Motivation and Productivity

So I’m feeling inspired, and I want to write.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about productivity and motivation. I touched on that a little in a recent youtube video. But especially lately it has been on my mind as I decided to set myself a goal.

I started a tradition in 2009 to always release my albums on my birthday. And I wanted to release one this year, and since my birthday is coming up only a little over a month away I decided it was time to get cracking. I have already finished recording most of the songs for it, but there are a good handful that still need a fair bit of work. And I wanted to challenge myself to get it done on time. So I have been trying to practice a lot of what I have learned about myself and what motivates me; and most importantly, what de-motivates me. I thought it might make an interesting blog post to share my observations. I can have a bit of a strange way of feeling/thinking about things, but perhaps some of you will be able to relate.

A lot of what all of this involves has been observing myself; learning and being aware of how I function creatively. And the first big thing is how I like to focus on one big task at a time. I often have a million little things I want to do at once, and if I ask myself to dip into too many of them I end up feeling overwhelmed and just don’t do anything at all! So I started giving myself just one task to do every day, and if I do more than that in the day it’s a bonus! What that actually meant though, since I’m a master procrastinator (who isn’t though), was that I ended up doing lots of little other things instead of doing the main thing. So I end up actually getting quite a lot done anyway when if I’d have set out to do all of those things I probably wouldn’t have managed to. So that’s a nifty little tactic I use to trick myself into getting more done. Reverse psychology, it works, on myself, who’d’ve thunk it?

In contradiction to that though, I have also noticed how I can sometimes get really invested in one big project I’m working on. It can really motivate me to give myself an ambitious goal that I’d really like to achieve. I know that some people suffer from self doubt when they try to do things that are ambitious, but I thankfully don’t need to worry about this so much. Not because I’m massively big headed, but rather because I don’t put too much weight into whether or not I accomplish anything in the end. I like to try to do things I currently don’t know how to, or aren’t sure if I can do. I don’t worry too much if I don’t get what I expect to get out of it in the end. Usually what I get at the end, in fact, is more satisfying than I originally anticipated. These things tend to go off in unexpected directions.

So when I get into these projects I tend to find I have a lot of energy for them. Let me give you an example. The last 3-4 days I have been pretty incessantly coding myself a new website (it should be live in the near future!). I’ve pretty much entirely built a whole website, including photoshopping graphics for it, from the ground up in half a week. And it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t got mildly obsessed with it. I got excited by the prospect of having a fancy looking website that I had made entirely myself, (and, lets be honest, that I could show off to people). And that excitement gave me the fuel I needed to get through all the frustrating little obstacles. They weren’t obstacles, they were puzzles. I was the coding detective for a few days. It was marvellous fun. Anyway, I’m getting vaguely off topic here; point is, ambitious projects motivate me. Another example of when I’ve done this is when I one day decided to replicate a limited edition totoro poster my wife found on the internet using nothing but the paint we had in the house and a big sheet of cardboard. We have it proudly hung up on our living room wall

I have discovered that doing things like this actually motivates me to do other things as well. When I have finished with something like that it makes me feel like I can accomplish things easily. My unconscious logic is “well if I could do that massive thing, these little things I do every day will surely be a breeze”. So I end up having considerably more energy for everything else than I started with before I had my idea. It’s really a good way of motivating me.

A big thing that being mindful these last few days has taught me though, is that it’s important for me to listen to my body and my emotions in these things. We are taught to ignore our whims from an early age; you have to do homework whether you want to or not, don’t go to the bathroom now wait ’til it’s convenient etc etc. And it turns out that ignoring your body like this is actually really bad for creativity… I mean… maybe not those things exactly, but… I’ll explain. I decided to just listen more to my moods when it comes to being productive/creative recently. If I feel frustrated/tired/bored/restless I’ll stop. I’ll just stop. No guilt. Go do something else. I tend to find that I’m much more likely to have the energy to continue it later on than I would have if I’d simply “pushed through” as we’re so often encouraged to do. On the other hand!; If I’m getting really into something, and enjoying the work without feeling drained by it, I’ll continue until it feels most natural to stop. And that’s the gist of it really – doing what feels most natural.

I do feel like I should acknowledge that I have a privilege that most people don’t though. Most people don’t have as much time to create freely as I do. I am lucky in the freedom I have with that. And it grants me the ability to create in a more instinctive way, rather than in the most efficient way. And for me, that is the only way. Trying to do things “efficiently” as the goal tends to result in a complete lack of accomplishing anything… Which is another thing I have learned about myself and my inner workings:

I can’t feel motivated by negatives. It never lasts. It’s possible that I can manage to muster the motivation to start something in order to avoid a negative outcome sometimes, but it never lasts. I always lapse. And this is probably the biggest wall I come up against in life. It doesn’t matter if there are positive things that will motivate me, if the biggest emotion I have about something is fear of the alternative I will inevitably have to face that. And this is even harder to overcome, the bigger the fear. Which ends up being a massively destructive downwards spiral. And it sucks. So I have to find a way to separate the things I want to do from the fears they could be connected to. It’s the trickiest part of what I do. But it’s worth it, and it makes me happy to strive for things I want. I can’t go through my life only striving to avoid the things I don’t want. That will crush my spirit.

When I look back at all of these things I’ve learned about creativity, it makes me think about self-care. Maybe all of these things are just little ways of giving me that. I was recently watching a video that this cool person I know made about making changes in your life and how that relates to self-care. She talks about a childlike inner being who comes out when you don’t get enough self-care and stops you from doing the things you want to be doing by throwing a bit of a tantrum and refuses to cooperate. I think this is important. And it makes me wonder if I just have a particularly stubborn inner-child, because sometimes it feels like I have to have way more self-care than other people seem to manage with in order to do anything at all. Maybe that indicates that there is some other kind of imbalance that I’m yet to address… I’m not too sure about that one. Something to ponder on certainly. But I have definitely noticed that, for me, the only way to get anything done is to be unceasingly kind to myself. And I’m still learning how to stop beating myself up for needing that.

Activity

I haven’t posted anything on this blog for a looong time. And I’m not sure if anyone really follows me on here. But I am planning to post a few more in the near future so I keep thinking about where I might put up blogs. I use tumblr a lot so I’m thinking of posting things here, and then linking to them on tumblr. But I thought in case any of you use tumblr I might link to my page from here:

 
 
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That’s pretty much all I wanted to say. So yeah. See you soon!

Self-love and Acceptance

I’ve been in one of the biggest low slumps of my life the last few weeks… Maybe that’s an exaggeration, because it always feels big when you’re in it. But this time feels particularly different. I think I’m beginning to really learn to get over some of the things in life that really hold me down and stop me from being productive, and most of all be who I want to be.

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Incarnations

[yet another blog that's been sitting on my evernote unpublished for about a month. apologies]

I was having a conversation with someone recently about this notion that when you get into a relationship with someone, you should do your utmost to STAY THE SAME NO MATTER WHAT. This seems to be a notion that comes from the idea that if you change, your partner may fall out of love with you. Because you have become a different person, and therefore might become someone who is incompatible with the person you’re with. And this idea has got my brain all in a twist.

Perhaps Night and I managed to avoid this romantic ideal purely because we begun our relationship on the cusp of major changes in our lives. At 17, it’s expected that you’re going to change a lot in the next few years of your life. But it also seems that a big part of what we both love about our relationship is the way we actively help one another grow, and become better versions of ourselves. In this conversation I was asked “so you’ve seen each other through various incarnations?”. I really love that phrasing. Incarnations. That’s exactly it! I’m not the same person I was when I met her, she’s very much not the same either. That doesn’t mean I love her any less. In fact, it’s the opposite! I can’t really imagine how it would have somehow forced us apart to do so.

I sort of have the suspicion that it’s actually a separate issue – drifting apart, becoming distant – that’s using the excuse of “changing” to explain what happens. Or in fact! Maybe it’s more that people are constantly changing, regardless of what you do, and that if you become distant for any significant amount of time – that’s what you’ll notice first. That they’ve changed a lot, and that you weren’t there to witness it! And I think not becoming distant, keeping each other as part of your life is a very real and important thing to do to keep your relationship happy! But to try and not to change is not going to fix that problem, and you probably won’t manage it anyway.

It’s actually a really sad though to me, that some people try to do this. To me – the whole point of relationships are to help you grow and change and learn from life. It’s having other people in my life with different experiences that will enrich my human experience that makes me feel happy and fulfilled. And the idea that some people are deliberately trying to avoid this upsets me. What’s more, I really enjoy being that for other people – and watching people I like a lot to begin with, grow and blossom into better, more healthy, happier people. That’s just awesome. And I mean that in the traditional sense of the word.

What Did You Learn?

This is the post I spoke of putting up on my last blog post, don’t know why it took me so long to get around to posting. I finished writing it a while ago! Anyway, as promised, here are those “things I learned from opencon”:

At Opencon I kept hearing that some people’s experiences of it had been “life changing”. In a way, I suppose I could say the same. It has got me thinking a lot about things in my everyday life and how I interact with people in a way that I’m sure will, in a quite literal sense, change my life. But the funny thing is, I don’t think it was necessarily the workshops that I went to that made the difference. Yeah they were interesting, and it was a lot of fun, and maybe I did learn a thing or two from the content of the discussions. In the end it was the experience, in and of itself, that taught me the most.

The fact that I was surrounded by so many people I respected, and wanted to respect me, meant that I felt quite under pressure from myself to be impeccable and not put my foot in it like I often do. Usually I give myself the excuse that “I don’t really care about these people, so if they judge me who gives?”, but I couldn’t do that here. I’ve been realising how big of an issue this can be for me in various situations, and this weekend it even brought up something between me and Night that we’ve never managed to resolve in the past. It seems like I have two conflicting complexes that mean sometimes I end up hating myself just a little. The first is connected to missed opportunities. I think this might have come from the way my dad has always pushed me into doing stuff right-now-or-you’ll-miss-your-chance. And upon reflection I’m seeing how some of those things weren’t very good ideas at all, and in fact might have been quite rude or awkward. And it seems like I still have that complex about missed opportunities that makes me do or say things that I shouldn’t on impulse. Over the years I’ve become more aware of when I do that, but it hasn’t stopped me from acting this way it’s just made me increasingly embarrassed of myself. And it’s got to the point where I don’t trust myself, and I don’t trust other people not to judge me as being as lacking in self awareness as my father is, just because of the impulsive bad judgement I express on occasion.

All this is just exacerbated by the fact that when I get insecure I overcompensate and act over-secure. So when people see me active over-secure they tend to try and take me down a notch – rather than giving me what I need which is to be reassured that it’s not as big of a deal as I make it out to be in my head. But every time I’m “taken down a notch” the issue gets bigger in my head. To the point where I need to hide away from everyone for half an hour after every time I say something even slightly inappropriate to someone I really like on a silly impulse.

So I guess this weekend I learned that 1) A lot of it is all in my head, 2) I can trust people, especially these people, to see past my blurting and not judge me on that alone, and 3) I can communicate this to other people because I’m definitely not the only one who worries about such things. I wonder how things might change, knowing all this. Definitely putting it in the User Manual. That’s for sure.

Ok what’s next? [checks list]

Ah yes. I’ve noticed that I can be quite impatient sometimes when it comes to flirting. And, though I wasn’t particularly flirting with anyone at opencon, I learned a lot about other people’s boundaries – other women’s in particular. And it hadn’t really occurred to me that being impatient and wanting to flirt with women I fancied straight away might be encroaching on their boundaries. It doesn’t always just mean that they’re not interested. It might just feel like a pressured scenario for them, or remind them of things from the past. I might not be directly pressuring them, but they might feel pressured because of my directness. So keeping an eye on their reaction is important. I’ve also noticed how I’m different in that regard – and how in a way I feel more comfortable flirting or in a cruising space. I haven’t quite deconstructed *why* that is yet… but we’ll see*. Acknowledging that most people are probably the opposite is something that I think is important for me to do.

Another thing I noticed was friendships. It’s no surprise really that the people at opencon form unconventional friendships, that look, from an observer’s perspective, quite a lot like romantic relationships. As someone who’s not used to seeing this, I had to re-assess my assumptions on a few occasions! And this got me thinking about my own attitude to friendships. Something I’ve realised recently is that I tend to have quite a lot of acquaintances, who I don’t know very well, and would like to have a deeper platonic relationship with but never manage to. And then I have my romantic relationships, and that’s where I get all my fulfilment of human interactions from. And perhaps that is one of the bigger reasons to why I’m polyamorous. It’s really easy to go along in life, forgetting that it’s not just romantic relationships that have all these unwritten rules that are implied to follow. Friendships have them as well! I think in a sense I try to escape the implicit rules in romantic relationships by dating women, that seems to have more of a feeling that the rules don’t apply… but with friendships I can’t do that! There’s no easy escape. So I guess you just have to talk about everything! In particular I’ve been thinking about how friends are supposed to show affection, and how a certain level of affection seems to be on a very blurry line between platonic and romantic - things like greeting each other with long hugs, holding hands, stroking hair all that kind of stuff. And what’s the problem in doing that with your friend? The only thing I can think of would be if you weren’t sure where you stood with that person. It seems likely the only reason we might avoid being so affectionate is in order to make sure we’re not giving off the wrong kind of signals. Surely we can just talk about that though? Maybe I should be asking people who have these fabulously close friendships, how do you get to that point? I really suck at friendships, but I think it’s something I need much, much more of in my life.

*I’ve since worked out why: It’s largely to do with my comfort levels with casual or group interactions in comparison to one on one conversations. I feel like I can be more open, and more myself if I’m talking to someone one on one… and perhaps it’s the most validating when that involves flirting as it is validating my openness when otherwise that might be an aspect of me that is considered inappropriate.

OpenCon 2012

When I started writing this it was going to be about all the things OpenCon taught me, but I’ve decided put that in a separate post. I started writing some of the things out, and it got quite personal! So I felt like it belonged in a different post, as it had a very different tone to it. So this shall just be about my observations of my experience.

OpenCon has a very deliberate safeness about it. Everyone goes on about what we can do to make people feel the most comfortable and safe in the environment. And it wasn’t until I left that safe space that I realised how completely absent that kind of environment is in, what I suppose you would call, “normal society”. For the first time in my life I was able to stand at the edge of a room of people dancing without feeling like I was expected to join in whether I wanted to or not*. It was also apparent when I realised that I’d been speaking up in pretty much every workshop I went to. I worry a lot about putting my foot in it, especially around so many people I respect, so the fact that I felt so free and confident to be able to do so was really a testament to how well everyone involved went about things**. Everyone was given a chance to have their voice heard (quite literally). And I think leaving that environment and going back to normalcy may have been largely what people were referring to when they spoke about getting a “comedown” from OpenCon. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could live in such a safe space 24/7?

It was also really wonderful being surrounded by so many critical thinkers! Being around people who think as deeply as I do is usually a rare thing, so it was really validating to be in a crowd like that. And very reassuring when I watched people shimmer their hands*** at my words in workshops. But anyway! Critical thinkers! It was really amazing that in the very first workshop**** we were already discussing the things we might be doing as a community that are inadvertently oppressing some of its members. Not once did I hear the phrase “if it’s not broke don’t fix it”. The fact that we, as a community, seem to be very willing to question our own beliefs and examine ourselves is very reassuring to me, and makes me proud to be part of it. And after OpenCon I feel much more part of the community than I ever did before, that’s probably the main thing I took away from the weekend in fact.

One of the workshops I went to was called “women flirting with women”. I did sort of feel like maybe I shouldn’t have been there since I don’t really experience the same problems as the other women who attended. But I thought it might be fun to share experiences with other women! I did enjoy it, and it was a little weird, but it was definitely a memorable experience. It was focussed on getting women to be a little more bold, and to actually make a move sometimes. And as a woman who rather likes getting hit on, I’m all for this! Upon reflection though, I became slightly concerned that maybe in its effort to empower – it may have negated some important things about reading negative signals. There was no “how to tell if she’s just not that into you” and how to take rejection gracefully. As someone who likes to chat up women – I find that’s pretty important. For example, in the workshop we were split up into groups of three; all taking turns to flirt, be flirted with, and observe. In the instance where I was being flirted with I had quite a surreal experience: Even though she was giving me clear flirting signs (duh, that was the point of the exercise), when I flirted back a little I picked up on some very subtle hints that, actually, she wasn’t interested in me. I think protecting yourself from those little rejections and learning that they mean nothing is important in being a confident flirter. So it would have been good to have more of that I think. But I totally get what they were trying to do in this workshop, and it’s really admirable, perhaps talking about rejection too much in that workshop would have felt really negative and been counterproductive in giving women more confidence when they really need it.

I had one suggestion to add based on my experience there, so I may as well include that here: I think it would have been useful to have some hand gestures introduced in the “welcoming” talk so that we could use them throughout the weekend in the workshops. Things like “on that point” would have been particularly useful, especially in the larger workshops as it’s harder to let everyone speak in those.

All in all, it was a really great experience. I’m really glad that we were able to go in the end! I feel a lot closer to the community now, and perhaps for the first time ever like I belong somewhere. It sort of feels like a new chapter of Tess.

* I love watching people dance, not so much dancing myself… maybe that will change, maybe it won’t, but it really bugs me when I’m expected to love it as much as Everyone Else™.

** Especially compared to PolyDay for example, where it was much harder to have your say (probably because there were just so many people) and the conversation was often dominated by the loudest members.

*** By this I mean the signal people make when they mean “I agree”

**** That was Meg Barker’s talk on her book “Re-writing the rules” which was absolutely outstanding, and gave us all stuff to think about and discuss among ourselves for the whole weekend. Including some new language and even a few in jokes! (It’s crab buckets all the way down!!!)

I NEED YOUR TIME

A little discussion with Night, and some thoughts in recent months, have brought me to an interesting conclusion about the problem of “time” when it comes to relationships.

If you know me well, you’ll know that a break up I had this year (I’ll call her L) taught me a lot about myself and relationships. Thinking back to when I was with her and how I needed her time just outlined the fact that it wasn’t her “time” I needed. It was something deeper. I needed security. And that felt like such an urgent need that I became quite needy of her time. And needed her to talk to me, effectively, as validation that she was interested in me. This is not something I get with Night OR C right now. And I have significantly less time with C, it doesn’t make me feel deprived – I just feel sad. And if I try to imagine a time where I can’t spend as much quality time with Night as we do now, that wouldn’t make me feel like I *NEED* something… we’d just be sad.

It doesn’t make me insecure that C doesn’t give me much of her time because I know that she wants to, and enjoys it when we do spend time together. Whereas with L I felt like she was constantly distracted… and not particularly interested half the time really.

So it rings alarm bells for me now whenever I hear about, or feel myself, that more time is a “need”. Getting your fair share of someone, that’s understandable… but if it feels like a need in itself… maybe we should ask ourselves whether there’s actually a deeper need that our instincts tell us could be solved, somehow, by MORE  TIME with that person.

Something to ponder on, maybe.