rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
From last weekend until 8th June is literally the busiest I will be all year: 2 OU courses with exams on 6th and 8th, and a third that just started and will run until September. I knew I was going to be stressed and overloaded and wrung out for about 8 weeks and had basically made my peace with it as the price for getting done this year rather than next.

And now 8th June is a general election, and I have no time to campaign, and have to fight the guilt gremlins that think I should surely be able to carve some time out magically, somehow, and funnily enough being even more stressed does not increase my productivity, or help me sleep.  This has not been the best week!

I've now logged out of Twitter and Facebook on my phone, so I can't take the stress with me everywhere.  I've devoted the weekend to resting and sorting out money (thus removing some other stress).  I'm behind on everything, but Facebook reminded me that I wrote this time last year about being behind on everything. While I'm still perpetually running too close to my limits, those limits have expanded in the last year.  I'm routinely working a 5-day rather than a 4-day week, I'm studying at a higher level, and my fitness has improved a little.

So I'm going to trust that if I take care of myself, I can get through this.  At least by 9th June some of my stressors are guaranteed to be gone.

rmc28: (glowy)
  1. Discovering my netbook, which has been a bit ropey for a while, is now literally falling apart and intermittently failing.
  2. Shopping for a new netbook.
  3. Going to an actual shop to get a new netbook:
    • advantage - got it today
    • disadvantage - had to deal with multiple salespeople (all men) who patronised me and tried to upsell me on lots of extras I don't want.  This is why I like shopping online.
    • call me naive but if I reserve a computer online to collect from your Collection Point, I kind of expect it to be there, not to have to wander around the store being handed off between salespeople and patronised etc for a good 15 minutes before getting the computer I wanted.
  4. Setting up Windows 10, creating a backup drive, and installing Ubuntu
  5. Restoring all my files from backup onto Ubuntu
  6. Getting things back the way I like them
(Currently still on step 4)
Also posted at http://rmc28.dreamwidth.org/632721.html with comment count unavailable comments.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
That Open University assignment I took two half-days off to finish so as to avoid an all-nighter?  I ended up needing both the time off and most of a night.  I got 2 hours sleep and was surprisingly functional on the next day, but it was pretty horrible.  Luckily this came just before a 4-day weekend, but it's been an instructive example of what happens when I try to "just push through" being tired all the time.  It is remarkably like what happens if I try to keep typing through an RSI flare-up without any mitigation: short-term goals can be achieved, but only at the expense of a much longer recovery period.

I am just now beginning to get over that nearly-all-nighter, after a lot more time in bed over the last two weeks than I'd like.  Fatigue is cumulative, and I was pushing up against my limits even before the essay crisis.  So, I'm pacing myself very carefully, and I'm ignoring everything that doesn't have to be done now and doesn't have to be done by me.  I've booked another tranche of 4-day weeks at work (I'm definitely sure now that 3x full + 2x half is the right pattern for that) and am just hoping I can recover enough to think about working full time before my leave runs out.

Things I haven't the time to write about:
  • I saw Captain America: Civil War and on the whole liked it.  Not as much as Winter Soldier, but a lot more than Avengers: Age of Ultron.
  • Our weekend routine is now pretty settled, with activities for both children over both days.
  • My mother and stepfather came for a visit :-)
  • We took Charles to his first theatre production that wasn't aimed at children (A Winters Tale at the ADC, by the ADC) and we will probably take him to some of this summer's Cambridge Shakespeare Festival as a result.
  • This article about how it's not possible to see/read/listen to all the good things, and different approaches to coping with that.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I have booked this morning and tomorrow morning off work to attack the current essay crisis.  (tbh, if I tried to solve it with an all-nighter I'd end up taking time off to recover from that, this seems less foolish)

3 hours, assignment open, go.


I managed 2.5 hours with a short break after the first 90 minutes.  There's ... a lot more of it than there was, but also a lot left to do. That is what this evening and tomorrow morning are for. 

Stages of my assignment writing:
  1. outline
  2. structure
  3. hatred
  4. spitefully filling in structure
  5. grudging admission of interest
  6. absorption
  7. completion
  8. wow, that was a really interesting topic!
I am solidly in stage 4.

(and now it is raining and I have to walk to work imminently)
rmc28: Rachel, in running tshirt and leggings, holding phone and smiling into mirror (runner5)
 My neutrophil (white blood cell) count is above 0.1 (of whatever the unit is), which means docs are willing to say it is rising. I can go home when it is above 0.5 if all else is going well. Translating that to an expected day or date range ... the doctor will check with the consultant for tomorrow (also we'll have tomorrow's counts so better data).

I've asked about requirements for taking the did-chemo-work biopsy, as that's not the same as going-home requirements, but is also something I'm really keen on happening. Should find out tomorrow what those are too.

I think this uncertainty is one of the hardest things for me to get used to. I'm very used to planning my time: timetables, calendar appointments and deadlines. This, I suppose I should call it data-driven planning, is clearly the right approach for my circumstances but it doesn't fit my usual approach at all. And so I'm slowly learning the right questions to ask: what are the thresholds of interest, what happens when we reach them, what are today's results, what is the trend.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
An anonymous commenter asked on one of my Hugo posts "how do you find the time for all the reading?"

Like anything else, I don't "find" time for it, I set aside time for it, I make it a habit, and I do it at the expense of other things I could be doing.

I can't remember not being able to read; my mother taught me well before I went to school.  I can't really remember a time where I wouldn't read every minute I could.  I read in bites, in snacks, in meals and occasionally in great long gorging feasts that usually leave me bloated and in need of a good walk.

So my set-aside habits: I usually read in bed before sleeping.  I often read over my meals, if I'm eating alone or with someone else who wants to read too.  If I wake early, I read in the morning before getting up.  I read while breastfeeding.  I read while supervising bathtime, and while settling my toddler to sleep.  Sometimes I fall asleep too, and wake several hours later, still dressed and with my phone or my book dropped haphazardly somewhere silly.

I read in my leisure time at the weekend, while the children play or watch TV or are looked after by someone not-me.

I read at the expense of other things: I don't watch much TV, I don't go out a lot, I'm currently not studying.  When I first started studying with the OU, back in 2011, I hardly read a book for months.  Study pushed reading out.  Right now, life has pushed studying out and reading seems to have crept back in.

Smartphones and ebooks have made a huge difference to what I read as well as when.  With my first child, I did very little reading, because turning the pages of a paperback one-handed while breastfeeding is hard.  With my second child, I read on my phone.  I read blogs, I read fanfic, I read ebooks, I read random webpages linked to from blogs, I read the Economist and the FT.  My phone lets me take huge amounts of reading material everywhere with me, and it's easy to read in a few minutes here, a few there.  Some things work well read this way, others really don't.

I can't read hardbacks because they set off my RSI unpleasantly.  I read paperbacks from the library and my to-read pile, but I can't read them one-handed.  I have a paperback pile by my bed and by the chair I use most often in the living room, and sometimes I take a book to work to read over my lunch. 

I think also I read faster than average.  Not as fast as some of my friends, but definitely faster than average.  In the context of a discussion on adults reading "trashy" books, I saw several people assert that this mattered more than watching "trashy" films "because it takes so much longer to read a book than watch a film".  I can read a teenage school story in under an hour.  I think I read most standard-sized books in 2-3 hours.  I got the impression this was not typical.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Friday before last, Tony & I went for a lovely meal (launch of the Eat Cambridge festival which we have otherwise not got to).  As it finished early, we opted for a wee drinkie at the Castle before going home. Among other things, this gave us time to talk through some of the things that are stressing me, in particular all the stalled things-we-should-do around the house.

Some of them are stalled because of money.  Much more of them are stalled because of me: I've been struggling for ages to find the thinking-brain capacity to move them along (and some of the things that I need to do about money are similarly stalled), and the lack of progress stresses me, and being stressed reduces my capacity, hello feedback cycles.

Quite often the stall is me letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, for example "we should move the children into the bigger room in the summer when $lodger has moved out, but in order to do that, we need to redecorate the room, and redo the flooring, and get bunkbeds, and now I just can't face even starting".  Tony pointed out we don't need to do all of that, we just need to move their stuff in and use the twin beds that are already there, probably keeping one of them in the trundle position for now.  It's not as good as bunk beds in a newly-redecorated room, but it's a start.  Having them in the bigger room together is a definite improvement from now, so we should do it, even though it's not perfect.  (And thanks to school closures and the Tour de France, we have a long weekend at the start of July, just at the right time.)

A couple of days after that, I managed to break the catch on N's cot, which holds the cot side up and (I realised) holds the cot together such that it is safe to have a cot-top changer.  And now it isn't.  We were already planning to freecycle the cot and reassemble the changing table when we moved N to the shared room, and moving that earlier by a couple of months isn't a huge problem.  So basically I tried little steps:
  • Monday I tried to fix the cot but failed
  • Tuesday I figured out how to use freecycle again for the first time in years and offered the cot there
  • Wednesday I started disassembling the cot
  • Thursday I dealt with freecycle responses
  • Friday I finished disassembling the cot
  • Saturday I had a migraine and let myself do nothing
  • Sunday I got the cot into the garage to await collection and reassembled the changing table
So that was a week in which I had to use changing-mat-on-bed and part of my bedroom was a pile of disassembled furniture, but each step was an improvement and actually happened, and I didn't make myself ill (well, I had a migraine, but I don't think it was this that triggered it).

The lightbulb moment this morning was remembering that I actively prefer the incremental-improvement approach to changes in my work, and have experience to back up that preference.  It shouldn't surprise me that it also works for projects outside of work.

rmc28: (wonderfrown)
On Monday I finally took the step of deferring my current study module with the Open University.    I'm simply not managing to get the necessary study hours in, and faced with another approaching deadline, I could see only another horribly stressful ten days for the whole family (like the last essay crisis), resulting in another probably-mediocre mark.  I decided the trade wasn't worth it.

By formally deferring I get a fee credit against a re-enrolment on the same module in the next two years (in practice, either Oct 2014 or Oct 2015).  I need to study something in each academic year to stay on transitional fees until 2017, but apparently this deferred module counts for the current academic year, so I have a breathing space.

The qualification I'm on formally expires at the end of 2017, and not all the modules I have studied may be eligible for its replacement.  So although I have made things easier for myself now, I will need to study much harder later, or spend rather more money.  Or both.   Or change my goals.

My plan is to work on incremental improvements to my / the family weekly routines over the next few months, and make an assessment at the end of June as to whether I can realistically sign up to studying again or not.    I'm feeling a mixture of really relieved I don't have any more deadlines for a whiile, and really gutted.  During 2013 I cut back on a lot of things in order to keep studying and now I've stopped studying too.  

I think the fact it's taken me from Monday to today just to have time to write about this indicates some of the problem.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
DWCon next August had sold out by the time we had a month where we hadn't overspent our budget on other things.  So we'll not be going.  We did book Loncon3 the previous time we had a surplus; so I booked us hotel rooms for that in the nearby Travelodge (which put us back into overspend, but means next August will be less expensive).

I feel a bit weird about this: Tony & I met because of mutual friends made at the DWCons and online Pratchett fandom, I've been to every UK DWCon so far, and there are good and dear friends we would normally see there. But it can't be helped and maybe this will be an incentive to do some smaller-scale meeting-up with some of those friends in between now and then.

LibDem Spring Conference next year clashes with a friend's wedding.  So I'll be at the wedding and not in York.  I don't feel at all weird about that!  Yay weddings.

I tried to sign up to Yuletide before the deadline but blocked on actually asking for things.   I've signed up to the pinch-hit list and may try writing treat(s) anyway.  It amuses me how far I've come since this time last year when Actually Writing And Publishing A Fanfic was a huge scary thing and now I'm like "sure, let me turn out 1000+ words for you in my copious free time".  I find I like writing gift fics, even if my free time isn't all that copious.

rmc28: Rachel holding newborn Nicholas (rmcf+nhf)
Nico now reliably says "uh-oh" when appropriate. Like when dropping food on the floor, or escaping through the living room gate.  (Compare with Charles, who started with "oh dear" and about six months older.)

Also if I shout at Charles, Nicholas often bursts into tears.  If I cuddle Charles, he comes barrelling over to get into the cuddle.  He babbles a lot and is climbing on everything.  Also the shelves that were out of his reach 2 months ago aren't any more.  Time to move everything upward again.

This Nico icon is a bit out of date!  There are oodles of more recent photos ... on my camera memory card.  Maybe one day I will sort them out, perhaps as procrastination for studying?
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I've just uploaded my RarePairFest story, a whole two days early.  This is to give me more time to finish the next OU assignment, due in next Tuesday.  I have in-laws visiting on Friday-Saturday, and I haven't done all the reading yet.

What could possibly go wrong?
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Timetables are on my mind, with Charles returning to school after the summer holidays, the course books arriving for my next OU module* , and my wanting to start doing Couch-to-5k after my post-natal checkup next week.  I've been finding it all too easy to lose the days and weeks in babycare and muddling along, and I don't imagine my imminent return to work part-time is going to help.  So I've started building a timetable for the four of us.  It ended up being a spreadsheet as that's much easier to edit when I remember something else we need to get done.  It's easier to do exercise if you have a buddy, but having to schedule 3 other people so I can literally run off for half an hour has a fairly similar effect.

* B120 - Introduction to Business Studies

I have spent much of today watching the West Wing from the beginning, while either tackling a giant paperwork backlog or feeding Nicholas.  Sometimes I've been playing Loud Music to help the baby go to sleep, as that's less frustrating than trying to hear the Sorkin dialogue over his wailing.

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
As well as the useful [community profile] unclutter comm, I've also been picking up inspiration this year from [community profile] bitesizedcleaning, which I would describe as "inspired by FlyLady, but rather more inclusive and adaptable". We are thankfully able to afford a cleaner who spends 3 hours a week preventing us from falling into utter squalor, but there's plenty more that needs doing to keep home nearer "pleasant place to live" than "not actively unhealthy", and I can't claim that we habitually manage it.

The first most useful thing I have picked up is the idea of a "touchstone" which if you do nothing else you keep clean and tidy: Flylady's touchstone is the shiny sink, but that doesn't work for everyone. After some thought I decided mine was the dining table, which without attention is liable to disappear under dirty crockery and heaps of paper. So I make sure it's clear before I go to bed, and as clear as possible (Charles may still be eating) before I go to work, and now we (mostly) have a table that people can just sit down to at any time rather than having to tidy it first.

The second thing is the "daily plan": I made a set of lists (for morning, hometime and evening) last year, but I think it needs rebooting. Some things I just don't do any more; some things I'm not getting to very often, which is demoralising, and trying to keep up with the whole list and the decluttering is exhausting me at the moment. (I've not read a book in over 2 weeks, though at least I'm just about keeping up with the Economist.) So I'm going to make the list as minimal as possible and see if I can keep to it more consistently for the next few weeks before adding anything.

Read more... )
rmc28: (glowy)
My work inbox is currently empty. Go me, etc. (It was briefly empty for all of five minutes last Thursday too). I am particularly pleased because I continue to use my inbox as storage for mails that I need to act on (folder external-action holds stuff that I need to check periodically for someone else to have done something, and I have a notebook for verbal requests to do things).

Home inbox: 7 (bah, up from 3 last night)
Gmail inbox (mostly low priority): 12

I have 'cheated' with Gmail by filtering the low-priority and particularly noisy mailing lists to skip the inbox, and just get caught up on when I have time.

This is so much better than it used to be. I can look at my personal inboxes and know what I need to do for each item on them, because there's so few to remember. I think the last time my work inbox was actually empty for more than a minute or so was when I was on maternity leave ...
rmc28: (glowy)
One of the things I don't like about Inbox Zero is having a separate Action folder. The bulk of my inbox has always been emails that still require me to do something (as opposed to being filed or deleted). I think having an Action folder will just be window-dressing to reach that magic 0 and I don't think that motivates me very well.

However, I have today created an "External Action" folder for the emails I'm keeping around until someone else has done something: e.g. the parcel Amazon has posted has arrived, the money I've been sent is in the bank account. So far, it's feeling useful and is reducing my main inbox satisfactorily.

Overall, the Inbox Zero project is going pretty well. I've mostly been keeping under 5 mails in my work inbox and under 10 in my home inbox and in general I've been dealing with things much more quickly. I've also finally dealt with some ancient email and Just Got Over the embarrassment of replying to someone after 18 months.

The Gmail inbox needs some of the same backlog-clearing treatment, but I haven't started yet, as everything in it is pretty much lower priority than my main inboxes.
rmc28: (glowy)
I've now been working full-time for two months. On the whole I don't think I'm missing out much time with Charles - the extra hours I work are the hours he usually naps. The extra money is very welcome and makes a lot of things easier. The extra hours are greatly helping my productivity and I still haven't got over the simple joy of taking lunch breaks (rather than cramming in something at my desk because I can't really go from 7am to 2pm without eating).

One major downside: I'm constantly tired. Nearly every evening I get home with Charles and I flop while he zooms around. He's had his nap at the childminder's and will keep going all evening, often as late as 10pm (and it's completely counterproductive to try to get him to bed earlier when he's Not Tired - a better way to exhaust ourselves uselessly I have not yet found). I'm struggling to keep up with paperwork & other admin - 43 Folders/Inbox Zero techniques are helping but not yet being implemented enough.

I've not been to ballet since the Norovirus Incident at the end of June, and in general my exercise has fallen off since then, with consequent effect on my fitness and weight loss. I'm too tired to make decent packed lunches and the sandwich van variety is limited.

I've been more and more aware there is a problem and yesterday evening I had a migraine just to enforce the point. (Yay drugs - now I just need to rest enough over the weekend.)

So, some action:

* No more staying up late 'to get things done' (guilty look at clock - ahem, really anything after 10:30pm is counterproductive when my little darling will wake me at 6:30am anyway).
* I've started reading my flylady emails again.
* I've ordered a new timer since breaking the old one irretrievably (this helps me break work down into manageable chunks and not get exhausted).
* LJ and online chat has to come after processing the day's email/paper, rather than eat all my precious at-computer time.
* I am going for a long walk/cycle of at least 30 minutes every day on top of my usual work-childminder-home routine (which totals about 25-30 min of gentle exercise).
* More effort at weekends to make ping for weekday lunches.
* Try to get to ballet regularly again.

And now to bed before I break the first idea any further.
rmc28: (tony)
I have finished the data entry from replies to wedding invitations. I have managed to procrastinate about it superbly, to the point where I felt so embarrassed about even looking at the paper pile or the emails that I immediately went and did lots of other things instead every time I contemplated it, to make the sick feeling go away. However, the number and importance of things dependent on me getting it done finally reached sufficient urgency this evening to push the guilty reactions over from avoidance into action. I feel relief, rather than pride that it is done.

There is still a longish to-do list, and I know what my main non-work focus is going to be in the next month, but only one or two essential things remain (getting formal permission from the Director of Music for the chosen music, and printing an order of service). Everything else on the list is about making it less stressful on the day - worthy aim, but not essential to the service and reception taking place. Oddly, that makes the list easier to contemplate.

And now I should be in bed.
rmc28: (tony)
The wedding is in 50 days, which scares me slightly with its feeling of being a small round number. Any of you who think I am too organised may be comforted to know that there is precisely one weekend between now and the wedding upon which I can meet up with all of my bridesmaids at the same time to continue wedding-planning ... but it is the pre-wedding party. Workarounds are required.

Both Tony & I have been letting other things (like work, illness, family etc) prevent us from deciding the hymns and dealing with all those replies people sent me at the end of April. But we have decided that this evening sees an end to such procrastinating. It was going to be Wednesday evening but we postponed it ...

I mentioned this in the pub last night to a couple of people, and we decided that "The Procrastination Ends Tomorrow" would make an excellent tshirt slogan.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Fellow migraine-sufferers might be interested in the MIST medical trial investigating a link between a common heart defect (15%-25% of the population, most of whom won't know they have it) and migraine. I got sent a leaflet by the Migraine Action Association. My migraine pattern is not suitable for the trial but I'm on their mailing list for when they have results.

Oxfam Unwrapped has new stock of emergency supplies for disaster relief. That perfect gift for a January birthday (both my parents and my oldest brother have January birthdays).

I've started reading my flylady emails again, after a couple of months' break. So far it's been kind of fun how they've been pushing decluttering and post-Christmas clearing, most of the time being what I was hoping to do anyway. I'm currently thinking about adapting the control journal idea to a multi-person household where housework is expected to be shared. The 'you found it, you clean it' approach works most of the time, but not always, and not if we all get tired or lazy at once. I'm thinking of creating a ticklist of daily, weekly and monthly tasks to go up in the kitchen, and another for my and Tony's bedroom and bathroom. I also need to get some kind of noisy timer to try out the '15-minute' task approach - it would fit in well with my keyboard breaks but I don't like starting huge tasks in those, thus the timer to provide a reason to stop and make the big tidy tasks seem less daunting.


rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Rachel Coleman

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