Vintage SLR cameras in my office by Reghan Skerry

The 2018 Reboot | Finale

Productivity

Technically speaking September was only four months ago.

But 2018 has been the longest year ever, and it feels like it was at least two years ago that I decided I needed to make some changes.

Back in August, every project I was working on had either stalled or was moving too slowly to see any real progress. My motivation had plummeted. I was in a rut, and I needed to get myself out of that rut, and I needed to figure out how to avoid falling into it again. And so in September, I came up with a short list of things I wanted to do by the end of the year. They weren’t huge goals—and they definitely weren’t dramatic—but it was about building a system that could support my bigger goals going into the future.

We’re fast approaching the end of the year, so it’s time to look back at how (and whether) my reboot has worked, and where I’m going from here.

The 2018 Reboot | Week 14 Check-In

Productivity

Almost there!

Next week, I’m going to do a complete end-of-year report on this reboot, looking at what did and didn’t work over the past few months, and what it means for the future.

For now, I’m just going to do a quick update on how I’ve been doing this week.


Clarify my long-term goals, in writing, photography, and in general.
My focus this week has been on my 2019 goals, rather than the true long-term goals, but I’m starting to feel good about this. Some of the short-term goals (and what I actively resist) are helping me figure out what I want to do long-term, and I’m choosing others that will help me narrow the focus even further over the course of the year. I’m also trying to choose goals and projects for next year that will move me in (mostly) the right direction, no matter what those long-term goals turn out to be.

Find a way to structure my time in order to support my bigger goals (creative and otherwise).
After taking a break last week to recover from NaNoWriMo, I’m back to work this week. (Still in a limited capacity, since the holiday chaos is slowly starting to take over my free time.) And, really, that’s one of the best metrics to judge this particular goal: I was able to dedicate one month almost entirely to writing, and another week to almost nothing, and I don’t feel like it’s broken my stride. I was able to get back to a routine that works for me without any real difficulty.

I’m ready to call this one ‘done,’ even if things are still sort of weird right now.

Develop workflows for writing and photography. And blogging.
I think I’ve made just about all the progress that I’m going to, at least for now.

Experiment with productivity and journalling systems, and find something that works for me.
I mentioned last week that I think I’ve finally landed on something that works. I’m still making tiny adjustments… and that’s fine, that’s half the point of building something for myself rather than relying entirely on a ready-made solution that’s almost (but never quite) perfect. As my circumstances and needs change, I can change my system

I’ve actively started setting things up for next year. I’ll give you a full tour… probably in January, once I’ve really lived with the final product for a few weeks.

Finish the work on the office.
I finally got rid of one of the stupid boxes I’ve been dragging around—never unpacked—through three different apartments!

… and that’s about all the work that’s going to get finished in here before the end of the year. (Maybe. I’ve got one small-but-deathly-dull project I’d kind of like to take care of in that time.) But progress has been made, and that’s what matters.

The 2018 Reboot | Week 13 Check-In

Productivity

It’s really starting to hit me, how close we are to the end of the year—and how close I am to the end of this little(?) project.

I’m also realizing that I never really set a clear end-date for this, beyond “the end of the year.” There are just over three weeks left in 2018; I’ve fallen into the habit of doing a weekly review of the reboot process on Wednesdays… and I probably won’t be posting one on Boxing Day, because that is one of the few days a year when I do absolutely nothing and manage to not feel even a little bit guilty about it.

That brings it down to two weeks.

I kind of feel like that should freak me out, but it doesn’t.

I’m sure I’ll have more to say about it in the next couple of weeks, but this has been a really good project for me, and I’m really pleased with how well it seems to have worked.

(Of course… there’s still two weeks left. That’s still plenty of time to freak out.)


The 2018 Reboot | Week 12 Check-In

Productivity

Just a quick update this week, because… I kind of forgot that I was supposed to post this today, and my brain is fried from trying to meet my NaNoWriMo targets.


The goals:

Clarify my long-term goals, in writing, photography, and in general.
I finally feel like I’m making real progress here. I’m pretty clear on my writing goals, and I’ve got a good idea of what my personal/general goals are.

Photography… is a bit of a challenge, still. Partly because I love it all. (Or most of it—there are a couple of niches that I have absolutely no interest in, and never have.) There’s a big part of me that resists specializing, because I don’t want to limit my options. (Which is ridiculous, I know, because specializing in, say, landscapes doesn’t mean I’m never allowed to take another food photo in my life.)

Right now, it’s hard for me to really know what I want to focus on (pun 100% intended). More work is needed.

Find a way to structure my time in order to support my bigger goals (creative and otherwise).
Well… the whole month has been a revelation when it comes to time management. Not always in a good way, but even the less-successful bits have taught me a lot. Enough that I’m almost ready to consider it done. (On that note: this month’s ‘Sketchbook’ will be posted next week. Something had to give.)

But I’m going to wait, and see how the next few weeks work out, when I don’t have the pressures of November weighing on me, and when the temptation to just slack off for the rest of the year starts sneaking up on me. (I already know that I’m going to take a bit of a break next week to recover, but after that, I want to ease my writing schedule back to something a little more tolerable, while still working… mostly right up until the holidays. I might be a bit overoptimistic.)

Develop workflows for writing and photography. And blogging.
My update from last week still stands: I’m slowly getting there with writing, though it’s an ongoing process and I need to evaluate some stuff. Photography workflows rely on the type of photography I’m doing, so this is going to be on hold until I finish clarifying my goals.

Experiment with productivity and journalling systems, and find something that works for me.
Like my time management, I’m almost there, but not quite.

I’ve been making a few more adjustments to my system; at this point, it’s mostly a matter of streamlining my processes and experimenting with a few less-essential additions as I start thinking ahead to setting things up for next year. (I promise I’ll give you a full tour of all of this stuff as soon as I’m ready.)

Finish the work on the office.
Again: I’m still working on it, but progress is slowing down because of other commitments. I probably won’t be done by the end of the year, but I’m getting there.

The 2018 Reboot | Week 11 Check-In

Personal, Productivity

I fell into a bit of a trap this week. It’s a familiar one for me, one I seem to stumble into every time I want to make a big change, whether it’s with writing, or photography, or getting organized, or (this time) setting goals.

I start to think that other people have the answers, and that if I just read enough books or articles or blog posts, I’ll eventually stumble onto the right one, the one that brings everything into focus.

It never happens.

Don’t get me wrong: advice is good. Learning from those who’ve gone before? Awesome. And if I’m dealing with a specific technical issue, like how to edit infrared photos or how to incorporate backstory in a way that doesn’t drag a story down… the research is worth it. But in general? There’s too much noise, too much useless information to wade through. (And, because it’s the internet, let’s be honest: too many people who call themselves experts without bringing any new insights.)

I don’t need to read another article on S.M.A.R.T. goals, or whether it’s more valuable to build habits than to set goals.

I just need to do the work and find my own path. I’ll get there eventually.

The 2018 Reboot | Week 10 Check-In

Productivity

I suppose it was inevitable, and I’m not at all surprised it’s happening now, when the days are getting noticeably colder and shorter, and it feels like winter—and the end of the year—is just around the corner.

The doubts are starting to creep in.

I’m starting to wonder if I’m on the right track with this whole reboot. Not in general (it really is necessary), but in the specifics: whether the systems and habits I’m building are the right ones, whether I’m going to be able to sustain them long-term, whether I’m going in the right direction.

Like I said: I should have expected it, and I’m not surprised it’s happening. I’ve had a really good couple of weeks, and I really do feel like I’m building a good foundation for myself, and that’s always the stage when I start to question everything. When a story is flowing perfectly, I start to worry that I’m missing something important. When I’m proud of the photos I’m taking, I suddenly can’t bring myself to pick up a camera.

It’s a pattern. Not one I’m happy with, but one that I recognize in myself. And maybe (maybe) one that this reboot is going to help me work around going forward.

The 2018 Reboot | Week 9 Check-In

Productivity

Last week was kind of a bust. I made no progress at all.

But I am making up for it this week, and I feel like all of the things I’ve been working on are falling into place. I’ll get to the specifics in a minute, but in general, the last few days have been really good.

So I’m starting to feel like it’s time to make some changes to this little reboot of mine.

The overall goal is the same: to get my creative life in some sort of order by the end of the year, so I can really start to move forward in 2019. And most of my specific goals are the same, too.

But it’s time to rethink that first goal on my list: Improve the quality of the art I’m consuming, in order to improve the quality of the art I’m creating. It’s still a good goal, and it needed to be here, but… I’ve done it. I’ve been doing it, fairly consistently. I can either keep saying “yep, still doing this” every week for the next two months, or I can officially check it off and add something new.

I’m gonna check it off.

And the goal I’m going to replace it with… it’s kind of a big one. (I’m not sure why I’m doing this to myself, taking the easiest one of the list and replacing it with the most difficult, but I’m feeling good about things in general right now, so why not?)

My new goal for the last few weeks of 2018: Clarify my long-term goals: in writing, photography, and in general.

If you’ve been following my reboot, you know that this has been nagging at me for a few weeks now. I’ve got vague long-term goals, and specific short- and medium-term goals, but I don’t feel like I know what I’m working toward, and so I can’t know if I those short-term goals are really moving me in the right direction. And while I’ve been thinking about it, that’s all I’ve been doing. I haven’t actually put any real work into it yet.

Right now, that’s fine—I know what I’m going to be doing for the next two months, and the work I’m doing in this reboot isn’t wasting my time—but I want to have some clear directions and plans in place going into the new year.

And if I don’t want it to be panicking about it over the holidays, it’s time to get to work.

The 2018 Reboot | Week 8 Check-In

Productivity

The past seven days have been… less than ideal. I’m still dealing with this stupid cold (the worst of it seems to be hitting me right about now), and construction on my building, and… yeah.

But! The reboot continues, even if it’s a little slower than I’d like at the moment. (If you’re just joining me and not sure what I’m talking about, here’s the explanation.)


I’m going to keep this update short and sweet.

The goals:

Improve the quality of the art I’m consuming, in order to improve the quality of the art I’m creating.
Still going strong. Not right at this moment (my attention span is pretty much limited to the fluffiest of romcoms right now), but in general: I’m doing well.

Find a way to structure my time in order to support my bigger goals (creative and otherwise).
This… hasn’t been going so well. I’m still tracking my focus, motivation, and energy throughout the day, but I’m going to have to keep that up for another week or two. (The data is a bit skewed right now, for obvious reasons.) Overall, though, I do feel like I’m moving in the right direction.

Develop workflows for writing and photography. And blogging.
This has been, without a doubt, the most challenging part of this whole reboot. Partly because it’s kind of boring (let’s be honest), and partly because I need to test and fine-tune any workflow that I develop, and that requires doing more actual work than I have been lately. But November is coming up (… tomorrow…) and with multiple projects at various stages of completion, next month is going to be a really good opportunity to test some systems. (It’s also going to be a good chance to really work on structuring my time.)

Experiment with productivity and journalling systems, and find something that works for me.
This is definitely where I’m showing the most improvement this week (and in general). I’m still figuring things out, especially when it comes to longer-term planning, but I’ve made progress on the day-to-day. This week has been a really good test—my current todo list setup has kept me (mostly) on track, despite wanting to sleep all the time, so that’s a win.

Finish the work on the office.
I’ve made a little bit of progress on this, but not much. Hoping to make a little more progress today.

The 2018 Reboot | Week 7 Check-In

Personal, Productivity

This week, I’ve been thinking about my big goals.

Not the big things I’m trying to accomplish right now, or even my one-year goals (though there has been some of that), but the big goals. The things that stretch out over five or ten years. And I’m starting to realize that I don’t really know what those goals are. Or… it’s kind of hard to describe. I can picture exactly what I want my life to look like in that time, what I want it to feel like, but beyond that, it’s a bit of a blur. It makes actually planning for that future difficult, if not impossible. I’m limited to taking steps that feel like they’re going in the right direction, without really knowing what the finish line looks like.

Basically, I’ve realized that I’ve been thinking tactically, rather than strategically. I haven’t defined my goals clearly enough, so I have no way of knowing whether those tactics are, in fact, moving me any closer to where I ultimately want to be.

This is a really good thing.

Not the fact of it, obviously, but that I’m realizing it, and that I’m realizing it now, when I’m already primed to make changes. I’m already taking the steps to improve the day-to-day, and I’m going to keep going with that, but I’m also going to start clarifying the long-term. Once I do that, I’ll be able to fine-tune my day-to-day tactics to support my long-term strategy.


So, other than that, how am I doing with the reboot?

Improve the quality of the art I’m consuming, in order to improve the quality of the art I’m creating.
Not much to report here. This is still going well.

Find a way to structure my time in order to support my bigger goals (creative and otherwise).
I’m definitely starting to see some improvement here. For the past week, I’ve been tracking my focus, motivation and energy, trying to get an idea of when they’re at their peaks, both through the week and through the day. I’m going to keep that up for at least another week before I actually look at the data and start making changes, but in general, this is going well.

Develop workflows for writing and photography. And blogging.
I’ve been thinking about this (and I’m definitely getting ready to make a few real changes, especially with my writing workflow), but this hasn’t really been my priority this week. It does tie in with some of the work I’ve been doing on the next goal, though, so there has been some progress.

Experiment with productivity and journalling systems, and find something that works for me.
I’m still kind of obsessed with todo lists and productivity systems in general. I’m sure it’s still really boring for anyone who isn’t me, but that’s ok. And while some of this is going to evolve as I start to clarify those long-term goals, I’m slowly starting to zero in on the systems that seem to make sense to me, and figuring out how to adapt them to suit me better.

Finish the work on the office.
Again, not much to report beyond basic decluttering and figuring out a filing system.


So, yeah. When I began this project I didn’t exactly expect it to come with a bonus mini existential crisis, but here we are. And it’s good—I really do feel like I’m on the right track with all of this.

And even if I’m wrong, at least I’m getting my calendars and todo lists organized. That’s never a bad thing.

The 2018 Reboot | Week 6 Check-In

Productivity

I’ve been kind of obsessed with todo lists this week.

I know. Try to contain your excitement.

Really, though, it’s a bit of a dilemma for me. For a long time, my go-to bio on social media included the phrase ‘list-maker,’ right after ‘writer’ and ‘photographer.’ I love a good todo list.

But I have no idea how to make one work for me.

It’s one thing if it’s a specific project, and I can just check things off until I’m done, but in a more general context… no idea. I’ve never found a system that works for me, whether it’s pen-and-paper, or bare-bones digital, or a digital system with all the bells and whistles. I always start with enthusiasm, sure I’ve found the perfect setup, but within a few months, things start slipping, I start putting things off, and then I start looking for the new perfect tool.

(The one exception—in that it really did work for me for about a year—was Habitica. Since I was in a fairly active guild, if I didn’t check things off it affected other people, not just me. But the todo list aspect didn’t actually have all the features I needed (specifically, more customizable repeatable actions).)

I know that it doesn’t really have anything to do with the tools I use. It’s me. (Though I do have a few issues with the Eisenhower matrix. I can see how it’s useful, but… yeah. I might go into detail on that at some point, once I’ve figured out how to articulate my thoughts.)

I need to figure out how to use a to-do list effectively, and how to motivate myself. If nothing else, I know that after a certain point, just checking things off a list doesn’t cut it.


Now. On to the goals themselves….

Improve the quality of the art I’m consuming, in order to improve the quality of the art I’m creating.
I’m still doing well here. I’m back to watching some good movies, and the books I’ve been reading have been… mostly good. I’m still on the fence about one of them… or two of them, really… but they’re not bad. And I’m almost done one of them, so I’ll be a little more careful choosing the next one.

Find a way to structure my time in order to support my bigger goals (creative and otherwise).
I’m starting to see some progress here. With NaNoWriMo coming up, I’ve got something to work on and a clear deadline, which definitely helps, but I’m doing better in general. I’m still nowhere near where I want to be, but baby steps.

(I’m also running up against my cat’s obsession with routine. If I’m on the computer—or even in the office—at the ‘wrong’ time, Lucy will throw a tantrum in the other room, which doesn’t do my focus any favours. I’m trying to train her out of that, but… well, it’s taken nine years to train her out of waking me up before six a.m. on a weekend, so… we’ll see how that goes.)

Develop workflows for writing and photography. And blogging.
After last week’s realization, I haven’t been working on the blogging workflow recently. Though maybe I should—between these updates, and the NaNo prep diary, and my newsletter, I need to figure something out. And I’m still studying photography workflows; most of the advice that’s out there is more geared toward wedding and family photographers, and I don’t do that (much). So that’s a case of studying, and learning how to apply those lessons to what I do do.

I am back to fine-tuning my writing workflow (there’s NaNo’s influence again). So that’s something.

Experiment with productivity and journalling systems, and find something that works for me.
This is where the whole todo list obsession comes in.

I’m still experimenting with different systems, and I’m slowly (so slowly) starting to move toward something that might work for me (for now). It’s a hacked-together combination of digital and analogue, and I still don’t know how long I’ll be able to maintain it. (I did some tests, and a standard size Moleskine just fits in my favourite bag. Sort of. It would be easier with a different wallet, and it seems like I ask this at least once a year but why the hell are women’s wallets so stupidly big?)

But I’m making progress, and that’s the important thing.

Finish the work on the office.
I don’t really have a lot to report here. I’m still decluttering, but that’s still just a case of going through old magazines and making sure there’s definitely nothing I want to keep. I’ll probably be doing a little more next week.


Overall, it’s been a good week. For the first time since I started this reboot, I feel like I’m seeing some changes, rather than just reading things and hoping for the best. And the timing couldn’t be better: we’ve got exactly two weeks before NaNoWriMo starts, and that’s going to be the first real test of this whole thing.

I might be just a little bit nervous.