Why am I so anxious after 10am?

I had a kind of mini panic attack this morning – the first in a long time. I had sat down at my desk because my son was taking his morning nap. My HabitRPG did not reset due to server issues on their end so I was inputting in my to-do list on Google Calendar instead. When going through my dissertation tasks for the day, I peeked into an old folder of scans and felt floored. There was so much information. I was wasting so much time! And I’m sooo hungry…I can’t concentrate! And god so tired, why isn’t my child sleeping through the night? Maybe I’ll…yes, I’ll do other things. And then I began to write Thank You cards for my son’s birthday presents…stopped midway, and began reading Reddit (even though I already skimmed all the front page posts). Then, why am I here?? Look for a Chrome app to block this site! BLOCK BLOCK. Aagghh. My heart was pounding and I started doing my old bad habit of rubbing my face with one finger out of stress (which had replaced pulling out my hair).

How did that happen? Because I was fine from 7am – 10am. What happened after 10am?

Problem 1: No clear use of time Continue reading

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January reflection, February planning

Every December I write up a bunch of emails to be sent to my “future self.” The idea is that people are incredibly poor at predicting their future selves and thus constantly procrastinate. I wanted to remind myself that I am, well, me. I will not inherently achieve goals just through the passage of time. The past me, dreaming and hoping that 2015 me would take care of it, pops up to remind me not to rely on 2016 me, on 2017 me, etc but just to take care of what I need to get done, asap.

The first of the 2015 emails came today. I can’t believe an entire month has flown by. To be honest, I feel a little…stressed? How has a whole month gone by? Will another whole year just zoom on by like this? With no reflection, no sense of accomplishment/milestone marking?

My January goals:
1. Stop feeling like an imposter version of myself and…
get a haircut = YES
update skin care = YES
*Doing well because these goals are so straightforward.

2. Write 750 words/day
Did I = Meh.
Some days were harder than others. I also am not carefully tracking 750 words but just writing. This might be why things don’t feel so…dynamic?

3. Close the Universe. Aka, plan and take action instead of planning, planning, planning.
Set up D’s baptism stuff = YES
Set up D’s birthday stuff = MEH, lots of wasted time Pinteresting.
Limit myself to 2 days of planning and research for diss = Yes. Good for me!

My February Goals
1. Stop feeling like an imposter version of myself and…
Update makeup = YES
Keep setting up weekly meal plans
Weigh myself each morning and mark it. The goal is to build a habit of doing this so the dieting process will be easier.

2. Write 750 words/day.
I’m still choosing a theme for the month (hygienic modernity february, woohoo). I’m still choosing writing questions for each week. The difference is, I’ll try to chain 750 words/day and X it on my calendar at the end of the day. If I can get through 7 days of straight writing, I’ll treat myself to something. If I can get through 28 days of straight writing, holy crap, I will bake myself a damn pie.

3. Close the universe.
Time block all planning – like meals – to better track my time.

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Habit Chains for 2015

I’ve written about habit chains before. In order to automate my life (saving precious my decision-making brain power on the things that matter) and to build good habits, people advise that you set up chains of actions that automatically trigger each following step. It is important to group actions in logical ways, breaking up bad habits by breaking their associations and replacing these with new ones.

So for example, I have a bad habit of drinking coffee while browsing the internet until waking up. My unconscious habit of wasting time online was always triggered by the post breakfast coffee and the location (kitchen table). Like, “hmm what should I do while finishing my coffee here? I guess I’ll check the news…” and then I’d lose an hour, long after the coffee went cold. I’ve also wasted the morning nap time by dicking around online or on my phone, assuming that since the baby doesn’t usually sleep past an hour for that nap and I’m TOO TIRED to do anything and my spouse is working, I should just chill on the couch.

I’m trying to build in a habit of incorporating a BHA in the morning. I’m also generally trying to be more efficient about errands and housework, cutting out dead time that falls during naps. I’ll watch a 30 minute video while tidying up instead. It is still “relaxing” and mindless but helpful. This frees up my afternoon so I can just focus on work and frees up my evening to truly relax.

This is my new habit chains. I’ve organized these to be easy and mindless, linked by time and location.

Morning
Bedroom: Wake up, contacts etc, BHA
Nursery: Get child, feed, diaper change
Bathroom: Wash hands, FTE + lotion
Kitchen: Breakfast, coffee, sunblock
Kitchen still: Check meal plan, make grocery list if necessary
[play]
[naptime routine]
Kitchen: Watch anime + dishes + clean up during the nap

Mid-morning – Afternoon
Nursery: Get child, feed, change clothes
Out: Errands, walk, play
Kitchen: lunch, dinner prep
[play]
[naptime routine]
Out: work

Late afternoon – Evening
Nursery: Feed child
Kitchen: Dinner
[Baby bath]
Kitchen: dishes, put away toys
Nursery: bedtime

Kitchen: Pump, meal planning or relaxing

Evening
Bedroom: Shower, sleep

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My “If ____, then _____” experiment for the day.

I am lucky to have a spouse who can observe my habits with brutal objectivity. Whenever I say things like, “oh I’ll just work from home today” then he gives me a look and says “When has that EVER worked out?” Never, of course. Over the years, I’ve started being more observant of my bad habits and the typical obstacles that interfere with productivity and reaching my goals.

One way to anticipate roadblocks is to script “If, Then” statements. Let’s experiment this week because I failed to reach my goal on Monday. Today is Tuesday and I bribed myself with a new pen if I could hit 750 for 6 days straight.

This month’s theme: Theorizing consumption and race

This week’s question: How does feminist phenomenology (or the top 3 voices in this field at least) address embodied subjectivity? How do their insights help me theorize the embodied consumer subject and race?

Today’s goal, from 1pm – 4pm: 750 words on Judith Butler’s Bodies That Matter. Will reread her Preface. Write. Intro. Write. And Cheah’s review. Write and edit.

Likely scenarios:

If I start losing concentration, then I will take a 5 minute break via Pomoderos.

If I start reading and highlighting without paraphrasing, then I will stop every 5 pages to force myself to rewrite what I’ve read in a meaningful way.

If I am reading too much, even after stopping with each section/chapter, then I will stop after each subsection to WRITE before continuing on.

If I feel sleepy, then tough shit. Get up and stretch.

If I feel thirsty, then I will walk all the damn way to Sbux instead of going home and work from there. 30 minutes lost is better than 2 hours lost.

If I work hard but still can’t finish 750 words, then I will go home and leave this computer on my desk, open with the file still up.

If I fail to do that, then I will delete Plants Vs Zombies on my iphone because fuck that.

If I vastly overestimated how much work I can accomplish in 3 hours (because this is difficult reading and I swear I have brain damage from 11 months of NO SLEEP), then aggressively re-assess and re-plan.

Let’s see how it goes.

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My 2015 Resolutions

I was somewhat successful on hitting my 2014 Resolutions so, I’m giddily thinking about my next year’s plan. The pre-planning tips still apply: 3 resolutions, time-boxed steps, regular reminders. But learning from my mistakes this year, I’ll make sure to break things down more simply, be more realistic, and now think about optimizing my day. Continue reading

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What happened to the 2014 New Years Resolutions?

In December 2013, I made 3 resolutions. How did they pan out?

Goal 1.  In 2014, I resolve to successfully make the transition from grad school into professional life. Specific Goal: finish PhD (everything must end) and if unemployed, at least make active progress on a job hunt (regularly send job applications, submit at least 2 articles for review, 2 book reviews).

Result? Hmm…just ooookay. I did not defend but I made considerable progress on finishing my degree and put together all of my job materials. I tiptoed onto the job market as an exercise and it jump started my writing. Having been forced to summarize my (still unfinished) dissertation in a job letter, I now have a general argument, contribution, and outline brought together as an elevator pitch AND a memo to myself for moving forward. I even presented at a conference! The monthly reminders from RemindMe were actually wonderful and motivating, but I just didn’t quite get to my goals.

Goal 2.  In 2014, I also resolve to cultivate mindfulness for survival parenting. Specific Goal: develop mindfulness as a daily habit in terms of weekly journals, daily meditations, and an emphasis on acceptance and peace with the Here and Now.

Result?  Great? I’ve been more self-aware this 2014 than ever in my entire life. There was very little malaise/anxiety after about month 6, which I credit to stabilizing hormones and sleep training. That being said, I wish I could have meditated more.

Goal 3. In 2014, I resolve to improve my skin tone. Specific Goal: develop Vit C serum habit and drink 2 glasses of water (each morning, each night).

Result? Great! I did Vit C for a while but then ditched that in favor of tretinoin, BHAs, reddit’s skincareaddiction board, and Korean skin care. I look pretty damn great for someone that hasn’t slept in 10 months.

~~~

What could I have done better? Why were the latter 2 goals attainable but not the first? 

Make goals into simple, “no duh” actions. The skin care goal was so easy: drink water daily, put on vitamin C, wear eye cream. And now, I have great skin and a wonderful de-stresser, anti-aging routine. To cover “Mindfulness,” I penciled in my daily HabitRPG to “make a choice and be confident in it,” (which could be as simple as driving to Stater Brothers vs Sprouts market), “journal,” or just spend time with my husband. In contrast, “Get a phd” is not quite so simple. It should have been “draft chapter 3 by March” or something like that.

Build a buffer in the day for unpredictability. When sitting down in the morning to plan my to-dos and whatnot, I have a bad habit of writing down the IDEAL day instead of a realistic day.  This being my very first year in parenthood, I vastly underestimated just how difficult and unpredictable life would be. I made some bleary eyed choices that did not help keep a work/life balance. So I need to build the crazy into the work plan.

Squeeze, streamline for more time. Honestly, the most basic thing is lack of time and then shitty time management once I get a break. One thing we’re experimenting with is split days (I get 1-4pm to work) and what is MOST beneficial is working with specific goals. I also need to automate much more in my life to save on ego-depletion. Luckily my mom gave me a slow cooker for Christmas so, we’ll get started on that asap. This household needs to be a better oiled machine so I can actually sit down and focus.

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You are always making choices

I admit. In the last year, there were many exhausting nights when I just felt really damn sorry for myself and my stalled career. Motherhood, while being joyous and beautiful, honestly felt like The End of my potential in academia and The End of a decade of hard work. The boat full of viciously ambitious, childless, newly minted PhDs had left 3 years ago (when I should have defended) and left me with the stigma of being one of those hanger-on ABDs that never graduate.  And in my new capacity as a mother, I felt like I couldn’t even attempt to follow.  I love my child so much but blamed blamed blamed everything about my new responsibilities for my inability to write.

The most important realization of 2014 was that I’m always making choices. Two examples: I had the (ugly but still possible) option of putting my child in full time childcare at any point in the last year. It would have been emotionally devastatingly and prohibitively expensive but the point is, I COULD have chosen that. I didn’t. I had the choice of bottle feeding my child formula from Day 1. It would have been a little more costly and less beneficial for the baby but it would have opened up longer spans for me to be away working, opened up the chance for dad to tend to the baby at night so I could sleep for more than 3 hours at a time. I didn’t choose that either.

Neither of these examples is to brag or say that I’m better/more sacrificing than others. Nor am I pointing them out to say I regret them as POOR choices or mistakes. I’m writing about these because I didn’t actually recognize either of these as choices for a long time. It was just something I was doing, that felt “right” even though it was hard on myself.

Taking responsibility for the choices that led to my current state, here this moment on Dec 7 2014, is both sobering and liberating. As all working parents can commiserate, you have the choice of finishing that thing for work tonight…or bonding with your kid. You can spend all Saturday writing that grant proposal alone…or going to get a Christmas tree with your family and taking baby’s first picture with Santa. The sentimental world of parenthood suggests that anything other than the latter marks you as a cruel, absent parent and a terrible spouse. The cold world of business/academia dismisses you as a “Mommy” idiot if you don’t do anything but the former. It isn’t fair, but you have to make your choices and deal with the ramifications of those decisions.

But it is liberating in a way too. Once I realized that I was making choices on how to live my life, at each moment of the day, the anxiety dissipated. There was no “I have to” or “I can’t” but, “what are my options and what is the best choice for me now?” It made me realize that I chose not to put my newborn in daycare but I could choose to hire a babysitter at 9 months to free up an hour or so a day. It made me realize that I could choose to buy jarred baby food instead of laboriously making babyfood by hand 3x a day as the Mommy websites suggested.

I feel confident that I can develop a working balance in 2015. More on that later.

And while I have not been blogging regularly, I have been pretty good at keeping up with those 2014 New Years Resolutions. What a shock! I have to thank the masterminds behind FutureMe for letting me forward 11 guilt inducing inspirational emails from the current me to the future me, to be read by the current me from the past me (did you get all that?). 2014 turned out to be a pretty educational year of massive change.

Going to use these last few weeks to the best of my ability.

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