December 25th, 2002

self portrait

On focus and distraction

Got started on this thought commenting to a friend's journal.

One thing I, surprisingly, like about my current work is that there is so rarely is more than one thing to accomplish and, even then, they have easy ways of prioritizing (due times). So I often get ultra-focused, slap on the iPod and descend into my own little world. I get very productive and generally feel good about getting something done.

Too often in the rest of my life, I find myself faced with six things to do. Each one distracts from the others and I become paralyzed in a sea of procrastination. It's so easy to think of this or that or the other and end up getting nothing done. Or I drop into a video game and get ultra-focused on the goals therein.

I suppose that's also something that I liked about the method of organizing one's life that I learned when I took a class by the Franklin Covey people at my last job. The thing that really sold me on the method was the "Big Rocks, Small Rocks" demonstration shown to us on video.

A woman comes on stage with the presenter. He presents her with a clear plastic bucket and several large rocks. The rocks are labeled things like "Career," "Having Kids," "Reading," "Vacation" and other things that one might choose to make a priority in their life. She was given the explanation that the bucket represented the amount of time she had to do things and that each rock represented the time needed to include the thing on the label into her life. Her task was to fit all the rocks into the bucket. Simple enough, it looked.

As she started, however, the presented stopped her. There were lots of other things that take up time in our lives, he explained: phone calls, common errands, distractions, unexpected visitors, etc. These were represented by these small rocks, he said, and poured pea-sized rocks into the bucket until it was somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 full.

At first, the woman did well, fitting in things that were important to her. Long before she got all the rocks in that she wanted, however, the bucket was full. She was twisting big rocks into the little rocks, rearranging the rocks in different patterns, pressing, squeezing, making lots of effort to fit in the rocks. She kept trying to fit in "Vacation" and just couldn't make it work.

After she'd struggled for a while, the presenter offered her an option. She could start with an empty bucket.

She chose her big rocks and placed them in. Then started pouring the small rocks over them. She shook the bucket to settle the small rocks into the gaps between the big rocks. Eventually, she got them all, including "Vacation," to fit into the bucket.

And that theory, choosing the things that are important to you and making them the priority in your life while allowing all the other things to take up the "free time" when you're not doing the "big rock" things, has served me pretty well. I think I've lost some focus on it in the last year as finding a job and then maintaining subsistence has been the single "big rock" in my life. There are things that I've let drop by the wayside. Since October, the "spending time with friends" rock has gotten short shrift, for example.

As we approach the new year, I think it's time to re-examine my rocks and find the ones that are most important to me again. Then I'll need to take up the practice of prioritizing (sizing) them on a consistent basis again.
  • Current Music
    Rack em up--Johnny Lang--Lie To Me
self portrait

Shopping success

So minnehaha-K and I went shopping yesterday. The goal was to pick out eyeglasses frames for me and to have K finish some of the holiday shopping she still had to do. I was pleased with our progress (though the mall beat us into submission before all of K's shopping was done).

The eyeglass frame shopping was a complete success. Such a more pleasant process having someone that can say, "Try these." And, "That's OK." And especially, "No. What was I thinking?" We went through the racks and found stacks of frames that were at least OK. Then we sorted by size gave them the quick run-through second look and came up with an "A" list and "B" list as well as a few we like for style but that didn't fit quite right.

We discovered that the "A" list was, in fact, two different frames. The five examples were just variations in color and size of those two frames. A quick consult with an employee of the shop and we settled on one frame style. Then a judgment call for color: did I want to have glasses that kind of disappeared into my complexion or ones that said, "I'm wearing glasses?" I opted for the former.

The style we picked out are close to this though not exactly. They are significantly smaller lenses than I have now, which will also reduce the thickness of my lenses. The color I went with is called something "taupe," which is the first time I'll have non-silver frames since I was in high school.

So now, I'll schedule an eye exam, get my prescription and pick up new glasses. Given my flex spending account at work, I'll wait a couple of months. That'll let me build up some money in the account. Then I'll use Lenscrafter's "90-days same as cash" policy to stretch the time I need to get reimbursed in to the point where I'll have enough to pay for the glasses in the account before I need to be reimbursed. When it's all said and done, I should have new glasses before Spring!
  • Current Music
    Silver Naked Ladies--Paul Westerberg--14 Songs
self portrait

Busy work

Work has been getting busy of late. Last night we were quite swamped (thus no updates here). Things have calmed down for this Christmas Eve but are still relatively busy. Some of it is probably the 20% reduction in hours that everyone has taken; that would mean fewer people to do the same amount of work. I hope, however, that some of it is also an upswing in the actual amount of work. If it continues to pick up through January, they'll likely put us back on full time.

The only down-side to this is that I'll be calling in to work at about 8:00 p.m. tomorrow to see if they need me to come in. Seeing as the stuff we are working on tonight is due early Thursday morning, I doubt that I'll have to work. It is annoying, however, to know that as much as I'm anticipating the party I'll be attending tomorrow evening, it could all be for naught if there's work to be done.
  • Current Music
    I'll Tell Me Ma--The Tim Malloys--Wrecked
self portrait

Thanks, Tims

There's nothing that makes me smile quite the same way as listening to "Merry Ploughboy" from the latest album of The Tim Malloys and hearing the shouting drunks fill in the chorus (as noted below):

And we're off to Dublin and the Green
With our helmets a'glistening in the sun
Where the bayonets slash and the rifles crash
To the echo of a Thompson gun

It isn't about the lyrics or the sentiment behind them. It's about the particular camaraderie that appears when you're with a group of drunk rowdies who all know the words.

Thanks, guys.
  • Current Music
    Merry Ploughboy--The Tim Malloys--Wrecked