Category Archives: organisation

Postcard from Habitica (1)

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I’ve been meaning to write about Habitica (formerly HabitRPG) pretty much since I joined back in May 2015. Has it been that long?! Wow! And still going strong as a wonderful motivation and organisation tool for me! I’ve started so many posts, and failed to cover even half of what the site is about – but then, there is a wonderful wiki so I’m giving up try to repeat a whole site’s worth of information in one post! Instead, I’m going to focus in on how I use the site.

First off, in one line, what is Habitica? It’s a motivational site, a set of lists (split into habits, dailies and to-dos) that you create to suit yourself, and using ‘gamification’ – in the form of an old-school Role Playing Game set up – to reward you for completing the tasks you’ve set yourself.

habitica-lists

a quick peak at some of my list items

The to do list is the most obvious, and this is the best format of such that I think I’ve found – for me. This is because it’s one huge list to which I add absolutely everything I need/want to get done, whether NOW, or just eventually, or something in between. It sounds like it should be unwieldy, and yet it works for me. When I complete an item, I tick it off so the list stays full of still-to-do items, plus I get a happy little ‘ta da!’-type noise and those gamification points: health, skills mana, gold, and maybe a random item. Of course, this isn’t going to work for everyone, but it utterly appeals to my inner geek! 🙂

Dailies are the ones that you ‘have’ to complete or else your in-game avatar loses health, so ideal for reminders (e.g. ‘take tablet’) and things you really want to enforce as a daily habit. My advice for this is to make the daily the smallest possible unit of the habit you want to create: if it’s meditation, for instance (which is on mine, but ‘ticked off’ already for today), set the goal as just 5 minutes. You can always do more – I usually do! – but this way even on your busiest days you can still ensure you’re touching base with the habit.

The actual category Habits are theoretically for things you’d do more than once a day, but for me are more things I want to do but don’t mind if it’s not every day. I’ve also discovered along the way that while there are positive and negative habits (separately, or a plus/minus on the same item), negatives really don’t work for me – I don’t find it motivating to ‘punish’ myself for not doing something, and just seeing a negative item on the list reminds me of it, which is less than helpful!

The challenge that’s kicking me to actually write this post is #HabiticaResolutions – how this all helps me to keep my New Year’s Resolutions. Well, I didn’t have set goals like that, tbh, but in terms of a lifestyle I’m continually trying to create and improve, I still absolutely love Habitica. It lets me keep everything in one place, with just enough filters (via custom tags, or Habit headings (like the ‘mind’ in the screenshot above, which is accompanied by ‘body’, ‘organisation’ and ‘hobbies’) ) to keep it a little bit tidy.

The gamification element isn’t going to work for or even appeal to everyone, but if it does then there are several different ways to use it. For me, daft as it is, I enjoy collecting the pets – these are ‘random drops’ as you complete tasks, with a large collect-them-all page… yeah, it’s silly, but hey, if it works! 🙂

habitica-pets

I hope to be writing a lot more ‘postcards from Habitica’, but there’s your brief overview. The site rocks, I’ve barely scratched the surface of what there is to customise your best motivational version, but personally I love it and the control it helps me feel I’m keeping over my scanner-scattered life! 🙂

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I get to go tick off a big ‘to do’ item – perhaps I’ll find a dragon egg as a reward! 🙂

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September Learning Challenge

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Because hey – one challenge is never enough, right?! But since I’ve got Inktober, NaNoWriMo, and Christmas (cards to make…!) taking up the last three months of the year, it’s now or never with this one!

Anyway. Over on Habitica (and there’s a blog post I must unprocrastinate over ;)) I stumbled across a challenge based around the article, How to Learn Something New Every Day (And Actually Do Something With It).

stack-of-books-images-clipart-panda-free-clipart-images-NzH2Cp-clipart (1)First you pick your learning style – for me, reading is always the start – and topic. Ah, topic, singular? Well, that sounds dull! Or easy 😉 In case you haven’t noticed, this is a blog (sort of) about being a Scanner – someone with more interests than time. Doing the same thing for 30 days sounds like torture! Well, actually, it sounds like a really sensible plan, but let’s not let that stop me! No, me being me, I’ve got at least three topics (and quite frankly I could have had one for each day, I think!), and they might look a bit familiar from the links at the top:

  • Coding – always a priority for me, I think it’s high time I tackled javascript in a slightly more structured way.
  • Writing – Nano is coming (the new Stark motto), and there’s never a better time to learn some more about the craft.
  • Headology – aka ‘other stuff’. I’ve just started a stress management course (which is entirely appropriate for this madness right here!), and summarising those lessons should help them stick. I’ve also got a new book on habits, so a bit on that too.
  • Randomness – splitting the above into 2/week left me with a spare day. I could repeat one of my topics, but… while I can see it goes against the whole idea of a fixed curriculum, (a) I’m usually fully booked on a Friday, and (b) there’s always something that’s caught my eye to read later during the week, so let’s have a bit of a pot luck day!

Curriculum, you say? Why yes! Part of this is to lay out your plan of attack in quite a detailed manner before starting. Which has taken me HOURS (and almost put me off doing this whole thing quite frankly ;)) but here you can see the results of that toil:

learningChallenge

Phew! So far so good, but there’s another part to this challenge: you have to SHARE what you learn! Gulp!! This is another reason I wasn’t quite so keen to stick to one topic. Or rather, why I was reluctant to just pick coding – talking about coding is way harder than actually just, y’know, coding o_O

Some points for myself:

  • this is a *fun* challenge, for me by me. Don’t stress about it!
  • the curriculum is not carved in stone. See above, and move what needs moved
  • in fact, let’s have a weekly review and be willing to totally shake things up rather than give up!
  • the ‘Today I Learned…’ (TIL) posts should be short – I have to read/view/whatever AND write a post, AND continue with real life. I believe the original intention would have been a paragraph or so on e.g. Medium, but since this site is here (and a little less public…! o_O)

So. All going to plan (hah!) you can expect a slew of blog posts over the next 30 days. Well, I was almost certainly due a catch up 😉

Wish me luck!

The Unprocrastination Challenge

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I’ve long been a fan of Zen Habits, and this month Leo Babauta has issued a challenge – to pick an important task and ‘un-procrastinate’ for five minutes a day. Yup, just five minutes – the catch being that you must stay focused for those five minutes, not pause to check facebook or your phone, or switch to another task.

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I’ve made my start today with a dull but essential insurance task. And did I want to pause halfway through? Oh yes – I could just go run the water for the dishes now that I’ve looked up this bit, or make a cuppa before just finishing this part… but no. I stayed sitting, and for the 20 minutes the whole thing ended up taking just Got It Done!!

I suspect the first benefit to this comes from choosing your task well – committing to focusing on the dishes is hardly going to be life changing! On the other hand, attention spans are dropping in general, and mine certainly hasn’t been great of late. Perhaps this will help me re-find my concentration, and in a way that ends up decreasing rather than adding to my stress, as I get some of those essential or just really want-to-do tasks done!

Zen Habits had a great article looking at the issues behind this challenge, or if you’re looking for more hints on beat procrastination, try Lifehacker‘s 29 suggestions (and credit to them for the pic above).

Planning the year

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My new calendars and diaries have arrived! And, urm… I realise I should have had myself prepped to start using them already! So, here’s the plan:

Calendar/diary 1 are for normal stuff: birthdays, events, etc. Yawn, but having somewhere you can instantly look to see what’s happening when is important! I use Google Calendars, and Outlook at work, but nothing beats paper, imo.

More interestingly…

Calendar 2 is to follow Victoria Schwab’s tracking/motivation system (she might not have invented it, but this is where I found the idea). I get to play with stickers! I still need to decide what I’m going to track, so that’s the weekend’s goal. So far thinking exercise, writing, meditation…

[Aside: I am slightly worried this is too much tracking, as it does sort of duplicate my use of Habitica. Maybe I should have thought about that before I bought the calendar, right enough, so let’s give it a whirl! And I’m sure there are other trends I’m not ‘Habiticising’, which might prove useful to see (like, sleep and how often I skip social stuff, oops!) – and see more visually, at that.]

Diary 2 is my gratitude and achievements diary. Writing down things your are grateful for is a powerful, easy mood lifter. I’ve been playing for a while with the ‘anti-to-do’ or ‘done’ list – a quick scribble of things that make me feel like the day’s been worthwhile, in however a small or mundane way. Totally recommend this, btw!

So, everything is in place… and I’m having a bit of a pause! Nothing like going gung-ho to make my contrary little brain give me a great big ‘Nope’. Sigh. Lazy weekend it is, then, and I have very few plans for the week ahead.

I should probably have a whole other blog post about that, but for now let’s just go with: we are not robots. Life is not about mechanically working your way through a set of tasks, no matter how great the intentions. So relax. Let it happen because you want it – and if ‘it’ is rest and sleep, pay attention and do that!

Now, where’s the TV remote…? 😉

Shiny New Year!

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Shiny-2016-new-year

Happy New Year! 🙂

Despite my general agreement with the concept that ‘resolutions aren’t good’ (habits are the way to go, of course), this is still a shiny new calendar start, and I’ve been thinking about mine. A little late? Well yes, but my excuse is that it’s not realistic to start too much in the way of great intentions before the reality of a full day’s work kicks in!

More energy is going to be a focus this year, I’ve decided – read the perfect line, “you need more energy rather than more time” – so true! So, there’s two ‘resolutions’: the return of ‘prioritise sleep’, and to feel less guilty about skipping stuff.

I think a lot of that dates back (oh, all of a couple of years?!) to me being a complete hermit, and always studying – I do feel guilty if I don’t take the opportunities in front of me. But, I was finding towards the end of last year that even just three nights out a week could feel too much – and between ‘fixed’ Thursday writing group and Friday cinema, I only needed one extra event to tip me over. That said, I don’t want to deny spontaneity, so I can see me skipping writing and/or cinema more, too – and, as a corollary, I’m going to have to be flexible with ‘daily habits’ occasionally. Overall, I want 2016 to be a little less frantic, when I need it to be.

Which is part of “Be good to future calypte” – she is me, after all! This captures a whole swirly set of ideas around being organised, and doing things that will make my life better in the future, be that sleep (quite an immediate future) or more exercise (longer term, mainly).

I am having to come to terms with the fact that there is just too darn much on my ‘want to do’ list. Nothing really new, but everything from writing to coding to cards, and a ton in between. So I find ‘scheduling’ is on the cards, too – which needs more planning. Creativity, learning, socialising, relaxing (properly!), taking care of myself – I want to do it all. That is after all why this is a Scanner’s blog!

It’s important, I think, to look not just at the huge list of things I want to do, but also to reassure myself that there are things I’m pushing back. Launching my ‘habits’ blog, for instance – wanna, but going just continue here with the ideas of it all, and polish some of it more. Textile crafts have been calling for a while, but they’re hitting the ‘not yet’ pile in favour of going back to calligraphy and zentangling for my creative pursuits – along with card making, of course! And while I do think a daily five minutes with Duolingo was helping last year, I’m not sure I’m ready to use up time this year committing to that again – we’ll see.

So, where to begin?! Well, I’ve ordered myself two calendars and two diaries so far:

  • A big calendar to use for tracking/motivation, as per the lovely Victoria Schwab’s idea – bonus: I get to play with stickers! The idea is to use different colours of stickers to reward myself for achieving the different things I want to in a day/month, e.g. exercise, writing, creativity, learning, meditation, etc. Details to be finalised.
  • A slimline calendar for normal planning e.g. events, etc.
  • A small diary to carry around with me for much the same.
  • An A5 diary to be used as a gratitude/achievement diary – celebrate tiny successes! 🙂
  • Plus, and old, unused diary (why I still have this…?) for my page per day project – resurrecting this.

I’ve also got a couple of other plans, which will be in upcoming blog posts.

Next steps:

  • impatiently wait for calendars/diaries to arrive and kick myself for leaving it so late to order!
  • figure out some of the details for the ideas above esp. re scheduling in the meantime
  • get on with today’s habits! 🙂

5/52 Changes – Declutter

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There are four chapters of the book dedicated to ‘clearing’ (five if you count your inbox) starting with ‘a shelf’ and working its way up to ‘a room’. Since I’ve been wanting and meaning to tidy up the carnage of Christmas card making since, well, Christmas, I sort of jumped straight towards the ‘room’!

My own rules for this one were clear: every day, put something back in its place (even – or maybe especially – if that place turned out to be the bin). Just one thing was sufficient. At this point, I have five daily habits to hit, so I need to keep everything small and manageable. And more than the rest so far, this one has proved that tiny steps really can add up to a difference: it’s been next to zero effort to stick to this goal this week, and yet my spare room is starting to look usable again. Tidying the whole room has been a daunting task hanging over me since the New Year, and looky: it sort of happened without me noticing.

And maybe that’s the kicker: all of these habits creeping into my life sort of without me noticing. I know the whole ethos of the book was ‘not about self-improvement’, and yet it kind of is.

I sort of saw this goal as a time-limited one, something that I could finish and not end up trying to juggle 26 daily tasks come June, or 52 come year-end! And yet, I think it’ll stick around: there’s always something that could do with a little uncluttering, and it feels good to slot something back into it’s tidy resting place 🙂

Turtle steps

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I was flicking through some of the bookmarks I hadn’t really gotten around to reading last year, and stumbled back
across 52 Changes (and yes, I’m aware I’m a few years out of date…!). This is an eBook from the guy who does Zen Habits. It lists a suggested habit to form (or in a few cases, break) each week for the year – and I’m really tempted to give it a follow! In fact, I am: at least starting (I’m well aware of the evidence this blog presents as to how some of these experiments pan out…!).

Anyway, to quote from the book:

The changes in this book aren’t a way to improve your life. Let me stress that: this isn’t a self-improvement book. It’s an experimentation book. It’s a change lab. It’s a way to explore yourself, to figure out what works best for you, to get out of your comfort zone, to learn how to change, and to be OK with change. And that’s the most important thing: learning how to be OK with change.

It’s about living life in a way that will give you the greatest fulfillment, will help you help the world, and to live more fully and in the present.

Which sounds worth a go, right?! I’m loving the intro, in it’s laid-back tone and lack of pretension. It’s all ‘give it a go, see what works for you’ rather than ‘must do x, y then z’. The advice is sound, too: one at a time (my downfall!) and start small. And – I love this! – “Enjoy the Change. If you don’t enjoy it, it’s not worth doing. And it won’t stick anyway.”

The order isn’t prescriptive, so I’ve been thinking about what would work best for me. So many are already in my mind:
mindful eating, exercise, yoga, meditation, sleep, creativity, and the lovely ‘unprocrastinate’.

Sleeping seems kind of key to me – I’ve been having far more disturbed nights back in my own bed than in the peace of my dad’s house over Christmas, which is disappointing and really highlighting the detriment that has on my day-to-day. But that’s habit #26 – half a year away! But then… if I plan to try anyway, maybe the 6-month mark would be a good reminder to focus? A read through that ‘chapter’ (a brief description, why, and a ‘how’ for each habit) shows that it draws in exercise and meditation, so maybe the order flows well. Although I wonder if ‘walking’ is better done away from Scotland’s icy January weather!!

So… for right now I think I might just start at the beginning, with meditation. I’ve always loved my dabbling, but always fall out of the habit. Here the suggestion is 2-5 minutes: and hey, isn’t that a more sustainable habit than 20 minutes?! Also, I think I may make today the ‘official’ start – Saturdays seem more flexible than Thursdays, which ever day the year starts on!

Which isn’t to say I’m not even looking at the other stuff – exercise, healthier eating, blah blah – until the ‘habit week’, but I figure this way I can have one thing that is unshakable for the day. And – true to my scanner nature! – know that next week I can shift to a new area (although keep up with the meditation, too!).

Let’s give this a go! 🙂