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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:
- For as much time as I spend “working,” I don’t check as many things off my to-do list as I’d like.
- 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.
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:
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
- 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!))
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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:
- I don’t miss Twitter. I’ll save that one for breaking news and to check when I’m super bored.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.