Tag Archives: Planning

Pursuing Ideas

I have trouble getting my mind to quiet down.  Tick, tick, tick it goes – all the time.  Sometimes it is a gibberish jumble and other times laser focused on a single topic.  I think that is part and parcel of writing since writing begins with the formulation of an idea.

 

What makes a person a writer is the compulsion to write, to put that idea on paper (virtual or real) and pursue it, build it, launch it, nurture its growth.  Sometimes that idea that started out as a tangle of gibberish becomes a viable, wonderful thing.  And sometimes that laser clear idea collapses into useless mush.  For now.  (I don’t fully discard any post that I’ve started, it might have a seed for a future idea.)

 

Walking and driving distances are great for mulling ideas but lousy for capturing them.  I now try to remember to keep a recording device in the car on long trips, and can find myself chanting a couple of sentences when hurrying home from an amble.

more Jisco West

Waking up slowly is also fertile idea time.  My mind likes to tell me the things it has been pondering while asleep if I let it.

 

Sometimes repetitive tasks can bring forth a good thought or two that have been wandering in the back of my mind while my hands are busy.  It can be annoying when the thought gels in the morning when I’m getting ready for work so all I can do is jot it down on my way out the door.  And hope that I can pick it back up at the end of the day.

 

I like the discipline of posting regularly as a bit of pressure to complete an idea.  Although there are periods when too many ideas don’t pan out.  And nothing that I have previously completed appeals to me at the moment when I should post to meet my self-imposed deadline.  Sometimes my post meets the writer’s version of software developer’s minimum viable product.  And sometimes a post that I felt came together quite well is received with a thud or echoing silence.

 

What the writer writes isn’t always what the reader perceives.

 

Or maybe I am overthinking.  What is the right amount of thinking on any one topic, idea or issue?  My hat is off to the person who gets the answer to that one right more often than not.

 

Now that I am rounding up in a couple of months to completion of my second year blogging, I have been thinking about objectives.  (Different pursuit of ideas.)  My first objective was to set up a blog and see if I could sustain it past the average of 4 months.  Counting my first blog, I have certainly met that objective.  Then I thought a year was a fine goal.  Met, check.

 

As I became more familiar with the blogosphere, I realized that I wanted to find a community of bloggers, and I have managed to find or be found by others with similar interests.  Not quite a community since there is little cohesion beyond the fact that we are all blogging on WordPress.

 

Not being content with blogging for the sake of blogging, I have been wrestling with the open question of ‘now what?’.  I don’t have an answer for myself.  I will keep pursuing ideas to blog about while I pursue this larger idea.

 

Any suggestions?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

How Much ‘Summer’ in Summer?

August is upon us and the back-to-school ads have started to appear.  Gardens are about to produce tomatoes and cucumbers galore.  Leaves on trees are looking a bit tired and worn here and there after shining in their green spectrum from early pale to later deep green.  We still have a couple more months to go before the plants all go dormant for the cooler months.

 

I haven’t taken a vacation, or even devoted a whole day to summer activities, but I have vicariously enjoyed those of friends and family on Facebook and in-person telling.  And I have thought about what constitutes a summer moment so that I don’t miss them when they occur.  In early June, I wrote this piece about summer and the importance of noting this season.

 

Summer isn’t just a season, it is an idea – a representation of things to strive for like relaxation and laughter with friends and family.  It is nostalgia in a different form than what the holiday season brings forth.  The sound of children laughing in early evening brings me back to those moments in long ago yards playing tag or chasing fireflies with a group of other kids.  The joy of still being up and out in the dark when we would normally have been tucked into bed.

 

Enjoying the idea of summer in adulthood takes effort, a deliberateness that wasn’t necessary in childhood.  First we have to be conscious that this effort is even required.  Summer was spontaneous in our younger years and we might expect this to continue, we might feel discontent when it does not.

 

For several years in the transition from child to adult, I didn’t think about summer much at all.  Perhaps because I was busy figuring out what being an adult meant for me.  Perhaps because I was doing this figuring out in California, where the seasons are subtle and mostly all have the feel of summer.  It wasn’t until my children were old enough to have a summer break in school, and summers had the same rhythm they had in my childhood that I started to think about what makes summer.

 

Then I was divorced with two boys and a full time job and I had to make sure they had a summer while basically foregoing one for myself.  Or so I thought because I thought of summer as long stretches of unscheduled time to explore and enjoy.

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Now summer comes in moments, sips, or bursts.  And I enjoy them.

  • Time on a patio with family or friends
  • The hummingbird that visits the Rose of Sharon in the corner of my yard
  • Watching the tomato plants grow and tomatoes form
  • The firefly that hovered in front of the dog and I on a late evening walk
  • The dragonfly that reluctantly posed for this picture
  • The little boy gleefully whizzing by on his bike
  • The sound of lawn mowers while I still laze in bed on a weekend
  • Thunderstorms clearing the humidity from the air

 

How much summer is in your summer so far?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Come Banging After Me

I have lost count of the number of times that I started to learn to play the piano.  My mom had an old black upright piano that moved with us from state to state and sounded beautiful to me whenever she played – but the years and the moves weren’t kind to the poor instrument.  It was a relic of her childhood, carried over into mine.  At some point during my college years she treated herself to a new piano that now lives at my brother’s house.

 

Mom was more than happy to teach us to play when we took an interest.  But she wasn’t going to come banging after us to practice, or in any way harangue us for this or any other endeavor.  She loved to play, but had her moments during those learning years when she had to be pressed to continue by her mother.  She had a picture of herself as a concert pianist, unrealized because she didn’t put in the necessary hours of practice and single minded dedication.

 

Mom at a piano, not the one I mention - and long before she was 'mom'.

Mom at a piano, not the one I mention – and long before she was ‘mom’.

My nieces’ dance recital has brought this and other creative efforts to mind, as it does every year.  I am enchanted by the growth of their skill, poise and grace each year.  I don’t have to be there for the moments when they just don’t have it in them to go to a particular class.  When they have to make a choice between practice and another activity.  I just now realized that I haven’t ever asked my sister how much effort she puts into banging after them to work through a momentary dip in interest and effort.  I know that she puts a lot of her own time and effort into making their ability to dance a reality.

 

I took dance classes too, here and there – now and then.  We didn’t ever have the facility and the talented people that my nieces have had the pleasure to be exposed, that perhaps they don’t recognize as a gift.  The other gift that they may not recognize is the time and expense that my sister puts into their pursuit.

 

There are so many options, so many interesting pursuits that we could take on – intellectual, creative, etc.  A whole lot of factors have to convene just so to create excellence – dedication and a support system being just the start.  Regardless of dedication, sometimes the difference just comes down to having someone to come banging after you when your energy and dedication flag a bit.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Long Weekend Coming

I just looked at the calendar and hurray we have a long weekend, for those of us who can take advantage that is.  A bonus day, a holiday, a chance for something other than ordinary.  Most of us who work in offices have had five solid months without a holiday break.  (I’ve always been a bit bemused that the work calendar is weighted so heavily with holidays at the end of the year.)

 

photo credit: Wikipedia

photo credit: Wikipedia

I used to slog through these first months of the year, hanging on to my PTO days just in case they would be needed.  And then I read the best advice, I’ve forgotten where, that we should take a day off every couple of months as a mental health day if for no other reason.  Perhaps to attend to all the stuff that builds up; the phone calls, the need to research, and my favorite – a day off to plan for the next day off.

 

Because here I am rejoicing about this long weekend and realizing that once again I haven’t planned for it.  I haven’t made any arrangements.  And a holiday Monday is no time to try to make any of the phone calls that have been piling up.  Like to the dentist – I really need to make a dentist appointment.  And find a roofer – I’ve been putting off getting a new roof for a couple of years, but I really have to stop procrastinating.

 

Well, it is too late to do some things to make these extra weekend hours count, but it isn’t too late to figure something out.  Plus, I imagine that I am in good company.  Really good planners are shaking their heads at the rest of us, this is a fact, but so many of us could use a personal assistant to keep us on track.

 

We’ve earned this bit of down time.  I hope that everyone gets to enjoy it in some meaningful way.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Sprinters Running Marathons

I don’t run.  For that matter I don’t jog, trot or canter either.  I have been known to lope and I’ve been told I walk at a pretty fast pace.  I well remember the joy that came along when, as a child, I would burst into a sprint.  (And then because I was mostly bookish, I would gasp and pant for several minutes.)

 

But I digress, I think in part due to the burgeoning spring which encourages thoughts of being outdoors and being active.  This post isn’t about literal running of any kind.  It is about understanding the right pace and energy level for a project or activity.  Most of us start out full of energy and enthusiasm for a new venture but if we didn’t clearly understand how the venture would go, we can let our pace lag well before the finish.

forward

I’ve been known to sit comfortably on my couch and turn on the last portion of a long race like the Marathon during the Olympics or the Tour de France.  It amazes me that the athletes who are still in the race at this point can find it in themselves to increase their pace at the very end.  These people have mastered the art of being in it for the long haul.  They can portion their energy and hold something back to make a strong finish.

 

How many times have you found yourself agreeing to something, thinking in the short term, only to feel disgust build as the thing goes on and grates at you?  I’ve told the story how I accepted the request to be called by my first and middle names at the start of a job only to have to get everyone to change a now established habit when I started to think long term.  How many marriages end simply because the two people weren’t really thinking long term at the start, were just entranced by their love goggles?  How many times were you ill-suited for a job that you took?  How many projects are in a partially completed stage around your house?

 

Relationships of all kinds can be entered into casually, even if intensely, and rarely do we think about how they may develop and last.  Sprint or marathon tells over time.

 

Tasks and projects should be easier to identify as sprint or marathon, but this will require a bit of planning before the plunge.

 

Have you mastered the art of identifying and planning properly for a sprint or a marathon?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Oh, If Only

There is one good thing about winter and that is that it provides a ready reason why much of the to-do list lies dormant for the season.  Now I must dust of the list and sit down with it and a calendar to figure out what should be done, where it will fit in my days, and whether the budget will allow.  But just next to the to-do list is my list of books that I’d like to read.

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If only there were enough time in the day to be able to read more of the interesting books that come out so much faster than I can digest them.  (And then there are all of the older books, too.)  In addition to the books that I hear about and put on the list are all the books that I could stumble upon in the library or a book store if I go and browse.

 

It would be simply lovely if I could take a chunk of time off from all my other obligations and I could devote my time and energy to devouring these worthy books.  I do read all day – emails, procedures, articles, and at the very end of the day a few pages from my current fiction selection.  Just a handful of pages for me, so that it takes ages to get through a single book.  So that sometimes I forget some of the subplots in a book.

 

Reading is right there with all of the other necessities – food, water and shelter – it provides comfort and education, understanding and enjoyment, inspiration.  I sometimes long for my younger years when a whole Saturday could be absorbed by a book.  I dream of reading sabbaticals when my days get too stressful.  Would I love reading as much if I could be paid to do it?  I would love to find out, I think.

 

If you dream of taking a sabbatical to do one beloved activity, what would it be?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Directionless Progress

Let’s face it, sometimes it really isn’t clear what our next step should be – in our career or in life.  We can ask friends, coworkers and family for assistance or suggestions and we will get varying opinions and conjecture but it is up to us to create the direction.  Since we expect life to be ever advancing and improving we put a lot of import on making the right decision about direction.

 

Maybe it is our years in school that give us this impression of life as continuing advancement.  We have to learn the basics to build on with later, more specialized classes – calculus won’t make sense until we know the fundamentals of math.  Each grade builds on the information gained in previous grades, and school goes on and on for what feels like forever.  But life doesn’t really work this way, so in that respect school hasn’t prepared us at all.

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If only it were as simple as a video game where the arrows show up ahead as you drive to tell you the next stage of your route.  Instead we have to explore, experiment and experience occasional false starts.  Or seem to stay in place while the world moves forward without our active participation.

 

If we don’t have clear direction, can we really make progress?  If we decide to change direction does that negate everything that we did toward our old progress?  Who is to say that all of us are meant to click into a certain track in our early twenties and follow it through thirty odd years of a career without any pause or deviation?

 

I haven’t taken anywhere near a traditional path (assuming traditional is that set 30 year career track).  I think that I’ve done all right with my progress despite some meandering directions – mainly because I have learned so much along the way.   In fact, since learning has been a main goal, I could say that I really didn’t meander in my direction in that respect.

 

How do you define progress for yourself?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

A Jumbled Approach

I said that I would bring a treat in to work this morning.  I said it on Monday, so I had time to plan – sort of.  Other than being at work most of each day in between, sleep, eating, household chores and so on.  And it doesn’t help that I haven’t really been to the store in over a week so some supplies are short.  A few challenges.

 

On the plus side, I have been baking for a lot of years – since I worked on my Girl Scout cooking badge and realized that I liked to bake.  And I’ve been a parent for more than a few years, so I know how to make do in a pinch.  I do like structure, but I have learned how to take the structure I can find and make new connections to get where I want to be.

 

Butterscotch chocolate chip bars are the result.  Baking requires more precision than other kinds of cooking, true enough – but experience in combinations and an understanding of the different ingredients means that a recipe isn’t absolutely rigid.  A calculated risk or two can lead to success.

 

Substitutions need to have similar properties to account for consistency of the batter and the potential for flavor changes has to be considered as well.  After looking around the kitchen and thinking about recipes I actually had a couple of choices.  Since my energy level remains low thanks to the ongoing winter, I opted for a simple recipe even though I’ve never made it before.  (A word to non-bakers and cooks – it is almost never a good idea to try out a recipe for an audience the first time.)

 

The bars smelled fabulous while baking, but that isn’t necessarily a good indicator.  My son hovered ready to be my first taste tester, but he has inherited my sweet tooth so also not a good indicator of success.

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I have had my share of spectacular failures as a baker.  Mainly due to an excess of hutzpah and a glaring lack of experience plus knowledge.  But I learned more from those flops than I would have if I had taken a more conservative route in my baking past.  I think this is true in most aspects of my life.

 

Now it remains to be seen what my team thinks of my approach.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Short Term Planning

public domain image

public domain image

I know this is the time of year to hatch grand ideas, named Resolutions, not a time to be thinking small.  Well, the fellow who normally cuts my hair was stricken with pneumonia right before Christmas and my haircut appointment and while I do hope that he is ok, this leaves me with a shaggy dilemma.

 

I can’t remember the last time that I felt truly pleased about my hair – the style, the color – and I am the kind of person who only pays marginal attention to any sort of style.  I do understand that appearance it important because it is part of people’s perception of a person.  And I can appreciate when someone else looks well put together, I just have a hard time figuring out how they managed the effect.

 

Anyway, my need to resolve my overgrown locks has me thinking about short term planning at this almost New Year stage.  It often seems as if we just do whatever is in front of us.  Get it done, move to the next thing, get it done, move to the next thing.  Periodically check the list, if you keep one, to make sure things aren’t missed.

 

My sister, brother, sister-in-law and I went to the grocery store the weekend before Christmas.  Life has been a bit hectic so while we had made plans to be together for the holiday, those plans hadn’t gotten specific enough to cover little things like food.  We put together a menu plan before we got in the car and only my sister thought to write it all down.  She had a handful of lists, actually, including general things that she needed for her household since she was hosting.

 

It was fun to go to the store together, despite the number of other shoppers.  It was out of the norm, and I couldn’t help but remember back on our childhood shopping trips plus other shared shopping experiences over the years that occurred during other family gathering times.  But it was haphazard with different members of our team wandering off in search of this or that and only my sister keeping track of the items that had made it onto our list.

 

We had quite tasty meals, with shared cooking responsibilities and shared clean up, too.  Perhaps it would have benefitted from more rigorous pre-planning – it certainly helped that we have had enough previous family gatherings that parts could be done without much discussion.  It would probably have been rather a disaster for a group of unfamiliar people.

 

I’m going to keep thinking about short term planning while I find someplace to get a haircut.  I’d love to know your thoughts on planning – short, long, or resolution type.

 

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

That Moment before the Moment

Christmas is hours away, ready or not.  This is the moment for the deep breath, the step back, the last survey of status.  Time for a last minute tweak here, an addition there, perhaps small changes in one or two things.  And then enjoy what rolls out.  Whatever it might be.

 

I used to be one of those people who melted into tears when the slightest thing started to go awry from how I had pictured.  (Now granted perfection is something that you reform from endlessly – there is no such thing as a reformed perfectionist.)  Oddly, it was my wedding that taught me the alternate beauty in planning and then letting the event unfold as it would.  The stories are in the unplanned moments.  Even the mishaps.

 

Right now I am working my way through my least favorite part of the holiday – wrapping gifts.  You’re with me on this, yes?  Even with favorite Christmas carols as back drop, exasperation is ready to pounce.  Once I struggle through to the end, I also know that I will have that feeling of dismay at the small array of gifts after weeks and hours of careful effort.  Every year it seems as if the resulting pile doesn’t quite match the time and thought I put in.

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This moment before the big moment happens all the time – before an interview, a big dinner, a presentation, a date, a party…  We shouldn’t miss this chance to review, but neither should we use it for recriminations, or to build fear.  We have done what we could – this time – and can make note of improvements for next time.  Then breathe.  And enjoy.

 

I hope that you have many moments to enjoy over this holiday season.

 

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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