Tag Archives: Progress

Waiting Patiently, Part 1

We decided to try our hands at a bit of vegetable and herb gardening again this year after a several year hiatus.  We just got a few things and put them in pots because I still haven’t settled on a ‘landscape design’ for the back yard.  (There is the one in my dreams that includes a 3 season room/conservatory, a patio, a beautiful new fence and award winning plantings…)  The last time I tried to raise a tomato plant I put it on the west side of the house and it got burnt and spindly and we managed to reap a single tomato from the poor thing before it became compost.

 

I think that I’ve learned a bit since then.  We’ll see if I have learned enough.  Now our tomato plants live on the south side of the house and are currently full of promise – about 18 tomatoes are developing between the two plants.  We also have peppers, mint and oregano.  We had basil, but a random wind burst blew a chair onto it and now it is in the process of dying.

 

We are already realizing that the herb books we possess have gaps – like when and how to harvest.  Perhaps the writer assumes we know this part…  In which case he or she is wrong.

 

I am enamored of the idea of gardening – decorative and produce.  I have a stack of gardening books that I look at and reference periodically, some practical and some fanciful.  Reading about our founding father’s deep interest in gardening, as gentlemen gardeners I realized that is around my level.  I want to talk about it, think about it, enjoy it and just occasionally do the heavy parts.  Plant something here, pull a weed there, rely upon thick layers of mulch to prevent weeds and help retain moisture.  Unfortunately I don’t have the financial resources to pull off this sort of gardening.

 

Watering is a Zen activity that falls happily in my version of gardening.  Some days the plants have to wait patiently while I participate in other activities and interests, though.

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Gardening is perfectly suited to the acquisition of knowledge – it is forgiving of novice mistakes if you start slowly and allow for changes in plans.  Gardening is helping me to practice the patience that I have mostly lacked in other parts and earlier stages of my life.

 

You’ll have to excuse me now, I feel the need to go take a tour through the yard.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Galloping or Inching

Progress is progress I tell myself on a regular basis – whether by inches or gallops.  I need this reminder because inches don’t feel like progress, especially when new things get added on faster than stuff gets done.  (Clearly this is on my mind, I return to some version of this theme quite a lot lately.)  Did I push it forward, or can I change the priority, or can I get some help?

 

Most people I know, particularly women, focus on all the things yet to do which makes it harder to feel like progress has been accomplished at all.  There is always more to get done, it doesn’t matter what you are talking about – personal, professional, family household, etc.  Relentless obligations.  Job security.  Life in our modern, complex world.

 

We want to gallop through our endless lists, but mostly we inch.

 

Inches matter and they do add up, but sometimes we have to remember where we started at to see how far we have come.  Reminding myself of the steps that I have taken that day to affect progress is a habit that I work to keep up.  Done, started, planned, researched, delegated, reprioritized.  Don’t spend all the time looking at what hasn’t yet been done.  Breathe, and then review what was accomplished at the end of each day – work and personal.

 

public domain image

public domain image

I admit to being better at sharing this nugget with others than I can be at following it for myself.  Although this is one of the ways that I put myself on the path to being a reformed perfectionist years ago.  (It is a path with no finish.)

 

A coworker came across a free webinar offering about remarkable women in leadership roles and sent out an invitation for anyone interested to join her in her office for this presentation.  A handful of us expressed interest and so spent an hour together listening and actively thinking about where we are and where we could be.  This aspect of accomplishment came up in relationship to confidence.

 

If a women is apt to focus on this things yet to do then she is less likely to feel confident in her abilities.  A rearranged focus that acknowledges the things completed or well on their way is a step toward confidence.  Doubt loses some of its foot-hold.

 

I wanted to ask my coworkers a bit about this and some of the other points from the presentation, but since we had spent an hour listening everyone felt pressed to get back to their lists of to-dos.  The march to inch forward.

 

© 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

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

Catching Up, Keeping Up, Staying Ahead of Things

A New Year starts a fresh calendar, but the slate isn’t wiped entirely clean.  There is much that gets carried over, all of the open tasks on your lists – wherever you keep them.  And snow.  We are having a much snowier winter than last year here in the Midwest and perhaps even snowier than average.

 

Whatever you thought you might do on a given day, show removal gets added in – almost every day of this New Year.  This also means adding in longer travel times, altered routes, changes in plans.  Instead of ticking something off of the endless lists, snow might mean moving it back days or weeks so that it lurks undone instead of smartly checked off.  Harder to catch up, keep up or stay ahead.

 

In our house this year, it is my son who is taking point on snow removal here and for an older neighbor.  He is both happy to help her out and weary that it has been so frequent.  Snow and cold make me want to hibernate.  I am happy to live in modern times with central heating, wicking fabrics, and the internet.

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But home isn’t entirely solace and a cozy den from the cold.  I have once again neglected to pour treatments down the drain regularly so that the main drain that is meant to efficiently and silently whisk used water from our house is calling attention to itself.  I haven’t ever had this problem with any previous house so I can’t help but wonder if there is a design flaw in this particular drain layout – an awkward spot that narrows too quickly or bends too sharply and allows for difficulties if not given regular attention.

 

A few years ago, at great expense, I discovered that collusion between the long ago builder and some housing inspector allowed for the brilliant installation of heavy coated cardboard – called Orangeburg pipe, I believe – as the piping which connected all the houses in my neighborhood to the city sewer.  Not surprisingly, this pipe fails to stand the test of time.  The pipe for my house had lasted amazingly well, the house being in its 40th decade.  Lucky me, I was the lottery winner with a prize to pay out and new pipe to dig and lay out.  With the bonus of a messed up front lawn for a year as things settled and grass reestablished itself.

 

Sometimes I feel like a maintenance person with a push broom.  Push this personal thing along, push that household thing along, push this professional thing along.  Go back to the beginning and start again.  Replace the broom with a shovel and push that snow out of the way.

 

As thankful as I am for modern conveniences, is it an illusion that life was simpler and therefore easier to keep up with things in past generations?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Procrastinating Resolution Planning

Do you make New Year Resolutions?  Do you plan them, or are they usually spur of the moment ideas?  Do you make the same one every year?  Do you make progress on it?  Sorry, I don’t mean to seem like I am grilling – you have someone in your life for that, I have no doubt.  I am merely curious, really.

public domain image

public domain image

I remember in my childhood that we spent plenty of time at the dinner table talking about New Year Resolutions this time of year.  My mom would be captured by the idea of renewal and self-improvement on a mass scale for the first few weeks of each year and want to get us involved.  I don’t remember any of the actual resolutions that any of us made, of course.  The resolutions themselves were rather secondary to the intrigue of so many people embarking on new plans at the same time.

This was of course long before today’s media fascination, or should I say obsession, with Resolutions.  Maybe the media has just picked up on mom’s drum beat.

Dad was the list maker, and the head down, plow forward, get your chores done before fun kind of person.  He didn’t want to talk about getting things done, he wanted to get to it.  I’m pretty sure he mostly just listened to these conversations about resolutions.

I stopped making resolutions when I started to realize the repetitiveness involved and how few resolutions are actually acted upon.  I had a friend resolve last year to sparkle – I do hope that she came through on that one.  And I have a couple of other friends who have made big changes like healthier lifestyles and I admire their success.

It isn’t that I don’t have any need to improve aspects of my life, just that I don’t use resolutions to create progress on those fronts.  I have plenty of room for improvement.  I regularly resolve to keep on top of things, particularly finding ways to get myself to do the ones that I don’t like.  I just don’t do it around New Year with a capital R.

“We will open the book.  Its pages are blank.  We are going to put words on them ourselves.  The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”

~ Edith Lovejoy Pierce

© 2014 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

Random Things for which I am Thankful: Opportunities

A person once told me that ‘You have to try new things’.  Now we’ll set aside the irony that at the time of the telling, despite my lower age, I had already tried many more things than this person and we’ll focus on the intent of the statement itself.  She was right.

 

There are so many quotes from well-known people past and present about opportunity, carpe diem (seize the day), that I could fill the rest of this post with worthy quotes and have done.  Plus there are whole books on this topic, but my take is why I am thankful for opportunity.

 

I would, and did, tell people right on up through my 30s that I was risk averse.  I wanted a quiet, pleasant, family-centric life filled with familiar things and regular rituals like gathering for Thanksgiving.  My life had taken me to different cities, in 6 states, which stretched my shyness sorely.  I learned to advocate for myself and my family because we were far from the support of extended family.  I had seen all the bumps and hassles with moving companies and utilities and the like as pure frustration, but looking back these were opportunities to learn to be polite but firm, to probe for mutual solution, to be my own best advocate.

 

Moving regularly means leaving behind family and friends, again and again.  It means being the new person wishing for a friendly face.  It means learning how to turn a stranger into a friendly face by taking small steps; by not fearing a roomful of people.  Moving taught me the baby steps to networking long before the word’s definition included this facet of making new contacts and turning those contacts into relationships of varying degrees.  Back then a network was CBS, NBC or ABC.

moving out-8-28-99

Moving means getting acquainted with the fear of the unknown.  Whether the move is a happy thing, or a necessity it is a change in routine, a new set of places to learn; familiar possessions in new positions and unfamiliar rooms.  It shakes things up and rearranges.  Complacency is broken, sometimes providing fertile ground for new ideas to grow.  ‘I can’t do that’ can be seen from a new angle to realize, ‘Well, I know most of what I need to do that’.  Moving gets a person to develop what resilience they have naturally, which is really handy when life offers other bumps in your road.

 

I haven’t talked about opportunity in the familiar manner – get a job offer that you can’t refuse sort of thing.  Because opportunity is often much more subtle than that and therefore far more frequent.  We aren’t likely to get amazing job offers out of the blue very often, but opportunities probably present themselves almost daily if we pay attention.

 

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Wanted to do This, but That Got in the Way

Have you ever just been eager to start on something but been prevented because something that you need to do what you want requires attention before you can get into your desired task?  So frustrating!

 

For the last month plus I have been finding more often than not that when I sit down to write – blog post idea percolating away in my head – my Microsoft Word must be reinstalled.  Grrr.  Now I must deal with this technical issue and risk losing the essence of my post idea unless I start to write it out long hand.  My thoughts come faster than I can sketch out this way, that is why I love composing on the computer.

 

There are plenty of other examples; getting ready to bake something and finding I am short on a key ingredient, wrapping a package and the tape is missing in action, nearing the end of a project but still have an open question due from someone else.  So close, and yet…  Ticking this task off the to-do list will just have to wait.  Darn it.

Pushme-Pullyou from the original Dr Doolittle movie.  (my appreciation has lasted a lifetime)

Pushme-Pullyou from the original Dr Doolittle movie. (my appreciation has lasted a lifetime)

 

A few years ago I just couldn’t quite motivate myself to get in the car and go off on vacation.  A vacation that included my cousin’s wedding.  I’m not sure what prompted my malaise, but I waited until the morning of departure to pack and then did so in a desultory fashion, all the while fighting with the idea that I just wouldn’t go.  When I finally got myself on the road, it was only perhaps an hour into the drive when I started to think of toiletries and other items that I had forgotten to pack and by the time I stopped for a break I had almost a dozen things listed.

 

It wasn’t anything that I couldn’t replace at the nearest drug store – the worst was my favorite lipstick and the drug store where I stopped didn’t have an equivalent color.  And it was more my own head that got in the way in this instance and created external obstacles, but I still had to push through it.  I did end up having a lovely time, and a much needed break from work.

 

Hmm, my frustration with Word is what prompted this post and I’ve taken it somewhere I didn’t intend.  I guess my point then is that it is good to plan, but also to push through the unplanned or frustrating parts.

 

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

I Have a Dumb Phone

We had dinner the other night, several friends and I, and in comparing stories it came up – as it often does – that I am one of the last people in the US that doesn’t have a smart phone.  Oh wait, it needs the quotes – ‘smart’ phone.  You see, I just don’t see how people justify the extra cost.  I don’t see why these phones are called ‘smart’.

 

I had a smart phone for work.  First a Blackberry which I did come to rely upon to keep me up to the minute on office goings-on when I was away.  And then an IPhone which I never cared for – the touch screen just isn’t for me.  For personal use I have stuck with my little old dumb phone.  Not quite the old brick phones – but mundane enough that I have been told on more than one occasion by the young people who work with my carrier that they never carried that model.  I then quietly point out their logo on the front of my phone.

How do you like my low tech solution to cover up manufacturer and carrier?

How do you like my low tech solution to cover up manufacturer and carrier?

 

Back to the dinner conversation.  It was suggested that I write a blog post comparing the smart and dumb phones.  Hmmm, I thought.  No, I’ll start the post and then see if any readers would like to finish it.

 

So here it is, your chance to tell me one – significant – reason why it is a better idea to have a smart phone.  Why I really MUST upgrade immediately, what I am missing out on.  How your phone has made your life easier, more something than it could be without that phone.  And the, in my opinion, oversized monthly bill that comes along with that phone.  Justify that chunk of change for me, please.

 

Keep in mind that I am not even teetering on the brink of getting a new phone and been considered a lost cause on this topic by many.  But I promise to read any responses with a most open mind.  (Which doesn’t mean that I might not be compelled to ask follow up or clarifying questions.)

 

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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