For the new year, I wanted to read a chapter every day and fit in some meditation time, too. (I had been doing the latter for a good month or two, though.)

But as it so happens, my schedule is pretty tight. I’m 100% busy from basically Monday 8am to Wednesday 10pm. So it can be pretty tough to fit that sort of thing in. Last Wednesday, I allowed myself to skip a day of reading and meditating.

Problem is, I literally haven’t done either ever since.

I’m not that broken up about it, though. I don’t feel like mediating was really doing anything for me. That probably means I was doing something wrong (because a few times I started drifting off to sleep). It did help me learn to just stop overcoming short term anxiety, but that’s basically all I use those techniques for now.

As for reading, it’s still just really hard. I don’t know what it is, really. I’m such a slow reader, and it makes it extremely hard to want to read. And audiobooks are amazing and all, but I’m actually a visual person, so sometimes I will misunderstand or skip things entirely with audiobooks because I’ll accidentally tune out. Oh well.

Does that mean I’m doing a bad job with improving myself? I mean, maybe. But I’m also doing a bunch of stuff still, so dropping a few things doesn’t feel terrible. On one hand, writing (and narrating) a short story every week. I’m also prepping for a big project, which I’m still debating on whether or not to post on the blog (I probably will, but I make no promises).

I know that a lot of people will say “Dude, chill, you don’t have to be productive 200% of the time. It’s not good for you. Take some time to unwind once in a while.”

The problem with that is that part of me feels like I am relaxing a lot, and I just give off the vibe that I’m extremely busy. I would love to get inside the head of the average Joe for a day just for some perspective. How much is my drive to become better is unnecessary?

I’ll admit—I almost didn’t write today. I know nobody is reading this, and I don’t blame them. It’s no cool fantasy story. But I think writing even when it’s hard builds character, and the last thing I want is to get into the habit of skipping blog days just because I’m tired or have nothing to say.

Tune in Friday for content that won’t be a waste of your time!

Me — Knowing Yourself

Recently (within the past few years) I’ve noticed that I really don’t know myself all that well. I, like everyone else, have this nebulous list of wants and needs, but lately, I’ve realized that in order to figure out the “how” of achieving this list, it’s important to understand the “why” those wants and needs are in place. If you don’t know the “why”, figuring out the “how” can be nearly impossible.

It isn’t enough to say “I want to start a family and be successful.” There are lots of ways to accomplish this. If you want a family because you think it will make you feel validated as a person, you need to dig deeper. There are lots of ways to feel validated as a person. This isn’t to say that your list of wants is wrong, just that the why can inform your decision making. Why is having a family the way you choose to pursue your goal of validation? Is it because you never felt like you had a supportive family? Or because you want to leave something behind? Or something completely different?

These aren’t the questions I ask myself, but the idea is the same. Figuring out the “why” will make the “how” much clearer, but it’s not always easy to see. Sometimes, the wants themselves are difficult to understand. This happens a lot with teenagers who are just finding things (and people) they like. I’m sure we’ve all heard stories about (or are) people who dated people against their sexual preference because they didn’t know themselves to act differently. It’s a learning process, and the path is really obscure. As in, the canopy is four feet high and we can’t even see where we’re going because we’re constantly getting whacked with leaves and branches.

I don’t have any clear cut answers that will help you figure out who you are. I’m a little busy asking myself hard questions. There are two things that I’ve made a habit of doing, though, to ensure that I’m at least on the right path. One: ask yourself if you’re happy, or if you feel you’re taking steps to get there. If not, what steps can you take now that will put you in that direction? Two: Constantly keep tabs on how you feel. Keep track of what makes you feel good and bad, and use this as a road map. Play Hot-Cold by yourself, and soon you’ll develop a compass that will get you somewhere. It may not be the place that you expected to go, but constantly questioning everything, and thinking about why you are the way you are is bound to yield good results, even if it doesn’t happen right away.

In my experience, everyone older than you seems to know what you’re doing. It’s amazing, if you think about it. Everyone 50% older than me seems to have their life on track, but as soon as I get that old, I realize I’m wrong. I’m probably showing my age a bit by asking this half-rhetorical question, but I’m curious: do people ever really “figure out” who they are? Or are we all just swimming around in a pool of confusion and only barely figuring out where we should be?

Me — Spending Time

This post is sort of a ramble. It’s neither a rant nor a lecture: just talking about me and my lifestyle.

I’m one of those people that isn’t ever satisfied if I’m only doing one thing. If something doesn’t require 100% of my focus, then I’ll almost certainly be doing something else in addition to it. Usually this means podcasts while playing video games, driving, drawing, etc. The last several weeks I’ve had nothing better to do, so I blasted through Oathbringer while I played a ton of Heroes of the Storm.

It’s sort of odd, because I feel like I’m wasting my time if I’m only doing one thing at a time (with the exception of writing, of course). I get virtually nothing out of playing Heroes, so even that sometimes feels unproductive. Couldn’t I be doing something better with my time while I listen to audiobooks? Like laundry, or general house tidying?

I know this probably sounds a bit crazy. I’m totally aware of how obsessed I am with this much constant productiveness, but it’s also who I’ve grown comfortable with being. If playing a video games with an audiobook in the background feels unproductive, I bet you can imagine how it feels when I’m not even listening to that audiobook. But this means I’m always getting things done.

Recently I’ve also taken on meditation, which interacts very strangely with that philosophy. Meditation is all about stopping and just enjoy the moment—doing absolutely nothing. I’ve heard lots of great things about meditation in the past, and while I do feel its helped me be more present in the moment, I don’t think it’s been groundbreaking as far as changing my lifestyle. Admittedly, it can still feel like a chore sometimes, but it works pretty well with reducing spikes in anxiety.

I’ve found that this whole mindset of “everything must have a productive purpose” is hard for other people to understand. I don’t really watch TV shows. If you want to get anything out of it you can’t do anything on the sidelines, and they’re often dozens, if not hundreds of hours long. Movies can be okay—you get through the entire beginning and end of the story in less than three hours—but even then I don’t make a habit of watching them. If I could, I’d watch classic movies a lot, though. I feel there’s a lot I could get out of them, it’s just hard for me in particular to get access to them.

And yet, where has all this gotten me? I personally don’t think this has given me any sort of upper hand among my peers as far as experience goes. If somebody asks me what I’ve been doing with my time not watching the shows and movies everyone has seen, I really wouldn’t know what to tell them. I wouldn’t say I’ve read a large amount of audiobooks, or played lots of different kinds of games. I don’t feel as though I’m much further ahead than anyone my age, really.

I suppose that’s probably pretty good. Maybe it means that no matter what you do or what you’ve done, somebody my age still has all the time in the world to be or do something completely new and worthwhile.

Me — Habits and Resolutions

Everyone likes to start every new year with a resolution. Like “I want to lose weight” or “I want to be more mindful of other people’s perspectives”. If you’re not one of those people, you’re probably one that likes to bash on other people’s goals. It certainly isn’t easy to suddenly become a new person, and a lot of resolutions are sort of destined to fail.

One problem I see a lot isn’t that people establish goals that are too high, it’s that they set goals with no road map. They say “I’m going to lose weight” but don’t get a gym subscription. They want to eat healthier but don’t take the time to research what sort of food they should start eating. They just set this idea and put it on the shelf only to be procrastinated indefinitely. That just doesn’t work.

I used to make blog posts on “How to do X”, such as making this post about how not to fail, but I think life is, in general, too complex to have problems such as this solved in 500-800 words. So I won’t try to tell you the solution to the problem. Instead, I’ll just talk about what I do, because it seems to work out for me alright.

In the end, the goal isn’t actually as important as the steps you’re taking to get there, and a lot of those steps involve habits. I, like everyone I’m sure, have a lot of things I want to change about myself. But instead of deciding to turn instantly be the person I want, I’m taking actions that the person I want to be would have a habit of doing.

I actually got a Phone App called Habits that works amazingly well, and yet is so simple. You write down things you want to do, and how often you want to achieve those things. Most of my goals are daily things I don’t want to forget doing, so I can easily keep track of whether or not I’ve done that thing today. It also has a stats page that keeps track of streaks and how “strong” your habit is. It’s nothing special, but things I would otherwise want to be different about me are suddenly things I do regularly, because the only thing I need to remember is to open the app every once in a while and look at the checklist. I will say—checking things off a to-do list is an amazing feeling, so that in and of itself is a great reward.

So if you want to lose weight, don’t just give yourself a deadline. Ask yourself what steps you’re taking to achieve those goals and work for it. I have some awesome writing related things planned for this year, but I know that these things won’t magically get themselves done. I’m going to have to make sure I stick to my schedule.

Also, as a general rule I think post changes in a person’s life are too gradual to actually consciously perceive on a day-to-day basis, so having a resolution where you want something to change quickly is not only unrealistic, but also discouraging!

Best of luck!