Reducing the stress of “too many things”

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, that there are so many calls on our time. It can be stressful to section up the moments into fifteen minute chunks in order to move a whole lot of projects forward one more step, yet that is what is left to us between meetings, at work. It even extends to coffee breaks and those mythical things called lunch time. Increasingly, there is a list, or dare I say a backlog, of tasks that need attention ‘when I get a free minute’. What to do about that? I have a new strategy – think about it as ‘all one thing’.

It is a┬ábit of a mental shift, a bit of jiggery pokery, but instead of breaking everything apart, I’ve been grouping things together. A notion of ‘all one thing’ means I can put it all aside. All of it. The stress seems to come from the volume of stuff, not from the individual tasks. Previously, when I’d sit down to make some use of a bit of unexpected time, the whole list would loom in my head, all clamoring for attention.

“Me!” “No, me!” the voices would shout. “Pick me!” “Move over, it’s my turn.” The litany went on and on.

I am learning to tune the lens to smaller buckets. Work. Not work. Goals for the Day. Non Goals. It makes it much easier to decide which of the many drawers to open, and in which context. My focus is just on the thing in front of me. Yes, I sometimes need to switch to another topic, but again, it is just one thing. All a matter of perspective shifting. Useful nonetheless.

 

Train to Portland for WDS

This weekend I set out on a terrific adventure to WDS, the World Domination Summit, in Portland. Here I am living in Seattle, with a bunch of options to get to the event. I can catch a plane, which is quick, but means standing around in airports. I could drive, but wouldn’t be able to read a book or write along the way. A train seemed like the best choice. It took only 4 hours, and is one of the best ways to see the water on the way down to Portland. The tracks are, in some places, only fifteen to twenty feet from the shore. I traveled business class to ensure I could plug in my laptop (a Surface Pro). There is a piece of fiction I’ve been working on, and the characters were calling for my attention.

On the train

On the train

Views on the way

Views on the way

Arriving at King Street Station, I stood in a modest line, only 5 people, to wait for the conductor. I had my e-ticket in hand. He let me know to go to the ticket office for seat assignment. Another short line, only two this time, later, I had a single seat and a coupon for a three dollar discount at the bistro car. All aboard carriage one, and quickly settled down to enjoy the experience. One of the most relaxing things about trains is the rocking rhythm, together with the speed. We had a few stops along the way to wait for freight trains, but none of them too long. We arrived at Union Station in Portland right on time. A quick ride later had me at the Hotel Modera, close to where the WDS events would be held. Close, I found in Portland, was a relative term. It was about nine blocks, and flat shoes were a good thing to have packed.

Hotel Modera view

Hotel Modera view


The summit was a melange of interesting people, great presentations on the main stage, and meetups that were put together by participants. Those were one of my favorite parts of the event, the people. I met folks from different countries, had a wonderful lunch of fresh seasonal foods, visited the farmer’s market. Best breakfast ever. Fresh biscuits with brown mushroom gravy and a fried egg. Delicious. And there was a bunch of walking. Portland is a city for pedestrians. There’s a lovely green belt on SW Park Street, that ribbons down, cooler than the surrounding streets, to Director Park. That was essential this weekend as the weather turned up the heat to the 90’s. Still, we kept hydrated, met loads of excited entrepreneurs, artists, writers and performers, all making the most of the weather and the chance to swap stories. I went to parties, acquired a temporary tattoo, and ate pie at Petunia’s Pies. On Saturday evening I celebrated the full moon with cocktails at the Nines, meeting some women with wonderful creative projects, and got to brainstorm book ideas with some great folks caring for animals.

Potatoes with beet salad

Potatoes with beet salad

The food in Portland is amazing. Fresh. Seasonal. Well prepared and delicious. Can’t wait to make another train trip with my sweetie to enjoy it again.

I am already planning to go to WDS next year, and am grateful to Lawrence and Sameer for recommending the experience. Also much gratitude to Chris and all the ambassadors for making it a memorable occasion. Thanks guys!

WDS has already been a success for me. I just finished the last 5,000 words of my novel and put it in the hands of my alpha reader today for feedback. Props to the summit for getting me unblocked. Don’t know how 5,000 words happened along with everything else, but am all fired up to continue on to the next book in the series. Now on to the next thing cousins. One step at a time.

Hope everyone else had a great time. I did. Will be reaching out to folks I met and chatted with over the next few days. There is at least one collaboration I’m excited about, and likely more.

3 easy steps to helping friends organize

How to get started on dealing with household mayhem

It’s after the holidays, and your chum’s house looks like a tribe of Ewoks collaborated with a dervish of devils to make a mess that rivals a teenager’s room. What to do if you are called on to help sort it out? I’m not suggesting your own house is in the same state, though if it is, you can follow the same steps below to get started on organizing it. Our place tends to wax and wane, depending on where we are with projects, travel, and visitors; during the week, jackets and bags get dropped in our offices, and need to be sorted on the weekend and hung up again. We could just put stuff away as we come into the house, but where’s the fun in that. Colorful piles of stuff make the place look lived in, and happy.

Step One – go to the dollar store and get a batch (12 or so) $1 laundry baskets
This is the sorting mechanism – they’re a good size, have handles, and nice open tops. You can also use boxes if you have empties on hand. The container wants to be about 2 x 3 feet and shallower than it is deep.

Step Two – put 4 baskets/boxes in each messy room, in the middle, and label them. Add one big black garbage bag. Here are your categories for a general rough sort for the room.

  • Keep – you definitely want the stuff you throw in this basket
    (good electronics, clothing, gifts, unopened candy, bills to pay)
  • Recycle – someone wants it, just not you
    (include regular recycling like bottles, plastic, wrapping paper as well as old monitors, cords, CDs, old dish sets)
  • Shred it or file it – important paperwork, paper stuff
    (magazines, catalogs, letters, cards, memorabilia, medical records, taxes, paid bills, contact info, business cards, research materials, photos etc)
  • Undecided – we’ll make a call on this later
    (it might be something you want, or it may be stuff you’re not ready to let go of, shoes and clothes you don’t wear, misc stationery, left overs from projects, half a ball of yarn, old nail-polish, messenger bags you are not currently using, plastic cups, cutlery, colored napkins from a theme party)
  • Black bag – toss it out – it’s garbage!
    (open bag of chips, cookies, clothing labels, trash of any kind)

This rough sort has the benefit of reducing the piles of stuff to manageable chunks, and the trash gets taken out to the bin right away. I take the regular recycling to the recycle bin, and the other stuff goes into bags for donation to good will, PC recycle and so on. The paper takes a longer time to sort, so putting it all together means I save time and avoid being distracted by it while clearing the larger room.

Step Three – move the baskets out of that room

  • Clean the surfaces of the room with surface cleaner and paper towels
  • Sweep, mop or vacuum the floor
  • Only return the stuff to that room that will live there from now on

As an added benefit, helping a friend organize their stuff gives you a fun backdrop for conversation, with lots of opportunity to find odd treasures and learn more about each other’s lives.

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