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Becoming Filipino-Canadian

Last week, I took the Canadian citizenship oath. Yay! So now I’m Filipino and Canadian, and will probably not have to be so anxious about travel. (Or I’ll end up find new and different excuses why I’d rather stay home, now that I can worry less about being stuck on the wrong side of an immigration counter.)

2014-09-05 Becoming Filipino-Canadian

2014-09-05 Becoming Filipino-Canadian

Excellent timing, since we have elections coming up.

The process was faster than I expected. I lost my passport (well, technically, Canada Post lost it, harrumph) and had resigned myself to the prospect of a delay of year or two. Happy to get this all sorted out earlier!

Figuring out how to deal with sub-optimal times

There are days when I’m at the top of my game. It’s easy to think, learn, write, draw, code, be present. Somehow, time stretches to accommodate the different things I want to do. Those are good days. I have them frequently enough so that my optimistic brain considers this the default, although there are also Really Good days when things totally rock.

Then there are times when I feel fuzzy or blah or frazzled or stressed. I guess you could call them sub-optimal, although sub-optimal is a funny word because there’s so much space below “optimal” that you’d spend practically all of your time in sub-optimal zone. Anyway.

I was thinking about the different variants of fuzziness, frazzledness, and such things. When you’re feeling out of it, sometimes you don’t have the ability (or inclination) to pin down exactly why you feel out of it and what you can do about that – either to help you recharge, or to at least mitigate the downsides of being down. It makes sense to come up with some ways to recognize and work around your brain state.

2014-09-04 Suboptimal Sacha

2014-09-04 Suboptimal Sacha

Here’s a quick list of sub-optimal states I sometimes find myself in:

  • Sleepy: Pretty straightforward. Tends to happen if I get less than 8 hours of sleep (probably even anything less than 8.3), or if my sleep is messed up by interruptions, buzzing brains, etc. Manifests itself as slowness, tiredness, yawns. The fix is easy: take it easy, nap, or go to sleep earlier.
  • Sick: The occasional cold makes me feel all blah and fuzzy. Hard to think creatively during these times. Good time to sleep or play video games.
  • Stretched: This happens when I’m trying to pay attention to too many projects or open loops. I feel a little frazzled around the edges. I can generally deal with this by writing down all the tasks into Org Mode and scheduling them appropriately, but sometimes I still get stressed around calendar events or multiple places to check.
  • Buzzy: When my mind skitters to and fro, usually because it’s been overstimulated by computers or video games. Hard to focus. Can be addressed by walks or sleeping. Can be minimized by not using computers late at night, and not trying to multitask important things during meetings.
  • Fuzzy: Hard to focus, but in a different way from buzziness. When I feel fuzzy, my thoughts feel slow and it’s hard to grab onto something. It’s a good time to do straightforward tasks that don’t require much thinking, like accounting. I can also break down creative tasks into smaller less-creative pieces, so I can still get small chunks of writing or drawing done even when my brain is tired.
  • Speeding: Sometimes I overlook details or things I need to do. When we catch that, it’s a good time to slow down and ask people to doublecheck my work. Related to buzziness and feeling stretched. Checklists, processes, and automation help a lot.
  • Absent-minded: Sometimes I’ll blank out when it comes to where I’ve put something or what I was about to do because I wasn’t paying enough attention. Related to fuzziness. Habits, reminders, and lists help; also, W- helps me remember or find things.
  • Anxious: Generally around being late, messing up, or forgetting important things. When I’m awake and reasonable, I know that the world tends to keep on going and that people adjust, but early meetings still disproportionately interfere with sleep. I can calm down my lizard brain when I’m awake enough to do it. Sleeping is easier with backup alarms and wake-up reminders.
  • Annoyed/frustrated: When things are more limited than I hoped they’d be, or I have to figure out complicated workarounds. Can handle this by dissociating emotion from dealing with things like Internet Explorer. Also, taking plenty of notes helps, since I can avoid having to re-solve the problem in the future. If I can share my notes, all the better.
  • Embarrassed: Sometimes I mess up, and sometimes programming/automation helps me mess up on a grand scale. Whoops. Somewhat mitigated if I focus on moving forward and fixing multiple gaps. Having team members provide air cover helps a lot too.

I’d been feeling a little bit stretched lately. When I recognized that, I made lots of lists of ongoing tasks and open loops. That helped a lot. =) I feel a little bit fuzzy in the evenings, but certain kinds of drawing and writing actually help with that instead of making it worse. Hmm…

Crunch mode

I’m working more intensely than I expected to do at this point in time, roughly halfway through my 5-year experiment. I had planned to wind down to two days a week of consulting, or even one or zero. Instead, I’m working on a potentially high-profile project with shifting requirements and technology risk. I can definitely tell the difference between this time, my more relaxed consulting, and the longer spans of time I sometimes spend on personal projects. I feel it in the fuzziness of my mind at the end of the day, the shifts in the rhythms at home, the ebbs of my writing.

It’s good to reflect on the trade-offs I’m making, and to learn from the preferences they reveal. I agree with past-Sacha’s decision: the downside of temporary crunch time for the upside of an intense learning experience and the ability to help a good team at a moment when it matters a lot. I like the team and the work we do. It’s also fun to come up with a neat technical solution that creatively pulls together several pieces and saves the day.

But I can’t let myself get addicted to that feeling. =) It’s too easy to get used to this rhythm, to forget what other days are like. I think I’m about ready to focus on my own stuff for a while, after I get past the milestones I’ve committed to in the next month and a half.

Part of the reason for this experiment is to force myself to explore. There will always be more challenges and opportunities in the consulting world. I like the leisurely pace of unscheduled days and mornings without meetings, and the odd and interesting things you can learn when you meander.

Besides, my current crunch time happens to coincide with W-‘s crunch time at work. I miss the flexibility of being able to take care of all of the house things when W- needs to focus on work. While we’re happy to eat leftovers or reheat things from the freezer, J- prefers freshly-cooked food. I was helping out at Hacklab most of the weekend, and neither W- nor I got much cooking or planning done. Tonight we’re resorting to pizza delivery. (Hmm, maybe I should just scale back Hacklab, socializing, and other optional things for now.) It’s good that we have these options, and what I’m doing is worth it too. Still, observing this gap now will help me make better use of my time later on, when I’ve tilted the slider more towards retirement. Will I actually cook lots of fresh, yummy dinner? I hope so.

I like what I’m doing, and I think it’s worth it for now. And yet I also like the self that the gaps reveal, and the constraints help me have a clearer idea of what I want from different situations. From work, I want learning, tool-building, and generally more upsides than downsides. From recreation, I want that feeling of abundance and play, and the ability to make our home life smoother. There’ll be time enough to explore that, so I’m not worried. I just have to make the most of where and when I am. =)

Monthly review: August 2014

I wrote last month that in August, I was probably going to:

  • Work more, since my clients need extra help: Yup, happened!
  • Work on project F3, too: Yup, wrapped up
  • Improve my writing techniques (outlines, snippets, etc.): Nope, focused on working
  • Celebrate another year, yay: Yup!

Next month, I’m going to:

  • Do more consulting (big milestone!)
  • Help with Hacklab move

Here’s what I wrote about last month:

Lots of drawing!

  1. 2014.08.12 Dealing with physical pain – #philosophy
  2. 2014.08.12 Exercise notes – #exercise
  3. 2014.08.12 How I program – #consulting #programming #geek
  4. 2014.08.12 When Neko meows – #cat
  5. 2014.08.13 Call no man happy until he is dead – #philosophy
  6. 2014.08.13 Discretionary work – #consulting
  7. 2014.08.13 Learning more about drawing – #drawing
  8. 2014.08.13 Leia traced from picture
  9. 2014.08.13 Nudging the balance toward work – #experiment #consulting
  10. 2014.08.13 To know something’s distinctiveness – #philosophy
  11. 2014.08.15 Luke
  12. 2014.08.17 Content marketing for Hacklab
  13. 2014.08.17 Neko
  14. 2014.08.18 So if I’m going on a consulting sprint for 2
  15. 2014.08.18 What am I really postponing or giving up – #experiment #business #consulting
  16. 2014.08.20 Evening routines
  17. 2014.08.20 Routines
  18. 2014.08.23 Closure
  19. 2014.08.23 So, what’s next
  20. 2014.08.24 Decision – sketchbook
  21. 2014.08.24 Easier way of tracking upgrade decisions and brand preferences for infrequent purchases
  22. 2014.08.26 Thinking about how I can build on my strengths
  23. 2014.08.27 Why do the extra consulting – #experiment #business #consulting
  24. 2014.08.28 Remembering things with my blog
  25. 2014.08.28 What to do during open days – #leisure #experiment
  26. 2014.08.29 Becoming a better reader
  27. 2014.08.29 Considering the time after the experiment
  28. 2014.08.29 Ends and extents – #my-learning
  29. 2014.08.29 Possible personal projects
  30. 2014.08.29 Re-planning my life – #experiment
  31. 2014.08.29 Tweaking my experiment
  32. 2014.08.29 What do I mean by owning more of my brain – #experiment
  33. 2014.08.30 On discipline, or alternatives to
  34. 2014.08.30 Open loops

Gardening update: Reviewing my goals for this year

It’s September, which means fall will be here soon. Time for a brief review of my gardening plans for 2014, so I can squeeze in any last-minute learning I need. Here’s what I drew in November last year and May this year:

2013-11-08 More garden plans for 2014

2013-11-08 More garden plans for 2014

2014-05-23 Gardening - Things to learn more about or try

2014-05-23 Gardening – Things to learn more about or try

I got all our seedlings from the plant shop a few blocks away. The seedlings grew well, and dividing them up worked. Some of our bitter melon plants died, though. (Damping off?)

For the plants I started from seed, I planted in mostly neat rows this time and I watered frequently, so it was (mostly) easy to tell which ones were weeds and which ones were the ones I wanted. We found a spot in our bedroom window that might accommodate a few small plants during the winter and Hacklab has a space with a skylight, so I might be able to grow tomatoes and bitter melon from seed next season.

Regular watering worked well in spring and early summer, but I fell out of the habit with the rains and the heat. Then the garden got straggly and overgrown, so it wasn’t as much fun to maintain. I pulled up the dying plants and put in some peas and beans. We’ll see how far those get before the winter sets in.2014-09-01 15.58.27

Still planting things I don’t end up eating. I had salad for a while, and then stopped when the leaves got somewhat sluggy and insect-infested. Next time, I should just pull up the plants and start again.

Tried squashes. The zucchini, bitter melon, and winter melon produced lots of leaves and flowers, but weren’t as productive as rumoured. We’ll keep trying. We did get one zucchini out of it, though. (Whee!) The Internet says you can cook the squash flowers, so we might try that towards the end of the season.

The bright spots: peas and cherry tomatoes were popular, as always. =) Yum! The tomato plants were quite prolific this year. Last year, we got hardly anything. Hooray for cherry tomatoes! We also got a few handfuls of blueberries from the bushes too.

Weekly review: Week ending September 5, 2014

Lots of work and helping out at Hacklab. =) Oh, and Canadian citizenship, yay! It didn’t feel like I got that much sleep this week, but my numbers say I did. Hmm.

Blog posts

Sketches

Link round-up

Focus areas and time review

  • Business (54.4h – 32%)
    • Earn (39.4h – 72% of Business)
      • Doublecheck setInterval vs setTimeout, whoops
      • E1: Demo
      • E1: Work on polls
      • Earn: E1: 2.5-3.5 days of consulting
    • Build (4.4h – 8% of Business)
      • Drawing (2.0h)
      • Delegation (0.0h)
      • Packaging (0.0h)
      • Paperwork (2.4h)
        • Check on Brock Health claim
        • Order TurboTax
        • File payroll return
      • Upgrade webserver
    • Connect (10.5h – 19% of Business)
      • Send Helpouts messages
      • Help with Helpouts
  • Relationships (10.7h – 6%)
    • Cook at Hacklab?
    • Follow up with Eric re cleaning, kitchen
    • Help with Hacklab kitchen
    • Pick up dishwasher and drop it off at Hacklab
    • Talk to my mom regarding dividends
    • Work on project K
  • Discretionary – Productive (5.2h – 3%)
    • Emacs (2.0h – 1% of all)
      • Review Emacs Chat transcript
    • Apply for Ontario photo ID
    • Prepare papers for citizenship ceremony
    • Attend citizenship ceremony
    • Apply for cultural access pass
    • Back up phone
    • Clean up phone apps
    • Reflash phone
    • Sort out credit cards
    • Tidy up dying plants
    • Arrange for cheque
    • Ask two guarantors for passport
    • Get passport pictures
    • Pay Mastercard
    • Pick up cultural access pass from Front and Parliament
    • Writing (1.8h)
  • Discretionary – Play (3.7h – 2%)
  • Personal routines (22.0h – 13%)
  • Unpaid work (11.4h – 6%)
  • Sleep (60.7h – 36% – average of 8.7 per day)