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The month of January has been a good lab for working on my perfectionist tendencies.

I know I’ve been encouraging you not to be perfectionists yourselves, because I truly think the quest for perfectionism can be harmful, but I have realized that I need to keep learning tools and practices to help myself feel good about my progress without having unrealistic expectations. This last week I tried tackling my perfectionism by looking at how I spent my time.

When I’m feeling pressure to meet a deadline or juggle multiple projects at once, I often wish I had more time. The more I think about it, though, what I really wish I had more of are focus and energy. I am consistently expending energy and focus. For work, it looks like reading/developing lessons, grading, commenting on student work (job 1), dealing with registrations/payments/invoices, updating the website, so many emails (job 2), and composing/revising reports and analyzing data (job 3). For my research, it’s archival materials, articles, books, “how to” readings, and my own writing/notes. For the blog, it’s podcasts, some books, some blogs, and my own notes and writing and the conversations I have about them. That’s a hell of a lot, and then when you add face-to-face interactions, social media, and online window shopping, I’m spending so much time/energy/focus on consuming things! Also, let’s be real: some of those things are more fun than others to consume….

This last week, I zoned in on my social media and podcast consumption. I know that when I run into a challenge in my work or my research that my go-to is to check Instagram, Facebook, or Etsy (which I use like Pinterest. Somehow, thankfully, I don’t have a Pinterest yet). I listen to podcasts whenever I’m driving, walking, at the gym, doing chores at home, and sometimes when I’m in the bath. Clearly, these two things are taking up a LOT of my focus. I decided to evaluate my consumption of them for two reasons:

  1. For as much time as I spend “working,” I don’t check as many things off my to-do list as I’d like.
  2. I fill my mind with self improvement messages, but I don’t always engage with or remember them.

So, I spent last week focused on my use of social media and podcast intake, and I learned a few great lessons and easy-to-apply tweaks that boosted my productivity and actually helped me feel more calm and relaxed.

 

Podcasts

I realized that I take in a lot of self improvement podcasts, but depending on what I’m doing, they can of get absorbed into my brain without me engaging with them. Case in point: I listened to about 45 minutes of an interview with a positive psychologist at the gym last week, but I was also watching an episode of closed captioned Bob’s Burgers on the TV. Since I’m up to date on all of my favorite podcasts, I try out new things that I’m not dedicated to and I don’t always focus as much as I’d like.

I decided to take notes on the podcasts I listened to last week. I jotted down at least one takeaway per podcast, and this helped me determine whether I really wanted to listen to something or if I was just trying to fill space. For the sake of space I will leave a few podcasts off the list, but here is most of what I took in:

  1. Driving home from sweetheart’s house last weekend: the latest Honest Money Conversations. I love this podcast because Cait Flanders and Carrie Smith are funny, but they are also great models for getting out of debt and earning money. The episode I listened to was about Making Big Decisions, and the thing I took away was that planning and thinking about something for a while before you do it is okay. Also, I was inspired to use my one overflow savings account, which is currently collecting dust with the $15 that sits in it, to save up for self improvement things (like future workshops or books I want to buy).
  2. Also driving home from Sweetie’s: I re-started a podcast that I half listened to at the gym before: Episode 41 of the Let It Out podcast with Katie Dalebout. I’m on a Gabby Bernstein kick, and I can totally see why everyone is so obsessed with her! I’ve listened to a few interviews with her about her new book, Judgement Detox, but this was an older one before Spirit Junkie came out.  I took away a message that I too want to be a light worker like Gabby and Katie (I already knew this, but the podcast kind of gave more permission). I love the idea of asking Spirit to work through you. I love hearing how Gabby reminds Katie that we are all just people, and not to feel like we are less than someone we think is so brilliant.
  3. On the walk from the car to my work, which is about 10 minutes, I didn’t want to start a new podcast that I couldn’t really commit to, so I listened to a short recording from the Insight Timer app by Sara Auster called “Calm.” It was only 2 minutes long, so I listened to it twice and then decided to just listen to the geese flying overhead. There were no words, and I wouldn’t call that walk meditation, but I did like the idea that I was taking in calming sound before I started working.
  4. Kate Snowise shared her own self love meditation with the Reboot & Reconnect group, and I’ve been listening to that about once a day since then. I love it!
  5. In the bath one night I listened to Sara Brooke’s “Daily Chakra Cleanse Meditation” on the Insight Timer app. It was about checking in with and clearing your chakras. I wish it had said more about how the chakras function and offered mantras for each one. I listened to a podcast before about mantras and chakras…I’ll have to see if I can hunt it down.
  6. On the way in to work another day, I listened to an Earn Your Happy podcast about letting go and allowing faith to guide us. It was a quickie episodes and I didn’t get the link–oops.
  7. I actually listened to some music on the drive home work one day, and I was really into it! I think I wrote this before, but listening to pop music makes me sad because I miss spinning so much and I always imagine how I could adjust the bike’s resistance and what position I’d be in for different parts of the songs. I’m trying to train myself to get into a rhythm of music on the elliptical sometimes, too.
  8. At the gym: Last week in R&R Kate mentioned Shannon Kaiser (who is her coach!) and since there were no new episodes form my fave podcasts out, I re-listened to one of Kate’s interviews with Shannon while I was at the gym. I actually wrote two things in my notes on my phone that stood out to me that Shannon said to Kate: What three things can I do today that my future self will hug me for? And what would your future self say to you now? I love both of these because they are self loving, and they think about the future self as a reality. Future for me can be scary–so I like imagining myself financially stable and happy through that exercise.

 

Social Media

I decided to only check social media three times a day this week. I’ve heard podcasters mention that they had positive experiences with only checking it twice or three times a day, so I went for it.

This challenge was important to me for two reasons:

  1. When I’m in the bath at night, I don’t want to waste time looking at my phone when I could be reading/resting my eyes/taking in the intentional calm space I set up for myself. (Also, I don’t want to drop my phone in the water, which I did twice last year (whoops!))
  2. I know that I use social media as a procrastination or dissociation tool, and I’m not proud of how I feel after it.

One night I was washing up dishes and reorganizing my silverware drawer, and I didn’t want to start a new podcast, so I re-listened to some episodes from Brooke McAlary’s Slow Your Home podcast about social media. Here’s my takeaways from those episodes:

  1. Twitter: Brooke said she used it to get news. This is the biggest reason I use it, but I also follow some poets and I like to read the Poet Astrologers account. I don’t post on my own Twitter, though.
  2. Instagram: The the biggest thing I took away from this was to give ourselves permission to unfollow accounts that make us feel bad about ourselves. I actually did this the first time I heard this podcast months ago. I stopped following a lingerie company and a vintage clothing company because the sizes were always too small for my frame. I like to think that I have body confidence, but I felt like every one of the accounts’ posts bummed me out because I wouldn’t fit into their clothes (the vintage clothes literally usually only came in an XS), so I just stopped following them. I don’t miss it. Brooke also gave a good reminder that what people put on IG isn’t necessarily real (i.e., famous people have professional photographers, people stage their pictures, etc.)
  3. Facebook: The takeaway from here is that Brooke (and Ben, her husband and co-host) only really friend people who they would get coffee with. There are a few groups that mean very much to me on Facebook because they are special groups for working-class, femme, butch/femme, or feminist people. Also, FB keeps me in the in the poetry world loop, and there’s a few friends who post hilarious and happy things about their kids that always makes me feel good to read. I treat Facebook kind of like a message board: I ask questions to get answers, check what’s new in my groups, or look for events that are happening.

So, I deleted all the apps off my phone and decided that if I wanted to check them, I’d have to ration my 3 checks and either re-download and then delete the app or log in on a computer.

I learned a few things through this process:

  • After my alarm goes off in the morning, I immediately check my email and then go to check my social media. I don’t like that at all! If I get a stressful work email, I want to wait until I’ve at least had coffee. Maybe another post will be on email use?
  • When I check social media while I brew coffee/eat breakfast, I tend to spend more time than needed on it. Cait mentioned in an Honest Money Conversations podcast that she noticed that she would watch a whole half hour or hour of TV when she was eating, even though it only took her a few minutes to eat. I definitely felt that here!
  • I feel a desire to check social media when I run into a complication or challenge in my work. I found myself itching to use my afternoon social media checks because I was nervous that I might not meet a work deadline for a project that required a quick turnover. Realistically, checking social media would have made that even MORE stressful, so I am thinking my impulse to check was a desire for distraction or dissociation. I know that getting up and walking around the block is so much more helpful to me when that happens.
  • When I was nervous about how much it was snowing, I wanted to check IG/FB. I hate to drive in the snow and I was nervous it wouldn’t let up before I had to drive, so I think, again, I wanted to use IG/FB to space out.
  • When I didn’t let myself use FB/IG to dissociate from work stress/snow nerves, I felt myself wanting to eat junk food and goodies, which made me realize that maybe I was treating FB/IG like I’d treat distraction/comfort/dissociation eating. Interesting!
  • Checking IG on my laptop actually encouraged me to look at more accounts with intention. Usually if I browse on IG it’s because I get sucked into the never-ending list of suggested pictures/videos to look at (the magnifying glass), which can be relaxing but can also be dissociating and procrastination. I’ve definitely lost an hour at a time in that IG hole. On my laptop, I’m much more intentional.
  • I didn’t check social media in the bath.
  • I didn’t check Twitter at all. Sorry, Twitter.
  • When I used FB, I checked my groups and intentionally wrote comments on posts. This is something I heard Kelly Exeter mention that she does, either in a Let It Be or a Straight and Curly podcast. I liked that!

 

I learned a few things:

  1. I don’t miss Twitter. I’ll save that one for breaking news and to check when I’m super bored.
  2. I actually felt my desire to check social media lessening as the days went by. It felt like a nice detox. A few of the days I only checked it once or twice, to be honest. I’ll keep doing no more than 3 checks a day, at least for a while.
  3. I use social media to procrastinate when I’m stressed, and I know what’s better for me is to get up and go for a walk or to reach out to a friend to talk through whatever thing I’m stuck on. Also, I like to build up tolerance for getting through challenges in work or stress.
  4. I like it when I have takeaways noted down from podcasts! When I find a podcast that I really love, I want to listen to ALL of them. I’ve already listened to every episode of Here To Thrive, Let It Be, Straight and Curly, and most of Honest Money Conversations, but I didn’t really take tons of notes until now. I wish I had taken notes the first time around, so I’ll be sure to do that now, even if it’s just on my phone.

 


 

Update on Reconnect & Reboot

Unsurprisingly, last week’s R&R workshop was amazing. Our focus was on Connection, and the biggest thing I took away was further encouragement to listen to my inner guidance. Kate encouraged us to journal, meditate, and to get in touch with what makes us joyful.

I remember one day last week, I had put around 10 hours over two days into revising a document, I was disappointed that I hadn’t been able to do more work on my dissertation, and all I wanted to do was take a pity-bath and read some YA fiction to check out. But, my inner guidance told me: “Hell yeah, take your amazing bath. But first, do a little dissertation work. Even if its just journaling.” I thought about how I could make that dissertation work fun, and I mapped out a lot of key questions and drew up some plans. I am a much more visual writer (think maps, scales, pictures, lots of things with lines connecting them, papers taped to the wall), and I just went for it. I am SO glad I did that, because it created a foundation that I revised the next day.

 

*Please note that the original version of this blog post was published here

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