When it all falls down

I’m juggling a lot these days and it’s been challenging. Some days I’m a mess and today was one time where I just felt like I was going insane.

It wasn’t like I had too much to do, but more like I was overloaded with things I felt I should be doing. I couldn’t let go; couldn’t just detach and relax.

Too many variables, too many things and projects and ideas all mashing about in my head.

I guess it was a sign I just needed to detox and relax. Simplify things and try to do more with less. Not overcomplicate things, overthink things, work myself up over things that weren’t worth working myself up over.

Spent some time on 750 words, just doing some stream of consciousness writing. Decided to ration my time on Facebook and Twitter because they distract me far too much. Am experiencing sensor overload and the kind of paralysis that comes from too many options, too many possible distractions or activities.

I needed to quiet my brain and just find a measure of silence in my head. Chilling is harder than it used to be and the Internet is one big ball of Read This Look At This Think About This O Look. Rereading Zen Habits and taking some time to read stuff in my Kobo library (so many books so little time ZOMG).

Running on a hamster wheel doesn’t get me anywhere but taking just one, slow, sure, step at a time just might.



Tell me what I want

so confused

Image by rachel sian via Flickr

After a long drawn out conversation over good food, I’ve realised that I need to start figuring out what I really want.

Part of me thinks I should just let go of my wants and needs, hoping for the best.

But if I don’t know what I want, or what I don’t want, I’ll end forever coasting on the seas of indecision.

First off, what I don’t want:

  1. I don’t want a house just yet. Until I have enough of a nest egg, a mortgage is just too much commitment.
  2. I don’t want a relationship…for the sake of having one. Flirting is fine, random innuendo perhaps, but I’m not the naughty kitty always wanting to play when she sees an enticing bit of string anymore. Read into that what you will.
  3. I don’t want to be so swamped with work that I forget the commitment I have to God, my loved ones and the things that make me happy.

What I do want:

  1. To figure out how best to serve with all God’s given me. Rather than beat myself up over and over again because I don’t feel I’m doing enough for God, I realise that maybe what He wants from me is just to do the best I can with all I can. Dear God, let that be enough.
  2. To keep writing and being a better writer, because above all things that is my true vocation. I can’t claim to make words sing but on good days I can make them hum in tune.
  3. To get to grips on my new day job and challenge myself to bring the best of what I am to the job instead of trying to be someone else. I don’t have to be a different person but just change the way I do things. David Lian’s been supportive, telling me to ‘just be yourself’. David’s not perfect but he takes his best traits and amplifies them enough they make up for any shortcomings. I’ll just need to remind myself that I bring a lot to the table too and I shouldn’t let my inexperience hamper my self-confidence.

I want to be a good person and be good at what I do. That’s it in a nutshell.

OCD organising or loving your Moleskine

Working from home for nearly two months, I have come to a few discoveries namely:

Left to my own devices, I tend to forget to eat.
Except if the meal happens to be lunch, for which I will fob off phone calls/requests/work.
“Can’t this wait till after lunch?” is my mantra. If the thing is urgent, I will still steal time to grab a can of tuna and pop out for bread. Or just get takeout duck rice at the stall that’s a few minutes walk from my house. You wouldn’t go for a long drive without fuelling your car, so I refuse to go without at least one decent meal (breakfast/brunch/lunch) in the day.

The thing about working from home is, you need to be even more organised than in an office. Offices have structure and procedures built-in. I have to create my own and after some experimentation, have come up with a hybrid pen & paper/electronic solution.

All my appointments go into my Moleskine pocket diary first. Then they get keyed into my Nokia 5800’s calendar, from which it will be synced to my Google Calendar via the free and wonderful CalSyncS60.Everytime I add a new contact to my phone, I will sync my contacts to my Ovi.com account.

I have one desk-bound journal for jotting down important information that I need at hand in ‘the office’. Two Moleskine cahiers, each dedicated to separate to-do lists, one for Work, one for Personal projects, also desk-bound. And one larger Moleskine for note-taking, which I take along with me with my smaller Moleskine. That sounds like a lot of books but see, it’s easier separating them out than lumping them all together. Also, I never miss an appointment because they’re all backed up on paper and online. Phone, notebook, Gcal. Synced and good to go.

Writing them down on notebooks that DO NOT LEAVE MY DESK are important. So I don’t lose them, and in the case of power failures, my to-do lists are there, on hand, so I’m never left wondering “Oh what shall I do today.” It’s easier to copy out stuff from said notebooks onto my phone/travel notebook than cart them around. And to make my life easier, I find it’s better to prepare most of the to-do list the day before, knowing that I can add on to it in the morning.

My phone, big Moleskine and mini-Moleskines are my travelling companions. Light, portable, functional. On my desktop PC, I have the best bit of software Microsoft’s ever made – OneNote. It is an awesome piece of work which makes taking notes and Web clippings so much easier, allowing you to create multiple virtual notebooks, all which can hold tabs and separate customisable pages.

Yes, I like systems. And structure. But I think my systems are flexible enough to accomodate my planning needs and work schedule, so I can get the things I need done, done. So I can have time to do the things I want to do as opposed to just the things I need to do.

Now I need to sleep.

Knowing when not to over-deliver


Image via Wikipedia

It’s a weekly routine that The Agency has a concall with The Engine.

Our Engine Boss put a very clear point across today – that he didn’t want to invest Agency resources on efforts that, frankly, didn’t need it.

The Engine is a busy, buzzing pot of brewing ideas. Some which fundamentally shake the industry it’s in and some…we shall not talk about. It’s concentrated effort just trying to keep up with all it’s doing or planning to do at a time. But our job as PR is to understand where we need to push pitches and where we shouldn’t be overextending ourselves.

Of course, when a client says that Campaign A is Mission Critical to said client’s organisation, you pull out all the stops.

But Engine Boss said of a current newspiece that, well, it was great to get word out, but it just wasn’t necessary for us to invest either our time or push the Engine into spending time/money to push said newspiece. Get the word out, follow up on who you sent the word to, assemble clippings, give a final report and seal it all with a nice piece of ribbon.

The first instinct, for most professionals in the client servicing realm, is to go all out to make your client happy. A butler in a first-rate hotel would make sure guests were well taken-care off. But if, say guest A, was not into the habit of reading the newspaper, ironing said newspaper for his reading pleasure every morning would be a pointless gesture. Instead, it would be better to make sure guest A’s sugar bowl was topped up to accomodate his sweet tooth. A non-ironed paper would likely go unnoticed; but an empty sugar bowl would lead to a cranky guest who would likely take his business elsewhere.

I’ve had conversations with people that go like this:

Me: So tell me, which is more important? Item A, B, C, D, E or F?

Person: What do you mean which is important? They’re all important!

Me: (tries not to have hernia) I mean, which takes first priority? They’re all important, but I can’t work on them all at once, this minute.

Person: You can’t? That’s such a negative, defeatist attitude. Look at President Obama. Do you think a black man became president by saying No, I Can’t? Just do it!

Me: (current ulcer is displaced by burgeoning hernia)

Person usually tends to have a sales background – sales/marketing people I’ve met tend to promise you the sun, moon, and stars…with their fingers crossed behind their back, knowing full well they’d be lucky if they could deliver the sand beneath their feet. And when they rise to positions of seniority, they feel affronted at your not being gung-ho and saying oh yes we can deliver/achieve 150 percent if we just believe it!

End result: Project is 2 months behind schedule, 50 percent over budget and nowhere near achieving the initial goals.

Dilbert is so much like real life, that it’s more scary than funny.

Remember, kiddos, overpromising your boss stuff might get you in his good graces for a while, but when shit hits the fan, guess who’s going to be cleaning up the septic tank?

Big hint: it’s not your boss.

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Timesheets – so I’ll be accountable. To me.

I know plenty of programmers, PR people and other people who have ‘billable hours’ hate timesheets.

So why am I making myself start on timesheets? Especially when I haven’t been asked to?

Well, it’s so I know what I’ve been doing and to keep me accountable. It’s too easy to be distracted by all the online temptations I’ve been used to while I was working. My last job, I needed those distractions. You do not churn out articles by staring at the screen until your forehead drips blood. Writing is a somewhat subconscious activity. You take the germ of an idea, let it ruminate in your head, check out sources, sniff out leads and let it stew before you finally take it all and put it on paper.

That’s the time you tell reception to screen/block all calls, you drink enough coffee to make the entire office reek and nothing registers at all when people talk to you. “Erna, what do you think about the new Brand X All Singing Notebook?” “Mmmhmm Waah Ah Mumblemumblegoawaymumble”.

PR is a different sort of thing. Instead you start a thunderstorm in your head and just start catching the ideas that spark. Then you try and rearrange them to make some sort of sense.

So there are things I can’t do anymore. Like hang out on Facebook practically all day. Or blog anytime I want to.

It’s all about focus, discipline and completion. Now I’ve got to stop blogging because I have a few possible pitches to ruminate about over coffee. Mummble mhmmhcoffeegaaahmmmmh yes.

Making time for what ultimately sustains

(Image by chusoart via Flickr)

Yesterday was spent running errands, discovering a great place to have Nasi Padang, getting used to the notion of conference calls and letting go of a few things.
Today will be spent on paperwork, and refining my schedule. I’m slightly distressed that I have not allocated proper time for things like spiritual replenishment and exercise. I am not going to gain back those kilos that took so much effort to lose! No!
The original plan was to make my early mornings time for reflection, to centre myself for the day. Then either Yoga or Pilates.

Reality: I roll out of my mattress. I groggily turn on my PC. Distract myself with Gmail and FB, before either the loud sounds from my ginger tom or my stomach move me to action. Cue shuffling of bedroom slippers to food bowl or kitchen. A good daily routine. Not.

Though I might do my best, I know I’ll need some help to change the way I’ve always done things. So God, some assistance please from this servant of yours with a lot of intention but needing more gumption?

Why am I such a dusty window
For your light to shine through?
Why am I just a tiny star
In a sky already blue?
Why do I offer everything
With my heart closed like a fist?
I want to love You better than this
Why do I live like I’m in chains
When You have set me free?
And why do I have to break Your heart
Before I fall to my knees?
I know it’s time to pray for change
Give all I have to give
I want to love You better than this
So renew me
Remake me
Undo me
Unbreak me
Come into the empty spaces
Of my broken places
And consume me
Complete me
Pursue me
Redeem me ~
Excerpt from Avalon’s Renew Me

Find the time to plan, else plan to fail

06012009779Some think that working from home, far from the structured monotony of the workplace, must be the ultimate luxury.

Flexibility is great, but ultimately I feel a need to have some sort of framework there. I like structure, I crave some sort of daily routine. The difference is that the structure is one I build myself, where I have say about my best times of day and the order I want to do things.

I’m not a morning person, nor am I the type who thinks coherently at 2-3am in the morning. Mornings are for routine tasks, but for mentally gruelling tasks I usually write best or strategise best after the mid-afternoon slump. Siesta time is called that for a reason – hardly anyone’s functional during that lunch period where all your body rightly wants to do is nap.

Most of my work will be done at my computer or desk; so it made sense to replace my current one with another one in the house which was larger. It houses my modem, monitor, business card holder, speakers, appointment diaries and phone holder. It’s my communication hub, where I do my work as well as where I can be reached. When I get too caught up in things, clutter can abound – my room can end up looking like a hurricane went through it! But as soon as I’m free, I frenziedly organise things the way I like it because I need the comfort of knowing where everything is, and that it’s where I need it to be.

Right now I’m finding my Nokia N82 a great organisational tool, what with being able to sync my contacts and events to my Ovi calendar in a heartbeat. But because I believe in backups, I also carry a Moleskine planner and on my table is the very affordable and very nice Starbucks leather journal. I learned the hard way that just relying on electronics is never a good idea. Save those vital contacts both virtually and on paper, that way you’re always covered!

I’m spending as much time as I can afford to the business of being organised. Once things really get cracking, I know I’ll be struggling to find time for all my side interests (blogging, singing/performing, creative writing). But I hope with all my heart that I never forget to orient my moral compass; that I remember that in the end nothing matters as much as doing it all for the One who matters most.