Sunday, March 31, 2019

Investing Energy: Staying on Top of Things

My best laid plans the past few years have always seemed to hit snags. For instance: this is my first real blogpost since my blog address change. BDP officially closed on December 31. I had intended to write a heartfelt send-up for the readers who have been around since the beginning. My plans were thwarted, however, as I had to work on investing energy in a large-scale way   as I worked through the following things in the past 6 months:

-A car accident involving a man-hole cover flying at my car soon after my 36th birthday (as if my feelings about my birthday aren't complicated enough, the Final Destination-ness of this event stuck with me longer than I care to admit).
-My spouse's 16-year-old cat, Stubbins, nearly dying three days before Christmas (Caleb stayed home last minute to care for him). We've decided to not pursue any further intervention care.
-My parked car being involved in a second accident, this time with a U-Haul on New Years Day. It was nearly totaled, which meant we would spend another year with one car between us; which has become increasingly untenable. The auto body shop was able to find a way to keep the cost just low enough for us to keep it, which I am so grateful for.

Add to this my day and weekend work: At my day job, I was trained as a trainer with Trauma-Informed Oregon and I worked on extensive learning modules based on trauma-informed care (keep an eye out for an online course coming soon that will NOT use these modules but will address related topics); and in my "free" time I created presentations and ran a course on the Disability Community in the library. Usually, I'm able to enjoy vastly different work between my day job and my side stuff. At one point a few months ago, I had just finished writing about  historical trauma and institutional oppression; the next day I walked to the coffee shop and opened up my laptop to a slide that just said: "Disabled People are Burdens."

Yeah, it's been fun.

Through all this I'm thinking about stuff I've put in place in order to mitigate particularly stressful situations and stay on top of things. It's really a huge deal for me; and even though I don't have everything under control at all times, I thought I'd share some things that have helped:

-Got my meds right: yes, again. It's a process.

-Have one notebook where EVERYTHING lives: I first got this idea from Shawn Brommer, who presented on her organizational style at the 2015 ILEAD Wisconsin workshop. One thing I've definitely borrowed from her style is writing down things I've accomplished that didn't make my to-do list but I accomplished anyway. My notebook has become such a mainstay in my my office that my boss and two of my coworkers also carry them around everywhere.

Various college ruled notebooks, dated to indicate the timeframe each one contains.

-Mark emails on my to-do list: and I don't cross them off until I hit send. Emails can sometimes be easy things to do, though I have a tendency to write them and forget to send them until later. Meds help, but marking them with a little box on the side of my to-do list can alert me to do things I can do to keep things going. If I don't have much time at my desk one day, it's often more important to get emails out in order to keep projects moving than trying to work on a larger project.

-Question why I'm putting something off: I recently have been reading more about procrastination as it's related to anxiety, and it really makes a lot of sense to me. If I'm feeling particularly willful about a task, I do my best to reflect on why that is, and engage in a short de-stress exercise in my toolkit, and it's usually enough to get over it and get started. Way more often than not, interestingly enough, the anxiety is left over from past toxic work environments; I can acknowledge that my anxiety about a task is valid, but is not useful in a work environment in which I feel relatively safe. Reaching out to coworkers to help me remember this has been especially helpful through change.

-Install web tools to increase focus: random web usage when I'm putting stuff off has been common for me, particularly anymore on the weekends. When I'm having a  hard time reeling in my work-related anxiety, I actually find it soothing (though COMPLETELY UNPRODUCTIVE, to be fair) to Google the same things over and over again. At one point several years ago, my anxiety was particularly about my place in the world outside of my workplace, which I assumed (irrationally, I know) I would die at before I had the opportunity to leave. Consequently, the thing I Googled the most was, like, my own name. My own self-preservation had completely taken over. To disrupt this tendency anymore, I use tools like Block Site. Seeing the block screen is often enough for me to engage in a de-stress activity and rededicate my brain.

-Write things down as a I remember them: As I go through the week, occasionally my mind will wander in a meeting or on non-work time and I remember something that I need to do. I'll either email the idea to myself, or write it in the margins of my notebook with a big star. At the beginning of the next week, all big-starred and emailed items are added to my to-do list.

-Have meeting days and non-meeting days where possible: this is a hugely useful change I'm moving toward thanks to my coworker Katie. I'm sure I'm not alone in that my brain works differently at meetings versus at my desk, and it can be tough to transition if meetings are scattered throughout the week. While scattered meetings are not completely unavoidable, I try to find at least one day every two weeks where there are no meetings scheduled, and rope off that time on my calendar. This is time to dig into large projects and catch up.

Staying on top of things can be overwhelming especially when life goes pear-shaped. But it's been powerful to figure out a system that works for me in a job as varied as the one I've got.

What are some things that help you stay on top of things?