Catherine Gracey

Living Life, One Misadventure At A Time.

I Just Have To ____

Years ago I heard a piece of financial advice that has stuck with me: understand the difference between wanting something and needing something. I do not need the latest version of the latest gadget on the market, even if I want it. I do need to pay for food. The simple question – do I need this or want this – has saved me tens of thousands of dollars in purchases that would have been regretted a week later.

Now that I am a mother, the way I spend my time has changed dramatically. I have a little person with very unpredictable needs. Caring for her is time consuming and, after weeks of being the parent who stays at home with her, my stress level was rising.

I decided to apply the financial question to my time: do I need to do this, or do I only want to do this? I need to care for my daughter, but what about the other activities that I fill my day with? Making this distinction was simple. Every time I hear myself start a sentence with “I just have to”, I pause and rephrase it. Do I need to do this thing, or just want to do it?

Within minutes of deciding that I did not need to turn my computer on one day, I discovered that I had hours of free time. This was not a shift away from productive work but rather a shift away from deleting the spam in my inbox and reading status updates on Facebook from people I don’t know. I was able to do an incredible amount of housework. I was able to photocopy exercises from a text book that was due back at the library. I finished a sewing project that had been sitting on the kitchen table for a month. Even with all of this activity, I was still able to spend hours caring for my daughter. The day suddenly felt longer and fuller.

Deciding that my computer activities could wait for a day forced me to do so something that I had not done in a long time: I had to relax. Since I did not “have to just check something” I was able to finish the other activities that weigh on my mind. The things that I need to do had room, cleared from something that I only wanted to do and, if I am being honest with myself, I didn’t particularly want to do anyway.

As my day progressed and I accomplished more, I noticed my sense of self shifting. With every minor accomplishment I saw myself changing from someone who has an insurmountable to do list to someone with a list that was quickly being surmounted. My focus moved from the things I don’t do to the things that I am capable of achieving. Instead of seeing weakness and inadequacy, I saw power and strength.

The emotional and mental high from a single day without the computer flowed into the rest of my week. I began the following day in a good mood, and it was easier to recognise the difference between activities that I needed to do and things that I only vaguely wanted.

Every day since that first decision to leave my computer turned off has become easier. I am no longer plagued with thoughts of my own inadequacy, because now I see all the hours where I am someone who gets things done. I no longer feel time pressure, because I can see all the free hours that are at my disposal. It feels like being handed an unexpected sum of money and being told to spend it on whatever I choose.

If the only positive changes were to the way I experience my life, the question of wanting versus needing to do things would be worth continuing to ask. But it is more than that, because I have a daughter now. I have a daughter who will learn what it means to be a woman from me. I have a daughter who will watch my activities and see how she should live her own life. I have a daughter who will know what it is like to have a mother who loves her while being plugged in. After all, I might want to giggle at funny pictures on the internet, but I need to raise my daughter. And, as it turns out, I have all the time in the world for that.

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Switching to Anki

I recently downloaded a copy of Anki for my language practice. It is a flashcard program that utilises spaced repetition, which means that each time you are correct the program will delay showing you the card for increasing intervals of time. It is freely available on Windows and Android, which are the only platforms I looked into. With their server, AnkiWeb, my laptop version and my android version can sync independently of each other, so I can work offline and update when I’m ready.

Language practice has definitely taken a hit since Shroomi was born. It isn’t that I don’t have the time so much as I don’t have the type of time that I was used to. Computer games are fine, but I need her to be in an accommodating mood to play them. Duolingo is quick, although it is so painful since the new website design that I’m losing interest in it. I need something that I can use for one minute or one hour, which doesn’t come with stupid sound effects that are guaranteed to wake up my child. Anki ticks these boxes.

AnkiWeb has a lot of free user decks available for download, but I didn’t want to check the quality of someone else’s data. After a few misadventures with Memrise, I’ve learned not to trust random word sets from the internet. Keying in the words that I want to learn and doing a thorough proof read is a great way to introduce myself to the material, so I created my deck from scratch.

Setting up Anki took a bit of work, and I relied heavily on the manual, but now that it is up and running it is brilliant. Users create notes in the program, and then determine the cards that they want generated. This means that you can quickly set up multiple types of cards from the same data set, so bulk edits are fast. Cards based on the same note are linked to each other, so if you have multiple cards the program will mix up the way your data is presented to you.

I began by deciding how I wanted my cards to be designed. Verbs were the first area I tackled since the type of information I need here is quite different to nouns and adjectives. I want to learn the infinitive of each verb, but also the conjugations for the past tenses. To do this I took the list of verbs that I want to learn and typed everything into an Excel spreadsheet (a lot of my data was already in Excel). I exported a few lines into a CSV file and then resaved in Notepad to get the correct encoding (because we love it when Microsoft removes important functionality). After checking that my fields lined up correctly, I imported the full list into Anki. Verbs are in their own note type, which I can filter or edit without touching the rest of my deck.

Because Anki is so easily controlled by the user, unlike most web applications I have come across, I can dictate how new data is introduced. My first group of verbs had 130 different words. Some of these verbs I am already familiar with, and others were new. I told Anki to display every card that showed the German infinitive and asked me to translate it into English, because this is the easiest translation for me. Normally there are three options for new words: Again, which repeats the word quickly; Good, which repeats the word at 10 minutes and then one day; and Easy, which repeats the word in four days. In the settings I am able to change Easy to repeat the word with a longer interval, so for my first run through while setting things up I could push revising those words to a much later date. After the first run through I can then return the setting to four days. This delays the conjugations I am confident with in my regular practice, so Anki will show me the conjugations I am less confident with earlier and more frequently.

My full word set has primarily come from a first year German text book, and contains approximately 3500 words. As I encounter new words that are not in my list I can just create a new note in Anki to include them. This means my word list is much more organic than a single training program. It also means I am unlikely to forget words because I am no longer exposed to them, which solves a big problem I have faced since my last trip to Germany.

Anki has a lot of benefits, but as a new mother there is a single feature that makes it fantastic: no time requirements. If I can’t finish today’s cards then the program will reschedule tomorrow’s cards to prioritise the ones I am most likely to forget. If I don’t have time to add new words I can include them later without disrupting my progress. I can study during stolen moments and those long hours where I’m stranded in a chair. Other new mothers might be resorting to daytime television, but I’m making use of those otherwise unproductive hours. I might not get everything done during the day that I would like to, but I can always feel a sense of accomplishment by the time my partner gets home.

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Structured Procrastination

A few weeks ago, I wrote about implementing GTD in my daily life. When I was writing the schedule, I sat down and tried to fit in everything that I need to get done during the week. The idea was to work out a system where no individual task is overwhelming.

One of the things I noticed is that I have a lot more free time than I had expected. My projects are time consuming, but the other items do not take as long as I had anticipated. Every area that I have been able to catch up on has meant that I am starting to make significant time savings in my daily life.

Trying to decide what to do with my spare time has presented me with an interesting problem. Many tasks do not benefit from increased hours, and I prefer to do something productive with my time. On the other hand, I do not want to start any new projects until I finish some of the old ones.

My answer came from this article about structured procrastination. I stumbled across it while reading another article about the Anti To Do List, which is a list in which you write down all of your achievements for the day, regardless of whether or not they were on your To Do list.

I love procrastinating, which is something the GTD system highlighted for me. Even knowing that lunch was the next item on my list triggered an almost irresistible urge to do something else, regardless of how hungry I was. Knowing that I had a bit of spare time in the day wasn’t helping me to control this tendency; if anything, it was making it worse.

After reading the article, I was enchanted with the idea of using procrastination to increase productivity. It sounded like the perfect system for someone like me. It relies on having an important task to do that can be avoided by doing other, worthwhile tasks. The idea of wasting time while being productive was irresistible.

I began by writing a list of all the things in my life that I need or want to accomplish, regardless of size. My first thought had been to divide the list into “critical”, “important” and “whenever”. It was impressive, to say the least, and heavily weighted towards the first category.

Once I had the rough list sorted out, I realised that nothing in my critical category could be safely postponed any longer. Even the tasks in my important category needed to be done quickly, and a lot of them were about to rise into the critical list. Nothing in my whenever list was going to give me the necessary sense of urgency.

I decided that the thing I would procrastinate with was my lovely GTD schedule.

It has worked much more effectively than I had anticipated. Breakfast is not the first item on my list. If I want to eat, I have to clear out the earlier item first. The same applies for lunch and dinner. Whenever the urge to procrastinate strikes, I just find something on my to do list that I can work on instead, then get back to the GTD schedule when it passes.

I am now making impressive progress on my to do list. Combining this with the Anti To Do list gives me a feeling of accomplishment, my GTD schedule is not too badly compromised, and my backlog is clearing quickly. The critical section is almost complete. It never would have occurred to me to use my procrastinating tendencies as a tool for productivity, so I’m glad it occurred to someone else.

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Operationalising Getting Things Done (GTD)

I was sent this article recently about the sedentary lifestyle, and how inactivity is slowly killing a lot of us. As an information worker, I am keenly aware of the need to spend a lot of time with my butt on a seat. As someone who works from home, I am very aware of the temptation to work through lunch, and postpone other activities while I am working. The article might as well be pointing its judgmental finger directly at me, because I know I am frequently guilty of hoping that a single hour of exercise will undo the sedentary damage from the rest of my day.

From a different source, I was also sent a few other articles about the GTD method of project management. This method involves listing all of the tasks that need to be done, and then churning through them. The idea is that if you are able to relieve the brain of the burden of remembering what comes next, you are instead able to concentrate on getting things done. Sounds good to me; I have enough in my brain to keep several women stressed out and bewildered.

Seeing a brilliant opportunity to combine the lessons from both the health warning and the project management tools, I decided to work up a schedule for my week. It only took a few seconds to see that I was committing far more sins than I had realised on both fronts. After a lot of careful rearranging, I came up with the following table (boring bits have been condensed):

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Tidy bedroom Tidy bedroom Tidy bedroom Tidy bedroom Tidy bedroom
Eat breakfast Eat breakfast Eat breakfast Eat breakfast Eat breakfast
Gym Gym Gym Gym Gym
Buy groceries Buy groceries Buy groceries Buy groceries Buy groceries
Write blog post Write blog post Write blog post Write blog post Write blog post
Tidy lounge Tidy lounge Tidy lounge Tidy lounge Tidy lounge
Paperwork Market research Business email Paperwork Read IMM subs
Eat lunch Eat lunch Eat lunch Eat lunch Eat lunch
Tidy kitchen Tidy kitchen Tidy kitchen Tidy kitchen Tidy kitchen
Project 1 Project 1 Project 1 Project 1 Project 1
Tidy bathroom Tidy bathroom Tidy bathroom Tidy bathroom Tidy bathroom
Project 2 Project 3 Study Project 4 Project 5
Eat dinner Eat dinner Eat dinner Eat dinner Eat dinner
Wash dishes Wash dishes Wash dishes Wash dishes Wash dishes
Relax Relax Relax Relax Relax

The sections that require my body to move are in bold, and the sections where I can work are in italics. I have listed the gym as both work and physical activity because I can use the exercise equipment while reading articles or books.

One of the best parts about this system for me is that it is not time dependent. I do not have a sense of needing to drop something that is working well to move onto the next task. Things will take more time in some weeks than in others, and this method provides that flexibility. I can do what I need to do without watching the clock. Because I am less distracted, things are quicker to do than they used to be.

I am nearly a week into the new schedule. Results are mixed so far. The house is far cleaner than it normally is, and because the chores are spaced out over the day I am not becoming stressed by them. Once I got on top of a particular room, maintenance has been simple.  I hope that this pattern will continue as I progress over the coming weeks.

Trying to fit into this schedule has highlighted a few problems that I had not previously identified. By forcing things into a certain timeframe, I have confronted the obstacles that have stopped me from making them a habit them earlier. Some of these are obstacles that I have been able to find a solution for, but others remain.

Each of my main projects is now progressing again. My actual working hours have dropped considerably, and my output has risen. This is a significant departure from the 9-5 workday that I had been trying to maintain. I am much happier in the work that I am doing, and it is certainly easier than it used to be to maintain the load.

Overall, I am calling the new schedule a success. There are a lot of bumps that need to be ironed out, but at least I know where I need to focus my attention.


Zynga Detox: Day 22

Today marks three full weeks since I decided to cut Facebook games out of my life. It was stressful to go through each game, delete it from my wall, delete all pending game requests, and then block each one. I felt miserable doing it.

Within minutes, Facebook began to advertise the games I had just blocked. I was stunned. I am not a fan of being flooded with ads that are irrelevant to my life, but to have these ads replaced with something I have told Facebook to keep away from me was crazy. I responded by blocking the advertisements for every game, not just the ones I had been playing.

When I got the first message from a friend asking me to reinstall my games, my natural sense of belligerence kicked in and it was easy to say no. I stopped being annoyed at Facebook, stopped being annoyed with Zynga, and stopped remembering why I enjoyed the games so much. Any lingering addiction was gone.

I have noticed that I already have days where I do not use Facebook at all. Without the game posts I can typically read my news feed in a few minutes, and there is little I feel compelled to action. If I get behind on reading it, I do not struggle to catch up again.

My attention has turned towards educational blogs, online lectures, and instructional websites. I have substituted being entertained with doing something entertaining. I like it.

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The To Do List Experiment

Two weeks ago I decided to try an experiment. Instead of rolling my to do list over from one week to the next, and managing to get less than half done each week, I decided it was time for a new tactic. I took a large piece of paper and listed out everything I could think of that I would either want or need to do. After this I categorised everything into projects or common themes. I looked at these areas and filled in the gaps to move from one step to the next.

I was testing two theories with this experiment. The first theory was that I had lost sight of the bigger picture. Without knowing where everything I was doing fit into my broader goals, it was difficult to see the next step that I needed to accomplish. My theory was that I would be less daunted by everything if it was carefully broken down and placed into chronological order. I would also waste less time trying to work out which step was next if I had taken the time to plan where each would fit in the whole.

The second theory came from disagreement with a point raised by Mel Robbins in her TED talk. She argues against the idea ‘I’ll do it when I feel like it’ on the grounds that we will never feel like it and we should do it anyway. I tried to embrace this theory for a few months, until I realised I was so busy doing things I did not feel like doing that I had no time to do the things I did feel like doing. Getting what I want is important, but I also want to be happy. My motivation for anything was dropping, and it was clearly reflected in my past lists. For the last two weeks I have instead looked at my plans, and selected tasks that roughly correlate with what I feel like doing. If I want to stay home, I pick tasks that fit with this. If I want to go out, I pick tasks that can only be done away from home. It has combined getting what I want with what I feel like doing.

As I decided on my next task, I wrote it on my to do list. I had expected that the lists would remain short, similar in length to the output of my previous weeks. Instead the lists were a similar size to previous weeks but, instead of many items carrying over, these lists were filled with completed tasks. There were other outcomes I had not expected:

  • My productivity had easily doubled with no noticeable increase in effort.
  • I went from seeing what I had not accomplished to what I had, and the corresponding sense of guilt and being overwhelmed vanished.
  • My mood improved as what I did closely mirrored how I felt.
  • There was increased opportunity to be spontaneous, and it was easy to fit in an unexpected activity without wondering what would need to be sacrificed to do it.
  • The time critical things were the first to be removed from the list, so now there is a sense of timelessness to everything remaining that leaves me feeling calm and ambitious.
  • Some of the large projects I had expected to take months longer are already finished.
  • I do not feel as if I am procrastinating if I add a new item to my list, or prioritise one task over the next, as I now feel confident that I will get to everything eventually.
  • Less time is spent entertaining myself, as I am no longer doing things when they are guaranteed to emotionally drain me.

I am very glad that I tried this new approach. It suits my personality, and each day I am able to feel a sense of achievement. I am curious to see if it will continue to work over a longer time period.

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Zynga Detox

When I was 23 I looked at my life, and realised that I was letting it pass me by. I was constantly doing stuff because that was what I had always done. By the end of the evening I had been so busy with this stuff that I was forgetting to truly live instead of just existing. The things that mattered were second place in my priorities behind things that did not matter to me in the slightest.

It angered my then partner, but I decided to cut out the things that did not matter to me. I stopped watching television, because I was tired of spending four hours a day watching shows that I did not actually enjoy. I reduced the computer games I would play down to those times when I was stressed and needed to unwind. I stopped spending my emotional energy pursuing friendships with people who did not seem to be investing in return.

Remarkable things began to happen. I lost 5kg, reaching a weight where I could look in the mirror and be happy. My muscles grew stronger, and I became capable of doing things I had never dreamed my body could do. I returned to writing for pleasure, and wrote four novels in a single year. I worked out how to purchase my own home, designed the layout and negotiated with the builders for a much better price. I started speaking up, demanding positive changes, and actively pursuing my goals. I spent much more time living in the moment, with fewer worries about the future and what it might bring, and less time spent ruminating about the past.

I became a better version of me.

When I was 24 I gave in and became curious about Facebook. I made an account while I was overseas, and was hooked. This is when I also discovered online gaming. At that point it was over. The better version of me was gone, restored to the version of me who was too busy drowning in stuff to go out and live her life to the fullest without prompting.

My cousin recently sent me an article about social gaming. It is quite long, but detailed about the psychology embedded in the games. While the focus is on ways in which the player can be induced to spend money, I was more keenly aware of how the games can be made to make the player spend time.

Time is not money, it is life. It is a finite resource, and once it is gone it can never be reclaimed. I had happily ignored the inducements of the games to spend my money, never once noticing that they were actually asking me to spend my life.

Spend I have. It was often open in the background, where I could quickly check my progress rather than go through the hassle of reopening the webpage. Where I had naively thought I was being clever in saving a few seconds here and there on my games, I have instead done exactly what the game designers want from me. Zynga does not want me to close my game; they want me to sit there with it open in the background, annoying me with the slow timers and teasing me with their ads for other games.

Even as I read the article, I had CastleVille open in the background. As I waited for the next page of the article to load, I had flicked to the other tab of my browser to check on the progress of my wooden boards. Had my workshop finished crafting them yet? Was the flax in my fields ready to be harvested? How were my quests progressing?

It took very little reflection to work out where I had given in to this atrocious new habit. My old television addiction was a significant case of monkey see, monkey do. Everyone around me was spending a lot of time watching it, so I did the same. But the television does not provide me with any significant benefit beyond filling my hours, which is not really a benefit for me. It would provide the occasional conversation point, but it turned out that I could still have those conversations without watching the shows; instead of discussing what had happened, the person who had watched the show could tell me the story. It was a change that had essentially been socially neutral.

Facebook and Zynga have been a different proposition. Where the television was passive, they have been slightly less so. The game I am watching changes depending on my actions and inactions. If I become bored with my own castle, I can go and look at someone else’s. I can interact with my friends in a way that I could not when we were watching television together, by directly altering their gaming experience.

Instead of being a passive discussion about television shows, my discussions about the games have been interactive through the request features. I can ask my friends for things, and they can help me out. Likewise, I get an irrational feeling of having been socially responsible by responding to their own requests. We can compare notes, discuss strategies, and generally pretend we have been doing something useful. Without realising it, I became invested and emotionally tangled in a perceived sense of social obligation.

Even while I pondered this, I was switching production of my wooden planks over to stone blocks. I was watching myself take leave of my senses, wondering what had come over me. There was the acknowledgement that the game is not even fun, and yet I was still playing. I began to intensely miss that younger, better version of myself who would not have looked twice at the game because she was too busy being happy.

I need to detox from the games, probably from Facebook as well. It took me the better part of the day, but I deleted them all. I left the Facebook groups discussing them. Then I blocked them. As each game vanished from my list I felt as if I was doing something wrong. That part of me that is hooked felt nothing but dismay and guilt at each removal. But I had started. Instead of focusing on how long I could keep up a playing streak, I can now focus on how long I have kept up a playing break.

Today: Day One.

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Revising the To Do List Strategy

On Wednesday I completed a significant stage of one of my projects. I had expected to feel relief, satisfaction, accomplishment, or any number of positive emotions. To my surprise, instead I felt emptiness and a sense of loss. Logically, this made no sense to me. This project brings a pleasing level of gain, but this was absent from my emotional perspective.

After a bit of soul searching, I am more dismayed about my perspective than I was dismayed about completing the project phase.

My life is in a constant state of flux, and I rarely know what I will be doing or where I will be doing it a week from now. I have so much going on at any given moment that most of my friends can’t keep up with me, and even my boyfriend never knows when my next flight will be. I rarely know when my next flight will be. My to do list is filled with projects and tasks that always seem to roll from one week to the next, regardless of size or complexity. I always get so close to finishing them that a few more hours at most would get them out of my mind. Instead I baulk, retreat, and assure myself that I will come back at another time.

These things I need to do are what provide me with stability in an uncertain and chaotic life. No matter what happens to me, no matter where I go, my to do list can come along. Physically or in my mind, it is always there. It is a constant companion. It does not tell me off, it does not judge me, and it is always ready to interact with me. Some of it is exciting, some of it is boring, but it always fills any sense of emptiness I might have.

Yesterday I decided that the backlog of things had to go. I dragged myself through tasks that left me wanting to scream like an unhappy preschooler. By the end of the day I was cranky, exhausted, and in desperate need of a break. It felt as if I had moved mountains, and I knew that when I reviewed it my to do list would have so many ticks that it would seem laughable to keep so many items for so long.

This morning, when I looked over it, I began to tick off items. But there were not as many ticks as I had expected. Then I realised how many things I need to do today were missing from it. Time critical things, such as picking Dad up from the airport and preparing the spare room. I quickly added them, and once again I have filled an entire week in my diary with stuff to be done. The list spilled over into next week, filling it into Wednesday.

Clearly this is not going to work in the long term.

I believe that the outside reflects the inside. This never ending stream of things I need to do is emotional stuff. It matches the physical stuff that I have been trying to declutter for years. I like to have a lot going on, but this is a dysfunctional way of achieving that. As long as I am fixed on low priority tasks, I will never have time for the high priority ones. As long as I keep making excuses or allowing myself to be distracted, I will never achieve what is important to me.

My project management book will be arriving with Dad tonight. I am going to examine everything on my to do list, and try to sort as much as possible into projects. When I rewrite the list on Sunday night, I hope that a lot of things will be converted to overarching subject areas. Perhaps by seeing my directionless pottering around as purposeful action, I can get a better perspective of how valuable my actions are for achieving my goals and dreams. I do work hard, but without a way to evaluate that I am left with fatigue and dissatisfaction. It just becomes emotional clutter, and I have more than enough of that.

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The First New Pieces

I was at the local supermarket, telling myself what an amazing domestic goddess I am for even walking in the door, when I spotted it. It was magnificent. It was desirable. It was more than I dreamed possible. It was a vision, a promise that there could be more in my life than what currently filled it. It said “hey baby, think of the statement you will make with me by your side.” It filled me with delight. It begged me to caress it, to hold it in my arms, to never let it part from me.

It was a shredder. And it was pink. Pink!

Naturally I had to have it.

When I arrived in Canberra I decided that I wanted a proper home office, filled with sensational working tools, a professional library, a fancy desk, and gadgets galore. The sort of home office that makes the tax return full of deductions. It would be so impressive it would even depreciate over several years, rather than the usual twenty minutes.

I have spent weeks sketching out what I want to have. Research has been conducted. I’ve considered the best brands and models of the various things I want to incorporate. I’ve been to stores and tested out components. I’ve examined prices, calculated a budget, and been thoroughly proud of myself for being so calm and considered about the whole process. Until I saw the shredder, it was going to plan.

Did I mention that it is pink?

Perhaps pink shredders are common place for other people. Perhaps I have in fact been living under the rock I have long suspected I live under. Perhaps pink shredders were such a common thing several years ago that they have once again gone out of fashion, and this one is a relic from a time best forgotten. I don’t care. My shredder and I are in love, and no one can convince me to go with a standard black one now.

As I pushed my trolley around, contemplating the best way to feature my pink shredder in the office design, I came across a group of laminators. Ooh. I’m disappointed that none of them were pink, because that would have turned pure win into epic win, but they did have an A3 laminator. By buying that, I practically have to buy the big A3 printer that I want to buy. My laminator would be ridiculous otherwise, and I had to buy the laminator or my pink shredder might have become lonely. And I couldn’t have that.

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The Paperwork Shambles (Probably Part 1)

I’m in Melbourne for a few days, staring at the list of things to do, and vaguely wishing I hadn’t given up alcohol. The past year and a half has not been the most organised of my life. When I first became sick I was working full time and studying, so a lot of things had been put on the back burners with an I’ll-get-to-it-later timeline. Add in a debilitating illness that I am still recovering from, and a lot of important things simply haven’t happened.

I just activated my new Visa card. They apparently sent it to me in November 2010. This isn’t as bad as it sounds, since my old card was still working, but not fabulous since this was the second bank card I have activated in the past week (the other one was from May 2011). This evening I realised I have more than twenty letters from various companies that I have not opened. Somewhere in my paperwork shambles I even came off the electoral roll, and I really need to get myself back onto that.

Ugh. I want to go back to Canberra.

The sheer amount of little things that I have to deal with is impressive. The calm, rational side of my brain is happy to deal with this, breezily shrugging and acknowledging that everything can be dealt with one way or another. The stressed out, overwhelmed side of my brain is wondering if I should just borrow the shredder I bought for Mum and quietly feed my problems into it.

In some ways, this mess is a blessing in disguise. I am at a wonderful point in my recovery where I am able to do complex things in short bursts, and most of the chores I have waiting for me in Melbourne fit that category perfectly. I need to reconstruct my own timelines, figure out where I am, decide where I need to be, and go from there.

One of my one percent realisations was that my structure determines my outcome. This realisation has had the impact of a hundred percent change, but is in itself a very small shift in my mental attitude. Once I have a solid framework to build off, everything from that point moves towards the goal. If I take a few extra hours at the start to plan what I want and need, I can save myself weeks or months in repairing work later.

My paperwork is reminding me of many structures that I can build, all of which will give me a greater chance for success. Each little shift in these structures will have long lasting implications for my prosperity and happiness, which can only be a good thing. They are one time shifts, so they will sustain themselves. I can review them as often or as infrequently as I like once they are established.

First on the list is my banking. I have activated all of my cards, so my accounts are once again fully functional. Over the last week I have reviewed the interest rates for accounts I have and accounts I could set up. I am moving my money for better returns, which is essentially giving myself a lovely little pay rise. I am consolidating accounts, which should save me the ridiculous fees that Australian banks feel entitled to charge. Fewer accounts means fewer statements, and fewer statements means I won’t have so many unopened letters sitting on my desk in the future. My time investment here will be approximately one day, spread over a few weeks. In financial terms, it is a gain of over $400 per year with the increased interest and the reduced fees. In future effort, I will probably reclaim the spent time within a year with less monitoring to do.

There are some accounts out there with a higher short term interest rate than the one I have chosen to go with. The catch on these accounts is that after four months my interest rate will drop considerably. It is the banks’ way of luring me in on the gamble that I won’t remember to move my money at the end of the term. They are right, I won’t, and so I have chosen to ignore their game and go for one that offers a middle rate of return. I don’t need to set myself reminders. I don’t need to lose a few days of interest payments with each account shift. I can calmly plan for a new budget and move on with my life.

Once I have everything set up, I plan to automate my money transfers and bill payments. I don’t want the hassle of having to remember to pay a certain bill by a certain time. For an investment of five minutes per account, I can save myself the late fees I sometimes get stung with since I became sick.

I feel positive about the opportunities in my situation. There are still so many things to be done, but I can get to them one item at a time. I just need to focus on sub sections of the list and not stress out. Hopefully the government won’t call an election before I get there.

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