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Don't Worry, Be Happy



This is something we've had way too little of this year in Southern California: winter weather.  While the rest of the country has been suffering with massive snowstorms, we are in a drought.  Locally, we just made it through a large wildfire, which usually doesn't happen in January, and without rain, we will certainly have more in the foothills that are hidden in clouds in these pictures.

The more personal side of this weather pattern is how it's impacting me.  I'm one of those weird people who is actually more energized when it's cold.  I find the heat just draining, and I can't focus even when it's in the 80s.  I'm much more productive when there is a chill in the air.  But lately I've had to take responsibility for the lack of productivity in my life that has nothing to do with the weather.  This is going to be a long one folks, so settle in with the warm beverage of your choice.


I'm a worker-type person.  I love nothing better than to have multiple assignments, a long list of things to accomplish, due dates, deliverables, projects to manage.  When I have more to do, I get more done.  When I have fewer things to do, I get nothing done.  I worked a full-time job, a part-time teaching job, went to graduate school, and lead a reading group at the same time when I was in my early 20s.  If that wasn't enough, I got married, bought a fixer-upper house, and got married without quitting the jobs and while starting a second degree in graduate school.  I finally quit teaching when I started getting more and more responsibility in the day job.  I was always on, always checking email, always working, always getting more done.

Then last February, I decided I'd had enough.  My career wasn't going to go any further with the company I had given up life for for the last 16 years.  I felt unappreciated and undervalued.  I had started blogging as a hobby because I didn't really have a hobby; I had work.  I gave myself a year to do this blogging/personal style thing and left the company.  But before I had even packed up my office, I had started to worry about having work to do.

I started taking on small consulting jobs that had nothing to do with blogging or styling.  One client so completely consumed me last summer that I stopped blogging all together.  I wasn't incredibly busy and I definitely wasn't earning the money I had in my previous job, but when I wasn't working, I was obsessed with thinking about how I would find more consulting jobs.  I spent endless time in small business and blogging networking groups that brought no value but wasted time.  The worry and the anxiety kept me from being able to focus.  I cooked a lot.  I ate a lot.  The 10 pounds I wanted to lose turned into 20.  I realized I'd had enough when I realized that we hadn't taken pictures for Bespoke Baroque in over a month.  We took pictures, and I took one look at my face and said, "Why is my face so plump?"  Ah, duh, you've been overeating.

So I figured out it wasn't working.  It then took me about a month, maybe two, to figure out why.  That's what I do.  I figure out why things don't work.  I made a career of it.  So why wasn't it working? It was only last week that I came up with two things I didn't do enough, and two things I did too much.

#1 - I didn't focus.  I wanted to take a year to blog, to write, to have the time to see the things around me that I always was too busy for.  I wanted to go to Starbucks in the morning and sit and write.  I wanted to go to the local gardens and take pictures and dwell on things.  I wanted to produce quality content because I would have the time to do that.  Okay, enough nasal gazing.  I wasted a year of my life when I had the time and the money to do this and didn't do it.  All those things that I said I would do if I just had more time - didn't do them.  Okay, went on a great vacation with my husband and spent a lot of time being a stay-at-home mom for the first time in my life, but the working out, going places, seeing things part, blew that.

#2 - I didn't organize or plan my days.  How did I work two jobs, go to graduate school, and have a social life?  I plotted my days out in minute detail every day.  I lived my life out of a written daily planner.  And I did that for every day of over 20 years.  Yes, we have phones and computers and apps for that.  That doesn't work for me.  Unless I sit down and write out my meetings, my to-do list, and then merge the two, I over estimate what I can get done or underestimate what I should get done.  Making a to-do list is not enough for me.  I actually have to plot things into time slots.  That makes me do them when I'm supposed to, and I get them done.  Hey, it works for me.  What can I say?  I knew what I should be doing, but I didn't commit to it by scheduling it.  So I didn't do it.

What I did too much of?

#1 - Worry.  I got a whole lot of nothing done because I sat around worrying about what was going to happen.  Most of my thoughts began with "What if xxx happens?"  Not productive.

#2 - Taking jobs that didn't value me and pulled me away from #1 above.  It is so true that unless you value yourself, no one else will value you.  I worked really hard for a really long time.  I shouldn't have taken jobs that didn't put me in the right place for my goals especially since they didn't pay great money.  I actually cost myself time and money by doing these things because they kept me from focusing.  Ironic that I left my corporate job because I felt undervalued and then I did it to myself.

So in two weeks, my one year is up.  I will be returning to corporate life.  I'm working with three recruiters to find things, and I'm hoping to do contract work so that I have a little more flexibility than working for one company.  And it pays pretty well, too.  I can't look back on this year with regret.  I learned a lot.  I had time to be there for my family, and we did some fun things.  It was the transition I needed to get me to the next phase of my life.  As far as this blogging thing is concerned, who knows?  Maybe I'll be even more productive now - as long as I remember to schedule it in.


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