Socks, Drawers, Tidying and Packaging [en]

[fr] Comment une histoire de rangement d'habits m'amène à accepter que j'apprécie le soin porté à l'apparence.

Right at the beginning of 2016, I stumbled upon this article, which in turn led me to this one, which in turn led me to read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.

It’s a short book. But, like Sarah Knight, it didn’t take me long to reorganise my sock drawer. I kid you not. Those who know me will be aware I am a proponent of minimum viable tidying. My place isn’t a dump (some hotspots are), but it’s not the tidiest place around and I definitely have way too much stuff.

Tidy Socks

I’m a long-time fan of A Perfect Mess, and Marie Kondo clearly takes the antithetic approach, with a cult of tidiness, order, and organisation which goes way too far for me. I was surprised, as a person who has never held tidiness or neatness in high regard, to find that I was very much drawn to the ideal she describes in her book. I dream of a life with pared-down possessions, where everything has a place, where my t-shirts and underwear are artfully folded in their drawers, where everything is under control.

Control. This is the draw. We crave control in an often misguided attempt to relieve our anxiety. This is not completely stupid: having control on our environment does make us feel better. Less moving parts are easier to feel in control of, one reason maybe why I regularly fantasise about a simpler life, and why we relax better on vacation (away from everything, life is indeed simpler).

So, if I’m not ready to let go of the belief that having a little bit of mess in our lives can be a good thing, what am I taking away from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up? Quite a few things, to be honest, and in a way, it probably has already been life-changing for me.

The first thing I’m keeping is a precious tool to help me part with things: Marie Kondo advises starting with the easiest (hence socks) and emptying everything on the floor, before taking each item in your hands and asking “does it spark joy?” — I’m not too big on the formula, but I really like the idea. Does this object make me happy? Or does it make me feel guilty, bad, indifferent? There are a few things to unpack here.

  1. I like the idea of surrounding yourself with stuff that makes you happy.
  2. I like the idea of choosing what to keep rather than choosing what to part with.
  3. I like the idea of honing one’s parting skills with easy things first.

Number 2. up here reminds me of a packing tip I read long ago, I think it was on Tara Hunt’s blog (can’t find it anymore, and can’t find it on my blog either, though I’m sure I blogged about it at some point). It went something like this:

Instead of asking “can this be useful?” ask “might I be in big trouble if I don’t pack this?”

It changed my way of packing forever. The shift from “can it be useful” to “do I really need it” was really an eye-opener for me.

And Marie Kondo’s “spark joy?” test does the same thing. Instead of choosing things to throw out, I’m choosing what I keep. She also has some interesting thoughts about how to part with objects. Consider what their purpose has been in your life, thank them for it, and send them on their way to where they can fulfil their new purpose. In a very Shinto way of viewing life, Marie Kondo animates objects in a way that makes sense to me.

In that same vein, another takeaway for me is greeting your home when you come back. I’m not sure if I’ll actually do it, but I like the idea of projecting some kind of “personhood” into one’s living space. I just realised that I’ve been doing this for 20 years when I go judo training: we greet the dojo when we enter.

Another major take-away has to do with clothes. I was sure I’d blogged about my desire to try putting together a seasonal capsule wardrobe, but again, I don’t seem to have done it. (Senility? I keep thinking I’ve blogged things but I haven’t. I blame Facebook. For thinking I’ve blogged when I haven’t. For the capsule wardrobe, I blame Andrea.) So, yes, keeping clothes I like, rather than based on criteria like “does it fit”, that makes sense. And then, drawers. Yes, think about it: shelves suck. You can’t access what’s at the back. Piles fall down with time. And my IKEA PAX cupboards actually have drawers that I can buy and stick in them. Done. Ordered. My clothes will live vertically from now on.

I’ve already put this in practice at the chalet, where I’m staying now. I brought some dividers to tidy up my drawers, and have been experimenting with folding my clothes so they can be stacked vertically side-by-side in the drawer. What a revelation! This is similar to when I learned how to take off my socks properly.

I had honestly never given any thought to how I remove my socks. I don’t wear them half the year, anyway. But I did pester against balled-up socks in the laundry. The day I discovered the technique for removing socks without balling them up or turning them inside-out, all became clear to me: with no effort, from one day to the other, I changed the way I remove my socks — never to look back.

I can feel something similar going on with how I fold my clothes. I’ve never thought much about how I fold my clothes. I just fold them, and pile them up on top of one another. Like I was taught. Or hang them. Now a new world is opening up to me, one where I can pull out a drawer and immediately see all the clothes in it, without having to dig through a pile that inevitably topples over at some point.

The most surprising thing is that I’ve found myself quickly folding my clothes and putting them back in the drawer at the end of the day, instead of just letting them pile up somewhere random — on top of the chest of drawers or on the hooks behind the door. Folding is quick, and they have a place, so putting them there is a no-brainer.

Clothes folded in drawer

I think my future looks like tidy, organised drawers.

But this isn’t just about clothes. You see, I’m realising that I actually enjoy seeing a drawer full of neatly stacked underwear or t-shirts when I open it, rather than a big mess.

I have to admit it: I care about appearance.

This is a big thing.

You see, officially, I don’t care about what I call “packaging”. What’s important is what’s inside, right? Who cares if you make things look all pretty, as long as what you’re selling is good? Their true value should suffice.

I’m not interested in — or good at — making things “look good”. I don’t really do it for myself, either: forget make-up, and clothing is practical. I do my nails, dye my lashes and eyebrows, wear jewellery and have a good hairdresser, but that’s it. In my professional life, my disdain of packaging has long been a pain-point: I’m sure it costs me, compared to others who are great at packaging (and might not even have as much substance underneath the shiny wrapping).

I have a kind of snobbishness about it, though I’ve never really managed to pinpoint its origin: don’t let yourself be blinded by the packaging, see the value of what’s inside, blah blah blah.

But it’s hypocritical, because I’m expecting other people to not pay attention to something that I, as a person/consumer, pay attention to.

I appreciate it when people dress well and have good haircuts. I appreciate products and services that are nicely packaged. I love the box my iDevices come in. One of the reasons I use OSX is that it looks good, and I’m staring at it all day, right? When I buy home-made syrup my friend here in Gryon makes, I love the little labels she puts on the bottles. I like wrapping on presents. I like the card the vet sends me for Christmas. I like the pretty price-list my nail stylist has on her door.

However, when it’s my turn to do it, it doesn’t feel worth the trouble. For others, obviously, and for myself — and I’m not talking about self-grooming here. I love my flat, for example, but have never put up anything on the walls, though it’s been on my to-do list for 15 years and I would enjoy having pretty things around. Because it doesn’t feel that important. Because I don’t think I care. I don’t think I should care.

But I do.

And this is what this whole clothes-folding-stacking business is opening my eyes to: despite my official stance on the matter, I do enjoy pretty things. I do value packaging. I feel I am allowing myself to connect to something I have most of the time forbidden myself from acknowledging: there is pleasure to be found in being surrounded by things that look nice — and there is also, therefore, pleasure to be found in making things look attractive.

For me, and for others.

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A Post About Many Things [en]

[fr] Des choses en vrac!

It happened again. As time goes by and things to say pile up, the pile weighs heavy on my fingers and blog posts don’t get written. Been there, done that, will happen again.

First, a heartfelt thanks to all the people who reacted to my post about being single and childless, here and on facebook. Rest assured that I actually rather like the life I have — it’s full of good things. But it’s very different from the one I imagined. I will write more on this, but exactly when and what I am not sure yet. Also, one can grieve not being a mother but not want to adopt or be a single parent. There is a whole spectrum of “child desire”, and it’s not at all as clear-cut as “no way” and “I’ll do anything”. Check out “50 Ways to Not Be a Mother“.

Most of my working hours are devoted to running Open Ears and a series of digital literacy workshops at Sonova. I’m still way behind on my accounting.

Tounsi (and his pal Quintus) went to see an animal behaviour specialist, because I was starting to get really fed up cleaning after Tounsi’s almost daily spraying in the flat (thankfully his pee doesn’t smell too strongly and I’m good at spotting and cleaning). I plan to write a detailed article on the experience in French, but it was fascinating and I regret not going earlier. As of now, spraying is pretty much under control, and I’m in the process of finally chucking and replacing two pieces of furniture which are soiled beyond salvation.

What I learned:

  • outdoor cats can also need stimulation (play, hunting…)
  • even a 20-second “play session” where the cat lifts his head to watch a paper ball but doesn’t chase it can make a difference, if this kind of thing is repeated throughout the day.
  • making cats “work” for their food can be taken much further than feeding balls or mazes: change where the food is all the time (I wouldn’t have dared do that, didn’t know if it was a good idea or not, but it is); hide kibble under upturned yoghurt cups; throw pieces of kibble one by one for the cat to run after (another thing to do “all the time”); use an empty egg-box to make kibble harder to get to; etc. etc.
  • clicker training for things like touching a reluctant cat: my baby steps were way too big and my sessions way too long
  • Feliway spray is way more efficient than the diffusor (at least to stop spraying)
  • cleaning with water (or water and neutral soap) is really not enough, there are products to spray on soiled areas which break down urine molecules (even if you can’t smell anything, the cat can)
  • spraying can simply be a “vicious circle” — it seems to be the case with Tounsi: he sprays in the flat because it’s a habit, and because there are “marking sign-posts” (ie, smell) everywhere

While we’re on the topic of cats, I’m playing cat-rescuer and looking for homes for Capsule and Mystik (together, used to living indoors but that could change) and Erika (has been living outdoors for 5 years but super friendly).

I don’t think I mentioned StartUp podcast or Gimlet Media here yet. Anyway: want great podcasts? Listen to Startup, Reply All, and Mystery Show. And in addition to Invisibilia and those I mention in that article, grab Planet Money (I swear, they make it interesting even for me!), Snap Judgement (great storytelling), and This American Life.

Reading? Spin, Axis, and Vortex, by Robert Charles Wilson.

Something I need to remember to tell people about blogging: write down stuff that’s in your head. It works way better than doing research to write on something you think might be interesting for people.

Procrastinating and generally disorganised, as I am? Two recent articles by James Clear that I like: one on “temptation bundling” to help yourself do stuff while keeping in mind future rewards (delayed gratification, anybody?) and the other on a super simple productivity “method”. I read about it this morning and am going to try it.

Related, but not by Clear: How to Get Yourself to Do Things. Read it, but here’s the takeaway: when you procrastinate, the guilt builds up and you feel worse and worse. But as soon as you start doing it gets better. And so the worst you’ll ever feel about not doing something is just before you start. Understanding this is helping me loads.

Enough for today. More soon, or less soon.

Thanks to Marie-Aude who gave me a nudge to get back to this blog. I’d been in the “omg should write an article” state for weeks, and her little contribution the other day certainly played a role in me putting “write CTTS article” in my list of 6 things for the day. Merci 🙂

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LeWeb13: Kitesurfing [en]

Kitesurfing is something I’ve known Loïc did for a long time, but only recently (about a year ago) did I actually see people doing it in Torrevieja where my family goes sailing. Kitesurfing is now on my bucket list — it’s something I really want to learn. Not for the business though, which will be the topic of this session.

World champion kitesurfer on stage right now, Jessie Richman. steph-note: showing a video, lots of jumps and figures, I’m more of the go-downhill kind of snowboarder, so less excited about that aspect of kitesurfing — not mentioning that I’d never have the arms for it.

Kiteboarding // entrepreneurship: risk, all sorts of things that can go wrong. Once in the air, you can’t turn back.

Jessie tells us about what it is like to be doing what he does. To learn new stuff, sometimes you just have to “do it”. Loïc describes a loop where you jump as high as your kite, pull on one side of the “bar”, the kite does a 360…

steph-note: liked the theme here but sadly had trouble following the conversation… Sure I could make a bunch of parallels with judo too.

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Comment respirer avec ses mails en 5 étapes [fr]

[en] Five steps to feeling on top of your e-mail, with the new Gmail inbox.

Cet après-midi, j’ai aidé une amie à reprendre le contrôle de sa boîte de réception. Voici une marche à suivre (sous Gmail) pour vous aider à faire de même.

1. activez la nouvelle boîte de réception

Screenshot%206/28/13%2021:02

La nouvelle boîte de réception va trier pour vous vos e-mails, séparant les pubs, les messages provenant des réseaux sociaux, les mailing-listes, et les alertes automatiques.

Screenshot%206/28/13%2020:14

Ce qui est très sympa avec cette nouvelle boîte de réception c’est que le compte des mails à traiter n’inclut pas ceux des colonnes secondaires. Gmail vous indique en tête de colonne qu’il y a des nouveaux mails, mais dès que vous allez regarder, le compte disparaît. Gmail trie vos mails de façon à ce que ceux que vous avez besoin de traiter se trouvent dans la boîte principale. Tous les autres, c’est “pour info”.

2. créez des filtres

Si un e-mail n’est pas à sa place (en particulier s’il est dans votre boîte primaire alors qu’il ne devrait pas y être), déplacez-le sous l’onglet approprié. Gmail vous propose immédiatement de filtrer ainsi les autres mails de ce correspondant.

Des fois, c’est plus compliqué. Beaucoup de gens envoient des “newsletter” sauvages depuis leur boîte mail normale, par exemple (au lieu d’utiliser un service comme MailChimp). Comment faire le tri entre leurs mails-newsletters collectifs et les mails qui nous sont destinés?

Deux schémas courants:

  • la personne adresse l’e-mail-newsletter à elle-même, avec tout le monde en copie cachée
  • la personne n’adresse l’e-mail directement à personne, juste avec des copies cachées

Deux solutions:

  • le premier cas est simple: on spécifie dans le filtre que ce sont les e-mails de cette personne à elle-même qu’il faut filtrer
  • deuxième cas, un peu plus délicat: on peut indiquer qu’on filtre les e-mails de cette personne qui ne nous sont pas adressés.

Screenshot%206/28/13%2021:09

On peut demander à Gmail de faire passer un mail directement à l’archivage (sans passer par la boîte de réception), lui appliquer un label, ou le rediriger dans une des colonnes de la nouvelle boîte de réception.

Screenshot%206/28/13%2021:14

Où commencer? Avec votre boîte de réception principale. Commencez en haut, et à chaque fois que vous rencontrez un mail qui devrait en fait aller dans une autre colonne ou bien carrément passer direct à l’archivage, faites un filtre pour lui.

Screenshot%206/28/13%2020:22

3. archivez sans classer

Une grande part du stress de l’e-mail provient de cette boîte de réception sans fond, qu’on ne vide jamais, qui se remplit sans cesse, qui contient un mélange de choses traitées, à traiter, passées, et présentes. Si on est du genre à penser qu’il faut trier et classer ses mails, c’est encore pire: c’est une tâche sans fin.

La nouvelle inbox de Gmail ainsi que les filtres permettent d’en ralentir le remplissage. Il faut maintenant prendre soin du vidage.

La boîte de réception ne devrait contenir que deux types de mails:

  • les mails qu’on n’a pas encore regardés, et qui sont peut-être à traiter
  • les mails ouverts auxquels on n’a pas encore répondu ou sur lesquels on doit agir (= à traiter)

On ne voit donc dans sa boîte de réception que des chose qui requièrent une action de notre part. Il est complètement inutile de laisser trainer dans sa boîte de réception des vieilleries dépassées, des mails informatifs déjà lus, des e-mails auxquels on a déjà répondus.

Si on travaille sur un bureau, on garde la surface de la table relativement libre pour les affaire courantes. Le reste, ça va dans les tiroirs ou les armoires.

Il y a toutes les chances que les mails plus vieux que quelques semaines aient “disparu” de votre champ de vision. Soyons honnêtes, vous n’allez pas les traiter, sauf si on vous relance (= un nouveau mail) ou si vous y pensez à cause d’un événement extérieur. Ils n’ont donc plus rien à faire dans votre boîte de réception. Il faut donc les archiver, mais non les trier (si vous devez remettre la main dessus, une recherche sera bien plus efficace que de longues fouilles dans un système de libellés ou de dossiers bien trop complexe).

Screenshot%206/28/13%2021:44

Sélectionnez tous les messages plus vieux qu’une certaine date, et appuyez sur le bouton Archiver.

Pour ceux qui restent, sélectionnez tous les messages de la page, puis déselectionnez sélectivement (Cmd/Ctrl+clic) ceux qui doivent rester dans votre boîte de réception car vous devez encore les traiter. Archivez.

4. archivez sans merci au quotidien

Quand vous ouvrez votre inbox, la première chose à faire est de régler leur sort aux nouveaux mails: les déplacer dans les autres colonnes si c’est là qu’ils appartiennent, créer un filtre s’il y a lieu, y jeter un oeil.

  • Si une fois le mail lu il n’y a plus rien à faire, archivez-le immédiatement.
  • S’il demande une réponse courte et simple, répondez immédiatement.
  • Envoyez toujours vos mails à l’aide du bouton “Envoyer + Archiver” — une fois que vous avez répondu à un mail, c’est à votre interlocuteur de jouer, il n’a donc plus aucune raison d’encombrer encore votre champ de vision quand vous ouvrez votre boîte mail.

Screenshot%206/28/13%2021:56

Encore une fois: ne perdez pas de temps à classer vos mails. Vous les retrouverez suffisamment facilement grâce à la recherche. Et avec le temps économisé en classement, vous pouvez vous permettre de perdre de temps à autre une dizaine de minutes pour retrouver un e-mail bien caché.

De temps en temps, faites inbox zero: traitez tout ce qui reste à traiter dans votre boîte de réception, et reportez sur votre liste de tâche les e-mails qui résistent. Quant aux colonnes “secondaires”, il suffit de temps en temps de tout sélectionner et d’archiver, car vous aurez déplacé dans la boîte principale les éventuels mails demandant de l’attention de votre part au fur et à mesure.

5. et les libellés?

Les libellés peuvent être utiles si vous devez grouper des e-mails qui ne sont pas faciles à regrouper grâce à une recherche. Par exemple, tous les mails concernant le projet X. Mais attention: si les mails de votre projet X contiennent systématiquement certains mots-clés (=> recherche facile) ou proviennent toujours des deux mêmes interlocuteurs (recherche facile aussi), ne vous fatiguez pas à les libeller!

Associés aux filtres, les libellés permettent aussi de classer automatiquement certains types d’e-mails pour pouvoir faire des recherches parmi eux facilement.

Plus utile (et toujours avec les filtres), ils aident à rendre visibles certains e-mails dès leur arrivée. On peut donner une couleur de fond à un libellé, et donc “marquer” les e-mails d’un client important, ou qui nécessitent d’être particulièrement réactif.

De façon générale: utilisez peu de libellés, et triez très peu à la main.

Votre boîte mail vous fait-elle étouffer? Cette méthode vous est-elle utile? Faites-vous autrement pour éviter de vous sentir dépassé par votre courrier électronique?

3e #back2blog challenge (5/10), avec: Brigitte Djajasasmita (@bibiweb), Baudouin Van Humbeeck (@somebaudy), Mlle Cassis (@mlle_cassis), Luca Palli (@lpalli), Yann Kerveno (@justaboutvelo), Annemarie Fuschetto (@libellula_free), Ewan Spence (@ewan), Kantu (@kantutita), Jean-François Genoud (@jfgpro), Michelle Carrupt (@cmic), Sally O’Brien (@swissingaround), Adam Tinworth (@adders), Mathieu Laferrière (@mlaferriere), Graham Holliday (@noodlepie), Denis Dogvopoliy (@dennydov), Christine Cavalier (@purplecar), Emmanuel Clément (@emmanuelc), Xavier Bertschy (@xavier83). Follow #back2blog.

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Au chalet: une vie simple et propice à l'écriture [fr]

[en] Life slows down at the chalet. Fewer options to fill my days. Lots of reading, lots of writing. Hence the flood of blog posts.

Autour du chalet, photo calendrier

Quelques jours au chalet. De la lecture, du triage de photos, de la cuisine, et de l’écriture. Hors ligne, j’ai pondu une bonne dizaine d’articles pour Climb to the Stars. Il faudra rajouter des liens (mais j’ai déjà préparé le terrain en insérant d’emblée les liens mais en mettant “article sur x ou y” à la place de l’URL), certes, mais c’est écrit. Il va juste falloir que je décide comment et à quel rythme les publier.

Est-ce parce que je suis hors ligne? Pas certaine que ce soit la raison principale. En fait, au chalet, ma vie est plus simple. J’avais déjà fait ce constat en Inde (quand je suis ailleurs qu’à Pune).

Ici, je n’ai pas de vie sociale, pas de travail à accomplir, pas de compta à faire. Il n’y a pas de télé, pas d’internet, je n’écoute pas de musique ou de podcasts. J’ai juste à m’occuper des chats et de moi, me faire à manger (les courses c’est déjà fait), et voilà. Je n’ai même pas à réfléchir aux jours qui viennent, après ma petite retraite, car je suis ici dans une parenthèse hors du temps.

Je me suis créé un contexte où mettre des priorités est ridiculement simple, et où il y a très peu de décisions à prendre (quoi lire? quoi écrire? quelles photos trier?). On pense aux auteurs qui s’exilent quelque part pour finir d’écrire.

Je m’endors à 21h et je suis réveillée par les chats à 5h30, après plus de 8h de sommeil. Impensable à la maison, avec les possibilités infinies du monde dans lequel je baigne.

Cet état, je le retrouve également lorsque je navigue. Sur un bateau, il n’y a pas grand-chose à faire (à part naviguer bien sûr, ce qui n’est pas rien!) Vivre ainsi est extrêmement reposant, mais j’ai conscience que ce n’est possible que parce que c’est une parenthèse, justement.

Ça me fait penser à mon année en Inde, qui s’éloigne à grands pas dans les brumes du passé. Après six mois environ, je m’étais reconstruite une vie aussi complexe que celle que j’avais laissée derrière moi en Suisse. J’avais des activités, une vie sociale, des projets. Je procrastinais, mon emploi du temps me stressais, je n’avais “pas assez de temps” (en Inde, vous imaginez!), bref, j’ai bien compris que le problème, c’était moi.

Durant ces parenthèses que je m’offre quelques fois par année, je me demande comment je pourrais simplifier ma vie “normale” — et si c’est possible. J’aime avoir des projets. Je m’intéresse à un tas de choses, trop, même. C’est une force qui me tire en avant, qui est extrêmement positive, mais dont je finis par devenir un peu la victime.

Bien entendu, je gère la complexité de ma vie bien mieux maintenant, à l’approche de la quarantaine, que lorsque j’avais à peine vingt ans. Je me connais mieux, je comprends mieux comment fonctionnent les gens et le monde, j’ai mis en place des systèmes et des stratégies pour éviter de me faire trop déborder, ou pour mieux supporter lorsque je le suis. Ça ne va pas tout seul, ce n’est pas forcément facile, mais dans l’ensemble, je n’ai pas trop à me plaindre.

Alors, faut-il simplifier? Simplifier, ça veut dire faire moins, pour moi, et possiblement, vouloir moins. J’ai récemment mis fin à une activité importante dans ma vie, parce que j’avais pris conscience que c’était juste logistiquement impossible pour moi d’y rester engagée “correctement” vu mon train de vie. Ça a été une décision extrêmement douloureuse qui a mis plus d’un an à mûrir, j’ai versé quantité de larmes et j’en verserai probablement encore, mais maintenant que c’est derrière je suis extrêmement soulagée. Allégée. Mon emploi du temps est un peu moins ingérable, je peux me consacrer mieux à ce que j’ai décidé de garder (et qui était encore plus important pour moi que ce à quoi j’ai renoncé), et j’ai aussi appris que je pouvais “lâcher”, même si ça me coûtait. FOMO et tout ça.

D’expérience, l’espace que je crée dans ma vie en “simplifiant” se remplit toujours assez vite. C’est si facile de dire “oui”! Pour simplifier vraiment, je crois qu’il faut vouloir moins. Difficile.

En attendant, je vais continuer à préserver ces “pauses”. J’en ai en plaine, aussi, mine de rien: je protège assez bien mes week-ends et mes soirées de ma vie professionnelle, par exemple. Mais ma vie personnelle est aussi parfois une source de stress, étonnamment. Et on sait que même avec plus de temps à disposition, ce n’est pas dit que l’on fasse enfin toutes ces choses auxquelles on a renoncé “par manque de temps“.

Mon article tourne un peu en rond, désolée. On en revient toujours au même: la compétence clé, pour moi du moins, c’est la capacité à hiérarchiser, à faire des choix et mettre des priorités. Et là-derrière se cache quelque chose qui est probablement encore plus que ça le travail d’une vie: faire les deuils des désirs que l’on ne poursuivra pas.

Je crois que je vais arrêter là ;-), quand j’ai commencé à écrire je voulais juste vous dire à quel point j’avais pondu une grosse pile d’articles pendant que j’étais ici!

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Trucs en vrac [fr]

[en] A bunch of tips: kitty litter in the bathtub and how to clean the litter box properly and easily, deactivate 3G for better phone call quality, kill all your iPhone app "history" to improve battery life, think about your motivating end objective to find the courage to tackle the unexciting task at hand, keep ginger/garlic paste and other fresh spices in the freezer for Indian cooking, and use the Google Calendar web interface to add tasks to your days - with checkboxes!

Je pourrais faire un article pour chacun, mais non, allez, en vrac.

  • désactiver le 3G sur son smartphone pour que ses appels passent par le 2G, bien moins chargé (données!) — meilleure qualité sonore et moins d’appels coupés
  • pour se motiver, ne pas penser à la tâche à faire mais à l’objectif plus large vers lequel il nous amène (réserver les billets d’avion pour l’Inde… bleh… par contre, je me réjouis d’aller en Inde, et pour ça il faut des billets d’avion!)
  • la caisse des chats dans la baignoire pour diminuer la quantité de litière qui se balade dans la salle de bains (et dans l’appart); bonus, on nettoie sa baignoire chaque jour avant la douche (c’est vite fait)
  • pour vider la caisse, ma technique, inspirée par la vidéo en bas de cette page (super informative) sur tout ce qui touche à la litière pour chats:
    1. utiliser de la litière “clumping” (vous aimeriez gratter dans un bac de sable imbibé de pipi, vous?)
    2. soulever la caisse et l’agiter de droite à gauche comme un tamis: les divers “blocs” remontent à la surface
    3. mettre avec la pellette tout ce qui est visible dans un petit sachet plastique que vous nouerez une fois l’opération terminée et stockerez “quelque part” en attendant la prochaine sortie poubelles (balcon/rebord de fenêtre en hiver, ou boîte hermétique)
    4. taper une ou deux fois la boîte au sol (attention les voisins de dessous!) pour décoller ce qui serait resté coller, agiter, ramasser…
    5. faire un dernier “tour de bac” systématique, en raclant le sable d’un côté à l’autre, pour être sûr qu’on a rien oublié et ramasser les petits bouts qui trainent!

    Répéter 2-3 fois par jour (suivant le nombre de chats et de caisses), et dès qu’il y a des petits îlots dans la caisse :-). En passant, le nombre de caisses idéal c’est “nombre de chats +1” (cf. détention convenable du chat d’appartement)

  • pour la cuisine indienne, garder au congél dans des sachets ziploc feuilles de curry, blocs de pâte au gingembre et à l’ail, feuilles de coriandre, piments…
  • utiliser l’interface web de Google Calendar qui permet d’ajouter facilement des tâches à un jour donné (avec la petite case à cocher, s’il vous plaît!); on peut les glisser-déplacer d’un jour à l’autre, les créer directement sur la bonne journée (cliquer le lien “Task” quand on crée un événement), ne pas leur attribuer de date au départ et en attribuer une en faisant “monter” la tâche dans la liste classée chronologiquement. Reste à synchroniser avec iCal (si ça peut), mais c’est pour plus tard. (voir mon calendrier idéal)
  • [Edit 09.05.12: attention, il semblerait que ceci soit de l’intox! cf. commentaires] tuer tout “l’historique” des tâches sur votre iPhone pour récupérer une autonomie de batterie respectable (je crois que c’est ça qui m’a fait passer de “bon sang, 20% restants à 14h” à “bon sang, 76% restants à 21h!”): double-clic sur le bouton pour faire apparaître la liste, appuyer longuement sur une des applications pour faire afficher les petits boutons “kill” en haut à gauche de chaque icône, puis s’en donner à coeur joie; confirmez-moi si ça marche!

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Variety is the Spice of Life [en]

[fr] De l'importance de varier les choses que l'on fait pour être heureux, les façons dont on s'organise, et le type d'article qu'on publie sur son blog. La routine ne tue pas seulement le couple. Vous avez d'autres exemples?

I’m in India. I’m reading “The How of Happiness“. The two are completely unrelated aside from the fact they come together to give me the title of this article.

Spice
Photo credit: Sunil Keezhangattu/Flickr

Don’t let the slightly corny title put you off as it did me, The How of Happiness is an excellent, solid, well-researched and practical book.

I don’t want to delve into the details of the book, but just share with you something that has fallen into place for me during the last week. It has to do with variety.

You see, in her book, Sonja Lyubomirsky doesn’t only go through the various things you can do to make yourself happier, or help you pick those that seem the best fit for you: she also insists on the necessity of varying the way you put them into practice.

The example that really made this point hit home for me was the one on “counting your blessings” (yes, corniness warning, directly from the author herself, but don’t let that stop you).

First, the test groups who were asked to write down the things they were thankful for 3 times a week ended up seeing less improvement in their happiness than those that were asked to do it only once a week. Doing it only once a week makes it more of an event and keeps boredom/immunisation at bay.

Second, even then, Sonja Lyubomirsky invites the reader to not do it in the same way every week. By writing, by conversation with a friend, upon certain occasions, about certain areas of your life, or in yet a different manner, so that it remains a meaningful practice. (Page 97, if you want to look it up directly.)

This immediately reminded me of a flash of insight I had one day walking in the mountains around my chalet. I can’t remember exactly when it was, but I can see the road I was on and I remember the insight quite clearly.

Update: I found the article I wrote at the time, it was in 2009!

I was thinking of the different ways in which I had got organized, and how I seemed to become “immune” to a given method after some time had passed. The flash of insight was this: “maybe I just need to keep on finding new ways of getting organized.” I brushed off the idea, because it wasn’t comfortable, and wrote it down to the need to have different techniques for different contexts. For example, there are times when I’m more stressed than others. Times when I have more work than others. Times when I feel productive, and times when I need to kick myself down the two floors from the flat to the coworking space to get to work. Even my recent musings on freeform versus structured work go in that direction.

But in fact, I was right. Just like it’s important to vary “happiness activities/techniques” to prevent habituation (or worse, boredom), I think it’s important to vary one’s organization methods. Or at least, for me, it is. And it could well be because there is a “happiness” component for me in the act of getting organized. I like the feeling of being on top of things, of finding solutions to be productive despite my built-in procrastination engine, of learning how I function, of coming up with strategies to prioritize and get things done. And maybe — maybe — for me, trying to find one method that I can just stick to is a big mistake.

Another area I’ve recently connected “variety is the space of life” to is blogging. I’ve been hanging out with the communication team at Wildlife SOS these last days, volunteering a bit of my time and expertise to help them make better use of social media.

As I was inviting them to vary the type of article they publish on their blog (at the moment, almost all the stories are animal rescue stories), I realized that this was another example of this theme at work: “variety is the spice… of reader engagement?”

Even if as a reader, animal rescue stories are my favourites, I will actually enjoy them more if they stand out against other types of articles. And for another reader, the favourites might very well be “behind the scenes” articles or “get to know the team” ones.

By publishing only one type of “top post”, one turns it into the “average post”. Add a sprinkle of intermittent reward to the mix, and you’ll probably positively influence the way readers perceive your content. Isn’t it more exciting to head over to a blog which might or might not reward you with a new article, which might or might not be the type that moves you most?

Now think about relationships: don’t we say that routine is the biggest love-killer? Oh, some habits are nice — but you also want new stuff, changes from the habitual, different way of being together and relating to one another. Surprises. The unexpected. This is nothing new.

So, let me summarize. Variety is the spice of life. Not only should you flee excessive routine in your marriage or relationship, but also in the following areas:

  • activities that make you happy
  • how you get organized (work, and probably life too)
  • the kind of content you publish on your blog

Can you think of other areas where it’s a little counter-intuitive, but it actually turns out to be really important to add variety to the way you do things?

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Different Kinds of Downtime [en]

[fr] Déconnecter ou se décontracter peut prendre plusieurs formes, et je viens de réaliser que malgré tout le temps de libre que j'ai pris pour récupérer de mon printemps un peu intense côté travail, je ne me suis pas laissé beaucoup d'espace pour penser. Laisser vagabonder mon esprit sans arrière-fond de musique, d'activité, de TV ou de jeux iPhone.

At two points in my “grown-up” life, I’ve been through phases of intense work which drove home the importance of making sure I had enough downtime. One was when I started teaching (I ended up on sick leave) and the other was when I was preparing Going Solo (a welcome cat bite probably prevented me from burning out completely).

I learned that when you do nothing but work, you can’t recuperate. Since then, I’ve always paid attention to preserving enough time “for myself”. Even when I have a lot of work and have “no time”, I still make time to eat with friends, watch TV series, read, sleep, etc. I never work until two in the morning, I take my week-ends off (there are exceptions), and generally am pretty good at setting boundaries between “work” and “non-work” modes (which might make certain people feel I’m hard to reach ;-)).

Over my lunch break today, I think I understood something really important — and funnily, just after saying that I don’t feel like writing anything these days, I feel an urge to blog about it here.

The thing I understood is the following: there are different kinds of downtime.

I’ve been thinking about this these last days — for example, I use both iPhone games and TV series to relax or take my mind off stuff, but for different purposes.

One of my ongoing grievances about life these last months is that I feel tired and worn-out and don’t seem to be able to recuperate despite having taken a lot of time off (holidays here and elsewhere) since working too much this spring.

I go home for lunch break (it’s just two floors above my coworking space eclau, so it’s not much of a commute). I needed to sit a bit before preparing lunch, so I took a book and sat down on my balcony couch (yes, you can be jealous).

But I didn’t open the book. I just stared outside at the garden, looked at my plants, stared into space some more, did some low-level plant maintenance, stared into space, looked at the garden… See the idea? All that time, my mind was wandering idly around, thinking about this and that, and that and this, going back in time, forward in time… Just undirected thinking about… “stuff”.

And I realised that I don’t actually give myself much time for that. Thinking without doing anything else while I think. Maybe my discomfort these days months has to do with the fact that I have things to process and haven’t really been making appropriate space for that — despite all my downtime.

So, what kind of downtime do I give myself, and what need does it fulfill? And what are your types of downtime?

Fiction

Fiction (whether books or TV) takes me out of my life. It disconnects me from what is preoccupying me. At the same time, it’s like an emotional catalyst. I’m the kind of person who’ll end up crying whilst watching CSI. I like movies that take you on an emotional roller-coaster. So in that respect, fiction also helps me reconnect.

Games

I’m the kind of “on-off” casual gamer, but ever since I downloaded Angry Birds (end of last year) I’ve been playing iPhone games regularly. Games allow me to wind down and distract me, but without the emotional component I get from fiction. Games are also more active, and speak to my obsessive streak.

Physical Activity

I have an exercise bike at home I try to use regularly, I do judo, sing, and go sailing. Physical activity empties my head and tires my body — vital for something with a desk-bound job like mine. Sometimes my mind wanders off and I do some light thinking, but most of the time, I’m just completely taken by what I’m doing.

Online Downtime

Online downtime includes idly chatting, catching up with people, reading random articles… It’s a way of keeping busy without being productive, and maybe of avoiding “more down” downtime. It also leads to new ideas and insights, new interests to explore. It’s good for a breath of fresh air but at times like now where I feel worn out, overworked and oversocialized, I avoid it.

Socializing

I’m not sure if socializing is a “downtime” activity for me. I’m not much of a bar/club person, so for me socializing is either “networking” (and that’s work) or long (often personal) discussions with people I’m close to. I also know I switch modes when I’m around people. I guess it is a kind of downtime I need, but there are times when I’m more in an introvert mood and seeing people adds to my stress (maybe — hypothesis — because it’s stressful for me to be around people when I’m unsatisfied with something I do not manage to put in words; hmmm, maybe blogging is to be included under “socializing”?)

Thinking

Thinking is just that. Thinking. Not really doing anything. It happens when I clean the flat or the dishes or do laundry, but only if I’m taking all the time in the world and not really paying much attention to what I’m doing. Going for a walk or sitting on the balcony (without a book or an iPhone!) is also an opportunity for this kind of downtime where I let my mind wander around freely and think about whatever it is I want to be thinking, without real aim or purpose.

I’m sure that when watching TV, or exercising, or reading a book, there is some background processing going on in my brain. I’m sure it’s useful and necessary. But this is more like frontground processing.

And this, I think, is what’s been missing — and might be the reason why I’m having trouble identifying what is behind my feeling of “not quite right” (although objectively, everything is going fine).

Having understood this, I’m going to make sure I have time every day to sit on my balcony and stare into space. We’ll see what happens.

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In Praise of the Morning Routine [en]

[fr] Avoir une routine matinale à laquelle on se tient, ça aide (même quand on a eu une panne d'oreiller, comme moi ce matin!)

I have a morning routine. From wake-up to office, it takes roughly 90 minutes. I don’t hurry. I don’t look at the time. I just go through it.

It’s a way to start the day, a way to wake up before staring at my inbox or getting started with work. It also means that for 90 minutes at the start of the day, I don’t have to make any choices or take any decisions.

There are times when I’m not good at sticking to it. But in general, I’ve noticed that the days, weeks or months when I do tend to go better. Not confusing correlation with causation, here: I’m very well aware that if I have the leisure to not be in a rush in the morning and take those 90 minutes, it means I’m not running around putting out fires all the time. True too, though, that if I am putting out fires but do manage to preserve this morning time of mine, I am managing to firewall some downtime from the madness of the rest of the day. In this way, my morning routine is not just a health indicator of my life, but also a took I can use to influence it.

This morning, I overslept. I had blocked a full day of work in the office, and I woke up three hours later than I had planned. Normally, when that happens, I rush downstairs to the office as fast as I can and get on with my day. This morning, I had second thoughts:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/stephtara/status/98311606978625536″]

Well, I listend to Nicole’s (and others’) advice and followed my gut: stick with the morning routine. Waking up late is annoying enough without throwing “my time” out of the window on top of it. And if I needed to sleep 10 hours straight, well so be it.

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/cncx/status/98312585681715200″]

I now have a new “rule”: stick with the morning routine. If I needed extra sleep, well, let that eat into work or evening time, not morning and “get going” time.

Consequences for today: I worked later than I’d initially planned, and decided to give up going to a barbecue in the evening. But I went through my day without feeling crap.

So, you’re wondering, what do I do during those 90 minutes? No big mystery. My morning routine intially crept up on me (result of too much unstructured life) and was fertilized by my discovery of FlyLady (who, amongst other things, insists on the importance of routines). My morning routine is pretty much what it was 2 years ago:

  • get up, straighten bed
  • neti pot if necessary, wash any leftover dishes (ideally)
  • hop into exercise clothes, do sit-ups, 30 minutes on the bike, stretch a bit
  • shower, get dressed, have breakfast
  • prepare my stuff and head out/downstairs

Not much to do for 90 minutes, see. I often also take a few minutes to check Twitter, or play a level of Plants vs. Zombies on my iPhone (warning: crack-addictive).

Do you have a morning routine? (Coffee drinkers, you do — even if you don’t think you do.)

 

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Slowing Down: About Cleaning, Laundry, Accounting, and Backlogs [en]

[fr] Il vaut mieux avoir un style de vie ou processus qui nous permet de faire les choses à mesure (compta, rangement, nettoyages, vaisselle...) que de courir et devoir s'arrêter pour s'occuper des désastres accumulés qui ont commencé à nous pourrir la vie.

I’ve just spent about 2 hours tidying up the flat and cleaning it. And yesterday, as I was about to head out to my concert, I couldn’t find my flashlight (which we need for one of the songs). It wasn’t where it was supposed to be, I couldn’t find it in the half-unpacked bag from our last concert two weeks ago, and basically lost 20 minutes turning the already messy flat upside down. (I found it finally. Hidden inside one of my concert t-shirts I’d taken out of the bag.)

This experience has allowed me to realise, after all these months of living a reasonably tidy and organized life (not too much, but enough to be functional), that it’s much easier to find something when the place is not in a mess *and* it’s nicer to clean/tidy as you go along rather than have to stop to do it (although I actually do like cleaning).

A year an a half ago I set off on a process which helped me crawl out of 10 years (maybe even a lifetime) of feeling overwhelmed by the mess in my living space (thanks, FlyLady). There’ve been ups and downs, but overall I have been living in a tidy flat for many months, doing my accounting, putting my laundry away instead of living in the laundry basket, and giving my flat a quick cleaning session once a week. I’ve been slacking these last few months though, probably because of calendar overload.

What’s the general teaching here? In the spirit of the “not running” and “doing things now” principles I detailed in my “Journey out of Procrastination” series, I’d say the following:

It’s better to go slower and have a process/lifestyle which allows you to deal with things as they come, rather than running around and having to stop to deal with the accumulated backlog once it starts impeding on your ability to live happily.

In practice, for me, that means I need to pay attention to build enough time into my days/weeks for:

  • unpacking bags
  • putting things away after I’ve used them
  • washing the dishes after the meal/snack
  • doing my accounting at least once a week
  • cleaning the flat roughly once a week
  • putting my laundry away the day after laundry day
  • taking things to the office

In summary: planning ahead enough so that I’m not in a rush. Added bonus: life is more enjoyable like that.

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