Friday, 10 January 2020

Focusing More, and the #10for20Challenge

What do you do when there are so many things you WANT to do that the choice can become overwhelming, and settling down on one of them for any period of time can become difficult because there's always the thought "Oh, I could just quickly do this?"

It's something I've been struggling with for... not as long as I can remember, exactly. I definitely have memories of being able to lose myself in a book for ages as a child. But it has been an issue for years, and more and more frequently, I've found myself spending hours doing what amounts to dozens of things for a few minutes at a time without ever fully committing to any of them. (I think this is one reason I love the theatre and cinema so much; when I'm at a screening or a performance I HAVE to focus on it as there's no alternative things to do!) It's frustrating at times and it definitely stops me from being as efficient as I want to be, even though I can multi-task reasonably well at some things.

I read Dani Donovan's post about the #10for20challenge after seeing @willnapforbooks tweet about it the other day and decided this seemed like a good way to try and change things. The basic idea is that you choose 10 things which you really enjoy doing, want to do more of, or want to get better at doing, and you try to make sure you spend at least 20 minutes doing at least 1 of these 10 things every day. 20 minutes seems like a really good choice of time - it's short enough that despite my attention span, I can force myself to concentrate on something for that long, it's close to the average length of my weekday commute, and it's long enough that I can actually get a reasonable amount of something done.

So, what are the ten things I've chosen?

Read a book: Last year was my biggest reading slump for many, many years - certainly for over a decade. I read internet articles, I read fanfic (and lots of it was awesome!) and I read the occasional book, including a few amazing ones, but there were entire weeks going by when I didn't pick up a book (either a physical copy or an e-book) even once, and I think I'd prefer that not to happen this year. As a fast reader when I am focused, 20 minutes means I can get through a reasonable amount of something and it's definitely making my journey to work in the morning fly by!

Blog: If last year was a bad reading slump, the last two years were a horrific blogging slump. I met my wife in mid-February 2018 and had only written one blog post between then and the end of December 2019. (Not blaming her completely for this, just that whenever I referred to myself as a blogger she looked a little confused, and looking back I can see why!) I let blogging get on top of me, I got distracted by many other things, and I forgot just how much I enjoyed doing it. Writing a bunch of posts this week has really helped me remember what I love about it, and I definitely want to try and do this as much as possible.

Watch Neighbours: Neighbours has my heart when it comes to TV programmes. For me, long-running soap operas are fascinating because you can see so much happen to characters, and while I'd never claim Neighbours was perfect, for me it's a must-watch with a ton of characters I really enjoy, a great approach to nostalgia - regularly bringing back old characters or introducing new ones with connections to former Ramsay Street residents - and I think it's generally very good at handling LGBTQ storylines and characters. (I'm a few weeks behind so HOPING I can still say that when I'm caught up, but in particular I think trans actress Georgie Stone has been fabulous as teenager Mackenzie Hargreaves and loved her romance storyline with Richie in spin-off Neighbours: Erinsborough High. Despite loving it so much, if I'm not careful I find it easy to get distracted by too many other things and not actually sit down and watch an episode. Again, I really want this to stop.

Write 'well done' comments for students: The system we use for leaving comments for students means you can write them for an entire class at once very easily, but I'm never particularly keen to do this because it doesn't feel as genuine as if I'm actually leaving a specific comment praising someone by name. I'm better than a lot of people at writing 'well done' comments - I have the good luck to teach a huge amount of really fabulous students and try to make sure I let them, their parents and their tutors know how well they're doing - but it's really easy to get distracted from writing comments like this because I notice someone has attendance issues, or an e-mail comes in, or something. Every so often, I want to block off 20 minutes for JUST writing 'well done' comments and see how many I can get through.

Do a cryptic crossword: I've always been fascinated by cryptics and, despite reading numerous interesting books and trying them at various times, have never been very good at them until fairly recently. A combination of a patient colleague who's really superb at explaining them and managing to get my wife hooked on them has got me doing them more regularly and getting much better at them, but again they're still something I quite often dip into when doing something else. I'm trying to spend 20 minutes once every few days focusing completely on them so that I get into the habit of concentrating hard on difficult clues rather than changing to something else.

Go through e-mails: One thing that stresses me out massively at times is seeing the amount of e-mails I have in my inbox (work and personal.) If, once a week or so, I can go through everything and archive - in addition to being better about dealing with them as I go - I think it'll hopefully stop them from overwhelming me.

Write fiction: I haven't written anything seriously for ages, started some fanfic for NaNoWriMo and got through 10,000 words in a few days, only to burn out and flake quickly. I'm hoping to get back to stuff this year so it definitely count as something I'd like to do more of.

Plan stuff: I read Libbie Hawker's Take Off Your Pants! Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing a few days ago and found it really fascinating, and my first attempt at outlining using her method went surprisingly well. (No idea if it'll be any use when it comes to WRITING the damn thing, but you never know.) Definitely want to do more of that.

Play TEW2016/TEW2020: I don't generally talk about this much in public as I'm not sure there's much, if any, overlap between YA fans and wrestling fans, but my favourite ever game series is Adam Ryland's Total Extreme Wrestling (where you play as the 'booker' of a wrestling federation, hiring and firing people and putting show together), which I started playing as a uni student back when it was still a freeware game called Extreme Warfare Deluxe and have gone back to time and time again since then. Despite it being by far the game I play most, as with most other things on this list, I have a habit of loading it up, starting to book a show, and getting distracted. With the next in the series out in 3 months time, and looking better than ever from reading Adam's fascinating developer's journal, the series definitely deserves my undivided attention more often than it currently gets it!

Tidy the flat: We're moving to the US in less than 8 months, if all goes according to plan, and I'm getting increasingly aware of just how much stuff I have! I want to spend 20-30 minutes a few times a week going through stuff, ruthlessly getting rid of what I can bear to lose, and figuring out what to do with the rest.

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